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December 22, 2016

New Workers to North Africa

By Lydia Gingerich

Eugene and Katrina, along with their two children Jimmy (toddler) and Lucy* (infant) are sent by Millport Mennonite Church, Frontiers, and RMM to North Africa to learn language and build relationships with a vision to cultivate a movement to Jesus among an unreached people group.

God's call on my life is no different than any other believer out there. I believe that when you look at scripture there is no way around the call to ‘go and make disciples,’ that could be your next door neighbor, your coworker, or a group of people in North Africa.”

For Eugene and his wife Katrina, the question was never whether or not they would share the message of the gospel with those around them, but where and how. After living out this call in many different ways and places, they have committed to doing so for at least three years in North Africa as a part of RMM’s team, beginning January 2017.

For the first two years, Eugene and Katrina plan to focus on learning the local language and culture. Eugene says, “We hope to build relationships even in the learning stage... This is an educational time for us but we also see it as ministry.” As they discover how to live in this country, they will also be working towards starting a business which will create natural and long-term connections with local people as coworkers, customers, and associates. Eugene and Katrina are working with Rosedale Business Group to create a business plan for this endeavor.

“I believe that when you look at scripture there is no way around the call to ‘go and make disciples,’ that could be your next door neighbor, your coworker, or a group of people in North Africa.”Eugene and Katrina were both influenced by their previous experiences overseas, and they are using some of the lessons they learned to prepare for their work in North Africa. After spending a year with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Discipleship Training School in Australia, and then outreach in Indonesia and Cambodia, Eugene was challenged to look at missions as building relationships and forming strong connections. He learned how to work across cultures and come together over common interests and shared activity. He is excited to see how God will work through these friendships and says that for him “there is no greater joy than to see a person be changed by Christ.”

For Katrina, living overseas has helped her see both the struggles and joys of this kind of work. She spent two years in North Africa under RMM, and she looks forward to returning with her family. Katrina is excited about the opportunities she will have befriending North African women. She says, “God's call to me is to minister to women, I especially have a heart for those who have little or no access to the truth of who Jesus is. I love visiting with women and oral storying - telling Jesus stories that can then be retold to others. I long to see movements of multiplying believers take place in North Africa and elsewhere.”

Both Eugene and Katrina know that there are many challenges ahead of them. There could be frustrating days and nights in the next few months as they study a new language. They could face difficulty gaining acceptance as foreigners in their community. They might struggle to find time to take care of their children and home as well as visiting with locals. But they know that in each trial, God will be there to assist and to provide his peace.

This couple is motivated by a deep longing to see people put their hope in Jesus Christ. “The real reason for going is the people. We will be working to build relationships with the locals by having them in our home, by having conversations with them in the marketplace, and by sitting with them in their coffee shops. We desire that this people group will turn to the Lord and live in relationship with Him.”

Please pray for Eugene and Katrina and their two children as they settle into their new home:

• They would find a tutor for language learning
• Their children would be at peace with all the transitions
• God-appointed connections with key people

December 12, 2016

The Gift of Drama

By Lydia Gingerich

Storytelling is one of the most influential ways to change hearts, minds, and attitudes across cultures. People are drawn to God through stories. In this piece, we look at two examples of the story of Jesus’ birth displayed through theater in the Middle East and an interactive dramatization in Mechanicsburg, Ohio.

Joseph’s Dream

In the Middle East, RMM worker Esta Felder* writes and directs dramas, training believers and non-believers in the art of theater. She works with an experienced group of young people who perform gospel-based dramas in churches, youth groups, and other venues. Below is a Christmas drama she wrote that has been performed two different times in the Middle East. Grab a couple of friends to read or act out this story and experience a fresh take on Joseph’s dream.
Characters: Gabriel, Isaiah, Joseph

Gabriel: (To the congregation...) My name is Gabriel, I’m an angel of the Lord. It’s my privilege to deliver messages on behalf of the Lord, God to mortal men. In this case to Joseph, whom you see here...

Isaiah: And my name is Isaiah, I’m a prophet of the Lord. Yes, we’re here to give a message to Joseph by entering his dream.

Gabriel: As you can see, it’s more of a nightmare! It has to do with the birth of Jesus the Messiah.

Isaiah: Joseph is engaged to the young woman, Mary. But he just found out that she’s pregnant.

