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May 30, 2014

A Slowly Opening Door: Calling a New Generation of Workers to the Middle East

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By Jay Martin, Mediterranean Regional Director
Names changed and country name omitted for security reasons.

In January of this year, Rosedale Mennonite Missions organized a mission leadership consultation in the Middle East where we have been working for the past 30 years. Two RMM Board members, a CMC Executive Board member, and several other guests accompanied RMM workers and administrators on this listening tour. The aim of this trip was to reflect together about what God has done, is doing, and wants to do in this country.

We started out in the city that launched the apostles Paul and Silas on their first journey. A dear brother and his son, Zekerya and Servet met us at the guesthouse where we were staying and then took us to see their Koreanborn pastor, Jacob, and their church building/cultural arts center. Zekerya and his son Servet inspired us with their stories of God’s grace bringing them, as Alawite Kurds, to faith. The next morning we visited another one of the five small evangelical protestant churches in this city of 217,000. They have faced much opposition from radicals in the community but the city authorities have given them freedom to worship openly.

At noon we divided up into three groups to visit different areas where RMM has had workers over the past three decades. I took agroup of four to the city where our family (as well as others) had lived and worked. It was a moving experience for me to reconnect with those disciples with whom we had labored and toiled for many years. These stalwart few are standing strong in spite of, or perhaps because of, persecution. They are trophies of God’s grace and transforming power. We rejoice in that there are now two other churches in this city of one million. One of these churches is part of a growing and vibrant group of 30 Persian immigrant churches spread across the whole country. My group also took a one-day trip into the mountains to visit Yilmayan and Yildizhan, a couple that we fellowshipped with in our city a decade ago. It was so meaningful for me, after all these years, to sit with them in a circle on their living room floor. We shared a meal together and heard their stories, seeing them now as parents of three young children (Isaac, Light, and Elijah), teaching them the way of Christ. Before leaving we laid hands on them and their youngest son who has an inoperable tumor in his neck. Aptly named “Dauntless” and “Star” in English, this brother and sister are testimonies of the enduring power of the Spirit of God.

All three groups reconvened in the city where Esta Felder lives and works with the church in theater. We met in a simple hotel with a meeting room on the top floor that gave us a panoramic view of the city. For five days we gathered in this upper room to reflect on God’s work in this country. Each day began with worship followed by studies of the manuscripts of both Mark and Ephesians. In the afternoons we reflected on our visits to the south and east regions, heard reports from five non-RMM workers about the current state of the church, and reviewed a brief history of the work of RMM. We spent significant time in prayer and brainstorming.

The Social and Political Context
in Which the Church Finds Itself Today

This country is 99% Muslım. It is governed by a well functioning form of parliamentary democracy that is almost unparalleled in the Muslim world. The state is secular and affirms constitutional protection for private religious expression and propagation for all religions. It has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of religion. In reality though, laws are only as good as the people who enforce and uphold them. Since 2002 the government has been in the hands of a center right party that has loosened the secularist hold on power and also dramatically reduced the power of the military in the political sphere. Islam has grown in strength during the last decade, partly because the parliament has liberalized the secularist limitations of religious expression in the public arena. In the last 12 years, while the economies of many countries have stagnated, this country’s economy has quadrupled in size and per capita income has tripled. This monetary growth has resulted in a new self-confidence and an increase of influence and power in the region. There is deep concern about the increasingly autocratic and combative posture of the current prime minister and his government. He has intimidated the press into submission to a large degree. Twitter and YouTube have been shut down for brief periods recently. In the past few years we have seen a dramatic increase in polarization between government supporters and the opposition creating unprecedented unrest in the country.

A local pastor, Muhammed, who came to faith in the mid-80’s in our work in the east, told us that he sees four turning points that have impacted public opinion to begin to accept Christians as part of their cultural fabric instead of simply “the enemy.” The events he cited were: 1) in 1988 widespread arrests of Christians, 2) in 1999 the massive earthquake and the outpouring of help from Christian nations, 3) in 2007 the brutal murders of three workers in the eastern part of the country, 4) in 2013 unprecedented protests across the nation giving voice against oppressive authoritarianism.

Most likely there are many more believers that we don’t know about yet who aren’t part of a local church. Primarily, believers are of Muslim background, ethnically diverse, urban, and concentrated in the western part of the country. The church is young and small but stable and growing, with more and more national leaders emerging. Satellite and Internet broadcasting has scattered the seed of the Word far and wide, bringing many people into the kingdom.

Much remains to be accomplished however. This country still has the dubious ranking as the largest unreached people group in the world. Evangelical or Protestant believers number one half of one percent of the population. Thirty six of the eighty one provinces in this country still have no resident witness. Parts of this country are still very conservative and opposed to foreign influences, particularly in the east.

So while there has been a growing Islamism in this country and the region is being shaken by war and political instability, we also witness a greater openness and response to the gospel. I believe that as people tire of earthly kingdoms and their strife, many will be drawn to the Prince of Peace and his reign of love.

RMM’s Work in This Country

We have prioritized working in the south and east parts of the country where churches haven’t yet been established. But we also are working with the church in visual arts in a major city in the west. From the beginning of our work here in the 1980’s we’ve worked in partnership with other agencies in city-wide prayer meetings, regional and national networks and conferences and local church planting efforts. Our goal is to work together with others in the body of Christ to establish an indigenous church independent of western denominations. We have focused primarily on making disciples and establishing house churches in cities where there are few or none. Our workers have at times pastored emerging house churches hoping to turn them over to local leadership. Our role as foreigners has more recently shifted more toward disciple making rather than church planting. We see ourselves primarily as catalysts and mentors, rather than pastors and church planters, assisting our local brothers and sisters to reach their extended families and form clusters of disciples.

Is There Still a Need for RMM,
for Foreign Workers, in This Country?

We asked this question as we deliberated together in the upper room. Is it wise to continue to toil in a land when we haven’t yet seen widespread movements to Christ? Our local brothers and sisters have said YES, there is a role for foreign workers at this stage in the growth of the church. We at RMM believe that God says YES! We believe that God wants us to focus again on sending a new generation of workers to this land. We currently have experienced workers in country who have found their niche and can mentor others. We aim to leverage our collective experience and send a new generation of workers into this harvest field. The doors are open, more than ever before, for workers to come. Multi-year residence permits and visas are easily obtained.

There are many options for obtaining long-term visas; I’ll highlight two. We can go as students, studying at quality universities. We can also go as university, elementary, middle and high school teachers and find jobs in English language schools all over the country. There is a demand for professionals in education. I would challenge the young teachers in our Conference. Would you consider taking your professional training and skills and putting them to work in a setting where Christ followers are few and far between? Is God calling you to partner with his work in this country?

Contact RMM today via e-mail (info@rmmoffice.org) or call 740-857-1366 to learn more about opportunities. There are countless more, like “Dauntless” and “Star,” who would welcome you to humbly live and work among them!


May 27, 2014

Smiling Just Thinking About It:
Love and Landslides in the Himalayas

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By Eric, Himalayas REACH Team

Eric and his team have recently returned from their outreach in the Himalayas and are currently debriefing with the other REACH teams at the Rosedale International Center.

