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August 21, 2014

Six Ways to Help Kids Develop an Interest in Missions

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By Brenda Zook


Have a personal mission focus. A mission focus is kind of like a broccoli focus or a read-a-book-instead-of-watching-TV focus. It greatly depends on…the parents. You want your kiddos to love broccoli? You've gotta eat it! You want your sons to love reading books? No point in just talking about it, you have to read. In front of them. Prioritize reading. Take them to the library, read aloud to them, make time for reading…oh, I digress…but not really. If you want missions to be important in your family, missions should be important to you. If you say mission work is important but skip the missions focus Sundays at your church. If you toss the mission report letters in the trash unopened. If you make a major contribution to the building fund and throw a fiver in the missions offering, your kids are going to get the message you are modeling, not the one you talk about. So, the first, best way to raise kids with a heart for what God is doing around the world and in your community is to develop a heart for what God is doing around the world and in your community. No, that's not a repetitive typo. Reread. You want them to have it, you have to have it. If you don't, ask God to give you a heart like his. God is always willing to do more in our lives than what we are willing to have him do. So, ask…and hang on for the ride.


Meet missionaries regularly. Connect. In your home, in your church. Whenever your church hosts missionaries, be present. Learn to know them by name; learn to know their kids by name. Discover their interests; learn to know them as individuals not "The Missionaries." This is the way we discovered that missionary kids are, more than anything else, just kids (Missionary parents too, for that matter!). They face many similar challenges but in different locations. Kids are always losing their teeth or their pets. Kids want to do the same things your kids want to do—play with the newest Lego set, learn to play a musical instrument, read a new book, learn to ride bike. We had the delight of teaching missionary kids from two different families the joy of tree climbing!

I think it is valuable to occasionally send a card or letter or small care package to someone you are learning to know. Facebook and e-mail are great, but a hard copy of a letter in hand is worth two on the screen, in my opinion! I know that receiving real mail is an event at our house, and when mail bearing exotic looking stamps has traveled halfway around the world to arrive in our metal box, it stays visible for a long time on the table, on the bulletin board, or taped to the wall beside the desk. It's a big deal. And in this way, a missionary moves from being an unknown super-Christian to a real flesh and blood person with unique interests, distinctive handwriting and a certain way of "talking" on paper. I think kids identify more with missionaries and with the concept of missions when they realize that real people are involved in real places. That's one reason we decided to...


Create a prayer map. We incorporated this activity into the beginning of our home school day. We created little markers for various missionaries we knew through our church and conference and placed them on "their" country on a world map in our school room. When we heard that families were home for furlough or an extended visit, we moved their names back to their passport country…but only for a little while. Over time I became keenly aware of the fluid nature of "home" for these families. If I could use one word to characterize what we saw over and over again, it would be "transition," a word we take very seriously at our house. Saying goodbye is an intense and continual part of their lives. Even when they weren't leaving, co-workers were deciding not to return to their focus country. Or, short term workers who had perhaps even lived in their home were leaving. Again. Grandparents spent a week or three visiting, and then…another good-bye. We often prayed for kids entering new school situations or getting rid of beloved "stuff.” We prayed for peace and we prayed for parents to have patience. Missionaries became real families that we "knew," and we felt personally responsible when we heard that something had gone well.


Keep track of those newsletters! I know we are in the digital age, but many missionaries still send out a newsletter update printed on paper. What do you do with those newsletters? I purchased a large three-ring binder and filled it with pocket folders. On the lower half of the pocket, I tape a picture of the missionary/family, one per pocket. Each time we receive a newsletter, we file it in the pocket, always the newest on top. We had a season of life where we kept that notebook open in our main living area, and each day we turned a page and prayed for a different family based on the information in the current update. This was a way that these names and facts became connected with faces and places for our kids, so that when the missionaries did show up in person at church or at Conference in the summer, our kids had a head start in "knowing" them.


Follow missionary blogs. In recent years, we've been diligently following a number of missionary blogs during our home school mornings. We try to read from a variety of sources each week, but I'll be honest…we have our favorites; generally, the ones with the most frequent posts (There have been days when my son wanted me to e-mail someone and tell them to update their blog NOW!) We have thoroughly enjoyed seeing pictures of family adventures and events from around the world. We know that many of our friends are writing from sensitive areas where they can't report all of the details of their work, but we can read between the lines and again, when something happens, we have a tendency to feel that we had something to do with it because we have been praying.


Did I mention pray? I know I have incorporated this obvious tip with many of the above suggestions, but I think it is the core of a mission focus that is available to anyone. Some families will visit a foreign country or have missionaries stay in their homes while they are on furlough. Some families will contribute financially in a substantial way. But everyone can pray. Everyone. We've prayed for runaway street kids and asked God to comfort a friend whose pet had died.

