It was very rewarding for me to return to Paraguay for MWC and to observe the progress that has been made following my two years of service 54 years ago.
The Mennonites have not only progressed themselves, but more meaningful to me was the way they have reached out to the Paraguayans [most of Spanish heritage]and indigenous people in terms of education, health care, welfare and evangelism.
Having worked on the Trans Chaco Highway, it was a highlight to travel the highway built by MCC personnel. It not only provides a market road for the Mennonites but for the Paraguayan ranchers. We heard several comments that if the road had not been built, the existence of the Mennonite colonies would be questionable today. Following my presentation at the conference a number of people came forward and expressed gratitude for what the PAX boys had done for their country. One person told me that his Dad, Jacob Penner, used to cook for PAX boys who were building the highway.
Following the conference, we traveled to the Chaco on the Trans Chaco highway. We saw semis coming to Asuncion, the capital city, with loads of beef cattle, dairy products and other products from the Mennonite colonies. On one occasion while stopping enroute, I observed dairy products on display racks in a store. They all indicated the product was manufactured in “Colonia Menonita”.
To build the Trans Chaco highway was not easy task. There was the rainy season, swamp areas, jungle, the difficulty in obtaining parts for machines, intense heat, and the morale was not always positive. It is rewarding to look back and see the accomplishment and forget some of the struggles we went through.
Parguayan officials questioned the possibility of such a task. But MCC moved forward and followed the progress of the highway to its completion. I am grateful to the Harry Harder family who left their comfortable home in Mountain Lake, Minnesota and moved to Paraguay to be in charge of the highway and the PAX boys. Harry was engineer for the project. Ann, his wife, an excellent support person, gave home schooling to their children, Martin and Margaret. They were missionaries in a non-traditional way.
Although the Trans Chaco highway was a major project of MCC in Paraguay, may we not forget other PAX boys who served there. Inner colony roads were built by PAX prior to the Trans Chaco to connect villages within a colony and to connect colonies with each other. Those PAX boys were under the leadership of Vern Buller of Bloomfield, Montana, who with his family lived in the Chaco during construction of those roads.
PAX boys also served with MCC in agricultural extension, experimental farms, etc
I am very grateful for my experience in Paraguay, and affirm the work and mission of MCC.