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Returning to Mennonite roots in Paraguay


Helmut Isaak, former pastor of several Mennonite churches in British Columbia, will teach at the Mennonite seminary in Paraguay, in partnership with Mennonite Church Canada Witness and CEMTA (Evangelical Mennonite Center of Theology – Asuncion).

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February 17, 2006
-by Jeff Enns

Winnipeg, Man. – Helmut Isaak’s ministry has nearly circled the globe – twice. His commitment to God unwavering, Isaak constantly seeks opportunities to share his faith with others. Recently he accepted a position to return to his birthplace of Paraguay to teach at a Mennonite seminary.

In March 2006, Isaak will begin at least three years of teaching in South America in partnership with Mennonite Church Canada Witness. Along with church history, he will teach theology and ethics at CEMTA (Evangelical Mennonite Center of Theology – Asuncion). In the process, he hopes to continue teaching the core convictions of Anabaptist theology in Paraguayan Mennonite communities.

Isaak returns to a prosperous Mennonite community in Paraguay, where Mennonites were benefactors of government privileges: freedom to form their own schools and seminaries without interference, and exemption from military service. Now Paraguayan Mennonites have a unique opportunity to share their peace theology within Paraguay and all of Latin America.

Born and raised in the Chaco region in Paraguay, Isaak earned a teaching degree and exercised his teaching gifts in Loma Plata, Paraguay. After receiving his teaching degree he studied at the Mennonite Seminary in Montevideo, Uruguay and later moved to the Netherlands for theological training at the University of Amsterdam where he specialized in Mennonite History and Anabaptist theology. Convinced that his education should be made useful, he pursued opportunities that shuffled back and forth between Europe, South America and Canada.

In 1980 Isaak moved with his family to Canada where he spent the past 25 years further developing and sharing his faith. In that time he has served as pastor for several MC Canada congregations in the Fraser Valley region of British Colombia. His church ministry has given him the opportunity to share his knowledge of biblical and Anabaptist theology with grassroots communities.

Isaak believes that refreshing Paraguayan communities with their Anabaptist roots and emphasizing biblical studies will help them to share their Anabaptist theological heritage. “If people can embrace the biblical understanding of discipleship, of being a community of believers, of unlimited sharing, and of taking the risk of being rejected or even persecuted”, says Isaak, “then they are taking inspiring steps”.

While in South America, Isaak will also visit other schools and seminaries outside of Paraguay, where he will provide seminars in Anabaptist history and assist in developing strong local leadership. The leadership development of local, Latino pastors will be a significant aspect of Isaak’s ministry.

This will be the third time Isaak has returned to Paraguay to teach. He says Mennonites in Paraguay seem poised to discover their role in a post-modern, global society.