November 2014

Festival 200 (Christchurch)

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On Sunday December 7 churches from around the city of Christchurch will be filling Horncastle Arena, an event inspired by the 200th anniversary since Nga Puhi Chief Ruatara invited the Reverend Samuel Marsden to preach at Oihi Bay.

Festival 200 is a collaborative work across the denominations, and in consultation with Ngai Tahu. Dedicated to Telling the Story, it is a celebration of the Gospel message in Canterbury and an opportunity to tell some of the exciting stories of how the church cares about society and positively influences communities. This is the most significant Christian combined-church event for some years and is supported by denominational leaders across the city.

The evening will be a celebration of the Gospel story by way of kapahaka, song, dance, prayer and story. Plus NZCMS has been invited to share a little of the story of New Zealand through the lens of mission.

So, come join us and up to 8000 fellow Cantabrian Christians as we celebrate all that God has done the past 200 years.

For more information, see raranga.org.nz

Dawn to dusk research

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Our own community borehole supports 50-60 households – about 300 people. That’s about the right number of people for one water source. We live on one side of the road to South Sudan. Our community organising group, Wakonye Kenwa, quickly identified that on the other side of Juba Road there is an extreme water crisis. In 2009, the health inspector of the area tested the water and declared it contaminated. There are so many long drop toilets nearby its no surprise the ground water flow brings lots of nasties to the spring. But what we really needed was evidence of just how many people rely on this water.

So, 15 members of our group took shifts to sit by the protected spring called ‘Lawula’ for several days and record data about every single person who came to get water.

Our results? While my borehole supports around 300 people, this protected spring supports 1596 people – a total of 289 households. We discovered people don’t mind so much how far they have to carry the water – they primarily care about how long they have to wait in line. In rainy season, its not so bad: 15 minutes to 1 hour. However in the dry season when the water flow reduces to a trickle, people reported waiting up to 7 hours to get water. Lawula is not only a huge health problem – it’s a time waster, a drain on the community’s productiveness.

 

Heres a few memories from those research days:

– A couple of ladies make their full time work to collect a jerrycan, carry it up the hill to the market to sell. That’s slow, heavy, hot work. They sell each jerrycan for 200 shillings (10 New Zealand cents).

– Isaac, one of our volunteers brought his guitar and played the same four chords he knew in our down time. As the sun sank, I was mysteriously transported to youth group camp in New Zealand.

– We had a print out of satellite photo of the area from google maps and stuck it on an old plastic tray, so everyone could ‘dot’ their home on the map. There were two reactions. Older water collectors were confused or disinterested. Younger folk reacted with extreme excitement to a) see their home from a photo taken in space and b) know that anyone in the world could see their home too. I think it made them feel connected.

 

For more about Nick & Tessa Laing and the work they are involved with in Uganda click here.

Question time

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Now that our online missional conversation we’re calling #NZCMS is well underway, it’s time to step back and ask how it’s going. So, no content this week – just some questions for you. And you’d make my (long) weekend by sharing your thoughts below (show day in Christchurch couldn’t have come at a better time).

Answer as many of these as you want:

What do you like/dislike about #NZCMS? Should it be posted weekly, fortnightly, monthly? Is the content too long, short, just right? What do you think of the topics? How can we get more people engaged? Are we speaking to missional issues relevant for young adult kiwis? What should we change?

 

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! And feel free to answer a question I didn’t even ask.

Edric on TV

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Tomorrow (Friday November 14) Edric Baker, a NZCMS Associate in Bangladesh, will be interviewed by the Bangladesh television programme Ittyadi. This is one of the longest running TV programmes in the country and is regularly watched by 20–40 million people.

In a very nice gesture which recognises his selfless service to the people of Bangladesh, the government has bestowed Edric with Bangladeshi citizenship. A high official told Edric that legislation had been changed in order to make him a citizen!

Hanif Sanket, the Ittyadi host, wants to publicise this to his audience and draw attention to the work being carried out by the poor for the poor at Kailakuri. It is expected that between five and seven minutes will go to air during which Edric will be asked to talk about Kailakuri and why he has worked there all of these years. Edric hopes to explain that his Christian belief is the driving force in his motivation.

Less than 1% of the Bangladesh population of 149 million is Christian.

Edric asks for your prayers that he might find the right words in front of the camera.