Joseph: (Startled awake) Pregnant! I’ve known her family all my life! I never would have guessed this! It turns out she’s either unfaithful, or... or mentally unstable!

Isaiah: Joseph, are you wondering about Mary?

Joseph: What? Who is that? Am I dreaming?

Gabriel: You seem troubled over what to do about your engagement.

Joseph: What she’s done is against God’s law. I could go public and completely ruin her, but I’m better than that. No, I’ll quietly break off the engagement for her sake. It’s the right thing to do.

Isaiah: That’s generous of you. But like most people, you don’t have a clue what God’s doing in your life, do you?

Joseph: She’ll be disgraced eventually, but not because of me.

Gabriel: We have a message for you, Joseph! Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife! What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Joseph: Conceived by the Holy Spirit?

Isaiah: Yes! Fulfilling the prophecy, The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God with us.”

Joseph: God with us?

Isaiah: It’s what the human race has been waiting for! God is coming along side us. He’s making it possible for humans to have an intimate, personal relationship with him!
Joseph becomes even more anxious.

Gabriel: I told you Joseph, don’t be afraid.

Joseph: What? What did you say?

Isaiah: He said, don’t be a coward!!

Gabriel: To play your part in God’s plan takes courage. No matter how you try to explain it, everyone will judge you, they may even hate you.

Isaiah: You have to be willing to endure the world’s disdain to be a part of God’s plan, Joseph. Mary is willing to suffer the disgrace. Are you?

Joseph: Tell me again what’s happening?

Gabriel: Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Isaiah: Do you accept your part in this plan?

Joseph: If what you say is true, then of course, I will raise him as my own. I’ll give him my name.
Isaiah rolls his eyes and Gabriel shakes his head.

Gabriel: You will not name him. God will name him!

Joseph: What? Every parent has a right to name their child!

Gabriel: Exactly. God, his father, will name him.

Isaiah: This child is God... He will eventually be naming you!

Gabriel: The world needs a Savior, Joseph. And so do you. You think of yourself as a good man, but being good is not enough.

Isaiah: What do you say? Are you willing to let God have his way in your life so that the world may be saved?

Joseph: (Becomes calm.) Yes. I think I finally understand. This baby is being born for all of us— including me. (Repeats.) This baby is being born for me.

Isaiah: (Tests him.) Mary can’t escape her disgrace, but you still can...

Joseph: No! Her disgrace will become mine.

Isaiah: Finally!

Gabriel: Okay, it’s time.

Gabriel and Isaiah: Joseph, wake up!

Joseph: (Wakes up.) I know what I have to do! (Looks up) Yes, Lord. I will do as you say. I’m still afraid, but ...I’ll obey. I’ll take Mary as my wife. She will give birth to a son and his name will be Jesus, the Savior of the world. ...Let the adventure begin!

Joseph’s Dream is published with the permission of the author. This original play and many others are published in the book by Esta, please contact info@rmmoffice.org for more details. To Learn more about Esta’s work in the Middle East and how you can be a part of RMM’s ministry, read our year-end letter at yearend.rmmweb.org.

*Name changed for security

Locally Grown: “A live, interactive nativity adventure”

Here in North America, another story of ministering through the arts at Christmas has been unfolding for the past sixteen years in Mechanicsburg, Ohio. In 2000 Cathy Troyer (then the secretary for Mechanicsburg Christian Fellowship) had the idea of hosting an interactive Christmas drama based on a production she had seen at another church. The Director of Children and Youth Ministries at MCF, Christa Wolf, “caught the vision and wrote a very basic script.”

Since that time, the script has evolved, and the cast has grown from about twenty to fifty actors. Christa writes, “the Christmas Walk is a live, interactive nativity adventure. Groups of fifteen to twenty people are guided by a narrator as they witness the unfolding story surrounding the birth of Christ as they walk from scene to scene.” There are usually about eight to ten of these scenes which play out across the three-acre field behind the church, “starting with a brief history of the Israelites and the prophecies foretelling Jesus’ birth, and ending with an explanation of how the baby in the manger is also the man on the cross—God’s gift of salvation offered to the world.”

Such a complex and involved drama is not an easy task to pull off. It takes about 100 people to help with grounds, hospitality, tech, publicity, acting, baking, coordinating, and many more tasks. In 2006, MCF decided to scale back and perform the Walk every other year to ensure that all of these volunteers have enough energy and excitement for the production.

