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Last weekend Mercy and I (Eric) conducted a seminar with the married couples from our churches in Lilongwe, Malawi, and we looked at two areas that rank among the great marriage killers, “Family & Finances” and  “Sex in marriage.” Sex and money are two difficult topics of discussion in the African tradition. To tackle such topics is like hitting on a rock. However, we cannot avoid biblically addressing these issues as they have handicapped Christianity in Africa. Traditionally sex is mainly considered a benefit for the husband and to speak about it in the open is taboo. So is money – a woman does not need to know what the husband’s income is.

We knew very well that there would be some resistance regarding some of the cultural practices we would challenge, but we did not give up knowing that God’s Word is living, active, and more than powerful to soften even stony hearts.

Asked if women should know about the husband’s income? And just as expected, there was a big NO with all the reasons culture can offer: Support is only given to her family, she overspends, everything goes to her clothing, she spends too much on donuts and French fries, and she shouldn’t because some women are lovers of money. The challenge given to the men was: suppose she is the one working…should she inform the husband about her income? Interesting enough, all agreed that she must.

Asked of the women if they should know about their husband’s income…all women agreed with the following reasons: If the woman is aware of how much is coming in she becomes wise in her spending bearing in mind the income available, she knows how to give support to her husband and her own family, she knows when she needs new shoes or a rapper and can save toward that, she knows how to make a monthly budget and works through it, if a woman knows and has access to family finances, she becomes less suspicious of her husband spending money on other women. Women also agreed that if they do not know about the family finances they spend unwisely thinking their husband gets more than what they seem to have, the budgets include daily buying because money is given only for a day’s meal, women feel their men spend more on their own families and on other women, the temptation to steal from their husband is very high and some would wait till the man is in bathroom or asleep for them to search his pockets. Some even pointed out that women fall into the temptation of extra marital affairs because there are men out their willing to shower them with lots of money that can feed and cloth them, the children, and the husband, too. They also pointed out that this has been one of the leading factors in the spread of HIV/AIDS among married couples.This was shocking for the men to hear, but very helpful.

With all further discussions and teachings we finally arrived at a conclusion that women need to know about the family finances and be allowed to plan and manage the monthly budget, but it is also important for the couple to know each other’s weaknesses regarding money and be accountable to one another as this promotes trust and faithfulness in marriage.

Couples were given time to reflect on the topic and discuss what would be helpful for their families regarding finances and to pray together. At mealtime it was all rosy as we could see them talking and laughing, eating together, and feeding each other something some may have only done on the day of their wedding, remembering old days!!! At the end of the day the couples were not embarrassed to express their love for each other in public, they called each other sweet names, and held hands as they walked back home. Some men carried their wives’ handbags which is something culture would not allow! All that were in attendance appreciated the time spent and regretted their having come late.

We are grateful to the Lord that He alone in His great faithfulness is able to make all things beautiful, heal and restore broken marriages, and refresh those who are still standing.

We look forward to another time in April when we will discuss in detail the topic on sex in marriage, the traditional and the biblical view. We cannot have strong standing churches if our marriages are failing. Your prayer support in this is greatly coveted.

To God be the glory for great things He has done and so we can say Ebenezer.

To see a short video of the seminar, click HERE.

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Steve and Barb Sherman, GMI missionaries in Mwanza, Tanzania, recently sent out an email update and it was so full of good information that we had to share it with all of you. While this isn’t in the same format, it includes the same information and photos.

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Greetings from Mwanza Tanzania. Thank you to all of you who have prayed for and supported us. Barb and I made the trek north (about 22 hours) back in October. We got straight into the ministry and still have not been able to get completely unpacked and moved into our new home.

Since arriving in Mwanza in October, Steve has preached almost every Sunday. We have 3 church plants and one established church. We lack trained leaders so Pastor Methodi Mwendapole and Steve take turns rotating in the four churches. Steve is pictured here at the Nyashimba church last Sunday.

