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Mexican Mennonites and MC Canada form partnership


March 9, 2004
-by Dan Dyck


Henry Krause (MC Canada moderator, second from left) signs a partnership agreement with the Conferencia Menonita de México Larry Kehler (former general Secretary Conference of Mennonites in Canada, centre) represented MC Canada at annual meetings in Mexico on March 7. Hannah Rempel, Abe Rempel, and Jake Harms have been instrumental in connecting with the Conferencia Menonita de México.

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Winnipeg, Man.— A 1920s migration of Canadian Mennonites to Mexico has grown into a formalized fraternal partnership with Mennonite Church Canada. Mennonite Church Canada moderator Henry Krause signed the agreement on behalf of the Canadian Church during the Leadership Assembly meetings here on March 4.

Larry Kehler, former General Secretary of Conference of Mennonites in Canada (predecessor to Mennonite Church Canada) carried the signed documents to the Conferencia Menonita de México’s annual meeting on March 7 for signing there. The former Commission on Overseas Mission administered the work in Mexico during Kehler’s time as General Secretary.

Canadian Mennonite Abe Rempel together with his wife Hannah have worked with the Mexican Mennonites intermittently since the early 1960s. He reported that between 1922 and 1926, 6000 Old Colony and 500 Sommerfelder Mennonites moved to Northern Mexico in the San Antonio valley, about 500 km south of El Paso, Texas. In 1924 an additional124 Russian Mennonite families founded a colony south of that original settlement.

Rempel commented on the challenges of founding the first Bible school in the 1960s, at which he has been a teacher. The difficulties of finding teachers carried on for several decades. In 1991, when the Conferencia Menonita de México was formed, the Rempels went to teach. From the humble beginnings of an 8 member student body in 1991, the school has grown the current enrolment to 150 students.

Today the Mennonite community in this area operates a seniors home, a home for disabled persons, and a rehab centre for alcoholics, plus other social services. They have helped indigenous and Mexican people in disaster relief efforts, and have formed a Christian businessmen’s group and started a credit union. Needs that remain are education and mission efforts with indigenous and Mexican people.

“Our dream 60 years ago was that we would be of help to the colony in renewal, and that is exactly what is happening now. I am very excited about what’s going to happen now in terms of partnership,” said Rempel.

Dan Nighswander, general secretary of Mennonite Church Canada, said that when the bi-national Mennonite Church and General Conference were reorganized into MC Canada and MC USA, Mennonites in Mexico indicated that their ties remained with Canada. “They expressed a desire to grow the relationship with Mennonite Church Canada. The partnership agreement is a formalized expression of that desire,” said Nighswander.

As their contribution, the Conferencia Menonita de México has financially supported MC Canada Witness ministries with a sizeable donation, and have sent representatives to MC Canada annual assemblies. MC Canada will continue to relate with the Conferencia Menonita de México by sending representatives to their meetings on invitation, and to consider requests for “teachers, preachers, and other resource persons, and from time to time to request financial assistance for particular projects and ministries,” says the partnership agreement.