Affiliate News

Children-at-risk as Co-agents of Mission

NZCMS - Fri, 13/10/2017 - 19:20

By Michelle Sheba Tolentino and Susan Hayes Greener.

After the worship service ended on a recent Sunday, Erika spontaneously came up to me (Susan) and asked with a smile, ‘Can I pray for you?’

I replied, ‘Yes, you can.’ I told her about the Second Lausanne Forum on Children-at-risk and mentioned that all the people coming would be working on issues important to children-at-risk.

She said, ‘Let’s pray,’ and then proceeded to pray for me and for all of the participants. She asked for God’s blessings upon us and that we would do good work for children.

Mission with children like Erika

Erika is not one of the adult women from our congregation. Erika is nine years old. She is slim and olive-skinned, with long dark wavy hair that reveals her Middle Eastern heritage. I have watched her pray aloud through every room as a group of us gathered for the blessing of a church family’s home. I have witnessed her rush to the front of the church to lay hands on and pray for people we are sending out for ministry. I have warmed to her smile as she greets me at the door to the sanctuary, offering a bulletin and a cheerful ‘good morning!’ I have rejoiced in her concentration as she passes the offering basket, taking her role as an usher seriously and fulfilling it with dedication and child-like grace. I have also watched with joy as she plays outside, while keeping a watchful eye on the younger children, gently correcting their misbehavior and herding them away from danger.

As a pastoral couple, my spouse and I have received blessing from her prayers. Our church family does mission ‘with’ Erika, as much as we advocate ‘for’ her and ensure that she is ministered ‘to’ through children’s education and discipleship opportunities. Our church family wholeheartedly embraces and listens to Erika.

She is a fortunate child. She is healthy; she goes to school; she lives in a community that has clean water, transportation, medical care, a public library, low crime, and many other systemic supports. She has two stable parents and a loving Christian home. Although her family is experiencing financial stress while her father is in seminary, entering into that place of hardship is an intentional decision and a temporary situation. Erika offers us an image of a thriving child, fully welcomed into the family of faith, co-laboring with all generations in the mission of God.

Children-at-Risk and their place in the Kingdom of God

Yet, not all children are so blessed. Children face great risk in every region of the world:

  • children live in extreme poverty;
  • children are affected by conflict, violence, and abuse;
  • children are swept up in the refugee crisis;
  • children are trafficked and prostituted;
  • and others face combinations of these and other daunting risks.

Although hundreds of millions of children face risks, each one is much more than a victim or a tragic label. Each child in our broken and messy world is a multi-faceted human being, created in God’s image, endowed with spiritual gifts—a child who can meaningfully participate as a co-laborer in church and mission. The global church is taking notice and rising up to address seriously the importance of children, particularly children-at-risk.

Lausanne Forum

Risks that negatively impact children and their place in the kingdom of God were among the issues addressed at the Second Lausanne Forum on Children-at-risk (CAR) held at Lancaster Bible Institute in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, May 14-17, 2017. The CAR Issue Group gathered 74 specially invited academics, church leaders, theologians, missiologists, practitioners, and representatives from child-focused non-governmental organizations to craft action plans for mobilizing the global church to address issues facing children-at-risk around the world.

We recognize that the move toward action is challenging. It is much easier to talk and write about issues than to mobilize the global church; yet, the CAR Issue Group is dedicated to fulfilment of two of the mandates of the 2010 Lausanne Cape Town Commitment regarding children:[1]

  1. to train people and provide resources to meet the needs of children worldwide; and
  2. to expose, resist and take action against all abuse of children.

To prepare for the gathering in Lancaster and to ensure that our work was theologically grounded, participants responded to two major documents: The Quito Call to Action for Children-at-Risk,[2] and Lausanne Occasional Paper 66: Mission with Children-at-Risk.[3] Both documents, produced out of the 2014 Lausanne Consultation on Children-at-Risk, call for the global church to develop collaborative plans emphasizing and acting on mission to, for, and with children-at-risk.

In keeping with the CAR Issue Group’s commitment to child participation in discourse that impacts their lives, we wanted to hear from children-at-risk about what it means for children-at-risk to thrive. Because we could not bring children into our midst during the forum due to ethical constraints, each participant was asked to conduct a listening exercise with children in their ministry contexts so that we could hear their reflections and view their artwork depicting what human flourishing looks like for them. This was a deeply significant and moving experience for those who eagerly shared children’s drawings and writings for analysis and display at the conference venue. Participants were constantly reminded of children’s capabilities and insights, as well as the importance of including their perspectives in action planning.

Each day a time of heartfelt worship and intentional prayer for children-at-risk was followed by meaningful biblical engagement with particular focus on mission with children-at-risk, an area where participants believe the global church to be less proficient. Plenary presentations during the first day reflected upon the Lausanne Occasional Paper from the perspectives of practitioners, theologians, and organizations. Several speakers, who were former children-at-risk, recounted powerful stories of transformed lives as families, churches, and ministries gave greater attention to mission to, for, and with children-at-risk.

The second and third days of the forum focused on working together in the five designated action groups, where each participant committed to taking on personally the tasks necessary for enacting plans. Children-at-risk were at the forefront of all discussions, as groups demonstrated a high value for their input and acknowledged their God-given creativity and wisdom as they developed concrete action steps to address the pressing issues that affect children.

Outcomes

Group 1Advocacy to the church for children in refugee communities (children on the move): The group plans strategically to educate the church about the perspectives of refugee children by collecting the first-person stories of children through art and interviews. They intend to focus particularly on children with refugee status, and include others ‘on the move’ as well, producing a prayer guide and book for church use.

 Group 2—Amplifying children’s voices: The group is developing a toolkit to be used to help adults in any local church setting to learn to listen to children’s input more effectively. The kit will be coupled with a plan for enhanced intergenerational models for being the church.

Group 3 – Multiplying training programs: The team proposed three important initiatives—creating a platform to share resources between schools and other training organizations; improving communication between seminaries and practitioners; and, finding fruitful materials to translate into local languages.

Group 4 – Regional Lausanne forums: The group will convene conversations regarding best practices for mission with children-at-risk with the goals of educating and inspiring churches in every part of the world for mobilization and collaborative action, starting in the Philippines and East Africa.

Group 5 – Reimagining the children-at-risk paradigm: The group started by sharing life and ministry experiences that caused them to question whether thriving should better be conceived as helping children discover meaning and purpose in their lives. They also recognized the importance of further theological reflection on mission limitations, humility, and failure as ways to better acknowledge how sometimes even our best efforts do not result in the transformation of children’s lives. The group plans to publish theological reflections about these concerns as one part of their action plan.

