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April 17, 2014

Menemen Recipe

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Some seriously flavorful scrambled eggs from our friend in the Middle EastBy Cecelia Aslan*

The recipes of our adopted country’s kitchen are rich with vegetables, olive oil, flavorings and use only small amounts of meat. You’ve heard of the Mediterranean diet? That’s it.

One simple, but bursting-with-flavor meal is ‘menemen’ (pronounced something like ‘many men!’). I sometimes joke with my classes that menemen is my favorite Turkish food – a joke they understand once I write ‘many men’ on the board. It is similar to scrambled eggs but full of veggies and more flavorful. It is usually eaten for breakfast but it is hearty enough for another meal and is good for a hot summer day since its preparation doesn’t heat up the kitchen too much. The recipe can be adapted; feel free to use less or leave out the onions or add sliced olives. If you don’t have pepper paste, no problem! You could also add crumbled bacon or pieces of ham, although that would be ‘haram’ (forbidden) in a Muslim country.

Years ago, some friends of mine were hosting a lunch party and they asked me to come by to help with the preparation of menemen for about 15 people. I remember dicing masses of tomatoes and then breaking 50 eggs! Before the guests came, I had to leave for work, so never tasted the finished product but I heard it was good.

This recipe also brings back memories of a language lesson, where my teacher made this with me and helped me write down the vocabulary used in cooking. “Chop.” “Add.” “Stir.” It is also this friend’s recipe that I continue to use today.

This morning, I made it for our breakfast and snapped some photos. May you be inspired to try something new yourself!

Menemen

(Middle Eastern Scrambled Egg and Vegetable Dish)

¼ c. olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1 T. tomato paste
1 T. pepper paste (found in Mediterranean groceries)
8 eggs
1 tsp paprika
Salt/pepper

Sauté onions, tomatoes, and green peppers in olive oil for a few minutes until soft. Add tomato and pepper pastes. Saute a bit longer. Meanwhile, whisk together egg, paprika, and salt/pepper to taste. Pour mixture over the vegetables. Stir and cook until set. Serve with lots of bread. Serves 4

Note: This can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

*Editor’s note: we tested this recipe here in our American kitchen and found it to be very tasty! It’s our new favorite way to eat eggs. Hot, fresh bread makes it even better. It’s possible to purchase pepper paste in international grocery stores and it makes a great flavoring for lentil soup as well! The only significant change we make is reducing the amount of onion to one ☺.

You can find this delicious international recipe and many others in RMM’s cookbook, The World at your Table, compiled by Susannah Fath Cotman. To purchase, order online at cookbook.rmmweb.org or pick up a copy the RMM offices or at the Rosedale International Center.
On sale for just $10!


*Name changed for security reasons


April 14, 2014

The Art of Lingering

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By Ann Martin*

The night is pure black. One lone bulb beams a welcome as our driver carefully turns towards it. Jay and I get out of the car; the surf pounds thunderously and the wind whips our clothes. The driver seems relieved to finally be able to deliver his charges. We don't speak his language nor he ours. In the distance we hear a familiar voice confirming that the six-hour drive from the airport has brought us to the right place.

The annual retreat is part of the yearly rhythms of a mission worker's life. Many years ago our children were young and we were the only ones in country with RMM. Doing ministry without much support was often intense and lonely. We began joining with other organizations for retreats taking place in various countries in the region. One year we travelled by bus through Syria to Jordan. Another year we joined the retreat in Egypt. Years later as workers joined our company we had retreats together in country, sometimes inviting guests for input.

Seen from afar, these retreats may seem like glorified vacations. What travel lust wanderer wouldn't dream of journeying like this? Yet those who have spent significant time in a country other than one’s own and have focused diligently at acclimating to the people and culture know how restorative retreating together can be.

"A retreat is a type of Sabbath; a too often minimized discipline in church circles.
At an RMM in-service I attended recently, Sabbath was defined as 'lingering together.'"
A retreat is a type of Sabbath; a too often minimized discipline in church circles. At an RMM in-service I attended recently, Sabbath was defined as "lingering together." Jesus is an example of this, as he withdrew to linger with God, even in the busyness of ministry life. When workers gather together, away from their homes and ministries, a space is created for them to be, to relax, and to linger. Hopefully everyone returns to their home holistically refreshed and renewed to press on in the work they are called to do.

