The Story of Simón Chavez, Quechua Church Leader
by Simón Chavez, Translated by Lisa Felch
19 October 2006
The author of the first ever devotional book written in Quechua knows God's power and faithfulness in his life. Simón Chavez was one of eight children, raised in poverty. He dropped out of school after fifth grade to work. Despite these obstacles, God called Simón to follow Him and has used him to establish a church in his small village, to serve as a missionary, and now to learn to write Quechua on a computer to produce radio programs and devotionals in his heart language.
This is Simón's story, translated from his own words in Spanish:
I am from the village "Finca Esquena," province of Chayanta, Department of Potosí, Republic of Bolivia. I was born in Finca Esquena on May 3, 1965. I have five brothers and two sisters. There were eight of us children. I was the fifth born. I have four older siblings and three younger ones. My parents were native Quechua speakers.
A Childhood of Poverty
In my childhood, my siblings and I suffered many times of hunger, because there were so many of us. My parents worked hard at agriculture, but they lacked certain necessary things to live comfortably. I attended school up until the fifth grade. I learned very little Spanish.
After fifth grade, I left school to work in the cotton harvest in eastern Bolivia with some of my brothers. When I was seventeen, I served in the military for one year, and then I went to look for work in many places. I finally went to Argentina for one year. Then I returned to my village and kept looking for work for two years.
A New Job and New Life in Christ
When I was 20, I heard that there was agriculture work in Chapare, and so immediately I went. When I arrived there, I met a pastor and I worked with him in planting his land.The pastor held worship meetings in his home. They read the Bible and prayed to God. Up until this time, I had never heard any Bible teaching. After three months of working for the pastor, I realized that his life was very different: he paid me fairly for the work I did; he didn't cheat anyone; the hours for working were fair, and he never made me work late; and he respected his spouse. I then started paying more attention to the Bible teaching because I wanted to live like the pastor.
This was all very interesting to me. I then started paying more attention to the Bible teaching because I wanted to live like the pastor. He never spoke to me about salvation, but his testimony really spoke to me.
One night, I heard in a Bible message that I needed to be saved from sin and receive Jesus Christ as my only savior. Up until then, I hadn't understood salvation so clearly. I then realized that I was living in sin and needed to be saved from sin. I decided to receive Christ as my savior with all of my heart. I also believed with all my heart that Jesus Christ died for my sins. This decision happened internally in my heart. Two days later I asked the pastor to help me receive Jesus Christ as my savior. That was Sunday, the 16th of October, 1986.
A Faithful Witness in My Village
After a year, I returned to my village, Finca Esquena. My father learned that I was an evangelical believer, and he criticized me very harshly. But I trusted in God and stayed with my parents for a year because I wanted them and my neighbors to know Christ.
During this time I didn't quit attending worship. I always walked four hours to church every Sunday. There wasn't a believer or a church near my village. When I listened to the teacher at Sunday school, I had a strong desire to study the Bible so that I could be like him. Then I would be able to teach my family and my neighbors.
One time, the church held a three day conference for spiritual growth. Many brothers and sisters came from different locations. At that conference, I learned that there was a Bible Institute in Sucre, where people could be trained to be leaders or pastors. They invited us to go.
Bible Institute and Christian Service
Upon hearing that invitation, I decided to go. The first of January 1988, I went to study at the Bible Institute of San Juanillo. During the vacations, they gave us homework to do practical work of evangelization. I went to my village where I evangelized my family and my neighbors.
One night I visited a woman who was very ill and bedridden. I spoke to her about salvation, and she received Jesus Christ as her personal savior. After seeing this, many people were amazed...and they wanted to receive Christ as their personal savior.The next day, she got better and was able to walk a little more each day. Eventually, she completely recovered from her illness. After seeing this, many people were amazed, like my mother and two brothers and other people and they wanted to receive Christ as their personal savior. Later I invited a church leader to my house to help me help these people receive Christ as their savior. At that time my father also accepted Christ.
Then I returned to the Bible Institute to finish my studies, and during each of the following vacations, I always went to teach the Bible in the little church in my village. In October 1990, I graduated from the Bible Institute as a Christian worker. I went straight to Finca Esquena and worked there as a pastor for four more years.
Then I got married when I was 29. I continued working in various churches until 1998. In July 1998, one of the churches in Sucre invited me to work as a missionary in one of their projects. I did not doubt that this was God's call, so I accepted and went along with my wife and one year old son.
Facing Challenges as a Christian Worker
We worked as missionaries for three years. During this time I was often ill with gastritis, so the church brought me back to the city of Sucre, where I worked supporting the Bible teaching work of this church for two years. All along, I was suffering with great abdominal pain.
Thanks be to God, a missionary brother gave from his heart so that I could visit a doctor. I had some very difficult times with my family after that. There wasn't work for me in the church or in any other place. I started selling rope in Sucre for a little more than a year, but we didn't earn anything. It was a really difficult time. During this time I saw God's hand. A missionary gave me work in his garden and I was able to sustain my family with what I earned.
New Opportunities in Radio and Writing
In May 2002, I was invited to work in Radio Mosoj Chaski, and I accepted enthusiastically. In the radio work, first I learned to write on the computer with the help of the missionary who gave me work in his garden. Up until then I had never even touched a computer. Since all the radio programs are in Quechua, I also learned with many challenges, to write in Quechua. Although I knew how to speak in Quechua, writing it was very difficult for me.
Later I wrote some radio programs in Quechua. At the beginning of 2005, a brother was looking for a devotional book in Quechua. This touched my heart, and I thought of so many Christian Quechua brothers. I shared this with them and they encouraged me to write.
The director of the radio gave me the opportunity to write a small book of 365 devotions in Quechua called "Janaj Pacha t'anta" (Bread of Heaven). It needed many corrections, but with the help of other brothers, and through the ministry of the radio, it will be printed.
I ask for many prayers to continue writing and keep working in the ministry for the Lord in Bolivia.