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2017 Alumni of the Year, Providence Theological Seminary
Jakob Lepp has dedicated his life to serving indigenous communities in northwest Paraguay, and the education he has pursued to further his mission has taken him around the world.
As a 21-year-old he was selected by his local, Paraguayan church to study theology at St. Chrischona near Basel, Switzerland. It was there that he met his future wife, Irmi Wiebe of Winnipeg, and after getting married in 1976 the couple moved to Yalve Sanga, Paraguay in 1978.
But Lepp wasn’t finished learning.
In 1984 he studied missiology and anthropology at Freie Hochschule für Mission in Korntal, Germany, and in 1985 he began his Christian Education major at Providence.
Lepp remembers three of his professors as being particularly inspiring.
“It was the Philosophy, Theories of Learning, and Leadership courses with Chuck Nichols, the Counselling courses with Steve Masterson and the Old Testament Theology courses with Gus Konkel that really helped me to understand people,” he recalls. “I will be forever thankful for those teachers and this institution.”
After graduating with his Master’s Degree Lepp returned to Yalve Sanga, where he served as director of the Instituto Bíblico Indígena. In addition to his administrative work he found time to develop curriculum, to teach full time and to deliver short courses at schools in Cordoba, Argentina and in indigenous communities in southern Brazil.
In 2000 he and Irmi moved to Filadelfia, Paraguay, where he assumed the executive directorship of the Asociación Civil Obra Misionera Evangélica Menonita. He still leads the organization, facilitating the work of missionaries among indigenous peoples while encouraging the local, German-speaking churches to realize their potential as Christ’s witnesses in a cross-cultural setting.
Church life has always been important to Lepp.
“Since 1988 I have been involved in the church council of my home church, the Filadelfia-OST Mennonite Brethren Church,” he says. “For many years I served as assistant pastor and preached in other, local churches. I was also involved in the Board of Elders of the Paraguayan Mennonite Brethren Conference for more than 20 years.”
Lepp plans to retire in 2018 when Siegfried Dürksen, a current Providence student, returns to Paraguay to take over his position. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, he says he’ll “preach and teach” as long as he can. He also hopes to do some cattle ranching.
He will also spend time with his four daughters and their families, which, he says, “includes three granddaughters who live close to us and two grandsons in Winnipeg.”


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