I know that God loves me. That’s a fact that I find alarmingly difficult to really absorb, to unbendingly believe, and to fully understand. My head registers God loving me as fact. But my heart often forgets it and I live as though his love has minimal impact on my life.

And yet, I’m starting to learn that the fact that God really, really loves me needs to define my life. In good times, God’s love is to radiate within me. In crisis, God’s love is still supposed to radiate within me. When I’m absolutely miserable, God’s love should still be there. He holds me up. His love should constantly enlighten me when I’m melting down.

I know all of this, but how hard it is to actually remember and believe it!

About a week ago, I was out of energy at around noon. I heard that we were going to climb a hill and pray over the town from the top. That doesn’t sound bad in writing, but then I saw the hill tower over us in the distance. From that point, I knew that this experience was not going to be the most fun I’ve ever had.

Before the walk, I’d prayed a short little “God help me” prayer, not really thinking about it, just as a little cry of need. When we began climbing up the hill, and I was feeling pretty physically weak, one of the students started walking beside me. “Eric, how are you feeling?” he asked.

I took a couple of steps and breathed out. “Still tired,” I said. He immediately proceeded to put his hands onto my back and he started to steadily but gently push me and support me as I walked. And he did this the entire way. I must say—what a life-saver! Going up that hill hardly even wore me out then. Everything went smoothly, thanks to God.

"I didn’t forget that God loved me before we left to climb the hill. However, I did forget how much his love powerfully, actively affects me. It defines me."I didn’t forget that God loved me before we left to climb the hill. However, I did forget how much his love powerfully, actively affects me. It defines me. It carries me. I am who I am because of God’s love, his perfect, powerful love. How often I forget.

Another story that blows my mind about God’s care for us as his children happened the other day. We were getting ready for a seven-hour trip to the capital. As we arrived at the bus station, we learned that every single seat on every available bus was occupied. We would either have to wait or somehow find another way to the capital.

We eventually found a small van available to take us. It was more expensive than a bus ride, but it was a ride to the capital nonetheless. We seized the opportunity and started our journey.

Midway through the trip, we came across a humongous line of traffic. It was impossible to see the end of it all. Our driver, interestingly enough, went onto the wrong side of the road and drove right past at least 100 cars before finding out what was going on. He learned there had been a landslide up ahead, and a good amount of dirt and mud covered one side of the road. Knowing this, our driver still forged ahead.

Once we got to the point where the landslide happened, it all made sense. The two-lane road that we were on didn’t have much room for maneuvering. This meant that buses couldn’t get through the landslide, which triggered the backup in traffic. Our van however, could zip right by pretty much everything, and got through without a problem. Taking a bus would have meant that we would have been stuck in traffic for a ludicrously long time. As we passed by the cars, we counted around 1,400 of them, single file, for over six miles. God graciously allowed us to arrive at our destination sooner than if we would have taken a bus there! Isn’t our God the best?!

He is a God who provides and loves like crazy, and I forget that too often. I really don’t realize how blessed I am. God truly cares about me. From giving me the support to trek up a hill, to watching over our travels, to drawing me to himself and calling me his precious child. His love—I’m honestly smiling just thinking about it; I love my great God.


May 21, 2014

Exponential 2014

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By Nate Olmstead, Church Planting Team Coordinator

I was blessed with the opportunity to attend Exponential church planting conference in Orlando, Florida, April 29-May 1, 2104. RMM President, Joe Showalter, and CMC pastors, Duane Detweiler, Larry Kaufman, and Rocky Favia, and myself attended the annual event (the largest global church plant conference), with much anticipation of learning more about “Rethinking Evangelism” which was the theme of this year’s conference. Although I cannot say that I had any major “rethink” moments, I was blessed by the contact with many other missional people and from hearing their stories.

A highlight for me was the various workshops that I was able to participate in. One that I thoroughly enjoyed was entitled, “Lessons from Antioch: Effective Cross-cultural Evangelism.” This workshop dealt with a focus on stateside, cross-cultural ministry where we dialogued about the importance of understanding the culture of a potential disciple. We talked about consistency being a major factor in the development of genuine friendship. Friendships can lead to kingdom experiences, the story of Jesus (gospel), and then ultimately to a new birth.

“Small Matters: Discipling Children” was another workshop that I enjoyed. These were a few of the points:

  • Every interaction with a child is a divine appointment.
  • 85% of people become Christians between the ages of 4-14 (the “4-14 window”).
  • 80% of those incarcerated were formally part of the foster system. What would happen if the church would step up its involvement in fostering/adopting?
  • What can I do to intentionally disciple my own children and those around me?

The last workshop that I attended was “Primal Fire: Reigniting the Church With the Five Gifts of Jesus” (Ephesians 4:1-16). In this workshop we talked about how Jesus has gifted the church with five different gifts for edification: apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd (pastor) and teacher. In many cases we have created an unhealthy and unstable church because we have not allowed all five gifts to be active. Having highlighted a few of the gifts and not allowing for expression of all five, the church has become unstable and is not properly edified. This was an interesting topic that we could have spent all day discussing.

I’ll finish this with a challenge from Pastor Oscar Muriu from Africa, who was one of the last main speakers at the event: “Are the things I’m living for what Christ died for?” There is much to chew on in this question.


May 20, 2014

RMM in the City: An Open Letter About Office Relocation

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By Joe Showalter, RMM President

Background

Within a few weeks after Rosedale Mennonite Missions had purchased the facility at 2120 E. 5th Avenue in Columbus, Ohio, that is now called the Rosedale International Center, a few of the RMM staff approached me about the possibility of RMM moving its headquarters from Rosedale to Columbus. At that point, we knew we had just purchased a large facility that would allow us to grow REACH and City Challenge, our summer and fall programs for youth and young adults. We also knew that it was for more than that. When the RMM board took action to purchase the building, they had clearly stated that they saw broader uses for the building. They had a sense that this could be a center that would take RMM to a new level in its mission training and networking and sending. While I had long seen some advantages to RMM's headquarters being in an urban setting rather than a rural one, I didn't immediately engage with the idea. I could easily see some major downsides, particularly the negative impact it could have on current employees and the inherent potential for loss of connectedness to Rosedale Bible College and the Conservative Mennonite Conference offices, which are all currently located on the same campus in Rosedale, Ohio. But by the time three or four staff members independently suggested that maybe RMM should consider going that route, I began to sit up and take notice and wonder if God was trying to speak to me.

In the six years since, we've discussed the possibility at length. The idea generated enough interest and affirmation that we left a wing of the building unfinished and designated it as "potential office space" when we completed the initial renovation design. The RMM board was initially uncertain about the idea, but over the years began to see that there would be some internal benefits to consolidating our offices in one location. Several years ago, the board stated its position that the offices should move to Columbus at some point, but that the time wasn't right yet. "We'll know when it's time," they noted.

