July 2014

Weaving Together of Jew and Gentile (Issue 20)

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Central to the New Testament is that, through Christ, the boundaries of covenant membership have been openly extended to include both Jews and Gentiles – both those traditionally understood to be the ‘insiders’ as well as the ‘outsiders’ have been woven together to make one people of God. This thing we call church has always been about different groups learning to live together in harmony. We are living in an unprecedented period of time where the vision of Revelation 7 can finally be fulfilled – God’s throne surrounded by people of every nation, tribe and tongue!

 

Originally published in Intermission (July-August 2014)

Weaving Together the World’s Diversity (Issue 20)

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It’s time for a paradigm shift as we look at worldwide mission partnerships. One could even question whether partnerships, in the truest sense of the word, have really been tried? One area of mission that is bringing fresh breath into the church globally is the aspect of ‘reverse mission’ or ‘mission from the margins.’ Increasingly missionaries from the majority world are being welcomed into nations that have historically been considered the sending nations.

While traditionally power, finances, resources, ideas and missional models have been lopsided towards the West, the global shifts in mission necessitate a radical rethinking about what it means to truly see ourselves as the body of Christ in a global mission field. Partnership can no longer be seen as a business contract but as a relationship defined by mutual obligation, trust and loyalty. Goals, tasks, branding and credit must be subservient to relationship.

We might envision mission partnership in terms of Paul’s body analogy in 1 Corinthians 12. Usually interpreted in individualistic terms, our context allows us to re-read the analogy as a global body where diverse global churches become organs that only function in a healthy manner when in partnership with the other members of the body.  No one organ has a one-way relationship with the rest of the body. Just as the heart given blood to the lungs, while the lungs provide oxygen for the heart, each organ is intentionally ‘incomplete’ and must depend on the other parts. Perhaps Paul would say to us: the New Zealand church should not say, “Because I am no African I do not belong to the body,” or the North American church cannot say to the Latin American church, “I don’t need you!”

Relational partnerships will only come about with an increased attitude of humility and a learner heart. There needs to be a respect for the divine calling of the other and acknowledgement that all parts are vital and necessary. The question is whether the Western church will accept partners from the majority world? Can the prevailing attitude of ‘the West to the Rest’ be replaced? Sadly churches in the Global South often believe they have nothing to offer. The truth is that the South has huge vibrancy, new zeal, music, dance, theologies and paradigms for mission. The challenge for the West is to welcome and celebrate diversity without trying to ‘convert’ others to its own model.

Andrew Walls writes in ‘The Ephesian Moment’ that the Church can only attain the fullness of Christ as different culture entities come together into the one body of Christ – a fuller image of Christ develops when we learn to see him through the cultural lenses of others. He says, “The church must be diverse because humanity is diverse; it must be one because Christ is one. Christ is human, and open to humanity in all its diversity; the fullness of his humanity takes in all its diverse cultural forms.” This need for perspectives beyond our own is part of the rationale behind the 2014 Bicentennial Celebrations initiative to invite evangelists from Africa to come to New Zealand and share, preach, network and encourage New Zealand churches. Repeatedly I return to the counsel of Kenneth Bailey who contends that the gospel is not safe in any culture without a witness from outside that culture. Can we value the stranger in our midst who can gently but firmly point out our blind spots? These guests, while from a non-Western background, will have a strong understanding of Western culture and will bring a fresh prophetic voice to our churches.

Many of these evangelists will be well skilled in speaking into issues of pluralism and bring a confidence in the power of the gospel that has been undermined as our society increasingly pushes God out of the public square. Our hope it that we may gain insights into evangelism and a heightened cultural awareness as we grapple with the changing cultural face of New Zealand. We cannot stop migration. Indeed the movement of people, or diaspora, has been a critical aspect of God’s work among the nations. Our eyes should be open to the wonderful opportunities to embrace the world arriving on our doorstep. There is much work to be done in partnerships between nations and we hope and pray that these bicentennial initiatives will strengthen the legacy we hope to leave for the next 200 years.

 

Originally published in Intermission (July-August 2014)

Fiji update

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Bula all!

Well I don’t quite understand how this has happened but I’m writing this having just spent a month on Fijian soil. Wow time has flown! We’re now two weeks into our first placement at Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral and have been extra blessed to be hosted by the Dean and his family. Change is in the air however with Kristy and I moving to new pastures this afternoon. We are still in the dark as to who our new host families actually are – what an adventure! I’m not quite sure how I feel about the move. On the one hand I’m really excited to experience Fiji from a new angle with the potential of gleaning some Solomon island or Indian perspectives on life. I’m looking forward to making more attempts at cooking Fijian style and hearing some life stories. Connecting and sharing life is such an important part of the culture here – it’s rather special.