“Our church has really taken hold of the Walk as our gift to the community, ” says Christa, “and consider it to be one of our primary evangelistic tools.” Over two nights, 450 guests come to participate in the Walk, many of whom are unchurched. At the end of the evening, members of the congregation are available to converse and minister to visitors over refreshments. Christa reveals that these interactions “often lead to important conversations about Christ.” She adds that the Walk provides opportunities for discussion—even beyond the two night, it is presented. People on the street will recognize her from a scene in the drama and say, “that was the first time I really understood the whole story of why Jesus was born. I’m bringing my family next time.” Those connections bless Christa’s heart, she says, “because whether they have come to Christ or not, I know I have been a small part of pointing them in the right direction.”

The next MCF Christmas Walk will be held in 2017. Please pray that this ministry, as well as Esta’s in the Middle East, would continue to flourish and present the gospel in a way that connects with those who have not yet understood the magnitude of this story.

Let us know how God is using your congregation to be his hands and feet in your community. Send your stories to mosaic@rmmoffice.org.

Oh Jesus!

By Joe,* RMM President

Those were about the only words I could think of as I stood near a small boat a few weeks ago. The boat wasn’t where we usually find boats. This boat was inside a cathedral in Cologne, Germany. The sign said the boat had been confiscated by the army of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. It was being used by refugee smugglers on a route from Libya to Italy.

The boat was about 23 feet long. As I looked at it, I thought 30 people would crowd the boat, but the sign said a boat like that will carry as many as 100 people. They journey without food and water, and without protection from the sun, storm or cold. When the Maltese army found this boat, some of its occupants had suffocated and others had collapsed from being unable to breathe.

People take risks like this only on one condition: they are utterly desperate. And clearly, their desperation presents a challenge to the rest of us — a challenge that often looks so immense that we don’t know where to begin. Jesus, what can we do? What are you doing about this, Jesus, and how can we join you?

“If there is anywhere the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, it must be in these most desperate of places. Let’s ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers!”I’m reminded of Jesus’ description of the crowds as “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). In the face of that desperation, he said to those following him, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). If anyone today is harassed and helpless, it must be these refugees. If there is anywhere the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, it must be in these most desperate of places. Let’s ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers!

In October of this year, Dawn Showalter of Shiloh Mennonite Church, spent time at a camp near Athens, Greece, that seeks to provide meaningful structure in the lives of refugees. She interacted with those who had gone through so much to get to the camp, and writes about some of those relationships here.

Another whom the Lord of the harvest sent recently was Caleb Zimmerman. Caleb, who, with his family worked in Albania with RMM from 2006-2011, spent a couple of months in early 2016 on the Greek island of Lesvos, just off the coast of Turkey, where thousands of asylum-seeking refugees have been landing. Caleb has written an account of his time there, which you can access here. One of our REACH teams also plans to work on Lesvos in early 2017 for part of their cross-cultural outreach.

Caleb's story is full of complexity and full of surprises. But it’s also more than a story. It’s a call to evaluate our hearts and the validity of our faith claims. I pray it helps you know how you can join Jesus in responding.

*Names omitted for security

On the Move: Two weeks in a Refugee Camp

Photo: Mstyslav Chernov

By Dawn Showalter
Originally published in the Shiloh Mennonite Church Newsletter

I sat on the floor beside the young mother as she relaxed against colorful pillows in the Mother-Baby Space of Skaramagas Camp. Her chubby little daughter, not yet born when she and her husband fled their Afghan homeland months before, slept in her lap. “The journey through the mountains was hard,” she remembered. “I waded through a river up to my waist. But coming across on the boat during the dark of night was the worst... I was three months pregnant.”

Like most of the residents of the Skaramagas Camp, Shafiga had entered Greece by crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey on a small vessel loaded with people and arranged by smugglers. Shafiga and her husband escaped Afghanistan after bombs exploded behind their business scaring customers away and disrupting their lives. The treacherous trip to Europe seemed worth the risk for the possibility of making a fresh start as a family.

“I wanted to be a tiny part of responding to this wave of human migration showing by my presence that there were people around the world who cared.”I met Shafiga in October during the two weeks I spent volunteering at Skaramagas camp near Athens, Greece. After a year of watching video clips of boats of refugees arriving on the Greek shore and reading article after article about the unfolding crisis, I couldn’t stay away! I wanted to be a tiny part of responding to this wave of human migration showing by my presence that there were people around the world who cared. I registered with a humanitarian organization named A Drop in the Ocean and began making travel arrangements. After I shared my plans with family members, my brother, LaVern, decided to go as well.