And now, in 2014, it seems that it is time. In February, RMM board chair Duane Detweiler and I met with the CMC Executive Board to hear their thoughts on the matter, since it had been a few years since we had discussed it with them. The Executive Board affirmed the move, while noting the importance of including them and RBC in the larger discussion and developments, and protecting the interests of all three of us. The next day, the RMM board took action to proceed.

So RMM plans to move its headquarters into the Rosedale International Center. Below, I'd like to respond to some of the questions people are asking. Hopefully, it will answer some of yours.

How soon is this move going to take place?

We don't have a firm timeline in place. The space we'll be moving into needs some renovation and preparation. Currently, we're working with our architect on designing the space. No doubt it will be at least fall 2014 or even early 2015 before the work will be completed. Once the actual renovation is underway, we'll be able to project more closely.

Is the move to the RIC driven primarily by finances?

No. While there will clearly be some efficiencies that result from having all of RMM's offices under one roof, money is not the primary motivation. I would point to two major motivating factors: 1) the global mission context calls for urbanized thinkers and practitioners, and 2) our long- and short-term ministries will be better integrated if we share a common office space.

What will this mean for current RMM staff?

This move will affect staff in a variety of ways. While most staff strongly affirm the move for the sake of the organization, it has the potential to significantly impact some in a negative way (e.g. some currently live within walking distance of the Rosedale office). Some may choose to relocate while others may not continue with RMM long term as a result. We are committed to doing what we can to minimize the negative impact as much as possible. Possible accommodations include flexible work hours, telecommuting when feasible, and assistance with commuting expenses.

What will happen to the current Rosedale properties?

Since we own a share of the farmland next to the RBC/RMM campus, we plan to take RBC up on its offer to purchase our share. No decision has been made yet about our Rosedale offices. We understand the importance of maintaining the integrity of the Rosedale campus, so we will be in discussion with RBC and CMC about possible options. The RMM board does not feel we need to liquidate all of our Rosedale assets before moving into the Columbus offices, since proceeds from the sale of the farmland will cover a significant portion of renovation costs.

Won't this move make it more difficult to stay connected to RBC and the CMC offices?

We have been working harder in recent years to strengthen our partnership with both RBC and CMC, and we remain highly committed to that partnership. The RMM Executive Team currently meets three times per year with RBC's and CMC's leaders. Possibly we'll want to increase the length and/or frequency of those meetings. Other initiatives are emerging that I think will ensure our close partnership in spite of greater geographical distance. Because the RIC is proving to be a wonderful gathering spot for groups from across CMC, RMM may actually be getting better connected to the larger church than it has been in recent years.

How will it help you do missions administration if your offices are in the city?

None of us thinks moving RMM's offices to Columbus will work magic. Writing emails and making phone calls won't happen more efficiently just because we're in an urban environment. But it will allow more of us to live in a cultural context much more like the ones most of our workers are living in. It will make it more possible to prepare new workers for urban living, because more of us mission leaders will understand it better ourselves. And it will allow RMM to help CMC engage in a variety of outreach ventures through the endless opportunities that a city like Columbus has to offer.

What does moving administrative offices from a rural context to an urban context have to do with the global missions context?

Our world is increasingly urban, and it's my observation that CMC is following suit. Here in North America and around the globe, people are moving to cities by the millions each month. About 82% of Americans currently live in urban or suburban areas. I just read an excellent article called "The Call to the City" by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Keller points to four groups of people in the city that the Church must reach.

First, the younger generation. Obviously, it's where a large majority go for higher education. But unlike their parents, they prefer to stay there. The Wall Street Journal reported a few years ago that 88% of the Millennial generation (those born in the '80's, '90's, and early 2000's) prefer to live in cities. Automakers like Toyota and GM are alarmed that the Millennials are choosing to live where walking, biking, and mass transit can take the place of driving.

Second, the cultural elites. More and more, networks of major metropolitan areas are becoming the world's most important cultural, political, and financial influencers-even more than nations themselves. In North America, committed followers of Jesus are disproportionately absent from the cities. Our percentages are highest in rural areas and lowest in urban areas. If we're losing the so-called "culture wars," might it be because we've positioned ourselves in places where we can exert little influence?

Third, the unreached peoples. The distinction between "home" and "foreign" missions is disappearing before our eyes. As a result of immigration, in many North American cities, we have access to the hardest-to-reach peoples of the world. By placing ourselves among these immigrants in our cities, we can potentially reach them and their families and friends back in their home cultures.

And fourth, the poor. The majority of the world's poor live in cities, and I believe in God's economy those with power and resources are called to serve them. As Christ's followers make disciples of the cultural elites, they will use their power and resources to improve the plight of the poor. Both groups desperately need each other.

It seems God is calling some of us to be part of all this. With RMM's move to the city, there will soon be more CMC people living, working, and worshipping in neighborhoods in Columbus, rubbing shoulders with the young, the elite, the unreached, and the poor. "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast."

Conclusion

I believe that this move is one step we can take to stay engaged with the rising generation and to help CMC become more fully engaged in Kingdom transformation both locally and globally. I welcome your comments or questions at joe@rmmoffice.org.


May 16, 2014

Pray for My Friend

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By Pablo, RMM worker in Spain

Names changed for security reasons.

I met Jorge about three and a half years ago at a restaurant owned and run by an English friend. He and his wife, Christina, had been in Granada for nearly a year and hadn't gotten to know many people yet. He's legally blind, a combination of albinism, and having meningitis at three- months old, after which his eyes never developed normally. Jorge was born in northwestern Spain, but moved to England when he was a teenager where he finished his education, married and worked for most of his adult life. In spite of his limited vision, he's traveled extensively. He has three grown children with his ex-wife, who all live in England.

We kind of hit it off from the beginning, having a number of things in common, including a love for music. We introduced Jorge and Christina to some of our friends from the choir and have been back and forth quite a bit with this group, having meals, attending concerts and doing other activities together. Jorge, along with Timoteo and me, hiked a week together on the Camino de Santiago in October 2013. In April 2014, Jorge and I went back for another week. Timoteo was unable to go for health reasons.

We've done a lot of walking together in the mornings and have talked about lots of things, including quite personal issues and faith. Jorge is very bright, has an exceptional memory, and is typically modern in thought and philosophy. He's skeptical about religion, but interested in having a personal faith, yet unsure as to how to go about it. Faith is not always rational, and Jorge is a rational thinker. I'm often at a loss to know what to say, but yet see in him the qualities that give me hope. If he were to have a genuine encounter with God and be transformed, he could have an amazing impact on the many people he knows.

Prayer points:

  • Pray that Jorge would embrace faith, though not fully understanding it
  • Pray he will grow in grace and in the knowledge of God and his Word
  • Pray for him as he deals with guilt
  • Pray for reconciliation with his children, relationship with current spouse, retirement plans
  • In general, a genuine encounter with God and subsequent transformation



May 15, 2014

Getting to Know…Esta Felder

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Esta* is an RMM worker who has lived and worked in the Middle East for the past twelve years. She will be coming back to the U.S. for a home assignment from June to September. We hope the following interview will help you become better acquainted with Esta and her unique ministry in the Middle East.

Where are you from in the U.S.? How do you stay connected with your family, friends, and supporting church after being gone so long?

