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November 25, 2015

Letters, Calls, Peanut Butter, and Ruined Candy: RMM Workers Recall Their Favorite Christmas Gifts Abroad

– From the December 2016 Beacon

The holidays can be a difficult time for cross-cultural workers. Living far away from family and home communities and missing out on familiar celebrations and traditions often make workers feel lonely and disconnected. Long-term workers go through this cycle every year, and even short-term workers often deal with homesickness and sadness as they spend Christmas apart from their families for the first time.

To get a taste of what it’s like to spend the holidays far from home and the difference a gift or letter can make, we asked a few of our past and present workers to describe the best gift they received while working abroad. We’ve collected their responses below.


When I was little, I remember receiving a Christmas box from the kids at church. There were handmade cards and photo albums of the kids in Sunday School. I was thrilled with the Zhu Zhu pet they sent me! I loved it! I also remember my Grandma sending chewy peppermint Christmas candy with tiny trees on them.

– Claire, age 12, Thailand


My favorite gift was a visit from my parents! We had our traditional Chinese food for Christmas Eve at the top of the tallest building in Bangkok (Baiyoke tower). It was so special to have them here to celebrate and to keep old traditions alive in a new place!

– Candice, Thailand


My first year in Thailand, my family sent me an advent calendar in the form of small boxes with gifts. I would open one each day leading up to Christmas. It was such a wonderful way to ease the loneliness of my first Christmas away from family.

– Anna, Thailand


Sometimes the most inspiring thing was just a regular letter and a family photo; after many years we started to feel so out of touch with people, their growing children, grandchildren, etc. I often read those updates a few times. Also, having someone actually call or Skype was a real treat. Our Christmas activities were usually very limited, so we felt blessed by the gift of the time and effort friends or family took to be in touch.

– Paula, Middle East


I can't think of a gift received from back home for Christmas,
but if I were to imagine something I'd want, it would probably be a phone call (we have a U.S. number!) or a live Skype or FaceTime chat.

– Pablo, Spain


I think the best gifts I received in Thailand were packages with holiday decorations and special foods for Thanksgiving and Easter. Those Christian/American holidays aren’t celebrated at all, and it’s difficult to find anything that reminds one of traditional celebrations at home. Those packages gave me a tangible connection to traditions, home, and family that are very special to me.

– Colleen, Thailand


Last Christmas my family was able to come to Costa Rica to spend Christmas and New Year's together. The time that we were able to spend together in those days is the best gift I've received while on the field.

– Liz, Costa Rica


The gifts that I remember most from Spain are peanut butter, Starbucks Via coffee, and encouragement notes from my youth group back home accompanied by lots of candy and treats. Of all of those, the Starbucks Via was possibly the best...maybe tied with peanut butter. We had good coffee in Spain, but it was espresso and just very different. It was good to have something quick, easy, delicious, and a reminder of coffee from home. It might have helped that it came from my future wife ;)

– Brian, REACH team Spain, 2009


I would definitely say peanut butter. My church also wrote little encouragement notes to open on days I missed home. They sent the notes in an Altoids mint box, so it didn’t take much room, and it was super fun for me to pull out and read every once in a while.

– Courtney, REACH team Madagascar 2008, South Asia 2010


One of the most meaningful gifts that we received had nothing to do with the content of the package. A good friend of ours sent us a package unexpectedly. We weren't planning to get anything, and then all of a sudden a slip of paper showed up at our door, saying that I should come down to the post office. When I got there, I was handed a cardboard box that was falling apart. A friend from our church back home had bought a six-pack of Mountain Dew and a big bag of M&M's and sent them to us. In transit, three of the cans of Mountain Dew had burst, saturating everything else in the box. The bag of M&M's had also burst open and the M&M’s were disintegrating due to the spilled soda. There wasn't much left to salvage. In fact, very little on the box was even legible except for the large amount of postage that had been paid for the box to be sent. I don't remember the exact amount, but I remember being shocked that someone we knew would care about us enough to spend that kind of money to send us something as trivial as candy. We felt loved, and all it took was the unexpected gesture of a friend who cared enough about us to send us a reminder of their thoughts and prayers for us. For us, it wasn't the content of packages that was important. Packages were a reminder that we had not been forgotten.

– Matt, Middle East


There’s nothing quite like getting a package in the mail. In addition to whatever is inside, the package bears the unspoken messages: “We were thinking about you, and we care about you enough to pack this box and send it to you.” And that’s perhaps the most important part. I still remember one of the first packages Dawn and I got in Guayaquil. I waited in line at the post office and then waited in line on the sidewalk to get the requisite customs form typed. Then I waited in line at the post office again. When I finally retrieved the box of Christmas cookies, we discovered that a rodent had chewed through the box and partially devoured the cookies. But all the implied messages that came with the box were completely intact! We were grateful, and we still remember who sent it!

– Jon, Ecuador/North Africa


Letters, calls and gifts are a powerful way to encourage workers, and remind them that they are not alone. We encourage you to support the work of the kingdom this holiday season by sending a letter or package to someone serving Jesus overseas.

For contact information for RMM workers call 614-258-4780 or email info@rmmoffice.org.


November 03, 2015

Between August and May: Introducing the 2015 REACH Teams

By Hans Shenk and Ashley West – From the November 2015 Beacon

It has become a part of the organizational rhythm of RMM. Every year, on a weekend late in August, between 20 and 35 young people arrive at the Rosedale International Center with their lives packed into suitcases. Every spring, near the end of May, there’s a weekend when 20 to 35 young people carry overflowing suitcases back out of the RIC, stow them in trunks and vans, and drive away.

