Tag Archives: Missions

Conflict affects all projects, but hope remains

by Gordon and Sharon Skopnik

SOUTH SUDAN–The overall situation in South Sudan has worsened through the years, with conflict heightening between the government and rebel groups over oil, resources, and power. This began in 2013 and then continued to escalate so that by 2016 there is war between tribes, leading to a failed state.

The conflict has also had a negative effect on the economy causing severe inflation. This has caused the South Sudanese people much difficulty in obtaining the necessary resources to meet basic needs. Food shortage has been an issue, in part due to the dry season (January to April), but also because of conflict.

When people are fleeing for their lives, they leave their crops behind unharvested. Militia attacks in Maridi, Mundri, and Yei have put a strain on the projects that Serving South Sudan has in those towns.

In Yei many children lost their academic materials through the attacks and have yet to return to school or even to their home villages. The economic and military instability has had a drastic effect on all of Serving South Sudan’s projects.

Miraculously, all of the projects continue to operate and all of the program and project leaders are surviving either locally or in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. As we have watched our friends, co-workers and ministry partners flee to safer havens, mostly refugee camps in Northern Uganda, God has been leading these dear saints to safety. Up to this point none have lost their lives, a miracle in a time of civil war and unrest.

So now they are in refugee camps—now what? A team working in a Northern Uganda Refugee Camps in December 2016 reported some good news is that one of the communities through church leadership resolved and buried their tribal, denominational, and political differences and agreed to leave as one people of South Sudan.

Through the ministry of an Avant Team, as an associate to the EMC, we were able to see 110 people of different tribes give over their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We know there are many who are praying for this country, and we continue to ask for prayer so that the prince of peace might rule. So is there a better future for the children of South Sudan? Yes!

You have an exciting opportunity to help through prayer and partnership—with the Prince of Peace—into these refugee camps scattered across east Africa. The nation’s leaders recognize that the future of the country lies in the character of its young people and in the hands of the church.

And that’s why we continue to educate people in church planting so that when these people go back to South Sudan, they go back with the Spirit of the Prince of Peace, promoting the spirit of peace and reconciliation, and bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to which ever tribe they come from. Together we will see God answer prayer.

Gordon and Sharon Skopnik (Wymark) serve in South Sudan with Avant.

Bolivia: Radio license granted

by Caroline Krahn

BOLIVIA–Exciting things are happening here at Casa de la Amistad. We have been without radio now for about a year and a half and the people can’t wait to have it back and neither can we.  In July we received word that San Jose’s radio license had been granted.

Much work has been done and as of today, the temporary studio and tower are well on their way to being complete.  The goal is to have the radio on the air by the end of December.

MEM Bolivia’s vision statement states that our ministry will concentrate in three areas: evangelism and discipleship, education, and economic development.  The radio will fulfill all of these and reach many, many people that we never could in person.

Broadcasts will consist of pre-recorded programs such as “Fruhes met Hopninj” (Women With Hope) by Joyce Dyck and programs produced by Square One World Media, including a health program by Nurse Irene Marsch and “Waut’s Dit?” (What’s This?) by Sieglinde Toews. There are children’s stories by Taunte (Aunt) Helen and evangelical and discipleship messages from many great Low German speakers.

Our desire is also to air a program giving financial education to the people. Up to date news from the colonies around us and world news, including weather, is also a great hit. And, of course, lots of music; the people love singing and listening to music.

This is just a sample. The radio covers a vast range of topics and there is something for everyone to enjoy. When the news of the granting of the radio license went out in the new community of Hacienda Verde, the people proclaimed, “Well, just don’t plan any Bible studies or singstunds (Singing Hour) or other programs at the times when there is live broadcasting on the radio because we will all be at home listening. No one will come to church.”

At this time the radio will reach people within an 80 km radius from the town of San Jose de Chiquitos. We will broadcast live in Spanish, Low German, and some Quechua.  And there are always some songs in English and High German as well.

We believe that this will also create more traffic here at the centre and make more business for the bookstore. We are ready. The vision is that the person doing the live Low German broadcasting would also follow up with the people who are being ministered to by home visits in the colonies.

In the past two weeks, two men have been added to the family of God. We believe that the Christians who have to remain in secret will once again get their spiritual food and many people will be added to the Kingdom through the radio ministry. Would you please pray for this ministry?

