Editor’s Note: This article has been republished due to some corrections being made.
By Phil Hamm
Leaving the cold north of Canada behind, the prayer team of nine led by Ward and Janine Parkinson flew to Paraguay on March 6 and 7. Chris and Revita Kroeker were our country hosts. Gilbert and Margaret Penner, Ward and Janine, Jake Peters, Phil and Lydia Hamm, and Abe and Mary Hiebert made up the prayer team.
After the long overnight flight finished off a day and a half of travelling, we stepped out into the 75% humidity and 35+C temperatures in Asunción. This heat wave became the norm for the two weeks we travelled to many places to pray. At Primavera, a hotel donated to the Alto Refugio HIV/AIDS ministry, we tried to catch up on our sleep in a new country. Thursday morning we awoke to new sounds and some unique tastes for breakfast. Our taste buds were tantalized throughout our trip, taking in many new delicious local foods in Paraguay.
Our first stop of the day was Alto Refugio, an HIV/AIDS support centre across from the hospital which treats HIV/AIDS patients. The centre was started by EMC missionaries Dave and Judy Schmidt and is now run by Bertram and Elsa Hein and its board of directors. The centre provides counselling, a children’s daycare, daily noon meals, and distributes donated milk and medicine to HIV/AIDS patients.
After a wonderful lunch and praying for the couple running this oasis of hope we travelled three hours east to the Caaguazu Book Store, one of the ministries of Good News Ministries (Ministerio Buenas Nuevas, MBN). We saw the bookstore and purchased souvenirs. We prayed over Richard and his wife Zuny who direct the ministry and also Cristina, the receptionist and clerk for the store. They cut down a beautiful bunch of fresh bananas for us.
By nightfall we finally reached Minga Guazú, two hours farther east, where EMC is planting a church with Chris and Revita Kroeker, Joanne Martens (who is retiring in the fall), and Travis and Rosie Zacharias with Zippy and Moi. They were amazing hosts to our team. After five years of ministry here, the missionaries are known to people. People are open to the gospel, but it has taken time to connect with them and win their trust.
As a team we came to pray for and with these missionaries as they shared from their heart, to support and encourage them as they give so much of themselves to serve people in the community. The team met and prayed with many people who have connected with this fledgling church.
Donations are welcome for three projects:
Santa Teresa church building construction project $5,000
Alto Refugio project for milk, medicine, and diapers $8,000
MBN Radio Mensajero daily program costs $2,500
Please send to EMC Board of Missions, designating the project. Thank you.
On Sunday morning the team went on a prayer walk through the area where the missionaries live and prayed that God would tear down the walls in this community like He tore down the walls of Jericho. Revita and a couple other ladies went to a family that was struggling with some issues to pray for them. Shortly after they arrived, one man told Revita that he needed to become a Christian. She led him to the Lord as the other ladies prayed.
The church had a fundraiser for a family who lost part of their house in a wind and rain storm several months before. They had never been to the church before, but knew the church people. After the service, the husband of this family committed his life to Christ. We were rejoicing at the moving of the Holy Spirit that day.
After being in Minga Guazú, we travelled extensively to see other ministries the EMC has been involved in. Just north of Campo 9, a prosperous Paraguayan town, we met with the director and counsellor at Centro Vital (Vital Centre), an addiction rehabilitation and counselling centre that is getting started. The Mennonite community, both German and Paraguayan, is funding this much needed ministry in this area of Paraguay.
The rain came down almost horizontally with the fierce winds as we learned how the Centro Vital plans to minister in the area. The rain made travelling on the red dirt roads even more treacherous as potholes filled with water and the slippery clay became slick.
In Tres Palmas we stayed at Camp Lucero, a ministry of the Tres Palmas church missions committee (Miśon Viva). Camps for both the German and Paraguayan communities provide nourishment for many people each year. Miśon Viva also does ministry in Santa Teresa, an Indian settlement located a short distance from Tres Palmas. We were able to see and hear about the work in Santa Teresa and the concern for the Guarani Indians in the area. Recently two of the 12 shamen in Sainta Teresa area have become strong believers in Jesus.
Miśon Viva has just dedicated a church building in Santa Teresa, and the government is expanding the school where about 220 children, attending kindergarten through grade nine, are taught by Paraguayan teachers. This church grew by 25 percent last year with 24 people being baptized and added to the church. It looks like there could be another 24 people added this year.
We also enjoyed sharing with Benny and Esther Goertzen, serving as EMC associate missionaries with Action International in radio ministries, and Erna Plett, an EMC missionary who has retired in Paraguay. Each one assists the church work through vision and prayer.
There is so much more we experienced that words cannot describe. For all of us this was a deeply spiritual journey for which we are truly grateful. Will you be next to experience this awesome journey of prayer and see God at work?
Phil and Lydia Hamm are a ministerial couple with Leamington EMC, and Phil is a member of the EMC Board of Missions. They previously served as cross-cultural workers in Japan.