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May 31, 2019

“Doing things they do and going places they go”

By Lydia Gingerich

“It wasn’t something forced. We just had our eyes and ears open when people came and talked to us,” Rhonda said, as she described the process of making new friends in Thailand. Rhonda and her husband Nixson recently returned to the States after serving a four year term in Bangkok. They also both served in Thailand before getting married (Nixson for four years and Rhonda for three). During this time they formed friendships at the gym, in coffee shops, at school, and in homes. Their many relationships provided an opportunity to hear stories, have new experiences, and share the love of God.

While in Bangkok, Nixson and Rhonda discipled new believers and trained emerging leaders, focusing on university students and immigrants to the city and always looking for ways to reach out and get involved in the lives of those around them.

“It’s doing things they do and going places they go,” Nixson said. He and Rhonda tried to live in such a way that made room for opportunities to meet people and share their faith.

For Nixson, these opportunities often came when he was at the gym. As soon as people found out that he was not Thai, they were curious about who he was and why he was living in Thailand. They wanted to practice their English and talk about world politics with him. As time went on, he found that many of these friends had varied interests – some that he knew nothing about, but it was important not to become bored or disinterested.

“I worked out sometimes with a guy, and he would talk about watches. And I can't remember how many he had but each one went for around 100,000 baht [equivalent to over 3,000 U.S. dollars]. He would ask me, ‘Do you know this watch?’ So I'd say, ‘Hmm, let me see it.’ It was something I didn't know anything about, but I would listen to him to spend time with him.”

Like every long-lasting friendship, once it starts, it takes work to sustain. Rhonda explained that since eating out in Thailand can be quite cheap, they often spent time with friends over delicious Thai street food or in small cafés. While some topics of conversation were stretching and difficult to keep up with, there always seemed to be something they all had in common.

“Be open to learn new things and show interest in people’s lives that are different from yours.”Because many people in Bangkok have traveled there from other parts of the country and world, the topic of missing family and home was often a relatable subject. They also found that religion was something most people liked to discuss.

Rhonda said, “There are a lot of Catholic schools there. So people will have gone to Catholic schools and they would have heard about the Bible or Jesus or things like that. Then they are curious about what they learned in school. A lot of them hear about it, but they don't really get it. They learned a chant, but wonder what it actually means. So that was a good opportunity to share.”

Many of their friends would also invite them to visit a temple. Because the majority of people living in Thailand practice Buddhism, there are many temples in the capital city of Bangkok. They are not only used for worship, but often become tourist attractions and places to meet up with friends.

“They would invite lots of people to go, so sometimes they would take us along,” Rhonda said. “Going with them showed that we were interested in their lives and that we cared, but then, we didn't take part in the giving and bowing. So that was an opportunity to say: ‘we are interested in you and we care about you, but we aren't doing this because...’ and give our reason.”

While these friendships were mostly enjoyable and full of positive interactions, there were times that were less than pleasant. Many of their friends would invite them to visit relatives in more rural parts of the country. Nixson explained that the people in these locations were not used to seeing foreigners. He said that in these villages they were expected to sleep on the floor with just a blanket, and eat food that they were not used to – “insects and frogs and things like that.”

Nixson and Rhonda both said that they chose to brave these sometimes awkward situations in order to preserve friendships. “There were times that I didn't want to go somewhere because I didn’t know what would happen,” Rhonda said. “But just embracing that and enjoying it. There were some things that were very awkward for us but very meaningful for them.”

After sticking with their friends through the uncomfortable and awkward times, Rhonda and Nixson found that their friendships were deeper. They were able to have discussions on a personal level about things that mattered to all of them. These relationships were built on trust and the knowledge that they would not just walk away when things got difficult.

“Sometimes we get offended so easily when people have a different point of view – it can be political, religious, or any other thing. We try to find friends who are people like us – not making any sacrifices.” Nixson said. “But we really want to make friends and do what God is calling us to do. To make those kind of sacrifices with people who have different kinds of interests and different points of view.”

Nixson and Rhonda learned a lot of lessons about seeking and sustaining friendships during their time in Thailand, and they hope to bring those same principles to their lives here in the U.S. To those trying to make new friends, no matter where they live, Rhonda gave this final piece of advice:

“Be open to learn new things and show interest in people’s lives that are different from yours. There are two things: first, try to find things in common; because I'm sure you have things in common that you don't think you do. But also, be open and take interest in things that they may be interested in that you aren't. Maybe you will take an interest in it or you'll learn something new.”

