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May 26, 2015

Cultural Snapshot: Springtime in Spain

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By Pablo,* RMM worker in Spain

Life goes on. A new month has brought the newness of Spring in its splendor. May 1 is a holiday, here, and was followed by Granada’s Day of the May Crosses. This day is celebrated by decorating crosses with red carnations, each cross surrounded by antiques and objects of bygone days. The 80 crosses registered for judging are placed in private patios or public plazas and people, some of them dressed in flamenco and old-style costumes, go around visiting them. A type of music and dance, the “Sevillana,” is popular at these fiestas, along with plenty of drink, to be sure, and horses and carriages in the streets.

The cross, of course, is an important symbol in the majority religion here, but it really has little to do with the party atmosphere of this fiesta nowadays. But as was pointed out at the English service on Sunday, covering the empty cross with flowers is a welcome break from last month’s Holy Week processions, where the cross is a symbol of suffering. Suffering and grace – what an amazing combination!

Another new event, held in Barcelona over the weekend, was the Festival of Hope (Esperanza), which forms the acronym FE (“faith” in Spanish). Organized by the Evangelicals in Catalunya, along with the Billy Graham Association by all reports this was a resounding success, with over 20,000 in attendance and 1,700 registered professions of faith. Heartening to see, and perhaps a sign of more “new” things to come in Spain? We hope so!

On a more personal level, Judi attended a gospel music seminar over the weekend and learned more about gospel music and why it connects with Spain and Spanish people. Maybe it gives more purpose to participating in our little gospel choir, of which we are the only believers, as far as we know. Truth is at least proclaimed. If even the stones can cry out, anything is possible! Last night we worked on “Well, Well, Well,” which includes the phrase: “Spirit is a-movin’ all over this land.” May it be so! After the rehearsal, one member shared that in all his years of singing in choirs (he currently sings in three), he’s never had so much fun singing as in this gospel choir. Hmm… Is the Father trying to say something to us?

*Last name omitted for security


May 21, 2015

Introducing: Jordan Stoltzfus

RMM is delighted to welcome Jordan Stoltzfus onto our team! Jordan took on the role of Property Manager for the RIC in April 2015.

Jordan is originally from Leon, Iowa, where he was a member of the Mount Zion Mennonite Church. Most of Jordan’s adult life, though, has been spent far from his Iowan roots, working in missions and ministry. Jordan was a part of three REACH teams (Zambia, Himalayas, and North Africa), serving as team leader in the Himalayas and North Africa, and returned to the Himalayas for four months on his own the year after he was there with REACH. He is also serving a five-year volunteer term, along with his wife Megan, as Resident Director of the internship program for Reaching the Nations International, a ministry that focuses on the children of inner-city Columbus.

Jordan’s passion for missions springs from Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25—he feels a deep desire to reach out to the ‘least of these’ wherever they are, by sharing the gospel, and caring for their physical and psychological needs. Jordan’s skills, dedication, and heart of service have truly been a blessing during RMM’s move into the RIC, and the subsequent season of adjustment to our new home.

In what little spare time he has, Jordan enjoys woodworking, bicycling, and spending quality time with Megan. They attend Veritas Community Church in Columbus. In addition to his work at RMM and RTNI, Jordan is studying to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work, and has dedicated time and energy to developing ways for the American church to facilitate growth and development in the church in the Himalayas.

We are excited about the many gifts and talents Jordan brings to his position, and are grateful that God has placed him on our team.


May 18, 2015

Book Recommendation: Multiply by Francis Chan

Multiply by Francis Chan (with Mark Beuving) is a straightforward, simple tool for discipling others. Unlike many books on discipleship, Multiply is not meant to simply be read with the intent of absorbing information. It teaches a very relational method meant to be taught as soon as it’s learned, and read in the context of sharing life together with your disciple/discipler. Chan spends a significant amount of time discussing how to understand the Bible and walks through the Old and New Testaments, essentially outlining the metanarrative of Scripture. Chan does not try to interpret Scripture, but encourages readers to think about it for themselves. Each chapter ends with questions to help guide discussion, and a web address for an online video for leaders to help equip them further for discipling. One of the best features of the book is the emphasis on the importance of both the local church and global missions. Multiply is not a how-to on discipleship, but it is the perfect tool for facilitating any discipling relationship.

