June 2015

What an idea can lead to

Posted on

Some Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in New Zealand very kindly sent us up a gift so we could hold a summer camp for PWDs here in the Philippines. We excitingly started planning, looking for a good speaker and setting up other arrangements. In these two day camps we have different activities, speakers and group discussions, a fun night, swimming… and many come to Jesus. Our group is called PCFFD (Phil Christian Fellowship For Disabled).

We are way up north. I said to Leslie, our co-ordinator who is wheelchair user, whether we should consider sending a tithe of the money down south to Pastor Rod Bicaldo, a crutch user who is well known to us from the past – he was an early convert. Why send the money? So Rod could hold a similar event, even just a one day summer programme, to encourage PWDs down there. We didn’t hear back from him straight away, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t interested. In fact, he was so interested that he dove right into planning the event!! About a week later he finally answered, complete with a schedule. He even had a name for the group: PCFFD Davao Chapter.

They held their meeting at a swimming area with the theme of “Promoting Unity among PWDs in Davao City.” Close to 30 came. Pastor Rod (with crutches on the right in the image above) suggested to the group that they establish the chapter under us. They were all very willing for that and very keen to participate in the next activity. They even want to reach out to disabled people in other villages in the near future!

Please continue to pray for our work with PWDs in our area, and pray for Pastor Rod’s vision to do the same in his area.

Halloween, Pets and God’s mission

Featured Video Play Icon
Posted on

I’ll cut straight to the chase: I’m not convinced we Christians take global mission very seriously. Which is another way of saying, I’m not sure we take Jesus’ Great Commission particularly seriously. Jesus said to make disciples of all nations. I think we’re starting to learn about the “make disciples” part, but perhaps we have a ways to go with that other bit.

Whenever you talk about global mission, it’s pretty likely someone will raise the point: “How can we worry about people over there when there is enough need here?” I totally agree and I totally disagree with the sentiment behind that question. Yes, of course we need to be actively engaged in our area. Of course we need to be fulfilling Jesus’ task of building the Kingdom, of preaching the Gospel, of caring for the poor, of making disciples. But care for the local needs to be balanced with care for the global. If there are people somewhere in the world who have never heard about Jesus, then we have work to do there as well!

Watch the video and let me know what you think. My prayer is that God will call (or that people will respond to God’s call for) many Christians in New Zealand to find better ways of engaging their community for the Gospel and the Kingdom. My prayer is also that God will call (or people would respond to God’s call for) Kiwi Christians to lay down their lives and go to some of the parts of the world that have no Church, no Bible, no access to the Gospel.

Oh, and look out for the comment about pets!

 

THE MUSE

What is the ‘right’ balance between global and local? And why do you think the global church focuses so little on “world A” from the video?

 

THE MOVE

Ask God to speak to you about your role in his global work.

 

Deadly heatwave in South Asia

Posted on

Last month a record heatwave struck parts of India killing over 2500 people. Temperatures soared to an incredible 47C in the state of Andhra Pradesh, taking the lives of 1700 people there since 18 May. As with tragedies like this, it is often the poor who are hit the hardest. Wealthier people have had better access to water and electricity for cooling, while many poorer people find their resources running thin.

Though India’s heatwave appears to be over, BBC reports that temperatures are now rising in Pakistan. Pakistan’s prime minister has called for emergency measures as the death toll from a heatwave in a southern province reached nearly 700. Emergency medical camps have been set up in the streets of a major city where the temperatures have reached 45C. As with India before, power cuts in the city have made battling the heatwave massively more difficult. Many of the local hospitals are overrun, with one doctor quoted as saying: “we are still receiving a never ending flow of patients”.

Please be praying for the people of both India and Pakistan, and pray for our friends in this general region.

Buddhism in Asia: How Can Christians Engage?

Posted on

By Hugh Kemp

This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. To receive this free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at lausanne.org/analysis. We’re highlighting the article because, for NZCMS to focus more purposefully on Asia, we need to better understand Buddhism.

