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August 31, 2015

International Missions Association (IMA) Networks To Spread Transformation

Columbus, OH – “The IMA is a place where we hear God speak in transforming ways,” said Yesaya Abdi, IMA president and Indonesian mission leader. “We're a small group, but one that God has been using to inspire change and mission vision around the world.”

Hosted by Rosedale Mennonite Missions (RMM) at their Rosedale International Center (RIC) in Columbus, Ohio, the IMA met July 28-August 2, 2015 for its almost-annual assembly, a practice which was birthed at the 1997 Mennonite World Conference (MWC) in Calcutta, India.

Following on the heels of Mennonite World Conference 2015 in Pennsylvania the previous week, the more than 50 mission leaders – some of whom had attended the earlier global gathering – loved the opportunity to connect more personally as they heard reports, challenges, testimonies and prayer requests from many of the 22 IMA member groups.

“We're an association, not an organization,” said IMA vice-president, Henry Mulandi, a bishop and mission leader from Christian Church International in Thika, Kenya. “As an association we are always asking God how he wants to work now. The IMA has really boosted me—helped me learn and grow in openness to the Holy Spirit.”

In the opening plenary of the Holy Spirit in Mission conference, Mulandi spoke powerfully from Romans 12. “Our minds will be transformed by the Holy Spirit as we ask him how he wants to work now.” Citing large revivals among the youth of Kenya in the 1970s, Mulandi said that many of Kenya's current church leaders came to Christ during those revivals. But times have changed. Crusade evangelism doesn't work in the same way it used to.

While attending the 2012 IMA meeting in Ethiopia, Mulandi said he realized his home church had not planted a new church in eight years. They'd become a comfortable megachurch, focusing on their nice cathedral with its stained glass windows. God stirred him up said Mulandi, and transformed his mind.

“If people come to my church, I'll send them out,” Mulandi said. He was happy to report that in the past three years they've planted five new churches. And they've begun moving out into the Kenyan high schools in youth ministry.

The following day, a day of prayer and fasting, the group gathered for five regional prayer clusters that focused on Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, North America, then shifted to the campus of Rosedale Bible College (RBC) west of Columbus for a tour of the college and the adjoining headquarters of the Conservative Mennonite Conference.

During the meeting at RBC, two of the Kenyan IMA members, Henry Mulandi and Joseph Kamau spoke of how RBC had been their “burning bush.” As part of the youth revival that was sweeping Kenya in the 70s and 80s they spurned “seminaries” calling them “cemeteries.” They feared higher education would make them “lose their fire” for the gospel.

At RBC, they found teachers who were deeply committed to Christ and the Bible. At first their loud Kenyan prayers jolted the quiet Mennonite campus, but the youths found a sanctuary in the surrounding cornfields where they could happily pray at the top of their lungs as was their custom.

“They weren't charismatic like we were,” said Mulandi, “But they were 'flat out' for God.”

“The impartation I had from Rosedale has formed me,” said Kamau. “The investment they had in us has impacted the world. We pray that Rosedale will continue to teach the truth and serve as a base for training church and mission leaders.”

During his Thursday morning input Joe Showalter, president of RMM, and host of the IMA gathering, challenged the mission leaders to look at how people learn. Specifically, he said, practitioners and teachers learn far more than those who passively listen or read.

“I believe we have elevated the sermon in our churches to a place that it does not belong,” Showalter said. “A lot of what Jesus did was on the road, showing people things along the way. A pastor is called 'to equip the saints for the work of ministry...' “

Workshops, testimonies, and reports from a wide variety of mission groups punctuated the plenaries.

Showalter reported on the recent move of RMM headquarters to the RIC in north Columbus. “We had some of our staff working in Columbus,” he said. “We now enjoy all being together. It has helped us connect with an urbanizing world.”

Rich Mendola, a leader of International Friendships (IFI), highlighted the strategic importance of working with international students in the U.S. One of the IMA participants had also served as a staff member with IFI before returning to minister among the three million internally displaced persons in his homeland, Sudan.