So I end as I began…to help your family develop a mission focus, you must develop your own mission focus! Matthew 6:21 says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." I think one way of understanding this verse is that wherever you have invested yourself – time, money, interest, focus – that's where your heart will be. So, if you want to strengthen your heart for missions, the heart of your children for missions, then you need to seriously invest in missions. Make it a priority to pray for these people who are doing the work of the Kingdom in places where you may never visit. I have found that when I hear news from say, Thailand, or North Africa or Ecuador, I have a keen interest because my heart is already there. I know people living, walking, eating sticky rice, wading through knee deep flooding, trekking across barren hillsides and raising their families in those places. I love these people God has brought into my life who are laying down their lives for the sake of his Kingdom. And I hope my son is learning to love them too.

Brenda Zook lives with Max on Hickory Lane in Belleville PA. Their last bird in the nest, youngest son James, is entering 7th grade and the older boys are launched and married; one delightful grandson brings her joy! Brenda enjoys perennial, herb, and vegetable gardening but always welcomes the frost. The motto "Be where your feet are" challenges her to live fully in the present. She is especially fond of M&M's and guacamole. (Not combined!) She finds pleasure in preparing food, reading, problem solving, teaching, and writing. She leans hard on God's faithfulness. You can follow her blog at www.brendazook.weebly.com

August 19, 2014

Where Are They Now? RMM asks REACH alumni: “What is your new mission, post-REACH?”

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A Homegrown Mission

By Beth Hooley

From December 2011 to August 2012, I lived on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand with a REACH team of five girls. While there, I had the privilege of working in a classroom for children with special needs among other ministry opportunities. Although I’d known I wanted to work with children with special needs before REACH, this experience showed me that it was something I would deeply enjoy, and it fueled the passion that God had placed in me years before.

Once I returned to the States, I wanted to keep the missional mindset that I had formed in REACH as I transitioned into being a college student. I reasoned that a person could be a missionary anywhere, as long as they were carrying out the mission God had placed on their life. Because of this, I chose to see my four years at college as a unique opportunity to be a missionary on a college campus, relating to college students in a way that no one outside of that time of life could. I was a student, but I was also on a mission: to reach my peers with the love of Christ. This underlying desire led to me become a Spiritual Life Assistant (similar to a Class Chaplain position) in the freshman dorm my sophomore and junior years, where my job description was simply to minister to the girls I lived with. I prayed for the girls, listened, mentored, and lived alongside them.

"God showed me that it is not a matter of where we serve him, but how... He wants us to serve him where he places us—to follow in obedience."When I had first returned from Thailand, I had a burning desire to go back and live there forever, serving God as a life-long missionary. I was under the impression that if a person wanted to “do missions” in a foreign country, God would inherently want them to do that as well. After all, doing missions abroad is the highest level of serving God, is it not? God showed me, however, that it is not a matter of where we serve him, but how. I realized that God’s calling for my life was different than I’d anticipated. He wants us to serve him where he places us—to follow in obedience his direction wherever that may be, doing what he has gifted us to do. I saw that my gift was working with children with special needs, and that he was leading me to live in the States and serve him there.

Looking forward, I don’t know what exactly that calling will look like. I don’t know if I will be a teacher or work with individuals with special needs in some other way. All I know is that God planted a seed in me that is growing into something beautiful and full of promise. My “mission” as I understand it today is to live in a small town in Iowa, serving people with special needs. More than that, I am beginning to have a vision, not only for those individuals with special needs but also for the families and loved ones surrounding them. I desire to impact all those I come into contact with, showing through my compassion that God’s love is for all people, regardless of physical or cognitive ability. I want my equal consideration for all people to show that God does not make mistakes and that we are all his children, deserving of care and respect.

My plea is this: do not think that the only way to be a missionary is to live in a far-off land doing exotic things. We are all missionaries, sent on individual missions by God to impact those around us. As it says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” My career may be in education and my hometown in the Midwest, but my purpose is much deeper than teaching academic curriculum. I am a missionary. I may not be sent by a mission organization, but I am sent by God, as we all are, to go and make disciples of all nations—including this one.

I have found in serving and teaching that I often learn more than I teach. I have learned so much from every child and adult with special needs that I have worked closely with. Each individual I have met represents a lesson that I can take with me for the future. In Thailand, Doom-Dam taught me that love speaks in all languages. In the States, Elliott taught me joy with his irresistible laughter. Brian, a man who suffered from a traumatic brain injury in college, taught me with his overwhelming optimism to never take a moment for granted. Ricky, an endearing young man who has had many reconstructive surgeries, taught me to never take anyone at face value. Claudia, a pre-teen who uses a wheelchair and has the gift of encouragement, taught me that no dream is too small or foolish. They all taught me that everyone communicates in some way, and everyone can love and be loved. Some of us just take a little extra time and effort to discover our personality, like unwrapping a Christmas present. We may strive for weeks and only see a peek of what’s inside, but I have found that it’s always worth the effort.

