July 2015

When God doesn’t call us

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I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to chase God’s calling for me. Learning how to hear and interpret his voice. Taking the opportunities I feel God has placed in front of me. Continually seeking what’s next and being open to doing things outside of my comfort zone. There’s this wonderful joy and adventure in stepping out into the unknown, trusting that God will equip me, provide for me and give me the courage I need to fulfil what he’s called me to do. I love living a life open to God’s interception. There’s something both frightening yet exciting about it.

I had one of these crazy God-interception moments recently where I suddenly found myself in Hawaii working as a nanny. Had you asked me about it just a week earlier, I’d never have said that I’d end up there. My sense of adventure was totally tantalized and I was eager to see what this little two month excursion would hold. Because of this I had to put my study and other commitments back home on hold but I didn’t really mind because that’s what trusting God is, right!? Following him even if it doesn’t make complete sense.

I was amazed to see how God provided everything I needed in Hawaii, from my living expenses and flights right down to bedsheets, towels and clothes. (I had arrived there on the way home from a family holiday with almost nothing.) It was an incredible time of feeling like I was in the right place. I was where I was meant to be.

The family I was nannying for were doing a YWAM Discipleship Training School. Half way through they’d be going on an extended outreach to another part of the world and I was asked if I’d like to join one of these teams. It was exciting to consider what time for me as I looked at the opportunity of going to either the Philippines, Mexico, Uganda or Norway and England.

I spent much time praying and asking God where I was meant to go… but nothing. There was no word, no sign, no indication that I was to go to any of these places. My calling to Hawaii had been so clear but now I wasn’t feeling anything. It was hard to accept that God didn’t want me to go as I watched these people who had become family head out on new adventures.

Instead I returned home to New Zealand to begin study once more – a little disappointed but nonetheless excited to see family and friends again.

Less than a month after I returned, my Nana unexpectedly passed away. It was crazy to think I could’ve been in the Philippines or England. But I had come home and had made precious memories with her before she was gone. Memories and time I’d  missed out on had I not listened to God’s non-call and gone on outreach anyway. Home was where I was meant to be.

I must be a slow learner because God is constantly reminding me that his ways are better than mine. Why do I find it so hard to believe this and continuously want to do whatever it is that I want to do?

Although it’s important to recognise when God has called us to do something, I’m now learning it’s just as important to recognise when he’s not calling us.

For me, not being called ended up being just as important and significant as if I had been. It’s a hard and courageous thing to accept God’s non-callings but I know that God has a far better idea of what’s best for me than I do. It’s about following him even when it doesn’t make complete sense.

 

THE MUSE

What do you do when God tells you what to do? What do you do when he’s silent?

 

THE MOVE

Think up a practical way to submit your trust to God once again. And do it. Now.

The Gospel Crossing Kiwi Cultures (Issue 23)

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By John Hornblow

We live in Palmerston North, a city of about 80000, home to over 120 different ethnicities. Within the city, All Saints Anglican Parish is engaging with many born beyond our shores. There are many ‘strangers among us’ that we want to welcome and support.

Some ways our church community offer welcome and support include: resettling Afghan and other refugees, teaching English to eager students, offering hospitality to our large Bhutanese community and ministering to international students and staff at our tertiary institutions. It’s all about offering friendship, the opportunity to feel safe in a community again, maybe an invitation to attend a Bible study group or be included in a worship service.

These are all great beginnings. However, often these ministries operate unintentionally in silos. To bring these different ministries to the awareness of our church community we’re spending a month in August centred around ‘The Gospel crossing cultures in Aotearoa.’ During the month we’ll provide space in our worship services for people to tell stories of the Gospel crossing cultures and what that looks like for them. We’ve also invited Steve Maina to share about the challenge of integrating into a western culture. We’ll hear stories from the Wellington Chinese Mission about the excellent work they do amongst their people. We’re looking forward to many others who will share their journey of being strangers and becoming family within Aotearoa.

We hope this will deepen understanding, stimulate prayer, gain support and provide encouragement. It’s more than just learning what we do, but about discovering that crossing-cultures and welcoming ‘strangers’ is central to the Gospel we’re called to live.

