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December 23, 2013

A Story of Multiplication

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Josiah,* an RMM worker in North Africa, sent this note as part of the family’s update earlier this month.

I returned to our old neighborhood several weeks ago on some errands and stopped in to visit a mechanic friend at the garage where he works. In the course of our conversation, he tried out some English he’d been learning. This young man has completed four years of formal education but has a passion to learn and an ear for language learning in particular. He told me he was taking a class in the neighborhood. Where? I wondered. At the association where you used to teach, he told me. I quizzed him about the books they were using and his teacher. Two young women whom a colleague and I had trained were teaching the class using a curriculum we had arranged for the association to receive. My friend described the interactions in class and the opportunities for speaking and said he was enjoying it a lot.

When we were preparing to teach in that neighborhood nearly five years ago, a development consultant challenged us to think strategically toward capacity building and multiplication. Instead of teaching anyone who was interested, we selected a smaller group of more advanced students. The next year we further honed this group to people who were interested in teaching as they continued to learn through interactive ways. And what my mechanic friend described is precisely what we had hoped would happen: a couple of the people in whom we invested are now teaching beginning students with few opportunities for study after we’ve left the community.

We invite you to pray that other seeds we planted during those years grow and multiply as well.

December 19, 2013

Update from Joe & Lynn in Bangkok

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An excerpt from Joe and Lynn’s* December 2013 newsletter

We have been working hard at trying to see what the next three years will be like for us here in Thailand. We've decided to move toward business as missions. Our first two years were exploratory and feel we have found our groove, yet there is still a lot of work to do. Lynn has re-opened Lynn Michelle Design, creating a line of baby products as well as all-natural laundry soap. We are selling at local markets and will be getting our business licensed. I am “the help.” Whatever Lynn needs help with, I try to do. We want to live the light of Christ as people doing business in this city. We are excited about this! It will take time to be self-sufficient. So, we greatly appreciate your support and hope that with each year, we can support ourselves more and more.

I (Joe) have started a website to continue my goal of being involved in the health and running community of Bangkok. I will be writing a few small eBooks along the way to help fund ourselves, and share what Jesus is doing in my life. Through the site, I started a meet-up to discuss physical and spiritual health. The group is small. We’ve met four times so far and are of various religious beliefs; it will be interesting to see how God leads the group as I find opportunities to share.

Please pray for us we continue to discern what God has directed for our time in Thailand and how we are to move forward here.

Please pray for…

  • Lynn, Brennan and Khruu (a Thai friend who is currently living with the family) who will be in NY and Ohio over Christmas and New Year’s. Pray for safe travels and a good trip for Khruu.
  • Business ventures—that they are fruitful in the marketplace and in God’s Kingdom.
  • Our friends—that they will give Jesus a chance.
  • Joe and Lynn as we raise funds for the upcoming three-year term.
  • Our family—that we continue to communicate well and are drawn closer together.
  • Brennan as he makes the transition to homeschooling in January. Pray that we are patient and can coordinate our schedules well.
  • Planning– as we work on the schedule for our two-month home assignment in March – April 2014.

*Last name omitted for security reasons.

December 17, 2013

What Exactly is Pride??

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By Christy*

Christy, along 30 other REACH participants, recently completed discipleship training at the Rosedale International Center in Columbus. The following is excerpted from her team’s blog…

God has been teaching me about hope, joy, grace and all kinds of things, and I just want to tell you about all of it! However, this is supposed to be a blog entry, not a book, so I won't.  But one thing I've been thinking about a lot in the last few years is pride, and some of the DTS (discipleship training) sessions and conversations I've had recently have furthered my quest for understanding of this subject.

A lot of times, for me, trying to not be prideful has meant feeling like I should never think a positive thought about myself or feel good about anything I've done. That doesn't quite seem right. So, what exactly is pride? Something that stuck out to me in an earlier session was when Galen Burkholder talked about how in WWII they stopped making cars so that all the steel could be used to make weapons. Even those not on the front line of battle were pulling together to give everything for the battle.  What would it look like if the people of God's kingdom thought like that about the Lord's army? It dawned on me that if we have that mindset, pride automatically goes away; it's not even an issue. If my desire is truly to see God's kingdom built rather than building up myself and my own reputation, then I won't care about what other people think of me (in an unhealthy way). I won't care if I worked harder than someone else and then they get the credit for something. I won't care who tells them about Jesus; I just want them to hear the Good News!  I will want to function in the way I'm meant to in my role in the body of Christ.

This way of thinking is exciting and unifying. As Dean Sherman said in one of our sessions, "Unity in any situation is simply corporate humility." So basically, maybe being humble isn't what happens when you find the balance between self-righteousness and self-hatred, but rather the absence of self-righteousness and self-hatred that naturally comes when we are focused on being loved by and loving Jesus.  If we receive God's love, we will automatically want to draw attention to Jesus rather than ourselves.  And my favorite part about that is that it takes the heaviness and burden away from trying not to be prideful. We don't just have to buckle down and be humble by our own willpower—it comes from Jesus. This is just an example of how God has been helping me understand how "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" makes sense! Yay, Jesus!

