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LDS Church celebrates 50 years in Bolivia

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA

The Church recently celebrated its golden anniversary in Bolivia.

On Nov. 22, 1964, 19 people gathered in the interior city of Cochabamba for the nation’s first official Church meeting. Missionaries arrived two days later.

Much has changed in Bolivia over the past half-century. Today there are more than 177,000 members. Full-time missionaries serve in three missions. Meanwhile, the elegant Cochabamba Bolivia Temple operates in the same city where that first tiny branch was organized five decades earlier.

But the story of the Latter-day Saints in Bolivia is much more than membership statistics and mission numbers. Over the past 50 years the Church has assisted legions of Bolivians, both inside and outside the faith.

Various Church-sponsored humanitarian projects have blessed people with the gifts of mobility, daily sustenance and even life itself. Wheelchair projects, for example, have allowed many to enjoy priceless independence. Others are enjoying nutrient-rich diets thanks to the Church’s many family agricultural and food efforts. Each day premature babies in the Andean city of El Alto are kept alive by neonatal equipment purchased through the generosity of members worldwide.

Along the way, the Church has made many friends in Bolivia. Those relationships were both celebrated and renewed in a recent event sponsored by Bolivia’s Council of Public Affairs.

Held in the capital city of La Paz, the dinner commemorated the Church’s 50th anniversary in Bolivia and recognized the Church’s ongoing commitment to help Bolivians in need. More than 100 men and women representing national and local government and media agencies participated in the event. Also in attendance was Elder Juan A. Uceda of the Seventy, who presides over the South America Northwest Area. Elder Rene Cabrera Balance, an Area Seventy and a native of Bolivia, joined him.

Elder Uceda accepted, on behalf of the Church, a medal and a government resolution recognizing the LDS Church and its membership “for its support of those with health needs; for its wheelchair donations; and for other service activities,” according to a South America Northwest Area news release.

The nation’s blood bank director, Dr. Maria Del Carmen Garcia Lima, also noted the Church’s participation and support during nationwide blood drives. A recent effort yielded more than 2,000 units of donated blood, the release said.

Dr. Garcia Lima said the blood drives are essential in preserving lives, adding that the collection drives “jointly performed by the blood bank and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the most successful in the country.”

Meanwhile, popular television journalist Juan Carlos Arana said the Church’s ongoing effort to succor those in need stands as an example for all Bolivian institutions.

The true love of Christ, added Senator David Sanchez, is demonstrated in the Church’s commitment to care for others.

A short film at the dinner explained the Church’s two-fold mission to share the message of the Restoration while serving those in need. The film highlighted the purpose of fast offerings and how such sacred donations are often utilized to deliver relief in the aftermath of natural disasters.

[email protected] @JNSwensen

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