Church of God in Paraguay Celebrates Great Growth
By Kim Ousley
This summer, Norberto and Nancy Kurrle, along with two of their children, took their first trip back to the United States in three years. Anahi and Dominick had plenty of time in the back seat of a rental car to take in a variety of viewpoints of America that look quite different than their home in Paraguay. On home assignment, the Kurrles came to visit and share the awesome things God has been doing in Paraguay and Argentina with the Church of God. Spending many hours on the road, they visited a number of churches, camp meeting, and family who live in the United States.
Norberto Kurrle is no stranger to central Indiana. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Anderson University. He married his late wife Julie and moved to South America to do their first ministry assignments, including starting and leading the ministry of a Christian radio station for the first ten years. Radio Alternativa, an FM station broadcasting hope, was a huge part of their life in South Paraguay in the early days.
Paraguay is known affectionately as the heart of South America, but many have considered it one of the least evangelized countries in Latin America. Roughly between 2012 and 2013, however, the Church of God in Paraguay began to experience an explosion of growth. When the pandemic began to wreak havoc in all sectors of society in 2020, some of this growth was stifled. But prayer proved providential in the church’s perseverance.
Despite the pandemic, the Church of God in Paraguay could be observed holding regular prayer meetings at 5:00 in the morning. More recently, Norberto shares that they even shared a twenty-one day fast during which prayer was taking place 24-7. “Since it was done virtually,” Norberto says, “we had people from all over Latin America and Argentina; we averaged 80 to 150 people praying daily.” Norberto says there were ten countries involved. While the growth of the church in Paraguay predates the early-morning prayer vigils, there is little doubt God has responded to his people in prayer throughout their journey.
Kurrle and his wife Nancy presently serve as support for pastors and leaders primarily within the church of Paraguay, but also connect with leaders across the river in Argentina and throughout Latin America. Since 2017, the Paraguayan church has experienced massive doubling of attendance from 2,000 to an estimated 4,000 believers.
On a Personal Level
The church in Paraguay started officially in 1977 by Norberto’s parents Martin and Tabitha Kurrle with the goal of building churches for evangelistic work and schools for educating children and youth. His parents were sent in as missionaries by the Church of God in Argentina, in conjunction with the Missionary Board based in the United States. This was at a time when the Church of God had placed special emphasis on missions in Latin America. And, all of this was working in fertile soil cultivated by missionaries from Germany that visited Paraguay as early as 1943. Norberto says he never thought he would end up back where he was born and raised, but he has come full circle by continuing the missionary and ministry work started by his parents.
Since 2002, Norberto Kurrle has endured many adversities, yet he feels God has led him to have greater compassion and love for the people he serves. Many are aware of the tragedy by which he lost his first wife Julie and son Timothy (he and his adopted daughter Anahi survived the automobile accident). In an inspirational development, this past spring Norberto was able to meet the person who caused the crash and forgive this man for the harm caused to the family. Now, Norberto faces his parents’ ailing health and intends to be there for them, even as they were there for him years ago.
In 2015, Norberto came to meet and love Nancy, who has two older children Mark and Nicole. About a year after they were married, the Lord blessed the couple with their son Dominick. Norberto feels as if all four of these children have showed him what it means to love more than one could ever fathom. Together they reside in Encarnación.
Across the Miles
This summer, Norberto and his family attended a softball tournament hosted by Interstate Church of God, originally started by his mother years ago to raise money to build a school in Paraguay. “It was started by an idea between my mother and her old college roommate, Twila Briscoe. It started in 1980, and now it’s in its forty-first year. Twila’s son Chad has taken over leadership of the yearly tournament.”
Norberto Kurrle explains that every year churches from the eastern part of the United States come together to play softball with the purpose of blessing the Church of God in Paraguay. Two new projects going on presently are the “Rest Project” and the “Bread Project.” The first one is to raise funds to allow a pastor/leader to take his family on a vacation so they can rest and gain new strength by spending time with family doing something fun and affordable. The second project consists of funds raised to give small loans to people serving a church, but also need to have another way to earn funds to support his or her family. “Our goal since the beginning is to never make a ministry dependent on us,” Norberto says.
Norberto Kurrle hopes to write a sequel to the story of the Church of God in Paraguay. His published thesis is presently housed at the Anderson University library. “The church has grown a lot in the past fifteen years. At one time we only had twelve churches. We have tripled that! Massive numbers of people are coming to Jesus.”
Now that’s a story that needs to be told and preserved!
Learn more about the Kurrles and Global Strategy, including opportunities to get involved, at www.chogglobal.org/team/nkurrle.
Featured (top) photo: Norberto and his family visiting South Meridian Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, on home assignment (photo courtesy: Jerry Byard).