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August 24, 2017

My Passion

By Wyatt*

Wyatt is joining RMM’s team in North Africa with a desire to see the church established among those who have not yet heard the Gospel. During his initial phase, he is pursuing different opportunities for future work while studying the local language and culture.

My passion is simply this: I hold Scripture as authoritative in my life and Jesus says "go." It is not just something he throws in with all the other teachings, it is the Great Commission. I choose to obey that command because my passion is to know that I have given everything for his glory. Revelation 7:9 says that those from every nation, tribe, people, and language will be glorifying him around the throne, and there are thousands of people groups who have yet to hear of salvation through Christ. The Great Commission was not just for the original apostles, it is for us as well. These are the passages that drive me to share Christ in a place where he is not known.

My name is Wyatt. I was born in Iowa, as the second of five children. I understood that Jesus' sacrifice was the only thing that could make me right with God and accepted that gift at a young age. However, I viewed Christianity as a life of following the rules and a getting-out-of-hell-free-card. So I went through the motions until I came to realize that I had separated Jesus as Savior from Jesus as Lord. The distinction was impermissible, I had to accept both or neither. I couldn't do my own thing and hope God was okay with it. I had to give him control of my life.

After high school, I attended college and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics. I was given the opportunity to pursue missions training in Mexico after I graduated. It was a great opportunity to experience cross-cultural living for an extended period of time. I was able to learn to live in a new place rather than just experience it as previous short-term trips had done. I believe it has prepared me to become part of a new culture rather than just live in a new culture.

The first and most important challenge in North Africa will be language. Becoming able to communicate with people will be the primary task upon arrival, and it is a huge hurdle. Language learning is not like anything else I have ever done. Pray that God would give me perseverance. The goal is long-term and will only be achieved with constant perseverance. There will be days when I don't want to learn the language or have conversations with people who may never want to hear of Christ. Pray that God would be at work even on those days.

“I pray that the Spirit would open people's hearts to hear something that contradicts what they have always been told.”I desire to see a self-supporting body of believers existing in a place where the Gospel has never been sustained. To see that happen will take focus on Gospel proclamation and discipleship of new believers to maturity in faith. I pray that the Spirit would open people's hearts to hear something that contradicts what they have always been told. I pray that the message would not fall on deaf ears. I pray that syncretism would not happen. I pray that the rocks would be removed from the soil, that the birds would not snatch up the seed, and that the weeds would not choke out the acceptance of the message. I pray that when looking back it would be evident that God was moving and directing encounters with people for the expansion of his kingdom. That he would be glorified because he moved in the lives of people and I got to be a part of that.

Pray for Wyatt as he lives out his passion. Pray for patience and a clear mind as he works on learning the language and pray that God’s light would be seen in North Africa.

*Name changed for security

August 23, 2017

Religion in Context: Exploring Viable Forms of Christianity in East Asia

By Lydia Gingerich

Everything we do is covered in culture: the way we wash our hands, what time we eat meals, and even what we eat for those meals. Each part of the world has developed a way to execute daily tasks, providing comfort through ritual. But what if we were told we must change these basic practices in the name of religion?

“In Buddhist culture, the first forty days after death is a time of high importance, that person’s spirit is still in limbo before going to the next body,” report William and Rebecca,*RMM workers in East Asia. If family members do not perform the correct rituals, or if they do not take the first forty days seriously, it shows a lack of care. Many generations later, a family will still be judged for the way they handled those days. In the midst of this cultural practice, East Asian believers are trying to understand their responsibility as both followers of Christ and participants within their communities.

When William and Rebecca first moved to East Asia, they were cautious about asking local believers to adopt western rituals of faith. “We looked down on missionaries from the past who would go in with choir robes, pews, and an organ.” So, while staying away from those items, the couple soon realized they were doing the same thing with guitars, choruses, and Bible studies. “We would sing in the local language, but the structure was very similar to what we grew up with.” Rebecca confesses that when she noticed this, she was shaken, and she had a lot more grace for the workers who came before her. William remembers realizing the gravity of this during one of their meetings. “I looked over at one of the ladies who had been a Buddhist for most of her life. She was used to reverent prostration – and we were sitting there laughing in our living room.” He thought, “How could she view this as religion?”

