May 2016

Farming Fails: Attempt 2

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I crawled out of the fetal position, shook off my frustration, drank some jasmine tea, prayed a little prayer of perseverance, and dived into mission farming cooperative, take two. Early 2015. The group chose to stick with the familiar and plant maize again, rather than embark on a new crop.

What did we do differently this time? Essentially, 3 things:

We got brutal. Remember, in attempt 1, farmers with far flung farms failed to bring their produce to the central store- transport was too costly and tricky. This time, we set a boundary of 5km. Any farmers with land beyond the boundary had to rent land close by, or leave the group. Rough, I know. We whittled down to just 7 farmers. Secure good seeds. This time round, we approached a big company ourselves. I got seed samples early, planted them in little boxes and tested the germination rate. I made the company sign an agreement to compensate us if their seeds failed to germinate as well as their sample. Simple training No need to sit looking at diagrams on a blackboard. We just got some rope, some hoes, some seeds and went out and practiced measuring spacing between seeds, between rows, and seed depth. Easy. We emphasized the main thing was working together- planting together, committing to bring the crop for collective storage and sale.

 The results? 

Well, we got a brilliant seed deal, that’s for sure. The correct hybrid variety seeds arrived on time, they germinated perfectly. We bargained a great price. No complaints there. But when it came to the crunch, would our farmers bring their produce for collective sale?

*failed computer game sound effect*

Nick faithfully brought his maize- and brought a lot of it, having decided to experiment with upscaling his farming hobby. He brought 20 sacks. Another member, Margaret brought one plump sack. What about the others? It was hard to get a clear answer. Transporting produce was no longer a factor. But ultimately, farmers were still tempted by short term benefits- immediate food, and immediate sale in small amounts to go towards household needs, school fees. Its understandable. But the farmers who sold it immediately got 400 Shillings (20 NZ cents) per Kg. We stored Nick and Margaret’s maize for four months, and sold it for 800 Shillings per Kg. Thats a huge difference in profit margin!

The ultimate sinking realization from attempt 2:

If the goal is making better profits for farmers don’t farm something that can be eaten, or sold easily on the local market like beans, maize, or millet. Its just too tempting to sell it early, even if it compromises the groups whole plan. Go for something that is not eaten in bulk locally. Something a bit pricier, sold elsewhere in bulk to other parts of Uganda, Kenya, or beyond. Such as:  chili peppers, ginger, onions.

Next installment: attempt 3.

Croatia visit

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In April we spent just over three weeks in Croatia. One week was spent at the European Christian Mission (ECM) biennial conference, where we gathered with 450 adults and children for a week of teaching fun, and fellowship. For both of us the week was also a great way to meet with and have face-to-face conversations with the different ECM leaders, and for Féy to connect with the missionaries she works with in her ECM roles. Week two was spent relaxing after the biennial on the Croatian Island of Krk in a lovely little apartment owned by friends. During the third week we visited all the ECM missionaries working in Croatia. In total, including the drive from Albania to Croatia and back, we drove 2400km.

Fey’s work within the ECM leadership team has a number of aspects. One of those is building relationships with missionaries and Field Leaders in Croatia Austria, and Romania. Driving to the Biennial gave Féy the opportunity to do this in Croatia as it was very convenient to take time to do that on the way to and from the conference. Another aspect of Féy’s work, for which I heard a lot of positive feedback, has been (with a team) reviewing all the projects across ECM and reworking the different project request forms. Her work is valued, and as a result Féy was recently asked to join the ECM International Leadership Team (ILT), and her first meeting will be in the UK in June. Thankfully she copes well with being the only female (see photo) in meetings.

 

Why Care About Climate Change? (with reading list) (Issue 27)

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By Dick Tripp. 

Creation care. Climate change. There’s two reasons I believe this is the most important issue the human race has ever faced, particularly at this present time.

It’s about justice.

It may come as a surprise, but I see climate change as an issue of human justice. Millions of people worldwide have suffered and are suffering as the direct result of climate change. Hundreds of thousands have already lost their lives. Yet the topic of climate change has sometimes been controversial, particularly within Christian circles. While some groups have no problem accepting it as scientifically certain, for one reason or another some others have denied that human-caused climate change is a reality. Yes, there are a few scientists who deny climate change… but it’s equally important to recognise that the overwhelming majority of experts – Christian or not – affirm its reality. What’s more, this is also the growing consensus among biblical scholars, theologians and missiologists. It’s no longer valid to hide behind beliefs that are unable to reconcile with the clear reality we now face!

