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ing to Mexico. Most members did not need a great deal of convincing. Reasons of faith were buttressed by acute land shortages in Rhineland, convincing many that emigration was beneficial.
The first trainload of Reinlaender Mennonites left Manitoba from Plum Coulee on March 1,1922. Between 1922 and 1925, 3,200 Rein laender Church members left Manitoba for the Chihuahua settlement. This represented 64 per cent of all Reinlaender Church members in Manitoba." Approximately 600 Sommerfelder Mennonites in Rhine land also emigrated to Mexico, while another 357 left for Paraguay.
The Sommerfelder decision to emigrate was made in December of 1920. Ajoint Sommerfelder, Chortitzer and Bergthaler delegation went to Paraguay to search for potential settlement sites in February of 1921. Before the end of July a Mennonite Privilegium had been ratified by the Senate and Congress of Paraguay opening the way for settlement in the Chaco. The privileges granted these Mennonites resembled the con cessions the Reinlaender had obtained from Mexico, with the added guarantee of having been ratified by the Congress of Paraguay.
Not all the Sommerfelder who emigrated went to Paraguay, however. The enthusiasm of the Reinlaender groups for Mexico, sup ported by the reports of individual Sommerfelder who had settled in Mexico, created a division among the Manitoba Sommerfelder, with some choosing Paraguay and some Mexico. A group, headed by Abra ham Doerksen, decided Mexico was the better homeland and by 1922 had secured a Privilegium and purchased 12,000 acres just north of the Reinlaender settlement in Mexico. Between 1922 and 1925 nearly 600 Sommerfelder from Rhineland left for Mexico and between 1926 and 1930, 357 more left for the Paraguayan Chaco. This exodus of approx imately 900 Sommerfelder represented 13 per cent of the Sommerfelder population in Rhineland.
The impact of the emigrations to Mexico and Paraguay was imme diately felt in the R.M. of Rhineland. Many of the Reinlaender and Sommerfelder Mennonites who remained in Rhineland were left with out church leaders and only gradually re-established a sense of corpo rate identity. Bishop Johan Friesen and almost all of the Reinlaender ministers migrated to Mexico leaving no successors to serve the approx imate 36 per cent of the Reinlaender group who had remained in Manitoba. Since Bishop Friesen had made it clear that only those going to Mexico would remain members of the Church, those that stayed behind in Manitoba were left in limbo or joined other Mennonite congregations until they re-organized as the Old Colony Mennonite church in 1936. The exodus of Sommerfelder leaders was not nearly as