Below the article is a picture of the Nyashimba congregation. They have some pretty lively choirs. Because of the dirt floor they kick up a lot of dust when their choirs start dancing.

Pictured below is the home of our host family where we ate lunch at the Nyashimba church.To the right are the ladies washing dishes after our meal and at the bottom is the beautiful setting we ate in. You would be surprised how comfortable it is eating outside under a mango tree with a light breeze even in the 90 degree weather.

The majority of our time is spent at the Nyangulugulu city church plant. Pictured below is Pastor Methodi, who is a Tanzanian missionary that we work with, teaching the Wednesday evening Bible Study this week. We are averaging about 60 men, women, and children on Sundays.

Barb and Methodi’s wife take turns teaching the kids Sunday School, Junior Church, and also the Women’s Bible Study on Tuesdays. Believe it or not we are in church 12-15 hours a week with each of our 5 meetings lasting 2-3 hours.

Steve had the privilege of leading a man and his wife to the Lord yesterday at the Nyangulugulu church. Their names are Benadi and Zainabu. They have three children—Peter, Margaret, and Leah. Please pray for this family as they have never attended any kind of church before and are the epitome of the phrase “babes in Christ.”

Leah took an immediate liking to Steve. She began to cry when Steve left the building. Later when he came back she came up to the front of the church where Steve was waiting to preach, sat on his lap, and promptly fell asleep.

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to help us build a ministry center here in the Nyangulugulu area of the city of Mwanza. The building is now complete with an office, a large classroom, and two smaller multi-purpose rooms. This is where we will run our Bible School, teach seminars, and operate our correspondence school from. It is also our head office for the Mwanza region.

For now the Nyangulugulu congregation meets in the ministry center. Later, after we have grown some, we hope to build a church to the left of the ministry center that uses the fence walls as two sides of the church.

This week we are continuing to work on the fence around our compound. With the current money we have we should be able to finish about 80% of the fence.

Keep praying! Pray for our new congregations that they continue to grow in Christ. Pray as we develop leaders to work in these churches. Pray for our missionary team in Mwanza (Mwendapoles, Shermans, and Capraris who are in the States for medical treatment). Pray as we plan for further development.

In Christ,
Steve and Barb Sherman

Nyashimba congregation

Barb teaching Sunday School

We ate lunch under the Mango tree

Pastor Methodi teaching the Wednesday evening Bible Study

 

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A walk into the village of Kapenta was a common occurrence growing up in the Rukwa Valley. Most of the time it was to visit our friends who lived there, and doing this happened more often as I entered my high school years. This was because my local friends started getting married around the age of 16 and they no longer had the freedom to come to our house to hang out and “play” like they did from the time we lived there until they got married. One of my dearest friends, Esther (now Mama Mishak), was someone I especially enjoyed visiting. We could sit and talk or walk to her garden outside the village until it was almost dark and then say goodnight before the sunset so I could safely make it back to my house.

On one particular walk to Esther’s house I saw a lady carrying a 5-gallon bucket of water on her head with a young child tied to her back with a cloth (the normal way to carry a baby). We greeted each other and then went our separate ways. I didn’t think anything of it, because that’s as normal a sight as seeing a mailbox at the end of a driveway in the USA. What I had missed was the witchdoctor who had passed just before I came to the path and whom this lady was following.

Upon arriving at Esther’s house and after some casual conversation, she asked if I had seen the lady being led up the mountain by the village witchdoctor. I said I had seen the lady and Esther went on to explain what was going on. This story is heartbreaking but as you read the following think of the bondage of fear these people live in. Satan has a stronghold in every culture that needs to be brought to light, and one of those in Tanzania is fear. Fear and the bondage of darkness causes so much heartache. The light of Christ is so beautiful in contrast to these things but when the darkness seems strong, the heartache runs deep.