Caroline and Henry Krahn (Picture Butte) serve with MEM.

Mexico: The Privilege of Going on a Prayer Team

by Phil and Lydia Hamm

GUADALAJARA, MEXICO–We had the privilege of going on a Missions Prayer trip to Guadalajara on Nov. 8 to 16, 2016. Thank you for supporting and praying for us. What a great time of prayer and fellowship we had with missionaries John and Connie Reimer, Ernie and Diane Koop, and Dallas and Tara Wiebe.

We joined up with three other couples and two singles from Manitoba in Houston, Texas, for the final leg of the flight to arrive at 8:30 on Tuesday evening. We stayed at the missionaries’ homes where we also had a number of prayer sessions and Bible studies. We did a prayer walk in the park, prayed at the school attended by Dallas and Tara Wiebe’s children, and prayed in downtown Guadalajara.

The Mexican hospitality was fabulous, and we enjoyed some of the cultural sites around Guadalajara. We met with each missionary, and prayed over their ministry and individuals with whom they are working.

On Sunday we had a gathering of all the groups that study the Bible with the missionaries. This was the first time that many of them had met other Mexicans studying with EMC missionaries. It took about 90 minutes for people to show up. A worship service began at 1:30.

This was also the first time that some of them had been to an evangelical worship service. They enjoyed the singing. Cam Kornelson shared a touching testimony. What a great privilege to preach and share the Word of God with them. That was followed by a graduation service for three ladies who, in two years, finished the six books on Matthew in the SEAN program.

They had a farewell service for Jessie Friesen, who came with the short-term ASCEND program in January and was leaving on Nov. This is a program we would greatly encourage young adults to consider if you are sensing God leading you into ministry or missions.

Following the service we had a barbecue lunch. During the lunch people mingled, got to know each other, had fun, and enjoyed great food. Eventually we did get to the desserts, and we sang Happy Birthday to Lydia Hamm, Minna Thiessen, and several others who were having their birthdays in the next week.

To work off some of the great food, they brought out hockey sticks and the men had a floor hockey game. The women didn’t just want to stand by and cheer, so when the men were tired out, they took to the floor and enjoyed hockey too.

What a blessing to get to know the missionaries, brothers, and sisters in Christ in Guadalajara, and spend time in prayer with and for them. There are many trials and struggles that people face; and, through those problems, they begin seeking a closer walk with Christ. The missionaries are there to guide them through the tough times and into an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Please pray for the Guadalajara missionaries. We hope some of you will consider going next year on the Missions Prayer team to Guadalajara. What faith stretching and growing experiences we had and that await you as well.

Phil and Lydia Hamm (Leamington) are a ministry couple and retired missionaries. They drew upon the EMC Board of Missions’ travel subsidy ($500/visit) available for pastors and church leaders who visit missionaries on the field. Contact Gerald Reimer at the national office for details.

Paraguay: Live in the Land

by Erna Plett

PARAGUAY–How time has flown by. It is eight and a half months since I came back to Paraguay from Canada. The Lord’s timing in different situations and events is amazing.

Although my house was waiting for me with my belongings, it still took more time than I anticipated to actually settle down in it. At the beginning of May, I got a phone call telling me of a fellow-retired missionary having gotten very sick. That same day I was asked to help out. This meant going to Lucero, an hour and a half away from Caaguazu.

God provided all around, and by evening I was in Lucero, starting a job or ministry that I had not imagined happening. Day and night I was occupied helping in one way or another. At times it seemed like any minute our patient could be called into eternity. She also prayed to be released, to have Jesus come for her.

However, one day after another went by and she still was with us. Little by little she regained her strength till she could sit up and slowly start feeding herself. Eventually she could get out of bed and be in a wheelchair. She joined the rest of the people in the dining room at the seniors’ home to which she had moved less than a month before she became ill.

So, after three months of fairly steady work in Lucero, I came back to Caaguazu to actually settle into my house and new neighbourhood. For the past three and a half months I have been fairly busy trying to make my place more homey.

I still have things left to unpack and put in its place. A lot of work has gone into finishing details of construction and starting to plant fruit trees, shade trees, and other plants. God provided wonderful working crews to do various jobs that needed tackling to make my place more like I had envisioned it to be. Again God has provided in marvellous ways.

