Tag Archives: Missions

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.

Harvey Thiessen: Moving beyond near-sightedness

by Harvey J. Thiessen

ONTARIODuring the recent Olympics, I watched with interest the women’s 100-metre freestyle swim. History was about to be made; there was excitement in the air. The commentators were hyping the athletes and setting the stage for viewers.

As the racers neared the finish, the excitement increased. Then our athlete won and history was made to exclamations of “never before,” “incredible,” and visions of a bright future for swimming.

Glancing at Facebook, I was confused. Posts of victory and history-making about the race appeared, but a different athlete was celebrated. I had cheered Canadian 16-year-old swimmer Penny Oleksiak. Others cheered American Simone Manuel, the first black female swimmer to win an Olympic gold.

It was the same race, but different athletes were being celebrated. They had tied for the gold medal, and yet Canadian commentators barely mentioned Simone and Penny was an afterthought for the Americans.

Neither country was wrong for celebrating different athletes, but they missed what else was going on. What we value and celebrate is greatly determined by our identity, who we are.

Whether by nationality, tribe, gender, sports team, profession, ethics, religion, political party or endless other ways, we separate and define ourselves as much by what we are not as by what we are. We complain when others (especially superiors) don’t acknowledge what is clearly important for us. We are all subject to this short-sightedness in our interactions.

In our delivery of the gospel message, for example, do we really understand what others are hearing and seeing? In the ethnically, culturally, denominationally, linguistically diverse community in OM where I serve, we have an advantage in seeing things from the vantage point of others. It is, however, not a natural tendency.

We have to try hard to think outside of our experience and understanding. While in the context of the gospel these divisions don’t apply (Gal. 3:28), they are still barriers to understanding. The best antidote is to develop the posture of Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served (Mark 10:45). It takes time to understand others.

In our modern world we have a greater challenge as we often live in different worlds in our home, work place and that new realm called the cyber world. Our little communities are no longer isolated, and the words and terms that we understand are often misconstrued by others.

There is even greater diversity of positions, histories, and experiences to understand in the new world the Internet has opened up. We can either run from it or find it as an opportunity to grow and be present as a witness in this world.

What happens when you continually feel marginalized, unimportant, or misunderstood? The best answer I have found is not to talk louder and more often to make sure I am noticed and understood, but to spend time understanding others. This is especially important in today’s new missions era.

More than ever, we have the opportunity to learn from the rich experiences of the global church, to understand the vast variety of God’s creation, and learn to work with it.

Harvey J. Thiessen (Wymark) serves as the North American Area Leader of Operation Mobilization.

Albert Martens: Activities, relationships continue

by Albert Martens

POPLAR HILL, Ontario—It was with great enthusiasm and excitement that the seven of us boarded the WINGS King Air 100 in St. Andrews, Man. The volunteer staff who came with me were Don and Ev Wiebe, John and Marlene Friesen, Mona Soucy and her daughter McKenzie.

Chris Lerm from Lorette, Man., was not able to come with us this time due to a recent health issue; however, he was there to see us off and pray for the staff.

The pilot had to remove some fuel to make the plane a bit lighter because we came with lots of supplies (about 360 kgs). After a 45-minute flight we landed on the gravel runway located about four kms north of Poplar Hill.

Charlie Moose, administrative director of the band, had reserved four nice suites for us in the hotel. Chief Jacob Strang and council member Bobby Moose came to the airstrip to pick us up.

I had asked Chief Strang what he would like me to bring along for him, and he asked for chicken. So I had brought along a box of 75 pieces of chicken for him. He was happy to serve this at a birthday celebration that afternoon.

Our pre-planned activities for Aug. 14 to 20 all worked out very well, even though we did not know how it would. Our basic activities were daily children’s Bible lessons, crafts, and games.

Baseball was a good part of each afternoon. Because the old school was being demolished, we had access to a community hall only for three to four days.