*Last name omitted for security reasons.

Christy is from the Columbus Network of Microchurches in Columbus, OH. She participated in the 2013 REACH discipleship training school. Christy’s favorite part of DTS was going on prayer walks in Columbus and talking to strangers. In her free time, she likes to spend time with family and friends and do calculus problems for fun.

December 10, 2013

Christmas Greetings

Political Clashes in Bangkok

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Over the past several weeks political tensions have resurfaced in Thailand leading to large demonstrations in Bangkok. Protesters have occupied government buildings and, while these events have been largely peaceful, there have been clashes between pro and anti-government groups and at least five people have died. Thailand’s Prime Minister has responded by dissolving parliament and calling for new elections to be held early next year.

"It’s a very complex situation and the deep differences have proved impossible to reconcile politically"
This long-running political unrest began in 2006 when a coup ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He still holds enormous influence in the country however, and his allies have won every general election since then – including the latest which saw his younger sister voted into the Prime Minister’s seat.

Both sides in this conflict accuse the other of corruption and of abusing the democratic rights of the Thai people. It’s a very complex situation and the deep differences have proved impossible to reconcile politically.

RMM’s team in Bangkok is keeping an eye on the situation, but report that they feel very safe. Joe and Lynn write “Strangely enough, life goes on. We feel very safe and have seen very little of it because it is in specific locations around the city…In the neighborhoods, life happens as usual. Pray my friends [including some of the protesters] stay safe and God’s best for Thailand.”

December 04, 2013

Softening Toward the Good News

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By Sara*

About six years ago, when Josiah and I were in language school full time, we hired Aicha* to come to our home to help with cleaning and child care. Our family connected with her right away. She and I talked, using the little Arabic that I had and the little French that she knew. She was great with our kids, playing with them and teaching them new songs. She would often put our daughter to bed or pretend to put her doll to sleep by singing Frere Jaque (Brother John). From early on we had a lot of conversations about faith and what we each believe. I would talk to her about Jesus and she would share with me some of the beliefs of Islam, and as we talked it was clear that she was cool towards followers of Jesus, especially those who had once been Muslims. She had an aunt who was a follower of Jesus and it was difficult for her to accept that reality.

Over the course of the last six years we have had more and more conversations about faith. Aicha had a family crisis about three years ago. Her husband was falsely accused and put in prison and she struggled during that time. Her believing aunt was the one family member who was the most supportive of her, and we also tried to help her by making it possible for her daughter stay in school, giving Aicha meals, and providing food for the kids. That is when I really saw softening in her heart. She started watching the satellite TV channel that has stories from the Old and New Testament, and she would come to work and describe the most recent one she had watched. It was obvious that she liked what she knew about Jesus and was enthusiastic in telling me about what she was learning.

Last year, on Christmas Eve, she asked me “What are you going to be doing tomorrow—on Christmas Day?” So I told her about how, as a family, we read the story of Jesus, we sing songs, we open presents and we spend the day celebrating who Jesus is and his birth. She replied, “Tomorrow, I am going to do that by myself at home.” As she was speaking I was thinking about how God would want me to respond. Initially I wondered if I should invite Aicha to spend the day with us, but what came to mind (and I believe I was prompted by the Holy Spirit) as to tell her to talk to her aunt, the believer, who would be celebrating Christmas in a North African way that next day. So, I said, “Why don’t you talk to your aunt about celebrating Christmas with her?” She seemed kind of hesitant, unsure if she really wanted to do that but again as she left I repeated, “You know, you should really talk to your aunt about celebrating Christmas together tomorrow.”

Two days later when she came back for work she said, “My aunt called me as I was leaving your house and invited me to come celebrate Christmas with her family, and that’s what I did.” She said it had been a really good time with her aunt and her family celebrating Christmas and spending time together. It was rewarding to see how her aunt responded to the Spirit’s prompting to call and invite her to be a part of that time. I see that God is continuing to work in her life, softening her more and more to the Good News.

Since that time, Aicha has begun to pray with us and has even initiated times of prayer when she or I were going through a difficult time. One day as we were talking, she asked me to pray for her. She said that she wanted her heart to be clean before God and wanted to follow him with all of her heart. I told her again that Jesus is that way and if she wants him to, he will take her sins and clear them from the book (she believes that there is a record being kept of all the right and wrong things she has done). She had often talked about the fears that she lived with, but as we prayed, I sensed a peace and joy in her.

As with many others here, this process is long and slow, but there is a desire to be close to God. As our friends’ hearts become more softened to him, he will reveal himself to them. We want to be faithful to keep sharing stories and words that will turn their focus towards Jesus.

*Names changed for security purposes.

Sara and her family have lived in North Africa for the past seven years. Sara is married to Josiah and is a busy mother of five children (including twin toddlers). She is a nurse practitioner who assists with health education in rural areas. Sara and her family have a vision to plant seeds of the good news among those whose hearts are prepared to receive.