After missionaries arrived at Cochabamba, Bolivia in 1964, Elders Craig L. Carpenter and Daniel K. Rime knocked on the door of Jorge L. and Maria Pedraja. The first family member to join the church was their teen-age son, Carlos Pedraja. He was baptized on May 30, 1965. He related: "When my parents decided to postpone their baptisms, I was able to receive their permission to be baptized. I had read the Book of Mormon, attended meetings and even accompanied the missionaries on their various teaching appointments."
He was immediately called as the branch clerk and as a teacher to youth. His parents joined the church a year later and Carlos was ordained an elder. "The branch president personally helped me fill out my mission papers. A short time later, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, who was visiting Cochabamba, interviewed me about my goals and to see if I was ready to become a missionary. During this time, missionary callings were very late in coming. I finally received my calling to work in the Andes South Mission. I left in August 1968, being the first Bolivian to be called from Bolivia. During those two years, I served in Peru and Chile, and ended my mission in my own country. I came to love all the children of our Heavenly Father."
After his mission was complete, he returned to school and soon married Amalia Pinto Fanola. He had met her at the branch in Cochabamba on his very first day going to Church. Through the years he has served as branch president, district president, and as a counselor to mission presidents. In 1973 he was hired to work in the Church Educational System.
In 1979, Carlos Pedraja was called as Bolivia's first stake president. "I have had the opportunity to see the growth of the Church throughout Bolivia. I have seen the Church grow from a small nucleus of members in small branches. By keeping track of the newly baptized converts and improving the leadership, the Church has increased in number, activity and testimony. Little by little, the Church began to buy property and to construct chapels as the Church grew. In the Lord's proper time, the branches and districts were strong enough to become wards and stakes. The stakes that have been created since then have multiplied in spite of opposition and many problems."
President Pedraja served as stake president for nine years and in 1988 was called as a regional representative. He was released in 1992 and he is currently serving as the president of the Argentina Salta Mission.
"Many and great are the blessings the Lord has given me. I know that one of the greatest blessings is to know that my ancestors received wonderful promises that are now being fulfilled and that influence the destiny of my country and its inhabitants."
(See "Pioneer Member of the Church has been great strength in Bolivia," by John L. Hart, Church News, June 15, 1996)