In this story, we hear from our Mission Partner John and how he and his family chose to respond to their unexpected evacuation. We also share a video from one our Mission Partners for prayer, and don’t miss an important update of NZCMS family news at the bottom of this email.
Responding to Times of Change
Being an evacuee has not exactly been something I had on my bucket list. And though the country my family and I we were in had a fairly severe lockdown, my thought was “Well, evacuation is a pretty strong word. It’ll never happen to us.” Needless to say, it was a shock when our course suddenly changed and we quickly found ourselves being evacuated to Europe, sitting on a Qatar Airways charter flight with the airline staff dressed in hazmat gear.
Response vs React
It’s a unique time for humanity, where all of us find ourselves caught up in a global mess with no clear solutions, answers or pathways forward. Each and every one of us has been forced to react to what’s happening.
And that’s what we’ve seen: a lot of reacting.
Panic buying. Anger. Blaming. Protests. Counter-protests. Anti-counter-protests. Instinctive, emotive, knee-jerk reacting has been hard to avoid.
But I believe, in times like this, God actually calls us to respond rather than react. To pause and, from a posture of trust, lift our hands to heaven and ask how should we act in this present moment? Responding isn’t to deny the reality we find ourselves in; it’s simply to recognise that we always exist within a much greater reality, God’s reality, and to think, process, decide, feel and imagine from within God’s reality rather than ours.
Put differently, it’s easy to get caught off-guard by all the things that are no longer possible, and as a result we can miss the new opportunities that are in front of us. The pandemic has absolutely disrupted life as usual, but it’s also opened doors that we had previously missed, and even created new ones.
There are a good number of people, families and organisations who have faced the reality of our current situation and asked “What do we need to change?”. They’ve found a way to pivot and to hold onto their vision, purpose and calling and make whatever changes are needed to continue forwards.
What has been our response to this?
While we were still in Asia we found ourselves unable to do pretty much anything we were there to do. But as it turned out, because everyone else in Asia was facing more or less the same thing, we realised that we could start running our trainings online from Europe. After all, everyone else was also stuck at home!
Within a month, we were able to offer training to around 100 people and were quickly adapting our methods for online platforms. And what’s more, because we’re now thinking in a different way, we discovered that the potential reach from our humble home office is actually huge, in spite of it being hundreds of miles away!
As a result of this, though our vision is the same as it was before, it feels like the pipe-dream that we originally had of influencing and empowering leaders right across Asia, is actually possible!
We have new tools, new strategies, new partners, and even new dreams, all which will still carry that vision forward in far better ways than before. Rather than merely hunkering down, we chose to respond rather than react and therefore discovered opportunities we previously couldn’t see.
My family and I have decided to embrace the stressful, scary unknown and take some pretty real risks. We’re still in the middle of the unknown and have basically no idea what the future holds. But we’ll keep trying to change, respond and lean into God as best as we can.
So what’s God placing in front of you, and how are you responding?
NZCMS Mission Partner to Asia
I couldn’t believe my eyes! Generous folks had already overshot our fundraising target in just two days! I was somewhere between jubilation and relief. We would now be able to prepare for coronavirus properly, and provide our staff with the much needed protection that only a consistent supply of gloves, masks and disinfectant can give. I felt even better as I saw comments that donors had made which showed the incredible love people had for our staff and our work.
The money is in action and has been split three ways.
The majority of the money went to St. Mary’s hospital, Lacor, the largest hospital in Northern Uganda, as they hadn’t been getting support from the government. Lacor is the only hospital north of the Nile with a functional ICU equipped with eight ventilators and a solar powered oxygen plant which can supply about forty people with oxygen at one time. The money helped them with connector tubes for supplementary cylinders, oxygen saturation measuring machines and a thousand surgical gowns for the COVID-19 ward. Equipment for Lacor Hospital St. Philip’s Health Centre
Much of the money also went to prepare the Diocese facilities. We bought oxygen concentrators for St. Philip’s Health Centre, and enough masks, gloves and disinfectant for all nineteen Diocese of Northern Uganda Health Centres and the four Oneday Health Centres in the Kitgum Diocese. In an economy where most people have little money, masks are insanely expensive. One Health Centre St. Peters, which is deep in the village, generates around $750 every month from patient fees. Masks alone now cost the facility $250 every month, and this will continue for some time. Thanks to you all, we’ve got enough money now to buy PPE until the end of the year, which means our amazing staff can get on with the real life saving work of curing malaria, pneumonia and diarrheal disease.
Because you gave more than we expected, we were even able to give all 70 of our staff at St. Philips about $15 each to thank them for their work. This thank you letter from the centre made me well up a bit! Fuel for Ambulances
Lastly, we helped out the district ambulances with fuel. These ambulances are the only way sick patients can get from the village to hospital. Under lockdown patients can’t use the normal transport of motorcycle for risk of getting beaten by the army. The district only has two ambulances for the entire area, and for about a month they had no money to fuel them. We usually fear corruption in government, but we started an account at the fuel station to ensure the money was only used for the ambulances. Among the hundreds of patients carried to hospital by these ambulances, there were about twenty from our health centres directly and almost half of them referred during the night!
The Struggle Continues
Much stress remains, as the effects of lockdown drive an already poor population to more extreme poverty. Our staff are under pressure from their families to provide for them financially, their kids are unable to go to school and bored at home, and patients struggle to front up with the money to get care, even while our facilities are the cheapest in the region. But thanks to you all, the COVID-19 stress has been greatly relieved, our staff are protected, and they are ready to continue their incredible work.
To quote the staff of St. Philip “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for what he has done”
Nick Laing, Uganda
Just as New Zealand entered full lockdown, I sent out an email update challenging us (including myself!) to turn towards God in the midst of fear and uncertainty, and ask: “Lord, what are You doing here?” and “What new opportunities are there to extend Your Kingdom?”
As I look back over what has happened with NZCMS over the past three months, I can see some answers to those questions:
“I’m showing you that I miraculously provide”
When I wrote the update in March, some Mission Partners who had chosen to return because of visas or pre-existing health conditions, had not been able to get flights back. We are thankful for the provision of flights for all who chose to return to New Zealand, including the unexpected provision of a seat on a private jet for one of our Mission Partner’s – a picture of God’s abundance and generosity!
One family was forced to buy three sets of air tickets as the planes from their location kept being grounded. Fearful about the amount of money spent, when we sat together to look at their finances, we found that somehow their budget balanced! “I’m showing you that I still want you to bring others to know my love”
We are encouraged by our Mission Partners and their commitment to service. About half of our Mission Partners remain in their communities and countries of service, with others in New Zealand temporarily.
We are encouraged by people applying to serve as Mission Partners, in spite of this season of uncertainty. We are encouraged by churches continuing to support the work of global mission.