This is one way we’re seeking to be more aware of the ‘strangers among us,’ helping our parish engage with the reality of life for many people in our neighbourhood and discover the cross-cultural mission opportunities in our own backyard.

 

For discussion

What cross-cultural opportunities exist in your own neighbourhood?

How is God calling your church to respond?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Partnering with the Pacific

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On Saturday 8 August 2015 a Pacific 2 Nations (P2N) Leaders Breakfast is happening in the South Island for the first time, in partnership with NZCMS and St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Presbyterian Church. The purpose of the breakfast is to build relationships, sharing the vision of P2N with local church ministers, pastors and leaders.

So who is P2N and what is it all about?

The Pacific2Nations movement is about mobilising Pacific people for God’s mission in the nations. It’s about stirring the hearts of Pacific Island people, especially the younger generation, with the legacy of mission that came from the Pacific so that a fresh wave of Pacific Islanders may be sent into the nations of the world. P2N is partnering with mission agencies and churches in NZ, Australia, USA and the Pacific Islands to share this vision.

The Christchurch community will have the privilege of hearing from Pastor Lui Ponifasio (the P2N Chairman) and also from Steve Maina (NZCMS National Director). I’m excited about how God will use this event to gather leaders of the Pacific Island community – this will be history in the making, not only because we will hear the vision for the first time, but because this is the first time Pacific Island leaders will be coming together in Christchurch as one and sharing one heart for mission.

 

Would you pray that through this breakfast leaders would hear God’s voice to work together to see a new generation of Pacific young people  released into their God given calling.

 

For more information about P2N click here.

New Role: Asia Network Coordinator

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Asia is a region of the world that needs some of the most dedicated, strategic Gospel partnerships. The continent is a melting pot for the world’s major religions and is home to an incredible diversity of cultures. Many of its cities and economies are growing rapidly, in many places it is experiencing rapid cultural change due to globalization and many of its people have never heard the Gospel. But God is at work in Asia building his Kingdom through many emerging mission movements. NZCMS is therefore seeking to identify and work with strategic partners to support missional efforts of the Church in Asia.

To better fulfil this vision for Asia, we are establishing a new Mission Partner role based in Asia: the NZCMS Network Coordinator for Asia. This person will provide leadership and oversight for NZCMS in Asia, networking with strategic partners, identifying mission opportunities, developing synergies with our sister organisation AsiaCMS, deploying and supporting Mission Partners, and nurturing key Asian mission leaders.

The successful candidate will have a track record of significant accomplishments in mission engagement and cross- cultural/mission experience in an Asian Context.

For more information and a full job description, contact office@nzcms.org.nz 

Nursing Plus book review

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Nursing Plus is well-named! It certainly does tell the story of Edna Brooker’s 24 years of service with CMS, providing nursing care in a remote part of Northern Australia, often as the only medical professional on her station, and in living and working conditions that could at best be described as decidedly challenging. But it does much more than that. It gives a window into the lives of the indigenous people among whom Edna served and the various challenges they faced as their culture came into contact both with the Gospel and with the increasingly available accoutrements of urban culture. Drawing heavily on letters written home during those years, Edna paints an honest picture, often laced with humour, of the joys, frustrations, disappointments, sleep deprivation, medical crises and various other adventures that made up her life in Arnhem land. Above all, however, she tells of the individuals who peopled it and of the way God led her there, sustained her for two and a half decades in a demanding environment, and enabled  her to minister both physically and spiritually to the communities among whom she served. Edna’s story is worth the telling and worth reading!

I’m a Kiwi too! (Issue 23)

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Where am I from? It’s a not a straightforward answer. I’m Sri Lankan, born in Bahrain, and have lived in New Zealand since I was two – I’m quite a mix of different cultures. This gets interesting when I meet new people here. I often get called Indian or Fijian Indian. When I explain to people that I was born in Bahrain, I receive confused looks – it’s in the Middle East folks. My cultural heritage and ethnicity is important to me, but I’m also very much Kiwi. Is it therefore fair that I’m often treated as different just because I look different?

