« April 2018   |   Main   |  June 2018 »

May 31, 2018

Rain in the Desert

By Joe Showalter

It had been raining heavily for a few weeks leading up to our arrival in Lodwar, a small city in northwestern Kenya’s Turkana County. Benson, known by many as “the Desert Boy,” informed us that they hadn’t seen rain like this for five years. While the region has experienced a physical drought over the last few years, it has been a place of spiritual new life and growth.

Benson leads a group of churches called Glory Outreach Ministries (GOM). With churches not only in Turkana but also in neighboring Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. With fifteen mission training centers, GOM is a vibrant and growing network of churches. When Benson entered the International School of Mission (ISOM) program in Thika, Kenya, in 2000, he had planted eight churches. (REACH was instrumental in launching ISOM in 1999.). With the training and tools he received at ISOM, Benson believed God was calling him to plant 100 churches among his own Turkana tribe. Today, Benson says there are about 175 GOM churches in Turkana, but when you include the churches planted among neighboring tribes (he’s currently engaged with five tribes and has a vision to reach seventeen) and in neighboring countries, the number is over 400. Given the nature of these things and the simplicity of their strategy, Benson guesses there could actually be as many as a thousand churches, since he’s not trying to track all of the added layers of multiplication.

While much of this growth can be attributed to the efforts of church-planters and evangelists, God is also working through visions and miracles – bringing new life out of dry and unlikely places.

Earlier in our trip, while traveling in Ethiopia, we stopped at a training center in the middle of a mostly-Muslim village. Since it is not a church, the training center operates in the city without a lot of scrutiny. The leader of the training center is Paul,* a former Al Qaeda fighter who now worships Jesus.

While Paul was in training with Al Qaeda, he had some questions about Islam. He struggled with the Islam of Medina versus the Islam of Mecca. One version of Islam seemed to be a religion of peace, and the other a religion of war and conquest. When he wondered about Muhammad‘s superiority or the Quran‘s perfection, he found these questions were unacceptable to his superiors. About this time he had a vision of Jesus. Jesus told him, “You are mine,” and told him to escape from Al Qaeda. Because of his questioning of Islam, his trainers threw him into a tin cage where he lived for a couple of weeks in temperatures over 100° F. It made him so sick that they eventually sent him to a hospital. Because of his past vision, he used that opportunity to escape.

“Jesus sent me to tell you that he says, ‘You are mine. If you don’t follow me, you only have 10 days left to live.” Paul returned to normal civilian life, but he didn’t pursue Jesus. Jesus appeared to him a second time and again said “You are mine.” Still he resisted. One day, a 13-year-old girl approached him and said, “Jesus sent me to tell you that he says, ‘You are mine. If you don’t follow me, you only have 10 days left to live.”

A few days later, Paul and a friend were caught in an armed conflict between two warring groups. His friend was killed and Paul was taken hostage. His captors could immediately tell that he was a trained fighter because of the way he defended himself, so they prepared to kill him also. One captor aimed an AK-47 at Paul, and briefly discussed with the other what they were going to do with him. In what he thought were his last seconds alive, Paul asked one favor: that his identification tags be delivered to his mother. He handed them to the second of the captors, bowed his head, and waited for the shot. Remembering what the young girl had said to him, he decided to cry out to Jesus in his desperation. Seconds later, he heard a shot and saw the man with the AK-47 fall dead. The other captor had looked at Paul’s ID tags and realized that they were close relatives. Since his loyalty to his family was stronger than to his comrade, he shot his comrade to save Paul’s life. This time Paul surrendered to Jesus.

After Paul told us his story, we went to the classroom where 40 to 50 people were being trained to share Jesus with their own people. We were told that currently in Ethiopia 1500 Muslims are coming to Jesus every day.

Clearly, the rain of God’s Spirit is coming to barren lives in east Africa. Let’s pray for a similar move of the Spirit among us here in North America!

*Names changed for security

May 30, 2018

An All-powerful God: Reflections During Ramadan

By Eugene,* RMM worker in North Africa

As I sit here looking at a blank piece of paper thinking about what I should write, my neighbors and friends are out and about like any other day – except they are not eating or drinking. Yes, Ramadan is here once again.

