Before the merger of the German speaking Mennonite Brethren (MB) congregations in Paraquay, the German speaking South American District Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church (Südamerikanische Distrikt-Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden, later the Südamerikanische Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden) had been founded on 3-4 February 1948 in Friesland, Paraguay. The Mennonite Brethren churches in Brazil and Paraguay belonged to this conference, with the churches in Uruguay joining in 1951. At that time the churches in Brazil and Paraguay felt a strong bond based on their common German language and a common history of suffering in Russia, and therefore felt a strong desire for this merger.
Eventually the churches in each country established and maintained their own mission fields. Due to cultural and language differences in each country, the churches gradually focused more on the needs of their own country. The conviction grew that a union of the churches of each country would not only be advantageous, but was very necessary. Representatives from the six Mennonite Brethren churches in Paraguay, including three from Fernheim and one each from Neuland, Friesland and Volendam (the German-speaking MB Church in Asunción was added later), met on 2-3 July 1961 in Filadelfia, where the founding of the Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden (Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches) took place.
At the first conference the aim to promote mission work to the national population, particularly in Asunción, came to the foreground. Subsequently, educational work in their own churches was promoted so that there could be a strong foundation for the development of healthy mission churches.
At the end of 1962 the Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden had 1,014 members, 84 members less than at the beginning of the year, although 39 members were baptized during this time and another 35 were added by testimony in the churches. Emigration had reached its peak, and slowed down in the following years. Nevertheless, over the next 15 years, more members emigrated than were added. In 1977 the Conference of seven churches reached a low of 973 members. In the late 1970s, the emigration of Mennonites almost came to a complete stop, and a slow numerical growth began.
Gradually people grew in their understanding of the state of the country, adapting as necessary. The brotherly kiss and the washing of feet, which had been practiced in Russia as an integral part of their spiritual life, fell away with time. On the other hand, the churches sought to promote spiritual life through the introduction of Sunday school classes (Bible classes) for adults in addition to those for children up to 14 years of age. The educational training of church workers was promoted, as well as the practical and active involvement of local churches in missions. Since 1967, the conference paper, Gemeinde unter dem Kreuz des Südens (Church Under the Southern Cross), was published as a link and information paper for the local churches.
The process of change in the conference has continued. Although the Mennonite Brethren Conference was financially dependent on the churches in the United States of America and Canada during the early decades, the support of the Mennonite Brethren Board of Missions/Services (BOMAS) declined gradually to a nominal sum in the 1990s. In 1993 the Paraguayan MB Conference changed its name to Vereinigung der Mennoniten Brüdergemeinden Paraguays (The Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches of Paraguay), and in Spanish, Asociación Caratativa de los Hermanos Menonitas del Paraguay. At the beginning of 2008, the Association had 1,867 members in its seven churches, two in Filadelfia (Fernheim) and one each in Blumental (Fernheim), Neu-Halbstadt (Neuland), Friesland, Volendam and Asunción.
The churches of the Association operate the following projects: Instituto Biblico Asunción, Colegio Alberto Schweitzer, an historical archive, Colegio Johannes Gutenberg, Radio OBEDIRA (Obra Evangélica de Difusión radial), the television channel Red Guaraní, and a church planting project in eastern Paraguay.
Parallel to the German-speaking Association, an Association of Spanish-speaking Mennonite Brethren churches was founded in 1971, named the Convención Evangélica de las Iglesias Paraguayas Hermanos Menonitas. These churches were the result of missionary work of the German-speaking Mennonite Brethren congregations.
Janz, Willy and Gerhard Ratzlaff, eds. Gemeinde unter dem Kreuz des Südens: Eine geschichtliche Darstellung der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden von Brasilien, Paraguay und Uruguay. Ein Beitrag zum fünfzigjährigen Jubiläum 1930-1980. Curitiba, Brazil: Südamerikanische Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden, 1980: 197-304.
