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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.