Yesterday evening I went out to the local café I normally go to. I wanted to see what was going on since Ramadan was starting. I sat down and began talking to my friend. It wasn’t long until he asked me the question I knew would come: “Are you going to fast?”

I turned to him and responded by saying that no, I wasn’t. He paused for a moment and said to me, “Fasting is good for you.”

I decided to take the opportunity and responded, “I know. Jesus tells us to fast. Fasting is good.”

This launched us into about a fifteen-minute one-sided conversation about Jesus and how he is not God and how God would not lower himself to be a human. However, in the middle of this my friend made the comment that “God is all powerful and he even tells the water where to stop.”

“We feel inadequate most of the time but know that God chooses at times to work and speak through willing vessels.”After a little while he stopped and I asked him a question that I hope stuck with him. “If God is all-powerful and even tells the water where to stop, why couldn’t he decide to make himself into the form of a man and come spend time with his creation?” He instantly thought it was a crazy idea but I pray he remembers it.

Short conversations like this are what my wife Katrina* and I pray for. We feel inadequate most of the time but know that God chooses at times to work and speak through willing vessels.

Many RMM workers live in parts of the world where Islam is the main religion. As one of the five pillars of their faith, Muslims partake in Ramadan: a month of fasting during the day and feasting at night. This year it lasts from May 15 to June 14. Please take this time to pray for and extend God’s love to Muslims around the world. Also pray for our workers to have meaningful interactions and opportunities to share hope.
*Names changed for security

May 25, 2018

Thoughts on Harvesting

By Dan, long-term RMM worker

What can we learn from church movements around the world? Can their experiences teach us to be more effective participants in the world-wide movement of Christ?

Nicaragua: An Exponential Harvest

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9: 37-38 NRSV).

The challenge for the church around the world – according to Jesus’ words – is not a lack of harvest, but rather a lack of harvesters. Therefore, the church is called to find more harvesters to reap the already-ripe harvest. One lesson from the churches growing exponentially around the world is that the vast majority of needed workers come from the harvest itself. I first saw this principle at work in the rural churches in the villages of Nicaragua.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the harvesters in rural villages of central Nicaragua came from a couple of churches started in 1977. As they saw people in their own village come to faith in Jesus and the lives of families being transformed by the gospel message and the power of Christ, they longed for the people of neighboring villages to experience the same transformation. So they began to go once a week, one or two hour’s walk away (there were no roads), on their own time, and without pay to share the gospel with the people of these neighboring villages. Churches began from these efforts, and the leaders for these churches came from among the villagers themselves. In addition, some of these churches sent leaders to other villages until the entire region was filled with churches that continue to meet the spiritual needs of the villages today. All of these church leaders came from the churches themselves – none came from outside. All of the churches met their needs through the use of local resources and developed their communal lives in Christ in ways that were comfortable to the people of the villages themselves. Such is the case of churches around the world, especially if the new believers are relatively isolated from external resources.

In 1978, there was a drought in this region – forcing some of these subsistence farmers to travel to the eastern part of the country which received more rain. As they went to the land of some acquaintances, they found people there who were open to the gospel message. People came to the Lord and churches formed there too. And people from these churches started other churches in neighboring towns and across the countryside.

In 1982, war came to these eastern communities, forcing the people to flee their farms. Some fled into the jungle area, and others fled back to the villages in Central Nicaragua from where they had originally come. As they fled, they continued to share the gospel, so that new churches were started in both regions. Eventually, families from the eastern jungle area were forced to flee Nicaragua to Costa Rica. There too, they started churches in refugee camps and resettlement projects. They had learned the secret of developing churches without depending on outside resources. Led by those coming to faith, they adapted to the church’s lifestyle. The good news they had responded to continued to be good news as they shared it with others – it continued to grow in whatever situation it encountered.

From 1990 to the present, I have seen similar church growth from countries in South and Southeast Asia and could give examples of how this is happening today.

What were the principles that led to this exponential growth of churches?

