February 2015

A different kind of fast

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This week’s post comes from a Time Magazine article about Pope Francis. The original post, by Christopher J. Hale (@chrisjollyhale), can be read here

A little note before you dive in to these Pope-y reflections – the discussion for #NZCMS has been moved to a Facebook group. Join up – we’d love your voice to be heard!

 

No need to throw out the chocolate, booze, and carbs. Pope Francis has a different idea for fasting this year.

Christians around the world mark the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This ancient day and season has a surprising modern appeal. Priests and pastors often tell you that outside of Christmas, more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year—including Easter. But this mystique isn’t reserved for Christians alone. The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion.

Perhaps most notable is the act of fasting. While Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, many people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year.

But Pope Francis has asked us to reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season. According to Francis, fasting must never become superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

But this isn’t to downplay the role of sacrifice during the Lenten season. Lent is a good time for penance and self-denial. But once again, Francis reminds us that these activities must truly enrich others: “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.

In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

But when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. Jesus—the great protagonist of this holy season—certainly showed us the way. In him, God descends all the way down to bring everyone up. In his life and his ministry, no one is excluded.

“What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s a question a lot of people will get these next few days. If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go. But if you want to change your heart, a harder fast is needed. This narrow road is gritty, but it isn’t sterile. It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.

Now that’s something worth fasting for.

 

THE MUSE

What do you make of the idea of fasting from indifference? Is it possible to fast from something abstract like that? What might fasting from indifference look like?

 

THE MOVE

Do it.

 

Join the Facebook discussion by clicking here.

 

A new home for Nick and Tessa

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We are incredibly fortunate, if a little sheepish with even a spattering of guilt that we’ve had the chance to be a part of building our own home. It was never something we planned to do, and I doubt very much that we’ll get the chance to do it again. The big hut is finished, and we remain only with finishing touches (curtains, pictures on the wall, etc.). Its a round hut, so orientating yourself shouldn’t be too hard!

We’re delighted that our friends from near our old house are still keen to hang out with us.

 

To see how Nick and Tessa’s new home was built, click here.

Transformations in Gambela

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A friend of Rosie’s reports about what is happening in Gambela, Ethiopia. 

My heart is so full. It has been said that life in Gambela is either very high or very low, but rarely in between. The stench of death, disease, and despair hangs in the air like a sulfurous fume from the pit and, if we are not careful, it can suck us in and rob us of the joy we have in Jesus. It is especially hard when those close to us are suffering…like when the teenage son of our Opo guard, Joseph, unexpectedly died of unknown causes recently.

But at the same time, the Lord is doing great things that we have, up until now, only read about in Acts and in books on revival. People regularly cry out in services, falling down on their knees weeping as the Holy Spirit touches their hearts. Demons too cry out, throwing their hosts to the ground, but they are dealt with swiftly in the Name of Jesus. The Anuak are using the Jesus Film in their revival meetings and evangelistic services to great effect.

The Spirit is moving and we have the best seats in the house!

We recently heard about a man in a nearby village who served as a ‘priest’ of a familiar spirit by the name of Wiu. This spirit is well known in the Gambela People’s Region as a powerful force for good (so-called) and for evil. The man has two wives, the youngest of whom is a Christian. His children too are Christians. In the past he was respected by many and feared by all, as he was very powerful. But bad things were beginning to happen to his family. From late 2014 to the recent present ten family members died of unnatural causes. So this past weekend, his children went to beg him to denounce the demon and to follow Jesus. At first the man resisted – he too feared the power of this spirit – but after being convinced of the truth of the Gospel and the power of Jesus, he rejected the demon and publicly burned all the fetishes, sacrificial spears, and cultic instruments in his possession. But not only was this one man set free from Satan’s clutches, but many of those who feared and revered him also turned to Jesus, including his first wife!

This is just one story among many. The folks in the Anglican Church here are advancing into areas previously untouched by the Gospel. (There is so much work, especially to the south of us, but we do not have enough trained leaders!) Pray especially for the continuing outreach work among the Majenger and the Tamakoi people groups. Pray also for the many showings of the Jesus Film and pray for our church members, that they may grow to maturity in the faith.