Jay and I typically participate in two retreats in the Mediterranean region. Each retreat is flavored by those living in country. The retreat we participated in several weeks ago had nine children. Their happiness, energy, curiosity, crying, laughing, whining, giggling, talking and singing blessed each one of us present. As we dined together in a concrete room where sounds bounced everywhere, being Benedictine would have been impossible! "Let the children come to me,” says Jesus. I saw Jesus in those children.

We also had two REACH teams (eight REACHers) participating. Their love of children, serving hearts, and positive outlook were an incredible bonus for the retreat. The almost one-to one ratio with the children was reassuring for parents. The REACHers took the children to the ocean, made sandcastles, played pirates, did crafts, and shared stories. One REACH team was all males and the other team all females. The team of guys were experienced bakers, making unexpected yummy cakes and pies to share with the whole group. This may have been motivated to repay the bacon that was brought down from Spain for them by the girls’ team.

Some years ago when we began these retreats, we planned too much in the daily schedule. The feedback was let’s do "more with less," which is really a perfect ingredient for lingering. This year, while Jay and I were busy meeting with each family, the other workers walked along the beach to gather shells, enjoy the breezes and enjoy each other. In our days together one could rest or hang out with others. There was time to share stories and to pray for each other; time for worship and the Word. We had a gal and guy's night. The last night, we made s'mores and popcorn at a fire by the beach while cozying under blankets and enjoying the wonder of the starlit sky.

Although retreats are often renewing, restoring, and plain old fun, they are also not "heaven on earth." They often reveal the messiness of life. The travel to and from the retreat can be complex. Children may get sick or be fussier as they are out of their routine. People, who do not know each other, are together in some fairly intense relational times. The Holy Spirit is healing and caring. He is pleased.

For the last couple years a retreat highlight has been the good-night stories and songs by Pablo and Judi. Young and old crowd into their bedroom warmed and lulled by Pablo and Judi's wisdom, humor, and love. How beautiful to see grandparents lavishing love on grandchildren even while missing their own miles and miles away. It is a true picture of our retreats as an in-between place for the family of God to linger together. After the retreat, filled in heart, soul, and body all return to the holiness of daily living in their own towns and cities.

*Names changed for security reasons.


April 10, 2014

Reaching a Wider Audience

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A note from Esta, an RMM worker in the Middle East, about an exciting new opportunity for the plays that she writes and directs to reach a wider audience…

Every year from October through June, youth from the Protestant churches gather monthly in a group they call Youth for Christ. Each meeting consists of worship, a drama, prayer (usually for a region of the country), and a guest (usually a pastor) who shares with the group. This group was started, and is run by, young local believers. All last season, the meetings were filmed by the one Christian television station in the country. This year those recordings are being broadcast every Sunday at different times. This is a national television station so the programs are broadcast nationwide. Thanks to outside funds, Youth for Christ has obtained their own good quality camera this season and continue to film each meeting. This way, the meetings can continue to be broadcast next year, assuming the quality is good enough. I’m happy that the plays will be seen and that many will hear the message, and also that viewers can see how theater can be used in their gatherings.

Please pray for Esta, for creativity from the Holy Spirit in sharing the Good News in her plays. Thank you for being a partner in her work!  

*Name changed and country name omitted for security reasons.


April 09, 2014

With Sadness, Nervousness, and Excitement

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A letter from Joe and Lynn*

What an incredible experience! Two and a half years ago we set out on an adventure and only God knew the outcome. In the last few years while living in Bangkok, God has brought amazing people and experiences into our lives. We have deep, meaningful friendships with both Thai and foreign friends and we have seen God use us and work through those friendships. The way we saw God work most clearly, was in our friendship with Khruu. In the last seven months Khruu moved into our home and lived with us. She was suffering physical abuse at the hands of her ex-husband and we were able to offer her a safe and loving home. She is family now. We had many conversations with her about faith, Jesus, and life. She now calls herself half-Buddhist and half-Christian. We pray that she continues her journey toward Christ. She has now gotten back on her feet and is in a nice apartment and seems to have found joy in her life.

"Friends like this made the decision
to return home a difficult one."
In the same time frame, I (Joe) started meeting with a Swedish atheist friend to talk about scripture. He came to me wanting to learn and know more about the Bible. He wasn’t trying to refute scripture or convert but wants to understand it better. He and I have had continual conversations about the Bible, Jesus, church, atheism, and everything in between. It has been exciting to see his interest piqued. I keep praying for my friend. I pray that his curiosity opens him up to the things of God and that he meets Jesus in his searching. Friends like this made the decision to return home a difficult one.

