March 2016

On the Plane

Posted on

Its time. Are we ready? Well we’d better be because we are quite literally on the plane. As my late Opa would say, we’re “physically, spiritually and emotionally prepared” to head back to Uganda. That’s is a good place to be.

We’re so grateful for our time in New Zealand. Thank you to our families for love and seemingly endless generosity. Thank you to St Aiden’s, St Barnabas, Sumner, and our home church St Tims for taking us in and allowing us to be a part of you for a time. Thank you New Zealand for your hills, beaches and streams. We’ll miss you. And Thank you to God, who’s been in all of the above and more, refreshing us and guiding us to new ideas.

St Philip Hospital

For a long time now, Bishop Johnson of Northern Uganda held a vision for a hospital at the Anglican base. The building has been half built for a while, but there’s a long way to go, and the plan has stagnated. When I shared the situation in New Zealand, many people encouraged me to push for the much needed mini-hospital. The possibility of working as a doctor there, and helping set a mission culture there is also really exciting. Some individuals and churches have generously given already and my old school Christ’s College have generously offered to give half their lenten appeal to the project. We pray the building will come to fruition soon!

Relationship course

Our good friends Sam and Aloyo fell in love at 20 years old. Aloyo got pregnant too young, but they desperately wanted to make the relationship work for them and their kid. Yet after three years and many challenges including lack of work and living in different cities, they separated. This is be a recurrent story here, with relationships falling apart quickly, despite good intentions and the presence of the love of God and each other. God’s nudged us to see how we can work with young people too. We plan to adapt the Alpha marriage course, join with a couple who already have a good relationship, and see what we can do.

 

We send this update seven days after touching down. The last week has been full of energy and positive interactions. Jetlag is minimal, and work has started well (more on that soon). We went to Wednesday Bible study and it seems in better shape than we left it. Keep in touch, and we’ll put up some blog posts soon at www.ugandapanda.com!

 

Please pray for: 1) Our friend Isaac, who lost everything when his hut burnt down. We want to help him get a new computer which is the key to his livelihood – contact us if you’re keen to help. 2) Tessa’s community organising group “Wakonye Kenwa,” as their activity ramps up again 3) The youth at our church St Catherine’s. Something special seems to be happening, with lots of new young people and a great energy.

Programme Director for Asia Gateway

Posted on

AsiaCMS is searching for a Director for the Asia Gateway training programme. Please share these details with anyone who may be interested.

Part-Time or Full-Time Position 

Asia Gateway is an intensive programme laying down a firm foundation in intercultural learning for mission, combining practical experience with theological reflection. It is uniquely endorsed and sponsored by two Malaysian churches (Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia and Methodist Church of Malaysia), Malaysia Theological Seminary (STM), and five mission agencies: AsiaCMS, InterServe, OM, OMF, and SIM East Asia.

A leader who believes in mission training and with the right qualification is needed to conduct this programme in Malaysia for the partnership.

Further details can be found here.

Strategic Foresight: A New Horizon for Innovation in Ministry

Posted on

By Derek Seipp.

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

 

You may not be aware that there is a plan on the horizon to begin colonizing Mars by 2026. SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s plan does not stop there. Musk’s ultimate goal is to see one million people living on Mars by the end of the century.

Let us consider US President John F Kennedy’s speech in 1961, calling for a man to be put on the moon within a decade. In order to put his vision in context, in 1961 there were no personal computers, most commercial aircraft still used propellers, and TV was still predominately black and white. Considering the available technology at the time, Kennedy’s horizon was audacious. People thought it just could not be done; yet eight years later, Neil Armstrong descended a ladder and took that famous ‘one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’.

Higher horizons versus incremental steps

If we had simply continued doing what we were doing, taking incremental steps to do it a little better each year, we would probably never have set foot on the moon. Yet this is where most of us find ourselves: looking for steady, incremental improvements. The problem with this kind of thinking is that we look back at what we have done in order to see what is possible in the future. In essence, we look backward in order to look forward.

However, Kennedy did not base the future upon the past. He set an audacious horizon, looking forward, to something far and beyond where we were. It inspired people to reach beyond mere incremental improvements.

Kennedy knew that the knowledge and technology needed did not even exist in 1961. This caused scientists to look forward and explore what technologies would be necessary to accomplish such a radical goal. Once those necessary technologies were identified, scientists began working their way back to the present. This allowed them to create a roadmap starting from the future, which identified each technology that needed to be developed to bring them to their desired destination.

Great horizons always push us to look forward beyond ourselves. Once we understand the desired future, we walk back to the present and figure out how to get there. This kind of thinking results in innovative, paradigm-changing ways of impacting our world.

