The first Methodist worship gathering in Paraguay was held April 9, 1988. Two years earlier, Brazilian lay preacher Dr. Norival Trinidade and his wife Ruth had initiated missionary trips to Paraguay, pursuing a vision they had personally received from the Lord. The vision was shared by the Rev. and Mrs. Virgil Maybray from Wilmore, Kentucky (USA) and with a group of Brazilian clergy and laity.
The Rev. Pablo Mora Bogado and his wife Claudete, who pastored a church in Brazil at the time accepted the challenge and became the first resident missionaries to Paraguay. They arrived in the country in march of 1988. Together with the Trinidades, the Mora Bogados began the work. The second missionary couple, Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Inglis, from Atlanta, Georgia (USA) arrived in Paraguay in July of 1988.
In an unusual form, the Methodist Evangelical Community of Paraguay was born national and autonomous with strong support from individuals, local churches and missionary sending agencies in the United States, Brazil and South Korea.
The first Methodist congregation was established in Asuncion, the capital. At the same time the first Korean congregation was planted, under the Korean Church appointed missionary Rev. Chul Ki Kim.
In 1996 there were 16 congregations in the capital and in ten other towns and villages. There were 1,300 baptized church members and 2,800 participants. A small 40-bed hospital and mobile clinic operate in the capital and small villages in the interior of the country. The church maintains an elementary school in a local Indian reservation and a Bible Institute for training local pastors and national leaders. Workers leading the churches include missionaries from Brazil, the United States, Korea and Paraguayan pastors and local preachers.
Paraguay is a unique country in South America, as its entire population maintained its native language. There are two official languages, Spanish, which was brought by Spanish settlers and Guarani, which is known as the ‘heart language’ of the people. There are also small groups of indigenous people with their own cultures and languages. The Methodist Church is looking for a way to reach out and to evangelize some of these, using native Christian evangelists for the task. One of the strongest congregations is located in one of the reservations of the Tobas. The church also maintains an elementary school and a small cooperative, having built a number of houses with them, connected the village with electricity, treated water and availability of permanent medical assistance.
The first attempts to begin Methodist work in Peru were made by Rev. William Taylor (1877-1878), who tried to establish an autonomous mission church and schools, in the south of Peru where many immigrant workers from England and North America were contracted by the railway company.
The first attempt failed and was closed because of the Pacific war (Peru, Chile and Bolivia) and because many of the missionaries caught yellow fever and tuberculosis and some of them died.
After the war, mission work resumed, especially in the capital city of Lima and the most important seaport city of Callao. Rev. Francisco Penzotti, a colporteur of the American Bible Society, a Methodist minister of Argentinian-Italian background began to preach and to distribute Spanish-language Bibles to his neighbors in Callao. Because of this he was persecuted, imprisoned, and was in jail in Real Felipe from July 1890 to March 1891.
It was in this way the first Methodist Church of Callao was founded on July 10, 1889. It was the first evangelical Spanish-speaking church in Peru. The first Peruvian families who were a part of the “fellowship” were migrants from the rural areas of the country who were plumbers, backers, single mothers, widows—people who had left their roots and were alone. Marginalized by society, they found a warm welcome in the Methodist Church.
Rev. Thomas B. Wood arrived in 1891, and helped to consolidate the work of the church, founded two schools and helped in the struggle for civil rights (liberty of religion, right to civil marriage and against all forms of restriction of personal rights).
The first Peruvian ministers to be ordained were the Rev. Adolfo Vasquez, Jose Illescas and Ruperto Algorta.
The Methodist Church of Peru became autonomous on January 19, 1970. The church is composed of six districts with a over 5,500 members.
Large Methodist schools include: Colegio America del Callao, Colegio Maria Alvarado, Colegio Andino, Colegio America de la Victoria, Colegio Daniel Alcides Carrion, and an ecumenical center, Comunidad Biblico Teologica “Wenceslao Bahamonde,” trains church leaders and future ministers. In addition there are small local schools and kindergartens spread across the country.
Social work includes communal kitchens and feeding programs. Methodists in Peru try to find meaningful solutions to the needs and challenges that the circumstances of the country offer, acknowledging the Wesleyan theme that the “world is our parish.”