Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church
Who is the Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church and what are its ministries?
A Bolivian tailor.
The Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church (Iglesia Evangelica Luterana Boliviana- IELB)
a member of the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF), is a vibrant expression of Lutheranism that has 22,000 members. Founded in 1938 by the World Mission Prayer League (WMPL) among Aymara Indians in the community of Mocomoco, the church celebrated its 70th anniversary on September 9, 2008. Approximately 80 percent of IELB members are in rural and 20 percent in urban areas of Bolivia. Members are scattered mostly in the chilly Andean highlands in and around La Paz and Lake Titicaca, as well as in the hot valleys encountered as the geography descends from over 4,000 meters (over 12,000 feet) down to the jungle at sea level. It is primarily indigenous lay men and women who lead and minister to these congregations in Spanish, Aymara and Quechua.How do the Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America accompany one another in ministry?
Through the churchwide ELCA Global Mission unit, the ELCA relates to and is in bilateral relationship with over 80 companion churches and institutions and stewards relationships with these companions. The ELCA Global Mission unit stewards a church-to-church relationship with the IELB. This relationship is deepened and extended by its relationship, through the ELCA Companion Synods program, with the Montana Synod. The Montana Synod has faithfully provided scholarships for primary school students in the cities of El Alto and Santa Cruz. The Montana Synod has also funded the construction of a retreat center near Lake Titicaca, as well as a parsonage in the city of Cobija.
through the ELCA Global Mission unit supports key priorities identified by the companions. The ELCA is deeply engaged not only in several ministries of the IELB, but in the life of this church as a whole. When ELCA financial support is provided for a project or to meet a specific need, what comes before is dozens of hours of conversations, prayer, and joint visioning of the new ways the ELCA and IELB see each other deeply entwined, one with the other, in the construction of God´s Kingdom on Earth. In 2008 ELCA funds are supporting a consultation on what “bivocationality” means for sustainable mission and ministry in the IELB. The ELCA also provides financial support to several areas of ministry in Bolivia: microcredit loans for small businesses and home improvement, theological education, mission support for existing congregations and development of new ones, and capacity-building for health promoters. Two ELCA mission personnel serve in Bolivia.
The ELCA also works in Bolivia through Lutheran World Relief (LWR). A ministry of the ELCA, Lutheran World Relief is a U.S -based agency that works with community-based partners in 50 countries. ELCA World Hunger
funds help support the work that focuses on:
Bolivia: The context in which the IELB serves
- increasing the agricultural production, preserving the environment, promoting better food security, providing education in planting and production techniques, and Improving communities’ access to water.
- promoting human rights and training community members in advocacy
Of all countries in South America, Bolivia has the largest proportion of indigenous people. Of its 9 million residents, 30% are Quechua, 25% are Aymara, 30% are mestizo, and 15% are white. The historic abuse, neglect, and marginalization suffered by the Aymara and Quechua peoples form the heart of the problems Evo Morales, Bolivia´s first indigenous president, seeks to address. His reforms are strongly supported in the Western Highlands, the region dominated by the indigenous majority whose poverty qualifies this country as the poorest in South America.
Bolivia's rich natural resources include the second-largest natural gas reserves in South America. Bolivia is one of the world's largest producers of coca, the raw material for cocaine. For Bolivia's poorest farmers, coca is often the only source of income. Control over natural resources, greater or lesser autonomy for local governments and indigenous communities, access to health care, and the government´s role in the economy are all issues addressed by reforms in the new Bolivian constitution, passed in January 2009. Over the coming months, the Bolivian Congress will debate and vote on implementing legislation to bring the new constitution to life. In December 2009 voters will again go to the ballot box, this time to elect a President, a vote that will surely be a referendum on the success or failure of the Morales reforms.
For up-to-date information on Bolivia, type “Bolivia” into an online search engine or visit: