Students at the Indigenous Bible School in the Yalva Sanga community listen attentively as one of the teacher of Germanic background interprets Palmer Becker's session on "giving and receiving counsel."​The class includes at least 3 different indigenous groups. Photo by Palmer Becker.
Palmer Becker
Sunday, March 29, 2015

​After receiving the Nivaclé invitation, Mennonite World Conference and Mennonite Church Canada asked Mennonite Mission Network to coordinate a speaking tour with Palmer Becker to speak about his publication, What is an Anabaptist Christian? in South America. Prior to Paraguay, Palmer was in Bolivia and Brazil. Feb. 27, he traveled to Argentina, and Mar. 5 to Chile. He will conclude his two-month journey in Uruguay.


 

 

 

 

This week I have been teaching with Nivaclé indigenous people here in the Chaco of Paraguay. From 11 congregations and 30 outposts, about 150 pastors and church workers came by stock truck, motorcycle, and bus for a four-day workshop on what it means to be a Christian from a Mennonite/Anabaptist perspective.

How did I ever get this opportunity? Mennonite World Conference sent a letter to its member conferences telling about the Missio Dei booklet, What is an Anabaptist Christian?, and the Nivaclé people were among the first to respond with an invitation to teach.

What an interesting experience this has been!

In the sessions, I used a PowerPoint, graphics and demonstrations to teach a lesson. The students met in groups of three to discuss it in their own language and context, and then came to the mic to share their insights. There was no hesitation!

"What should I do when one person talks too long or too often?" I asked Cornelio Gossen, pastor of a local Nivaclé church. "We never cut them off," he said. "And if you have time for only two speakers before meal time and five want to speak, you let all five speak!" (We often went an hour overtime.)

Each evening after seven hours of study and interaction, individuals and small groups signed up to sing to and for each other until after midnight. The host church of about 130 has a men's chorus, ladies chorus, and full choir that each sing two or three numbers each Sunday.

Participation of all is a valued cultural characteristic. Every male member gets a turn to preach! The unpaid pastor calls the meetings to order and manages the process. There is a sermon and singing nearly every evening. The women meet Monday nights, youth meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, everyone gathers on Wednesday night, and children meet on Saturdays. Every night has lots of singing.

When the workshop ended, all 150 gathered around James Hunt, the translator, and me to pray for us and to express appreciation for what they had learned. In three months, they will meet again to process what we introduced in these sessions. The What is an Anabaptist Christian? booklet has been translated into their native language.

Today I had the opportunity to teach at the Mennonite Biblical Institute for Indigenous Peoples. Thirty-three families from 10 tribes have gathered as a village to interact and study together. It was inspiring to see the dedication of the staff and students.

It has been a privilege to learn more about Paraguay. This country has been through rough times. The early Spaniards came to take what they could. Between 1864 and 1870, Paraguay was at war with Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. Sixty to 70 percent of its people died from war and disease. The 15,000 Mennonites who came from Russia, Canada and Mexico also had very rough times. One-third of the first immigrants died. After I examined the thick, thorny brush that they had to clear for farming, I think I also would have died if I would have had to clear a field in 108-degree Fahrenheit weather, and then would have had a crop failure every two or three years because of drought!

Today there is a mix of wealthy Mennonites of Germanic descent who employ many Nivaclé workers. While the German descendants have done much to help the Nivaclé people, there is sometimes despair in reconciling the Nivaclé gatherer worldview with the individualistic values of the Mennonites of Germanic descent, who hold things tightly and thereby become rich.


 

 

Palmer Becker enjoys a tereré (cold tea) break with a circle of leaders from the Nivaclé indigenous communities of La Princesa and Yacacuash. During breaks the cow-horn with yerba mate tea gets passed around and around. Photo submitted.

 


 

 Related articles

 

 

