The Fernheim Mennonite Brethren Church, located in the Paraguayan Chaco, South America, was organized on 9 June 1930 by a group of immigrants from Russia under the leadership of Isaak Jakob Braun of Barnaul, South Russia, as the Paraguayan Mennonite Brethren Church. It consisted of 50-60 members. It was joined later that year by two other immigrant groups from Russia, and because of poor roads and communications the entire Mennonite Brethren Church was divided into two groups on 7 April 1931; the group settling to the west under the leadership of Gerhard Isaak of the Crimea, Russia, being called the "Schönwieser Lokale," and the group settling to the east under the leadership of Isaak Jakob Braun being called the "Lichtfelder Lokale." Upon the arrival of another group of immigrants from Russia via Harbin, China, in 1932, a third group was formed under the leadership of Johann Schellenberg, Ignatyevo, Russia, and was called the "Orloffer Lokale." The name in each instance was that of the village in which meetings were held. In 1932-1944 these three groups were coordinated under the leadership of Isaak Braun, then Gerhard Isaak, and later Gerhard Balzer. In 1947 the Schönwieser Lokale and the Lichtfelder Lokale were united as the Filadelfia Mennonite Brethren Church, with a total membership of 400. A brick church was built in 1945 in Filadelfia with a seating capacity of 350. In 1950 another church was built with a seating capacity of 1,000. Because of difficulties in communication the Orloffer Lokale remained separate and in 1953 had a membership of 140. In 1948 both the Filadelfia Mennonite Brethren Church and the Orloffer Lokale became members of the South American District Conference and thereby members of the General Conference of the Mennonite Brethren of North America. The ministers of the congregations received partial financial support. In the 1950s most of the members lived on farms, or farmed from Filadelfia. Sunday schools and young people's work were carried on regularly. While the regular church services were attended also by members of the General Conference Mennonite Church and Evangelical Mennonite Brethren groups, the first Sunday of each month was set aside for worship of the Mennonite Brethren group alone. In church men and women were seated separately, the men remaining seated until the women have left the church. The church had no musical instrument in the 1950s. The total membership in 1955 was 567.
Cite This Article
Balzer, Gerhard. "Fernheim Mennonite Brethren Church (Fernheim Colony, Boquerón Department, Paraguay)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 11 Mar 2014. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Fernheim_Mennonite_Brethren_Church_(Fernheim_Colony,_Boquer%C3%B3n_Department,_Paraguay)&oldid=63972.
Balzer, Gerhard. (1956). Fernheim Mennonite Brethren Church (Fernheim Colony, Boquerón Department, Paraguay). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 11 March 2014, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Fernheim_Mennonite_Brethren_Church_(Fernheim_Colony,_Boquer%C3%B3n_Department,_Paraguay)&oldid=63972.
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