Bolivian folk musicians trumpet Christ's cause
By Aloise McCullough
A concert-and-dinner series in March met with mild success in raising money for Methodist ministries in Bolivia, South America.
Sponsored by the Bolivia/Oklahoma Conference Partnership Committee, the events were March 6-9 at five Oklahoma United Methodist churches. "We’ve had the partnership for 23 years," said David Stephenson, chairperson of the committee and Skiatook pastor.
Anyi, a three-member Bolivian folk-music group, performed as part of their "Midwest Tour."
At OKC-Chapel Hill and Muskogee-St. Paul’s churches, Anyi’s music and potato bar meals raised money to complete two Methodist churches in El Alto, Bolivia.
"These are two churches that are in the fastest-growing cities in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest parts," Rev. Stephenson said of Manantial de Vida (River of Life) Church and Nueva Canaan (New Canaan) Church.
The events at Chapel Hill and Muskogee-St. Paul’s raised $2,000 for River of Life Church and almost $3,000 for New Canaan, Stephenson reported.
New Canaan needs $3,000 for a new sanctuary roof, he said, and the fund-raiser appeared to meet that goal.
Chapel Hill’s Mission Committee gave an additional $5,000 for construction materials for River of Life.
The Bolivian congregation, currently a house church, needs funds to finish the floor of its new building. That goal appears to be met, too, Stephenson said. Chapel Hill Volunteers In Mission have ministered there in the past.
The three concerts and dinners at Norman-McFarlin, Owasso-First, and Tulsa-First raised money for Engineers in Action, another branch of the Bolivia-Oklahoma Conference partnership. Almost $25,000 total has been raised for that ministry, Stephenson said.
At Chapel Hill church, the folk musicians said they enjoyed performing at the concerts.
"We are helping engineers in order to keep this project going on behalf of the poorest communities," said Juan Carlos, the leader of Anyi. "We have to learn how to live together in friendship and solidarity."
Carlos, Mirtha Carrazana, and Lucas Conrady played more than five instruments for an appreciative audience.
"It was great communication with the audience," said Conrady. "We feel very good."
The Oklahomans they encountered showed a distinct awareness of Bolivian history, said Carrazana. "The people are very nice. They are sweet and have a lot of respect."
Audience members also expressed enthusiasm about the effort.
Bob Macemon, choir director for Yukon-Good Shepherd UMC, went to the concert with his wife, Margaret. He said they attended because of the blend of purpose the concert offered.
"We love mission and we love music, and it has everything put together," he said.
The partnership began in 1986 between the Evangelical Methodist Church of Bolivia and Oklahoma Volunteers In Mission. Since then, 647 mission teams and 831 people have served in Bolivia. More efforts through the partnership are to be announced, Stephenson said.
"We’re looking on the possibility that we’ll do something next year, but we’ll have to do some evaluations on our part," he said.
Stephenson reported Church membership in Bolivia has grown from 80,000 to more than 1 million during the years of the partnership, making it the second largest denomination in that country.
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