Wednesday, January 15, 2014



Bishop Moses, Cynthia and I bade farewell to our new friends in Santa Cruz. 

We returned to La Paz and shared our impressions and thoughts of Santa Cruz with Greg Blaxland and his wife Judy. Greg was  disappointed at our decision to explore ministry opportunities in Santa Cruz instead of La Paz; he was planning to leave the work in La Paz, Bolivia in early 1992 and was hoping that I would take his place as Pastor of the congregation. This is an important issue in the mission field. Almost all responsible missionaries pray and hope for a replacement who can carry on the work.  And Greg was keen on leaving the church in the hands of a pastor from a diocese, before his departure. 

We were glad that our trip to Bolivia was coming to an end. The weather, the altitude sickness, the hectic schedule together with long energy sapping flights had taken its toll, on all of us, especially Cynthia. Bp Moses, the most seasoned traveller among us, always looked alert and fresh. I was beginning to miss Michelle and my 2 year old son, Elijah.

We left Bolivia and Peru on a happy note after having met up with our Bolivian brethren and missionaries from SAMS. Till this trip I had vague ideas about South America and most of my knowledge concerning the continent came from books and movies. 

We left Bolivia for Peru, on the 23rd Octobre to meet up with Bishop Alan Winstanley in Lima, the capital of Peru. The Anglican Church in Bolivia was under the purview of the diocese of Peru. He gave us a quizzical look on hearing of our interest in Santa Cruz and did not appear to be thrilled about the possibility of my wanting to serve in Santa Cruz. He was also godly enough to not react negatively but to be open to the Lord's guidance. 

He explained the necesity for a long term commitment in the field because of the need to inculturate oneself and to also have a good grasp of the language. He was therefore adamant about missionaries doing at least a 2 year term of 6 years! At that point I could only see us serving a term of 2 to 3 years. It was quite apparent that we had reached an impasse. We all decided to pray through the questions concerning future: would the Bolivian church acquiese to our request and invite me to begin ministry in Santa Cruz instead of La Paz? Would they allow me to serve for a period of 2 to 3 years? I remember Bishop Alan saying something to the effect that the Bolivian Church's standing committee would have to discuss our proposals. 

The idea for the Diocese of Singapore to invest in Santa Cruz instead of La Paz was unexpected on the part of the Bolivian/Peruvian leadership. Clearly, from a human standpoint, the urgent need for missionaries was not in Santa Cruz but in La Paz. We had to discover God's will in this maze and to not force issues.  We decided to pray for clarity in this cloudy situation, and avoid hasty decisions. I was also struggling with my weakness in languages: learning to minister in a new language (Spanish) was going to be a huge challenge.

And so our 2 week trip to Bolivia and Peru had come to an end. It was a tiring but rewarding experience.  The fatigue from the past 2 weeks had taken its toll and we spent the major part of our journey catching up on lost sleep. I was personally looking forward to seeing my family as the plane landed in Changi Airport.      

Tuesday, January 07, 2014



This post, is part 5 of the 12th post in an ongoing series GOING TO BOLIVIA where I relate the circumstances surrounding my response to the Lord's call to serve Him in Bolivia. The 12th post in this series is significant because it tells the story of my first visit to Bolivia with Bishop Moses Tay and his wife Cynthia.

So here I was in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in 1991.

I spent most of the morning and afternoon with missionaries in Santa Cruz.

My suitability to serve in Bolivia was tested in interviews and meetings with the missionaries, Sue Woodcock and Ernesto/Denise Obregon who were serving at the Anglican Church in Santa Cruz. The first question Sue Woodcock asked me was if Michelle was supportive of my willingness to uproot ourselves and come to Latin America. I replied in the affirmative. The question was important, I found out later, because the rigors of inculturation normally brought to surface unresolved issues in marriages. Sue Woodcock was a no nonsense silver haired lady. She was single, disciplined, persisent and a good bible study leader. She used to serve in Uganda before she came to Bolivia, and was recently serving in Spain before she passed away from cancer. I managed to speak to her a few days before she passed away.

Ernesto Obregon and his wife Denise were a fun loving couple and complemented Sue Woodcock. Their daughters were pre-teens. Ernesto was an anglican from a pentecostal background. He liked traditional liturgy and was trying to bring in more elements from the church's tradition in the church he was pastoring. Denise, his wife had an effective ministry with the young people.

