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July 23, 2016

Returning to North Africa

Josiah and Sarah* along with their five children returned to North Africa at the end of July after a sabbatical year here in the States.

Please join us in praying for the following requests:

  1. Pray that God will lead the family to a house that will be just right for them. Pray that they will find seekers and other good friends in the neighborhood.
  2. Ask God to help the family with the adjustments they will face in going back to North Africa. Pray for the grace and strength they will need in saying goodbye. Pray that the children will settle into school life quickly and easily, and that their oldest daughter would grow meaningful friendships outside of homeschooling.
  3. Pray for protection and unity for the team: two families, two singles, and a short-term team coming this fall. Pray that they will be family for each other and that God will use them to bring others to his family. Pray that they would be able to bond through prayer and worship, and all would have a similar vision in moving forward with the work in North Africa.
  4. Ask God to bless, prosper, and protect the new business that Josiah and Raleigh* will be starting. Pray that it will be instrumental in leading them to many people, some of whom will eventually want to begin learning about Jesus. Pray for wisdom, guidance, and protection from day-to-day corruption that is prominent in this region. Pray that God would soften the hearts of those who could potentially keep them from moving forward in their work.
  5. Thank God for the believers/seekers that Sarah was connecting with before leaving North Africa last year. Pray for their salvation and growth, and that out of this group would come a disciple-making movement.

*Names changed for security

July 19, 2016

Internships: Reflections and an Opportunity

In January of this year, three workers were sent on a six-month internship to teach English and cultivate relationships in the Middle East. Kimble, Leo, and Rivers* were asked to reflect on their time overseas and share ways to pray for the region they were in. Then, Andrew Sauder, the Mobilizing Coordinator for RMM and the BRIDGE Coordinator for RBC discusses the intention behind these internships and how young people who feel called to missions can take this as an opportunity to explore that call.

Reflections

I saw God working every day. I am not what you would call a teacher, especially an English teacher. Teaching was intimidating and stressful for me. I saw God work in that weakness every day. He gave me the strength for each class—my daily bread. And he moved in the little prayers. For example, during class if there was a tough grammar point and my students weren't getting it or I just couldn't explain it well, I would stop, look at my book, and pray a little prayer. God please help me. And he would every time. Something I won’t forget is the people. They were so friendly, helpful, and hospitable to us. Even surrounded by darkness, they just keep going and don't give up. My prayer is for them. That they would see God. That Jesus would be known. There are a lot of problems in that region of the world, and the only answer is Jesus. Revenge is big there and only Jesus can overcome that. I pray that people would continue to ask questions and that there would be people to walk beside them and show them Christ.

– Kimble


One of the first stories I think of when looking back on my time in the Middle East is from the employee appreciation dinner for the school we worked at. There were about 15 people, both local and foreign, Muslim and Christian. We finished our meal and a few people decided to give speeches about things that happened at the school and what they appreciated. The man sitting next to me, Ahmed,* decided he wanted to say a few words. This was surprising in itself as he is a very shy man. To give you a little background about Ahmed, he has been with the school since the beginning so he knows the ups and downs that they had to overcome with starting the school. To his right was an American woman who was a pioneer in starting the school. Ahmed reflected back on the struggles they had and the things they had to get through in order for the school to open. Keep in mind, this man is a Muslim. Toward the end of his speech, he turned to the American woman and said, "I know the only reason we were able to overcome all of these challenges is because of your faith in Jesus. We need more people like you in this country." My prayer is that more people would be able to see Jesus the way that Ahmed did and recognize the work he is doing.

– Leo


My prayer for this country is simply for more workers. This is a season of change in that part of the world. The younger generation is questioning the faith and traditions of their fathers, and I believe many of them would eagerly accept the truth if they heard it. Sadly, most of them do not hear it and turn instead to agnosticism or atheism. The harvest is plentiful, and I pray for workers to go gather it, regardless of the dangers. We will look back on this point as a pivotal moment in this nation's history—a time where we gave our meager best and God multiplied it to bring peace and truth to one of the most unlikely places on Earth. I pray that this country will be a lighthouse, shining through the chaos around it and kindling an unstoppable fire that spreads to all of the surrounding nations.

