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March 31, 2016

Looking at the Gospel Through Buddhist Eyes

By Jewel Showalter – From the April 2016 Beacon

William and Rebecca,* RMM workers in East Asia, are often tempted to discouragement. For the past 18 years they’ve worked among a particularly untouched mountain people group. They’ve learned two very difficult languages and clung to a variety of visas as they’ve labored to be present in this harsh setting.

They first entered the region in 1998 on a student visa, and for two years they lived at the university and worked to learn the local language and understand the unique Buddhist worldview. They prayed and reached out in friendship.

There was little interest. People were puzzled or amused by their attempts to share faith. Sometimes God moved to heal, but more often not. One of the people who came to faith in the early years and led a small house group, died of congestive heart failure—in spite of their prayers and medical assistance.

After two years as students, William and Rebecca began working for an NGO doing community development. Each year they spent months away from home—out in the countryside where they helped to install micro hydro systems, build village schools, and train teachers.

“During these years some of our closest friendships developed,” Rebecca said. “We really learned to know the farmers, the nomads—how they live and think. We solidified our language skills. Dialects differed from region to region, valley to valley, so communication was an on going challenge. This work also gave us a wonderful opportunity to build deep friendships with our local co-workers. Some of those friendships continue today.”

Then the government forced their NGO to scale back its work. William and Rebecca moved to another city to learn a second language and give their young son a chance to grow at a lower altitude. The focus of their hearts never changed during this time.

As William and Rebecca made plans to return to their home in the highlands they received a job offer in management from a Christian businessman who owned several cafes there. They took the job and have been working in that capacity ever since.

William oversees the work of 23 employees who staff the cafes and an off-site bakery. Rebecca got involved in training the staff. The 21 female employees are village women who are mostly illiterate.

“I taught them how to bake with our recipes by drawing pictures of cups, spoons, and other symbols,” Rebecca said. “We’re glad to provide jobs for these at-risk women. Some of our former employees have even started their own businesses.”

For three years, the young family relocated outside of the highlands to aid in the healthy development of their children and for the birth of a fourth child. This move to a larger neighboring city meant that William would need to travel regularly to manage the cafes. During this season of frequent separation, they began opening their home to nomads who came to the city for medical treatment. One of the first groups that came included a young woman, Betty,* and her boyfriend, along with an old Grandma who could hardly walk.

“We had a ‘no smoking’ policy for guests,” Rebecca said, “But Grandma was a smoker—and couldn’t navigate the stairs to go outside for her smokes. As I grumbled to God about this difficult situation with my four young children and my husband’s absence, I heard God say, ‘take them as my provision during this season.’”

“As Christians we see the prejudice, the ugliness, and injustice all around, and we’re guilty of these sins ourselves. But that’s why we’re here, to show the love of God that breaks down these barriers.”Surprisingly Betty and Rebecca became good friends. Betty saw the tremendous need there is for medical hostels for nomads. She went on to start her own business, opening two guest apartments and helping illiterate people navigate the complexities of medical treatment.

Rebecca continues to befriend and partner with Betty in the hostel ministry. This year Rebecca arranged for Lily,* a Christian Indonesian woman, to live with Betty and assist at the hostels. One day Lily became very angry with Betty when she saw how unkind and prejudiced she was toward needy people who were not from “her neck of the woods.”

Rebecca said, “I told Lily, yes, it is wrong, but you have to let it go. As Christians we see the prejudice, the ugliness, and injustice all around, and we’re guilty of these sins ourselves. But that’s why we’re here, to show the love of God that breaks down these barriers. Betty does not know Jesus. She’s never experienced his amazing grace. But we pray that someday she will.”

William and Rebecca long to see a healthy, indigenous church established in their region. Currently they meet with a group of four to six semi-literate women who are believers. The women often bring their teenage children along. And sometimes a few men straggle in. Together they have a time of worship and Bible study led by William and one of the local women.

“All the women have heart-wrenching stories,” Rebecca said. “I knew that one had been severely abused by her husband, nearly strangled to death. But she’d never felt free to share it with the group. One day we were studying 1 Cor. 7, and they all started sharing about their marriages.

“While the women were telling their stories, the abused woman sat crying. Finally she felt free to tell her story. The group gathered around and prayed for her. They really bonded.”