 

Christian mission among Buddhists in Asia has traditionally been ‘very hard’, not because of open conflict necessarily, but because of indifference to or misunderstanding of the gospel, or because of the way the gospel has been offered. One can easily imagine the saffron-clad monk respectfully listening to the gospel message, apparently agreeing with much that he has heard, and then not doing anything about it.

Missionaries tell stories of long years and much prayer invested in Christian witness to Buddhists, with little fruit by way of explicit conversions. There are a handful of exceptions: phenomenal church growth in China and Mongolia are two.

Challenges 

Buddhism throws up many challenges:

There is language which is outside of Christian experience. (What might ‘taking refuge in the Three Jewels’ mean?)

Words are used differently (emptiness, self, enlightenment).

The texts are written in Pali, Tibetan, Chinese, and Sanskrit, leading to different spellings of words (nirvana, nibbana).

There are complex words that are simply difficult to pronounce (try Ajitasenavyakarananirdesa) and concepts that are unfathomable (emptiness, nirvana).

In some cases, it is best to leave the original words: hence dhukha, nirvana, dharma, bodhi, samsara are all now widely used in English (and their equivalents in other European languages), without change or translation.

Approaches

There are a number of ways that Christians could approach Buddhists:

A textual approach might ask questions like, Which texts are important? What is the canon? What is the nature of textual authority? What is the key teaching? (Some Buddhist sects gather around one particular text, like the Lotus Sutra.)

A historico-critical approach might examine historical developments of the texts, the teachings, and the praxis: have they changed as Buddhism has spread?

Phenomenology would look at what Buddhists actually do. What of ritual and festival?

Sociological: How does Buddhism work out in people’s lives and their communities? Who is involved? Why? How is leadership played out? Power and social order?

Other approaches might yield different and interesting insights: Political, Anthropological, Feminist, Philosophical, Psychological.

If a Christian engages with a Buddhist, any one of these paths will yield profitable conversation. Christians need to actually talk with Buddhists themselves rather than simply learning about them.

Buddhism worldwide

Estimates vary, but there is broad agreement that around 6% of the world’s population is Buddhist in some sense (between 350 million and 500 million, and maybe up to 1 billion). Data can be gathered from censuses, but this only measures a snapshot of self-perception. Buddhism is often mixed with local religions, whether the animism of the hill tribes of Thailand, the original Bön of Tibet, or the Shinto of Japan. Additionally, some countries have Buddhism as the official state religion (Sri Lanka), while for China (by contrast), it is simply unwise, if not impossible, to sift Buddhism from Daoism and Confucianism.

Buddhism in some form is present in over 125 countries. Nevertheless, Asia is its home. A percentage of the population who are Buddhists in each country looks approximately like this: Thailand ~87%; Cambodia ~85%; Bhutan ~84%; Myanmar ~75%; Sri Lanka ~70%; Japan ~56%; Mongolia ~55%; Laos ~53%; Vietnam ~50%; Taiwan ~27%; South Korea ~25%; Macau ~17%; Hong Kong ~15%; Singapore ~15%; Nepal ~12%; Brunei ~10%; Malaysia ~6%; and North Korea ~2%. There is also a small but significant population in India (7 million). China, with about 244 million Buddhists, is arguably home of about half the world’s Buddhists. Los Angeles, California, is actually the most diverse Buddhist city in the world, with representation of all Buddhist traditions.

Practice 

Buddhism unsurprisingly ‘looks’ different in each of these countries. Buddhism demonstrates quite some variation between schools/traditions. Some are very textual and doctrinal, some ‘use’ doctrine to a point, and then discard it, and others eschew doctrine altogether. The Buddha himself said that his teaching (the dharma) was like a raft used by a person crossing a river. When he had safely reached the other shore, he could discard the raft and continue on his journey.

Many Buddhists approach Buddhism as a practice, rather than a belief. Orthopraxy is often more important than orthodoxy. In early Buddhism, new groups formed due more to issues around monastic discipline, rather than doctrinal heresy. This is in contrast to the first five centuries of Christian history where conflict—and subsequently creeds—were likely to be caused by doctrinal issues.

