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 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.
What? EMC Missions Wants to Change the Missionary Support Model?
Yes, you read that correctly. The Board of Missions will be presenting a proposal to Conference Council in November for some missionaries. The proposal will be to move from 100% support of ministry to a blended model. The missionary family will raise 40% with the other 60% to come from the EMC General Budget. The change described here only applies to EMC-administered missionaries serving in Guadalajara (Mexico), Bolivia, and Paraguay at this time.
Note: EMC Missions also supports Associate Missionaries who serve with partner agencies. The number of Associate Missionaries has remained about the same since the 1980s and they already operate on a blended model, receiving a subsidy from the General Budget.
Why is the Change Necessary?
The current model has been in place since EMC Missions was founded as a Missions Committee in 1953. At that time, the suggested donation from every congregation was one cent per member per day. Amazingly, this was almost enough to pay the entire cost of the missionaries at that time!
Since then, the number of EMC-administered missionaries grew steadily, along with the finances needed to support them, reaching a high point in the 1980s. This was followed by a period of gradual decline in the numbers of missionaries serving directly under EMC administration. The amount of funding for EMC missions is also declining, especially in the past number of years, while inflation increases the costs of supporting missionaries.
The board recognizes that if the current trends continue, there will eventually be too few missionaries and too little funding available to continue to have a vibrant missions program. In keeping with our EMC Vision statement to be a movement of people advancing Christ’s Kingdom culture as we live, reach, gather and teach, the board wants to see growth in both numbers of missionaries and finances to support them.
How Will this Change Promote Growth?
The Missions sub-committee that developed this proposal researched the current trends and interacted with many other churches and agencies. They also sent out a survey to ask EMCers their opinions about the proposed change.
One of the trends that they observed is that while EMCers continue to be very generous towards missions, they also want to be able to direct their giving to specific projects. They want to have a strong connection to the ministries that they are giving towards. The blended support model promotes this strong connection and allows missionaries the opportunity to develop a larger network of friends, prayer and financial supporters.
To assist missionaries in raising support, the EMC Missions Administration will oversee the development of Home Teams to work alongside existing missions committees and to advocate for the missionaries. The Home Team will provide encouragement, prayer, logistical support, connections, and will generally assist the missionaries in connecting with supporters.
When Will the Changes Happen?
The Board is currently working out the details in the EMC Missions Handbook. The plan is to begin the transition to Home Teams in 2019, and then gradually phase in the blended support over the following three years. Current EMC missionaries are fully aware of the timeline and the changes.
How Can I Help?
We would love to have many people engaged with our EMC missionaries as part of Home Teams and as people who are interested, praying, and giving to these ministries. Please contact the EMC office (firstname.lastname@example.org) and also speak to your local missions committee and/or your church delegates to share your thoughts. Thanks for your support of EMC missionaries!
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.
by Ken Zacharias, Foreign Secretary, EMC Board of Missions
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.
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.
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.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference