The Convención Hermanos Menonitas del Paraguay (MB Convention of Paraguay) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
In celebration of this milestone and in recognition of God’s faithfulness, the Convention has set the goal of planting 50 new churches.
“The executive committee and pastors have assumed this commitment, and today, there are already 14 missionary points about to become churches, with people being baptized and people involved in ministry,” says Pastor Dario Ramírez, president of the conference.
Reporting on the 50th anniversary celebration for the ICOMB August Prayer Update, Ramírez, who represents the Spanish-language conference to the International Community of Mennonite Brethren, reflects on God’s provision for the Convention.
“My heart is very happy and joyful,” Ramírez says. “We see how God has been faithful with our convention and our churches, and how he accompanied this process for 50 years. Today, we are celebrating with more than 60 churches and 3,766 members, not counting children and teenagers. Counting these sectors, we had approximately 7,500 people attending our churches before the pandemic. It is a great privilege.”
Ramírez reports the final celebration night was a highlight. Special guests, friends, pastors, and “pioneers of the Convention” were gathered at El Refugio church, observing COVID-19 protocols for a time of celebration.
A musical segment of old choirs started the program, followed by a video documentary on the 50 years of the Convention. As a special recognition, the pioneers were given a special plaque. Among the honorees were Rodolfo and Hilda Plett, Alfredo and Ingrid Klassen and the daughter of Alberto and Anna Enns.
Also recognized were the Convention presidents of all these years, including Luis and Teresa Alum, Sixto and Cirila Mencia, Juan and Elfriede Veron, Maximo Abadie, Oscar and Doris Peralta, and Dario and Norma Ramirez. In addition, the Walde, Rempel and Siemens families were thanked for their support.
A brief reflection, a powerful prayer and praises to God concluded the evening. The program gave evidence of the “goodness, faithfulness and mercy of God. God motivates and blesses the Convention to continue being his visible hand, Ramírez says.
The celebration was planned by the Convention executive committee and organizers agree that the celebration focused on God’s faithfulness. Committee member Pastor Edgar Klassen says, “God has allowed us to go through mountains and valleys, but we continue walking. Today is a celebration of his faithfulness.”
Pastor Efrain Mencia, also an executive committee member, highlights his gratitude for God’s blessings over the past 50 years and during the pandemic.
“When we were talking with the Committee about how to celebrate the anniversary during a pandemic, it was a challenge,” Mencia says. “We would have liked to celebrate all together, with all the churches of the interior and the capital, but God wanted it this way. The pandemic does not take away the value of what we are enjoying today. On the contrary, it is one more reason for gratitude, since we can still celebrate.”
As Convention leaders look to the future, in addition to planting new churches, they dream of opening a Bible institute. “We want a more constant and efficient training of pastors, since we need to be updated in terms of preparations and innovations,” Ramierz says.
A third goal is to have a central headquarters for the Convention so that “we are able to celebrate together in one place, in our own house,” Ramirez says.
Mennonite Brethren from Canada and Europe came to Paraguay after World War 1 and then again after World War 2 at a time when virtually all other doors were closed to them. These immigrants established colonies and congregations that today has grown into a German-language national church, Vereinigung der Mennoniten Brüder Gemeinden Paraguays, that according to the ICOMB website has 3,165 members in 22 churches.
These immigrant settlers, together with the mission office of the MB Churches of North America, began a mission work with their Paraguayan neighbors. The first church was established in 1951 and the Spanish-language national church, Convención Evangélica de Iglesias Paraguayas Hermanos Menonitas, was established in 1971.