October 2015

Go away sun

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I wake up in the morning as the sun starts to inch its way into my room, uninvited once again. Where are those grey cloudy days when I need them? The ones that reflect how I’m feeling. Numb and tired.

Suffering is inevitable. It’s part of being human to experience pain, grief, loss. And as Christians we are definitely not immune to it. We all suffer in different ways throughout our lives. Battles we often face in silence.

My journey in that sense is no different to anyone else’s. There have been times where I have experienced great joy at how well life seems to be going! And then there’s been the pain when it hasn’t. I am currently in one of those difficult times.

Sickness. Cancer. Malignant. Chemotherapy. Terminal. Life? Death?

These are words which have tormented my family for over a year now. We have felt thrown around by confusion, various test results, heightened emotion and many unknowns.

As a theology student I’ve spent much time contemplating the place of suffering in living a life for Christ. In all this craziness I’ve felt guilt over the fact that I don’t feel like I’m living how God would want me to be. I don’t feel like I’m living out his mission. Often I feel so disconnected from the normality of life and don’t know how to function properly. Is this a good enough excuse to not be leading people to God?

Yet I constantly have people, who I know and don’t know, tell me that they’re being influenced by how I’m dealing with what I’m going through.

What?

I haven’t really been trying to live missionally, or influence others or anything. I’ve just been trying to make it through each day!

But maybe the world isn’t looking for people who can show they are strong and immune against adversities, people who are perfectly acting out “God’s mission” at all times. I think the world is looking for people who can be real, and vulnerable, and transparent but still have hope.

Maybe those who came to me were responding to how I was acting, not because I was trying to hold everything all together, but because I was real about the fact that I seriously don’t have everything all together. Yet I still have hope in a God who does.

And “hope” is an interesting thing. I have hope. But that doesn’t mean that I always feel happy and joyous. I don’t always have a positive outlook on life and sometimes things do get a bit too much.

Hope for me is the ability to look to Christ in the midst of my struggles and know that whatever happens he will be with me.

He is with us and has compassion in our grief, in our depression, in our anxiety. When life seems to be throwing us more than we can handle.

And perhaps this is what mission is all about? That a God of hope sent his Son to a suffering world to show us there’s more to life than pain and hardship.

There isn’t one more qualified to know what suffering is like than Christ. Mission in a way is inviting people to have companionship with Christ who also knows what it’s like to suffer. And if we are to be like him that means we are also called to be companions to those who are suffering. To acknowledge pain, to listen, to just show up and be real. To plant hope in the midst of hopelessness.

When we are real with our lives, admitting our struggles, yet giving these to Christ with hope, we are showing people a way of living that addresses the broken needs of our humanity.

We show them that in such a damaged, helpless world that can’t give us answers, there is hope. And his name is Christ.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

 

THE MUSE

Alicia has opened up and made herself vulnerable, sharing what’s really going on in her heart. What stood out for you?

 

THE MOVE

Is there a frustration, struggle, doubt or worry that has been nagging you? Find a trusted friend, share together and pray together.

#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!) 

A different Sunday morning in Kondoa

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We decided to go to the first service in Kondoa’s church one recent Sunday. We were enjoying the singing of one of the choirs after the reading of a passage from Ephesians and then the gospel reading. Next would come the sermon.

Looking across to the side of the church a man started crumpling and fortunately had a couple of men come to his rescue before he hit the floor. A few of us helped to escort him out of the church to a seat in the fresh air. Maybe because it was a 7.30 am service he had not eaten anything and was suffering from lack of food was one suggestion. But the way his feet dragged as he was escorted made me think it was more like a stroke so the order was given to rush him to the local hospital which we did.

Soon after that we saw a doctor who diagnosed that he had had a stroke and needed to be admitted to one of the wards with medicine to drastically reduce his blood pressure! After a lot of close care from a number of us, at 3.30pm I escaped to reunite with Chris and hear about the rest of the service. It was then I remembered a good rule for starting a day: always have some food and drink before leaving the house! I had broken that rule this morning and had my breakfast rather late!! The patient is recovering slowly.

Carnets of hope

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When patients arrive at the Hospital of Hope they buy a small booklet called a “carnet” where our prescribers write lab tests and order medicines for the patient to buy. Throughout each day these carnets end up in the pharmacy. Sometimes in neat little stacks as information is entered into the computer system and sometimes in rows across the bench, stuffed full with medicines that need to be checked before being handed out to the patients.

