June 2016

The Multicultural Face of Mission

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How do we reach an increasingly multicultural society with the Gospel?

More than 25% of New Zealander’s were born overseas. Last year 60,000 permanent and long term migrants made NZ their home and this is projected to increase. In God’s great kindness the nations are coming to us – how can we hold out the gospel of life to our increasingly multicultural society?

On Wednesday June 15 at 7pm, our very own Steve Maina will be speaking on this topic at a Multiply gathering. He’ll shave about his experience of seeing the Gospel proclaimed in different cultural contexts all around the world and will be joined by a panel of local church leaders to dig into how their churches are working to engage the nations that have come to our doorstep with the Gospel.

What are the opportunities we have for reaching the nations that have come to NZ? Where are our cultural blind spots that inhibit gospel growth? How can we change anything apart from the gospel to remove and stumbling blocks for people from other cultures?

The event will be held at Lone Star, 364 Riccarton Road in Christchurch. The bar is open for you to grab a drink, and we will kick off with some nibbles. See you there!

Walking the Camino

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Thanks for your prayers for the week on the Camino. It was such a blessings to spend time with people from all over the world, hear their stories, share some of mine and work with such a diverse team. God was gloried in lots of ways and we keep praying that people will search and find the Good Shepherd.

Every day we had 7 different pilgrims stay the night with us. Together we reflected on the Camino & spiritual things, watched a film about Jesus life and ate dinner. There were many sunny days to chat with the pilgrims walking past, give away free drinks and fruit. I even got to walk one leg of the Camino on the first day. Such a beautiful experience to do solo.

I am the way and the truth and the life. John 14 Yo soy el camino, la verdad y la vida Juan 14

Farming Fail turns fiasco: attempt 3

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After our first attempt belly-flopped, Paul (a member farmer) invited me to chew it over in his carpentry workshop. I listened, ankle deep in wood shavings.

“The farmers from our church are not serious farmers. They have other work, like me! Their farms are all far away from each other, so they struggle to think collectively. In my home village, I have over 60 farmers who want to join us. They are so poor. Farming is their ONLY livelihood, and their farms are all side-by-side, they can see when each other plants, weeds, harvests. They need this. They will work together.”

A week later I found myself cycling behind Paul and our chairman Ocen along Juba Road, passing scattered huts, spiky tuku trees, the odd sunflower field, under Gulu’s glorious domed sky. An hour and a half later, we arrived in Jimo village. My eyes opened wide – within half an hour 66 people materialized under the designated mango tree. Paul nodded happily. Ocen lead a brief bible study on forgiveness, which bizarrely prompted a public reconciliation between two ladies who had been fighting over a goat-crop eating incident.

We explained the seed loan system, then fielded the usual flood of questions. So the seeds aren’t free? Why? What about free Cows? Hoes? Tarpaulins? We explained this is a cooperative, not an NGO. 59 farmers signed up, appointed some key leaders, and promised to bring their membership fees when we convened in 2 months to prepare for the planting season.

And so, we found ourselves starting a new group in Jimo (attempt 3) at the same time we launched attempt 2 with our church farmers. Proper rural, full-time farmers, larger scale, one location…I had a good feeling about it. Take note: feelings are misleading.

 Drum roll……..what happened?

We biked out again 2 months later with 59 maize seed loan forms. We waited for hours under the mango tree. No one. Just the odd goat. I went back to Paul, trying to find out what happened. Turned out a lot of people lost interest after finding out there weren’t any freebies involved. But Paul insisted we should give it another shot, there are some who are keen. The next week, after waiting over an hour, 6 farmers came with their membership fees, and filled out seed forms, and discussed our game plan. Fine. Lets start smaller. Training day went well. But when I went back to measure the spacing between rows and plants I found all the advice had been ignored. The spacing was huge and irregular. Why? The seed had been given to their children to plant. Go figure. I had to leave for NZ just before storage time. We located a small store in Jimo, and I left the group’s leader with group money to pay the rent and the ‘permethrin dust’ to protect the maize from weevils. I returned from NZ, and called our Jimo leader, who called a group meeting. I biked out…and yet again, just me and the goats. I wandered around, and eventually found a young guy who offered to jump on my bike and round up the members of the group. He located everyone but the leader, who was nowhere to be found. The leader had not told the other farmers about the meeting…. In fact he hadn’t communicated anything to them in a long time. No one had brought any maize to the store. Yet again, they sold the maize early. None of the farmers from Jimo have repaid their seed loan. They’ve told me they will pay it in August when their next crops are ready. I visited our treasurer from the original church group to check our account balance. She told me she had ‘borrowed’ the money to complete construction of her house.

I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. We have entered into the realm of a fiasco.

Why the fiasco?

If we try again, we would plant chili or ginger. Lucrative crops that are not eaten in bulk and have an external market. Would that make all the difference? Perhaps.

But there is a deeper problem. Ultimately, most farmers here believe ‘farming groups’ are primarily about accessing free stuff, rather than working together to increase profits. Our group must have been viewed as a fairly lame- nothing free, just a loan. There was very little interest in improving planting methods, little interest in collective storage and sale.

I’m aware there are plenty of farming projects in Gulu, run by NGOs, not by farmers themselves. The farmers receive free seeds, free fertilizer. Often, the NGO itself collects the crop, stores and sells it. If they leave or end the project (which, at some point, they will), will those farmers be able to run the show by themselves? I’m dubious, but oh so very eager to be proved wrong.

