Sunday, July 29, 2007


According to a financial report, Fitch Rating, the Bolivian economy has improved and is, for the forseeable future, stable. The assesment, based on Bolivia's macro economic performance last year, highlighted the growth in reserves, extra income from the oil industry and a multi lateral initiative to ease Bolivia's external debts. Hope that this report will catch the attention of foreign investors.

Take this with a pinch of salt; I've yet to see something on per capita income nor statistics on income distribution and the gross domestic product.

The president is due to give his annual state of the nation speech on the 6th of August. Perhaps we will get more information then.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


A couple of years ago, after a very very long period of self imposed exile, I finally returned to one of my adolescent identity markers: rock music! I wanted to understand my son's generation through their music. And so I plunged into the internet, radio and listened to some of my son's CD's. It was'nt long before I made a detour which led me to my roots as an afficionado of 60's and 70's progressive rock. I just could not help comparing the contemporary music scene with my own preferences from the past.

One of the types of music I bumped into from my son's generation was rap metal or heavy metal fusion music. Groups were putting together rap, heavy metal, pop music and hip hop. Linkin Park are probably the best secular representation of this kinda music in terms of commerce success.

P.O.D, a christian heavy metal rap group, are probably one of the better bands who belong to this genre. Their latest album, Testify, is a winner!! Its a big improvement over Satellite, their other album. The music, though metal, swerves and weaves patterns which include rap, hip hop and reggae.

Some of the heavy metal songs, especially the last two, Say Hello & Mark My Words on Testify, are scorchers. The opener, Roots In Stereo fuses rock and hop. But its the following track, Lights Out, which sets the album on fire. The lyrics are not overtly christian but reflect a deep seated christian spirituality. This is a welcome change from some of the vulgarity and nihilism of secular heavy metal groups.

One of the weaknesses of P.O.D is the absence of a vocalist in the category of Robert Plant, Ian Gillan, Roger Daltrey, Chester Bennington, Steve Marriot, Bono etc.

I guess you can't have everything.

If you're a rocker, I recommend this it!!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


The explosion of contemporary evangelicalism in Latin America would not have been possible without the music and songs of Marcos Witt. He is by and large the most sucessful modern & urban Spanish speaking singer -songwriter in the evangelical Christian world. Marco Barrientos, Danilo Montero, Jesus Adrian Romero etc.. are the other big names whose songs are also flooding Christian churches. Their CDs are marketted aggressively and bought by musicians immediately when released.

An Anglican bishop once said that Witt's songs are the reason for the demise of Spanish hymnody. There is some truth in this assertion. Marcos Witt's songs and choruses are never far from the lips of an evangelical latin christian. His tunes are catchy and the lyrics are easy to remember. Most of his songs, although latin in spirit, sounds like stuff fabricated in the States. This is not surprising because he is based in the US and Mexico. He certainly may not have intentionally wanted to curtail or extinguish the use of hymns or the more rural & pastoral latin sounding songs/ hymns but the popularity and the constant use of his music in urban churches has not helped to bring about a greater diversity of local home made spanish devotional music and songs.

His music resonates with the younger generation and in some churches totally dominate the average Sunday service. A new generation of christians have emerged in Latin America without any knowledge of songs or hymns except for the ones composed and sung by Marcos Witt and composers like him. Traditionalists and purists, if they've not passed away, shake their heads in disdain.

We use his songs and choruses during our services in Santa Cruz Bolivia because they move the heart and get the folk excited. We use what is available and most of his stuff is easily accessible. Some of his songs are gilt-edged classics. My favorite is Jesus Christ Is The Reason For My Song (Jesucristo Es El Motivo De Mi Cancion). The theology of the lyrics of this particular song is rich and the tune in some parts is not unlike some of the hymns from the past.

In conclusion, its hard to minimize the impact of Marcos Witt on contemporary urban latin american evangelicalism. My assessment of his ministry is, on the whole, positive. And perhaps he could revive, with some contemporary tunes, some of the old hymns.


Day before yesterday the Singapore tele ran a story on Bolivia concerning the proposed shift of Bolivia's capital from the city of La Paz (photo on the right) to the city of Sucre. There were clips of a huge open air meeting where thousands upon thousands of folk from La Paz gathered to assert their status as capital of Bolivia. I got all excited because we hear almost nothing about Bolivia in the Singapore media.

Knowing Bolivian history might help us understand what's going on.


The declaration of independance from the Spanish Empire was signed and Bolivia was officially declared a nation; Sucre played an important role in this historical milestone. Since then, Sucre was recognized as the capital of Bolivia. In the ensuing years however the city of La Paz began to grow in prominence because of its expanding economy and growing political clout. It was easier to get things done in La Paz. And so La Paz began to assume the characteristics of a nation's capital. Before long, major multinational corporations, embassies, banks and all major political institutions (president's palace and congress) were encouraged or decided on their own to build infraestructure in and function from La Paz.

