Welcome to Bolivia, the landlocked "heart" of South America whose windswept Altiplano highlands and steamy eastern lowlands are home to one of South America's most indigenous cultures. More than half the population still practices traditional Inca and Aymara religion, which is often mingled with Catholicism. Bolivia is one of the countries in South America least influenced by Protestant Christianity. As the Bolivian Indian Mission (BIM), SIM first entered Bolivia in 1902 through the vision of New Zealander George Allan. Today SIM partners with a large and vibrant church in Bolivia called the Unión Cristiana Evangélica.
Team's VisionOur vision for SIM Bolivia is to develop a thriving missionary family, advancing strategic ministries in partnerships, to strengthen the body of Christ in Bolivia and impact the church worldwide.
Explanation of terms
Thriving — We believe that it is fundamental that each missionary be growing in intimacy in their relationship with Christ, allowing Him to continue to mould and change their lives as they grow closer to Him. Unless we are growing, we have nothing to offer. This needs to be our number one priority. In order to thrive we encourage relationships of accountability and mentoring so that we can help and support one another.
Missionary — We are a mission agency and work with missionaries from all different countries who God has called to minister here in Bolivia, this includes those who have a call to minister cross-culturally to their own people (our national workers).
Family — We believe that SIM Bolivia is a family that should love and support one another. No one has all the spiritual gifts and characteristics necessary for a successful ministry. We need each other. Although we come from different cultures and denominations, we want our family to reflect the diversity of the body of Christ and yet be united.
Advancing — We believe we should be people who can creatively develop ideas and strategies, and who are critically reflective as they evaluate these strategies, with the aim of always finding ways to be more effective in our ministries. We believe that our missionaries should be equipped and trained to fulfill their different roles. We put a high value on lifelong learning, both professionally and theologically.
Strategic ministries — We believe that SIM Bolivia has a history of cutting-edge ministries and strategies, and that God has called us to continue in this tradition. We welcome new initiatives that are strategic in reaching, discipling and equipping more Bolivians, as well as valuing existing strategic ministries (focusing on Children, Youth and Families, Evangelism, New Initiatives in Missions, Quechua Ministries, and Theological Education). We are prepared to take risks of faith for God’s glory.
In partnerships — We are committed to working in partnerships, whether that be with other mission organizations, other Bolivian ministries, or individuals in order to support one another and have more effective ministries. We believe that partnerships are important to demonstrate the unity of the body of Christ.
To strengthen — We believe that everything that we do in SIM Bolivia must serve to strengthen the body of Christ, discipling and equipping the next generation of leaders. Our goal is to strengthen and encourage Bolivian Christians to take leadership roles, and to walk alongside them as they do.
The body of Christ — Although we have an historical relationship with the Unión Cristiana Evangélica, we are open to working with, strengthening and supporting any evangelical denomination or ministry that is in agreement with our statement of faith. We long to see greater unity across the evangelical church in Bolivia.
In Bolivia — Historically we have worked with the Quechua people, but we have now extended our ministry to other people groups from the altiplano to the lowlands, always looking for strategic locations for the greatest impact of the gospel.
And Impact the church worldwide — We are looking to support any initiatives that train and equip Bolivians to reach out in cross-cultural mission. We believe that what God is doing through SIM Bolivia related ministries, will impact Latin America and across the whole world.
Country & Ministry ProfileSIM, through its partnership with the Misión Andina Evangélica (AEM), is an acknowledged pioneer in evangelical missions in Bolivia. This nation has long been dominated by colonially-imposed traditional religion on top of pervasive spiritism—a syncretism that keeps the people in spiritual darkness. The countryside is dotted with shrines to spirits to whom sacrifices are still regularly made.
It was the vision of the “vast Andes regions ringing with praises to the Lord” that drew the founders of AEM to Bolivia, and specifically to the millions of Quechuas who live in the highlands. Praise God, this vision is beginning to be realized. Over 15% of the population of Bolivia are now identified as evangelical, and in some urban areas it is closer to 20%. The Unión Cristiana Evangélica (UCE), which relates to SIM, grew rapidly throughout the last part of the twentieth century. Today, the great challenge is an acute need for trained and committed leaders to guide the church.
Unreached PeopleThe upper classes, the Quechua, and the 100,000 students in nine universities need God's word of hope to counter existential philosophies.
History of ChristianityRoman Catholic work began in 1537 among two tribal groups in what is now Bolivia. Franciscans and Jesuits were active with 17 missions and 31 "reductions" (small villages developed by the Catholic Church where the faithful were brought and trained in skills and the Catholic religion). In 1667, the Jesuit order was expelled.
Bolivia has long been dominated by colonially-imposed traditional religion on top of pervasive spiritism, a syncretism that keeps the people in spiritual darkness. The countryside is dotted with shrines to spirits to whom sacrifices are still regularly made. Protestant missions didn't appear in Bolivia until 1895—much later than most Latin American countries—when a Brethren Assemblies missionary arrived. Canadian Baptists and Methodists soon followed, and in 1907, the Seventh Day Adventists arrived.
SIM History in Bolivia: In 1902 George Allan arrived and began work among the Quechuas; in 1907, he founded the Bolivian Indian Mission (BIM). With the help of a Bolivian, he translated the New Testament Scriptures (1923) and began several Bible schools. In 1950, BIM formed its national churches into a denomination—the Evangelical Christian Union (Union Cristiana Evangelica, UCE). In 1959 the churches begun by the Evangelical Union of South America (EUSA) in Bolivia joined the UCE, becoming the second largest Protestant group in Bolivia.
The Bolivian Indian Mission became known in 1965 as the Andes Evangelical Mission (AEM), which merged in 1982 with SIM International. It retains the name MAE (Mision Andina Evangelical) in Bolivia. Through its partnership with Andes Evangelical Mission (AEM), SIM is an acknowledged pioneer in evangelical missions in Bolivia.
It was the vision of the "vast Andes regions ringing with praises to the Lord" that drew the founders of AEM to Bolivia, and specifically, to the millions of Quechuas who live in the highlands. Praise God, this vision is beginning to be realized.
The early days were marked by slow progress. Beginning in the 1930s, after the Chaco War, there was a large movement toward Protestant missions. This change corresponds closely with the socio-political revolution that took place as the Indian population began to be granted greater freedom and to become enfranchised as landowners rather than serfs. Their newfound status provided freedom to make decisions which most had never previously experienced.
Pray for the workers to reap in this field of great harvest. Receptivity is good in urban fringe areas where new arrivals to the city have settled. Areas where agricultural colonization was strong have also shown great potential for church growth. Professionals are responsive to home Bible study groups.
The State ChurchThe Catholic Church enjoys less political influence than it once did. However, it remains the largest and most influential church in Bolivia. Nevertheless, after 500 hundred years of being the official state religion, the new Bolivian constitution now only recognizes the traditional dieties of the indigenous religions.
Please Pray for: