noren update 5/23
One of the problems with discipleship can be the difficulty of measuring growth. As teachers at Rain Forest International School (RFIS), we can measure whether students can multiply fractions or how many worship songs RFIS did each year (>230 this year!), but many of the ultimate growth goals we pursue are intangible. Where is the spiritual fruit? Are we making a difference? Where is the progress? We want our efforts to "be worth it." Often as God draws people to himself, the process and changes are subtle and not immediately evident. Perhaps it is years later that a student notices how God strategically placed certain people and encounters into their lives.
Each week, Mary works with the student worship team to lead music and set the order of the service for the one-hour Chapel at RFIS. We have guest speakers from a local church, a mission group, or one of the teachers.
This last week Ben Ziegelbaur, the PE teacher, brought an interactive message on the importance of God using mentors to help younger believers grow and develop spiritually. He interviewed three of his mentors: Jordan Cone, Ron Ziegelbaur, and Karl Noren, to see how God used mentors in their lives.
Jordan Cone, RFIS Athletic Director, taught, coached, and discipled Ben in high school. In the interview, Jordan pointed to previous missionaries from Congo who, directly and indirectly, were healthy role-models for him. Some of those missionaries were the children of the previous generation of pastors and missionaries.
Next, Ben interviewed his father Ron. Influenced by his grandfather, Ron was also inspired by a visiting missionary's comment about the need for technical services in places with low infrastructure: "I'm finding I spend more than half my ministry time just fixing things." That passing comment led to Ron's career serving in Congo, Central African Republic, and finally Cameroon. His availability to God resulted in buildings for living and teaching that can continue to help the work here, along with local friends who have skills that allow them to work with greater excellence. Ron advised us to keep moving - look for the opportunities and try the things God puts in your life today; God can open and close doors to lead you through a life of meaningful contribution.
Karl had been Ben's teacher, Bible study leader, and Cross Country coach in high school. Jordan and Kimia Cone's encouragement to come together as students to RFIS first brought Karl to this place of ministry. Later, other plans fell through just as RFIS asked us to teach in 2008. Without much time to prepare or raise support, but with council from mentors and prayer, we felt God saying we would be at RFIS before the first day of school. Thanks to God and his faithful church, we landed the day God promised. God has not always worked that clearly, but having prayerful mentors and supporters has been a key factor in all that God has done for us.
Ben concluded by admonishing us to seek God, follow Jesus, and proactively seek out relationships where we can be mentored and bring others along in their discipleship journey. Our 18 seniors will graduate in three weeks; since they come from all over the world, they will likely never be together again. They will still need each other, godly friends, and new mentors in the places they go.
Highlights this quarter:
Karl as the main speaker for the RFIS Middle School Retreat
Mary, teaching music skills to Middle School students
We may not be leaving with the seniors, but this time of year holds many goodbyes to great friends and mentors. Last year, we said goodbye to the Stokers, who have been pillars of wisdom and stability at RFIS. This summer, Ron and Janet leave RFIS to begin their final year thanking supporters in the U.S. We will miss them greatly as mentors and friends, and as a vital part of the work of educating missionary kids, which in turn helps keep various Bible translations and other ministries moving forward. We will miss their friendship and experience. We pray they have a great new stage of life, as they keep moving and keep seeking God.
How God has been answering prayers:
physical safety in our location this year
generally good health, despite a local cholera outbreak
great spiritual retreat with ServeGlobally missionaries in Africa
our financial support has increased this year with several new partners
a good meeting with some of the Cameroonian partners for our ministry
RFIS worship team had a great year of growth and service
Karl, safety & good closure with seniors on senior trip before graduation (June 10th).
Mary, applying for a CNPS number for some of the paperwork/employee responsibilities
Serious political tensions are still evident; pray that God's people will be able to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness
ServeGlobally budget and our costs are increasing: we are okay, but we don't have 100% of our support
Wisdom in cross-cultural relationships
good discernment of using our time with the family, with RFIS, and in partnership development
Adequate teaching/administrative staff for RFIS for the next few years
THE BIG NEED!
The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few! There is a big need for God-fearing teachers and administrators this year and especially 2025-2026. We currently have a wonderful RFIS director (principal) and accountant, but after that we don't know who God will call to serve here. In 2023-2024, an English, Math, and Middle School teacher would all be super helpful. 2024-25 is a home assignment for us and multiple other teachers, and there will be a need for Math, Science, English, History, and Bible teachers.
Thank you, friends, for your prayers and support. We believe that only as God works through us and in the hearts of the students, will our efforts can be effective and lasting. God has an amazing long-term plan. Pray that we focus on being faithful each day and living in close relationship with him.
If the Lord wills, we will continue to watch over the campus over the summer and work to get the school ready for the next academic year. Karl may teach a short summer class if students indicate the need. We host missionaries coming and going from Cameroon and the Central African Republic. To God be the glory for what he has done through us together.
With our mailchimp update, we try to update every few months. For those of you interested in more frequent news, I update my facebook page with regular pictures for our folks. (Mary Samuelson Noren). God bless you all.