Economic crisis hurts and helps church in Paraguay

By November 25, 2009

Paraguay (MNN) — The global economic crisis has hit missions and evangelism in different ways. In some areas, it's hurt work. In other areas of the world, it's helped. In one ministry in Paraguay, it looks like it's been a mixed blessing.

Speaking from the their work in Paraguay, missionaries John and Colleen Eisenberg with the Mission Society say on one hand, it's hurt the church. "The church here has been largely dependent on work teams to build churches, do evangelism, [and] be involved in medical programs. The number of work teams we used to have was usually about 21 or 22. Now we're down to about half that."

Eisenberg says those teams also brought money to help with resources. "The church here in Paraguay is very poor. We have very few people who are even middle lower class. It has entered into a period of transition now, trying to figure out who they are and how they can make do with the resources they have."

Another downside is the exchange rate. "The dollar has dropped against the Guaraní, so that's good for the country here, but not good for us as a ministry. Our dollars just don't stretch as far as they used to."

The first missionaries in the region were actually Brazilian, says Eisenberg. Therefore the Paraguayan church looks more Brazilian and American than Paraguayan. He says he's encouraging young Christians to begin thinking how they can use their unique gifts to reach out more creatively.

According to Colleen Eisenberg, "They have a really good sense of evangelism in this country because of all the teams that have come down and done different kinds of evangelism projects. They'll do this on their own with their own resources."

Colleen believes the economic crisis is causing the church there to look to God, rather than North America. "People now are praying much more frequently and that God is really giving them, the Paraguayans the vision of how to carry out various things with local resources."

Those resources may include finances, speakers, talent and more.

John is now the interim pastor at a local church in Paraguay and is teaching at a local Bible institute. He says that's challenging because a couple of his students are indigenous believers who speak Spanish but are oral learners.

The Eisenbergs are asking you to pray for this time of transition in Paraguay that they'll be effective in helping the church transition into a vibrant, unified body of believers.

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