February 2017

Celebrations and Retreats

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To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Europe the Evangelical churches in my area have organised a series of events throughout this year. It was a joy to be at the first of these events and to see churches around the region coming together to celebrate.

Our church had a women’s retreat early February. I was asked to share a small refection from the Bible. It’ll was my first time sharing in Spanish with the Church Women – exciting but a little nerve wracking too!

Fervent Prayer It’s clear here that prayer is key in seeing any church planting work spring up and community transformation take place. Recently a group of us have begun investigating how we can pray in a more informed way for our region through prayer and historical research. I’m part of a group which meets weekly to prayer walk around a particular suburb of the city. It’s one of the highlights of my week to be learning with these women and to encourage one another to be persistent pray-ers.

Please be praying for more people to catch this vision for prayer and for others to join our small prayer and research group. Also pray for God to be working in the hearts of my non believing friends, making them curious and soft towards him. And give thanks for the Reformation celebrations the year and for the churches in this region who are meeting together during the year.

I keep being thankful to God for your prayer and support in other ways. Thank you!

We’re All Called to Pray (Issue 29)

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We’re all called to pray. This statement appears in the middle of the five missional postures discussed in this Intermission. But I wonder if it should be in the middle. I wonder if praying is where we ought to begin. Or is the middle exactly where it should be – central to everything else?

In John 15:5 Jesus states “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” I wonder if we sometimes become so fixated on working for ‘fruit ’ that we forget that the fruit is ultimately born of relationship – a natural outcome of the ‘remaining.’

For me ‘remaining’ is always the initiative of God; God’s Spirit touches our spirits and we respond. In this way our relationship was born and in this way it is sustained – Spirit to spirit and spirit to Spirit. When we remain in this relationship with God who comes to us as Love, we find ourselves knowing more of who God is, what delights God and how God works. Our love and appreciation for God grows. This is prayer.

EXPANDING OUR VISION

In the nature of love, those things that matter to God increasingly matter to us. Stirred by Love, we see God all around and seek to become more aware. Our vision is stretched by God’s limitless vision that reaches far beyond our own small world until it includes places we haven’t visited, people we don’t know. The burdens of others, our brothers and sisters who share the same Father, are now our burden. Their poverty and oppression and struggles affect us and we cry out to our Father on their behalf.

Sometimes we need words as we struggle to find God in the situation. At other times our prayers may be only a silent ‘Amen’ to God’s ever-loving intention. Our prayers may result in a call to action: a call to fasting, a call to go. Always our prayers will result in a call to share with others the wonder of how much God cares so that their eyes too may be opened, their faith grown and their hearts also turned to praise and glorify God. These are fruits of ‘remaining.’

REMAINING BUT LOOKING EVER OUTWARD

As Christians we’re all called to be members of the vast ‘community of mission service.’ As members of this community we’re all called to pray. The fruit of this prayer is always an expanding love and compassion for others which reaches far beyond our own small corner of creation. In the cycle of God’s never-ending economy of grace, our joy in seeing the fruits of prayer in the lives of people brought into the light grows our faith, and turns us in joy back to the One who began it all, our God of Love.

Thus from remaining to fruits and from fruits to remaining – remaining in a God whom we follow out into a world beyond ourselves.

We’re all called to pray for God’s whole world.

Along with her husband Gerald, Maureen was a missionary in Nepal and then a NZCMS Mission Partner in Cambodia. They have now settled in Dunedin where, among other things, they help run the local NZCMS branch.

 

For discussion How has your ‘remaining’ – your personal time with God – grown your heart for God’s whole world?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to praying?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Boomerang to PNG

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I feel a bit like a boomerang sometimes. Since I ‘officially’ returned from Papua New Guinea, I’ve already had the opportunity for a couple of short trips back for translation-related work and another such visit is currently looming. On Saturday, I will head back to Alotau for three weeks to help with the checking of translated scriptures in two different languages. I’m conscious that I’m a bit rusty in that activity these days, but both the languages I’ll be working with are ones I have checked before, which helps a bit.

For the first week there (27 Feb – 3 March) I’ll be checking some Old Testament portions in the Kaninuwa language, spoken on Goodenough Island. Kaninuwa were part of the VITAL multi-language programme with which I was involved for several years, so I already know the translators and it will be really good to see them again.

