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October 18, 2018

Kids Helping Kids

By Lydia Gingerich

This story comes from Claire (15) and Eliza (13), daughters of Tom and Candice. Their family has served for the past 12 years as RMM workers in Bangkok.


Every Saturday Claire and Eliza’s family takes a taxi through the city of Bangkok, Thailand, to teach English at a Thai church. Their students are children of Cambodian construction workers who are in Thailand to take advantage of the employment opportunities.

The growing economy in Bangkok provides a wealth of jobs that are often unavailable in the surrounding countries. Even a low-paying and dangerous job, such as construction work, is better than no job at all. Many workers send money to families back in their home countries. Some have visas to work, while others crossed borders illegally, knowing there would be employers who would hire them anyway.

A Thai pastor, Vino, and his wife Vicki noticed that many of these children do not attend school because they move around too much, or they can’t because they are in the country illegally. Hoping to remove children from the unsafe conditions around many construction sites, the couple opened up their church to these children.

Another RMM worker, Anna, first became involved with this ministry a few years ago and asked Claire to join her. Claire soon got her whole family involved. She explained that while their family helps out one day a week, there are activities at the church every day. “The pastor and his wife give so much of their time,” she said. “Every day they are there taking care of these kids. They do crafts with them and he mentors the older boys and teaches them more about God and taking care of the younger ones.”

When Claire, Eliza, their brother Silas (10), and their parents arrive at the church on Saturdays, they begin by teaching an English lesson. They report that the children are attentive, bright, and respectful – for the most part. While the number of children fluctuates, there can be up to forty children ranging in age from five to nineteen.

“Before we leave in the taxi, they all gather around us and pray for us. Multiple ones will put their hands on us and pray that we'll have a safe trip and thank God that we could come and teach them.”After the lesson they eat lunch together, spend some time getting to know each other better, and then they say goodbye. “Before we leave in the taxi, they all gather around us and pray for us,” Claire said. “Multiple ones will put their hands on us and pray that we'll have a safe trip and thank God that we could come and teach them.”

While most of these children do not have Christian parents, they were introduced to God through the work of Vino and Vicki. Many of them have responded positively to the story of Christ and are even sharing their faith with others.

Eliza told the story of one little boy’s report during a weekly sharing time: “He got up and he was really excited and he was talking about how he went to the market on Tuesday and how he was sharing with the people there. He said he was talking about God to this one man who sold him groceries. And that was just... wow. He's younger than me and he was so excited to be able to do that. I would be way too scared to talk to anyone about that.”

Claire and Eliza both said that they feel a deep connection with these children. They enjoy playing, learning, and praising God together. The biggest difference between them and these children, the girls noted, is that the children have less material possessions. “But they are still really content and joyful for what they have,” said Eliza.

“You can see that the joy they have is from God.” said Claire.

While it is exciting and encouraging for Claire and Eliza to see the faith of these children, it can be hard to know what will happen when they inevitably have to leave the area. They shared the story of one twelve-year-old girl they got to know, Dot Mai. “She is so enthusiastic and smart; she would win a lot of the games,” said Eliza, “But then her family moved back to Cambodia. We are not sure what the reasons were, but hopefully they are with the rest of their family now.”

“Where is she? What is she doing? Is she okay?” Claire asked, knowing she might never get any answers.

It is a lesson in trust for Claire and Eliza. But they see the effects that God has on the lives of these children, and they pray that God’s love will remain in their hearts wherever they go.


As you pray for Claire and Eliza’s family to continue showing the love of God to these children, ask God to reveal to you ways in which your family can minister together.



October 15, 2018

“I’m Just a Missionary Kid”: Exploring What it Means to be a Child from Another Culture

Interview with Hannah Zimmerman by Lydia Gingerich

Hannah Zimmerman’s parents, Leon and Naomi, worked with RMM in Albania from 2006 to 2011. She now works as the Third Culture Kid (TCK) Mentor for Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM). In this role, she serves the children of EMM workers by leading classes at various trainings, retreats, and conferences, helping them to process their identity, emotions, and cultural transitions. She is also developing a curriculum for TCKs and planning a networking platform for TCKs and their parents.

What is a TCK?

A Third Culture Kid is someone who has spent a significant number of childhood years outside of their parents' passport country. The “third culture” is the hybrid culture created by your parents’ culture with any other host cultures you live in. So it’s not like you would become a fourth culture kid if your parents move to a second host culture. Being a TCK is not something that you lose when you become an adult.

