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June 29, 2017

Trauma Counseling and Suicide Bombers

By Andrew*

When Salam* came in for counseling at a refugee resource organization in the Middle East, she was ready to commit suicide. She was planning to find some kind of explosive device, strap it to herself, and then go back to a location known to be under ISIS occupation and blow herself up. The amount of hatred she had for ISIS and for herself was that severe.

ISIS is a terrorist group that has plagued the Middle East for the last several years and they commonly use sex slavery to fund their military endeavors. They conquer an area militarily and then kidnap as many women as possible. After escaping or being released, hundreds of these women, like Salam, now live in refugee camps. Some of the women are pregnant after being raped and abused, and now deal with some of the worst emotional trauma that can be imagined. The families – the fathers, and the brothers are also dealing with the guilt and shame of having been powerless to help or to protect their homes. Add all of that emotional baggage to being forced out of their homes and neighborhoods and having an uncertain future for their children. All of those emotions provide a basis from which trauma and fear emanate for refugees in the Middle East.

Over the course of several days of describing to RMM the different facets of his work in the Middle East, the director of an organization working with some of these refugees let us know what needs were present in the region where RMM intern, Glen,* was being sent.

Many people asked the director the question, “What’s your biggest need?” This question can be tough to answer because crisis situations, like the one happening in the Middle East, almost never have obvious solutions. The issues overlap with other issues in ways that make it impossible to pinpoint one big problem to deal with first. However, this director didn’t pull punches for us, “We need an army of counselors.”

When people think of working with refugees they usually start by reflecting on all of the physical needs that they have. This organization is indeed dealing with people that have lost their homes and are no longer in a position to earn an income to provide for their families. The refugees are in a vulnerable situation and are often powerless to change their circumstances. However, this organization’s approach to helping refugees is to put them in small camps that are self-governing and resource them as much as they can so that once their home area is safe again, they can move back and start rebuilding their lives.

This approach provides resources for the number of people they can actually help. Other refugee camp models try to provide resources for every single person who has need, and in the end they do not adequately provide enough help. These micro refugee camps hold about twenty families each. They provide schooling, transportation to and from school, daycare, and English classes for adults in hopes that they can prepare people for whatever is next. Even with the micro refugee camp model, providing these things has proved difficult to fund. But, little by little they are expanding and improving the quality of what they can give to refugees.

“No one can attach a dollar value to how trauma impacts people moving forward... Trauma, however, lurks under the surface and destroys people from the inside.”As difficult as it is to get enough funding to meet the demand for the physical needs, it has been even more difficult to deal with the emotional needs. Traumas from the events that led to people becoming refugees run deep and will often be a life-long process of moving forward in a healthy way. No one can attach a dollar value to how trauma impacts people moving forward. Houses have costs; even the loss of education can be measured and worked through in a more visible way. Trauma, however, lurks under the surface and destroys people from the inside. It is hard to fundraise for and show positive results from trauma counseling. Donors typically like to see something tangible for their donation.

In April, Glen took me around to see the micro refugee camps, he took me to see the community center and school that this organization is running, and I sat in on several English classes. Because of its sensitive nature, trauma counseling wasn’t something I was able to sit in on, though he did tell me Salam’s story (see opening paragraph).

As Salam talked with a counselor about forgiveness, she was able to start to see how her life could have purpose and hope after all. This is one story, and it has had a good ending so far. But the story isn’t finished yet. Trauma is typically dealt with in layers. Salam is one of many, many people who need someone to talk them through the forgiveness process. An anti-human trafficking organization came to this region to evaluate the needs and see who would qualify as survivors of human trafficking. In this area alone they identified over 500 women.

This organization has jumped in and started dealing realistically with some of the worst situations from the ISIS conflict. My prayer for them is that they wouldn’t lose heart in working on the front line. I pray that God would send more people into this harvest field to exemplify Jesus to those in need. The forgiveness, hope, and love of Jesus is needed there more than ever. Please join RMM in praying for this organization, for our intern Glen who is working with them, and for more workers to be sent into this region of turmoil and opportunity.

*Names changed or omitted for security

June 27, 2017

An Evening in North Africa

By Cora,* RMM worker in North Africa

This excerpt comes from a recent update from Cora, and gives a brief glimpse into her life in North Africa. Please continue to pray that the RMM team there will be a source of light and truth to this country.

The sun is still bright and it’s already 5:20 pm – time change makes all the difference. I walk down the boulevard to go mail a letter. Down through a row of palm trees, on either side of me, wild flowers are starting to bloom! So much to see, so much to take in. Others are enjoying the evening as well. Sitting all along the way on benches made just for that. Some girls quietly talking amongst themselves; some mothers sitting and watching as their children play in the open square; some couples enjoying each other’s company and laughing over a comment made; a grandmother hugging her grandson; an older gentleman leaning up against the base of a palm tree, resting in the grass and shade.