  • As people come to believe, they are called to go to those around them who are hungry for the gospel message – building friendships with them, and sharing a gospel message that speaks to their hearts and specific needs.
  • The basic gospel message is relatively simple, how it can be shared is flexible, and it does not require extended study for a new believer to be equipped to share it. In this way, many are equipped to share the message, much as we read about in Acts 8:4 – “Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word.”
  • Anyone in the church can be called to extend the church to new horizons. Harvesters are not professionals, but people who are bursting with a message of good news. Likewise, the people called to lead the emerging churches (because these are composed of new believers) can come from among the new believers themselves. In this way, the gospel message leads to multiplying churches in any and every situation.
  • The churches that emerge from this model develop themselves in ways that are suitable to the people that compose them. They are led from the beginning by insiders, who can develop in their walk with Christ through appropriate discipleship methods, sometimes with the assistance of outsiders who have a vision of walking with developing local leadership.
Are these principles true only for poor villagers of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, or are they true as well for people in the towns and cities of United States? Could we think of multiplying churches in the U.S. in this way?

Opportunities for the U.S.

It is my observation that existing churches in the U.S. tend to be complex and lack the flexibility to multiply easily. We have the idea that churches can only be adequately led by people who have had extensive training to do so. And because most of these methods of training are time consuming and expensive, the number of harvesters from existing churches is limited – or so we think. This is an observation, not a criticism.

The church in the U.S. has been planting new fellowships in traditional ways for a long time and should continue to do this in an effort to reach those open to this method. However, I believe some non-traditional approaches could be helpful to reach those in our country who are not easily reached by traditional churches. Are our churches effectively reaching the immigrants to our cities, or the many people who have closed their hearts to “the church,” or the many marginalized people in our society? Or are we called to think in different ways about how to reach the people who live among us not knowing Jesus as Savior and Lord?

The following are some practical suggestions:

Spend more time with not-yet-Christians in our social circles

Many of us work or study with people from other people groups who do not intend to be a part of any existing church. We can begin by praying that God will open the heart of those people and that we will recognize opportunities to plant gospel seeds. As interest increases, we can ask God to create situations that lead them to talk about Jesus or talk over passages of Scripture. Rather than extract them from their settings to attend “our church,” they could be nurtured to share the gospel message in their own family or friend circles.

When such people respond to the gospel, why not add them to our church membership? This might be appropriate in some cases. However if we do that, we have only added a member. But if they are encouraged to reach out to their own people, we have gained a harvester. In this way, the gospel can penetrate new frontiers. Churches started this way would be led and developed by the people from those social circles themselves, with appropriate assistance from you and/or others. Is this what Jesus intended when he sent the former demon possessed man back to his own people? (Luke 8: 38-39)

Spend more time with not-yet-Christians outside our social circles

After praying for God’s guidance to lead us to them, we discover those whom God is calling us to spend significant time with. We could take the time to really get to know them; find ways to meet them on their turfs, at their social places, or in their homes and neighborhoods. God might be calling some of us to live among them so as to truly become a part of them. As we get to know them, we pray that God will lead us to some among them who may be especially open to the good news of Jesus.

This may be uncomfortable. Often our tendency is to develop a strategy to attempt to reach out while remaining in our comfortable churches. We think we can make our church comfortable to them and wonder why they don’t come join us in our church. But to truly go out and live among them requires leaving our comfortable churches to spend significant time among those who need Jesus. This is the kind of sacrifice we expect of overseas workers, but we may not think it is necessary to reach the unreached among us. But I am convinced that to reach the lost, we need to sacrifice the routine of our churches to experience Christ in settings uncomfortable to us at first, but comfortable to the people we are called to reach. Who among us is willing to make this sacrifice?

Churches grown on their soil, not ours

This is a principle obvious to U.S. workers going overseas to share the good news, but I believe it is also applicable here. One or several of us could go among them, so the church which emerges will be truly their church. It is led by them, it looks like them, and it feels like home to them.