Protokollbücher der Konferenz bzw. der Vereinigung.
Ratzlaff, Gerhard. Ein Leib - viele Glieder: Die mennonitischen Gemeinden in Paraguay. Asunción, Paraguay: Makrografic, 2001.
The above article, translated by Hugo Friesen, is based on the original German language article that was written for the Lexikon der Mennoniten in Paraguay and has been made available to GAMEO with permission. The German version of this article is available at http://www.menonitica.org/lexikon/index.php?A:Asociaci%F3n_Caritativa_de_los_Hermanos_Menonitas_del_Paraguay.
Mennonite Encyclopedia Volume V ArticleFive Mennonite Brethren congregations were founded during the initial immigration into Paraguay, two in Fernheim Colony in 1930, one in Friesland Colony in 1937, and one each in Neuland and Volendam colonies in 1947. These congregations joined their sister congregations in Brazil in 1948, and somewhat later those in Uruguay, to form the South American district conference of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. At the ninth conference meeting in Curitiba, Brazil, in 1960, it was agreed that Mennonite Brethren in each country should organize their own conference in order to pursue mission and educational activities which varied from land to land according to language and culture. Consequently the Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden, Paraguay (Mennonite Brethren Conference of Paraguay) was founded in Filadelfia in July 1961, with Willy Janz as chairman, Albert Enns as vice-chairman, and Peter K. Neufeld as secretary-treasurer. Conference membership at that time was 1,098. In 1964 the congregations in Blumental, Fernheim, and Asunción were received, and in 1982 the Nuevo Toledo congregation of East Paraguay joined.
The conference promotes: (1) a sense of unity and the preparation of workers for the congregations; (2) mission work among the Indian peoples of the Chaco region (Chaco Mission) and among native Paraguayans in cooperation with the Spanish-speaking Convención Evangélica de Iglesias Paraguayas Hermanos Menonitas; (3) Bible schools in Fernheim and Friesland colonies and, since 1971, the Instituto Biblico Asunción (Bible Institute of Asunción) which was founded in 1966. The work of this school is under the direction of a committee of representatives from both the German-speaking and Spanish-speaking Mennonite Brethren conference in Paraguay.
An educational center has been established in Asunción to accommodate the offices of the two conferences; the Colégio Alberto Schweitzer (elementary and high school), which is the responsibility of the conference since 1983; the Instituto Bíblico Asunción; and the studio and offices for the radio work in East Paraguay which is carried on jointly by the two conferences. The Konferenz publishes a Konferenzblatt der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden.
Membership in the German-speaking conference in 1985 was 1,272. The reason for this low membership in Paraguay is the continuing emigration to Canada and Germany. Two Mennonite Brethren congregations in Germany and five in Canada are made up largely of Mennonites from Paraguay. -- Hans Wiens, The Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 496-497, 1990.
BibliographyJanz, Willy and Gerhard Ratzlaff, eds. Gemeinde unter dem Kreuz des Südens: Eine geschichtliche Darstellung der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden von Brasilien, Paraguay und Uruguay. Ein Beitrag zum fünfzigjährigen Jubiläum 1930-1980. Curitiba, Brazil: Südamerikanische Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden, 1980.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 251-257.
Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 98.
Mennonitisches Jahrbuch (1984): 156-58.
Minutes of the Konferenz der Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden in Paraguay.
Cite This Article
Ratzlaff, Gerhard. "Asociación Caritativa de los Hermanos Menonitas del Paraguay." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 2008. Web. 2 Oct 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Asociaci%C3%B3n_Caritativa_de_los_Hermanos_Menonitas_del_Paraguay&oldid=101939.
Ratzlaff, Gerhard. (2008). Asociación Caritativa de los Hermanos Menonitas del Paraguay. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 October 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Asociaci%C3%B3n_Caritativa_de_los_Hermanos_Menonitas_del_Paraguay&oldid=101939.
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