James Lovelock, one of the world’s most influential scientists, has spelled out clearly how all earth’s ecosystems are interconnected. If you affect one, you affect all the rest. Today we are seeing this everywhere. We’re putting 110 million tons of heat trapping global warming pollution into the lower atmosphere every twenty-four hours. That is the equivalent of 400 000 Hiroshima atomic bombs! One consequence is that extreme warmer days are 150 times more common than 30 years ago. 14 of the hottest recorded years have been in the first fifteen of this century. The world is now hotter than it has been for many, many millennia and it is warming 10 times faster than ever in the earth’s history.

The obvious consequence of this is extreme weather conditions. 93% of heat is absorbed by the oceans, resulting in more water vapour being sent into the atmosphere which is then dumped back on the earth. As an example of this, the equivalent of two days water from Niagara Falls down poured in central Houston in two days last July shutting down everything. Then on December 29, the storm that caused massive flooding in Mid-West US raised the temperature of the North Pole 30˚C, causing thawing of the North Pole in the middle of its long, dark winter night.

And warming draws water from the soil. The three-year record breaking drought in the Middle East that began in 2006 destroyed 60% of farms and 80% of livestock in Syria and sent one-and-a-half million people into the cities where they collided with a similar number of refugees from the Iraq war. This was likely one contributing factor to the turmoil that exists today. Even in New Zealand extreme weather is causing significant trouble, with around 200 farmers have had to pay about $100 000 each for flood damage. Others are paying $5000 a week for extra stock food which is unsustainable.

We’re likely to see half our plant and animal species gone this century. For example, coral, which has been called the building architect of the marine ecosystem, will probably be gone this century. 1000 species of fish spend at least part of their life-cycle on coral, so if coral goes these fish will go too. This will be devastating for many places such as the Pacific islands where people depend on fish to survive. On top of that, rising sea levels results in salt getting into groundwater, which in turn prevents the growing of traditional crops. At present there are two million people in an area of Papua New Guinea that are facing hunger, disease and poverty. Their crops have been destroyed and they have only polluted water. Most are living on one meal a day.

Many positive steps are being taken worldwide at an ever-increasing rate. More countries are now getting half their energy supplies from renewable sources. But is it fast enough? The warming pollutants we put in the atmosphere will all be there for 1700 to 3000 years. The International Energy Agency has said we will have put enough carbon into the atmosphere by next year to raise the temperature two degrees. If other countries follow our government’s example, it will likely be four degrees or more. In fact, reputable organisations such as the World Bank and PriceWaterhouseCooper have warned that we’re heading for a change of six degrees.

But are we acting fast enough? That’s today’s pressing question – not just for the planet but for its people, particularly the poor and vulnerable.

God cares for his creation.

The second reason caring for the planet matters is because God cares for his creation, not just us. This is spelled out in Scripture. One of his purposes in putting us here was to “care for” or “serve” his creation (Genesis 2:15). His covenant with Noah included “all living creatures of every kind” (Genesis 9). The laws of Moses include numerous passages about how the land was to be cared for and the produce from it was to be available for all to share, even if circumstances had driven them to poverty. The Psalms contain passages stressing God’s ownership of his creation, his delight in it and the way in which it brings glory and praise to him. Isaiah has some has some magnificent passages regarding God’s future plans for his creation. Paul tells us that creation reveals God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20) and it will share in the blessings that he has prepared for us (Romans 8). Creation is God’s gift to his Son. All things were created “for” him (Colossians 1:16). These passages and more are spelled out in some detail in my book The Biblical Mandate for Caring for Creation, which can be read and downloaded as a pdf file on www.exploringchristianity.co.nz.

So why should we care about creation? Because God does!

 

Further reading.

 

For those who are serious about exploring these issues further, I would suggest the following books. I also highly recommend watching a recent video from Al Gore at youtu.be/u7E1v24Dllk

 

The End Game: Tipping Point for Planet Earth by Anthony D. Barnosky and Elisabeth A. Hardy. The best I know on how climate change, food shortages, decreasing water availability, pollution, population growth, sea rise and acidification, and dwindling resources all interact with one another and result in increasing violence and cross-boundary migration etc., on a world-wide scale. It highlights the need for immediate action to mitigate future disastrous effects. They know their stuff, offering considerable, hand-on global research.

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. Award winning journalist. Great research over 5 years. She has attended the significant conferences and interviewed the significant leaders on climate change and also significant sceptics and fossil fuel CEOs, who she often quotes. She deals with all significant issues. Devastating critique of fossil fuel industry and climate sceptics. Naomi was co-leader of Pope Francis’ Climate Change Conference when multi-church leaders, leading scientists, activists, economists and climate change experts were brought together for the first time.

