Luis A. Bolívar was one of the most outstanding of the early Adventist workers along with Gilberto Bustamante, Tirso and Jorge Escandón, and Samuel Camacho. He distinguished himself as a preacher, administrator, and singer. Like Bustamante, he used his marvelous voice in ministry and evangelism.1
Originally from Medellín, Colombia, Bolívar studied at the Coloveno Industrial Academy of Medellín, and was one of the original twelve students who began their studies at this educational center. He often entertained his fellow students with his resonant, natural voice. In order to pay for his studies, “Luisito,” as his classmates liked to call him, would make warm jackets to ward off the cold.2
Bolívar married Orfa Rave, also of Medellín, and together they had four sons—David, Alvaro, and Samuel, all of them prestigious physicians, and Fernando, a psychologist—and one daughter, Loida, also trained in a medical-related field.
After completing his academic studies, Bolívar spent his life spreading the Word of God. He was president of a mission, church pastor, and held other positions within the Seventh-day Adventist church (IASD). As president of the Mission of the Pacific, based in Cali, Colombia, he carried Adventism to the western part of the country beginning in 1942. Palmira in Valle del Cauca was one of the places benefited by his labors. His Christian influence also reached the Zona Cafetera (the Coffee Region).
Bolívar faced one of the truly intense trials by fire in Bucaramanga where he was pastoring, “when bullets rained down and the violence was intense.”3 Bolívar preceded John Griswell as pastor of the first Seventh-day Adventist church in Bucaramanga (1950). Griswell told a story that revealed Bolívar as a man of faith. Bolívar set a goal of baptisms and insisted that it could be reached. Effectively, toward the end of 1957 he was able to baptize 315 souls, one more than the proposed goal. An exultant Griswell observed, “We should not be governed by goals, but they offer us challenges for which to pray and strive for.”4 In that same city Bolívar acquired a house for the Adventist academy in 1956. He was president of the Alto Magdalena Mission from November 1956 to May 1957.5
Bolívar was also president of the Mission of the Pacific, based in Santiago de Cali, Colombia from 1962 to 1966.6 His work there contributed to the progress of the Advent work in Colombia.
Luis A. Bolívar died on July 10, 1994, in Riverside, California.7
Bolívar and his wife were life-long defenders of Christian education; all their children studied on Adventist campuses. They passed on to their children a sense of compassion and love for others, as well as a generous spirit of giving to educational causes: the Bolívar Rave Academic Center of the Adventist University Corporation that operates today in Medellín carries that name in honor of this family who sponsored construction projects, and the Bolívar Escandón Educational Institution, located in Quibdó, Chocó, Colombia, also demonstrates their passion to keep Christian education alive. Luis Bolívar and Tirso Escandón lived “parallel lives” as preachers of the truth and fathers of generations that continue to fulfill the mission of salvation in their various fields of endeavor.8
In 1994 the UNAC conferred on Luis A. Bolívar the title of Doctor in Theology, honoris causa, in recognition of his outstanding career forming church pastors, guidance counselor for the Adventist church, and champion of biblical evangelism, in the midst of harsh conditions, This title was the first of its kind issued by the UNAC in the area of theology.9
Escandón Hernández, Rafael. Monedas de oro. Reminiscencias de la familia Escandón. [Gold Coins: Reminiscences of the Escandón Family]. Clearlake, CA: Perfect Printers, 2005.
Griswell, John. Inicios del ministerio adventista en Colombia: fuente de inspiración para seguir cumpliendo la misión. (Beginnings of the Adventist Ministry in Colombia: Source of Continued Inspiration to Fulfill the Mission). N. p.: n. p., n. d.
Iglesias Ortega, Enoc. Instituto Colombo-Venezolano, Corporación Universitaria Adventista. Valores y servicio 1937-2000 (Colombian-Venezuelan Institute, Adventist University Corporation: Vision and Service 1937-2000). Medellín, Colombia: Litografía ICOLVEN, 2004.
Escandón H., Tirso and Juan R. Mejía V. Primera Jornada de la Historia de la Academia Colombo-Venezolana de Medellín, Años 1937-1940. [Early Phase of the History of the Colombian-Venezuelan Academy in Medellín, 1937-1940]. Medellín, Colombia: Imprenta ICOLVEN, 1942.
Viana Moreno, Yerko Samuel. Historia del adventismo en Bogotá, D. C., 1921 – 2011 [History of Adventism in Bogotá, D.C., 1921-2011]. Bogotá, Colombia: Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día, Secciones Asociación del Alto Magdalena y del Sur de Bogotá, n.d.
Rafael Escandón Hernández, Monedas de oro. Reminiscencias de la familia Escandón (Clearlake, CA: Perfect Printers, 2005), 80.↩
Tirso Escandón H. and Juan R. Mejía V., Primera Jornada de la Historia de la Academia Colombo-Venezolana de Medellín, Años 1937-1940 (Medellín: Imprenta ICOLVEN, 1942), 20.↩
John Griswell, Inicios del ministerio adventista en Colombia: fuente de inspiración para seguir cumpliendo la misión (N. p.: n. p., n. d.), 49.↩
Yerko Samuel Viana Moreno, Historia del adventismo en Bogotá, D. C., 1921-2011 (Bogotá, Colombia: Iglesia Adventista del Séptimo Día, Secciones Asociación del Alto Magdalena y del Sur de Bogotá, n. d.), 73.↩
David Bolívar, telephone interview by author, Medellín, Colombia - Riverside, California., July 15, 2019.↩
David Bolívar, telephone interview by author, Medellín, Colombia - Riverside, California, July 15, 2019.↩
Enoc Iglesias Ortega, Instituto Colombo-Venezolano, Corporación Universitaria Adventista. Valores y servicio 1937-2000 (Medellín, Colombia: Litografía ICOLVEN, 2004), 222.↩