In the seven months since the Hospital of Hope opened its doors 10 000 of these carnets have been given out to patients. So you can imagine why one of the catch phrases we have in the pharmacy is “Sooooo many carnets!” Apparently it was something I inadvertently said one day, but the technicians now have great pride in informing me of this fact when I return from an errand around the hospital and see 20 carnets neatly lined up waiting for me to check. Somehow I have also ended up with the nickname of “Check Master”?!?

Unfortunately we’re not able to see all the patients that arrive at the hospital gate each day. One day last week we had 600 people more than we could treat. Non-urgent patients are given an appointment for up to two months later. Apparently word is getting out that we are the place to go if you are looking for doctors who accurately diagnose medical conditions and for high quality medicines at a reasonable price (yah for the Pharmacy!). Actually we’ve discovered that the pricing of our medicines may actually be a little too competitive as people are willing to travel past perfectly good medical centres in the capital cities of Togo, Ghana and Burkina Faso just to get a deal from our hospital. We even ran out of the 400 000 paracetamol tablets that we expected to last six months. Fortunately this is a medicine we can buy more of locally to last us until our next order from Holland arrives.

Syrians in Turkey

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I write this from a poor fishing village on the Black Sea, about 120kms from Istanbul. There are eight street dogs outside on the road but they don’t move for cars. One of those dogs guarded our truck last night. They are not territorial like the city dogs and they don’t bark all night.

The cafe is full of men drinking tea and occasionally playing cards. The summer fishing season has ended yet a few boats go out early in the morning and return at 5pm with meager amounts of small fish. They must be operating at a loss. Perhaps they are subsidised? Perhaps the fishermen just need something to do.

Two days ago we were in Edirne, not far from the border to Bulgaria and Greece. The Turkish authorities were using the stadium to house many of the refugees but these were moved away from Edirne to, or so they tell me, the bigger cities of Istanbul, Adana and Izmir. Refugees are now no longer to be seen in the city although there are accounts of some of them inside houses of generous people.

On our way out of Edirne we saw a group of about 12 young Syrian refugees walking fast along the railroad tracks. We parked a little ways ahead of them and walked over to the tracks. They all looked about 17 years of age and were quite scared of us but I waved at them and they eventually walked up to us. One of them spoke English and told us they could not stop or even walk slowly since the police were after them. We were able to convince them we had no connections to the police and he told us they were trying to get to Greece. I left the group with 50 TL to buy bread and tea for the group once they arrived at the next town – this came from the funds people like you have provided.

We have pulled back to a fishing village on Turkey’s Black Sea, about 120kms from Istanbul. The last few weeks have seen some intense times. We have been moved off by the police on many occasions not just in Turkey but also in Serbia and Hungary. Most times they check all our passports and it takes a long time. The Turkish police were quite friendly to us and took photos of themselves next to our truck.

The Turkish are a friendly people. At the fishing town where we are currently parked up, I have been to the cafe a few times but have never been able to buy tea because someone always buys it for me. Last night we were given a large bag of fish by the portmaster. Sometimes the subject of Gallipoli comes up and they call me “Anzac”. I remind them that the New Zealanders and Australians fighting here a century ago felt a friendly connection to the Turks that was unexpected and actually caused the English to send many troops away and replace the with new soldiers since they were not motivated to fight the Turks.

In many ways, both New Zealand and Turkey discovered themselves during that war and entered a new era with a new identity after the war.

It’s good to be back in Turkey. I hope the friendliness they extend to our nations, and what they extended to the European refugees during WWII, will be applied to the two million refugees from Syria, along with the willingness to recognise them as true “refugees” (with work permits and permission to stay) rather than the current status of “guest” that allows them no such privileges.

 

The Thornberrys are now focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. They urgently need more support to enable them to effectively serve many in need. Please consider donating towards their increased expenses that this ministry is incurring for them. Your donation, whether one-off or on-going, will support real ground-work with the refugees.

Information about giving can be found by clicking here.

 

Image by Freedom House.

Back to Africa

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It’s another hot morning in Kondoa.  Temperatures are rising but the evenings are pleasantly cool and breezy.

It is good to be here, where God has assigned us and we are very conscious of his provision and presence. Our long flight across the world to Africa was not arduous at all and we enjoyed several good movies en route. Although we had hoped our residence permits would be granted on arrival in Dar es Salaam, they were not quite ready, and we settled for tourist visas in the meantime. An overnight stay in Dar was followed by a light plane flight to Dodoma and a “free” taxi service into the town! We walked through familiar streets up to CAMS (Canon Andrea Mwaka School, where Chris taught in the 1980s and 90s). A NZ teacher there was looking after the CMS vehicle that has been left for us to use and we made the decision to head north to Kondoa that same day. Any driving in Tanzania is a challenge, but Peter has proved his worth negotiating its roads many a time before. We had hoped to enjoy a little more tarmac than we did, but nevertheless, after four hours of dust and bumps, we drove wearily over the bridge and into the Kondoa Diocesan compound. So, having left NZ late Monday afternoon (September 7) we arrived, unannounced, in Kondoa late Wednesday afternoon.