– Rivers

Click here to read another update from Rivers about experiencing God's presence in the Middle East.


Opportunity

By Andrew Sauder

The purpose of internships is to create a space where young people can discern what God is leading them to do in the future. With the three guys who went to the Middle East, we could see that they were feeling drawn to work with Muslims, and we could see that they were ordering their lives in such a way to be prepared to work in the Middle East long-term. We were more than willing to help them test out that calling.

For those who want to discern if long-term work is in their future, internships are available within any of RMM’s long-term teams in Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, or Thailand. Joining an established team and receiving on-the-job mentoring from seasoned workers is invaluable for anyone who hopes to serve on the mission field. But that is just one side of the coin. Having interns serve alongside our current teams can bring new energy and passion to the work. Sending interns, as individuals or teams, can be enormously valuable and strategic for our long-term goals and vision among unreached people groups.

Alternatively, sending interns to locations where we don’t have long-term workers can also be a huge benefit. For example, RMM doesn’t have any long-term workers in the part of the Middle East where Rivers, Kimble, and Leo served. However, now that we’ve sent them, we know a lot more about opportunities that are available there, as well as potential safety and logistical issues that go along with moving to that area of the world. They made connections within the existing Christian community and learned how RMM could support or be involved with their outreach efforts in the future. These types of trips can make all the difference for RMM as we prepare to send long-term teams to new areas.

Whether an intern joins a current team or brings fresh vision for future work, we hope that it allows them the space to learn and develop as a person and as a disciple of Christ. Both of these scenarios excite us, and we pray that many young people would follow God’s call into the harvest.

RMM handles potential internships on a case-by-case basis. No two assignments are exactly alike, and they take a lot of work, discernment, and preparation from both RMM and the potential intern to make them become a reality. We would love to see people make a one to two year commitment, we would love to see them complete our missions training before going, and we would love to see them show interest in areas of the world where there is little Christian influence. If you have interest in serving as an intern or have questions about the process, please email me at andrews@rmmoffice.org.


*Names changed for security


July 15, 2016

Welcoming Brittany Shrock: Receptionist and Administrative Assistant

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

In the first week of June, Brittany Shrock of Rosedale, Ohio began taking on the responsibilities of receptionist as well as administrative assistant to the Director of Partner Development (Andrew Miller) and Prayer Coordinator (Mim Musser). Brittany has been connected with the RMM family for many years as the daughter of RMM’s Accountant and Network Administrator, Weldon Shrock, and more recently as part of the Thailand REACH team in 2012. This past spring she earned her associates degree in biblical studies from Rosedale Bible College, and she has also taken classes at Columbus State Community College for early childhood education. Along with cleaning and working as a nanny, Brittany has previously worked as a server and cook at an assisted living home and as a cashier at Der Dutchman’s Carryout and Bakery.


Brittany enjoys the challenge of keeping up with schedules, answering phones, and replying to emails; the staff are grateful for her attention to detail and positive energy. In her free time, Brittany likes to relax in nature, work on crafts, and spend time with friends (sometimes all at once!). She has a passion for children’s ministry and seeks to get more involved with that in the years to come. Pray for Brittany as she trusts God to guide her life and as she continues to learn the ropes at a new job.


July 13, 2016

A Shave: The Beauty of Trust

By Raleigh,* RMM worker in North Africa

A part of living life here is entrusting my life—and the life of my family—into the hands of others. Most of these hands belong to Muslim men and women and they are most often very capable hands, worthy of my trust.

My favorite opportunity to practice this trust is to go for a haircut and shave. I walk a few blocks to find a young man I met about seven months ago.