Journey into Mission: NZCMS Hui (March 28, Nelson)

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Our country was shaped by mission. Samuel Marsden, a CMS missionary, journeyed to our nation to share the Gospel on Christmas Day 1814. And that same Gospel continues to go forth.

This Hui will be held after the NZCMS AGM. We’ll be exploring the journey of mission from three different angles thanks to three unique sets of speakers:

Our Journey is Your Journey. Phil & Becky Sussex have spent the last four years in Cambodia with their four children. They’ll invite us to consider what mission looks like in our own contexts.

Weaving the Journey. Natalie Downes put aside medical school for a year to journey with God as a NZCMS Haerenga intern. She’ll share about how her story has been woven into God’s bigger story.

The Journey Goes Forward. NZCMS is now led by a Kenyan, Steve Maina, a dynamic and passionate speaker with a heart for bringing the Good News to our world. He’ll challenge you to ask how God wants us to engage in our rapidly changing world.

 

 

Join us for an evening of journeying through mission.

Presented by NZCMS in conjunction with All Saints Church 7pm, Saturday  March 28 All Saints Church, 30 Vanguard Street, Nelson

 

The faces of Syria

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Here’s a video from our friends at World Vision that captures the Syrian conflict through the eyes of children. Many of the refugees who escaped Syria never anticipated being away from home so long. Many left in summer and only brought what was necessary for the warmer months – now that it’s winter they find themselves unprepared and freezing. It’s up to the international community to step in and help.

 

If you’re interested in helping you can contact office@nzcms.org.nz or visit World Vision’s website.

Connect, Discover and Respond

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I’ve been known as a coffee aficionado (read: addict) for a few years now. I will drink instant coffee on the rare occasion where it would be rude to refuse hospitality, but I can usually be found at my desk by about 8:30am sipping on freshly brewed java, or beginning any roadtrip with a stop for a latte. However, I realised a couple of years ago that my coffee history is blemished in the eyes of coffee purists.

My dirty secret?

I worked as a barista at Starbucks for four years while I was a somewhat-broke undergraduate student. In the New Zealand coffee scene, Starbucks probably ranks somewhere above Wild Bean and McCafe, but is definitely sneered at by those who like to purchase their soy flat white from the local organic hipster roastery.

People who love their local café often hate on Starbucks because of its sameness. It’s why you can walk into stores in Nelson, Sydney and New York, and they all have a similar vibe. This doesn’t happen by accident. Although the décor, the uniform and the menu options are always similar, baristas have also been thoroughly trained – indoctrination might not be too strong a word – into the all-important Starbucks culture. The two hundred and fifty page training manual doesn’t only teach you how to correctly apply caramel sauce to a caramel macchiato (a single-drizzle crosshatch followed by a double-drizzle circle, in case you were wondering), but also about how to be Starbucks.

Baristas are taught five ‘green apron’ behaviours – be welcoming, genuine, knowledgeable, considerate, and involved. These are followed up by other customer service techniques, such as to ‘Connect, Discover and Respond’ – greet your customer and connect with them, discover something about them, and respond accordingly. I worked under fun shift supervisors, who would facetiously singsong this to me as they walked past, but I hated the sense that my interaction with people had to be moulded to this three point list.

It did work though – apparently, people feel safe telling their barista confidential news, like the customer who told me she was pregnant but hadn’t told her partner or her children yet.  Someone at Starbucks headquarters has been very smart and has caught onto an important principle – if people feel like they belong, are valued and are wanted, they’ll keep coming back (and, most importantly for Starbucks, spending money). The company plays on human emotional needs in order to keep their profits increasing.

