NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – For the first time since Bethel College’s Mennonite Library and Archives (MLA) initiated it in 1987, a volume in the Cornelius H. Wedel Historical Series has been published in a language other than English.
When Jaime Prieto, professor of theology at Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana in San José, Costa Rica, delivered Bethel’s Menno Simons Lectures in 2005, he was the first to do so in Spanish. Now the Wedel Series, in cooperation with Pandora Press, Kitchener, Ontario, has published Prieto’s lectures both in his original Spanish and in an English translation.
As did Prieto’s lectures, the book Mennonites in Latin America: Historical Sketches (Menonitas en América Latina: Bosquejos Históricos) examines the presence of Anabaptists in Mexico, Central America and South America from some unusual angles.
Prieto’s typology for Anabaptist church groups in the region divides them into three groups: those of foreign missionary origin; those of immigrant origin (e.g., Germans who came to Paraguay in 1926, 1929 and 1941-43); and those of Latin American origin (e.g., the K’ekchi’ Mennonites in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, and the Amor Viviente churches in Honduras). Reflecting on the typology, and the diversity of models of the church, Prieto says, helps in evaluating ongoing life and mission in Latin American contexts.
Prieto also emphasizes the inspiration toward peacemaking, peace-building and nonviolence found in the voices of Latin American children – one found in a poem written in 1937 by Benjamín Hugo Luayza, the young son of an Argentinean Mennonite pastor, and the other that of Antonio Mosquera in an oral history recording his schoolboy memories of the persecution of Mennonite Brethren missionaries in Colombia in the 1940s and ’50s.
Prieto points out the importance of understanding Latin American Mennonite history from women’s perspective as well as men’s, using the biography of Melita Liegehn Kliewer Nikkel, born in Omsk, Siberia, in 1924. At five, she fled Russia with her family for Germany and then the Fernheim Colony in Paraguay, finally settling in Brazil in 1952 after her second marriage.
To close, Prieto deals with the challenge of missiology and ecclesiology through the vision of Cecilia Espinoza Jiménez, an indigenous Trique woman from Oaxaca, Mexico. Cecilia’s vision, says Prieto, outlines the relationship between heaven and earth and the need to view spirituality from both the vantage point of the Word and the daily struggle for survival that many experience. People like Cecilia, Prieto says, remind of the need to reconnect to God and nature, and to the importance of collaboration on many levels.
On the Bethel campus, Mennonites in Latin America and Menonitas en América Latina are available at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center and at Kauffman Museum’s gift shop. The price is $17 for each volume (plus shipping if mailed). They can also be ordered directly from Pandora Press at bookshop.pandorapress.com/index.php (price $16.75 Cdn. per volume plus shipping).
The MLA initiated the Wedel Historical Series as part of Bethel College’s centennial celebration in 1987. C.H. Wedel, the first president of Bethel College from the beginning of classes in 1893 until his death in 1910, was an early scholar of Mennonite studies.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008 and one of only two Kansas colleges listed in Colleges of Distinction 2008-09. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.