Category Archives: South America

Bolivia: Nancy Friesen To Return

by Ken Zacharias, Foreign Secretary, EMC Board of Missions

Friesen, Nancy
Nancy Friesen. Credit: BOM

Nancy Friesen (Picture Butte) completed her studies at the Rio Grande Bible institute in December 2017. She will be leaving for Bolivia on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, to begin her service with ministries that the EMC is involved with among Low German Mennonites. Her initial involvement will be teaching English in the Pailin school. She will also serve in administration as the MEM legal representative in Bolivia as it pertains to government reporting and helping missionaries with visa documentation work. Pray for Nancy as she begins her ministry and as she continues to become more fluent in the Spanish language.



Dwayne and Shannon: Brazil, Quest Will Celebrate a 10-Year Anniversary  

by Dwayne and Shannon Klassen

BRAZIL – Recently we were challenged that 2018 would be a year of firsts, a year of new things. As we approach our 10-year anniversary of Quest’s ministry this coming March, this is exactly what we are anticipating in Brazil.

These firsts will be starting now in January when Quest will be holding the largest camps thus far. God has been building our Christian Camping ministry into what has become a model for the Christian Camping world around Brazil. It includes our eight-day intense volunteer staff training, healthy home-made menus, cooperative (instead of competitive) programing, and physical/emotional/spiritual safety all which support this evangelistic ministry.

Each year we also have an increase in invites for our itinerant ministry. Quest Brazil is regularly sought by churches to come run retreats for various focus groups. We prepare and run customized programing for each of these events built on the expectations and desired outcomes set by the groups’ leaders. Though churches account for the majority of our itinerant ministry events, we also provide this for schools and businesses.

As a ministry, we have also expanded our own events to include retreats for women, men, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and couples. We are looking at increasing this list to include events for young adults, families, and others.

Another huge thing we are looking forward to in 2018 is the completion of the first building of our ministry facility. The building process has been going the past two and a half years, with visioning and engineering work starting a number of years before that. Dependent on God providing the funding, the Panapaná building will be completed before the end of the year.

As a part of that process, the whole building, except the dining hall, will be tiled this January. And this fall plans are in works for a Canadian work team to work on the completion of this project.

With all this happening in 2018, a major milestone for our ministry and team is taking place in March. March 27 marks 10 years of Quest being a registered Not-For-Profit organization in Brazil. The weekend of March 23-25 we will be celebrating 10 years of God’s goodness and blessing poured out on Quest.

Dwayne and Shannon Klassen (CBF, Swan River) serve in Brazil under Quest.

Brazil: We Need to Free Ourselves from Facades

By Dwayne Klassen

BRAZIL/CANADA–On a recent five-week trip to Brazil to assist our field missionaries with the construction of the first building on our camp, God spoke to me during one of our team’s weekly Bible study. As we sat in our rented office space we read through and discussed a chapter of Beth Moore’s study entitled A Wo(Man)’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place. We came across the following passage:

The scenario had changed significantly from the time of Adam and Eve. They had been surrounded by purity and splendor. They had been set for spiritual success and “equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Yet, in the midst of all the right circumstances, they made the wrong choices.

Enter Noah who lived is a society of rampant wickedness. Sin ruled. Perversion prevailed. Righteousness was as rare as a perfect gem. People followed every evil inclination without restraint. The only absolute was absolute depravity.

In the midst of all the wrong circumstances, Noah made right choices. How? Noah walked with God. Surrounded by a perverse generation, Noah knew that righteousness could not be attained and could not persist on the basis of a one-time commitment. Scripture does not even say that Noah religiously renewed his commitment every Sunday. He walked with God. He was in a constant state of habitual fellowship—day by day, hour by hour (Italics added).

As I sat there listening to these words being read, I looked out of the front window and saw an image God burned into my mind. What I saw was a typical rough looking brick wall of which the portion visible to the street had been covered with concrete, smoothed out and painted to look appealing to passers-by.

What God showed me was how this is how many churchgoers present themselves. From the outside, they appear to be spiritually beautiful, saying the right things, singing the right songs and looking the right way. Their relationship with Jesus Christ appears to be on track, living out His commands and their obedience to His call on their lives all appear to be well.

However, the appearance they portray is only a thin layer of deceit, “smoothed out and painted,” covering up lives devoted to status and self. People create an appealing facade to hide their true selves and show a false reality they believe will be appealing to others.