So yes, there’s much to look forward to but at the same time it’ll be sad to leave. It’s amazing how much a part of a family you can feel in two weeks! I think it’s definitely a tribute to how welcoming and inclusive the family is as opposed to anything we’ve done on our part. We’ve joined family devotion, learned the art of roti rolling, played multiple games of catch and I’ve had my hair done/pulled in multiple directions by the wee girl! It just dawned on us today that this is almost the first time for the whole year that us interns won’t be living together. In fact I could probably count the nights not spent sharing a room with my Siamese twin (Kristy) on my fingers! I think we’re all going to feel a bit lost without our intern buddies!

Something I’ve been learning is that God has a knack for leading us into the unfamiliar – new environments, unfamiliar worship styles, different ways of putting faith into action, strange names for the familiar (the other day I discovered that a baked bean toasted sandwich is actually a jaffle). I guess it’s in the unfamiliar where we begin to realise that we don’t have all the answers and there’s a need to rely on something (or rather someone) other than ourselves. An uncomfortable thought! So as we go this afternoon, deeper into unfamiliar territory, I’m looking forward (if somewhat apprehensively) to the controls being once again wrenched from my grasp and surrendering this next stage to my God who sees things from a way bigger perspective than little old me. A God whose purposes are eternal and who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Perhaps surrendering control isn’t such a bad idea after all!

Fiji Reflections

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First I want to say what an amazing and beautiful….and HOT country this is. Plus the hospitality of the people making this Journey even more exciting.

The first couple of days being here was a get-used-to-the-culture (and heat) time. We went to the markets and saw these huge crabs, tried traditional Fijian food like the “Lovo” (food cooked in the ground like the Maori Hangi) and watched these guys praise God in ways I find awesome.

We had the privilege of being apart of a St Luke’s worship and praise night held on a Wednesday, which allows people to sing and praise but also gave them space to share their testimonies and what they are thankful for in their life.  We met the man of the church which I call ‘Uncle Junior’, known for his humour and high pitched laugh. At the cathedral there was a BIG group of Australians here taking a gap year to come to Fiji and do training for mission.

We were then joined with another Australian group with a organisation called ‘Evangelism Explosion’, or ‘Xee’ in short. Xee is a programme that takes you through mission and discipleship training where you do on the job training. With them, we learnt about our fears of approaching people about the Kingdom of God and how to turn that around so we can teach others about the Good News.

Last week we had a group of about 25 youth, leaders and adults come over for a short term mission trip. They were so much fun to be around, to laugh with, to cry with, to experience God’s presence in a way we wouldn’t usually. As we partnered with them, we journeyed with them to places like Basden College, where we learnt a lot about the school history, the school’s famous reputation for singing and even heard a few testimonies, one coming from a boy who loves to sing his heart out. We got to mix and mingle with some of the students – and I found a boy who was 6 ft 9 towering right over me.

After spending a few hours at Basden college, we then set out to St Christopher’s orphanage where we met some people hailing from the mighty Waikato of Dio for Girls. We introduced ourselves as they did themselves, and even traded a few songs with each other. At lunch time, we ate and ate and … well ate till we couldn’t any more. We gathered the boys from the orphanage and team and took them out to play some games of Rugby, Soccer and even Basketball. We met so many new brother’s and sister’s from this visit. It was so good to see the work of the nun’s and what they do for the kids.

Our next trip was to a village which could only be reached to by boat. A lot of us were looking forward to the trip – this village is known to make it’s source of income by fishing, and I love my tuna. We were welcomed onto the village and given Kava to drink as a ‘welcome to our family’ tradition. And this was my first time trying Kava. We then were welcomed to a school of kids that were more energised than some of us were, ready and keen to play rugby before and after lunch – I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment. We were given a tribal dance performed by the school boys and which made some of us a bit scared. After lunch, we all danced together – I must add, I have some very classy moves. But all in all we sang some gospel songs that the kids of the school could join in and have fun with.

On the last full day with our Kiwi friends we visited a village in Wailouku and were welcomed with such beautiful singing from their choir group. We followed with a huge feast and got the opportunity to meet and greet people. We exchanged songs and even language tips. As our Kiwi friends left the next day, we gave farewells and hugs and words of encouragement to share. I said: “All of you guys grew spiritually only in the few days you guys had here.” Some people have taken back some of the values they had learnt like being grateful to God.

