« October 2014   |   Main   |  December 2014 »

November 25, 2014

Marriage on the Rocks in Spain

A cultural snapshot by Phil, RMM worker in Spain

By any analysis, marriage is on the rocks in Spain. At seventy-five percent, the divorce rate here is one of the highest in Europe. This means that almost three out of four marriages will eventually end up in divorce. Apparently, many divorces are initiated in the few months following the summer vacations. It seems couples spend more time with each other since they are not out working but vacationing and discover that they are incompatible! The Italian press are reporting that even King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía could be about to announce their divorce. Juan Carlos quietly abdicated the throne this summer amid corruption scandals associated with his family in favor of his son, Felipe, who had escaped being tarnished by what had happened. Sources from within the royal household have reported that the former King and Queen have for a long time lived in completely separate wings of the Zarzuela Palace and only communicate via their secretaries. The reason for this appears to be Juan Carlos' string of extramarital affairs over the years. Queen Sofía's biography claims that the King has been involved with over one thousand five hundred women.

"...the Lord had led them through all these struggles, helped them resolve their problems, enabled them to admit their mistakes, and brought them through to a strong, settled marriage in Christ. It was an impressive testimony..."Against this rather depressing backcloth, it was encouraging recently to see an evangelical couple take a rather different path than that which their culture would have had them take. To celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary they asked to reaffirm their marriage vows in church on a Sunday morning. Due to legal constraints at the time, they had had to marry in a Catholic Church, so now they wished to reaffirm their marriage in an evangelical church. During their sharing prior to reaffirming their vows, they shared some of their struggles that they had had to work through. This included a three month separation which had been a particularly trying time for them. It seems the husband had got caught up with his business and totally neglected his wife and family life. Their testimony was that the Lord had led them through all these struggles, helped them resolve their problems, enabled them to admit their mistakes, and brought them through to a strong, settled marriage in Christ. It was an impressive testimony to Christ's redeeming work that spoke particularly to the struggles of life in modern Spanish culture. Friends of the couple, who are not yet believers, remarked how they enjoyed the service and meeting with people over a special meal after the ceremony.

Thank you for your prayers for the church in Spain, that there would be many more couples like this one, who would hold fast to Jesus and to each other in strong and faithful marriages.

November 20, 2014

Thoughts from World Awareness Week

By a REACH participant

A few weeks ago, in REACH training, we observed world awareness week at the RIC. This was a week where we are asked to try to experience a world that is more like the general population of the world, something outside of the "American Dream." We ate nothing but rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day of the week. The power only came on occasionally (which was the only time we were allowed to use our computers). Our mattresses were taken away, so we slept on the floor.

These are not exercises to punish us or make our lives miserable; they're designed to make us more aware and empathetic of how most of the world lives. They're reminders to pray. I've compiled some thoughts on this subject, and I really feel like this is what God has been laying on my heart.

A Child Dies

A child dies and no one cries,
For his tear-filled eyes were daily passed by.
He walks the streets, sniffing his glue,
The only way his pain is subdued.
Until one day on his numbing high,
he never returned, it captured his mind.
...A child dies and no one cries.

A daughter in a dark room where there is no light,
Beaten and bruised, she's lost the will to fight.
Her innocence is sold at the highest price,
Everything stolen from her, even her own life.
...A child dies and no one cries.

It started one day as only a cough,
Now he stares at what's soon to be his coffin.
Being overlooked as a child on the streets,
His only companion is his HIV.
...A child dies and no one cries.

The child that watches while his parents die,
The little girl considering suicide.
The one that struggles just to survive,
...These children die and are simply passed by.

If God's kingdom belongs to children as these,
Why do we pass by them, as if they're a disease?
It's true we couldn't possibly save them all,
But I can save one... and that is my call.
...A child dies... And I've chosen to cry.

What do we mean when we say, "Father, break my heart for what breaks yours?” Do we ask him why he doesn't do something about this? Or are we afraid to ask that question because he might ask us the same thing? Let's spend time praying together for the least, the last, and the lost this week.