The way William and Rebecca did Christianity made an impact not only on the believers in their fellowship, but they realized it also could produce a ripple effect throughout the country. While some people are looking to leave Buddhist culture completely, William believes that one of the biggest reasons East Asians don’t become Christians is because they feel they will betray their people. Culture matters, and if Christianity is seen as outdated or too foreign, it could keep many people from choosing Jesus. In the last number of years, they have taken steps to find a worship style that works for their East Asian fellowship.

One of the ways they have adopted an East Asian approach to religion is by having a designated worship room. This space includes paintings that honor Christ and depict stories from his life made in the East Asian style. Candles and incense are burned so the room smells and feels sacred to those who fellowship there. While the group continues to use the living room for socialization, the worship room is reserved for communal worship.

When one of the ladies first saw the worship room she asked, “Are you allowed to do that?” She was used to the western style of Christianity. It took her a while to warm up to the new idea, but William and Rebecca heard later that this woman told her sister who then put up similar paintings in her own home. “Since her sister put up that artwork, she has received less pressure from her family about not being Buddhist.” She is still religious in a way that her friends and family could recognize, and that was acceptable.

William explains, “East Asians often want to know what they will do if they become a Christian – what are the actual actions they will take. Maybe we are not vocally allowing or disallowing, but they will pick up on what we do.” If this culture looks at the church William and Rebecca are leading and only see American Christianity – the result of how religion has developed and evolved with western culture – they will be confused. While William and Rebecca have started incorporating traditional East Asian worship formats, they want those who have grown up in the culture to take the lead in this direction. They see their role as one of exploration, inviting those around them to make decisions about which rituals and customs they want to adopt, adapt, or reject.

“They saw something workable, as opposed to a Christianity that has all kinds of barriers between the faith and their culture.”As members of a country that has been primarily Buddhist for the past two millennia, East Asian Christians have been making these decisions for a long time. When one lady, in particular, became a Christian, her husband, who was a Buddhist, expected her to perform her role as the woman of the household and give offerings to the idols. “She refused because she was now a Christian, so her husband began to beat her,” says William. She later found a verse in the Bible telling her to obey her husband. Presented with a paradox, she decided to serve the idols not on her own behalf, but on her husband’s. The beatings stopped, and he allowed her to go to Christian meetings. Looking to the passage in 1 Corinthians 8 where Paul responds to eating food sacrificed to idols, she strives to remain a member of society while following Christ.

These are the sorts of decisions with which East Asian Christians struggle as they aim to be faithful to Christ. Figuring out how to be Christian and East Asian means deciding how to have a funeral without alienating themselves and how to portray faith to family members. It is not an easy process, but it can be exciting.

At a recent gathering, some of the East Asian believers discussed how their current practice of faith differs from the one initially presented to them. “They were introduced to a harsh and strict practice of Christianity, but Christianity in this form doesn’t alienate them from their families as much. They think that a culturally sensitive Christianity could spread throughout the land.” For William “that was a tremendous blessing. They saw something workable, as opposed to a Christianity that has all kinds of barriers between the faith and their culture.”

Pray for this family as they continue to engage the culture around them while bringing God’s light to this part of the world. Pray that the body of believers in East Asia would grow in number and maturity.