It is true that we know more of the Bible message than those we are trying to reach, but they know much more about how to reach their own people with a simple gospel message. It is an error to think we can be more effective than them just because we know more about the faith than they do. Once someone from another culture or people comes to faith, he or she has special insight in how to reach others of similar backgrounds. Our task is to find these first believers (they are always there), and once they come to faith, encourage them to share the good news (as they understand and articulate it) with their family, friends, and neighbors. We walk with these new believers as they discover more of Christ and how he is relevant to their own people and share this good news with them. We never become leaders for them. Rather we walk with them as they grow in leadership of their own people.

Christ is the center of what happens, not our church

As we go to live among them (John 1:14), they will hear the good news in a special way, because Jesus becomes special to them as they discover him at work among them – opening their eyes to the truth and an alternative way of living. Prayer for God to open their eyes is a key part of any such effort.

As we interact with them, Jesus reaches out to them in ways we cannot anticipate or orchestrate. Simple and flexible interaction is key. Are there ways of meeting them where their felt needs are met through the grace of Christ? We should re-read the gospels to get ideas of how Jesus entered the lives of people and ask God to how to do the same today – using our creativity to try different approaches.

Call our children to learn missions together with us

It is my understanding that American Christian families are often hesitant to take their children to the places needed to really do outreach to those who don’t know Jesus – often in our cities. But if God calls parents, doesn’t he also call the children of these parents? Is God really calling us to raise our children in sheltered settings among church people we know rather than to walk with our children and discover as a family what it means to be faithful to God’s calling? This sacrifice could lead to many families who walk in darkness to find the light of Christ through our testimony. I have seen the rich diversity of experience and depth of faith that comes from mission families walking in obedience in cross-cultural settings.

Or is God really only calling singles or empty nesters into mission?

Discern who God is calling us to

Our cities are filled with immigrants who have come here in search of opportunity and a better life. While it becomes increasingly difficult to get long-term visas to live in other countries, God has brought these people to our cities. This is an opportunity and a challenge to the church in the U.S. today. Those who come are often of other faiths: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, animistic peoples, and secular people professing no religion or faith.

Besides this, there are many born here in America who are alienated from the existing church. Poor and marginalized people, people in crisis, and those outside their comfort zones are often more open to the gospel message than those who are satisfied with life as it is.

Discern who God is calling to go out

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:2-3 NRSV).

I believe this is an effective model for calling out more workers into the harvest. Whereas God continues to call people individually to go, I believe the church needs to take more seriously the task of finding workers through prayer and then sending them cross-culturally.

I am aware that many will find these suggestions unfamiliar and may be hesitant to try these methods, but I do believe these are excellent ways to increase the number of harvesters in the Kingdom. If someone is doing or wants to attempt something mentioned here, please talk about it. Networking and learning from each other can be an excellent way of furthering the cause of the Kingdom in the challenging settings in which we live. To any who are waiting to see whether these ideas might be effective or not, please support those who are trying this method by your prayers and words of encouragement. Send me your comments by emailing mosaic@rmmoffice.org.

May 21, 2018

In Translation: Three Stories about Language

Compiled by Lydia Gingerich

Language learning is one of the least glamorous yet most important aspects of working cross-culturally. When learning the language gets difficult, it can cause doubts, feelings of inadequacy, and a sense that ministry is put on hold. But success can result in the ability to speak with locals on a deeper level, greater ease to maneuver in a country, and countless insights into a culture.

This month, we received three updates celebrating the joys of learning a language and the possibilities that come with it.

Judah and Rayna,* the Middle East:

We continue to look for more ways to integrate ourselves deeper and deeper into the culture and way of life here. This is a beautiful country and a beautiful people. We value the opportunities we have to learn more about this place we live in. Just this week, we had the privilege of sharing breakfast together with our neighbors, spending time with them and sharing together with them. We look for opportunities and open doors to speak the truth into people’s lives and it is exciting to have the opportunity to share with our various friends. As exciting as these opportunities are, they also remind us of our need to continue working on our language, as we normally encounter topics where our language falls short. We have come a long way from where we started, but we still have plenty of room for improvement.