During a closing time of communion and prayer, Adalid Romero, president of the Honduran Mennonite Church (HMC), broke into deep, gut-wrenching sobs.

“We've been around for 65 years,” Romero said. “Recently I toured the six regions of HMC and we talked about new outreach. But the brothers said, 'why should we start new work when we don't have any money?' But here at the IMA God has touched me very deeply. Please pray that I'll be able to share this vision with our church.”

Sunday, August 2, international teams of IMA members visited and ministered in ten Mennonite churches in Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.

IMA president Abdi commented in closing, “The success of IMA is not a smooth running program and good food, but is there a big impact in the places where we go? Will our IMA gathering give impact in our own lives and ministries? Will we be transformed? And will we bring transformation where we're going?”

One first time attender from Sudan said, “These meetings were a most interesting blend of testimony and teaching. I've never heard so many encouraging testimonies—and ones I could learn things from.”

IMA coordinator, Tilahun Beyene announced that Germany will be the location of the 2016 IMA meetings which are planned for the fall.


August 21, 2015

Appropriate Technology

By Hans Shenk, RMM staff writer and Josiah, RMM worker in North Africa – From the August 2015 Beacon

Appropriate Technology (AT) is a field of study and an approach to development that seeks to solve problems in the developing world through tools and methods suited to social, economic and environmental realities. The African continent has been called “the graveyard of western technology” because of the long history of well-intentioned outsiders who provided solutions that did not adequately match local needs. In some cases, the “problem” was not considered a problem by local people, and when the outsiders left, the “solution” was neglected or repurposed. In other situations, a machine met a need, but local people lacked the training and/or resources to maintain the machine over time.

With this in mind, AT projects involve collaboration with locals to ensure that the technology meets a genuine local need and can be used and maintained by locals. In this approach—particularly from a Christian perspective—outsiders first enter communities as learners. They understand poverty not just as material need, but in a broader context of spiritual poverty. They recognize that they also have areas of poverty and that they can learn, for example, from the rich faith of local brothers and sisters or the supportive relationships exhibited in local culture. This humble attitude can be difficult to maintain in contexts with oppressive colonial histories. “...with appropriate technology and the attitude of a learner allows workers to share the gospel holistically—caring for both the physical and spiritual needs of the local community.”The materially poor often view Westerners as “saviors” who can magically meet needs, assuming they themselves have nothing to contribute. Because of these underlying assumptions, working toward change in a healthy way can be a slow process of identifying local strengths and using them to meet local needs (a learning posture called Appreciative Inquiry). An ideal AT is one that meets a recognized need for the local community and is designed and carried out in collaboration with local people. It also uses inexpensive (or even recycled) locally available resources and renewable energy, and is relatively simple in design.

AT principles have been applied around the world in both business and nonprofit settings to improve sanitation, housing, agriculture, health, energy, business and other sectors, mostly in developing countries. Many people in the materially developed world, however, are also reexamining the need for more sustainable ways of living in cultures marked by overconsumption and waste.

Numerous universities offer courses in AT, and some offer minors or majors in the discipline, among them Appalachian State University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Chalmers Center at Covenant College. Various Christian organizations such as ECHO offer training or resources in using appropriate technology for the benefit of the materially underprivileged, and to spread the message of Jesus’ love to the world. A helpful introduction to holistic, sustainable development in a Christian perspective is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.

A career in AT can open doors for long-term work in developing countries, providing opportunities for building relationships with local communities through collaborating on problem-solving technologies. Most importantly, combining missional goals with appropriate technology and the attitude of a learner allows workers to share the gospel holistically—caring for both the physical and spiritual needs of the local community.


August 13, 2015

“Somebody Watered…”

Update from Phil and Maretta, RMM workers in Spain

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

We’ve learned to appreciate the power and importance of watering by looking after our garden, lawn, bushes, and flowers in arid, rainless Spanish summers. Things die, or at least shrivel up without regular watering, but grow and flourish with it despite the conditions. The lawn areas, covered by centipede grass, have been especially instructive. One area just had a few isolated tufts of grass with large bare sections of brown dirt. It didn’t look very promising but, surprisingly by regularly watering the isolated tufts, they gradually, almost imperceptibly, grew and expanded sending out runners and filling in the bare sections until the whole area was covered by a thick thatch of grass.

