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May 25, 2017

Hope for the Future

By Judah,* RMM worker in the Middle East

Recently, during a break at language school, the topic of heaven came up. This provided a perfect opportunity for me to ask my classmate his view on how we can get to heaven. His perspective was a common one, not only for the part of the world we are in, but for America as well. In a nutshell, in order to get to heaven, we need to do enough good things to outweigh the bad things.

Based on other information I have learned about the religion here, even if someone could somehow do that, God could arbitrarily tip the scales and keep them from entering heaven. This does not provide much room for hope, as compared to what we find in the Bible. For followers of Jesus, our hope does not rest in doing enough good or the judge not being in a bad mood, but in the blood of Jesus who offered himself on our behalf. We can have hope in him because if it rested on our shoulders we would be hopeless.

With this hope we can look beyond the stones that want to crop up into the paths of our lives. With this hope we choose paths that take us far from the ones we love. Why? Because we have hope of something far greater than anything this world has to offer.

“As we face the difficulties of putting down roots in a new place, we are keeping our focus on the one who brought us here, and not on the challenges we face.”Unfortunately, because of my limited language and the end of our class break, I did not have the ability to take the conversation with my classmate further, but I look forward to having more opportunities to talk with the people around me.

One great opportunity we have had is visiting with our neighbors down the hall from us. They are friendly and patient with our many mistakes and willing to help us by telling us the correct way to say things. We have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with them, but unfortunately tomorrow they will be leaving for their summer home and will not be in our area for several months. As this opportunity closes, we look toward other opportunities ahead of us.

As we face the difficulties of putting down roots in a new place, we are keeping our focus on the one who brought us here, and not on the challenges we face. He is the hope for our future, may he be yours as well.

Judah and Rayna ask that we pray for open doors in their relationships, eyes to look beyond their current challenges, and a deeper understanding of the language. Please pray also for those around them to have their eyes opened to the truth and experience the hope that Judah and Rayna have for themselves.

*Names changed for security

May 22, 2017

Where Do We Even Start?

By Angie, RMM worker in Thailand

Where do we even start?

This is a question I asked myself on a recent trip to Pattaya, Thailand. Three leaders from our sending church joined Jacob, Karly, and me, to continue discovering what ministry will look like for us as a team. For part of that trip, we spent two days in Pattaya to see if God is leading us to relocate there in the future.

Pattaya is one of the main hubs of the sex tourism industry in Thailand. There is so much going on in this city and the needs can feel overwhelming. Our focus while there was to meet with Thrive Rescue and to prayer walk the infamous bar streets. Thrive Rescue is an organization that works directly with the police department in Pattaya to rescue children that have been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked.

The one thing that impacted me the most was the prayer walking. Navigating the bar streets was like being on sensory overload for me. I saw the crowds of tour groups snapping pictures of the bars and the girls out front. I heard the girls calling out invitations to the bars, and all of the different languages being spoken, and the music pounding so loud I couldn’t hear myself think. I smelled alcohol mixed with the slight scent of sulfur in the air. I felt the shoves of people trying to get past me, and the crazy heat even at ten o’clock in the evening.“Being in this kind of environment solidified the calling I feel as a modern-day abolitionist.”

Being in this kind of environment solidified the calling I feel as a modern-day abolitionist. God has called me to be his hands and feet, to help break chains, and to pray that his Kingdom would come here in Thailand, but what does that look like?

Where do we start?

There are so many people that need to be set free and so much that needs to be done. The good news is that there are ministries and organizations who are dedicated to this cause. Pray for our team as we explore the different opportunities to best assist these liberation and healing efforts.

Thank you so much for your prayers. Please continue to pray for entire RMM Team in Thailand as they serve in various ways. Pray also for the many victims of slavery throughout the world, that they would experience the freedom and restoration of God’s love.

May 18, 2017

Going Home

All of the REACH Teams are now back at the Rosedale International Center for a week of re-entry activities. These two reflections from Danae and Sarah of Team Eurasia talk about the struggles of going home and the need to continue putting their faith in the God who takes care of us no matter where we are.

