Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the arrival of Mennonite missions in Argentina. On September 11, 1917, the families of T.K. and Mae (Hertzler) Hershey and J.W. and Emma (Hershey) Shank stepped off the S.S. Vauban in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Shank had pursued a vision for mission outreach to Spanish-speaking people for over a decade. The Hersheys, inspired by the example of earlier missionaries to India, had first worked in a city mission in Youngstown. The call to Argentina reached them in La Junta, Colorado where they had gone due to T.K.’s health. In January 1919, after language study and scouting trips, the two families settled in Pehuajó, about 230 miles southwest of Buenos Aires. Hershey later recalled that they were viewed as “foreigners, heretics, Protestants—despised, hated folks.”[^1] (Hershey. I’d Do It Again, 1961) In those early years, most of the Mennonite mission work in Argentina focused on evangelizing Catholics. (See Hershey’s translation of the tract they distributed in Pehaujó during that first year). In the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen, we have many published and other resources to explore some of the many results of those first Mennonite steps on Argentinian soil: evolving approaches to mission, influence on outreach to Spanish-speaking people in Chicago, examples of collaboration and alienation, and much more.
Joe Springer, Curator, Mennonite Historical Library