The camp where LaVern and I worked is located on a former shipyard outside of Athens. It currently houses 3400 residents who have fled violent situations in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. They have applied for asylum and are requesting permission to relocate to other European Union countries. In the meantime they are in a holding pattern in Greece, a country with its own economic concerns. Currently Greece is hosting more than 57,000 migrants and processing their requests for asylum. The Greeks deserve a lot of credit for their generosity and for the load that they have assumed in this crisis.

To help improve the quality of life of camp residents while they wait for interviews and travel documents, A Drop in the Ocean organizes activities that give structure to the day for women, small children, and teens. They are also overseeing the construction of a Community Center which will provide a useful hub for activities when it is completed. LaVern spent his days at the camp working on that construction project.

The Mother-Baby Space where I worked was open six days a week providing a place for Mothers to come and bathe their little ones. In exchange for the dirty clothes the mothers removed from the babies and toddlers, we provided a clean set. During our work shifts my co-workers and I sorted through children’s clothing, hung out laundry, prepared buckets of warm water, and calmed fussy toddlers. After bath time, mothers often relaxed in our sitting area allowing their children to play before returning to their small rooms in re-purposed shipping containers. As I observed these women day after day, I admired their strength and dignity in the midst of displacement and dire circumstances.

In the late afternoon, our Drop in the Ocean container transitioned into a gathering place for teen girls to study English or do a craft project with some of our volunteers. Teenaged boys met for dancing or games in a different location. Another NGO provided activities and a play area for younger children close by. In a camp setting where fifty percent of the population are minors, it’s essential that children have something to do! Of particular concern were adolescents who arrived at the camp unaccompanied. Without families to give support or protection, they are at risk for trafficking and gang activity.

Life finds a rhythm in camp. Some residents have opened small businesses to keep themselves occupied. During a lunchtime stroll through the camp, my co-worker from Spain and I walked by the laundry business of the man who washed our baby clothes, chatted with the owner of a tiny grocery, and ordered falafel from the industrious teen-ager at the food stand. Tucked in between two of the containers, we saw a barber shop open for business.

A Syrian resident of the camp and I struck up a conversation while walking from the bus stop to the gate of the camp one morning. LaVern and I accepted an invitation to his home for coffee that afternoon, and for lunch several days later. Over our second and third servings of a delicious pasta dish, our hosts began talking about their desperate moves from city to city as they searched for safety from the Assad regime and Russian and U.S. airstrikes. They worry about family members who remain in Syria.

Their new neighbor from the other end of the container, a former English teacher in Syria, described the pain of war as well. The previous day, as she rode the Metro into Athens, the terrible memories came flooding back. The loud, high-pitched sound of the subway winding through the tunnel brought a sudden reminder of the dreaded war planes overhead. She burst into tears on the Metro.

Our time with our hosts was too brief. As a parting gesture, the son of our host pulled a handful of marbles out of his pocket and handed one to my brother for his young grandson.

With hugs and kisses, we said our emotional goodbyes.

May God guide the steps of our friends in the camp
and in the move to their new country.
May they find kind people waiting for them when they go.
And may they find a place to call home.

December 01, 2016

Hope for Thailand

By Candice and Jonatan, Workers in Thailand

Thanks to Jonatan, a Nicaraguan member of the RMM team, for sharing his heart in this testimony of God’s leading through a very dark time in his life. His words are a challenge to all of us to keep pursuing God and our callings and not give up.

Currently, Thailand is going through a time of mourning. The longest reigning monarch has passed away and the entire city of Bangkok dresses in black and white and pays their respects to a man who helped his country in so many ways. The night of the supermoon was also the Loi Kratong celebration, when Thais float little rafts with candles and flowers, make wishes and confessions and thank the river for life. This year, the festival was muted by the mourning period; no fireworks, no loud celebrations. Many friends didn't celebrate at all.

Now, as much as ever, Thailand needs a King. We pray that God's kingdom comes in Thailand "as it is in heaven." Jonatan is here to share a vision of that kingdom and to hold on to his belief in that kingdom amid a sea of unbelief. As you read his story ask God to continue the good work that has begun.