Cora,* North Africa:

I had a really encouraging time with some local friends last week. I needed to buy some things in the old city so I asked the daughter of the family if she wanted to go with me and she agreed. I arrived at their house where they greeted me and said they missed me so much and asked why I hadn’t visited for a long time (this is a classic response even if you aren’t very close with someone, but it still was a nice welcome). The daughter wasn’t ready when I got there so her mother, sister, and aunt told me to sit down and join them. They were in the middle of eating lunch, so of course I needed to join them and eat something. But then we went about normal conversation (in the local language) about how I had been doing. Everything felt so normal and I tell you about it, because this rarely happens and when it does, it feels like a gift! I was able to follow what they were saying pretty easily and give them all my news in a way they understood. Then in the end, they wanted to take care of me and make sure I got good prices in the old city, so the mom told her daughter specifically where to take me and who to buy from. It was such a thoughtful gesture! These are the times that I feel at home and am so thankful for the people around me that show so much love!

Butos and Amina,* North America:

We just came back from five weeks at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics training campus of Wycliffe, SIL in Dallas, Texas. It was a great time of retreat and refreshing Amina’s linguistic/translation training to take our next step – oral Bible translation for the unreached population we work with.

Yes, it's a big work and an almost impossible task. But God has confirmed to us, that "All things are possible with Him." Just as “by faith we are saved,” so also, by faith, the Holy Spirit will also enable us translate His Word accurately into this language. Praise God for many divine connections with some Bible translation partners, instructors, consultants who will continue to help us in this process. We are so excited and looking forward to seeing God’s miraculous work.

*Names changed for security

Please pray for workers around the world who are learning and relating in a new language. Pray that God would give them the right words at the right time so that all nations will be invited to worship Jesus.

May 16, 2018

Nearing the End: A REACH Update

By Morgan, Team Thailand

I’d say I can’t believe the end is here, but the truth is, I can. I’ve had a lot of things roaming in my mind lately. Things like…

How will our last week here go? How should I be processing the past nine months? What will reentry be like? How will I handle the goodbyes? What will it be like adjusting to a different culture and time zone again? What will it be like reuniting with loved ones? Where will I fit in? What happened while I was gone? How will I possibly summarize the last nine months to those who want to hear about my experience in this program? What will be the new normal? Will I be able to pick up where I left off? Do I have too high of expectations for my summer at home? What will my friendships look like? What will the next year of my life hold?

Lately, there have been moments when it’s hard not to become overwhelmed. I find myself wanting to think about all of these things so that I can process well, finish strong, dig deep, be intentional, and see all of the ways that God has worked and the things that he’s brought my team and I through. But lately, God has been reminding me of the verse he has brought up all throughout my time here: “Be still and know that he is God.” I can find rest in his promises – knowing that he is faithful and present in every step of life – even in the unknowns.

As I think back on the time we have spent in this country, I see a lot of things. I see the people we’ve come in contact with. Our Thai class, the kids at the school, the ladies and children at Samaritan’s Creation, the people at the fellowship, the food vendors we regularly visited, the long-term team, and other various groups we taught English to. I think about the good memories. I think about the difficult times. The moments of tears and laughter. The times of reassurance and doubt. Of confrontation and encouragement. There have been many mixed emotions and many different seasons, yet there hasn’t been a single season where the faithfulness of God wasn’t evident. He continually gave me grace and was so patient. He continually called me back to himself and asked me to place my identity, fears, weaknesses, pressures, successes, failures, and hope in him. “I want to process well. Reconnect well. Prepare well. Lead well. Love deeply. But the truth is, sometimes I don’t know how.”Now he’s calling me back to himself for strength because on my own, I will never be able to stand. He’s teaching me to be still and know that he is God.

I look forward to seeing what the next year of life will hold even though it’s easy to become fearful and look at all of the unknowns. I want to process well. Reconnect well. Prepare well. Lead well. Love deeply. But the truth is, sometimes I don’t know how. But if there is one thing the past year has shown me, it’s that the Father will be by my side every step of the way. He knows my past, my present, and my future. Sometimes it feels like I’m not ready for all that is to come. But when the things of life seem overwhelming, he reminds me of the simplicity of who he is and what he’s called me to. He’s called me to be faithful. He’s called me to worship. To remain willing, love others, seek relationship with him, and surrender myself in exchange for life in the fullness of his love. Sometimes that means not having it all together. Sometimes that means not knowing what’s going to happen. And sometimes that means resting in the joy and fullness of his presence, knowing that he is enough and he is worthy.

