May 2014

Tessa the Farmer?

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We fling open the metal shutters of our church to let the light stream in and arrange the wooden pews in an makeshift-square. A cook with a roadside foodstall, a highschool office assistant, a young song recorder, a nursing school teacher, a tailor, a brick maker, a laboratory researcher, several housewives, and multiple farmers arrive, one by one. Just twelve of us. First things first. It’s time to sing. While this could make for an awkward meeting NZ, you are guaranteed to set the right tone here. Next, our bible study. Today, its the parable of the 10 bridesmaids. For the meantime, stories and parables are easier on my Acoli, and easier for the members in our group that can’t read. To my surprise I discover that traditional Acoli and Jewish wedding customs have a lot in common. Bridesmaids take lighted torches to guide the groom to the bride? Same, check. When then groom arrives, a big feast ensues? Boom! Understanding the parable’s cultural context is suddenly easy – onto discussing the deeper meaning.

Now the meeting. I’m suddenly a bit more nervous – its been a big build up to this meeting since we started this group over 2 months ago. Our name is “Wakonye kenwa.” Its hard to translate, but broadly means – we find our help/strength amongst us, or we share our burdens. Today we will decide our projects- what change do we want to bring in Lacor?

We’ve spent the last few months talking with different groups in the community to identify what issues they would work on with us. Communication with these groups hasn’t always easy. Our first communication with the local football club was a classic example. Opiyo from our group presented them with the vision of uniting Lacor community groups to solve a common community problem. Two days later, they presented us with a letter entitled “request for assistance” which listed their priorities: new football boots, a new ball, and uniforms- not the community wide focus we imagined. Challenges aside, it happened. We made contact with all the groups, and had lots of conversations, found out about issues and priorities we never thought of by ourselves.

What issue is the group really about to choose? We’ve done the analysis, weighed up the pros and cons of tackling each issue, and now its time to hear from our core group members – what do they have the energy, the motivation to go ahead with? They have identified two.

First, there is a population right beside our church with a very stretched water situation. There is a pipe water source half a km away, but it is extremely congested.  Our mission? Create a committee representing multiple Lacor community groups to work together to campaign the town council to give the community a new water source.

Second, we (predictably) found that many hard working people in Lacor still struggle to pay their children’s school fees. While there are many different ways to try and tackle the roots of this problem, as a group we identified that one of our strengths is farming. So our plan: the farmers amongst us will initiate a production group for Lacor farmers. We will start small with 15 farmers from our church, and invite 15 more farmers from the community. We can buy seeds in bulk at discounted prices, plan crop planting together, share expertise, and then pool the produce, selling it in bulk to a good market thereby earning more for each farmer than they could achieve by themselves. If it goes well, we will consider developing the group into a proper cooperative, and invite more to join.

To hear more from Nick and Tessa visit ugandapanda.com

Teaching in Tanzania

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Our first few weeks have flown by and we are beginning to settle into a routine now. Cliff has all his lecture commitments on Monday but spends quite a bit of other days consulting with groups of students over their assignments or their research projects. He is also moving the student welfare project forward on two fronts. Firstly the legal side which involves setting up a trust at St John’s to administer any funds that may be donated towards the project. Secondly he is involving the Geography students in surveying the perimeter of the university grounds in order to establish the path of the new fence to improve the security on campus. We have already had donations of approximately $1300 towards the fence and we have the agreement in principle of EdAid in New Zealand to accept tax deductible donations and transfer funds once building commences. If you are interested in supporting this project or want more detail please contact us.

I am now teaching for three hours on Tuesday and four hours on Thursday and Friday. Some of this is small group tutoring in English and some is to bigger groups in the teaching method classes and the English Department. Both areas are rewarding as you introduce and demonstrate more student focused and interactive class activities to the students and enable them to relate these to their own classroom teaching. The second year class have just returned from teaching practice where their class numbers averaged 50, often without the availability of even the most basic resources. We are trying to encourage them to use what is available such as old newspapers, bottle tops and food containers to create teaching aids that will enliven their lessons. It must be very easy for them to become despondent at what is lacking rather than challenged by what is available.

The Escaping Rat

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Earlier this month Carol Roger, currently in Papua New Guinea, shared the following. 