You see, this woman was about to take part in a ritual led by the witchdoctor, in fear of disobeying him and in fear for her child’s life. Her young boy was very sick, running a high fever among other things. Normal “dawa” (medicine) wasn’t working, so she went and surrendered herself to the ways of the witchdoctor. They were now on their way to a special site on top of a local, worshipped mountain where, Esther explained to me, the mother would have to collect sticks and they would make a fire from those sticks. They would then boil “special” water and poor this hot water over the child to wash the sickness from the child’s body. When the deed was done, the mom would have to leave the mountain without looking back. If she looked back or ever returned to that spot, she was told and believed, the sickness would return to her child and possibly take his life. My heart ached and I wished there was some way I could have stopped what I knew was happening as it was being explained to me.

The sun began to set and I said my goodbyes to Esther for the day. At the same time that she walked me to the path from her house the mother was returning down the mountain with a screaming little baby re-tied to her back and her child in worse condition than before. Oh, my heart cried inside. Why does she believe these lies? Why does she do these things?

Lies and darkness and sin. That is why. In many places throughout that culture witchcraft is a real and serious issue that many live in bondage to and in fear of daily. It is just one area where the missionaries fight a spiritual battle in their daily work. I tell you this in order to raise the awareness of the need for prayer in these cultures and lands where our missionaries are serving. Pray for the spiritual battles that are fought every day. Pray for the people affected so intimately and painfully with this darkness, shame, pain, and fear. For in Christ there is light and freedom and joy and he came that we might have life and have it to the full.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” John 8:12.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1.

Zach and Erin“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.

This post was written by Erin Kemper, GMI’s Director of Social Media, who spent many of her growing up years in Tanzania as part of a missionary family. She is married to Zach Kemper who was also raised in Tanzania.

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Frosty and Cathy wrote this earlier today: “The trip begins! Getting ready to board the flight to Chicago – the first leg of the journey. Good to have prayer this morning with the GMI staff and then at the airport with Craig and Pat Apel and Don TenHoeve. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support.”

Frosty and Cathy Hansen left for Bolivia today! Please pray as they have said their goodbyes to friends and family and are traveling all the way to Bolivia. Please also pray for adjustments to their new life and ministry as it begins in Bolivia. We are excited for the wonderful things God has in store!

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As many of you know, several of GMI’s Tanzania missionaries have been on the move recently and it is hard to keep track of exactly where they are. Of course, you can always reach them by email which is the most reliable mode of communication at this time or you can send a card or letter c/o Grace Ministries International, PO Box 9405, Grand Rapids, MI 49509. We will make sure it gets to them in their monthly mail packet.

TED AND KIM RABENOLD: Ted and Kim are hard at work in the Rukwa Valley of Tanzania. We received an exciting email update of their work this morning which you can read HERE.

BROOK SEEKINS: Brook is currently in Ohio spending time with her parents and getting some rest. She would love to hear from you!

JOHN AND NAOMI CAPRARI: John and Naomi can be found in Grand Rapids, MI, where they are awaiting the birth of their baby in a couple of months. It was advised that they be near a doctor and hospital when they were having some complications and South Africa was not an option for them due to visa issues.

STEVE AND BARB SHERMAN: Steve and Barb continue their ministries in Mwanza, Tanzania. They would love to hear from you via email. It is always an encouragement to hear from people back in the States.

CORY AND KIM HODGSON: Cory and Kim and their three children are currently in Portland, OR, where they are spending time with family and just adjusting to life in the U.S. That back and forth transition always takes a bit of time.

MIKE AND LYNN CARAWAY: After spending time with their daughter and son-in-law in Dubai, Mike and Lynn, along with Luka, just recently arrived in the States. They continue to work with Grace Community Development & Education (GCDE) from a distance.

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Photo credit: welllebanon.org

Since the beginning of 2016 there has been a lot of activity and many changes in the GMI missionary family. People marry, babies are born, children move away, and life keeps moving forward. Have you ever been in one of those conversations with someone and you assume they are as up to date as you are and things go into a downward spiral of confusion? Been there, done that?