Buddhism is often more about techniques of doing and ethics for living. The disciple follows a path or way, using a technique towards an end (awakening/enlightenment), such as meditative practice which is claimed to lead to enlightenment, or taking vows of ordination as a monk or nun.

The main idea is to experience what the teachings and texts are offering. Rupert Gethin sums this up well:

‘The aim of Buddhism is to put into practice a particular way of living the ‘spiritual life’ (brahma-cariya) that involves training in ethical conduct (sila) and meditative and contemplative techniques (samadhi) and which culminates in the direct realization of the very knowledge (prajna) the Buddha himself reached. Therefore what the Buddha taught is often referred to in the early texts as a system of ‘training’ (siksa), and his disciples may be referred to as being ‘in training’ (saiksa) . . . Thus in certain important respects the nature of the knowledge that the Buddha was trying to convey to his pupils is more akin to a skill, like knowing how to play a musical instrument, than a piece of information, such as what time the Manchester train leaves tomorrow’.

Buddhisms

Therefore, a Christian wishing to talk with a Buddhist in Vietnam will likely have quite a different type of conversation than talking with a Buddhist in Tibet or in Taiwan—or Los Angeles! It may be wiser not to think of a unified religion called Buddhism, but rather to think of Buddhisms, a collection of loosely related ideas and practices that is informed by a historical and textual tradition.

Zen Buddhism in Japan and Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet ‘feel’ similar, but look very different. A Nepali villager may never have heard of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, let alone articulate them. However, if you read them to her, she might say something like, ‘Oh, that’s more or less the way I see the world.’

How to engage

When a Christian seeks to engage with Buddhists, it is common experience to feel overwhelmed. The categories are complex, based on fundamental differences in worldview assumptions. Stephen Prothero rightly notes that Buddhists and Christians see the problem in the world and the answer to that problem from two completely different angles:

For a Buddhist, the fundamental human problem is suffering, and the solution is awakening, then release from samsara.

For a Christian, the fundamental problem is usually articulated as sin, and the solution is salvation/freedom in Christ.

I would recommend a respectful conversational approach, seeking to listen well so as to clarify meanings, but also being unapologetic about differences.

 

To continue reading and to get some practical advice about engaging with Buddhists click here.

Why Most Missionaries Are Liars

Posted on

The following blog by Mike Pettengill has been reposted with permission. The original can be found on his site here.

No job description I have ever seen for a missionary includes the words “fast and loose with the truth.” It is not my belief missions attracts the kind of people who are predisposed to being insincere. Unfortunately, I have seldom encountered a missionary who will tell the entire truth when asked important personal questions.

The questions which would cause a typical missionary to light up a lie detector include: “How are you doing?” “How is your family?” “How is your marriage?” “How is your spiritual health?” These personal questions are frequently asked by friends, family, and supporting churches. What gives a typical missionary emotional fits is juxtaposing an honest desire to receive help with the concern he or she may be perceived as a ministry failure.

The Truth

The truth is most missionaries are suffering. They just don’t want their supporters to know it. A typical missionary has an unspoken adversarial relationship with their supporters. It has to do with financial support. We missionaries think, at some level, if our supporters discover we are suffering, struggling or having a hard time while on the mission field, we will be viewed as a bad investment and our supporters will go find a better missionary who has his act together.

Two of the most discussed topics in the Bible are sin & money. It should come as no surprise that money is at the core of much of our sin. Many missionaries are willing to suffer in silence for fear someone may discover we are ineffective servants. If the truth of a missionary’s suffering was revealed someone may pull their financial support or a missionary may be called home for a season, or permanently. In a missionary’s mind, what could be more painful than to be revealed as incapable of doing that which God has called and prepared them to do?

To The Missionary

Missions is hard. Humans are weak. God is sufficient. What could be more unnatural than to leave a culture where you know the language, you are succeeding at life and are surrounded by people who support you, to live in a culture where you speak like a child, have no support group and fail daily? Missionaries leave for the mission field with visions of Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd and Jim Elliot in their heads. The reality is many missionaries spend some part of a typical day in emotional and spiritual anguish. Struggle and failure are typical items on a missionary’s “to do” list. Missionaries, you must remember what Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.”

