Category Archives: South America

God’s Call to Mission When Ministry Shifts

Discerning God’s Call to Missions

By Chris Kroeker

Editor’s Note: This article is the fourth of a six-part series on God’s call and discernment. The first three articles were published in the January, March and May 2021 issues. The first article by Nancy Friesen (January 2021) was not labelled as part of the series.

PARAGUAY – As a missionary kid (MK) growing up in the jungles of East Paraguay, life was filled with danger and excitement. In 1965, Dad and others started to dream of using radio to bring the gospel to the indigenous people of Paraguay. The Lord heard their prayers and, ten years later, Radio ZP-30 began.

When I was five and felt scared and unprepared to die, Mom helped me receive Jesus into my heart. From a young age, I felt God wanted me to be a missionary—even though I was shy and did not like big groups or a lot of attention. The only gift I could offer was my desire to serve him.

As a young teen, Dad allowed me to work as a disc jockey at Radio ZP-30. Later, I moved to East Paraguay and learned responsibility at my first real job. I loved soccer, youth and my new dirt bike. I soon noticed the Friesen twins; my heart pounded when I was around one of them. Their brothers shared my interests and we became good friends. I was delighted to help transport the girls to community events with my dirt bike.

Eventually I got up the courage to ask Revita out. We studied the Bible and prayed together. She made me a card with Proverbs 16:9 on it, which has become the motto of our lives: “In their hearts human beings plan their lives. But the Lord decides where their steps will take them” (NIRV). We dreamed of a future together, but I had to know: if the Lord called me to be a missionary far or near, could she see herself accompanying this call? She said, “Yes, where you go, I’ll go.”

We married in 1987 and moved to Rosenort, Man., to work and serve in Rosenort EMC. After completing studies at Steinbach Bible College in 1990, we prayed and applied to the EMC Board of Missions. We were open to wherever the Lord would direct.
A short-term schoolteacher was needed for MKs in Caaguazú, Paraguay; in 1991, we left for Paraguay with our infant son. Teaching seven kids in five different grades was difficult, but with Revita’s support and p ayer, I made it through. We joined Ken and Val Zacharias in a church plant, discipling new believers as we were being discipled.

In time, the Lord led us back to Tres Palmas into full-time radio ministry for 12 years. Revita started counselling and mentoring Paraguayan women, and we noticed the need for a Spanish church in Tres Palmas. As we helped plant this church, the Lord gave us a passion to help marriages and families.

After terminating our ministry at Radio Mensajero and taking a leave of absence, we joined the church plant in Minga Guazú in 2012. The Lord has directed our steps to prepare ourselves better to care for people’s hearts, providing counselling and hope for marriages and relationships. “Caring for the Heart – Paraguay” is now our main ministry.

Chris and Revita Kroeker (Rosenort EMC) have served with EMC Missions in East Paraguay since 1991.

Coastal Move a Dream Come True

By Mary Beth George

PERU – The Lord leads and guides in mysterious ways. Sometimes our dreams seem forever lost and then, in the twinkling of an eye, they come to fruition in ways we never thought possible. It was this way with our dream to move to the Peruvian coast.

When I came to Peru as a long-term missionary in 2008, the plan was to do church planting on the coast with Jim and Vegas Dargatz. They say flexibility is an important quality in a missionary! At that time, the Dargatzes were suddenly needed to give leadership to Camp La Joya instead, so I decided to live in the big city of Arequipa where I would have a support team. There was plenty to do!

Allen and Amy’s coastal church planting dream began after they couldn’t find a church to attend while on a family vacation during the summer of 2010. They decided to wait until the kids were out of school before pursuing a solution to this problem. Allen was field director at the time and there weren’t any good schools for the kids to attend in the small coastal towns. Then Amy passed away, closing the door on a season and bringing Allen’s future plans under evaluation.

When we started dating, one of the first questions Allen asked me was how I’d feel about doing church planting on the coast! Neither of us knew about the other’s dream. For me, our mutual perspective was evidence of the Lord’s careful tying together of our lives.

Last July, after dropping off our youngest son in Michigan at his aunt and uncles’, Allen and I started praying for a team of Peruvians to join us—particularly a couple willing and trained to pastor a church plant. In December, a friend of ours remembered a young man who had just graduated from seminary and suggested him as a possibility. We talked to the young man’s pastor at Las Flores Baptist Church (Peruvian church protocol), and he was instantly enthusiastic about our proposition and methodology.

After much prayer, thought and an exploratory trip to the coast, seminary graduate Pastor Elvis and his wife Rosita have decided to join the team! His congregation has been very involved in their decis ion-making process over the last few months and are eager to support the plant as a daughter church.