In an attempt to placate Sucre, La Paz was called the administrative capital of Bolivia; Sucre was referred to as the constitutional capital. Sucre has been tolerating this ambigous arrangement for many years. There is nothing ambigous however about the perception of La Paz being the capital of the country. The country is run from La Paz and just about everybody, be it a Bolivian or foreigner view La Paz as the nation's capital.

Folk in Sucre, intermittently, however kick up a row about restoring its rightful place as the only recognized capital of Bolivia. They don't want to be treated like some left over dusty relic in a musuem and are trying to reclaim their lost prestige through the constitutional assembly which has the task of redoing Bolivia's constitution.


So will Sucre get their way?

No they're not! I can't imagine the nation's major institutions be it public or private, emptying their infraestructure in La Paz and moving to Sucre. Also the people in La Paz, the Pacenos, are not ready to cede to Sucre. They, the Pacenos, came by the thousands in La Paz at a special rally, called a Cabildo, this week, to oppose Sucre's claims.

For better or worse La Paz will remain the capital of Bolivia.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Yup..Michelle, Elijah and I are going thru the re-entry blues. I think they call it reverse culture shock. Its when natives find it hard to adjust to their home culture because they've lived elsewhere for a very long period. I guess its inevitable for us; hey we've been out of Singapore for 14 years! We've consciously and unconsciously imbibed some of the cultural patterns, customs and language of Bolivia. Returning to Singapore, in our case, once in a while, for furlough did not affect the inculturation process in Bolivia

Michelle misses creative ministries, her home, bed, friends, dogs, and daily routine in Bolivia. Elijah is still coping with the loss of his friends both in School and Church. I yearn for frontline ministery: preaching/teaching, training, planning, counselling, strategizing etc...

Life is simpler in Bolivia. Choices are limited, be it the food, products and transportation. In Singapore, the malls sort of makes one wander all over the place. There many types of toothpaste, an incredible variety of food in the various food courts and consumer products in every nook and corner. Eating and shopping is less complicated and cheaper on the pocket in Bolivia.

I personally miss the Bolivian mass media. The talk shows and local press are a mixture of silliness, drama, irresponsibility, fearless investigative reporting etc. Evo Morales and his Vice President say things which would make us gasp at times. Yeah.. never a dull moment in Bolivia. Well, its a little different in Singapore; the mass media here is relatively sedate but also a little sensationalist at times, especially the afternoon edition newspaper.

Its not that Bolivia is better than Singapore or vice versa. We are grateful for the incredible prosperity and efficiency of Singapore; and with time we'll probably get back into the swing of things. This however in no way obliterates the need to manage and work through the issues related the reverse culture shock. In fact this post is part of my therapy!

Living overseas has its pluses. We learned a new language, Spanish; And so we speak to each other in Spanish in the underground trains or when we dont want to embarrass ourselves in front of others. Folk in Bolivia greet one another with a hearty hug and a kiss on the cheek. In Singapore a handshake is about where we're at in terms of a warm greeting.

There are of course a hundred little matters which cause us our heads to swirl.

Its all part of the re-entry blues!

Sunday, July 15, 2007


click here to Going To Bolivia 1

click here to Going To Bolivia 2


After graduating from seminary I was sent to work as a parish worker at the Church Of The Epiphany. I jokingly asked my wife Michelle if she was open to the idea of going to the Amazon, South America. She laughed and said I was crazy. I was later ordained deacon and served in St Andrew’s Cathedral. The Singapore diocese in those days was a hub for Holy Spirit driven renewal and missions was beginning to assert itself.

The diocese organized a worldwide mission consultation for SOMA (Sharing Of Ministries Abroad) leaders. SOMA is an Anglican body which sends teams to dioceses and parishes. Their focus is mainly on bringing renewal to groups and individuals open to the work of the Holy Spirit.

I can’t remember if the SOMA leaders met in the Cathedral or at Peninsula Hotel. It was a real blessing for me to meet up with experienced Christian leaders from all over the globe – the US, Britain, Australia etc…


I heard they were looking for suitable candidates for short term mission teams to do some work in South America. And so I plucked up my courage and approached the American clergyman in charge. After exchanging some pleasantries, I expressed my interest to be part of a team he was putting together.

He looked me over and asked how long I had been in renewal.

The next question stumped me, do you have any Spanish.

I don’t speak any Spanish, I answered.

