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A Delayed Start: Re-Introducing Al

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

Often when we are following God, he calls us to something that ends up going quicker or slower than we had planned. But we know that God’s timing is always best. For Al, unexpected life circumstances and a number of new government regulations for obtaining a visa stretched a few months of delays into over a year. The hurdles both here and abroad took longer than expected, but we are delighted to announce that Al left to begin his work among the people of the Amazon River Basin in Brazil on June 26th. Al is sent by RMM along with his home church, Berean Community Church.

Many of you already “Got to know” Al in November of 2014, when we first introduced his assignment. Today we would like to rerun some of that interview so that you can re-introduce yourself with Al’s story and better lift him up in prayer as he begins this journey.

Can you tell us a little about your growing up years?

I was born into a large Amish family in Holmes County, Ohio. I am the second to youngest of twelve children. I attended elementary school through the 8th grade and then began to work in my father’s sawmill at the age of fifteen. Growing up we were never farmers but always had various animals on our property, like horses, steers, dogs, and chickens. We always kept a large garden, which we tended to religiously every morning during the summer months. We were never rich or poor as dad, mom and all of us worked hard to keep food on our table.

How did you come to know Jesus?

Early in my life, I was introduced to God and his Word in the Amish church we attended, but I rejected God for a ten-year period of my life. During that time, I went through the “rumspringa” (a rebellious adolescent) phase in my life. As alcohol and other worldly pleasures left me empty inside, I began to seek a deeper purpose for my life. Through several influential people, I came to give my life to Christ in the summer of 1999.

How did you get interested in this part of the world?

Shortly after my baptism in 1999, Pastor Dave Clemens asked me if I would be interested in going on a short-term missions trip to the Amazon to do some construction. I was fairly miserable on that trip and wanted nothing more than to leave and never go back. But, I went back the following year and grew attached to the Amazon and its people.

What is the heart of what you’ll be doing in country?

There are approximately 33,000 river communities in the amazon with only about 3,000 of those having the evangelical gospel. I will be working with an organization (SEARA) to make evangelical and humanitarian trips by boat to these communities. Currently, SEARA is working in approximately 140 villages. I will also be making trips to help SEARA’s missionaries who live and work in these communities, with my long-term goal being to eventually live and work, evangelizing and discipling the river people in the interior.

What is the most different aspect of the culture that you’ve experienced in past trips?

Hmm… this is a difficult question as there are many very different aspects to the ribeirinho (river people) culture. But, I think the biggest thing is simply the difficulty of living in the Amazon with a hunter/gatherer subsistence lifestyle. Hunting and fishing (both of which I currently do just for fun) are a daily part of simply staying alive.

What is something that the culture has taught you and that you want to internalize?

The village mentality, where everything is basically communal and pretty much all items are shared for the common good. If one family has a net full of fish, it is shared. If one family’s net breaks, a net is borrowed from someone else, and so on.

What is the typical way you get around?

In the interior there are no roads so all transportation is by canoe or a motorized canoe called a rabeta. In the bigger towns there are taxis, buses and motorcycle taxis. Large passenger boats run between the bigger towns and villages.

What is your favorite local food?

I love several fruits such as cupuacu, acai, tucuma and mangoes.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I look forward to representing RMM in the Amazon. I will do so to the best of my abilities. I want to thank everyone involved with RMM for first believing in me and second for sharing my vision. I deeply appreciate it. Also, I want to thank everyone at Berean, especially Pastor Steve and the mission board, for their support and financial backing. And I want to thank Pastor Dave and Erma Clemens for the years of mentoring and tutoring. Without them none of this would ever have been possible. I covet prayer like nothing else; please, please pray for me!! Thank you and God bless.

Thank you, Al! We are so thankful for the way you have heard and been obedient to God’s call in your life. We are excited to see what he will do through you!