Then God impressed this on my heart. To live free and as God created and desires us to, we must have a constant and continuous, living relationship with Him. It must be our life, not only a part of our lives. It must be decided concretely and not an option in life. It must be who we are and not something we do.

Just as Adam and Eve who were surrounded by purity and splendor and still made a choice to disobey or Noah living in a time or rampant wickedness and perversion made a choice to obey, our choices are our responsibility. We cannot put the blame of our choices and consequences of them, on our circumstances. Our choices are a direct reflection of our true heart and relationship with Jesus Christ. Our walk with God.

We need to free ourselves from the facades we hide behind and instead live out God’s vision for our lives.

Dwayne and Shannon Klassen (CBF, Swan River) serve in camp ministry in Brazil with Teach Beyond.

Paraguay: Sharing Answers to Prayer

by Joanne Martens

PARAGUAY Often when we send in prayer requests we concentrate on the negative or all the things we’d like God to change in people or certain situations, and then rarely share the results of answered prayer. However, I’d like to make a list of positive things that we see happening here in our church plant.

  1. Two men made a decision to follow the Lord in my last Bible study with the women. They have both agreed to join the women in a discipleship study.
  2. A couple who went through the marriage course finally decided to go through with their marriage. After the wedding they plan to be baptized.
  3. Two couples started the SEAN TEE course and have experienced God’s work in their lives. We have seen changes in the attitudes of one couple who now arrives early for Sunday services and attends other services more regularly. The other couple is experiencing new trials in their work and family that seem to point to the Lord doing a refining work in their lives.
  4. We are seeing a rising up of the youth in our church. One young man got baptized not long ago and others are showing more interest in the things of the Lord after having the opportunity for the first time in their lives to attend youth camp.
  5. The over-all attendance in our church services seems to be up somewhat, although it varies depending on the weather, holidays, work schedules, and health issues.
  6. We are “expanding” our church facilities by adding a roofed area with a cement floor in the back of our church lot. This will help give shade and protection from rain when we divide for Sunday School as well as when we have special activities like weddings, VBS, and Easter and Christmas programs.
  7. We are seeing a gradual improvement in the participation of our members in the activities of the church (teaching Sunday School, involvement in VBS, sharing and praying, regular attendance in weekly services).
  8. Personally, my health issues have regulated themselves after my post-op depression and other minor physical complications.
  9. In recent weeks we have had the opportunity to share the gospel with various new contacts. The Lord is gradually bringing more people to us to get to know and draw to Himself.

Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily business of life and one crisis after another that we forget to look at the big picture and see how God has been working slowly but surely to grow his kingdom before our very eyes. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches” (Matt. 13:32-32).

As we continue to sow the seed of God’s Word, we trust that God is causing it to fall on fertile ground, bear fruit and grow so that the whole community of Guavira Poty will not only see the power of God in the lives of those who accept and follow him, but also experience an overflow of that power and goodness into their own homes, and give glory to God.

Joanne Martens (Kola) serves in Guavira Poty, a neighbourhood in Minga Gauzú, a city in Paraguay located near its border with Brazil.

‘Shining Light’ School: Where Miracles Happen

by Daniel Rivera, director, Brillante School

BOLIVIA – The three initiatives of the MEM Mission in Bolivia are evangelism, economic development, and education.

When you ask me about education, and more specifically about the Shining Light (Brillante) school at Hacienda Verde (Green Farm), what automatically come to mind are my most important memories of the decisions that were made along the way in the school’s development.

The school was born at a time when there was strong crisis and adversity in a very traditional Mennonite community before Hacienda Verde was started. The first 12 to 15 students were very brave to accept the challenge of attending a school and to receive an education other than what they knew.

The first two years of the school, with more than 30 children in attendance, saw the children gradually overcome the language barrier, criticism, insults, and even the spiritual condemnation from the religious ministers and the surrounding community. In all this, there were many times that there was sadness and tears in each family.

Thank you to each one of the dads and moms and their children, and the Hacienda Verde Church; and for each one who participates in one way or another to have this school function as it is.

It was and is a reality that each student can begin to dream, plan, and to think about a future and better opportunities.

The Brillante school is privileged to have children that, despite their parents’ limited economic resources and different limitations to give academic support, emerge and improve every day in their intellectual and spiritual life. If you don’t believe in miracles, I encourage you to think about this.

