I just saw Hal off to the airport, part of a team of four who will be representing Northwest Yearly Meeting at the annual sessions this week of the Iglesia Nacional Evangélica de Los Amigos (INELA). They arrive in La Paz early tomorrow morning and will spend the day resting, getting acclimated to the 12,000 foot altitude. Fortunately, it’s summer and not too cold.
All these travelers have invested much of their lives among Andean Friends. This will be a first return trip for former missionary Quentin Nordyke and his son Kevin who grew up there. Dan Cammack served as a missionary among Peruvian Friends, and Hal, of course, spent over 25 years among Andean Friends. This is an emotional journey for the whole team.
It’s an important visit for the INELA also, and the yearly meeting sessions as well as the visit need to be covered in prayer. The conflictive issues confronting the entire country of Bolivia are, unfortunately, reflected in the church.
The Aymara culture is by nature conflictive, and part of the gospel impact has been toward peace and reconciliation between social and cultural divisions. Both sides of this complex reality continue in the Bolivian Friends Church. While many spiritually mature men and women lead the church and reach out to their surrounding context, certain tensions and conflicts make up part of a continuous background struggle. Currently the focus seems to be mistrust between rural traditional Aymara Christians and more progressive urban Aymara Christians. The socio-political tendency of the country at this time favors a return to indigenous traditions.
Sometimes I wonder why peace-loving Friends have suffered so many internal conflicts and divisions. I have to remind myself of the very real difference that the gospel of Jesus Christ has made and is making, despite the temptations and tendencies of the context. And I remember the importance of prayer in encouraging the faith community as they work through their differences.
INELA yearly meeting sessions run from Jan. 7-10, Thursday through Sunday. Some ways to pray include the following:
--that the 600 people participating would be willing and able to listen to God and to each other
--for the voice of the Spirit in vision and guidance
--that the visiting team would be able to speak prophetic words of encouragement
--that God would continue building his church, so that the purposes of God in that particular context would be carried out.
“Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”