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March 31, 2014

Seeds

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By Josiah* From the April 2014 Beacon

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” –Jesus of Nazareth

“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” –David


From my earliest memories I’ve been planting seeds: first in the garden plot behind my childhood home in the city, but later on a bigger scale while riding beside my grandpa on the tractor, acres at a time. In the last few years, I’ve been learning a lot more about planting seeds, both wheat and seeds of the Kingdom, and what it means for them both to die in order to produce a harvest.

Planting seeds was an unlikely way God opened opportunities for me to relate to rural men in the area where we work, a mountainous region is home to North Africa’s indigenous people. For about a year, we had been exploring opportunities for rural community development at the invitation of a community leader, but I couldn’t seem to get out of town and into the countryside where I longed to be. It began with a visit from a US agricultural professor who accompanied me on a drive through small villages in the area. He noticed that the hand-cast seeding of local farmers was producing uneven stands of wheat, and he wondered why they were not using mechanical seeders. He recommended that I take soil samples from the area for testing to determine if the soil was being properly fertilized for the crops. These tests led me back to one particular village where I began to ask farmers about their planting practices, and specifically why they didn’t use mechanical seeders even though some had tractors. Farmers offered reasons why they thought mechanical seeders wouldn’t work in that area, and we agreed to partner on wheat trials that compared the two methods. The planting piqued local interest, and a community leader I’d partnered with on the trials organized a cooperative of eight men from the area who would manage a seed drill that the agriculture professor and his friends donated in December 2013, a gift that was linked to monthly training sessions organized through a partnership with a local agriculture professor. As I took soil samples and facilitated seed trials, I consciously evaluated the spiritual soil of the people with whom I interacted, planting Kingdom seeds and following up where there was interest. Encouraging doors have opened to new relationships within the past month.

The Prayer of Oscar Romero

It helps now and then to step back and take the long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts; it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, and opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are the workers, not master builders—ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Amen.

Quoted in Action in Waiting by Christoph Blumhardt, The Plough Publishing House.

Jesus told several parables that compare the Kingdom of God to seeds (Matt. 13; Mark 4). In the parable of the sower, they represent different human responses to the good news of the Kingdom. In the parables of the mustard and the growing seed, the seed represents the mysterious yet pervasive growth of the Kingdom itself. As in the parable of the sower, most farmers in mountainous areas of North Africa plant by hand-casting seed. They work the ground—often much rockier than my grandpa would have ever bothered to plant—with simple wooden plows pulled by a donkey or two, cast seed on the soil, and then run the plough through the soil again to cover the seeds. But some seed is ploughed too deep and never reaches the light of the sun, and farmers have to plant more seed to compensate for this loss: an extra 45 pounds of seed per acre compared to what is required when using a mechanical seeder. Mechanical seeders plant seeds uniformly at an optimal depth so that limited fall sunlight warms them. The seeds germinate quickly and their sprouts emerge at about the same time. They also space seeds appropriately in order to maximize production of tillers, tiny shoots that begin to form at the base of the sprout about three weeks after planting. A single wheat sprout can produce five or more tillers, which, after drawing their nutrients from the main sprout for a short time, each develop their own root systems and eventually their own heads of wheat. But if there are too many seeds in close proximity, they will not produce as many tillers because the soil could not sustain their growth. If the moisture and soil fertility indicators are favorable, however, fewer seeds planted at the right depth and properly spaced will produce a bigger harvest than more seeds cast in a smaller area. This was why a seed drill could make a tangible difference in the lives of rural farmers. Instead of casting more seed and getting less at harvest, more wheat would be available for bread, a staple in the local diet.

What can we learn from the parables of seeds and their growth? How do they shape our understanding of the Kingdom and our role in it?