– Courtney Shenk, SEND Ministries assistant director



May 13, 2015

Introducing Our New Staff Writer

RMM welcomes Hans Shenk who joins the Communications Department as staff writer on May 11. He is taking over the position from Candice who is returning to Thailand as a worker. While Hans is just starting as part-time staff writer, he has multiple connections already at RMM! His wife Courtney works in the SEND Department as assistant director and Hans has participated in REACH in the past; he was on the Himalayas team in 2010. His best memories from that time involve: dancing with children from the church, helping to run youth conferences, and speaking in local churches.

These days, Hans is an OSU student finishing his degree in Communications and Philosophy. For his communications internship this spring, he was able to work several hours a week at RMM and gain experience writing and editing for the Communications Department. Hans has previously written for CMC’s Beacon, was a contributing editor of the now-defunct Rosedale Bible College student newspaper The Camel, and has contributed several short works of fiction to the online literary magazine The Sacred Cow. He hopes to be a bridge between mission workers in the field, and the church in the United States and to help churches become excited about spreading and fulfilling the good news of God’s kingdom at home and abroad. Hans and Courtney live in Plain City and are a part of the Cornerstone Mennonite Fellowship where Hans regularly leads worship, occasionally preaches, and participates in children’s ministry as an Associate of the Awesome Bob and Associates theater team. In his free time, Hans reads, writes, plays guitar, plays soccer, and seeks adventure. Thanks for your prayers for Hans as he adjusts to a new position, manages a busy schedule of work and finishing school, and tries to communicate effectively about what God is doing and how we can participate. Welcome to the team, Hans!


May 07, 2015

Back to Thailand With Tom and Candice

Tom and Candice and their three children (Claire, Eliza and Silas) have been working with RMM in Thailand for seven years, and are heading back to the field after two years spent in the United States. They spoke to us about the challenges of returning, what has changed in the two years they’ve been gone, and what Thai dishes they’re looking forward to most.

When are you leaving to go back to Thailand?

We are moving out of our house in Columbus on June 20, will spend a few weeks with our families in Delaware and Virginia, and then fly to Bangkok on July 11.

What have you been doing while you’ve been in the States?

For the past two years, Tom has been working as Asia Regional director (giving oversight to the work in that region) and Candice has been the staff writer at RMM. We’ve stayed in touch with our friends and team from a distance and Tom has made two trips back. We had the opportunity to share about the work and the needs in Thailand in churches here and with a number of people. We haven’t seen the immediate response we hoped for, but seeds have been planted and we pray that God is calling more workers.

Our kids attended public school and we had a great experience with a little elementary school at the end of our street. We met a lot of international friends through the school and also through International Friendships at OSU. We enjoyed unique experiences (for our kids) like Vacation Bible School, libraries, sledding, choral camp, Columbus’ parks and bike trails, and all four seasons! We’ve prioritized time with our parents and siblings and feel especially grateful for those good memories.

What excites you most about going back?

We have considered this time in the States temporary, and have always planned to return to Thailand. That simple fact helped all of us to embrace the time in Ohio as a great (but short) experience and helped us to maintain our excitement to go back. None of us have lost that desire and we praise God that we are all on the same page! We’re excited to reconnect with our team and the believers again. We’re excited for the potential ofall the things that God wants to do in Bangkok. We want to view the city with his eyes and find the people who are the most interested in learning and walking toward Jesus with us. We’re excited to go back in a setting that is obviously not Christianized, so we can see and celebrate small works of God. We’re looking forward to just being back in Thai culture that we love.

What’s most challenging about going back overseas after time spent in the States?

We’ve been reminded of some of the opportunities for our kids that we are giving up. Saying good-bye to our families and the conveniences of life and the resources here is hard. We’ll really miss the library where we spent a lot of time and checked out hundreds of books! The logistics of packing and moving internationally can feel overwhelming.

Are there any changes in your team and ministry you’d like to share?

There has been some turnover on the team. We have three new team members (including Efrain and Sujen’s baby Gabriella, Jonatan from Nicaragua, and Anna, a teacher). We will be regrouping as a team this year and plan to spend a lot of time praying and talking about what our focus should be moving forward. We feel like with our past experience and things we’ve learned, we can have a more focused vision from the beginning. Our goal will remain the same: to plant churches which are simple and reproducible, meeting in homes and spreading among natural networks. We have begun to see these simple churches form in Bangkok as well as a neighboring country. Please pray that God continues his work of multiplication and that whole households come to know the truth.

Who is your sending church, and how have you connected with them during your time in the United States?