“Here’s an opportunity for you to be generous – just like I am”
Our Mission Partners make financial sacrifices when they are sent out to serve the global Church, and the staff team at NZCMS has a duty of care to them. Because of the generosity of the broader NZCMS community, we have in turn been able to be generous to the Mission Partners who now find themselves in New Zealand because of COVID-19.
Over $10,000NZD was given through NZCMS Mission Partners Nick & Tessa Laing to support emergency needs of the Anglican health centres in northern Uganda. This has been used to buy supplies in the fight against COVID-19, to pay for transport for patients, and to contribute to critical shortages at the local Catholic hospital.
One of our Mission Partners, currently in New Zealand, ran a full marathon to raise money to support vulnerable people served by their ministry in Asia. Running alongside him was the Bishop of Nelson, Steve Maina, (ex- NZCMS Director).
To date, $13,785 has been given to support the urgent needs that local partners of CMS Africa are seeing in the communities they serve. When we give, we live the nature of our God who gave Christ to see us transformed.
“Here’s an opportunity to do new, creative things – just like I do”
Our staff saw new opportunities for innovation during this season. As we entered lockdown in NZ, along with most of our Mission Partners, we saw new opportunities to connect. Happy Hour zoom gatherings provided a platform to connect as NZCMS family, and to engage in global mission topics.
These meetings continue on a monthly basis: see here for more details. “Here’s an opportunity to know that I am God”
We are called to trust God in a global situation which is outside our individual control, and when our own lives have not looked as we expected in 2020. I am deeply thankful to our God, who does all things well, and to you, our NZCMS family, who have supported, given, encouraged and served in these months of change and uncertainty.
Let us join together and praise the Lord our God with the words from this hymn:
“Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee,
Who from the heavens the streams of His mercy doth send thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, who with His love doth befriend thee.”
Yours in the love of Christ,
Are you passionate about growing the Church? Skilled at managing finances? Interested in working cross-culturally? Are you a team-player keen to train others? NZCMS, in partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia, is looking for a Finance and Trust Manager who can improve and manage the assets and finances of the Diocese, and train up others with these skills.
The primary function of the Finance and Trust Manager is to manage the assets, finances, and property of the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia. The Diocese has not been successful in appointing a suitable person locally for this role and have therefore approached NZCMS. In addition to fulfilling the role responsibilities, the goal for the NZCMS Mission Partner would be to work themselves out of the job. They would have an additional responsibility to train a small group to equip them with skills to fulfil this role and others in the Diocese and community.
This role is located in Fiji. The successful applicant would serve the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia as a NZCMS Mission Partner. The length of service is negotiable, although it is expected that this role would require at least 2 years commitment.
The Diocese of Polynesia is responsible for the Anglican mission in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and American Samoa (within the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia). The Anglican Mission in the Diocese focuses on evangelism, stewardship, development and education.
The functions of the position include:
– General trust office administration including property and financial management
– Evaluation and reporting of all assets and properties, and maintaining database records
– Analysis of investment opportunities available locally and internationally
– Property management
– Coaching others with financial and asset management skills.
The successful applicant will have:
– Experience working cross-culturally
– Experience in training and coaching others and excellent communication skills.
– A proactive attitude.
– Excellent organisational skills.
– Experience in managing assets.
– Ability to provide sound investment and policy advice.
Does this sound like you? We would love to talk more about this missional opportunity with you. Please contact NZCMS at email@example.com for more information.
You can download a printable, pdf version of this job description here.
Hearing for the First Time
We gather together at the end of the day, sitting on grey plastic chairs, our open Bibles illuminated by one solar light. I look around at my sisters in Christ, women from different language groups, representing diverse cultures yet together nonetheless to share in the hearing of the Gospel.
We start with a few praise choruses accompanied by an eight-string hand-made ukulele. After a brief prayer of thanksgiving, we open our Pidgin English Bibles to The Sermon on the Mount. As I begin to read aloud, they turn toward me, attuned to the words of Christ: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. As we meditate upon and discuss the text around our circle, the words of Scripture come alive in the tropical evening.
As a missionary in the Solomon Islands, a chain of islands in the South Pacific, it is my joy to work with my husband as teachers at an Anglican Seminary. The enrolled students are all men and many of them bring their wives and families to the school for their last two years of study. Their wives are then able to join the Women’s Ministry Program, which equips them to partner with their husbands.
All but one of my women students have only a primary level education, and on average they finished formal education after the fourth grade (approx age 10). They struggle with feelings of inferiority and ineptitude when it comes to studying anything, especially the Bible, a realm that they are more than happy to leave to their soon-to-be ordained husbands.
However, it is a beautiful thing to behold these women, despite their fears and insecurities, showing up every Monday night and opening themselves up to hearing the precious word of God. Many of them are unable to read fluently, so instead they open their ears to let the Gospel in. Their attitudes represent what it means to be poor in spirit, in a place of emptiness and need at the feet of Jesus. Most of the time, they are hearing the words being read for the very first time.
In an oral culture, listening is a far more practiced art than the act of reading. Sometimes I am shocked when someone repeats back to me something I said in a context where I thought nobody was listening.
At feasts, when important guests are given a turn at the microphone for a speech, I look around at the crowds of people sitting around in the shade of fruit trees, eating roasted pig, sweet potato and fish. Most of them seem oblivious to the man talking. Many of them are even talking loudly amongst themselves, chewing and spitting betel nut, barely even looking at the speaker. But rather than not paying attention, these men, women, and children are actually tuned in and could tell you exactly what was said if you asked them afterwards.
When Jesus went up on that hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee and sat to teach the crowds, I’m guessing it was a very similar scene to the Solomon Islanders sitting around at a feast. Over the din of playing children, squabbles between siblings and chitchat, those Israelites had their ears tuned in to hear the Master’s words. They were the very first ones to hear what we as modern Christians have the privilege of reading again and again.
Poor in Spirit
Around our little circle of chairs, we read Jesus’ words to those who would hear and open their hearts to the transforming power of the Gospel: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Those who are poor in spirit are those who do not think highly of themselves, but rather come to Christ ready to be filled with his Holy Spirit. Men and women who are poor in spirit will see God’s will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. They will get a glimpse of what is yet to come.
The women in my Bible Study are hearing the Word of God in clear Pidgin English for the first time and are soaking it all in. One of my students has said to me several times, “Before, I just heard the words being read from the Bible. But now I can actually understand them!”
Reading together in a common language is making the Word alive to them. As I said farewell to a woman leaving the school yesterday, she tearfully told me that when she came to the school, she came with an “empty heart.” She continued by saying that she had learned so much, especially about the Bible through our classes and Bible Study.
These women have never had access to Bible Study guides, inspirational Christian books, topical studies or video teachings. Instead, they sit in dim light, holding an open Bible, allowing the Light of the World to shine on them and show them the path of discipleship.
What about us?
