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April 29, 2015

RMM in the City

By Joe Showalter, RMM President
Adapted and updated from an April 24, 2014 open letter

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.

In the six years since, we’ve discussed the possibility of moving into the RIC at length, and now, it seems that time has come. RMM moved it’s headquarters into the Rosedale International Center in early April and office staff are currently working out of the newly renovated wing. Below, I’d like to respond to some of the questions people have been asking. Hopefully, it will answer some of yours.

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.

Can you give us an update on the Rosedale properties? How does your move away from Rosedale affect your relationship with CMC and RBC?

In December 2014, administrators from RMM and CMC articulated guiding values that helped shape the details of CMC’s purchase of the RMM office and apartment building. We are grateful that ownership transferred to CMC at the end of March in a manner that felt good to all parties involved (RMM, CMC, RBC). The terms felt manageable to CMC and as owners, CMC now has more control and flexibility in how their office space is configured with ample room for expansion. RBC is happy to see the RMM office and apartment building stay within the CMC family. And we feel blessed to have made a clean move to the RIC. Because the RIC is proving to be a wonderful gathering spot for groups from across CMC, it’s our prayer that RMM continues to become better connected to the larger church than it has been in recent years.

A Note from CMC

Nearly five years ago when the CMC Executive Board first learned that RMM was seriously considering moving their offices to the Rosedale International Center in Columbus, a number of questions and concerns surfaced.  At the top of the list was the concern that a move of this nature might weaken the relationship between CMC, RMM and RBC; understandable given the fact that CMC and its mission and education arms have shared the same campus on the “sacred ground” of Rosedale for many years.  RMM was responsive to the questions and concerns of CMC’s leaders, and several measures were taken to ensure that relationships will remain strong and synergistic in spite of the distance between our offices.  Over the years since that initial discussion, as RMM continued to share their vision for moving to the city, CMC’s leaders warmed to and then embraced the idea that it would be a good strategic move.  In a meeting with RMM’s board chairman and president in February 2014, the CMC Executive Board officially expressed their support of the move.  While those of us who work at CMC will miss sharing the office building in Rosedale with RMM, we’re excited to see what opportunities God might have in store for CMC in Columbus (and other cities) as a result of RMM strengthening their presence in the city.

– Brian Hershberger, CMC Executive Director

A Note from RBC

It's going to be different.  We've been neighbors in Rosedale for the past fifty years; long enough that it's hard to imagine it any other way. On a summer day back in 1963 a member of the school board placed the winning bid on the buildings that would become the new home for Berlin Bible School. Who could have guessed then how familiar the name "Rosedale" would become! We came very close to settling in Apple Creek or Middlebury instead, but in the providence of God—for better or for worse—it was Rosedale.  It wasn’t long until both the school and the conference mission agency took the Rosedale name, and since the early 1970s “Rosedale” has served as a common shorthand for both of us.

We, too, are excited about the new opportunities this move will create. It's hard to predict exactly how it may reshape the missions program, your relationship with RBC and CMC, or even the conference itself. But just as our predecessors trusted God in the steps they took, we trust, along with you, that God will continue to bless this one. It’s going to be different for all of us, and we’ll miss having you just across the lawn. But we wish you God's blessing, direction and fruitfulness as you move, and we look forward to continuing to work together as partner agencies in CMC and in the kingdom of God.

– Jon Showalter, RBC President

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.

A “New Normal” for the Rosedale International Center

The move of the RMM offices from the rural setting of Rosedale to the location near downtown Columbus brings with it a “new normal” for those already working at the RIC. The RIC has been utilized primarily by SEND staff, who operate our short-term programs, and those who are renting the facility for events. Now we have permanently added nearly all the office staff of RMM.

Consolidating obviously has its benefits when you consider overhead costs and administrative overlap. Our hope and prayer is that these new efficiencies, coupled with a positive connection between the short- and long-term departments coming together, will create a synergy that benefits all of us. Having the REACH and City Challenge programs working out of the same location as staff that are giving support to our long-term program could help connect what we are doing locally with our long-term goal of planting churches in least reached countries.

We also hope that the groups renting our facility for retreats and other events will be blessed by the presence of RMM staff. Some churches and individuals within CMC are already using the center for leadership and elder retreats, worship, and other events. We would love to see this happen more and see our constituents become more connected with our collective mission.