The forum has achieved an important milestone for the Lausanne Children-at-risk Issue Network in moving from talk to action. Las Newman, Lausanne Global Associate Director for Regions, noted the unusually high level of camaraderie, collaborative spirit, and passion of the forum attendees. We are blessed to gather some of the most influential and committed servant leaders in God’s kingdom working in collaborative partnership with one another, from different parts of the world and across generations, to see God’s heart and purpose unfold in the lives of his precious children in difficult circumstances. We look forward to seeing what each action group accomplishes in the coming year.

The call to minister to, for and with children-at-risk

The church is uniquely positioned to minister to, for, and with children-at-risk because it is present almost everywhere in the world. What changes would need to take place for the church to take seriously the call to minister to, for, and with children-at-risk?

  • Leadership, from the local church level up through institutional structures, can embrace a high view of children and Scripture so that policies and documents reflect the whole of Scripture, regarding children as fully included in the church.
  • Pastors and church leaders can be offered tools that value children-at-risk, not simply as recipients of service, but as co-agents of mission. Formal and non-formal education are necessary to train pastors to transform thinking about children-at-risk in churches.
  • Churches can examine ways in which they value or de-value children within their own church practices. For example, are children participating in worship, or are they sent away to a separate space for the entire service? Are children participating only in the pews, or are they helping to lead singing, take offerings, say prayers, share testimonies, or in other ways?
  • We can examine how the church intentionally engages in ministry to, for, and with children-at-risk within its community, city, and beyond. How might we be a prophetic voice speaking out on behalf of these children and their families? Are there ways that they might participate with us in ministry?
  • Ministry budgets can be analyzed to determine how much money is allotted to ministry with children and youth, and specifically, children-at-risk. What does your budget say about what you value?
  • Theologies that have sustained and justified violence against children or an attitude that they are somehow ‘lesser than’ adults must be reconsidered. How might church-sanctioned harsh punishment, extreme shaming for ‘sinful’ behaviors, or unrealistic expectations for maturity or perfection perpetuate violence and injustice toward children?
  • We must learn how to identify ‘appropriate participation’ of children, especially in evangelism and social action ministries. We must avoid anything that manipulates, exploits, or coerces children to participate based on adult agendas. Clear child protection and participation policies will help the church minimize risks of exploitation or spiritual abuse.

Now is the time to act! We call the global church to pray for us as we continue to seek God’s wisdom in our work together on behalf of the children-at-risk among us. In addition, we ask others to join us on mission to, for, and with children-at-risk, empowering them to flourish and express their God-given gifts and co-participation in the Missio Dei.

 

Michelle Sheba Tolentino is Catalyst for the Lausanne Children-at-Risk Issue Network. In 2011, she co-founded Made In Hope, a non-profit organization that provides educational and work opportunities to women who have been exploited in modern slavery (human trafficking and prostitution) and prevention of child sex-trafficking in the Philippines. Michelle also serves as Broadcaster and Producer for ‘Okiddo: The 4/14 Kids Show,’ a weekly radio broadcast for children and youth (Far Eastern Broadcasting Company, Philippines) that reaches 500,000 listeners. It was awarded a Golden Dove Award in 2015 by the Broadcasters Association of the Philippines. She also travels internationally to speak as an advocate for women and children-at-risk.

Susan Hayes Greener, PhD, is Catalyst for the Lausanne Children-at-Risk Issue Network and currently serves as Associate Professor of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School. She has worked in human development for over two decades in universities and NGOs, including Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, One Child Matters, Compassion International, Early Head Start, and Yale University. Susan has trained Christian workers from over 50 countries and authored works on children-at-risk and global human development topics, including co-authoring Effective Intercultural Communication: A Christian Perspective (Baker Academic, 2014) and co-editing a special issue on children-at-risk for Transformation (Summer, 2016).

 

This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission as part of the LGA Media Partnership. Learn more about this flagship publication from the Lausanne Movement at www.lausanne.org/lga

 

Endnotes

[1] The Cape Town Commitment, Lausanne Movement (2011), II.D.5, https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment.

[2] Quito Call to Action on Children at Risk, Lausanne Movement (2014), https://www.lausanne.org/content/statement/quito-call-to-action-on-children-at-risk.

[3] Mission with Children at Risk (LOP 66), Lausanne Movement (2014), https://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/mission-children-risk-lop-66.

 

Categories: Affiliate News

Meet the Millers

NZCMS - Thu, 12/10/2017 - 15:14

I (Andy) was brought up in Peru as a missionary kid during a time of persecution, which taught me that the Christian life is a great adventure! Shona felt called to be a missionary at the age of 12 after hearing the story of John Elliot’s martyrdom. We met in Spain over Easter 1999 when Shona was on a 5 day holiday and I was a student at a Madrid University. We married in London and moved to NZ in 2001, with a sense that at some stage we would be going to Latin America as missionaries.

17 years and three amazing children later, we feel God saying “Go!” In fact, Aliana (13), Jeshaiah (11) and Elías (8) set the ball rolling as they discussed their desire to learn Spanish like Daddy. God is calling us to mobilise and facilitate a rising wave of mission from Latin America. Based in Costa Rica, Shona and the kids will start off learning Spanish and Andy will travel, preaching and networking with leaders of churches and national mission organisations.

Being in Costa Rica will also mean we’ll be close to the grandparents who have been missionaries there with Latin Link over the past 15 years. It’s exciting to therefore be building on my father’s legacy!

We’re excited to join team NZCMS!

Categories: Affiliate News

Communications Officer Job

NZCMS - Mon, 09/10/2017 - 15:35

What will it take for future generations to become passionate about global mission? What will it take for the church to re-imagine her place in God’s plan of redemption? What will inspire the next wave of reformation, renewal and revival in New Zealand and beyond?

The answer: STORY.

Stories are what free our imaginations and enable us to dream in new ways. Story is what shapes how we see the world. And story is how we can ensure people not only know about mission, but see themselves a part of it!

We’re looking for a new Communications Officer who can help us capture stories of mission and convey them in a transformative way. You’ll be responsible for planning, editing and overseeing the production of a variety of mission publications that help tell the story of NZCMS and our work today. This requires both creativity and an eye for detail.

 

A job description can be downloaded by clicking here.

For more information please email Janet@nzcms.org.nz

Categories: Affiliate News

A busy month coming

NZCMS - Thu, 05/10/2017 - 14:54

Murray and I have a bit of a heavy travel schedule in October for which we would appreciate prayer for:

From October 5 to 7 we’ll be in Kosovo for a Field Council meeting (oversight group for the Albania/Kosovo ECM missionaries), and to have annual review discussions with the missionaries in Kosovo. From the 7th – 10th we’ll be in Bulgaria to have annual review discussions with the ECM missionaries and national workers there.

From the 17 – 21 October we’ll be in Montenegro, as this year it’s our turn to be the our organisation’s missionary representatives at the annual Albanian Encouragement Project conference and board meeting.