When we set our sights on higher horizons, it is amazing what can be done. Pyramids are built. Cathedrals are constructed. Brave new worlds are discovered.

Horizons for mission

Bill O’Brien was Vice-President at the Southern Baptist Convention Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) when he read an article in 1994 about a physicist at NASA who was setting broader and higher horizons. The article literally changed the course of his career. It described how physicist Dr John Andersen led his team to find a revolutionary new approach to space travel. As a result, they cut the time necessary to fly to Jupiter down from several years to just a couple of months.

‘This is what we need in Christian mission’, O’Brien excitedly thought. He contacted Andersen, who was more than happy to lead a group of ministry leaders through a similar process. In 1996, international leaders gathered to discuss the future of Africa in the year 2050. O’Brien said: ‘The reason Andersen pushes those horizons out so far is that it helps people engage in the process and stop just extrapolating elements in the present. The second thing is that we need to construct a new framework, not just for fantasizing, but for using critical relevant thinking within that framework.’

‘This is not a way of creating strategic plans, but it is a way of creating new ways of thinking’—O’Brien.

Andersen kept pressing the group to look out further and further to the future, while exploring higher and higher leverage capabilities. Then the group worked backwards to today in order to discuss all the steps necessary to arrive at this new future. O’Brien says the results were revolutionary for everyone involved.

O’Brien was convinced. He began helping other organizations practice this type of thinking. One such project was with World Vision. They explored the possibility that the organization would be forced out of business by 2030. ‘It got everybody scared’, says O’Brien. The organization realized just how vulnerable it was to the many changes happening in our world. Many significant changes came out of those meetings.

‘This is not a way of creating strategic plans, but it is a way of creating new ways of thinking’—O’Brien.

Understanding potential futures

Our world is changing faster than ever before. Entire cultures are changing in the light of globalization, technology, urbanization, and a host of other factors. Unreached people groups are migrating to cities. The number of global languages will likely drop by half. In the face of these radical changes, merely seeking incremental improvements in our ministries will only set us further and further behind.

Forward thinking empowers leaders to explore and understand all the various places the future could take them. They break free from limited thinking patterns holding them back from something greater. As leaders do this, they begin to see themselves differently. They also view the resources at their disposal differently too.

Gideon example

The Bible is full of stories which highlight this type of thinking. Take Gideon, for instance. He limited himself by thinking he was the least family member of the smallest tribe in Israel. Yet God saw Gideon as something else entirely. To enable him to share God’s perspective, he needed a radically new horizon. God told Gideon he would rout the entire enemy army; but he would have to do it with just 300 men. Now, it is important to note that God never told Gideon how to do it.

As a result, Gideon deployed 300 soldiers in an innovatively new way. To the old Gideon, hiding in a well and constrained in his thinking, the original vision was as impossible as sending a man to the moon.

Studying trends

A good soccer player knows not to go to the ball, but to get to where the ball is going to be. The same can be said about ministry organizations. As the changes leaders face come faster and faster, leaders must learn to align their organizations with the future environment before it emerges.

To do so, leaders must seek to understand the most likely environments to emerge in the future. One way to do this is by studying the emerging trends, issues, and choices being made. As a weatherman creates forecasts by examining how weather changes interact in the environment, leaders can use trends, issues, and choices to create forecasts about their future environment as well. The greater these are understood, the clearer the forecast of the future will be. And when leaders have a clearer picture of the future, they have a much greater chance of getting to where the ball is going to be.

Mission Society example

O’Brien was asked by The Mission Society to help them address an issue of growing concern. It was their 25th anniversary and a significant gap had developed between their vision and the way their missionaries were being deployed on the ground. They gathered missionaries and leaders from around the globe in Prague in 2008.

‘The horizon was 25 years’, says Vice-President Jim Ramsay. They explored what the world would look like far into the future. Ramsay said they realized: ‘If we don’t change, we won’t be addressing the key global issues in 10-15 years . . . the future is going to challenge our structural models as well as our funding models. We have to rethink how we do everything. It’s an exciting time, and there is a lot we have to wrestle with. Broad organizational shift is happening as a result of that meeting—its fingerprints are all over many aspects of our organization today.’

‘Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding.’—Proverbs 4:7 (NET).

The results of that meeting in 2008 are still creating an impact. The organization refined its vision and mission, and then changed its structure and culture as well. They are also realizing the tremendous potential in developing multi-agency collaboration for global partnerships. Other new innovative ideas continue to emerge as individuals continue to align themselves with the future.

‘Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding.’—Proverbs 4:7 (NET).