I lived in New York City for twenty years and still consider my home church to be there. But while figuring out how to make this calling a reality I moved to the town my sister lived in at the time, which was Seeley Lake, Montana. I didn’t grow up there but during the two years I spent there, Mission Bible Fellowship became my home church. They have been supportive from the beginning and even though I was only in their congregation for those two years, they have remained faithful in their prayer and financial support more than ten years later. I send them monthly updates, and every furlough I spend a week there speaking in church, at ladies luncheons and Bible studies, and also spend time socializing. They are always a huge encouragement to me. God put a deep connection between us that doesn’t seem to diminish.

What is the heart of what you are doing in your country?

My goal is to spread God’s Word through the plays I write. We have the promise that when the Word of God goes out, it does not come back empty. I research every play as if I were writing a sermon. It’s important that every play comes straight from the Bible or carry a message that comes straight from the Bible.

What is a project you are doing right now?

It’s a play with five actors about patience. When we’re impatient, it’s like we’re trying to jerk our lives out of the hands of the Father. We don’t believe or acknowledge that our times are in his hands and it’s him we are waiting on. It’s at those moments we either reflect God’s glory or we reflect our own will by throwing a fit because we’re not getting our own way. This is a play about that.

What parts of your life and work do you find the most challenging?

The most challenging part would definitely be casting the plays and setting the rehearsals. There are about 14 million people in the city I live in and it is quite spread out. Travel can take up to two hours one way for some of the actors to get to rehearsal. These are young people with full-time jobs, and/or school, so to make a commitment to be in a play is not easy for them. And organizing it is not easy for me.

What is the most different aspect of the culture you live in versus your home culture?

To avoid being rude, people tend to tell you what they think you want to hear. Also, appearances are more important than reality. This causes more problems than if they were just realistic and honest, especially when you’re trying to organize something!

What is something that the culture has taught you and that you want to internalize?

This country is famous for hospitality. I’d like to internalize that more. I’m not someone who likes to host people–ever. As an introvert I think that’s okay sometimes, but at the same time it would be nice if it could rub off on me more.

What is the typical way you get around?

I am blessed to live near the subway. I can take the subway and change to the tramline or ferry to get almost anywhere. The buses are to be avoided if possible because traffic is so bad most of the time you can be stuck for hours.

What are some of your favorite things to do for fun?

The most relaxing thing I enjoy doing is taking a long walk along the channel with friends. It’s the one place in my city where there are sidewalks. There are places to stop and eat or just have a coffee. And the view is beautiful. Otherwise, going to concerts is another thing we love to do.

What your favorite local food?

It’s a dish called Beti. It’s lamb wrapped in dough and served with yogurt, tomatoes and peppers.

What is the most recent prayer that God has answered in your life?

I was praying that the next play, the one about patience that I mentioned earlier, would go smoothly. The day of rehearsal I got the dreaded text—an actor dropped out. Someone in the family was sick (the most common reason). I prayed about what to do. God gave me another play that fit, with some re-writing, the number and gender of actors that were already coming. Even though they had put in the work for the original play, they graciously switched gears. So now we’re doing a different play, shorter and not the one I planned, but clearly the one God wanted. And I got to practice what I was preaching.

Esta, thank you for serving God so faithfully where you live. We are excited to hear your stories about how your plays are impacting people and about the many opportunities that he is giving you. We are praying for you! Thanks for sharing your life with us.

*Name changed and country name omitted for security reasons.


May 12, 2014

The Faceless Mother

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By Josiah, RMM worker in North Africa, excerpted from a weekly newsletter

The following are four recent encounters related to women: 1) last week I attended an international agriculture fair in our old city with some farmers. It was a hot day, and—besides the farm implements and livestock—there was on display a range of women’s dress one doesn’t see in the countryside. A particular woman caught the attention of one of the more pious members of the group, a man I’d never met before, and he turned to me and said, “She needs…,” and then wagged his hand with the sign for discipline, usually corporal; 2) a few days later as I passed a park, I saw a middle-aged man, his wife, their teenage son and 10-year-old daughter posing for a family picture. The daughter was dressed in shorts and trendy top, the mother appeared faceless wearing a hijab with an ankle-length dress with hand-concealing sleeves and a face-concealing veil; 3) a day later I saw a billboard whose dominant image was the stereotypical face of a female model, that unsmiling, shrunken-cheeked, hollow-eyed stare. It was an advertisement for a car, available “at a seductive rate”; 4) on Sunday we gathered with a few others for a time of worship, and as part of that time we acted out the story of Jesus and the disciples’ interactions with the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15): a desperate mother pleads for help, the disciples express their disdain, Jesus appears to voice their (disturbing) unspoken thoughts in several responses to the woman, but then resoundingly affirms her faith.

The dissonance of these pictures weighs on my heart tonight. The “faceless mother,” it seems, is the best law-based solution to the “seductive woman”—a burden all the heavier when coupled with the assertion that women are inherently inferior to men. My wife Sarah finished a series of health lessons with local women this past week, ending with a lesson on self-esteem that grounds the value of women in their creation by God. Someone has said that God so identifies with his creation that sometimes he gets strapped with its sin. As a woman, Sarah has carried the burden of the sins of this context in order to share good news. She’s a remarkable model for our daughters of subversive grace in the midst of disgrace. I’m grateful for her, and for my grandmothers, mother, and the many women who mothered and modeled Jesus to me over the years.


May 08, 2014

Team North Africa Hits the Road

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The North Africa REACH team spends most of their outreach trekking through rugged mountain terrain. Modern day apostles, they pray, build relationships along the trail, and share Jesus with those who invite them in for the night. Team member’s last names have been omitted for security reasons.

March 17, 2014, Our First Trek!

This week we started our first trek! Our first adventure into the wilderness went very well. It was only a small one, but that is all we needed for the first one. All four of us went together for the first trek and then we will be splitting up into pairs for the rest of the treks. The first thing we did was head to the bus station to get our tickets. This can be quite intimidating and hectic, but it ended up going really well for us. Now it was time to hit the road. We didn't have to travel very far for the day. It was only a four-hour bus ride, which was not bad at all compared to some of the other traveling we do! The first day we made it to a small town. There we ate lunch and made sure we had our bread for the night. Then it was time to head to the village for our first stop for the night. At one point we passed several working men riding donkeys home from work. They seemed like a really friendly bunch of guys. When we made it to the village we asked around for a flat place to sleep, with the intent (hope!) of being invited in for the night. That didn't happen like we hoped. However, we did find a perfect spot for our tents right by the river. It was great for us being so close to water and being out of the wind. That night we ate our bread with jam and called it a night. The next morning we headed out for the next village. On the way there we saw the men from the day before, working on irrigation trench. As we passed we said some greeting and then they invited us to sit with them and drink tea. This was really cool and our first time drinking tea in the mountains. It was a pleasant sight to see such hospitality. They also shared their bread and olive oil with us. After that, they went back to work and we made our way on the road again. We realized later in the day that the area we chose for trekking was smaller than we thought. So by the second night we were almost out of places to go. We still needed to find a place to stay though.