*Names changed for security

August 17, 2017

I Love You, I Care About You, I Want You Here – Adoption, Foster Care, and the Heart of God

The Church: Looking after Orphans

by Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

In the last five months, a commitment and drive to care for orphans has developed at Bethel Mennonite Church in Sarasota, Florida. Members are signing up to care for, pray for, and parent the many children in their county who are in the foster system. This ministry is so new that it does not yet have a name, but to sum up the vision of this movement, Senior Pastor Shawn Otto referenced James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

When Shawn preached on this verse in December 2016, he presented the serious need for Christians to live out this call. While adoption and foster care can be exhausting, we have a God who is the perfect source of strength and inspiration. “God’s greatest demonstration of care for orphans is in his care for us—as spiritual orphans.” Shawn believes that in light of the way our Father has reached out to us, “the church ought to be at the forefront of orphan and widow care.”

This call is personal for Shawn. Four years ago he and his wife Greta chose to live out James 1:27 by adopting a son into their family. They had three biological children and, after experiencing some complications when trying to have a fourth, decided to pursue adoption. “Matthew being in our home has not only given us joy to be able to invest in what the Bible would call an orphan, it has also opened up for us a brand new appreciation of adoption language used in the New Testament.”

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“For some of these kids, this is the first time they are hearing adults tell them, I love you, I care about you, I want you here.”

Shawn was also inspired by David Platt, who challenged his church in Birmingham, Alabama, to take care of all the children in need of adoption and foster care in their county. Platt’s church rose to the task and made a huge impact within their community. He said, “It’s not the way of the American Dream. It doesn’t add to our comfort, prosperity, or ease. But we are discovering the indescribable joy of sacrificial love for others, and along the way we are learning more about the inexpressible wonder of God’s sacrificial love for us.”

While Bethel does not have as many members as Platt’s church, Shawn echoed the same challenge to his congregation and outlined specific ways to get involved. Shawn was amazed by the responses he received. Three families signed up to be foster parents and the church is working on offering a foster care training class later this year. When the church hosted their first babysitting event for foster children, they had over thirty members sign up to assist. The church set up a fund designated to assist families wanting to adopt, and within 24 hours $30,000 had been pledged toward it.

One couple in their sixties was encouraged to continue their journey in fostering a child. They have four grown children of their own, but decided to take in a little boy who was in the foster system. His fostering case was recently switched to adoption, and they are intending to have him join their family permanently and raise him for the glory of God. Shawn watched the huge smiles on their faces as this couple interacted with their new son; “to see their passion and commitment, absolutely inspires me and inspires the people in our church.”

Churches and individuals can respond to similar needs in their own communities by talking to a local foster care agency or family services within their local government. The babysitting program that Bethel set up might be something another church could replicate after investigating the rules and regulations in their own state or county. “Foster families often need a break, so once a quarter, they can bring their children to Bethel, we feed them, entertain them, we are allowed to teach them a Bible lesson, and then their parents pick them up.”

Supporting foster families is another good way to get involved. Showing love to foster families by bringing them a meal, getting to know their children, or just welcoming them to church can make a huge impact. Shawn observed that “for some of these kids, this is the first time they are hearing adults tell them, I love you, I care about you, I want you here.”

Prayer is also important. Shawn said he often prays that God would continue to raise up foster parents—“people that, with the heart of God, see the need to care for orphans in very literal ways.” There is also a need to pray for the families that these children have been taken away from. “Pray that these people find marriage restoration, addiction counseling, or whatever it is they need. And in the midst of getting help that they would also meet Jesus. Pray also for the children—every foster child has experienced trauma, and most often it is not of their own choosing. Pray that the hurt and pain these children have would be softened by God and that they would experience a love from a father who loves them unconditionally.”

Shawn became the Senior Pastor of Bethel Mennonite Church in April 2014 after serving nine years in pastoral ministry in Indiana. He and his wife, Greta, are the parents of two daughters and two sons.

There are many more vulnerable members of society who need to experience God’s love. Maybe God has asked you or your church to care for widows, victims of human trafficking, immigrants, poor, or homeless people. How do you live this out? Email mosaic@rmmoffice.org to let RMM know the story of how your church is impacting your community.

