Mennonitengemeinde zu Mexico (Mennonite Church in Mexico) (General Conference Mennonite Church). During the late 1920s some 124 Mennonite families came to Mexico from the Soviet Union, partly as a result of efforts made by the Mennonite Colonization Board to settle these Mennonites, partly because it seemed to be the only alternative for them. They came from varied church, family and geographical backgrounds in Russia, and they encountered many difficulties in trying to become established in their new homeland. Many of them used Mexico only as a stopover to Canada or the United States, but by 1927 a small group of these families had found their way to Cuauhtémoc in Chihuahua. This town was the trading center for the young Old Colony Mennonite settlement that had begun in 1922.
Since the Old Colony Mennonite Church, then known as "Reinländer", would not accept the "Rußländer" group into its church body, these families organized their own fellowship and for some time worshiped together with the German Lutherans, who also had settled in this area. Late in 1938 these "Russian Mennonites" formally organized under the name of Hoffnungsau Gemeinde (congregation) with a Jakob Janzen, one of the immigrants, as minister and H. P. Krehbiel (General Conference Mennonite) from Kansas, as elder (Ältester). In October 1939 the Hoffnungsau church formally joined the Western District Conference (GCM), with H. P. Krehbiel serving as their delegate. In April 1940 Jakob Janzen was authorized to officiate as elder of the newly organized church.
During the 29th General Conference (GCM) in 1941, the Hoffnungsau congregation became a member of the General Conference Mennonite Church. It was now entitled to solicit help from the Home Mission Board. During the next decade several German-speaking ministers from the United States and Canada served this small congregation. The Home Mission Board also provided teachers, often a preacher-teacher, for the two small schools, one in Cuauhtémoc and one in Santa Clara, where two "Rußländer" families had settled near the Sommerfeld Mennonite colony. When, in 1968, all GCM work in foreign countries was assigned to the Commission on Overseas Mission (COM), Mexico was regarded as a foreign mission field.
During the late 1940s and early 1950s a severe drought brought hardship and even famine to the Old Colony and Sommerfeld colonies in Chihuahua. Upon the suggestion of the Hoffnungsau congregation Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) came to help with a relief program. This was the beginning of an agricultural and medical program initiated by MCC, but after August 1957 administered by the Board of Christian Service of the General Conference Mennonite Church. The agricultural program was later discontinued when the federal Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agricolas (INIA) opened a research center in Cuauhtémoc and hired the General Conference board's agriculturist, Philip Dyck. The Board of Christian Service and later COM also supplied the local government hospital in Cuauhtémoc with three registered nurses and one administrator until 1963. Then a clinic was established in an isolated ranch, Nuevo Namiquipa, ca. 45 km. (75 mi.) north of Cuauhtémoc, with two registered nurses and an administrator. The new federal hospital, Centro de Salud, employed one COM-sponsored worker, Tina Fehr, as hospital matron until 1979. A training school for auxiliary nurses was initiated by COM personnel both in Cuauhtémoc and Nuevo Namiquipa. In 1985 the clinic became local property with administration by a civic association composed of Mennonites from the Santa Clara and Santa Rita colonies. The Commission on Overseas Mission continued to supply two nurses.
The Hoffnungsau congregation's schools had eventually attracted students from the Old Colony and Sommerfeld Mennonite settlements. The parents of these students also began to attend the Hoffnungsau church. By 1963 these facilities had become inadequate, and the parents from the Old Colony Mennonites, together with the teacher from the Hoffnungsau school planned to build a larger school outside of the city of Cuauhtémoc, but not on Old Colony land, since the Old Colony Mennonites were opposed to the advanced school. The site chosen was Quinta Lupita, a farming area about three km. (two mi.) north of town. This school eventually came to be the first incorporated Mennonite school in Mexico that offered government-prescribed courses at elementary and secondary levels and was administered by another local civic association called Comite pro Mejoramiento Educacional Menonita. Also during the 1960s elementary schools were established at Steinreich, ca. 25 km. (40 mi.) north of Cuauhtémoc and in the Swift Current colony.
Old Colony parents who sent their children to a "Konferenz" (GMC) school were excommunicated from the Old Colony church. Debates among Hoffnungsau church members over how best to relate to Old Colony Mennonites eventually led to a rift within the Hoffnungsau congregation. In June 1963 they severed their relations with COM workers, with the General Conference Mennonite Church and with the ostracized Old Colony families. The latter, together with COM workers, established a fellowship at Quinta Lupita, constructing a church building that could seat ca. 400 people. By 1981 the congregation had outgrown the building and a new meetingplace with capacity for ca. 800 and ample educational facilities was erected at Km. 11, Blumenau. The school continued at Quinta Lupita.
The small Santa Clara school and church fellowship disbanded due to emigration and lack of continuing growth. The remaining members joined the Steinreich school and church group, where church building, school and a school dormitory were built.
In the 1970s a GCM-affiliated fellowship was also formed in the Swift Current colony and a church and school building were constructed in Burwalde.
A Christian bookstore was initiated by the Quinta Lupita congregation and later administered by Die Mennonitische Post. It served all the different Mennonite and Mexican Evangelical groups in and beyond the Cuauhtémoc area. The Sunday School Teacher Conferences, started by the General Conference Leadership Training Center, were well attended by Sunday school teachers from the Los Jagüeyes colony (Kleine Gemeinde). Foundation Series material is used in the different Sunday schools (Sunday School literature).
Members from General Conference Mennonite Church congregations were active in the newly created inter-Mennonite Hilfskomitee. Peter Rempel from the Blumenau congregation was the founding president. This organization built a home for the aged, collaborated with MCC in the refugee and reconstruction work in Chiapas and Jalisco respectively, and helped with relief work among the Tarahumara Indians.
Total membership in GCM-related congregations in Mexico in 1984 was 360. Many members have left for Canada or the United States (Seminole, Texas, USA) where they have joined General Conference, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference, or Evangelical Mennonite Conference congregations.
Barrett, Lois. The Vision and the Reality: The Story of Home Missions in the General Conference Mennonite Church. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1983: 124-126, 190.
Juhnke, James C. A People of Mission: A History of General Conference Mennonite Overseas Missions. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1979: 196-197.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 230-232.
Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 87.
Pannabecker, Samuel Floyd. Open Doors: History of the General Conference Mennonite Church. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1975: 234-238.
Sawatzky, Harry L. They Sought a Country. Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1971.
Conversations with B. H. Janzen and A. Redekopp.
Information from J. Rempenning.
Letters by P. H. Krebiel to J. Janzen.
Cite This Article
Ens, Helen. "Mennonitengemeinde zu Mexico." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 24 May 2016. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonitengemeinde_zu_Mexico&oldid=92768.
Ens, Helen. (1987). Mennonitengemeinde zu Mexico. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2016, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Mennonitengemeinde_zu_Mexico&oldid=92768.
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