BOLIVIA – On Jan. 9, 2020, an EMC prayer team of 10 people from across Canada met in Toronto with the purpose of traveling to Bolivia to meet and pray with each EMC and MEM missionary, listening to their heart for the ministries with which they are involved. Continue reading EMC Prayer Team Sees Need for Ministry→
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.
LANDMARK, Man.—Heartland Community Church has sprung forward into a new season of ministry and service opportunities as we listen and follow God’s leading. Looking ahead, we have recognized the need to add a new part-time pastor of care to our pastoral leadership team.
Duane Froese has been our Prayer and Care service team leader for the past three years and he was affirmed in this new role on March 19. Duane will help mobilize the team at Heartland to encourage, serve, and help all of us connect to God and others in our church and wider community.
On Easter Sunday we hosted a travelling band of Christian musicians from Bellville, Ont., called FM Reset, who led our Easter worship. They have been touring Eastern and Central Canada, playing in schools and churches along the way, encouraging youth to live different. The band got their start as the young worship team out of Pastor Andy Woodworth’s previous church, and they said that Andy’s encouragement to keep practicing helped them stay focused and develop as a group.
On April 30 our church was formally introduced to the Dawood family for the first time since arriving in Winnipeg in December 2016. Al Reimer spoke on behalf of the Syrian Refugee sponsorship group, which is made up of Heartland donors, and a committed group of fellow Christians in downtown Winnipeg who live in the same area as the refugees.
Al said, “The Dawood family—father Mohamad, mother Aisha, daughter Mawlooda, son Mostafa—continue to make progress in settling in a new country, learning English, going to school, pursuing training for possible employment, and create a network of friends. They have maintained a positive attitude as they confront the seemingly overwhelmingly task of creating a new life.”
Mr. Dawood, with the assistance of Sultan Kittened, a translator who volunteered his service for this purpose, shared some of their family’s life experiences in war-torn Syria. He was a farmer by trade and when uprooted from his homeland, not all the Dawood adult children were able to come to Canada, they got separated during the crisis. After the service, we shared a meal with the family and an offering was taken for gardening tools so they can get started on their own urban garden project.
We look forward to more mission opportunities coming our way as we bear good fruit and remain rooted in Christ.
Guadalajara, Mexico–What would a prayer team member see when they come to the city of Guadalajara to see the EMC church plant here?
The first thing they would see is that there is no building. This is intentional—we are trying to start house churches or cells. So, the gathering is not in a church building. The various groups meet in different homes. Sometimes missionaries host, at other times the various group members do.
About every two months we try to bring all the cell groups together. Usually it is at a terrace that someone has access to, or at times it has been at a park. For us the church is not a place, but a group of people.
Traditionally, in Canada, Chihuahua, or Nicaragua, our churches have met on Sunday mornings. In Guadalajara we hold church on various nights. We have a group that meets Sunday morning, two that meet on Wednesdays, one on Tuesdays, one on Thursdays or Fridays. Each group has chosen a day that accommodates its particular members.
Traditionally Sunday School is 45 minutes, and is either before or after the service. The worship service typically lasts 60 to 75 minutes. Outside of the singing, the morning service is not overly participatory or interactive. This may be for various reasons, but numbers may be the biggest.
Our services here look very different. We generally sit in a circle, designed for interaction. Our (Koops’) groups meet around the dinner table and we begin by sharing a light meal. We catch up on each others’ lives and build community. Most of our groups begin around food and community.
There is no order of service, no formality; everything is very casual. The sharing of the Word of God is done in community with everyone participating. Questions are frequent, bunny trails are allowed and encouraged; it is exegesis in community. These services, or gatherings, go late into the night. It is common for a group to start at 8 p.m. and end at midnight.
When we get all our groups together it looks different yet. Whether it is Sunday morning or afternoon, time is irrelevant. We all know it will go for several hours; it will be done around food. There will be much interaction and participation. It looks somewhat like a church picnic event! It is community. It is family.
Are there challenges or struggles with our chosen model? Of course. One of our big challenges is trying to build connectedness between all the groups. Each group has some form of common connection with others in their group. That same connection isn’t automatic with people from other groups. But this is our expression of church in Guadalajara. Christ-centred, organic, informal, and multiplying.
Ernie and Diane Koop (EFC Steinbach) are part of the church planting team in Guadalajara, Jalisco state, Mexico.
A publication of the Evangelical Mennonite Conference