March 8, 2016

2015 ministry highlights

Written by  EMM news service

This article appears in the March/April 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

The following are story and photo highlights from some of EMM's ministries around the world 2015. 

Discipleship training

Albania • The Balkans • Belgium • Belize • Central Asia • Chile • Czech Republic • Germany • Guinea-Bissau • Honduras • Kenya • Netherlands • Peru • Southeast Asia • USA (Baltimore; Lancaster, Pa.; New York City; Salunga, Pa.)

“In the U.S. I did not necessarily “need” God. I had everything that made me comfortable; my own room, my own bed, my friends, my family, my job, my car … everything that I assumed I “needed” was surrounding me, or so I thought. When I flew across the world … everything that was familiar to me had vanished. Stepping out of the boat, like Peter, is frightening, but if we never take the risk and leave what is comfortable, even for a short while, we will never actually understand how much we need the Lord. Placing ourselves in the middle of the unknown forces us to rely on the One who satisfies. When we come to acknowledge the truth that the Lord is our only source of strength, we will see Him work through us, in glorious ways, to spread His precious love to the broken lives of the world around us." Sadie serves on the 2015/2016 Southeast Asia YES team. Photo by Sadie Beiler.


A refocus

“We want to increase the discipleship and mission energy locally, so that it will also provide space for more people to hear God’s call to be a part of what He’s doing around the world,” said Troy Landis, discipleship coach for EMM. “We’ve heard people’s desire to live out their missional calling every day, rather than doing an assignment or joining a program.” With this shift in short-term program focus, EMM is phasing out the 35-year-old YES program. EMM will continue to send people on short-term assignments through GO!, mission internships, and Kingdom Teams. EMM will also offer coaching and resourcing through programs like Multipliers, small groups that explore simple disciple-making principles.

Muslim ministry

Asia • The Balkans • Central Asia • East Africa • Europe • Germany • Middle East • South Asia • USA • West Africa

International partnerships

Albania • Asia • The Balkans • Belize • El Salvador • Ethiopia • The Gambia • Germany • Guatemala • Guinea-Bissau • Honduras • Kenya • Peru • South Africa • South Asia • Tanzania • USA • Vietnam

After living among the K’ekchi’ people of north central Guatemala for more than 20 years, Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) workers Galen and Phyllis Groff have said goodbye to the community they’ve called home. During Galen and Phyllis’ time there, the K’ekchi’ Mennonite Church has grown to 125 congregations with a worshipping community of approximately 10,000 people. There are currently six church districts with a seventh in formation. Photo provided by Galen and Phyllis Groff.


KMC launches history book

In April 2015, the Kenya Mennonite Church (KMC) unveiled its newly printed history book: "Forward in Faith: a seventy-year journey, 1942-2012." Francis S. Ojwang, a KMC pastor, wrote it over an eight-year period. The idea first emerged during a conversation between KMC Bishop Dominic Opondo and David W. Shenk at the Mennonite World Conference Assembly in 2003. Ojwang worked closely with Shenk and Laura S. Kurtz, a former EMM worker in East Africa.

“This history is important for our identity as a church,” said KMC Moderator Philip Okeyo. “We're writing this history so that future generations maintain and sustain our beliefs and practices."


Health and community development

Asia • Cambodia • Chile • The Gambia • Germany • Guinea-Bissau • Peru • South Asia • Tanzania • Thailand • Vietnam • Wales

PROSIM, a health care cooperative started by EMM and the Peruvian Mennonite Church, continued to reach out to many communities outside of Cusco. There were 15 representatives in 2015 that came from 13 different churches. Gloria Mamani Nina, a longtime village representative, has taken the coordinator role to replace Juana Puma Aguilar, who stepped down after more than 10 years of service. A special training on preventing the sexual abuse of children was presented to the representatives. Chris and Rose Raber and their family serve in Cusco, Peru.