I cannot believe April has passed already. I have experienced a non commercial Christ centered Easter with reenactments, church services daily Thursday to Sunday and outreaches in front of the hospital here. On Sunday there was a dawn service with Barbara running the around the village calling “He is risen” and people quickly joining her. These people are great musicians, wonderful at drama and at the second Sunday service celebrated with face painting crosses and hearts, balloons, pancakes and cordial and then a joyful glorifying service to our risen Lord. Not an Easter egg in sight.

The rats, I am happy to say, have not been as bad as expected. But alas the other night at 5am we caught one in the live trap (as they escape other ones). I managed to pick up the trap and carry it to the verandah ready to drown it in the bucket – I was feeling all churned up inside. Segana got up said “Here, I will do it.” In the 5am confusion I thought she said “How do you open it?” I said, “No, don’t let it out”, and put my hand out knocking the opening. The rat leapt joyfully out and over the balcony. Since then rats have been heard but not seen and said cage remains set but empty. God has helped me, and my fear of rats has lessened but as yet I see no positives in having rats in the village.

Although there is a lot of English spoken here some things get confused. When helping Rosa with tea I looked at the vege and said “I don’t like pacpac“. She was rocking with laughter and then informed me it was pitpit (not sure of the spelling) and pacpac was poo. We both have a giggle now when she is cooking it for tea.

Phil’s Dental Expedition

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Phil Sussex reflects on a recent dental outreach in Cambodia. 

Recently I was able to escape the hot concrete jungle of Phnom Penh to some villages beyond the jungle. I was there to work alongside a mission team from St Hilda’s Anglican in Singapore and Church of Christ our Peace in Phnom Penh. At the newly established local church of Svay Rieng over 400 local people took time out from farming to have teeth extracted or filled by our small team of overseas dentists and Cambodian dental students. Those who came also received basic oral health education as well as a gospel message children’s book. Many locals also attending meetings at night led by Rev. Hieng, Cambodia’s only ordained Anglican priest.

The annual rains arrived while we were there marking the beginning of the rice planting season. While we were grateful for cooler nights, the newly planted seed began to germinate, out of sight below the soil. Jesus’ parables really come alive as we work and live in the midst of paddy fields and the spiritual metaphors resonate well with my students whose families are also rice farmers. At the dental school where I work there are on average two Christian students per year. The two in their fifth year of study attended this trip – a great opportunity to discuss more freely the things that matter most.

Please pray that Eath, a fairly new believer, will continue to grow in his faith and be encouraged week by week as he attends the dental student cell group meeting at an outreach café near the university.

A Blemheimite on the East Cape

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Natalie, one of this year’s Haerenga Interns who comes from Blenheim, shares about their recent trip to the East Cape. 

Our most recent adventure involved a two week trip to the East Cape – we did the whole circuit of the Cape starting from Gisborne and then heading North, ending with a rest day in Waihi. This was our cross cultural mission experience to give us a heads up before Fiji. I’m not sure if mission is quite the right word for it as I feel like we gave very little and in return got blessed with incredible hospitality and by the way in which people opened up their lives and stories to share with us.

Something that challenged me throughout this time was the issue of belonging. As one of the only Pakehas I initially felt unsure of what the cultural norms were. I was a bit uncomfortable as we went to a local Gisborne marae with a youth group. However as we were welcomed into communities and families in Ruatoria and Te Araroa, I ended up feeling more connected  than back at home!

A few of the many fantastic experiences: making cardboard swords and shields as part of a school holiday program, watching the sun rise at the most eastern point of NZ, listening to stories of the history of the land and the Maori people and watching God at work through ordinary people. It was also a really valuable time for building us interns into a team.

So now it’s back to the studies for a wee bit. On the horizon we have a weekend in Timaru participating in what is yet undisclosed business! I’m back at home for Queen’s birthday and then it seems we are getting a bit short on weekends before the big day, June 23rd, when we head off towards warmer shores! Flights are booked – Fiji, here we come!

To hear more from our Interns visit  their blog at haerengainternship.wordpress.com

Leaving on a Jet Plane

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Have you heard that song by Alanis Morissette about leaving on a jet plane? It’s been going around in my head a lot recently!

The time is almost here! I fly out in just under a week now. On the 21st of May at 1320 to be exact. The nerves have been coming and going, mixed in with the occasional panic, excitement, sadness, exhaustion, frustration and a million other feelings.