We as Western Christians can’t fake poverty. No matter how hard we try to simplify and reduce the clutter of our physical lives, the fact still remains that we are privileged to have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. So how can we become “poor in spirit” when we are just too rich in comparison to our brothers and sisters in the 2/3 World?
When the rich young ruler comes to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and asks how he can enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus tells him to sell everything he owns and give it to the poor before following him. The young man leaves downcast and bereft, knowing all to well that his heart and very life are set upon his wealth and that he is not willing to give that all up for the sake of following this Saviour.
Where do our hearts lie? For many of us, our status, education and wealth are dearer to us than the voice of Jesus. We are like the rich young ruler in this story. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10:23). While he could not make the choice to follow Christ, we can! When the disciples ask Jesus in dismay, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26) Jesus lovingly responds, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” – Mark 10:27.
We can make the choice to follow Christ, to hear his voice in the Scriptures and to come to our Heavenly Father as children with empty hands and supple hearts.
Simplify for a Season
I recently met a retired missionary pastor who was reminiscing about how many books he had owned at the height of his ministry. As he prepared each Sunday Sermon, he would pore over numerous translations, commentaries and other Christian texts in an effort to get to the heart of the passage that he was going to preach to his congregation. Upon his retirement, he sold his entire library to a budding seminarian.
He thought he would dearly miss his faithful leather-bound companions, yet what he found was quite the opposite. He was delighted by the simplicity of reading a passage of scripture and allowing the words to seep into his heart, mind and spirit. He still preaches occasionally and an NIV Study Bible is his only resource. He has found freedom in dwelling deeply in the Word of God.
What if we were to set aside our books, study guides and other devotional materials for a season and simply allow the Word of God to speak to us? Take a week or month, to de-clutter your devotional library and focus solely on the Bible. Join together with millions of brothers and sisters around the world who hunger and thirst for righteousness and find real food and drink in the pages of Scripture.
Look at it as a spiritual fast. When the noise of the words and opinions of others are quieted for a while, perhaps we are able to hear afresh what God wants us to hear.
Refocused and Renewed
When you return from your time of fasting, you will have fresh eyes and ears. You will have feasted on the Word and found how it feels to be “poor in spirit.” As you reintroduce other books and materials to your reading, you will be able to better discern those resources that nurture your love for God’s voice and those that distract you. Just as you might return from a physical fast to face a plethora of tempting food choices, you will have feasted on what is good and necessary and know which things you can live without. Let’s be more interested in what the Bible says than what others say the Bible says.
Come to Jesus in his Word as beloved children, setting your gaze upon him and opening your empty hands towards him to be filled to overflowing.
Greetings to all God’s people.
Kāhore he Hūrai, kāhore he Kariki, kāhore he pononga, kāhore he rangatira, kāhore he tane, wahine rānei; he tangata kotahi tonu hoki koutou katoa i roto i a Karaiti Īhu.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
This Sunday marks Te Pouhere in the Anglican church calendar, which celebrates our life as a three Tikanga Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
What is Te Pouhere and Why Was it Formed?
What is the meaning of Te Pouhere? The Māori word ‘Pou’ is translated ‘post’ and the Māori word ‘here’ is translated ‘bind’.
Te Pouhere is a revised constitution established in 1992, which provides an opportunity for each of the three partners to express their tikanga – their way, style, or cultural model.
These three partners are Tikanga Māori, Tikanga Pākehā and Tikanga Pasefika. They are to express their minds as equal partners in the decision-making process of the General Synod and to exercise mission and ministry to God’s people within the culture of each partner.
For Māori, the 1857 constitution and the 1992 revised constitution has not been truly honoured in terms of partnership and resource sharing. However, in recent times we have seen that there have been some promising steps that we are working towards in achieving an equal partnership.
Below are some examples of the turning of the tide.
Te Pouhere in Te Takiwā o Manukau
Mission and Ministry Continues Under Lockdown
The Māori ministry team has been blessed to continue proclaiming the Gospel throughout this period of lockdown in New Zealand through the use of live-streaming networks and media platforms. From the 24th of May 2020, Howard Karaka – fellow Evangelist to Māori with NZCMS – along with Archdeacon Lyndon Drake and myself (Keri-Ann Hokianga), have started offering a weekly 30-minute worship service called “Karakia Rātapu” onto Radio Waatea here in Auckland.
We collaborate with our Pākehā brothers from the Christian Broadcasting Association who use their resources to pre-record the service for us. They have also created a podcast for the service and we are so blessed that they’re using their gifts to help us proclaim the word of God in our context. We are receiving communication from some un-churched people who are now subscribing to our podcast and letting us know that they will be listening every Sunday. Praise be to God!
This has been made possible by the grace of God through Te Rangapū (Partnership) between Te Takiwā o Manukau, the Christian Broadcasting Association, and Radio Waatea.
Te Pouhere in the Context of Māori Evangelism
The roots of the Gospel being shared in Aotearoa began through friendship and partnership. At Oihi Bay on Christmas Day in 1814, Reverend Samuel Marsden from CMS preached from Luke 2:10, with Ngā Puhi chief Ruatara translated into Te Reo Māori. This partnership to preach the Gospel message began a journey of many Māori being converted to Christianity and this continued to grow as Māori became pivotal evangelists to their own people.
The pattern of this partnership between Rev. Samuel Marsden and Chief Ruatara to effectively spread the Good News of Jesus Christ here in Aotearoa is still being realised today. Praise God that I am one of two Māori Evangelists to partner with NZCMS in 2020, proclaiming the Gospel to our nation.
God is doing a powerful and wonderful thing and we are so excited to be part of His plan as we work together.
Keri-Ann is one of NZCMS’ Mission Partners evangelising to Maori. Click the photo of Keri-Ann below to learn more about her life and ministry.
Keri-Ann Hokianga, NZCMS Maori Evangelist
Life in New Zealand is starting to feel more normal for many of us. Recent months have been hard, especially for those who have lost jobs, but there is also a strange sense of normality – we can visit cafes, go shopping, and gather at church. However, there is also a sense of disjuncture knowing that even as life goes on here, in many countries COVID19 is causing untold a suffering.
What does it mean to be part of the global Church at this time?
This question stirs us. In our church calendar this week we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We are reminded of the community of love in God’s own being: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is a relationship and community that extends beyond the Trinity to include us – the Church. Like the God in whose image we are made, our identity is communal. As a member of the global Church we are part of the one body of Christ. This is language that we are used to hearing, and it has become very familiar. But the implications of living into this reality are radical.
When we are baptised, we become united with Christ and we become a member of Christ’s body, the Church. At baptism, this membership becomes our primary identity: “for in one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). Our identity as a Christian, part of the body of Christ, comes before our nationality or any other human marker of identity.
We are ultimately citizens of the Kingdom of God and this identity comes before what’s written in our passport.
