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.

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November 30, 2017

Multiply: Let Us Pray

By Joe Showalter

A few years ago, one of my daughters was attending a secular college where following Jesus put her in a tiny minority. She and her Christian friends had lots of reasons to call out to Jesus for strength, wisdom, and courage to face the currents they were forced to swim against. When she had the opportunity to interact with some other Christian friends who were not in that kind of environment, she noticed that they didn’t seem to pray in the same way she and her college friends did. I was struck with her analysis: “I think the reason they don’t pray much is because they don’t need to.”

CMC has been commissioned by God to mature and multiply churches locally and globally. What’s it going to take to be faithful to this commission? What will it look like for us as individuals? What will our churches look like?

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December 12, 2016

Oh Jesus!

By Joe Showalter

Those were about the only words I could think of as I stood near a small boat a few weeks ago. The boat wasn’t where we usually find boats. This boat was inside a cathedral in Cologne, Germany. The sign said the boat had been confiscated by the army of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. It was being used by refugee smugglers on a route from Libya to Italy.

The boat was about 23 feet long. As I looked at it, I thought 30 people would crowd the boat, but the sign said a boat like that will carry as many as 100 people. They journey without food and water, and without protection from the sun, storm or cold. When the Maltese army found this boat, some of its occupants had suffocated and others had collapsed from being unable to breathe.

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October 20, 2015

The 10:2b Prayer and the 10:3a Command

I first heard of the “10:2b prayer” a few years back. I was at a weekend seminar, and the speaker encouraged us to set an alarm on our phones at 10:02 every day. When the alarm goes off, he suggested, stop and pray the 10:2b prayer.

You probably know the story in Luke 10 where Jesus was about to send out 35 or 36 teams of two to the places he “was about to go.” In verse 2, he began his short list of instructions by saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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June 26, 2015

Taught by God

Last Saturday I attended a conference at which we spent a few minutes reflecting on some verses from John 6, where Jesus quotes Isaiah, saying, “They will all be taught by God.” That concept isn’t one I’d thought much about before. Sure, I knew that Jesus was an amazing rabbi (teacher), and that the Holy Spirit is described as one who “will teach you all things,” and I hear people say things like “God has been teaching me to be patient.” But God the Teacher hadn’t really been on my radar.

“They will all be taught by God.” What is Jesus saying here? What sorts of things does God the Teacher teach us? Jesus doesn’t go on to say exactly what God teaches, he simply says what happens to people who listen and learn from him: “Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” God the Teacher enables us to come to Jesus.

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March 05, 2015

Goodbye Hurts in Every Language

A little over a month ago, late one evening, I landed at the airport in Managua, Nicaragua. By the time I arrived at the guest house where my traveling companions and I were staying for the night, it was approaching midnight. I was tired, but I knew I wanted to drag myself out of bed the next morning at 4:30 because something special was about to happen. A few hours later, still bleary eyed, we headed back to the airport to say goodbye.

If you haven’t heard the testimony of Jonatan Artola (check it out here), it’s well worth your time. Jonatan is a young man from the Nicaraguan campo. “Outback” might be the best word to give you a picture of the kind of environment Jonatan has come from. Imagine a village of small huts with dirt floors and no running water. Free range chickens, now a luxury here in our country, mingle with pigs, dogs, and people in this quiet spot largely untainted by the frenzy of modern life.

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November 03, 2014

Do You Mean Discipleship or Disciple Making?

What’s the difference between discipleship and disciple making? Are they basically interchangeable terms? I’ve been thinking about these terms for a couple of reasons. First, because they are at the heart of what RMM is all about. Jesus gave his disciples the commission to make disciples of all the earth’s peoples, and as spiritual descendants of those first disciples, we in turn accept the call to make disciples.

I’ve also been thinking about these terms because one of the three aspects of Conservative Mennonite Conference’s new strategic vision is discipleship (along with leadership and partnership). I am pleased that together as churches, we are committed to discipleship at our core.