As I walk, there are young boys who ask if I want to buy Kleenex or others who bring over live birds to see if I am interested in purchasing one. I’m amused but kindly decline. I hear men who want my attention, but I look straight ahead. I mail my letter and buy a post card. I feel confident as I confirm the price and pay. I live here now and I know what words to say. I wish those were always my feelings!

“It’s a gift to me, why can’t it simply be a gift to bring joy to him?”I continue on and decide to buy groceries. I am greeted by a store worker I have met once before. Kisses and well wishes are given before I continue. I buy an ice cream bar before heading home. I’m enjoying my ice cream, and then I hear a little boy say, “sweeah?” He wants a taste of my ice cream. I am caught off guard and laugh because is he serious? He sees my reaction and leaves. But then I think, why didn’t I give him the whole thing? He may not have needed it, but neither did I. It’s a gift to me, why can’t it simply be a gift to bring joy to him? It’s too late now, but next time instead of laughing I want my reaction to be, “Here you go!”

As I return home, I pass by more people – the security guards; three in a row making their way down the boulevard; men and women simply people-watching, children running and laughing, no one in a rush – simply enjoying the present. So much to see, so much to learn just by walking down the boulevard to mail a letter!

*Names changed for security

June 15, 2017

Broken Vessels

By Rachel, REACH Team Ecuador

This reflection on Rachel's REACH experience was originally published on her blog, deloscielosblog.wordpress.com

To the people who didn’t quit, I write this dedicated to you: Alisa, Essie, Erica, Katie, and Brenda.

To the One who took our broken vessels and made them worthy, I write this for the glory of the Father!

I miss Ecuador, but even more I miss our team. Our little, filthy, close apartment of six girls, friends, amigas, sisters, and workers in a dry and weary land. Yet, a place where people learned together; where we laughed through the difficult, cried through the weariness and prayed through it all. A place where six VERY different people learned to work together, explore together, love together and just be together. Where daily life of working foundation shifts, eating ice cream, dead tired evenings ending with inside jokes, breaking everything related to the kitchen and telling stories brought us together. Oh how this team is one of stories and storytellers. A majority of our time was spent telling stories, stories of our day, of funny moments from last week, of our own lives, of our pasts, and of our friends and family. We even learned to tell the stories of our souls.

How absolutely honored and humbled I am to have had a part of joining and hearing five girls’ stories to the depth I did. There are moments I think about going back, to make a few more memories, grow a little bit more together like it was before: ocean trips, batido outings, apartment laughter, bus rides, and of course, child caring.

However, there is so much more to Team Ecuador, to people really, than beautiful memories. There is a brokenness within us as humans. Our team was no exception.

There was so much brokenness, but we made it through. He took our broken persons and changed them and allowed them to love each other and be loved by each other. A broken, but pure picture of the love of the Father.

The song “Broken Vessels” is a poetic form of Team Ecuador. The pain we saw each other go through, sickness, physical, spiritual, and emotional turmoil, the pain in the children, the weariness in ourselves, the broken hearts around us – but we made it through. He brought us through, through our circumstances, and over ourselves. He moved them aside every time we chose to turn to him. Took them away? The struggles and pain? No, not always. Presented a stronger power for us to run to? Absolutely. Cada tiempo.

“He used my wrong words, thoughts, feelings and decisions and changed them so that coming out of fires I am not burned, but purified.”God is God and I am not. I am not God nor do I want to be. I never can or could save myself from myself. Yet he not only rescued me, he CHANGED me. Changed me to be different, to a person of His desires. He used my wrong words, thoughts, feelings and decisions and changed them so that coming out of fires I am not burned, but purified.
It was still painful.

If I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat, because never do I want to go back to a heart that wanted me over God.

Will I ever feel that way again, me over God? Will I ever have to learn the hard way again? Yes and yes.

Does that make the past of hardships a waste?

Oh no. Nunca.

Would I want another month of another outreach of team mates struggling and watching them with no action I can do to release their pain? Another six months of hurting team mates with my flaws? Arguments, tears, earthly sorrows?

Of course I don’t want to relive those trials. But the growth. The fruit!!

I’d choose to follow him again, and I will keep choosing him. Again and again.

I would keep being wrong and brought to humility for the ways I’ve gotten to know him. And I will keep being wrong.

But there is a grace upon grace I will live under. Broken, growing, proclaiming and giving away my life for the rescuer to come and do what He does.

This love to live will keep going as a choice to be made as long as earth remains. New people, new sufferings, and new circumstances. I heard his voice for the first time in this way with these five people and that country, so they will always be part of the foundation God instilled in me.

If I could, would I go back to have those precious times again? No. I would not. Not because it was too hard, not because he wasn’t faithful, but because that was for then and I’m living in now.

