POTOMAC HEIGHTS, Md.—A Potomac Heights Church mission team got caught in the middle of civil unrest and mounting instability in Bolivia late this summer. Protestors closed the road leading to the airport on the day before the team had to go home.
“Though there was a real good likelihood that we wouldn’t be able to leave, we were never scared for our safety,” team member and Associate Pastor Jason Ferrell said. The summer trip was Farrell’s fifth to Bolivia.
Bolivia has been in the midst of escalating political unrest but Ferrell said the team mainly saw peaceful protests. Few Bolivians carried weapons, though some had sticks.
The team was in Trinidad, a ten-hour ride to the airport in Santa Cruz, when a roadblock that would have prevented them from getting to the airport was erected on Wednesday. The team was preparing to leave the next day. They quickly got word out asking for prayers. Emails were passed along throughout the BCM/D and beyond. God answered those prayers. Ferrell said that for an unknown reason, the protestors postponed the date for the blockade from Wednesday to Sunday. The barriers were removed, and the team was able to leave peaceably.
“What happened was a God thing,” Ferrell said.
Team members decided that if they had to stay, they would just continue on with their work, training Bolivian Christians to evangelize, and disciple and start new churches until they were able to leave.
The Potomac Heights members worked with a group called e3 Partners Ministry. They worked in teams with Bolivian church members from five different churches and translators to evangelize, disciple, start churches and teach them to do the same.
Ferrell said the teams use a unique ministry approach. They walk in an area and meet local people. They use the ministry device “EvangeCube” to share the gospel, give away Bibles and they invite people to new churches, which may be under a nearby tree or soccer field.
The churches, Ferrell explained, have to be within walking distance for the people because the very limited transportation.
On the next day, the team goes back to the people who have shown interest or have made confessions of faith and do Bible studies.
“If they accepted Christ, they were excited and brought others to meet us. Usually when we went back there were more people in the house,” Farrell said.
The team continued that model, leading more to Christ and strengthening the 700-plus people who made confessions of faith.
As the teams worked in groups, the Americans were the ones who first engaged people through the translators. Through the week, the Americans began to say less and the Bolivians took the lead.
“We continue to pass the torch to them,” Farrell said. There may come a time when American teams can’t come back, but the work will continue.
Farrell said Potomac Heights Church has a heart for Bolivia, and for missions, thanks to a mission minded senior pastor, Gary Willet. The church has sent eight teams to Bolivia since 2004. Forty-five church members have ministered there over the years. Those who can’t go provide support through prayer, funding and collecting needed items such as toiletries, socks, hats, gloves and eyeglasses that the teams take with them to distribute.
The church partners with Enzo Saavedra, a former drug lord who found Jesus and is now a missionary. Farrell said Potomac Heights Church loves Saavedra. In fact, he came back to America with the team this summer and spoke at Potomac Heights Church before going to Virginia to see his family. Ferrell said northern Virginia has the highest population of Bolivians in the United States and Potomac Heights Church sees some potential open doors for ministry there.
Since PHBC members have been serving in Bolivia, they’ve helped to establish 25 churches with over 3,000 people meeting every week.
“This is where God has called us to go,” Farrell said. “When I went the first time it radically changed my life. It was the last step for me to go into full-time ministry.”
One of this year’s team members, George O’Leary, agrees that it’s life changing. This was O’Leary’s third trip to Bolivia.
“It used to be hard for me to talk in my own community about Jesus. When you go there it’s hard to think that those people don’t have the opportunity to hear about Jesus. It strengthens my ability to do the same in my own community.
“I will always be going on these trips,” O’Leary said.
“You don’t come back the same,” Ferrell said.