Another implication of our membership as Christ’s body is “if one member suffers, all suffer together.” (1 Cor 12:26). When I wrote funding proposals for development projects in a previous role, it was common to use language such as ‘beneficiaries,’ or ‘developing countries’ that signifies the otherness of those in need. These designations, which categorise humans into ‘us and them’ are ultimately invalid in the Kingdom of God. There is no ‘us and them’: there is only one body. We are to experience the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters like it is in our own body.
As members of the global Church, we do not have the option of sheltering ourselves in a safe New Zealand bubble and forgetting the rest of the world. We are called to live into our membership of the global Church, a body with Jesus Christ as our head.
At a missions conference last year, I sat at the same table and prayed with Bisoke from Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tess Hicks, one of our Mission Partners serving in the Solomon Islands. Recently, I shared with Tess messages from Bisoke about the situation in Bunia, and she immediately wrote back asking how to give. This is what it looks like to live as the body of Christ: to live out this metaphor in our actions.
As a family with a heart for global mission, NZCMS intentionally looks out and engages with the global Church. New Zealand is facing an economic recession, and we know that NGOs like us will face financial challenges. At the same time, we want to not only look to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:4).
In this context, I want to share with you some needs from our CMS counterparts in Africa. NZCMS is part of a global CMS network – we are sister societies who seek to support and learn from each other.
The director of CMS Africa, Canon Moses Bushendich, shared with me recently the needs that their local partners are seeing and responding to. He writes:
“Many states have instituted lockdowns in response to Covid19 without capability to support those who live on daily wages. Many people have lost their jobs, a means of survival. Pastors in churches cannot get paid because congregations cannot meet and raise the usual offertory. Many families have a real threat of hunger.
Several communities, especially in Northern Uganda, have been suffering drought the last few months and when the rains came, there were fresh invasions of desert locusts that are ravaging crops.
In Bunia, DR Congo, Local Partner Bisoke has sent distress calls over war and killing that has hit him closely. Conflict has displaced 400 families coming to his peace centre for refuge. Normally food for the centre comes from the surrounding villages, but now there is no food coming which means that life is so hard. More children are developing malnutrition.
Images coming from Kivu Province in DR Congo show floods with many feared dead and hundreds displaced from homes. Our CMS Africa Local Partners are on the frontline all over the continent calling for prayer, for practical relief, and supporting efforts to alleviate suffering.”
It hurts us to read and hear this account of our body suffering; it’s overwhelming, and it challenges our own sense of comfort and safety. Together we are brought to our knees in prayer as we bring our concerns before a loving, present, and redeeming God. We pray that God would show us how we can be the hands and feet in this world at this time, with whatever we find in our hands. We invite you to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters around the globe who are experiencing so many devastating challenges. We also invite you to consider how you might offer what resources you have to the global Church.
Relational Relief Giving
We are opening an appeal for giving to CMS Africa’s Local Partners who can distribute shopping vouchers to families in need.
Here is how a small amount can make a big difference: One shopping voucher worth KEs 2,500 (Approx $40NZD) buys basic food and sanitation needs for a household of 6 people for 1 month.
Directions for how to give:
– Go to the “What would you like to support?” drop down menu
– Select “Other”
– Go to the section”Name of Mission Partner or Project”
– Type “CMS Africa Appeal”
As a member of Christ’s body, we are on a journey of learning what our identity as citizens of God’s Kingdom looks like in this Covid19 world. We pray that God would continue to teach us what it means to suffer, reach out, give, receive, and see beyond our own borders. As we live into the reality of ‘one body and one Spirit,’ we ask God to shape our hearts and to be ever-transformed into the likeness of the triune God.
Your sister in Christ,
Rosie Fyfe, NZCMS National Director
Miriam runs the Pharmacy at the Hospital of Hope in the town of Mango in Togo, Africa.
Life in Mango has been affected by the Covid-19 virus as has most of the world. Borders, airports, roads, schools, mosques, churches and ‘disco techs’ have all been ordered closed by the Togolese government. So far we have been fortunate not to have any confirmed cases at the Hospital of Hope. However the number of cases do continue to climb slowly in Togo and the surrounding countries. Worldometers is now a daily addiction… when the internet works.
The closure of the airport has meant that short-term volunteers are no longer able to come and with scheduled furloughs upon us we have drastically reduced missionaries on the field. This has increased the workload on the remaining long-term staff. Please pray for stamina, grace and patience for those who stay behind.
Ministries outside of the hospital such as village churches, French club and prison visits have been suspended due to the government regulations. We are very grateful that the radio ministry has been able to continue, including broadcasting sermons from a local church on Sunday mornings. Groups of up to 15 people are still able to meet so we are able to visit our Togolese friends. Please pray that people are able to tune in to the radio and continue bible studies on their own.
I felt a little left out from all the hoarding that I heard about going on around the world but as you can see I was able to join in a little bit ‘Mango Styles’.
Read more about Miriam’s life and ministry in Mango by clicking the image below.
Mission Partner in Togo, Africa
Kia ora everyone, Guy and Summer here. We are excited to bring you an update about what Better World Gap Year has been up to during and post Covid-19 Lockdown.
In February, as the circumstances surrounding the pandemic began to escalate, our team were in Fiji. We made moves to bring them back early for their safety and managed to get them back to New Zealand on the last commercial flight out of Fiji just days before our country went into Level 4 lockdown (a bit of unexpected excitement for our crew!).
In the days that followed, as decisions came down from the government, we made the very difficult decision that Better World 2020 could not continue under the current global circumstances. We got our team back home to their bubbles and debriefed them via zoom. We are also currently helping to support them as they make choices about how to spend the rest of their year, and working with ministry partners to provide opportunities for discipleship and community that don’t depend on open borders and international travel.
Our leadership team spent levels 4 and 3 in prayer and discernment, asking God to show us our next steps for the future of Better World as a programme. With so much unknown both here and around the world, it has been quite difficult to know how to move forward. Now that things are feeling a bit more certain for New Zealand, however, we have been working hard to re-imagine Better World for next year.
Better World was designed and founded on the principles of discipleship through deep engagement in mission and social justice both in New Zealand and around the world. We seek to take young people on a journey full of adventure, discovery, and a deepening relationship with God. At this point we have no idea when it will be safe to travel overseas again, but we do know that we can still do all those things and go on a radical journey together right here in New Zealand in 2021.
Together with Sam and Luca, our amazing Better World leaders, we are in the process of designing Better World 2021 to take place right here in New Zealand. We will explore the same deep and important issues of social justice from and in our own backyard. We will travel around the country to meet phenomenal people, be a part of radical communities of Christians who are doing their part to bring about God’s Kingdom here on earth and find plenty of amazing adventures.
Are you or someone you know interested in joining this once in a lifetime, local edition of Better World Gap Year? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Details on applications are coming soon.
Better World 2021 is going to be huge!
