Wednesday, January 31, 2007


The man (dark jacket) on the right is wading through rising waters; he's carrying a domestic gas tank and a laptop.

Slowly but surely the flood waters are beginning to encroach the city; neighbourhoods on the fringes of the city have been badly affected. The city's sewage system is old and has given way in some places. On TV today a lady was crying her heart out as she waded through stinking filthy water in her living room. She complained about the awful stench inbetween sobs. Diseases have also broken out.

We've had heavy rain but not the sort of torrential showers that would normally cause flooding of this magnitude. I'm perplexed and very grieved by the loss suffered by the poor. One newspaper report says that thousands of families have been badly affected by floodwaters.

A group of us together with folks from another church are planning to bring blankets, clothes, medicine, temporary shelters to the folks who've lost everything this Saturday. Apparently there is a way to reach these isolated communities. People have told us however that its difficult to distribute emergency supplies because there does not appear to be fixed areas where aid is stored and distributed. I do not know if this is true. We'll find out when arrive.

Hope to post a report on the situation next week.

Pray for us!

Monday, January 29, 2007


Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia and South America was elected last year.

He still refuses to wear a tie. Gone are the cheap looking social activist jackets he used to wear. Fashion designers put together formal open necked shirts with indigenous motifs. doubt about it, Evo looks presidential these days with his fancy new shirts and jackets.

Evo celebrated his first year in office and delivered the State Of The Union message to the nation in Congress. He is a controversial figure whose rhetoric never fails to provoke his hearers. Some of his opponents walked out during his speech because negative remarks were directed toward them.


Looking beyond the man's rhetoric one surprisingly detects a certain pragmatic streak. Here are some examples. The education minister last year made some controversial remarks and decisions about the place of religion in government and church based schools. There was an outcry. Evo stepped in, dialogued with Cardinal Terrazas and the matter was settled. Religion will still be taught in Bolivian schools

Recently campesinos organized a blockade which laid seige to city of Cochabamba over problems related to their dislike of the Governor; the citizenry reacted; riots broke out; many were injured and a couple protesters died. Evo was attending the inauguration of the President elect in Nicaruaga when problems erupted in Cochabamba. On his return, Evo managed to convince the campesinos to lift the blockade. He also refused to recognise the emergence of a parrallel governor and an administration put together by some of the more anarchic elements. A few days many were pleasantly surprised when President Evo replaced two controversial members of his cabinet: the ministers of internal affairs and education.

The country's economy has not exactly grown by leaps and bounds. But neither has it tanked. Last year he announced the nationalisation of oil and gas reserves. Many were spooked thinking that the major petroleum companies would simply pack their bags and leave. They did not; the matter was resolved when the announced "nationalisation" was not in fact a confiscation of foreign assets in the country but a re-negotiation of contracts which would increase Bolivia's share from the sale of oil. Everyone rejoiced when the the oil companies signed the new contracts. Its important to give the President his due.


Not everything is rosy in Bolivia. Evo's red meat rhetoric against imagined villians in the country appears to be an attempt to keep his base happy. The press and the middle class find his speeches divisive and inflammatory. Many are still spooked by his socialist outlook; tensions between the central government and leaders from Eastern Bolivia continue to intensify over questions of land reform and regional autonomy; these issues have yet to be resolved. Its almost as if there are two Bolivias : one in the east; the other in the west.

And more importantly the constitutional assembly has not been able to make headway in coming up with articles for the proposed new constitution. This new consitution needs to be approved at a national referendum this June. Various commissions have been formed to work through the components which constitute the new magna carta. To date, not one single article has surfaced. The root of the problem is the inability of the delegates to arrive at a consensus over the size of the majority needed to approve the articles that would make up the new constitution. Evo's people are hoping that a new constitution will establish social justice and ensure a fairer distribution of the nation's wealth.

2007 promises to be a year of surprises, change and anxiety. Pray for the nation of Bolivia!

Monday, January 22, 2007


Yesterday we gathered the leadership together at a special Sunday workshop where I presented a small group evangelistic strategy which incorporates elements of follow up, personal discipleship and commitment to confirmation and church membership.

