July 2016

A good start to the school year

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Praise God for a very joyful staff and children’s opening dedication for this school year. We had a lot of people attend which was unexpected but the food covered everyone … but only just!

The Bible College and the classes for the deaf have now swapped places. The Bible College is very happy in their ‘new’ facility upstairs in the building for disabled. And the disabled children are much better downstairs in the auditorium! A local Christian family gave our 24 children in our orphanage a new school bag each – a very generous gift that has been greatly appreciated! And after some weeks of preparation, the Bible College students went out to a local barrio where there is no church. As a result, 90 children were led to Jesus! One of our pastors has a real desire to build up these clubs, eventually opening Bible studies for parents so the clubs can grow into actual churches.

Please pray for the government program to get rid of drug lords and criminals… and safety for our new tough talking President! A couple of weeks ago the Philippines inaugurated a new president who is very different. He talks really tough… but he means what he says, and after 20 years as mayor of a difficult city in the past it’s now a beautiful and peaceful city. So we know he can do it. He hates drugs and promised that in six months he will get rid of all drug lords and pushers. Recently he publicly named five Police Generals who were coddling drug lords and publicly dismissed them from their positions. (He had already warned them). The prison will be a future target as there are some ‘prisoners’ with shabu laboratories in there! One in five barrios struggles with drug problems. He wants to bring the communist and other longtime insurgency groups to the table and he has a few in government positions already. But, if you don’t work you are out! The general feeling is a buzz of great anticipation! Everyone is listening and reading the news everyday… or else you might miss out on something!

Your Real Christian Life

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Have you ever found yourself thinking like this: that after the next big step you’re real Christian life will start? You’ve had some great one-off experiences, say a short-term mission trip or some amazing conferences. You know there’s so much more to be living for, that there’s a life available in God that is truly amazing. But you just have to get through the next stage – finish your degree, build up capital to buy a house, get married… It’s easy to keep pushing that ‘real Christian life’ into the future as we wait for a time where we’re suddenly change into the people we dream we could be, but that’s just not how following Jesus works! This is it! The life we’re living now will determine how we’re living in 5, 10, 20 years.

In the video above, Bishop Justin Duckworth challenges us to learn to live for God now, rather than waiting for some mystical time when things suddenly fall into place for us.

#NZCMS will be on pause this month while Jon and Kirstin are travelling overseas.


#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!) 

Opportunity in Cambodia

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The New Hope School in Battambang, Cambodia, is looking for volunteers from all over the world to teach students English and Scripture as well as expose students to different teaching methods. You’ll also be helping with Sunday services. This can be either a part or full time position, and basic accommodation is available on site. The person would need to pay a small contribution towards food and utilities.

New Hope is a Christian school that provides education for underprivileged students by teaching English and Khmer languages, moral values and various vocational skills. By teaching general knowledge and vocational skills, they believe education can change people for the better and offer them a brighter future.

For more information please contact Mr Outh Sarith on outhsarith@gmail.com


Churches and Canyons

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This past month six people were baptised at church, we visited some amazing canyons in Albania, and Féy had a quick trip to Gloucester. We’re currently away in Macedonia for our annual Prayer Days. This year two new ECM families in Bulgaria will be joining us for the first time. Our Prayer Days are a time to be refreshed in the Word , to worship together, and also to share and pray together with one another. There will be 13 adults in our group, and then 15 children and three children’s workers in the kids & teens groups.

Just over a week ago our church held a baptism service, and six people were baptised. They were an interesting group of people: an ex-prisoner & drug addict, three family members of a prisoner, a solo mum and a teenager. It was a joy to celebrate with them, so please join with us in praying for them all.

All but one of the discipleship groups that started up in the New Year have continued, however now that summer is here (the temp has been between 34°-38° this week), it is harder for people to be motivated to meet regularly.

A couple of weeks ago we went with some church members to a town called Poliçan to join in the celebrations of the church’s 20th anniversary. While there we realised we were in a beautiful part of Albania that we had not been to before. We then had the opportunity to go back later that week with some church members who grew up in that area to explore the amazing canyons.

A couple of weeks ago Féy went to Gloucester in the UK for the ECM International Leadership Meetings, which she found very stimulating and encouraging.

Please pray for

The six people who were baptised The discipleship groups over summer Our Prayer Days this week For safe travel to Bulgaria between the July 9 – 13

Memories become reality

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As we approached New Zealand six months ago, the plane banked and we looked down at the golden white Farewell Spit fingering the brilliant blue sea, and the green North Island coast stretched starkly around the Bight up to the white mountain. The sea and sky merged in a seamless backdrop which gave the otherworldly appearance that the land was floating in mid-air. Our daughter, having few (if any) memories of New Zealand, asked: “Is this country in the sky?” When your norm is an Asian megacity, it might as well be.

