Frieda and Delbert Erb practiced a ministry of hospitality in their home in Choele Choel, Argentina. Photographer: Linda Shelly

By Katie Doke Sawatzky for Mennonite Church Canada and Lynda Hollinger-Janzen for Mennonite Mission Network
Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Frieda Schellenberg Erb, 81, who touched many lives through her lifetime of ministry in Bolivia and Argentina, died November 14, in Choele Choel, Argentina.

Frieda founded Centro de Desarrollo Infantil Las Ovejitas (Little Sheep Children's Development Center) and was part of the leadership team at Iglesia Menonita Zona Norte (North Zone Mennonite Church) in Choele Choel, where she and her husband, Delbert Erb, were members.

The congregation honored Frieda with a Facebook post the day of her death. The English translation reads, "Today, a faithful servant of Christ, who blessed our lives with her effort and work for those who needed it most — especially with the little ones — departed into the presence of our Lord ... Sister in Christ, grandmother and mother to many, we will remember her with much love."

Born October 19, 1940, in Watrous, Saskatchewan, Canada, to Elizabeth (Kroeker) and Jacob Schellenberg, Frieda grew up in a family of 11 children. In the early 1960s, she went to Bolivia through Mennonite Central Committee, where she worked as a nurse and with the Bolivia Mennonite Church, which was just emerging that time.

Frieda served in Bolivia for more than 20 years. Following her marriage to Delbert in 1982, they served together in Bolivia for a year, before going to Argentina, where Delbert had worked previously. Supported by Mennonite Board of Missions, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network, Frieda and Delbert served with Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Argentina (IEMA, Argentina Mennonite Church) during a period when IEMA was growing in its own missionary vision.

This led to the formation of the Patagonia Mission Project (PMP), which inspired the Erbs to retire in Choele Choel in 1996, where they continued to contribute to this Argentine missionary endeavor. Frieda also served as Latin American secretary for Mennonite Board of Missions for several years, alongside her work with the church in Argentina.

Frieda helped make a connection with individuals and churches in Illinois, which formed Arm in Arm (AIA) and joined PMP and Mission Network in a Global Mission Partnership. The Erbs facilitated the partnership, hosted many visitors and mentored people who came to Argentina to serve.

Elizabeth Nachtigall, a representative of the Illinois congregations, spent more than two years serving in Argentina through the PMP/AIA partnership, in addition to participating in five shorter trips. She also served as a co-facilitator for the partnership, preparing the prayer calendar and encouraging communication between Argentina and Illinois.

Elizabeth said that Frieda was a wonderful role model and mentor for her.

"Whether sitting around the table drinking mate [an herbal tea] or simply chatting in the living room, I am grateful for the many pearls of wisdom Frieda shared from her vast experiences working in both Bolivia and Argentina," Elizabeth said. "I learned from her example of faithfulness to the Lord amidst whatever circumstances arose."

Sherry Litwiller, one of the many AIA visitors to Patagonia, appreciated that Delbert and Frieda did not gloss over the difficult issues the church was facing.

"They helped me understand that engaging with people in Jesus's name is sometimes messy but that it's important to be obedient to the calling to go into all the world to make disciples," Sherry said.

Linda Shelly, Mission Network's director for Latin America, said that the Erbs had already 'retired' by the time she started working with Mennonite Mission Network in 2002.

"However, they intentionally chose to live in Choele Choel, because they saw ample opportunity to serve there with their gifts," Linda said. "I appreciate the many ways in which they supported the churches in Patagonia and facilitated south/north relationships that strengthened mission work across continents."

Janet Plenert served as Mission Network's director for Latin America from 2000-2002 and in a variety of leadership roles with Mennonite Church Canada Witness from 2001-2011. Janet emphasized Frieda's hospitality along with her energy for God's work.

"She was creative and innovative, beginning with her Bolivia MCC work, decades ago, when she was involved in nursing and education programs," Plenert said. "Her loyalty to the work of God's church seemed to compel her to action. Frieda and Delbert retired from church ministry into a retired life of church ministry! They just kept going, doing what they loved." 

Frieda is survived by her husband, Delbert; two stepsons, David and Miguel Erb, in Buenos Aires, Argentina; stepdaughter, Patricia Erb, in Ontario, Canada; and many friends from her church families in Argentina, Bolivia, Canada and the United States. 

A memorial service was held in Choele Choel Nov. 15. A virtual memorial service will take place Dec. 11 at 11:00 a.m. EST. Anyone wishing to participate may register in advance at https://MCUSA.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUtfumspzIpH9RQoc3VChcKEKK-T1W3Uj8a. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join the meeting.

