Mision Fronteras

Mision Fronteras

Mision Fronteras (Border Mission) is the name of a mission by DGFUMC members, Debbie Rissing and Jeff Wasilevich, in the Lake Titicaca region on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Working in one of the poorest areas of both countries, they are helping local churches become resource centers providing economic support and other services to the indigenous Aymara and Quechua people. Mision Fronteras was founded in 2009 through a covenant partnership between United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, and the Methodist  bishops of Peru and Bolivia. Visit their Facebook page for more details and read their blog for regular updates.

Jeff and Debbie in Bolivia

The People They Serve

The Lake Titicaca region of southern Peru and western Bolivia is among the poorest in both countries, populated by indigenous Aymara and Quechua, who, hundreds of years ago were members of the same tribe. Though divided by national boundaries, the people continue to share familial and cultural ties. Particularly because their governments provide little or no local human services, the people want to strengthen their local churches and use them as community resource centers – bases to improve their economy and health, and develop sustainable resources.

Generations of Aymara and Quechua have existed as subsistence farmers. They do not want to be dependent upon others. But global warming, high altitude (12,500 feet + ), and the extremely dry climate are progressively limiting the people’s ability to grow nutritious food for themselves and their families. It also adds to health threats. Incidence of pneumonia here is among the highest in the world, and increasing. Currently, about 1 in 13 children die before their fifth birthday. Similarly, the animals that families economically depend upon also suffer and many die, further threatening human survival. 

Goals and Objectives

Chani, BoliviaLed by the wishes and needs of the people in the Lake Titicaca region, the Methodist bishops of Peru and Bolivia, and representatives from First United Methodist Church of Boise, Idaho, laid out the primary goals of the Lake Titicaca Border


  • Grow and help strengthen the local churches, which also serve as community resource centers, through construction, renovation, and improved financial self-sufficiency;
  • Help strengthen church leadership;
  • Promote exchange between individuals and church communities in Bolivia, Peru and the U.S.;
  • Improve the health, access to health care, and public health practices of people in the Lake Titicaca region of Bolivia and Peru. 

As coordinators of this site, they help manage local work initiatives, and serve as hosts for local and U.S. individual volunteers and teams to further the goals of Mision Fronteras.

Recent News

Thanksgiving 2016 Newsletter

Greetings, All:

It's Thanksgiving Day in Copacabana, and we’re feeling reflective.

We send our thanks to all of you who have supported us and the communities we serve here, over all these years. This past year has been no exception.

Here and Loving It

Dear Friends and Family,

Sorry for the long absence of newsletters. Now that our restaurant, Pan America, is thriving, we burn about 70 hours a week just running the shop - it's just the two of us plus a helper. On slow days and "free" days, we clean and restock, dash to La Paz - a five-hour ride - for ingredients we can't get in Copa, tend to mission projects, squeeze in music classes and practice time, attend mandatory neighborhood work days, as well as mandatory meetings, parades and soccer games.

2014 - Ahh, What a Year

Happy New Year!

We hope 2015 is off to a good start for you!

10830901_392249617593481_6965819002290535189_oFor us, 2014 was a whirl of productivity - and fun. Here's a quick review of what the mission, with support from donors and volunteers, did last year:

  • Provided first aid training for local church and community leaders, and gave free, stocked first aid kits;
  • Painted the interiors and exteriors of two churches and the interior of a third;
  • Provided leadership training for church leaders;
  • 10830709_392247550927021_452972975829355370_oSeven greenhouses in production - four annual harvests help improve nutrition for poor, rural students who also work in the greenhouses. Schools sell produce to help cover operating costs.
  • The cuy (guinea pig) farm sold about 200 cuys, generating about 10.000 Bolivianos, or about $1,500 USD, to help sustain the Sub District. In this area that's a LOT of money. Even more importantly, it teaches and reinforces the notion that INVESTMENT + WORK = INCOME;
  • To help make high-protein quinoa accessible again for poor families (price has tripled due to developed nations' demand for the super food), in 2013 the mission gave a kilo of certified quinoa seeds to 120 families who pledged to save 10% of their new seed heads for replanting in 2014, and give 10% to their local churches to help cover the cost of human services they provide for the poor. Families could eat or sell the remaining 80%. Some families sold their new seed heads for planting, meaning that beyond boosting their own protein intake, they also shared the wealth with their extended family, friends and neighbors.
  • With donor support, the mission built a church kitchen and community latrine in the village of Chani. By sharing a common wall and water and drainage system, the mission, the congregation, and the community conserved costs.
  • A team of adult volunteers from the Northern Illinois Conference brought well over 1,000 pairs of used prescription glasses and new or used readers. In July an NIC youth team distributed the lenses at four community fairs. We matched glasses to an estimated 300 people. Ahhh: the joy of watching someone see the world clearly for the first time in years, maybe decades! We came to call it the Hallelujah Moment.
  • 10547795_338052993013144_6114459406248297348_oThe mission and a lot of volunteer workers installed new windows in Iglesia Nueva Esperanza (New Hope Church) in Huacuyo Valley.
  • In August, we opened Pan America, a bakery and pizzeria, whose proceeds help support the mission's projects. Our 60- to 70-hour work weeks are tiring but rewarding and delightful. We meet people from all over the world, and continue to marvel at how kind, generous, and good-hearted most people are. Volunteers from the U.S., Uruguay, France and Germany are working with us both at the shop and various construction sites. We'd originally hoped they'd cover for us while we visited the U.S. for Christmas through the end of January. Alas, document problems and money problems obviated our international travel plans. (The recent election of a new Bolivian bishop meant the outgoing one could no longer release our funds to us; the incoming bishop couldn't do so until the second week of January.) Though again postponing a trip home was a big disappointment to us, it seemed impractical to travel to the States for just two or three weeks. In May and June we will attend a stateside training program, and will have some time to see friends and family then. Meanwhile, our January volunteer coverage allows us a chance to enjoy a little free time.
  • We and a crowd of volunteers recently trenched for and began pouring concrete for the foundation of a new church in Santa Ana.

