El Alfarero University Student Center in Bolivia
“Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message” (Jeremiah 18:2, NIV).
According to the World Health Organization, 60 percent of Bolivians are under the age of 25, and only 7 percent of the population is over 65 years of age (2005). These numbers left WGM Bolivia asking, “How can we help the people of Bolivia?”
The answer was to focus outreach on Bolivians 29 years of age and younger. With this emphasis came a partnership between WGM and the El Alfarero (The Potter) University Student Center. The first center was started in 2001 in Sucre under the leadership of Serving in Mission missionaries from the United Kingdom.
In June 2013, a branch of the ministry was opened in Santa Cruz, the educational capital of Bolivia and the country’s largest and fastest-growing city. As students from throughout Bolivia and surrounding countries come to study, the city’s population of 2 million is expected to rise to 4 million by 2020. El Alfarero–Santa Cruz is ideally located within walking distance of three major universities and has 100,000 students living within a one-mile radius.
University students throughout the world are similar—they are finding themselves, growing academically, and seeking truth and purpose. During this crucial time of life, students are laying a foundation for the future that has far-reaching impact. El Alfarero seeks to touch the lives of university students and young people in general through evangelism, counseling, and discipleship, helping them realize life can have hope and purpose.
Approximately 500 students visit the center each day, taking advantage of the inexpensive food, Christian music, games, services, and, above all, the love and acceptance of the staff, volunteers, and other students. El Alfarero offers a café, a crisis pregnancy center, a daycare center, young women’s refuge, and free biblical counseling. The café, which daily serves roughly 250 students, is a doorway to the other activities. It is a distinctly Christian place, but since most of the students who hang out there are not Christians, the atmosphere is not overpowering. Evangelism is done through relationships and not pressure, making the café a place where friendships are started and trust is built.
This trust enables El Alfarero staff and volunteers to build intentional relationships and develop opportunities for friendship evangelism, discipleship, and mentoring. The center strives to provide a safe, welcoming, and peaceful environment that meets the spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and economic needs of the young people. As the students are pointed to Jesus Christ, His transforming love allows them to become leaders of character and integrity.
“As most students will attest, college life is hard,” shared WGM missionary Amanda Hoogkamp, who is preparing to serve at El Alfarero. “It is a time when your beliefs come into question, and they either stand or fall. My college years defined my missions calling. My faith was tested in several ways, but, thankfully, I had a college group that allowed me to question and kept me focused on God. Without this group, my life would have taken a different path.
“After college, I saw a lack of church groups for college students. This is where God has put a fire in my heart. I want to be there for students who are trying to decide if God can still be trusted with their hearts. El Alfarero offers many services and is a place of security for college students. Students who come to El Alfarero battle the same things as those in the United States—rape, unwanted pregnancies, drug abuse, etc. They are looking for answers and hope, and El Alfarero gives that.”
PRAY: Pray that the students who come to El Alfarero will see the light of Jesus reflected in each staff member and volunteer and that they will seek His love. Pray also that those who come to the crisis pregnancy center, women’s refuge, or counseling center in desperate need will find security and freedom from fear. May staff members and volunteers be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and guide the students toward Christ.
GO: Volunteers are needed at El Alfarero for a minimum of six months. Get more details about what ministry opportunities are available at El Alfarero.
MORE: Learn more about El Alfarero or join the El Alfarero Facebook group.
SHARE: View a speaker outline for the El Alfarero University Student Center in Bolivia.