The school children who attend the Brillante school are Mennonites who only speak Low German and who do not read or write. Their parents are the same, and, therefore, the children are alone in this new challenge: studying in a school with teaching in Spanish and, not only studying, but also understanding sufficiently so that they can write exams. The marvellous truth is that each student has succeeded in doing this. This is a supernatural miracle of God in that each student is completing the standards according to the Bolivian education requirements.

We thank God for EMC Missions and its churches that give different types of support to the school. We also thank God for the missionaries who are a blessing to the children and their families of the Brillante School.

Note by Ken Zacharias, EMC Foreign Secretary and translator: The school is growing and currently has 51 children in attendance. Henry and Caroline Krahn (Picture Butte) serve on the School Board and are a strong support to the school staff.






Paraguay: Our King is a God With a Lavish Disposition!

by Nita Wiebe

PARAGUAY–Under-qualified. That’s the word that came to my mind when the Holy Spirit prodded me, “You should be on that prayer team to Paraguay.” Was this chance that a verse in Zephaniah leapt off the pages of scripture that very day to affirm the calling? “Then I will purify the language of my people, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder” (Zeph. 3:9).

I would go. I would raise my voice, call on God to intervene in Paraguay, and thus work shoulder to shoulder with our missionaries there.

It occurs to me that the meaningful occurrences of a Spirit-led Christian cannot be attributed to chance or human logic. If it were so, what would make us different from “the nations that do not call on the Name”? Ours is a God who wants to lead down strange paths (like through a Red Sea), provides strangely procured bread (manna), and leads us to make war by unorthodox methods (blowing horns and breaking jugs).

Our team (Maria Dyck, Peter and Anne Kroeker, Doris and Elmer Barkman, Reynold Plett, David Kruse, Tina Wiebe, and myself) was a strange brew, too, and came together through unexpected healing, inexplicable provision. We were away from March 9 to 21 and served in the Minga Guazú and Asunción areas.

We got to Paraguay on flights that were, to say the least, not as planned. But it was God’s way to show us that this was His scheme, not ours. We landed there on March 9 in three disrupted flights that enabled some excellent God-conversations to happen on planes.

We loosely followed a 10-day schedule made up by the missionaries in Paraguay and Gerald Reimer at the EMC national office. Even though our goal was to pray/work alongside our hosts and be as little additional work as possible, hosting is work. And we are so thankful to Joanne Martens, Chris and Revita Kroeker, and Travis and Rosey Zacharias for so graciously hosting us in their homes for the bulk of the time.

So, what does a prayer team look like? There were mornings when three hours flew by praying for our host families, their families, health, and mission ventures. In the afternoons we visiting homes in the area of the church plant, praying God’s intervention for salvation, provision, healing, justice, employment.

We visited retired missionaries and calling on God to bless their “retirement ministry.” We prayed while on-site in Alto Refugio, a refuge for people living with HIV/AIDS in Asunción; in Santa Teresa at a school, church, dispensary, and store for the Mbyá; at Radio Mensajero; at sites of future ministries (addictions recovery).

We took part in several church services by prayer, preaching, testimony, and music. We visited with and prayed for associate missionaries like Benny and Esther Goertzen and Dave and Judy Schmidt. We prayed for people who heard a prayer team was in town and just showed up needing prayer. We prayed for waitresses, for people in the seat next to us. Oh yes, we had a day where our prayers were mostly, “Ooh! Ah! Wow!” as we toured Iguassu Falls and a bird park.

We had such precious, transparent times of fellowship as a team, praising God, admitting our fears: “What if we spend all this time and money to go pray and nothing visible happens? What about healing? What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Do we always pray for the nice outcome if we are led by the Spirit?”

There were rich times when we lifted each other up to the Father, asking help through grieving, for wayward children, personal growth, dying family members, and guidance.

Here are obvious questions to ask, “Doesn’t prayer work from home? Why waste all that money on plane tickets when it could have been used to feed the starving children in Africa?” Our God is a King with a lavish, loving disposition, not an accountant! He will provide for what He approves in ways we don’t expect. And he tells us to “Go!” and he tells us to “Ask!” So, do it!

Nita Wiebe is a part of the Portage Evangelical Church.