What has your experience been as a Third Culture Kid?

My family first moved to Albania when I was nine. Being a TCK did not come naturally to me. There were different challenges about my parents' assignment like moving within the country, being the only daughter, and my age. All those things combined to create a lot of barriers for me to navigate. It was challenging, but I would not trade it for anything. I would not want to go back to certain times, places, or selves that I was, but I would do it all over again for what I've learned. I definitely see the TCK part of myself as a gift. God has been so gracious and redeeming in my life. I’m grateful for the people he has brought into my life who have walked alongside me and my family during our transitions.“It was challenging, but I would not trade it for anything. I would not want to go back to certain times, places, or selves that I was, but I would do it all over again for what I've learned.”

What are some of the implications of labeling children of overseas workers as TCKs?

I think the misunderstandings or assumptions that come with these titles can be unhelpful or alienating for the TCK and those around him or her. Sometimes it feels like we are put in a box.

A helpful way for me to understand TCKs is that we are a culture without a place to point to on a map. The average TCK appreciates that they are a TCK, but they don't appreciate the amount of explaining they have to do, especially during re-entry into their parents’ culture or a furlough. I think that's when people start to say, "I'm not a TCK, I’m not a missionary kid, I'm just a kid."

If you would have talked to me four years ago I would have said, “I'm not a TCK, I'm a normal person and I lived in Albania, and Rosedale, Ohio, and now I’m living in Pennsylvania. Those places influenced me, but that doesn't make me a TCK.”

When I talk to parents about their children’s transitions, I liken their children to plants. I talk about how each plant requires the same necessities for survival, but, as with plants, they will each adapt to their new environment at a different pace. They will also thrive under different circumstances.

Why did you decide to work with TCKs?

Because I think TCKs should have someone who they can look to when they are going through the challenges of being a TCK, who can empathize with them. Feeling like I was the only one or that I was unique in my TCK-related struggles is something that I wouldn't want another TCK to experience.

Being a TCK can look like so many different things, and it is important for me to communicate that they have unique things to offer, but are not that different from their monocultural peers.

I’ve chosen to do this because I want to be a facilitator of conversation, activities, or times with the Lord where the joys and challenges of being a TCK can be talked about. I want to be a sounding board – the place where they can come and be heard or possibly receive insight, enabling them to then continue on their journey.

I'm really passionate about TCK health, especially during transition. Re-entry would probably be the place where my heart is the most. I think re-entry into a parent’s home culture can be a time when a TCK is most expected to fit in or “move on” from their life overseas.

What are some challenges unique to TCKs?

There's a book that I found recently called I Have to be Perfect, by Timothy L. Sanford, and I think that's definitely a challenge that TCKs feel. At some point they have probably felt like they are behind, insufficient, or even ahead of the game in a way. There is the tendency for TCKs to live in a fishbowl, or experience an increased need for self-introspection compared to their peers. This can especially be the case while on furlough or in the throes of transition (whether that's leaving or coming back).

Another challenge would be unresolved grief or loss of place, people, identity, or belonging. This is harder for TCKs because it can often be unrecognized. For example, if your dog dies, people will say, “Oh, I'm so sorry” but if you move to another country, people might not recognize that you also lost your dog, along with some of your favorite toys, a lot of friends, and a place at your school in the process.

Another challenge is expected repatriation, which is the term for the expectation (or understanding) that you will return to your home country, often your passport country. I experienced this during my time in Albania because I knew I would return to the states for university, and that my parents would, at some point, return to the U.S. as well. Growing up with this reality either in your own family or in that of your expatriate friends is a challenge that is unique to TCKs. This can cause TCKs to keep from putting down roots or making close friendships, from the understanding that a goodbye or change is imminent.

Some other TCK challenges are pride and shame. I think these often co-exist and create a paradox that can be challenging for the TCK to navigate. For example, I am proud of the experiences that I’ve had abroad, but I’m sometimes ashamed to talk about them because they’re simply the result of my parents’ decisions or the generosity of others. I am also sometimes ashamed that I am not “Albanian enough.” I feel such an affinity to the Albanian people and culture, but I’m forgetting the language and certain memories are starting to fade. This is sad and painful to admit.

How do you address those challenges?

