Visit to the Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia (IEMB): 11th–23rd April 2017
by Sandra Goodwin (MWiB Vice-President) and Chris Thompson (MWiB Forum)
Sandra was asked to visit Bolivia to represent MWiB on behalf of Methodist Church, Britain (MCB) during her
pre-Presidential year, to form links with the Methodist Women’s Federation of Bolivia (FEFEME), and to assess the feasibility of working together with FEFEME and IEMB to encourage, equip and enable women of Bolivia to learn new skills with which to support their families, to take on leadership roles within their communities and to provide safe spaces for those at risk.
On arrival in La Paz, Sandra and Chris were met by Pastor Genaro Quispe (National Life and Mission Secretary), Agustina Castillo (FEFEME leadership), Isabel Vallejos (FEFEME National Women Promoter), Bishop Modesto Mamani (Bishop of IEMB), Nieves Yana (FEFEME leadership), Nicolas Zurita(National Finances Secretary) and Luisa Marquez (Pastor Genaro’s Secretary). They were decorated with fresh flower garlands, treated to a Bolivian welcome song followed by hymns accompanied by a piano accordion and a prayer blessing for their visit.
With FEFEME leaders Augustina, Isabella and Nieve, they visited several women’s groups, with many of the women arriving on foot carrying children and bringing food to share. During worship, Chris shared a Bible study based on the book of Ruth, and Sandra spoke about ‘Leadership, Susanna Wesley Style’—a theme requested by the women themselves. They joined in Good Friday events and Easter celebrations, and in La Paz they participated in the National FEFEME conference.
New equality laws in Bolivia are encouraging women to ‘find their voice’, and the women described how two centres for women established in the Altiplano region enable them meet together in safety to teach, learn, join in fellowship and, if necessary, find safe refuge and overnight lodging. FEFEME hope to open a third centre, ‘Tabita House’, in El Alto, but until they secure further funding, the building remains without a roof!
Sandra and Chris visited districts in the Altiplano region, a vast agricultural plain in the Andes, populated by mostly indigenous Aymaran or Qechuan people, farmers who rely on crops, sheep or cattle for their daily survival. Climate change has resulted in the longest drought in living memory, severely affecting this year’s crops, but undaunted many came, again walking long distances, bringing food to share for their Easter celebrations. They are desperately poor in a material sense, yet rich in fellowship and hospitality.
You can read the full report of Sandra and Chris’s visit to Bolivia here.