The chiefs of Issachar

David had been cast out from King Saul’s presence into the wilderness. There he gathered to himself the best men of Israel. Among them were great warriors, able to use their weapons with both their right and left hands. In the middle of this great list of warriors is a curious group. The Bible says these 200 chiefs of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do. They understood how the issues and choices would interact to create a future in which David would be king. These warriors’ greatest weapons were their minds.

Implications and suggested responses

The Bible commends the chiefs of Issachar for understanding the times and knowing what to do. God is looking for similar men and women today, who are prepared to lead ministries into the future. To get started, leaders should begin engaging their teams in conversations about the future. Here are some initial questions to ask:

What emerging trends, issues, and choices do we see happening in our environment? 

How might these combine to change our future environment? 

To what new horizon is God calling us? 

Is our organization prepared for the future 5, 10, 20 years out? 

There is also a small but growing set of books and resources which can fuel these conversations. In 1998 Paul McKaughan, Dellana O’Brien, and William (Bill) O’Brien co-authored Choosing a Future for US Missions, which is available from the William Carey Library. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity produces many resources highlighting global Christian trends. More often, however, the most innovative ideas arise as we study other disciplines and then seek to apply them in our own areas of expertise. Finally, later this year, the William Carey Library is publishing a book by the author of this article specifically designed to help ministry leaders develop a comprehensive framework for analyzing trends, thinking about the future and setting broad new horizons.

 

Click here to view the original article.

Mango Hunting in Uganda

Featured Video Play Icon
Posted on

Here’s a video from last year made by Nick Laing in Uganda. Though this video isn’t particularly serious in tone, it actually captures a large part of what serious mission is all about: building real relationships with real people. In fact, though programmes are important and have their place, sometimes the most fruitful moments are found in the midst of everyday life. The video also gives us a glimpse of the area Nick & Tessa are living.

(Nick does apologise for his singing, which he describes as sounding like a “tone-deaf 5 year old.”)

 

Easter between the times

Posted on

We’re now well into Easter season, standing between Palm Sunday and Easter Friday. That is, we’re standing between Jesus’ victorious entry into Jerusalem as King, as Messiah, as the one who was going to deliver Israel (and all humanity!) and restore all things, and the day that so-called Messiah died a shameful, criminal’s death on a cross – certainly not the sort of thing you’d expect of a mighty, powerful, sent-by-God King.

When Jesus entered the city the people were no doubt asking the all important question: who is this man? They would have heard about how he’d restored people’s sight, healed cripples, challenged the religious authorities, spoken of freedom for the downtrodden, welcomed the outcast. In fact, just before Palm Sunday, in Bethany, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Here was the Messiah they were waiting for, the one who would stand with them in their pain and misery and fight for them. The one who had power over death!

Many in the crowd on Palm Sunday were there because of Lazarus. The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was so powerful that many were coming, not just to see the so-called Messiah, but to see the man the Messiah had raised. So many people were coming to Jesus because of Lazarus that the chief priests decided he needed to be killed as well (John 12:10-11).

So what happened between Palm Sunday and Easter Friday? How could the excitement, passion and hope of the Sunday so quickly dissolve to disillusionment, frustration, doubt, anger? How could the people who yelled “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” turn to yelling “Crucify him” in just a few days?! And how could the Lord of glory be crucified as a common criminal? No doubt you’ll hear a sermon or two this weekend exploring some of these issues, so we won’t explore them now…

The remarkable thing is, we still live between Sunday and Friday – between the victory of Jesus the King and the reality of suffering & death. Or better yet, we live between the tension of Easter Friday and Easter Sunday. Friday represents pain, suffering, sickness, sin – and how God steps into the midst of it. It’s God coming alongside us in our mess, standing with us and taking upon himself everything that keeps us tied down, broken, distant to God. It’s the ultimate expression of God’s justice, where he says “The world isn’t how it’s supposed to be, and I’m not going to stand at a distance – I’m going to do something about it.” But Friday’s the day God’s Messiah dies, when hope seems lost, when sin and death seems to have won. Sunday represents the victory, the defeat of death, the putting-back-together of everything broken and disjointed in the world. It’s God’s ultimate declaration that death isn’t the final word, that God’s justice will prevail, that the whole creation really will be liberated from it’s groaning.

We live between Friday and Sunday.