The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change by Al Gore. New York Times Best Seller. Significant information on virtually every page concerning what is happening in the real world in areas such as monetary transactions (making the rich richer and increasing inequality), power (shifting from West to East and governments to corporations), politics (why USA is no longer a democracy), business (globalisation and robotics and how these increase unemployment), communication, climate change, etc., and how all these are related. They affect how governments respond to climate change.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize. Very good on-the-ground global research. I expect this is the best read on the subject.

Atmospheric: The Burning Story of Climate Change. Written specifically for older teens but a good starter for adults. Well researched, very clear including useful charts, and deals with all the main issues. Great for youth and grandchildren who will have to live through it. I have sent a copy to my three son’s families who all have teenagers.

The Vanishing Face of Gaia and A Rough Ride to the Future by James Lovelock. He is one the world’s most influential scientists. He must be in his 90s now. He is responsible for the Gaia theory, how all the earth’s ecosystems operate as one, which is now an accepted scientific theory. In the latter book, written recently, he envisions a time when all humans will live and grow their food in air-conditioned cities far enough away from the ocean.

Storms of my Grandchildren by James Hansen. An NASA scientist, widely regarded as the world’s leading climate expert and one of the first to warn people fifty years ago of the probable effects of the warming world. Once an advisor to the US Government.

By far the best thing I have read on the justice and moral issues involved in climate change is Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, which can be downloaded from the internet. Thoroughly biblical. He has had a great impact in this area and is one of my heroes.

The Biblical Mandate for Caring for Creation by Dick Tripp. After five chapters giving the history of the environmental movements from both secular and Christian perspectives, I trace the relevant passages through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that relate to God’s attitude to his creation. Printed copies are available but it can be read on www.exploringchristianity.com and downloaded as a pdf file.

Two of the best websites for keeping up with information on climate change are www.350.org and www.theguardian.com/series/keep-it-in-the-ground .

For those interested in the politics of climate change I recommend the blogs put out by Kennedy Graham of the Green Party who has been involved internationally in the climate change issue from the beginning. For a very significant up-to-date article “February breaks temperature records by ’shocking’ amount,” click here.

 

Dick is a ‘retired’ Anglican minister (though failing to find the word in Scripture, he has yet to ‘retire’ from Christian ministry). He takes any opportunity to speak about climate change – we owe it to future generations.

 

For discussion

Christians have sometimes struggled with the concept of climate change. Why do you think that is?

Do you know of other examples of how creation care is actually an issue of justice?

From the Editor (Issue 27)

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Does God care about his creation? Should we? They’re questions many Christians struggle to answer. Perhaps we’ve been told – directly or indirectly – that environmentalism isn’t important, that our mission is about getting people into heaven (and maybe looking after them during this life too).

The ‘5 Marks of Mission’ keep our view of mission balanced: it involves evangelism, discipleship, compassion, social justice and creation care. But we like to prioritise lists like these, treating them as distinct items and then ranking their importance. Maybe you’d put social justice on top. Or evangelism. Or discipleship. Yet, reality isn’t that clear-cut. We may have identified 5 Marks, but in practice they always overlap and intersect and complement. They are intrinsically interwoven. That means creation care can’t be put at the bottom of our list as an ‘optional extra.’ If we remove it from our mission efforts we hurt our witness to a God who loves his world, our shaping of holistic disciples, our ability to help the needy, and our voice as we challenge unjust structures.

This issue of Intermission explores creation care, sustainability and mission. For some, this will be a challenging topic. For others, realizing that creation care is something God’s people are to value – indeed, something that God values! – may be very healing.

Squad Goals

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I remember it vividly. My younger 17 year old self was sitting in the pews of a large inner-city church in Auckland. The old stained glass windows glistened in the dim glow of the electric chandeliers above. The arched brick work cast criss-crossing shadows that our buildings don’t seem to have any more. The church was quiet, apart from the speaker’s voice which was projected by the amplifiers hanging from the rafters. It filled the room with carefully chosen words as he articulated the mystery of the Three-in-One God that is the breath in our lungs.

For the first time in my life, I began to comprehend that the Godhead was in community within itself. Three-persons-in-one, dancing together in perfect love, relationship, and vulnerability. The speaker said “From the start of time, being made in God’s image has meant that we were made for community. We were made for each other, to share in the community of God with one-another here on earth.”

“That’s awesome!”, I thought. But as I looked around the room at the white hipsters, surfer dudes, and young professionals in the pews around me, I started to ask myself, “where are the people here who don’t look like me?” “Why is it that none of the homeless in the inner city seem to feel comfortable enough here to come on a Sunday?” “Does Christian community only include those who I want to hang out with?”