“All these women are at the bottom of the social structure,” Rebecca said. “But now they’re ‘daughters of the King’ and leading others to Christ.”

In addition to participating in the home Bible study William also meets with two different men to study the Bible in a more scholarly way. These studies are highlights for him.

William said that Phil,* one of the men, has been around Christians for 15 years. He first got curious about Christianity when a German woman sponsored him by giving up her daily coffee. Until she died she gave up coffee. When she died she left him $2,000—which he actually received. Most of his countrymen who live in exile have been sponsored by Christians.

“Christians and Buddhists have many of the same ideals,” Phil observed. Yet while attracted to Christianity, he could not bring himself to take the step.

William explained that the local religion gives people a strong identity and morality. It makes them unique and significant. They cling to their religion. You can’t have a high status in the culture without having a high status in the religion.

“A year ago I invited Phil to study the Bible with me,” William said. “He doesn’t want to just dump the old system. Christianity needs to make sense in the Buddhist context. For example, the Buddhist idea of ‘karma’ is very close to the Christian law of ‘sowing and reaping.’”

William said, “One day I repented in front of him for something I had done. Phil was surprised.”

He said, “You mean you don’t believe that ‘what’s done is done?’ How can you undo the past? In Buddhism there is no redemption. We know we’re supposed to have compassion for others, but who is there to show us compassion—since we don’t have a God? Maybe Buddhism isn’t all wrong. It just doesn’t have the whole picture.”

“He’s helping us reframe Christianity,” William said. “We’ve really sensed the Holy Spirit moving. Phil and some of our other friends are having dreams. He was also healed. We can’t make God show up, but he does, and it’s a privilege to walk with people and help usher them into the presence of God.”

“These experiences encourage us. We are energized to present the good news in ways that make sense in this setting—to look at Christian concepts through a Buddhist lens.

“During this season we’re seeing lots of opportunities to share our experiences and ideas. We are astounded by the ways we’ve been received. It has taken a long time… we’ve been working at this for 18 years, and in some ways it feels like we’re just getting started. Please pray with us for a people movement to Jesus in these mountains.”

*Names changed or omitted for security reasons.

March 22, 2016

Recommended Reading: Soul Care and Prayer

By Mim Musser

Mim Musser, RMM’s Prayer Coordinator, loves to read, finding that books help her grow spiritually and otherwise. When asked why reading these kinds of books are important, Mim said: “prayer and spiritual health are both scriptural disciplines. There is a lot I can learn from reading the Bible, but reading a biography of a praying person or learning about soul care from a contemporary writer encourages me in my own path. Some books are a one-time read, but there are others that I go back to again and again when I need refreshment and direction.”

Books on Soul Care:

The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath
By Mark Buchanan

Soul care has been one of my favorite topics in the last few years. This is one of the first books I read on the topic, and it remains high on my list of favorites today. Buchanan defines Sabbath as the seventh day of the week, but he says it is more than that. Sabbath is an attitude, a perspective, an orientation. It is a heart. A heart that is "restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval... You will never enter the Sabbath day without a Sabbath heart."

Soul Custody: Choosing to Care for the One and Only You
By Stephen W. Smith

Smith is one of my favorite authors on soul care. In this book he talks about choices. This book will help you figure out how well you are doing in caring for your soul and then reflect on ways to change, suggesting choices you can make that will enhance your spiritual health.

The Jesus Life: Eight Ways to Recover Authentic Christianity
By Stephen W. Smith

In this book, Smith gives a window into the life of Jesus. After reading this book you will read the Gospels with fresh eyes, noticing the rhythms of Jesus’ life and how your imitation of him will enhance and refresh you.

Books on Prayer:

Power Praying: Hearing Jesus' Spirit by Praying Jesus' Prayer
By David Chotka

This book has impacted me more than any other book about the Lord's Prayer. I had always heard that Jesus gave this prayer to be used as a template for our prayers, but only through reading Chotka’s book did the power of this prayer model truly register. I like to pull it off my shelf occasionally to get refreshed in the wisdom of Jesus, who said this is the way his disciples should pray. The book is set up as a workbook that can be used individually or in an eight-week group study.

Authority in Prayer: Praying With Power and Purpose
By Dutch Sheets

While it isn't new, I just read this book in the past year. Sheets answers the question, "Who is in charge?" The answer is clearly God. But God wants his children to be overcomers, to claim his promises, and to take authority over sin, Satan, and life circumstances. This book has challenged me to pray with the boldness and authority that is mine as a follower of Jesus.