Guy & Summer Benton
NZCMS Mission Enalbers
Waiting. We’ve been doing a lot of that the last six weeks or so haven’t we. Some of you will remember I waited three years for a visa to go to my country in South Asia between 1989 and 1992. That was hard. Hard because I didn’t know why it was delayed or if I’d ever get it. Hard because God had placed before me a vision of what He had for me to do. Would I ever get to do it? And if not, then what has He been saying? Have I got it all wrong?
The other reason it was hard was because some of those around me began to hint that it was time to move on to other things, that I was wasting my time and that there were other urgent needs out there and I was in the wrong place. How did I answer them when those thoughts were already whirling around my mind. But they just didn’t ring true.
Well, there was an anchor. A promise and a sign that was given. And God gave me instruction to wait for the visa. And when it finally arrived he gave more instructions: “Don’t try and begin what I’ve shown you. Do what you’re asked to do. Wait, and I’ll begin everything at the right time”.
That time, waiting for God to start the new things, was another seven years. And now, since serving the original vision He gave me, it has taken another 15 years for that vision to come into being. And, in truth, there is still a lot yet to unfold.
So now that I have returned to New Zealand, how am I responding to the wait now? Will I ever get to go back? What about the unfulfilled vision and expectations I have?
A Generational Perspective
Over these many years I have learnt that God’s ways are not like our ways. His timetable is way, way different. We think in terms of months or a few years. Maybe even a decade or two. He spans generations. Just like the mustard tree in the parable, the Kingdom of God grows. But it may not be possible to see its progress in the short time we have on this earth.
I’ve also seen Him keep me in a country where fellow workers have had to leave. I’ve seen him time and time again nullify the plans of others that interfere with His plan.
Now I’m more relaxed about the future than I would have been 30 years ago. I know that if I rest and trust and remain ready to obey, then God will do something amazing. But it might not look like what I was expecting. It seldom does.
Our Part to Grow the Kingdom
Being able to rest in this truth means I’m not so driven about being in the centre of it all. Because God’s Kingdom is far larger than my role. Like Jesus modeled, I’m expected to do my part and to follow the guidance given. To see the mustard tree grow in and through my work. Then I need to leave the rest of the results for God to work out into future generations and see its final beauty from the perspective of Heaven.
So often we tend to try to wrap it all up and ‘finish’ the work in our lifetime. But we need to see the Kingdom from a multigenerational point of view.
I know many who came in years past to my town and area who never got to see fruit in their time. The mustard tree didn’t seem to grow at all. Some left disillusioned. Others trusted that seeds sown would, in time, come to fruition. All of them sacrificed much to be there. Some stayed only months. All contributed to where the mustard tree is now.
I’ve been the fortunate servant who has seen many of those seeds sown now start to sprout and become fruit. Was it my doing? No! We owe it to the generations before us to honour their hard labour, tears and prayers in the desert.
Seeing our labour in Kingdom terms for many means jagged endings. Unfinished, unresolved issues, questions and situations. It doesn’t gel with our need for closure and tidy endings. It means trusting that our unresolved ending is, in fact, another part of the growth of the mustard tree. We trust God will fit it in the right place. And we wait and trust God with the ambiguities.
This Article was written by a Mission Partner who serves in South Asia. For security reasons, names and places have been omitted or changed.
When eating with them one night, Jesus suddenly says “do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” The disciples respond “are you going to restore the Kingdom to Israel now?”.
But Jesus again tells them to wait, saying “…and you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…”. And, as the Church remembered this week, Christ then ascends to heaven.
What would it have felt like to be one of the disciples? Perhaps after hearing years of teaching about the Kingdom of God, and witnessing signs of the Kingdom, they felt ready to do the work. But, then they’re told to wait. To not preach the Gospel. Not pray for people. Not make themselves public. Do nothing. Stay where they are. And wait.
The Fruit of Faithful Waiting
In the Gospel accounts, the disciples continually wanted to ‘do something’. They wanted to extend God’s Kingdom. They wanted to change the world! Their lives and perspectives were ruled by action and seeing societal transformation. And that is not inherently a bad thing. But at this crucial transition point, Jesus told them not to do anything, no matter how good they thought their ‘doing’ was. Incredibly, this waiting culminated in a powerful moment in church history. In fact it led to the very birth of the church! And what happened next was exactly what was needed for the Gospel to create transformation: God showing up and empowering them in a way that was completely different to what they had ever experienced before.
The result of the disciples’ faithful waiting and obedience to Jesus was the tangible, experiential power of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of their faithful waiting was the formation of the Church. The fruit of their waiting was, ultimately, the transformation of the world.
The Inside Impact of Waiting
Why did Jesus ask the disciples to wait before sending the Holy Spirit?
Of course, let’s be clear, their waiting did not somehow ‘qualify’ them to receive God’s blessing. Earning the Holy Spirit denies everything Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished. But rather, perhaps the natural by-product of the disciples’ faithful waiting was that the very shape of their hearts were transformed into vessels that could receive what God wanted to give them. And it was through their faithful, obedient, surrendered waiting that they were able to receive it. What we can do while Waiting
Over these last few weeks we’ve all done a lot of waiting here in Aotearoa. We, like the disciples waiting in the Upper Room, have been holed up in a house waiting for change, and not knowing what might come next. But now our country is beginning to get ‘active’ again. Shops are opening. Alert levels are lifting. Church small groups are meeting. ‘Stuff’ can start happening again. And it’s exciting.
However, during this time, I’ve been blessed to be a part of the NZCMS staff who, in amongst all the various tasks and roles that we still must complete, haven’t rushed off to do what we’ve always done before. But we have been using this time to ask each other questions such as:
“What are the new opportunities that are available now?”
“What will cross-cultural mission look like in the future?”
“What is the prophetic call of God to the Church right now?”
The disciples weren’t asked to wait when things weren’t possible. Jesus asked them to wait when they could have started preaching the Gospel. And now we find ourselves in a similar space. Our alert levels are dropping. But I believe that now is the most important time for the New Zealand Church to wait on God.
The temptation is so strong to just ‘go back to normal’. But what if, now, God is not calling us to rush back into doing what we’ve done in the past but to wait on him and be open to seeing the ‘new things’ that He wants to birth in us and the Church?
Maybe now is a good time for all of us to lay our strategies, tasks, and attitudes before the feet of Jesus, surrender them to Him and ask for the Holy Spirit to speak. Because, I believe God takes our willingness to give Him our ‘doing’, and turns it into the gift of an obedient heart, more fully able to live and serve in His power to achieve His mission of bringing God’s kingdom to earth. If only we would just wait for a while.
I used to work for a global anti-slavery organisation. The founders of the organisation were passionate, faith-filled, Jesus followers who were dedicated to seeing God’s Kingdom come through the rescue of men, women and children around the world. They were willing to pay the price to follow God and serve His world. Yet after several years of giving their all, there was little to show for it.