Then from the 24th – 27th Féy will be in Spain to lead the Ministry Direction Group group as they look at all ECM’s missionaries ministry plans for the coming year, as well as evaluating all the new project funding requests.

So yes, October promises to be a busy month! Please keep us in your prayers.

Categories: Affiliate News

Anne’s Absence

NZCMS - Tue, 03/10/2017 - 18:43

By Anne Allen.

It’s with a tinge of sadness I finish up at NZCMS this Friday after having been here for almost six years. One of the highlights of my time here would have to be attending our Hui in the Bay of Islands to commemorate the bicentenary of CMS mission to New Zealand. It was wonderful to get alongside so many members of the CMS family and celebrate this event.

I have really enjoyed meeting and getting to know so many of our supporters in person, by email and by telephone and it was always a pleasure to catch up with Mission Partners when they were home on deputation. I am looking forward to having a short break which includes a trip up to Whangarei before I look for further employment. Janet my replacement is settling in well and no doubt you will have the opportunity to connect with her sometime in the near future.

Categories: Affiliate News

Introducing Janet

NZCMS - Mon, 02/10/2017 - 13:46

By Janet Mansell.

It’s good to be here working as the new Operations & Finance Manager for NZCMS.

Isn’t it funny how life sometimes goes around in circles?  As a young adult I went to South Korea on a short term missions trip with OMF. It was a life changing experience for this young lass from Southland – spending time in the large cities of Pusan and Seoul and having my whole world view transformed. Being there helped me develop a much greater sense of the love that God has for the many nations of this world. It became a dream to then share this experience with my husband and children. I visited Lima, Peru with my husband and three children in 2000 where I worked as the accountant for SIM for three months.

It feels very special to be back in this mission space and I look forward to supporting the  team at NZCMS.

Categories: Affiliate News

Final reflections from Fiji

NZCMS - Sun, 01/10/2017 - 13:35

Here are some reflections from Graeme Mitchell on the recent Golden Oldies mission encounter in Fiji. The full article, along with many photos, can be read by clicking here.

Farewell Fiji, again.

“Many Fijians have so little, but they have given us so much, to make us feel welcome and part of their families”
“I feel so humbled and inspired from this mission”

These phrases summarise many of the team’s observations of their days visiting and contributing to mission projects around Suva.

Supporters Generosity

The Mission commenced with many residents from Archer, families, friends, supporter groups, churches, previous Golden Oldies members contributing to the mission with donated equipment and materials; donations to purchase specialist equipment to take; and commitments to pray for the mission.

We purchased medical equipment and supplies, laptops, kitchen utensils, guitars, received donated carpentry tools, sports uniforms, childrens bible stories, bibles, school stationery, scientific calculators, teaching instruction manuals on core cirriculum subjects, family packs of childrens books and towels-soaps-toothbrushes, sheets, towels, pillow cases, tea towels, and other items that came to a total of 150kg of excess baggage.

Fiji Airways in their generosity heard about the mission to suppport the people of Fiji and offered to donate the full 150kg of space ‘free of charge’. That has never occurred before, and we were very appreciative of their sponsorship to bring all these treasures to their Fijian people.

We landed in Nadi, Fiji and all 21 boxes of excess freight thankfully were claimed off the conveyor belt, with only 40-minutes to find our ‘ground courier’ who was going to drive all the freight to Suva, 5-hours away. But, there was Customs to get through. We were required to have an Import certificate, Customs broker and pay import tax! An official Customs Officer opened the first box (50 children’s books) and started asking how much each book was valued at. Time was ticking on. 30-minutes before we had to check-in for our domestic flight to Suva. He asked about what we were doing, requiring a description of each box, then suddenly said ‘oh away you go, no charge this time’ There’s a saying in Fiji that says ‘God is good…All the time…God is good’ How very true that was at that moment with the many prayers of people supporting the mission.

Rushing through the terminal, we met our driver, crammed all 21 boxes into his car, and he headed for Suva. We met him at the Bible College 4-hours later! His car must’ve had wings!!
This event was the beginning of many little miracles that we encountered every day of this mission, as we saw God’s presence touch the hearts of people we met.

Bible College Home

The Bible College near completion, after its significant development

The team returned to their ‘spiritual home’ again this year at the St Johns Bible College, after the College has been going through a major redevelopment over the past 2-years. Although not quite completed, the GOM team were the first ‘guests’ to be allowed to stay at the newly expanded College. Some slept in the yet to be completed Cafeteria, to ensure all the team could remain on the campus. The Chambers extended family showered the team in their love, wonderful hospitality and care, with the team being so appreciative, as every other team has felt in previous years. A sanctuary for a tired team as they returned to the college each evening.

Villages become families

The Villages welcomed the team, more as returning friends than visitors or strangers. The benefit of returning each year building trust, and renewing friendships was evident through the continued ‘talanoa’ (conversations) we had.

Arriving one evening to a squatter village on a hillside outside Suva, the village had prepared a makeshift shelter with tarps draped over the bamboo poles protecting us from the monsoon downpour we were encountering. This was the meeting room for that evenings event. From a kava ceremony, to formal introductions, to lovu-cooked food, to children dancing, and then engaging with Golden Oldies to dance under the stars on rain-soaked spongy grass, this became the model for many of the team visits to other squatter settlements we visited.

But there is a serious side to all this, as well as gifting some of the supplies we had brought with us, we wanted to further the partnership to build village well-being and offer spiritual encouragement.

 Micro-enterprises

One of the main projects significantly advanced was the ‘mud-brick’ vision.
To establish training in brick-making and carpentry skills, to then build affordable cyclone-proof housing and church buildings for these squatter villages. In addition to this is the expectation to sell bricks as another money source alongside their fish and veges currenlty sold at the road side.

 

Roger and Thomas, along with Alfred from Fiji, spent all week meeting church and village leaders, developing, revising, then revising their plans that could make the project genuinely feasible. At weeks end, they announced their much anticipated proposal.

 

A Project Manager is being employed by Golden Oldies to oversee the establishment and development of the making of mud bricks in 3 villages, one on the other main island of Vanua Levu. They are importing 2-new mud brick machines from China to compliment the one already about to start operation in making bricks. The first bricks made are going to complete a demonstration affordable home, a new Sunday school and extension to a church.

 

Building materials are scarce and expensive in Fiji , and being the first to offer this alternative cheaper mud-brick to expensive cement-bricks could help take the squatter villages out of poverty and overseas aid dependency, to offer these village-churches some greater self-determination and regular employment for their men folk.
The next 6-months will be a very interesting time for all involved, and something the Golden Oldies are very proud of supporting through fundraising for the seed money needed, technical and operational support as partners in the project.