That night we ran into to a very nice man. We asked if there was a flat place to put our tents. He showed us somewhat flats places. They just wouldn't work for our tents though. He later decided to offer us tea and give us a place to stay for the night. This was very cool to see. He didn't really have much to give but he gave us what he had. He was a single man taking care of his grandparent. He brought us in his home and cleared out a place for us to sit. Then he made us a lamb tagine that was very delicious. We were very thankful to him for providing shelter and a warm meal. It was a blessing that the Lord was watching over us that night because we almost didn't have a place to stay. The temperature dropped a lot that night as well. The next morning we had tea and bread with our new friend. We decided to listen to some Bible stories with him and see if he would like them. At first he seemed to enjoy them. Then it became evident that he wasn't interested. It was still a good time. It was time to hit the road. We didn't have another place to go so we decided to head home a day early. It was a very successful trip and we did what we set out to do. It was just enough to get our feet wet. We now feel ready and prepared for the longer treks. God, our guide, really protected us and provided people for us.

Pray that God would give us words to say, soften people's hearts, and give us good health on the trail and direct us.

-Abel


April 3, 2014, Stories!

So we recently returned to the city from our first long trip out. Daniel and I were together for this trip, and this trip was completely different than a trek. We traveled 1400 km to the south to live on a dairy farm in the Sahara Desert. I didn't even know that such places existed; the chance to live there for a while was exciting. Our role there was to be observing the operation and looking for things that could be improved and also exploring ideas for the future. "While living in the desert I was reminded of the vital importance of water. It made me think of Jesus… the water of life."So we did our best to do that despite feeling a bit inadequate to be doing training in a place that is completely foreign to us. We feel like we were able to help them out, and we are thankful for the chance to live with the people there for a while.

While living in the desert I was reminded of the vital importance of water. Where there is water there is life, and a place without water is a barren place. It doesn't matter how much one fertilizes the soil and works hard to maintain it, without water it will fail to produce. It made me think of Jesus as the spring of life. Our time with him is vital to us; he is the water of life.

Thanks for the prayers.

-Derek


Now it's time for silly songs with Lutis (my nickname)... Where Lutis comes out and sings... A silly song. Alright I will save us all and just write about my experience instead. My best memory from this past trek was also my worst memory; it was terrible and great at the same time! It was day four and we had tented the night before. The only thing we had to eat was two handfuls of peanuts each, so we started off with low energy. After we had to wade through a river we climbed out of the valley to find ourselves on a plain. Little did we know we would spend almost the entire day on this plain. We had nothing but more peanuts for lunch and were exhausted from the walking and the heat (it was one of the hottest days yet). We made it to a road and sat down to take a break. By this point we had run out of water and really didn't know what to do. We had no energy left, but we had to keep going because there was no place to set up a tent.

The prayer "give us this day our daily bread" takes on new meaning when you have no food or a place to sleep and simply speaking of bread causes the mouth to water. In our prayers God our guide came through in big ways. He didn't make our day easier; it was still the hardest day by far. However, he always gave us just enough to keep going. He sent some guys who gave us a ride to a city for free, and we were able to get some food to eat. Later he led us to a river where we were able to get water, and once we crossed the river he gave us a friend who took us in and gave us dinner and a warm place to sleep. This friend became my favorite person we met on this trek and we ended up staying with him for three days. I believe that God was challenging me in many ways, but the big takeaway was how much do I look to him? It was easy to look to him when we needed bread to eat; we had no other choice. My challenge and lesson from this is how can I live in a way where every day, whether I have what I need or not, I seek him for my daily provisions spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Thanks for tuning in, peace on your journey and thanks for your thoughts.

-Luke


One of my favorite memories from this past trip was when Derek and I went into town Saturday afternoon to spend the weekend with some friends. They showed us around the town a little bit then we went back to their house for the evening. But what I really enjoyed was the next day when we got together with some more like-minded people from different countries. We had people from Korea, England, and the United States. I just thought that it was really amazing that it didn’t matter where in the world we were all from; we could still come together and worship one creator.

Thanks for reading.

–Daniel


It's amazing what God our guide does for us on the trail. He brought us to some cool people for sure. One of my favorite memories from the trip came on day 7 for Luke and me. We ended up in a town that we had no clue we would end up in. At this point it was hard to follow our plans. God changed our plans quite often actually. As we walked along a road we ran into some men working out in a field. They were planting apple trees. "God placed us with them that day for reasons we still don't know. He always comes through for us."One of the men greeted us in French. We told him we spoke English, but honestly sometimes I'm not sure we even know how to speak English anymore. It's something we laugh at from time to time because we mess up simple words all the time. Anyway, he started to talk to us in English which is kind of rare out in the high ground. He said that we should stay with him for the night. That sounded like a great idea to us. We told him that we would. The other guys working were brothers around the same age as us. So we spent a lot of time with them during the day. They took us around the town and showed us different places. We spoke their language with them and they tried some of their English. We went back and forth sharing our native languages with each other. It was a really great time to learn from them and spend a day with them to see how they live life. I know we ran into them for a reason. That fact that we made it to the town in the first place is surprising. We didn't feel led to give any gifts. We do know that the Holy Spirit was working through us though. They also provided supper for us later that night. I really needed that at the time because I was low on energy after having walked 15 miles the day before. God placed us with them that day for reasons we still don't know. He always comes through for us.

Thank you for your time,

–Abel


April 14, 2014 Another Week of Trekking

Greetings all, The North Africa men here to give you little snippets of our many adventures from life on the trail! It is my absolute pleasure to start things off and give you my personal story.

There has been a trend of day four being the hardest day for me (at least so far—there are still two treks left to change that however). Day four we spent hiking in the rain all day. When we woke up in the morning the guy that we stayed with walked with us for a half hour in the pouring rain (poor guy didn't have rain gear either) to make sure we found our way back to the main road. We walked along the road for a while and we had a bit of a run in with the local police. However, it was something God ended up using. Our run-in with them got us turned around and back on the right trail. We were walking down the wrong road to the city we wanted to get to, so they actually helped us by making us go back and take a taxi to the city. Once we got to that city we still had to find a place to stay, so we continued hiking up the hill (all the while it was still raining). It's hard to climb uphill and slide down a step for every three you take up. Days like this are tough. We hiked really far (around 17 kilometers) and we hiked the whole time in the rain.

There are days that are tough; we had many others. We had challenges like rationing water and trying to find ways to regain energy while on the trail. Yet it all is worth it for that one interaction. For me that happened on day seven. We gave away a toy to a man. At first he wanted to buy it from us, but we decided to give it to him for free. He lit up when we gave it to him and he wouldn't stop kissing us on the hands and forehead. It was really cool! He was so excited to get it! Those are the little times that make it all worth it. Our father provides for us in so many ways. We really are quite honored to be the ones who get to go out into the mountains and plant these seeds, all while relying on him to take care of us in the process.