When one of the founders talked to his mentor about this frustration, the mentor described their deep commitment to their work as “prayerless striving.” They were desperate to see God’s Kingdom break through but spent little time in prayer. When I joined a decade later, the work day for the entire staff began in personal devotion and prayer. Later in the day, every office around the world stopped their work as investigators, lawyers, social workers and administrators, and gathered to pray for God’s Spirit to move powerfully.
Setting aside “productive time” to pray saw more fruit than we could have imagined, breakthroughs in places where there had been resistance, and thousands of people rescued into lives of freedom. The work remained as challenging and costly as ever before, but was now under-girded by prayer and that made all the difference.
Praying as One
Many of us already have rhythms of prayer in our daily lives individually and as local faith communities. Many of us already pray faithfully for our Mission Partners, and for the places and communities they serve. We pray because we believe that God’s Spirit is active and working to bring about His Kingdom. We pray because we believe that prayer makes a difference – in this world and the one to come. What we do here has echoes in eternity!
But sometimes we forget the power of praying together. In Chronicles, God says to his people “[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (Chron 7:14), God makes this promise to a collective. Jesus affirms this when he says “when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them”(Matt 18:20).
Yes, God hears and responds to our individual prayers. But when God’s people come together in agreement to pray for the things of God’s Kingdom, something happens, something shifts.
This year, the NZCMS Intercultural Communities Project is helping to lead the Wellington Anglican Movement as they engage in Thy Kingdom Come, a global prayer movement from Ascension to Pentecost. After Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples “along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers”(Acts 1:14) joined together constantly in prayer. When the day of Pentecost arrived, God poured out the Holy Spirit on these followers and sent them to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
We know that our world still needs the transformative work of the Spirit. We know that frequently the movement of God’s Spirit has come through a movement of prayer.
The most powerful thing we can do, to see God’s Kingdom come, is to pray together; to pray as one people in the name of Jesus.
The Global Church
Thy Kingdom Come helps to connect us with our brothers and sisters in the global church in a way that we don’t often have opportunity to do. Joining our brothers and sisters in this way is an act of loving care, mutuality and solidarity. It reminds us that we are all part of the one body – and that we are united in both our joys and suffering in Christ, through the one Spirit. Likewise, we can be encouraged that others will be praying for the things that we long for, interceding on behalf of our friends and family, community and country.
Praying with the global church also helps to reinvigorate our own prayer lives.
Have you ever been in a room with someone fervently interceding and been inspired to pray with more boldness?
Have you sat in silence with others, the air thick with the
presence of the Holy Spirit?
Have you heard testimonies of healing, of freedom, of miracles and had your faith enlarged?
Have you spoken words of a liturgy that feel like they were written just for you?
Praying with others who are different from us reminds us of God’s goodness and faithfulness, refreshes and redirects our energy, and enlivens and re-energises our own faith. Will you join us in this global movement of prayer?
Join the Global Movement
You can access the resources created through the Intercultural Communities Project and Anglican Movement Wellington here: https://movementonline.org.nz/blog/thy-kingdom-come-21-31-march-2020
Or connect with the global movement here: www.thykingdomcome.global
As NZCMS, one of the gifts that we offer to the church in New Zealand is our connection to those engaging in God’s mission throughout the world. We have curated these multimedia presentations from our partners sharing from around the world to be used over Thy Kingdom Come.
NZCMS Intercultural Communities Enabler
WANT TO READ MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS? SIGN UP FOR OUR REGULAR EMAIL NEWSLETTER HERE.
A decade ago, the idea of being a missionary was so problematic for me that I almost didn’t sign up to serve with NZCMS. The label of missionary is value-laden – there’s a whole lot of assumptions underlying how we understand what it is to be a missionary. Is it someone who’s sent out by a missions agency? Is it only people who serve overseas? Is it only front-line evangelists? Is it a dirty word tied up with colonialism?
Last week on Happy Hour, a new weekly zoom gathering featuring a panel of Mission Partners, we grappled with the question “Should we still be sending missionaries in 2020?” It’s a bold question to ask for a mission society, but one we ask seriously. God and His mission do not change, but the world does. As NZCMS, we seek to respond to the needs of the world, and we continue to ask ourselves what is our role to play. So what does it mean to be an NZCMS family participating in God’s mission at this time?
The world has changed
We don’t ask this question from a blank slate but instead lean into our story and identity. NZCMS is founded on the passionate call of CMS in 1799 to ‘evangelise the unreached world,’ a mission movement which brought the Gospel to Aotearoa in the first place. It’s built on the global vision of NZCMS, founded in 1892 to send missionaries from New Zealand to the rest of the world.
But since then our world has changed. When CMS first sent out missionaries, over 90% of the Church lived in the West: now 75% of Christians live outside of the West. New Zealand itself is also a mission field. NZCMS’ recent initiatives around Reverse Mission – bringing missionaries from overseas to New Zealand – and Intercultural Communities – reaching out to different cultures within New Zealand – have challenged the Church here to see these mission opportunities in our backyard.
In the light of changes in the global Church, we must ask: what is the role of missionaries sent out from New Zealand now?
The distinction that is sometimes made between mission and missions is helpful. “Mission is the whole life of the church witnessing to the whole world” (Michael Goheen in Introducing Christian Mission Today).
Mission is what we are all called to do, wherever we are. It is showing God’s love in our words and in our actions; bringing our world closer to the reality of God’s Kingdom and proclaiming Jesus Christ as King.
Missions is used more specifically: “Missions is one part of mission, establishing a gospel witness where there is none or where it is weak”.
Reason #1: Reaching the Unreached
We continue to train and send people to participate in missions in other parts of the world. Even with the growth in the number of followers of Jesus in the Global South, there is still a need to establish and strengthen a Gospel witness to unreached peoples. We are called to the places where there is no indigenous community of believing Christians who can share Jesus with people in their own context. Several NZCMS Mission Partners are front-line evangelists in these contexts, sharing the good news of Jesus in other languages and within different cultures.
Reason #2: Partnering with the Global Church
We also send people to support the mission of local churches around the world. The global Church is the body of Christ, diverse in how we worship and live out God’s missional call, but united in the Holy Spirit. Churches around the world have different gifts and resources to give and receive from each other. For example, the New Zealand Church can learn a lot from the confidence our East African brothers and sisters have in sharing the Gospel.
Our Mission Partners offer specific skills or gifts to build up the local Church. They are involved in setting up medical centres, supporting community development initiatives, creating social enterprises, training pharmacists, coaching future leaders, and training theological educators, to name a few.
Should we still send out missionaries in 2020?
Absolutely! The NZ Church has gifts and resources that we can offer to the global Church. We can extend what we have to directly reach out to those who have never heard the Gospel, and to strengthen the mission of local churches through cross-cultural partnerships.
