In 1893, Maria Kroeker married Johann Neufeld in Reinland, Man. The couple moved to Lost River, Sask. in 1911. Then, in 1926, when the Saskatchewan government insisted that Mennonite children attend government schools, Maria and Johann moved their 11 children to Paraguay, where they helped establish the village of Bergthal. Of the 1,778 people who moved to Paraguay at that time, 10 percent died within two years.
In each location she lived, Maria was part of the pioneering experience, building shelters from the ground up. Her letters to family in Canada are now in the Mennonite Heritage Archives. She wrote about her physical, mental and spiritual struggles. After some of Maria’s children returned to Canada, they encouraged her to return as well. She replied: “When we consider the reason we cited for making this move [to Paraguay], namely for the sake of our faith, our conscience will not let us return.“ Her letters reveal anguish, heartache, determination and faith.
For more historical photos in the Mennonite Archival Image Database, see archives.mhsc.ca.