-Luke


Trekking continues and this time I was teamed up with Luke. One of the things that I found amazing this trek is how much God our guide provides for us. We started out with two loaves of bread that we eat when we are tenting, which we did several times this trek. After tenting several nights we ate all of the bread that we had. But the very next day before noon we were given a loaf of bread from some people that had invited us in for tea. We didn't even ask them for it, they just gave it to us as we were leaving. Then later on in the trek we were given more bread which we were able to give away to a shepherd that we met along the trail. I thought it was just amazing how our God truly does give us our daily bread.

-Daniel


We had a great time out on the trail the past two weeks. Derek and I went together this time around. Our time was spent with families he met in the past. We stayed five nights with a family he had gotten to know quite well the last two years. The family has four sons but only one of them was around during our stay with them. A couple of the days we got to play soccer in the village with all the men. This was one of my favorite memories from this past trip. It's not every day you get to play soccer in the mountains. After a couple days in the village, we almost became a part of the village. Most of our time though was spent in the house of the family Derek knew. They were excited that we were there. We taught some of the kids English and they taught us their language. The excitement they had to learn English was awesome to see. Spending time with them went very well, although there was one sad moment. Derek and I thought it would be a great idea to buy a goat and kill it with the family. We bought a goat and had plans to have a party and eat it with them. The plan was for us to do the honors but it turns out that they had the goat in a dish before we knew it. That was a bummer to both of us because we missed out on a great experience. We did get to be a part of a party and enjoyed a tagine with the goat in it. So in the end we pretty much just ended up feeding half the village with our goat. The party was great. Time with the family there couldn't have gone better if you ask me.

-Abe


There are a lot of good memories that come from the trail and many good things that happen. There are also times when we run into opposition; our battle is not against flesh and blood, and it's very real. I will share a little about that side of things this time to tell of God’s greatness in another way. Abel and I had one particular night that we will not be forgetting for a long time. We ran into a guy that I knew from the first year. We had only drunk tea together two years ago, but he remembered me and invited us to stay with him. "the Holy Spirit, led us to that place for a specific reason. He gives us armor for the battle. May we be strong in him."As excited as I was to find an old friend, I had an uneasy feeling right away. Something just didn't feel right; it didn't take long to realize that there was a spiritual battle in the house. The darkness was heavy and very real as night came, but the Holy Spirit was strongly there as well. We spent many hours that night praying for the release of the darkness, and for the Holy Spirit to fill those places. It was an exhausting night, and also a night that we felt the Holy Spirit working powerfully. The evil one has many strongholds here, ones that he has had for a long time and he does not want to let them go. But in the name of Jesus our Savior, he must go! God is the Great I Am and he is with us and Jesus is our victory. Nights like that aren't ones that I look back on and smile. They aren't "fun trail stories." But they are victories as well. Our guide, the Holy Spirit, led us to that place for a specific reason. He gives us armor for the battle. May we be strong in him.

Blessings to you all.

He is Good,

–Derek



May 07, 2014

Integrity: You Never Know Who is Watching

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By Trent Miller

Trent and five other SEND Ministries interns are living and serving at the Rosedale International Center. As part of their intern training, they prepared speeches on different aspects of leadership. These are Trent’s thoughts on having integrity as a leader.

My father is someone that I see as a person of integrity. Growing up, I noticed how he was always willing to make things right with another person. Whether it was returning the extra money he had received from a store or living out what he was teaching my brother and me. I have always seen him as a man of his word and consistent in his actions. He set an example for me as being one who acts out what he truly believes in his heart.

So what does this word “integrity” mean? The definition of integrity is: The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness; consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes; wholeness; or the state of being sound. When you think of something being whole or sound you often think of something physical like a pillar, a building or maybe a cake. It is a whole cake, and there are not any gaps in it.

This idea can also be applied to people. Someone who has integrity has this sense of wholeness. They are firm in their lives. If we are to be good leaders we need this foundation in our lives. If we are not consistent in our actions, words, and values, if we don’t have integrity, then we aren’t going to be trusted. How can we be good leaders if we can’t be trusted?

Norm Wakefield said, “When you’re shaken, whatever you’re filled with is what comes out.” So for a while we may be able to fool some by saying the right thing at the right time or doing the right thing at the right time, even if we don’t truly hold these values. Sooner or later though the truth will come out. What we are filled with will come out eventually. "Sooner or later though the truth will come out. What we are filled with will come out eventually."This thought can be a little scary at times, but if we are living with integrity and have this consistency in our lives we have nothing to fear because what is going to come out in those times is not going to be new to those around us.

Integrity is so much more than just being honest. It makes up who we are. Titus 2:7-8 says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” Paul is telling Timothy that if you have integrity, no one is going to be able to find fault with you.

An example of integrity from the Bible that came to my mind was Job. We know how the story goes. Job was having a pretty great life at the time. He was very blessed and God was taking great care of him. Then things went downhill. He could have just have given up and turned away from God, but he did not. That was not who Job was.

God says in Job 1:8 that Job was a man of perfect integrity. That is pretty crazy. Imagine God saying that about you. Does he say that? I know in my own life probably not so much. In Job 27:2-6, Job is talking to his friend who was trying to get him to just forget about God and to throw it all away and give up. Job tells him that he is not going to do that. He says that he is going to maintain his integrity until he dies and that he will cling to righteousness and never let it go.

Integrity is a choice. Job had a choice to either forget about God and turn from him, or he could choose to maintain his faith. He chose to always keep his integrity. People will see through the front that we can put up if we don’t have this consistency in our beliefs, thoughts, and actions. Corrie Ten Boom said, “The world does not read the Bible. It reads you and me. The godly man is the ungodly man’s Bible.”

You never know who is watching you or how your actions may affect them. Integrity is being honest in everything and being consistent in your actions, beliefs, and values. If we are to be effective leaders, then we need to have this consistency. If we don’t, we can’t be trusted. People will not be able to rely on us. So this is my challenge to you and to myself, to have integrity, this consistency in our lives, and to be honest in everything that we do.

Trent is a staff intern at the RIC, working as intercessor. His duties include: spending ten hours in prayer a week, helping design the prayer room and maintaining it, and leading the other interns in group intercession. God is currently teaching him about how he is working and how he wants to include us in his plan. In his free time Trent enjoys disc golfing, watching movies and tv shows, and playing games. Trent is from Riverview Mennonite church in White Pigeon, Michigan.


May 02, 2014

10 Ways for Churches to Help Missionaries Re-enter

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By Candice, RMM staff writer

When a worker comes home, what is the role of the local church? Here we offer a few suggestions for how you can lend support to returning workers in your congregation.

1

Logistical support with immediate needs. Your practical help is much appreciated. Workers might need your help finding a temporary vehicle or providing a short-term place to stay. If you want, you can collect some simple household items. Feel free to ask them what practical things they need. Just like having a baby or experiencing an illness, moving back from overseas is a huge transition. Providing a few meals during the first weeks or having them over for a meal can be a significant help to a returning family or single.

2

Ask questions about their adjustment and what they miss… and listen well. Give workers a place to talk about and process their experiences and their re-entry with you. They will need your empathy and at times, a place to grieve. The mix of emotions they are experiencing are at times overwhelming.

