It’s good to be home. We left the muggy tropical heat of Santa Cruz on Tuesday morning and arrived in the Portland Airport Wednesday night in a snow storm. I love it.
I continue reflecting on the Bolivian Friends Church, thankful for insights that came from this time of listening. In mid-March I shared insights that encourage me. Here I’ll share concerns.
The first concern comes from the socio-political pressure the church faces. While we found many sources of encouragement, including a new sense of dignity that most indigenous peoples in Bolivia now experience and an economic growth that seems to have trickled down to most of our friends, pressures to conform to animistic religious practices continue. This especially affects indigenous evangelicals in rural areas and is a source of deep concern to Friends leaders.
The second concern that Friends leaders expressed to us is the lack of a new generation of young men and women called to pastoral leadership among Friends. This is partly related to the first concern in that government regulations and control make it difficult for pastoral training institutes to operate. People are prayerfully seeking solutions to this concern.
The third concern is a personal observation about the current isolation of Bolivian Friends. I’m speaking in terms of the greater church and the almost fear of relating to parts of the Body of Christ that aren’t Quaker, that don’t hold the same views (especially on the sacraments), that don’t have the same history or sing the same hymns. It’s a pattern that I sense somewhat among US Quakers, and while this is not universally true, it’s enough of a pattern to worry me.
This reminds me a little of the dwarves in C.S. Lewis’ final book in the Narnia series, The Last Battle. Refusing to join forces with others, their theme song became, “The dwarves are for the dwarves!” Friends in Bolivia will grow in strength and courage when they can see that they are a part of the greater Body of Christ.
That’s true of us here as well.