Developments in South Asia

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A short update from a partner in South Asia.

A question for you: How do you know you’ve survived another summer?

Answer: You start getting out your winter clothes, and read in the paper that the day time maximum temperature is now under 40 degrees!

As I started writing this I was just back from meetings in the big city, including two day training on the unlikely topic of governance. The full board of a Bible College attended, so hopefully this will help the board develop their methodologies and thinking together – there is lots of policy writing ahead. I hope and plan that we might find ways of replicating this for other organisations also.

A bonus of the meetings was extra time in the city due to Eid holidays. Eid-al-Azha is the Muslim remembrance of the sacrifice of Abraham’s son. Here various animals are sacrificed, first being decorated with henna, garlands and bangles. The landlord of where I was staying sacrificed a goat in their back yard, and next door we saw a cow being slaughtered. Along the road were some very fine and well decorated camels being led on their last walk.

Over my long weekend I was able to visit another hostel to share experiences and ideas, as well as visits with special friends. I enjoyed big city life: getting my hair cut, celebrating a friend’s birthday, going out for breakfast and other treats. As the dates of Muslim holidays are dependent on the sighting of the moon, exact dates are announced close to the time. I had booked my train tickets in advance knowing there would be a rush, and had to guess which date to return on. It worked very well. I travelled on the 2nd night of Eid, and people were not yet returning, so I had a whole compartment to myself – luxury! I was able to lay down, read and sleep the whole 16 hour journey.

As I have been reflecting on this year I realise one big encouragement is in seeing the changes that have taken place in one of the schools I have been involved with. Through the team training approach of the organisation I work alongside, along with the regular mentoring of the headteacher and support and monitoring visits there has been a turn-around in this school. The headteacher has developed increased confidence, is taking initiatives and has developed a team culture among the staff. The staff have developed an increased ownership of the school and the students’ behaviour and confidence have also seen big changes.

Staff have commented that less bad language is being used, and students have been observed stopping one another from fighting and not allowing others to deface furniture. The head teacher observed that students would observe a behaviour which they recognized as wrong and then turn that into an assembly topic which they were leading for the following day. Students have taken pride in their environment, growing vegetables. Staff each donated money for the purchase of saplings which are now established and will provide good shade in the future.

The two feet of shoeless holiness

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By Malcolm Gordon. Reposted from onevoice.org.nz.

I find myself thinking about holiness a lot these days.

One of the defining narratives that has shaped my understanding is Moses and the Burning Bush (in Exodus 3). Moses sees a bush burning without burning up. He goes over to investigate. He is addressed by a voice who names him and commands him to take off his sandals because he is standing on________? That’s right, ‘holy ground’.

This story, along with others gave me the impression that holiness is something a bit stern. I get the image of Moses being scolded for wearing his dirty shoes and dragging mud into the kitchen. Holiness starts to sound like tidiness, something unblemished and unspoiled by the dusty, muddy world we inhabit. So if God is Holy, he must be separate from all the stuff I am not separate from. He must be untouched by all that messiness I am wading through. Right?

A few years ago, I gave up wearing shoes for Lent. It was a foolhardy thing to do. But I have always had a bit of the sporadic-ascetic in me. So for 6 weeks in late -Autumnal Dunedin (45th Parallel) I walked around in bare feet. I also wasn’t driving at the time, so I walked everywhere.

Apart from the cold I learnt something. My shoes had been sheltering me from the real world, the real world of damp footpaths, and stoney paths through the Botanic Gardens. The real world of long wet grass and the worn wooden doorstep of my flat on George St. The pain of the gravel track on the cold mornings, and the utter joy and relief of the carpet when I arrived. During those 6 weeks I was inescapably aware of the world around and beneath me. The barrier had been removed, and now I felt the pleasure and the pain of engaging with the world, rather than staying protected and disconnected.

What if this has something to with the Burning Bush? You see, Jesus doesn’t present us with an image of holiness that is all to do with keeping your feet out of the mud and your hands clean. Jesus instead presents us with an image of holiness that is about reaching out, reconnecting, reforging broken bonds between God and people, people and people, people and creation.

What if the command for Moses to remove his sandals is not about this, ‘Get those muddy shoes out of my house!’ kind of holiness.

What if it God saying, ‘Moses, I am here. This very ground is alive with my presence. Now take off your shoes so there is nothing at all between us. Yes, that’s how it should be.’

