Pastor Robert Finlayson and the Burnside folk farewelled, supported and prayed for their first missionaries, Reginald and Annetta Burrow, who worked from 1912 to 1927 with the Bolivian Indian Mission, (later renamed the Andes Evangelical Mission, which eventually amalgamated with SIM).
Reg was born in England, grew up in NZ, and was an avid reader with an excellent memory, who learnt watch making and marine engineering. After becoming a Christian in his early 20s, he learnt of the newly established Bolivian Indian Mission and began to gain knowledge of medicines from a local pharmacy, helped with local medical work, then travelled to S.A. to study at a Missionary Bible Training College in Adelaide. He met Annetta Slape, also a Missionary Bible College graduate from Burnside Church and they married in 1910.
It took more than 3 months to travel from Australia to Bolivia, on cargo ships, which often went around Cape Horn to Montevideo in Uruguay. Then they had to travel for days on horseback to Bolivia. Contact by sea mail was slow and there was little financial support from the mission.
Reg became fluent in Spanish and was effectively involved in medical work, outdoor evangelism, baptism, (see photo) Bible teaching and church planting among the Quechua people. Reg’s medical knowledge and engineering skills, helped in his appointment in Bolivia as a District Medical Officer around San Pedro where they lived and enabled him to persuade the local Government to let him help them to replace the unhealthy open water canal through the centre of the town streets. Water pipes were installed with several public taps.
Bolivia had only been opened to Protestant Missions in 1900 and there was fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. Priests collected and burnt Bibles and Reg, who gave out tracts and Bibles in Spanish, received death threats.
Hettie supported Reg in his ministry, which at times meant he was away for weeks, travelling on horseback to give medical help in outlying regions. She extended hospitality and support to new missionaries and cared for their family in primitive conditions, without electricity or running water. Their three older boys, all born in Bolivia, were taught by a local missionary, but the eldest eventually had to go away to boarding school for secondary schooling.
Photo is from first furlough back to S.A. in the early 1920s.
There were less than 20 Christians in Bolivia when Reg and Hettie arrived in 1912, but by the 1960s there was great growth and dozens of churches had been established. Photo shows a small part of a very large Sunday School in San Pedro in the early 1920s.
After 15 years of faithful ministry, the family returned to Adelaide for the boys’ secondary education. A fourth son John, was born and Reg became pastor at Burnside for nearly 20 years (1929 to 1948). He encouraged the growing congregation to plan and save from 1932, for the eventual building of the new current church, opened and dedicated in August 1939.
Reg. encouraged missionary interest at Burnside and had the joy of commissioning his son Rockie in 1937 and nephew Lincoln Burrow in 1939, for what became 29 years each of missionary service in Bolivia with their families.
Later their eldest son Allan, was the first principal of Adelaide Bible Institute, now the Bible College of SA, which has trained many missionaries.
Reg battled health problems over several decades, but even in retirement he continued to preach and encourage and was always known for wearing a distinctive bow tie, even in Bolivia. He died in 1975 aged 93 and Hettie died in 1983. (Photo 1958)
A small brass plaque inscribed with Reg’s name in memory of his many years of faithful service in Bolivia and Burnside, is on one of the special church armchairs, used to seat the Elders and Deacons participating in Communion services in the new 1939 church.