Every day has been full as I try to get the last things done. I spent 7 1/2 hours shopping yesterday which was a marathon and for those who know me well, a real feat, given that I am not the biggest fan of shopping!

Last week I packed up my home in Auckland and spent time with my various circles of friends there, saying goodbye. To be honest it felt surreal. On Saturday my folks came up and we loaded up all my things to take back to Hamilton and go into storage in my parents shed (lucky them!).

This week is tying up final lose ends, photo copying paperwork, final shopping, sorting through clothes and writing lists. Then, on Saturday it’s all the extended family goodbyes, Sunday is my commissioning at my church in Auckland and then my final two days just quiet days relaxing at home.

On the Wednesday I will be taken up to the airport by my parents. My trip will last approximately 36 hours, the first flight to Hong Kong (12 hours) with a 4 hours stop-over, the on to Addis Ababa (11 hours) with another 4 hours stop-over, then onto Kigali (2 1/2 hours) followed by a 2 1/2 hour trip by road and then I’ll be there… Potters Village… my home for the next 5 months!

So, in this next week, please do think of me and pray for me.

Serving God from Opposite Sides of the Globe

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Iri and Kate Mato are both working for the Diocese of Kondoa, Tanzania. However, for this season Kate is based in New Zealand while Iri has returned to Africa – Kate is working from their daughter’s home because of troublesome blood clots which prevent her from flying. 

I often wonder why the Lord has stationed me back in New Zealand with Iri in Kondoa. I think it must be so that I can help our children with their little ones – this is indeed a blessing. Not being in Kondoa does, however, make working for the Bishop as Communications Director more difficult and I’m forever giving Iri messages for the office there.

Iri’s news is that the students have returned from placement a little wiser, having had their eyes opened to the real work of village Pastors. They have shared with children’s, youth and adult ministry, walked many kilometers evangelising, prayed with the sick and some have walked long distances to fetch water. Students are currently in Study Week with exam week to follow and are then on holiday for three weeks. Iri had hoped to come home during that break but Bishop has asked him to stay on as there are many visitors coming to the diocese. We’re hoping he can come home for three weeks maybe in July. It would be good for him and, for me!

The Bible School now has 20 students in their second year of theological studies. Iri and his team are working hard to develop students’ skills and knowledge and it was to this end that a former Msalato student, Daudi Chilemu, worked at the Bible School for two weeks of his parish holidays. He was a great encouragement to the students to whom he taught African Traditional Religion in a block course along with evening classes in English. Daudi was one of Kate’s first students at Msalato at a time when the extent of his English was, ‘ My name is Daudi. I comes from Vikonje.’ Now, he is completely fluent and hopes to continue his studies at St John’s University. We recall a time when Daudi and his wife used to sit under the trees breaking stones at $40 a truckload in order to feed and house their family. There are many stories of our students who have had difficult lives but now feel called by the Lord to serve him and help to extend his Kingdom.  These servants who come to study leaving families behind must find it difficult and your prayers would bring them comfort and blessings.

Haerenga on the East Cape

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Our Youth Mobiliser Kirstin writes. 

The NZCMS Mission Interns spent the last week of April journeying around the East Cape participating in various community activities and meeting amazing people. It was an incredible time of learning, growing in Christ and discovering more about cross-cultural mission. A highlight was the beginning of the trip when we had the privilege of joining with Kawea Te Rongopai for a few days. We were instantly struck  by the enthusiasm and initiation of the youth to participate in remembering how the Gospel was brought to the Ngati Porou people. We were also impressed by the amazing leadership team who made it all happen.

It is a great year to celebrate the Gospel’s impact in Aotearoa being 200 years since it arrived in NZ. However Kawea Te Rongopai is more than just a “remembrance” event. As we joined these young people it was clear that the focus was on knowing one’s story and identity (one’s whakapapa as well as as identity in Christ). Through this focus we ask: how is my story a part of the Gospel – God’s Big Story – both in the past and in the present? For the interns this message of identity is important for understanding mission and particularly how to journey alongside one another, encouraging one another to look for God’s story and to find ways to share these amazing Gospel story with those we journey alongside.

Kia Ora Kawea Te Rongopai team for welcoming the NZCMS Whanau into your journey!