I envision myself at age fourteen, as well as my brothers, and I ask, “What would I want to communicate to them?” So it is important for me to facilitate discussion and create activities around certain themes. In my curriculum right now, my five themes are:

Who am I? Everybody asks that question, but there's a lot of confusion faced specifically by TCKs. One activity I do with this is to mix blue clay (representing parents) with yellow clay (representing any number of host cultures), and see that they create a swirl of three colors: blue, yellow, and green, and the more you play with it, it’s just green. Then I facilitate conversation around being green in a blue or yellow context. I talk about how they do not lose the blue or the yellow. A TCK is not this new thing that does not belong anywhere, but I think this can be a tempting mindset for a TCK because we can have a sense of belonging in not belonging anywhere, which is unhealthy.

Culture clash. How do we perceive the different cultures we live in? How can we be a part of numerous cultures at the same time? I talk about the fact that God does not show favoritism to any culture and I help them find ways to connect with other people.

Grief and Loss. Identifying and finding ways to cope with some of the unseen losses. It is important for me to talk about gratitude here. I give out gratitude journals. On the left page I ask them to track things that they miss, are angry about, or are hard. And then on the other side, they write things that they are grateful for – present, past, or future.

Telling my story. After learning a bit about themselves and their cultures, it is important to talk about where we should ultimately base our identities: being the beloved daughter or son of God. This theme is based on Henri Nouwen’s writings. He talks about how our identity in Christ exists beyond the whole world, before time, after time, and is not a result of what others say, what I do, or what I have.

Goodbyes. I think if TCKs honor their grief and goodbyes, then they're more likely to do well in their next context. These activities include writing letters, creating memory lanterns, and naming things that have been or will be left behind during transition.

Is it important to use physical activities rather than just telling them the information?

If they're feeling an emotion and if they're doing something with their hands (especially if it's facilitated for healing or for connection), they are more likely to have a positive reframe of that memory or a positive coping mechanism. Simply going for a walk or completing a STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] challenge with Legos can create memories that remind the TCK that they are not alone. I try to give language and visual or kinesthetic context for the emotions they’re experiencing as we discuss memories or events they’ve experienced. This way they are equipped to revisit those emotions or experiences in positive ways. I love the connections that TCKs create with one another and I believe that one of the most comforting experiences is hearing “me too” from someone else, especially a peer.

Have you learned anything about your own experience through working with other TCKs?

Absolutely. I have gained a lot of healing and new insights into God's love for the world. I remember the first re-entry conference that I facilitated where there were a couple of girls who were close to the same age I was when I went through re-entry. I remember driving home from the conference and thinking, “Hannah, you have so much grace and empathy for these girls, and you don't have that for yourself. Why?" And so I am coming to a place of peace with my story and with some of the challenges of being a TCK.

The challenges that I experienced as a TCK brought a lot of questions about myself, missions, and God. Working with other TCKs has not necessarily answered those questions, but has brought a lot of peace. I see more of the gifts that can come from being a TCK. I see ways that God can redeem the hard experiences in my life as I am open about those things and offer them to him by serving others. I’m honored to have opportunities to engage the TCK part of me because, through that work, I feel like I’m able to revisit memories and honor people and events along the way.

What are some of the best parts about being a TCK?

I think TCKs gain a broader perspective of the world and of God. They often have the ability to adapt to and appreciate other cultures, or take on a variety of perspectives. Also wonder. Wonder is such a beautiful gift that children have and I think TCKs especially can have the privilege of experiencing a bigger picture of creation. Some of the other gifts that come with being a TCK include having friends around the world and having experiences in different countries or with people from different cultures. I’m currently enjoying the process of creating a TCK curriculum from an Anabaptist perspective, which has beautiful ties to our theologies of two-kingdoms, peace, and the Beatitudes.

What advice would you give to those working with or interacting with TCKs?

Ask them to tell you stories. They have stories that they would love to tell, but maybe because of the ways that questions are asked it feels like they have to say the same things over and over again. Children of missionaries who are raising support will hear a narrative about their lives or host cultures from their parents' perspective. Asking them to tell their own stories can be a beautiful way of honoring their unique experiences.

And then listen. For kids who are leaving soon, or who are on furlough, ask if there's something that they would like to see, experience, or eat before they move. And then follow through with that if you can. Listening is so important.

