Hope in a time of Crisis

Hope in Crisis COVID-19

Dear South America Mission friends and co-laborers,

We hold unswervingly to hope despite the chaos of the times we are living. God kindles our hope through the prophetic voices of Israel’s exile. Zechariah proclaimed that God would “come and dwell in [our] midst” (Zech 2:10). I understand if those who heard his prophecy were doubtful or weary; God’s promise to “dwell among Israel and not forsake [his] people” when the temple was first built 400 years before (1 Kings 6:13) was likely unimaginable at the time of exile.

And we yet have hope today—we see in the life of Christ a fulfillment of those promises and can know for certain that God is among us.

He dwells among us now and we wait with eager anticipation for the day we dwell in His presence. It is in this promise and His faithfulness that we anchor ourselves. This is my message to our missionary team and what I most want you to hear from me today.

I am grateful for each of you supporting the work of SAM missionaries and ministries. Even as these hectic times shift our daily routines and roles, we stand in solidarity with you. It would be our honor to hear from you, to know how you are doing and how we can pray for you specifically in these circumstances.

Our missionary team is developing a “new normal” for being on-mission in these times and in the geography where God has called us.

We’re in countries where the borders have closed and where country-wide quarantines are in effect. The health infrastructure in many places does not have the capacity to manage critical cases. The informal economies in several countries mean that a substantial portion of the population receives their income through public interaction. Please be in prayer for the millions in Latin America who will face these realities. And pray for wisdom for our team, for eyes to see redemptive possibilities that offer peace and hope to neighbors in despair.


Crisis Response Fund

I’ve established a Crisis Response fund at South America Mission to equip and care for missionaries in the coming months. Donations to this fund will be distributed to our missionary team for their use as the gospel compels. They will have freedom to respond to needs that arise, whether within missionary families or in the communities where they serve. Know that your gifts to this effort will directly benefit our missionary team and moreover, mobilize them to be agents of mercy and peace. We realize economic hardship has reached many of you, so we make this ask with great sensitivity. Please give only as you are able and as the Lord leads.

To mobilize Crisis Response funds quickly, the best way to give is online at www.southamericamission.org/crisisresponse.

I encourage you to visit and bookmark this web page even if you decide not to give, because there we will update the content regularly as news and prayer needs develop from our fields of ministry. You can also mail in a check made out to South America Mission with “Crisis Response” written in the memo line (1021 Maxwell Mill Rd, Ste B, Fort Mill, SC 29708).

The directness about the reality before us is paired with our unswerving holding to the hope we profess in the confidence that He who promised is faithful. God is at work as He shakes the nations.

By Grace,

Kirk Ogden, Executive Director, South America Mission

Spotlight: Jenna Weigner

Jason and Jenna committed to a two-year term with South America Mission back in 2007, not realizing that God had a different timetable in mind, one that would extend a full decade later and include a stint in the US to obtain additional training to enable their longer-term effectiveness as missionaries. As the Weigners served with SAM’s Indigenous Rural Outreach team during their initial term, Jason began to see his existing dreams for sustainable agriculture merging with the vision of forming a discipleship center for the indigenous peoples of eastern Bolivia. Jenna, however, discovered her passion during that two-year term. She was a sociology major in college and had begun to imagine what her involvement at the center could look like someday, when she became aware of the deep need for holistic maternity care and childbirth education in Bolivia.

“I made friends with a Canadian woman when we were living out in Pailón. She was pregnant with her third child and decided she did not want to have a C-section, which is most commonly endorsed by doctors in Bolivia. She traveled into the city to receive better care for a more natural birth… I went with her and watched the doctors. Even though I wasn’t formally trained, I knew something wasn’t right,” Jenna reflects. Seeing the great need within the professional community for childbirth education and midwifery practice, Jenna returned with her family to the US with the purpose of her completing a master’s degree.

“We saw that the need was enormous and decided to return to Bolivia equipped. We moved to Seattle, a city and region we’d never been to before, without jobs or a home and I had not even been accepted yet into a program. God provided every step of the way and made it clear to us that this was our path.”

