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Bolivian missionaries gear up to evangelize unreached groups

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia (BP)–As advances in science bring the world speedier communication and more creature comforts, Cynthia Martin is preparing to nurture her two boys in a home without running water and electricity.
Martin and her husband, Tom, are leaving a missionary ministry in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, a South American city of about a million people, to move into the remote village of Urubicha, with scarcely 3,000 residents. Their new ministry reflects a Southern Baptist International Mission Board effort to assign missionaries to reach every people group in the world with the gospel.
The Martins, from Mississippi, are among four International Mission Board missionary couples gearing up to move to remote areas in Bolivia. The couples will live among groups who make up a segment of “The Last Frontier” of people unreached with the gospel.
The Martins will work among the Guarayo people. Three other couples will live at or near settlements of Quechua Indians homesteading 50-hectare (approximately 100 acres) plots of land northwest of Santa Cruz.
“There’s no running water, no electricity. We’ll have to raise our own chickens,” says Martin. The nearest electricity and telephone lines run through Asencion, an hour-and-a-half drive away, some of it on planks bridging a swamp. Fewer than 35 adult believers worship among the 16,720 Guarayo people.
In another area, Quechua Indians, descendants of the Incas, are being lured by homesteading offers from the government to move from a high mountain region to agricultural lands in southeastern Bolivia. The Quechua live in settlements forming the hub of their pie-shaped land grants.
Agricultural missionary Terry Waller of Texas and veterinary missionary Toby Hoover of Alabama are moving near one of the settlements. It’s about a two-hour drive — in dry weather — from Santa Cruz. Few of the roads are paved.
Waller has invented a low-cost well-drilling rig, which he trains men to use, as well as a windmill designed to withstand strong winds that sometimes blow in the region. Having water will enable the Quechua not only to grow crops, but also to raise livestock.
His wife, Kathy, of Florida, teaches Quechua women nutrition, hygiene and how to cook with soybeans, one of the main crops of the area. Kathy, who was a pre-med student in college, also gives shots and helps with other medical problems.
Hoover will teach discipleship classes and equip veterinary technicians to multiply his ministry to the Quechua. He will also instruct the Quechua in vegetable gardening.
His wife, Cindy, travels with him and instructs the women in health and nutrition. After she learns Quechua, she will also teach Spanish and reading. While Quechua is their heart language, the people also need to know Spanish to read newspapers and legal documents and help their children with homework. Schooling in the settlements is in Spanish.
The Hoovers have been leaving at 5 a.m. each Sunday to help with discipling at a Quechua congregation. They usually get back to Santa Cruz late Sunday night. There are no organized Quechua churches.
“The three most difficult things to change in a culture are religion, diet and hygiene. We’ll be trying to change all three,” Cindy Hoover says.
While Bolivia is home to 30 to 40 people groups, the Quechua are the most numerous, making up 35 percent of the population.
Malcom and Debbie Massey, from Virginia and Maryland, are also part of the Quechua team. Massey has located one Quechua believer, Sinforiano Sanchez, who sells Bibles and Christian music tapes in Santa Cruz and Montero street markets. The Quechuas have a literacy rate of about 50 percent.
In August, the Masseys will move to Comarapa, where they already have shown the “Jesus” film and established some contacts. On a previous visit, the people had begged them to stay. “Our hearts go out to this area,” he says.
“I have just been overwhelmed at the response to Jesus,” says his wife. “They want to hear every story and hear every word.”

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