I think parents are often at a vulnerable place. Provide support for the parents because global transition really is a whole new world for both the parent and the kid. I see the parent as the main discipler or leader of their children, and the one who is best able to work with the TCK. So as much as I can support and pray for the parents, that is how I can best impact the kids in the long run.

Take time to treat the TCKs as normal people. That's the paradox, right? When do we engage all of this stuff, and when do we just say "Hey, let’s go outside and play soccer"? I try to remember Maya Angelou’s quote as I work with kids: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you’ve said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.”

Especially during times of transition, a TCK’s desire to engage with the TCK part of their identity comes in waves. So there will be times when they're less receptive to your attempts at talking about their life overseas. But keep being available. I moved to Lancaster County when I was seventeen and I was angry and sad. I didn't want to belong here. But now I'm grateful to the people who kept inviting me to things. I eventually got over that and I'm glad they weren't offended by my angst and anger. They were not afraid of me. That is a really validating thing.


Pray for TCKs. Pray for their friends, that they will have good people who can walk alongside them. Ask God to show you how you can walk alongside them. Each TCK is unique, but if you are close to them, I believe the Holy Spirit can show you unique ways to interact with that TCK.

This interview has been edited and condensed.



October 04, 2018

Empty Wells vs. God’s Infinite Love: A REACH Update

By Morgan, Leader of REACH Team Thailand

To be honest, I’m having quite a hard time coming up with the words to explain what happened or even express all that I have learned in the last two, very full weeks. When you boil a lot of it down, it all points to God’s love. It can sound so cliché, yet I’ve seen, once again, how foundational of a concept it is. It’s in the heart of the gospel and it has so much depth. In its perfection I find myself somewhere in the middle of it all, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Of the many concepts presented to us this week, one that stuck out to me was the whole idea of “stepping into” the momentum of Jesus and his love and righteousness. It is not by any act of our own doing, but it is by the act of Jesus on the cross, allowing us to receive the gift which we are so unworthy to receive. Sadly enough, it’s easy for me to get caught in the mindset of trying to earn God’s love or come up with something to offer in exchange for it. But that isn’t what he is asking of us. He has completed the work and declared, “It is finished!” He has freely given us his unconditional love and grace, and nothing we can do will change His love.

“I’m also walking away with a freedom to rest in who Jesus is and knowing that I don’t have to have all of the answers or know where each piece of life is supposed to fit in the puzzle.”This week we spent a lot of time looking at the “empty wells” we run to that only result in being void, fears we may be living out of, hurts that cripple, etc. We’ve looked at the ways that Jesus steps into those and speaks truth into all of the brokenness, and his redeeming work. As a result I’m walking away with a deeper gratitude for all that Jesus is, a deeper bond with the other participants, some answers, many questions, and a lot to think about. However, I’m also walking away with a freedom to rest in who Jesus is and knowing that I don’t have to have all of the answers or know where each piece of life is supposed to fit in the puzzle. Jesus sees, understands, and loves me where I’m at. I don’t need to try to rush ahead; I can live in the precious moments of today.



A Challenging Hispanic Example of “Mature and Multiply”

By Jewel Showalter

“You may have come from generations who’ve served the Lord, but I’m the first in my family,” Alejandro Colindres, the leader of Fraternidad Cristiana, a rapidly multiplying network of churches in New England, told CMC leaders in a special one-day Encounter in Montgomery, Indiana, July 19, 2018.

Along with his co-worker/translator Dennis Perdomo, Colindres told the story of how he was led to Christ as part of the work of a Mennonite missionary who was working with young people in Honduras.

“He held meetings in homes with ‘crazy’ young people. We found a spiritual home in this group. I’d never seen a Bible or been inside a church until I was 23. We saw a movement among the youth. We felt such passion to reach our families for Christ. We were all trained to preach the gospel and start cell groups wherever we went.”

Colindres had never intended to move to the U.S. but came for medical treatment for his young daughter 33 years ago, and worked in restaurants to support his family. By the time his daughter had completed three months of medical treatments he had started cell groups in Long Island McDonalds and Burger Kings. Over 30 people had joined the movement.

“After being here in the U.S. I learned that in order to be a missionary you have to go to school and raise a lot of money! I didn’t know that. We teach people if they start cell groups next door they’re missionaries,” Colindres said.