Missionaries go on retreat in Paraguay

by Chris Kroeker

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

Twenty-six months after our last retreat, we had our Paraguayan missionary retreat from Feb. 1 to 4. Because EMC-supported staff is down to five missionaries and two children, we gladly included retired EMC missionaries who continue serving in Paraguay.

After settling in and getting to know the lovely camp, we prepared for supper. Dark, ominous clouds soon gave way to winds, lightning, and a torrential downpour. Later that evening, because of the storms, a major power outage affected us for 26 hours. With that, our water supply dwindled quickly.

Active and retired mission workers (back to front): Joanne Martens, Esther and Benny Goertzen, Paul and Hildi Amstutz (guests), Chris Kroeker, Dave Schmidt, Revita Kroeker, Erna Plett, Judy Schmidt, and the Zacharias family (Rosey, Moi, Zippy and Travis). Credit: Chris Kroeker

Needless to say, we had a number of challenges to start our retreat. There was ample opportunity to guard our hearts and to become more aware of the movements of our hearts, either down into the kingdom of darkness or up into the kingdom of light.

Paul and Hildi Amstutz did an excellent job of leading us to reflect on where our hearts are at, letting God examine and speak to us (Jer. 17:10). Besides the first evening session and the prepared questions for our personal devotional times, they led us in daily three-hour sessions of introspection and quietly listening to God based on Janet Hagberg’s book The Critical Journey where six stages of faith are discussed.

Sooner or later in our journey our faith hits a wall, and we often don’t respond well to it. This is a painful time when we have to deal with emotions like frustration, anger, loneliness and disillusionment. God’s purpose in our “wall experience” is to help us redefine who we are, who is God, and who is our neighbour.

It was an answer to prayer and a blessing to have Dave and Judy Schmidt join us, including on our outing to the river. Judy is undergoing chemo therapy for cancer. Credit: Chris Kroeker

He invites us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), allowing us to dialogue with Him. These wall experiences are crucial in the development of God’s character in us, and our understanding of and relationship to the world we live in.

We had good times of fellowship and prayer together, and enjoyed the marvelous outdoors, going swimming in the creek, the trip to the river, and the great food.

For my wife and me, these days away from our church-planting ministry were well worth it. God has used this retreat to renew our strength, our vision, and our passion to help others also live the abundant life that Jesus offers freely.

Chris Kroeker and his wife Revita serve under EMC Missions in church planting in Minga Guazú, Paraguay.

Mary Beth Penner,Peru: My Weekend, Plans and God’s Purpose

by Mary Beth Penner

PERU – Sometimes when missionaries share their stories, people don’t see the blood sweat and tears that go with them, but I can assure you that they do whether “at home” in Canada or elsewhere in the world.

You often have to fall to discover that you have wings; it hurts to get in shape; you have to obey in order to discover that your faith is well placed, and (as one dear friend once said) you might have to lower your expectations in order to enjoy life.

Here are some examples from my weekend. The bus takes an hour longer to get to its destination because of construction. Thank God for the city tour and the new sights the detour allows. Remember that I used to pray every week that they would fix the city entrance and now they are doing it.

A friend promised to come to church, but didn’t. Remember that God works in ways we cannot see. Just because she didn’t come, doesn’t mean the Lord is not working in her life. The fact that she expressed interest is already a huge step in the right direction.

My neighbour is ill and passed out three times in one day, banging her head and breaking her glasses. Be blessed by the extra opportunity it afforded to spend time with her. Be thankful for her son’s loving care for her.

The owners of the house I’m renting decided to sell and want to kick me out at the end of the month. Be blessed by the people who bend over backwards to help me find other options. Remember that they kick me out almost every January, so it’s really not all that new.

Nobody showed up for the teens’ hang out evening. Enjoy the peace and quiet by reading a good book. Enjoy the thrill on the kids’ faces as they receive extra goodies the next day because there is more food. Be blessed by the unexpected fellowship with teens brought on by a random invitation to an event the next day.

A little boy slips on the wet cement and gets a goose egg on his head. Be blessed for small-community kindness where one can go to the neighbours, ask them for ice and receive sympathy.

What happened this weekend? Answered prayer, love, joy and laughter, among other things.

“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 a hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). So keep your head up. Nothing happens without a purpose.


Mary Beth Penner (Blumenort) works in Peru under EMC Missions with Serving in Mission.


