Villa Nueva Church, Bolivia
It was a very special Sunday, March 10 in Villa Nueva. We heard testimonies from two couples and accepted them into membership. Then we commissioned two people to serve on our Kjoakjen Rot (Church Council). We now have a full church council. We are very thankful to God for more willing workers in the church.
We had a wonderful Sunday, March 17. In the afternoon we had a baptism service where 5 young people who recently came out of the colony gave their testimonies and were baptized upon their confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and were accepted as members of the church. Three of these individuals have the support of family. However, 2 brothers do not have the support of their parents. They went to talk with the parents and cleaned up any sins of the past and asked forgiveness. The father said he would forgive everything except the fact that they were being baptized here. We continue to pray for them that they will see the light and come to faith as well.
Abe Harder, Pastor
Villa Nueva Church, Bolivia
It’s been a busy start to the 2019 year for the MEM ministry in Bolivia.
In late January the MEM Team welcomed some new workers.
Benny and Ester Fehr and their children Danae, Tyson, Isabella and Marcus had been approved for a missionary assignment working with radio in San Jose.
They have now settled into a new, rented home in Hacienda Verde and are busy learning the ins and outs of life in a South American environment. Bill Kehler, MEM Field Director, reports that from his perspective the Fehr family has most of the furniture they need, but will leave the last word on that to Esher. The children are in school and seem to be adjusting. Both their daughters, Danae and Isabella recently spent some time in the hospital having their tonsils out. Benny has started some radio work together with Bill.
As well, Mary Bartsch from the Christian Faith Church near Winkler, Manitoba has moved into her house and has started her one-year teaching assignment at the Villa Nueva School. She is being supported by her home church, the Christian Mennonite Conference (CMC), and the Winkler Sommerfelder Church.
Henry and Caroline Krahn are ending their ministry at La Casa de la Amistad in San Jose and are planning to return to Canada in early April. The MEM Board would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their service, and for the wonderful welcome they extended as hosts at the Casa making it such a great place to spend some time. May God bless you as you reflect on the lives you have touched. The MEM leadership is looking for a local couple to take over as hosts at the Casa.
In the community of Villa Nueva the maturing process continues. Having local leadership in the community board, the school board and administration, and in the church mark a move toward autonomy from the direct MEM oversight of the beginnings of the community somewhat over a decade ago.
The Villa Nueva School has fewer students this year, around 170, partially on account of last year’s large graduating class. There are a number of new teachers on staff so the orientation and training provided by retired Evangelical Free missionaries John and Naomi Hall at the start of the school year were particularly important and appreciated.
Abe and Margaret Harder continue to train leaders in the Villa Nueva church using the SEAN Low German Bible Study materials in evening sessions. They are involved directly in people’s lives and have contacts in other communities that are asking for help.
The Hacienda Verde community, located about 250 km east of Santa Cruz, continues to grow and change. The hookup to the Bolivian power grid on December 24, 2018 makes electricity available around the clock. There is growing excitement to develop some manufacturing and other employment opportunities. Over 60 lots and parcels of land totalling around 2,500 hectares have been spoken for, and a good number of those parcels are occupied. Over 150 people are making Hacienda Verde their home, and that number keeps going up. With the harvest coming soon it is expected that interest in land and lots will be on the rise.
School has also started for the year in Hacienda Verde. There have been some bumps but the School Board and administration are confident that it will be a good year. There are 63 students from grade one to grade 9. Around 20 of these pupils did not have much schooling before, so that complicates matters in the classroom. They have just elected a new school board which is looking forward to continuing to move the education system forward. School Board members represent the community, the church, and the MEM Team. Bill Kehler, as MEM Field Director and Team member, is also on the board.
On the San Jose radio front the MEM Team is looking forward to having Benny Fehr work his way into his role of developing the programming and the ministry of the station. Incidentally, you can now listen to Radio del Campo Boliviano de San Jose on your SmartPhone. Go to the App store and download “Plautdietsch Radio” and scroll down to RCB Sanjose. It is expected that Ester will also provide some programming in the future.
The Low German curriculum project which has issued its first material to be printed is very slow right now. Ella Friesen and her husband Nelson just had a baby and he also had surgery. They are currently in Germany so she has been very preoccupied. Billy and Anita Kehler are also expecting their first baby and that is causing some interruptions in Anita’s work schedule. There are requests for the materials from other schools, and other organizations in other countries, so work will continue as our linguists are able.
It is encouraging to see churches in both communities growing and active. In Villa Nueva regular attendance has topped 200 for the Sunday service and it’s not uncommon to have between 150 and 200 people in attendance in Hacienda Verde. The Gospel is being presented and lives are being changed. That is in keeping with the MEM vision which is to see God’s love transform lives so that people may experience freedom and victory as they follow Christ, resulting in vibrant, authentic churches in Bolivia.
EMMC Missions Director