Our sending church is London Christian Fellowship. It’s been really good to worship with them again over the past couple of years. The kids really loved the chance to go to Sunday school, be in the Christmas play, things like that. We liked being a part of a small group and getting to know many new people at our church. The hard thing about connecting was not living in the community where our church is located. We are so thankful for them as a sending church. We have a committed support team from our church and a very supportive pastor (Rob and Doris Swartz) and we are grateful for their care and prayers, not only for us, but for the whole team and for our Thai friends.

What Thai foods are you most looking forward to eating again?

Candice: garlic chicken with a fried egg
Tom: crab curry
Claire: pad thai (noodles) and oyster omelet
Eliza: sticky rice and yam (spicy seafood salad)
Silas: som tam (papaya salad)

What has God been teaching you during your time in the United States? How are you hoping to apply those lessons to your work in Thailand?

Tom: I'd say that being away from Thailand has reminded me of the need for patience in the work – the need to think long term. In the situation it's easier to get impatient and to feel like nothing is happening.

Being away gives some perspective. I've heard and thought a lot about the importance of spending a lot of time in prayer, and I hope that I can make that a priority as we return and get back into the routine of life there.

What’s the weather like in Thailand?

The weather is hot, year round. You can picture us heading into a summer that will last for years and years! The rainy season is beginning now and the dryer/hotter season is roughly February/April. Tom loves the heat, so he’s happy to leave the extreme cold of Ohio winters behind.

How can supporters and church members be praying for you during this transition?

  • good communication within our family
  • a suitable house and a neighborhood where God wants us to be
  • good new relationships with landlords/neighbors
  • that the kids would adjust as well back to Thailand as they did to America
  • success in language study (Candice will be learning to read and write in Thai)
  • unity of vision for our diverse/multicultural team
  • that Thai friends will come to know Jesus!

For the kids:
What about going back to Thailand excites you most?

We get asked this question a lot!

Silas (age 6): Seeing our new house – I hope it’s like our old house in Thailand and that there’s a hole for looking through to spy on the girls. I want it to have room for a dog. I want the dog to sleep in bed with me and I’ll wake up and check on him.

Claire (age 12): Thailand is one of my homes, so I want to go back. I look forward to hearing Thai language again. I’m looking forward to the hot weather and wearing dresses a lot. I’m looking forward to going to my new school and to see what it’s like. I think it will be really great. I can’t wait to see my Thai friends and team friends again.

Eliza (age 10): I’m looking forward to everything Claire said, plus, the food!

What would you want kids in the States to know about you?

Silas: I hope my friends here remember good times we had like playdates. I hope they know that I will be speaking a new language –Thai. I want them to know that Thai culture is different. We have different foods and speak a different language

Claire: I would like kids here to know I am just like you! Just because our family are mission workers and live in another country, we are not different. I’m a normal kid; I like to read and roller blade and I like rabbits. I’m not extra brave, I’m a little scared, but I know it will be okay because we’re doing it as a family and because God wants our family to do this. I would love to have pen pals in America. I’m a faithful letter write so if you write to me, you’ll get a response – presto!

What’s school like for you, in Thailand?

Eliza: I have no idea! We are going to a new school in Bangkok, called ICS (International Community School). We took a tour of it once and it’s big and had a swimming pool. It had a nice library. I will learn in English but there will be a Thai class too.

Claire: I’ve gone to a lot of different schools in the past, and recently I realized I was in my Thai kindergarten longer than any other school. I also went to Thai Catholic school, was homeschooled, and went to two public schools in Ohio, but I like the change and I’m really looking forward to seventh grade at ICS. I hope I’ll be able to make good friends with the same interests as me and that I’ll have a patient, fun math teacher who’s good at explaining things!


May 06, 2015

Locally Grown: Cherry Glade’s “Behold the King”

By Barry Maust, Pastor, Cherry Glade Mennonite Church, Accident, MD

Cherry Glade’s Easter Play has become a beloved tradition, drawing the church family together to produce the play, and reaching out to the community with a vivid portrayal of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This story is an inspiring example of how outreach can be woven seamlessly into the ongoing life of a church.

In the early 1980’s, Edna Bender, Chester Yoder and Esther Yoder were a part of the Special Programs Committee at Cherry Glade Mennonite Church. It was customary to have a Christmas Eve program that included special music and/or a drama, and concluded with singing Silent Night during a candle-lighting ceremony. At a meeting, these three committee members were brainstorming about how the Easter season could be celebrated. God had placed it on their hearts to do something that would bring honor to what the season means to believers. Chester suggested that a passion play should be produced, and Esther was given the task of writing the script for the drama.