 

THE MUSE

What does this mean for how you view and engage in mission?

THE MOVE

Why not try this out? Now that we’re well into Spring, why not try spending some time shoeless. Use it as an opportunity to reflect on the fact that every place your feet step is holy ground!

 

Malcolm Gordon is the Worship, Music and Arts Enabler for the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand.

For more from Malcolm visit onevoice.org.nz

God of Nations

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The terminator without Arnie? Pride and Prejudice without Mr. Darcy? The Simpsons without Homer? Bro Town without the bros? – Stories are nothing without a main character.

Have we, as Kiwis, forgotten the main character in our story?

Over Labour Weekend more than 100 guests gathered as part of the NZCMS Hui and Pilgrimage Our Story: Aotearoa to explore our identity as Christians in relation to the New Zealand story.

The welcome offered by Bishop Kito set the tone for the event, telling us that ‘The gospel was invited to New Zealand. Chief Ruatara was a person who was fully committed to bringing the good news to his own people and they created space for the gospel to take root in their lives, minds and hearts… The roots of our nation find themselves in the gospel’. We were each invited to remember that the main character of our story is Christ, and to find our true identity as we respond to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The theme of the weekend was Te Raranga, or ‘the weaving’. This theme of being woven together, of our stories being shared and our futures being knitted together came through time after time. It was a great weekend of discovering more about our history as we heard from expert speakers and explored significant sites around the Bay of Islands.

A visit to Oihi Bay was incredibly meaningful. We could see the Holy Spirit at work when leaders of CMS in New Zealand and the UK officially extended their welcome and embrace to the descendants of Thomas and Jane Kendall. It was clear God’s Spirit was bringing restoration and reconciliation after many years of brokenness.

It was a privilege to hear the story of the Kendall family told in more detail during the weekend, to recognise their contribution to early New Zealand history and to give thanks for the grace of God at work in their lives.

But it wasn’t all looking back at the past. With a global focus we shared stories, hopes and dreams with brothers and sisters from all over the world. Our praise and worship times were led by Taking Back, a Kenyan band from Nairobi Chapel. We had the privilege of hearing from CMS leaders from Africa, Asia and the UK who shared how God is working around the world.

A Sunday service on the grounds of Waitangi proved to be once-in-a-lifetime moment as different cultures gathered to share communion in the shadow of native bush echoing with the sounds of Fantail, Shining Cuckoo and Tui.

Drawing our Hui to a close we looked forward to what God has in store for the future. We were inspired by the vision, passion and enthusiasm of Jade Hohaia. Her message encouraged us to continue trusting in God to restore our land and draw all people to himself.

She spoke of how God is using young Maori and Pacific leaders to make a difference in their communities, and how she has seen the power of God to change lives and hearts.

The weekend was an inspiring journey of discovering our story and remembering who the main character is – remembering the goodness and faithfulness of our God of nations who continues to work mightily in New Zealand and around the world.

Wakonye Kenwa – Water

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We glided down the hill on our ‘lelas’ (bicycles) until the suburbia morphed into farmland. We arrived to witness a special moment for Tessa and the ‘Wakonye Kenwa’ community group based at St Catherine’s church: the drilling of the first borehole! We were greeted cheerfully by Omia Sophia, who had already been there for 5 hours since 7:30am in the morning. “I wanted to make sure they drilled the full 50 meters deep they promised, and put down all 15 pipes. They are onto number 14!”

This borehole could be described as a ‘bonus,’ as it was somewhat unexpected. A long time ago the hospital built a sewage treatment pond behind the hospital, which unfortunately ruined the groundwater. Its hard to blame the hospital – the pond was built when over ten thousand people were using the hospital as a refuge and they needed somewhere to put the sewage. Many years back, the hospital pledged to drill a new borehole in the area to replace the contaminated water. Unfortunately, talks between the community and the hospital broke down, and the promise was lost in the winds of time.

Wakonye Kenwa worked with local leaders to revive the negotiations and start mending the soured relationship. The hospital acted fast, and a few weeks later the borehole was drilled! The area isn’t quite where the worst water shortage is, but Wakonye Kenwa has convinced the local government to meet that need with another borehole – so watch this space.

 

For more about Nick & Tessa Laing and the work they are part of in Uganda click here.