Bolivia: Radio license granted

by Caroline Krahn

BOLIVIA–Exciting things are happening here at Casa de la Amistad. We have been without radio now for about a year and a half and the people can’t wait to have it back and neither can we.  In July we received word that San Jose’s radio license had been granted.

Much work has been done and as of today, the temporary studio and tower are well on their way to being complete.  The goal is to have the radio on the air by the end of December.

MEM Bolivia’s vision statement states that our ministry will concentrate in three areas: evangelism and discipleship, education, and economic development.  The radio will fulfill all of these and reach many, many people that we never could in person.

Broadcasts will consist of pre-recorded programs such as “Fruhes met Hopninj” (Women With Hope) by Joyce Dyck and programs produced by Square One World Media, including a health program by Nurse Irene Marsch and “Waut’s Dit?” (What’s This?) by Sieglinde Toews. There are children’s stories by Taunte (Aunt) Helen and evangelical and discipleship messages from many great Low German speakers.

Our desire is also to air a program giving financial education to the people. Up to date news from the colonies around us and world news, including weather, is also a great hit. And, of course, lots of music; the people love singing and listening to music.

This is just a sample. The radio covers a vast range of topics and there is something for everyone to enjoy. When the news of the granting of the radio license went out in the new community of Hacienda Verde, the people proclaimed, “Well, just don’t plan any Bible studies or singstunds (Singing Hour) or other programs at the times when there is live broadcasting on the radio because we will all be at home listening. No one will come to church.”

At this time the radio will reach people within an 80 km radius from the town of San Jose de Chiquitos. We will broadcast live in Spanish, Low German, and some Quechua.  And there are always some songs in English and High German as well.

We believe that this will also create more traffic here at the centre and make more business for the bookstore. We are ready. The vision is that the person doing the live Low German broadcasting would also follow up with the people who are being ministered to by home visits in the colonies.

In the past two weeks, two men have been added to the family of God. We believe that the Christians who have to remain in secret will once again get their spiritual food and many people will be added to the Kingdom through the radio ministry. Would you please pray for this ministry?

Caroline and Henry Krahn (Picture Butte) serve with MEM.

Paraguay: Live in the Land

by Erna Plett

PARAGUAY–How time has flown by. It is eight and a half months since I came back to Paraguay from Canada. The Lord’s timing in different situations and events is amazing.

Although my house was waiting for me with my belongings, it still took more time than I anticipated to actually settle down in it. At the beginning of May, I got a phone call telling me of a fellow-retired missionary having gotten very sick. That same day I was asked to help out. This meant going to Lucero, an hour and a half away from Caaguazu.

God provided all around, and by evening I was in Lucero, starting a job or ministry that I had not imagined happening. Day and night I was occupied helping in one way or another. At times it seemed like any minute our patient could be called into eternity. She also prayed to be released, to have Jesus come for her.

However, one day after another went by and she still was with us. Little by little she regained her strength till she could sit up and slowly start feeding herself. Eventually she could get out of bed and be in a wheelchair. She joined the rest of the people in the dining room at the seniors’ home to which she had moved less than a month before she became ill.

So, after three months of fairly steady work in Lucero, I came back to Caaguazu to actually settle into my house and new neighbourhood. For the past three and a half months I have been fairly busy trying to make my place more homey.

I still have things left to unpack and put in its place. A lot of work has gone into finishing details of construction and starting to plant fruit trees, shade trees, and other plants. God provided wonderful working crews to do various jobs that needed tackling to make my place more like I had envisioned it to be. Again God has provided in marvellous ways.

I am starting to receive company for which I am glad; it is part of my present hospitality ministry. A special reunion with two ladies recently took place. I had helped them some eight years ago, when they were in high school, in their walk with God. What a blessing to see how God has guided and helped them in their individual lives.

If someone needs to be encouraged to spend some time in a place where they can enjoy the beautiful scenery around my place, as well as see cows and horses in the community, I am here to allow the Lord to use me in the lives of those needing a place to retreat.

A Bible verse that the Lord showed me while still in Canada is this: ¨Live in the land and be safe/faithful.¨ I so enjoy my surroundings here, working on the yard and rejoicing in the Lord. Slowly I am getting to know younger and older neighbours. Lord, make me a channel of blessing to each one.

Erna Plett (Treesbank) retired a year ago from serving with EMC Board of Missions. She lives, where she served, in Paraguay.