Sticking around

The parable of the sower points us to vulnerable lives deeply rooted in the field to which we’re called. This meaningful interaction with people around us takes different forms. For our family, it meant accepting hospitality in ways that were often uncomfortable. I felt out of control of my schedule and my life in general for much of our early years here. We had to depend on cultural guides, often people we’d never met before, because we couldn’t navigate basic tasks of everyday life on our own. But friendships grew from these vulnerabilities and the everyday interactions of moving into a neighborhood. I met one of my closest friends ona walk our family took near our home soon after moving to a new area where we were the only Christian family. Watching us from a café as we passed, he assumed that we were God-fearing people because of Sarah’s culturally appropriate dress and the beard I happened to have at the time (whew!). He longed to get to know us but thought he never would because he assumed we were only visiting on holiday. Several months later, he was a student in an English class I taught at a local education center. Another co-laborer developed a close friendship with a woman she met on the bus. Both of these relationships opened interaction with extended family networks, and over time we had opportunities to attend weddings and funerals, offer listening ears, receive and offer hospitality, and pray for inner and physical healing.

Hands-off

In the parable of the growing seed (Mark 4), Jesus notes that “whether the farmer lies down or gets up,” the seed continues to grow. The farmer does not understand how the seed’s growth occurs, yet it slowly pushes aside the warm earth on its way to the sunlight. The farmer, realizing that he has done his work by placing the seed in the soil, steps back and gives the seed time to bear fruit only it is capable of producing. An important characteristic of those who hope in God’s work is the ability to recognize the limits of their own efforts; children of the Kingdom are at the same time radically active and dynamically inactive.

Dead or dormant?

Seeds— both physical and spiritual—must pass through a period of dormancy that’s difficult to distinguish from death. It’s hard to tell at any given time whether the Kingdom seeds we plant in the lives of others have been suffocated, or if our friends are counting the costs of following Jesus. The good friend I mentioned above has recounted to me a number of dreams he considers significant, including one in which he received a personal message from a figure I think was Jesus. But he remains deeply offended by one key aspect of the Gospel: that God offers grace to sinners before they have achieved a level of righteousness based on their efforts. The friend our coworker met on a bus seemed to have closed the door on her spiritual search for a time, but recently initiated conversation with Sarah that signaled continued longing for something more.

Bloom where we’re planted

God wants to get his seed out, even in unfavorable conditions. The point of the parable of the sower is not the carelessness of the farmer in casting his seed on the path, on rocks, and among weeds, but rather the response of the seed to its environment. Are we consumed by worries and the deceitfulness of wealth? Have we responded to the soil into which we were cast with faith or with fear? How is the Kingdom coming in my life? Do I have eyes to see it coming around me? There’s ample evidence in the Gospels that our response to the Kingdom can speed or delay its coming. I’m pressing in toward the former, but some days I know the latter is truer of me.

Strategic spacing

The phenomenon of tillers seems to be what Jesus is describing in the parable of the sower. A single wheat sprout can produce a head with 30 or more kernels, but if a sprout produces several tillers, a single seed can easily produce a harvest of sixty or one hundred times. Do I have a meaningful interaction, albeit short, with 30 people who do not know Jesus in the course of a week? A month? A year? Do we as bodies of believers have the vision of systematically casting out (in a good way!) our members into new fields of ministry?

The parables of the seeds point us toward lives of dogged faithfulness, and they beckon us to action full of faith. We wait, we hope, and we allow the Spirit to burst forth through us, individually and collectively as Christ’s Body on earth. And the Kingdom comes.


*Name changed for security reasons.

Josiah, his wife Sarah, and their children have played and worked in the soil of North Africa for the past seven years. He has a BA in English Education and a MA in Religion and has worked in the past as a painter and TESOL teacher. Josiah’s primary work these days involves rural community development projects related to education and agriculture, and home economics while Sarah is working. In his free time, he enjoys educational adventures, coffee chats and experiments with alternative building and farming techniques. He dreams of building a straw bale house one day.


March 24, 2014

Christ is Enough: An Update from the REACH Team in Spain

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By Kirsten*

Life in Spain would probably seem pretty normal to all of you in the United States. We don’t have very many hardships when it comes to everyday living. Our city is very safe, and we have a comfortable apartment. Grocery stores here are similar to those at home, and roadway laws are also comparable. We help with English classes, provide language exchange opportunities for our friends, and go to church twice a week. Seems pretty nice, right?

Well, it is. I have absolutely loved being here, taking in the culture and making new friendships. I love this country and especially the community that we have been given the privilege of joining. I feel so blessed to have the honor of living here with my girls on my team. In all seriousness, this whole REACH experience has been the best time of my life so far, but that does not mean it has been easy and peachy to walk. We have had our struggles, but thankfully, I am surrounded by three amazing girls who push me to love Jesus more and fight for joy.

