Two men from different countries who attended FPU some 20 years apart are changing young lives in Paraguay today.
While they don’t work together on a day-to-day basis, the combined efforts of Marcelo Warkentin (BA ’98) and Delbert Warkentin (BA ’15) are helping break the cycle of poverty for Paraguayan children.
Marcelo and Delbert (no relation) met for the first time in March 2018 at the Colegio J. Gutenberg Campo 9 School in the city of Juan Eulogio Estigarribia. Marcelo is the principal at this mission school supported by the Mennonite Brethren Paraguay Conference, and Delbert is the conference public relations manager. When Delbert visited Marcelo’s school to provide communications consulting and support, the two found they share an alma mater as well as a last name. They also share a passion....
Heeding God’s Calling
Born and raised in Brazil, Marcelo found his way to FPU through a family friend in Reedley. He graduated with a B.A. in Christian Ministries and a minor in Latin American history, going on to earn a master’s degree in Latin American studies from U.C. Santa Barbara, and began his career in education teaching Spanish at a Mennonite school in Indiana. It was on student trips and through student exchange programs that he began visiting Paraguay.
After marrying Clarice, a childhood friend from Brazil who joined him in Indiana, the couple pursued U.S. citizenship. They were rejected three times, which led them to believe that God had a different plan. In 2012, after 17 years in the U.S., Marcelo took Clarice and their two American-born children, Isabella and Lucas, to Paraguay, where he became the first principal of Colegio J. Gutenberg Campo 9 School.
Marcelo credits his time at FPU with preparing him for the career that God led him to.
And while that journey took Marcelo to a place he hadn’t imagined, he feels confident that he is where he is supposed to be. “This was not what I had envisioned for my future, but you grow into your missional calling,” he says. “If there’s an extraordinary situation, God can make his calling very clear.”
Choosing God’s Path
In much the same way as Marcelo, Delbert found himself at a crossroads where he had to choose the easy path—or God’s path. He was born in Paraguay to a Paraguayan mom and an American dad from Reedley. After earning a B.A. in Business Administration from FPU with a nonprofit emphasis, he was faced with the choice to stay in the U.S. or return to Paraguay. He’d had a great experience at FPU and gained valuable experience through his internships. His family assumed he would stay in the States, and although he admits that might have been the easiest choice, it didn’t feel like the right choice.
As the public relations manager for the Mennonite Brethren Paraguay Conference, he most enjoys raising scholarship funds for students to attend the five missional schools the conference supports. Many students at these schools, including the one where Marcelo is principal, are underprivileged, with up to 60 percent receiving partial to full tuition assistance.
Having received financial assistance to attend FPU himself, Delbert understands the significance scholarships can play in determining one’s future success. “The generosity that I received from FPU, where I was on the receiving end of financial help, has allowed me to be on the giving end,” he says. “Now I’m in a place where I can help facilitate scholarships for others who need them.”
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
The work of the Warkentins and Mennonite Brethren Paraguay Conference in education is important because the country’s public schools are severely lacking, and the educational needs are significant. “The purpose of these missional schools is to break the cycle of poverty through education,” Marcelo says. “Providing a well-structured Christian education can change lives.”