That, my friends, is an abbreviated but true account of my fumblings in farming to date. Will there be an attempt 4? To be honest, I’m not sure. If there is, it will look radically different. I’ll keep you posted.

Melodies, Paper and Checkers

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Here’s an article by Caleb Holland from Alaska. He was part of a recent YWAM team from Honolulu who worked with Anne McCormick at the World Mate Hospital in Cambodia for five weeks.

The word ‘love’ is often misused if you ask me. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a friend of mine say “Goodness! I love iced tea,” I would be a very wealthy man. They don’t actually ‘love’ iced tea. I understand words can change meaning as time progresses and culture changes, but something about ‘love’ is to be revered. It’s a precious word; a word that should be preserved for when it has the most meaning and impact. It can restore the broken. It can bring joy. It saves and creates life.

I love this hospital. The team I travelled to Cambodia with loves this hospital. The volunteers love this hospital. And this hospital has loved us. They say if you live in a place long enough, the building or house will adopt some of your characteristics. Though I have only been here a short time, it has become very clear to me that this place has been filled with loving people. When you enter, you’re greeted with compassion, and when you depart, it sends you away with a longing to return.

Melodies

Most days, we sing. When I heard we were singing, I was giddy. Christmas carolling is one of my favourite things back home; spreading joy and all of those niceties. Little did I know that we were singing in Khmer. Learning second languages has always been especially difficult for me (singing makes it a bit easier I admit), so long story short, this wasn’t going to be anything like Christmas carolling.

We walked down to the wards for the first time and I was nervous. I didn’t want to mispronounce some words and mistakenly belt out profanities. The team all readied our voices and waited patiently for the waving hands that meant “start singing”. Suddenly, the hands began to wave, and before I could think, Khmer songs flew from my mouth. I looked at the patients/visitors and they seemed pleased. Whether they were pleased because of our mispronunciations, or because we sounded angelic, didn’t matter to me anymore; if they were pleased, we were doing something right.

Being able to make people smile is probably one of the biggest things we take for granted. Every human being has the capability of brightening someone’s day. With a song, a joke, or an encouraging word, we can make painful circumstances more bearable. You don’t know what people are going through in their heads or their hearts. Who knows, perhaps you making them smile was exactly what they needed to keep on pushing.

Paper

Being able to create things is pretty spectacular if you stop and think about it. You’re taking things that are already their own separate entities, repurposing those things, and combining those things to make a singular thing. It’s astonishing, and we got to do that here with making paper. Essentially, you take whatever paper-like substances you have, throw it into a machine, get some mushy stuff, and one tray later you’ve got paper! It doesn’t sound very exciting written down, but that’s perhaps because I haven’t told you that you can throw coconut husks and old sheets into the paper mix. Got an ugly shirt for your birthday without a return receipt? Don’t re-gift it! Turn that thing into paper. The possibilities are quite literally limitless. And there’s so much more that comes out of it than fun. There’s a lot that separates man from beast, and creativity is among that lot. For me, and I’d say most of humanity, being able to create is an essential part of being human. It can provide therapy, it can entertain, and it can create civilizations.

Games and Puzzles and Such

There’s a certain chapter of our time here at the hospital that I would consider being my favourite. All of the chapters are good, of course, but I thrive in board games and puzzles, and if I thrive in something it’s going to be my favourite. You take this cart full of an assortment of games and keep your eyes peeled for those who look in need of some competition. Once you’ve found your competitor, let the sparks fly. The best part is teaching them how to play. Warning: they’re quick learners.

I specifically recall this one time when I was playing some checkers with a thirteen year old boy. The boy had what appeared to be a broken leg, and an even worse case of “Man, I wish I could get out of this bed and play some games.” I gestured the game of checkers, and through some persistence, he agreed to do battle with me. As I taught him the rules of the game using charades, I told myself “Caleb, take it easy on the guy; he’s new and no match for your chess expertise.” As the game began to pick up speed, I noticed I was taking it a bit too easy. I stepped up my game and put on the most intense looking checkers face I could. It wasn’t enough. He was still taking out my pieces. And with every piece he’d take, his grin grew closer and closer to his ears. “Fine,” I said, “no more training wheels.” I took my foot off the brakes and put the pedal to the metal. It was then when I realized a very sad, humbling fact. I’m not good at this game, and this kid was an expert. My last piece was taken and the boy’s right eyebrow was raised, paired with a smile that said “Easy.” I was defeated, but my pride wouldn’t let me leave on that note. So I lost two more times. And though the losses haunted me, the fun and joy from the boy outweighs anything else. And that’s the attitude you get from all of the patients here; fun, joy, and that powerful word I spoke of, ‘love.’ Without love, this hospital wouldn’t exist. Without love one may argue that nothing would exist.

Thanks

The team cannot express how thankful we are for the compassion and kindness the staff and patients have shown us. Without them, none of this would be possible. They’ve taught us so much through the way they’ve acted around us. And a bit more of a specific, focused beam of thankfulness goes out to Anne McCormick. She has consistently guided us through our afternoons and has been so willing to help and talk with us. I have met very few people in my life who are willing to commit so much of their lives and time to helping others. She and her husband are astounding examples of how to be a blessing to the world. The amount of work they put into creating opportunities for patients to be entertained through their trials is inspiring, and they’ve inspired me and my team to be better people. I could not stress enough how amazing of a place this is. If you’re in Battambang, you should most certainly volunteer here. I’m saying this from personal experience. You’ll learn lessons as long lasting as gold, and far more precious.

The photo above is a picture of Anne with Caleb’s YWAM team.