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September 29, 2016

Carl Wesselhoeft: 87 Years of God’s Provision

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

This past spring, I drove to Logan, Ohio for a visit with one of the most interesting eighty-seven year olds I know. Carl met me at the door of the old farmhouse that his wife grew up in and invited me into the living room to listen as he reminisced about his experiences. He took me from pre-World War II Germany, to a farm in Canada, to provincial Somalia, and back to the little church less than a mile down the road. All of the traveling and circumstances would appear random if it were not for the common thread holding it all together: God. A creative and powerful author to Carl’s story, God showed his faithfulness time and time again. God took Carl to new countries, new cultures, and new people many times, but in each step Carl was protected and prepared for the future.

Carl Wesselhoeft grew up on a rented farm just outside of Rostock, Germany. When he was ten years old, World War II began, and because of the aircraft industry in Rostock, it was among the first towns to receive heavy bombing. “One night, maybe two or three bombs fell, doing little damage,” Carl remembers, “that was cause for some excitement. The war that seemed far away had come to our doorsteps. The next night the sky was red from the burning city and my dad sent a horse-drawn wagon to get us out. Soon after that the house where I had boarded was bombed, along with the school I had attended, and was completely destroyed.”

The next four years of Carl’s life were consumed with school and housing transitions, air raids, and mostly ineffective aircraft explosions. When Carl was fourteen he was confirmed into the Lutheran church. “It was just a formality,” he says, “I did not know anything about personal commitment or faith in Jesus.” One day at school, all of the boys were taken out of the classroom and asked where they would serve in the army. They were encouraged to serve in the Schutzstaffel (SS), the protection squadron, who would later be known as the group which committed the most appalling acts against humanity during the war. Carl had heard that anyone joining the SS would have to leave the church, and when they tried to recruit him, he used his membership in the Lutheran church as an excuse not to join. The recruiters persisted, but Carl was strong in his opposition, and when they finally let up he felt a strange joy in his heart.

Near the end of the war, before his sixteenth birthday (the draft age), his father sent him to a farm in Western Germany hoping that the chaotic state of the war would allow him to avoid the draft. Carl’s older brother had been captured by the Russian army as a prisoner of war and never returned home. His parents were not enthusiastic about war and worried that if Carl joined the army in the last days of a lost war, he might not return either.

After the war ended Carl stayed in Western Germany and worked on different farms. From the connections he had made, he was able to secure a one-year farm job in Sweden. While there, a friend sent him a clipping from a British farm paper advertising farm jobs through the Canadian National Railways for anyone who could pay their way to Canada. Carl “took the bait, applying at the Canadian embassy in Stockholm to get a visa.” From Germany this would have been impossible, but he could apply from Sweden under their immigration quota. Upon his acceptance, he began the journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

When he arrived at the Office of Resettlement in Toronto, there was an older English man there for the same reason. Carl let the man have first choice of employment, “because he was older.” One of the remaining job openings happened to be with a Mennonite couple named Lorne and Marion Wideman in Markham, Ontario.

The Widemans warmly accepted Carl into their home and on his first Sunday in Canada, they invited him to join them for church. Although Carl’s family in Germany was a part of the Lutheran church, they never attended. His idea of God and religion were not positive. He recalled the German soldiers wearing belt buckles that read “Gott mit uns” (i.e. God with us). Carl remembers wondering “how religion could be of any use when both sides prayed for victory. To whom was God going to listen?” But when the Widemans invited him to church that Sunday, he decided to be polite and accept their offer. His prediction that he would not like church was confirmed when the congregation knelt for prayer. No one was going to make him kneel, and so when he was invited again the next Sunday, he declined. After turning down the invitation several more times, he finally told them to please stop asking.

Later on that year, the church held special meetings. The Widemans invited him to come with them to supper at another church member’s house and then to one of the meetings. Not wanting to ask Marion to set out extra supper for him, Carl accepted the invitation. After supper they went to church. This was the first time he heard about the love of God, Jesus’ death on the cross, and the need for each person to make a decision. Carl was interested and attended the rest of the meetings that week. On one of the evenings, he responded to an invitation to accept the Lord.

