MEDA Timeline 1953-2000


December 10,1953:MEDA is formed in the Atlantic Hotel in Chicago.

The origin of MEDA should be seen against the background of the aftermath of the second World War. In the late 1940s, several thousand Russian Mennonite refugees found their way to the Paraguayan Chaco where they established their own colonies. Assistance from existing Mennonite agencies, such as Mennonite Central Committee (MCG) helped these refugees establish schools, hospitals, and other means for temporary survival. However, numerous requests came from these Mennonite colonies for loan capital to establish businesses and industries to provide a better means of livelihood for themselves and to improve conditions in the colonies. Many of the refugees were skilled craftspeople, eager to set up their own businesses but they lacked capital.

Orie Miller, Executive Secretary of MCC came forth with an idea for a new organization which would address the need for capital expressed by the Mennonite refugees in South America. At a meeting together with a small group of business men in Chicago, Mennonite Economic Development Associates was born. The early members of MEDA were Christian men with considerable material means, all of them having known struggle and poverty in their earlier lives, but who by means of hard work and skillful business management had been able to accumulate considerable wealth. They were especially attracted to the calls for venture capital in Paraguay because they felt it was one area in which their gifts as businessmen could be effectively used to supplement the work of relief and missions. They were willing to invest time, counsel, and generous amounts of money to help those who were willing to help themselves.

The original founding members present at the meeting in Chicago include: Ed J. Peters, Chairman, Wasco, California Erie J. Sauder, Secretary, Archbold, Ohio Edward G. Snyder, Vice-Chairman, Preston, Ontario Ivan Miller, Corry, Pennsylvania Orie O. Miller, Akron, Pennsylvania Howard Yoder, Wooster, Ohio CA DeFehr, Winnipeg, Manitoba* Henry Martens, Reedley, California*

(*At the time of signing the Articles of Incorporation in 1954, these men were absent and did not sign the articles. Sylvanus Lugbill and Ceaphus Schrock from Archbold, Ohio had both become members and signed the Articles of Incorporation.)

At the time MEDA was formally organized, the charter members pledged a minimum of $5,000 for a total initial capital fund of $50,000. As an Ohio chartered corporation, provisions were made for the issuance of shares, and as a condition of membership, each person was expected to buy a certain number of shares. Originally, to become a MEDA member, an individual needed to be proposed, supported by two existing members, and voted into membership. This requirement was to ensure the applicants were seriously motivated and willing to share their load in carrying out the work of the organization. During the first decade of MEDA's existence, members not only financially supported these specific businesses, but made visits and provided business expertise.


1953 - 1968 The Launching of MEDA:

"These were years of exploration, of trial and error, of experimentation, of caution, of working with limited funds; of few projects, and few people. They were years where assistance was provided to fellow Mennonites who, although settled in different continents, were of the same ethnic stock, members of the same church conferences and in many cases, blood relatives." "MEDA organization was extremely simple and decision-making often informal and spontaneous. MEDA business was carried on from the homes of the active officers. From 1953 - 1968 there were 33 projects in operation in six different countries. It was clearly impossible for MEDA members, who were all active businessmen and heavily involved in local church and community activities to do justice to their MEDA responsibilities in addition to all their other commitments. " A turning point for MEDA came in 1969, when Lloyd Fisher was appointed as full time Executive Director.


  • 1954:
    • MEDA's first investment was in a dairy farm named "Sarona" in Paraguay.
  • 1954 - 1960:
    • Working primarily with Mennonite groups in South America, MEDA provided investment capital and advisory services through MEDA members who were assigned responsibilities for particular countries. All of the capital, monitoring, and business training was provided directly by MEDA members. Many businesses were started as joint ventures with MEDA members. For the most part, recipients of assistance shared the cultural, business and faith background of MEDA members.
  • 1960s to 1970s: 
    • MEDA provided loans and began to use the personnel of other organizations to monitor the success of investments. Effective cooperation often took place between MEDA and the various Mennonite mission boards, and sometimes it was the mission personnel who brought the need and opportunity for assistance to the attention of MEDA. Through these and other channels, loans and assistance were extended to Africa, Asia, and Latin America. By the end of this decade, direct member involvement declined as MEDA began to engage full-time field supervisors in various countries. These personnel were frequently seconded through other Mennonite organizations to be a constant presence in-country to provide assistance and supervision of loans.
  • 13 August 1969:
    • Lloyd Fisher, who had introduced and successfully supervised the credit program in Volendam, Paraguay, was appointed full time Executive Director of MEDA. During his 11 year tenure as Executive Director, the membership grew from 90 to 368 persons reflecting the significant energies invested by Fisher in the development of MEDA.