He sounded a little dismissive and short, We can’t use you, sorry

It was like pouring cold water over my youthful enthusiasm.

God's calling on a person always involves experiences of discouragement and that day was certainly one of them. Discouragements reveal our vulnerabilities and shortcomings. Its a blow to the pride to figure out we don't really have what it takes to serve Him. And that's where the learning curve really begins: God's ability thru our inability.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


This morning we recieved news of a friend's death from cancer. I opened my email account to retrieve information and was not prepared for an email informing us of her sudden passing away. Michelle and I, knew a couple of days ago, of her struggle against an aggressive form of cancer.

She was young mother of two children: one is a teenager and the other is about 10 years old. Before our trip to Singapore, Michelle and I prayed for her to be healed of a tumor. She appeared to be on the path of recovery. The Lord had other plans; His sovereignty will always prevail. We grieve the loss of our friend. Her family were some of the first people we got to know in Bolivia nearly 14 years ago. She was active in intercession and danced with Michelle.

Her healing and complete restoration is now assured, albeit on the other side of eternity. She is now safely in His arms. He saved her from pain and anguish. Her parents were by her side right to the end.

Pray for her two daughters.

Monday, July 09, 2007


We've been here now for 3 weeks; one of our challenges is adapting to a high density environment. Singapore is 2400 times smaller than Bolivia but has a population of 4 million (close to half the population of Bolivia).

Singapore, in expanding its market and capacity for consumption, is planning to increase its population to 6 million. Many foreigners have been invited to work here; professionals are encouraged to make Singapore their home.

High rise living provides the necessary housing for the growing population. The vast majority of Singaporeans live together in multi storey apartment blocks called flats. Condominiums are an alternative for those with greater financial resources.

Kudos to the average Singaporean's ability to live in such close proximity. Its hard to believe however that this high density living does not come with a cost. Sooner or later people want more room for all sorts of reasons; some have emigrated to larger countries - Australia or the US. A friend once told me that he left Singapore for the sake of his children. They needed breathing space, he said.

Space is a valuable commodity, especially at this moment in Singapore when property prices have gone through the roof. Travelling in the underground trains, especially during peak hours, is an exercise in finding and guarding space, be it sitting on a seat or standing.

Folk here maintain boundaries, share limited space and learn to work and live together. Its like being part of a layered cake!

Welcome to Singapore!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


The BOLIVIAN BEAT came into being a year ago.

Yup.. today I celebrate one year of blogging. My first post was a review of a conference on evangelism.

Friends...the Lord has used blogging to change my life. Its great therapy also...putting down thoughts in words. Its helpful to see your perspectives in a literary medium.

Blogpastor challenged me to blog and my friend from All Saints, Vincent helped me find this site.

May The Lord Grant Me Another Year As A Blogger!!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Check out "Going to Bolivia1" here

I left the Navy, determined to study in the university and pursue my dreams outside of Singapore. As I laid these plans before the Lord I sensed Him moving me in a different direction - toward full time ministry. It was a time of testing, especially when a chance to work overseas in a well paying job surfaced. Under conviction I rejected the offer, much to the annoyance of the personnel manager and made preparations to serve the Lord full time.

In the midst of all this I was suddenly and sovereignly baptised in the Holy Spirit without knowing it. One day I went to window in my home, sensed a strange language in my heart and begin to verbalize a language I had never heard before. I did not know what was happening until I read books by Dennis Bennet and others. I had discovered a new found love for Jesus, a thirst for the scriptures and a boldness to serve the Lord.

One of the challenges I faced from the beginning was to reconcile my call as an ordained clergyman as well as a growing desire to serve in the mission field. My ordination interview, to say the least, left me intimidated. Its not everyday that one is put under the spotlight and questioned in a room full of saintly looking men with clerical collars. One of them told me it was difficult to envisage me in seminary due to a lack of funds. To this day I don't know what drove me to reply, Well that's all right I'll join Operation Mobilization. I left, feeling both relieved and curious as to the outcome of the meeting.

It was a bit of a surprise when my vicar informed me of the decision to accept me as a provisional candidate for the ordained ministry. The finances were soughted out when someone gave a hefty donation to St Peter's Hall (the place where anglican ordinands were trained).

In seminary my interest in Latin America did not dissipate. We were all caught up with the charismatic renewal in those days; I remember having two visions or pictures in the screen of my mind: one was of Jesus holding the globe with His bloodied hands; the other was of blood flowing, from His gigantic and bloodied feet, onto dry desert. The blood changed the dusty desert into beautiful green pastures and springs. I shared these two pictures with a very mature Christian lady; she did not blink an eyelid when saying that they probably indicated a missionary call. Her sharing cum discerment began to resonate in my heart.