"...she was a girl among many, but then she became the girl among many.”In the winter of 1952, he was encouraged to attend Ontario Bible School where he met the woman who would become his wife, Leota Good. Carl says that “she was a girl among many, but then she became the girl among many.” They got married later that year, and moved to Leota’s home in Logan, Ohio. Soon they relocated to Harrisonburg, Virginia, so that Carl could attend Eastern Mennonite College. After graduation, Carl and Leota felt a call to missions, and were invited to go to Somalia with Eastern Board of Mission and Charities to help establish a boarding school for Somali boys.

With two young children and a third on the way, the Wesselhoefts made their first journey to Somalia in 1955. When they boarded the ship in New York, they knew little about Somali culture or Muslim culture, but in the next nine years they would learn a lot.

Their first task upon arrival was to begin language studies. This was a challenging undertaking, but a necessary one considering that only one other man in the village spoke English. Relationships with the villagers were tense and this was somewhat remedied by the Wesselhoefts’ desire to learn Somali, but they had to do more to gain their acceptance.

One morning before dawn, three men showed up at the Wesselhoefts’ front door – one carrying a spear while the other two had sticks for their own protection in the dark of night. When Carl went out to talk with them, the men told him that one of the women in the community was having serious issues while giving birth, and Leota needed to come help this woman have her baby; they assumed Leota to be a midwife. Leota was not trained in the medical field at all, but she had watched several home births and was willing to offer help. After praying with Carl, Leota went with the men. Carl stayed home to watch the three little children, wondering how this would all end.

According to Carl, when Leota had arrived at the woman’s house, she could tell that the woman was in active labor, but the amniotic sac had not yet broken. Leota had enough experience to know that the sac had to be punctured in order for labor to progress smoothly. She used a pin from her hair to perform an informal amniotomy on the woman, effectively breaking her water and allowing the birth to move forward without issue. Hours later Leota returned home, now celebrated as a town hero for her assistance in the delivery process.

This circumstance was not one that the Wesselhoefts had sought or fabricated on their own. If they had been given the option to avoid the circumstance of three armed men showing up on their front porch that morning, they would have likely chosen to avoid it. God handed them this integral interaction with the villagers, and after Leota’s success with the birth, the entire village saw that the Wesselhoefts were not there to hurt them. They were a valuable addition to the community, and Leota earned the title of “village mother.” True bonds began to form between them and the Somali villagers.

The boarding school that Carl directed was for boys ages six to thirteen from all over Somalia. His first class consisted of a handful of students sitting on the ground while he taught using a chalkboard hung in a shade tree. Over a period of time, a school building was constructed and more and more students came to learn there. The villagers knew that the Wesselhoefts were Christians and they trusted them to run the school, but they made it clear that Christianity was not to be taught at the school. They did allow the Wesselhoefts to hold a small church service in their house on Sundays, which was translated into Somali, and a few locals joined.

One man who attended, Abdulah, worked as a cook at their school while his widowed sister farmed outside the village. There was a time when her field had not received much rain and was beginning to dry up. When Abdulah told Carl about this issue, Carl told him that they should pray because God cares for the widows. “We prayed,” Carl said, “and a black cloud came, and it was raining like it only can in tropical climates, and Abdulah came running from the kitchen and said that the cloud was right over her field.” Later, his wife had a dream three nights in a row in which she was told by a shining finger that she should believe in Jesus. When she woke up after the third time, she asked her husband if he believed and he said yes, and so she said she would believe as well.

"...even though I lose everything, I will not turn away from him who walks on the water.”One day Abdulah came up to Leota and began to sing in his language. He had wrote a song that said, “even though I lose everything, I will not turn away from him who walks on the water.” This touched the Wesselhoefts greatly because they were able to see how the gospel they were presenting was bearing fruit. God had gifted this illiterate man with words and music to praise the Lord, and their small house church began to sing the hymns that he wrote.

There were times when they felt threatened by the government or individuals because of their Christianity, but for the most part, their time in Somalia was marked by peace and friendship with the people they lived among. In 1965, the Wesselhoefts returned to America with their five children because the nearest schooling option was a boarding school about a thousand miles away and they wanted to keep their family together.