I am starting to receive company for which I am glad; it is part of my present hospitality ministry. A special reunion with two ladies recently took place. I had helped them some eight years ago, when they were in high school, in their walk with God. What a blessing to see how God has guided and helped them in their individual lives.

If someone needs to be encouraged to spend some time in a place where they can enjoy the beautiful scenery around my place, as well as see cows and horses in the community, I am here to allow the Lord to use me in the lives of those needing a place to retreat.

A Bible verse that the Lord showed me while still in Canada is this: ¨Live in the land and be safe/faithful.¨ I so enjoy my surroundings here, working on the yard and rejoicing in the Lord. Slowly I am getting to know younger and older neighbours. Lord, make me a channel of blessing to each one.

Erna Plett (Treesbank) retired a year ago from serving with EMC Board of Missions. She lives, where she served, in Paraguay.

Come Celebrate God’s Work in Nicaragua!

by Ken Zacharias

A total of 33 churches and outreaches—that’s only part of what a half-century of our EMC ministry in Nicaragua has contributed toward! And that’s why the EMC is planning to join the celebration and a learning tour (April 4 to 11, 2017).

EMC Missions began ministry in Nicaragua in 1966 with the efforts of Fred and Doris Friesen. Our sister FIEMN conference, which developed, celebrates its 50th anniversary on April 8, 2017.

Doris Friesen writes, “Can it be that it was 50 years ago that Fred and I did that long trek to Nicaragua, over 5,000 miles by land in our white camper truck, with our two little girls, to a land unknown with only a map and the Holy Spirit as our guide!”

There was “no one at the other end to meet us!” she says. “We were either courageous or fools! But we are never fools when we obey the Lord. And how the Lord blessed us so richly in spite of many difficulties!”

The FIEMN churches and EMC guests will hold a one-day celebration at Camp Maranatha with at least two services and additional prayer services through the night.  As part of the event, the FIEMN and the EMC Board of Missions have approved a special project for Camp Maranatha to help replace 80 bunk beds and 160 mattresses. (This will greatly assist the FIEMN and its retreat ministry.

You are invited to attend this anniversary! It will be inspirational and educational. You will be encouraged in your faith.

The story of the FIEMN is one of planting, political revolution, and growth within one of the poorest countries in Latin America—yet you will hear from believers how Christ has blessed them. 

Lester and Darlene Olfert, former missionaries to Nicaragua, will lead the Learning Tour as it visits FIEMN churches and ministries (April 4-11). You will meet FIEMN committee leaders and pastors, and appreciate the strong faith clearly evident in believers’ lives and in church life.

You will meet Pastor Gerardo Chavarría, FIEMN’s president, and be challenged by his faith story and ministry example. Gerardo pastors the Diriomito congregation. He is one of two Pastoral Supervisors who visits, every three months, the churches for which he is responsible. These churches are located in the mountaineous region east of Managua, Boaco province, where there are bad roads or no roads. No roads means walking or riding a mule. Ever ridden a mule?

Ken Zacharias
Ken Zacharias

Local pastors, visited in different regions, will share how the Lord has blessed them. You will encounter cultural interests—perhaps the Masaya volcano or a coffee plantation. Do you prefer lava or caffeine?

The trip will cost about $1,800, including flights (more exact pricing will follow). For information on the celebration and tour, please contact Diana Peters (dpeters@emconf.ca) or myself (kzacharias@emconf.ca).

Andrew Reimer, Winnipeg: Changing My Mind

by Andrew Reimer

Winnipeg—Like many of you, I grew up not knowing many Indigenous people, having absorbed the stereotypes and superior attitudes most settler Canadians consciously or unconsciously hold towards our Indigenous neighbours.

However, over the past 15 years living and serving in Winnipeg’s North End, a predominantly Aboriginal inner city neighbourhood, my wife Amie and I have been blessed by wonderful friendships with our neighbours who have entrusted us with their life experiences, hopes, joys and sorrows.

When we begin to see our First Nations neighbours as friends and family, it becomes much more difficult to distance ourselves from their grief and pain.

I have been invited to sit and pray at the hospital bedsides of friends in their times of vulnerability.  I have grieved with families at wakes and funerals, sometimes of beloved elders or of loved ones who died too young.  Teen gang members in jail—guys judged, condemned and written off by pretty much everyone—have entrusted us with their stories and their longings for God to help them change.