So what does this all have to do with mission? Over the years, I’ve been in hundreds, if not thousands, of church services where people have been invited to raise their hands to signal that they want to become a follower of Jesus. It’s great when people genuinely respond, and not so great when it becomes a bit of a social-pressure scenario. What I’ve noticed tends to happen, however, is when people wave their hand in the air without having some sort of personal connection to the community, they’re a lot less likely to continue attending church. The ones who keep coming back are those who are welcomed and embraced as the glorious and creative individuals that they are, into the messy and diverse family of God – they know that they are wanted and that they genuinely belong.

Have a think about how this might apply to you, or affect how we think about missions and evangelism in our local churches? My suspicion is that our first question should never be ‘Are you a Christian’, but something more along the lines of ‘What’s been happening for you lately?’ It might mean being a bit less focused on the moment of decision… and more committed to walking it out together for the rest of our lives.

 

THE MUSE

How do you feel discovering that the friendly barista from Starbucks is simply following a careful marketing strategy to make you buy more coffee? Why is that? What difference should this make for us when we talk to others about our faith?

THE MOVE

Find an opportunity this week to Connect, Discover and Respond. Kate’s question is a good starting point: ‘What’s been happening for you lately?’

 

Kate spent her late teens connected to YWAM, the prayer movement  and working at her Church in Wellington. She’s since blasted her way through a Bachelor in Theology with Bishopdale Theology College in Nelson and is now beavering away at a PhD. Her passion is to see the local church grow in its understanding of and passion for mission.

Lenten Prayer with CMS Africa

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Here’s an invitation to join a global prayer initiative over Lent. Because we Kiwis live on the opposite side of the globe , we are able to ‘fill the holes’ in this prayer chain – when it’s midnight in Africa, it’s midday here.

Warm Calvary greetings from CMS-Africa!

We are pleased to invite you to take part in the Lent Prayerthon this year under the theme of Matthew 6:36-38. We are trusting God for people from across the globe to sign up for prayer to cover the complete 24 hours during each of the 40 days of Lent from 18 February to 2 April 2015.

This invitation is for each person to choose a time and commit to pray for 15 minutes every day over the 40-day Lent season.

At this time in the history of the Church, more than ever, we see a world in turmoil. The solution to this is workers who will go into this ready harvest to demonstrate and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. Prayer is the foundation of all missions. Over this Lent period, we are asking the Lord of the harvest to send out workers.

You can sign up on the CMS-Africa website (www.cms-africa.org/2015-02-09-10-19-04/prayerthon.html) or send an e-mail to communication@cms-africa.com titled Lent Prayers, indicating your selected time of prayer.  Thereafter, you will receive an e-mail from CMS-Africa which will include the Lent Prayer Guide to fuel your prayer time.

We invite you to consider having your entire network of friends in missions work sign up for this Lent Prayerthon that is part of the CMS-Africa global footprints campaign.  More details on the Campaign’s progress are available upon request.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rev. Dennis Tongoi International Director of CMS Africa

Marsden and the Hauraki Gulf

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Last Sunday I had the privilege to join Pane Kawhia from the NZCMS Council at a special event at Kaiaua  Marae on the Hauraki Gulf. This was to celebrate Samuel Marsden’s first visit  after he delivered his first sermon at Rangihoua  in 1814. The day began with a Powhiri at 9am followed by a church service and historical presentations. Plus lots of kai.  Local Kaumatua,  Murehu Wilson, narrated the genealogy of Ngati paoa and Ngati Whanaunga which gave us insight into the history of the area, especially about how the people received the Gospel. I spoke on behalf of CMS, acknowledging the role of the early Missionaries (both Europeans and local Maori evangelists) as messengers of the Good News and encouraged the local iwi to embrace the good news of Jesus for today. I also had the privilege of presenting the new edition Paipera Tapu to the kaumatua of the Marae.

We also heard from Ron McGough. He share that some land, now with the Anglican Church, was first gifted to CMS by the local iwi and that most of it had been sold. However, the Church was planning to return the remaining pieces of land to the local iwi. I was very encouraged by the news.

The event was a great celebration of the good news of Jesus impacting the people in Hauraki area.