10 Tips on How to be Inclusive of Children with Special Needs

Beth currently works at Camp Courageous of Iowa, a camp that serves kids and adults with special needs. She says: “Most times it doesn’t seem like a job because I love it so much!” In her free time, she enjoys reading books, playing guitar, and hanging out with babies. In the fall, she will begin her final year at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (near Columbus, OH), where she will receive her degree in special education. In May 2015, she plans to marry Daniel Sutter and move to Pella, Iowa. Daniel and Beth met in high school when both were counselors at Bible Memory Camp and they are looking forward to finding out how God wants to use them together in Pella.

10 Tips on How to be Inclusive of Children with Special Needs

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Respect. Treat and talk to children with special needs with respect. Do not talk down or use a condescending tone of voice; talk to them the same way you would to any child. At the same time, be clear and avoid using figurative language (such as “it’s raining cats and dogs”) as this may be confusing to a child who takes these phrases literally.


Person First Language. One way to show respect to people with special needs is to use person first language. This simply means you put the person before the label. Instead of saying “an autistic child” or “a special needs child” say, “a child with autism” or “a child with special needs.” This shows that you are focusing more on the person than the disability.


Interact. The biggest mistake that adults make when they meet someone with special needs is failing to interact with them. The same rules of polite conversation of adults to children are applicable when the child has special needs. First, introduce yourself. Depending on the child’s special needs, it may be necessary to take the child’s hand or place a hand on the child’s shoulder to make a proper introduction. Then explain the activity that you will be doing with the child. Explain the different steps of the activity, including the beginning and the end, while making as much eye contact as possible. Some children may not be comfortable with making eye contact and should not be forced to do so. This is not necessarily a sign of inattention.


Observe. Some children with special needs perceive sensory input in different ways and may be unable to verbalize discomfort. Remember that all behavior is communication. Always keep a lookout for these differences and think about what the child’s behavior is communicating to you. If you’re not sure what you’re seeing, ask the child’s parents or other adults for advice.


Be Flexible. Some adults say that they will not change the way they do things to accommodate one person in a group. But the whole point of teaching is to use a variety of methods to help another person understand and master new skills. If a child does not have the appropriate motor skills for an activity, help the child go through the motions and assign a buddy to help the child practice on the sidelines for a few minutes. A child may have difficulty understanding some concepts, but when those same concepts are presented in a game or hands-on art project, they make more sense. Think about who will be participating as you plan, and make sure you have ideas of how to alter the activity if necessary. Failing to accommodate, results in highlighting the disability rather than the abilities of the child.


Be Consistent. Many children with special needs require a consistent schedule or routine to feel comfortable and safe. It can be helpful to assimilate normal routines into an environment that is entirely new. It is also important to provide and clearly communicate consistent and fair expectations for all children.


Use Visual, Auditory or Tactile Cues. Having the right cues in an environment can mean the difference between participation and non-participation for many children with special needs. Tactile cues such as gently touching a person’s shoulder, offering a blanket or other soft fabric, or providing silly putty are easy ways to mark a transition and get a person’s attention. Giving children with extra energy something to do, such as bouncing their feet on a bungee cord strung between chair legs can help them focus.


Have a Plan. And a Back-up Plan. In the world of special needs, there is always a Plan B, and usually a Plan C. Make sure that there is space to calm down and move freely if things go badly.


Person Focus on Ability, Not Disability. Think about what each child can do instead of focusing on what they can’t contribute. Often times, children with special needs have exceptional talents, such as in math, music, or art. Strive to find out what those talents are, and highlight them.


Be Positive and Patient. Having a positive attitude and patience are incredibly important qualities for anyone who works with children with special needs. Having high expectations for children with special needs makes a world of difference; high expectations result in more participation and growth. Being positive about what a child can do and being patient enough to try multiple ways of getting there more often ends in success.

Based on this article from www.friendshipcircle.org.

August 11, 2014

Toward a Clearer Understanding of Church Planting

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By Nathan Olmstead

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

My belief is that we have been guilty of over-thinking “church planting.” We have made complex what was intended to be simple and, in the process, have formulated an unbiblical and unhealthy view of our God-given responsibility and mandate as Christians which is to “make disciples.” My heart is not necessarily that we would remove the phrase “church planting” from our vocabulary, but that we would have greater understanding of its biblical implication.