Here with purpose: Sibonokuhle NcubeQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5070/Here-with-purpose-Sibonokuhle-NcubeHere with purpose: Sibonokuhle NcubeGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Privilege shapes our response to the migrant crisisMigrationhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5068/Privilege-shapes-our-response-to-the-migrant-crisisPrivilege shapes our response to the migrant crisisGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Calais
Here with purpose: Tim YoderQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5065/Here-with-purpose-Tim-YoderHere with purpose: Tim YoderGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mennonite mission worker continues to nurture friendships with Shia Muslims in IranInterfaith discussionhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5064/Mennonite-mission-works-continues-to-nurture-friendships-with-Shia-Muslims-in-Iran-Mennonite mission worker continues to nurture friendships with Shia Muslims in IranGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Qom, Iran
Easter calls us to open the doors of our homes and our heartsEasterhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5061/Easter-calls-us-to-open-the-doors-of-our-homes-and-our-heartsEaster calls us to open the doors of our homes and our heartsGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Calais
Celebrating Holy Week in multiple cultures can deepen faithHoly Weekhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4879/Celebrating-Holy-Week-in-multiple-culturesCelebrating Holy Week in multiple cultures can deepen faithGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Redefining the future of serviceBloghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5047/Are-service-programs-dyingRedefining the future of serviceGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Here with purpose: Henok MekoninQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5044/Here-with-purpose-Henok-MekoninHere with purpose: Henok MekoninGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
The heartbreak of the border: A call for compassion and changeBloghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5043/A-call-for-compassion-and-changeThe heartbreak of the border: A call for compassion and changeGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Here with purpose: Karen HorsmanQ&Ahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5039/Here-with-purpose-Karen-HorsmanHere with purpose: Karen HorsmanGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mission partnerships help each participant to experience more of GodBenin Bible Institutehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5037/Mission-partnerships-help-each-participant-to-experience-more-of-GodMission partnerships help each participant to experience more of GodGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Cotonou
Unwavering faith in the face of persecution yields harvest of peaceFaith in Sidihttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5029/Unwavering-faith-in-the-face-of-persecution-yields-harvest-of-peaceUnwavering faith in the face of persecution yields harvest of peaceGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Sidi
United in ChristTwo-Way Missionhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5026/United-in-ChristUnited in ChristGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Zábalo Village
Here with purpose: Michael OyerBloghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5027/Here-with-purpose-Michael-OyerHere with purpose: Michael OyerGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Casa del Abuelo: Navigating crisis and compassion in La GuajiraBloghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5023/crisis-and-compassion-in-La-GuajiraCasa del Abuelo: Navigating crisis and compassion in La GuajiraGP0|#49a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633;L0|#049a01354-0a5e-4821-ba87-b9f6ba8b7633|Blog;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476La Guajira

 

 

https://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/1341/What is an Anabaptist Christian in Paraguay

Palmer Becker is a special assignment worker in partnership with Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada. He is the author of Missio Dei 18: What is an Anabaptist Christian?. Becker is teaching about the Anabaptist approach to Christianity in various countries in Latin America, and later plans to teach in countries in Asia.

 Related

 

 

Here with purpose: Sibonokuhle Ncubehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5070/Here-with-purpose-Sibonokuhle-NcubeHere with purpose: Sibonokuhle Ncube
Privilege shapes our response to the migrant crisishttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5068/Privilege-shapes-our-response-to-the-migrant-crisisPrivilege shapes our response to the migrant crisis
Here with purpose: Tim Yoderhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5065/Here-with-purpose-Tim-YoderHere with purpose: Tim Yoder
Mennonite mission worker continues to nurture friendships with Shia Muslims in Iranhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5064/Mennonite-mission-works-continues-to-nurture-friendships-with-Shia-Muslims-in-Iran-Mennonite mission worker continues to nurture friendships with Shia Muslims in Iran
Easter calls us to open the doors of our homes and our heartshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5061/Easter-calls-us-to-open-the-doors-of-our-homes-and-our-heartsEaster calls us to open the doors of our homes and our hearts
Celebrating Holy Week in multiple cultures can deepen faithhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4879/Celebrating-Holy-Week-in-multiple-culturesCelebrating Holy Week in multiple cultures can deepen faith



 

 

Albuquerque Service Adventure shared a southwest blend of faith and friendship for 25 yearshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5072/Albuquerque-Service-Adventure-shared-faith-and-communityAlbuquerque Service Adventure shared a southwest blend of faith and friendship for 25 yearsService Adventure
Here with purpose: Sibonokuhle Ncubehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5070/Here-with-purpose-Sibonokuhle-NcubeHere with purpose: Sibonokuhle NcubeQ&A
Ecuador Partnership's journey of collaboration and renewalhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5067/Ecuador-Partnership-journeyEcuador Partnership's journey of collaboration and renewalInternational Service
How can I be a peace witness in time of war?https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4681/How-can-I-be-a-peace-witness-in-time-of-warHow can I be a peace witness in time of war?Peace witness
Ana Alicia Hinojosa assumes role as Senior Executive for Ventures at Mennonite Mission Networkhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5069/Ana-Alicia-Hinojosa-assumes-role-as-Senior-Executive-for-VenturesAna Alicia Hinojosa assumes role as Senior Executive for Ventures at Mennonite Mission NetworkPress Release
Privilege shapes our response to the migrant crisishttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5068/Privilege-shapes-our-response-to-the-migrant-crisisPrivilege shapes our response to the migrant crisisMigration