Social work takes patience… and funds

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Anthony McCormick has the exciting opportunity to set up a new Social Work department in the World Mate Hospital in Battambang, Cambodia. He is in need of a full time translator to get the programme up and running. Here’s what he writes:

As I have been given the task of establishing a Social Work Department at World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang there is a need for a full time translator for one year starting ASAP in order to assist getting the programme running on a good foundation. The Hospital does not have the resources to employ a full time translator for this role, but it is necessary for me to be able to develop materials needed to mentor and coach my new team to a high professional level.

The translator would translate Social Work and Pastoral Care books into the Khami language and also help develop the appropriate forms used in Social Work. They would also help at meetings and training sessions as well as assist when required in the community.

This will cost approximately $300 USD a month ($3600 USD total).

 

If you’re interested in helping to support this project please email office@nzcms.org.nz

My 36 Slaves

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It was a casual Sunday afternoon. I went to the supermarket – I needed to buy sugar.

I got to the plethora of sugar options on the shelf and stared.

And stared.

I picked one up. I put it back. I couldn’t bring myself to buy one.

Why? Not because of all the options before me. It’s because I know that all this sugar in front of me isn’t produced in ways I agree with. I’ve known that for a while, but that day it made me unable to purchase sugar. But I needed sugar. What to do? Driving across Auckland to the TradeAid store to purchase sugar doesn’t seem a great ‘sustainable choice’ either. So I went home with no sugar. But I knew that soon I’d need sugar and be faced with the same dilemma. (Let’s not get into the ‘do you really need sugar’ debate in this one, we’ll save that for another day – and luckily I found out that a different supermarket close-by stocks Fairtrade sugar.)

More than anything what surprised me about this sugar-debacle was myself. I’ve always ‘cared’ about ethical and sustainable consumer choices, but often it becomes idealist with an I’ll-buy-fair-trade-coffee-if-it’s-in-front-of-me thrown in on the side (though this is still a great place to start).

So what’s changed? I’m not exactly sure.

I found out I have 36 slaves working for me – in fact, I probably have more. That hit hard. I found out in what areas we are using slaves to support our consumer lifestyle – like in producing the new iPhone 6. I found out not all products labelled ‘free-range’ or ‘fair-trade’ actually are.

Deep down I think God’s been doing a bit of stirring – He’s good at that! Lately I’m seeing God’s love for this entire world and creation changing the way I have to live. I’ve found myself unable to ignore this question: “How can I live sustainably and ethically in a way that honours all of God’s creation?” Practically, I’m being intentional about reading and talking with people who are asking the same questions as me.

But don’t get me wrong friends. I’m such a weakling who struggles to do this. It doesn’t come naturally, or easy. I’m selfish and buy things that are convenient, not fair. I drive to work. I own a smartphone. I don’t always recycle. The other day I tried not to use plastic bags at the supermarket and then ended up with my arms full of groceries (cos I forgot my reusable bags)… I dropped and broke some of my items on the pavement. And sometimes the whole thing just makes me feel overwhelmed and I don’t want to care at all!

So this weakling is learning, learning that daily choices matter. With that in mind, and a dose of grace, I am trying to:

Make a choice to be informed about products, and let that information change my purchases. Make a choice to make sacrifices of my time and effort for sustainability. Choose inconvenience for me but fairness for others. Choose to read things and hear things about slavery and working conditions that make me uncomfortable and teary. Choose to get up the next day and try again after making selfish choices the day before.

Small choices and changes make a difference, firstly to me, and hopefully to others.

What about you? Are you ready to make a choice that may mean you might not be able to just walk up and buy sugar?

 

THE MUSE

Are you aware of the real cost of our consumeristic culture? What ways do you already live intentionally fair-trade and consumer conscious? What ways do you struggle or have never thought about before? What’s your next choice in moving towards this?

THE MOVE

Find out how many slaves work for you and what you can do about it. Find a friend who will challenge you in your consumer choices. Check our the story behind the barcode: www.free2work.org Share on our Facebook group one choice you are making this week to live ethically

 

Join the conversation at our #NZCMS Facebook Group.