April 2016

Liminal Spaces: Freaking out about transition

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Transition is difficult. It’s hard to know how to feel in the midst of coming, and going, leaving the old, and starting the new, even when we know what we’re going to is something good.

What about when we don’t know what comes next? There are times when a season comes to an end, but God hasn’t yet opened the door into something new.

We find ourselves in the ‘grey space,’ evading questions about the future, and desperately hoping that something concrete comes our way soon.

There’s a phrase I find really useful to describe this space – ‘liminal space.’ It describes being in transition, standing on a threshold, but being unsure of which way you should aim, or which direction God is pointing you in. Richard Rohr suggests that this space is sometimes referred to as a ‘luminous darkness,’ the space of ‘not-knowing’:

“It is when you have left the ‘tried and true’ but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. It is no fun.” (p22 – Grieving as Sacred Space)

As someone who likes control and to plan, I find ‘liminality’ very uncomfortable… plus it’s a challenge to my pride and my sense of having it all together. I find myself worrying about the future – questions about calling, jobs, location and community are all strongly interwoven.

In this space, I want something firm to hang on to, a goal to aim at. But I don’t have one. Rarely am I comfortable with saying ‘I don’t know what’s next.’ Rather than be present to the uncomfortable fact that I do not have the answer and I am not in control, my own way of dealing with this space is to come up with all sorts of crazy options for the future, preferring the abstract, absurd and impossible over the unknown.

I can hide from the gift of liminal space, evading the ‘blessing of unknowing’ with busyness, tasks, excuses, and explanations. But it would be a waste. This space is actually an invitation to learn to live with ambiguity and anxiety, to trust and to wait. It’s a space in which I need to avoid the temptation to ‘explain away’ my unknowing, or to justify why I don’t have a five-year plan.

In this place, where the light has not been thrown upon what happens next, I’m being invited to trust, to lean into the God who has proved himself to be faithful time and time again. This ‘leaning in’ frees me from the burden of being in control, and of knowing exactly what to plan for. Instead, I’m invited into relationship, to embrace the vulnerability of not having all the answers, and instead to trust in the goodness, provision, and kindness of God.



Are you in a space where you aren’t quite sure what the future holds, or you sense that a change may be coming? How can this idea of ‘liminal space’ help you to embrace the ‘not knowing’ as you wait for God to speak clearly?


Ask God to place the right people around you as you journey through transition – whether now, or in the future. Be intentional about meeting with friends for prayer and conversation – you may not get all the answers you need, but having people who will support you in this space is invaluable.


#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!) 


Medicine or magic sweets?

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People love medicines here, more than you’d expect. In 2003, the medical world debated whether free HIV medication would work. You literally have to take it every day, or else the HIV can become resistant to the drugs. We needn’t have worried. Most people here are great at taking medication – it seems to carry almost a mystical quality. People love injections the most, while working at Lacor I got asked multiple times “Can you just give me an injection doctor?”. Perhaps this drug shop in Lacor embodies how a lot of people feel about drugs here. Medicine or magic sweets?

Moving forward with Haerenga

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You’ll be interested to know how our Haerenga Mission Internship is progressing. Last year we evaluated and reviewed the programme, and we’ve emerged with something exciting that we hope will produce long lasting fruit. What we offered previously was good, but it wasn’t so much an internship as a ‘gap year’ programme. It’s now been reshaped as an actual mission apprenticeship, where young adults are placed under the care of an experienced Mission Partner to ‘learn the trade’ of cross-cultural mission through an integrative, hands-on experience. We hope it’ll be deeply rewarding for those who feel called overseas long-term and those God is leading to workplace mission in NZ.

We’re now recruiting interns who want to be challenged in their faith as they explore what global and local mission can look like. The Haerenga website tells all: www.missioninternship.co.nz. A promotional booklet is also available from the NZCMS office. If you know anyone who might be interested, please let them know.

What’s changed?

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“You’ve grown SO fat! Are you pregnant?”