"As followers of Jesus, we have not been commanded to plant churches, but we have been commanded to make disciples."To clarify, the phrase “church planting” is found nowhere in Scripture. As followers of Jesus, we have not been commanded to plant churches, but we have been commanded to make disciples. As I have talked about church planting with many people, I have come to the realization that the phrase invokes, for many, instantaneous pressure associated with words like: institution, numbers, membership, building, methodology, etc. To be of the persuasion that we are responsible to build/plant/form a church would be to strip Jesus of his authority to be the only one who will build his church: “I will build my church…” (Matt. 16:18); “…gave Him to be head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). I have also found that for many people it is difficult to view church planting for what it really is: disciple making. Many times, this is because of the desire to be in control of what the church “should” look like. The pertinent question is: Do we really trust Jesus, through the power of the Spirit, to establish his church? Or are we going to rely on fallible man to dictate what church should look like?

Jesus is our best model of how to go about making disciples. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus’ model was one of high intentionality of dwelling with people, more specifically his disciples, and by so doing he revealed to them the Father. One could even argue that Jesus developed more intimacy and discipled more closely the threesome of Peter, James and John. I believe that in so doing, he is revealing to us that sometimes smaller is better. In order to become close to a person in a way that points him to the Father, we need to take time to walk with that person.

The Apostle Paul’s model was one and the same as that of Jesus’. Paul focused on the gospel and on making followers of the way of Christ; he didn’t seem to have an institutional church model that he was attempting to establish. The disciples naturally banded together into communities.

With the understanding that all believers are called to make disciples, what are some of the ways that I, as a disciple of Jesus, could “dwell among people” and reveal his glory to them? I believe that the answer is simply to follow the command of Jesus to baptize, and teach all his ways. Water baptism, which identifies the new disciple with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection, also establishes the supremacy of Christ in the heart of the individual and points the disciple to Jesus continually. This “pointing to Jesus as Truth” is also the activity of the disciple maker as he or she walks alongside the individual. The intentional work of making disciples eliminates the pressures of “planting or building a church” and emphasizes the heart of the prospective disciple to know Jesus and to walk in obedience to him.

We are in the process of planting a Spanish speaking church in the town of Lowville, New York. Although we would thoroughly enjoy seeing a stable plant come out of this, our ultimate goal is to send many of the people that we are blessed to work with back to their respective homes and countries as disciple makers/church planters. We have seen this happen in the mountains of central Mexico where three young men, upon returning to their homes with the vision to teach their community, have established a church plant and are currently working toward planting a church in every community in their demographic. We believe that God desires to reproduce this in many more locations and countries. With this understanding, the focus of our work Stateside is disciple making and discipleship that is easily reproducible in any context.

Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37 has been instrumental in my understanding of evangelism leading to biblical discipleship. How we view the spiritual condition of those around us will greatly influence our desire to present Jesus to them. Taking note of the progression from verse 1, “the Spirit of the Lord set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones,” onto verse 2, “Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.” God revealed to Ezekiel the need of the people by putting him in the place of need, and it was through active movement among the bones that he received the prophetic word that brought life to the dead. There is a difference between sitting down among people who are dry and actually moving around among the people and rubbing shoulders with them, recognizing their dead condition before God. Are we willing to be placed where there is great need and be moved by God’s Spirit to be Jesus to those people? The place of greatest need may be in our own communities, in a neighboring community, or across the oceans. This is what I see in Jesus “dwelling among men.” He walked with them, talked with them, rubbed shoulders with them, and then he called them to follow him. This is, at the core, evangelism leading to discipleship. It was only through connecting at a heart level that Ezekiel could effectively prophesy life into the dryness.

With the heart of the Great Commission being “make disciples” through baptism and teaching obedience, what is the ongoing effect of this type of a focus? I believe that the effect is continual “going/disciple making,” and our “going” should take us to “all the nations.” In so doing, we are not alone. Jesus’ promise to us still stands: “I am with you always (all the days), even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20).

As RMM’s Church Planting Team Coordinator and team, we have been given the charge to assist 10% of Conservative Mennonite Churches to initiate church plants within a three-year period that began February 2013. We exist to assist the churches of CMC develop a strategy for multiplication and, in so doing, desire to put before the churches an applicable model that will allow for more natural and organic church plants to occur. Currently, we are a three-member team: Larry Kaufman, Dion Peachey and me. We desire to work closely with any church or individual that has an interest in seeing the kingdom of God extended in their respective region. We are currently in conversation with several churches and individuals, exploring with them what living out Jesus would look like among a different demographic in their area.