 

 

 Related

 

 

Anabaptists begin online French-language theological education in 2021French-language anabaptism https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4651/Anabaptists-begin-online-French-language-theological-education-in-2021Anabaptists begin online French-language theological education in 2021GP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mission Network relaunches "Stir Up Peace" video seriesNews ReleaseVideohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4650/Mission-Network-relaunches-Stir-Up-Peace-video-seriesMission Network relaunches "Stir Up Peace" video seriesGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mission Network publication celebrates two Latin America milestone anniversariesMissio Dei in Latin Americahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4646/Mission-Network-publication-celebrates-two-Latin-America-milestone-anniversariesMission Network publication celebrates two Latin America milestone anniversariesGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mennonite Mission Network acknowledges former employee's misconductNews Releasehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4644/Mennonite-Mission-Network-acknowledges-former-employee's-misconduct-Mennonite Mission Network acknowledges former employee's misconductGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
MVS experience fuels peacemaking workMVS and Peacemakinghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4642/MVS-experience-fuels-peacemaking-workMVS experience fuels peacemaking workGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Robert Witmer, church planter and entrepreneur, leaves rich legacy in FranceObituaryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4641/Robert-Witmer-church-planter-and-entrepreneur-leaves-rich-legacy-in-FranceRobert Witmer, church planter and entrepreneur, leaves rich legacy in FranceGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Paris
Mission nurse, educator, mentor and church leader continued ministry in ‘retirement’Obituaryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4640/Mission-nurse,-educator,-mentor-and-church-leader-continued-ministry-in-‘retirement’Mission nurse, educator, mentor and church leader continued ministry in ‘retirement’GP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Doing two-way mission more than one wayEcuadorhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4631/Doing-two-way-mission-more-than-one-wayDoing two-way mission more than one wayGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Ecuador
Mennonite Bible School in South Africa graduates 41 in 2021Graduationhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4630/Mennonite-Bible-School-in-South-Africa-graduates-41-in-2021Mennonite Bible School in South Africa graduates 41 in 2021GP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Mthatha
Trailblazing and contemporary initiatives pave way for antiracist futureAntiracism efforts https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4628/Trailblazing-and-contemporary-initiatives-pave-way-for-antiracist-futureTrailblazing and contemporary initiatives pave way for antiracist futureGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Family to help sustain a home for people living in exileNew Ministryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4611/Family-to-help-sustain-a-home-for-people-living-in-exileFamily to help sustain a home for people living in exileGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Calais
Christ leads mission agency to sail for new seasAgency realignment https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4608/Christ-leads-mission-agency-to-sail-for-new-seasChrist leads mission agency to sail for new seasGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
New senior executive of Operations desires to be Christ’s servantSenior executive Operations https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4610/New-senior-executive-of-Operations-desires-to-be-Christ’s-servantNew senior executive of Operations desires to be Christ’s servantGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Elkhart, Indiana
Generosity helps fire-ravaged Peru community rebuildRebuilding Peru community https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4604/-Generosity-helps-fire-ravaged-Peru-community-rebuildGenerosity helps fire-ravaged Peru community rebuildGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Isla Iquitos
MVS in San Francisco invites participants to join a larger storyMVS Unit Serieshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4605/MVS-in-San-Francisco-invites-participants-to-join-a-larger-storyMVS in San Francisco invites participants to join a larger storyGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476San Francisco, California

 

 

https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4640/Mission-nurse,-educator,-mentor-and-church-leader-continued-ministry-in-‘retirement’



 

 

Mennonite women in Congo spread the gospel through literacyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4656/Mennonite-women-in-Congo-spread-the-gospel-through-literacyMennonite women in Congo spread the gospel through literacyLiteracy in Congo
Service illuminates good in the worldhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4655/Service-illuminates-good-in-the-worldService illuminates good in the worldService Adventure
Service is a new adventure at 61 degrees northhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4654/Service-is-a-new-adventure-at-61-degrees-northService is a new adventure at 61 degrees northService Adventure
Understanding the world through the lens of Mississippihttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4653/Understanding-the-world-through-the-lens-of-MississippiUnderstanding the world through the lens of MississippiService Adventure
Anabaptists begin online French-language theological education in 2021https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4651/Anabaptists-begin-online-French-language-theological-education-in-2021Anabaptists begin online French-language theological education in 2021French-language anabaptism
Mission Network moves into the neighborhood in Paris, Francehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/video/4652/Mission-Network-moves-into-the-neighborhood-in-Paris-FranceMission Network moves into the neighborhood in Paris, FranceVideo