Have Faith

By Sarah

I always joke that I'm not coming home, but surprise, I am. With leaving to come home, there are many questions that follow. Questions like how do I prepare my heart for this? How do I say goodbye to strangers who are now family? How do I just pack up my bags and come home?

I've met a lot of different people and each one has a story. They have passions, goals, dreams, and fears just like me. It was always interesting to hear where they were and how they got to where they are now. Sometimes it was hard to hear someone's story, to listen to all they have been through, or even what they're facing now. I remember I would laugh so hard that I would cry as I would hear stories. Sometimes I would be overwhelmed with sadness and would cry with them. However, people like to be heard, refugee or college student. Everyone has a story. A few weeks ago, I was really struggling with the thought of leaving. This time I'm leaving and not coming back. I’m not going to a new country, I'm coming home. It's time for a new transition. A good but hard transition. As I was talking to our Father, He showed me that I was scared. I was scared to leave, move on, and to let go. This is all I've known for the past nine months. Coming home would mean to leave this and part of me still isn't ready.

"You came on this adventure to find me and you did... What makes you think this is over?”When I finally just sat and waited on our Father, He began to speak. He reminded me of these verses,

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14 MSG).

“Remember these? I gave them to you in the way beginning. My child, oh my child. This adventure was a lot of things, but mostly these verses. Throughout this adventure, I came to you. I met you right where you needed me. You grew into me and what I had for you these past nine months. It wasn’t easy, I know. Days were hard and long, but I never left you. Lots of questions follow you, but remember to whom you belong. You came on this adventure to find me and you did. You put your whole heart in this. What makes you think this is over? Oh my precious child, just because you’re traveling home, I’m still right beside you. We’ll go home and you’ll take what you learned and we’ll apply it at home. Going home will be hard, I know, but have faith dear one. Have faith.”

Going Home

By Danae

As I look back on our time in Eurasia it’s really neat to see the different things that our Father has been showing me about himself, his people, and me. Something that has been on my mind recently is what going home looks like. What does it look like to live for our Father in my home community? While in this program we are so intent on building relationships and sharing about our awesome Father and his love. Despite the challenges we may face we are more than excited to just try and see what happens. My question is, why is living in the United States different? I find that when I go on a missions trip it is easier to be intentional about building relationships and sharing Jesus because that is what I am supposed to do. But this doesn’t make sense.

Am I not called to make disciples wherever I go? It is crazy how in the United States I will not face nearly as many cultural and language barriers as I do here. Yet so often I take for granted the ease at which I have to share Jesus. So what does it come down to? Is it scarier? Am I too busy with life? Does it feel more awkward? I think Jesus would want me to make time in my life to share about him even if it is potentially awkward and scary. Better yet I believe Jesus would like to be the first priority in my life and have everything else come later. I imagine he wants to come before my job, family, friends, church, etc. As I think about going home I want to go with the mindset of having my heavenly Father at the forefront of my life. I want my desire for him and my desire to share him to take precedence over everything else. I want to continue to put myself out of my comfort zone and continue to search for ways to share at home. Because isn’t home as much of a mission field as here?

Please keep all of the REACH participants in your prayers as they reflect on what they have learned in the last nine months and how they can put those lessons into action back at home.

May 12, 2017

Trading Shoes: A REACH Update

By Katie, Team Ecuador

Katie and her team served at a foundation in Manta, Ecuador, helping to care for neglected and at-risk children and teens.

One day during rest time I was hanging out with some of the older girls in their room. I was sitting on a bed with my shoes off as we talked. Next thing I knew one of the girls put my shoes on and gave me hers. She wanted to trade. I was hesitant at first because she was giving me her new thick rubber flip-flops, while in return I had old flip-flops – so worn out that I felt barefoot in them. I knew I was getting the better end of the deal, so I tried talking her out of it – she couldn’t be convinced. She didn’t care that I was getting the better shoes, that’s what she wanted. I was certain that she’d want to trade back after she realized how truly worn out my sandals were. But no, she said she wanted to keep them.