We live in what is famously called “between the times” – between God’s ultimate act of reconciling the world to himself through Jesus, and God actually putting all things back together. Jesus’ death and resurrection – and the coming of the Spirit – was the down-payment, the guarantee, the foretaste of what God will do for all creation. And we get to experience it already – we experience forgiveness of sins, healing of sickness, God’s peace, God’s very presence. Yet we only experience it in part – we’re forgiven and being transformed, but sin is not yet overcome. We witness radical cases of God’s healing… but not everyone is healed. We know God’s presence, but he often seems distant. We are stuck between the ‘already’ and the ‘not-yet.’

Our Mission Partners, in many ways on the ‘front-line’ of what God is doing around the world, certainly experience this ‘already/not-yet.’ Many of them witness people coming to faith, people drawing nearer to God, people healed and set free. But they also experience unique sicknesses due to where they live, heightened stress, distance from family, sometimes fear of troubles or even disaster. In fact, at present there are a good number of our Mission Partners who are experiencing this ‘not-yet’ of our faith. We’ve recently told you about a cholera outbreak and drought where the Akesters are based. Dianne Bayley has been suffering due to a slipped disc in her back. Margaret Poynton fractured her tail bone and was diagnosed with malaria and dengue fever. Todd, the medical director of the hospital Miriam Tillman works, recently died from Lassa fever, a contagious illness that could potentially spread. And there are others who for various reasons we can’t mention here.

During this Easter season we’re encouraging the NZCMS family across the country to set aside some time for focused prayer for the physical, spiritual and emotional health of all our Mission Partners. Would you consider taking some time over this Easter to pray for our partners in all corners of the earth as they continue working with God ‘between the times,’ between the tragedy of Easter Friday and the victory of Easter Sunday?

National Director’s annual report

Posted on

The following report from Steve Maina was shared with those who gathered at the recent AGM in Christchurch. 

In our last AGM in Nelson, we made reference to the Strategic Plan for for 2015 to 2020. We have called it Vision 2020 – Jesus Shaping Every Culture. NZCMS’ vision is to see disciples of Jesus influencing every sphere of life across cultures around the world, especially in the Asia/Pacific region.

Our strategic intent is to enthuse, equip and engage the church to flourish in ways that sees disciples equipped to live and speak the whole Gospel in all spheres of society. To unpack this a little more:

a) Enthuse. We partner with the Church to mobilise believers for Christ’s mission in New Zealand and beyond.

b) Equip. We seek to enable individuals and churches to grow into missional communities by equipping, training and resourcing them for cross-cultural mission, both locally and globally.

c) Engage. We seek to support Christ-centred cross-cultural leaders to engage creatively in a world in need of the Gospel, making disciples especially in the Asia & the Pacific region.

 

I would like to share some highlights from 2015 along these lines.

1) Enthuse

We have seen an increasing number of individuals, small groups and churches actively engaging with NZCMS and utilizing our mission resources and training (such as our Intermission publications). We are seeing an increasing number of people mobilised, funds released, stories told and healthy partnerships being developed. Each of our Mission Partners is intentionally partnering with about five ‘Link Churches’ with whom a deeper relationship is being established. We have produced resources to help Link Churches know how to support Mission Partners and will be running a Hui for Link Church co-ordinators on July 1 & 2 to provide space for mission advocates to share their stories/experiences and to get some input/resourcing from the NZCMS team.

2) Equip

We are strengthening our bi-cultural and multi-cultural identity by exploring ways of serving missional needs of Tikanga Maori and Pasefika. Tikanga Maori have requested NZCMS to support them as they engage in the Decade of Mission. The fortnightly missional conversation/blog commonly known as #NZCMS has been a resource for equipping the under 30’s with ‘mission tools’. You don’t have to be under 30 to benefit from this great resource available online. 2015 was a year of re-evaluating the Haerenga Mission Internship and this has now evolved into a mission apprenticeship. You will hear more about it in due time. We are hoping this (along with other projects) will develop into a more sustainable ministry of developing missional young people. Last year, NZCMS provided training for Short term Encounter teams (such as PNG Pilgrimage team from Napier Diocese, Nepal rebuilding team and BOLD youth team to Fiji in Dec. Rather than NZCMS running our own Encounter teams, we continue to partner with Parishes and Dioceses to provide training for effective teams.

