Shank, Josephus Wenger (1881-1970)

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J. W. & Emma Shank, with their children Elsa, Robert and Pablo in 1923.
Scan courtesy Mennonite Church USA Archives-Goshen.

Identified by one historian as the father of Mennonite missions in Argentina, J. W. Shank was born 10 October 1881 at Versailles, Missouri, USA. He was a Mennonite Church (MC) missionary in Argentina for 33 years. Prior to J. W. and Emma Hershey Shank's arrival in 1917, he had carefully researched five South American countries and contacted 60 missionaries to decide where a Mennonite witness should be centered. He then solicited more than $20,000 for the mission cause.

J. W. loved to study literature; while awaiting coworkers, he taught in Nebraska and at Goshen College (from which he graduated in 1910). His hobby was writing; numerous articles gave North American Mennonite readers extensive information about how new Sunday schools were begun, peoples' characteristics, business and industry, and the Roman Catholic church in Argentina.

As part of his missionary task J. W. preached, taught Argentine Christians (especially at the Bible institute), trained new missionaries, created a catechism, served as mission treasurer, investigated and developed new locations, assisted Indians with legal matters, and wrote. Family experience included frequent moves, periods of separation from his spouse or three children, Emma Shank's death, and a second marriage (to Selena Gamber) in 1942. J. W. and Selena worked primarily with Chaco Indians from 1943-1950, a more isolated but rigorous effort.

Active retirement years found J. W. in deputation work, as a pastor, recording history, teaching four years at Eastern Mennonite College, working as a handyman at the La Junta (Colorado, USA) center for retirees. He was privileged to return to Argentina for the 40th anniversary for Mennonite mission. He died on 17 May 1970 when living at Schowalter Villa, Hesston, Kansas.


Shank, J. W. "Autobiographical Notes." [also titled Establishing Christ's Church Under the Southern Cross] Typescript, Hesston, KS, 1969.

Shank, J. W. "Central Argentina as a Background for Christian Evangelism." BD thesis, Bethany Biblical Seminary, Chicago, 1933.

Shank, J. W. "Mennonite Missions in Argentina." Gospel Herald 39 (1946): 784-786.

Shank, J. W. and others. The Gospel under the Southern Cross. A History of the Argentine Mennonite Mission of South America Celebrating its 25th Anniversary 1917-1942. Scottdale: Mennonite Publishing House, 1943.

Shank, J. W. A series of articles about Argentina in Christian Monitor 7 (April- August 1921): 109-110, 140-142, 172-174, 202-203, 236-237.

Shank, J. W. "We Enter the Chaco Indian Work." Part of Latin America Mission Study Kit. Elkhart, IN: MBM, 1951.

Shank, J. W. "To the Land of the Southern Cross." Christian Living 7 (January 1960): 14-17, 32-33, 37; (February 1960): 24-27.

Author(s) Dorothy Yoder Nyce
Date Published 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Nyce, Dorothy Yoder. "Shank, Josephus Wenger (1881-1970)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 3 Oct 2022.,_Josephus_Wenger_(1881-1970)&oldid=112315.

APA style

Nyce, Dorothy Yoder. (1989). Shank, Josephus Wenger (1881-1970). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 October 2022, from,_Josephus_Wenger_(1881-1970)&oldid=112315.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 818. All rights reserved.

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