Mighty Prevailing Prayer
By Wesley L. Duewel

This is an older book (written in 1990), but whenever I pick it up, I find it fresh and relevant. I am reminded that Duewel is a man who doesn't just write about prayer. He prays. And he knows the God he is praying to. Reverend Glen Shepherd says, "Dr. Duewel's powerful book challenges, inspires and motivates to a deeper lever of intercession. No one can read it without a greater call to the advance of God's kingdom worldwide."

March 18, 2016

Bikes, Birds, and Prayer

Ride for Missions is an annual fund-raising bicycle ride supporting the work of Rosedale Mennonite Missions. This past February, a group of 23 individuals participated in the first-ever Ride for Missions Florida, which has raised $19,210 in support of missions. Below is a cool story from one of the riders.
By Gary Helmuth

The words of Wayne Yoder (RFM Summer Coordinator) were freshly impressed on my mind as I set out on my bicycle from the restaurant in Winter Garden for the first day of our three-day ride. He had reminded us again as he had before on our RFM rides, that we are going out as missionaries – not just to raise funds for the professionals. Scott Kauffman (RFM Florida Coordinator) had challenged us the night before to look for opportunities to love, listen, discern, and respond to the people crossing our path.

So as I was enjoying the West Orange Trail and the beautiful crisp morning air, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a huge bird (an osprey maybe?) doing a spread-eagle 90-degree turn off to my left. As I was slowing down to observe (yes I do stop to smell the roses), I stopped right beside John, who was walking his dog and observing the same thing. “What is in his beak – a snake or a branch?”

I went with the snake as it seemed to hold more interest. We watched as it drifted out of view. We began talking – Donald Trump, Hillary, Obama, the school system, his stint with the army for 20 years in Brazil, another ten working for Hillary in the state department in Brazil, his 15-year-old daughter, his three-year-old special needs son James. I see another discipling relationship happening as Maddi and her mom Missy glide by.

His body language suggested the conversation was close to over as he had slowly shifted from my front right to my rear right as I straddled my bike. But then he began to talk about how his son needed him fulltime, and how his Latina wife in the States who mothered his 15-year-old daughter forbad him to take his son to visit his Latina mother in Brazil. He feels guilty because his son needs his birth mother, but he wants to be with his daughter in the States as well. He is back together with his daughter’s mother, but it’s really only because of his daughter. By this time he had again shifted to my right front.

So I listened. I tried to discern how I could be his friend. I responded by saying that certainly his life faced many difficult challenges. “Tell you what – there is a God in heaven who knows all about these kinds of things – would you be up for prayer?”

“I sure do need his guidance – sure”

So I offered a simple prayer of guidance and strength to deal with the challenges he faces every day.

I didn’t pray the sinner’s prayer with John, but I think he met Jesus. I invested a little, he responded with some degree of vulnerability, and I believe the power of God touched his life…

Gary hails from Sarasota, Florida, attends Bethel Mennonite Church, and this was his fifth ride with RFM.

Join us for the 11th annual Ride for Missions!

This years ride will take place July 30 to August 3, 2016, and travel through parts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. To learn more or register, visit: rfm.rmmweb.org

March 11, 2016

Introducing the 2016 SEND Interns

2016 SEND Interns: Jada, Joel, Trey, Alisha, Trevor, Eric, Regina

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

SEND Ministries staff internships are primarily designed to help young adults mature in their faith through training in leadership, ministry, and service. Interns are then given opportunities to put these lessons into practice through service and ministry opportunities, intercession, work projects, leadership of SEND programs, direct ministry to program participants, and job functions specific to each intern position. Interns meet regularly with a job mentor who provides teaching, advice, and direction specific to their job position and function. The staff interns work together as a team under the leadership and oversight of the SEND Ministries Program Facilitators, Brian and Brittany Troyer.

