Mark Stefan Dück pastors a large Mennonite church in the El Chaco region of Paraguay. As a partner with OM, he shares about the way opportunities have impacted him to support the spread of the gospel among the least reached.
My relationship with world missions has always been indirect. I have never been a missionary in the classical sense, even though since I was a child I felt called to serve God as a pastor. I studied to be and briefly was a teacher before graduate studies at Regent College in Canada. I returned to Paraguay to serve first as a youth pastor and then became senior pastor in our church.
Our youth work always had a mission component with outreaches to indigenous tribes and even a mission trip with OM in Uruguay. This was an eye-opener as we found the people in urban areas very resistant to the gospel. These and other experiences were meant to expose our youth to other cultures, but, of course, in the process I also was impacted and my conviction for sharing my faith deepened. People question the value of such trips in terms of people impacted, but perhaps the true value is that participants’ experiences are life-changing in ways that other ministry can’t accomplish. These trips also bless the older church members who have little opportunity to go out on mission.
Our church was founded 85 years ago by European refugees fleeing persecution who, at the time, didn’t understand why God allowed this. But then they accepted that perhaps God was mobilising them to spread the gospel in other places. From their new home—which was little more than bush and mosquitoes—they built relationships with indigenous groups and the gospel spread through word and deed. Today we are still sending workers to indigenous people in Paraguay, Peru and beyond.
It is key to be inclusive and promote mission locally, nationally and globally to avoid being one-sided. Isolation is a state of mind more than a location. We have people whose world, practically speaking, is very small, but they are connected with family and friends in Canada, in Germany and so on, and they are ready to give to needs beyond their world. Even being in a remote corner of Paraguay is no barrier to being part of a global effort for the gospel.
Our current youth pastor has a clear call to the Muslim Arab world, which we support. We will not allow anything from our part to block this; within a few years, he will no longer be a youth pastor but will be sent to that part of the world. In the meantime, he wants to better understand what the task will involve and how to be successful in it. We encourage him to seek out advice and training from groups like OM who have the necessary knowledge in that part of the world.
We have had a good relationship with OM. In the past, we sent various workers to the ships and elsewhere, where they received valuable training and made a contribution. They returned home ready to serve and encourage others in our church. We trust that will continue to happen. As a relatively large church of 500 people, we are able to send people for training and then into various mission fields.
But most Paraguayan churches are considerably smaller and have difficulty raising support for preparing their young people and sending them out. OM can offer training in various regions of the country.
My dream for the Paraguayan church in relation to world missions is this: I believe that we are culturally equipped to go successfully to many areas of the world where Western missionaries would be less suited, especially North Africa. There are Paraguayans serving in Morocco and Algeria, but so many more would be welcome throughout the region.
Pray that Paraguayans would see how necessary they are in missions and join the task of sharing the gospel around the world.