When the Wesselhoefts returned to the U.S., they settled in Logan, Ohio, close to Leota’s family and their sending congregation, Turkey Run Mennonite Church. Carl applied to work at several factories, and in one interview the personnel manager told him, “You won’t be happy working in a factory.” Carl knew that he was right. Once again, when Carl had no idea where to turn, God handed him an opportunity. As Carl was enrolling his children at Logan-Hocking school, the principal found out that Carl had a background in education. He mentioned that there were still two teaching positions open (just days before the school year was to begin), and he asked if Carl would be interested in one of them. Carl agreed, and he continued teaching in that school system for over twenty years.

Along with teaching at Logan-Hocking, Carl found much joy in pastoring Turkey Run Mennonite Church. During his time as pastor, the church was able to update and renovate the church building to accommodate more people. Such a huge building project seemed daunting to Carl, but God filled the people of Turkey Run with energy and unity during the building process. Everyone worked together and they now enjoy the extra space for playing children as well as the convenience of indoor restrooms. Carl says, “When I stand and see the little ones having a good time, I’m overwhelmed sometimes. I thank the Lord that he has been so good, and not because I have been a great leader or anything like that. It is the Lord who gave us a heart to build.” Over the years, God has continued to bless Carl through the harmony and fellowship at Turkey Run.

As Carl looks back on his life, he can see the many ways God has taken care of him through each new leg of the journey, providing for him in ways that he could not have predicted or imagined. His safety in the midst of war, the ad from his friend telling him to go to Canada, the Mennonite family that hosted him, the love he found in Leota, the way she was able to help with the delivery to gain trust with the villagers, the job at Logan-Hocking School, the building project at Turkey Run “…there were so many things like that,” he says, “the Lord opened the doors and all I had to do was say ‘yes’ and enter.”

“You are Carl Wesselhoeft?! You were my teacher!”
By Joe,* RMM President

The occasion was a dinner in March, 2011 at the Rosedale International Center (RIC) in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus has become the home for as many as forty to sixty thousand Somalis over the past couple of decades. I had heard that most of the English-speaking Somalis in Columbus who were over fifty years old had probably learned English in one of the schools started by Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) workers many years ago. When I learned that Dr. David Shenk, an EMM worker in Somalia back in those days, was coming to Columbus for a speaking engagement, I asked him if he had any Somali acquaintances here in Columbus that might want to join him for dinner when he was in town. He made a few contacts, and soon we had the dinner planned, with four to six Somali guests expected. We also invited Carl Wesselhoeft, since he had also been an EMM worker in Somalia in those days, and now lives quite close to Columbus.

Carl was seated near the fireplace in the RIC dining hall when the five Somali men arrived for the dinner. Carl stood to greet them, and one of them could not contain his disbelief and amazement as he shook Carl’s hand. “You are Carl Wesselhoeft?! You were my teacher!” This man had been a seven-year-old boy in Carl’s class fortyfive years earlier, and had not seen him since. It was the beginning of an evening of great food and fascinating interchanges that I doubt I’ll ever forget.

*Name omitted for security

September 23, 2016

“…For Now You Shall Laugh”

Living cross-culturally sometimes leads to awkward miscommunications, cultural blunders, and many opportunities for laughter. Rather than keeping these to ourselves, we thought we would share a few stories from RMM workers to give you a dose of the “best medicine.”

Jordan (Himalayas REACH team, ‘10 – ‘11)

We entered our host church for another “all-night prayer.” These meetings, although not entirely accurate in name due to the fact that they only lasted from about 9 until 12, were nonetheless quite long enough for us. It’s not that we were entirely unspiritual, we just felt exhausted from teaching at the Discipleship Training School and teaching English, struggling to use fire to cook, etc. So the arrival of yet another spiritual activity did not garner the typical amount of joy you would expect from short-term missionaries.

