Wednesday, April 16, 2008



Arrival In Lima, Peru 14th Octobre 

Bishop Moses Tay invited me to accompany him and Cynthia, his wife, on a short two and half week trip to Peru & Bolivia. The trip was the result of 3 converging elements. First, was Bishop Tay's sense of leading to get involved in Bolivia. Second, my own sense of calling to serve in Latin America and thirdly, the willingness on the part of Bishop of Peru & Bolivia, Alan Winstanely to forge a misson partnership with the Diocese of Singapore.

Rev Greg Blaxland, the national director of the Anglican work in Bolivia was the driving force of the growing relationship between Bolivia and Singapore.

This was my first visit to the American continent. Our journey began at Changi Airport, Singapore; we arrived in Japan after a 5 hour flight. We then took a 15 hour flight to Los Angeles and hopped onto a connecting flight to Lima, Peru. This was probably the most difficult flight I had taken in my life! The journey was long, uncomfortable and draining.

The stop overs between flights left me totally drained. It was past midnight when our flight finally touched down at the airport in Lima. The airport was empty. Immgration officials let us through without a hitch. A friendly looking, bearded man waved his hands and called out to us. It was Bishop Alan Winstanely. He gave us a hearty greeting and led us to his car. We managed to squeeze all our bags into his Volkswagon.

We could'nt see much of Lima as the Bishop drove us through the dark streets. A blackout was in force. I could see some brown smoke, evidence of a fire, in the darkness. Bishop Winstanely said jokingly, the best time to see Lima is at night, some say. I laughed out loud and felt a sense of relief, especially from the long flight. A sense of humor is a useful stress management tool for Christian workers.

The reason for the blackout was because Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), a terrorist group, had just launched an attack on the nation's capital. A couple of weeks earlier they had killed some World Vision workers and Roman Catholic nuns. Bishop Winstanely recalled because of the dangers posed by Sendero, all Anglican workers from the shanty towns in Lima.

Sendero Luminoso were fanatical; their methods and ideology were similar to that of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Violence was second nature to them. They were dedicated to overthrowing the current elected government in order to usher in a communist paradise. Aid workers and the gospel were the enemy.

Bishop Winstanely brought us to his home in Miraflores. Bishop Moses, Cynthia and I were tired. I went to my room, removed my sweaty clothes, took a bath and went to bed. We had been travelling on planes and waiting in airports for nearly two and a half days. The experience left me numb and knocked out.

I was tired but not tired enough to sleep soundly. I kept thinking of the aid workers and nuns who were killed. Clearly, working in South America was going to be a risky affair.

It must have been about 0200 in the morning when I finally went to sleep.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The Sendero Luminoso Episode

Bolivia was not exactly a beacon of political stability and social harmony. And so there was anxiety on the part of some of our relatives over our plan to serve in Bolivia. Elijah's grandparents were especially vocal about his safety and future prospects. He was only 3 years old.

"Its ok, if you want to go to Bolivia, but what about Elijah and his future. He is so young. What sort of an education is he going to receive in that place? An elderly relative cornered me with his worries.

One day another relative, after expressing her fears concerning the impending trip, confronted me with an article about the growing influence and presence of the Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path), the most feared Peruvian Maoist influenced terrorist groups in Bolivia. Their ideology and methods were not unlike the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. They had no qualms about using violence and murdering innocent people. I had already seen their impact in Lima, Peru during a trip with Bishop Moses Tay and Cynthia.

Did I really know what I was getting myself into, I thought to myself.

Sendero Luminoso, had made deep inroads into the poorer barrios of Peru. Its leader, Abimael Guzman, had a certain mystic about him; he was feared and spoken off in hushed and revered tones. His influence was spreading and there was a moment when his terrorist movement were winning the hearts and minds of the poor. And now this group were beginning to set up shop in Bolivia!

I read the article, treated her concerns seriously, told her of the Lord's protection and promised to pray over the matter and bring her concerns to the Lord. "If he wanted us to go to Bolivia, then He would have to deal with Sendero", I told her.

A week later, I was reading the Straits Times and was pleasantly shocked and thrilled to read the headlines, Abimael Guzman Arrested! Peruvian special forces not only nabbed him but also the top leadership in an upper middle class barrio in Lima. Their arrest dealt a major blow to Sendero and signalled the beginning of its end as a major threat to Peru and Bolivia.

There are no coincidences in God's kingdom. I was getting cagey about Bolivia's instability and Guzman's arrest was an encouragement. He'd take care of us. I rushed to tell my wife of the news. We were both excited and knew in our hearts that the Lord had given us a guarantee of His protection as we made plans for our flight to Bolivia.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


The Lord Speaks Powerfully Through A Taxi Driver

Last Wednesday during Prayer/Intercession we were praying for next week's healing campaign which features evangelist Bob Jepsen.

