Paraguay is often called the "forgotten country" when speaking of missions in South America. Scattered among its approximately 7 million people are at least a dozen cities with populations ranging from 50 to 100 thousand that have one or two Gospel-preaching churches, or in some cases, none at all.
Paraguay is the only South American country with two official languages: Spanish, introduced by the Conquistadors from Spain, and Guaraní, the language of the indigenous people groups who occupied the country long before the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century. Today, approximately 95% of the population is classified as mestizo, meaning in this case, an Amerindian-European mixture.
Paraguay was granted independence from Spain in 1811 but suffered many decades of persistent and painful political unrest. The tragic War of the Triple Alliance (1865 to 1870) and a later war in the 1930s with Bolivia cost Paraguay great losses in both human causalities and forfeiture of land. Taking advantage of the poor economic condition and the political upheaval, the country was ruled by a succession of strong-armed dictators. In 1989 a democratic form of government finally began to take hold and has been growing stronger ever since. The relative stability has produced a more open attitude to the Gospel for missionaries who faithfully labor in this land that is sometimes referred to as "The Heart of South America" because of its central location on the continent.
Asunción, the Paraguayan capital, is the country's largest city with a population of about 1,482,000. Asunción is one of South America's oldest cities, believed to have been settled in the year 1537. Today, she is a prosperous city in great need of missionaries.
BIMI currently has only one missionary family in Paraguay. Clint and Rita Vernoy are working in Ciudad del Este, a bustling multicultural city of around 350,000 residents where one can walk through the streets and hear conversations in as many as 11 different languages. It is the third most important "free commercial zone" (duty free zone) in the world, trailing only behind Miami and Hong Kong. The multi-national makeup of certain sectors of Paraguay offers a truly global opportunity for someone who desires to reach the world for Christ.
Ninety percent of the population professes Roman Catholicism; however, it is often mixed with superstitions and practices derived from the ancient Guaraní deities. Non-Catholic groups, including some fundamental Bible-believing churches, have seen significant growth in the last 20 years, but there is still so much more that needs to be done. The door to the hearts of the Paraguayan people is open, and we simply MUST HAVE MORE VOLUNTEERS who will answer the call to reach them for Christ. New churches are being planted every year, but the western half of the country, known as the "Chaco," is in dire need of missionaries. A rugged, acutely arid region that is sparsely inhabited, mostly by Indian tribes, the Chaco would require a bold, courageous sort of missionary. It seems few are willing to meet the challenge; yet, those who live in Paraguay's Chaco still need to hear the Gospel.
The "Heart of South America" is crying out for help! Someone urgently needs to remember this "forgotten country"! Perhaps God is calling you to reach out to the Paraguayan people and show them that He has not forgotten them!