Crafts expansion and diversification

One remote squatter village we visit relies solely on sales from its minute crops and fishing. The men row for 1.5-hours through mangrove creeks to the ocean, then another 5km out to sea to catch their fish, then return on the incoming tide with their catch. Sadly they are noting a reduced quantity of fish available, and with the sea levels notably rising as they share their concerns for their survival. Furthermore, on their village border demand for new housing is bringing the bulldozers alarmingly closer to invade their village lifestyle of decades. With all that doom and gloom, they challenged us! Get on with what you have and continue to innovate. Last year the team saw them experimenting with making grass brooms to sell. They had made two. And by the end of that mission they had made another 10 and delivered them before the team departed.

 

This year, they were prepared for the GOM teams arrival, and it was beyond our wildest dreams. They had diversified to make a range of crafts to sell. By the end of this visit they couldn’t believe they had sold everything, amazed and proud of their efforts. The value of their morning sales was equivalent to 5-months of selling fish and veges at the road side stall!
Visiting this village every year by the Golden Oldies has brought deepening friendships and  some measure of new hope for the diversification of their micro-businesses.

 

To read the rest of this article and to see the many photos, click here.

Categories: Affiliate News

Introducing Chelsea

NZCMS - Wed, 27/09/2017 - 11:30

We’re delighted to introduce to you Chelsea, our latest NZCMS Mission Intern.

Kia Ora! I’m Chelsea and I’m super stoked to be interning with NZCMS as I prepare to head off to Africa for three months, two of those living in rural Uganda with NZCMS Mission Partners Nick and Tessa!

A little bit about me: I’m a born and raised Cantab and am in my first year of Uni. A huge passion of mine is to see people have an equal shot at life and learn how absolutely LOVED they are by God. I’m heading over to Uganda because I love travel, because I’ve always wanted to go there, for the rich culture. But the major reason for me is to challenge and grow my faith. To learn what life is like for others and learn how they remain with such strong hope and faith even in some pretty rough circumstances. So yeah I’m just super stoked to be on a journey of learning lots and lots!

Please be praying for Chelsea as she prepares for the twists and turns of the journey ahead.

Categories: Affiliate News

A final reflection

NZCMS - Thu, 21/09/2017 - 18:36

With my departure from the office imminent, I wanted to share a reflection I’ve been mulling over for a while now. I’ve been in this communications role for almost four years, and as I get ready to leave my role, this is a good chance to share some reflections on NZCMS and our future – especially as we approach our 125th anniversary as an organisation.

A while back I was representing NZCMS at a conference. During a worship time we were invited to ask God to speak about the group we represent. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to hear anything, so was a little surprised when a couple of Bible passages along with an image popped into my mind. As I’ve pondered this, I believe it captures an important element of where we are as a nationwide community.

Picture a small group of soldiers with their shields, chain-mail, helmets, swords. These soldiers have truly ‘fought the good fight.’ They’ve been in the battle so long that their armour is worn and tired and dull – it’s not going to last much longer. But unlike the rest of their set-up, their shields are glowing and bright. There’s something about who they are and how they’ve fought that, though everything else has aged as you’d expect, their shields have become almost supernaturally illuminated – rather than wearing out, they have become stronger.

Through this image I felt God was speaking of the loyal NZCMS family who have been committed to this community for decades. Many of you have fought the good fight and are nearing the end of your race (2 Timothy 4:7). This raises questions for both you and for the wider NZCMS family: what will the future of our community be like? Who will rise up and ‘take your place’? How will we be sustained into the future? For years we’ve been seeing decline across the church and fewer people are picking up the mantle of mission. If something doesn’t change, is there a future for mission in and from New Zealand (… and is there a future for NZCMS)?

At the end of the image I’m describing I felt God ask, “How can you hand on your ‘faith’”? In Ephesians 6:16 Paul describes the shield of faith/faithfulness, one of the key pieces of the Christian’s ‘spiritual armour.’ The question to you is, what would it mean to hand over this ‘shield’ to the next generations? Are there things you can do so that your years of faithfulness and faith will be, in a sense, passed on to those stepping into your place in the battle?

These questions make me think of my friend Stewart Entwistle who passed away earlier this year. He dedicated the final years of his life to various research and writing projects, ensuring stories of faithfulness in mission endured. Now that he’s joined the great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) he’s no doubt cheering us on, knowing that he did what he could to make sure this ‘shield’ was passed on. Let’s all do likewise!

Categories: Affiliate News

When Prayer Meets Calling (Issue 32)

NZCMS - Thu, 21/09/2017 - 18:30

By Steve Maina (NZCMS National Director)

I remember it clearly. Floating above the earth, glancing down at the world, wondering where I’d land. When my feet finally rested in Saudi Arabia, I was a little caught off guard.

No, I’m not an astronaut, and no, NASA hasn’t invested in a base in the Middle East. Let me explain. During my university years, I was part of the Christian union group. We felt God calling us to invest in prayer for the world, so we developed a unique model to make it work for us.

Every so often we’d roll out a giant map of the world and spread it across the floor. This thing was massive, easily filling the average Kiwi living room. The line from Psalm 2, “Ask of me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,” inspired us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come to the nations as we literally stepped on different nations on the map.

Because of the busy uni schedule, many of us would start gathering as early as 5am, and since sleep might be unnecessary distraction at that hour, it only made sense to walk about while praying. We’d walk across the map without looking down, praying for God to be at work in his world. It wasn’t until you felt the Spirit’s nudge to stop walking that we’d look down to see where in the world we were stepping, and at that point we were encouraged to spend 10 minutes interceding for that specific country. We had Patrick Johnstone’s Operation World as a resource if we needed more info on how to pray for specific countries, but often we’d find God give us the words – and the heart – to pray for places we previously had no connection to. In prayer, God shared with us a glimpse of his heart for the nations! 

I remember the morning I landed on Saudi Arabia, the heartland of the Middle East. I didn’t just pray for those 10 minutes and move on, but felt God lead me time and again to pray for this country for a number of years. In fact, over this time I felt a growing sense the Lord was calling me there as a cross-cultural worker one day. But I didn’t know at the time how to take the next step. With a growing heart for the Middle East, after university I stumbled upon a dream job with an organisation that was seeking to disciple followers of Isa in this region of the world. I studied the Koran and helped run a discipleship correspondence course for several thousand inquirers and young Christians from Muslim backgrounds. That involved writing many thousands of letters – by hand! – for the next year and a half.

I’ve still never been to Saudi Arabia and I don’t know if there’s ‘unfinished business’ for me there, but I do know that this ‘mapping prayer’ helped ignite in me a global mission vision that has shaped my vocation as a Mission Mobiliser and eventually led to me being based here in New Zealand. With so many Saudis in this country, perhaps there’s now an opportunity to step further into that original sense of calling right here on my Kiwi doorstep. 