Well, we are going to update you on some of the happenings in the last 13 plus months of some of our missionaries’ lives:

HARRY AND KAYLAH ALICEA: Harry and Kaylah are expecting their 2nd child in just a couple of months. Their family is growing!

CHUCK AND JOY BEFUS: Chuck and Joy’s big family is getting bigger. Last month Erin married Arturo in Costa Rica and they are also expecting the addition of two grandbabies this year! Autumn is also planning a wedding for July which will add another son-in-law.

JERRY AND SANDI BOMERS: Jerry, Sandi, and their two children raised their support and arrived in Paraguay where they are excited to be serving the Lord alongside the Gularts.

JOHN AND NAOMI CAPRARI: John and Naomi went to Tanzania, had some difficulty with the pregnancy and went to South Africa for medical care. While in South Africa they ran into visa problems which wouldn’t allow them to stay until the birth of the baby, so they are now back in Grand Rapids, MI where there are excellent doctors for Naomi and excellent neonatologists should the baby decided to come early.

BRETT AND DEBBY CHAPMAN: Brett and Debby had twin boys, Ethan and Asher, on 1/26/16 and I don’t think life has slowed down for them since! They have battled some illness in their family during this last year.

FROSTY AND CATHY HANSEN: They have raised their support and are headed for Bolivia on March 6. I believe that is the quickest I have ever seen anyone raise their support!

APRIL LORENZ: April is raising her support and ideally would like to have her support in by June so she can leave for Puerto Rico early this summer. She is also engaged to be married

ERIC AND MERCY MANGO: They are anxiously awaiting the birth of baby #3 who is due in just a few months.

DAN AND MARY SUE REED: They have been working hard down in Bolivia but in the last year and a half both have lost their fathers.

TOM AND MICHELLE SANCHEZ: Tom and Michelle will be spending several months working with the national leaders in Zambia before opening the new field of Burundi, but they have to raise their financial support first.

STEVE AND BARB SHERMAN: Steve and Barb have moved to Mwanza, Tanzania, to begin new ministry there. They must settle in a new home and get used to working with a new group of people and get settled in a new church.

KENNEDY AND SOFIA SIMTOWE: Kennedy and Sofia are expanding their ministries into Mozambique in 2017.

TALO AND PATTY VERGARA: Talo married Patty in July 2016. She was a newscaster on a local Christian radio station but had wanted to be a missionary. He is finishing his commitment to CIMA International and waiting on the Lord to show them where He would have them go for future ministry.

BILL AND SUE VINTON: Bill and Sue are in the U.S. and will be in the Boston area on February 15, one day before their daughter Rachel and her husband Andrew are due to have their first baby. This will be Bill and Sue’s first grandbaby so they are pretty excited!

 

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How can we help our missionaries who are serving so far away on foreign fields? Or how about when they are in the States on home assignment? How can we show our missionaries that we really care about HOW they are doing and WHAT they are doing? There is so much information available on this topic, especially on the internet. We have whittled it down and taken some information from TEAM and used it with their permission. Now we would like to share it with you.