She prods me in various places, including my chak, which she insists must contain milk. I grit my teeth reminding myself that it is customary here to tell people returning from a long trip that they have put on weight. Its supposed to suggest you had a good time! After assuring her (only a little defensively) that I am not pregnant, I change the topic, asking:

“Whats new? Whats changed?”

“Oh, nothings new, nothings happened”

I’ve asked many people this question since we got back, and this is almost always the answer. Nothings new? Really?

There are new speed bumps on the main road running through our centre, which will hopefully prevent further deaths by speeding trucks. In a last-second bid to votes in the North, the government tarmacked multiple new roads in town, and built … wait for it … footpaths! New businesses have sprung up, including a new pharmacy that looks like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, painted in bold purple, white and green stripes and advertising drugs that look like candy.

The week before we returned there was a horrific wind-spread fire that burned over 20 grass thatched huts in our local centre in under 30 minutes (see the video above). Our close friend Isaac lost his home. Uganda held local and national elections, and Gulu watched as the current president cheated blatantly to remain in power. There are many new appointments to local government. An abnormally long dry season has brought massive water shortages, preventing national piped water from reaching urban-dwellers homes. The cues at the boreholes have become massive, and water prices have sky rocketed.

To us, there seems to have been quite a lot of change. But to someone who grew up here, perhaps it doesn’t seem like change. Businesses come, businesses go. Buildings burn down, and new things built. Museveni has been in power for thirty years, and that certainly didn’t change this election. Droughts come, rain comes back.

But someone coming back from a trip always changes…. they are always fatter!

Global food waste

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Image: No it’s not a family’s groceries. It’s 50kg of food removed from rubbish bins in Auckland and Te Awamutu. The average Kiwi household throws out twice this amount every year. The following are some highlights from a recent Stuff.co.nz article about global food waste. We encourage you to read the full article here.

The more scientists study the issue of food waste – and its worrying implications for both the environment and global food security – the clearer it becomes how much of a problem it is.

Now, new research is giving us a few more reasons to clean our plates.

A study just out in the journal Environmental Science and Technology concludes that we’re already producing way more food than the world actually needs – but a lot of it is being wasted, instead of used to feed people who need it.

That’s a big problem for global food security as well as for the climate, given the huge amounts of greenhouse gases that go into producing the extra food – and the study suggests that the problem will only get worse in the future.

Scientists are already aware of how bad food waste is for the environment. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that, in 2007, the emissions required to produce all the food that went to waste in the world amounted to at least 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, more than most countries emitted.



The researchers used UN data to calculate the difference between the amount of food available in each country and the amount its citizens require in order to be healthy. For each country, there was either more food available than was needed to supply the nation’s requirements – a food surplus – or not enough.

The researchers considered food surplus to be equivalent to food waste, as it represents food that was not needed but produced anyway. Presumably, the majority of a food surplus is wasted, although the researchers noted in the paper that some of it is likely used for animal feed or is consumed by humans through overeating.


The study found that the global food surplus increased overall between 1965 and 2010 from 310 extra kilocalories per person per day to 510 extra kilocalories, with the greatest surplus growth rates generally observed in developed nations. As of 2010, 20 per cent more food was being produced worldwide than was actually needed to feed the world’s population, and overall the researchers estimated that the global surplus could be used to feed an extra 1.4 billion people.

The UN estimates that about 800 million people worldwide suffer from undernourishment, meaning there’s currently enough wasted food in the world to solve the world’s hunger problem nearly twice over – it just isn’t reaching the people who need it.


The study highlights several important problems in the current global food system. First, the finding that there’s more food than necessary in the world, while undernourishment still remains a global problem, implies that there are serious failings in the distribution of food worldwide.

“So much of poverty and famine aren’t about a lack of resources overall – they’re just distributional [problems],” said Emily Broad Leib, an assistant clinical professor of law and director of the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. “It’s not surprising to see that, and both across countries and within countries this challenge of the food markets really being attainable for certain segments of the population and not for others.”


Read the full article here.

Golden Oldies to visit Fiji Cyclone villages

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Last week we shared about the Golden Oldies Fiji trip coming up in August. (The original article can be seen here.) This year’s Golden Oldies will visit a remote village that had 27/31 houses destroyed in Cyclone Winston. The village is part of the Suva Cathedral Diocese, and the team will hear stories and discover ways they can partner with the church to restore village life there.

