The ‘Evangelization by Colonization’ Movement and the Amish-Mennonite Migration to Costa Rica

Mennonite Quarterly Review

Anderson, Cory, and Jennifer Anderson. 2020.

94(2):149-94.

Research Points
  • A distinctive religious migration model emerged in the 1950s-70s: Plain Anabaptists attempted global evangelism by transplanting religious colonies abroad. Nearly 100 Beachy Amish-Mennonites pursued this in 1968 by moving to rural Costa Rica, starting a larger rural congregation and a smaller suburban one.

  • Their ambition was two-fold: communally demonstrate their centuries-old traditional lifestyle while pursuing religious conversion efforts among locals.

  • Difficulties arose as Beachys applied their habitus to a vastly different context. Some instincts undermined outreach, including prioritizing pre-existing in-group socio-religious debates versus pragmatic adaption aimed at proselytization effectiveness.

  • As peasant converts lacked full social and economic capital to achieve full inclusion, frustrating identity negotiations emerged among and within Beachy/native parties over cross-group connections.

  • Local class divisions emerged as Beachys applied capital and technologies inaccessible to locals, as with land acquisition, infrastructural development, and economic projects, which complicated definitions of a “successful” colonization effort.

  • These unstable colony experiments—lasting around a decade—reveals intriguing themes around ethnicity, global religious ambitions, leadership maneuvers, imported culture clashes, and meanings of change.

  • Though the two founding congregations have disbanded, a remarkable legacy endures of over 20 Costa Rican and Nicaraguan congregations.

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