3) Engage

Our goal is to have around six new Mission Partners each year. During this last year we sent seven long-term Mission Partners and one short-term Mission Partner. To the Pacific: Margaret Poynton to serve with Archbishop Clyde in Papua New Guinea and Jonathan and Tess Hicks and their family to teach in a Bible School in Solomon Islands. To Asia: Dean and Amanda and their family to support cutting edge work in anti-human trafficking in South Asia. And to Africa: Peter and Chris Akester to Tanzania to continue the work of Kate and Iri Mato at the Kondoa Bible School. In addition we sent out Carol Roger as a short-term Mission Partner to work as a primary school teacher in Kapuna, Papua New Guinea for a year. We celebrate the work of Mission Partners who completed their service overseas last year: Iri and Kate Mato (Kondoa) and John and Anna (South Asia). We are delighted by the work our Mission Partners are involved in around the world. A growing number of locals in many different countries are being raised up and are multiplying disciples of Jesus. We are currently providing project, scholarship/mentoring support to about 35 local leaders globally. We are working towards our goal to have most of our work focusing on the Asia-Pacific Region. The recruitment of an Asia Network coordinator is underway.

 4) Staff

I am grateful for Council’s generous support in approving a three month study leave for me this year. I am currently undertaking a study programme in Israel after spending sometime in Kenya, UK and a country in the Middle East. We will be returning to NZ as a family at the end of April 2016.

I am thankful to Lesley Smith, NZCMS Personnel Director for accepting to be Acting National Director, taking on some of my responsibilities during these five months I am away. I know she is doing a great job with the entire NZCMS team. I am very proud of them. We are also grateful that Maureen Harley, a former NZCMS Mission Partner in Cambodia, came on staff for six months from November 2015 on a part time basis as Personnel Assistant.

The NZCMS staff team are some of the most dedicated people I know and it is a privilege for me to work with such a team of talented and committed followers of Jesus. We appreciate all the staff for their dedication and creativity at a time of momentous change.

5) Supporters

We would like to thank you for your faithful support in 2015 and over the years. The growth we are experiencing is a direct result of your support and prayers.

Our Society also remembers with gratitude the witness of the lives of former Mission Partners and members who have died in this past year, in particular Kevin O’Sullivan, Edric Baker, Marie Oldham, Rev Noel Bythell, John Sommerville, Phyllis Veal and Ross Elliott. Their commitment and witness in the fellowship of God’s mission has inspired many. The Society is grateful also for generous bequests from a number of people.

 

Conclusion

As we look into a new year, recognizing that we live in a world that needs a Saviour, the urgency for involvement in God’s mission rings even louder. The task of discipling the nations is huge but so are the resources God has promised to provide to those who trust him. Our forebears in mission inspire us to press on and to do our part in God’s mission. Their boldness challenges us to be bold.

I close with Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 4:5-6: For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

May Christ continue to shine in and through us.

 

NZCMS National Director, Steve Maina

The True Cost of Tea (Issue 26)

Posted on

By Amanda (NZCMS Mission Partner in South Asia)

‘Fair trade’ tea. I’d heard of it, and even occasionally bought it in an attempt to buy more ethically. But it was my visit last September to a region famous for its tea gardens that truly challenged how I use my buying power. I was with a team trying to respond to the needs of the community who live and work on a tea estate. They had witnessed the death of a young baby from malnutrition and had decided to conduct a malnutrition workshop for preschool workers.

I listened to the doctor teach in a concrete hall alongside 30 or so women. Up on the screen were slides of malnourished bodies, horrifying statistics and comparison formulas for degrees of severity. OK but surely this is a problem that occurs in famine stricken regions, not here in a lush garden of tea leaves among hard-working tea pickers…?!

Being a good teacher, the doctor turned to practical demonstrations. Our hall had open sides out onto the street where people were milling about in the mid-day warmth. A few kids were recruited from the pathway outside to participate and before I knew it we were brandishing tape measures and asking them to step onto scales.

Do you know what it feels like to wrap a tape measure around an all-too-skinny little arm and smile at the sweet face looking up at you as you calculate the severity of her malnutrition? I wondered how it feels to be her mother.

Of the small number of kids that were called in off the street, several were ‘grade 2 or 3’ malnourished. They will have already lost some brain function that will never recover, even if given all they need from now on. As I learned more, I heard that 7000 families live on that tea estate alone, and that there are many tea estates in that part of the country. Their rates of malnutrition are some of the worst in the world.

I wandered outside after the workshop and found some women talking. “Can you afford an egg for your children each day?” I asked. “No,” they said. “What about milk?” “Not enough.” We talked for a while about their work and conditions. They told me about the leaches during the monsoon season. “They climb up our legs. Each night we have to pull them off.” This thought alone put shivers down my spine. These women are often already anaemic; they don’t need to lose more blood!

Too hard to imagine?

When you’re desperately poor and there seems to be no way out, an offer for your teenage daughter to work or study in the big city feels like an opportunity too good to be true – and far too many families have found out the hard way that it most likely is! Many families in this area have had children travel with ‘agents’ for work or study opportunities in the city and have never ever heard from them again. They cry as they tell our team their stories, looking for hope that they may get their children back. Most of them never will. But our team faithfully plug on with their vital human-trafficking prevention in the region.