Tell your supporters and friends the truth. Get people to pray for you often. Let those who love you know you are in pain. When missionaries are honest, supporters don’t run from you, they run to you. When you left for the mission field you asked individuals and churches to partner with you in ministry. Give others the opportunity to glorify God by serving you. You may be surprised how your honesty results in a deluge of compassion.

To The Church

You agreed to partner with missionaries. Now do it. This is not simply a financial relationship. John Piper said, “All the money needed to send and support an army of self-sacrificing, joy-spreading ambassadors is already in the church.” It is not about the money. Care for your missionaries at least as well as you care for your stateside congregants. Ask them frequently how they are doing. Assume they are struggling and lying to you. Probe deeper. Ask them hard questions. Remind them frequently you are praying for them. They know you are praying, but they love to be reminded. Remember their family. Don’t forget anniversaries and birthdays. One short e-mail or phone call will provide energy for months. You may not be called to go, but you are certainly called to pray for or support God’s Great Commission. Every Christian is a participant.

Visit your missionaries on the field. Counsel them. Dive into their lives and invest in their spiritual health. Send them personal Christian resources. Conferences, books and CDs aren’t as prevalent outside the U.S. Loving on a missionary isn’t hard, but you’d be shocked at how few churches and supporters do it. Be the one to make a difference.

Focus On The Big Things

I have explained to dozens of churches I would rather see them invest sacrificially in two missionaries than superficially in two dozen missionaries. Instead of giving $100/month to two dozen missionaries and ignoring their personal needs, give $1000/month to two missionaries and pour your time, effort and soul into their personal wellbeing. Invest deeper into fewer missionaries instead of going a mile wide and an inch deep.

Missionaries, quit being so prideful. It is better for you to be spiritually healthy and able to serve for decades, than burning out after a couple of years. Be willing to be vulnerable so you can recover.

Sorry to break the bad news to you. Most of your missionaries are lying to you. As they see it, they are sacrificing their personal wellbeing for the advancement of God’s work. It is this type of self-sacrifice that makes them good missionaries. Let your missionaries know you love them and want to provide a safe place where they can heal their wounds.

 

THE MUSE

Why do you think we struggle being open and vulnerable with one another?

 

THE MOVE

Do you or your Church support a missionary? Why not send them an encouragement this week letting them know you’re thinking about them. And perhaps there’s something you can do to support them like this on an ongoing basis.

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.

18 Hippies in one Truck

Posted on

We’ve just emerged from a hippie family filled month on a mountain in the Balkans. We’re simultaneously exhausted and invigorated. We’ve felt in the centre of where God wants us to be and we’ve been having a great time!

Granted, we were the only Christians. The only in-tact family present. In fact, the only married couple. I was by far the oldest woman there. It didn’t surprise us that we were soon dubbed “Mother and Father.”

Who was at the gathering? Young people in their late teens and twenties mostly. Some of the men are older. They are mostly from the Balkans but some from around the world. A 19 year old who has been living on the streets in Israel. A young woman from an Australian finishing school on her way to a Canadian University. Young Serbians who can’t find jobs but refuse to give up so they move into the countryside and start growing their own food… and magic mushrooms. Some people just looking in. Many, many young people from around the world who live without houses and work as street musicians or doing odd jobs or dumpster diving in order to eat.

We arrived ten days before the gathering to ‘set-up’ with a small team. This included erecting a welcome centre, kitchen, chai tent, healing tent, meditation centre, main fire, bread oven, fire bath and water access points from the wells.

We were constantly being asked about our lifestyle, spiritual disciplines, family, travel. We were continually sought after for spiritual and relational advice as well as what role drugs have played in our lives. [none, actually]. Many times I would feel the hearts of the mothers of the young people hoping and praying for them.