      "This clearly marked the dawn of a new period for MEDA ... characterized by the move of the MEDA services to the Mennonite missions field of Africa, Asia and Latin America. This forced MEDA to face sociological and anthropological problems of having to deal with new customs and cultures. What worked well in Paraguay among traditional Mennonites could not be assumed to work equally well in the newly emancipated countries. This required MEDA to re-examine some of its basic assumptions and methods of administration."
  • 1972:
    • MEDA's initial involvement in Bolivia began with an in-country field representative. The activities in Bolivia have been varied from the beginning including loans, appropriate technology associations, consulting and credit services.
  • 1973: 
    • Roger Friesen began work as MEDA's first full time consultant, seconded through MB Missions/Services. Roger worked with MEDA's loan clients in Colombia to teach minimum standards of performance and provide assistance in problem solving. One of Friesen's early and sUbstantial contributions was the drafting of guidelines for recipients of MEDA loans. These were designed to enable the recipients to carry on to a large extent when a MEDA director was not present, or perhaps after MEDA would no longer provide an outside supervisory person. When Roger Friesen returned to North America, Luis Correa, a Colombian, succeeded Friesen and continued the momentum of the MEDA program in Colombia.
  • 1974: 
    • MEDA began investigation into micro-credit. Asrat Gebre in Ethiopia and Kenneth Graber in Bolivia, both employed full-time by MEDA, began research into how small amounts of credit can help or hinder small farmers and businesses.
  • 1975:
    • MEDA's approach was re-evaluated and a clear mandate formed. MEDA would: 1) offer counseling services to the third world, with or without a credit component; 2) provide education management support and services thereby developing in-country human resources; and 3) orient the program to the needs of the lower 30% of the population.
  • 1977:
    • MEDA started their first revolving loan fund in coordination with the Association of IndigenousMennonite Services and the Central Credit Committee in Paraguay. This loan fund provided agricultural credit for about 900 farmers.
  • 1978: 
    • By the end of 1978, 422 loans had been made in 25 different countries for a total of US$788,680 invested.
    • MEDA approved collaboration with MCC and DFATD to work with MENCOLDES, a Colombian Mennonite Foundation for Development that provided credit for small businesses.
  • 1979:
    • Paul Derstine was appointed Executive Director in the US and Neil Janzen as the Associate Executive Director in Canada. Henry Fast was hired on as an Agricultural Development Consultant.
    • MEDA undertook a pilot program of economic development in Jamaica focusing on the development of small-scale enterprises. During the first two years, nearly $24,000 was invested in six projects, most of which related to the production and marketing of poultry.
    • MEDA opens an office in Zaire to monitor loans. 1 November 1980: Paul Derstine appointed as Executive Director, working out of the MEDA office in Akron, PA. Neil Janzen and Henry Fast continue to work out of the Winnipeg office with a strong commitment to a team effort n administering the MEDA program in the 80s.
  • 1980: 
    • The MEDAIMIBA newsletter becomes "The Marketplace" - a joint magazine for Mennonite Industry and Business Associates and Mennonite Economic Development Associates.
    • MEDA began to breakdown membership by regions, creating chapters that hold meetings for purposes of fellowship, membership and organizational promotion, and resource mobilization.
    • Program plans for MEDA Bolivia and MEDA Ethiopia approved.
    • 1980: MEDA begins offering Human Resource Service. The purpose of this service is to make advisory personnel and MEDA members available to MEDA projects and to other organizations.
  • 1981:
    A policy decision was made to concentrate MEDA's international activities in the Caribbean and Latin American regions and reduce activities in many distant countries where MEDA had small-scale involvement. This was for several reasons: the limitations of too few staff to manage numerous projects scattered through many countries, the high administrative cost; and the opportunity for MEDA to develop fewer but more effective programs. This concentration led to the strengthening of programs in Bolivia and the development of significant programs in Haiti and Jamaica, as well as a large bi-Iateral project in Tanzania.