 

Mission and Ego (Issue 19)

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By Tessa Laing

“Aber, I have good news, and bad news… .” I’m walking down the abandoned railway with Opiyo, the most active member of the new community action group I have started at our little local church. Aber is my local name – almost no one here knows me as Tessa since it’s too hard for Acoli people to pronounce. We are on our way to a meeting with the local Primary School Teachers Association to discuss local issues that they are concerned about and whether they would consider joining an alliance of other community groups coordinated by our church to work together to bring good changes in the community. We walk the railway tracks to avoid the clouds of orange dust on the main road, sent billowing by big trading trucks on their way to South Sudan. It’s hot, and I’m feeling anxious. The last few weeks have felt like we’ve got nowhere. If we keep moving so slowly, our fledgling new group will lose interest and numbers.

“Tell me, tell me” I reply in Acoli.

“Well, I got a job! After three years of searching… But… it’s in Lira.”

Lira is in another District. I try and disguise this quickly. I want to be purely happy that after so long, and so much struggle, he finally has work. It’s a gift, a big breakthrough. But little voices start whispering, “You are losing your best member. Others may leave too… What are you achieving here? Will this group succeed, bring real change in Lacor, and bring new people to Jesus as they join in the work with us? Or will you fail?”

Eventually, we arrive at the meeting location, hot and dusty (despite our rail-route). No one’s there. We wait. Turns out the leader got the meeting time wrong. We’ll have to wait yet another week for the meeting.

Of course, in the greater scheme of things, these kinds of set backs are pretty minor. But in my experience, the very feeling of ineffectiveness, or doubt that results will flow, can be quite overwhelming. All Christians are sent out into the world with a mission, whether in New Zealand or elsewhere. We are sent out to be disciples of Jesus, and we are sent to make disciples. We are sent to reach out to those on the bottom, to act justly – to live the radical way he did – and we are sent to help others to know and follow him. But what about when it’s just not working? Or when you feel ineffective? We arrived here seven months ago, and even though things are going well, these devious worries keep creeping in. On the one hand, its right to long for the things God wants, and it’s natural to want to be an effective worker. On the other, it’s easy to mix in your ego, your worth, and your hope.

I struggled with this in New Zealand, not just over here in Uganda. There are a couple of basic things I keep needing to remind myself.

1. Self Worth. Yesterday I read a little book by Tim Keller called The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. He points out the world tells us that our performance leads to how we are judged, who we are, what we are worth. If you meet the standard, if you are good enough, or productive enough, successful enough, then you’ve earned your self worth. The gospel turns this upside down. Performance doesn’t give us self worth. The source of our self worth leads to performance. We are forgiven, loved, called children of God. We are even called his co-workers! We are freed from tying our worth to what we achieve. Knowing we are loved, we are freed to act out of love, not out of the need to prove or validate ourselves. Boom. Don’t you forget it.

2. Control. Simply put, I need to remember I can’t control other people’s actions or responses. When Jesus sent out his disciples he told them “when you are persecuted in one place, flee to another” (Matthew 10:23). The book of Acts is full of tales of the disciples doing just that. They had some epic fails – people mistook them for gods, their message was rejected, they were stoned and imprisoned. They couldn’t control people or their response to the news they carried. But they kept going, and despite the odds, despite the failures, God did his thing through them.

3. Hope. Things might seem hopeless, and our efforts might seem to be going nowhere. Don’t get me wrong. In the above scenario I’m all for reassessing the strategy, changing tack, and seeking wise ways to be effective. But I also need to remember the bigger picture. We know how the story ends. The kingdom comes, the King rules with justice and righteousness, we will be his people, he will be our God, and the old order of things will pass away. So there’s always hope.

I need to remember these things every single day. Forget them, and I am all too easily trapped by fear and futility. Embrace them, and I’m set free. I can say wholeheartedly to Opiyo: “That’s awesome news. What a break through. We’ll miss you here, but God is going to do great things with you in Lira. Go well.”

Tessa and Nick Laing are NZCMS Mission Partners in Lacor, Gulu Town, Diocese of Northern Uganda. Nick serves as a volunteer doctor while Tessa has been finding ways of equipping and encouraging locals to engage in the area of social justice.

For more from the Laings visit ugandapanda.com

Transforming Communities in the Midst of Glory & Shame (Issue 19)

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By Dave Tims

On a Wednesday night a couple months ago, while walking back through the Skate Park after visiting a neighbour, I stopped to chat with a few of the youth who were skating and joking around. They asked many questions about the amazing development that was happening with the Skate Park. As we stood surrounded by piles of dirt, bulldozer tracks, deep holes and fenced areas, they wanted to know when the new Skate Park was going to be finished.

