Introduction / History
Mennonites in Bolivia settled first in 1953 in Bolivia, coming mostly from Mexico and Canada. Mennonites in South- and Central America very seldom assimilate into other people groups, so in Bolivia too they founded colonies where native Bolivians are not allowed to settle.
Where are they located?
They are settled in approximately 60 colonies, mostly in the Departmentos Santa Cruz and Beni.
What are their lives like?
Most are farmers of crops or cattle. Since the Altkolonier banished all modern (post-1920s) technological Items, these groups live without electricity, radio and so on. Many of these Altkolonier are very poor. Other groups are more open to civilization and they are more progressive.
What are their beliefs?
Many of the Mennonites belong to the Altkolonier-Colonies. They are influenced by many human made laws that regulate even the simplest of everyday things (e.g. - the prohibition of colored tights, rubber tires for vehicles or wage labor). Most sermons are held in High German, which cannot be understood by most. The sermons are read from old collections of 150 years of age and are constantly repeated. Reading the Bible is forbidden to all who are not ordained preachers. Most previously lived a life that is characterized of alcohol and drug abuse. With baptism they have to accept the rules. If individuals start attending Bible-believing churches, they are excluded from the community (and family) and are economically marginalized. The non-Alkolonier often have a legal background, which leads to many problems in the church life. There are many divisions.
Several mission agencies are the Mennonites for about 20 years. Some have received death threats from Alkoloniern or mafia groups who cooperate with them. To train Mennonites as disciples, education is very important to enable people to an independent reading of the Bible. Since they only accept teachers with Mennonite background, these often come for a limited time from Germany.
Text source: Anonymous