I enjoy teaching and running workshops; people got into the act and participated with lots of gusto. Some were quiet as they tried to understand the content of my teaching and the various questions that were raised by the more articulate ones in the workshop. It was great to hear stories of our people sharing the gospel with the lost. One couple had to leave early because they had to strengthen their friendship with a non christian couple. Our present approach is ad hoc, informal and not effective. We need to get our act together. There will be 2 other workshops.

At the heart of this new strategy will be home made evangelistic materials centered on Christ's encounter with individuals in the gospel. The challenge will be to work through the significance of His birth, death, resurrection and 2nd coming in the lives of the participants of these evangelistic small group encounters. In my own evangelistic work I have found that talking about Jesus is a great way of confronting people with the gospel. People by and large are fascinated with Jesus. He is the message!

Thursday, January 18, 2007


The Return Of El Niño

We've had non stop rain in Santa Cruz for the past week. The result has been floods in the provinces and towns near the city centre. Many families have lost their homes and their livelihood; quite a large number have had to be evacuated. The photo on your right shows children being evacuated to a safer area. Experts warned of these torrential downpours last month, saying that they were part of the El Niño phenomenon. They say that the rains will continue until March. The president went to Europe a few months ago in an attempt to raise funds and and seek aid in anticipation of this natural disaster.

People are also fearful because they've yet to face the full impact of El Nino in the city of Santa Cruz. We live in a flood prone district. About 25 years ago flood waters reached the roof of the homes in our neighbourhood! As a result the United Nations helped to construct a strong anti flooding defense system against the main river which runs through the city. We've not had a major destructive flood experience since then. Questions are however being raised about the system's ability to confront the threat of El Niño. We shall find out soon!

Pray for us!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


FitzSimons Allison (Bishop) and Willliam McKeachie (dean), make the argument below, against their opponents, that the Anglican church's commitment to the beliefs of the Reformation in the 39 articles underscores the church's theological belief system. They give credit not to Henry VIII but to his daughter Queen Elizabeth 1 for "having laid claim to Protestant freedom while at the same time maintaining Catholic order"

I lifted the piece below from TitusOneNine.

They have forgotten, for instance, that the Reformation of the Church of England dates not from King Henry VIII but from Queen Elizabeth I a quarter century later. Her predecessor, Queen Mary, had tried to restore England to a medieval and papal form of Catholicism from 1553 to 1558. It was only under Queen Elizabeth that the Church of England laid claim to Protestant freedom while at the same time maintaining Catholic order.

Today’s re-appraisers (in academic circles they would be called revisionists of history) as quoted by Adam Parker have willfully forgotten that the ecclesiastical formularies of the Elizabethan Settlement - the traditional Book of Common Prayer, the confessional Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, and the series of sermons known as the Homilies - are the very bedrock of Anglican identity, unity and well-being. They cannot be ignored or replaced by sentimental “bonds of affection” devoid of theological doctrine.

Such willful amnesia leads these revisionists to misappropriate Henry VIII as the “founder” (an old canard repeated twice in “A House Divided”) while ignoring the biblical Reformation that did not begin until the reign of Henry’s son Edward VI and was not secured until Elizabeth’s reign.
Henry VIII may, for his own sinful ends, have separated the Church of England from the Papacy, but late-medieval Roman Catholicism required longer, indeed required the blood of the Protestant martyrs, to be reformed.

When biblical doctrine is forgotten as being essential to true unity, the alleged diversity celebrated by today’s revisionists quickly exposes itself as tyranny against biblical Christians. Richard John Neuhaus has identified this sleight of hand in his dictum: “When orthodoxy becomes optional, it soon becomes proscribed.”

Dozens of Episcopal Church dioceses today, in which biblically faithful Christians are marginalized, manifest this tragic irony. Dozens of Episcopal bishops in such dioceses have willfully forgotten that the original Episcopal consecration vows administered until the late 20th century included explicit assent to the following questions:

- Will you then faithfully exercise yourself in the Holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of the same: so that you may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?

- Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same?