    The explanation of these organizations would be a side bar to explain the evolution of MEDA and would not appear in the timeline according to the dates of their formation. (1969) CIBA - Church, Industry and Business Associates representing larger businesses such as manufacturers, distributors, processors and large scale farmers was formed to provide a united Christian witness of members' business life, to express their ethical concerns and to promote their Christian faith as business people. (1973) MBA - Mennonite Business Association was formed in 1973 to provide Christian fellowship, stimulate Christian witness in business, encourage Christian ethics and compile a directory of Mennonite business and professional people. (1976) MIBA - Mennonite Industry and Business Associates was formed when CIBA and MBA merged. Although MBA intended to focus its activities on smaller business owners, it was appealing to essentially the same clientele as MIBA. It soon became obvious that activities were being duplicated, and MIBA was formed incorporating the concerns and interests of both large and small businesses.

    November 15,1981: MEDA and MIBA decided to merge into a single new organization incorporating the purposes of both organizations. MEDA now describes itself as an association of Christians in business and the professions who are committed to applying biblical principles in the marketplace by sharing their faith, resources The total membership of both organizations combined was 1224.

  • 1982: 
    • 14/15 January 1982: The first meeting of the MEDA Board of Directors after the merger took place.
    • Neil Janzen, who was Associate Executive Director of the old MEDA, was appointed President of the newly merged MEDA with responsibility for the domestic program (US and Canada) while also providing overall direction in the administration of MEDA. Paul Derstine, who had served as the old MEDA Executive Director, was appointed Vice President of MEDA with responsibility for the international program as well as financial aspects of administration. Two official offices are designated for MEDA: Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
    • MEDA's involvement in Haiti began with the design and implementation of the cocoa production and marketing project the primary purpose of which was to establish a cooperatively-owned productionmarketing association.
  • 1983:
    • MEDA closed the program in Ethiopia due to the political situation.
    • June 1983: Due to devaluation, MEDA's investments in Zaire had become valueless, and MEDA Zaire closed.
    • Calvin Miller became MEDA's first Country Manager and was posted to Bolivia. In this role, Cal was to identify and pursue development project opportunities, and bring the technical and financial resources of MEDA and others to bear on the problems standing in the way of development. July 1983: Dale and Lucille Hochstetler began a two year assignment with MEDA in Jamaica as Country Managers through financial assistance from DFATD.
  • 1985:
    • MEDA's first ARPO (Annual Review and Plan of Operations) is presented to the MEDA Board of Directors.
    • Member involvement in MEDA slowly changed over the years. By 1985, MEDA's focus had narrowed and the appointment of staff both in North America and overseas placed primary program involvement in the hands of staff, rather than MEDA members.
    • March 1985: Discovery Bay Designs was launched in Jamaica through a matching grant from DFATD. Discovery Bay Designs was a factory producing small wooden items of housewares for export. After some difficulties, an expatriate manager was hired with a mandate to return DBD to profitability within one year, which was accomplished. In July 1992, MEDA offered DBD for sale by tender. This move was in keeping with the original intention to create viable, locally owned businesses.
    • MEDA developed an urban small business development program in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This program, the first of its kind in Haiti, became an autonomous savings and loan cooperative called SHEC which is owned by the clients and employees.
    • The Domestic Division of MEDA is formed comprising three elements: the local MEDA Chapter, the Annual Convention; and The Marketplace. The domestic program is intended to encourage members to integrate business and faith and actively participate in one or more of MEDA's activities. Elvin Stolzfus was appointed as the Manager of this division.
  • 1986:
    • MEDA appointed Ron Braun as the Director of Operations for the Caribbean Region.
    • As proposed in the ARPO, MEDA formally adopted the Small Business Development Program (SBDP). This model is based on MEDA’s historical mandate and experiences with providing credit to small businesses.