The day of the full moon celebration we baked 300 bread rolls in the bread oven that Nigel made. I started the night before teaching several women to bake bread for the first time. I don’t use a recipe. I bake by instinct and am teaching this to the young women. More woman gather around. As we are mixing more flour in I start to mention an examination of the conscience. I learned this from the Jesuit bread-baking book I keep in the truck. We clear our workspace and our hearts. We know that our love goes into the bread with every motion of our hands.

All day long we are making unique batches of dough with seeds and herbs and whatever else attracts them. We take the dough up to the bread oven. Nigel is surrounded by men from all over the world. The oven is almost up to temperature. “Have you ever done LSD? I’m thinking about doing it so I can start thinking again.” They are shocked to find out that neither of us do recreational drugs to encourage spiritual enlightenment.  [Nigel: “Call us old-fashioned”]. We tell stories and talk about freedom. We talked of of other ways to attain spiritual enlightenment. This conversation, is repeated over and over with other groups of young people.

Our girls make many new friends. People comment on how mature they are. There is a different set of morals than we hold and we have many conversations with the girls about this. In this context it’s not good enough to simply tell our girls what is right or wrong. We need to journey with them to the truth.  Talking about good and bad of different choices. People are asking them questions as well. They make lasting impressions on many.

One Israeli man says it is like Plato’s cave. We come into the cave to the people who only see shadows and tell them about the real world outside the cave. He says we are the ones coming into the cave to say what real life is. He says we are ‘revered’ here.

We left the gathering in convoy with another van. We have one last food circle in the village before we drive off. We are still 18 in our truck. By the next day our numbers are down to eight.

Our plans are to go to make our way back north by the beginning of July. Over the summer we will go to three festivals. Please keep us in prayer as we visit these festivals where we will speak about new ways of doing church and spiritual communities, the radical Jesus life, and parenting the Jesus way.

Doctor Needed in Bangladesh

Posted on

Kailakuri Health Centre, located in poor rural area of  Bangladesh some five hours drive north of Dhaka, is urgently seeking the services of a volunteer locum doctor for a period of up to one year.

This is a unique centre where health care is “by the poor for the poor.”  Staffed by locals who have been trained on the job, the paramedics handle approximately 47 000 out-patients and 1600 in-patients annually.

Up until now medical supervision has been provided by the founding doctor who is now being forced to retire due to ill-health. A locum is required until a new medical superintendant can take up duties, probably towards the end of 2016.

 

For more information about the Kailakuri Health Centre watch this video or visit www.kailakuri.com

For more information about this role, please contact the NZCMS Office.

Is mission admin flushing money down the drain?

Posted on

Here’s an article by Karl Dahlfred re-posted from mission blog, ‘Gleanings from the Field.’

When talking with people about our financial support, one the questions that I like least is, “How much goes to admin?”  It is a valid question, but I don’t like to answer it because there is often an unspoken assumption that paying admin costs is little more than flushing money down the toilet.  Everyone knows that some amount needs to go to admin because donations need to be processed and receipted (at the very least).  But admin money isn’t “really” used for ministry, but just for someone to push paper (or pixels) in an office somewhere.

For many people, admin fees are an unpleasant reality. They are part and parcel of working with a missionary organization, in the same way that paying taxes are an accepted part of being a citizen of a country (or should be).  They need to be paid but there is a suspicion that they are probably not spent well and would largely be better used elsewhere.  Therefore, if someone asks me, “How much goes to admin?” I feel like the lower the number that I give them, the happier they will be with my answer.  I am not going to doctor the numbers, of course, but I am never sure how my answer will affect the attitude and willingness to give of the person asking.

But the longer that I serve with a missionary organization that assesses so-called admin costs, the more grateful I am for all the people behind those admin fees.  All that money that goes to behind-the-scenes admin enables other people to do things that I would otherwise need to take time and money to do myself.  And in many cases, those support workers who are in the home office or field office or in cyberspace somewhere are doing jobs that that I am not equipped to do.

 

I can’t do the ministry that I came here to do…

AND receipt donations for tax-deductible contributions each month.

