November 2, 2020
I am here today to update you on our Bolivian Mission work and ask for your help in supporting this important mission program. First Presbyterian Church been involved in this mission project for over 20 years!
What started out as a cultural exchange between members of the Suhnam Presbyterian Church in Kwang-ju, Korea and First Presbyterian Church has grown to include 16 missionary trips to the Eden School and mission of Rev. Ik Bai Moon and his colleagues in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
In 1994, the Suhnam church began supporting Rev. Moon. He had already established 20 mission churches in and around Santa Cruz and by 2000 he had established 5 more. In 2016 Rev. Moon and two Bolivian pastors – Rev. Miguel Vargas and Rev. Juan Carlos – visited FPC and in 2019 Pastor Miguel Vargas and his wife visited First Presbyterian, met with our congregation and saw how we worship so he can continue to improve on nurturing his congregation in Santa Cruz.
Our involvement in Rev. Moon’s mission has been to support him spiritually and to provide funding to help him emulate the Presbyterian missionaries who originally brought Christianity to Korea beginning in the 1880s. They had a threefold message:
- preach the Gospel;
- educate the people; and
- establish community health care centers.
In 2001, members of FPC began supporting the Eden school by providing scholarships for Eden students in grades K through 12 and we have continued a robust scholarship program ever since providing Christian educational opportunities to thousands of Bolivian children. Starting in 2005, FPC has now sent mission teams 14 times to Eden bringing dental, medical and vision clinics that have treated over 30,000 patients.
Now more than ever the Eden School and Rev. Moon need our support.
Bolivia has been hit very hard by the Covid pandemic. The health care system there was simply not capable of treating people and the virus quickly was out of control with massive loss of life and disruption of living conditions. In a Zoom call with Rev. Moon last week we learned that the government had ordered all schools closed last spring and that students would simply be moved up to the next grade level in 2021. It also required the school to pay the teachers for the entire year even though they had ordered it closed. No tuition money was paid by the parents to support this. In order for Rev. Moon to meet this obligation, he sold his car and used the funds to pay the teachers and now uses his bicycle for transportation. He did offer for those students who had some type of internet or cell phone access to continue their education on a limited basis and 52 are still receiving instruction thanks to his efforts and a few teachers are teaching these students free of charge. Our Zoom conversation with Rev. Moon last week focused on his plans for the 2021 school year. He affirmed that he plans to open the school in January if the government permits and will start taking applications in December.
He indicated that priority will be given to children of the pastors of the churches he has helped found and then other students who meet his criteria as to the sincerity of their religious faith and their ability to provide and complete schoolwork using a laptop or cell phone. Given the poor economic and financial situation in Bolivia with so many out of work in an already poor country, how can we help?
There are a number of ways to be involved in this important international outreach program:
- Educational scholarships are critical for Rev. Moon to be able to open the school. Currently a full scholarship to send a child to the Eden School for the entire school year is just $400. Only $400 for an entire year. Full or partial scholarships are welcomed. Your contributions are needed by December 15 for the school year that starts in January. Rev. Moon identifies students and their families that have a need for help and interviews them to determine their commitment to education, use of technology and their commitment to Jesus Christ.
- Additionally, operational funding is needed for the Eden School to provide wireless internet in every classroom. Initially classes will be held virtually until the government allows for in-person classroom instruction due to Covid-19. Teachers will be able to offer virtual instruction from their classrooms rather than trying to teach from their homes where there is not stable internet. Rev. Moon is also trying to provide 25 laptops to his teachers to facilitate virtual instruction.
- We hope, but don’t know, that we will be able to have a mission trip to the Eden School in 2021, certainly by 2022. Don’t think that you would not find a place to serve, more hands are always welcome, and we can train you to serve in the Vision Clinic. Last year nine of us held a much-appreciated vision clinic at Eden. What a blessing to bring improved eyesight to over 1500 people who simply cannot afford a pair of glasses which can cost them as much as a week’s pay check.
Eden truly is an oasis of Christian-oriented education and welfare in the midst of a very poor neighborhood. Our scholarship program has given hope to so many children who now have the chance to be strong Christian leaders in Bolivia’s future. Through your generosity and involvement, we can strengthen this mission project and enable it to continue to be a very meaningful, vibrant, caring part of our FPC mission ministry.