Disciple making and discipleship are not easy and no two locations are the same. There are many challenges in taking on our God-given responsibility, but the blessing of seeing a life transformed by the power of the Spirit is the most wonderful miracle in life. Would you be a part of this amazing work of seeing lives transformed right where you’re at?

Nathan and Denise and children (Abigail, Isaiah, Clay, Cassia, Trenton, and Jeremiah) live in Croghan, New York. Nathan was a missionary intern with RMM in Cuenca Ecuador from 2000-2003. Nathan and Denise are involved in a Spanish-speaking church plant in their area. Nathan also currently works part time with RMM as Church Planting Team Coordinator and part time in agricultural sales. If you have interest in disciple making or have a question for Nate, please contact him at nate@rmmoffice.org.

Getting to Know…Pablo and Judi

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Pablo and Judi have lived in Granada, Spain as RMM workers for the past six and a half years. Previously, they served in Ecuador and more recently pastored at Shiloh Mennonite Church in Plain City, Ohio. Here they share some of their heart for their friends in Spain and a taste of their daily life as expatriates.

*Note: Last names omitted and names of friends removed for security reasons.

Where are you from in the U.S. and who is your sending church? How do you stay connected with them?

In Spain when someone asks where you’re from, they mean, where were you born? For Judi and I, that’s Kentucky and Michigan, but Judi has also lived in Maryland and Virginia, and I’ve lived in Florida. We met in Costa Rica, married and lived in Ohio, moved to Ecuador, then back to Ohio, so we’re from a lot of places! Our sending church is Shiloh. We stay in touch through Pastor Brian and the people on our Missionary Support Team via a weekly e-mail update. We also visit the church on our bi-annual home assignment.

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

Living a normal Jesus life and sharing him with people God puts in our path is the heart of what we do, just like any believer. We would like to someday see little communities of faith spring up, but that is in God’s hands.

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

Living intentionally out of the bubble of a like-minded community of faith is challenging. It’s like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia: not “safe,” but good. The good parts are the surprising, unrehearsed opportunities to share our faith with our friends. The “unsafe” part is being in the world but not of the world. Community is comfortable, predictable, fun (most of the time!), and it can (and should) be safe, but that’s not usually where the people are who need the Lord.

Getting to know people is also a challenge. The differences in language, culture, customs, mindset and beliefs are sometimes huge and somewhat overwhelming. However, God has given us many friends through language interchange, English teaching, choir, environmental class, and networking (getting to know friends of friends of friends). The challenge is getting below surface communication to heart stuff. That takes a while!

Understanding how things work can also be challenging. Spain is more similar to the U.S. than many countries, but understanding its history along with the legal, educational, political, economic, social and religious systems is sometimes daunting, even with a decent grasp of the language.

What are some barriers to Spanish people accepting the Good News and knowing Jesus?

Oddly enough, the church itself can be a barrier. That is, the traditional state Church. Constitutionally (since 1978) it’s not a state church, but in practice it might as well be. Nearly 20 centuries of tradition are not changed by a pen stroke! Tradition turns into law, just as it had in Jesus’ day. Much of what he said about established religion and its leaders back then is remarkably similar to the Roman Catholic Church today. Paul said “the letter kills” (2 Cor. 3:6). Many people here are put off by established religion and haven’t met anyone who integrates faith into practical daily living.

Another major barrier is the “enlightened” rationalistic, humanistic, modernistic, atheistic thinking that has so permeated Western society. Religion has successfully been relegated to an “upper story” that has no connection to the real world. People say it’s fine if it works for you, but they’re equally fine if it doesn’t. For many, it hasn’t worked! We say it’s about relationship with God, not religion, but that’s usually received with blank, uncomprehending stares. It seems almost better to not even identify with religion or Christianity, because of the preconceived notion of what that is.

Materialism has also deadened hearts to the good news. Abundance has always been a killer, it seems, to spiritual vitality. Where there is no need, people tend not to seek God.

What is a ministry or project you are doing right now?

We prefer to use the term “activity.” I’m a bit of a dreamer and we’ve tried projects, but they haven’t seemed to work too well. What we want is to give our dreams about people and activities to God and watch him create the story. We often become players in his drama, but it’s his story, not ours, that we hope and pray will become “history.”

What is the most different aspect of the culture?

Maybe it’s the group mindset rather than the individual one. And when Spaniards are together in a group, they’re loud, with everyone seemingly talking at once, which can be quite confusing.

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

This social, group mentality is evidenced by participation in activities such as choir, adult education classes, hiking, or social groups, called associations. The group gives belonging, identity, purpose and usually plenty of fun! In many ways, it’s a secular version of what we’d love to see as little Christian communities of faith, rather than the formal, more serious version of “church” we were brought up in.

