PLAYA PASCUAL, Uruguay (Mennonite Mission Network) The fourth chapter of Exodus reports that an incredulous fugitive thought the voice from a flame-shooting bush was calling him to an assignment beyond his capacity. But, God’s question, “What is that in your hand?” inspired Moses – and his spiritual descendants – to undertake to audacious projects.
Add ingenuity to this kind of faith to believe that an emerging Mennonite church in Uruguay is building their church with newspaper, one coil at a time.
“We begin like this, under and over,” Yanela Martínez said, crouching on the floor as she weaves long, thin rolls of newspaper into a basket.
Martínez, who also teaches crafts in a local school, has helped the congregation learn the skills of basket-making that have added much-needed income toward the building fund, which also received a grant from the Schowalter Foundation of Newton, Kan., through Mennonite Mission Network.
Martínez and her husband, José Luis Gonzáles, opened their home in Playa Pascual for Christian fellowship about five years ago. This gathering quickly outgrew the confines of their living room and, with the help of other Uruguayan believers, the Jesús es mi Rey (Jesus is my King) congregation was able to purchase a property with a building. Now, that building overflows with worshippers and the young congregation has taken on the challenge of a $30,000 building program.
Gonzáles and Martínez, who serve as pastors at Playa Pascual, also study at the Centro de Estudios de las Iglesias Menonitas de Uruguay (Uruguayan Study Center of the Mennonite Churches) that offers decentralized training courses for church leaders. So many of the Jesús es mi Rey members have an ardent desire to deepen their biblical knowledge that the Study Center has opened an extension of their program in Playa Pascual.
The church has reached out to their neighbors in a variety of ways, especially those on the margins of society; the young, the old, the abused and the rejected.
In her school classes, Martínez teaches the golden rule along with art. She also offers two hours of crafts and other activities accompanied by Bible classes at the church on Fridays and Saturdays. About 35 children attend these sessions.
“The resulting improvement in the children’s conduct has opened doors with teachers, children and parents,” said Linda Shelly, Mennonite Mission Network’s director for Latin America. “The church has been well-received in the community.”
Ministry in a home for the elderly has led many of the residents to turn their lives over to God and, those who are able, participate in Jesús es mi Rey services. The congregation also attracts those who formally participated in the occult, whose influence permeates the area surrounding Playa Pascual.
Addressing the wounds of domestic abuse, Gonzáles said, “We want to reach the women who suffer violence and men who are ashamed to go to the church.”
Jesús es mi Rey is the first project of Campomisión, a ministry in which German and Spanish-speaking Mennonites collaborate to reach those who don’t know Jesus in southwestern Uruguay along Route 1 between Montevideo and Colonia Delta.