For the two weeks after that, I’ll have the privilege of checking the last few epistles in the Gumuwana New Testament. Gumawana is spoken on the tiny and remote Amphlett Islands, by fewer than 400 people. Clif, the SIL advisor who works alongside them, has had to be US-based for the last several years, making twice-yearly trips to PNG, so progress on the New Testament has inevitably been slowed, but the end is now in sight. I have checked with Clif and his team twice before and learnt a lot myself in the process, so I am really glad to be able to be in on the ‘home straight’ with them as well!

A huge fringe benefit of this trip is of course that I will get to spend three weeks sharing a flat in Alotau with my friend and longtime teammate, Marisa. We are both looking forward to having plenty of time to catch up with one another.

I’d love to be able to cross paths with Margaret Poynton too, as it’s looking like we both may be briefly in Port Moresby at the same time over the last weekend of my stay.

I’d value your  prayers for this time away especially along the following lines:

That I’d be able relate well to the translators and checking assistants and that together we would find any areas where the translation might need to be improved. That the translators would be encouraged, and that the village folk who come to help with the checking would be blessed by this time of hearing and reading the scriptures in their languages. That I’d be able to be an encouragement to Marisa For all the travelling arrangements to proceed safely and smoothly

Samoan Kiwis in the Philippines

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We are in mourning: The Kiwi-Samoan team from Christchurch has left us! We all enjoyed the team, led by Watari Maina and Ropeta, so much. Even our neighbours knew somehow that we had visitors.

They took songs and testimony in every place and gave a three day session for our staff on Basic Counselling Skills with an easy to use model. They took six sessions with the children in the Home using a TREE as their model. The children all drew their own trees and wrote in all sorts of things about their lives, ending with their dreams for the future. The children are still talking about their trees!

Then on the last day the team gave a Tofa Soifua (Farewell dinner). Not only that, but afterwards they gave out gifts of appreciation that they had brought from NZ – including tapa cloth, fans and lollies. Now I know why the suitcases were so big! Our staff commented: “we have never received anything like this before!”

We’re All Called to Participate (Issue 29)

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Only about 10% of Kiwis go to church, and that number hasn’t changed in decades! The average church sees only about two (or less) people come to faith each year, and that’s while many others walk away from the faith. And importantly, up to 80% of Kiwis are beyond the reach of a Gospel witness – either they don’t know a committed Jesus-follower or their Christian friends haven’t shared the Gospel with them.

Why’s it like this? God doesn’t want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) – so it’s not because God doesn’t want people to know him. Perhaps the problem is closer to home – people can’t believe if they haven’t been told (Romans 10:14), and sharing isn’t just the role of ‘professional Christians.’ We’re all called to be ambassadors for God, yet maybe many of us think we’re the exception. But we’re all called to participate – God wants an army of ambassadors, not just a few Generals.

EVERYONE GETS TO PLAY It’s easy to see things as ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The professional preacher and us normals. The gifted leader and those who are led. The ‘missionary’ and the ‘supporters’ back home. ‘They’ are the ones with the calling; we’re here to watch or help out. But we all have a role to play, each and everyone one of us. Some roles may seem dramatic and exciting, others may seem small and insignificant, but every follower of Jesus has a place – think of 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. And importantly, from God’s perspective, no role is more important.

Think about that. The missionary in China or Abu Dhabi is just as important in God’s mission as the little-ol’-lady who enables community by serving tea after church. If they’re both doing what God’s called them to, if they’re contributing what they’re capable, then God values it equally! So let’s not act as if some of us are ‘more important’ than others.

“All God’s kids get to play.” John Wimber built a movement on this principle: ministry and mission is something for us all, not just the ‘professionals.’ And it’s important to stress that we get to, not have to. Too often appeals to get involved are all about turning up the pressure. We’re made to feel guilty that we don’t preach to our neighbours, that we don’t volunteer at a soup kitchen, that we don’t feel called to travel overseas.

But God isn’t so much pressuring us to do more, but is inviting us to be involved in something life-transforming. It’ll take us closer to God, unite us in our communities, give us meaning and purpose, not to mention the eternal rewards we’ll reap (Matthew 25:20-23, 31-40). No one is excluded from the fun and joy of mission, even if it may be challenging.

God is welcoming us all to participate, not with a stern look of frustration at how little we’ve done, but with the hopeful excitement of a loving Father who’s delighted to share his greatest joy and passion with his kids!

AN ILLUSTRATION What’s it look like when everyone’s following their call to participate? Perhaps each person simply feels equipped and ready to live missionally in their local contexts: their workplace, school, family, neighbourhood. But sometimes it means finding ways to participate together. After all, mission happens best in community.