Additional thoughts:
Living once again in the States, there is either a whirlwind of emotion, or not much processing at all. There aren’t words to how I’m doing, there aren’t emotions to describe how it feels to be back, or what living in another country for six months was like. Someday there will be words and feelings, but for now there are not. Thank you to everyone who extends grace to us as we re-integrate in a way that looks different than before.

Please pray for all the REACH 2016-17 participants as they continue the program through home assignment. Pray that they find helpful ways to process emotions and continue to be a light to those around them.

June 13, 2017

Fasting and Feasting

By Judah,* RMM worker in the Middle East

Judah and his wife Rayna* have lived in the Middle East for the past nine months and are currently experiencing life in this region during Ramadan, which is from May 27 to June 25 this year.

As another month has begun, a few things have been different here. Right now is the month of Ramadan, the month where Muslims fast and feast. Here, where we are, they fast from 3:30am till around 8pm every day. In the evenings after 8pm, they enjoy a big meal together. What is the reason for the fasting? Fasting is one of the five pillars of their beliefs that they are required to follow to be in right standing with Allah or to help them gain good favor in place of the bad they have done. Ramadan is also a time of feasting where they make special foods to eat and share with each other.

“How I long for the Father to continue to make breakthroughs and reveal the truth to these people whether they are people who are fully engaged in their faith or not.”Going into this time, we didn't know what to expect. We had heard that restaurants and cafés would still be open but we wondered, would they be really empty during the day? In our neighborhood we see that some people don't follow Ramadan, but instead continue eating and drinking during the day. I have been surprised by how many I see in the cafés and restaurants. It makes me wonder, why? Are they Muslim in name only? Are they dissatisfied with Islam and don't believe it is true? I don't know the answer to these questions, but it shows me that some people here aren't fully engaged in their faith. How I long for the Father to continue to make breakthroughs and reveal the truth to these people whether they are people who are fully engaged in their faith or not. I am sure thankful for our faith that is not based on works but on the goodness of our Father.

*Names changed for security

June 09, 2017

Signs of Maturity

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

William and Rebecca* and their four sons enjoy living in East Asia, where they are involved in a retail business. They work with about twenty employees and are leading a small worshipping group of local people and occasional seekers’ Bible studies. They are also developing new, contextualized materials that bridge into the Buddhist world view.

During their nineteen years of ministry in East Asia, William and Rebecca have observed many believers exhibiting a difficult time developing a close relationship with God. But now, they are starting to see growth and depth in two significant ways.

The first way is by believers talking about their faith with friends and family members who are not Christians. Revealing their own conversions from Buddhism could incur alienation from both society and family. Previously, this has been enough to stop them from openly sharing, “but it feels like they are experiencing Christ at a deep enough level that they want other people to know how wonderful he is.”

While drinking tea with a group of neighbors, Agnes,* a member of William and Rebecca’s fellowship, encountered a man who stated that westerners have no morality. Some of his children moved to a nearby country where they often interact with Americans and they have found these people to be unfaithful in marriage – moving from one divorce to another. Agnes responded, “I have worked for a lot of foreigners, and they are not that way. They are good people and they get married and have children and they live with that person the rest of their life, and they are faithful to that person.” Not stopping there, Agnes chose to use this conversation as an opportunity to talk about Christ, proposing that the difference between this man’s experience and her own might be because of faith. She was excited to share this idea with her neighbors: “They believe in a God that you cannot see. But he’s everywhere and he is the one who made the world and he knows everything about each person in the world. He knows exactly how many cups of tea you drank today, and he knows what is in your heart and what you are thinking, and what everyone is thinking right now. And if you believe in him, when you die, Jesus will take you to heaven to live with God.”

The concept of going to heaven to live with God brings excitement to those who have grown up in a Buddhist tradition because of its stark contrast to the belief that the “lord of death” will judge each person after they have died. According to Rebecca, this lord of death “is the one who sends you to different realms of reincarnation and he meets out punishment based on what you have done in this life. If you have lied a lot, he’ll cut off your tongue. If you stole, your hands, and so on.” That God would invite them to heaven and love them despite the sins of their past is a liberating notion.

After sharing this message with her neighbors, Agnes had a woman come up to her and ask more about the faith she spoke of. This woman was touched by the way Agnes’ face shined as she spoke about God. When Agnes shared this story with William and Rebecca, they could tell how happy she was. “She had been looking for an opportunity to share and she felt like God gave it to her. And others are starting to have more opportunities and experiences like that where they can share.”