These children are sold and locked into factories, into brothels and as maids, with no freedom and no pay. Some are even victims of organ trade. I’ve stopped wondering what any of this would feel like and have gone fairly numb. One thing I do know is that I’m glad we’ve come to help support the trafficking prevention work. My anger boils at the fact these tea estates are owned by some of the largest and most profitable multinational companies. How’s this possible? It’s pure evil, that is certain – as you’ve read this has it been hard to believe that human beings have been put in such horrendous conditions by others? I wonder sometimes why this kind of thing is not headline news every day.

The interesting thing is that it’s possible to be able to be angry and upset but not act! Yes, there’s a thousand good causes pulling at us at any given moment – we can drown in a sea of confusion, pain, guilt and complexity. But when we’re face-to-face with that child or her mother, as I was that day, things become clearer! I guess that’s what I’m trying to share.

I know that guilt or pain isn’t going to help any of us respond. It’s not my intention to weigh you down. Instead, I want to offer hope. I read lately that holding hope is a spiritual discipline. Certainly I’ve found it so. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t learnt to tend hope like a young seedling in my heart. I tend hope each day and choose to go on working for a better world. I believe it’s Jesus who has ignited this hope and gives me each next step to take in seeing his Kingdom come. For me, being close to him means knowing his heart for those who are suffering and seeking to be his hands and feet in response.

Not everyone reading this will have the opportunity I’ve had to shift countries to work in human trafficking prevention. But history tells us that thousands of simple actions do add up in our lives and collectively across the globe. Actions like buying fair trade tea or signing a petition add up, inspire hope and can bring real change. The question is: what small actions can you contribute to this global symphony of life-transforming change?

Amanda and Dean are NZCMS Mission Partners in South Asia supporting children-at-risk and anti-human trafficking initiatives.

For discussion

Imagine you’re the one measuring a malnourished girl’s arm or talking with a mother about her trafficked child. What difference does personalising the situation make?

With such massive problems around the world it can be hard to hold on to hope. How does the promise of Jesus’ Kingdom change the way we see situations like this one?

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.