Golden Oldies Mission leaders Graeme and Jane Mitchell visited the area two-weeks ago as part of the planning for the August mission. “The devastation is as bad as it looks on TV, yet the people continue to praise God even in their adversity” commented Jane.

They also presented medical equipment to an over-stretched hospital the Golden Oldies support. This was a humbling experience, with people waiting for six hours for medical attention in ankle deep water.

For more information on August’s Golden Oldies trip, including how to apply, click here.



You can’t do it alone

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I’m sure you’ll agree God has called us to make a real difference in the world. And if you’re been sitting in that space for a while, you’ll have realised that changing the world often starts with being transformed ourselves. Like the bumper-sticker says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Change agents are those who don’t just do a whole heap of stuff, but who have come to embody values that set them apart and drive them to really make a difference. It’s pretty difficult to be both missional and selfish, or greedy, or lazy, or constantly grumpy, or judgemental, or controlling, or gossipy. …

The thing is, many of us put pressure on ourselves to change. … and beat ourselves up when we don’t! Maybe this is partly because we’ve been taught somewhere along the way that we can make self-change happen. We just need the will to change. There’s truth in that, but real change almost always happens in community. It’s belonging to a group that share common values that will help us develop and keep those values.

Bishop Justin Duckworth spoke at the NZCMS Cultivate conference in 2014. In this video he talks about our need for community.


A Centenary of Consequence: 100 Years since Bishop Peel’s Death in Mombasa, Kenya

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By Henry Partridge.

Today, Friday 15 April, is 100 years since the death of William Peel, the first Bishop of Mombasa, Kenya. He was the third bishop who had resided in Mombasa, but his predecessors were bishops of Eastern Equatorial Africa. Like them he died while in active service. James Hannington was tragically murdered while travelling by foot north of Lake Victoria to Uganda, while Henry Parker died from a fever caught while taking the caravan route south of the Lake to the same destination. William Peel had previously been a CMS missionary in India.

When we lived in Mombasa I was taken to see his grave in a cemetery, where a number of fallen soldiers were buried also.

My interest in Bishop Peel was through the Cathedral that opened its doors in 1905 during his episcopacy. It was here in 1988, that I was a made a Deacon in a church with an architecture fitting a city with a sizeable Muslim population.

Bishop Peel is remembered by church historians for his part in a conference held in 1913 near Nairobi for a proposed scheme of union between Protestant missions in East Africa. A former NZCMS missionary, Jocelyn Murray, described the uproar on page 171 of her book, Proclaim the Good News:

It was the United Communion Service led by Bishop Peel of Mombasa, held in the Scottish Mission church at the end of the gathering, when missionaries of different denominations were invited to take Communion. The Communion itself was a regular Anglican service and it is a sign of how far opinions have moved that we cannot easily appreciate the feelings of Bishop Frank Weston of Zanzibar, when he protested against the conference. He appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury (he himself was not a participant) and the fat was well and truly in the fire. Two CMS missionary bishops stood accused of “propagating heresy and of committing schism.”

 The British Press had a field day and a final report did not come out until April 1916 at a time when the World War was raging. Sadly a “United Church of Kenya” did not result, though relations between missions continued to be good. Some 15 years after Bishop Peel’s death the East African Revival Movement brought unity, giving real fellowship across denominations, and continues to do so today. “Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Psalm 133.1)

Bishop Peel is also remembered for his evangelistic zeal in fostering mission in German East Africa, now known as Tanzania and in Kenya itself as Mombasa Diocese covered both territories. We have had NZCMS personnel in places where Bishop Peel went for both Confirmation services and Ordinations. I was delighted to read how on one occasion, after ordaining a CMS missionary, he wrote in his Diary, “Mr Price has promised to keep up his Greek!” This was no small promise as missionary clergy had to also learn either Swahili or a local tribal language – or both!