Although it sounds like its all been well and no challenges, it isn’t true. We have all had challenges face us in different times. One of my challenges is humbling myself, knowing that I’m not better than anyone else. Putting others above myself… I find that hard because back in high school, reputation was all about me. But God says in Philippians 2:3, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves”. That’s my challenge I have been faced with being here in Fiji and I hope to grow spiritually and take on the challenge and finish it and move on.

Editorial: Te Raranga of Cultures (Issue 20)

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Now that we’re launched our new website we are going to be posting the latest content from our bi-monthly publication, Intermission, within two weeks of sending it out. That means you’ll be able to choose whether to receive it in the post, or whether you want to access it online.

Editorial: Te Raranga (Weaving Together) of Cultures.

This year we are celebrating that the gospel was first preached on our soil 200 years ago. That first sermon was the result of partnership – a weaving together – where Ruatara personally invited Marsden to come and preach. As we reflect on all God has done these 200 years it is time for us to consider how this same gospel continues to weave together a beautiful tapestry from the diversity of God’s world.

 

This was originally published in Intermission (July-August 2014).

 

Weaving Together of Strangers – The Haerenga Story (Issue 20)

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Haerenga means journey. I don’t think there could be a more suitable name for the last four months we spent in Christchurch. It all began in February when I arrived at the airport late, excited and sleep deprived to see Kirstin, Natalie and Warena waiting for me. Quick introduction were made, and once I’d passed the initial shock of finding out I’d be sharing a room (plus discovering Warena’s strange obsession with people’s heights), Haerenga had begun for me.

During our time in Christchurch we studied at Laidlaw, attended training workshops, had volunteer mission placements, and unearthed the realities of living in community. I’ve found living in community to be an interesting challenge – forming solid community rhythms sounds all good and well, but a big flat of busy people make it hard to find time to sit and be a family together. And then when tension inevitably arises it can be tough to deal with. Thankfully I’ve had wonderful people around me who offered support in any way I needed it – whether it was someone providing me with my own space for a bit or a confidential ear to talk to when I just had to vent. These people really showed me what it was to feel God’s love in everything that was happening. Our Laidlaw study and training workshops were both rewarding and challenging. Through them the three of us were really woven together as a team. We shared the stress of trying to finish assignments. We reflected and wrestled together in our beliefs, actions and attitudes when faced with something different, new or thought provoking. One of the most valued parts of our time in Christchurch for me was my volunteer placements. I was working with the Shirley Community Trust in their community cafe and with their fortnightly dinner. This time changed my perspectives on some ideals I held dear and gave me endless opportunities to connect with people and hear their stories. I’m so glad to have had the other two interns journeying with me as we finished our time in Christchurch and prepared ourselves for Fiji. In these four months of Haerenga my faith has been more developed, stretched and strengthened than in any other time of my life.

We are presently recruiting Haerenga Interns for 2015. If you are interested or know someone who might be please contact Kirstin@NZCMS.org.nz for further details or visit www.NZCMS.org.nz/Haerenga

 

This was originally published in Intermission (July-August 2014)

Success stories

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One of the difficult things here is to focus on the successes. The difficult and tragic cases stick far more easily in our minds because of those very difficulties, but it’s important that the successes be remembered too. In light of this, I’d like to tell you some of our success stories.

Let me start off with some statistics:

Last month in the Potter’s Village medical center we treated:

– 257 outpatients: These range from anything from minor injuries, home manageable malaria, mild malnutrition, chest infections, skin conditions and gastroenteritis.

– 55 paediatric inpatients: These are the children under 12 who are too ill to be safely sent home. This includes the most severe malaria, typhoid, severe pneumonia, malnutrition, dehydration, meningitis and septicaemia.

– 15 neonates: These are newborn babies brought in for specialist care for prematurity, birth asphyxia, jaundice, respiratory management and poor feeding.

– Immunisations: I can’t tell you how many we see in a month but the numbers are huge. Immunisations are government funded and so free for the community and I can tell you, they have a much better immunisation rate here than in New Zealand!

– 2 abandoned babies: Timothy and Abigale were both abandoned at birth. People have come to know what Potter’s Village does so, when these children were found, they were soon after brought to us for care.

So in a month we have seen, treated and cared for a total of 327 children in this community and rescued 2 babies. Imagine what is done here in a year!

If numbers are not your forte, let me tell you some stories:

Nsabimana is 6 months old. He was brought here by his father because his mother died of TB and his father, having 7 other children, wasn’t managing. Nsabimana also has TB and is only 5Kg. He will be with us for 6 months for treatment before he is reunited with his family. Having been with us only 1 1/2 weeks, he is already much healthier, happy to demand attention from everyone and has put on 500grams!