During this time, though, we have come to realize that underneath the surface of this wonderful culture there is a heaviness...a darkness...that we didn’t notice at first. In Catholicism, Jesus is known and loved, but Mary gets the same amount of honor as Jesus does in saving us. She is considered a “co-redeemer” with Christ. This takes away the significance of Jesus as our Savior and our true dependence on Him. And not only this, but works have a lot of importance in their religion as well. Many don’t have an assurance in their faith. For us, Jesus is our hope. His coming, life, and resurrection are essential in our lives. Without him, we have nothing. So many people in this city are so close to the truth, but they lack true hope. Because they are under the umbrella of “Christianity,” they don’t see a need to change anything. It is so hard to go deep in conversations with people because generally they don’t really care. Catholicism may change some things they do, but it rarely has anything to do with the heart. It can be very discouraging and frustrating at times because we haven’t really seen any fruitful results from being here even though we are with people all the time.

"Sharing his love and truth should be what I do each second of my existence in how I act, talk, and even think... Jesus should be oozing out of me..."

Amidst these discouragements and differences, though, I have been learning a very important lesson. Actually, Antonio, one of the leaders of a Catholic community group that we attend called Fe Y Vida (Faith and Life) shared this in his message on Friday night and it really got my attention. He asked, "What is the number one thing in your life?" Most of us would probably say God, although I don’t know how honest I would be in claiming that at times. Then Antonio said, "But, really, God doesn’t want to be the number one thing in your life. Nope. That means that the number two thing is right behind him. What he really wants is for him to be your ONLY thing." Powerful stuff. Sharing his love and truth should be what I do each second of my existence in how I act, talk, and even think. Family, friends, jobs, hobbies…all of these things are a part of life, but Jesus should be oozing out of me as I take part in all of them. If any of the previously mentioned things were stripped away from me, it would be very difficult, but Christ is enough for me. He is what matters in my life, and I want that to be evident in everything I do. So while life here in Spain may not be the most hard-core living I ever do, it certainly has taught me a lot about sharing Jesus in everyday life. Sure, most of the time it feels like nothing is really changing, but it’s ok. It’s not up to me. I can’t force anything to happen. I am powerless to change anyone’s heart. All I need to do is be faithful in the small stuff and make Jesus my only thing. It may mean drinking tea and speaking English with people, helping a nun wash spools of thread for two hours, sitting on the sidewalk and eating a meatball sub with a homeless friend, or just laughing together as a team over the amount of salsas one can use to flavor stir-fry. The action is irrelevant; the love behind it is what makes all the difference.

I ask you to please stand with us in prayer over the country of Spain. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working in the lives of the locals here and filling them with a desire and love for the true Savior. Pray for the long-time workers here, that they would be faithful in sowing seeds of love and not be discouraged by the darkness. And pray for light and joy to overtake this place, and that he might be glorified here.

*Last name omitted for security reasons.

If you would like to learn more about REACH go to www.send-me.org/reach.


March 20, 2014

Studying Nehemiah in Southeast Asia

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RMM's team in Thailand recently organized a seminar for a small group of Southeast Asian believers. They met in a town along the Mekong River and spent several days studying the book of Nehemiah. Nixson reported that "The seminar was good, it was interesting to hear their ideas about plans for the future. The study helped them to understand better leaders’ responsibilities and what leadership means."


March 17, 2014

Mim’s Changing Role at RMM

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After nearly fourteen years as the HR director at RMM, Mim Musser is stepping down from that position, effective August 31, 2014. Though this does not mean Mim is leaving RMM, we are sad to see Mim resigning this role as she has deeply impacted our lives and served us so well over many years. She has cared for us with a lot of wisdom, personal sacrifice, and love. Thanks so much, Mim, for blessing us all in so many ways!

RMM is in discussion with Mim about continuing on a part-time basis as Prayer Coordinator and with other responsibilities that we find mutually beneficial and feasible. Mim, we wish you God’s blessings during this transition time in your life as you cut back at RMM and are thankful for the many opportunities God has given, and continues to give you, to encourage many people in your life. We thank God for you!