After cutting my hair, Khalid* attaches a headrest to my chair and I lean back, exposing my neck to him so he can give me a shave the old-fashioned way. He lathers up my neck and puts the straight razor to it. As he shaves beneath my chin, my head is tilted so that I am looking directly at some religious script above his huge mirror; the only word I can make out is “الله“—“God.”

“I am happy to be in this vulnerable position and simultaneously thinking about (and sorry for) my poor friends who are afraid of this man and of everyone who shares his religion.”I’m sure I always smile while he does this. I am happy to be in this vulnerable position and simultaneously thinking about (and sorry for) my poor friends who are afraid of this man and of everyone who shares his religion.

If only they could have the next shave…

They would see my barber’s friendly demeanor; hear his patience with my start-stop, oft-wrong-tense Arabic. They would see his humanity; hear him dreaming of future things and greeting friends who stop by to see him every day simply because they walk this way.

Trusting in strangers is also imperative if we are to move about in this country: small-taxi drivers, big-taxi drivers, bus drivers, and train engineers all take us from place to place, navigating what once seemed like chaos and now seems, increasingly, like organized chaos.

But there is another person who may not come quickly to your mind but is often on ours: the person who stamps our passport when we come to re-enter every three months. What if they say, “No, not this time. You have to leave.” This is a real possibility, and it is a chance every three months to pray again: “We are trusting YOU with this. Please let us continue to live in this amazing place with these amazing people.”

Please keep lifting us up as we keep entrusting our lives into the hands of others. Because, after all, it’s just like the old kids’ song says: “He’s got the Muslims and their families, in his hands…”


Please pray for this family as they raise two young children and are expecting a third in August. Pray for healthy growth for all of their children, clear minds to continue studying the local language, and meaningful relationships with friends and neighbors.

To receive monthly updates from this family, email info@rmmoffice.org and ask to receive Raleigh and Opal’s newsletter


* Names changed for security reasons.


July 06, 2016

Returning Filled: 15 Years of Service in the Muslim World

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

John and Cecelia Aslan* recently returned to the U.S. after 15 years of living in Central Asia and the Middle East where they faithfully worked with RMM to spread the word about Jesus.

As I spoke with the Aslans, Cecelia told me about a local custom that was sometimes challenging to fulfill. Where they lived, if someone dropped off a plate of food at your house, it was expected that you would return the plate filled, again, with food. Her neighbors were so generous that she often found her kitchen full of empty plates needing to be filled and returned. John and Cecelia have spent the last 15 years of their life investing in friendships, teaching and learning new languages and cultures, and working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). But they have not come back empty. Their lives have been filled with long-lasting relationships, fulfillment in the work they have done, and a rich love for beautiful cultures.

When they left for Central Asia, their four children were 17, 15, 11, and 9. Living in a Muslim country was something that had interested Cecelia for a number of years, but they both agree that it was the call of God that caused them to make the move. John said, “What we were doing in life was good, but we felt like there was something more for us.” A family who had recently returned from Central Asia was staying with them at the time, sparking an interest and tenderness in the Aslans for that part of the world. In 2000 they followed God’s call, and went.

The relationships they formed in Central Asia were very meaningful to John and Cecelia. They met their neighbor Safiyya* early on during their time there. Over the years, she became more and more involved in their lives as a coworker at their NGO, a language teacher, and a friend. The Aslans found that once you knew someone, “it wasn’t just knowing one person, it was knowing their network.” Through their relationship with Safiyya, they were welcomed into the lives of many of her friends and family members.

“There is a level of commitment that is hard to find in relationships in America,” Cecelia said. Once Safiyya’s mother became friends with the Aslans, she invited them over for dinner once a week. Their time together was deeply valued, and the Aslans felt a strong sense of love and hospitality shown towards them. In a society where trust is hard to come by and people are dedicated to following the cultural norms, John and Cecelia found respect and acceptance. Typically, foreigners are not looked on fondly in that area of the world, but the Aslans began to see that holding to a high standard of morality gained respect in their community. Even as outsiders, they were seen as honorable people. They were often told, “Because you are trustworthy, we are trustworthy.”