Foster Care: To Be Safe and Loved

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by Troy and Jen Sommers

The part of loving a kid and letting them go is hard, but being foster parents has opened our eyes to so much more. We have learned how much we take for granted the builtin support system of growing up in Mennonite families and communities. We have learned about the lifelong effects of having strong, positive role models in our kids' lives. And despite our initial assumption that fostering a child could be boiled down to simply loving and caring for them, we learned that foster children have traumatic backgrounds and raising them is not the same as raising our own kids. Accepting a foster placement is not just taking in a child, but also their experiences and their families.

Getting to know the families of our foster kids has been devastating. We've heard their stories and seen the reality of truly having nothing and nobody when you're at the very bottom. We've seen the endless and constant fight against addiction. We've seen the pain in their eyes at hearing their child call someone else "mommy" or "daddy." While it's easy to see their predicament as the unfortunate consequences of poor decisions made, Jesus has called us not only to take care of the orphans, but to stop the cycle by helping build and support their families. Our support looks different in each situation: listening to them talk about their struggles and encouraging them, helping them furnish their apartment, modeling and encouraging a positive relationship between kids and parents; and sometimes the only thing you can do is pray for them and teach their children what it is to be safe and loved unconditionally as a foundation for when they are reunified with their family.

We were able to see the foster system work when a little girl who was with us for a year was reunited with a family member. While we worried and prayed about her transition and her new life, we look back and see how we were able to teach her to be loved and how to trust her caregivers to take care of her. We were also able to help prepare her family with ways to successfully parent her and to facilitate a smooth transition. We've stayed in contact with her family and seen her flourish as she grows. She will always be a part of our family, just as we will always be a small part of her story.

Reunification and strengthening of families doesn't always happen, and sometimes we have the privilege of these kids joining our family permanently through adoption. Our family hasn't experienced this yet, and maybe we never will, but as we follow God's call for our family, we pray for the strength to love and care for the kids with whom we've been entrusted and their families.

Exposed as a Fraud:
The Joy and Pain of Adoption

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by Jeremy and Sarah Miller

I’m convinced that one of the better gifts the Father gives his children when they seek to do something noble is pain. As we launched into the seemingly glorious adoption process, we discovered a rather murky world of pain and dysfunction. The adoption process was anything but clean. People who are desperate and need help can find it difficult, and in the midst of all that you have vulnerable babies that ratchet up any left-over tension in the situation.

With most agencies, adopting couples must begin by filling out several questionnaires detailing what kinds of children you will or will not be willing to adopt. These questionnaires, more than anything else in the process, shoved a mirror in the face of our souls and demanded we take a good hard look. Several layers of self-righteous posing were stripped away as we came face to face with adoption’s realities. “Will you adopt a child with a high chance of fetal alcohol syndrome? What if the parents are addicted to narcotics? What if they have HIV, Hepatitis C, or carry the Sickle Cell trait?” demanded the questionnaires. “Wait a minute; we are just trying to adopt an unwanted child!” we found ourselves exclaiming. I (Jeremy) am a pastor. I preach about self-sacrificial love, but I suddenly felt exposed as a fraud. I couldn’t hide from the questions on our papers. They demanded answers.

God used the contours of our journey toward adoption to continue reforming our souls. Our story contained the crushing that came with losing a three-month preemie to a failed adoption. This was a baby we spent several months caring for. Our story includes adopting a black child immediately before race relations descended into a new era of public anger and frustration. In spite of these difficulties, we would not wish to change our story. Christians, including us, want transformation without pain, meaningful achievements without difficulty, and God’s blessing without his discipline. Good luck with that. The path of God is inherently difficult because overcoming evil and living out the kingdom is hard work. We are convinced God called us to adopt; but good gracious, we discovered that God’s calling is intended to reform our souls.

Life More Beautiful: Christopher’s Story

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by Eric and Monica Gingerich

We’ve been foster parents for six years, and have had the opportunity to love many children during this time. Two years ago, Monica joined other foster moms for a monthly ladies night out. In that group was a new friend who described this adorable one-year-old they had in their care who was coming up for adoption. She showed the darling pictures of this little red-headed blue-eyed boy, and wondered if we would consider and pray about being a forever family for Christopher. Hope rose in our hearts. A forever child? For us?