“… it gives us hope that this loyalty to Christ may be beyond just their parents.”The second way growth and depth are shown is by the children of these believers who are owning the faith. “Perhaps the Kingdom is expanding to a second generation,” William reflected, “it gives us hope that this loyalty to Christ may be beyond just their parents.” William recalled a worker in South Asia saying many years ago that it takes three generations for people to become Christian. “Now I think I see what he was talking about. It takes three generations for a culture to be changed significantly by encountering Christ – at the root level.”

Many members of William and Rebecca’s fellowship have moved to their current city from a smaller town to get a better job after they started to have children. The education regulations are such that a child can only benefit from free schooling in their town of birth. To be able to afford education for their children, the parents in William and Rebecca’s group send them to boarding school in their hometowns. Because of the strong Buddhist influence within this country, their children’s independence is not only physical but spiritual as well. Being away from their parents and regular fellowship, means they are not closely monitored on how they live out their faith. During this time away from home, they are deciding how important their faith really is.

An eleventh-grade girl who was the top student in her class often got picked on for “showing off by getting good grades” and “ruining the curve.” One day, before a test, some of her classmates told her she must purposefully get a low score to make the others look better, threatening to beat her up if she did not follow their instructions. After agonizing over the decision, she heard Jesus tell her in a dream not to be afraid, and that he was with her. Rebecca shared that this girl decided she was “just going to do the best that she could. And she did. And she got first place. And she got beat up.” This girl was able to tell her mom that it was okay – Jesus was with her, but that does not stop bad things from happening.

Another girl in seventh grade had a similar testing of faith. She was experiencing bad dreams as a result of watching a scary movie with friends. Over a phone call, her mom counseled her to pray and ask Jesus to calm her fears. She chose to take this advice seriously. Every night before bed she would pray that Jesus would protect her, and the scary dreams went away. She also decided that she would not watch scary movies anymore. William and Rebecca are impressed that “as a seventh grader, she is learning to live on her own – with Jesus.”

Both Rebecca and William notice a maturity as they disciple these children. These children do not have to struggle with Buddhism like their parents do. Most of them are better educated than their parents and can read the Bible with ease. Even at their young age when they participate, they are an asset to the group through reading aloud, translating, and participating in discussion. This is an encouragement to the work William and Rebecca are doing and a gift to the local church.

Believers responding to the gospel by sharing their faith and by children owning their faith brings great joy and excitement to William and Rebecca. While they recognize that this is a fragile maturity, they know God is at work. “We believe there are things Christ has done at a deep level – things that can’t be undone so quickly.”

*names changed for security

June 05, 2017


By Joe,* RMM President

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

Multiplication is perfectly natural. Multiplication is totally normal. Multiplication is utterly amazing!

One acorn grows to become an oak that can produce as many as 10,000 acorns in one year, each of which in turn has the potential to produce thousands more. One kernel of corn grows to produce a couple ears, each of which has around 800 kernels on it that can repeat the process.

It’s said that one cat and her offspring have the potential to bear more than 40,000 cats in seven years. That’s scary! But guess how that number compares to what one rabbit and her offspring could potentially bear in seven years. I’m pretty sure you guessed too low. The number is around 95 billion. Thank God that these numbers are theoretical rather than actual!

Humans reproduce much more slowly than rabbits and cats, of course. (Good planning on God’s part!) But we also multiply. The world’s human population continues to grow by another billion every decade or so. No doubt it would be happening even faster if nations and cultures weren’t intentionally trying to limit or at least discourage large families.

Multiplication is a design characteristic all over God’s amazing creation. Of course, not everything in creation multiplies. Rocks don’t multiply, and neither does water. No, multiplication is a fundamental aspect of LIFE. Living things are designed to “be fruitful and multiply.”

“…a healthy, vibrant church will multiply simply because that’s what healthy, living things do.”The church is a living organism, so it’s included in God’s design for multiplication. The church is a family made up of people who’ve been made ALIVE in Christ. So like any family, a healthy, vibrant church will multiply simply because that’s what healthy, living things do. This includes more than just having babies and nurturing them to grow up as part of the church. It also includes spiritual reproduction—making disciples of people who need Jesus, to the ends of the earth.

What is CMC’s history of multiplication? We started in 1910 as a handful of congregations, and today we’re over one hundred. It would not be difficult to list ways, despite our small size, we have had a powerful impact across the church in North America over the past century. In addition, the disciples we’ve made and the local churches we’ve planted in other countries have produced and continue to produce a profound impact in those places. Recently I was part of an interdenominational meeting of leaders serving refugees and immigrants in Columbus when a Vineyard pastor said, “You’re always going to find Mennonites when you’re involved in outreach and missions.” It’s a joy to be part of vibrant life!

Last month in this column, Larry Kaufman encouraged us to ask: What would it look like for our church to radically multiply the gospel in our community and beyond? I’d like to add another question for us to be thinking and talking about: How do we know if we are multiplying at a healthy, God-designed rate?

*Name omitted for security