Last year I decided that once a month I’d go out from my home church to experience different churches and how they do ministry. On one such visit, the vicar introduced themselves and then went on to introduce me to the gentlemen that physically resembled me the most – the only Indian guy in the congregation, a man as old as my dad. I guess this probably felt like a welcoming thing to do, but I just felt treated like someone different. It struck me that, even though there were other young adults present, I was introduced to this guy because he looked like me. This is just one example of how it can be so hard to feel like I belong or am welcomed as a Kiwi – my exterior appearance seems to always outweigh who I actually am.

The verse from Leviticus 19, “Treat the stranger among you as if they were one of you, loving them as you love yourself,” means it doesn’t matter what we look like or where we come from. That’s not our primary source of identity. In fact, these days our identity is not found so much in our looks as in our place of belonging. Just ‘cos someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean we are ‘from somewhere else’ anymore. I belong here. New Zealand is home.

What does this mean for churches and communities? What does it look like for anyone to walk through our doors and feel as welcomed as we do? What will it look like when we have people of different cultures or social status coming in? Our gatherings are an opportunity to express welcome and love to one another, united under one God. Or shall we just divide our churches into groups based on demographic or ethnicity? Please, no!

It’s hard to look past physical differences and think of ‘strangers’ as one of us. It asks a lot from us as the people of God. But it is precisely because we are people of God – a God who loves all people, created all races and knows and welcomes us all – that we need to strive to be loving and inclusive. We’re all learning together and growing together but we have to understand that the look of our ‘backyard’ has changed. Let’s learn afresh how to respond to God’s call to love everyone as we love ourselves.

For discussion:

Is there anything in your attitude to ‘strangers’ that needs changing? How will this affect how you treat people that look different to you?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Strangers Among Us: Some Biblical Reflections (Issue 23)

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Over the last six years that I’ve lived in Christchurch, I’ve noticed the cultural make-up of our society changing. The nations have come to our doorstep. We hear about this through the media, but often it’s reported in a way that encourages us to be fearful of strangers. Xenophobia is becoming more common in our world as globalisation creates a highway for people on the move. Xenophobia literally means ‘fear of strangers.’ Sadly this fear could cause us to give in to a spirit of self-protection and self-preservation.

The biblical story includes many accounts that encourage us to see things differently. Most strangers don’t come to threaten us but come to give us a deeper appreciation of the richness of life. It’s not only that we’re to welcome them, but we’re also to learn that they have much to offer us.

Welcoming the stranger

We’re all familiar with Jesus’ Great Commandment: Love God with your whole being and love your neighbour as yourself. This stems from the Old Testament, but if you look through the Old Testament you’ll discover another important commandment which is repeated 36 times: “Love the stranger among you for once you were strangers in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). This was a reminder to the people that they were strangers (‘refugees’) in Egypt in the time of the famine. It was a reminder that through Joseph and Jacob, Israel received hospitality, welcome and settled for many generations.

A ‘stranger among us’ is in fact how Jesus came to earth. He was a ‘stranger in their midst’ asking to be welcomed. As a baby his family escaped to Egypt as refugees seeking asylum in a foreign land. Throughout his time on earth, Jesus demonstrated radical inclusion under what he called the Kingdom of God. It’s a Kingdom of welcome, generosity, hospitality, grace, mercy and justice. This is the Kingdom that the Church is to witness, proclaim and practice.

In this Kingdom there is no Jew and Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female – whatever categories that once divided people, creating an ‘us’ and ‘them’ have been effectively done away with through Christ (Galatians 3:28). In other words, there are to be no ‘strangers among us.’ We’re to embrace all people – especially the marginalised, weak, vulnerable, poor and stranger. We’re to cultivate an openness towards the stranger rather than fear.

Welcoming ‘strangers’ is a critical part of what it means to follow Jesus. It’s participating in mission. In his book You Don’t Have to Cross the Ocean to Reach the World, David Boyd states that the measure of a mission minded Church will not just be how many missionaries are sent out but whether the stranger feels at home in the Church.