The forgetfulness, indeed total disappearance, of such commitment since the new Episcopal Prayer Book was adopted in 1979 has caused many Episcopalians to seek the cover of overseas Anglican bishops in order to remain faithfully rooted in the Catholic order and Protestant freedom of the Anglican Reformation.

Kevin Wilson’s claim that under Queen Elizabeth “no one agreed on theology” is nothing but another example of forgetfulness and denial. The disagreements in that era were minuscule compared with those of Episcopal bishops today who have turned their backs on the theological content of the very vows they swore at their consecration.

For her part, Barbara Mann has forgotten, in her claim that we are not a confessional church, the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion as integral to the well-being of Prayer Book Anglicanism and “established” by the bishops, clergy, and laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America in 1801. Her false claim allows her and others like her to accommodate the church to the world, rather than the world to Christ, against which St. Paul strongly warned in his Epistle to the Romans.

Such amnesia leads Barbara Mann to reduce matters of theological substance to a “power struggle.” As George Marsden has observed: “Without theism … the only effective arbiter of contested moral claims is power.” Thus these revisionists ironically expose their own motivation: they have taken power and have proscribed orthodoxy!

But nothing more clearly exposes forgetfulness of the biblical substance of the Christian Faith than Steve Skardon’s “willingness to reconcile scripture with contemporary society” or Barbara Mann’s assertion that the Holy Spirit and its influence change as people change. This willful amnesia about the Christian faith divorces such revisionists from the biblical assurance that the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
To forget, or rather suppress, the indisputable fact that the Episcopal Church has lost a third of its membership in little more than 30 years (the period of its lemming-like dash to accommodate itself to a post-Christian world), while attacking the leadership of one of the very few dioceses in the Episcopal Church to have grown dramatically in the same period, is bad enough.

But what is not merely forgetful but simply false - and implicitly but also falsely attributed in “A House Divided” to the Rev. Jan Nunley, who has denied it - is the assertion that “African primates were instrumental in getting a resolution passed at the 1988 Lambeth Conference condoning polygamy.” Though polygamy is a fact on the ground among some tribes in Africa, its active practice by converts to Christianity has never been condoned.

Thus the condescending dismissal of some of the most faithful, thoughtful, and evangelically successful bishops in the Anglican Communion, as though they are intellectually and culturally primitive simply because they happen to live in Africa and Asia, is based not on forgetfulness but falsehood. So much by way of dismissal also, no doubt, of Jesus’ own original disciples.
The Diocese of South Carolina, as represented by our retired bishops and our bishop-elect, has not and will not forget or compromise our heritage and well-being - Episcopalian, Anglican and biblically Christian.

The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison is the 12th Bishop of South Carolina (retired). The Very Rev. William N. McKeachie is dean of the Diocese of South Carolina and rector of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paula

Sunday, January 14, 2007



He's not an evangelical bible believing christian but Cardinal Terrazas is a bona fide Bolivian hero.

Cardinal Terrazas is the Roman Archbishop of Santa Cruz; he is also the revered head of the Roman heirachy in Bolivia. He was appointed a Cardinal by the previous Pope, John Paul2. A soft spoken and gentle man, he is not one for long speeches nor is he a publicity hound. Bolivians look to him as a calming influence. I can testify to his friendliness and genuine warmth after having met up with him in several ecumenical meetings.

Cardinal Terrazas has, on many occasions, intervened and reconciled warring factions in Bolivia. Almost everyone listens to him. When the previous president, Carlos Mesa resigned, it was Cardinal Terrazas who stepped in and brokered a deal which resolved the explosive question as to who would suceed Mesa.

The current crisis between the governor of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa and the central government has worsened. Terrazas has stepped in again to try and broker a deal between the 2 parties. Its a difficult task. Manfred is holed up in Santa Cruz and will only negotiate with the government under the guidance of Cardenal Terrazas. The government however wants to hold the meeting in Cochabamba. Its all very murky but the people know that the nation's hero is at the helm of this very difficult situation.



Bob Jepsen, an american anglican healing evangelist, came to Santa Cruz last week; he worked with us and the local Vineyard chuch. This was his first visit to Santa Cruz. He ran similar meetings and seminars in the other Bolivian cities where pastors reported some dramatic healings. One boy's enlarged heart shrunk. The doctors claimed a miracle and did not go ahead with the surgery. Another lady was healed of liver cancer. He also went to share the gospel in the local prison where many went to the altar for prayer and ministry.