November 17, 2014

Open Doors

An update from Pablo and Judi, RMM workers in Malaga, Spain.

We went to our environmental class this morning. Why this class? We try to follow open doors. 6 1/2 years ago when we arrived in Spain, we said, "now what?" It soon became apparent that to connect with people we'd have to do what they do, better yet, what both they and we like to do. We soon realized that teaching English would be a good way to get to know people. Then a student told me about a neighbor who sings in a choir, so we got involved. A couple from the choir invited us to sign up for this environmental class, and through it we've gotten to know lots of people and have done lots of things: excursions, hiking, and attending concerts through access to super-discount tickets. The class is taught by a left-leaning teacher and we talk a lot about politics. This morning’s topic was multinationals taking over the agricultural business and the super-secret American-European trade treaty meetings currently going on that will (supposedly) eventually impoverish countries like Spain.

Music is also a platform we use to connect with people. In addition to the aforementioned choir, a week ago we were invited to sing in a newly formed gospel choir. This makes two choirs for both of us, and I'm trying out a third, which sings more challenging music. The environmental class, along with the choirs, lead to the question of how many "platforms" can you stand on without falling off, or them running into each other? Judi has long said she'd like to sing in a gospel choir, but we didn't really see this coming. Spaniards seem to like this style, consisting mostly of American spirituals, but primarily as an art form, not a personal expression of faith. I wonder whether these themes, often birthed in suffering, oppression and injustice, don't somehow resonate with people and Spain's history—especially the Civil War of 1936-39. Those wounds have not been healed yet. No one in the choir, as far as we know, is a believer, which makes for interesting dynamics! Maybe confessing with the mouth will have some long-term faith impact. We hope to be around if and when that happens!

November 14, 2014

Preparing Workers to Join the Thailand Team

By Rhonda

Rhonda and Nixson are visiting Nicaragua for about three months, spending time with Nixson’s family and reconnecting with the churches who would like to send workers to Thailand. They plan to return to work in Thailand in January 2015.

We've been quite busy since arriving in Nicaragua, and the times that we are with family and able to relax, we don't have internet access. So I'm finally sending an update!

Here are some of the things we've been up to...

On October 6, Nixson led a discipleship seminar for the youth at his home church in El Balsamo. There were about 20 participants.

We attended the national pastor's conference and meetings and were asked to give an update about our ministry in Thailand.

The new missions candidates were also introduced to all the pastors.

After the pastors meetings, we had a seminar for all the missions candidates that could make it. Nixson shared about the calling God places on people's lives and about his experience working in Thailand, as well as some of the methods we use in contextualizing planting Thai churches.

We sang some Thai songs and I taught them the motions. They loved it!

We also made Thai food for them one evening and ate Thai style. Most of them loved it!

We had a great time getting to know the candidates better and working with the missions committee in Nicaragua.

Larry and Dot* (RMM country representatives to Nicaragua) were in Nicaragua for the pastor's meetings and seminar. After that we did some traveling with them. Jonathan (in the blue shirt), has been preparing for missionary work in Thailand for about three years now. We are hoping he will be able to travel to Thailand with us in January. While Larry and Dot were in Nicaragua, we went to visit Jonathan's family, as well as Nixson's family later. We had a wonderful time while they were here.

We were also planning to visit Jonathan's church and Nixson's church, but we weren't able to do either because of rain. The day we traveled to Jonathan's community, we drove together with Larry and Dot in our car. Because of rain, the river that crosses the road was too full for us to cross in the car. The bus had crossed just ahead of us, so Nixson and I decided to walk across and ride the bus the rest of the way, so that we could be there in time for church because Nixson was planning to preach. Larry and Dot decided that they would wait until it stopped raining and the river went down to drive the rest of the way, which they did. It ended up raining so much though that they canceled the church service. And the next day, when we planned to go to Nixson's church, it rained so much again that the river by Nixson's house was too full for us to cross to get to church! It was a little disappointing, but we were all safe and we had a great trip in spite of all the rain.