Prayer enables us to align our priorities with God’s and to subject our will to his. I believe prayer is vital in helping us identify the places God is calling us to be involved. There are things God has stored up for you that will only be discovered as you pray! I find many young Christians desiring a sense of calling and purpose in the world, but often that will only come about when they first turn their eyes off themselves and towards God and his world. 

In that moment of prayer I didn’t just intercede for a country I knew nothing about. It was a true kairos moment where God invited me to enter in and started me on a journey of discovering my purpose in his world! The question is: What might he be inviting you into?

For discussion

Like Steve’s prayer map example, what sort of things could your group do together to make prayer more engaging?

Have you ever felt God inviting you into something new during prayer? Have you actually pursued it? Is God inviting you into something new?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Categories: Affiliate News

Protests in Togo

NZCMS - Wed, 20/09/2017 - 12:18

Since early September, there have been demonstrations and protests across Togo, demanding that the current president step down for power. President Faure Gnassingbe has already been in office for 12 years, and he became president following the death of his father who had ruled the country for many years, meaning the Gnassingbe family have been in power for 50 years. Protesters want to see the Togolese constitution limit presidents to two terms in office.

In response to the protests, the Togolese authorities have intermittently blocked internet access, seemingly in an effort to hinder protesters from gathering. The scale of recent protests, which the opposition said were attended by hundreds of thousands of people, represented the biggest challenge to Gnassingbe’s rule since the aftermath of his ascension to power in 2005.

Earlier this week the Togolese parliament sought to pass a bill limiting presidents to two terms in office, but it failed to win approval due to a boycott by opposition lawmakers. Though the opposition are hoping for the two term limit, under the terms of the bill, the current president would be eligible for two further five-year terms that could leave him in power until 2030.

The above video which was released on September 7, gives you a clearer picture of the situation. For more information you can see the articles on the situation at Al Jazeera or Reuters

Nationwide protests are planned again for this Wednesday and Thursday starting at 8am (8pm NZ time). Both the pro-presidential group and the opposition party are planning on protesting at the same time. Miriam Tillman’s team at the Hospital of Hope are taking every precaution to keep safe, and there has been no reported danger for expatriates. But please keep them, and the whole country, in your prayers.

Categories: Affiliate News

Jars of Clay & Learning to Pray (Issue 32)

NZCMS - Mon, 18/09/2017 - 19:00

By Anne (Serving in the Middle East with NZCMS)

As I write I hear the familiar voice of our local ‘spinach lady’ in animated conversation on the street outside. Hearing her prompts me to ask God to have mercy on her and let her come to know him.

Earlier today I sat with a new neighbour for an hour and heard her tragic story. She’s not a believer but I prayed that God would speak to her heart as I shared about a current dilemma I’m facing and how God was helping me through it. As I left I told her I’d be praying for her.

Yesterday I met with two friends and we spent time praying for each other’s needs. One woman wept silently as we brought her needs before the throne of grace.

At church on Sunday the preacher asked, “Should we pray for Daesh?” Following a general murmured consensus one man said, “With God all things are possible.” Some of those sitting there were refugees whose lives had literally been turned upside-down by Daesh. I prayed that God would help them to forgive, and yes, to pray for their enemies.

Last weekend we attended a wedding. It was a lovely wedding held in a Catholic church and as the priest spoke his message to the happy couple I prayed that the truth of his words would penetrate hearts and minds despite the distractions of flashing camera lights, glamorous gowns, and adorable bridesmaids and pageboys.

Flossing, Eating, Breathing

Why pray? Prayer opens the way for God’s power to work. How sad is it when we so often go through our days forgetting the awesome privilege we have as believers in a God who hears and answers prayer. That’s why at different times in my life I’ve used prompts to remind me to pray throughout the day – maybe hearing a phone ring, or going into a particular room, or walking up and down stairs. Lord, help us to pray.

Maybe for some of us prayer is a bit like flossing – undoubtedly beneficial but easily postponed till the next day if time is pressing. For others prayer may be like a good meal – a nourishing and anticipated part of our daily routine. For yet others prayer is like breathing – the frequent expression of a deep and abiding, though not always conscious, dependence on God.

During my years of serving overseas I’ve experienced prayer in all of these ways. Yet I confess that sometimes my prayer life has not been what I wished it to be. It’s opportunity that’s now lost. Prayer is the heart of our relationship with God. It’s the life-line that holds us to our Lord and is an essential element in our service for him.
I’ve always been captivated by the thought expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” The amazing treasure that each of us ‘clay pots’ carry is the Gospel, the power of God for salvation and transformation through Jesus Christ. Part of the secret of the clay pot is its porous nature which allows it to absorb water and remain saturated with it. This enables it to keep the liquid it holds refreshingly cool. The pot becomes permeated by what it contains. As we spend time in the Word and in the presence of the Lord in prayer and worship, our lives become permeated by his life. The more permeated our lives are with him, the more we will overflow with his love and goodness. This is surely the prayer of our hearts – more of him, less of me.

Praying for Missionaries

Maybe you’re wondering how to pray effectively for missionaries when you don’t have a real feel for their situations and don’t know what their specific needs are. Rather than just asking for general blessings – which is certainly not a bad thing to pray – perhaps you could begin by praying for their prayer-lives to be enriched. Pray that they will be deeply rooted in God’s Word and for their lives to be permeated with the life of Christ.

We don’t usually need to be reminded that we’re clay pots as we’re often all too aware of it, but pray that they will remember that they are carrying a treasure. Pray that they will have opportunities to share that treasure with those around them. And pray that whatever difficulties or battles they are facing, they will be reminded of the power of God to hold them and his strength to sustain them, and that they will be given new hope in believing.

Of course, there are many more things you could pray. The Apostle Paul has some wonderful prayers in his epistles for example. The most important thing is to simply pray, and as you do, be assured that prayer opens the way for God’s power to work. There have certainly been times when I’ve known we were being prayed for and have literally felt buoyed up by the prayers of the saints! Workers who have people committed to faithfully praying for them are truly blessed.

Anne has offered insights into how invaluable and essential prayer is for missionaries. NZCMS produces resources to guide you in praying for our MPs around the world. To sign up for our monthly Prayer Fuel pamphlet or to receive our email newsletter Interchange, please contact the NZCMS office (office@nzcms.org.nz).

For discussion

In your life, how have you experienced prayer as flossing, eating and breathing? Are you in a season of flossing, eating or breathing at the moment?

What can you and your group do to grow in your prayer support for Mission Partners around the world?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Categories: Affiliate News

Moving goal posts

NZCMS - Thu, 14/09/2017 - 19:20

It was a pleasure to see Rev Steve Maina from NZCMS two weeks ago at the Enthronement of the new Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea. The day was bright and colourful – though I can’t say the same about the weather, which was somewhat damp at times. It was also a delight to meet many other old friends and make new ones. The highlight for me however on the Monday following the event where the PNG Bishops sat with their fellow Bishops from Melanesia, England, Australia and New Zealand. They shared their challenges and their mutual hopes for the future of the Anglican Church in PNG.

