“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” — Proverbs 4:25 (NIV)
When Naomi Tice went to Australia to serve with Mennonite Mission Network in January 2020, the land was parched by drought and ablaze with forest fires. After serving at the
Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ) for a couple of months, the rains came, and the smoke cleared.
The restoration of the green Australian landscape was only one of the many graces amid the trials that Tice endured in the past six years. In addition to forest fires, Tice has endured visa snarls, COVID-19 pandemic interruptions, and most recently, a broken ankle.
None of that deterred Tice from her belief that God is calling her to serve internationally with the mission agency.
“The most valuable lesson I have learned is to not be afraid to put myself out there,” Tice said. “I tend to be a more cautious person. But every time I had to start over in a new place over the past several years, I had to be willing to try new things and become more of a risk-taker.”
Risk taker, indeed, agreed Steve Wiebe-Johnson, Mission Network’s former regional director for Africa and Europe. He introduced Tice who shared highlights of her service experience at a staff gathering at Mission Network offices in Elkhart, Indiana, in January.
Magpie Hollow, an Anabaptist retreat center in South Browenfels, New South Wales, Australia.
“Naomi has had one of the most diverse assignments that we’ve given in recent times,” Wiebe-Johnson said. “If we were giving awards for persistence, resilience and flexibility, Naomi would be the awardee.”
While receiving affirmation from Mission Network leadership was, no doubt, uplifting, Tice found the persistence within herself to continue to follow her calling and withstand the detours she has experienced.
The first detour appeared in 2018, while Tice was serving at the Urban Light community on the Oakmere Estate in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, England. She was working with several programs for children through seniors. Having been denied a visa renewal because Brexit — the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union — caused visa regulation changes, Tice returned home to Pennsylvania in 2019, to wait six months for the situation to straighten out. But it never did.
“I went to England for a three-year term, then returned home with a plan to obtain a license for ministry, so I could get a work visa and return to England,” Tice said. “Then visa regulations changed again, requiring me to wait a year before I could apply for that new visa!
Tice said she felt a year was too long to ask her supporters at
Springs (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Church to wait for her return to England. So, she was reassigned in January 2020 to Australia to serve for six months with AAANZ and help Mark and Mary Hurst establish their home, Magpie Hollow, as an Anabaptist retreat center in South Bowenfels, New South Wales.
Because of COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia, Tice spent nine months cleaning the grounds at the 700-acre retreat center, organizing the online prayer calendar and helping nurse a sick wombat back to health.
“One surprise, in Magpie Hollow, during the lockdown, was that we met a sick wombat, whom we named Wilbur,” she said. “We learned, from local wildlife specialists, how to kill the mites that gave him mange and remove the ticks that he was covered with.
The team at
Christliche Dienste, Bammental, Germany. From left: Ricardo Dettweiler, Naomi Tice, Vero Schieffer, Megan Rosenwink, Mareike Ecker, Dorit Franz, Simon Danner.
Once the retreat grounds became tidier, the wombat revived and strict lockdown loosened, Tice left Australia to serve with the German Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) organization,
Christliche Dienste, in Bammental, Germany.
When she arrived in 2020, she took German language classes and then began work as an administrative assistant in the MVS office. “I enjoy the whole process of interviewing young adults for their assignments and hearing all about their experiences when they return,” Tice said.
In October 2023, she broke her ankle, while preparing to disembark on a train to a language class.
During Christmastime at her family’s home in Salisbury, Pennsylvania, her ankle healed further, and she said her spirit was renewed for new steps on her journey with God and others. The break gave her time to reflect, from a faith perspective, on the persistence she gained from her challenges.
“Germany is where I am called to be right now, and I've been incredibly blessed to have work I love doing, and I, now, have friends all around the world. I will be forever grateful for all the experiences I've had these past six years of international ministry.”
In January, she returned to Bammental, Germany.
“In Australia, after the rains came, we watched a magnificent sunset after a park outing,” Tice said. “Had the forest not burned, we wouldn’t have been able to see that sunset; and the trees were starting to regrow their leaves.”