Stuart is 1 1/2 years old. He came in severely dehydrated having had diarrhoea and vomiting for a week. He wasn’t feeding and has stopped walking. He was floppy and glassy eyed when he arrived and promptly vomited live worms everywhere (a surprisingly common thing!) Diagnosed with tapeworms and Guardia he was treated and three days later was feeding well, alert and up causing mischief!

Milia is 11 months old. She arrived one evening in her mother’s arms unconscious. After doing some tests me found that she had the most severe form of malaria and it had gone to her brain. Treating Cerebral Malaria is very touch-and-go and it was for the first few days. Milia was having difficulty breathing and was only responsive to pain. Almost 9 days later Milia is conscious and breast-feeding. She is still weak but making a slow and steady recovery.

There are many sad and tragic stories here but there are also awesome ones of recovery. Children who are so close to death recovering before our eyes and leaving with a smile (though some still terrified of our white faces!!).

The tragic stories may stay with you more, but please remember our successes. This is what I’m here for, to play a part in these stories both tragic and miraculous and hopefully be a tool by which some of these success stories are achieved.

Three weeks in

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I’ve been in Fiji for three weeks now and it already feels like way longer. The amount that has happened is unbelievable we’ve stayed at three different places and met so many amazing people! We spent a couple of weeks at St John’s, and were made a part of the family there. Over that time we had four short term mission teams that we spent some time with, two from Sydney diocese in Australia, an International team with Evangelism Explosion and a NZ team from Shirley, Christchurch. It was great to have these teams around and one of the Australian teams ran an EE workshop that we found really interesting and helpful. However, after spending time with the different teams, I was challenged in thinking through the purpose of short term mission, or even mission as a whole. The places we visited often had very little and gave us more than they could provide, and that was the Fijian way to do things. It went as far as a whole fishing village having a public holiday just for our visit.

It’s easy to feel like I’m coming in to show people how things are done. This made me ask: what does it mean to be a Learner and a Servant when we have the privilege to visit these places? Being a Learner-Servant is a key model that we interns have looked at, recognising we do not have more knowledge or skills to give, rather have more to learn and receive when we are welcomed to another’s home. Would we spend more than we could afford when a guest visits our home? How do we appreciate such amazing hospitality and serve those who want to honour us – their guests.

I finally lost it with myself when we at a village we were visiting and meant to be helping we got very publicly referred to as tourists. I realised that’s pretty much what we were, and it left me wondering how we were to do anything here in Fiji if that how we’re always seen. I spent a few days pretty unsure of things and trying to figure out why Im in Fiji, when one of the St John’s staff started giving me jobs to do and joking with me. It gave me a realisation that I was becoming a part of the family there, and to them I was no longer a guest at St John’s, I figured that if I belonged there, then I could get to a point where I belonged in Fiji and was no longer a stumbling tourist. As to where short term mission fits in, I had my big uh ha moment when the NZ team were doing their debrief and almost all of them talked about how they could be more missional at home. I figure if a few weeks experiencing another culture on a short term mission trip can change how someone responds to being missional at home then it’s pretty worth it.

What does the Bible say about Mission?

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The Old Testament is written off by some people as being a bunch of weird stories about old people, all jumbled together, without any significance for today’s Christian. When we really examine what the Old Testament is about we see that it fits perfectly within the context of the Bible as a whole. We see God revealing his big picture plan bit by bit. Right from the beginning, when Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden, we see the way people have again and again chosen to do their own thing and disregard God. Right from the beginning we see the need for a saviour.

This is important when thinking about mission. God’s plan for redeeming the world can be seen as far back as the book of Genesis, where God makes a covenant with Abraham to use people to bring blessing to all the world.

Genesis 12:2-3 God tells Abraham that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you”, indicating that right from the beginning God’s mercy would extend beyond his chosen nation Israel to the whole world, with God working through Abraham and his descendants. That calling and promise is passed on through Abraham to the whole nation of Israel who are called to be a blessing to the nations. Exodus 19:5-6 God calls Israel to be a ‘Kingdom of priests’, or servants of God. Throughout the Old Testament there are many references to God’s desire for all nations to be reconciled with him. Zechariah 2:11 God draws people of all nations to himself and they become his people. Isaiah 56 This chapter outlines God’s plan to extend salvation to those outside of Israel. Isaiah prophesies that a time is coming when God will send a suffering servant to bring justice and righteousness; that servant is a prophetic picture of Jesus.

This brings us to…

The first four books of the New Testament. The gospels (or accounts of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection) focus on the ultimate missionary – Jesus. Jesus is God dwelling amongst us (Philippians 2:6-11), reaching out to reconcile humanity with its Creator. At the end of the gospels Jesus ascends into heaven calling his disciples to continue building his Church until he returns.

