Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church
(Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Boliviana, IELB)
The Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church grew out of the work of the World Mission Prayer League from the USA, among Aymara Indians. By using vernacular languages in its evangelism programmes the church grew rapidly, especially in the early years, as the Aymara and Quechua were able to share the gospel in their own language. In 1972, the American missionaries left the country, as the local people claimed greater participation in the decision-making bodies of the church. The Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church was constituted that same year. The church is composed entirely of indigenous people. It is the largest Amerindian Lutheran church on the continent. Its members are scattered mostly in the highlands and in La Paz, and belong to the poor sectors of society. In Bolivia, more than in any other Latin American country, the indigenous peoples have been marginalized and are suffering from exclusion. It is only in recent years that they have become better organized and are able to claim their rights and participation in society. The socio-economic and political situation of the country is burdening particularly the ministry of the church.
The IELB's main priority is to promote a holistic approach to evangelism and service. The church is involved in a variety of projects: alternative agriculture, animal husbandry, provision of drinking water, educational campaigns to prevent cholera, formal education (elementary school), vocational training, and communication. All these projects are planned with the communities and respond to their needs; at the same time, they provide good opportunities to introduce the gospel in a natural way to the communities involved. At the same time, the church is aiming to strengthen its institutional presence within the Bolivian context. Important contacts and even agreements in the field of education have been achieved in the past years with the Bolivian government.
The highest decision-making authority of the church is the assembly. It elects the twelve members of the board which, through its chairpersons, exercises legislative, executive and judicial authority. The work is organized in three departments: evangelism, communication, education, health and social development.