What is the typical way you get around (transportation)?

Walking and bus. For special occasions we rent a car. Mixed blessings: more time spent in getting places, but without the hassles of owning a car and parking shortage. Walking is good exercise, too! What are some of your favorite things to do for fun?

For me, (Pablo), hiking has become an essential part of life, as a way of keeping in shape, but it also provides a good opportunity to admire God’s creation, be in touch with him, pray and listen to music. I also love biking for the same reasons. Then there is singing, playing tennis, reading, and going out to a film or dinner with Judi. Many of these things are more fun when you do them with other like-minded people, and open doors for further relationships with them. Judi also likes to do word games on her iPad, drink coffee and go shopping with friends.

What’s your favorite local food?

Paella (a rice dish), cured ham, chorizo (sausage), migas (fried day–old bread and meat, a one–dish meal), gazpacho (cold soup), Manchego cheese, tostadas with grated tomato and olive oil.

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

Pablo: I know God loves me, but have been asking him to help me feel his love more. Now I’m asking for a deeper love the same way for him. That’s probably a never-ending story... A is the unemployed son of T and M, close friends of ours. We met him recently on the street as he was going to the unemployment office. We said we’d pray for an interview. He didn’t have any luck there, but a few days later he got a call from a restaurant in France asking him to go for an interview. This is near where he was born. We don’t know the outcome of that interview yet.

Judi: R is a friend who we had lost touch with for several months. Just recently, I’ve been able to reconnect with her and have had some challenging conversations. She wants to follow Jesus but has many “trappings” of strange beliefs in which she has dabbled in the past.

What is God teaching you right now?

Pablo: To wait on him, don’t run ahead or lag behind, just stay in step with him. I’m not always a fast learner and don’t get it right all the time, but I’m learning and he’s patient. And he loves me as I am, in spite of my shortcomings.

Judi: To wait patiently with joy and not with bated breath as we water the “hidden seeds” and watch for the first signs of germination.

August 07, 2014

Missions Day Offering tops $296,000!

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A big thanks to the Rosedale Mission Cruisers (Neon Green) and Ride for Missions (Kelly Green)
We praise God for the generous response to this year’s Missions Day Offering. As of August 4 the grand total has exceeded $296,000! The following components are all significant pieces that combined to make up the grand total:

Ride for Missions = $150,341
Rosedale Mission Cruisers = $12,096
Lead gifts from Touchstone Donors = $100,000
The offering received at Conference = $34,108 (includes contributions received at the RMM office designated for the offering)

Grand Total = $296,545

Thanks to all who contributed in one way or another to the offering. We rejoice in knowing how many lives will be impacted for Christ as a result!

August 06, 2014

Transformation and Mission

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L-R: Yolanda, Alejandro, Omar, Dion and Naty (leaders of the church home group), Anabel

Jesus Did What Only Jesus Can Do

Last month Janice and I had the privilege of attending a special wedding. Weddings are always special, but this one was extra special.

It wasn’t extra special because it was in June, of course, since June is the most popular month for weddings.

It wasn’t extra special because the service itself was perfect. It was supposed to happen in a beautiful park, but unfortunately it rained—really hard!—right when the wedding was supposed to start. Most of us got thoroughly soaked, and since the storm was in no hurry to move on, we ended up moving on. The reception hall did double duty that night.

It wasn’t extra special because it was the wedding of a close relative. We’d probably have to go back hundreds if not thousands of years to find a common ancestor with this couple. The bride and groom were from Mexico, and we’ve only known them for a little over a year.

And it wasn’t even extra special because it was a wedding that exposed us to the cultural traditions of Mexico, though it was a treat to experience wedding customs that are quite different from those we are used to.

What made this wedding extra special was the transformation that it represented. A year or so ago when we first met them at a gathering of our church, Omar and Anabel had been partners for years already. They had three beautiful children, the oldest of whom is in middle school. We could tell by their countenances that all was not well, but at the time, we had no idea how bad things were.

Omar is a coworker of Alejandro, a brother in our church whose own life has been transformed by Jesus in recent years. Because of Alejandro’s growing relationship with Jesus, he was able to promise the same possibility to Omar as they shared with each other along the way.

Alejandro and Omar talked a lot at work, but Alejandro and his wife Yolanda also opened their home to Omar and Anabel. They had many late night discussions, sometimes with Omar, sometimes with Anabel, eventually with both. At that time, it looked like Omar and Anabel’s relationship was nearly irreparable. But, Alejandro and Yolanda kept pointing Omar and Anabel to scripture, to Jesus.

And guess what? Jesus did what only Jesus can do. Transformation happened!