We all prayed together, joining with each other to ask for more of God’s spirit for us and the surrounding area. Our host’s prayers, which had been labeled by us as “Attila the Hun Prayers” for their ferocity, decibel level, and obvious spirituality, were in full force at this meeting. Although we admired his faith, we struggled to keep up and our bed of straw covered with blankets was calling deeply.

“A hush fell as all questioned within their hearts what had just happened.”So, when I was assigned to have the closing prayer, I concocted a devious scheme. Around 45 minutes before we were to be done I sensed a lull in the praying. I quickly jumped in and prayed a quick prayer and said, “Amen.” A hush fell as all questioned within their hearts what had just happened. A very awkward silence ensued. Had my plan worked?

Unfortunately, our host was not so easily tricked, he usurped the honor of last prayer and began again in his native language. There would be no early dismissal I realized very quickly. I regretted that I had betrayed my lack of spirituality for all to see. Needless to say, I was never given the opportunity of having “closing prayer” again.

Sarah* (worker in North Africa)

As I sat in the living room surrounded by women of the extended family that we had gotten to know through the classmate of our daughter, I was aware of being the foreigner, but one who had been included. When each new family member came into the room, my friend would introduce me to the woman who just arrived and she would greet me warmly with kisses on both cheeks. It was the first day of the Eid (the celebration in Islam where a sheep is slaughtered for each head of household and the families all come together to eat and remember the sacrifice that was made in the place of Abraham’s son, which they believe to be Ishmael) and the festive feeling was palpable. The four sheep had been slaughtered that morning for each head of household for this extended family, which means that there was plenty of work for the women to do as they prepared the liver wrapped in fat to be made into kebabs, cut the lung and stomach and cleaned the intestines to be made into tajines.

As I interacted with the group of women, I could see the surprise on their faces as I spoke the local language with them. I had always struggled a little to understand the women in this family because their dialect was slightly different from the one we had studied. So when one of the women turned to me and said something about cumin and salt, and pointed to her hair, I made the connection in my mind to an interesting spa experience, where one’s hair would be treated luxuriously with this unique combination of spices. It only took me a few minutes to realize that she was actually talking about how they would prepare the head of the sheep to be eaten at breakfast the next morning, but by then I thought it was funny enough to share with them. I explained to my friend that I had thought the woman was inviting me to an interesting spa experience the next morning and she couldn’t stop laughing. She explained it with lots of expression to the group of women and we all had a good laugh. I have brought it up often in my interactions with family and it has served not only to make me seem more normal, but to provide a good laugh whenever one is needed.

William* (worker in East Asia)

Where we live in Asia, the subject of one’s boyfriend or girlfriend needs to be discussed in the proper context. Inside families, same-sex discussions are the rule. A mother and daughter might talk about the daughter’s boyfriend, but the daughter likely would be embarrassed to speak with her father about that topic. A father would also be too embarrassed to talk with his daughter. If a father wanted to communicate something about boys or boyfriends with his daughter, he might talk to his wife and use her as a mediator. Fathers and daughters generally avoid the topic when together.

After several years of living here, I had learned some of the language and culture, but I was still not careful enough to avoid shaming others. On one occasion Susan,* a female friend of ours, was about to go to the United States for university education. As Susan, her father, my wife, and I casually discussed Susan's upcoming trip, I laughingly teased in the local language that Susan might come back from America with an American boyfriend. “You can catch an escaped horse, but you cannot catch words once spoken.”Susan spoke to me in English so that her father would not understand, “Please, do not say that in front of my father.” Thinking that she was simply trying to sidestep my needling, I repeated my statement in the local language. Her father, without a word, rose and left the room. I was horrified, and my wife was shocked at my impudence.

I apologized profusely to Susan. A local proverb says, “You can catch an escaped horse, but you cannot catch words once spoken.” I did not say anything to Susan's father. To say anything of the incident would simply have amplified the awkwardness of the situation. Later, we ate a meal with the family in which the father participated. All of us pretended that nothing had happened.

The father evidently chose to overlook the offense. In fact, he later became our landlord and allowed us to live in the house in which I had embarrassed him and horrified myself. He even gave us the house, rent free, for four years.