I often look down at the shoes that were once hers and wonder about the life she’s had. What was her family like? Who was she friends with? When did she first hear about our Lord? What pains, fears, and joys make her who she is now? It makes me step back and love her in a whole new light. There is so much I don’t know about her and probably never will, but I can choose to love her as if I know every detail.

“So I will choose it, and see people not through my eyes or from my own shoes, but step into their shoes and love them how they need it.”At a study our team attended weekly, the leader asked us, “Is love an emotion or something you choose?” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Yes, love is an emotion, but just as all other emotions, it fades. Not one emotion is in our lives constantly. But I want to live a life that is consistently loving, endlessly, even when I’m worn out. So I will choose it, and see people not through my eyes or from my own shoes, but step into their shoes and love them how they need it.

Our entire lives, all of our relationships, are based on us choosing to love. Not just hoping it comes or having it in a moment, but to CHOOSE it. When a kid is disobeying, do I respond with anger or love? When it’s 90 degrees and a kid wants to be held, do I respond with annoyance or love? When my shift is over but I’m asked to help a bit more, do I respond with selfishness or love? Love should become our routine play, not just something we go to when the game changes. Love, love, love, and choose to do it well.

Pray for Team Ecuador and the rest of the REACH teams as they are finished with outreach and adjusting back to life at home. Pray for smooth transitions and for the strength to choose love in every situation.

May 08, 2017

The Unwritten Word of God

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

As covenant workers with RMM in North America, Butros and Amina* are making disciples and building relationships among an unreached people group who do not yet have the Bible in their language. Their family is recording Bible stories, sharing the Word of God, and beginning home Bible study fellowships with these east African refugees who live in their city. They are also visiting and connecting with approximately thirty other communities across the United States where this people group are located.

“God began laying a passion on my heart to share the unwritten Word of God, the Word incarnate – Jesus Christ with these people.” Amina reflected back to over a decade ago when she initially came in contact with this people group from an east African nation. This group faced heavy oppression in their native country and many refugees have found their way into the United States. Amina’s passion for these people grew as she found that most of them do not communicate through writing or through pictures – only through speech. Amina, Butros, and their three children have been trying to live out that passion by reaching out to these people, by becoming a part of their community, and by helping them in the everyday struggles that arise.

“Just like all of humanity, they need to be loved, encouraged, and coached to know how to achieve their life goals.”“Just like all of humanity, [this east African people group] needs to be loved, encouraged, and coached to know how to achieve their life goals.” For example, Amina is assisting one young mother to become a nurse one day. She knows that “her first steps right now are to study English, get her driver’s license, finish her GED [General Equivalency Diploma], and then do STNA [State-tested Nursing Assistant] training. There are many more like her that want to succeed, but they don’t have the love, support, or [an] advocate to [show] them their next steps.”

Within the community that Amina, Butros, and their family relate to, there are a lot of single moms – some having more than eight children. In order to support their families and because most of the mothers are illiterate, they have to work long hours at minimum wage jobs. As a result the children lack the proper parental support, and often turn to gangs, drugs, and sex to fill the void. Butros and Amina come alongside these families by offering assistance with filling out paperwork, resolving legal issues, applying for jobs, arranging housing, driving lessons, life coaching, counsel, and support.

Being a part of this community also means that Amina, Butros, and their children have become like family to these people. They have to be available for people just like a parent, child, or grandparent would be – celebrating birthdays, taking library trips, and going to the park. Along with meeting their physical needs, Butros and Amina share biblical values with their friends. “We pray for them and bring them the good news of salvation, stories of the prophets, and Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness, peace, and love.”