The apostle Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that he planted and Apollos watered but it was God who gave the increase. His point is that it is of secondary importance who does these things. It is God who is the main actor in salvation, so it is foolish to get into a mindset of leader adulation, as the Corinthian believers were doing. It would seem that there is a significant need for watering at this moment, in this part of Spain. After the end of the Franco era and the opening up of the country to evangelical missionaries, many small, struggling churches have been planted. Like centipede grass, they have a strong instinct to send out offshoots and attempt to expand the reach and influence of the gospel and the fellowship of believers. The environment is arid and inhospitable to the gospel, but with encouragement, growth and expansion can happen.

Watering, we have found, seems to involve presence and partnering. Just attending the gathering of believers for worship, Bible study and prayer seems to be an encouragement. When you are in a minority of one percent or less, it is easy to get disheartened. Growth in friendship and mutual confidence leads to opportunity for suggestions and strategizing. There also seems to be lots of room to partner with the church’s bridging efforts. Just in our small fellowship there is an attempt to expand the reach of the Christian camp to the state school population through a farm school, an attempt to set up a family life center to reach young families with children with the gospel, an outreach-orientated children’s gospel choir, and a desire to set up an evangelical grade school as an educational mission effort.

Thanks for your support and prayers!


Our workers in Spain (Phil and Maretta, Pablo and Judi) have been so faithful in “watering” in a place that is spiritually dry and arid. Ask God to grow the seedlings they have watered and to bring a bountiful harvest. Pray too that God would shower refreshment on them so that they would not grow weary or lose heart.

– Mim Musser, RMM Prayer Coordinator


August 07, 2015

Working and Giving Together

Through June and early July, we talked a lot about Missions Day Offering, our largest annual fundraising event. Almost a month later, even though some of the totals are still being counted, we’ve put together an overview of how the parts of MDO fit together into a whole. Many thanks again to everyone who gave, or raised funds for this year’s Missions Day Offering. We thank God for the generosity and faithfulness of our partners.



Touchstone Donations – $79,500 / 25.8% Touchstone Donors are a group of people who have joined in RMM’s work with major financial support in an ongoing way. We are so grateful for these partners and the investment that they make in the work of inviting the nations to worship Jesus.


Ride for Missions – $168,200 / 54.6% This year was the 10th anniversary of Ride for Missions! Every year, a group of riders makes a five-day bicycle trek to the location of CMC’s annual conference. Each rider raises money by inviting friends and family to sponsor the ride, which is also supported by corporate sponsors. This year, 97 riders and 20 support volunteers participated in the ride, which raised $160,000. Ride for Missions is a great way to get involved in supporting missions!


Rosedale Missions Cruisers – $7,100 / 2.3% This is a recent, growing addition to the fundraising activities surrounding Missions Day Offering. This year, 20 motorcyclists spent a day riding approximately 120 miles through scenic Holmes and Wayne counties near Hartville, the location of annual conference, and stopping at area attractions. Each rider paid a registration fee which went directly to RMM. Ride expenses were covered by generous donations from corporate sponsors.


Sunday Morning Offering – $53,500 / 17.3% These funds come from the traditional passing of the offering plate through the congregation during the Sunday morning Missions Day program at annual conference. RMM is the missions agency of CMC, and the people of CMC gave generously to support RMM’s work around the world.


We’re so grateful for everyone who was a part of these fundraising efforts!

If you’d like to use your gifts and talents to support spreading the gospel, but don’t like riding bicycles or motorcycles, we’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas for future fundraisers.