A transformed life

Binta is a small, feisty mother of three boys. Before she committed her life to Christ, she was quick-tempered and wasn't shy about letting her temper be seen. Her eyes were dark and lacked life, and her children were also full of anger. Michael and Karen Baker first met Binta two years ago. Just over a year ago, Binta put her faith in Christ. Today Binta has been transformed, and her village sees the difference Christ has made in her life. She is no longer filled with anger and hatred; instead, she is filled with love and compassion.

"We never know who God will put in our lives," says Karen Baker. "But we must live every day knowing each encounter we have is from our Father." Karen Baker is an EMM worker serving with her family in Guinea-Bissau in health and community development. 

Leadership training

Asia • Central Asia • Chile • Ethiopia • The Gambia • Guinea-Bissau • Ghana • Kenya • Lithuania • Netherlands • Peru • South Africa • Southeast Asia • Tanzania • Thailand • USA • Vietnam

Phil and Linda Gottschalk serve at Tyndale Theological Seminary in Amsterdam, Netherlands. As EMM workers, they say they “train the trainers.” They both train Christian leaders, pastors, evangelists and scholars who will return to their home countries all around the world. Linda (pictured above left) is also the Tyndale librarian; Phil (pictured above right holding a coffee cup) is also active in Zaporozhye, Ukraine, and in Serbia, teaching Christian workers. This past fall, Phil taught "Christian Ethics" and "The Ethics of War, Peace, and Peace-making;" prepared for David Shenk's lectures and seminar; and organized the EMM West Europe retreat to name just some of his activities. Photos by Lauren Good.

Course for women in East Africa

As EMM worker Gloria Bontrager interacted with East African women and learned about the issues they face, she wanted to respond with a biblical perspective. She developed two basic courses, "Women of the Bible" and "Women in the Work of God." Together, these courses give a history of women's participation in God's work throughout the Old and New Testaments, and they challenge the church to respond to the task of God's kingdom today. Women and other church members have received the materials enthusiastically.

Lea Ngulinzira, Judith Nwimanzi, and Gloria Bontrager (third, fourth, and fifth from the left, respectively) discuss "Women of the Bible" at the Sumbawanga Mennonite Church in Tanzania. Photo provided by the Bontragers.


Children at risk

Albania • Belize • Cambodia • Chile • Peru • The Gambia • Guinea-Bissau • Honduras

My name is Srey Naet. I am 15 years old and live in a village in southeast Cambodia. Last year a Christian character children’s program started near our village. My parents are Buddhist, but they said it was okay for me to join since we would learn good character. Soon after I joined, I decided I wanted to follow Jesus very much. Photo by Sombath Phisut.


A safe place

The islands lying off the coast of southern Chile hold both beauty and darkness. Government studies indicate that as many as eight out of 10 children are being sexually abused. On Tenglo Island, EMM workers have joined with others to prevent such abuse by providing a ministry center. The center, called Siloe, provides a safe place where children can relax, play, and learn. They experience healthy ways of relating and receive affirmation, encouragement, and love from Christian believers. Ricardo Ibaceta and Eliana Medina, a Chilean couple, lead the children’s ministry.

Tito is 13 years old. He says, “I started going over to the Siloe property when I was about seven or eight. I have always enjoyed going over there to play with the other island children. I liked when we were tutored in English and mathematics; they were my worst subjects. I really appreciate Tio Ricardo and Tia Eliana because they visit my family here in my home and they pray with us.”

“As we arrived in the islands, we were so blessed to be able to see in person what God is doing here concerning children and the prevention of sexual abuse. What was even more beautiful was to see the heart and passion that God has given those here." -- Keith and Sandi Probst, workers in Chile

Pioneer witness

Albania • Asia • The Balkans • Cambodia • Central Asia • Chile • Czech Republic • The Gambia • Germany • Middle East • Peru • South Asia • Thailand

On the island of Chiloe, Maritza had helped Bekii with a children's Bible study, but recently started her own Bible study for younger kids. Bekii says, “It’s beautiful to see. I am offering encouragement and providing some resources but otherwise, she's doing it all on her own! How awesome! Praise the Lord!” Travis and Bekii Kisamore have been been serving in the pioneer location of Quemchi, Chiloe, since 2007. Bekii, left, with her friend and mentoree, Maritza Palma. Photo provided by Bekii Kisamore.



