“A story of inspiration, courage and grace of God that gives life and growth to the seed that really wants to do God’s will.” These are the words that Peter Stucky used to describe a Venezuelan Mennonite group which recently invited him to teach a course in its seminary program.
Stucky, a Mennonite pastor and church leader from Bogota, Colombia, taught a course in “Radical Anabaptist Theology and Latin American Theology” in September to 38 students at a seminary on Margarita Island, Venezuela. The seminary carries the name of John Driver, a former pastor and mission worker in Latin America.
According to Stucky, a Venezuelan leader, Erwin Mirabel, persevered with the Anabaptist vision which he had begun to learn in 1987 at a teaching session with John Driver. “The seed was planted and the Anabaptist plant continued to grow and establish roots in different ways.”
Over the years, Mirabel provided leadership to the establishment of theological formation programs for leaders and four congregations have adopted that vision. In 2009, this group of congregations, known as Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas del Oriente (Eastern Evangelical Mennonite Churches), obtained legal status.
Stucky recalled hearing about struggles within Venezuelan Mennonite churches when he attended a 2004 meeting of Andean Anabaptists. He attributed the signs of new life to the power of the resurrection of Christ. “Resurrection power is manifested when it seems that all is lost…God raises the dead to vindicate them in ways that are unexpected and incomprehensible from a human perspective.”
Mirabel is now setting sights on Caracas to search for former members of the Mennonite churches that functioned in the area – churches originally founded by Eastern Mennonite Missions. He is enlisting the help of the Colombian church to realize these plans. Further, Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas del Oriente is exploring associate membership with Mennonite World Conference.