Someone recognised these two weary travellers, the Bible School students and staff were rallied and the welcome began with singing, dancing and speeches. Both Bishop Given and his wife Lilian were out of town and it was several days before we saw them, but we were well looked after, being invited to meals with several different families, as we tried to get our heads around what might be expected of us in days to come. We have really appreciated Rev. Moses Kasichi, a former student of ours, now a well respected leader (including being the Acting Principal of the Bible School).

We are happily based in a house across the river and up the hill, where Iri and Kate Mato had lived before. They had left for our use furniture and equipment  for which we are very thankful. The house is airy, spacious and welcoming.

Six days after arrival, we became co-hosts to a group of NZers: Andrew and Paul from Rangiora, Ian and Helen, Lindy and Ann from Whangaparoa, and Heather from Waitara. Peter and Moses had driven two vehicles to Arusha to collect them and their luggage. It was a long trip, up one day and back the next. Three of the team stayed with us, but all meals were provided at the Bishop’s house which was wonderful.

A very full and exciting time followed. The team held a three day seminar for the Bible School students, teaching them how to apply the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how to encourage others to use them too. They taught in English of course, which was translated phrase by phrase into Swahili, mostly by Peter. Then it was out onto the roads into the villages. Peter and Moses were once again the drivers – an exacting task on the rocky tracks. Colourful singing and dancing welcomed us everywhere, as well as an eagerness and expectancy to learn more from God’s Word. A huge number came forward to be prayed for and we witnessed amazing things: a blind man received sight, a deaf man could hear, the lame could walk. One very old lady had aches and pains all over her body. After 10 minutes of us praying through her list, she was dancing freely with a huge smile on her face, and her lips praising God.

An unexpected invitation to a Maasai home one evening was very special. The chief allows his five wives and their children to attend church regularly, but his main concern was his impressive herds of cattle and goats. He had asked the team to come and bless the animals that lay peacefully in their enclosures, as the big red sun sank behind the hills. The women were busy preparing sweet, milky chai and goat’s liver which we were served. They begged us to stay the night, with the promise of a cow-hide each to sleep on, but we were expected at another village hours previously so we had to decline. The chief was invited to the seminar at church the next day, and he came, listened intently, asked a lot of questions and was prayed for. Many people there were healed and released from evil spirits and the power of witch-craft. God is moving in the land. What a privilege to be part of it!

The NZ team has left now, the Bible School students are returning after a two week break, and classes begin on Monday. Please pray for Peter under the weight of the Principal’s hat! Availability of teachers is never certain, it seems. But God is with us, and he put us here. Of that we are sure!

A new church partnership

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Murray and I are pleased to say we have begun partnering with the Kisha e Perendise (Church of God) church and church plant in a densely populated suburb called Mëzez, on the outskirts of Tirana. We will be working with Erion and his wife Gena, and Elton and his wife Mariana. Erion is the pastor of the older church (planted eight years ago), which is at one end of suburb, and Elton (and Mariana) are leading the new church plant on the other side of the neighbourhood. The four of them form the basis of the leadership team for both churches, and are in their mid 30’s, and are bivocational. Consequently they are not able to work in the church full-time and need help – especially with the new church.

They have asked us to do four things:

Join their leadership team for regular monthly meetings. Meet regularly with Elton and Mariana in a mentoring relationship. Disciple the older folk from both churches. There are around ten older people (men and women) who come to one of the churches, but culturally it is difficult for people in their 30’s to disciple people of older generations. Murray to help in the church plant – however we are yet to work out the specifics of what this will look like.

We feel that we have a reasonable understanding of their church situation, leadership style, struggles, and what they want/need from us and how we can support and work alongside them. We confirmed that we will work with them, and will review the situation in a year.

 

September road trips

In September we went on a Balkan road trip from Albania to Kosovo, then through Macedonia to Bulgaria (Sofia & Burgas on the Black Sea) and on to Romania (Vanju Mare & Timisoara), and then back to Albania via Serbia and Kosovo.

The purpose of the trip was to support a new missionary family in Bulgaria, and then for Féy to meet with other ECM missionaries in each of those countries to encourage them and discover more about their ministries.