*Names changed for security

September 21, 2016

Expanding the Kingdom: Introducing the Director of Church Planting

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

“What if we really believed that the best way to reach more people for Christ is to plant healthy, gospel-centered, reproducing local churches in rural communities and urban cities all over North America? What if we had a vision to plant 50 local churches in the next decade out of our conference to multiply the gospel, and to advance the kingdom of God?”

Larry Kaufman, in his first report as Director of Church Planting, posed those questions to the RMM board in June 2016. Earlier in May 2016, a diverse group of Conservative Mennonite Conference (CMC) constituents had met to study scripture, seek the Lord, and discuss church planting. This group sensed God calling CMC to engage and expand the Kingdom through prioritizing church planting in every church and every member within every church. Adding to this growing momentum, Pastor Larry Kaufman of Grace Mennonite Church (Millersburg, Ohio) accepted the appointment to direct the carrying out of this vision.

Larry has served as Pastor at Grace for a total of 17 years. He began to sense a call to ministry during his time in Voluntary Service in Jackson, Mississippi. “God confirmed and nurtured that sense of call when I was a student at Rosedale Bible College in the early ‘90s.” Before his time at Grace, Larry was on staff at Maple City Chapel in Goshen, Indiana.

“A lack of new churches being planted is one of the biggest threats to Christianity in North America.”Larry enjoys reading, eating, learning, and helping organizations and individuals reach their full potential. He also counts being a husband and father as “one of the great privileges of [his] life.” He has been married to his wife, Kendra, for 21 years, and they have five “awesome, kingdom-building, Jesus-loving kids”: Sarah (18), Anna (17), Samuel (13), and twins Kurt & Kate (11).

While Larry will remain as the head pastor at Grace, the congregation has released him for one day a week to dedicate his time to working as the Director of Church Planting. Both RMM and CMC are extremely grateful to Grace Mennonite Church for giving this generous gift for the benefit of the broader conference.

Larry shared his vision as Director of Church Planting: “I believe deeply in the potential of the local church to change the world for Christ. I recently came across a statistic from LifeWay Research that rocked my world. Only 4% of local churches in North America reproduce themselves through church planting. Imagine if only 4% of married couples in the US reproduced biologically? It would threaten the existence of our country in one generation. A lack of new churches being planted is one of the biggest threats to Christianity in North America. I plan to spend the rest of my life equipping leaders, and mobilizing local churches to plant new gospel-centered, multiplying churches in strategic cities and rural areas in North America. I have a sense that church planting within CMC could be a catalyst for a bolder vision, and greater gospel impact. I am ready, and believe our best days are ahead.”

Opportunities for Action:

Read JD Greear’s book, Gaining by Losing for more information and inspiration about church planting. This book identifies the values and practices of becoming a sending church.

Plant a church, if you feel led to do so. Contact Larry by email at larry@rmmoffice.org or by phone at (330)231-3733 if you share the vision to expand the Kingdom, and desire guidance in how to carry out that vision.

Pray for CMC as we seek God in composing a clear church planting strategy by the end of 2016.

September 13, 2016

A Place to Call Home: An Update from Josiah and Sarah

At the end of July, we shared a number of prayer requests for Josiah and Sarah* as their family returned to North Africa. Below is a recent update from Josiah reflecting on their arrival and the way God has provided for them.

In these initial days there have been many reminders of how familiar life is here and why we’re grateful to be back: we’ve had visits with dear local friends, celebrated milestones with teammates, used words and phrases we haven’t thought of in a year, and eaten favorite local fruits. There have also been some reminders that the life we lived for the last year was different, and some accompanying growing pains as we readjust to our North African skin and work out (again) the shape that our marital and parenting relationships take in this culture..

Three years ago, the hunt for a place to live in the mountain town had been more frustrating than we expected, so the prospect of starting again was one we weren’t looking forward to. But we felt peace and rest again and again as we plan to return. A friend in our old neighborhood had offered to check on options, so around the time of our return I texted him. A day or two later he replied that he had an option.

