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

Greenhouse at the Top of the World

Santa Ana, BoliviaIn June, with help from a mission team from Onalaska, WI, and my son Sam, we’ll be building a new adobe greenhouse near Santa Ana, Bolivia. In the photos at right and below, left, note that the lake (12,500 feet elevation), is quite a bit lower than the site. Cerro (peak) Wara Wara, right next to the site, is 4492 meters – about 14,950 feet. Click on the photos to enlarge them and see more in our photo albums.

The new greenhouse will overlook an old stone road that’s still well trafficked by shepherds driving llamas, alpaca, and sheep. The road, made in pre-Columbian days, winds its way from one side of the Copacabana Peninsula to the other, linking Copa to Sampaya, where small boats depart every morning for Isla de la Luna, Island of the Moon.

Video Skype with Jeff Wasilevich and Debbie Rissing in Bolivia

Jeff and Debbie in Bolivia

You are invited to join the Missions Work Area as we Skype with Jeff and Debbie. Learn about the latest work at Mision Fronteras. Enjoy the "visit"!

DGFUMC - Room 213
Sunday, June 3, 2012 - 11:00am

One Year Later

Exactly a year ago we each dragged two thoughtfully packed bags into O'Hare, waved misty-eyed goodbyes to Jeff's parents, and climbed onto a Lima-bound flight.

It's hard to believe a year has zipped by!

Our first few weeks were given to mapping out general plans for our work in Peru and Bolivia. It was late April when we finally returned to Copacabana to hunt for an apartment or house to rent. We were lucky to find a very comfortable, sunny house with three small garden areas. Local folks always ask what we pay for rent, and are horrified to hear $143 per month (last year -- this year it's $150!). Then again, when they visit they're incredulous to learn there are not whole families living in each of our three bedrooms. Most apartment buildings here have several rooms about 10 x 12 feet. A whole family sleeps in each of these rooms, and everyone shares a small courtyard adjoined by a single toilet, maybe a small shower stall, and an outdoor sink for washing cloths and preparing food. Usually there's a room designated for cooking, which is done over a one- or two-burner stove, also shared by all the families.

Easter Greetings from Copacabana!

Dear Friends and Family,

Easter Greetings from Copacabana! We hope this time of resurrection and renewal fills and refreshes your hearts. It's a season of new beginnings.

A year ago we arrived in Copacabana on the Wednesday before Easter with some clothes, cookware and a few books packed into four bags. We were lucky to have made hostel reservations in advance because thousands of people travel to Copa for the last days of Holy Week. It seems even more crowded this year.

Copacabana Cornucopia

Our lovely bathroom after the waters recededThe house flooded again, so Jeff stayed home to clean, and I kept our date with Froilan Mamani Quispe, Director of the Cusijati School, for a one- day trip to La Paz.

Dogs, Frogs and a Pink Moon

SumaSuma, the dog we rescued from the street early on New Year's Day, has a new sister, "Wawita!" The name is Aymara for "Baby." Suma's a whole lot bigger than when we found her. And mercifully, she ditched puppyhood when we bought Wawita. The little one was frisking around outside a hostel we walk by on our way to and from the market. We asked if she was for sale and learned that, yes, we could buy her for 40 Bolivianos.

New Puppy, A Flood, and Undies

Suma - our new puppyAt last: We have a puppy! We found her shivering in the street at 12:45 a.m., New Years Day. So we named her Suma, which is Aymara for “Happy,” as in Happy New Year. She likes a dry house, a warm lap, puppy chow, and ... chewing everything!

Alas, last night, a dry house was not to be had. Torrential rains and three inches of hail pelted down for more than an hour. The din was so loud we had to shout to hear each other. Then the floor drains in the kitchen, powder room and bathroom simultaneously started gushing muddy water. Two good things about that: it wasn’t sewerage; and after lots of squeegeeing and mopping, our floors are now spotless! Hooray!

Suma Machaqa Mara!

At the meat marketThat's Aymara for Happy New Year! Today, New Year's Eve, the streets in Copacabana are chock full of people buying and selling in anticipation of a whole lot of celebrating. One of our favorite meat vendors, Marta, told us "Here everyone eats pork (cerdo) on New Year's Eve." Indeed, every butcher shop is displaying still-hairy pig heads and whole, split-bellied pigs piled five or six deep. So guess what we are having tonight...

Alternative Gift Fair

What do you give the person with everything? Well, a gift from our Advent Alternative Gift Fair! Every Sunday until Christmas, the Missions work area will be in the Parlor offering a range of Christmas gifts to bring not just a smile to your loved one's face but also justice and hope to people far away.

The fair will be held from November 27 until December 18.

Holiday Homecoming

Dear Family and Friends:

It’s hard to believe we’ll be back in the Midwest in two days! We’re eager to see family and friends, worried about the cost of living in the U.S. for five weeks, and a little stressed to leave our Copa home and our work here.


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