Guarani-Jopara Institute for Missionaries in Paraguay

Guarani is the heart language of the people of Paraguay, South America. It is also the first language of more than 90 percent of Paraguay’s population. For this reason, it is necessary for missionaries to know Guarani in order to be more effective in communicating the gospel in Paraguay. Various Guarani language-learning programs exist, but most are taught in Spanish, creating an extra barrier for English speakers. Many of the programs also teach a purified form of Guarani rather than the language as it is commonly spoken. Since its opening in September 2000, the Guarani-Jopara Institute for Missionaries has offered English-speaking missionaries in Paraguay an accessible and practical method of learning Guarani.

The institute is the result of World Gospel Mission missionary Andy Bowen’s vision. After serving for several years in Paraguay, Andy felt a growing burden to help other missionaries learn Guarani so the gospel message would be more understandable to Paraguayans. His desire was to teach Guarani-Jopara, the form of Guarani spoken by most Paraguayans in which Spanish words are mixed in with Guarani. (Jopara means mixture.)

After much planning, representatives from various evangelical missions organizations, including WGM, New Tribes Mission, and SIM (Serving in Mission), agreed to serve on an advisory committee. This committee named the school the Guarani-Jopara Institute for Missionaries. Currently, the institute functions under the umbrella of WGM and will do so until a permanent legal structure is arranged.

In addition to focusing on the language as it is commonly spoken, the Guarani-Jopara Institute focuses on the specific language needs of missionaries. Some students study for several months while others complete the full nine-month course. Occasionally the institute offers one-month intensive courses. During their studies, most students stay with Paraguayan host families or in rented houses, surrounding themselves with the language to accelerate their learning.

“If we want to speak to Paraguayans’ hearts about a God who loves them and wants an intimate friendship with them, it makes the most sense to send them that message in the language of their hearts,” shares Andy.

The Guarani-Jopara Institute for Missionaries is working to make this possible. With God’s enabling, a barrier to the effective communication of the gospel in Paraguay is being broken down, one student at a time.