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December 19, 2017

A Different Kind of Normal: A REACH Update

By Shontel, Team Indochina

I expected my life in another country to feel extraordinary in some way, but I’m learning that life here feels just as normal as life in the United States.

Take today as an example. I woke up at 6:30. Before breakfast, I sat outside and spent time speaking to my father and reading. Then I got ready for language school. Breakfast was a bagel and fruit. My team left the house at 8:00 in time to catch our ride to school. After class, we walked to get lunch at a nearby restaurant. Once lunch was finished, we walked home and spent the afternoon playing games together, socializing with our landlord and grocery shopping. Before dinner, we walked to a nearby school to organize and take inventory in a kindergarten classroom. I cooked dinner at home. After dinner, we played games and watched a video sermon, then stayed up late talking.

Now that you have read that summary, maybe you will agree with me that life here is ordinary, normal. Even though I am living in a country halfway across the world where everything is dusty, roadside shops seem to be the main employment, palm trees grow outside my window, and the natives speak a language I am only beginning to learn, daily life here doesn’t feel out of the ordinary. It’s refreshing and exciting being in a culture that is new to me, yet feeling comfortable in it. Everyday life has its differences here, but it’s simply a different kind of normal.

“…the father has been showing me that it doesn’t take adventurous, unique, or once-in-a-lifetime circumstances for him to work. He’s made himself known in the ordinary…” Through this realization, the father has been showing me that it doesn’t take adventurous, unique, or once-in-a-lifetime circumstances for him to work. He’s made himself known in the ordinary – through providing kind and gracious natives to buy food from, even when we mangle the language and don’t understand bartering. He has blessed us with health, though we are always trying new foods. In the midst of many adjustments, he’s prepared many people to walk beside us, giving us culture tips. When we were struggling to reach out to locals, he brought them to us. It is encouraging to see that in the little things, he is faithful.

Today I read this, “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever!” Amen to that!

Please continue to keep the REACH teams in your thoughts, praying they can seek opportunities to spread love and joy every day, even in the ordinary.

Do you want to join a REACH team in 2018-2019?
Click here to apply or learn more.

December 18, 2017

Baptisms in Southeast Asia

RMM recently received news of four baptisms in the villages of Southeast Asia. The local disciple-making team held a service in a rice field, baptizing the daughter and son of two different team members and another young woman who does not have believing parents. The next day the team baptized a man from the only believing family in a nearby village. Praise God for bringing more people into his Kingdom, and pray for continued multiplication in this country.

December 15, 2017

Multiplication in Action: The Story of One Planted Church

By Lydia Gingerich

RMM is excited to be part of CMC’s new commitment to multiply disciples and churches, not only internationally but here in North America as well. Larry Kaufman leads a team that is helping to move us from ideas to action. The following story recounts what God is doing through a group of young adults who have moved from idea to action in Columbus, Ohio. Many of these people were students at Rosedale Bible College and are now working together to see what God will multiply through them.

Quiet Beginnings

As I walked down the steps into the basement of the apartment building next to mine, I was reminded of the missionary stories my parents read to me growing up. The midnight meetings underground had a specific anxious and exciting feel to them that I detected in myself as I entered the room full of my dear brothers and sisters. We had been talking about this “church plant” for a while, but it felt more real now that we were having a scheduled meeting with a typed outline and several older and wiser folks dispersed among the circle.

At that meeting in late March, we began to tread the waters of starting a church. Where and when would we meet? How will the church be structured? Who will join us? Why do we feel compelled to do this? While many of these questions were asked without a clear or comprehensive answer, we all agreed on the last one: God was moving in our neighborhood, and to best join his work, we would need encouragement from brothers and sisters, a setting for discipleship, a time to discern his will as a group, and a place to worship him together; we would need a church.

While we all attended churches that were already providing us these things, we felt it was important for church to be close. Most of us were driving thirty minutes every Sunday morning to be a part of churches which had doctrines and communities we valued. What if we planted a church with those same principles right here? Rod Dreher, in Christianity Today’s March 2017 edition, lays out a compelling case for living in close proximity to those with whom you worship:

"Why be close? Because … the church can’t just be the place you go on Sundays—it must become the center of your life. That is, you may visit your house of worship only once a week, but what happens there in worship, and the community and the culture it creates, must be the things around which you order the rest of the week.”
Dreher goes on to caution that “community itself won’t make you holy if you aren’t committed to prayer and cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus, [but] the gift of community is that it builds a social structure in which it is easier for Christians to hear and respond to God’s voice and in which others hold them accountable if they lose the straight path.” With the work we are joining in Columbus, it feels important to have that centrality, community, and accountability.

Since that meeting in March, we have been gathering for prayer and discernment and trying to answer the questions we initially raised. Our vision is that people who identify with this church grow in faith, maturity, obedience, and be involved in outreach with a focus on a) unreached people groups from all over the world who reside near us, b) the universities we attend, and c) inner-city initiatives bringing the love and salvation of Jesus to this city.

