As we pulled up to the church and got out of the car, I knew I’d be in for a treat. The music could be heard from the down the street as the worship band warmed up. The warm Spanish culture was on full display as people
began to congregate outside the church and make their way inside. Smiles, hugs and handshakes were exchanged as this church family came together to worship on this hot, steamy evening in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Walking into the church, I see in bold red letters – Lema: 2020 “Consolidacion Y Multiplication Genesis 22:17”. I soon come to learn that this moto (lema) is the vision statement for our LIEAB churches in Bolivia. Their desire is to strengthen and come together as a body in order to go out and multiply.
Genesis 22:17 (NIV)
17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies …
Our LIEAB brothers and sisters are on mission to disciple their people; raise up leaders and to plant more churches in Santa Cruz and the rest of Bolivia. The LIEAB conference of churches now has 14 churches and 10 church plants. Nearly every church is birthing a new church. This was my third time in Bolivia and it is evident that the churches and leadership are intentional about discipleship and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not cultural or by happy accident, but rather an intentional process of discipleship at the core, the ROOT of their ministry.
A few days later I was able to spend time with Pastor Abe and Margaret Harder of our Villa Nueva Church, and Willie and Margaret Enns of our Hacienda Verde Church. Both churches are ministering to the Colony Mennonite people of Bolivia within our MEM ministries. Both have begun an intentional discipleship process with their churches, strengthening and teaching their people, the ROOT of their ministry, in order to see the fruit multiplied. What’s the common thread?
Colossian 2:6-7 (NLT)
6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
So what are they doing?
Years ago, the EMMC (Sharon Soper, missionary nurse and Lawrence Giesbrecht, then-Missions Director) was instrumental in bringing the S.E.A.N. (Study by Extension for All Nations) materials to the LIEAB churches. Eventually, SETA (Seminario por Extensión Teológico a las Américas) was born. Today it is an arm of LIEAB, distributing and administering S.E.A.N. materials in Spanish to train pastors and leaders in Bolivian churches. Through this discipleship approach, several hundred people annually are able take part in this theological training by extension program. People are mentored to grow in their faith, always with the intent of having their faith overflow to others for what Jesus has done for them. They are growing marketplace missionaries, church planters and pastors equipped to extend the Kingdom of God outside their walls.
At The Gathering 2017, Pastor Abe Harder was also looking for a way of growing and discipling his people. A meeting with Sharon Soper (again) and Darrell Kehler directed Abe to the material that was effectively being used in the Spanish Churches. Shortly after upon his return to Villa Nueva Bolivia, they started a Bible School in their church. They currently have about 20 people enrolled.
Now in Hacienda Verde, as this church grows, these people with a new faith in Jesus Christ desire to be rooted. They will have 43 people enrolled in their Bible School! Willie and Margaret Enns are very excited as they already are able to see new leaders emerging who will one day be the pastors and leaders of these churches. This is amazing, as these people have often suffered abuses that have left them with scars that have hindered them from using their God-given gifts.
Like a tree, a follower of Jesus Christ must ROOT deeply into Jesus, find all nourishment to stand strongly through life in Him, and then naturally impact others with fruit and shade, protection and life-breathing air. As your ROOTS grow down, you will draw up the resources you need to stand through any pressures, and then you’ll overflow with an abundance of life that this world needs.
Can we do it?
During my time in Bolivia this past March 2020, I was able to spend a few days with the EMMC Bolivia Prayer/Exposure Team. The team will be forever impacted by how God is at work through these churches, pastors and missionaries. It was evident that the MEM and LIEAB ministries are doing a significant work.
As the EMMC we desire our churches to be obedient to the Great Commission as found in Matthew 28:18-20. “Making Disciples…” As laid out in our 5-Year Strategic Plan, we are working towards leadership development and discipleship to be at the core, the ROOT of our ministry, for out of that will come people and churches on MISSION.
Darrell Kehler and I are in communication with SEAN International, and are working towards getting the rights to the English material, then working together with our EMMC leaders and churches, put together a strategic approach whereby all our churches will have the opportunity to establish a Discipleship Training Centre in their church. Together we can do it!
Stay tuned for what is yet to come as we strength our ROOTS.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.