We can also learn from the global Church in ways that challenge our own cultural blindspots. We can receive the gifts of churches around the world and grow our global perspective
Partnering in these ways demonstrates that the Church transcends national barriers. As we serve together in mission, we learn to more fully be God’s hands and feet in a world of need. We start to live into the Kingdom vision of every nation, tribe, people and language worshipping before the throne of God.
NZCMS uses the term “Mission Partner” rather than missionaries. This reflects our model of partnership – we never send out individuals to go and do their own thing. We send people to work in partnership with a local church, NGO or network ensuring that there is both care and accountability.
What’s my role?
Even as we send people globally, we know that New Zealand needs missionaries. If to be a missionary is to be sent out to make known the reign of God through our words and in our actions, then this is a call for all of us wherever we may live and with whomever we may interact. It’s simply evidence of the life of God in us; an overflow of having the living God take up residence within us as individuals and communities.
From that baseline, we’ve each been created by God to do particular tasks, in keeping with the ‘vessel’ God has crafted us each to be – our particular gifts, skills, history and abilities, combined with the presence and power of Holy Spirit. This gives each of us a call from God particular to us. And for some, this is about serving the global Church – learning another language, living within another culture, and serving God from a place of otherness and across cultures.
PRAY. GIVE. GO.
NZCMS describes our calling to global mission as pray, give, and go. We each have a part to play – whether it’s praying, giving, or going yourself. That going may be to your local school where kids need to know that they have a hope and future, to living out your faith in a business network in downtown Wellington, or indeed to the people living in a rural community in Africa or a slum in Asia. Simply, we’re all called to serve as missionaries in our own places and in the way God has formed us to. So, what has God called you to do and be for the sake of the Kingdom? And if you have a stirring towards cross-cultural mission service, get in contact and let’s talk!
Every blessing as you pray, give and go!
NZCMS National Director
Are there any good reasons for not serving God overseas?
You bet! There’s heaps: obligation, middle-class guilt, idealism, Saviour complexes, a thirst for adventure. And no doubt many more.
Motivations are funny things, aren’t they? More often than not we actually aren’t truly aware of what really is motivating us. Self-awareness is important for everyone, but even more so for mission partners. It’s so important that its a major thing that NZCMS personnel look for as they interview prospective mission partners.
“Hmmm” you might be thinking, “Surely there is no such thing as perfect motivation.” Am I a write-off as soon as something murky is discovered lurking in my motivational faculties?” Good question. What hope is there for those of us with mixed motivations?
If dodgy motivation is our topic of choice, there’s no better Biblical passage to explore than Matthew 20 (v20-21). The passage opens with two of the disciples (James and John) getting their Mum to ask Jesus a doozy of a request. “Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honour in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand.”
This must be one of the most ridiculous requests of all time! And to make matters worse the brothers got their Mum to ask for them! Although the rest of the disciples get mad when they hear about this sneaky request (fair enough!), Jesus doesn’t. While on one hand, he calls their arrogance what it is (pivoting into a teaching point on humility), he seems to honour whatever good intention there was behind the request. Check out his answer (in verses 23-24) for yourself.
Jesus response to James and John’s poorly motivated request is 1. To gently call out the motivation for what is it, 2. To honour whatever good motivation and intentions there are, and 3. To offer to redeem the stink stuff.
My experience has been similar to James and John’s. There have been several moments in my life when the penny has dropped, and I have realised that my true motivations were much more ego than the Kingdom.
But when I’ve taken these hard-earned truths to God, I’ve been met by his grace rather than judgment. Rather than condemn me for my bad attitude, I get an opportunity to move forward in greater awareness of myself and my motivations.
These things might be appealing and draw people in, but they don’t usually keep people belonging to a team. It takes more than great personalities and slick promo to be a lasting team. In our world, so much attention is focused on individual players or leaders and their successes or failures, measuring their scorecard and critiquing their runs-on-the-board. In reality however, behind every goal that’s scored there is always a team hard at work. Each team member’s role enables the goals to be scored – the defence, the playmaker, the whole squad who train together and the coaches all play their part.
But it’s even more than that, a team includes the loyal supporters in the background who play their part: the grounds-people who care for the fields, the parents and friends who are cheering from the side-lines, cutting up the oranges, running the club-house and refilling the drink-bottles. It’s a whole crew who really make up the team – people who are so invested in this game that they turn up, every week, whatever the weather to support, to participate.
Ultimately what unites these people as a team in the parts they play, is a love of the game. That’s what people turn up for, that’s what fuels them to do the less glamorous roles, the unseen but essential roles that ensure the game can get played, and the goals are scored.
Love of the ‘Game’
NZCMS has a passionate love too: for God and God’s Mission. God’s sacrificial and other-centred love for us and for the world drives us. We are a team who, from a place of love for God’s Mission, are all looking to join in and find our part to play. It’s a love held by all – since our founding we’ve always been a faithful society with a variety of roles – all of them crucial.
For most of us, our part is not going overseas but nevertheless the mission call remains and there is much we do to participate in the teamwork of God’s Mission.
But, we don’t participate in this team based on what we do (or don’t) have in our hands, we participate because this is who God is – generous, abundant, self-giving for the sake of others – and therefore as God’s sent people, it is who we are.
Our great love for a generous God calls us into other-centred love, outpouring what we have for God’s world in need. God’s idea of ‘enough’ is different to the world’s approach. What the world may call insufficient, God calls generosity. Two coins are extravagant. Five loaves and two fishes are enough to feed the multitudes. Beating the chest is called faithful prayer.
God takes, blesses and multiplies our offerings, whatever they may be. We live by a narrative that invites us to extend our hands both in prayer and in giving so others might experience the family of God and God’s transformation in their lives.
Here’s what ordinary, yet radical, team-playing across NZCMS looks like:
A prayer group member writing to ask for any specific prayer requests from Mission Partners so she could encourage others to keep on praying, even though they’re not receiving the printed prayer news because of postal restrictions, saying “Intercession is a real focus – so many are living in places less organised than New Zealand – and depend more than ever on our prayers.”
A Link Church invites their members to donate the money they’ve saved during New Zealand lockdown from not eating out, buying coffee, etc to go towards the needs of the Mission Partners’ communities (see the story below). People from other churches offering Mission Partners holiday homes to wait out the New Zealand lockdown and giving contributions for flights home.
A Mission Partner, when asked what she would like to do in response to the pandemic outbreak in the country she serves, saying: “When it hits there will be very little social distancing due to the culture. And obviously very little medical capabilities. But God is on our side. I’m staying.”
Appeals from Mission Partners asking for finances to meet the needs of the vulnerable people in their communities. Supporters respond by walking 5kms to raise money for a local social enterprise, or over $8,000NZD being given for medical clinics in Uganda through NZCMS.
We give thanks for the whole team of NZCMS. It’s the whole team of God’s people, who faithfully live day by day with a prayerful and financially generous spirit that makes God’s Mission happen. What a privilege it is to be part of this team right now!