Our term ended with RMM this spring and in the past few months we were weighing our options and seeking God's leading. Without going into all the personal details, we felt it was in our family's best interest to come home. We asked God to let our son be our barometer. We wanted God to speak to us through him to tell us whether we should stay or go. It became abundantly clear when we reflected on the last six months or so that it was time to come back to Ohio. We need to be able to give him some of the things that he needs and the reality is we need the support of our family and friends as we help him. So it is with sadness, nervousness, and excitement that we return. We appreciate all the prayers and support over the last couple years. It has meant a lot to us. Please keep us in your prayers as we still need to find work and figure out the details of our transition. Pray for us as we walk through culture shock and try to find our place to fit in back in the States. And pray for our friends in Thailand, that they will meet with God. Thank you again.

Joe, Lynn and Brennan


Note from RMM’s Asia regional director: Joe, Lynn, and Brennan returned to Ohio in March, 2014. We’ve appreciated Joe and Lynn's contribution to God's work in Thailand over the past two-and-a-half years. They learned the language well and formed deep and natural relationships with many people. We trust that the many seeds they've planted will continue to germinate and grow. Pray for them as they walk through this transition time.

*Last name omitted for security reasons.


April 07, 2014

Forgive to Live:
Updates from the Greece REACH team

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By Erica*

There is one story that I would love to share because it is very encouraging to me and the team! This is how it happened:

Here in Greece we are able to do some outreaches in the center of the city. Basically, we try to go out and meet new people and hope to share Jesus with them. In order to draw their attention, we need to come up with some creative things to do out in the heart of the city. So while a YWAM team was here we decided to do a “forgiveness outreach.” We made our way into the city with paper, pens, a trashcan, and poster boards that said "Forgive to Live." During this time we met a young guy and explained what we were doing that night and asked if he needed to forgive anyone. We told him all he needed to do is write down a name or anything he wanted on the paper and then rip it up and throw it away. He wasn't interested in doing this at the moment but was very interested in practicing some conversational English with us and wanted to meet for coffee to talk and work on his English. "A lot of times we don't see the fruit of our seeds, but this time God blessed us all with showing us that he was at work!"We exchanged numbers and agreed to get in touch to set a date, but because of traveling and busy schedules we weren't able to meet for about two weeks. When we finally met, during one of our conversations, he explained to us that he had just forgiven the person he needed to forgive the day before! It was so encouraging to hear that he was able to let go of what had happened between him and the other person! A lot of times we don't see the fruit of our seeds, but this time God blessed us all with showing us that he was at work!

And from my teammate, Josh*…
One of my favorite things that I have seen happen so far in our time in Greece is how one of our friends, Alex, has changed. When we got here he wasn't very open about his faith but now he is bolder about sharing his faith with people. He has also been a great friend to me since I've been here. I have really enjoyed getting to know him and I have enjoyed seeing him grow.

*Last names omitted for security reasons.


April 04, 2014

Why We Attend BOOST

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By Larry and Dot Chupp

Every year, sometime in March, there is a gathering of business people, pastors, and others at BOOST, a business retreat sponsored by Conservative Mennonite Conference, Rosedale Mennonite Missions, and Rosedale Bible College. Over the past nine years we have attended eight times. We love being there and always make sure it is on our calendar. The retreat normally starts on Thursday evening and ends Saturday noon. Here are some of the reasons we make it a priority and suggest you do as well.

We are so grateful for the relationships we have made over the years at BOOST. Each year we look forward to seeing those we met there in the past and have had the privilege of building relationships with. We find the camaraderie very fulfilling. We also look forward to seeing new people in attendance and gaining new friends. We have found ways to connect on many levels in addition to business. Fellowship is enhanced because this retreat is rooted in the teachings of Christ. This alone sets it apart from secular business seminars and retreats where God is not the center. Each day opens with a devotional and we see this as a strong asset to the retreat as we are called to focus on God.

"...this retreat is rooted in the teachings of Christ. This alone sets it apart from secular business seminars and retreats where God is not the center."

Each year the speakers and workshop leaders bring a wealth of input on a variety of business-related subjects which serves to make us better. This past year’s keynote speaker, Joel Barkman from Golden Rule Builders, was no exception. It’s important to us to keep learning, growing, and stretching. When leaders get better everyone wins, so sharpening our skill sets is high on our list of priorities. We believe BOOST helps us learn to serve people and see them grow. We are convinced that an organization will only be as healthy as its leadership. Thus one of our goals for attending is to become healthier in our business or work environment so the organization we are with can also benefit.