If you would like to donate to RMM’s work or become involved in any other way, click here


Ride for Missions 2015

Video by Stephanie Kress

August 01, 2015

“Whatever Your Fears are, Jesus Has Come to Take Those Away”

Stories of the Spirit working, with Carl Medearis

By Hans Shenk

SATURDAY EVENING

Annual Conference 2015’s programs on Saturday and Sunday morning were distinguished from most other annual conference programs by an unusual continuity. Carl Medearis, expert on the Middle East and Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations served as the guest speaker for both programs.

On both days, Medearis inspired, amused, and challenged the people of CMC to dedicate themselves to a life of following Jesus. Along the way, he delivered a number of challenges and talking points, but returned most often to two primary themes—freedom from fear and focusing on Jesus. The challenges were woven into a dense tapestry of hair-raising accounts of God’s work in the Middle East. Medearis presented the intense stories in a winsomely self-deprecating style, framing himself as the reluctant sidekick, constantly being dragged by the Holy Spirit into outrageous situations and plot twists that unexpectedly led to changed hearts and lives, divine appointments, and Jesus being glorified.

On Saturday evening, Medearis’ message was preceded by an acapella hymn sing led by Amber Moser, and the delightful premiere of “A Man Called Stephen: Filled with the Spirit” a modern cantata written by the father and son team of Laban and Laban Miller and performed by a select group of singers and musicians from the broader CMC community.

Medearis took the stage following the cantata, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. He kicked off his first talk by telling the congregation that he prefers telling stories to preaching sermons, and joked that he preferred stories because, “You can’t argue with a story.”

He then launched into a wild, winding story of how he was invited to preach in Palestine in a tent in the street—how the one-evening plan became an extended series of ever-larger meetings, and how even an attempt to go home ended with a miraculous healing, and even more meetings. He talked about how the meetings were temporarily moved from the tent, into a mosque. He told the story of a series of televised debates between himself and prominent Islamic scholars sponsored by Hezbollah, and that instead of arguing, he was prompted by the Spirit to respond in the debate by telling stories about Jesus. He finished by recounting how he told the story of the Prodigal Son in an interview on Hezbollah’s official television channel that took place in the home of Hezbollah leadership.

He delivered a challenge to the people of CMC that sometimes, fear becomes an obstacle to ministry. He ran through a list of common fears and worries and finished with this reassuring truth: “Whatever your fears are, Jesus has come to take those away, if you will just say yes.”

SUNDAY MORNING

After an energetic time of worship reflecting on the presence and power of the Spirit in the weekend, and looking with hope to the future, Joe Showalter opened the Sunday morning service with a reading from Psalms 46. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Following the scripture reading, Ben Shirk, CMC’s liaison to international affiliates introduced delegates attending Annual Conference from five of the seven international church bodies affiliated with CMC: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, India and Kenya. One representative of the Indian church read Ephesians 3:16-19 in Tamil, and the people of CMC waved to send our greetings to our brothers and sisters around the world.

The international flavor of the morning continued as three couples serving overseas with RMM presented prayer requests, which were lifted up in prayer by the congregation.

After the prayer, the conference children’s choir blessed the congregation with three joyful songs about faithfulness and peace, finishing with an exuberant performance of Let There be Peace on Earth, reminding the people of CMC of our responsibility in bringing peace, as they sang “Let sweet peace begin with me.”

As the choir filed out, Showalter introduced Medearis, who swung into another series of incredible accounts of the Spirit at work. He started the morning by recounting how he had been invited to speak to the Sudanese parliament, and had taken the opportunity to share about Jesus.

“I bring that story up,” he said, “only because, it’s tempting when you look at the new, especially from one angle, to think the world is falling apart? But in the end, God is actually doing stuff, everywhere.”

His next story was about an Emirati woman who asked him to ‘evangelize’ her husband. Medearis explained that what she and her husband both expected was a combative argument. Medearis explained that he refused to argue with the man. He then took a moment to explain to the people of CMC his strategy for sharing the gospel. The strategy focuses on celebrating and following Jesus, exclusively.