As Colindres and co-workers discipled the new believers and taught them how to build relationships and evangelize, the movement took off. None of their churches own buildings, but instead rent schools, bars, hotels, and community centers for larger weekly gatherings in addition to the weekly cell groups that meet in homes. They’re called to invest in people not property.

As church members make friends with co-workers, neighbors, and fellow students they invite the groups of around 30-50 new friends to Encounter Retreats. During the Encounters teachers explain the basics of Christian faith – who Jesus is, forgiveness, worship, prayer, baptism – and invite people to become followers of Jesus. 80 percent of those attending these day-long Encounters give their lives to Christ and are then connected to cell groups in their neighborhoods and invited to participate in their worship services.

Colindres said they started this pattern about 10 years ago and now there are four to five Encounters each month in different communities.

Since playing guitar and starting cell groups in New York City restaurants, Colindres and the movement he helped to spark have spread north into New England. He said what took one month in New York took two years in New England, but now there’s an explosion of new churches. “We see a hunger for God. We believe in what God wants to do here in New England.”

The movement follows a 25-minute standard. No one should have to go further than 25 minutes for a cell group. If there’s no cell group near you, start one, and keep rippling out. The movement keeps spreading – New York, Connecticut, New Jersey. There are also clusters of church plants in Florida and Atlanta.

Although the movement is primarily among Hispanics, Colindres said they also have a vision to reach their Anglo-American employers and neighbors. Nannies teach the children they care for about Jesus. Christian employees have a good reputation because of their honesty and hard-work. Recently a 14-year old Hispanic boy baptized his father’s Anglo boss in the man’s own Jacuzzi.

“We inspire each other to work, not to compare, criticize or compete. The Holy Spirit has deposited something in each of us!”“Most Anglos who come to faith through our movement end up going to other churches, but in the Spirit, we feed off each other. We inspire each other to work, not to compare, criticize or compete. The Holy Spirit has deposited something in each of us!”

Perdomo pastors an English-medium church in Norwalk, Connecticut, but most of the cell groups and churches in the network use Spanish. This has not stopped them from spreading internationally. Currently members minister in India, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania, Pakistan, and Indonesia in addition to a plethora of Central American, South American, and Caribbean countries where the majority of the U.S.-based members hail from.

International ministries have often sprung out of times of ministry and intercession – as several years ago when a cell group became burdened for Indonesia, while not even sure where the archipelago was. As they prayed all night many began to speak in strange tongues that Indonesian neighbors recognized as their mother tongue – a small Indonesian dialect.

Through these contacts a team travelled to Indonesia for ministry. It was so life-changing for Perdomo, who was working as a finance manager for a local company, that he gave up his job to work full-time in the ministry.

“I have no regrets,” Perdomo said, although at the time his immigrant parents who had invested sacrificially in his education, questioned him giving up his lucrative job.

“We need to train people in practical skills – like praying for the sick,” Colindres said. “When Jesus sent out his disciples he said ‘go do what I am doing.’ This calls for flexibility. Jesus taught about LIFE – not image and authority. Our people are trained to serve – and to operate in the supernatural. We have the church that we deserve, the church that we’ve decided to have.”

“Every church is birthed naturally, but we complicate things by buying land, buses, going to seminary. These are good but not the main goal. We’ve tried to maintain one focus – cell groups and discipleship. I invest my time in training leaders for this ever-expanding movement. We’ve started hundreds of cell groups and sent out close to 50 missionaries.

“God wants us to be open to change. There’s no one set way to baptize. We don’t have to meet only on Sundays – but whenever it suits the people. Some of our churches meet on Saturday evenings, some on Mondays, some on Sunday evenings when the bars are empty and glad to rent us their space.

“If we don’t change, the world is lost. We must pray and open ourselves. People have so many issues, but the solutions are spiritual, not political or economic. We teach our young children how to pray. They offer to pray for their teachers in the classroom. That’s the best way to get prayer into our public schools! Wherever we go God calls us to be channels of blessing. What we’ve seen, heard, and touched, we share. Don’t look for models or formulas.

“Seek God and do good. Have compassion for all people. They’re not scary Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or secular New Englanders – but ‘sheep without a shepherd.’”

In closing Colindres challenged his mostly-Anglo audience: “Love this nation. Be in prayer for this nation. We can reach people you can’t. You can reach people we can’t. We’re not just employees. We’re ministers of the gospel. All of us are one body, one team.”