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Spiritual Tools

by Marion Heaslip, Bolivia
From “In Other Words,” March 1985

To an Aymara pastor, books are spiritual tools.

One Sunday morning a friend and I drove out into the Bolivian countryside in our jeep, visiting churches along the way and offering Aymara literature to interested folk. We stopped in a rural community where there was a good-sized church and warmhearted people. As we entered the church we saw the lay pastor standing beside a table, teaching the Sunday school lesson, his flock neatly divided in two -- the women on one side, men on the other.

Pastor Alberto looked up. Nodding a greeting to us, he closed his lesson book and laid it on the table in front of him. “I see the Senoritas from CALL* have come to visit us,” he said. “They’ve brought us our spiritual tools.” Immediately lessons were put aside as men and women fished in their pockets for money.

We spread out our books on front benches and the people filed by. They picked out the books they wanted, paying for them before returning to their seats. It was all over in a few minutes.

But the pastor’s words kept ringing in my ears; “Spiritual tools! Spiritual tools!” He hadn’t asked for a sermon or a song or any one of a dozen things he might have wanted. Just books, which he considered tools. Like Winston Churchill, the wartime Prime Minister of England told Americans: “You give us the tools and we’ll finish the job!”

Pastor Alberto, a humble Aymara lay pastor was not asking that someone carry his burden for him,. No, he just wanted tools so that he and his people might “finish the job” of reaching and teaching the Aymaras.

*The Committee for Aymara Literature and Literacy

Copyright © 2002 • Lorna Priest • Page last updated 26 October 2002