Sometimes, despite the truth and mystery of the Trinity, I feel like the church is often a place where community is not so much a dance as it is an organised march; not so much a place of fulfilling, loving relationship as it is a primary school disco where people sit on opposite sides of the room, or dances by themselves. And sometimes, even worse, the church simply offers the same plastic promises of community as the Empire, in which we only hang out with those who look like us, act like us, dress like us, and think like us. There has to be more to community than hanging out with people that are exactly like ourselves, otherwise we end up ignoring others who are different and creating a system of those who are in and those who are not. And we end up thinking one way – never being challenged to see another side of the story we call life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced incredible, welcoming, diverse community in the church, too, and ultimately imperfect people will never be as good at loving as God is. Nonetheless, I’ve heard countless stories of people who have felt excluded, ostracised, unwelcome, and too different to fit into communities that are trying to model the radical love and grace of our servant King, and that needs to be addressed.

Many of us will have heard that we are made for each other, but many of us will be asking as we get older, are we really acting like that’s true. I am captivated by the Triune God, the three-in-one in perfect community, and I would like to see us as the Body of Christ better reflecting the image we bear. Are we willing to ask the hard questions about our ‘squads’ and take up the challenge to live differently in community with others?

Jeremy Harris lives in Auckland. Jeremy is a student at Carey Baptist College, a voluntary youth coordinator, a writer and a poet. He heads up Grace Collective (young adult Anglican shenanigans). Their latest event ‘Squad’ tackled the issues Jeremy writes about here. This blog originates from www.gracecollective.wordpress.com

 

THE MUSE

How does the church you belong to ‘do’ community? How is/isn’t the church faithful ‘image-bearers’?

 

THE MOVE

Invite someone you wouldn’t normally invite to your place for a coffee or meal this week. Or, if that’s too scary, strike up conversations with different people you encounter as you go about your week. Simply ask to hear their story.

#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!) 

Disciples who make Disciples

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When we started working with the ‘Church of God’ here in Tirana, there were no small discipleship groups within the church. In December I started one with the young couple leading the church plant (training the trainers), then soon after Féy started discipling a solo mum. Because Féy travels a lot, she asked two other women to join her so they could lead when she is away. In February I started a men’s group (with men my age!), and just last month Féy was asked to lead another two women in a Bible study. In January the young couple, with whom I began with, started doing a Bible study with another couple in the church, and the pastor also started doing a Bible study with two small groups.

I know it sounds like a competition but we are so encouraged at seeing our ‘influence’ catch and ignite something so basic and simple, yet so life giving for a church. Groups have continued to form, and there  are now 10 small groups, with a total of 28 people studying the Bible most weeks. Some of those people are now beginning to serve in other areas of the church.

The leadership team don’t have the time to begin more groups (they all work full time outside the church), so the next challenge is to develop the next level of leaders and to help them to understand that they can do what we are doing; making disciples. This is happening ‘within’ the church. What will happen when we all take this ‘message’ outside the church.  Please pray for this to happen.

Rosie and the Teapot

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In late 18th century England, a small group of energetic people of faith started meeting regularly around a pot of tea to share their frustrations with the way things were. They began each meeting with tea and a short prayer, then for three hours discussed a subject that had been proposed at a previous meeting. They prayed, discussed, imagined alternatives and put their passion into action. This group, named the Eclectic Society, included John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, and William Wilberforce, who helped to abolish slavery in England. This group also led to the foundation of the Church Mission Society.

In April 2016, I joined the staff and faculty of Trinity School for Ministry at the New Wineskins Mission Conference. Anglicans from across the globe took part in this fantastic conference attended by 1200 participants. I particularly loved catching up with global Anglican friends, and was re-inspired by what the Lord is doing across the world.

The famous teapot used by the Eclectic Society also made a proud appearance on the CMS UK booth. As I examined it, I imagined the faithful Christians who started the work of CMS, and the faithful Christians who continue this work. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Farming Fails: Attempt 1

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The time has come to document a bit of a disaster…

“Farming. We all farm, but we are struggling. We need a farming group, so we can make bigger profit.” The words of Ocen, one of the members of our local church who convinced me we needed to start a farming cooperative in 2014.

Our fledgling group voted, and in response to overwhelmingly enthusiasm, I started researching cooperative farming. It seemed straight forward enough. Cooperative farming is successful in Tanzania, Kenya, and other parts of Uganda. Essentially, you acquire good seed as a group, train up on best methods, then each member farmer plants, weeds, harvests and processes at approximately the same time, brings their produce to a central store where it is kept until prices are high, then sold collectively. If you farm by yourself, you can’t afford to hire a store to save it till there is a shortage, and you wont have enough maize to interest a big buyer. If you do it collectively, BOOM. Higher profits.