We are planning to travel to Costa Rica in a few weeks to do a seminar there. After that, Tom, the Asia regional director from RMM, will be here, and we will have another seminar with the candidates, as well doing some traveling with Tom.

Thank you for your prayers for Rhonda and Nixson as they help prepare workers to join the team in Thailand. Praise God for the way he is calling many people to go! If you’d like to hear more about Rhonda and Nixson’s work and life, visit their blog here. They are currently working on raising funds for their term in Thailand, so if you’d like to partner with them, visit www.donate.rmmweb.org.

November 06, 2014

Locally Grown: Being Jesus to the Homeless in Sarasota

By Marjorie Bozer

“It was 2:00 in the morning and I had already eaten my ice cream. I wasn’t sure where I could sleep. I knew I wanted to come here for breakfast and my camp is out in the country, east of I-75. So, I slept a few hours over there,” Darren said, first putting a finger to his lips to warn me of his secret, then pointing over his shoulder. “You are inside so you probably have never noticed how many ‘No Trespassing’ signs there are. Just look around. The police said if we find a spot without a ‘No Trespassing’ sign they will look the other way, but good luck finding one,” he said, pointing to yet another “No Trespassing” sign on the side door of the church. Darren was easy to talk to and shared freely when I opened the conversation with a comment about the treasures stored on his bicycle.

Maria refused to have her picture taken because she had new wounds on her face. “I was beaten up last night. They took everything I own, even my medicine. I had seizure medicine and stomach cancer medicine… they even took my aspirin. I have a headache from this gash and don’t have any medicine to make it go away.”

Maria’s story was one of several that involved theft and violence. One man spoke of having to defend his guitar from being taken last night. Darren said he has to arm himself for protection so he carries knives in his pocket. However, he assured me, the majority of the homeless are harmless and law abiding, like himself. “It is just that there are some who are on drugs or have bad tempers and you have to look out for them.”

Along the street beside the church, starting at sunrise, Pastor Rick opens his trunk, filled with sacks of clothes, and helps a man find the right sized pants. He breaks open some new packs of socks and is passing them out a pair at a time, followed by tubes of toothpaste. A lady stops him and asks for a blanket. He tells her he has just given two blankets to “her man,” but the man speaks up and says she is not his lady. Pastor Rick calmly offers to get a blanket for her.

We enter the small church fellowship hall which is pleasantly decorated for fall. Some arrive early and are treated to donuts, juice, and coffee as they wait. A large screen TV is displaying a worship band in one corner, offering praises to God, setting the atmosphere and preparing hearts to hear the Word.

Seated just inside the door to greet everyone is a saint with a heart of gold, named Sister H, who has been helping the homeless for decades. She is full of compassion and knows her regular guests by name. She reaches for a new pair of socks to store them away for an expected latecomer who always misses the handouts and each time asks for socks. Seated beside her, as a keeper of the peace, is Brother Mike.

Some homeless guests, in a small room off to the side, are reading their Bibles as they wait for the service to begin. I ask what they are reading, and one man tells me he is reading the book of Deuteronomy and he cannot understand when they have been told not to build an idol, why they do it anyway. We talk about our sinful human nature and that Jesus is the solution. Another says he likes the book of Acts and raises his hands in the air. Then he asks if I think Jonah was really swallowed by a whale or if it was just a story. I assure him the Bible is true and share about how to accept Jesus. A third tells me he prefers to read the Old Testament. I try to point out how different it was when man was separated from God by sin versus in the New Testament when we can have our sins forgiven and can communicate directly with God.

An announcement is made and the service begins. The guitar player will be a little late today so we will listen to Pastor Rick first. After a prayer, Pastor Rick shares about choices. Some choices are small and will not make a big difference in our lives, such as: coffee or tea? Other choices are very important and as we make each good choice we gain strength to continue to make good choices. But the biggest choice in life is whether we will choose the easy, popular, wide road which leads to destruction or the narrow, harder road that leads to eternal life.

The guitarist arrives and we worship God together with music. Many in the group sing out the popular choruses. We end with an all-time favorite, Amazing Grace.