The 2016 interns have enjoyed their first month at the RIC, serving in their various positions and forming bonds with each other through Nerf battles, weird noise contests, and singing songs about peeling bananas. Here is a bit more about each of them:

Joel, Salisbury Pennsylvania

Looking at the year ahead of him, Joel is excited to “learn a lot more about prayer.” As the Prayer Coordinator, Joel spends ten hours of his week in focused prayer for RMM. Some days this looks like three hours of prayer covering different topics, and other days this looks like half an hour of prayer on a specific aspect of RMM, such as a REACH team. Along with learning about prayer, Joel hopes to impact the lives of REACH participants in DTS in the same positive way that his life was impacted. During his own REACH experience in Spain last year, Joel learned that even within Christian circles, people can be quite diverse from one another, and that flexibility is needed in those relationships.

Trevor, Berlin Ohio

Trevor spends much of his time in email correspondence with possible outreach locations around Columbus. As the Community Outreach Coordinator, he is in charge of making sure that the City Challenge and REACH participants have a variety of beneficial locations for service during their time here. In his free time he enjoys drawing, rock climbing, playing the ukulele, and basketball. The diversity of the outreaches he is looking into excites him, and he hopes to visit all of them in the upcoming months. Trevor was also a part of the Spain REACH team last year, where he learned that some people “think a lot differently than we do,” and gained a larger worldview.

Alisha, Plain City Ohio

As one of the Hospitality Assistants, Alisha spends her time cleaning things, making beds, and smelling like bleach. Alisha has been enjoying getting to know the other interns and refreshing them with her Exceptionally Good Iced Sweet Tea with Lemon (recipe below). She went to South Asia as a part of a REACH team last year where she learned the value of flexibility and having a positive attitude as their team faced numerous unexpected hurdles.

Alisha’s Exceptionally Good Iced Sweet Tea with Lemon

  • An amount of water that fills a pitcher, divided
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 8 Lipton tea bags
  • ½ cup Real Lemon juice
Boil some of the water. Add tea bags and steep for at least two minutes. Add sugar and lemon juice. Stir. Add rest of water and ice. Stir again. Drink, and share with others.

Trey, Hartville Ohio

Trey’s internship as the Facilities Assistant includes taking out the trash, checking the building for anything that needs to be fixed or cleaned up, and snow plowing/mowing (as the weather requires). He assists the Maintenance Supervisor, Myron Mast, and Property Manager, Jordan Stoltzfus in their work here at the RIC. Trey, who enjoys lifting weights and wrestling, is excited for the physical labor he will do this year. He has been a participant in both City Challenge and REACH, and he looks forward to serving in programs in an internship role. In his time on the Himalayas REACH team last year, Trey learned the importance of patience and genuine friendship in evangelism.

Eric, Sugarcreek Ohio

Eric is the Administrative Assistant and helps SEND’s Logistics Coordinator by doing jobs such as filing, organizing the library, and processing REACH paperwork. During his time with REACH in South Asia, Eric took a plethora of selfies with animals and learned to depend on God every day. This year, Eric seeks to gain patience and discipline from a closer communion with God. Although Eric already knows the other interns fairly well, he is still learning new things from them: such as how to make a tasty taco salad (recipe below).

All of the other Interns’ Hot Taco Salad (as told by Eric)

  • Kidney beans
  • Refried beans
  • Hamburger
  • Onions
  • Lettuce
  • Sour Cream
  • Cheese
  • Doritos
Heat up kidney beans and refried beans. Add hamburger and onions. Top with lettuce, sour cream, cheese, and Doritos.

Jada, Abbeville South Carolina

Jada is the Food Services Assistant, assisting the RIC Food Services Manager, Susannah Cotman. This past summer, she worked as an assistant chef in a café, but she is excited to learn other aspects of working in a kitchen, such as shopping and budgeting. She is also looking forward to growing close to the other interns as they work together in different ways this year. Like her former REACH teammates, Alisha and Eric, Jada learned a lot about trust during her time in South Asia. She says that “a lot of the circumstances that happened to our team and back at home” made it so that she “really really had to trust God, even if things didn’t make sense.” Unlike her former REACH teammates (and contrary to what her internship title would imply), Jada did not have a recipe to share.

Regina, Sarasota Florida

Regina works with Alisha as a Hospitality Assistant to Kristyn Byler, the RIC Hospitality Manager. They help by cleaning and prepping the RIC before the arrival of guests. Regina has enjoyed her time working at the RIC, as well as serving with different programs in Columbus. As a part of the Himalayas REACH team, Regina spent a lot of time praying and processing with God. She learned dependency in the face of difficulties with cultural differences and team dynamics. Mentoring young people is a passion of Regina’s, and she looks forward to the opportunities to pursue this in the year ahead.