It was an intense two weeks, covering 2810 kms and meeting with 10 different people/couples/families who are involved in ministries ranging from anti-traffiking, church planting, a halfway house for single mothers, translating and publishing, children’s summer camps, pastoral support for pastors, and training.

This last weekend Féy also flew up to Austria for four nights to meet the missionaries in Austria and to attend the Austrian teams Prayer Days.

Reclaiming the Discipleship Roots of CMS (Issue 24)

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Two thousand years ago the world’s true ruler came declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He explained – and demonstrated – what that Kingdom looks like. He died for our sins and rose to inaugurate that Kingdom. But rather than continuing to gather followers and spread the Kingdom himself, he did something peculiar. He told his followers that they were the ones to continue his mission, and central to their mission was this thing called discipleship (Matthew 28:19).

Discipleship is central to mission. As Dallas Willard said, “The church is for discipleship, and discipleship is for the world.” But where does this group called CMS, the Church Missionary Society, fit into the picture?

To be honest, we’ve wondered that ourselves. We’ve wondered where we fit in and alongside the Kiwi Church. And we’ve been wondering how we can make discipleship central to who we are and how we operate.

Back to our roots

As it turns out, when CMS was launched over two hundred years ago, discipleship was already central to our vision, values, models and methods. So when we say we’re making discipleship central, we’re actually talking about reclaiming something of our original DNA. We’re reclaiming this same focus for a changing world and a new generation.

The early CMS didn’t just send people overseas. Joining CMS meant being committed to mission everywhere, whether in deepest Africa or the streets of London. And ‘local’ and ‘global’ weren’t seen as opposed, but two sides of a single coin. After all, can you really say you value God’s mission if you only care about your own neighbourhood or focus only on the other side of the world? That’s why the early CMS sent people from within the community to the farthest reaches, and why they fought the slave trade in England – Wilberforce was one of CMS’ founders you know.

To join CMS meant to be part of a missional community who were together learning what it meant to follow a missional God. And that’s what emerged in New Zealand in the 1940s. Young evangelicals from various churches, calling themselves the NZCMS League of Youth, started gathering to explore all things mission. A movement was born. Passion for mission and the Gospel resulted in many people coming to Christ or going deeper in their faith. And from among the community people were sent into the nations. The League eventually waned, but we hope to see a new movement with that same passion raised up, one that suits our post-modern, post-Christian context.

From Agency to Community

Today NZCMS is typically seen as being a mission agency. We may send people to other countries, but ‘agency’ isn’t the right word to describe us. We’re the Church Missionary Society. First and foremost, we’re supposed to be a society, a community centred on God and his mission. We’re not an organisation you support or a list of missionaries for the church wall, but a community you belong to – a community made up of people across different churches, united by a passion for local and global mission.

How should this look in the 21st century? To be perfectly honest, we don’t fully know yet. Yet we sense God is moving us from functioning like an agency to being a nation-wide missional community once again.

So maybe the question isn’t so much where we fit, but where you fit.

The answer is to become CMS, not just support CMS. Because CMS isn’t, at its core, an office or an agency. CMS is you. It’s you aligning yourself to God’s missional Kingdom purposes and joining others who are on that same journey. It’s about becoming part of a movement that reaches beyond your local efforts to the farthest corners of the earth – because mission here should inspire mission there, and vice versa.

We’re exploring what the Society across the nation could become, seeking to develop and nurture purposeful missional communities. How are we to pass on the rich missional heritage to the emerging generations? How can we invite those God leads us to journey with us in our missional engagement? Can we be a community from which people are sent? All across the country I meet young adults seeking missional-direction. The challenge is finding mentors and coaches willing to journey with and open their lives to these people. We desperately need ‘discipleship incubation centres,’ missional hubs and communities: homes, café groups, small gatherings and churches seeking to shape the next generation of mission workers.

We’ve already started reclaiming this emphasis on discipleship. We’ve launched an online ‘community’ that hopes to engage young adults in an on-going missional conversation (nzcms.org.nz/hashtag). We’ve re-invented our Haerenga Mission Internship as an apprenticeship, reclaiming discipleship through imitation by placing people serious about cross-cultural mission under an active missionary (nzcms.org.nz/haerenga). We’re developing resources to equip you in your local efforts (nzcms.org.nz/intermission). We’re finding ways to expand our regional efforts. And we’re preparing to launch a new initiative for anyone seeking intentional missional discipleship that integrates into their daily lives.