Breakfast is served. As many as 150 guests are expected in this small fellowship hall today. Not everyone will be able to be seated, but those who come first will have seats and the rest will take their plates outside.

There is an orderly assembly row system of filling plates and passing them out. The volunteers along the line are familiar with their roles and soon everyone who is seated has been fed. Now those who are outside begin their line up for plates to go.

There is a scuffle outside and the police are here to intervene. Inside, we do not notice any trouble, the worship team still leads us in praise from the corner TV while people eat and talk amongst themselves. Always on guard, Brother Mike is alerted to the conflict and is acting as peacemaker before the police arrive. It is not long before the outside skirmish is solved and the police pull away.

As plates are emptied, people clean up after themselves and begin to depart. Volunteers finish the cleaning, mop the floors, and prepare the room for Sunday morning church services. Families with young children, all dressed in their Sunday best, are getting out of their cars and coming to church. Most of the homeless have already departed.

Darren is still outside; the chain on his bike is broken. He has a friend nearby who will help him get it fixed. Darren is most interested in telling me ideas that he has to help the homeless. “If someone had money, like my dad or uncle (who are now deceased), they could purchase that vacant Publix, put in some microwaves, and give us who live outside a place to get a shower, make warm meals, and have a roof over our heads when it’s raining or cold. That would be good for everyone. We would be out of sight and we would be safe, if there are some basic rules. You think about it.”

I do think about it. Not that I can afford to purchase a vacant Publix, but how can I better serve this people group? Now that these faces have names and I know some of their stories, they will be harder to forget or ignore.

How can we be Jesus to those near us who are hurting and without a home? There is a team of volunteers in Sarasota, Florida who have found a way to make a difference in the lives of these needy individuals. The homeless count on their generosity and as they are being fed and clothed they are learning about Jesus. Pastor Rick, Sister H, Brother Mike, Esther, and the many other volunteers are being Jesus to those who are hurting and without a home.

The Matthew 25 Ministry at Abundant Life Church started in December 2008, when we passed out blankets and provided coffee and doughnuts to our friends near the bus station in downtown Sarasota. Soon after we started we met Sister H and her ministry at United Pentecostal Church where they were serving a full breakfast every Sunday to 100 to 150 homeless people. Abundant Life Church linked arms with United Pentecostal Church and Sarasota Christian Church to provide an ongoing outreach to the homeless. Once a month, Abundant Life Church underwrites and provides volunteers to serve, preach, and lead worship at the breakfast. The other weeks, breakfast is underwritten by other churches, but the meeting place is always at the United Pentecostal Church. This interdenominational, cooperative effort has worked well for us for the past six years.

November 05, 2014

An Introduction to Rosedale Business Group

By Larry and Dot*

“Marketplace evangelism happens when we take who we are in Christ to the marketplace.”

Since the inception of Rosedale Business Group (RBG) in 2007, the first and foremost desire of each member has been to seek avenues for building Christ’s Kingdom via business and poverty alleviation opportunities, locally and overseas. Making inroads for the Good News can be very challenging in today’s global market and it is even more complex given the constraints of closed countries. The RBG board and partners have been seeking creative solutions to some of these problems. We would like to introduce you to some of RBG’s current projects.

Rosedale Business Group Utilizing Business Expertise to: EMPOWER the church to engage the local culture in the market place and FACILITATE international entrepreneurship and employment of Christians with a passion for cross-cultural evangelism.

We will begin with a recent project in Southeast Asia. A group of believers the RMM team has been relating to were looking for ways to enhance their way of life financially while showing Christ’s love to their community via business. They requested a loan to build a rain water collection pond for irrigating vegetable plots and to have a fish farm. Their goal is to sell the produce and the fish for profit, and they also hope to foster new relationships as they reproduce the plan in other communities. An RBG project team from the States was formed to walk alongside these Southeast Asian believers as they came up with a business plan and proposal for the pond. At the 2014 CMC Pastors Conference, a pastor and his wife stepped forward to provide the funds for the pond project. This loan has been set up on a two-year payback schedule. The donors requested that once the loan is paid, the funds be used to finance the next pond.

