Tag Archives: Paraguay

A Cross-Cultural Christmas

Editor’s Note: One year ago we asked missionaries what Christmas looks like in their country of service—here are a few of their answers.

Jeremy and Adrienne Penner, EMC Workers with Multiply in Thailand

It’s the busiest ministry time of the year! Myanmar migrant workers rarely have time off—so when it comes there’s a big outreach focus. No one here knows anything about why Christmas is a thing, but everyone likes a party! Each church holds Christmas party outreach events all over their area, sharing about Jesus coming to save us, singing songs, performing dramas, and eating delicious Burmese food and Christmas cookies. In 2020, we and our team planned 19 outreaches! Between baking, preparing, and running events it’s a busy month; and afterwards, there isn’t time to sit around because January is when follow-up starts! Continue reading A Cross-Cultural Christmas

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.

Paraguay: Old News? Not When Christ is at Work in New Ways!

By Ken Zacharias and Brad Brandt

Paraguay is not a strong tourist destination. It is often overshadowed by surrounding, bigger, and more noteworthy countries when describing beauty, progress and peoples. It is a landlocked country with just over seven million people and where 90 percent of the population speak Guarani as well as Spanish. Continue reading Paraguay: Old News? Not When Christ is at Work in New Ways!

Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and the Ends of the World

Are you interested in foreign missions? EMC Missions is currently recruiting for the following fields:

Minga Guazú, Paraguay

Many of the national Parguayans in the neighbourhoods of Minga Guazú, a city near the border with Brazil, are unreached by the Gospel and do not have an active church. Many of these communities have a few believers who are often open to and desire a Bible study in their homes, which has proven to be an effective way to reach the community. Continue reading Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and the Ends of the World

‘Chosen’: Joanne Martens Honoured at Recognition Supper

A sense that God had ‘chosen’ her helped during 39 years

by Terry M. Smith

Winnipeg, Man.—Joanne Martens, a long-serving missionary in Paraguay and Germany, was the centre of attention on Sept. 6, 2019, at Fort Garry EMC as friends and family, retired and active missionaries, and Board of Missions (BOM) members and national office staff gathered in her honour. Continue reading ‘Chosen’: Joanne Martens Honoured at Recognition Supper

Window on Missions: What, a Changed Funding Model?

By Tim Dyck and Ken Zacharias

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.

Tim Prefered Cropped 2
Tim Dyck, Executive Director
Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias, Director of Global Outreach

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 (info@emconference.ca) and also speak to your local missions committee and/or your church delegates to share your thoughts. Thanks for your support of EMC missionaries!

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 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.



Judy and Dave in Paraguay: The Unfinished Work

A look at the ministry of Judy and Dave Schmidt

After 19 years of experience founding and growing Alto Refugio, High Refuge, a non-government HIV ministry in Asunción, Paraguay’s capitol, David and Judy moved to Ciudad del Esté (CDE), the country’s second largest city, in February 2016 to pioneer an AIDSLink ministry in partnership with OM.
“The situation in CDE is even worse for HIV than in Asunción,” David said. “Medically in Asunción, they are very well taken care of. In CDE, they are almost totally abandoned.”

Judy and David sprang into ministry in CDE, visiting a local hospital’s HIV department, establishing a support group in their home for those living with HIV or AIDS and giving Bible-based HIV awareness presentations in local schools, churches and universities.

“We were winning the confidence of those people groups through personal contacts and AIDS education, we were making people aware of the ministry to which God had once again called us,” Judy explained. “There were plenty of people living with HIV coming from Asunción to Ciudad del Esté, and news would travel: ‘We know them. Trust them. They will help you. They will love you no matter what.’”

David discovered open doors at the hospital. “Every time the [HIV] programme would open, he was there. They gave him full liberty to connect with all of their registered HIV patients,” Judy said.

Patients also found refuge at the Conexión Vida, Life Link, drop-in centre, where the Schmidts had upstairs living quarters. The weekly support group meetings were especially appreciated by those living with HIV, who could connect with others dealing with the same diagnosis. “We tried to accommodate their immediate needs as much as possible, which might include a nutritious meal or a bed right there for someone needing to rest, even during the support-group meeting,” Judy described.