Seven months after placement in our home he was adopted, and now has a God-story to tell! We believe God has called Christopher out of a life of darkness and into the light, and has chosen Christopher to be used in mighty ways for his kingdom.

We learned through adoption that we are humans in need of a Sovereign God. As all parents, we often feel like we’re failing and what we’re doing is not enough. But God takes all of our small life moments and gives his grace, and makes life more beautiful and significant than what we ever could on our own. The most awesome thing we have witnessed is that in giving love and stability to the fatherless, it brings redemption to their lives, allowing us to see the big picture. The picture of the ultimate father, Jesus, taking care of us and providing for our needs as he displays his greatness in all of our weakness. It has also given us the opportunity to pursue Jesus more deeply as the center of our marriage, and in the unknowns of the future children, foster or adopted, God brings into our lives. Adoption is not just the opportunity to change a child’s life, but it has also been a way that God has radically transformed ours. Christopher’s story has changed ours for the better. Forever.

August 10, 2017

CMC Annual Conference Recap: John Stahl-Wert & Missions Day

By Lydia Gingerich

Over the course of three sessions, John Stahl-Wert explored how great leaders build high-performance cultures, focusing on defining purpose, promoting values, and discovering identity. Stahl-Wert looked at the nature of the Kingdom and the nature of the King, urging his audience to follow the example of God’s design to “move in and through a people to accomplish his purposes.”

Stahl-Wert started on Saturday morning by talking about our purpose as followers of God: to be a blessing to the nations. God’s desire is to see the nations be blessed by him, and he created us to be “an instrument of himself in the world.” Our Great Leader knows the importance of giving people a direction to walk in, and as leaders we can do the same. Stahl-Wert observed that in high-performing cultures (whether that be churches, companies, conferences, etc.), “Everyone understands why their work matters.” As Christians, God has made it clear that our purpose is to be a reflection of his light in the world. Have we made it clear to those we lead what their purpose is as a member of the group?

On Saturday evening, Stahl-Wert looked at another component of cultures that succeed: “Values are practiced throughout the organization.” He pointed out that God created an environment in which we learn and grow by making mistakes that build our character. He doesn’t just tell us how he wants us to behave, he models that behavior and gives us everlasting grace for the difficult process of aligning our heart with his. As leaders, we must cultivate a community in which members are aware of our values and how to live them out. Are we leading with the same integrity that we want to see in those we lead?

Finally, Sunday morning was all about God’s work in our lives to reveal our external identity as sons and daughters of the King, and the implications of that reality. Stahl-Wert explored the story from Matthew 11 of John the Baptist sending a message to Jesus from prison. His message was this: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (ESV). John was no longer sure that he wanted to identify himself as a follower of Jesus, and he was asking for affirmation. Jesus responded by recounting the miraculous works he had done – giving John the assurance he asked for.

“Before Jesus Christ our ability to participate in the eternal was contingent on other things. We weren’t enough, we came up short.”John the Baptist could point to the works Jesus did and remind himself that he was following the Messiah – his imprisonment and impending death would not be in vain. Believers today also have a work to look back on as our assurance: the cross. “Before Jesus Christ our ability to participate in the eternal was contingent on other things. We weren’t enough, we came up short.” But Stahl-Wert reminds us that this is no longer the case. Knowing our identity in God means knowing that we have been completely freed to accomplish his purposes.

Stahl-Wert talked about our misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God as a common flaw in the human condition. “We often say we can’t do what we ought to do because we aren’t who we ought to be. Of course we aren’t who we ought to be, but this is not a disqualifier for the race. Jesus’ work on the cross has allowed us to start. He just waits for us to say I need you, and we don’t need to say it more eloquently than that.”