The home was more than what we’d hoped for: around the corner from where we lived previously, a short walk from the children’s school, more hosting space, and some space outside for gardening, play, and work-related learning. I signed the contract today ... we’re so grateful. Thank you for your prayers for that unknown. More lie ahead. Tonight we’re celebrating a place to call home for this next leg of the journey.

*Names changed for security

September 07, 2016

Witch Doctors, Church Planters, and the Sovereignty of God

By Jordan*

“A witch doctor?” I ask again, trying to clarify this story that made me marvel anew at the strange ways in which God chooses to move. A young pastor and I were sitting together in the shade of a large rock, pausing for a moment as we followed a small trail up the side of the mountain. We had spent much of the previous day riding together on a motorcycle and the sunburn on my neck was a constant reminder that sometimes, every once in a while, my wife does have valid packing tips. As he drove through places that would give a dirt bike pause, I held on, vowing that when I returned to America I would never again drive on a highway without giving thanks for the smooth ride. As we bounced along, I tried to focus on praying for the villages and vast areas that he would point out to me. Areas where the church was not – at least, not yet.

In the last 50 years this small Himalayan country has seen many changes, not the least of which is the incredible growth of Christianity. Although the government estimates the Christian population at around only 1.4 percent, the church here is growing rapidly and stories resembling the book of Acts abound. Stories about sickness, stories about persecution, stories about the power of prayer, and stories like the one my friend Jiwan* was telling me.

“Yes, a witch doctor,” he answers. I chuckle at the sheer absurdity of it all and ask him to continue. 20 years ago, when his father, Amin* was a young man of about 25, he was very sick. Amin was an only son and his sickness was getting worse. Although his parents were the leaders of their small village, there was nothing they could do. His parents took him to see many different witch doctors, every time they would trade something (vegetables, a chicken, or some goats) for the witch doctors to do their work. No matter the influence of the witch doctor or how much Jiwan’s grandparents paid them, Amin didn't get any better. They even had to sell some of their land in order to pay the witch doctors, but nothing made a difference. Finally one of the witch doctors gave a recommendation for a change of treatment. The witch doctor told them, “What we are doing isn't working, take your son to the church and see if they can heal him.” The nearest church was a day-and-a-half walk away. There were, at the time, no other transportation options.

They took their son there and the church prayed for him. In a few months he was completely healed. After his healing, Amin became the first believer in his area. They started a small fellowship. Believers from the church who had prayed for healing started to come to disciple them. They would send a few people at a time; have fellowship with the new believers and then walk for another day and a half back to their own village.

“All of this transformation because of a most unlikely evangelist – a witch doctor—being used by the power of God. ”Persecution began. Others in the village got together and decided they must kill Amin. They waited outside the church planning to murder him when he came out of fellowship “only to escape by the grace of God.” He would hide in the jungle and sneak back to get meals or have fellowship. Slowly the village began to change. More healing occurred; more people came to faith. Jiwan indicates that “today, every house in my village is Christian. There are some individuals who don't believe, but every house is Christian.” Jiwan’s father no longer lives in the village, but is working in ministry and has preached the gospel in almost every district in the country. Jiwan's uncle is now the pastor in his village. They have also helped start a number of churches in the nearby villages. The man who led the persecution against Jiwan's father died without accepting Christ, but his grandson has become a pastor and is now in the process of planting a church. All of this transformation because of a most unlikely evangelist – a witch doctor—being used by the power of God.

Before I left the country, I spent some time with my friend Moses* and we discussed ways that the American and Himalayan churches could help each other. We talked about the American church's need for boldness and excitement, and the Himalayan church's need for training, a strong infrastructure, and the development of strategic outreach. He told me something that I won't forget: “Mark 4 talks about the farmer going out and sowing, but nobody goes out to sow in the jungle. The only way that the jungle can become fertile ground is through intercession.” Moses was a part of the church that prayed for Amin. He would make the day-and-a-half hike just to encourage and teach the believers there. He has seen jungles cleared, he has experienced the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:11: “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all nations.” A seed can be something so small and insignificant but when it’s planted in prepared land, God allows it to become something so much greater. Just like us.

