Monthly reflections and stories from EMM alumni, available online and via email.
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Lancaster City has recently become known as “America’s refugee capital,” following a report by the BBC which said that Lancaster takes in 20 times more refugees per capita than the rest of the U.S. Meet Barbara Witmer, one Lancaster City resident whose longstanding commitment to refugee resettlement has affected hundreds of lives.
In the 1970s, a Marxist military group called the Derg gained control of Ethiopia by force. There followed several years of civil unrest, in which gunfire seemed to resound beyond every horizon, friends and neighbors were divided by fear and betrayal, and the church was forced deep underground.
Last year, Karen Baker and her family moved back to the U.S. after serving for three years as EMM missionaries in a rural area of Guinea-Bissau. Here are some of her reflections since coming home.
Coming home late, I can smell if he has already prayed. The beeswax candles leave a sweet warmth in the air for hours. It is always long after the children have been put to bed, with prayers and kisses and toddlers finding their second wind's second wind. It is in that decisive moment between reading one more chapter or laying the book down and heading to bed. We often wait too long, and we go sleepily to our prayer corner, yawning.
My name is Nathanael Thorne. I am 24 years old and a full-time student and employee. I served on a YES team for a nine-month assignment to Guinea Bissau, West Africa.
When a little old lady caught my eye, I didn’t think much of it. I was praying for a mentor, someone to walk with me through the seasons of life. The tiny woman wouldn’t have appeared intimidating under any circumstances, but it’s awkward, a tad scary, to ask someone to journey with you in life. I only knew her name. I assumed she was a Christian (she seemed to pray before her meals ... or maybe she dozed off, I didn’t actually know). I figured God had helped me to notice her. What would it hurt to ask her?
“I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know what community looks like,” I said emphatically while combing over the faces of local leaders in the room. They nodded softly with understanding smiles.
Making sure the kids have free time, bringing employees life instead of burnout, sacrificing valuable work time to make space for relationships. Jeff and Kendra Nissley can tell you that operating a family farm with a missional mindset isn’t easy. Today the Jubilee Dairy owners talk about restful living vs. to-do lists, building up their workers, and finding the unique ways that they can serve through farming.
This is a story of learning God’s heart, bit by bit, like petals unfolding from the center. Since high school, God has taken me on journeys to make His heart my heart. The more I learn, the clearer it becomes — God’s desire is really very simple, though we have quite the way of complicating it. Love God and love others. That’s it. That’s the gospel, that’s what we’re called to do.
My story begins like many others in this circle — I graduated from high school and joined YES. My team was in Southeast Asia from 2009–2010.