Now to the question I’m sure you’ve been wondering: Where in the World am I?!  In some earlier newsletters I had said that I’d be relocating again on June 30. It’s now well past 30th of June but… I’m not in the Archbishop’s Office and we are no closer to knowing when I will actually relocate again. Winding back the clock a little, in January I came across to Popondetta to assist at Newton Theological College for ‘six months’ until Archbishop Clyde Igara retired in June.

The new Archbishop, Allan Migi, asked me to continue in my role as his executive assistant for a further term. However that did not mean I would leave Newton College in July, and there continues to be a level of uncertainty around timing – hence the mixed messages in the NZCMS Prayer Fuel about my whereabouts. Simply put: ‘the goal posts keep moving’.

What we do know is that ++Allan will be based in Lae on the same site as the National Office (when he finishes in the Diocese of New Guinea Islands near the end of the year). This means I will not be returning to live in Port Moresby for the foreseeable future but will eventually go to Lae. The building where my accommodation and office space will be is in the process of renovation. So I find myself still living at Newton Theological College in Popondetta.

Thank you once again for your love and prayers.

Categories: Affiliate News

Thanks from Anthony and Anne

NZCMS - Wed, 13/09/2017 - 15:14

We’ve both been overwhelmed at the warmth of the support we have received during our time of Leave & Home Service here in New Zealand. We want to say a very big thank you to all of those churches which have hosted us and the many people who continue to pray & support us on an ongoing basis. 

We return to Cambodia in two weeks and hope to communicate with you all more regularly during our next term. We’ll be writing more regularly on our blog in this coming season, which can be found at www.anneandanthony.wordpress.com. You can even sign up to receive email alerts when we write new blogs – just scroll down the page a bit and look for the “Follow blog via email” heading. And if you’re not on our newsletter list, please email office@nzcms.org.nz and ask to be added.

Categories: Affiliate News

Sponsorship and education

NZCMS - Tue, 12/09/2017 - 15:28

SHE’S MADE IT!  Back in 2003 a sad, small and sickly 5 year old Giselle entered Hebron Children’s Home from a very unhappy family background. With the help of some generous sponsors, she was able to finish elementary school well, and we sent her home to help and to go through high school – which was a bit daunting, but she did it.

But how would she be able to pursue a career? Again, sponsors stepped in and enabled her to do a two year course in Culinary Arts followed with a graduation and then job hunting. Finally, she has her first job! Giselle helps run a snack corner in a very nice mall. It’s a good start and she is doing and learning lots. Thanks to sponsorship who gave her a chance!

(The photo above is Giselle in 2003, the year she joined the children’s home.)

 

Categories: Affiliate News

Reacquainting our knees with the carpet (Issue 32)

NZCMS - Fri, 08/09/2017 - 19:00

By Katie (Serving in Spain with NZCMS)

“I pray but I could always pray more.” I hear myself say that time and time again. But why should I? Why are we ‘all called to pray’? Living in Spain in the midst of a different culture and language has taught me a lot about the importance of prayer for my relationship with God and for mission. As we pray we express our dependency on God – not only for own lives but also if we’re to see any change happen in the lives of others.

Learning to be dependent

They say people respond in various ways during the process of cultural transition. When I started off here in Spain, with only about five words of Spanish under my belt, my initial response was plenty of frustration. I battled away with trying to express myself and simply understand what was going on around me, and for a while I became pretty dependent on other people. I felt more like a pre-schooler than a ‘sorted-out’ mature adult.

This is how God wants us before him. He wants us to be dependent like children so that we cry out and, like the writers of the psalms, pour out our hearts to him. In those first few months I spent a lot of time talking to God as I knelt next to my bed, went for long walks around the city and wrote words to him in my prayer journal.

The process of cultural transition called me to pray and helped me see how much I depend on God – in my weakness but also when I might feel strong. As Christians we’re called to pray because we’re dependent on God, and because of his love for us in Christ he desires to listen to us.

I’m loving working alongside a Spanish church that has a heart to see people discover who God is in the Bible. However, the non-believers I meet are on the whole reluctant to ask questions or engage in any conversation about God. I think it’s about the same in New Zealand as well. Wherever we are in the world, a lack of spiritual curiosity makes mission at times feel discouraging. As a response, prayer has been where my team has been turning because as Christians we depend on God to be at work in the lives of others.

Learning to be intentional

Intentionality and sometimes a bit of planning can be helpful to motivate us to pray. I’ll share a few of the ways we’ve been learning to pray for the city and its people.

Having fellow Christians to push you on in prayer is really helpful and incredibly encouraging. Every Thursday morning I meet with a couple of other women and together we walk around a specific suburb praying for the people, businesses, schools, community centres. Pretty much anything we see can be prayed for! We also pray for churches and church leaders, for local and national governments, as well as for some of the common obstacles to the Gospel.

I enjoy praying through passages of the Bible as well. I find that using God’s word to form my prayers helps me pray specifically. Once a month as we walk we use various Scripture verses printed onto sticky notes to shape our prayers. After we pray we stick that particular Scripture to a park bench, a lamppost or some other item of street furniture with the hope that someone may read about Jesus.

It doesn’t have to always be praying out and about. You can stick verses around the house and use them in your prayers as you lay eyes on them during the day. A dear friend of mine, a busy mum, uses the laundry as her place to pray. She has Scripture and prayer points on the walls and uses that space to pray fervently for God to be at work in our city and province. You can be as creative as you want!

God’s been teaching me that prayer is front-line work in mission and essential for seeing people become curious and want to discover more about him. My desire is to see people in Spain know true and lasting joy in Christ and so I’m called to pray to the one who alone can gift people this joy. Day to day we depend on God to change lives as well as to continue working in our own lives. And so, as Brooke Fraser sings, we’re all called to keep “reacquainting our knees with the carpet.”

For discussion

Have you felt that you are not measuring up to the standard of ‘praying enough’? Why do we often feel this ‘pressure to perform’?

What could you, as a group, do to spur each other on in prayer WITHOUT this pressure?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Categories: Affiliate News

The Moment I realized I couldn’t be a Monk (Issue 32)

NZCMS - Tue, 05/09/2017 - 19:00

By Rev Joshua Taylor (Vicar at St John’s in Timaru)

Just over four years ago my life took a dramatic turn. My wife Jo and I entered the unknown territory of parenthood. We now have two lovely girls, Phoebe (4) and Esther (1).