"We began to see it in their eyes. Now there was hope and light… We’ve watched Omar and Anabel be changed into new people."We began to see it in their eyes. Now there was hope and light. They came to realize that God wanted them to make the commitment of marriage to one another, for life. Anabel eventually expressed her desire for adult baptism, but Omar wasn’t ready yet. Two weeks before the wedding we were overjoyed when Omar told the church that he was now ready to be baptized. The following Sunday we baptized them both in Big Darby Creek, and six days later they were married.

In Romans 12, Paul writes: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).

We’ve watched Omar and Anabel be changed into new people. They’re thinking differently than they used to. They’ve learned to know more of God’s will, and they’re responding to him in obedience. More and more, they’re choosing to not copy the behavior and customs of this world.

How does missions relate to this transformation? It seems to me that missions relates to transformation in a cyclical, cause and effect sort of way. As our lives are transformed, our actions and our words change. Like Alejandro did, we take (and sometimes make) opportunities to introduce Jesus to those around us. As those people respond out of their own transformation, they become tools in the hands of God to bring transformation to others. And on and on it goes.

That’s why Jesus came, and it’s what he invites us to join him in. We’re inviting the nations to worship Jesus and be transformed by him because we’ve accepted his invitation to us and are being transformed ourselves. That’s missions.

August 04, 2014

A Call to New Frontiers

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By Ethan Mast

Is your home fully dedicated to the Kingdom and what the King wants to use your home for? Is it set aside for Kingdom purposes?

These words, spoken by Jay Martin* on Missions Day 2014, joined with a chorus of Conference speakers calling CMC families to reach out with their homes. Jay, RMM regional director for the Mediterranean, addressed his question to three groups of people: those called overseas, those called to stay where they are, and those called to migrate to nearby urban areas. The overall challenge was particularly for more urban migration.

What if we went and lived in the pockets of immigrants who have come to our world? I think that’s something Jesus would do.

I have a dream: a dream that every CMC congregation, every single congregation, would take seriously the call to engage unreached people groups within your state or within your county; search for them until you find them; and then start your own relationship and ministry among unreached people groups. Start in your own Judea and Samaria, and see what God does.

"What a compelling challenge. Why don't some of us from all over CMC make our homes in needy urban areas, and let us use those homes in the service of God’s Kingdom."I love it. What a compelling challenge. Why don't some of us from all over CMC make our homes in needy urban areas, and let us use those homes in the service of God’s Kingdom. Now, where’s the show of hands? Who’s going to go?

Wait, stop the buggy. This is a bit much. We’re talking about the Conservative Mennonite Conference, aren’t we? Moving to the city sounds like a pretty radical shift. We don’t get called Conservative for our love of radical shifts. And I have to admit that I find it hard to picture most Mennonites I know really living competently in any city. I’ve heard corn doesn’t grow as high in vacant lots. And even for many of us who don’t make a living as farmers, Tracy Byrd says it best: “We know how to work, we know how to play, we’re from the country and we like it that way.”

Maybe this is just my problem. Over the last several years my family and I have traveled a lot, and we’ve hung out with more believers outside our own CMC community. It’s funny what they say about us sometimes. Did you know that Mennonites have a reputation among many Christians for withdrawing from the world – for escaping? This view was beginning to rub off on me, before I went to Conference. Now I know better again.

I was nervous about going to Conference. When I heard that the theme was going to be “Faithfulness in the Home,” I could only picture an entire weekend full of exhortations to protect our family from the world and its evil. More withdrawing. But to the contrary, and to my surprise, practically every speaker and discussion that I heard emphasized the need to make our homes a place of service in the Kingdom of God. I was encouraged by virtually every speaker and discussion group to make my home a place of advance into the world, not a retreat from it. And at various points throughout the weekend, before Jay’s Missions Day address, I heard people talk specifically of urban environments as the next place to make our homes.

And is urban migration really such a radical shift? According to Jay, it’s not such a novel idea. He reminded us of his ancestors who crossed the ocean to settle in Ohio, and later took the railway to its farthest extent into Kansas. “I think it’s in our DNA to move, to find new frontiers... I’m calling us as a Conference to go to a new frontier, and that is to go the city... to go to places where I think Jesus wants to expand his Kingdom.” Maybe sometimes we value tradition more than innovation, but let’s not forget that going to new places and trying new things is a part of our tradition.

So, yes, I believe that we can rise to the challenge after all. We’re ready. But it won’t happen automatically, and it won’t come easily. As a body together, we have to become learners. Some of us may need to learn a new trade. Some may need to learn a new language. Some need to brush up on their parallel parking. We need to start learning, and keep on learning for a while after that.