Nixson and Rhonda left Thailand earlier this year and are currently living in Holmes County, Ohio. Please pray for them as they adjust to living in the U.S. and find ways to keep up friendships in Thailand while making new connections here.

May 17, 2019

Stories of Hope

Following the call to share God’s word in another culture is difficult and many workers report times of fatigue and disconnection. But the hopeful message of God’s redemption is more powerful than any discouragement. Followers of Christ can put their trust in a God who has called us out of darkness and into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Below are three stories which speak of that light.

A Resurrection
By Phil, RMM worker in Spain

Springs of Life Camp

John Calvin observed that “the story of the church is a story of many resurrections.” We can certainly see that on a macro level through the last two thousand years of church history. Periods of time in which the church has been faithful to the Lord and his word and God’s kingdom on earth has flourished, have been eclipsed by times of apostasy and unfaithfulness. Miraculously, the church has, time and time again, been lifted out of its malaise and restored to fruitful ministry by the intervention of God’s Spirit.

On a more modest level, we feel we have seen something of a resurrection in our own ministry situation here. The Farm School Project, to connect the local Christian camp ministry to the public schools, has been through many difficult times when we thought the project was dead.

Not least of these was when the director, Antonio Cherino, had to be laid off by the camp due to lack of funding. But there have been other obstacles and hurdles along the way. The Springs of Life camp had to get its facilities up to the requirements necessary for hosting people from the general public. The sewage system, kitchen facilities, water treatment system, dining area, and grounds of the camp all had to be improved, and approved, by the local authorities before the Farm School could open. Time and again it seemed that the project would get hung up on this hurdle or that hurdle.

So, we were both grateful and amazed recently when the Farm School Project was not only able to establish a legal basis for hosting schools at the Springs of Life camp but also contracted with a public school to bring seventy-five students to the camp for a day of learning in the outdoors at the camp. Hopefully, this will create a relational link between these school children, who have had little exposure to the gospel, and the Springs of Life camp.

Can you think of something God restored in your life that you once thought was dead? Please join us in praising a God who can redeem any situation.

Melodies of Truth
By Morgan, REACH Team Thailand

We recently spent an evening working with NightLight International, an organization that seeks to reach, rescue, and restore those in the sex industry in Bangkok. I started out feeling frazzled from the rush of setting up as we were running behind, and what seemed like a million little things playing in the back of my mind. We stopped for a quick time to pray, but I couldn’t help but feel distracted. However, as we played our music and the melodies rolled into the streets, finding the ears of those passing by on the sidewalks and causing them to stop in their tracks to listen, it made me think…how often am I just going about life, minding my own business, not stopping long enough to hear what the father is speaking?

“Be still and know.”

With a handful of songs behind us, I took a deep breath. I was reminded that it is not I who does anything, but the Father. I felt my spirit relax and the atmosphere around me change. There is something powerful about singing truth in a place that seems overcome by darkness. It speaks hope. Sometimes I wish I could see what is happening in the hearts of those passing by and the path that they have walked, but I trust that the Father is drawing them near, planting seeds that will one day take root. How often do I wander the “streets” in my life, minding my own business? Focused on the wrong things and caught in a distracted, pre-occupied state, the Father, in a moment’s notice, sings melodies of truth into my being. He captivates me. He causes me to stop in my tracks. He stirs a curiosity and wonder in my spirit. He speaks truth.

“You are my beloved.
I will lead you.
I am with you.
You are not alone.
The battle is won.”

Please keep this team, and all of the REACHers, in your prayers as they finish outreach and return to Columbus. Pray that they stay connected to Jesus during this turbulent time and make good connections and plans for the future.

Laying a Foundation in the Middle East
By Jerry, RMM Mediterranean Regional Director

The Apostle Paul had amazing insight. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth…For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 3:6-7, 11)

"May we wholeheartedly believe his promise, 'If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.'"All our striving to find the perfect methodology, the perfect missiological approach, the perfect form of church seems to miss the point: We already have the perfect Savior. Moreover, when we continuously think (and argue) that if only others would do things our way we would see greater results, we aren’t much different than the disciples arguing about who is the greatest. Planting churches amongst unreached people groups is hard work – impossible, actually, apart from divine intervention. May we humbly cry out for more of Jesus! May we agree with him that, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” May we wholeheartedly believe his promise, “If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.”

