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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.