Since returning to Bolivia in 2015, Jenna, now a certified professional midwife, is seeing the fruit of God’s call so many years ago. Six months after the Weigners’ return, Jenna was invited to speak at conferences for medical students in three different cities across Bolivia, specifically speaking about natural childbirth. She has been on daytime Bolivian television, has been invited to speak about lactation at multiple hospitals and teaches a continuing education course for medical professionals.

The Weigners faithfully envision how God will use Jenna’s training for his glory through the ministry at the discipleship center. Though she cannot legally practice as a midwife in Bolivia yet, her passions and training are apt for the needs of the rural and indigenous community in eastern Bolivia.

The discipleship center will allow me to continue educating the community. Women’s health, prenatal care, childbirth, lactation and postpartum care are universal issues. Ultimately, working with the moms is why I got into this and, while I have loved the doors God has opened for me to educate and support doctors, I’m excited to get back to supporting the moms and families in rural areas.” It has been a long road for the Weigners since they joined SAM in 2007, but their experiences and current ministry are a testament to God’s faithfulness and his heart for the Bolivian people.

Learn more about the Weigners’ ministry and how you can partner with them financially to contribute to God’s work in Bolivia: Jason and Jenna Weigner

The Raphá Discipleship Center: for Bolivians, by Bolivians

A bricklayer volunteered his time to help clear the land and lay the foundation for a home in rural eastern Bolivia. Working alongside other rural and indigenous volunteers, he told his story of being turned away from seminaries because he lacked a high school diploma.

The home he was building will house the directors of a new discipleship center being built in rural Bolivia for the indigenous and rural communities of the region. He was overjoyed to learn that this center would not require its applicants to have completed high school and enthusiastically stated he would be the first student.

With tears in his eyes, he said, “Finally there’s going to be a place where I’m accepted—there’s going to be a place for people like me!”

Eastern Bolivia is a bustling region of industry and agriculture, housing 34 of Bolivia’s people groups and Bolivia’s largest city, Santa Cruz de la Sierra. For decades, missionaries, local pastors, indigenous community leaders and rural laborers have yearned for a strategic ministry to provide educational and theological resources. As Bolivia’s indigenous church continues to grow, its people look to seminaries which often close their doors to students without high school diplomas.

This vision for a discipleship center grew over many years through joint initiatives of Fundación Raphá, South America Mission’s (SAM) Indigenous Rural Outreach team (IRO), and other key local partners. Raphá is a Bolivian organization for the flourishing of indigenous communities founded by indigenous pastors with help from a group of SAM missionaries. Their president is a Bolivian doctor who has served with his wife in medical ministry for more than 20 years. Raphá’s partnership with SAM missionaries and with local indigenous leaders, César and Mirtha Surubí, exemplify the heart of this project: for Bolivians, by Bolivians.

The discipleship center will serve as a safe space for mentorship, life skills training, agricultural sustainability practices and medical aid. The indigenous and rural communities of eastern Bolivia currently lack financial stability, education, and adequate training to develop into vibrant communities transformed by the gospel. Raphá and SAM’s IRO team have seen what they describe as a “vacuum” in church leadership despite the evident hunger for growth in the indigenous church.

In February 2017, the IRO team traveled with Raphá members to the Semiraitá indigenous center in Brazil to gain excitement for their vision and learn from the ministry there. The witness of Semiraitá and solidarity built among the team proved to be the ultimate catalysts towards the realization of the dream. Two months after their return from Brazil, Raphá purchased the land for this discipleship center, and in late 2017 Raphá members and indigenous leaders broke ground together and set the foundation for the first building. Now, Raphá members and SAM missionaries are working in tandem to oversee the center’s development.

As the Surubís and SAM missionaries relocate to live near the property, the excitement continues to grow.

When asked about the hope and anticipation that they feel, SAM missionaries enthusiastically declared “It’s not just a North American thing. The church is in dire need of discipleship and while the North American church is helping, we are truly serving in supportive roles. We have seen plenty of projects over the years where the locals don’t see the purpose or the project doesn’t suit the culture, even though the projects sound good on paper. This center is truly an initiative being pushed by the local community, which means that it will last in the long term because of that shared vision!

