It was a celebration of thanksgiving and praise to God. Arlie and Eva Peters, long time missionaries with MEM in Bolivia, and a large group of friends and supporters gathered for an evening of reflection and gratitude, November 19, in the Winkler EMM Church, Man.
The evening, in celebration of Arlie and Eva’s faithful service, featured thoughts from former MEM staff members and music by Lisa Janzen joined by former students from the Villa Nueva school. As well, there were messages of thanks from a parent of students that had attended the Villa Nueva school. MEM Field Director Bill Kehler sent a message remarking how Arlie’s presence was missed as the local school board in Bolivia begins the search for new teachers for the upcoming school year. EMMC Executive Director Lyn Dyck presented the Peters with a plaque and thanked them for their commitment and congratulated them on their faithfulness to the task.
A highlight was a selection of pictures tracing the development of the education system in the MEM ministry complete with a video from current students and teachers expressing their gratitude for the education that is now available. That opportunity for advancement is there in large part due to Arlie’s commitment, persistence and dedication.
Arlie and Eva have recently moved to Aylmer, Ontario with their family. That ends a 16-year missionary career in Bolivia that saw schools started, health care offered, and three children added to their family, along with many other developments in the MEM ministry to the Low German Mennonites in that country.
What’s next for the Peters family?
Things were a lot different back when Arlie and Eva Peters of the Aylmer EMM Church, Ont. first considered long-term missionary ministry among the Mennonite people of Bolivia. The MEM partnership between the EMMC and the *EBMC of La Crete, Alberta was young, email was just becoming more common, there were no smart phones with Whatsapp, and there was virtually no prospect for a Low German speaking youngster in Bolivia to get anything more than a colony school education.
It’s no surprise then, that the Job Description for the Peters dated July, 2002, states, “Arlie’s priority tasks: …will be to establish a Christian private elementary school in the Pailón, region”… that suited Arlie’s training as a teacher and his nature of desiring to help others.
Eva on the other hand, a registered nurse, would help with “nutrition and health classes…” and “assessments of patient’s medical needs with appropriate referrals.” Other tasks were listed, but the most pressing need was for educational opportunities for children of families leaving the colonies.
Arriving in Bolivia on October 28, 2002 they set to work as part of the MEM ministry team. The first communication to the EMMC office from the field came with reference to having to learn patience. That continued to be a common theme in communication throughout their ministry. But, in spite of delays, bloqueos (protestor’s road blocks), and ever-changing governmental regulations and requirements, government approved schools were established. There’s a story that needs to be told sometime of God using unusual means to access high level government officials.
During the time of ministry in Bolivia three children, Joshua, Naomi (Abi) and Gabriella, joined the family. The first years were hard; living conditions in the Bolivian town were rough, the demands on their time seemed unending, and the young students, and in some cases the parents, needed training and teaching in love, discipline and hygiene; subjects not usually found in the classroom.
Well, perseverance and persistence paid off. After starting classes in a rented facility some temporary classrooms were built. Then came the establishment of the community of Villa Nueva. First the temporary classrooms there housed the students and teachers. Then came several phases of construction of a permanent facility, Unidad Educativa de Villa Nueva, which today brings education to nearly 200 students.
Later under Arlie’s direction several communities or groups of parents started schools under the first school’s umbrella. The new community of Hacienda Verde came next, now with the first phase of a permanent school building, and some 40 to 50 students.
Classes are provided in Spanish, English and Low German and evening classes have seen some parents graduate. Currently several former students have joined the teaching staff, and students are beginning to consider post-secondary training.
The Peters family, after a period of prayer and deliberation, has made the decision to leave the Bolivia field of ministry. They arrived back in Aylmer, Ontario earlier in July 2018, and Arlie is back in the education system ministering as a substitute teacher.
EMMC, the MEM team and the MEM board thank God for the faithful ministry of Arlie and Eva and the children and we wish them God’s guidance and peace as they settle in their new situation in southern Ontario and as part of the Aylmer EMM Church.