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Gratitude from Around the World

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Sharing a tagine among friends in North Africa

Compiled by Candice, RMM Staff Writer
From the November 2013 Beacon

RMM workers around the world will celebrate Thanksgiving in culturally diverse places. Some will eat turkey, others live in places like Thailand where a single Butterball can cost a whopping ninety dollars. Many will gather with friends that have become like family. In Spain, workers gather with Spanish friends who might be a bit underwhelmed by a turkey dinner with all the fixings. In spite of how the holiday may look different in each host culture, our workers are a thankful group. They are aware every day that God’s faithfulness is what is carrying them through. They see his hand at work in each of the countries where they live and experience the abundance of his provision every day. Many express gratitude for the host cultures and the local people that have embraced, welcomed, and cared for them. This year at Thanksgiving time, as an RMM family, we want to remember all that our God is doing around the world and in our own hearts and to celebrate together.

We asked some of our workers to share their gratitude for God’s work and blessings, and their appreciation for the cultures in the places he has taken them. Here are their responses, in their own words…

Gratitude from Granada, Spain:

When I get out and walk, I’m grateful for creation. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1 NIV). I’m glad for the earth as God’s habitation and how the whole thing declares God’s glory. I’m thankful to get out and breathe it, see it, experience it. We have so many visuals in Granada, especially the mountains. When the first snow falls, the snowcapped mountains are so beautiful. I point it out to my students and say, “Wow, isn’t that beautiful! Do you ever get tired of this??” Even though we don’t see God in people’s lives so much yet, I see him in getting out and walking.

I’m grateful for the people we call our friends. A number of them have gone out of their way to make us feel at home and do things for us and with us. In the past, we prayed to be seen with favor and we feel like God has done that. God has used people, even atheists, in my life to speak to me and encourage me.

Judi and friends cook Thanksgiving dinner together in her kitchen
After my experience with my heart condition, I’m experiencing renewed life and energy. I’ve asked the Lord many times for energy. I’ve experienced something new in the last few months. I’ve never been a morning person but now I’m a morning person. I get up and I’m ready to go.

Also, I’m thankful I don’t have to carry burdens. Jesus says “My yoke is easy, my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30 NIV). In the past, I was carrying burdens that were not mine to carry. I don’t want to do that anymore.
-Pablo K

What I’m thankful for is what God is doing in the hearts of people in Granada—those he’s calling to himself. One thing that is amazing to me are the networks between our friends. Only God is able to orchestrate those connections. Friends have introduced us to other friends. It’s fascinating to look at and say: God is putting people together for a purpose.
-Judi K

Gratitude from the Middle East:

In our day and age, it seems difficult to form deep friendships. We are grateful for inspirational friendships in our country of service. The level of acceptance and expressed love is deeply touching and there are few limits on time available or resources.

We have also been grateful for the way God takes care of our family back at home: parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, and other relatives. We sometimes feel guilty for our absence, so we're all the more thankful that God fills in the gaps.

God has given us health, joy, hard work, and good conversations.

We have seen God's faithful provision of adequate grace for whatever is needed. 2 Corinthians 2:9 says: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We have found that to be the case.
-John and Cecelia Aslan*

Gratitude from Bangkok, Thailand:

I am grateful to be working in a friendly and polite culture. Even though the worldview in Asia is very different from mine, people are nevertheless open to interactions based on mutual respect. I am thankful to my hosts for inviting me to share with them through English teaching, fitness training and fun times together, and that these times together open the doors to share our lives, values and faith.

The Thailand team was gifted this turkey. A wok stood in for a roaster, leading to more than one oven fire, but it turned out delicious!
I am thankful that there are minorities in this city whom God has prepared to receive the Gospel of Christ and that we have the opportunity to discover together who God is and what it means to walk with him. This was so beautifully illustrated a few Sundays ago when several of our friends left the gas station where they work to join our fellowship meeting and simply and openly shared their faith with those gathered—a faith that God walks with them even though their lives are some of the most difficult in this city. They brought to our fellowship a young man ready to receive Jesus as his Savior. On the way back while walking along a quiet road with open space on either side, they took time to laugh and take a few photos. The girls, spying some flowers in the weeds, stopped to pluck a few and put them in their hair. A simple example of the joy of leaving the cramped space and monotonous labor to walk in the freedom that Christ gives. Thanks to the Thai and Lao people for hosting me and opening your hearts to Jesus. -Dan B

We thank God for his faithfulness in every moment, for his care for our families, and for the friendship of many brothers and sisters whose words of faith and life make us stronger. We are very pleased to work in the ministry God has called us to do here in Thailand and we are filled with joy. When I was sick in Nicaragua (receiving treatment for Leukemia), I often cried because the desire of my heart was to return to Thailand. Now I rejoice because God has brought me back to health and to Thailand. It is a great blessing to be in ministry here with my wife, my team, and my friends at the University where I study. I thank God for the family he has given us and for his love and mercy every day.
-Efrain and Sujen

Gratitude from North Africa:

I am thankful for North African culture and warm hospitality. When we go into a home as a family we are offered food and drink. When we come from a distance, we’re invited to stay overnight. Our hosts often offer to help with our children when we’re eating or in conversation. They make our children comfortable and welcome. As a family, that makes us feel accepted and received in the home. The food is served in community. We are served at a round table with a common dish and everyone gathers around and participates. I like that community style of eating.

Over the last year, I’ve been grateful for opportunities for meaningful work in relationship with men in the linguistic region where we’ve focused. That’s something I struggled to find for a long time. Because of our setting in a city and my areas of work in the past, I hadn’t found meaningful ways to do that. This year felt like a breakthrough in that area on multiple levels. I’m grateful for challenge and situations that fit a variety of my interests.

One thing I admire about our host culture is the emphasis on looking out for strangers and also a sense of communal conflict mediation. Communities generally understand problems or conflict that arises between people as a community and involve themselves whether they are personally connected or not and work to solve it. There is a lot of strength in that.

Beniah Orin, born on July 20th, 2013. Welcome to the RMM family!
Daniel and I most enjoy the hospitality from our host culture. We have found that people in our area are desperate for us to come into their home and they want to feed us even if they do not have the means to do so. As a family, we are constantly as being welcomed into their homes and fed delicious food. Of course those are the times we get to know our neighbors and many times those people who were so hospitable to us became like our family. This past year, God has shown us that he will provide for us in all circumstances. Although at times life was difficult, he gave us wonderful friends and a wonderful new addition to our family.

*Names changed for security.