NINE WAYS TO HELP YOUR MISSIONARY ON THE FIELD

  1. Regular, intelligent, heartfelt prayer is your missionary’s number one need. Nothing else is as important; perhaps nothing else is harder to give on a consistent basis.
  2. Communicate regularly with your missionary. A five-minute telephone conversation may not be as expensive as you think. But check the time difference — don’t call at 3 a.m.! Send emails without an obligation to respond to every one.
  3. Send your missionary something to help celebrate the holidays: for instance, Thanksgiving napkins or Christmas placemats.
  4. Birthday cards are very important, especially for children. Mark your calendar to send cards far enough in advance to get there on time (but late is better than never!).
  5. Visit your first-termer, or send your pastor or missions chairperson. Always give advance notice and don’t stay too long. Remember that your missionary is busy and can’t always drop everything and act as your tour guide. And do leave a monetary gift to cover the cost of your stay.
  6. Read your missionary’s e-mails and prayer letters thoughtfully. Is he lonely? Is she discouraged? Then send an encouraging note and refer to items mentioned in previous letters.
  7. Send money at Christmas for something “extra” or for your missionary’s vacation. A few days away at a quiet spot will do wonders for his outlook and ministry!
  8. Send gifts that can’t be obtained on that field. Favorite foods, videos of football games, or the latest books in English you can gift through Kindle can be a treat. How about a magazine subscription they would really appreciate that they could get online? If you choose to send something, please check with the missionary first about duty charges and whether it is wise to send them packages. Sometimes you may know someone going to visit them who would be willing to take something small.
  9. Music is appreciated. Remember the ages of your MKs and select music they would enjoy. Recordings of familiar hymns and contemporary worship songs will help your missionary teach his children the basics of North American worship.

 

EIGHT WAYS TO HELP YOUR MISSIONARY AT HOME

  1. During home assignment, give your missionary your friendship. Share what God has done in your life and what you are doing in service for Him. Make a consistent effort to encourage and nurture your missionary’s personal spiritual growth.
  2. Help with the transition back into North American life. Assist with signing up children for school. Offer your name as the “secondary emergency contact” person for school or events. Suggest good places to shop or explain optional activities for children such as library reading hours and the Little League.
  3. Plan a shopping trip. After several years away, your missionary may need to update his wardrobe. Why not treat her to a new outfit? It is particularly important that MKs have clothes to fit in with their peers.
  4. Provide some R & R. Do you have a “get away” spot (cabin, cottage, trailer, in-law apartment) that you could make available for a few days for your missionary? Traveling from place to place while on home assignment can be stressful.
  5. Provide a list of area resources such as reputable doctors, good places to shop, fun places to take the kids, babysitters, beauticians, and barbers. It has probably taken you years to build up a list of places where you do business. Why not share that resource with your missionary?
  6. Can you make your car available for your missionary? A reliable car that will take your missionary over miles of home assignment travel is a gift of peace of mind.
  7. Reorient your missionary to your local church. Lots of faces have changed since your missionary was last there. Make sure you and others connect with your missionary not only in church but also in informal gatherings outside of church. Having a party? Invite your missionary!
  8. Most of all, pray. Wasn’t that already mentioned? For a missionary in the heat of spiritual battle, nothing is more encouraging than to be told, “I pray for you every day.”

 

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Yesterday Bruce Kemper went home to be with the Lord at the age of 79. He left quite a legacy here on earth and was loved by a long list of family members and many, many friends. He will be missed.

During his adult years Bruce served as a youth pastor at Seattle Berean Bible Church. He then went on to pastor three churches – Berean Bible Church in Spokane, WA; Grace Bible Church in Anaheim, CA; and Grace Bible Church in Port Orchard, WA – before becoming President of Grace Bible College in Wyoming, MI.

While serving in all of these ministries he also gave of his time and talents to sit on the Board of Directors of Bethesda Mission which then merged with Grace Ministries International (GMI) – a total of approximately 46 years serving GMI!

Bruce had a heart for missions! He faithfully attended the board meetings 3-4 times a year, always corresponded with our missionaries, and kept up to date with our missionaries and their ministries so he could pray for them very specifically. That is 46 years he dedicated to the missionaries of GMI!

His son Ken B. Kemper wrote on Facebook yesterday, “Lost my hero today to God’s presence. What an incredible moment that must have been when Dad got to see Jesus and those who beat him there. He probably said, ‘What a great day for the race!’ – the human race! He saw his dad who died when he was 8 and his mom and others.”

Bruce left a legacy with the missionaries of Grace Ministries International. He impacted the lives of many of those serving on various fields around the world. He was loved by many of GMI’s missionaries, board members, and home office staff. Thank you, Bruce, for your MANY years of service and the lives that were changed because of YOU!