Nevertheless our kids were very excited to return to Asia. As we flew in to land last week, the same daughter eagerly looked out at the warehouses, fields and packed-in red roofs. “Is this Asia?” she asked. “But where are the malls?” Ah, so THAT’s her primary memory! At any rate, it’s heartening to know they are so fond of the place. Meanwhile, my chest tightened as I saw the smudges of smoke rising from piles of rubbish every hundred metres or so. We know the rubbish smoke was one of our big stressors in our last term, and here we are, willingly returning to the dirty milieu.

From the moment of touchdown, and in spite of already being awake 18 hours straight, the girls nagged us about visiting their old friends. We managed to put them off for two days, long enough for us to recover from heat stroke and jet lag, before visiting our old home (still empty) in the slum. The kids made an enthusiastic reunion with their friends, but quickly realised that something had changed. After a couple of minutes, one of them came to us and asked: “How do you say: ‘I don’t understand?’” After establishing that they couldn’t exchange their news, the kids resorted to running games. Their language will return soon enough.

You may have heard us tell the story of the elderly woman who broke her leg and hip after a motorbike ran into her (she was walking by the side of the road). The driver apologised and gave her about $100 to visit the hospital, but it never really set properly and she was still confined to her bed and suffering hip pain for months afterwards. Adding to her trial was her shack: the worst we know of. Its roof was old billboards and torn tarpaulins that blew open in the wind and was hopeless in the rain, and the plywood walls were little better. We had employed her daughter and son-in-law for odd jobs to contribute to a roof upgrade. Her 8-year-old grandson is a good friend of our girls.

During a skype call from New Zealand we were delighted to learn that the family had finally raised enough money to replace their shack roof with solid sheets of asbestos cement, so at least she could stay dry during the rainy season.

She recovered enough to limp about with the help of a stick. Then disaster struck again. She was picked up by police for begging in the wrong place: and the 80-year-old cripple was clapped in jail for three weeks. She returned home with terrible diarrhoea, and died of dehydration a week later, three days before our visit. “If only you had been here,” said her grieving daughter, “we could have taken her to hospital. As it was, we just had medicine from the corner stalls.”

Six months away and the senseless plight of the poor had almost become a memory, a useful fable for illustrative purposes. On our return it took just minutes for the injustice to become real enough again.

The Hospital

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The following is a blog written by Beth Goodwin who volunteered with Anne McCormick in Cambodia for a month. Here she shares her reflections from her time with Anne. The original blog can be read here (and includes many more photos).

The World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang – this is where I’ve been for most of the last month [ending in April], helping Anne McCormick with her activities programme. It’s a lovely hospital, with restful greenery and bougainvillaea gardens. There are two big wards of about 32 beds each, one for men, one for women and children. Then an infection ward, and ICU, plus a few rooms for private patients. The main cases that come here are amputees and broken bones. Cambodia still struggles with unexploded landmines, so there are more amputees. It wasn’t too gory, mostly things were nicely bandaged up.

It’s a Japanese funded hospital (Handa Foundation) – though minimally. There are a few expat staff in there, which apparently means fewer mis-diagnoses, because their qualifications were most probably a lot more in-depth, their degrees earned not purchased. Cambodia is still suffering significantly from the Pol Pot regime, and education has a long way still to go.

Nurses didn’t seem to have much to do! Surprisingly. Same as restaurant staff. How do we find so much to do in New Zealand. Surely there are the same tasks? Nurses here were usually congregated at the end of the ward, on their phones. They blocked facebook on staff wifi for obvious reasons. But the ward was clean, wounds dressed, nobody died last month (I think). Maybe there’s less paperwork and peer pressure. They get US$1 an hour. Rent is upwards from about $50 per month as far as I can tell. I find myself thinking, well, if you’re in a DINK situation, that’s just enough for eating, maybe, you can survive. But then, all it takes is one emergency, a broken leg, a stolen motorcycle/bicycle, a funeral or wedding. What then? Not to mention kids at school, needing clothes etc. It’s tough.

Every patient at the hospital had a family member or a friend there 24/7 to help them with bathroom tasks, food etc. Its tough on the family member if they had to stop work! They sleep on the floor by the patients’ beds, but apparently they’d mostly sleep on a mat on the floor at home anyway, so its no different.

Anthony & Anne – so lovely to stay with a kiwi couple. They have been so kind, helping me with how to get around, lots of lifts, some ice-creams, and the loan of some useful items like a kettle and chilly bin to help when I moved into a guesthouse in town. Thank you both.