“...mother to mother, teenager to teenager, man to man. There is so much in common... Muslims want to be good and they want to be perceived as good. They want to achieve in life. They want the best for their children. Things we want too.”One important thing the Aslans learned from the friendships they made in the Muslim world is that many fears in cross-cultural relationships can be overcome by realizing that “there are differences, but not too far under that, at a base level, everybody is pretty much the same.” Soon after moving, before they had acquired much of the language or culture, they were invited to numerous social gatherings. At first, these events seemed intimidating, but they quickly found that they could easily connect with people on a human level. Cecelia mentioned that their whole family was able to relate to people like them, “mother to mother, teenager to teenager, man to man. There is so much in common.” From these interactions, she saw that “generally, Muslims want to be good and they want to be perceived as good. They want to achieve in life. They want the best for their children. Things we want too.”

The Aslan’s time in Central Asia was initially spent working with NGOs. The first NGO they joined had a poultry-raising project that John became involved with. Later, the NGO developed an education project that Cecelia participated in. Eventually they both joined another NGO that specialized in education projects. One part of their work with that NGO was forming and establishing libraries in different schools. They also developed curriculum to be used in classrooms. Seeing their work directly affect the children around them was meaningful, and it was a good way for them to be active in their community. After six years of working with these organizations, the Aslan’s were denied visas to continue working in the country. In a few weeks, they were forced to close the libraries and shut down the NGO. They had to empty their house, pack what they could, and move with their two youngest children back to the USA to discover what was next for them.

This was an emotionally stretching part of their time overseas. But even through the stress of this difficult move, John and Cecelia felt God’s faithfulness. They sensed his security and provision as they gave up the comfort they had found and the fulfilling work they had joined in. At first, this seemed like the end of the road for them, but half a year later, God took them to another country. They knew that God was not abandoning them, and that this was all a part of his plan.

Although they came into this new country with an overlap in language and already familiar with the culture, there were new challenges to face. The first country was less economically stable, leaving the people unsatisfied and more receptive to the story of God’s redemption. In this new country, people were content with what they had; they were not looking for any new answers. There were exceptions to this—some people were dissatisfied with their place in society and were curious, but for the most part, people were not hungry for God.

“But the same as in any culture, being loving and listening and caring about who they are draws people.” Although the receptivity to Christianity was not as prevalent in this country, the receptivity to a Christ-like friendship was. John and Cecelia had to “be willing to go the distance for the relationship, never just to get a quick conversion.” The Aslans said, “We wanted to be authentic sisters, brothers, parents, and children. We became all of those things for people. We loved them for more than their convertibility—a love that valued them as a person, who they were.”

Due to illness and a death in the family in the last year, John and Cecelia decided to move back to the United States. They are currently living in Columbus, Ohio and enjoying spending time with their children and grandchildren. It excites them to be able to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries together after spending so much time away from their children.

The Aslans are still in the process of settling in to the country they first called home, but their desire is to continue to be involved with the international community. Cecelia is currently teaching private English lessons and hopes to expand to a classroom setting in the future. They also hope to have a home that they can welcome refugees into, which they both see as an excellent opportunity to share the love and hospitality of God. Cecelia says, “You know, we lived among these people for so many years, they were our neighbors and friends when we felt alone and far from family and friends. We loved them so much. Now we are back here and want to connect with the immigrants and refugees coming from the Middle East. They are out of their homeland, they are displaced, and they need friends. I think it is a wide open door for building relationships.”

John and Cecelia have returned to the United States having poured out much of their time, passion, and strength. But they learned that getting over the fear of communicating with people who come from different backgrounds is incredibly rewarding. They have loved, and they have been loved. They have filled, and they have been filled.


Please pray that the seeds John and Cecelia planted overseas would find nourishment, and inspire a Jesus movement in that part of the world. Pray also that God would open doors for them to minister in Columbus as they continue to faithfully serve him.


*Names changed for security reasons