Today we enter into this season of Advent, waiting for the coming King with great hope and anticipation, and we took a moment to sit down with two members of the Peace and Hope (Paz y Esperanza) team in Bolivia to learn about their work this past year and what they find hope in as they look ahead to the challenges of 2022. Fernando Teran is the president of Paz Bolivia and Marcelo Rodriguez is the Director, and together they lead the Paz office in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
The primary focus of Paz Bolivia has been to respond and intervene in cases of sexual and domestic violence, and they accomplish this by working with churches, schools, and other organizations, coordinating with police and volunteers, to provide holistic support for survivors of violence.
Of course, the pandemic has provided further challenges to already complicated situations. “As Bolivia now faces its 4th wave of the pandemic, it puts volunteers and beneficiaries at risk of infection, and those who are in extreme poverty find themselves in an even more precarious situation, more vulnerable to violence,” says Marcelo. Thankfully Paz Bolivia has a well known and respected presence, allowing them to be able to adjust and be flexible in the midst of a global pandemic, and have managed over 40 cases of direct intervention and direct support this year, with over 100 additional people receiving some form of support. In addition to the unique challenges brought on by the pandemic, Bolivia has faced instability this year due to political crisis and labor strikes.
In spite of these challenges, they continue to see impact for survivors of violence. One mother they came alongside this year was abused so terribly by her husband, that after a particularly tragic beating she was on bedrest for 13 days unable to provide for her children. She connected to Paz Bolivia through a church, and the team was able to provide psychological and legal support. In this particular case, the abuser is a school teacher, and tried to claim the mother was trafficking one of the children, making the case even more complicated. Paz Bolivia has been able to provide legal support in the ongoing proceedings, and in the meantime has been able to connect the children to be sponsored by Compassion International. “Although it is complicated, we trust in the Lord that we can do all things through him.” We praise God that through Paz Bolivia’s intervention, the mother now has a job doing home cleaning, and they are able to attend church again, while the mother is also receiving healthy support from a community group of survivors as they build a new life.
Another beneficiary is a 13 year old teenager who was exploited by someone she met online, who drugged her and proceeded to sexually abuse her. Thanks to financial support by donors and churches, Paz Bolivia is able to provide her and many others this year with psychological, legal, social and spiritual support. Additionally they also coordinate with partners such as World Vision so they can provide survivors, who often are in extreme poverty, with physical needs such as food and clothing. This young girl is now attending church again with her family and continues in the process of healing and restoration.
Marcelo shared with us a verse that gives him hope in the face of such difficult and complex injustices: The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
Looking forward to 2022, Marcelo offers some perspective that keeps the team going. “In the midst of all the challenges that create doubt and risk, we know God will renew us with his mercy and love. He will delight in us, and we will delight in Him, and this gives me hope.” Alongside the challenges of the pandemic, political crisis, and a high stakes focus of ministry, the team also faces the challenge of being able to sustain the work financially. The need is great, and God is at work so let’s join the coming King in advancing His Kingdom by giving generously this season to support this critical work of Peace and Hope in Bolivia.