Several members of a General Conference committee ended up in the city hall of Torotoro, Bolivia, being honored by city mayor Eliodoro Uriona Pardo. How did it happen?
The simple answer is, through the dinosaur research of Raul Esperante, a senior research scientist at the Geoscience Research Institute (GRI) located in Loma Linda, California, United States.
Of course, there is much more to the story than that, and the details reveal how the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s activities in scientific investigation contribute to the wellbeing of people both within and outside the Adventist Church.
Esperante has been developing a dinosaur research program over several years, studying trackways in the area of Torotoro, a beautiful but economically challenged Bolivian town at about 2,700 m (8,800 ft) in the rain shadow of the Andes. In this dry and spectacular landscape, citizens of Torotoro scrape out a living as they raise sheep and cattle, surviving at just above a subsistence level. But Mayor Pardo saw a huge opportunity to improve the lot of citizens of his town.
The key to economic development is Torotoro’s location within Bolivia’s Torotoro National Park. Dinosaur research carried out by Esperante is attracting other researchers and tourists to see the region’s beauty, geologic wonders, and its amazing record of dinosaurs’ activity. This research is carried out with colleagues from Adventist University of Bolivia (UAB).
Complementing its dinosaur research, UAB has developed a very fine natural history museum in the city of Cochabamba. This research-oriented museum is designed to host school groups while sharing a view of dinosaurs and other fossils that is consistent with the biblical record of history.
Along with the hard work of the researchers, investment on the part of the university as well as grants supporting the research and the museum from both the General Conference’s Geoscience Research Institute and Faith and Science Council have made this possible. Now the investment is paying off for both UAB and Torotoro residents.
As news spreads of the superb dinosaur trackways in the area, as they are studied and preserved for others to see, our understanding of these amazing creatures grows, and others will be attracted, bringing tourism and the associated economic development needed by the people of Torotoro.
UAB’s reputation and impact are also growing. This was illustrated over the weekend of the recent annual Geoscience Research Institute Committee (GRICOM) meeting as research carried out by members of GRICOM was presented to students, business leaders, government ministers, and academic leaders in Cochabamba.
Continuing on to Torotoro from Cochabamba, GRICOM members had the opportunity to see the fruit of Esperante’s work developing the university’s research. In addition, their visit continues to draw attention to Torotoro while exploring further options, including the possible development of a center of influence in the town. This facility could serve both the citizens of Torotoro and visitors coming to enjoy the natural, cultural, and scientific bounty of the park.
“It is easy to forget that investigation of areas where our biblical faith and science come into contact can have very practical benefits,” said General Conference vice president Artur Stele, chair of GRICOM. “We are delighted to support this research and to see not just the practical benefits to UAB and the people of Torotoro but also the Adventist Church as we seek to tell the world about our Creator and Redeemer.”
The impact of the GRICOM meeting continued to the end of the visit in Bolivia, with a favorable report being made to Bolivian president Evo Morales by the minister for energy and a farewell meeting in Cochabamba with the deputy minister of foreign affairs.
So how did the members of GRICOM come to be honored by the Bolivian city of Torotoro, where there is not a single Seventh-day Adventist Church member?
Our church seeks to know what is true about our world, and truth is ultimately something that benefits all creation. Not only do we follow Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, NKJV); He also promises His followers, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, NKJV).
In the case of Torotoro, our quest as Christ’s followers for the truth about dinosaurs is helping to set people free from the bondage of poverty, and the Adventist Church continues to help in this very practical way while witnessing to the ultimate freedom and abundance enjoyed by those who embrace the Creator as our Savior and Redeemer.