In Full Circle, a recently published memoir, Anna Hallman Byler shares the details of missionary life in Latin America.
A new memoir, from what Amazon describes as "the great missionary expansion of Mennonites in the 20th century," will delightfully fill long hours of quarantine. In Full Circle: from Goshen to Goshen, Anna Hallman Byler describes the everyday lived-out details of this lofty calling.
On the first morning of Hallman Byler's mission career in Argentina, husband, B. Frank Byler, had gone to the customs office to try to rescue their filing cabinet. Anna and son, Stanley, were left to fend for themselves at breakfast. Anna wrote:
"I knew enough Spanish that I figured I could make myself understood. Stanley and I sat down at a table. A waiter set a basket of little crusty loaves in front of us. He placed a plate of butter and a dish of jam beside the bread. Next, he poured some hot coffee into my cup, and filled the cup from a pitcher of hot milk — the same for Stanley. That was it. I hadn't spoken a word!
"Children were served just a little of the coffee in the cup, then filled with milk; while adults took it as strong as they wished. We later learned that when the waiter started filling the strong coffee into your cup, he expected you to tell him when to stop pouring by lifting your finger or opening your hand palm down. Then he filled whatever space was left, with hot milk."
B. Frank and Anna Hallman Byler served with Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network, from 1947–1982. They began their work in Argentina and later moved to Uruguay.
Anna Hallman was born in Goshen, Indiana. At the end of 35 years of mission service, Anna and Frank Byler retired in Goshen, bringing them "full circle." The in-between years took Hallman to a childhood in Saskatchewan, teen years in Texas, college in Kansas and Indiana, and early married life in Ohio, before she and Frank responded to God's call to serve in Argentina and Uruguay. The Bylers had five children, one of whom is Dennis Byler.
Dennis Byler became a mission worker with Mennonite Board of Missions in 1972, living in the house where he was born in Bragado, Argentina. He served in a variety of roles in the local Mennonite church and as the conference youth minister. After their marriage, Connie and Dennis Byler continued the missionary legacy of Byler's parents, first walking alongside the Toba-Qom people in the Argentine Chaco from 1978–1981. Then, Mennonite Board of Missions asked them to serve in Burgos, Spain, where they mentored a Catholic renewal movement that matured into one of the major Mennonite centers in Europe with nine Anabaptist congregations.
After 37 years of active ministry in Spain, Connie and Dennis Byler have retired in Cantabria on the country's northern coast. Dennis, a prolific writer, has authored many books and has many more in his head waiting to be written. One of his retirement products is Full Circle: from Goshen to Goshen. In the book, he gathered his mother's memoirs and prepared them for publishing.
Full Circle is available on Amazon The online review says, "A habitual diary and letter writer, [Anna Byler] honed in them her gift and skills as a storyteller, describing — often humorously — her experiences raising a family in cross-cultural settings."