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August 06, 2014

Transformation and Mission

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L-R: Yolanda, Alejandro, Omar, Dion and Naty (leaders of the church home group), Anabel

Jesus Did What Only Jesus Can Do

Last month Janice and I had the privilege of attending a special wedding. Weddings are always special, but this one was extra special.

It wasn’t extra special because it was in June, of course, since June is the most popular month for weddings.

It wasn’t extra special because the service itself was perfect. It was supposed to happen in a beautiful park, but unfortunately it rained—really hard!—right when the wedding was supposed to start. Most of us got thoroughly soaked, and since the storm was in no hurry to move on, we ended up moving on. The reception hall did double duty that night.

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April 02, 2014

Missions: Poisoned or Pure?

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At its worst, missions deserves the kind of negative critique that author Barbara Kingsolver delivers in The Poisonwood Bible through the character of Nathan Price. Culturally insensitive and theologically narrow-minded, Price heads deep into the African jungle to convert the Congolese heathen. Taking no time to understand the culture, he plows ahead with his immediate goals: to get the women properly dressed (by his standards) and to baptize as many of the Congolese as possible, as quickly as possible (in a crocodile-infested river).

On the other end of the spectrum is Rachel Lane in John Grisham’s The Testament. Rachel disappears deep into Brazil’s rain forest to live sacrificially among a small isolated tribe. She makes their village her home and their people her people. She lovingly proclaims and demonstrates the love of Jesus. When she is made aware of her wealthy father’s death back in the US and his $11 billion bequest to her, she is hesitant to receive it. Rachel is content where she is, and she fears that money of that quantity will only bring her trouble. Year after year, she selflessly pours her life into the work she knows her Master has called her to.

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January 13, 2014

CMC Comes to Boston

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An exciting development at RMM is the relationship we have been building recently with Tim and Alice Colegrove. Tim and Alice have been living and ministering in Boston, Massachusetts. Both have recently completed graduate degrees—Tim at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and Alice at Boston University—and have been loving and serving homeless young adults who populate the streets near Harvard University. God has been calling the Colegroves in some specific ways in the last year, and RMM is privileged to be part of their journey.

One piece of that calling is about belonging. As Tim and Alice searched for a theological home, they discovered the Anabaptist family. They particularly resonated with the Jesus-centered evangelical Anabaptism that they found in CMC’s understanding of Scripture. So they initiated contact and began to build relationships among us.

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November 12, 2013

Full Minds and Overflowing Hearts

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"You did WHAT for four days?!"

Nearly every time I’ve told someone what I did a couple weeks ago, I’ve gotten a response like “Wow!” or “Are you serious?” The activity that I’ve just described to them is a four-day Bible study that about 25 of us did together at the Rosedale International Center at the end of September. We mostly ignored our phones, our email, and our Facebook friends and dove headfirst into the book of Acts. Many of us were a little apprehensive as we got started. Could we actually sit through a Bible study that lasts that long?

Here’s how it worked. Each one of us had a copy of the book of Acts in manuscript form in a small binder. It was about 70 pages of text, and instead of having chapters and verses (a relatively recent addition to our Bibles), we had line numbers. Dan Byler, who was facilitating our study, suggested that we use colored pencils or markers to highlight, underline, circle, or otherwise mark the text. (He didn’t specifically mention doodling, but I noticed that my wife took some liberties with that ☺) Dan encouraged us to ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to what he wanted us to see, and then look for words, ideas, principles—anything that stood out to us.

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January 09, 2013

The Man Who Influenced a Generation

“Why did you go to Latin America?”

I was sitting with a group of 50-60 former RMM workers in Latin America who had gathered for a reunion this past summer. During the 1960s, 70s, and into the early 80s, RMM sent dozens of young adults as Voluntary Service workers to Latin America. Here they were, decades later, gathering again with friends with whom they shared some common threads in the tapestries of their lives.

They shared lots of old stories, spoke (and sung) lots of Spanish, and laughed a lot. This particular evening, group moderators Nelson and Carol Martin asked them to reflect on their own distinct reasons for going to Nicaragua or Costa Rica as young adults. He assured them that he wasn’t necessarily looking for spiritual answers to that question, though of course those reasons were welcomed.

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