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.
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.