I had a strong impression of the Lord wanting to heal the sick through the anointing of oil. It was hard to flow with the intercession because the impression kept gnawing away at my heart. If this was from the Lord the impression would grow in its intensity and there would be some sort of a confirmation. And true enough a testimony I heard two days later encouraged me greatly.

I stepped into a taxi. The driver was a aquaintance of mine. He was bubbling with joy and faith as he shared with me the following:

I want to share a miracle with you. My sister-in-law is not a believer. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And so I visited her, shared the gospel and prayed for her to be healed. She recieved Christ. Her condition improved and she was discharged later. She started to go to church but was not very regular.

The world and family pressure caused her to drift away from the Lord. Several months later the multiple sclerosis returned. I went to my church elders and they said that I should pray and anoint her with oil. As I was driving my taxi the Holy Spirit asked me to to get consecrated oil from the Anglican Church around the corner. I went to the church, met a lady, and asked her for consecrated oil. She said they did'nt have any. I insisted that she ask someone else because the Holy Spirit had said specifically to get the oil from the Anglican church. She brought me to Pastor Lico. He happily gave me a bottle of oil and told me to pray for anyone who needed to be ministered to.

I took the bottle, went to the hospital, entered the intensive care unit and prayed for my sister- in- law. I then committed her into the Lord's hands. I then stepped out of the ICU and prayed for my family and friends and anointed them with oil. My sister in law's recovery suprised the doctors. She left the hospital healed from multiple sclerosis.

Nope, my encounter with this taxi driver was not a coincidence. The Lord used this guy's testimony to give me added faith as I teach and preach on the anointing of oil in our prayers for sick during this Sunday's service.

The Lord is going to do great things at next weeks healing campaign!!


Close To 300,000 March For Regional Autonomy In Santa Cruz

The most contentious issue facing Bolivia is Eastern Bolivia's demand for greater autonomy from the central government in La Paz.

Leading this drive for autonomy is Santa Cruz, the hub of Eastern Bolivia. Instead of sending a substantial slice of its income to the central government, Santa Cruz insists on using her financial resources to develop its ailing infraestructure, roads, hospitals etc.

The governor of Santa Cruz and its civic authorities are calling for a referendum in Santa Cruz on the 4th of May to decide the matter. This referendum caps a process which began a few years ago in a massive signature campaign; an earlier referendum gave the movement a degree of legitimacy. Not surprisingly Santa Cruz are expected to vote overwhelmingly in favor for greater autonomy.

The central government however views the referendum as a threat to its plan to implement the new constitution which has yet to be approved by a nation wide referendum. This new constitution is at odds with the proposed articles of autonomy as outlined by the leaders in Santa Cruz. The government is committed to an equal distribution of the nation's wealth. And this push for autonomy is a direct challenge to their socialist vision for the nation.

Charges and counter charges between the central government and the regional authorities in Santa Cruz are a daily affair. All attempts at dialogue have failed. The government has turned to the Roman Church in a last ditch attempt to save the situation.

Yesterday's march was part of this on going narrative.

The photo above from El Deber captures the size of the turnout.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


Last Sunday I preached at the congregation, Cristo Luz Del Mundo, Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I was their previous pastor and so it was great to see old friends again.

I had been away for about 10 months and was quite apprehensive over the quality of my Spanish in the pulpit. I had been away for 10 months and had only preached in English during this period. Spontaniety and a minimal reliance on sermon notes characterised my preaching Santa Cruz. I was fearful of mental blocks which at times can block the flow of thoughts in a sermon. My apprehensions were unwarranted. Two minutes into the sermon and it was like I had never left the place. The Biblical revelation cracked open through the spoken word as I sensed Holy Spirit´s power surge through my heart and lips. Biblical preaching has a life of its own. I was speaking on Thomas´s confession of faith in the Resurrected Christ (Blessed are those who do not see but believe).

It was a typical Bolivian summer. People were sweating; I more than them; the ladies were using fans. My clerical shirt was totally drenched after the sermon.

I love to preach in Spanish. Thomas Merton once said that next to Latin, Spanish was the most best language of worship. Merton was right. And preaching in Spanish comes across, to me anyway, as an offering to the Almighty.

Raphael´s (not me!) painting of Paul´s proclamation of gospel in Athens is above.

Food prices have trebled or doubled; restaurants are not teeming with hungry customers; salaries have not increased; people are tightening their belts. Its a grim situation made worse by increasing and never ending tensions between the Bolivian government and provinces.

The government has decreed a temporary halt to the export of manufactured oil. Business interests cry foul! People are worn out from being hurtled from one crisis to another.

This is a dizzying experience. I am personally cutting down on my expenses. Its kinda difficult but inevitable.