March 07, 2016

Surprises at a Mother’s Funeral

Lan and Pon fishing together on a local river.

By Nixson*

Nixson and his wife Rhonda work with the RMM team in Bangkok, Thailand, where they are busy discipling new believers and training emerging leaders from Thailand and neighboring countries.

Eight years ago, Pon, a southeast Asian student in Bangkok, started meeting with our teammate, Dan, to study English. While studying English, Pon also studied the Bible and became a believer.

Several years later one of Pon’s friends from his home village also moved to Bangkok to work. Through Pon’s witness his friend Lan became a believer and was baptized in May 2011. Eventually Pon moved to a city in his home country to continue his studies and work. Members of the RMM team in Bangkok continued to disciple Pon “across the miles” with phone calls and occasional visits.

Lan (second from the right) with RMM workers Nixson and Jonatan (far left and right).

Meanwhile, Lan, who remained in Bangkok, began sharing his new-found faith with others from his home country who had come to the city for work. He discovered that God had given him the gift of evangelism and enjoyed sharing with non-believing friends. Lan and the RMM team worked together to disciple the new believers. Eventually Lan felt called to quit his job in Bangkok and return to his home village to share the gospel there.

Lan started by sharing his faith with his family. Within a short time his sister as well as Pon’s brother became believers. Lan also travelled to neighboring villages and was surprised to discover that there were scattered believers living in some of the villages. He became a mentor to many isolated believers and encouraged them to share their faith with others in their villages. During this time Lan’s own mother became a believer and was baptized.

But not everything has been easy for Lan. The government of his home country is restrictive and does not allow people to openly preach the gospel. As Lan shared and people came to faith and were baptized, the police took action against the movement. Many of the new believers were arrested and imprisoned. The police threatened Lan, warning him to stop preaching the gospel.

Others in the community became jealous of Lan’s ministry and of how people looked up to him. Several people close to him slandered his name. Also during this time his mother fell sick with diabetes and high blood pressure. His siblings refused to help, so Lan took responsibility for caring for his mother in spite of the huge financial burden.

“As Lan shared and people came to faith and were baptized, the police took action against the movement. Many of the new believers were arrested and imprisoned. The police threatened Lan, warning him to stop preaching the gospel.”During Lan’s mother’s illness villagers streamed in to visit her and the family. Some of the people who had been hurtful and jealous of Lan also dropped in. During this time new understandings grew and broken relationships were restored.

Then in October 2015, Lan’s mother died. Lan and the believers’ group decided to have a Christian funeral and burial instead of a Buddhist cremation. This was a first-time break with village tradition and potentially inflammatory. Lan wondered what would happen, but surprisingly the village leader gave them permission to hold a Christian funeral.

At the funeral Lan had been planning to share about his Christian faith, and why they were doing things differently, but the village leader took charge. He explained that when he was younger he had studied the Bible and knows a lot about Jesus and this new religion. He encouraged the villagers to think about what they were seeing and hearing.

Now since the funeral Lan has been sharing with the village leader and his wife who are hungry to know more about Jesus. Other villagers too are openly curious about the new peace they sensed among the believers—even in the face of death. They’d never witnessed a funeral so filled with hope for the deceased, who is with Jesus.

Even as Lan grieves the death of his mother he knows that God is faithful, and is working for good in the midst of these difficult situations. He doesn’t regret sharing his faith even though it has brought enormous struggles into his life. He testifies to the faithfulness of God and longs to be faithful to him no matter what!

Ever since Lan moved back to his home village, I, Nixson, have been mentoring him over the phone. I’ve also gone to visit several times. It’s been hard knowing how to best encourage him in these situations, but I’m grateful that God has given me wisdom to walk with him in these struggles. In the midst of the trials we see God at work, and we praise him for these encouraging breakthroughs!

Please Pray:

  • That Lan and the emerging group of believers in his village and the surrounding community will have boldness and wisdom as they continue reaching out with the Good News
  • For Nixson and Rhonda as they continue sharing Jesus with friends and neighbors in Bangkok as well as coaching the emerging movement to Jesus in Lan’s country

To support the work of Nixson and Rhonda and of RMM in Southeast Asia go to: donate.rmmweb.org

*Last names omitted for security reasons.