Esther’s desire was to write a play that was as close to the scriptural wording and description as possible. She immersed herself in the biblical story of the passion of Christ. She incorporated many portions of scripture into the play. Artistic interpretations were added only as they were needed to evoke the emotions that she felt were present in the biblical narrative. While portions of the script have been refined through the years, a hallmark of the production of “Behold the King” is its adherence to the biblical narrative.

In the spring of 1982, the Special Programs Committee undertook the task of producing the drama that Esther had written. Chester accepted the task of portraying Jesus, and Edna used her artistic gifts to envision the props. Lines were rehearsed, props were built, and music was selected in preparation for the day the play was to be performed. As a young person, I recall the tremendous amount of work that was put forth in order to make the production a success. There was an air of excitement as the day of the production approached.

The celebration was presented in two parts. Sunday afternoon, the drama took place beginning in the church sanctuary. The events leading up to and including the sentencing of Jesus were portrayed. The audience was then invited to a field near the church to witness the crucifixion. The portrayal showed Jesus and the two thieves being placed on the cross, guarded by Romans soldiers. Several of the soldiers were mounted on horses, with one horse not cooperating, running and bucking, with the soldier hanging on for dear life. Observant eyes could catch a glimpse of the sad end of Judas Iscariot’s story, portrayed in a distant tree, as we returned to the church.

That evening, the audience was invited to return to the sanctuary for a time of music. The performances included the band “Rescued,” and Cherry Glade’s Men’s Chorus giving a program of songs with themes of the resurrection. The celebration was a success with many memories for those who had attended.

Approximately a decade later, a desire to again produce the drama began to be expressed. Several people who had been a part of the previous production as youth now rose to the challenge of giving leadership. Darrell Yoder and Conrad Maust were among those who had a special interest in drama and training in the theater. Darrel undertook the role of portraying Jesus. The script was expanded to include a resurrection scene. Theatrical techniques were added (one of which left the audience gasping, as Jesus disappeared in the scene of the Upper Room). The drama was arranged to allow the entire drama to be presented in the sanctuary. The production was given on several days to accommodate the growing demand for those who wanted to view the production.

Since that time, the passion play has grown into an event that takes place every other year, with the only break occurring when we were building a new sanctuary. Over the years, the production has changed as God calls individuals to carry the responsibility of ministering through drama. With the change in actors portraying Jesus, the drama challenges even those who have seen the production many times to think afresh of what it was like when Jesus made the way for our salvation. A scene of Jesus welcoming believers into heaven was a recent addition that prompts thoughts of what is in store for each of us.

As a pastor, seeing what has happened and anticipating what will happen, several thoughts come to mind: First, I don’t believe the Special Programs Committee that met in the early ‘80’s knew what would become of the drama “Behold the King”. It was their desire to do something special to celebrate the sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us. As I think of the gifts that each of those people possessed, I see that God equipped them to make something happen that none of them could have accomplished on their own. It was not happenstance that brought that group together. Second, as I see the drama unfold each time, I am reminded that God continues to inspire and gift people to honor him. Many individuals come together and allow God to use them to accomplish his work.

God orchestrates the production in such a way that it is evident that his hand is over it. “Behold the King” is being used to make Kingdom differences. I know of individuals who would not attend Sunday morning church services, but when invited to the drama, express a desire to more fully understand what Jesus did for them. Every time I see the production, I am moved by Jesus’ great love for me, and I am challenged to allow God to use me along with others in order to advance his Kingdom. I believe that if we are sensitive to God’s leading and faithful in following his direction, he will do more than we can imagine.


May 01, 2015

Growing and Learning With the REACH Teams

The following REACH updates are adapted excerpts from their team blogs, and give a small glimpse into their lives over the last five months.

Team South Asia Update- Abundance of Fruit

Recently, we spent some time in a village. We loaded up the jeep and headed to what would be our home for the next ten days, and as always, we arrived to one of the warmest welcomes you could imagine. As soon as our feet hit the ground, we were rushed into chairs, handed coconuts for drinking, and given more apples than we could eat. This was the start of our fruit overload that would last our entire visit. The next morning we woke up to rice cakes and chutney, a type of spicy peanut sauce that is probably my favorite breakfast of all time. After breakfast, we started right into telling Bible stories at two different churches. This started a pattern of this breakfast and sharing in two or three churches, and because of the constant chutney and fruit (and the fact that we can’t pronounce the actual name of this place), I call it The land of Fruit and Chutney.