César Surubí echoes this enthusiasm for local community involvement: “Theological centers, seminaries, and universities do not allow the entry of people who have not finished high school, which is difficult for many indigenous leaders. The indigenous church is now taking responsibility for this project and carrying the work forward.”

César and his wife Mirtha will be living at the center full-time to oversee the daily operations. Their decision to serve in this capacity only enhances the discipleship center’s purpose, as they both share indigenous backgrounds, César himself being of Chiquitano heritage. Even as indigenous and rural volunteers gathered to help clear the land last autumn and set the foundation for what will be César and Mirtha’s home, there was evidence of God’s hand in this work. César watched young Ayoré men work diligently, many of whom he mentored and discipled when they were raucous teenagers. To see these young men work together to set up a space for theological education was a testament of God’s faithfulness to this ministry.

“It is a privilege to serve my brothers in this area,” César declares. “I do not doubt that it is a responsibility for which we need the wisdom of God… The indigenous church will act like a bridge between the communities and organizations that will become its ally.

Sustainability is what excites the team most about this discipleship center.

Though it will serve as a place for theological education and deep mentorship, the team will intentionally teach life skills to help the indigenous and rural communities sustain their families. Classes and sessions on finance, agriculture, and carpentry will give vital skills alongside Biblical discipleship to holistically minister to the students.

Even in the construction of the center, they see community involvement growing.

Raphá’s president has frequently visited the land and brought Ayoré friends with him to participate in the preparation of the land. By doing this, the Ayoré are investing in the project and taking ownership of its future. While laboring to clear the land, the young Ayoré men would ask deep theological questions. This desire to know more is the direct fruit of the Surubís’ and Raphá’s ministry to the Ayoré for so many years.

“There’s just this momentum that’s been building for so long,” one SAM missionary reflects. “Even in our tenure in the past 8 years that we’ve been connected to the indigenous church movement, seeing it from the outside, we’ve noticed a growth and development from apathy to discovering how to “do church” in their communities. Once they found their own way of “doing church”, it began to take off… The community is growing; it’s not perfect, but that hunger is growing and they want to know more. They want to be able to go deep.”

The process of developing the center will take time and exist in multiple phases, but even once César and Mirtha have a home to live in, the team foresees an immediate impact to the surrounding indigenous and rural towns. Some of the local communities’ more serious struggles are alcoholism, drug abuse, and prostitution, which indicates that a safe space away from those influences, where people could come and seek intentional discipleship, will provide aid to these communities from day one.

To learn more about Fundación Raphá and to financially support their efforts, visit their page: Fundación Raphá.

All photos were taken by Jason Weigner.

“That’s not my ministry”: why loving your neighbor is everyone’s ministry

“The poverty is jarring, painful, unjust, overwhelming and very nearly hope-depleting.”


This is SAM missionary Laurie Bremer’s reflection on poverty after living in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with her family for their first 2 years of ministry.

“It causes me to feel guilt, shame, compassion, empathy, and so many other emotions all at once,” she continues, “every time I am reminded that I am in the car and they are on the streets. Just like the last time we drove through this intersection.”

According to Bolivia’s National Institute of Statistics, the portion of Bolivia’s population living in poverty has dropped 20% in the past 15 years, but it still rests near 40%. This reality is the context for many of SAM’s missionaries who have to wrestle daily with how to engage with this poverty as compassionate Christ followers.

“There are some things I imagine one never gets used to,” Laurie states. “Abject poverty is one of those things.”

“Is this just a fool’s errand?” she asks. “From every earthly perspective, it is. This mess is far too big. I want to throw my hands up in despair. I want to run away to where poverty isn’t so confrontational. What an ugly truth to realize in one’s self: I prefer poverty in avoidable pockets that don’t encroach into everyday suburban life.”