They plan to s nd evangelistic teams to visit the chosen location once a month while we are on home assignment from June 2021 to February/March 2022 and the couple will use this time to fundraise so they can dedicate their full energy to the plant. When we return, Elvis and Rosita will move to the coast with us to officially launch the church.

We see the Lord’s hand moving strongly in these prayerfully-laid plans and we know that he will take care of the unknowns. Your prayers are also greatly appreciated as we take the gospel to a very unreached part of Peru.

Mary Beth and Allen George (Blumenort Community Church) are with Serving in Mission in Peru.

Call to Mission in Bolivia

by Nancy Friesen

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

What is God’s calling for my life? This question is a source of mystery, frustration and confusion. Does God really have a detailed plan for each one of us, or is God’s call more general, with the details left up to us? Continue reading Call to Mission in Bolivia

Stepping Out of the Boat

by James and Mary Wahl (St. Vital EMC)

Canada/El Salvador —“Obey My voice and I will be your God and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.”

These are the words of God the prophet Jeremiah brought to the people of Israel (Jer. 7). Yet we know they did not obey or incline their ears to Him. Instead they walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In fact, they were moving backwards and not forwards, doing more evil than their parents. Continue reading Stepping Out of the Boat

Villa Nueva Nurtures Families in Bolivia

Editor’s Note: This article is written by Abe Giesbrecht, the missions director of our sister conference—the EMMC—with which the EMC works as part of the MEM ministry in Bolivia.

by Abe Giesbrecht, Missions Director, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference

VILLA NUEVA, BOLIVIA – It was not that many years ago that our EMMC congregations first became aware of this new community being formed. Villa Nueva came about as a result of work being done with Low German Mennonite families who were no longer a part of the colonies in the area. Continue reading Villa Nueva Nurtures Families in Bolivia

Benny and Ester Fehr Assigned to Bolivia

by Ken Zacharias, Director of Global Outreach

Benny and Ester Fehr and their four children left for Bolivia in late January to begin ministry with EMC Missions. They arrived safely.

They have been assigned to lead the radio ministry for the MEM in the San Jose/Hacienda Verde area. A secondary assignment is to work alongside the youth in the Hacienda Verde church. The Fehrs are members in the Mount Salem Community Church (EMC) near Alymer, Ont., where they have served in the Pastor of Care position.

Bolivia: May this book serve a valuable role in educating families and protecting at risk people!

by Caroline Krahn

bolivia-2
My Body is a Gift from God (Mien Kjarpa een Jeschenkj von Gott) Credit: Henry and Caroline Krahn

We are very excited about our new school at Haciende Verde. Even though enrolment is down a bit from last year, we love that we now have four students in grade nine.

In need of more teachers, we have hired two young adults from Hacienda to fill in for Kindergarten, Plautdietsch classes, and Bible classes, and they are doing excellent work. This gives them an income and helps the families to realize that there are other ways to make a living besides milking cows.

My passion is still books and our bookstore at the Casa and I’m not giving up even though we have had very minimal Mennonite customers. We are excited that we have found a store in Santa Cruz that is willing to sell newly printed Low German material.

This distributor is in an area of Santa Cruz called Seis Agosto where Mennonites from all colonies congregate and shop. Author Irene Marsch has written a book called My Body is a Gift from God (Mien Kjarpa een Jeschenkj von Gott) that is a great tool to educate parents on how to teach their children about God’s design and purpose for the human body. It is so well done and we wanted to supply it, but we were unsure of the best way to advertise it and get it into Mennonite peoples’ hands.

Slowly, word was getting out and our pastors were using it in their marriage classes. Then something happened that only God could do. I was going to a women’s retreat where the theme of the event was I’m a Worthwhile Rose (Ekj – Wietvolle Roos).

I had ordered more copies of this book from Canada, and, without knowing if they would arrive on time for the weekend, I asked the organizers if I could possibly advertise these books at the retreat and they agreed. I had only five books on hand that I brought with me.

Well, miracle of miracles, the guest speaker was nurse Carla Wiens from Paraguay, and she was speaking on exactly the theme of this book. I got goosebumps all over when I heard her topics.

Two boxes of books came at the end of the retreat. The retreaters, Mennonite women from many different colonies in Bolivia, wanted them so badly that they waited almost an hour for them to arrive, and all 88 copies were taken. One pastor’s wife even asked if she could order 50 more copies to distribute at their Bible studies.

We praise God for answered prayer. Our prayer is that this book will be an instrument to educate families and protect girls at risk persons in many of our colonies.

Caroline and Henry Krahn (Picture Butte) serve in ministries of hospitality and literature.

Phil Hamm: Paraguay, a Prayer Trip Beyond Description

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.

Phil-Lydia-Hamm
Phil and Lydia Hamm

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.