March 13, 2014

Cultural Snapshot: Unexpected Guests

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By Sarah, serving in North Africa


We enjoyed hosting friends from another town this weekend. We had invited an extended family that we have become close to over our years there, but had no idea that they would literally bring the whole family! Josiah called from the taxi station to say that there were twelve people coming and I immediately thought: we might need to get more chicken. They arrived, however, with food in hand (four chickens stuffed with noodles) and we were set for lunch only needing to make salads, breads and fruit for dessert. They immediately made their way to the terrace to enjoy the sun and we served tea and coffeecake before part of the group left for an outing to the forest.



After returning, we enjoyed lunch together with lots of laughing and story-telling. There was a lot of sparring going on between the son-in-law and grandmother of the family, who took it with her great sense of humor. After strawberry shortcake and coffee, everyone left for the mountains to enjoy some sledding. Even the grandmother and her step-mother, both of whom are probably in their eighties, took several turns going down. Everyone seemed to have a great time and we are thankful for such good friends who travel to see us!



March 11, 2014

New Workers for the Harvest in Thailand

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RMM is happy to announce the appointment of Conrad and Vicki Esh as workers to Thailand! They will be joining the RMM team that is working at church-planting in Bangkok. Conrad and Vicki are the parents of three daughters: Lydia, Bryn and Ellie. Conrad and Vicki currently live in Urbana, OH. Conrad is the pastor of Crossway Vineyard Church and Vicki is a full-time graduate student studying Intercultural Ministry. Their projected departure date is January 2015.

Praise God with us for these workers and please keep them in your prayers during this intense time in their lives.

A few current prayer requests from Conrad and Vicki:

  1. Pray for buyers for the houses we are trying to sell before our departure and for smooth transactions.
  2. Pray that Crossway can find a new pastor that meets the needs of the congregation.
  3. Pray that the remainder of Vicki's studies go smoothly. She would like to be finished with school before departing.
  4. Pray that our daughters will continue to experience peace during these months of transition.

If you would like to support Conrad and Vicki you can make an online donation here, or contact RMM at info@rmmoffice.org or 740-857-1366 for more ways to get involved.


March 06, 2014

Hey Kids! Your invitation to the Prayer Gathering

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By Irma Chon

Hey kids! I'm looking forward to spending time with you and "Time With Abba." Abba is your Father or Daddy God. When we are together we will enjoy a time of worship and hearing God's voice! Not only are we going to have fun together, but we are going to have a blast spending time with Abba! Our world is noisy and busy, and time with Abba can be easily passed over. Time with Abba is when you take time out of your day to make an appointment to connect with God. Even Jesus took this time. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16). The bottom line is that you can’t be a healthy Christian without spending time with God. When you spend time with God, you will:

  • Fall in love with him more
  • Receive direction for daily living
  • Have his strength to keep going
  • Grow more like him
Come to the prayer conference with your parents on October 31 and November 1 and let’s learn about prayer together! The good news is, you don’t have to grow up first!

It is our prayer that children will "Experience the Father's Love" and establish an intimate relationship with their heavenly father through daily Time With Abba (TWA). PARENTS have the most DIRECT IMPACT on a child's spiritual formation. While Sunday school teachers can encourage the child to do TWA, parents are the only ones who can guide the child on a daily basis.

Please read the following instructions to assist your child in their daily TWA.

  • Your child should have a personal journal book to record their TWA.
  • Encourage your child to do TWA first thing in the morning. A gentle reminder often helps.
  • Ask the child to read a scripture passage aloud.
  • Then have your child write or draw their favorite verse, prayer, or a picture God shows them in their mind in the journal book.
  • Encourage your child to pray using the passage they read. Your child could commit to pray for a person or a world event on a regular basis.
  • Have your child spend a few minutes to listen to God's answer and then record what God said in their journal.
  • Memorize a Bible verse from the TWA scripture passage every day.