3

Give opportunity for sharing publically in church about their work
in order to help the worker process his/her experiences and connect with you by sharing them.

4

Pray for them. Asking them how you can pray will make returning mission workers feel loved and supported. Consider meeting in an ongoing way to pray depending on the spiritual and emotional needs of the worker.

5

Be a learner. Read about re-entry or talk to someone else who has re-entered previously.

6

Invite them back into your friendship circles. Remember, if they’ve been gone awhile, they may feel unsure of your friendship. Call them up, invite them out, and help them feel included. But also understand that at times, they may need space.

7

After a breather, give them a chance to use their gifts in your congregation, acknowledging that they may have changed and not fit into the same ministry roles they did before their assignment. Try to be open when possible to new perspectives they may have to offer. Be sensitive. Some returning workers may need the freedom to start something new. Work with them to discern God’s will for their next steps in ministry. Others may be burnt out and need some “time off” for healing.

8

Help short-term workers understand how their mission experience fits into fruitful kingdom work locally. Mentor them; affirming and nurturing their missionary passion.

9

Give them time. Try to be patient with them if adjustment seems slow. Remember they are “re-learning” culture in many ways.

10

Young people in the church who have cross-cultural backgrounds or missions experience can be a wonderful resource for returning children or youth. A TCK in re-entry needs someone to befriend them and try to relate to the cross-cultural part of them. Consider mentoring a TCK through their re-entry.


To learn more about how you can help returning missionary friends with their re-entry, read The Reentry Team: Caring for your Returning Missionaries by Neal Pirolo.


Notes from the Roller Coaster

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A story of re-entryBy Candice, RMM staff writer

There is a book I read when our family was preparing to leave for our assignment in Thailand called Re-entry: Making the Transition from Missions to Life at Home by Peter Jordan. It compares the re-entry of mission workers into their home culture, to a space shuttle’s “fiery and turbulent” re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. To me, re-entry felt more like a roller coaster ride. Not just the emotional roller coaster ride that people refer to (although it was that also), but the feeling of whipping around turns, plunging down steep tracks, and the disoriented dizziness you feel as you screech to a halt. To our children (Claire,10; Eliza, 8; and Silas, 5), leaving Thailand after seven years was leaving the comforts of their home and landing, off-balance, in a place where the customs were unfamiliar. It meant leaving their favorite noodle shop, the little friends they played red light/green light with, the garlicky-cooking-fumes-mixed-with-bus-exhaust that was the particular smell of our neighborhood. It was saying good-bye to a team that felt like family. Even our house itself, the mango trees, the buried pets, and the bubble tea stand down the street had taken on their particular kind of childhood significance and were hard to leave.

Friends helping us move our belongings from our house in Thailand.

We did our best to say “good good-byes.” We took many photos of our favorite people and places, wrote good-bye letters, went to parties, and gave gifts of appreciation to our friends. We wrote our names on the trees outside our house. We spent several evenings looking at photos of all our good times and everyday life in Thailand, trying to end with grateful attitudes and good memories. We processed our feelings—all different and changing by the day. We left with many tears, feeling drained and exhausted.

Landing here in our “home” country was stepping dizzily from the roller coaster into many unknowns, especially for the kids. Silas often commented on how everyone was speaking English and how strange it was to understand everything. We marveled at the carpeting, warm water in the bathroom faucets, expanses of grass, and the wide open spaces. One day, driving in the Rosedale area, Claire mentioned that we hadn’t seen a single person since we got off the interstate about twenty miles before. After the crowds of Bangkok, it was almost surreal and spooky. We needed to describe what farms in America were like and why the houses were so widely spaced. We explained the rules of sports that seem like a natural part of every American childhood. Our kids didn’t know the rules or even the names of balls used in basketball, football, and baseball. We noticed that some people seemed to be obsessed with sports! We observed that people here were extremely busy and laughed and talked loudly. They even wore shoes inside the house which felt strange to us.

Those were some of the superficial ways that re-entry hit us in those first days. Other parts were refreshing and energizing. We finally had time with our families again. We had a crab feast in Delaware and ate Jess’ hotdogs in Virginia. Eliza and Claire learned to use Grandma’s sewing machine and Silas learned to play baseball with Granddaddy. Each one of those things roots our kids in their American identity. Traditions and times with grandparents make them feel like they have other homes on American soil, even though the house in Thailand still feels like their true home. I spent time going through old black and white pictures of my ancestors and chose a few to print and frame for our new house. We took the kids to an old Rhodes cemetery, and we had a picnic and mowed the plots while Dad told them stories about the past. I had this longing for my children to know where they came from, that their history goes back far beyond parents and grandparents. Only here can I effectively share with my kids where they come from. They are already rooted in God’s global Kingdom and in the country of Thailand, now I wanted to give them roots in their passport culture too.

Claire processes life with Grandaddy during first days of re-entry.

Tom and I had this dream, maybe a crazy one, that we could help our kids find identities in two cultures; a dream that they could feel comfortable enough (and uncomfortable enough, too) in each country to flow between the two. We knew that realistically our family would continue to be a part of two cultures and wondered if it was possible to make them heart citizens of both or at least give them the opportunity to bond more deeply. So the next two years would be an experiment for our family. We knew we were returning to Thailand in 2015 because of our commitment to the long-term work in that country. We long to see God’s Kingdom come there. For the kids, thinking of our return to Bangkok is a wonderful thing; they are eager to return to their life in the city. They are homesick at times. In the meantime we are blessed to have two years to work at the RMM office in support of the work in Thailand and to experience many new aspects of American culture.

We prayed a lot before we arrived—for good teachers, good friends for the kids, for a house to live in. Sometimes I have to look around me and laugh about how good God is to us and all the ways he’s provided. Our kids are in a Columbus city school that is high quality and they love their teachers who are each uniquely suited to our children. They are thriving in that setting. We love the Clintonville area where we live with its delightful library (a heaven of books for a family of readers!), the marshy and wooded bike paths, and fun food trucks. We’ve begun meeting international friends through International Friendships at the Ohio State University. Over the holidays, we had a turkey feast with Chinese and Korean friends. Eliza has a new best friend at school named Muji, whose parents are from Hong Kong. The girls recently had their first playdate—a big success! Keeping some of our Thailand experiences (like eating Thai food, speaking a little Thai, listening to Thai music) and meeting Asian friends who are new to American culture, makes us feel connected to our life there. It’s easy to feel stifled, if we can’t find “global friends” to connect with.

As we re-entered the U.S., I had a strong desire to prioritize. Early in my adjustment, I only had energy enough for very specific things. I took time for creative writing or meeting with one friend over a lot of activity. We didn’t sign our kids up for extra-curricular activities. We kept our life quiet. It was like wetting our toes in the culture, then retreating back to the sand. As time goes on, we’re going out deeper and deeper, becoming involved in more activities, committing to more, but in the first six months, we were in protective mode; protecting our kids from overstimulation and ourselves from burnout. If we seemed a little quiet, a little timid, it’s because inside, we were overwhelmed with the choices. In Thailand, our choices about what to be involved with were very few; here they are abundant. We still feel the need for some of those boundaries and sometimes say “no” when we feel activities are becoming overwhelming.