This story was first published in London Christian Fellowship’s June newsletter.

Making it Official

As we prayed about where, how and with whom we would start a church, God gave us answers in the form of a small conference room we could rent, a group of committed planters, and assistance from other CMC churches in the area. We decided to call ourselves Olentangy (O-len-TAN-gee) Mennonite Church (OMC) after a river that runs near where many of us live. OMC started meeting together as a registered CMC church on July 9, 2017, under the leadership and blessing of both London Christian Fellowship and Shiloh Mennonite Church.

Three Months In

About thirty of us have been gathering together every Sunday morning since July. We have broken bread together, hosted guests as a congregation, and walked with one another through new jobs, new houses, and new babies. Fellowship has extended from the church building to campfires, picnics, and game nights. We have encouraged each other to expand the Kingdom and we have prayed for friends and family who do not yet believe. In our small and concentrated setting, we have been able to discuss difficult and direct questions as we study the Bible together.

In our first meeting, we were challenged to get out of our comfort zones. We discussed questions about community living: 1) Are we comfortable opening ourselves up to correction? 2) Are we comfortable laying aside our opinion for the sake of the group? We also talked about how to handle outreach as a church: 1) Are we comfortable discussing absolute truth in a society that values tolerance? 2) Are we comfortable dedicating considerable time to prayer for the lost? 3) Are we comfortable holding our cultural norms loosely for the sake of identifying with people from different backgrounds?

“The more people who are actually doing it, the more tangible that will feel for other congregations.” We are working to hold one another accountable to acting on these values both personally and as a group, but it is not always easy. One benefit we are enjoying is our youthfulness. We have vision, time, and energy to tackle the hurdles of starting a new church. While the group is young, Andrew has been blessed by the discipleship nature of our congregation. “The way we’ve structured things allows more people to be involved, develop gifts, and grow. The community is doing a good job at letting their needs be known, which I think doesn’t always happen (it takes some humility), but also in responding when people do let us know about needs. I’ve been very happy to see that give and take from people.”
Earlier this year CMC adopted a new commission to mature and multiply churches locally and globally. One piece of that multiplication is planting churches. Andrew notes the importance of talking about what we are doing at OMC. “The more people who are actually doing it, the more tangible planting churches will feel for other congregations. I think everybody’s process is unique and I don’t think it would be that easy to replicate what we’ve done. I don’t really see this as a How To – just that somebody’s trying; that should be helpful.”

As we continue to build community and reach out to the hurting people around us, we pray that the Holy Spirit will control and consume us, helping us in our weakness and encouraging our strengths.

Please keep this group in your prayers as they seek to know Christ and make him known in Columbus, Ohio.

December 14, 2017

Celebrating Milestones

In 2017, a number of overseas workers and office staff surpassed significant milestones in their tenure with RMM. We would like to celebrate those individuals and the unique contributions they have made through their years of service.
Josiah and Sarah:* Over ten years of service with RMM in Mexico and long-term in North Africa.

Colleen: Over ten years of service through SWIM and REACH, long-term in Ecuador and Thailand, and as RMM HR Director.

Garret: Ten years of service on the RMM Communications Team.

Nixson and Rhonda:* Over seven years of service in Thailand through REACH, LAMP and as a couple.

Andrew: Five years of service with RMM in Turkey and as Director of Partner Development.

Brian and Brittany: Five years of service with REACH and as SEND Program Facilitators.

Courtney: Five years of service through REACH, as a SEND Intern, and SEND Assistant Director.

Ashley: Five years of service including REACH, SEND Administrative Assistant, and RMM Logistics Coordinator.

Jordan: Five years of service with REACH and as the RIC Property Manager.

*Names changed or omitted for security

December 11, 2017

2 1/2 Days Down, 165 To Go: A REACH Update

By Lacy, REACH Team Thailand
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”

—Walker Evans

Team Thailand arrived safely with zero problems throughout our nearly 40 hours of traveling. YAY!

We have a handful of days left before language school begins and so far we have spent a lot of time taking in all that Thailand has to offer. Along with being the team leader, I have also had the privilege of being a tour guide for the last few days, showing the girls places that I’ve missed for the last six months, and it has been so fun!

I am so proud of the ways that everyone is diving right in and trying all of the food, no matter how oystery or spicy it may be. Today at lunch Morgan sat down with Tom Yum Gai (hot and sour chicken soup) and as she took the first couple of bites, proudly exclaimed ‘this isn’t NEARLY as spicy as I thought it’d be!’ Before too long she piped up with a ‘I spoke too soon! The more I eat, the spicier it gets!’ but that didn’t stop her from finishing every last bite!

“It’s wonderful to think about how our team, despite being made up physically of five ladies, each carry communities of people who have poured into us, walked beside us and have sent us off.” We are still fighting jetlag and I’m personally hating the ‘no naps in the first week’ rule that I gave the team upon arrival.