If you or your church would like to host an event at the RIC, please visit our website at www.ric-columbus.org/ to request a date for availability. RMM gives a 25% discount to CMC churches for all food, lodging, and rental costs. In addition, all of the revenue we receive goes to our programs and mission.

– Andrew Miller, RIC director

Our new address:

2120 E 5th Ave, Columbus, OH 43219
Phone number: 614-258-4780


April 24, 2015

Faith, Hope, and Love: a Whirlwind Visit With REACH Teams in Asia

By Hans Shenk

On a damp, dreary day in March, my wife Courtney and I flew out of Port Columbus International Airport, surrounded by crowds of Ohio State students headed for warmth and sunshine, fun and relaxation. Like them, we were headed someplace warm, but unlike them, we had few plans to relax.

We were on our way to visit the REACH teams in South Asia and the Himalayas; our primary aim was to encourage the teams and equip them to finish strong. Secondly, since communication with both teams had been limited, we were hoping to get a clearer understanding of how things were going by talking to the teams and observing their work in person. Finally, we hoped to meet with both teams’ outreach coordinators to ask how they felt about continuing to minister to the American church by hosting teams.

Some forty frazzled hours of travel later, we touched down in the coastal city used by team South Asia and their outreach coordinator, Mr. T, as a base of operations. As a hot Sunday afternoon faded into evening, the team greeted us joyfully. We’d missed a flight, and arrived late, so after we took the team out for a treat (pizza!), we went back to our lodgings, and started in on one-on-one meetings.

From their formation as a team, South Asia has been battling the odds. They navigated the upheaval of a team lineup change in DTS, had tense encounters with the local authorities, and have worked to process the loss of a teammate’s brother even while navigating an unrelenting schedule of preaching, teaching, dancing, and praying that would be challenging to anyone, and was never a part of their original plan.

What stood out to me most from our time together was that as we spoke to the members of the team, who had endured so much already, and were facing a month even more daunting and hectic than anything they’d done yet, they were positive about their experience and about what was to come. I wasn’t present for all of the meetings, but each time I was, the REACHers recommended unequivocally that another team be sent next year. A few even asked to be considered to lead the team.

“
In all of our conversations, I felt an underlying sense of steely perseverance and a firm faith that God who brought them together and made them a team, was leading them through their many trials and would guide them safely home.”
In all of our conversations, I felt an underlying sense of steely perseverance and a firm faith that God who brought them together and made them a team, was leading them through their many trials and would guide them safely home. This sense of spiritual toughness was most obvious to me when we accompanied outreach coordinator, Mr. T and the team to a pastors’ meeting in a village four hours outside the city. We were sweaty and hungry. The sun beat down on the half-built church, and the makeshift tarpaulin roof offered only marginal relief. We’d been driving all day, and all day the day before, with only a few hours of sleep between. Everyone was tired.

The service started as soon as we arrived, and only about five minutes after we got out of the jeeps, Mr. T was telling the team that it was time to dance. They rose from their plastic chairs, shook off their exhaustion and the dance-less rigidity of their ancestry, and danced. Sweat-drenched and smiling, they danced unfamiliar steps to unfamiliar music in front of a foreign congregation. To South Asian eyes, maybe it looked awkward; I don’t know. For me, it was beautiful. As I watched, I found myself tearing up. Grief, sickness, exhaustion, persecution and culture shock had come against this team, and I knew from their one-on-ones that they carried marks and memories from those attacks. But they danced; pouring themselves out in an effort to encourage the local believers, long after they felt like they had nothing left to give.

When the time came to go, we were sorry to leave South Asia, but thrilled to be headed to the Himalayas. Over the years, the Himalayas have become a beloved location for REACH teams. Teams work with one of the world’s fastest growing church bodies, in one of earth’s wildest, poorest places. Spiritual development and adventure are almost unavoidable. For me, then, a highlight of our trip was just to be back and to remember my own time on a REACH team in the Himalayas. To see old friends and look out across the multicolored houses of the capital spread haphazardly over the hills, like sails bobbing in a harbor.

No REACH team, and certainly no team Himalayas ever comes home without a generous share of wild stories, and one of the bright spots of visiting with team Himalayas was just hearing about their outreach so far. They spoke of bathing in crocodile-infested rivers, witnessing demonic oppression in the jungle, and of riding in Jeeps that slid sideways along thousand-foot drop-offs. They also reminded us of how different Himalayan culture is from our own, and how much of a struggle it can be for Americans to adjust.

