Soup for the Soul

18 Sep 2017

When Elizabeth embarked on a short-term missions trip to Bolivia, she did not realise that God had set some very long term plans in motion.   Now, 10 years on, she is married to a godly Bolivian believer, Oscar, and they have two beautiful girls. As Pioneers Australia missionaries, they write, produce and distribute bible teaching materials for children’s Sunday School classes, discipling the next generations in what it means to follow Jesus.

We asked Elizabeth to describe for us the role that food plays in their ministry…

An essential part of Bolivian life revolves around food, yet nowhere is it more fundamental than in Cochabamba, the gastronomic capital of Bolivia, which is my husband Oscar’s hometown.  I learnt the hard way years ago as a young wife thrown into this culture that there can be no scrimping on meal times; that all church functions centre around what plate will be served and of the need to eat everything offered to you in order to avoid offense.

Cultivating friendships and encouraging believers in this culture generally revolves around sharing a plate of food but this expectation is doubled if you fill a pastoral role.  It is specifically for this reason that the common joke within the Bolivian church is that all true pastors will have a notable “spare tyre”. Even when pastoral visits are strategically planned outside regular meal times, main meals are served in any case.  Moreover, there is no prospect of leaving a scrap on the plate, which is an obvious sign that the meal was not enjoyed.  Furthermore, if your plate is emptied too quickly it will be instantly refilled.  You need to estimate when the visit will be drawing to a close to completely finish what is on your plate right at the last moment.


Appreciation for a visitor is shown through offering a good portion of food and appreciation for the host is displayed by heartedly consuming whatever is offered.   No one can assume that he will be able to reach out on a personal level to anyone in the culture if he is not willing to eat all that he has been served.

Oscar grew up in this culture but now ministers within a different one, in the bordering country of Argentina.  In comparison to Bolivia, Argentinians share their main meal with friends at night, technically early in the morning around 12am.  Once again, if deeper relationships are to be cultivated, you cannot refuse to eat at this hour.  In many ways, Oscar’s inbuilt cultural understanding that all food must be eaten and that a sign of appreciation is to accept seconds, equates to a few digestive problems on his trips to Argentina.  However, these can be overlooked, as he understands the necessity for others to be able to show their affection through their food and for himself to show his friendship through the sharing of this offering.

Sopa de Mani (Peanut Soup)

(A popular Bolivian meal to share)


½ kilo of beef including bones
1 cup of raw peanuts
4 potatoes
1 garlic glove
1 large onion
1 carrot
½ cup of green peas
1 cup of pasta (e.g. macaroni)
Salt and pepper


Soak the peanuts in very hot water for 10 minutes
Peel the peanuts, add a clove of garlic and a little water and mix thoroughly in a blender
Peel and cut the potatoes into small pieces
Boil some water in a large pan and add the meat
Cook for 20 minutes over a moderate heat
Add the green peas, onion and grated carrot
Season with salt and pepper and simmer gently for a further 20 minutes
Add the peanut sauce and potatoes to the soup and cook for 10 minutes
At the same time, coat the pasta in a little bit of oil, and add them to the soup
The soup is ready to serve when the pasta and potatoes are cooked

Serves 4

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