Anthony’s role there has been to start a Social Work department. This has had challenges, since social work isn’t really a ‘thing’ in Cambodia. It is now! I don’t know too much about what’s involved, but it’s such a helpful and necessary gap being filled! He’s been training up a fantastic team, who have benefited from all his NZ Social work training and experience. The department is practically running itself now, which is a huge achievement. It’s the funny role of most mission work – to make yourself redundant. I’ve so enjoyed Anthony’s humour, good sense, cheeky grin, and strong faith.

I’ve spent most of the time with Anne with her activities program at the hospital. I’m so impressed that she’s built it up so much over the years. There’s now a room with cupboards, heaps of books and resources, and one paid staff member to help. A few years ago, it had no walls even. I can’t imagine it with no aircon, and no cupboards to lock, trolleys to push etc. Thanks to all overseas suppliers and fundraisers of good things.

Anne is a librarian by trade, so unsurprisingly, everything works highly efficiently, and is well-categorised, numbered and labelled. She used to lend the books out for a few days at a time, but found many were going missing, hence the trolley system. It takes 1-1.5 hours to take the books round in the morning, let them choose, write down the number. They are collected after 4pm. Patients definitely perk up when the books and puzzles trolleys come round. We do games in the afternoons 1-3 times a week.

You might think it doesn’t sound like much, taking round books and puzzles. From a western perspective, maybe it seems unnecessary. But here, when there are no libraries and games are unaffordable, it’s a huge blessing to have these things to pass the time, get your thinking away from your pain, and also it helps bonding between patients and their family caregivers. It’s helping them to heal faster, I reckon. Plus, they get to know Anne and Sokhim, and often will share struggles. It’s easier talk to the ones with the books than the ones with the needles…

I would really have loved to get to know the patients more. There’s time to banter with them, ask them how the day’s going, how they enjoyed the book, what sort they’d like next, what they do for a job, how they broke their arm, the list goes on. I felt very restricted by the language barrier. I managed a few stock phrases by the end, but that’s not enough. If I do decide to stay overseas longterm, language is top priority – I didn’t realise just how vital it really is.

It was heartbreaking to see adults and children needing to be shown what a puzzle is, how you do it. They all loved them once they got going, but didn’t have the reflexes of looking for matching colours, straight edge pieces, and matching the puzzle to the picture. It’s just practice. Reminds me of me trying to play a computer game last year. My flatmates challenged me to ‘judge not’ without trying them. So I tried a few for the experience. They were fairly patient with me, but I could see the frustration – can’t she see, the score’s right there, so’s the map, so’s the treasure count or whatever, she’s going right into the danger zone! From my perspective, I found it took all my concentration to focus on one part of the screen, and try to walk and not to get eaten (which I never managed to avoid). I didn’t have the visual clues and trillions of hours of practice.

I began to wonder, all these things we take for granted like puzzles, are they all actually learning tools? Learning not only colour matching, and little pieces forming a whole picture, but even critical thinking. The thought processes of – what if I turn this round, will it fit? Critical thinking is hugely important in life (in my opinion), and I just started to wonder if it’s taught in more subtle ways than we think, like through puzzles, for instance.

Probably my favourite day was when we realised some of them were saying no to books because they couldn’t read. I am beginning to realise Anne has everything! She even has a box of pairs of cheap long-sighted glasses, which we brought out, and they were SO happy! The laughter and disbelief of suddenly being able to see clearly and read again! Their kids found it hilarious too, watching their mums suddenly sporting a pair of glasses.

My most terrifying day was the last day, when I played some viola to two of the wards. I really, really don’t enjoy playing solo to people. I’m a viola player for goodness sake, which is a group harmony instrument, gregarious even, enjoys safety in numbers. I don’t even like practicing when anyone’s in the house! I have learned to play with 4 pegs on my bridge to dampen the sound somewhat. BUT, I am here for reasons other than just what I feel like doing, and I thought it might be fun for them, you definitely don’t see violas every day here. So, I braced myself, and played some appalling renditions of Bach suites and Monti’s Czardas. Thankfully, I have no idea what they thought – language barriers have positive moments, too. Some of the kids enjoyed trying it afterwards.

We made paper! To buy more books, expand the activities for the patients, Anne has been making paper to sell, and to make into cards and books. The paper is made with a machine built by Mark Lander in Amberley, Christchurch (see http://marklander.org/hollander-beaters). It works like a dream, on paper, cloth, and natural fibres. After home attempts with substandard equipment in my childhood, I was so impressed at how Anne and Sokhim managed to easily do 50 large A3 sheets of beautiful paper in a day. Sure, the occasional one wrinkled, but by and large they were all beautiful!