Matthew 28: 16-20 This is perhaps the most famous of mission texts and is known as the ‘Great Commission’. As Christians we are all sent to tell others the good news, and build up God’s Church by making disciples of all nations. Jesus’ parting words are encouraging as we consider what it means to “go into all the earth”. He reassures those that heed this call that “surely I am with you, to the very end of the age”. We can have full confidence that it is God working through us to build his Kingdom. That’s our ‘mission’. John 17: 13-19 These verses are the end of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. We see Jesus’ intention for his message to be sent into the world. Our word ‘mission’ actually comes from a Latin word ‘missio’ meaning ‘sending’.

The book of Acts gets its name from its subject matter – the acts of God through the apostles. This book reminds us of two things. One, God’s mission is done through people like us; it’s through him and by him that everything comes together. Two, mission isn’t static; it requires action to put it into place.

Acts 1:8 A pretty clear statement showing where our efforts should be focused! God’s mission isn’t confined to a certain place or people group, God’s mission is for all people in all places. There is no one, whether rich or poor, here or there, who does not need to hear the story of Jesus.

The New Testament Letters help us to look at the practicalities of HOW we do mission. There are many helpful instructions for our attitudes, lifestyles and relationships. These books emphasise that mission is not just about telling people the gospel, it’s also about service and relationships, ‘living the good news’.

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 Service and evangelism are not separate tasks; instead we are called to maintain an attitude of service as we proclaim Christ. We show the gospel as we tell the gospel. This is a challenge for Christians to consider appropriate practical ways of meeting both people’s spiritual and physical needs. Ephesians 2:8-10 Faith is a God given gift; we cannot earn it by doing ‘good things’. However, because of our faith Christians pursue good works as a service of love to others and Christ himself. James 2:1-26 How they live their lives should show that Christians belong to Christ. Genuine faith is always lived out in actions. Revelation 7:9 The picture illustrated here in Revelation shows the culmination of God’s plan. People of every tongue, tribe and nation bow together to worship God.

Orientation to a new culture

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It feels like we’ve been here forever, so much has happened the first 2 weeks even though we are taking it ‘slow’! My feet are enjoying their release from the confines of sneakers and I haven’t had to wear a jersey once! We had a great transitioning couple of days with Kirstin’s aunty, a kiwi who married a Fijian, and she had some really good tips for how to become a part of their culture. As far as cities go Suva is quite beautiful with heaps of green, lovely bushy bits to walk and hills. The locals we’ve met from the churches we’ll be having quite a lot to do with are lovely, so warm and welcoming and … they are incredible cooks! Curries, traditional lovo (like our hangi), tropical fruit, freshly baked bread – we’ve been utterly spoilt!

So far we’ve just been doing orientation – getting our bearings, learning how to use buses, meeting heaps of people, going to various church services and worship nights. We spent three days with an Aussie team who’ve come to train people in how to share their faith. That’s been a bit scary with on the job training involving wandering into town and talking to real-live people!

We said good-bye to Kirstin on Friday so are now officially ‘on our own’ in the depths of Fiji. Our grief over her departure was slightly lessened by being joined by a youth team from Shirley in Christchurch. We tagged along on trips to villages, a childrens home, serving breakfast to people on the streets. All these experiences have challenged me quite deeply. As we visited the villages I was shocked by how people who had so little honoured us with so much. It didn’t sit very well with me that they potentially used a good chunk of their resources – fish caught that day, chickens, veges – to feed us. How do I graciously receive what they offer when I know it comes at such a sacrifice? These are people who live everyday with the question: will I catch enough to survive today? Yet they were so gracious and thankful for what they had. Pretty convicting!

I love how community orientated people are over here. How people are so ready to have a good time together, to get up and dance and sing. One person starts dancing and suddenly the whole village is up and boogieing – a good experience for us reserved kiwis!

We’ve just started our first six week placement at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Suva. I’m still a bit unsure about what we’ll be doing. I think we’ll have a bit to do with the kindy and school which the church oversees, lead some devotions, run the book stall at the church bazaar on Friday. Basically we’re up for anything! The priest in charge is great, a real hard case with heaps of experience and wisdom too. He’s almost like a Dad to us, and in fact will be for at least a week as we are all being hosted by him and his family. Which brings me to a prayer request. At this stage we were all meant to be hosted by different families but Kristy is a bit under the weather so we’ve all been taken in under the priests wing. Please pray for recovery of energy for Kristy and for healing – that her cold won’t transition into something more serious.