Residential school survivors have shared with me experiences that they have only begun to talk about after 50 years. Meanwhile, most of the youth and young adults I know are experiencing the intergenerational effects of the trauma their grandparents suffered.

Some of our friends have expressed disconnection, confusion and even shame about their Aboriginal identities, while some are holding onto and reclaiming their cultural identities, values and traditions.  I have listened as friends have voiced sadness anger about the injustices and continued oppression and suffering of their people.

Questions come up about where God is in all this.  I have talked with people who are struggling to reconcile faith in Jesus with their Indigenous identity.

I have had the privilege of learning from First Nations leaders what the Good News of Jesus sounds like from an Indigenous perspective. I have discovered the good news of a colonized, rejected and suffering Jesus who identifies with the experience of Aboriginal people.

Friends of mine have modelled trust in God and love for Jesus and have made courageous, against-the-flow choices because of their commitment to Christ. Indigenous youth have been amazing examples of compassion and generosity.

God has been changing my mind about First Nations people. Changing my mind means taking a posture of humility and prioritizing relationship, facing my paternalistic impulses to see people as problems that I need to fix, asking uncomfortable questions about who has the power in our relationships.

It means listening in order to understand and to value a different way of life, to laugh at myself, to not excuse the fact that my people thrive while my Aboriginal friends struggle.

I am saddened by the great rift of pain, mistrust, and misunderstanding that still exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Settler people tend to value “solutions” and “results” but too often rush towards our idea of solutions to First Nations issues when what we really need to do is take time to develop relationships and build trust with First Nations people. For me, this has meant humbly coming near to Indigenous neighbours listening, grieving, learning and relating on the level of our common humanity.

Andrew Reimer (Steinbach EMC) serves as a community minister in Winnipeg’s North End with Inner City Youth Alive.

Tamera Peters: Congo, Taking Those Hurdles Straight On

by Tamera Peters

CONGO—I have never liked hurdles.

In the eighth grade I used to run track. Once during a hurdle race I had a bad fall that tore up one side of my face and knocked out two of my front teeth. I still have some scars from it. Not a good memory!

A hurdle race is tricky to run. I watched a couple of races during the Olympics, and cringed every time someone jumped, hoping no one would fall. You either confidently jump over them, or you hesitate and most likely will trip and fall. I usually just rather avoid them.

Coming to Congo this time has felt like a hurdle run. Hurdles are pretty much a norm for Africa. Some of them these past days were very concrete, like having no electricity last night or Internet when I wanted to connect with my family. To take my African colleague’s wife to the hospital to get a malaria treatment, it meant driving down the streets of Kinshasa dodging potholes, broken down cars, and piles of trash on the road.

Other hurdles are more mental and emotional. Mine these days were finding out that two of my colleagues were refused entry into Congo, and that I am now here alone and responsible for doing the teacher training. My initial reaction was to call Phil, cry a little, and tell him I want to come home.

That is what I felt like doing! But a strange thing is happening tonight and I can only explain it as “Christ living in me.” All of a sudden I have peace. Yes, the one that “passes all understanding” that we read about in the Bible (Phil. 4:7).

I read dozens of emails, What’sApp and Facebook messages that came in from friends encouraging me and praying for me. Tonight I don’t feel alone.

So I’ve decided and I am going to take those hurdles straight on with confidence and courage because “He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

While sitting in the Addis Ababa airport on my way to Congo, I read these verses. They came just at the right time. Maybe some of you are running a kind of hurdle race right now. Go for it!

“The Lord you God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17).

I wrote this over a month ago (it’s now October). It was an incredible week of experiencing not only the Lord’s strength in my weakness, but him using exactly what I was afraid of for good.

Because of being alone I was able to spend intensive time training not only the teachers of the FATEB Kinshasa Academy, but also spend time with teachers from war torn Central Africa Republic. They too hope to start a school with the help of TeachBeyond.

Not being able to depend on my human resources made me dependent on the Lord’s guidance and leading to equip these teachers who will mostly work with traumatized children.

So yes, jumping hurdles is scary, often difficult, and I still wouldn’t choose to do it; but when you have the Lord with you, He equips us with “Wings like Eagles” and that makes hurdle jumping amazing!

Tamera and Phil Peters (Steinbach EMC) live in Germany and serve with Teach Beyond.