I recently had the privilege of spending ten days in the Middle East. It was great to reconnect with Esta* and Judah and Rayna,* as well as numerous church leaders through connections made by Emmanuel and Jill*. It was great being able to travel with Emmanuel and Jill, and also to benefit from their extensive network of connections in the Middle East.

It is very encouraging to see a growing movement to Jesus in the Middle East. There is an online atheist club in a big city there with over 10,000 members, and recently the leader of that group came to faith through watching a Christian TV broadcast. Although they call themselves atheists, it’s quite possible that they are more anti-Islam than anti-God. When we attended church at the fellowship in that city, another member of that same atheist club stopped by after the service. The pastor talked with him for close to two hours, sharing what it means to be a follower of Jesus. The young man sat in rapt attention, often asking questions. May God call forth new sons and daughters out of this darkness!

As we see this hopeful situation unfold in the Middle East, pray for continued endurance for believers in this region.

*names changed and last names omitted for security

May 14, 2019

Pressing On: A REACH Update

By Morgan, REACH Team Thailand

The REACH teams have all finished their six-month outreaches and are beginning two weeks of re-entry at the Rosedale International Center. The following update from Morgan, Thailand team leader, was written during their last weeks in Bangkok.

It’s the final countdown – the final stretch of goodbyes, packing, and reentry in Ohio. To be quite honest, it feels like I never left Bangkok since entering the program two years ago, and that I will still be here for a while. Life here has become my “normal” and my “known.” My comfort zone has been expanded to include this country – many, many miles away from home. So now, when I’m faced with the reality that it will all come to an abrupt stop, I think back on my time here over the past two years and think to myself, “now what?”

Now, I breathe in, seeking to embrace the transitions and change to come. I say goodbye, knowing God used me in their lives in some way and will continue to work in their lives after I leave. I remind myself that God is sovereign, in control, and omnipresent. I feel the sadness of leaving (knowing I may never see these people again), the joy of reuniting with loved ones, and the nervousness of the unknowns all at once. “Abba is walking with me every step of life, rejoicing and weeping with me, and I rest knowing I am fully known and loved by him.”As seasons come and go, and people do the same, the sweetness of relationship and the presence of Abba becomes something more and more treasured. Sometimes it’s sad thinking how my friends and family will never really know the things I’ve experienced, places I’ve seen, and people I’ve met in the last year, but there is something in the sadness that reminds me of the Father’s heart for me. Abba is walking with me every step of life, rejoicing and weeping with me, and I rest knowing I am fully known and loved by him.

As I think about things that I’ve learned and experienced over the past nine months, a theme that I see is letting go and trusting the Father. As I was lifting my team to the Father before our paths officially crossed, I felt like identity was a theme that he kept pressing on my heart for the coming year, and now I can look back and see how that is something that’s been woven amongst different things that I’ve been learning. He taught me that the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders and challenged me to let go of responsibilities and pressures that I was not meant to carry. He taught me to surrender the things and people that I often hold on to, assuring me that he is holding them and cares more than I do. He taught me to have faith, go with the flow, and align myself with his expectations, not my own. He replaced judgment with compassion, fear with confidence in him, and hurts with healing. He taught me to delight in all he is, finding him even in the small, mundane feeling moments of life. He taught me to love sacrificially, lead by example, and let go of control.

Even though this is my last blog, I know that the Father is not finished. In the same way, he has been continually working at home, he will continue to work here, and in me. I know that two years ago I would have never guessed what lied ahead for me. It leads me to wonder if I will say the same in another two!

Please continue to lift up the REACH participants over the next two weeks as they go through re-entry, process their outreach experiences, and step into whatever God has next in their lives.

May 10, 2019

Fearless: A REACH Update

By Sara, REACH Team Indochina

Fearless. What does this mean? I don’t actually think it means a lack of fear, but rather a sense of courage. Where one embraces the fear and pushes onward. Now maybe that’s me just putting a positive spin on the fact that I tend to be a fearful person, but I don’t think fear defines me. Papa has taught me so much about the difference between being consumed in fear and not living the free life he has for me, and living free from the shackles of fear.

