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Tumi Chucua

Tumi Chucua Center Turned Over to Bolivian Government

From “In Other Words,” Summer 1983

For years it had been home for SIL’s Bolivia team. Twenty-seven years for some of them. For the children who had been born and raised there, it was like a paradise that hugged Lake Tumi Chucua (too-me-CHEW-kwah) in the northwest jungles of Bolivia near Riberalta.

For the children, Tumi was the memory of lazy afternoons swimming and splashing down at the lake. Or biting into a juicy mango that had fallen from a tree in their own backyard. Or being caught in a downpour and running home barefooted, the mud oozing between their toes.

Tumi was the security of knowing which “aunt” and “uncle” lived in every house along the mile-long stretch of the village and being able to count on every one of them for help if needed.

For the grown-ups, members of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Tumi was where many of them gave the best years of their lives serving people in 17 different language groups so that one day each might be able to read of God’s love in their own language.

For the Indians of Bolivia, Tumi Chucua was a center where they could receive education and medical training they could use to help their own people.

But for SIL, Tumi Chucua became a milestone in its forty-nine-year history. It marked the first time a branch had sufficiently completed its work so that its facilities could be turned over to the government.

On April 3, 1982, SIL transferred its facilities at Lake Tumi Chucua to the Bolivian government in “deep appreciation to the Bolivian people for their strong support and cooperation over the past 27 years.”

Minister of Education and Culture Lt. Col. Juan Vera Antezna accepted the gift on behalf of the Bolivian people. Ambassadors from five countries--Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Peru and the United States--and civil and military authorities from Bolivia witnessed the event.

Originally Tumi Chucua had been a piece of overgrown jungle. The Institute had developed 78 buildings on the 200-acre property, including a small clinic, a laboratory, a school, two dormitories, classrooms, houses, an auditorium, office, a 3,300 foot airstrip and a small hangar.

“We’ve nearly finished the linguistic and educational goals we agreed on with the Bolivian government in 1954,” said Dave Farah, SIL’s director of government relations at the time. “In a few years we’ll be leaving the country. After we’ve gone, we want the property to continue to be used to serve the Bolivian people, especially ethnic minorities.”

After turning Tumi Chucua over to the Bolivian government, the remaining SIL personnel moved to Cochabamba, a city in central Bolivia. The Bolivia branch plans to finish its language work and leave the country by 1985.

Cameron Townsend, the late found of SIL, always pushed for SIL workers in each country to finish up, pull out and move on. It was his dream that SIL should enter a country and, with the cooperation of the national government, develop alphabets, dictionaries and primers for languages that had never been written before, translate the Bible and then start the process all over again somewhere else.

Conscious of the tendency for people to want to settle down, “Uncle Cam” was concerned that his teammates keep their goal constantly in mind. “There are still 3,000 language to go,” he constantly reminded us. “We’ve got to keep on pioneering--moving on to other groups and people who need our help.”

To him, turning over the property at Tumi Chucua was a dream come true--evidence that SIL’s work was measurable and that the job was getting done. The ceremony took place just three weeks before Uncle Cam’s death. It was a fitting conclusion to a life devoted to the indigenous people of the world.

Tumi Chucua Center, home of the Bolivia team for 27 years

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God Has Led the Way

by Heather Eastwood
From “In Other Words,” October/November 1985

Thirty years have passed since our first members began Bible translation in Bolivia. The Lord’s guidance has been evident through the years, and many incidents stand out as provisions from the Lord.

In the summer of 1954 President Paz Estenssoro of Bolivia invited the Summer Institute of Linguistics to work in his country. He had observed SIL’s work in Peru and wanted the same benefits for the indigenous people of Bolivia. The agreement signed by President Estenssoro and SIL founder Cameron Townswend stated our purpose. Members of SIL would study the Indian languages, reduce them to writing, record cultural data, prepare primers to teach the Indians to read and translate the Bible.

When our first workers arrived, they needed a center and the Lord provided a site at Lake Tumi Chucua. He also supplied skilled workmen who volunteered their time and energy to build the needed facilities, plus the funds to purchase materials and equipment. Through the years the Tumi Chucua center housed many families as well as a hanger and mechanics shop, a school for the children, medical and radio facilities, offices, a guest home, apartments, and even a much needed printshop for producing reading primers, Bible stories and Scripture portions.

Through the years God provided capable workers to do translation, and skilled people to handle the various support needs such as printing, government relations, management, teaching and accounting. He also raised up prayer and financial partners at home who made the work in Bolivia possible.

The Lord also blessed our members with friendly contacts and relationships with the indigenous people of Bolivia. And through the transforming power of God’s Word in their own language, thousands have come to believe and serve Him.

It has been 30 years since the beginning, and now our work in Bolivia is finished. The New Testament has been translated into many of the minority languages, and the time has come to move on. We praise the Lord for the way He has led in Bolivia. His guidance has been especially evident as the work draws to a close; from the turning over of the Tumi Chucua center to the Bolivian government in 1981 to the current redeployment of members. The completion of the Bolivia Branch work was celebrated in La Paz on September 4, 1985.

The Lord has been faithful through times of discouragement and trial. He patiently led the way and completed each project in His perfect time. Let us all joyfully recommit ourselves with those of the Bolivia branch as they move on to another people and to another country where the Gospel of Christ has yet to be heard in the heart languages of the people.

1955. The translation team, including Uncle Cam (standing, center) and first field director Harold Key (right) arrived in Bolivia.

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