Missions Day

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Two long-term workers from Rosedale Mennonite Missions (RMM), Esta* and Dan,* shared as a part of the Missions Day Program. Joe,* President of RMM, reflected on the beginning of Esta Felder’s journey overseas when “RMM took a big risk” by sending her to work in a sensitive country with a drama ministry focus in which RMM did not have much experience. “But Esta took an even bigger risk,” and God continues to bless and grow her ministry.

Dan expounded upon Luke 10:2-3 to emphasize his view of the harvest and how it relates to his missional philosophy. “I used to read that Luke was saying to go and reap the harvest, and I still think he is saying that. But I’ve come to believe he’s not only saying go and reap the harvest, but go, and find the harvesters. We have the privilege of discovering them, and walking with them, and encouraging them. We share with them what we have learned from God and the Bible so that they can be better mobilized to reach their own people.” Disciplemaking is the heart of biblical leadership and an appropriate addendum to John Stahl-Wert’s weekend message and the overall theme of Conference.

During his final address, Stahl-Wert emphasized our ability to be used by God even when conditions are difficult. This is especially important when inviting nations who have never heard of God to worship him. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, people like Esta can shine God’s light through drama--without knowing if anyone will be interested. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, people like Dan can walk into remote villages in Southeast Asia and trust that God will raise up Christ-followers who will go on to be leaders and harvesters in their own community. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, people like us who find our identity in Him can take risks to do what God is asking us to do – even if we feel inadequate. What is God asking you to do?

This year $204,000 was raised n support of missions through Ride for Missions, Rosedale Mission Cruisers, and many generous gifts to the Missions Day Offering. RMM is deeply grateful for your partnership in inviting the nations to worship Jesus.

*Name changed or omitted for security

CMC Annual Conference Recap: Taste of Missions

By Lydia Gingerich

A potato omelet, a little manchego cheese, and an olive combined to make a tasty example of a Spanish tapa at Rosedale Mennonite Mission’s (RMM) Taste of Missions program. In Spain, friends and family gather in restaurants, living rooms, and parks to share an assemblage of dishes in endless varieties of flavor. Similarly, Taste of Missions is designed to bring people together and experience a few different “flavors” of RMM. As many CMC members contribute to this work through prayer, encouragement, and financial support, RMM is pleased to share what is going on beyond our home congregations.

RMM launched their program by recognizing and thanking those involved in both the Ride for Missions and Rosedale Missions Cruisers. Andrew,* director of partner development, took a moment to specifically thank Wayne Yoder as he concluded the eleven years of service he has provided as the coordinator for the bike ride. Wayne shared that for him the ride has been like an unconventional church – as a group with various pains comes together and supports each other in a therapeutic way.

Another exciting event made possible by CMC churches is sending new workers to the field. Colleen,* director of human resources introduced Rolando and Andrea. Along with their two sons, this couple will journey to Spain sometime this fall – providing the rest of their support comes in. Rolando and Andrea took the stage to share their passion to build relationships and share with Spaniards about the God who has completely transformed their lives.

The audience was treated to a play written by Esta,* RMM worker in the Middle East. The First will be Last depicts a man (played by Joel Bender) on the brink of entering heaven, but not before a transformative conversation with the doorkeeper (played by Christa Wolf). This sketch, and many others are performed in the Middle East by an experienced group of young people working with Esta to share the gospel through telling stories.

“These workers continue to make a difference in lives all over the world and RMM is grateful for their service.”Colleen returned to honor four individuals who have been vital in the work of RMM for many years. Dan Byler recently returned from Thailand after serving with RMM in both Asia and Central America for the past forty years. Pablo and Judi continue to live and serve in Granada, Spain, after ten years there and eleven before that in Ecuador. Mim Musser was also recognized for her thirty years of being on the RMM staff as the director of human resources and prayer coordinator. These workers continue to make a difference in lives all over the world and RMM is grateful for their service.