Within ten months of moving to CDE, the couple had connected with 200-plus patients—each one registered in the couple’s phones—and saw “work opportunities without end” in their new community.

Unwavering faith

Around the same time the Schmidts arrived in CDE, however, Judy began experiencing pain and discomfort in her stomach. “I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I just thought it was gastritis [from] the stress of moving,” she admitted.

She was hospitalised several times for infections, but the different medications doctors gave her didn’t mprove her condition. Eventually, her son, also a doctor, suggested an MRI. Judy pursued treatment, by that time realising something more serious was affecting her abdomen.

On Nov. 9, 2016, Judy received news that she had cancer. Four days later, she had a large birthday celebration and worship time in Asunción, where she shared her testimony with the group. “While I was doing all that, explaining why we were praising and where I was at, I didn’t know what kind of cancer [I had] or what was really going on,” she said.

After the party, with only family present, Judy learnt she had a very rare and aggressive cancer. During the following months of chemotherapy and other treatment, she received a picture from God.

“I had a hammock, and under the hammock were God’s hands,” she recalled. “He was just holding it. And people started getting a hold of the tassels and looking down at me and praying. As they were praying, there were just multitudes coming. There were no tassels left anymore, so they had to take strings, one string at a time, until those were totally filled up, and they were still standing there. And the Lord just said, ‘Have confidence. Have peace. I am in control. You are in my care, and they’re carrying you. They’re carrying you.’”

“He didn’t say, ‘I will heal you.’ Just that He’s in control and that nothing or no one can take me unless He decides it’s time to go. If it’s time to go, nothing can hold me back,” Judy mused. “But if He wants to use me some more, it’s going to be a miracle. And I just have such a peace about it.”

Upon learning about her cancer, Judy didn’t cry over her diagnosis—not for herself, her husband or her family. But when she and David had to close down the emerging AIDSLink ministry in CDE, she wept. Judy knew her deteriorating health would prevent her from walking up stairs to their apartment in CDE, and she needed to be closer to doctors’ help. David finished the presentations for the school year, and then the couple moved out of their inner-city apartment, back to their rural Lucero property.

“How could it be?” Judy wondered. “If the Lord had called us, and we were so sure, and we were off to such a good start and then worked so hard and had so many contacts already and so many friendships?

“We would have never dreamed that this work would become such a passion and that God would carry it this far,” Judy stated. “The hardest thing was nobody [was left] there to listen to them, to love them.”

Marginalized people

Many of the HIV patients come from nominal Catholic backgrounds, but aside from births, weddings and deaths, few practice their faith. “There may be [evangelical] churches in that area, but the churches are not reaching out to this particular group of people that have HIV,” explained Paraguay’s field leader Eddy Froese.

Rosemary Hack, director of AIDSLink International, who championed the Schmidts’ efforts in CDE, said, “I see time and again that when [people] are marginalised by HIV or AIDS, they are the marginalised amongst the marginalised, and the church has not demonstrated what it means to be a vibrant community of Jesus followers amongst people living with HIV,” she said. “David and Judy and others can tell countless stories of meeting people living with HIV and sharing Christ and praying with them. If we are worthy of Christ’s name, how can we ignore those who are ignored and despised?”

“Most of [the HIV patients] don’t have trouble knowing that we are evangelical,” David said. “Every support meeting we have the opportunity to include biblical teaching, some singing and prayer. They know where we’re coming from…. There’s generally a very big openness to build friendship, to build relationships—that’s what we focus on.”

“Whoever would come into the ministry [in the future], to have and to live the love of Jesus Christ is number one, and then, of course, concern for the salvation of the persons that God loves unconditionally. It is not meant to manipulate but to see the Holy Spirit at work.” Judy emphasized. “We’re here to love them.”

Prayer and Thanksgiving

  • Pray for David and Judy Schmidt as they walk through Judy’s cancer. Pray that God would surround them, comfort them and heal Judy.
  • Pray that God would send workers to the HIV community in Ciudad del Este, that many would experience God’s love and find lasting hope in Him

Dave and Judy Schmidt have served for many years as EMC Missions workers in Paraguay. They have also served as a pastoral couple to the Roseisle EMC in western Man. They serve with OM, which prepared this article in August.

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.