But the fruit wasn’t just physical. Each day, I’m sure God was producing fruit too. Our stories have been received better here than anywhere yet, and our new Bible stories are bringing tons of non-church members in to see what’s going on. I’ve only ever heard stories of things like this before, and it’s such an honor to a part of it. Man, I can’t wait till I can see you all and tell you about it in more detail!

– Killian

Team Spain Update- New Life

It has been another productive work here at camp! We have gotten the garden fence all set up and the ground tilled. The seeds will soon be planted. This week we also painted the farm house rooms at the camp where guests stay. It seems like the whole camp has been undergoing a makeover while we’ve been here, and things are looking really good! We hope that all of this work will bring glory to God by being an inviting place where people can relax and listen to the Father.

The camp is one aspect of our time here, but another huge one is being involved in the church we go to in the city. This Sunday was especially important for us. One of our friends, whom we have known since we got here, made the decision to proclaim her faith publicly and be baptized! Many church members gathered on the beach to celebrate the event. Our friend shared her story, and we sang some songs. Then it was into the Mediterranean for her to symbolize her new life! It was an unforgettable opportunity for us to witness this step, and we are all so proud of her. Being able to witness that event and how Christ rules in her life has really encouraged me. I ask myself, how can I hold onto less and let Jesus take control of more? How can I show Jesus to the world? These questions have been challenging me recently.

– Joel

Team North Africa Update- Unexpected Appointments

It’s sometimes hard to see the father working in the little things, especially in a culture where it usually takes years see any sort of fruit It can be discouraging and many days we go to sleep wondering if we really did anything that was of great importance. But yesterday I was reminded that we don’t need to do anything to be used by the father. He is working in ways we don’t see and will never understand.

Riding the bus recently, Asher and I sat right across from a man, and as our destination city came into sight he leaned over the aisle and asked me “would you like to come and eat with me?” Honestly at first I was taken aback. I had spent the whole day traveling with this man, saying all of 5 words to him. He kept to himself the whole time, except for when he was showing his dissatisfaction with there not being any taxis (the reason we all ended up taking the bus). Yet here he was offering for us to go and eat somewhere with him. I looked at the guys, and we all agreed these are the things that we are here for, and we accepted the offer.

Stepping off the bus we met up with some of his friends and then he told me “follow me, we’ll go to my house.” As it turns out this group of three guys are studying here in the city, but are all from the village where we currently live. They were very excited to have us over, and told us that their house is our house if we ever need a place. We had a great conversation and ended up leaving their house after 11 p.m. They were surprised that we had a place here. They were fully planning to host us and have us stay the night with them. We exchanged numbers and went on our way.

I would give an awful lot to know what that man saw yesterday to extend that invitation. I definitely wasn’t saying anything that got him thinking we were good people. Someone else was speaking to his heart. We don’t know many people around our age, but now we know three guys that also spend time in both the mountains and the city. It was quite an exciting unexpected, yet divinely planned, appointment.

– Levi

Team Canada Update – Focusing on Blessings

This week the girls and I had the awesome privilege to go to the Living Hope Native Missions ladies’ prayer retreat in Dorian, a camp an hour away from our apartment. There were 11 ladies total at the retreat and they were some of the loveliest ladies I have ever met.

It proved to be an encouraging, challenging, and refreshing two days. One of the topics was thankfulness. As humans, we tend to focus on negatives more than positives in our lives. I'm sure that sometimes our Father feels saddened when he has put so many blessings right in front of us and we’re too blind to notice them because of our selfishness in looking towards the negatives. The women who shared this also encouraged us to be thankful and write down the gifts our father has given us.

I personally found that challenging; more often than not, I grumble about little things when Dad has placed something spectacular right in front of me for that particular time. I don't know about you, but that makes me feel foolish. It was a humbling experience.

– Hope

Team Himalaya Update – The Blessing of Safety

I want to start out by giving our father a shout out of praise! As I am sure you have all heard, there was a huge earthquake here, possibly the largest that has ever hit this nation. We experienced a 7.8. We are staying in a village that is in the same district as the epicenter; it is around a four-hour bus ride from here. However, with the way the roads wind through the mountains, it is most likely a lot closer than it sounds. We are all safe and well. A lot of homes in the village have cracks, but very few have collapsed. It is a huge blessing that so few have collapsed. At the same time, all of the cracked homes are going to have to be torn down and rebuilt. This will require a lot of time, effort and money. Usually, the villagers come together a community to build homes. Now, however, everyone will have to work on their own homes. It can be discouraging looking at the future. Still, there is some joy in the sadness.

– Regina