Please join me in praying with the disciples in the Himalayas. Join me also in looking for God's movement through the unexpected. Through witch doctors, sicknesses, miscarriages and unfulfilled expectations, God is showing his power and drawing the nations to himself. God is using even us: the weakest, the lowest caste, the despised, “so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord’ “(1 Corinthians 1:31).

*Names changed and last names omitted for security

Jordan and his wife Megan went to the Himalayas on a short-term team in 2010-2011. They are planning (if God wills) to return to the Himalayas as long-term workers in a few years. They hope to help equip believers to go to unreached areas with the gospel and plant new churches. Jordan currently works as the Property Manager of the RIC in Columbus, Ohio. Jordan is also co-founder of The Himalayan Partnership – an initiative that is focusing on helping American and Himalayan churches be involved with equipping and sending out church planters to new areas in the Himalayas.

If you are interested in getting involved with this partnership contact Jordan at (614) 795-5113.

September 04, 2016

Meet Cora: From Canada to North Africa

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

Cora* is 21 and grew up in Ontario, Canada where her parents are involved in a church plant. In early September she moved to North Africa for two years to assist RMM workers Raleigh and Opal* in caring for their children. She will also study the local languages and point locals toward Jesus.

What have you been up to in the last five years?

I graduated from high school in 2012, and then I went straight to a Bible college in Ohio the following fall. After a year there, I returned home to go to our community college for early childhood education. That was a two-year program, so after I graduated from that, I have been working in a childcare setting and loving it.

What excites you about going to North Africa?

I am excited to experience a new culture and see how people live in another part of the world and learn from them. I also look forward to the laid-back culture and how relationships govern the schedule, rather than time. I am eager to help Raleigh and Opal, so they can continue to build relationships with the locals. I am also rather excited about the fact that I won’t have to deal with snow for the next two winters!

What circumstances brought you to the decision to move to North Africa?

Earlier this year, I told God that I was willing to do missions if that is what he had for me. A few weeks later my dad sent me RMM’s ad about a childcare assistant needed in North Africa. This got me really excited because it seemed like the type of thing I would enjoy doing. I emailed RMM that same day to ask about more information. At that point I had no idea what would come of it, but I surrendered it over to God and said that he would have to work out the details if this assignment was for me. Through the whole process of learning more about the position and meeting the family, I continued to have a deep excitement and everything has worked out smoothly.

In what ways have you been involved with childcare in the past?

I have always loved taking care of children. Even as a child, I would try to take care of those younger than me.☺ When I was younger I did any babysitting jobs that I could find and spent time with small children whenever I could. Now being an RECE (Registered Early Childhood Educator) I get to be in the childcare setting every day! Currently I am an educator of an Aboriginal toddler group and love that role! I have also worked with infants, preschool and school-aged children.

What are some challenges you are anticipating in moving to North Africa?

I have never learned another language before, so learning the local language may be more challenging for me. However, I am excited that I will have a private teacher to whom I can ask lots of questions! I also expect the normal challenges of moving to a new culture and learning how to get around, how to buy food, and simply learning how to live in a completely different part of the world!

What are you going to miss about home?

When I think about what I will miss, I immediately think of people. I will miss my family and the time I get to spend with my sister every day. I will miss my church family and being connected there and all the fun we have together. I have also come to love my job and my co-workers and it will be very hard to say good-bye to everyone there. I will also miss the Canadian scenery I get to enjoy every day, but I expect that there will be new scenery in North Africa that I will begin to appreciate once I get there!

Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

I am so thankful for my parents’ support in this decision. They were the ones who first showed me RMM’s ad about the position and encouraged me to find out more. I have come to realize that my parents’ attitude toward this opportunity is not normal. When I told a few different friends about my decision to go to North Africa, they asked if my parents were okay with me going and they thought it was crazy that my parents weren’t even worried about me. This is not to say that my parents don’t care what happens to me, but they know this is where God is leading me and they know following God requires sacrifice. I have grown up with my parents’ attitude as a wonderful example, and for this I am truly thankful!

What are ways people can be praying for you?

As I think about all the unknowns of going to a new country, pray that I would continue to trust God with all of the details and not stress.

* Names changed for security