After witnessing the annual cycle of REACH over time, whether in person or from afar through RMM communications, it’s easy for years, stories and faces to blur together, and for the significance of what happens between those weekends in August and May to be lost. And yet, every year of REACH is unique; every team and every participant is uniquely called.

“Please join us in supporting these young people in prayer as they finish their time of preparation in Columbus and go out to do the work of God’s kingdom around the world."For three months, starting in August, REACHers live at the RIC, cultivating spiritual disciplines, growing together as teams, developing any specialized skills necessary for their assignment, studying language, and learning about the cultures where they’ll be serving. REACHers attend daily teaching sessions, spend considerable time in prayer (by themselves and with their teams), and volunteer with nonprofits and ministries around Columbus. This volunteering time is designed to bless the community, but also to prepare teams for their cross-cultural assignments. Because of the international student population at Ohio State and the various immigrant communities in Columbus, some teams are even able to use their volunteering hours to work with people from the culture or country they’ll be serving in later.

After training in Columbus, the teams are sent to locations around the world where they work for six months in partnership with local ministries. This portion of REACH is meant to bless the host countries, give practical weight to lessons learned in training, and encourage a global perspective.

It’s not only easy to miss the significance of any given year of REACH, it’s also easy to forget how challenging the experience can be. Many REACH alumni describe their time in the program as life-changing, but few describe it as easy. REACHers have unique opportunities to see God move, but they also have unique opportunities to witness the darkness and pain of a world that needs Jesus. Please join us in supporting these young people in prayer as they finish their time of preparation in Columbus and go out to do the work of God’s kingdom around the world.

Canada

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Brad (team leader), Morgan, Nathan, Amber

The First Nations people of Canada have experienced centuries of marginalization and abuse, and many struggle to adapt to abrupt cultural shifts and the loss of their traditional way of life. As a result, substance abuse, broken families, and suicide are widespread in First Nations communities. Team Canada will be living in the city of Thunder Bay and working with teens, many of them from a First Nations background, at an inner-city youth drop-in center.

Follow their team blog here

Himalayas

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Cameron, Madison, A (team leader), Jenny, Jared, Brennan

The nation where team Himalayas will be serving is one of the poorest countries in the world, and has been battered by decades of political turbulence and the effects of natural disaster. Christianity is legal, but often oppressed. Despite these challenges, the church in this nation is vibrant and growing. Team Himalayas will travel extensively and serve in a variety of ways, including encouraging remote churches and helping with discipleship trainings.

Follow their team blog here

South Asia

This team will be serving in a region of South Asia where extreme poverty is the norm, and religious persecution is common. Still, the South Asian church is growing rapidly. Team South Asia will spend most of their outreach traveling, sharing the gospel and standing in solidarity with persecuted churches. They may also have occasional opportunities to work at a Christian-operated orphanage.

Follow their team blog here

South Africa

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Danita (team leader), Leanne, Janelle, Cassidy, Katie, Cheyenne

Post-apartheid South Africa is often seen as an example of national unity and resilience, but the consequences of decades of upheaval remain. Due to a 40 percent poverty rate, child abandonment is rampant; at least three babies are abandoned every day in greater Johannesburg. Team South Africa will work with Door of Hope Children’s Mission in Johannesburg, caring for the needs of babies and toddlers.

Follow their team blog here

Spain

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Sarah, Ruthann, Dylan, Josh, Jeshua (team leader)

Spain is a post-Christian nation. Over 70% of Spaniards claim Roman Catholicism, but for most, Christianity is nothing more than cultural tradition. This team will be involved in a wide variety of work, from prayer ministry, English teaching, service to the homeless, food distribution, volunteering at an agricultural youth camp, and ministering to North African immigrants.

Follow their team blog here

Thailand

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Derrick, Amy, Kayla, Steve, Naomi (team leader)

Thailand, “Land of the free,” is a nation of deeply-held belief, tradition, and independence, but also a nation of increasing unrest. This team will live in the capital city, where they will teach English, spend time relating to children and university students, go on prayer walks and mentor the children that are part of RMM’s long-term team in Thailand.

Follow their team blog here


November 02, 2015

Snapshot: SEND Ministries Staff Interns

By Brian and Brittany Troyer

A huge part of our job as REACH program facilitators is working with the SEND Ministries staff interns. Every year, we invite seven individuals (usually REACH alumni) to join us for a year-long internship. They spend the year serving in one of six roles: Prayer Coordinator, Outreach Coordinator, Administrative Assistant, Kitchen Assistant, Facilities Assistant, and two Hospitality Assistants. During the winter and spring we spend time developing our interns as leaders and unifying them as a team. This time is meant to prepare them for leading out during City Challenge and REACH Discipleship Training School.

City Challenge is always a stretching time for them but it ends up being very rewarding as well. Afterward, they are encouraged to look for the ways God spoke through them and used them to impact City Challengers.

REACH training tends to be the favorite part of their internship, so it’s a great way to end their year with us. The interns walk beside the REACHers and share their life experiences as a way of relating, encouraging, and challenging them.

It’s safe to say that the RIC, SEND Ministries, City Challenge, and REACH wouldn’t be able to function without our staff interns! We have been so blessed with all the wonderful people who have volunteered a year of their lives to give towards building the kingdom of God here in Columbus. So whether you’ve been a staff intern in the past or are a current staff intern, WE APPRECIATE YOU! Thank you for all you do!