Greetings everyone,

In this letter, I want to share what has been happening to me in the last few months. I also want to share about God’s faithfulness, how He uses people and other ways and circumstances to confirm our call so we don’t forget the plan and calling He has on our life.

When I was still living in Nicaragua, I heard testimonies from many missionaries who shared about the challenges and problems they faced living in a new culture and how difficult it was to adjust. They said it was especially difficult during the first year. For me, this second year has been more difficult. A year full of disillusionment, testing, personal struggles and discouragement to the point I began to doubt God’s call on my life. I thought God was wrong to have brought me to Thailand because everything I was doing turned out wrong. I would try different things and the doors would close and I wondered if God really had brought me here. Why was He allowing all of this to happen?

It all began when my visa was about to expire. I went to a university and asked if I enrolled could they provide paperwork to help me get a student visa. They told me to return on another date because they were not able to help me that day. I waited and asked them again if they could help me, and they said they couldn’t because I hadn’t had my diploma translated into English. They told me I had to come back another day. I said I would and asked if they needed any other documents translated in order for me to register. They said I only needed my diploma in English. So I left to get the translation, and by that time I only had fifteen days left on my visa.

I only had four days left on my visa when I went back to the university. I was then told I still needed other documents and that would take fifteen days. By then all of my hopes were dashed. I was fatigued and stressed. All of my efforts had failed and I was frustrated.

So I left the country to request a new visa and praise God they extended it but only for a short time. I went back to the university to continue the student visa process. I thought that all the bad that could happen had already occurred, but that wasn’t the case.

When I started classes I was also working at a Mexican restaurant. I would get home at 10:30 pm or midnight and by then I was too tired to study. I also needed to get up early the next morning to help prepare food at the restaurant. I became frustrated because I had responsibilities at both places and I couldn’t do either one well. I was tired but couldn’t sleep because of all the things on my mind. I felt like my head was going to explode so I had to drop my classes to keep working. This was not easy, but I had to resign myself to this reality.

After dropping my classes I dedicated myself to my job at the restaurant. The restaurant was also my place of ministry but gradually the business changed and the number of customers declined. Business declined considerably to the point where my boss decided to close it. “He told me not to abandon the call on my life and to believe He has a purpose for me here – including all of the bad things that had happened; it was for my good.”At that moment it hit me that all this was just too difficult. With everything that had happened to me before, I questioned why this too was happening. I thought God made a mistake in bringing me to Thailand so I decided I would return to Nicaragua. I even talked to my team and told them about my decision.

I was deeply discouraged and disillusioned but in the midst of this, I felt God speak again to my heart. He told me not to abandon the call on my life and to believe He has a purpose for me here – including all of the bad things that had happened; it was for my good.

At the same time, I met with Tom and he told me about a documentary that had been produced about a family from Matagalpa (Nicaragua). This was the story of how Diego Chavarria and his family had endured many hardships and how difficult it was to obey God’s call in order to fulfill the dreams God gave him.

I remember that night going to my room and watching the video. Incredibly, every word they were saying in the documentary with everything that had happened to them was exactly what I was going through at that time. I also remember the words from Gloria in the documentary questioning God when she was going through difficult times, “If this is from God, why is this happening to us?” That very same question was going through my mind, and as I was watching the documentary I began to understand that everything was in God's plan. In the end, even with all the bad things, God always is true to His word and keeps his promises. No matter what takes place – He is the reward.

I just wanted to share this as my testimony about how this documentary helped me not to abandon my sense of call no matter what happens. Thank you to everyone who made the documentary possible. May God greatly bless Diego and his family. I don’t know them but I deeply admire them for what God has done in their lives.

Thank you to those who make it possible for us to be here to shine the light of Christ to those who are in darkness. Your prayers and support encourage me to move forward, knowing I have brothers and sisters who care about me. We are a family, and together we can work to fulfill the Great Commission. There are still many challenges I’ll need to face but I know that God will guide me where He wants me to go and in what He wants me to do.

To God be the glory

– Jonatan

God answered our team's prayers that Jonatan could remain in Thailand and continue to work with us. Since this was written, he was able to find a place in a university, studying hotel and tourism management and is currently in his first semester. He also has a student visa which provides him with a visa for a year. Praise God for his provision and protection!

Please join us in prayer for Jonatan – that he would continue to find hope and purpose in the Lord, and that his ministry in Thailand would draw people toward Christ. If you are interested in supporting him financially you can donate online at www.donate.rmmweb.org.