Friends, we’re enthused by the journey God has us on of re-discovering our discipleship roots. Rather than say ‘will you join us’, I want to say:  ‘How can we join you?’ That is, how can we partner with you to deepen and further your missional efforts? We want to resource you, encourage you, challenge and equip you to participate in mission-focused communities wherever you are, and in doing so see you flourish as the Community of Mission Service. I’m looking for key people who want to be equipped to support and network local groups that are seeking to be intentional about living missionally. You may be a NZCMS faithful, you might be discovering who NZCMS is for the first time. No matter your journey, we look forward to where God is leading us together.

To find out how we can partner in mission, email me at steve@nzcms.org.nz

 

For discussion

What would it mean for your group to belong to this ‘community of mission service’?

What do you think CMS could look like in 21st century New Zealand?

 

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.

Cyclical Malaria

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No malaria prophylaxis is 100% and now I know that first hand. It all started when my friend Elizabeth and I decided we needed to get out of Mango for the weekend. We didn’t go far – 20 minutes down the road was enough to get away from work schedules and 2am call-outs to the hospital.

In the tiny village of Sadori there’s a Nunnery where guests can stay and where we invented the game of Ultimate Frisbee-Soccer. After a few rounds we decided it really would be a game better played with more than one player on each team: it’s quite difficult to kick a soccer ball and throw a Frisbee to ones-self at the same time!

Then came the dreaded mistake of trying to read peacefully outside. I believe that is when that nasty little malarious mosquito bit me. By the Monday I felt headachy and tired but didn’t think much of it. By Tuesday my joints had started to ache but only sometimes. First it was my knees, then my elbows, then my shoulders, and I felt unwell enough to go to bed at 7:30pm halfway through a movie. On Wednesday I ran 9 miles (somehow I now think in miles). By Thursday night I was so tired and achy I couldn’t leave the house to go to a birthday party. When I turn down the opportunity to eat cake it is a sure sign of illness! On Friday morning I felt way better but when I discovered I had goosebumps on a 40˚C day I knew it was time to take a malaria test even if they had to extract two whole drops of blood! (If I haven’t told you before, I am a pharmacist because tablets don’t bleed.)

After taking my treatment it took two weeks before the waves of exhaustion interspersed with feeling perfectly fine began to fade away. I’m glad I was taking my prophylaxis otherwise it could have been a whole lot worse.

The Jesus Model

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Now that I’m officially old, I’m coming to discover that this journey called faith really is all about Jesus. It may sound like a bit of a non-realisation, but I think it’s easy to forget that Jesus didn’t just do something for us. He showed us what a true human being could be, which is another way of saying he showed me how I can and should live. And, as it turns out, Jesus knew what he was doing when he made discipleship central to his strategy to transform the world and to expand his Kingdom. At it’s core, mission is all about discipleship.

The topic of discipleship is the focus of the latest edition of Intermission. We’ve got articles by Spanky, Bishop Justin Duckworth, some missionaries, ministry leaders in England (from 3dm), plus a couple from the CMS team – and we’re use a number of them as recent #NZCMS posts because they were just so good! If you don’t have a copy of the magazine, email me and I’ll send you as many as you need for your group, but for now I thought we’d start of exploration of the topic of discipleship with this brilliant video.

The video makes a pretty simple point: Jesus orientated his life around three simple principles or modes. He had time to spend with his Father, he had time to spend with his spiritual family, and he had time to spend engaging the world. If being a disciple is about becoming more like Jesus, then I’m supposed to be growing in these three areas – not just my favourite one or two. Imagine what would happen if we learned to find a balance between these three modes. Those we’re discipling – something we’re all involved in one way or another – would come to imitate us as we live out this balance. And those they disciple would do the same. And so on. We’d have masses of people who know how to connect with God, fellowship with and support one another, and reach out to the world.

 

THE MUSE

What stands out to you in the video?

 

THE MOVE

Which of the three areas are you weakest in? What steps can you make to grow in that area? And who are your going to grow with?

#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!) 

Kɔtɔkari cɛsse

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Here in Northern Togo not everyone speaks the national language French and the major local language of the village we live in is Anufɔ. So while I am continuing to have French lessons each week, I have also been having Anufɔ lessons and have found that there are a few phrases in the pharmacy that I get to use multiple times every day. While the phrase “Entana biɛsou” (“Please sit down”) is highly useful, the phrase I have become known for is “Kɔtɔkari cɛsse” (“Go and pay at the cashier”). While it can be at times frustrating to master the correct pronunciation of some of the words, seeing the patient’s faces light up when they realise that I am speaking their language always brings a smile to my face.

Now when I enter the market in the middle of Mango I am often greeted by cries of “Kɔtɔkari cɛsse” from the grinning faces of ladies who recognise me from the Pharmacy. So I guess that is my new nick name.