Other Suggested Activities:

  • At breakfast: The whole family could read a passage in Psalms aloud and bless one another using the passage. Parents and children may extend the prayer time on the way to school.
  • At dinnertime: The whole family can read a passage in Proverbs. Discuss life applications. Each person may share his/her own testimonies or struggles related to the passage. Refrain from preaching or giving too many suggestions to the child. Merely use the passage to pray for one another and intercede for others in need.
  • For toddlers and infants who are non-readers: parents or siblings can read the Bible passage. Encourage the child to draw or say a word or phrase from God's revelation. Encourage the child to use the word/phrase/picture to pray. Parents or siblings record his/her prayer. Or lay hands on and bless the child using the passage. You’ll be amazed how God will bless and shape your child according to your prayers.
Don't expect your child to be perfect when you do the above activities. Remember they are kids... they get tired or distracted at times, just like us. There's always a second chance!

May God bless you and your family as you grow together in him and experience his love!

Irma Chon, M.A. in Christian Education/Church Ministries. Irma is the children and youth pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Hilliard and is actively involved in training global leaders in leading children in prayer. Irma believes in teaching the church about the importance of hearing God’s voice. Her passion is to empower families to build their homes upon the strong foundation of God’s Word. She enjoys leading children to know Jesus intimately through prayer.


Register here and come expecting to hear from Abba!


March 03, 2014

Getting to know Phil and Maretta

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Phil and Maretta* are newly appointed RMM workers who arrived in Malaga Spain to begin their assignment on February 27. We invite your prayers for them as they begin new work and adjust to a new setting. Continue reading for a personal introduction to Phil and Maretta as well as a little more about their work and their prayer requests as they go.

By Bethany Geib (First printed in the newsletter of Shiloh Mennonite Church)

As the oldest of ten children (eight girls and two boys), Maretta’s responsibilities included sewing for her siblings and getting up early to milk the family herd. Their family didn't travel much, but they lived by a creek where they enjoyed playing, wading, and fishing. Munching on molasses chunks in the cow feed prepared Maretta well for eating strange things on the mission field! After a stroke, her grandmother came to live with Maretta's family, and Maretta was very involved with her care. Maretta accepted Christ at the age of 10 and knew she wanted to be a missionary nurse from a very young age. As the first family member to attend college, she had to convince her parents of why she wanted to go.

Meanwhile, in the village of Euxton in Lancashire, England, Phil was the second of four siblings. Their father was the village policeman, but their police were not quite like ours – they carried trudgeons (sticks) instead of guns. Phil’s family traveled throughout Great Britain and particularly enjoyed visiting the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, known for Manx cats and road races around the island.

While at Leeds University, Phil earned a Bachelor's degree in math and a Master's degree in teacher's qualification. He had regularly attended the Anglican church next to their home while growing up but never understood the gospel. The scientific worldview seemed more feasible than the church which seemed irrelevant to the modern world. While experiencing increasing secularism at the university, Phil wondered whether life held a deeper purpose. A book by John Stott and interactions with evangelical Christians at a Bible study led to the realization that he needed to trust Christ. Through Phil's testimony, Phil's sisters eventually became Christians, and attending an evangelical church led his parents to become clearer in their Christian commitment too.

"After his conversion, Phil felt he needed to do something to help the poor and accepted a teaching job in southern Sudan. Meanwhile, Maretta had finished her nursing degree at EMU and began working for MCC in a Sudanese"

After his conversion, Phil felt he needed to do something to help the poor and accepted a teaching job in southern Sudan. Meanwhile, Maretta had finished her nursing degree at EMU and began working for MCC in a Sudanese town 200 miles north of where Phil was serving. She helped a missionary doctor at a very primitive hospital where they treated tuberculosis, deformed spines and bones, leprosy, seasonal typhoid, measles outbreaks, malaria, hepatitis, river blindness, tape worms, hyena attack victims, tetanus babies, and stabbing wounds from elephants or spears. Tribal factions within the medical staff and patients added to the difficult environment.

Over Christmas, Phil decided to visit a friend doing renovations at the hospital where Maretta worked. He rode a lorry to within ten miles of the hospital and walked the rest of the way, listening to animals in the bush along the road. Soon after arriving at the missionary guest house, Phil and Maretta met for the first time. Their first date included a motorbike ride into the African bush, accompanied by gorilla, gazelle, and giraffe sightings. After Christmas, communication continued through short-wave radio. Five months later, Phil transferred to Maretta's town, and he proposed with a ring he had carved from ivory.