  • 1987:
    • MEDA implemented the Mbeya Oxenization Project in Tanzania with financing from DFATD. The project resulted in the creation of two private business owned and operated by former project staff.
    • MEDA's micro-enterprise program in Jamaica was launched in the Kingston area. Originally called Mini-Enterprise Services (MES), the program offered credit, management training and technical assistance. In 1991 the program moved to the next phase of development, local ownership, when it was turned over to Economic Development Trust (EDT), a wholly Jamaican-owned organization formed to carry out the objectives of MES.
    • MEDA's active involvement with MENCOLDES in Colombia was concluded, however, MEDA expressed an interest to work with MENCOLDES in the future.
  • 1989:
    • MEDA entered Nicaragua by opening MEDA office in Managua and operating a Small Business Development Program called CHISPA.
    • MEDA began investigating opportunities in Russia.
  • 1990:
    • Established office in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario with the introduction of MEDA Trade International.
    • The Economic Development Fund (EDF) was created.
  • 1991:
    • MEDA Board approved the Debt for Development Plan for MEDA Trade International. MEDA Trade International was also incorporated into a for-profit entity wholly owned by MEDA.
  • 1993:
    • MEDA registered an office in Moscow and undertook non-profit programs of management and training, and small business development.
    • MEDA approved a pilot domestic economic development program in the Lancaster area with the full involvement of the Lancaster MEDA chapter. The ASSETS program was designed, and the first session had 17 participants.
  • 1994:
    • MEDA began offering marketing assistance to handicraft artisans in Nicaragua through PROARTE.
    • MEDA began microenterprise programming in Tanzania with offices in Mbeya and Dar es Salaam. A Tanzanian company, Huduma ya Maendeleo was registered to own and manage both branches.
    • MEDA began the Haiti Rural Business Development Program which creates village banks in rural Haiti.
  • 1995:
    • The domestic ASSETS program started to be duplicated in other North American cities.
    • A new office was opened in Kansas City for Member Services. A decision was taken that all North American staff workingon International developmentwould be located in the Waterloo office. Winnipeg remained· the Corporate office, and domestic operations contlnueaoutoftlleL alloasteroffice.
  • 1996:
    • The ASSETS Lancaster program earned a surplus of US$17,000, and matured into a separate entity.
    • MEDA registered as an international NGO in Mozambique, and began a micro credit program.
    • Fraud was discovered in the Mbeya Small Business Development Program in Tanzania. Of the 739 loans, 234 were fictional with losses totaling $363,000CDN. Despite this set back, MEDA created a recovery plan, and continued on with operations.
  • 1997:
    • The Board of Directors clarified MEDA's mandate of economic development. MEDA was defined as first and foremost an economic development organization. MEDA membership was to be energized through local chapters with opportunities for members to fellowship around issues of faith/work, but the primary focus of MEDA's activity was economic development.
    • MEDA started a new program in Romania in conjunction with World Vision.
    • The Russian Tax Police levied a tax ruling against MEDA's operations in Russia. MEDA decided to appeal the fine and penalties, and subsequently discontinued operations in Russia.
  • 1998: 
    • MEDA reorganized. The Kansas City office was closed with marketing and fundraising activities moving to the Winnipeg office. The International Economic Development Division consolidated in the Waterloo office, with North American Services (now including domestic economic development, annual convention and publications) in the Lancaster office.
    • "God's Week Has Seven Days" was published. This is a book by Wally Kroeker which includes editorials he has written in "The Marketplace'.
    • MEDA began consulting operations in Peru. By 2000 MEDA opened a new country office in Peru staffed with a Country Manager.
  • 2000:
    • CHISPA formed partnerships with a German Investment Fund, a Costa Rican Investment Fund, and a Nicaraguan Financial Institution to from a new institution, CONFIA. CONFIA is a regulated financial institution in Nicaragua, and this new organization allows for expanded outreach and mobilization of savings not possible through CHISPA.
    • All projects in Paraguay have been repaid in full.