God’s Grace in Togo

Posted on
By Kelly (colleague of Miriam Tillman in Togo). Reposted from her blog. This God–his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.– Psalm 18:30 Merely ten days ago I wrote a blog about the grieving of a friend where I said, “the Lord had other plans.” Little did I understand the extent of that statement and that we were actually in the middle, and not the end, of a story that continues to unfold today.  As many of you know already, Todd Dekryger was the Medical Director for this hospital as well as a talented surgical physican assistant who ran our surgery department here at the Hospital of Hope. He was the visionary, the motivator, and main recruitor for the team. But in the middle of Febuary, he became ill with symptoms consistent with malaria and rested at home over several days. He continued to struggle despite the treatment and was admitted to the hospital 1 week after he became ill. His testing for malaria was still significantly positive which spoke to us about the severity of the illness. His labs were also suspicious for Typhoid fever, which we began to treat as well. As many know the story, Todd continued to worsen and the decision was made to try and medivac him out-of-country to seek further supportive care and recovery. And although Todd was extremely ill when he boarded that small plane headed for Germany, I had no doubt in my mind that I would see him soon on Togo soil. But this was not to be. Less than 24 hours after landing in Germany, Todd went to be with the Lord. The story was over.  Complications from severe malaria would not be overcome, but none of us were doubting that the Lord would somehow use Todd’s death to still bring a message of Hope to the Togolese people–the message of how Christ had overcome death to save the world, to save the Togolese people.  But one week after boarding Todd onto that plane, Andrés, a volunteer nurse with Samaritan’s Purse who had cared for Todd, developed a fever. As common diseases are common, Andrés treated his illness with malaria medications and tried to rest. Three days later, he came into the clinic because his fever never went away. By God’s miraculous plan, Andres came into the hospital to get some IV fluids. The doctor who had cared for Todd happened to be passing off patient care to another doctor for the day, but happened to look up at the computer screen and saw Andres’ lab results. Nothing short of dread came over her as the lab results that stared back at her were mirror images as those Todd had presented with.  What if Todd had something more? That something more came to be diagnosed as Lassa fever–a viral hemorrhagic fever normally not found in Togo but instead endemic to Sierra Leone and Nigeria–countries that don’t even touch Togo!  By this time the suspicsion for Lassa fever was confirmed, Andres had already been isolated and infection prevention measures were taken. Samaritan’s Purse was able to evacuate Andres to the United States where he remains hospitalized in order to recover. As it turns out, Nigeria was and is experiencing a large outbreak of Lassa fever that was able to reach our town, likely through a patient who wanted to seek care at the Hospital of Hope.  Many of you may be thinking, “This is still a horrible, tragic story.” And in many ways it is.  No one can deny the pain and void we feel every day because Todd is not here with us, leading the charge towards compassionate healthcare in the name of Christ. But there may be something more.   If the inital patient, of whom we’ll never be able to identify, had come into Togo and even our Hospital, and died here, we would’ve never known his true diagnosis. As sophisticated testing, such as Lassa testing, doesn’t exisit here, the death would have tried to be assumed as liver failure, yellow fever, or just a severe bacterial infection. We would have continued to see patients and never associated that death with any other illness that may have developed in our healthcare workers here, or the community. Because we try to do as few labs as possible here, in order to keep things affordable for the Togolese, we wouldn’t have seen daily labs each morning as we could with Todd. We would have never linked any labs results with each other.  What if the doctor that took care of Todd wasn’t seated at that computer at that moment to see Andres’ test results? Andres may have continued to get sicker and not had enough time to start treatment or get evacuated to the US.  Todd’s illness and subsequent death made it possible for us, for Togo and for the world to be notified of a potential outbreak of a viral hemorrhagic fever in a country that was not felt to be at risk. Although many of us are on surveillance and verifying that we are not at risk, the story as it is unfolding, saved lives….many lives. Lives that this hospital was built to reach with the message of Christ.  The story seems like it should end there. But 3 days after Andrés left for the United States, and when we had already put an alert system in place due to the diganosis of Todd, a woman showed up to the hospital with a fever. Because she told us that she had come from Nigeria 3 days before, we put her in isolation immediately under surveillance for Lassa fever. Two days later, 2 of her children ,who we had been following daily, became symptomatic with fevers and were placed in isolation.  As I stood in that mother’s room trying to explain to her the significance of Lassa fever and the tears were silently falling from here face, I said to her, “Did you know that the fact that you are here at he Hospital of Hope in Mango is a miracle?! I am so happy you are here with us.”  I explained to her that it was only God’s hand of mercy that after Todd’s illness and death, Andrés visits to clinic and evacuation, along with her travel from Nigeria to our small town of Mango, we were able to identify her as a likely case of Lassa. If we never tested Todd’s blood in Germany, if Andrés had not gotten ill, we would’ve never known or investigated  further. Had this woman gone to any other clinc or hospital in Togo, they would have never placed her in isolation and she could have continued to spread the virus, unknowingly, to others. Because of each step, in God’s perfect timing, this woman and her two children are at the only hospital in Togo that currently has the potential life saving medicine to work against Lassa fever. What are the chances that this family left Nigeria to come to Togo and ended up here…at this time.  Zero. That is, zero without a God whose hand of mercy stretches to the skies! I am confident that no other death could have sparked the response and timeline of discovering that Lassa fever was here in Togo. I am confident, that in no uncertain terms, Todd’s death did make it possible for many others to keep theirs; others who have not yet heard the message of the Gospel; others who were either prevented from getting Lassa because of measures taken, or others who will now get a chance to be identified, cared for and treated.  No one who knew Todd has any doubt that he is face to face with The Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Matthew 20:28  And what further testimony can one give to show the love of Christ? “By this we may know that we are in him; whoever says he abides in Him must walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:5-6 But the final word cannot be about Todd or Andres.  Nor can it be about Togo or the Hospital of Hope.  “For by grace you have been saved, through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 The story is the Story of Hope. And it continues on. It is the reason we are all here and we can’t wait to see how Christ will use our weak, broken, mourning selves to carry on His message of joy, strength, and peace as we press forward.  Please continue to pray for Togo and that Lassa fever will not spread any further.  Please continue to pray for hope and healing our HOH team and the Dekryger family.  Please pray for the Morales family as they continue their journey of healing in the US.  

Learning to Shop Ethically (Issue 26)

Posted on

By Robin Raymond

I’ve struggled for a long time to write this. As someone who’s paid to write, and writing about something important to me, this article should be easy. Yet I can’t shake the feeling this is all a load of sanctimonious nonsense from someone who doesn’t walk the talk.

Confused? Earlier last year I set out to change my world and rock yours (or at least, the readers of the Salvation Army magazine I write for). I’ve been interested for a long time in fair trade and ethical buying. As a Christian, I believe God’s desire for us to show his love everywhere includes having a deep compassion for the poor, not exploiting them to make ourselves more comfortable.