After two years in Sudan, Phil and Maretta married in 1978 and returned to Sudan for another year. The futility of relief work without a Christian basis and a desire to work within the church resulted in a return to England to attend All Nations Christian College. During those two years of study, their son John was born.

Phil had planned to teach religion in the Sudanese public schools after their years at ANCC, but God led them to serve under Eastern Board (now EMM) with the Kekchi Indians in Guatemala. Guerrilla warfare was at its height, and the situation was very tense. Phil helped to plant churches, train leaders, and provide encouragement for the pastors of the new churches. Entire families came to Christ at once, rather than through one-on-one evangelism. Phil and Maretta said the changes that Jesus brought were outwardly visible. Prior to Christ, the Kekchi were afraid of various gods, and the spiritual atmosphere was very dark. Afterward, their entire faces would light up, and their eyes had life. Twin daughters Rachel and Rebecca and daughter Mary were born in Guatemala. Phil and Maretta feel that God gave them twins for the specific purpose of combating Kekchi superstitions about twins. During visits to their home, people would even point out which twin they thought was going to die! They faced numerous other trials in Guatemala – Phil’s bout with hepatitis, the usual affliction from amoebas and worms, and John’s tonsillectomy. They concluded with the statement that people “have to be called if you’re going to survive” in situations like theirs.

After 10 years, the family moved to the US for Phil to attend Fuller Theological Seminary in California for his Doctor of Ministry (he earlier completed a Master's of Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary). Phil next accepted the pastorate at Allensville Mennonite Church in Pennsylvania where they served for 12 years. In 2004, Phil became the interim academic dean at Rosedale Bible College for a year prior to becoming a full-time faculty member in 2005. As part of an initiative to stress learning through relevant experience, Phil developed a cross-cultural study term in Spain designed to acquaint students with the language and culture of the new mission field RMM was opening in that country. This also enabled students to study about secularism and how to engage modernity in a situation where these were very real factors. A church in La Cala del Moral, near Malaga, which has a multiuse center for a church building, graciously hosted the RBC study term for the three times it was offered in Spain. Work teams from Allensville Mennonite Church have twice been at the church to help it develop its facilities in line with its goal of reaching out to the surrounding community through its multiuse center. Having been laid off from RBC due to low enrollment, Phil and Maretta saw the opportunity to continue to develop this relationship with the church in La Cala under RMM with the hope of reaching the secular Spaniards with the gospel.

Together, Phil and Maretta enjoy hiking, biking, and traveling. Maretta is an amazing seamstress and also enjoys painting watercolor and knitting, skills she learned from Phil’s mom. Since Phil’s mother is now in her upper 80’s, they visit England at least once a year. Phil and Maretta have seven grandchildren, ranging in age from two months to seven years. John, Rachel, and Mary’s families live in the Arlington/Washington, D.C. area, and Rebecca’s family lives in Pennsylvania.


We asked Phil and Maretta a few questions about how they chose Spain and what their work will look like.

How did you come to the decision to go to Spain?
We worked in Africa and Guatemala in the past. When we left, Guatemala was 25% evangelical Christian. When you look at the situation in Europe and the fact that only 1% of Spain is Christian, you realize the need is dire. I felt like I would like to do something in my own neck of the woods—try to see a restoration to God. Europe was a huge factor in missions in the past and now there is a need for a revival of evangelical Christianity and a new understanding of the Gospel. Christianity has become a ritual, historical. It gives a sense of culture and heritage but is meaningless to people personally.

When I was at Fuller Theological Seminary I studied about evangelizing nominal Christians. Europe is full of people who are Christians in name only. My studies were with a view to go to Europe after I finished my degree. However, I ended up at Rosedale Bible College. One of the courses I taught was about engaging contemporary culture. What is happening in Christendom? How do we reach nominal Christians? I taught that course in Spain three times.

Basically, we decided to go to Spain because we have experience there. We have a start with the language because of our time in Guatemala. We have a relationship with the church in Spain and Allensville Mennonite Church has a desire to support and help us. We want to figure out how to engage the modern world with the gospel.

What will your work in Malaga look like?
Our vision is for the church there to be blessed and be a blessing. We want to see the church overflow and have an impact on the surrounding culture. We will be working in support of an existing church community, attempting to be helpful in the outreach of the church. The church is a multi-use center. The idea is to be at the heart of a community and reach that community for Christ.

