Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Colombia
The Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Colombia (General Conference Mennonite Evangelical Church) began in 1945 with the coming of four missionaries from the United States: Gerald and Mary Hope Stucky, Mary Becker, and Janet Soldner. After studying Spanish for a year at the Presbyterian Spanish Language School in Medellin, Colombia, they moved to an eight-acre (three-hectare) farm, owned by a German, close to the small town of Cachipay on the western slope of the eastern range of the Colombian Andes. Later they found Ruth Birckholtz and her mother Anna Bestvater Birckholtz (1885-1961, Winnipeg, Manitoba), two Mennonites from Danzig (Gdansk) who had been brought over by Ruth's brother Curt Birckholtz (1905, Danzig-1981, London, Ontario) a few years earlier, instead of going to Paraguay with other Mennonite emigrants. These two were not active in church work until they moved near Cachipay. Ruth taught for some time in the boarding school.
The group founded an elementary boarding school for healthy children of parents suffering from Hansen's disease (leprosy) and for children from other Protestant families. The school began classes late in February 1947, with 19 children, three preschoolers, and two older girls who helped. This was the beginning of the Colombian Mennonite Mission which, in 1988, is in the hands of the Colombian nationals and legally incorporated as the Iglesia Evangélica Menonita de Colombia. It still related to the Commission on Overseas Mission (General Conference Mennonite).
After 40 years of active work in 1987 there were 10 organized congregations and several preaching points, nine ordained pastors, and about 700 active members. The total attendance of all congregations exceeded 1,000.
In addition to evangelism and church planting the church developed other ministries. There is a home for the elderly, two elementary schools, a retreat center, four bookstores, a foundation for development (MENCOLDES) in cooperation with the Mennonite Brethren church, and an attractive and functional Mennonite Center in Bogota. The church published Menoticias (Menno-News).
Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Colombia, is active in inter-church cooperation. It is a member of the Colombian Confederation of Protestant Churches (CEDEC), and of the National Anabaptist Committee. It also cooperates with the Presbyterian Seminary in Bogota and participates with other Christian groups in joint seminars dealing with topics of common interest, and in some service projects.
The emphases of the church in the 1980s was evangelism and church planting, leadership training, Anabaptist identity, peace witness, and service to the needy.
Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 213-15.
Juhnke, James C. A People of Mission: A History of General Conference Mennonite Overseas Missions. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1979:147-161.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 415. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Valencia V., Héctor G. "Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Colombia ." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 20 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/I4415.html.
APA style: Valencia V., Héctor G. (1990). Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Colombia . Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/I4415.html.