Bible school update

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All our students had a two-week break in their home villages over Easter. The first week they were on a practical assignment to assist the village pastor in evangelism and Easter services. They will be bringing back a written report from the pastor. The week after Easter is for them to have a break with their families (most are married), although they will probably have spent many hours helping with weeding and harvesting in their shamba (plot of land).

Chris is enjoying her teaching of English and of Teaching Methods. Her classes had a lot of fun before Easter, trying out different ways of acting out a Bible story, and an assignment awaits them next week to prepare a short play script on specific Bible narratives. Her English class (the struggling Group C) are now bouncing along with some confidence, which is heartening.

In Peter’s Worship lectures, they think through how worship has changed and evolved through the centuries, so it is involving Church History as well. They have some lively discussions. His responsibilities as Principal seem to expand as the weeks go by. He is constantly on demand, and making decisions that do not always please everyone. Keep praying for wisdom for him.

Please pray too for weekly evangelistic thrusts into local schools and institutions, such as Kondoa Girls’ Secondary School, the Teachers’ College, the nursing school, and a mixed Secondary School. Teams of students and staff from the Bible School are permitted to teach in these predominantly Muslim institutions beginning with the small Christian group of students, encouraging them in their witness. It is a huge opportunity but already there are obstacles presenting themselves … please pray!

Hearing God’s Word

Imagine what it feels like to hear the Word of God spoken in your own language for the first time!  It was a pleasure to meet Johan Grubner, the head of an organisation called MegaVoice which is based in South Africa. Johan passed through Kondoa in February and we were able to spend a few hours with him. He had brought us two boxes full of solar-powered audio players loaded with the Bible in Swahili, Masai and Cigogo. They had been provided by NZ sponsors to distribute amongst the villages of Kondoa.

There are many people around here, old and young, that cannot read. Others have poor eyesight, or none at all. Thousands of others have never even heard the Gospel. This is their opportunity to listen to God’s Word for themselves. Village pastors and catechists who have these audio players find them an amazing tool for proclaiming the Word of God. They say many lives have been touched because of them. Pray for Spirit-led distribution.

Easter Rains

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Easter has come and gone but the Lord is still alive! Here in Kondoa, there were no Easter eggs and no chocolate, but a church choir of 30 adults arrived by bus on Saturday morning, all the way from Dar es Salaam. They were very tired, and even more exhausted when they left on Monday, but the joy they brought when they burst into song was powerful. On the Saturday night they presented a drama spanning a time of a few days in history – the days that changed the world for ever. The church was packed, mostly with young people, and the message was clear: Jesus has broken the power of sin!  (On a lighter note … it always amuses me that big strong men love playing loud, rough Roman soldiers complete with helmet, sword and short red skirt!)

On the Sunday morning there were two services as usual, packed to the rafters and lasting 3-4 hours each. The first offering of the visiting choir was the Hallelujah Chorus (in Swahili), unaccompanied in four parts, beautifully sung and invigorating. I am sure that Handel would have heartily approved. Our two parish choirs also contributed to the service. Bishop Given preached simply and challengingly on Luke 24 (the walk to Emmaus).  His points:

Have you recognised Jesus? Have you invited him in? Have you told others about him?


Rains and Sickness

Many of you rejoiced with us about the abundant rain at the beginning of the year. Suddenly the rain stopped! What is God doing? We are now getting welcome bursts of rain, two to three days at a time, followed by another long bout of extremely hot weather. That is hard on the crops, so the harvests will be patchy. In our garden, we are harvesting peanuts right now and are very thankful for a good crop. Peter has worked hard in the garden (see the photo above).

These three day downpours have been causing problems too. In some parts, houses and crops have been swept away which leaves many families desolate with nowhere to go.  Last week the rains here brought a flash flood. The chocolate swirling waters of the river rose almost to the point of sweeping down to flood the Bible School, but the Lord protected us.

Cholera hit Kondoa town in March. Fresh food outlets were officially closed. People from surrounding villages were afraid to come to town for fear of infection. There were some deaths, but the local authorities kept it in control. The students at Bible School panicked a bit, but we are thankful to God that no-one on campus got ill with cholera.

Further updates from the Akesters will be shared next week.