What do strangers bring?

Welcoming strangers is not a one way street – strangers don’t just receive hospitality. In Scripture strangers also offered gifts and contributed to needs in the host country. Joseph became governor in Egypt. Ruth became part of David’s and Jesus’ whakapapa. Rahab hid Israel’s spies. Esther saved the Jews from destruction. Daniel served in Babylon. The list goes on!

As I read Scripture, I see God calling his people to be pilgrims, people who are on a journey. This world is not our home – we’re to live as strangers in it (1 Peter 2:11). Imagine if this reality became so real to us that strangers – immigrants, refugees, outsiders – found they could relate to us (or better, that we could relate to them). We wouldn’t just be the hosts, but fellow pilgrims who also don’t quite feel at home here.

Globalisation means that we’ll continue to see more people from different parts of the world in our communities, yet many migrants say that it’s difficult to connect with the Church. May our communities of faith be places of hospitality, healing, hope and grace. Maybe we’ve missed some opportunities, but let’s keep our eyes open for the next ‘stranger’ and open our lives to them. Let’s learn to welcome the stranger in our midst.

 

For discussion

What positive examples of ‘welcoming the stranger’ have you seen?

Why do you think we’re sometimes fearful of ‘strangers’ or ambivalent towards foreigners, immigrants, refugees, those who don’t speak English?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

An Akester Update

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Peter and Christine Akester are currently on deputation in the North Island. Last Wednesday, while in the Taranaki area, they were involved in a car accident. Thanks to God, they both only received some cuts and bruises and the driver of the other vehicle was unharmed. From what we’ve been told, had the car been an inch or two forward, we may have been reporting two deaths!

The police, an ambulance and a fire engine were called in as Peter and Christine needed to be cut out of the car. Peter had glass up his nose, in his eyelid and in his mouth. Miraculously they have sustained no long-term damage. They are feeling very sore, with bruises and abrasions but were given the all clear from the hospital the night of the accident. Amazingly, the next morning they continued as planned, speaking at a couple of gatherings – though they were pleased to have a day off on Friday!

Praise God that they were protected during the accident and that they are both doing well. Pray that God’s hand will be with them as they recover, physically but also mentally. And pray that God will continue to protect them as they travel around the country.

New Zealand Myths and Realities with Keith Newman (DVD)

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Contemporary retellings of the New Zealand story often side-line the role of missionaries and the Church. But can God and his Gospel be ignored?

On this DVD Keith Newman tackles various myths related to our national narrative. Were the early missionaries really in it for themselves? Did mission destroy Maori culture? Were Europeans the ones that spread God’s Word across Aotearoa?

This is a perfect resource for churches or small groups interested in continuing the conversation that was started by the Gospel Bicentenary last year. The DVD is composed of a series of short videos we produced for our website. As the content has enduring value, we have made it into a DVD.

A copy of the DVD can be yours for $10 plus $2 postage and packaging. Purchase this together with the Our Story book for a total of $20 and postage is FREE.

 

There are two ways you can order your copy. First, you can contact Heather in the NZCMS office by emailing heather@nzcms.org.nz. Otherwise, use the NZCMS giving form: fill out your details, under “What would you like to support” select other, and in the space “Other project or Mission Partner” fill in “DVD” plus the number of copies you wish to order.

Your life is too full

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Picking up from the theme of last week, where I talked about my failure to reach out to someone in suffering, here’s a video from Ash Barker that was sent to me by Timothy London from Servants.

What a challenge to our consumer culture: that we need to empty our lives to make space for the good things God wants for us. I’ve met so many young people who want more from God yet who feel God is distant. I’ve also met many who want to see God work through them more, but nothing seems to be happening and life is rather hum-drum.

Well, maybe part of the problem is that our lives are too full?!

 

 

THE MUSE

Jesus said that we’ll find our life by losing it. What does that paradox of finding life by losing it mean for us today?

 

THE MOVE

Is your life too busy? What can you give up to make more space for what God wants to do in and through you?

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!)