The highlight of the visit was the opportunity to visit the small YWAM base in the grounds of the Anglican Church. David Hulford, an anglican,  was the leader of the base. We sort of interrupted a lesson  on the 10/40 as we walked into the church grounds while the lesson was on. Our arrival was timely because of Spore's location near the the window. It was here that I saw the bilateral missionary connection between Asia, Latin America and back to Asia. To some extent this has already been fulfilled as Latin American missionaries are already making an impact in Asia. The Bolivian church have already sent missionaries to India.            

At night in the house of one of the local lay leaders Bishop Moses Tay taught the scriptures and shared testimonies from the church in Singapore with the local Bolivian leadership and the missionaries. I felt at home and was happy to mingle and to get to know some of the Bolivians. I had translators to help me out as I listened to Bolivians share their stories of conversions and daily walk with the Lord.  

We returned to La Paz the next day after spending a night in Santa Cruz.

Saturday, January 04, 2014


My introduction to the Irish was through some of their cultural icons: James Ussher, Edmund Burke,  U2, Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, George Best, Liam Brady etc.  My experience in Bolivia has helped me appreciate the Irish people even more, especially with reference to St Patrick.    

Several years ago in a visit to Ireland (thanks to an invitation extended by SAMS Ireland and SAMS GB) I found similarities between the Irish and Bolivians. At their best, there is a charm - a happy go lucky spirit and a sense of fun which characterizes both cultures. Perhaps it comes from their common experience of being surrounded by larger nations with an imposing agenda. In Santa Cruz, Bolivia we have 2 Irish bars and restaurants.   

And I also discovered the relevance of St Patrick to the Bolivian Anglican Church.  Hence I have chosen to mark the Bolivian Beat with Patrick's Cross.  

Patrick was a missionary bishop with a heart for the people whom he served. The work in Bolivia requires missionary workers and a national leadership (including bishops!) with a deep love for the people they serve - a willingness to honor to not only the culture but to also understand and help Bolivian people realize their aspirations. The sensibility of identifying with the tragedy and the triumphs of the Bolivian narrative is also an imperiative.  Patrick embodied these missionary values.       

During my trip to Ireland I visited St Patrick's cathedral in Armagh and saw the place where he is purportedly buried. Patrick's life story at times resembles a movie or a TV series. I lifted these paragraphs from a website (

 When St. Patrick was 16 years old, he was captured by Irish pirates. They brought him to Ireland where he was sold into slavery in Dalriada. There, his job was to tend sheep. Saint Patrick's master, Milchu, was a high priest of Druidism, a Pagan sect that ruled religious influence over Ireland at the time. 

St. Patrick came to view his enslavement as God's test of his faith. During his six years of captivity, he became deeply devoted to Christianity through constant prayer. In a vision, he saw the children of Pagan Ireland reaching out their hands to him. With this, he grew increasingly determined to free the Irish from Druidism by converting them to Christianity.

His sacrifice, simplicity and power pervades the atmosphere of the Cathedral in Armagh which bears his name.  

Patrick was a reputed evangelist who prayed for the sick, cast out demons and who taught God's Word. No, he was not a cessationist. He used the 3 clovered shamrock flower to communicate the truth of the three persons of the Trinity ¡Legend has it that he emptied Ireland of its snakes! Here is another quote describing his work:

 Upon his arrival in Ireland, St. Patrick was initially met with hostile resistance. But St. Patrick quickly managed to spread Christian teachings far and wide. Through preaching, writing and performing countless baptisms, he convinced Pagan Druids that they were worshiping idols under a belief system that kept them enslaved. By accepting Christianity, he told them, they would be elevated to "the people of the Lord and the sons of God."

The Cathedral of St Patrick, the centre of the Church of Ireland, is not imposing but a testimony to the man's practicality and effectiveness.  He raised a community of monks, and the Cathedral we see today in Armagh was built around this monastic community, during the 5 century. It is very likely that monks were trained to spread the gospel, build disciples and to recieve the needy. A strong sense of community in Christ Jesus will always reach out to the lost. 

One cannot but sense the sacredness of Patrick's inspiration in the Cathedral sanctuary and grounds -  death has not silenced his message and testimony of Christ, to the world.

May the Lord grant us grace to learn from Patrick's example