Associate in Missions
It was June of 2006 when we arrived in Bolivia for the first time. Brother and Sister Collins, the missionaries at that time in Bolivia, met us at the airport in Santa Cruz. He had forgotten his cell phone at the hotel and asked me to jump in a taxi and ride back to the hotel with him. We walked out of the airport, climbed into a dirty, beat up taxi with four balding tires and raced toward the hotel. This was my first encounter with the streets and people of this South American country. Owing to the fact that I had never traveled outside of the United States, I was amazed at everything I saw. For the next two and a half months, we lived in a different culture, experiencing a different world.
In May of 2008, we landed in Bolivia to start our second AIM trip. This time we lived there for thirteen and a half months. We attended language school and had the opportunity to visit other parts of the country. We traveled to the Yungas, a tropical area of the country, with one of the pastors. We saw the low-lands of the east, the mountains in the west and experienced the mild climate of the south. We visited ruins that pre-dated the Incas, and stood on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake.
While the natural beauty of the country is stunning, what excited us the most were some of the church services we were a part of in the different cities. We experienced an incredible conference in the capital city of La Paz and witnessed an amazing children’s service. In the city of Cochabamba, we were part of a three day Holy Ghost campaign where God filled 44 people with the His Spirit and dozens were baptized in Jesus’ name. We traveled to the southern city of Tarija for another conference and saw 28 baptized in a hotel swimming pool. However, our most amazing experiences came in Villa Satelite, a small church on the outskirts of the city of Cochabamba.
In January of 2009, Bro. Dame, the current missionary of Bolivia, gave us the opportunity to work as interim-pastors in this particular church. On one of the national holidays, we had the equivalent of a BBQ cookout and spent the day having fellowship with the church members and playing soccer. (In case you are wondering, the team I was on lost.) We celebrated Mother’s day at the church and the youth performed a drama about the influence that mothers have in their children’s lives. Bolivia’s national kid’s day fell on Sunday, April 12, that year so we celebrated it with puppets, skits, cake, candy and balloons. In a church building that measured about 15 feet by 35 feet, we packed in almost 80 children and about 15 adults. We repaired a broken down property wall and later hosted an area youth service under several tarps that we had to tie together.
We enjoyed some incredible services in that small church. During those six months, we were blessed as we watched the average attendance almost double. On Thursday nights we had Bible study and I spent about 3 months teaching on the new birth experience. One night a young man named Richard, who already had the Holy Ghost, approached me and confessed, “Pastor, I need to be baptized in Jesus’ name.” We made arrangements to baptize him the following Sunday. When he arrived Sunday night to be baptized, he told me, “I have a problem. My mom wants to be baptized tonight, too. Will that be ok? ” Needless to say we didn’t see it as a problem and both Richard and his mother were baptized in the name of Jesus. Around this time, Richard’s sister, Elizabet, began attending also. One Sunday night Bro. Dame preached and Elizabet received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. We baptized her two weeks before we left the country.
Allow me to switch gears and say that AIM (Associates in Missions) is an important program of the UPCI and those that participate in the AIM program can be a tremendous help to the missionaries laboring in their appointed fields. I would like to encourage both young and old that have an interest in missions to prayerfully consider a short-term AIM trip. However, please understand that the work is not always glamorous. Your nails may get grimy as you work with cement, your arms may get tired from shoveling dirt or you hands may start to cramp from cutting out letters for signs. You see, there is a wide variety of jobs that must be done in the field and AIMers can help the missionaries carry the workload.
A few years ago, I preached at a certain church in the States, and afterward an older gentleman approached me and explained, “When I was a young man, God called me to be a missionary to China, but I refused the call. I regret that I didn’t go and have suffered for it.” How sad to live with such a regret hanging over the end of your life! Understand, God may not be calling you to be a lifetime missionary, but He may be calling you to be a temporary help to a missionary standing waist deep in a ripe field. I believe somewhere this morning a missionary was on his or her knees praying that the Lord of the harvest would call and send out more laborers and helpers. My question to you today is, why not be a short-term laborer in another field? Join the AIM program and you may become a missionary’s answered prayer to a short-term need.
*Note: This is an article that was published in the February 2012 issue of the Pentecostal Herald, the official publication of the United Pentecostal Church International. Written by James C. Marse