“I’m not trying to get Muslims to switch from their religion, Islam, to a better religion, Christianity.” He said, “Because which religion saves you? None. Christianity doesn’t save anybody. Jesus saves people.”“I’m not trying to get Muslims to switch from their religion, Islam, to a better religion, Christianity.” He said, “Because which religion saves you? None. Christianity doesn’t save anybody. Jesus saves people.”

He went on to describe how, instead of trying to “evangelize” his Emirati friend through an argument, he simply told him the familiar story of Adam and Eve, and related the shame they felt when they ate of the fruit of the tree of Good and Evil to the man’s native culture of shame and honor.

“Is it not true that the issues with the human race are shame and aloneness and fear?” Medearis asked, finishing the story. “Jesus came to restore honor, instead of shame, to bring communion with God and others instead of aloneness, and to bring love instead of fear. That’s why Jesus came—he came to restore honor to a shamed human race.”

“And that’s the gospel,” he told CMC, “that’s the gospel in some other words.”

Medearis added that it’s not any better or worse than presenting the gospel in terms of innocence and guilt. But, he said, the United States is a “fully post-Christian” nation, in which the message that Jesus has come to restore honor and communion and love to people who are fearful, alone and ashamed particularly resonates; “God has prepared this nation for these days for you, right now, to go out and pick fruit. The fruit is very, very ripe.”

The harvest is ripe, according to Medearis, for hearing about Jesus; not necessarily ‘Christianity.’ He talked about how Jesus attacked the self-righteous religious leaders of his day, and admonished CMC: “Jesus was on the side of the poor and the oppressed, and the outcasts of society. And if you’re not on that side, if you’re on the side of the strong and the rich and the empowered, you might find yourself on the opposite side of Jesus, and I don’t think you want that.”

To conclude his talk, Medearis told the story of how he was invited to the 2013 Arab League Summit held at the Republican Palace in Baghdad, to present a paper about injustice. In response to the invitation, Medearis wrote a paper about Jesus’ views on injustice that was circulated anonymously at the summit. According to Medearis, the paper’s call for Palestinians to imitate the example of Jesus by forgiving those who have hurt them stirred up considerable controversy at the summit.

Medearis summarized the paper briefly for CMC, explaining that while all religions, religious leaders and political parties claim to support justice, contrasting interpretations of justice lead to an endless cycle of competing claims and conflict about what ‘justice’ is. Where Jesus’ view is distinctive, said Medearis, is that Jesus forgave injustice, and calls on his followers to forgive, as well.

“Forgiveness trumps the whole debate,” said Medearis. He added that he wrote the paper encouraging Palestinians to imitate the example of Jesus because “The Palestinians can win the day if they choose to forgive the ones who hurt them, the Palestinians will set their hearts free.”

Medearis explained that after he informed the attendees of the Arab League that he had written the paper, he shared with them again Jesus’ example of forgiveness, and explained how forgiveness sets the heart of the forgiver free. After that speech, he said, two Palestinian mothers, still in the process of mourning for their young sons who were killed by Israeli troops, approached him at the end of the Arab League Summit, in tears, to thank him for his plea for forgiveness.

As he finished his stories for CMC, Medearis addressed what can only be considered a natural response to stories like the ones he told: why aren’t such incredible things happening in our midst? Why aren’t we seeing such inspiring works of the Spirit?

There are two possibilities, said Medearis, and the first one is that sometimes we don’t know Jesus. “We don’t know Jesus; we know our religion, but not Jesus,” he said, and pled with the congregation to focus on coming to know Jesus, and the power that is in the name of Jesus. “Be intimate with him. Know him,” said Medearis. “When we know Jesus, when he’s changed our lives, when we follow him and his ways and his teachings and his life and we are regenerated by his Holy Spirit…he changes things. He changes nations and communities and cities and churches.”

Secondly, said Medearis, echoing again his theme from Saturday evening, sometimes we don’t see extraordinary works of the Spirit, because we’re afraid. “Fear has stopped us from seeing God do amazing miracles by the power of his Spirit, and I think we should repent of that. The number one command in the Bible is ‘Do not fear.’”