The pond project provides a teaching mechanism for a people group who are traditionally hunter-gatherers and not given to planting and producing for the future. It could change their economic situation and place them in a stronger position for physical survival. The pond has been completed and is currently in use. Please pray for courage and perseverance for the persecuted group of believers who are associated with this project as they follow the call to share Christ in this closed country.

RBG has also been working on several coffee-related projects in Thailand. On a recent trip to Thailand, we met 33-year old Pat, who is a deeply committed Christian from the indigenous Akha hill tribes people group. The Akha are a group of approximately five million people living throughout five countries. Pat is only one of three Akha with a Master of Divinity degree, and he chose to return and live among his people after a very successful church plant in Bangkok. Although he was educated for pastoral ministry, he comes from a family of coffee farmers and felt God calling him back to his tribe and the coffee trade as a missional business. His heart is with his people and he is committed to help them find ways to earn a living while showing them the way to Christ. This requires a lot of resources: a mill to process the coffee cherries, a way to dry the coffee beans, a roaster, and much more. He has a friend who is a Christian banker who is partnering with him.

Larry and Dot on a trip to the coffee growing region in northern Thailand, along with Pat, Natcha, and other members of RBG.

Pat has also committed to help a young lady from Burma named Natcha. Her parents are deceased and her brother rescued her from being at imminent risk for sex trafficking. From such incredible odds she has emerged with a sweet spirit and a zest for life. Her desire to have a bakery led her to obtain culinary training in Thailand. She then spent several months in the States learning to bake Amish and Mennonite pastries—training that will allow her to produce a unique product in Thailand. Her vision is to provide wholesale specialty pastries for Thailand’s emerging coffee shop culture. RBG has performed a business analysis and the projections for a business of this type are financially viable. An RBG project team is working alongside Pat as he coaches Natcha. This project is slated to begin in October, pending financing. A significant Kingdom-building aspect is that the bakery will provide jobs to other young girls also at risk for sex trafficking. The bakery will provide a healthy work environment in which these young girls can be introduced to Christ. Natcha has a long-term goal to see this project reproduced in her home country of Burma. The money for these projects will be loans because RBG is committed to walk alongside in a way that is not harmful to the dignity of the persons receiving the assistance. Resource teams are put in place to mentor and guide these projects. Leadership training is key for the success of these types of endeavors.

In May we also met Joe and Fai in Thailand. They had been receiving support from a U.S. based agency but decided that in order to identify with their neighbors, it would be better if they didn’t receive charity from the U.S. They are using business, both to try to support themselves and to employ young mothers. Joe has a web--based graphic design company with clients worldwide. Fai’s mission is to provide products (mainly handbags) which are hand crafted with special care by Thai-Tribal women living in low income communities. The purchase of the pieces helps women obtain steady incomes through which they are able to help support themselves and their families. At the moment we are simply working with them to find U.S. markets for the products and to guide Fai in her sewing business to efficiently produce her product while maintaining the superb quality she has established.

These are just a few of RBG’s current projects. As we meet people across CMC, we sense excitement for what RBG and RMM are doing, and we’re grateful for the many ideas and suggestions that have been shared with us.It shows us the hearts of people who want to be change agents in the culture.

RBG is also looking for people who sense the call to serve in the marketplace overseas in a Kingdom-building capacity. This could be in a profession as an employee or in an international business endeavor. RBG will provide a resource team to walk alongside these candidates. We invite you to join us. Contact us with any questions or comments at larrydot@rmmoffice.org

Additional reading:

When Helping Hurts
by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Walking With the Poor
by Bryant L. Meyers

Love Does
by Bob Goff

Larry and Dot* became Rosedale Business Group (RBG) Co-directors in March 2014. As Co-directors of RBG they desire to promote the idea that if God has called you to the marketplace (here or overseas), it is a holy and God-ordained calling. This does not exclude God’s call to places other than the marketplace. He desires that we live out his call in ways for Kingdom building. Marketplace evangelism happens when we take who we are in Christ to the marketplace.

