Volunteer Opportunities: Yes
The story of Word Made Flesh Bolivia is one of God’s faithfulness and grace, one where loved ones have come and gone and left their mark, one of perseverance in the face of disappointment, political turmoil, sickness, severe weather and tough living. But it is also one where Hope triumphs and each small step towards transformation matters.
La Palabra Hecha Vida (WMFB) first began as a desire to continue the work of Word Made Flesh in South America. As one of the most impoverished countries in the region, as well as its proximity to the already established WMF Peru, the community decided to expand ministry to Bolivia.
On August 2, 2001, Andy and Andrea Baker innocently and excitedly arrived to El Alto as the first missionaries of WMFB. After attending language school, they established a home and began researching the needs of the city. To their own surprise, they found an unmet need among women in prostitution, and opportunities for ministry began to open. Early in 2002, they began visiting the brothels on Carrasco Street in Bolivia’s largest red-light district and slowly began building relationships with the women there.
Nearly every woman they met claimed to be working the streets to feed their children, so that May the Bakers hosted a Mother’s Day Celebration and formally introduced the ministry of Word Made Flesh Bolivia to nearly 100 prostituted women and their children.
With relationships established, there came a growing need for a more adequate space to further those friendships. On October 1, 2003, La Casa de Esperanza, The House of Hope - a name christened by the women themselves - opened its doors as a place of hospitality and care for prostituted women and their children. Every Wednesday and Friday afternoon, a small group of volunteers would share a meal together with all who came to visit.
Together with their local community, Andy & Andrea determined four ministry foci and eventually began literacy classes, a children’s program, medical consults and a corresponding therapeutic program, “Paso a Paso” (Step by Step). A quiet and slightly grumpy little lady, now known as Eliana, participated and changed the community forever.
Andy Baker met Eliana in the brothels, searching for a way off the streets. At the ministry center, she was offered a new job in housekeeping. And with the support of a loving community, she found the safe space she needed to meet her Savior. Her baptism is one of the most significant moments in the history of WMFB. The entire community came to support her, staff and volunteers, along with friends from the street, long-standing church members and new believers. They all crammed in a tiny, candlelit room, singing praises and watching 55 years of darkness wash away in a plastic inflatable swimming pool.
In 2006, La Palabra Hecha Vida (WMFB) became a locally registered Foundation, along with a functioning Board of Directors. And then in 2015, LPHV became the first tax-exempt non-government organization in the Department of La Paz.
After a number of scattered attempts to support women in their desire to leave the streets, some more successful than others, the community learned – that money would not solve the problem, nor a swift faith conversion. They learned that a woman needs a supportive community around her, to learn new life skills and rhythms, to address the deep wounds that led her to her reality and space to allow those hurts to heal. They found that a woman who has been victimized needs economic security within a safe sanctuary to hear and respond to that still soft Voice.
So the community began to draft a dream, and in 2010, SutiSana, a social enterprise for women in prostitution, received its first participants. A combination of Aymara & Spanish, the prominent local languages, SutiSana means, “healed name.” It is based on Isaiah 62 and inspired by their co-worker and friend, Eliana. Upon her conversion, she chose a new name meaning, “My God has answered me.” Eliana embodies the hope desired for many others, holistic transformation, healed names and identities. SutiSana now provides dignified employment, a fair salary and full benefits to 9 women.
Over the years the community also noted repeated cycles of poverty and abuse in the lives of the women’s children. So in 2015, WMFB expanded their attention to children affected by prostitution through a weekly after-school program. With nutritious meals, tutoring, discipleship and opportunities for personal and leadership growth, children are encouraged and empowered to seek the Lord’s best for their lives.
In recounting the multitude of stories and remembering all who have passed through, there’s still much to be told. However, that which the Lord began continues today. Hundreds of women and children are finding the freedom and wholeness that Christ offers. To God be the glory.
Vision: Abundant life for those affected by prostitution.
Mission: In community, we practice and proclaim the Kingdom of God among persons affected by prostitution, offering friendship and opportunities for transformation.