Please pray for the REACH teams as they adjust to living in the United States. Pray that through all of the confusing and overwhelming transitions, they would find rest in God.

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

May 08, 2018

Locally Grown: Building Community through Book Club

By Jessica Miller

When I lived overseas one of the things I enjoyed was the community that developed in neighborhoods. Visiting in each other's homes or yards and helping one another in practical ways was the social norm in the Middle Eastern city where I lived. Because everyone's worldview was impacted by religion, it was also common and fairly easy to have spiritual discussions with my neighbors. I found it much harder, after moving back to the US, to experience this same type of community in my neighborhood, but I was able to sometimes find it in small ways.

A little over two years ago, my husband accepted the pastor position at Bean Blossom Community Church and we moved to Indiana. We prayed and looked for a house that would be close to the church. We considered moving into a trailer park right next to the church, but felt like the Lord clearly led us to a house in a subdivision about a seven-minute drive from the church. After we settled in, I began to think and pray about how I could get better acquainted with my neighbors. I decided to try an experiment.

I wrote up a letter and took it around door-to-door in my neighborhood, talking to anyone who answered their door, and leaving the letter if no one was home. My letter explained that I was hoping to get to know my neighbors better and that I also enjoy having discussions with people who have a wide variety of perspectives because it helps challenge me to deeper thinking. I attached photocopies of the description of the book, What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren. I explained that I had heard a lot about this book, but had never read it for myself. I would enjoy reading it together with my neighbors and getting together for a weekly discussion group about the book. Most likely influenced by my time in the Middle East, I made clear it was going to be a discussion group for women only.

“…she would have never come if I had invited her to a Bible study, but because it was a book she felt more comfortable.”Not really sure what to expect, I was surprised when ten women showed up for the first discussion group. Thinking I was the newest neighbor in the subdivision, I was surprised to find out one of them was even newer than I was and another one had moved in only a couple of months before me. Most of them were older and retired so they had a lot of free time and were desiring more social interaction. One of them told me she would have never come if I had invited her to a Bible study, but because it was a book she felt more comfortable.

I'm sure that the way I started this group (by suggesting we read a Christian book) eliminated a number of people who might have come if I had chosen a secular book. I think using a secular book could be a great way to build friendships with those who are farther from Christ, but using a Christian book might attract those with more prepared hearts. In our neighborhood, using a Christian book united a number of godly women from a variety of churches to work together to reach out to those who don't yet know Christ.

I hosted in my home for the first meeting and then everyone wanted to take turns hosting. It worked best for everyone's schedules to meet every other week and we had wonderful spiritual discussions for the length of the book. When the book was finished, the women wanted to continue to meet.

About half the women were attending different churches and half weren’t attending any church. At first I was a little worried about how the discussions would go with the variety of worldviews represented, but everyone treated each other with patience and respect. No one was pushy or unkind in stating what they believed and why. Some of them also asked good questions of those who held a different viewpoint from their own.

Through these meetings and discussions, women began to ask questions about Jesus. Some began attending church, and one even decided to go forward with declaring her faith through baptism. She has been attending our church regularly since then and has participated in a couple of Bible studies.

I believe this particular outreach method helped me to build deeper relationships and initiate spiritual discussions more naturally with others. I started out with lists of discussion questions, but the women didn't really like that as well and wanted to share what they had learned from the book or to ask others what they thought about a certain section. There are some drawbacks to a group setting for the purposes of personal evangelism so I think a group outreach like this is best when paired with one-on-one ministry as well. I think a smaller group size might be more effective, also, for building deeper relationships. I think four to five individuals could have great discussions together and perhaps go deeper than a group of ten.

After the third book, my schedule began to change and I wasn't able to be in regular attendance for the meetings. I also loved how it was going and didn't feel that I needed to be there for it to continue. I wanted to invest some time in starting another group somewhere else. A dear Christian lady who attends another gospel-preaching church in our community took over in facilitating the group and it has continued on for most of the past year without me. I attend on occasion as my schedule allows. I have hosted some other small groups in the meantime and now I am working on getting one started in the trailer park I mentioned at the beginning of this story. I am extremely excited about this new development as I am starting to invest in a community closer to our church.