Even many of the day-to-day routines of life felt overwhelming at first. Buying a car and getting it insured, needing to make choices about an internet provider, TV, cell phones, etc. was difficult. In so many ways, we needed to choose our standard of living. We looked around at what everyone was doing and we asked ourselves how our life should look. It’s like starting completely fresh. We are re-learning how to budget and how to be simple and frugal in new ways.

We have many tensions inside us as well. The tension of a changed style of church is one we sometimes struggle with. We had become accustomed to small group settings, attending church primarily with seekers and to a simple style of Bible study. Now we re-enter the world of sermons and Sunday school and many Christian resources and opportunities and ways to be involved in the structure of church. While many of the things offered are wonderful and encouraging, again, the overwhelmed feelings come. We sometimes feel like newcomers at our church although we have history with many people. London Christian Fellowship has been a warm and welcoming place, but we still need to rebuild many relationships which have a gap of years. How do we belong when we know we are leaving again? How do we engage but keep our priorities and our focus on missions?

Our family on the day in June that we moved into our new home in Columbus.

At times, we have failed to do our part in a healthy re-entry. We have been judgmental. We’ve gotten frustrated with “the church” in general and a perceived lack of care for those outside the church. We’ve escaped into books or isolation rather than relating to friends. In some ways, we’ve felt that this is not a true re-entry. Because we know we are returning to Thailand, we can stay somewhat engaged in Thailand (at least the ministry aspect of it), so have not been required to fully re-engage and re-enter this culture. In some ways we avoided some of the hard parts of re-entry.

Through all the changes we’ve experienced, Jesus has been our anchor. He has answered our prayers every time and helped us to regroup as a family and work toward new relationships. One song that we love as a family and has become a family theme for us is the hymn, “He Leadeth Me.” While we want this security, these roots for ourselves and our children, we face the reality that our lives will continue to feel somewhat uprooted and we want to continue to see physical and spiritual momentum and movement in our journey as a family. “He leadeth me, O blessed thought! O words with heav’nly comfort fraught! Whate’er I do, where’er I be, still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.” They are old-fashioned-looking words but very true in our life as a family. If we didn’t have that sense of his leading hand and peace in his calling for our family, we would be floundering.

We still don’t know how this experiment will end. We don’t know if our children will adjust here and still want to return to Thailand at the end of two years. We don’t know if they will be angry at us for all the transition and moves we are making—the choices we make which deeply affect their lives. We worry about them. However, we believe the Holy Spirit has led us to Thailand and that is the calling of our whole family. We know that following the Holy Spirit often feels like hopping on that roller coaster again. So, we trust him and continue to re-enter.

More Notes from the Roller Coaster

A few more returned RMM workers talk about what coming “home” felt like to them.

Wendy Mayer, who re-entered in June 2010 with her husband Kevin and their kids, Evan and Ellie, was an RMM worker in Malaga, Spain. Wendy is currently studying nursing at Ohio State and Kevin is the director of SEND Ministries at RMM.

When we moved back to the States after living in Granada, Spain, it felt like entering our home, but it was no longer familiar or known. During the years we were away, life had moved on, people had changed, and everything was different. We now had the challenge of finding our place in a community that we had known all our lives, but no longer fit into. Our worldview and perspective had changed, making us round pegs trying to fit into square holes. Regarding the practicalities of life, in some ways it felt as if we were starting all over again. We had to make arrangements for living, purchase a vehicle, find jobs, and choose a school for our children (to name a few) and all these big decisions needed to happen at once. It was overwhelming, but through it I developed a deeper trust in God. A verse that I noted in my journal during that time was Psalms 142:5: “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.” God was my refuge during that time, and through that time of upheaval in my life, all the decisions coming at me felt less stressful when my eyes were on Jesus.

Being human, I often forgot to keep things in perspective and life sometimes felt very stressful. Our home church and friends were there for us in very helpful ways, such as helping to clean our home before we moved in and providing us with a grocery shower to help restock our cupboards. However, just as we had just landed into a changing community, our lives had also changed drastically since we left years earlier. In some ways, it felt as if we had landed from Mars. For some people, we might as well have been Martians, as we felt avoided and ignored. Others did their best to ask about our experience and tried to identify with our experiences.


Jon and Dawn,* RMM workers in North Africa, re-entered in January of 2012. Jon is serving as the interim president of Rosedale Bible College and Dawn tutors refugees and recently-arrived immigrants in the English language.
 
Four members of our family returned to the U.S. in late January 2012, after three-and-a-half years in North Africa. The sons accompanying us were 13 and 15 years old. Their older brothers (ages 18 and 20) had come back to the U.S. several years before to complete high school and attend college. We returned when we did because we had come to see the importance of being in the U.S. while our sons launched into young adulthood.

What are things you did to prepare for re-entry?

Dawn: There is so much physical preparation for a trans-continental move that it can become all-consuming. Emotional preparation is a little harder to achieve. We tried to say strong good–byes to people and places that were dear to us. That involved letting friends and co-workers know how meaningful it had been to share life in that setting. It included moments of grief. There’s no way to avoid the deep ache that accompanies not knowing if you will ever see a friend again.

When you re-entered, what were some of the initial cultural differences you noticed?

Jon: Sometimes it’s little things. Cars stay behind the line when the traffic light is red here.

Dawn: Yes, I laughed out loud the first time I drove into town and sat at an intersection waiting for the light to change. Everyone was so passive! There was no cutting in front of the line with a vehicle or honking. And where were all the people? I couldn’t see one pedestrian as I sat there!

What is an analogy for what re-entry felt like for you?

Dawn: I felt as if I was in an extended fog. Since we returned to a community in which we had lived before, familiar things and people were all around me but my mind was clouded by the huge changes and all the choices that faced us.

How did people in your church help with your re-entry?

Jon: Soon after we arrived our church had a grocery shower to stock our cupboards. That was a practical and helpful way to welcome us back.

Dawn: Some good friends took the time to sit and ask questions and listen to us reflect. That’s invaluable. From our observations, perhaps it’s easier for people to show interest in a short time overseas than it is to process the experience of years of living abroad.

What were some of the hardest things about re-entry?

Jon: Finding a place can be a challenge. We returned to some of our roles, responsibilities and friendships, but not to all of them. So the question was, “Who am I here and now? I knew who I was before I left. I knew who I was in my other world. But who am I now?” That can take time.

Dawn: Having a purpose for this phase and location was missing for me initially. Creating a home where our family can gather is important, but what else? There are so many Christians here. How am I even needed? It took me a while to begin to find a reason for being.

It also takes time to process where we’ve been. How do we weave the living and the leaving of the past years into the fabric of our lives? We’re grateful to God for his faithfulness during a stretching time and release to him the fragments of rigorous language-learning, budding friendships, and family stresses. It will be his work to make them part of his big story.

On our final evening with our North Africa team, we listened together to Josh Garrels’ rendition of the song Farther Along. “Farther along we’ll know all about it; Farther along we’ll understand why.” The past, the future, and life transitions rest in the hands of our Father.