What does your support back here in the States look like?
Allensville Mennonite Church is our sending church and Shiloh Mennonite is a supporting congregation. Other churches that are supporting us are: Croghan, Locust Grove, Canton, and Oakdale. We are very grateful for the support. It’s been so good to get to know people in those churches as we have made church visits over the past few months.

What are some prayer requests as you go?
• Pray for us as we settle into our new life in Malaga.
• Pray for us as we reconnect with the church.
• Pray for vision as we find our way in ministry there.
• Pray for the family and relationships we leave behind.

*Last name omitted for security reasons.


Testimonies: My Experience of Worship-Based Prayer

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Rosedale Mennonite Missions and Conservative Mennonite Conference invite you to join us at the Rosedale International Center from October 31-November 1 for the 2014 CMC Prayer Gathering. We envision this as a time of encountering God in community. We expect to be refreshed and changed as we experience time set aside to corporately and inter-generationally focus on him. We envision a time of equipping and training for pastors and prayer leaders who will leave with a passion to make their churches “houses of prayer” and children being trained and excited about how God can use them in prayer. We long for and are asking God for a move of his Spirit among us. Come add your prayers to ours and see what God will do when we ask him with hope and expectancy.

Many people in CMC have already been blessed by experiencing corporate, worship-based prayer. We asked several of them to share some of their “takeaways” from those experiences with you…

Worship based prayer has been the most dynamic corporate prayer that I have experienced. The combination of Scripture, song and focused corporate prayer, all led by the Holy Spirit, opens my spirit to hear from the Lord and be fed by his presence. One particular time of worship-based prayer that stands out to me was the last night of Pastors Conference in Phoenix, Arizona in February 2013. The session was led by Lyn Byler and after a week of learning about healthy congregations and healthy pastors, my desire to return home and give myself to the ministry was strongly kindled. What was missing was the final piece of God’s anointing with his Spirit for such a mighty task. By the end of the service, most of us ministers were standing or kneeling at the front of the church, being prayed for and praying for others. God moved powerfully, many tears flowed, and we all left with a renewed sense of his presence. From a participant perspective, taking part in a worship-based prayer time led by a humble leader is surprisingly simple, especially given the dynamic results. Most of the time specific, directed input is asked for, and prayers from those taking part are short and concise. Reading from Scripture is encouraged, singing together happens on the fly, and all that is necessary is an openness to the direction of God’s Holy Spirit. I have had incredible experiences in worship-based prayer settings, and have heard God give specific direction, both to me and to others. What a wonderful way to love our Heavenly Father and to bask in his love for us!

-Merlin Miller, Pastor of Riverview Mennonite Church, White Pigeon, Michigan


Last summer at the annual meeting of the Conservative Mennonite Conference, we participated in a Concert of Pray led by Lyndon Byler. The worship-based format provided a fresh and meaningful time of experiencing God’s presence. Spread across the auditorium, many small clusters of worshippers were guided in the prayerful experience.

From our personal perspective, the hour-long session passed very quickly, partly due to the variety of prayer and worship forms that were used. We confessed sins, expressed our love and devotion to the Lord, and made commitments of sharing Jesus with others. Sometimes we were silent and contemplative, other times we were vocal and expressive. We read and quoted Scripture. And we sang familiar songs that touched our spirits.

The Concert of Prayer was led with a very comfortable tempo—we didn’t feel rushed. For us, the end result was an authentic and refreshing experience of worship.

-Mary Ann and Laban Miller, Oasis Community Church, Lexington, Kentucky


I have been in different settings where I participate in “worship-based prayer” and I absolutely loved it! When you break down a congregation into 6-12 people for a prayer group, something powerful happens! Not only is it connective and bonding among your group, but it’s also a very meaningful way to worship our Father. Worship-based prayer has proven to be such a positive experience for my church that we annually engage in it on the first Sunday of each new year. Our pastor will give thoughts and requests directing our groups as we pray out our praises and petitions. Our worship leader will also lead out in songs during the prayer times along with scripture reading and congregational responsive readings. I thoroughly enjoy the variety and spiritual depth that worship-based prayer has brought to my church’s worship experience as well as with my personal prayer life.