Cambodia • Germany • Kenya • South Africa • U.S. • Wales

The Werts in Wales: How one family did hospitality in 2015!

Overnight guests
Hosting overnight guests in our small terraced house means giving up a comfortable bed for a sofa bed or a floor, and creating a carefully coordinated bathroom schedule! Still, we love opening our home to others! We welcomed 12 guests (EMM staff and workers, our U.S. pastoral couple, and friends) in six separate visits for a total of 28 nights.

Shared meal
On two Tuesdays a month, six local believers, and occasionally more, join our family table to share a meal. We use "What’s App" to coordinate what food each one is bringing. We share laughter, discussion, prayer, and practical help with these believers walking the faith journey with us.

Afternoon tea
Cerys, Carol, and friend Carys spent 24 hours shopping and baking 10 different cakes and three kinds of sandwiches for a Saturday afternoon tea in November. They invited two dozen women from their workplaces, local community, friends, and church.

Other hospitality
Carol bakes cookies and brownies for Soccer School outreach. We have friends over at least once a month for an evening meal, snacks and drinks, or to watch the international rugby. We give rides to local boys each week for soccer practice, and often pick up a car full of other teens if our own children stay late for after-school clubs or study sessions. 

Carol and Alan Wert, along with their children Dylan, Cerys, and Brenin, have served in Ynysybwl, Wales, since 1999 in discipleship training, evangelism, and modeling a biblical lifestyle in a post-Christian culture.


Germany • Nepal • Vietnam

EMM worker Mike Lotvola (left) shares a Bible story and games with refugee children in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Photo by Lauren Good.


Refugees in Germany

“The flow of refugees into Germany, already very high, is expected to increase in a way we’ve never seen before,” said an EMM worker in Halle. “Germany is being stretched almost beyond its limits. While Germany has welcomed more refugees per capita than any country in Europe, there has been a minority speaking out against the refugees who are arriving. Now is the time for the evangelical church to join together and welcome the tide of refugees in the name of Jesus.”

EMM has raised over $46,500 in relief funds to assist in this crisis.

Nepali earthquake

Binay Church Council, a group of Nepali Anabaptist fellowships, reached out to communities affected by the April and May earthquakes in Nepal. EMM’s regional representative in Central Asia delivered almost $5,000 in relief funds to Nepal. He said, “I have been so encouraged by the ways in which these brothers and sisters have first looked to the needs of others in this crisis, rather than their own, and have sought to be a blessing to those around them. I believe this will speak volumes throughout these communities of the sacrificial love of Christ.” Names omitted to protect local believers.


Albania • Asia • Belize • Central Asia • Czech Republic • Ethiopia • Guinea-Bissau • Honduras • Lithuania • Middle East • Netherlands • Peru • Vietnam • Wales

PROMESA, a bilingual Christian school, continues to provide quality education for Quechua children and others in Cusco, Peru. The school had 241 students and 22 teachers in 2015. Plans continue to build a new facility located outside of San Jeronimo. The land was paid off in 2014, and after a three-phase building plan was developed by Engineering Ministry International, fundraising continues. GO! participant Brook Hostetter served as a music and English teacher at PROMESA in 2015. Photo by James Souder.


Fifty years

In February 2015, Academia Los Pinares celebrated the conclusion of its 50th year of providing bilingual Christian education in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. EMM established Los Pinares in 1964 as a boarding school for missionary children, and it has grown into one of Tegucigalpa’s premier private schools. It currently serves more than 800 students, with a full educational program for pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, and with instruction in both Spanish and English.

“Numerous students from Los Pinares now go on to attend Ivy League schools; it’s really become known for academic excellence,” said Steve Shank, pioneering coach at EMM.

This article appears in the March/April 2016 issue of Missionary Messenger; sign up to read more articles like this one.

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