As with team South Asia, a common theme ran through all the stories of danger, adventure, and frustration: love for the Himalayas. Larissa, the team leader, even told us the first night we were with them that the Himalayas felt like home for her. It was a reminder to me of the power of the Holy Spirit to ‘prepare a table’ before us—that though the team was walking through dangers, difficulties and irritations, they sensed that they were where they were supposed to be.

Another high point of our time with team Himalayas was meeting with the whole team together after one-on-ones. We were excited about how things were going, but no group is perfect, and Courtney and I had a few observations and suggestions for improvement. As we talked, it was inspiring to me to see how the team was able to laugh at themselves, and how committed they were to improving and to finishing outreach on a high note. I was challenged to seek that same spirit of humility and willingness to change in my own life.

Looking back, if there was one lesson I learned in the days and hours between departing from Columbus on Friday afternoon and returning home in the wee hours, two Wednesdays later, it was this: God is working on and with and through REACH teams. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy for me to get jaded, watching successive years of REACHers return from outreach with similar stories and similar experiences. Our trip reminded me that each set of stories and memories is a testimony to lessons learned and hearts and lives changed.


Hans is currently an intern with the Communications Dept. at RMM and his wife Courtney is SEND Ministries assistant director. Hans will be taking over the staff writer position in May and is completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Philosophy at Ohio State.


April 20, 2015

Welcome to My World

A day in the life of Thailand team member, Rhonda

Each morning, Monday through Friday, I wake up bright and early at 5:30 to get ready for language school. I went to language school when I was in Thailand before, but now I am learning to read and write. My husband, Nixson, gets up with me every morning so we can eat breakfast together, then takes me to the end of the street on our motorcycle. Our house is pretty far away from the main road, and there is no public transportation that passes the village where we live.


I take a “songtaew,” which is like a pick-up truck with benches in the back, to the Skytrain station. It takes me about 15 minutes to get to the station.


I get on the Skytrain with the masses of people heading to central Bangkok to work or study. Everybody silently rushes in to fight for a seat, and the train gets packed full. Almost everyone plays on their phones or tablets while we make the trip into the city. I am on the train for about 30 minutes, and then I walk about 10 minutes to the school.


Thai class starts at 8:00. My teacher loves teaching and does a great job at keeping class interesting and exciting. I am really enjoying learning to read and write Thai, and feel like it is opening a whole new world to me.


I love my class! Each module, or level, is 20 days, so we have the same classmates and teacher for 20 days, and then we move up a class and have different teachers. I am planning to study at least three levels, for basic reading and writing.

At 12:00 class ends, and I walk back to the Skytrain station, ride the Skytrain, and take the songtaew back to our street.


Nixson meets me at the end of our street to eat lunch with me. Today I am eating “Prik Pao Muu,” pork stir-fried in chili paste with some veggies, and a fried egg on the side. It is one of my favorite Thai dishes. Then we head home.


After showering and cooling down, I read my Bible and work on my Thai homework. I don’t usually have a lot of homework, but I spend a lot of time memorizing what we learn each day.


Every day at the end of class we do dictation in Thai. The teacher corrects it and if we misspelled any words, we have to write them four times the next day. This is my dictation from yesterday.


In the evening, Nixson teaches English to our landlord at our house. Today while he is teaching, our neighbor, Ban Ban, comes over to play.


I go outside the front of our house to play with Ban Ban. We sit at the picnic table and color together.


When we finish coloring, we make animals out of clothespins and colored pencils. It seems that every kid that comes to our house loves to play with the clothespins. Maybe it’s because we have no other toys!


After Ban Ban leaves I go inside and wait until English class ends. I practice reading my Thai children’s Bible. I figured this would be an easier place to start than the adult Bible.


When English class ends, Nixson and I again go out to eat supper. On evenings when he doesn’t teach English, I usually make food at home. But when he teaches, it is easier just to go buy some delicious, cheap street food. Tonight we are having “Muu Briaw Waan” (sweet and sour pork) and “Pat Pongaree” (a fried yellow curry).

After eating supper, we spend some time talking and watching TV to wind down, then head to bed, so that we can get up at 5:30 the next morning.


Please pray for our landlord and our neighbors as we build relationships with them. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working in their hearts, and that they would see Jesus through us. Pray for wisdom for us as we interact and share with them.