I’ve tried for three seasons. Behold, attempt number one:

Suburban farmers from our church

20 farmers from our church signed up, including Nick. Members insisted on writing a constitution, and appointing a full executive committee. They paid a membership fee ($5 NZ). We decided to have weekly bible studies and monthly meetings. A church in NZ donated some capital for a ‘seed loan,’ to be paid back to the farmers group when the crop is sold. We ordered a hybrid seed from a local supplier. When we opened the seed bags, we discovered we had been supplied the wrong variety- a much cheaper seed. The local supplier refused to refund the difference, and the group refused to take him to the police, because they feared the corrupt police would also want payment. Despite our agreement to plant within a few weeks of each other, the last farmer planted over a month and a half after the first farmer. Because we planted at different times, our farmers also harvested and started processing (picking the kernels off the cob, drying in the sun, winnowing) at different times. We rented a store, ready to receive the maize. Nick was the first to bring his sacks. We expected 3 sacks. from each farmer. One farmer called Julian brought 4 sacks (hallelujah!). Nick brought 3 sacks. Three ladies brought 1 sack. Three farmers brought half a sack each. This all took several months. Out of 20 farmers, 12 brought nothing. There was not enough maize to make it cost effective to fumigate it and store it till prices rose. We sold it immediately before weevils could eat any more, and distributed the profit (minus the seed cost) to those who brought produce. Because 12 farmers didn’t bring any produce, suddenly I became a debt collector. 4 months and many wasted hours later, 7 farmers returned the loan. Almost 2 years on, 5 have still not paid.

Why the epic fail? 

So there were some small fails. It became obvious we needed to test seed samples before buying, and never to trust intermediary suppliers. Maybe our first failure could give us the jolt we need to actually get organised and plant at the same time.

But there were also some epic fails. At the beginning, we mapped out the location of all the farmers land. They were spread far and wide. I asked, will it really be cost effective to bring our produce to a central store? “Sure, yes, why not!” was the answer. “We’ll just hail down a passing truck, and pay a small amount to chuck our sacks on the back.”

None of the farmers with further flung farms brought any produce. It was too expensive and logistically tricky to transport it. It was much more tempting to eat the maize, and sell small amounts to get money fast.

With this in mind, we planned attempt 2. Hold your breath for the next installment.

Back in Business

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It was a privilege to spend 5 months away in East Africa, the UK and the Middle East. Our teenage daughters had such a great time over there connecting with friends and family – they could have happily stayed on. But you could see their ‘kiwi-ness’ coming alive as they entertained friends and family in Kenya with a haka.

I spent time meeting missional leaders in Kenya and the UK to explore the ‘reverse mission’ trend and learn from non-western missionaries serving in the UK. I’m still processing my reflections and will share my thoughts in due course. I’ve come back rested, refreshed and re-energized. I’m thankful to God for your prayers and for the wonderful team at NZCMS HQ that’s been led by Lesley – thanks for stepping up and doing such a sterling job while I was away!

During my spent time in Kenya, I also met with several church leaders to explore how they develop leaders to lead missional communities. This particular network of churches is planting several churches each year. Because of their carefully designed leadership training pipeline, they have no shortage of world class leaders ready to be deployed. I was also inspired as I spent time with CMS Africa, hearing their vision to see ’50 million families living in transformed communities and transforming Nations through their local Church by 2050.’ Wow! This made me think: is my vision too small? The impact of NZCMS League of Youth is still felt over 50 years on!  Do we need to consider how to lay stronger foundations for the changes we want to see 50 years from now? NZCMS’ vision is to see Jesus shaping every culture, every sector of society. The work ahead is immense and may last several generations, so let’s get busy investing well for the future so that generations after us will know the wonders of God (Psalm 71:18).

Sending Mail to the Wrong Address

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You can’t ‘do mission’ without knowing your context. And unfortunately we Christians don’t always understand our own culture very well. It’s been hard for us to keep up in the “post age”: post-modern, post-Christian, post-colonial, post-postal service (almost!). Bishop Justin Duckworth recently said that the church is “sending mail to the wrong address”; the culture has moved on, but we still talk, act and do-church in ways relevant to a past era.

Justin has a gift of being able to name where New Zealand is at, and in this recent video at Laidlaw that’s precisely what he does. It’s long, we thoroughly encourage you to crack out the popcorn and give it a watch!