Medearis brought the sermon, and the weekend’s teachings, to a close, inviting anyone in the congregation who felt a deep need to be freed from the inhibitions of fear to simply stand where they were. He warned those that responded that their commitment would be tested, and ended the weekend with a reminder that living in freedom is a matter of daily struggle, and saying “yes” to the Spirit, over and over again: “Later today and tomorrow, you’re going to be challenged to walk in freedom, and then you have to choose if you’re going to be afraid…or if you’re going to be bold.”


Taste of Missions 2015

By Ashley West

The Conference Worship Team launched CMC’s 105th Annual Conference in characteristic style. Not with eloquent words to welcome the crowds, but with a heart cry of welcome to the God all had gathered to honor, singing Build your Kingdom Here.

Brian Hershberger, CMC Executive Director, offered an official welcome. Brian introduced the annual conference theme Step with the Spirit, reflecting on the importance of the Spirit’s role in the life of the believer and the differences of belief and understanding within CMC . He expressed his hope that this weekend would be a chance to not only learn about, but also to experience the Holy Spirit.

After worship, the program began with a poem by Levi, a former REACH participant to North Africa. The poem, “Trails I Once Did Know, (Walking in the Spirit)” speaks of trekking through the Atlas Mountains of North Africa to share the gospel in unreached villages. The author acknowledges the rough terrain—both physically and spiritually—of the region that he is called to reach but isn’t deterred, “Keep going! Just keep going!/Seek the Spirit ever knowing/Down to valleys dark he’ll lead/Down to places where light is in need.”

Pablo, RMM worker to Spain, shared how he and his wife have joined several choirs as a way of building relationships while embracing Spanish culture and pursuing their passion for music. They were asked to join a gospel choir, which are very common in Spain, though often with no church connection. Pablo suggested that because of a long history of oppression and war, the Spanish people relate to the sense of struggle and longing in many of the songs—especially spirituals and African slave choruses. Pablo identified this as yet another way that the Spanish people are yearning for a relationship with their creator.

Joe Showalter, RMM president, took the stage next, joined by Paul Kurtz of Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, Andrew Troyer, former RMM worker in Nicaragua, and Dot Chupp, co-director of Rosedale Business Group. Together, they shared the story of Diego, a Nicaraguan who came to own a coffee farm, yet found himself struggling to pay his workers and keep the business afloat, relying on loans to sustain his family and business between harvest seasons. Diego’s life and circumstances were transformed when Hemisphere Coffee began purchasing beans from Diego at direct trade prices—twice what he had earned before—and started advancing him the money at the end of each harvest season. Diego’s business has expanded, and he has used the profits to plant 23 churches. Diego hopes to support four Nicaraguan overseas missionary candidates through his business, two of whom may leave as early as spring 2016.

Raleigh and Opal, appointed RMM workers to North Africa, shared about their decision to go overseas. They were interested in overseas missions before they were married, and after a year-long “trial run” in Palestine, Israel, they felt that God was calling them to service in the Middle East. They and their two children will be joining the North Africa team.

Josiah and Sarah, RMM workers in North Africa, discussed their work in health education and appropriate technology. Josiah shared about a development project he is collaborating on with locals, and gave an on-stage demonstration of how a cheap and energy efficient house can be built with straw bales and stucco. He also interviewed three members of the 2014-2015 North Africa REACH team about how they were challenged and fulfilled during their service.

Sheldon Swartzentruber shared briefly about the Rosedale Missions Cruisers motorcycle ride, which he says was begun last year because “some of us don’t look good in biker shorts” and invited conference goers to participate next year. Wayne Yoder, Ride for Missions Coordinator, shared about this year’s ride, which consisted of 97 riders and 20 support staff. Wayne suggested that this year’s theme should have been “riding out the storm,” but said that despite the rough weather it was a great ride. The riders rode a cumulative 35,000 miles and raised over $160,000.

The program concluded with a prayer of dismissal and a time of fellowship and food. The snacks consisted of treats which are common on the streets of Spain and North Africa—spiced roasted chickpeas, churros with chocolate sauce, and chilled horchata.