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At the end of 2016 we published our Christmas catalog with projects listed, one being John and Naomi Caprari’s project for Kiswahili and Kisukuma Treasures in Tanzania. The Treasure is a field-tested solid-state digital audio Bible. The unit, which fits in the palm of your hand, has a built in solar panel with rechargeable batteries. It is very portable and lightweight and each unit can hold more than 400 hours of audio material. More than 200 languages have an entire New Testament available! The Treasure brings the gospel to life for millions of unreached oral learners!

You God Speaks My Language from Soapbox Pictures on Vimeo.
World Vision states: “According to field studies, 70% of the world prefers a non-literate form of learning. The utter tragedy of this statistic means that more than half of the world does not have an adequate way in which to fully engage with the life transforming Word of God! Thousands are hearing the gospel for the first time, and many are coming to Christ. Each experience is unique but in most instances an oral learner will listen to The Treasure within a group of 8-12 people. Each Treasure is used more than 2,000 hours over the duration of its lifetime. Therefore, it is safe to say that anywhere from 100 to as many as 2,000 people will hear about Christ through each Treasure!

If you would like to be a part of getting God’s Word out to those who are oral learners or those who cannot read the Bible, click HERE to join those who are using Treasures to spread the Word of God. John and Naomi’s project is #8 in the catalog.

Photo credit: deviantart.net

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Empowering X-cultural Interchurch Team Experiences

 

EXITE 2017: Join the 2017 EXITE team as we serve in Paraguay! This summer a select group of high school and college students will travel to Paraguay to learn how to share the love of Christ with the children and youth in Ciudad del Este. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:15).

A trip like this can be a life-changer as you see firsthand what God is doing on GMI’s newest field. Join us as we work together with GMI missionaries–Alex & Deltha Gulart and Jerry & Sandi Bomers. This will be the first EXITE team to serve in Paraguay. Something exciting happens when we step out of our comfort zone with other students to be the “hands and feet of Jesus.” EXITE is about spiritual growth as we put our faith into action in practical ways serving our Paraguayan brothers and sisters in Christ. Experience the joy of seeing how God can work through you in new and powerful ways as you share His love with people in need of a Savior in a culture and environment very different than your own.

Cuidad del Este has a large Muslim population, many who are open to the message of the Gospel of Grace. You will learn about their culture and observe how the missionaries are living out the Gospel in this bustling city. We will visit the Iguazu Falls which are three times higher than Niagara Falls and wider than Victoria Falls in southern Africa. You will love the warm, welcoming culture of Paraguay. Join the EXITE team today.

Trip Information:

Dates: July 17 – August 2, 2017

July 17-20: Boot Camp at Grace Bible College

July 20 – Travel to Paraguay

August 2 – Return to Grand Rapids

Cost:

$850 – EXITE fees (room & board, local transportation, boot camp costs, project donations, etc.)

$1350 – Estimated plane fare

$2200 – Approximate total cost

Age: 14 years old or 9th grade – college

Alex and Deltha with their children in downtown Ciudad del Este

Alex and Deltha with their children in downtown Ciudad del Este

Alex Gulart teaching a Bible study

Alex Gulart teaching a Bible study

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qualifications: No prior construction experience required. You need to be willing to work hard together with a team in cool weather in an urban setting. Enjoy the warm Paraguayan culture, delicious food, and beautiful scenery. Be ready to share your faith, step out of your comfort zone, and serve others in Christ’s name. Prepare to grow in your faith and see God at work in and through your team.

Join our team today!!!  Fill out the application form HERE and send your $100 deposit to GMI, PO Box 9405, Grand Rapids, MI 49509 by February 17, 2017. Sign up today!

If you are interested in being a part of the EXITE team, you can call the GMI office at 616-241-5666 and speak with Don Ten Hoeve to get more information or visit our FAQ page.EXITE

Email us at gmi@gracem.org to request more information or call 616-241-5666.

Here are videos of the EXITE trips in 2015 and 2016 for you to enjoy:

 

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