And I believe the market forces of unethical shopping create a huge amount of the preventable suffering in the world today. It genuinely isn’t an exaggeration to say that with our shopping we fund wars, sickness, slavery and the destruction of God’s creation.

In one of his more famous sermons, American pastor Tony Campolo described the Kingdom of God as “transformed people, living in a transformed world. People who radiate love – a society marked by justice.” I want to be part of that Kingdom, and if unethical shopping is getting in the way, I want to change it.

However, doing things the right way doesn’t always seem easy in New Zealand. So, I set out to find out how I could transform my shopping to be fully ethical and write a guide to help other people do the same.

Predictably, I dug up some great info, made a cool looking list of ways other people could change their spending … and barely changed my own. I stopped eating Vegemite, changed the brands of some grocery items, bought a couple of ethically made t-shirts. Still it all amounted to a pretty small part of my spending.

Everywhere I looked I found something more I could or should do, till it became overwhelming and felt like it would never be sufficient. It began to feel like the scene at the end of Schindler’s List where Oscar Schindler breaks down, feeling like he didn’t do enough and pointing out at all the different things he could have sold to save more Jews from the concentration camps.

Steps forward

While it’s true I could always do more, it’s not all hopeless, and this article is not a massive pity party. The reality is we’ve made huge strides in the area of ethical shopping. Even in New Zealand it’s clear Kiwis care. In 2014 (the most recent figures I can find) we spent $85 million on Fair Trade products. That’s just on stuff with a Fair Trade or Trade Aid label, not including all the other ethically-minded brands, and it’s up 28 per cent on 2013.

Ethical shopping is now a huge market and even the biggest, most cynical brands are paying attention. Fair Trade coffee is in almost every cafe, ethical bananas and chocolate in almost every supermarket. Why? Because people like you and me insist on it. We’ve even forced Nestle and Mars to try and buy us back by adding a tiny run of slightly more ethical chocolate bars. (This practice now known as ‘fair washing’ is frustrating, but also a sign of the power ethical shoppers worldwide now wield.)

It’s true: every dollar you spend (and don’t spend) is a vote for what you believe in. Every dollar we spend adds up to millions of votes for change and changes the world – easy right?

Steps towards change

Well, no, clearly not easy, but fortunately it’s just like being a disciple. As disciples of Jesus, we’re trying constantly to become more like him and in doing so we build God’s Kingdom. However, as frustrating as I find it, that doesn’t happen overnight; it is a slow walk of small changes that are heading towards a bigger goal.

It’s the same with changing the global market place and its ethics. I’ll never change the ethics of the global market and neither will you – but together huge numbers have and will. Our job is to join those numbers: to commit to small, practical steps that change our world.

I started with only buying ethical coffee and chocolate. Then I got an ethical shopping app to get informed and make changes in my supermarket shop. This year I hope to make more use of the Internet, where there’s an ethical company for anything you want, doing cool stuff at decent prices. I’m also aiming to fight our obsession for new and commit to buying more second hand or not at all. And hopefully, slowly, I’ll move from being a hypocritical religious person to a humble disciple, maybe even a person who radiates love and leaves a mark of justice.

Robin works as a writer for the Salvation Army in New Zealand. His research into ethical shopping can be read at http://goo.gl/7FeR9x

For discussion

If every dollar you spend is a vote, what sort of vote have you been casting?

What can you do to become more informed about the products you purchase?

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.

The Lock-Out is Over

Featured Video Play Icon
Posted on

Some people talk about poverty in terms of a lack of options. Using that criteria, prisoners in Cambodia are surely some of the poorest of all, lacking even the option of a traditional dentist pulling out a painful tooth. Instead, they normally have no choice but to put up with an acutely abscessing tooth until it settles, hoping that the infection won’t spread into the upper face or neck with potentially fatal consequences.

For the past three years the Christian organisation I partner with (the only provider of dental care for prisoners) has been locked-out as they attempted to re-negotiate a new MoU with the government. After much prayer and multiple attempts, I am happy to report that three weeks ago we were finally allowed back into  the main men’s prison. Each Wednesday I take a team of 10 students to fill and extract teeth as we rotate every few months around Phnom Penh’s main prisons. Operating in high temperatures, we have already been struggling with equipment breakdowns and push-back from guards keen on wielding their power. However, we have seen God at work with positive outcomes in spite of the conditions. One man’s abscess had spread into his cheek and was serious enough require incision, drainage and antibiotics, for which he was really grateful. Our team values your ongoing prayers. Phones and cameras are not permitted in Cambodian prisons but for an up-to-date report from outside the walls watch the video above or click here.