In Santa Cruz, Bob did a seminar on healing, held night services, met pastors from other churches and preached at our sunday services. His visit was a preparatory step toward a larger series of evangelistic meetings this June. This was a low key exploratory visit focused on leaders and Pastors. Hence the night meetings were not characterized by large crowds. The anointing however was present and many were blessed!

Bob's ministry is quiet and self effacing. He is not loud nor does he have a showy "Pentecostal" edge. A camera-man does not follow him as he ministers; he does'nt raise his voice nor does he tell stories in a way which makes you weep and fall of your chair. Bob is no salesman! He facilitates a corporate anointing which draws others to pray for the sick. His ministry is slow, inclusive and dependant on the worship. His style, on some level, is reminiscent of the way John Wimber used to run his meetings. Lay leaders and pastors don't view Bob as the great visiting evangelist but as a shy dude just like us. Ol' Bob cultivates the "If-he-can-do-it-so-can-I" mentality. And that is perhaps the strength of his minstry. Praise the Lord!!

Friday, January 12, 2007


It turned ugly yesterday in Cochabamba, a major Bolivian city. Groups loyal to President Evo Morales clashed with angry Cochabambinos committed to their elected governor Manfred Reyes Villa. Over a 100 people were injured and 2 deaths were recorded. Rioting campesinos, 2 days earlier, stormed the regional governor's offices and set it on fire. This act of vandalism stunned the nation because it enjoyed the tacit approval of elements within the central government. A cabinet minister relieved the Police commander in Cochabamba who tried to break up the actions of the campesinos. She was roundly condemned and had to rescind her decision.


At issue is Manfred wanting regional autonomy through a state wide referendum. Santa Cruz successfully pushed through a similar process 3 years ago. The central government headed by Evo Morales view regional autonomy as an erosion of not only their authority but also the loss of funds to finance various government based socialist programmes. Regional autonomy and a strong socialist orientated central government, 2 irreconcilable forces, clash intermittently within the Bolivian socio-political landscape. The movements behind the government headed by Evo Morales view any call for regional autonomy as a veiled attempt to derail the socialist dream of equal opportunities and a just distribution of wealth.


The centre of President Evo's support is amongst the campesinos of rural Cochabamaba; they also form the militant wing of Evo's political party and were behind most of the blockades that brought down the previous government. And so when Manfred, the governor of Cochabamba, began using the language of regional autonomy, the campesinos reacted. They blocked off all the routes leading to and from the city of Cochabamba and demanded the resignation of Manfred. Commerce came to a standstill. People could not move freely. It was only a matter of time before the city's food supply would be affected. After nearly 4 tense days of living under such conditions, the city dwellers of Cochabamba took matters into their own hands. They streamed into the streets and fought the campesinos with sticks, chains, shields and knives. Never before has the nation seen civic groups taking on the campesinos. It was a bloody affair!


Sensing a major disaster, the Vice President, Garcia Linera, quickly sent troops to bring order to Cochabamba. Although he sounded conciliatory and was critical of the campesinos, Linera blamed Manfred for the violence. A Senator from the ruling party pointed the finger at radical elements in Santa Cruz for inciting the violence and the clashes. There is some fear the turmoil might spill over into the other major regions of Bolivia. The other governors, together with Manfred, roundly condemned the government and are meeting in the capital city, La Paz, to plan a response. The main civic organization in Santa Cruz is calling for a state wide strike next Tuesday.

The President is due to address the nation today.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I did a review of this movie a few weeks before Christmas and forgot to post it. Better late than never!

This Nativity Story is based on the events surrounding and preceding our Lord's birth. Keisha Castle-Hughes's (she looks a lot like Olivia Hussey) interpretation of Mary as a young reluctant bride becoming the mother of the Messiah is at the heart of the movie. Castle-Hughes's simple village girl sensibility stays with her Mary throughout the movie. I especially like that frowned look which accompanies much of her performance. The appearance of the angel, the tensions of getting pregnant before marriage and her visit to Elizabeth's home, although life shattering, don't transform her into a mystic. Mary was no Joan of Arc!