AND fold and mail prayer letters each month.

AND manage international money transfers.

AND spend days on end filling out forms and running back and forth to government offices to get my visa and work permit processed.

AND interview and process new missionary candidates, never mind entire short-term teams.

AND manage a mission guest house or holiday home.

To continue reading click here.

God and Skydiving

Posted on

I spend the majority of my time in what we would consider ‘Christian’ circles, and have realised two things.

1) I need a wider circle of friends, and

2) I’m more uncomfortable than I want to be about sharing faith-stuff with people I don’t know very well. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about missions, evangelism and courage, and how to become a more courageous person.

Usually when I think about courage, my first instinct is to think of big, bold and decisive acts… but I think that’s a very narrow view of courage. Sometimes it takes more courage to follow Jesus day in and day out than we recognise. Courage doesn’t just have to be about extreme acts of bravery – sometimes courage might be simply inviting someone out for coffee who you notice doesn’t have many friends to talk to. Courage might be volunteering at an afterschool programme, even though kids terrify you. It takes courage for me to be open about faith and God when I’m hanging out with friends who I know think differently from me.

There are a few things that can freak me out, most of which are pretty run of the mill: spiders, mice, and snakes (which luckily we don’t have in NZ!) My biggest, and most extreme fear, is heights. When I plan a tramping trip with friends, I have to check the route beforehand and make sure that we aren’t going to spend four days wandering along exposed ridgelines, because I won’t make it if we do. My fear of heights is pretty bad… so last year, my friends were somewhat confused at my decision to jump out of a plane at 13 500 feet. I’m the girl who will sit down and wait while everyone else climbs the summit, so I can’t really blame them for being surprised.

When you go tandem skydiving, you have to empty your pockets, and then put on a jumpsuit and a cap, before posing for selfies in front of the plane. You and your instructor then walk to the plane, where you then basically have to sit on their lap for the next twenty minutes while you fly to the jump height. The instructor straps you together on the way up – and you hope they do it right, because you can’t help at all. Once you’re in the plane, there is no way out. The door opens, and you shuffle to the edge and swing your legs out… hang there for a moment… and then suddenly you’re falling. The actual act of falling out of a plane is the instructor’s job, and not yours, since their the one who pushes you out. Oddly enough, when I found myself falling towards the ground at 200 kilometres per hour, I wasn’t afraid, and thought it was great.

This skydiving analogy, although cheesy, is the best I’ve come up with so far in my current ponderings about courage. Courage isn’t listed as a gift or fruit of the Spirit, but I still think that it’s something that God is actively at work shaping in us. I think that the way God causes us to become more courageous is similar to skydiving – we find ourselves in situations that are more uncomfortable, or harder than we would like them to be… but as we continue to follow God in those moments, courage is formed deep within us. We become more courageous people.

 

THE MUSE

What would you like to be less afraid of, and more courageous about?

 

THE MOVE

If you’re scared of heights, try skydiving. For the rest of us, remember that being courageous starts with small steps, and try to do something that makes you nervous this week.

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.

The Family Continues to Grow

Posted on

These last few months have seen us being blessed with many people interested in becoming part of the NZCMS Mission Partner family. Only two weeks ago we welcomed Margaret Poynton and the family continues to grow! We’re delighted to welcome our latest Mission Partners, Dean and Amanda.

Dean and Amanda have an established record of cross-cultural involvement. They have spent many years on and off serving in South Asia in a variety of capacities with various organisations, focusing their efforts on coming alongside and supporting the poor. Their heart to serve the poorest of the poor has drawn them back to South Asia. They have been invited to serve with a Christian hospital association that focuses on the poor, largely in rural areas. Dean and Amanda will serve as Programme Manager for the association’s Children at Risk Programme. One of its main areas of focus is anti-trafficking. They will provide technical support for grassroots project managers, helping build capacity while networking with other organisations. Their complementary strengths and skills will bring much to the job. They return to South Asia with their two children.

For information about supporting Dean and Amanda, please contact the NZCMS office.