This past week our team took our vacation in the countryside, were we kayaked, caved, and saw elephants. We also got to swim in a beautiful lagoon at the base of a waterfall. At the lagoon there was a BIG tree that had thick long branches hanging over the water…with rope swings and jumping spots.
When we got to the lagoon, the guys climbed up and jumped. They lived; no injuries; smiles on their faces.

Now I didn’t want to be outdone, so I shakily climbed up, and after a mini panic, jumped into the water. It was so much fun and felt freeing as I stepped off the branch.
Then Katie decided she wanted to give it a try, so I told her I would go with her. She reached the top, looked down at the water, and started walking back toward the ladder that I was still climbing up. I blocked her way, gave some encouraging words, and then eventually stepped out of the way. I wouldn’t force her to do it if she truly didn’t want to. But, she faced her fears and jumped in like a champion!

Now you’re expecting me to say I jumped in after her, right? Well, you would be wrong! Instead, I started to panic, not just a little, but a lot. My eyes watered and I couldn’t let go of the railing. I turned around and began to climb down. I was giving into the fear like I have countless times in my life, in various ways. Then Seth ran over and encouraged me. At the moment his words meant nothing. I was too caught up in my own fear that I couldn’t hear what he was saying, and I couldn’t get myself to jump.

I calmed down eventually, let go of the railing, and jumped. You know what happened? I lived and all was fun.

Fear and comfort zones are like the tree I jumped from. Their roots go deep. Sometimes you don’t realize how ensnared you are until Papa calls you to step out of it.

“…I can live fearless – knowing that if I am nervous it’s okay because Papa can see the bottom of the water, and created me to swim in it.”Sometimes it’s easy to step off of the tree the first time. Then a day, week, or month pass and you find yourself right back up in your comfortable tree. This time when Papa asks you to leave it again, you start to panic. You think of the things that could go wrong, the uncomfortable things that might happen, or you think the tree that you’ve built is better than what Papa has for you. While you’re panicking, Papa is standing with you on the tree in the middle of your mess speaking truth to your heart, waiting for you to calm down and hear his voice, and eventually guide you to take a step of faith.

When I leave my “fear tree” great things happen. For one, I breathe freely. I don’t have to have all the puzzle pieces of my life put together. I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to keep my eyes on my loving Father who will guide me to take steps that I can’t see the bottom of.

Do I know what’s next? Nope. But I know that my Father loves me, and loves my amazing new friends and this culture, and will take care of us. He can see the bottom of the waters and created us to swim in it. Therefore, I need not fear.

Please pray all of the REACHers, that they would be able to trust God during these transitions, and continue pursuing a fearless life.

May 02, 2019

Introducing Alexis: Food Services Assistant

By Lydia Gingerich

Over the last few months we have been introducing our 2019 interns. This group of seven REACH graduates will spend the year deepening their relationship with God, serving at the RIC, and being discipled by the SEND Department. RMM is grateful for their hard work and is excited to see them grow this year.

Alexis is this year’s Food Services Assistant, hailing from Belleville, Pennsylvania. She loves sports, calligraphy, reading books, and even has her own small photography business. Alexis also enjoys cooking and baking and is glad to have opportunities to practice these activities through her internship.

“Alexis mentioned that before REACH she became worried when her future looked unclear, but now she can get excited, knowing God is in control.”During her year in the REACH program, Alexis’ team went to Spain and the island of Cyprus. “A big theme over outreach was learning to trust God – through the hard things that happened, or even through the good things,” she said. Alexis mentioned that before REACH, she became worried when her future looked unclear, but now she can get excited, knowing God is in control.

This year, Alexis is looking forward to forming deeper relationships with the other interns as well as those in the City Challenge and REACH programs. Deepening her relationship with God is another aspect of this internship that Alexis looks forward to: “A focus that has been prevalent so far this year has been learning more about who I am, and who God is, and who he's made me to be.”

Pray for Alexis and the other interns as they continue to get to know each other and work in their roles. Pray that God will use them to impact the many people who come to the RIC this year.