So, fellow friends who are in love with the game, let’s keep on being orange-cutters, and water-bottle fillers; helping to resource and support our teammates. Let’s keep on cheering; sending words of encouragement to others, let’s keep on calling out “Ref!” from the side-lines; petitioning and praying for our world in need and together continue to be the society for the mission of God that NZCMS has faithfully always been.
Yours in God’s Mission,
Water-bottle Filler / Mission Mobiliser
Here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, we’re not under an official lockdown, but still, many things have changed. We’re in our eight week with no school, this will be our eight weekend with no church meetings and our language learning has mostly had to move online.
Cambodia, being a relatively poor country with minimal health support, is not well equipped to deal with a major virus. There are few testing kits – mainly limited to the capital city of Phnom Penh – there are no ventilators in the country and if you do have to go to hospital often your family has to be the ones to provide daily care for you.
I’m sure you’re aware that social distancing and working from home is a luxury that many people around the world just cannot afford. It’s no different here. If people don’t work, they don’t eat. They generally can’t bulk buy in advance and the lack of tourists is hitting many people hard. For many of the poor they will be affected economically much more than anything else.
On the spiritual side, it’s been disheartening to hear of some Cambodian Christians who have turned away from God at this time to lean on traditional religious practices. However, there are hopeful moments too; recently we had non-Christian Khmer friends asking us to pray for their families!
One of the biggest decisions that the government has made was to postpone the Cambodian New Year holiday and all the celebrations that go with it. This is one of the biggest holidays of the year and most people go back to their hometowns for a week to be with their families. However the government has said that, rather than travelling and potentially spreading the virus, it is safer to continue working.
As for our family, our three children have coped well which has made life easier. They won’t physically be back in school until the new school year in August however, so we’ll see how we’re all doing in a few months’ time. We have delighted in being able to spend some more time together, even if that involves playing the same board game several times a day! It’s also been lovely having “home-church” where we’ve been able to pray and sing together and tune in with various church services from New Zealand. The joys of technology!
Like all Christians around the world, we can’t give definite reasons as to why this is happening. But we can endeavour to show love to our neighbours and share the very definite hope we have in Jesus.
By Rev. Ana Fletcher, NZCMS Intercultural Communities Enabler
You may have heard the phrase “adapt or die.” But it suggests that adapting merely leads to survival. What if, instead, we enlarged our imaginations to adapt in order to thrive?
In this time of transition and change we need to believe that God is still building the church. Where is the Spirit nudging us to do things in new and creative ways? Many of the different faith communities I’m in touch with through the Intercultural Communities Project have seized this opportunity and are reaching new people and making new disciples as a result.
At St James in Lower Hutt, a Mandarin-speaking small group has formed over WeChat, some of whom are new to faith or had not previously been involved in church. This is the first time the group’s facilitator has stepped into this kind of leadership role – and within a few weeks they are getting ready for their first baptisms. At St Mary’s Silverstream, through the commitment of its Chinese ministry leaders some of its existing Mandarin-speaking activities have moved online with additional gatherings to discuss Sunday services and intentional discipleship grounded in scripture.
In other places, lockdown has acted as a catalyst to be more intentional about gathering together. Rev James Vinod had been running a prayer and study group for Hindi speakers around Wellington – but numbers were inconsistent because of people’s busyness. In the past two weeks they held their first meeting over zoom and 17 people attended! Not all those who attend the group are Christian, but within this group they are being discipled in the ways of Jesus.
Similarly, Anglican Chinese Mission has begun offering its services over zoom, and seen a number of people join who were previously unable to. Rev Henry is also offering weekday gatherings for bible study and Q&A together with daily offices of prayer. As Rev Jimmy Luey says “technology and lockdown have enabled some things to happen, which normally would not.”
These are just some of the ways that our faith communities have responded to the challenges presented over the lockdown. Some thoughts to ponder.
- What would it take for your local faith community to adapt in order to thrive in this new context?
- What are new and creative ways that the Spirit is encouraging you to engage with and disciple people – especially those who were previously ‘outside’ the church’s walls?
- How can you make disciples who make disciples during lockdown and while physical distancing remains a reality?
Zane writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.
There’s no doubt that living with COVID19 in a mega-city of 30 million people raises some questions. How reliable is the drinking water supply? How we can be the church in a meaningful way when we can’t meet? How are we ever going to open a bank account now?
We also know that some of our supporters have got questions too. The question we are asked the most by people in New Zealand is “Is it safe?”
NZCMS have been brilliant at keeping in touch with us. They have offered us amazing support around planning for this pandemic as things have changed on the ground. And they’ve also offered to help us get back to New Zealand if we felt that was the best option. We haven’t felt it was the best option.
When we decided to serve with NZCMS we knew we would have to risk something. Reputation. Lifestyle. Friendships. Aspirations. Hopes. Dreams. We traded them out for something different, something truly unsafe, a gospel vision for Jakarta.
We haven’t felt like returning to New Zealand was the right thing to do because we weren’t ‘safe’ here before. Not safe in a kiwi senseThere are inherent risks serving here. Risks of illness, of terror attacks, of disease, of robbery, of motor vehicle accident and risks associated with the healthcare system. But we knew some of the risks of living and working here before we signed on the dotted line with NZCMS. And that’s true for almost all of NZCMS’ Mission Partners.
We aren’t unconcerned, über victorious super-Christians. We’re regular, and at times, very sub-par followers of Jesus who have responded to God’s call to live in a different paradigm and a different place. That’s unsafe. Following Jesus should never feel safe.
As we’ve grappled with safety, in the wake of our new home having the worst COVID19 fatality rates on the planet we’ve asked ourselves “What’s the worst that could happen?”. The answer is we could die. But what was the worst that could happen before COVID19? We could die.
Having just worked through the book of Philippians, Paul’s words ring loudly; “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21. I don’t write that flippantly. My wife, Karen, and I have run through the worst-case scenario a couple of times. It’s scary. Would we go home? What would change? How would life look?
We’d be gutted. Devastated. Heartbroken. Yet, God would still be on the throne in heaven. Such a tragedy as one of us dying would undeniably change life forever. And that’s ok, because at the end of the day, we know that our safety doesn’t rest on a set of earthly circumstances, pandemic or not.
We can be sensible, and we can minimise our exposure to risk; we’ve been following the advice of the New Zealand Embassy here, which is essentially the same advice as in New Zealand. But the safety we enjoy is in the hands of God, it is in an eternal safety.
Our surroundings may not always feel safe, but Christians live and serve in the knowledge that our souls are safe with Him. Psalm 46 says the God of Jacob is our refuge and we serve in an unsafe place so that others might come to know this eternal safety too.
Want to keep thinking about this theme of “Godly Safety’? Join in on our “Happy Hour” zoom meeting on Thursday, April 23.