Some of the children’s activities were held outside under the trees. The men’s breakfast was held outside our hotel in the shade at 10 a.m. Forty-five men came to enjoy the pancakes, ham, and coffee.

The ladies tea was new for us to prepare in Poplar Hill, and 23 ladies came to the community hall for this event. Each lady received a prepared gift bag. Our group also presented two 20 to 30 minute radio broadcasts. The hotdogs and ice cream served at the community hall were a lot of fun as about 100 people came to eat.

Most of our days it was very warm, so we did take the children for some swimming.

We received a tour of the new and beautiful school (grades one to eight) that was going to be finished in two weeks.

martens-albert
Albert Martens

A highlight for me was to join Gary Owens for his church service one evening. Our group did some singing, and I shared some personal stories and testimonies about my gift of running. I was enriched and encouraged by the speaking of Albert, Arnold, and Gary from their church.

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action.

Microloans: beneficial to me and my family

By Fabe Traore

Burkina Faso—Souleymane Traore was in great difficulty. He had a wife and three daughters to support, but he was seriously ill, and he was living in the capital city of Ouagadougou, the most expensive place in Burkina Faso.

He decided to return to his home village, Samogohiri, where most of his larger family resides and where he thought his immediate family would be taken care of while he continued to fight his illness.  When they arrived, they joined the local Mennonite church.

Continue reading Microloans: beneficial to me and my family

Verna Doerksen, Fred and Stella Neff: They Served by Grace Despite Weakness

by Terry M. Smith

BLUMENORT, Man.—An once exuberant child along with a pastor having roots in Germany and his wife were the centres of attention on Sept. 8, 2016, at Blumenort EMC as friends and family, and Board of Missions and national office staff gathered to honour Verna Doerksen and Manfred (Fred) and Stella Neff. Continue reading Verna Doerksen, Fred and Stella Neff: They Served by Grace Despite Weakness

Northern Canada: ‘Camps’ were a joy and a win

by Albert Martens

NORTHERN CANADA—“How happy are those who fear the Lord—all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labour. How happy you will be! How rich your life!” (Psalm 128:1-2).

Our Athletes in Action Baseball “camps” in the three First Nation communities of Tadoule Lake (July 1-8), Pauingassi  (July 29-Aug. 4), both in Man., and Poplar Hill, Ont. (Aug. 14-20), were such a joy and “win” for everyone involved.

We did experience some very encouraging, happy and sad moments in our ministry in these communities. We enjoyed several moments of “fruit of your labour.”

A few fantastic highlights were:

To be called upon to do a double baby dedication for a young couple.

To hear the youth and children call upon us: “When are we playing baseball again?”

For the children to listen so attentively to Bible lessons and learn new songs from our workers.

To speak to several men individually at the men’s breakfast.

To pray with a young mother who had just lost her son in a traffic accident. She looked for us, and asked, “Where is Albert?” She wanted prayer and comfort in a very sad time of sorrow and loss.

To be able to encourage young runners in the community of Tadoule Lake to train for the upcoming Polar Bear Marathon. To connect Tadoule Lake Dene runners to Churchill using the avenue of the sport of running.  The Tadoule Lake/Dene has experienced a sad history with Churchill.  Just this summer an apology came from the Manitoba government in respect to the forced relocation of the community.

To continue to encourage men and women in these communities, building more personal and deeper relationships each year.

To be invited into private homes to discuss difficult questions about the gospel, about Christianity, and about the personal faith in Jesus.

To help out and assist in their community church services.

To give them some gifts, love and care for them, listen to their questions and try to help.

martens-albert
Albert Martens

During the past 12 years of ministry, there have been tremendous changes in lives. More and deeper relationships have developed. Continual communications throughout the year having an impact on the many lives of these communities. As well, volunteer lives have changed and grown in deeper relationships in the Lord Jesus.

Albert Martens (Steinbach EMC) serves with Athletes in Action.