After chatting, laughing and joking, I looked up and saw in the near distance a couple that were physically engaged in heavy petting. The youth turned and followed my eyes to see where I was looking, and they began to make comments to me. “Ha, they’ve been doing that for ages. They should hurry up and get a room.” We all laughed and giggled together. However, five minutes later, one of the young people stood up on the ledge, turned towards the lovers and yelled at the top of her voice: “Go get a room!”

The rest of us just ignored what was said, but the young man untangled himself from his girlfriend and briskly walked towards us. The kids knew straightaway that he was angry and by his body language they knew they were in trouble. The boys turned and ran, scattering themselves across the field. The young girls grabbed my hand, hiding behind me. The angry lover walked straight toward me, eyes glaring, voice muttering. I nervously stepped towards him to protect the girls behind me, while quickly praying that we would all be safe.

Feeling a little bit nervous, I looked at the young adult, meeting his eyes and said gently, “Bro, are you alright?” I just hoped I’d disguised my nervousness in a compassionate voice. He looked at me, anger in his eyes, then he looked at the girls with hate deeply tattooed on his face, and he shouted “F_ _ ‘n little sh_ts.” This time, I delicately but firmly challenged him with, “Bro are you alright?” He looked at me again, mumbled something, turned and left, strolling back to his girlfriend. The girls let go of my hand and the boys ran back, intuitively asking with smiles on their faces, “Dave, would you have smashed him if he had hit you?” “No,” I replied, “I would have just laughed.” The boys went on. “Argh … we would have had your back Dave.”  I laughed to myself, considering how far the boys had run away from me.

I hate violence. As I thought about the young guy that had approached us, and having seen young people angry, I am well aware of how much damage they can do. It felt like I needed to change my undies. This incident reminds me again that this community is full of extremes – violent and compassionate, isolated and integrated, desperate and yet hopeful.  Half an hour after being at the Skate Park, I found myself sitting in a meeting with local adults discussing how we could start a new Trust to manage and look after the developments in our park. This is a group of people that have a sense of pride and hope for the land we live on and for our neighbourhood.  These are good people. All have lived in Randwick for more than 20 years.  They have seen our neighbourhood change from a paddock into houses and roads, but they have also seen the daily pain that is sometimes expressed in crime and violence. These are local people prepared to take ownership and governance of local assets, creating a dream of a new neighbourhood and of new possibilities. This will mean many future meetings and discussions, and if this is possible, then it could cultivate more opportunities to utilise the social enterprise skills that are in this neighbourhood.  Dreams are the potential of what could be, and they are only really limited by our mind-set.

Tom Wright suggests that the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8) offers a strange and contrasting parallel to the crucifixion. Each event illuminates the other, so much so that it’s worth keeping the first in mind as you meditate on other, and vice versa. The mountaintop explains the hilltop; the hilltop explains the mountaintop. In fact, perhaps it’s only when we hold these two events together that the meaning of each of them emerges. On the mountain Jesus is revealed in glory; on the hill Jesus is revealed in shame. As Wright says, if we can learn “to see the glory in the cross; learn to see the cross in the glory; and you will have begun to bring together the laughter and the tears of the God who hides in the cloud, the God who is to be known in the strange person of Jesus himself.” In some ways this is how I see the neighbourhood. In it there is much to celebrate, there is much that is glory, but at the same time there is a lot that is shameful. Perhaps we can only really understand a neighbourhood when we see the enchanting beauty standing side by side with the shame that is carried in poverty.  It seems that to see the extreme of the beauty, one must also experience the extreme of the poverty, as if the two are as one. Learn to see the glory of the neighbourhood in the cross and learn to see the cross in the glory of the neighbourhood. What can you do to discover the paradoxical glory and shame within your own community?

Dave Tims is an Urban Neighbours of Hope Community Worker. Dave served for over 20 years with Youth for Christ, Te Ora Hou and then Incedo (all ministries closely related with YFC) and has been a caregiver with CYPFS and the Open Home Foundation before joining UNOH in 2009.

For more about Dave and his work visit www.randwickpark.co.nz and www.unoh.org