Larry and Dot drove truck in a team operation from 1992 until 1999. During that time they built a custom sleeper truck for their own use, and as a result Larry was asked to join others to produce quality custom sleepers. In February 2001 ARI (American Reliance Industries) was formed with Larry as one of the founders and shareholders. ARI is now the largest manufacturer of custom sleepers. During that time, Dot also owned a sewing business whose primary customer was ARI.

In early 2013, they had a growing sense that it was time to move toward fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming involved again with community development work similar to what they had been a part of in Nicaragua in the mid 70’s with RMM’s Voluntary Service program. Another goal was to become more actively involved with RBG where Larry had been a board member. Accepting an appointment as co-directors for RBG was not what they expected so when the request came, although it was a surprise to them, it felt like a clear sign to accept the appointment. On January 31, 2014 Larry sold his shares in ARI and in June Dot transitioned out of her sewing business.

They are members of Siloam Fellowship in Goshen, Indiana where Larry serves on the elder team. They live in Shipshewana, Indiana. One of their hobbies is hosting pizza parties in the sunroom of their home where they built a wood-fired pizza oven (inspired by the Nicaraguan campo [rural area]). In this setting, they have enjoyed many wonderful times with diverse groups of people.

November 03, 2014

Do You Mean Discipleship or Disciple Making?

What’s the difference between discipleship and disciple making? Are they basically interchangeable terms? I’ve been thinking about these terms for a couple of reasons. First, because they are at the heart of what RMM is all about. Jesus gave his disciples the commission to make disciples of all the earth’s peoples, and as spiritual descendants of those first disciples, we in turn accept the call to make disciples.

I’ve also been thinking about these terms because one of the three aspects of Conservative Mennonite Conference’s new strategic vision is discipleship (along with leadership and partnership). I am pleased that together as churches, we are committed to discipleship at our core.

Sometimes it seems like the two terms discipleship and disciple making are being used interchangeably and sometimes I’m pretty sure they’re not. I’ve come to believe that we shouldn’t use them interchangeably, but it isn’t always easy to keep them “pulled apart.”

What are some of the ways the terms are used? At RMM, our REACH program begins with a three month DTS, or Discipleship Training School. In August, RMM helped host a Contagious Disciple Making seminar at the Rosedale International Center. Would it work just as well to refer to the first three months of REACH as Disciple Making Training School? Or could that seminar just as well have been titled Contagious Discipleship?

"Disciple making is one of the essential aspects of discipleship. As a faithful disciple, I will make disciples."I think it’s helpful to think of the two terms this way: discipleship is following Jesus, and disciple making is helping someone else follow Jesus. Disciple making is one of the essential aspects of discipleship. As a faithful disciple, I will make disciples.

In my mind, discipleship begins when someone chooses to follow Jesus. In contrast, disciple making begins when a disciple takes action to reproduce his or her life in the life of another. My parents began “making me a disciple” even before I was born, and certainly before I chose to follow Jesus.

So REACH “Discipleship Training School” is a time of intense spiritual formation that includes training on prayer, spiritual disciplines (a related word of course), spiritual warfare, the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit, community, etc. It also includes training in disciple making. By contrast, the seminar in August was a weekend focused only on finding those people around us who are ripe to become followers of Jesus, and giving us simple tools to help bring them into a strong, obedient relationship with him.

The reason I think it may be important to differentiate the two terms is so we don’t lose the narrower term in the middle of the broader one. We all know the principle that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. We can say then that the best way to learn to follow Jesus is to teach someone to follow him. The best way to “get” discipleship is to make disciples.

I think there are some practical tools and actions involved in disciple making that may never be discussed or engaged if we don’t clearly differentiate disciple making as an important aspect of discipleship. I pray that as CMC focuses on discipleship we will become more and more a collection of churches that are known for our unwavering obedience to Jesus as our master and for our unflagging commitment to making disciples—of all the peoples, to the ends of the earth.

November 02, 2014

Prayer Gathering Photos

The CMC prayer gathering this weekend was a wonderful time of hearing together from God.