Why should we spend our money to attend BOOST? May we share a personal observation? There were years when it was somewhat of a financial sacrifice to attend BOOST, especially if it wasn’t held in our community. We don’t readily recall the yearly costs of attending BOOST over the past nine years but there are many memorable concepts we learned which helped us not only in business but in other areas of our lives as well. We learned our business lives and the other areas of our lives are complexly integrated. What occurs in one area of life affects all the other areas as well. The idea that “what happens at work stays at work” is a myth.

The fellowship and support from others in business has been encouraging. It is so easy to think we are alone when we go through certain experiences but an event like BOOST provides a way for us to interact with others who face issues similar to ours. Gaining insight from another perspective is sometimes invaluable. We recently sold our share of the business we owned to the other shareholders, but we still plan to attend BOOST every year because we believe in it. We see it as important to pass on and share our experiences as business people who happen to be Christians, not only to other Christians but the rest of the world as well. Secular studies show that businesses run on Biblical principles have a decided advantage at success in the marketplace. Our job description as Christians is to teach these principles to a broken and hurting world and we see BOOST as one avenue in helping achieve this.



April 02, 2014

Missions: Poisoned or Pure?

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At its worst, missions deserves the kind of negative critique that author Barbara Kingsolver delivers in The Poisonwood Bible through the character of Nathan Price. Culturally insensitive and theologically narrow-minded, Price heads deep into the African jungle to convert the Congolese heathen. Taking no time to understand the culture, he plows ahead with his immediate goals: to get the women properly dressed (by his standards) and to baptize as many of the Congolese as possible, as quickly as possible (in a crocodile-infested river).

On the other end of the spectrum is Rachel Lane in John Grisham’s The Testament. Rachel disappears deep into Brazil’s rain forest to live sacrificially among a small isolated tribe. She makes their village her home and their people her people. She lovingly proclaims and demonstrates the love of Jesus. When she is made aware of her wealthy father’s death back in the US and his $11 billion bequest to her, she is hesitant to receive it. Rachel is content where she is, and she fears that money of that quantity will only bring her trouble. Year after year, she selflessly pours her life into the work she knows her Master has called her to.

"Ouch!! I don’t want any of my friends or neighbors to think that I or the people I work with at RMM are approaching other cultures and religions in that kind of spirit."

The fictional Nathan Price has had many real-life counterparts. Price is the kind of missionary that makes me feel embarrassed sometimes to say that I work for a mission agency. One of my wife’s colleagues recently described Poisonwood Bible as a book that “gives a good picture of what Christians are like.” Ouch!! I don’t want any of my friends or neighbors to think that I or the people I work with at RMM are approaching other cultures and religions in that kind of spirit. Sometimes it seems like Price has had the privilege of defining our work in the minds of most North Americans.

But I know too many “Rachel Lanes” to accept that definition. Rachel’s spirit inspires me and draws me deeper into this task of inviting the nations to worship Jesus. I’ve walked alongside too many real-life people like her to let Nathan Price define the missionary endeavor.

Recently Christianity Today magazine published a cover story (“The World the Missionaries Made,” Jan/Feb 2014) on this perception. The article details the work of Robert Woodberry, whose research has been showing that there is a direct correlation between the work of privately funded (i.e. not state church funded) missionaries and the success of democracy. Though there is of course a range of opinions across the global church regarding the extent to which Scripture points to democracy as a preferred model for government, it seems to me it is at least fair to say that for democracy to work well, a foundation of integrity and trust like that inherent in genuine Christianity is essential.

Woodberry demonstrates through his research that in those parts of the world where missionaries saw the gospel of Jesus take root in a culture and eventually bring transformation of the hearts of a substantial number of individuals within that culture, there has statistically been greater societal health. Educational opportunities are more available. Health care is more accessible. Governments are more stable. And democracy is more likely to succeed.

If you are like me and you frequently rub shoulders with those who have come to hold a negative view of the work of missionaries, you might find it helpful to explore the novels I’ve mentioned as well as Robert Woodberry’s research. The novels help us understand why it’s possible to feel both disgust and admiration regarding the work of missions. And Woodberry’s research will fill us with courage to forge ahead with inviting the nations to worship Jesus – while always emulating his love and humility.