The more we can depend on one another, within our churches and within the Conference, the better equipped we will be. And for what it’s worth, let’s also find partners beyond the Mennonite backyard if we can. Let’s find out what others have already done successfully and borrow some pages from their books.

And, probably above all else, we need to keep in step with the Spirit of God. If any of us take one step in the direction of urban relocation as a response to God’s leading, we’re going to keep needing to depend on that same Spirit for every step that follows. Isn’t that next year’s Conference topic?

*Name changed for security reasons.

August 03, 2014

Taste of Missions 2014

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By Candice, RMM staff writer

Thursday night at CMC Conference 2014, Naumburg Mennonite Church. The theme of the 104th Annual Conference was “Faithfulness in the Home” and a prominent thread that ran through the meetings was how our families and homes can be extended out to include others and bring them to Jesus. RMM’s Taste of Missions program featured stories from our “extended family” in both local and international missions.

Wayne Yoder, ride coordinator, spoke about Ride for Missions (RFM), which is an annual event to raise money for RMM as cyclists collect pledges and bike to Conference. This year, the ride grew to 85 riders and 20 support people. Wayne emphasized that the ride is to raise money, but that’s secondary to the fact that we as Christians are called to be missionaries wherever we go. Riders have a chance to share about missions and also to fellowship together. If you can ride a bike and enjoy it, Wayne encourages you to come along next year! Marlin Ebersole, RMM board member, talked about the first year for Rosedale Missions Cruisers (RMC); eight persons rode motorcycles to Conference and were blessed with a good trip. Along with RFM, the goal of RMC is to invite the world to meet Jesus and to bless him in all they do.

Joey Widrick, from Naumburg Mennonite Church, shared about the mission of the local church and our responsibility to share Jesus with lost people. He asked the questions: Is your faith in Jesus Christ the most important thing in your life? And... How are you representing Jesus on a daily basis? Joey talked about “Go and Tell Tuesdays” at Naumburg Church. The group meets monthly at the church to pray and ask God where he wants them to go that evening. They end up at restaurants, malls, convenience stores, or bars, sharing the good news of Christ and having encounters with all kinds of people. He reminded us that God will provide the power through the Holy Spirit to share him and we just need to be obedient.

Nate Olmstead, church planting team coordinator for RMM, shared about what God is doing stateside in church planting. The CMC has a mission, over the next three years, to assist 10% of its churches to initiate church plants stateside. That goal means that eleven churches or individuals by the end of the year 2016 will be planting a church. To do that, we need to discover the spiritual need in the community around us—possibly within a different ethnicity or subculture where there is no church presence currently. For us in CMC, the decision is whether or not to get involved in the life of those communities in our home areas. Nate and his wife Denise work with Hispanics in their area of upstate New York with the goal of reaching them for Christ but also sending them as disciple makers to their own home communities in other places and countries.

Tim Colegrove spoke about a new church planting effort in Boston. He, along with his wife Alice, are church planting among homeless people in Harvard Square and have developed many friendships as they do street outreach work. Their goal is to bring the church to the streets and to develop a Christian community that doesn’t depend on an invitational model that waits for people to come to church. Their desire is to plant a community that takes the gospel out to the world. Currently, they are meeting with a small group of friends for a “dinner church” (a common meal, worship, scripture discussion) that “brings together the rich and poor, the housed and unhoused.” Tim and Alice are currently seeking individuals or families from within CMC who might consider relocating to Boston to help with the work. Tim said, “We believe that our community needs a few ‘natives’ from within the CMC to help us maintain a conservative Mennonite theological identity and to anchor us relationally to the Conference.” If this resonates with you, connect with the Colgroves at: timothy.colegrove@gmail.

Esta Felder* wrote and directed the play “The Invitation.” The play explored Jesus’ invitation to us to make ourselves uncomfortable for God in order to relate to people from other places and contexts who need to feel welcome in God’s family.

Joe* interviewed Al* who is on his way to the Amazon region of Brazil. Al talked about his past—growing up Amish, and later realizing that only Jesus could fill the emptiness in his life. Al has been to Brazil eight times in the past few years. He now plans to join the long-term work and be involved in a ministry to unreached people in the Amazon River basin.

Derek* shared about leading a REACH team to North Africa (his third trip there) and about the team’s mission of sharing scripture via recordings on solar-powered MP3 players in unreached villages. Derek plans to rejoin RMM’s team in North Africa later this year to work on agricultural projects.

Finally, Nixson and Rhonda shared their heart for Thai university students and their plans to return to work and study in Bangkok starting in January of 2015.

Taste of Missions night wrapped up with a good time of fellowship over a Turkish menu prepared by Susannah Cotman which included: lentil patties, pita with spreads, hummus, and baklava.

*Names changed or omitted for security.