-Keith Byler, Youth Pastor, Fairlawn Mennonite Church


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Update from Team Himalayas

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By Eric*

I just love where we're at as a team right now. But on to what we're doing: we're mainly just taking it easy here in capital city* after our time in the East for the youth conference. And it's been really good for all of us to recharge.

The main event this week was the three-day youth conference. We were asked to play some songs and lead worship each of the three days, and so we practiced what we could and however we could, with only a guitar to use. We left on Wednesday morning and got there in the evening, pretty much right as the conference started. Zach was pretty sick on the second day, so Brennan played guitar and a local friend had to fill in on drums last minute. Also I didn't get to help for the first two days since they didn't have a keyboard onstage. On the third day, though, they got one set up and pretty much made my day.

Basic overview of the conference: the first day was several bands leading songs and some speaking for an evening. The second day was worship, a talent show, more worship, and speaking. The third day consisted of a really good time of open, true worship, a couple of dances, and some speakers, and the conference ended in the afternoon.

We left for P. soon after, riding on a bus through the mountains. A friend let me listen to music on his phone on the way back and it was simply a really good time of worshipping God through music as we drove through the mountains as the sun just started to set. We then spent the night there with some of the friends from the youth conference. We ate, talked, explored, bought some stuff, and a couple of us walked around the lakeside with some of them the next morning. We left for the capital the next morning and got there in the afternoon.

Since then, we've taken some time to relax, had one-on-ones with Brennan, had our first Life Transformation Group as guys since we've been here, debriefed twice, and watched a super-challenging Francis Chan video as a team. He talked about a lot of things, mainly on how the American church tends to miss the point sometimes; how we don't usually compare to the Christ-followers in Acts. I'm still thinking about it a lot.

One thing that really stuck out to me was how he talked about a college student who got kicked out of his apartment. When he asked why, he was told that he had been letting homeless people sleep in his apartment. And Chan spoke of another who stopped living in an apartment, started living in his car, and used the leftover apartment rental money that he now had in order to help the poor. Crazy. Do I have the courage to do that? Honestly, probably not. And that scares me because I know it's the better thing to do, that Jesus talked about caring for the poor. Especially since the other day in P., there was a kid who poked me and put his hand to his mouth—universal signal for food. I was thinking he was maybe a fake. But what if he wasn't? Did it even matter if he wasn't? God still calls me to help the poor.

And so that's been on my mind a lot. Personally, I'm doing a lot of thinking and have had better times with God than I have in a while here in the city. I've also grown to appreciate music and worship so much since the conference (plus they have a keyboard here in the house that we can use so that's pretty much awesome). I'm just doing really well overall. I'm seriously just smiling as I type this.

Prayer requests:

  • Love.
  • Continued unity, between us, between the Christians here.
  • Some of us are having a harder time scheduling time with God now that we're taking it easy a little bit more.
  • We also talked about being more open and asking each other how we're doing spiritually more often.
  • I met a guy named Sewak on the bus a couple of weeks ago who I got to talk to a bit and he basically has the mindset that all religions are the same, and that's that, so please pray for him.

*Last names and place names omitted for security reasons.


March 01, 2014

Reflections on the Middle East Summit

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By Regional Director Jay Martin*

In January of this year, a group of CMC and RMM leaders gathered in the Middle East to meet with our missionaries. We reflected together on what God has been doing in this country and listened to his voice about our future in this country. We visited a number of believers and churches in cities in the southeast part of the country. We listened, we interceded, we dreamed, and we studied the Word together in an upper room in the capital city. We are deeply grateful for reports of how God has raised up a young church in the past few decades. Since the year 2000 the number of evangelical churches has grown from 55 to 135. RMM has been a small but significant part of that work of God in raising up a church in that country. We left with a renewed vision to send a new generation of workers! The door is still open for North American Christians to live and work in this country. These are volatile times in the region. The very foundations of government and religious systems are being shaken in these days. I believe that the small and young church is poised to declare in both word and deed an unshakable kingdom of the Prince of Peace to those who are becoming disillusioned with Islam and political power.

Would you join us in prayer for our workers in this country and new workers, (teachers, disciplers, students,etc.) to walk with the growing church in declaring the kingdom of God.

*Place name omitted and author name changed for security reasons.