And lets not forget Oscar Isaac's controlled performance as Joseph. His confrontation with Mary and her family over the pregnancy is great theatre. The village scenes, framed within Roman oppression and poverty, convey a certain gut like realism which makes the biblical drama resonate throughout the movie. And just so that we don't forget the larger setting of Christ's birth, the story of wise men and Herod's infamy are duly included. Give credit to the first class editing: Mary and Joseph's journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem through Jerusalem is controlled and never allowed to get weepy and Ciaran Hind's cold blooded portrayal of Herod make the movie a tight production.

My only complaint is the movie's take on the wise men. There is no indication that there were 3 of them nor is there anything to suggest their presence at the Bethlehem stable. Scripture is clear that they met up with the family at a later date in Nazareth. Apart from these bloopers, seeing the movie was an edifying experience.

Monday, January 08, 2007


My wife and I, fighting dengue fever, were warded at La Clinica Foianini, a hospital in Santa Cruz. There are apparently different types of dengue; mine was quite aggresive and maybe even haemorrhagic. Michelle's was easier to control. We both suffered from bodily aches, very high temperatures and flu like symptoms. The sickness leaves one without the strenght or motivation to read, write and talk for long periods. I could not even work on my laptop. This not an experience I would recommend.

It was a sight to behold: husband and wife, both on drips, in the same room; all our visitors looked aghast at seeing us in such a condition; some chuckled; A friend took a photo of us together. We were finally discharged after our body temperatures stabilized. I will not miss the constant medication, blood analysis and tests. Walking around with the drip was also a hassle. The food was tolerable. Our doctor was a young Bolivian lady who looked like a north Indian. She was ever so cheery about the diagnosis and treatment. The medical staff were pleasant and well trained.

I'm still a little weak and drowsy but glad to be out of the hospital.

Monday, January 01, 2007


The Hope Of Christ's New Creation In Bolivia


We celebrated the gift of the new year at a special midnight eucharist: the covenant was renewed, God's word was proclaimed and Christ's new life was shared in the bread and wine. In the midst of hugs and congratulations God's people affirmed the hope of Christ in 2007. After the service a light supper was served - Chicken soup with some pork and herbs. The youths gathered at the Pastor's home; there were close to 40 to 50 youths; many were newcomers. Shawn Grainger our youth worker missionary will be away on furlough in the States for 6 months. A team of local leaders is now overseeing the young people; Luis and his wife Claudia are a part of the team; they are key players in this ministry. Pray that the youth of the church together with the new leadership willl grow in Christlike quality and quantity.


Bolivians greeted the new year at parties in hotels, homes, clubs, street-corners, restaurants and auditoriums; cheap fire crackers cracked the atmosphere; fireworks lit the sky; booze flowed, girls strutted around in revealing clothes, groups walked the streets, shattered glass from accidents and broken beer bottles cluttered the roads. Its a custom to to wear white attire during new year festivities.

Before I gave the benediction at the Sunday morning service, I confronted those who were thinking of going to parties where drunkeness is common with the consequences of falling into sin. People were encouraged to flee from temptation and to attend the midnight covenant service & eucharist. God's Creation still groans under the weight of sin.


Christ's triumph is inevitable in Creation as His kingdom unfolds itself in a forward movement toward the end of human history. Chronological time is measured universally in accordance with Christ; its been 2007 years since Christ, the later Adam was born. He is God's new creation, born of a virgin, concieved in the power of the Holy Spirit; Christ, free from the ravages of sin, renews and transfigures creation through his resurrected life. The message of redemption continues to sing throughout the ages : man must be born again as part of Christ's new creation. The secular and non christian forces although striding like a colossus take their bearing from Christ and fix their schedules around His plan. One day the colossus shall bow down before Him and confess His Lordship.

Bolivian social instability is birthing a new hunger for the gospel of God's new creation in Christ. My hope is that the church will respond in the power of the Holy Spirit to the opportunities of reaching out to the lost.