I think it would be fair to say that I underestimated the impact having kids would have on my prayer life. It’s not like I was undertaking great vigils of prayer or had an amazing set of disciplined rhythms in the first place. Yet when we had kids, any rhythms that I did have in place took the backseat in the hustle and bustle of family life. I’ve heard all the romantic claptrap about wonderful times of prayerful cuddles and encountering God in the midst of changing nappies, but frankly it just seemed more like sleepless nights and a juggling act just to keep the balance of life at home and work.

I remember a friend of mine with teenage children who had just left home saying to me that he finally felt as if he was reconnecting with the passion he had for his faith in his early adulthood. He admitted he hadn’t prayed much or engaged in any kind of mission while his kids were at home and he described parenthood as like ‘being on a treadmill.’ I did the math and thought, if we had 3 kids and they left home at 18 (unlikely) with a couple of years between each, that would be around 22 years of my life on that treadmill. So, when I found myself staring down the barrel of nappies, kindy runs, teenage hormones and all of the responsibilities of parenting, I wondered if God really intended for us to get on the treadmill and largely ignore prayer and mission at home for two decades.

So I did my best to set up some personal rhythms of prayer, committing to taking time to read my Bible, spend time in silence, and morning and evening prayer. I treated prayer as a private exercise and added it to my long list of things to do on top of our busy home and work life.

As a Pastor this was simpler for me than most, since the flexibility of my working day gave me ample time to do this.
A year down the track I realized I my family and I were more stressed and stretched than ever. What was my problem? I had somehow decided it was a good idea to compartmentalise my life and go on my own heroic journey of prayer. It doesn’t help that most of the so-called heroes of prayer seem to have been single and celibate. It should have been obvious, but living like a monk isn’t feasible when you have a family. Something had to change.

It Begins with Baby Steps

For the past two years, I’ve served as the Vicar at St John’s in Timaru. My family and I moved to Timaru from Christchurch and it meant a personal cost for all of us. We left family and friends behind to go out on a mission, Jo left her job teaching, and we left our support networks to venture out. This was the moment God chose to shake me out of my individualistic complacency. We had to do this together or we wouldn’t last.

First, it started with some honest conversations with Jo. How could we keep the fires of a vibrant prayer life burning in our household? What would it look like? What would it mean to do ministry together and involve our kids? We started talking over coffee together, then we committed to rhythms that we could sustain in our little household. To begin with we carved out space for evening prayer together once the kids were in bed and before we crashed. We introduced times of eating together and prayer with our family around the table, lighting a candle over dinner, saying grace and having meaningful conversation about our day. We introduced a rhythm of reading devotions with our kids before bed and we created space where each of us could take quiet time aside to read the Bible daily.

What we’ve discovered as we’ve done this is that God has drawn us closer together as a family through prayer. We have a growing sense of shared mission and ministry and have begun to invite other families with young children into our home to share our lives and work out how to cultivate a culture of shared prayer and ministry as families. Prayer together is helping form us as a family-on-mission and is creating an extended family of other parents and children on the journey!

Being a Mum or Dad is busy, having a young family is hectic. Too often we can separate our family life from our vocation to be disciples of Jesus. During this busy stage of life many of us might struggle just make it to church, let alone a Bible study or to volunteer our time for a ministry programme of some kind. We often feel guilty as a result. But what if instead we simply looked for the small opportunities to pray, play and do mission together in the complexities of everyday life as a family?

For discussion

What does prayer look like for you in this stage of life? How is it different to previous stages?

Do you relate to Joshua’s experience of seeing prayer as a private exercise?

Are there baby steps you can be taking to grow as a prayerful (extended) family-on-mission?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Categories: Affiliate News

The Bible Project

NZCMS - Sat, 02/09/2017 - 13:48

The Bible Project… What is it?

Their mission “is to show how the Bible is a unified series that leads to Jesus.”

I first heard of this few months ago and eagerly signed up to ‘read daily scriptures.’ Each video is 5 – 10 minutes long covering different books and topics of the Bible. Cartoon sketches appear on the screen as a narrator takes us through the big picture of the Bible and how it fits into Gods greater story. It is fun, well told, visually appealing, and there must be close to a hundred videos to watch! There are even downloadable resources such as posters to accompany most of the videos.

Despite all that, our busy household couldn’t keep up with the length of the daily readings, although we did thoroughly enjoy their videos which give a big view of the Bible as well as overviews of each Biblical book. So we eventually gave up on using it as a daily family activity.

As usual, it is God that prompts us back to something that is really good. Our home group somehow ended up talking about Jonah when our current study guide asked us ‘are you a Jonah?’ Most of us have grown up knowing the story of Jonah and the whale. Young children can get quite amused at the concept of Jonah being vomited up on the beach from the mouth of a whale; as we get older we ponder the reality of being stuck inside a whale stomach for several days. Is that even possible?

We kept chatting, considering the truculent Jonah running from God, finally obeying God, and then sulking on a hill because God forgave the Nineavites and there was no mass destruction of lives. So we looked up the Bible Project. It’s American, it’s well done, only 9 minutes long and it gave a totally different perspective. Did you know the story is almost a comedy of paradoxes: of the one anointed by God continually running, yet the non-believers (the sailors) praying to God for safety from the storm; Jonah asking to be thrown – with certain death – into the raging seas rather than being obedient, and once he falls in the water the seas calm down. We see the same again as the Ninevites after hearing just seven words – and not one word mentions God – repenting from their sinful ways. Instantly! And Jonah the deliverer of the message throws a tantrum?

The outcome of our 9 minute video was running way over time with our home group, our youth group is studying Jonah at present, so guess what they’ll be watching on Sunday. And one mum in the home group will be showing the videos to her 10 year old son to encourage him to read the Bible. Now that is one powerful use of new media to get a new generation to think about the meaning of the Bible and how it all leads us to Jesus!

I for one will be turning to it a lot more often in future, to help our understanding when reading the Bible. Click the link below and go take a look. For those of you with grandchildren over the age of 10, why not give it a try, and get their feedback?

www.thebibleproject.com/explore

And am I ‘a Jonah’? Yes, it seems I might be. The story of Jonah it seems is a reflection of humanity. God calls us and we so often refuse to listen. But he is persistent and loves us, saves us from some unusual predicaments in some very creative ways and when he sets us a task does a lot to help us achieve it.

Categories: Affiliate News

The Health Centre That Wasn’t To Be

NZCMS - Wed, 30/08/2017 - 19:02

Phase 1 – Great hope
In March, we rode out with our enthusiastic nurse Walter to the frontier town of Elegu on the South Sudanese border. High population, no health centre, traders with a bit of money. What location could be better? The location even came with our Bishop Johnson’ recommendation.

Phase 2 – Bewilderingly slow
Things started surprisingly slowly. Only 60 patients came the first month. 97 the second. Walter was bored. The patients who came appreciated the service greatly, but we were bewildered by how few there were. After an amateur advertising campaign where we shouted through a megaphone, smeared A4 notices around town, and gained the trust of the local Maadi tribe, things started to pick up.