April 16, 2015

Introducing a New Partnership in East Asia

We are pleased to introduce William and Rebecca,* a couple newly-appointed by RMM but with close connections to CMC and years of missions experience in a challenging setting. In 1998, William and Rebecca moved to a mountainous region of East Asia and began living among a people group with very little Christian witness. They have spent years learning the language and culture and building relationships. During that time their family has grown and they now have four young sons, ranging in age from two to nine. They have been working with Eastern Mennonite Missions and are continuing that relationship while also joining the RMM family. William explained that they wanted to formalize a connection to CMC and RMM that they already felt strongly since their family and church roots are in CMC (their sending church is Mechanicsburg Christian Fellowship).

Over the years William and Rebecca have worked in a variety of settings – both in business and with a development agency. Because they are working in a “closed” area they have had to be very careful about how and with whom they share their faith, but as they have formed deep, trusting relationships they have discovered many opportunities for talking about Jesus. The government and societal pressure are so strong in this region that there are no known Protestant churches with local leaders. A few small fellowships are led by outsiders. “Because of the strong Buddhist influence and the cultural isolation of this people group, the majority of the people know nothing about Jesus or the Bible.”One of William and Rebecca’s goals is to “raise up leaders and lay the foundation for the church there.” A key piece of this, they feel, is presenting the gospel message in new ways. Because of the strong Buddhist influence and the cultural isolation of this people group, the majority of the people know nothing about Jesus or the Bible. While there is a translation in the local language, it is outdated and uses antiquated language. Efforts are underway to produce a more readable translation and William and Rebecca are helping with the recording and distribution of an audio version. But even beyond the need for a more comprehensible Bible, William and Rebecca have become convinced of the need for a new effort of contextualization – connecting the gospel message to “something that they already know.” In light of that, they have put a lot of effort into learning about the local religious beliefs and how those beliefs have shaped the assumptions and day-to-day lives of the people. In doing so, they’ve discovered that traditional Western ways of talking about important issues like sin, guilt, and salvation make little sense in their context. And so they are learning a new vocabulary and finding ways to present the truth about Jesus in a way that connects more readily with the questions that their friends are actually asking.

Please remember William and Rebecca in your prayers. They live at a high altitude and with limited access to medical care, and consequently, health and safety are always a concern. William is managing several coffee houses, Rebecca does some English teaching, and both spend a lot of time talking with friends who stop by their house. They ask that we pray for “more devoted followers of Jesus” and look forward to a day when a vibrant local church is able to more fully represent Jesus to its own people.


*Names changed for security


April 14, 2015

Guvech Recipe

Enjoy this recipe from RMM workers Paula and Art Shore, currently working in an immigrant community in the Waterloo region of Ontario.

In the hot climate of our former home in the Middle East, this dish (or a similar version) was often prepared in the homes and sent to the local ovens in the neighborhood. There it was baked and then, along with hot fresh pita bread, was delivered to our door. In the Cappadocian region, it is often baked inside clay pots. Although the preparation of guvech was somewhat time-consuming, I have great memories of sharing these experiences with friends and their daughters. We huddled around their cutting boards on the floor, sipping our tea and sharing our lives and experiences. My legs were soon aching because I didn’t fold up as well as my more flexible friends but time was forgotten in the enjoyment of the moment. The memories and delicious tastes still linger.

GUVECH (Eggplant Casserole)

1 lb. chicken, beef, or lamb, cut into small pieces

15-20 cloves garlic, chopped or ¼ cup garlic powder

6 tbsp. pepper paste*

2 tsp. salt

1 med. eggplant, peeled and cubed

2 zucchini, cubed

2 carrots, cubed

2 potatoes, cubed

1 large onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks

4 tomatoes, thinly sliced

oil

salt/pepper


Mix chicken with garlic, pepper paste, and salt until well combined. Set aside as you cut up the vegetables except for the tomatoes. Using your hands, mix the vegetables together with the seasoned chicken. Add salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil. Put everything into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan (or larger if needed). Cover with sliced tomatoes, drizzle again with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Continue to bake, uncovered, until vegetables are soft and sizzling. Serve with rice or bulgur pilaf. Drizzle yogurt (with minced garlic) over individual servings, along with hot pepper flakes, as desired. Enjoy!

*Pepper paste can be purchased at Mediterranean groceries or be replaced with tomato paste.