Kevin,* SEND Ministries director, continued the recognition of milestones with a brief history of the REACH program, which has now completed its twenty-fifth year. As an example of how REACH has impacted one person, Sarah Kaufman, 2016-17 REACH participant, shared what she learned through the program. During her time in Eurasia, God showed Sarah more about his endless grace and powerful love. REACH is thankful for the opportunity to continue equipping young people to live a life of reflecting that grace and love.

After the program, RMM provided refreshments including favorite snacks of each of the honorees: Thai spring rolls (Dan), Spanish tapas (Pablo and Judi), and chocolate chip cookies (Mim).

REACH at 25: All reach alumni are invited to celebrate twenty-five years of training and sending young adults to be life-long followers of Christ! SEND is hosting a banquet on October 28 at Rosedale Bible College. Learn more and purchase your tickets at reachalumni.yapsody.com.

*Names changed or omitted for security

August 09, 2017

The First Will Be Last

Written by Esta Felder

This play was performed at Taste of Missions during Conservative Mennonite Conference’s Annual Conference 2017. Esta Felder,* an RMM worker in the Middle East, writes and directs dramas that are performed live as well as filmed and broadcast on the only full-time Christian television station in the Middle East.

Old Woman
The doorkeeper stands center stage. An old woman with a cane slowly makes her way toward the entrance.

Doorkeeper: (To the woman…) Greetings! Welcome to the Kingdom of God!

Woman: Oh, yes! Greetings to you! Thank you, thank you so much!

Robert enters, rushes past her kicking the cane from under her causing her to fall.

Doorkeeper: (Helps the woman to a seat.) Oh!! Are you alright?

Woman: (Shaken) Oh, uh …yes, I think so! I was just coming when that gentleman…

Robert: Oh! Am I responsible for that? So, sorry! I didn’t even notice. My mistake.

Doorkeeper: I see. Well, I think this woman was before you. If you’d like to wait?

Robert: (Clearing up a misunderstanding) Oh, you must not realize who I am. (To woman) You remember me. (To Doorkeeper) I’m Robert. I run the senior citizens free lunch program …among other things.

Doorkeeper: Okay, Robert. What’s in your hand? (One hand is tightly closed in a fist)

Robert: Oh, that just happened over time. I can’t seem to open it. I’m sure that can be fixed once I get inside.

Doorkeeper: You seem pretty sure you’ll get inside.

Robert: Well, …of course. I’ve always worked very hard! Ask anyone, I have a good reputation in my community.

Doorkeeper: Yes, actually that’s what you’re holding onto in your closed fist. And what else?

Robert: What do you mean? I’m holding what in my fist?

Doorkeeper: Your reputation. There’s pain too, other people’s pain. You’ve caused some injury along the way.

Robert: Look, if there’s been offense, it wasn’t my intention! I’ve done my best!

Doorkeeper: The best for you. I’m sorry, but in order to enter this Kingdom both hands must be open …and empty.

Robert: Seriously? (Robert tries to open his hand but it won’t open.) I thought I had control over this, but it’s not opening.

Doorkeeper: Here’s more bad news. Sin, like all disease, spreads. Your sin has spread from your hand to your heart and eyes.

Robert: That can’t be! Ask the people in my church! They would never believe it!

Doorkeeper: You do a lot for the church.

Robert: Yes! Everyone knows my name!

Doorkeeper: Do you know this woman’s name? (Pause. Robert reacts as if to say, “Oh come on.”) I’m sorry, but knowing where the entrance is, is not enough. You can’t come in.

Robert: But there must be something I can do!

Doorkeeper: It would be better for you if you cut off your hand.

Robert: What? You’re kidding? That’s a little extreme! Is it really that important?

Doorkeeper: It’s not an option.

Robert continues trying to open his hand but it won’t open.

Robert: Okay, I’ll cut it off! I don’t want this to keep spreading. Just tell me how!

Doorkeeper: Repent! That is, if you think you need to.