Stuffed with Gratitude

Day of (Doubled) Giving

On Dec. 2, the United Methodist Church's General Board of Global Ministries will sponsor its second annual Day of Giving and will match the first $1 million donated to missions.

In the first few minutes of Tuesday, Dec. 2, Eastern time (Monday, Dec. 1, 11pm Central), gifts made to Mision Fronteras, Advance Site #3021288, are pretty likely to be doubled. You may recall that last year donors to Mision Fronteras gave a staggering $26,000, but only one $500 gift was doubled by GBGM. This year, GBGM is trying to ensure a more equitable distribution of matching funds.

If you are thinking of making an end-of-year gift to help support the valuable work of this home-grown mission, please try to do so as soon as possible after 11pm on Monday.

Making a donation involves three easy steps:

  1. Give NowGo to our mission's Advance page at this link 
    (or click the button on the right).
  2. Click on the big red "GIVE NOW" button.
  3. Complete and submit the form.

Please read their latest newsletter by clicking on the "Read More" link.


Pan America, Week 8

We Are Cooking! 6.10.14

For the first time in our lives, we wake up in the earliest hours of a day and think, "How soon 'til we can get up and dive into the next (12 – 15-hour) work day?"

If we were any happier, we'd burst.

I love making up recipes inspired by customers' feedback, my whims, and available, fresh ingredients. We both love talking with visitors from around the world.

The Holy Week That "Is"

Bricks, Mortar and Sweat

Remember a little over two weeks ago we and leaders of the Chañi church came to an agreement to build a kitchen and latrines that would share a wall and septic system, and thereby cost the church and the mission less money?

Bandage, Stone Age, Garbage

First aid trainingThe moment she hit the floor, everyone in the back row leapt to their feet to see what would happen next.

Sue Albright, a volunteer in mission and a virtual patient for the mission's recent First Aid training class, moaned in pretend agony feigning a sprained ankle. Her daughter, Jessica Workman, walked the 20 avid listeners through the Spanish equivalents of RICE -- Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevate. She showed them how to splint with a piece of tree bark, sticks and a shredded T-shirt, all readily available in remote rural areas.

Roofing and Blessing the Huacuyo Church

Huacuyo Church

Last week more than 50 volunteers built 17 colossal roof trusses and put a metal roof on the new Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Church in nearby Huacuyo Valley. This is a momentous event: it’s the first new church in this region in more than 20 years! Now that it’s roofed, it can be used. The “floor” of dirt and grass, the absence of doors and windows, and the occasional bird flying through don’t concern the members. Now that the roof is on, they consider everything else “obra fina,” fine work, minor details.

Youth Olympiad and Retreat

Youth Olympiad

In this Thanksgiving season we are awash with gratitude. We are grateful to have the good fortune to serve here, and honored to ensure that donors’ gifts are maximally stretched and wisely invested.

UMC #Giving Tuesday

UMC Giving Tuesday

Dear Brothers, Sisters of Our Home Church Greetings from Copacabana, Bolivia!

We have great news! The UMC General Board of Global Ministries has a declared December 3 to be Giving Tuesday. On this day, GBGM will match every dollar donated to an Advance Mission Site such as the Peru-Bolivia Lake Titicaca Border Mission - #3021288!

Huacuyo Church CelebrationWe are always thankful and proud of the support – both financial and spiritual – we receive from our home church. We are serving here because the direction our spiritual journey took while at DGFUMC. Thanks to what we learned in classes such as Just Faith, and serving as volunteers for programs like Bridge and PADS we found ourselves yearning to serve in a way unique to us. Thank you all for all you have already done for the mission we serve.

If individuals or the congregation are willing and able to again offer support for the mission’s work, we’d be most grateful, as would the poor indigenous Aymara people with whom we live and work.


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