Our apartments are quickly feeling cozy thanks to some new plants, and all of the pictures lining the walls. There’s a whole lot of love and support looking at us in those images. It’s wonderful to think about how our team, despite being made up physically of five ladies, each carry communities of people who have poured into us, walked beside us and have sent us off. Thanks to all of that love we have received, we are able to be here and give it away freely!

Please pray for Team Thailand and all the REACH teams as they adjust to their new living spaces. Pray for rest, unity, health, and that God would use them as his light in these locations. Pray for peace God’s provision for Team Eurasia especially as they wait to receive visas for their outreach location and hope to arrive there next week.

Do you want to join a REACH team in 2018-2019?
Click here to apply or learn more.

December 06, 2017

“Come to me, all you who are weary…”

By Lydia Gingerich

A pale and tattered woman stumbles through the doors of the homeless shelter. This trembling old woman, likely in her seventies, leans on the arm of a young drug dealer who found her freezing out in the parking lot. Nikki makes a call to the volunteer nurse while the woman is given blankets and a place to rest. The staff receive assurance from the nurse that the shaking is a positive sign. She will be okay for tonight, but this woman still needs a home; what is she going to do for the rest of the winter?

Nikki Gonzales has been serving the homeless for the past four years by directing Code Purple Sussex County which provides shelter on the coldest nights for the homeless in Sussex County, Delaware.

This organization “includes various shelter locations in the county…at churches. So a church will open up and they will have cots and blow-up beds, blankets, meals every evening, toiletries, and just a warm place to stay for the night.”

One of these churches is Gateway Fellowship, a Conservative Mennonite Conference (CMC) congregation that Nikki and her family attend. Gateway works with six other churches in the county to provide volunteers and a space for people to stay. Last winter the churches housed about 250 people throughout the winter. This year the churches will be open every night from December 15 through March 15, but Nikki and her team continue to serve all year long.

“We have become like a family, so even in the off season I have many people who call. So that way if someone is cold and needs a place to stay at two in the morning, you know, they get an answer.”

Over the years, Code Purple has seen many people utilize their shelters who are in desperate need of help. “These people have burned every bridge because they have stolen from their family or their mental state has been poor for so long that their family can't take it anymore. There are no more options and they’ve been through all the state resources and so they really have no other choice when they come to the shelter. So we see the hardest of the hardest.”

The need in this community is great, and there are many issues that never get resolved, but Nikki wants to give people more than just food or shelter. “We tell them: God sees you; he created you; he loves you. He wants you to walk with him so that you can walk in freedom – away from all this stuff. But it is not always easy. It rarely happens where they instantly get it. But we keep loving them; we keep praying for them.”

Prayer is important for those seeking help as well as the volunteers. Being with these people and speaking God’s truth over their lives can change a judging or fearful perspective.

“I've learned more serving and getting out there than sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.” “You see so much more than the black and white – why don’t they just get a job? Or why don't they stop doing heroin? I've learned more serving and getting out there than sitting in a pew listening to a sermon.” Nikki does not want to downplay the importance of Sunday morning, but has personally benefitted from taking what she learns in a sermon and practicing it in her ministry, and vice versa.

Miss Dot, the pale and tattered woman in her seventies who was found out in the freezing cold parking lot is one person who impacted Nikki. After nursing her that night, Nikki and the other volunteers found out that Miss Dot had numerous ailments and would need special assistance. She had no children and her husband had recently passed away. Code Purple helped Miss Dot find a hotel, and then a shelter in which to stay. Throughout those initial months, Miss Dot got to know Nikki’s family, making special friends with her youngest daughter. When Nikki asked Miss Dot if she knew the Lord she replied, “Don’t worry, me and him [sic] have it worked out.” She was then transferred “to hospice upstate. So my mom and dad and I drove up. I barely got there in time to pray over her as she passed away. The Lord brought her into our life in her last days, so she would not have to die alone.”

Another person that has been especially impactful to Nikki is a man she met during her first year at Code Purple. This man had made an inappropriate comment to Nikki and she informed him that she would not tolerate that kind of speech. He later apologized for the remark and she forgave him.

“And he said it’s not that easy. And I said, yeah it’s that easy. I forgive you. God forgives us every time we ask for forgiveness and we turn from what we were doing. And he said it doesn't work that way in the world. And I said it can. It could work that way between me and you. And ever since then we have been best friends.”

Nikki has listened to this man’s story – he comes from an abusive household and struggles with alcoholism. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has received government assistance on numerous occasions. Nikki is grateful for all of the services that have been provided to him, but there is still a gaping hole in his life. “The church is supposed to fix that. We have the answer, we have to give Jesus because he is the answer to this gentleman's problems.”

Please pray for the guests who arrive at the shelters this winter. Pray that they will see Jesus, love Jesus, see what he's done for them, and accept him. Pray for more volunteers and resources. Pray that God would activate the church to be in the world – loving people and expanding his Kingdom.