So far the books of Ruth, Jonah, Luke, Philemon, 1 and 2 Peter; 1, 2, and 3 John; and Jude have been translated into their language along with the Jesus video. A team in East Africa is currently working on translating more of the Bible. Amina and Butros know that working on Bible translation and literacy is important, but their day-to-day ministry is so much more than that. They often get calls from those who have sick children, need a ride to the store, help with homework, or who just want to talk. “[We] do a lot of visiting, just to remind friends of God’s love for them and that he provided a way for them to him.” Through these visits, prayers, and friendships, they have seen God work mightily. One day they prayed for the local chief of this group. “He was very sick and almost dying, and we prayed to the Lord God intentionally, in the name of Jesus the Messiah, before his wife and children, for healing. God did a wonderful miracle for him. He was healed and is now healthy. Another day we prayed intentionally for a man who had lost his passport and all his legal papers. When we visited his family two weeks later, the man told us that God answered our prayers and that a police officer came to their house to give him all his documents.”

God is expressing his love to these people in miraculous ways, but many challenges remain. Butros and Amina find that their time is very limited. “The needs of the families are so great and it takes a lot of time to nurture them… And at the same time we need to work a part-time job to cover our needs as a family.” They pray that even in their weakness and fatigue, God will work through them.

Amina and Butros are encouraged to keep going because they see how people in this community are experiencing God’s power and love. “There is always someone who is open to hearing, or reading the Bible with us, and who wants us to pray for them. So, as long as there are open doors, we will keep on sharing God's Word with them.”

Pray that the Lord would continue to bless this ministry, and that he would provide volunteers to help with the needs of this community. Pray that Butros and Amina would continue to encounter those who are open to God’s love.

*names changed for security

May 03, 2017

Deep and Wide

By Larry Kaufman, Conservative Mennonite Conference (CMC) Director of Church Planting

This article was originally published in The Beacon, May 2017, in the column, “Multiply.”

As a kid, one of my favorite songs in Sunday-school class was, “Deep and Wide.” I wish we could sing it together, just for old times’ sake. Aside from the nostalgia, there is a compelling message in that old song that I think captures God’s heart for Christ-followers, for pastors, and for local churches.

Our gospel mandate is to be theologically deep and to be evangelistically wide. It is not either/or. It is both/and. Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, AND teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20).

The great commission is a clear and compelling call to make disciples and to multiply the gospel everywhere. It is a call to be “deep and wide.” The temptation though is to be “deep or wide,” instead of being “deep and wide.” We must resist resolving this tension and seek to live in the center of it so we do not compromise either part of the great commission.

Our mission as a network of local churches is to be “deep and wide.” We want to live out of a deep sense of identity in Christ, and to boldly engage in Christ’s mission to the world. We want to risk our lives to make more disciples and to multiply the gospel by developing servant leaders, by planting new churches, by sending more missionaries, by starting other campuses and by forming missional communities that will incarnate the gospel in our neighborhoods and in strategic cities.

“Let’s keep dreaming about the potential and possibilities of the local church, fully engaged, in the mission of Christ.”I propose that we start by praying bigger, bolder, mountain-moving prayers for the mission of Christ to multiply on the earth. What if we started asking God to mobilize every person and every resource in every church toward our mission of multiplying the gospel in our neighborhoods and communities and to the unreached in the 10/40 window who have no Christian witness?

I have a sense that God is repositioning CMC for greater kingdom impact and gospel multiplication. But, we need to act and seize this moment. We must embrace innovation, creativity, and empower those with apostolic gifts to blaze new trails and to pioneer new kingdom work. Let’s keep dreaming about the potential and possibilities of the local church, fully engaged, in the mission of Christ.

I believe that all of us want a compelling mission to live for, and to die for. And, this is it, friends. We are called to be “deep and wide.” I encourage you to talk with your pastor or church leaders and begin with these questions: What would it look like for our church to radically multiply the gospel in our community and beyond? What would it look like if we were “deep and wide”?

Look out for the next article in the “Multiply” column in which RMM President, Joe* continues the conversation about pursuing a deeper and wider church.

*Name omitted online for security