What about the non-German Mennonites?

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What about the non-German Mennonites? Powered By Docstoc
					16   Canadian Mennonite August 17, 2009

                                      Viewpoint                                              Like a Mustard
                                                                                             Seed: Mennonites in

             What about the non-                                                             Paraguay.
                                                                                             a Germanic

     German Mennonites?                                                                      Paraguayan
                                                                                             tells the story of
            After 80 years faith founders now outnumbered by                                 the Paraguayan
                indigenous and Latino Mennonite Christians                                   Mennonite church
                                                                                             from its roots in the Old Testament

                                                                                             through today, honestly and carefully
                                      By Scott Bergen                                        discussing its triumphs and struggles.
                                                                                             Stoesz, an American, is a former

           ’m going to Paraguay to teach      American Mennonites, but are Latino or Mennonite Central Committee director
           English,” I told curious friends
           and family last summer. “The
 Paraguayan Mennonite churches have
                                                 The Mennonite church in Paraguay
                                              has approximately 28,000 members in
                                                                                             to Latin America and a great writer who
                                                                                             uses stories to help his North American
                                                                                             audience connect with, and understand,
 invited young adults to teach English in     total, about 13,600, or 49 percent, who        the Mennonites of Paraguay.
 their congregations to prepare for the       are Germanic; 9,100, or 32 percent, who           At first, I was very excited about these
 Mennonite World Conference assembly.” are indigenous; and about 5,300, or 19                new books. I had hope that they
    “That’s great,” they’d respond en-        percent, who are Latino.                       would add to our under-
 thusiastically. “So you’re going to learn       There are about 204 Mennonite    Please usestanding of the Mennonite
 German, then?”                               congregations in Paraguay, 39 of which         church in Paraguay,
                                                                                  Pantone #662 (blue)
    “Well, no,” I’d explain. “I’ll be working are part of Germanic Mennonite confer- and that through them
 with Paraguay’s Spanish-speaking Latino ences, 39 of which are part of indigen-             we would be blessed
 Mennonite churches, living with a Latino ous conferences, and a whoppingor for 4-Color Process: stories
                                                                                   126       by knowing the
 Mennonite host family, and am going to       of which are of Latino conferences. C-100 not only of our German
 learn Spanish, not German.”                  Clearly, in order to tell the story of today’s brothers and sisters in the
    It makes sense that we in Canada so       Paraguayan Mennonite Church, one               faith, but our Latino,

 often think of “Paraguayan Mennonites” must speak as much about the Spanish                 Guarani, Nivaclé, Lengua,
 as German-speaking, North American                                               K-20
                                              and indigenous Mennonite groups as the Sanapaná, Toba, Angaité,
 and European immigrants. After all, the      Germanic Mennonite ones.                       Ayoreo, Mbyá and
 first Mennonites to settle in Paraguay
 more than 80 years ago were German-
 speaking, Russian Mennonite set-
                                              Unbalanced Information
                                              Two of the most po
Description: "Well, no," I'd explain. "I'll be working with Paraguay's Spanish-speaking Latino Mennonite churches, living with a Latino Mennonite host family, and am going to learn Spanish, not German."[Gerhard Ratzlaff] uses this same definition of "Mennonite" in his book. Sentences such as, " [b]ecoming increasingly popular with the Mennonites, beside rollkuchen, zwieback and [borscht], are guiso, chipa and sopa Paraguaya" (One Body, Many Parts, page 296), assume that to be Mennonite is to eat borscht (a traditional Russian Mennonite cabbage soup). This is odd, as most Mennonites in Paraguay probably couldn't even tell you what borscht is, but eat the traditional Paraguayan foods guiso (meat and vegetable stew) and sopa Paraguaya (corn- bread) on a regular basis. I was disappointed when I read these books. Where were all the stories about the indigenous Paraguayan Mennonites and my Latino Paraguayan faith community?We cheerfully play "The Mennonite Game," where two Russian or two Swiss Mennonites each trace their family trees far enough back to find a common link between them. It's harmless enough to find out how two people are related to each other, but when we stick the title "Mennonite" onto it, it turns into an exclusive and dangerous ritual. When we call this game "Mennonite," it reinforces the idea that to be part of the Anabaptist faith is to be born into a certain race as opposed to living out a faith commitment.
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