Growing youth work in Bolivia

Matt with the youth group in Cochabamba, Bolivia

When Matt Churchouse joined the Christ Church team that visited Bolivia in the summer of 2013, he hoped to be able to help and encourage the churches there in the area of youth work, but the programme didn’t leave much room for that kind of specialised activity. In January 2014 Matt made a return visit to Bolivia with a special focus on youth work.

A group of young people

Some of the participants in the youth training event in Santa Cruz

“They’ve grown up in a globalised world, very used to plurality of values, views and ways of life”

First stop was the city of Santa Cruz, where Matt joined with young people and leaders from across the country in 3 days of teaching and training. Many of them travelled to the event by bus, making journeys lasting 18 hours: almost as long as Matt’s trip from the UK.

“I had a brilliant time with them, teaching through the book of Titus, playing games, thinking through the postmodern culture in which they live. We did an extra session which started with me facilitating, then translation tailed off as more and more of the young people chipped in and worked through some of the things that had been taught on earlier in the conference.”

Matt with Raphael and Michelle Samuel

Matt with Bishop Raphael and Michelle Samuel

“I’m beginning to see some of the reasons God wanted me to come. Thank you for your prayers in all of this”

Matt then spent a couple of days staying with Bishop Raphael and his wife Michelle, which gave him the opportunity to recover from a bout of food poisoning: a constant hazard in Bolivia.

“It made me realise just how much those who serve long-term in the country give to leave home and serve in a different culture. There’s no social security, no help from government agencies, and water and electricity supplies are unreliable. It was very challenging. And it has also made me re-think where security really lies and what life is for.”

A group of young people, leaders and helpers

Leaders, helpers and young people are coming together to build youth groups in Bolivian cities

Matt was then invited to go to Cochabamba – where the playground painted by the team last year still looks fresh – and found that the youth group was growing, and developing plans for the future. The youth group in Tarija was also continuing and growing; Matt had got to know some of the group at its very beginnings last summer.

Choreographed flags in worship

Young people play a leading role in worship in churches in Bolivia

Finally Matt returned to Santa Cruz where he was able to join in the Sunday morning worship, accompanied by the choreographed flag dancing which made such a big impression on the team last summer. The dancers practise for three hours each Saturday: a major commitment!

“The Bolivians appreciate that it’s ongoing – that we’re praying for them, that we are a partner”