While Laurie may be particularly outspoken or self-aware in this realization, she certainly is not alone. According to the US Census Bureau’s 2016 estimates, the United State’s poverty rate hovers around 12.7%, or 43.1 million people. Despite this fact, though there was a rise in charitable donations last year, only 25% of the US adult population volunteered their time to a charitable organization.

It’s simply more comfortable to click “donate”.


Eradicating poverty, ending homelessness or solving world hunger requires action and effort. Even if our calling is to a specific career or ministry that feels disconnected from these issues, we must still avoid isolating ourselves from the “least of these”.

“We know many hardworking, long-suffering missionaries who are involved in street ministry. They work with addicts. They work with children living on the streets… I know that I am not called to this ministry,” Laurie declares. “But that does not negate the question, ‘What am I doing here that makes a difference in the life of the impoverished people in Bolivia?’ Because it is not okay for my answer to be ‘nothing’. I can’t just say ‘Well, that’s not my ministry’… I truly believe that the ministry in which we are engaged will bear fruit and [that] some day it will rain blessings upon the least of these.”

Because it is not okay for my answer to be ‘nothing’.

Laurie and her husband serve in professional class ministry, interacting daily with pilots, lawyers, doctors, dentists, academic and civic leaders in Santa Cruz. Though her ministry focuses mostly on the middle and upper classes, she sees the direct connection to the impoverished communities around her: “As overwhelming as the depth of poverty reaches here, what if there was revival at all levels in Bolivia? What if professionals with the ability to make a change were awakened to how God has called us all to care for the least of these?”

It’s not an excuse to avoid the homeless. She will see them every day. They will ask for money at her car door and she will continually feel the overwhelming burden of the impoverished in her city.

But Laurie does not despair: “Without Christ, it would feel overwhelming and hopeless. It would BE overwhelming and hopeless. But we know that He cares greatly for those who have so many desperate needs, just as He cares for those who have so much affluence that they feel no need for Him at all.”

The call to love our neighbor extends beyond all socioeconomic boundaries. We do not have the right to limit the command to love your neighbor as yourself based on personal preference or comfort.

“Do we know that we will live to see the eradication of such terrible poverty in Bolivia?” Laurie asks. “No, we do not. But I know this for certain: Because of the faith and the hope that we have, fools or not, we will go down fighting on this errand, if that’s what we’ve been called to do.”

Proclama. Psalm 96:3.

Proclama mobilization ministry based in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

“I’d like to tell you about Sandra. She is a dear friend and a member of my church in Santa Cruz. God placed a burden on Sandra’s heart for unreached peoples when she was 15, and that burden has developed into a calling to serve Him to reach the people of the Middle East.”      – Dana Wilson


In 1969, missionaries from South America Mission planted the Christian Missionary Church (Iglesia Cristiana Misionera or ICM) in the heart of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The faith community of ICM still stands today, and they are sending Sandra to serve in cross-cultural ministry in the Middle East. Though it does not have sufficient funds to provide all of her financial support, this local church has recognized God’s call on Sandra’s life for ministry and God’s call for the church to help.

When Dana Wilson arrived to Bolivia in 1998, she attended ICM, not knowing what would come of her service there. She began working as an English teacher at the church’s school, eventually transitioning out of teaching into missionary mobilization. In her second year, Dana helped the church complete its first mission trip to share the gospel in a neighboring town, and by her fourth year in country, she joined the SAM Bolivia Missions Team.

Proclama. Psalm 96:3. Mobilizing the Church in Latin America.The Centro de Entrenamiento Transcultural or CET, based in Cochabamba, Bolivia, invited Dana to receive mobilization training in order to help local Bolivian churches develop a vision for their participation in God’s global mission. Though this encounter with CET felt like an accident at the time, 14 years later, it has become the resource and responsibility of PROCLAMA (derived from Psalm 96:3, which in Spanish reads, “Proclamad entre las naciones su gloria…’), an entity newly formed in 2015 (under Dana Wilson’s leadership) with a vision to see a missionary movement catalyzed from within the South American church to reach the Nations for God’s glory.…Read the entire article HERE.