Phase 3 – Maybe yes?
In July, the clinic broke even for the first time, with a bunch of sick patients coming for IV treatment, in addition to more minor conditions. 175 patients for the month. Walter called excitedly with the statistics, sharing that the word had spread, that people were appreciating him, the health centre, and the care – the only high quality care available in the area.

FLOODED OUT  – We’ll never know
On Tuesday August 22, at around 4:00pm the banks of the Onyama River burst. The flooding was swift and violent. The scale is huge – as of now at least 3 people have been found dead, and over 2000 are displaced. Our nurse Walter ran 50 meters to the clinic from his hut in an attempt save the drugs, but only managed to gather half before the water reached waist deep. By the time he filled a bag with drugs, his own home was flooded. He lost all his rice and beans, but he and his wife made it safely up to the safety of the raised main road.

I thought he exaggerated when he said the water level reached over a meter, until I saw the water line on our drug cupboard today. Around 1.2 meters high. Today, a week later the water is still ankle deep, and Fiona from our Health office went to Elegu to retrieve the cupboard, desks and other equipment that were covered in mud. Amazingly the clinic hadn’t been looted. We spent this afternoon washing them up, so we can use them in another health centre soon. It hurts to lose Elegu clinic. something that could have done so much good. Time to mourn and move on.

There’s a great song, “Flood Waters” by Josh Garrells (do listen) which discusses a deep love which can’t be washed away. A love which can’t fail no matter what. Our love for this place, and Walter’s love for the people he treats won’t be washed away by this flood. We’ll all find new ways to put it into action.

Categories: Affiliate News

Learning to Breathe (Issue 32)

NZCMS - Sat, 26/08/2017 - 15:34

By Jeremy Harris (Grace Collective Auckland)

Prayer is a beautiful thing. When we pray we’re participating in Jesus’ relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit. We enter the Triune dance between Father, Son and Spirit of God through Jesus who is our Great High Priest, sitting at the right hand of the Father and making a way for humanity to come back to a relationship with God.

There’s so much going on in a conversation with God that we don’t always have the capacity to acknowledge it all at once, but I want to remind us of two elements in this transcendent and yet very grounded practice at the heart of our faith. Spirituality and mission are intrinsically connected, and for today’s cold, anxious and groaning world, the slowness, silence and solitude of the contemplative spiritual practices of the monastics is good news.

Resting in a busy world

I’m an anxious person. The first thought I have as I wake up is worry. I’m not alone in this. There’s a well-known and often ignored trend of growing mental illness in New Zealand. Ever increasing demands – whether financial, work related or self-imposed – are getting to the fabric of our hearts and damaging our souls. We have leaders who spread suspicion towards the most vulnerable in our world and anxiety about what refugees might do if we let them in. Meanwhile thousands displaced by war, violence and climate change are desperately anxious for a place to stay and food that’s regular. Anxious war-lords hoard wealth and fight for power at the expense of their own people, and single parents working three-jobs worry about what will happen to their kids if they can’t keep living off adrenaline from one thing to the next. The world is oftentimes an anxious place.

When I wake up, I’m often cold now days too. I’m flatting in a kind of accidental community of friends in an old uninsulated villa in Central Auckland. But as with my anxiety, the cold is reflective of the world we live in. It’s a reminder of the experience of the homeless on Queen Street who are passed by and given the cold shoulder by the public. It’s a reminder of the empty seats on the bus next to each of us just so that we don’t have to talk to someone we don’t know. It’s a reminder of the concrete floors of garages that families inhabit, or the winter winds beginning to blow against vans of homeless families in South Auckland. It is reminiscent of the colder winters and conversely the hotter summers of climate change, and likewise the West’s ignorance of the rising sea on Pacific Islands.

And like most of you, when I wake up I’m groaning – particularly on Mondays. But unlike my superficial groan of “not todaaaay,” the earth we’re slowly eating away at is crying out from deep within its belly. Our fast paced, over-consumptive and unsustainable life-styles are slowly but surely causing the rocks to cry out how glorious God is… and how fallen we’ve become.

Our world is moving at a pace faster than ever before, the earth’s resources are being used quicker than it can sustain, and we’re drawing borders between ourselves more than ever – whether national borders, picket fences, gated communities or smart phones. The earth is crying out for a spirituality that warms it, that slows it, that gives it solace and rest. We’re in desperate need of rest for our souls. But even though the Creator of the universe took time away to pray when he took on flesh, we are continuing to live like we don’t need to.

But the gift of the monastic traditions is a spirituality that speaks missionally right to the heart of the human condition: it offers community, connection with God by the Spirit through Jesus and his Body, and provides a stillness and slowness that our ever-accelerating world craves like the groaning of the earth.

Learning to breathe

Mother Teresa said that breathing is to the body what prayer is to the soul. Bill McKibben, the author and climate activist, says that when he feels down, the only healing is action. They are both right. We need both spirituality and mission. It’s the ancient art of breathing. Monastic spirituality offers a vehicle for these two to come together.

Two days before any march, Martin Luther King Jr would gather with others to pray. When the Waihopai Three were on trial for getting in the way of government sanctioned violence, they made a camp in a Wellington park and prayed all night for their enemies and the victims of war. They were joined by street kids and security guards, who later returned without uniform to keep praying with the kids. Nuns have prayerfully broken into a nuclear weapons facility and literally beat weapons of war into ploughshares with hammers. John the Baptist retreated and ended up being followed by his community to receive baptism. And Jesus died on the cross crying the words of a Psalm, and through it saved the world.

Mission. Spirituality. They go hand in hand. And the world is crying out from deep within itself for a spirituality that spills out of church walls to offer healing.

Before I leave each morning I sit with a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and the Scriptures, and with a friend or by myself, I sit in silence and pray the Jesus Prayer. I follow the words of those gone before me, prayed around the world and throughout history. I’m sent out by God into the world to participate in his Missio Dei. My anxieties are more and more stilled by the Word of God, and my heart is strangely warmed by his presence.

The world is over-stimulated and over-entertained. We don’t need more parties to help us forget all that we have to do. We need more stillness in the presence of God, like those silent times looking into the eyes of a loved one, to find happiness and rest once again.

My prayer is that we rediscover the ancient art of breathing. Spirituality and mission are intrinsically connected, and for today’s cold, anxious, groaning world, the slowness, silence and solitude of the contemplative spiritual practices of the monastics is good news.

For discussion

How does the pace of today’s world affect you?

Have you typically been stronger when it comes to ‘breathing in’ (spirituality) or ‘breathing out’ (mission)? How might you create more of a balance between the two?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Categories: Affiliate News

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