Robert: (Gives up trying to open hand) No, I know you’re right. I felt small and selfish as soon as I got close to the entrance.

Doorkeeper: You really do need to talk to God.

Robert: Yes, I know. I know you’re right. (Confesses with difficulty) Lord God, I confess I do love the attention of being in charge. When people listen to me, I feel powerful. I’m addicted to being needed. The truth is, while pretending to be a servant, I was really only serving myself. This is the opposite of what you taught us by example. (Pause) I am not a savior, Jesus. Only you are. I am so sorry. Please forgive me…

Robert’s hand slowly opens. He shows joy and relief over this. Looks to heaven and exclaims:

Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Father! (Turns to woman…) I’m sorry, what’s your name?

Woman: Miriam.

Robert: Miriam, you were coming in before me. Here, let me help you. (He assists her to stand) Go ahead!

Doorkeeper: But surely she’s not as important as you, Robert! She has the spirit of a child!

Robert: Then she’s better than me! I don’t deserve to go in at all!

Doorkeeper:The Savior is waiting! And He knows you both by name! Welcome to the Kingdom of God!

Miriam takes Robert’s arm and they enter together.

The First will be Last is published with the permission of the author. To learn more about Esta’s work in the Middle East and how you can be a part of RMM’s ministry, read our 2016 year-end letter at yearend.rmmweb.org.

*Name changed for security

August 04, 2017

My Field

By Eugene,* RMM worker in North Africa

This month marks half a year in North Africa for Eugene, Katrina,* and their two children. Eugene shares about getting to know their city and seeing God at work in it.

On a cool January day in Pennsylvania, I had stood in my doorway looking out across the empty farmland, and I had wondered what field (neighborhood) God was going to place me in. Just as the field in January was waiting for spring to arrive and for the farmer to come plant, I knew God had a field that was waiting for me.

Jump six months ahead. I am now standing in my field. The field is a city in North Africa, and as I walk through my field I am getting to know its type of soil. In my field I have young people who are desperate for a new start. They come from all over the southern end of the country to a university. They come with the dream of studying and then making a life for themselves. This makes my field very full and busy. Café’s with free internet are always filled with these young people studying or just hanging out. Two of those young people have graduated from the university in the last few years and are looking for work, but in the meantime are tutoring Katrina and myself. Both are bright and very helpful. We are thankful for their willingness to come teach us.

In my field there are also five young entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity and went together and started a business. Their opportunity was washing and detailing cars in this dry and dusty place. This one-door garage opens at 8:00am and is always moving cars through until the door closes at 8:00 or 9:00pm. They hand wash the outside and vacuum and clean the inside until it shines – all for the equivalent of about four American dollars.

"Will God’s rain come and make the seeds grow? To these questions, I have to believe and trust that the answer is yes for myself and for the people of this field."God also knew that I would need someone who had a history with this field, someone who could introduce me to it, and someone to help me learn about it. Meet Omar – Omar is a very welcoming and light-hearted man. Every day he stands around the corner from my house. He is what they call a guardian. His job is to stand at a parking area on the corner of an intersection and help direct traffic. He is a people-person for sure. You can tell that he loves his job by the smile on his face and the friendly wave he sends my way every time I pass. I was introduced to Omar not long after we moved into our home. I was told he may be able to help find me a tutor. So I went along with a friend who knew him and was introduced. Omar has been a bright spot in my field ever since. He did connect me with the young man who is my tutor now, and he has continued to introduce me to more friends of his.

As I stand in my field, feeling out of place and inadequate at times, I wonder what the future holds for me and this field. Will God place in my hands the tools that are needed to work the field? Will God continue to strengthen my hands for the work ahead? Will God’s rain come and make the seeds grow? To these questions, I have to believe and trust that the answer is yes for myself and for the people of this field.

As you pray that the Holy Spirit would come and give life to this field, think about the field you are placed in and the ways God is asking you to labor in it.

*Names changed for security