Jessica Miller currently lives in Nashville, IN where she serves as the outreach director at Bean Blossom Community Church. She is married to Jeff Miller, the lead pastor at Bean Blossom Community Church. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, taking long walks in nature, and spending time with her family and friends.

If you are interested in joining the conversation about how your local church can get involved in your community, join the Facebook group CMC Community Outreach. You can also contact CMC’s outreach coordinator, Jordan Stoltzfus at jordan@rmmoffice.org or call (614) 795-5113.

May 04, 2018

Trees and Leadership: Hope for Nicaragua

By Dot Chupp, co-director of Rosedale Business Group

Nicaragua has erupted in mass demonstrations against the country’s administration in response to a social security reform announced in April. While the president has rescinded this reform, the protests against his leadership continue. As I look at these issues, I’m struck with the thought that Rosedale Business Group’s projects in the country seem especially significant.

First of all, a project that has been in process for a while, and seems to have met considerable obstacles, is to get the Spanish translation of the book, The Serving Leader (El Líder que Sirve) finished and ready for print. From the first mention of this project to translate the book into Spanish, our desire has been to find a way for this powerful teaching to reach the hearts of our dear friends in Latin America and especially Nicaragua. So, we ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here? How do we actually get this teaching to them and help them find a way to implement it?” In conversation with John Stahl-Wert (co-author of the book with Ken Jennings) about the delay and our deep sadness about not getting it done, his encouraging words were that he’s not worried about the timing – because God is in control. While this is comforting to us, the delay still feels overwhelming and unacceptable.

“Seeing the disillusionment with the current leadership there, it seems apparent the whole country is ripe for a new style of leadership.”Recently, Carla Wanty, a native Spanish-speaker, agreed to help us bring this project to completion. We are so grateful for her assistance and are confident it is in good hands. Within a few days of our conversation with Carla, Nicaragua erupted in mass demonstrations against the leadership in the country. Seeing the disillusionment with the current leadership there, it seems apparent the whole country is ripe for a new style of leadership.

A second interesting twist is a tree project in Nicaragua. On a youth trip in June 2015, a group from Shiloh Mennonite Church in Plain City, Ohio, purchased and planted hybrid fruit trees for families in a community. These trees were to be given as gifts from the local church. The homeowners or residents receiving the tree would then help plant it. The tree-planting team consisted of someone from the local church, several from Shiloh, and one or several from the home. The group dug a hole, planted the tree, then encircled the tree and prayed that it would be fruitful as it was tended and cared for. They prayed that this tree would be a blessing to the household in the same way that members of this home would bless the community. Planting was an ideal time to pray for the tree to grow, families to thrive, and for the message of Jesus to go forth! This project has long-range implications because the tree will continue to provide for the families if they care for it. One result of this project was that $4500 was raised by Shiloh during a Christmas project last year for planting more fruit trees using the same model.

Planting more of these trees feels particularly relevant because another “sore spot” for the people in Nicaragua has been the large metal “Trees of Life” placed around the city by Rosario Murillo, the wife (and vice president) of President Daniel Ortega. It is well known that these trees cost thousands of dollars and there is a strong sentiment that the money was spent unwisely. When the country received the recent announcement to increase taxes on pensions, increase the social security contributions of employees by 22.25 percent, and raise the age of retirement for Nicaraguan citizens from 60 to 65 (plus other new measures that hit the pockets of the citizens hard), it was the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” Many of these metal trees became the target of destruction by those who saw them as symbols of oppression. The “fruit” produced by the metal trees was discontent and dissatisfaction. One notice I read said a metal tree was removed and a live tree was planted in its place.

I believe Nicaragua is “ripe” for both of these projects and I hope that RBG can help bring God’s redemptive message of new life to this country.

Please pray for Nicaragua today. Pray for the safety of those who feel endangered and that God’s peace would be sought through the turmoil.