Our church has been putting this into action with a ‘church open day.’ One Sunday a year, the seats are cleared out and replaced with bouncy castles, candyfloss machines, a sausage sizzle, face-painting stations, manicure tables, ministry promo stalls. People from the community venture in – it’s less threatening and more inviting than a typical church service. Maybe they’ll stop and listen to someone sharing a testimony from the front. Maybe they’ll get into a deep conversation with a church member. Maybe they’ll join a programme our church offers. Maybe they’ll just grab a coffee and then disappear – but even so, our prayer is their view of ‘church’ and ‘Christians’ is softening.

Why are these powerful events? Community creates synergy. You didn’t have to be the gifted Gospel preacher or the one sharing a testimony. Regardless of your gifting and strengths, you have a role. Everyone is essential, the preacher as much as the one keeping the toilets clean! It’s the combined effort, not the work of any key player, that created a platform for us to engage our neighbourhood.

Sometimes we get to all participate together like this, the synergy of our efforts accomplishing more than we could alone. And sometimes being called to participate is about remembering that God’s invitation to engage in mission is always open to us whenever and wherever we are. Missional engagement is possible for each and every one of us.

We’re all invited to participate with God in what he’s doing, wherever we are!

 

For discussion Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 together. How does this passage speak to our equal invitation to participate in God’s mission?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to participating?

Update from Andrew

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Though its a little late, I wanted to say Happy New Year! Wishing you a bright and hopeful entry into 2017. Thank you for your friendship and support. 

2016 was the toughest year ever for our family. As you know, my wife Debbie passed away in June in Ethiopia due to malaria and typhoid. This has been an indescribable loss for me and also for our five kids. We are getting on with our lives but she has left an enormous hole. Thank you all for your consolations, encouragements, thoughts and prayers. 

My health has improved, after contracting the same illnesses Debbie had, and I feel like I am almost back to normal. I still have to keep an eye on my blood pressure and heart rate but my weight has returned (still skinny though).

I’ve been musing  on the reformation of the church in this 500th anniversary year, focusing on the creative missional entrepreneurs who are reshaping the form of missions and church to impact the world. (Contact office@nzcms.org.nz for more.)

Your financial support helped us equip Europeans to reach out to refugees from Syria and beyond and bring God’s light to spiritual seekers in various festivals and gatherings. It also helped us to mentor African agriculturalists and social entrepreneurs in seven West African countries. 

In 2017, we plan to increase our efforts in Europe to respond to the refugee crisis, assist the formation of a training base in Europe, equip Christian leaders in at least 14 European countries, and offer training and teaching to churches and organisations in impacting the next generation. Your continued prayers and gifts will make this possible. Our support level is critically low at the moment and we really need your help.

Thank you for your partnership!

Waiting patiently

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I’ve been dwelling on Psalm 40 recently, “I waited patiently for the Lord…” One thing the Lord is teaching me at the moment is that his plans for me are better than mine. I’ve seen him continually provide for me and guide me in ways I would never have expected. This is a transitional season of my life, where I am only planning one semester at a time, and seeking to trust the Lord for the present and the future.

Study. I really enjoyed the last semester at Trinity. I got the top grade for all my courses — not that getting As in seminary is the most important thing, but that I learned more in and grew in studying preaching, early church history, Hosea and Anglican theology this semester. For this last course, I enjoyed writing a essay about Temple Gairdner, one of the first CMS missionaries in Egypt who was ahead of his time in his work with the majority religious group. This semester I’m studying Hebrew (it’s similar to Arabic!), ethics, Romans, and God the Son (systematic theology).

Uncommon Grounds. I’ve loved getting involved in this community café in a struggling neighbouring town. Set up by Church Army USA, they run lots of programmes for addicts, veterans, women, and are a place of welcome. I’ve committed to attending (and dishwashing!) at Church of the Margins, where anyone can sit at the table, eat, share from our lives about a different question each week and pray together. It’s always unexpected what happens and it’s a joy to be part of this ministry.

Arabic Bible study. I’ve continued to enjoy spending time with four families from Aleppo. I ambitiously decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner for them (more than 20 guests), and wonderfully a local store donated the food so I only had to learn how to source and cook a halal turkey! I had been praying about how to follow up on their interest in learning more about Jesus. God provided an Egyptian and an American man who both have Arabic fluent enough to lead the study and translate. Each 2 weeks, we listen to the Bible in Arabic, and together answer four questions: what does it tells us about God, what does it tell us about each other, what can we obey, and how can we share with others. Our last study was about the story of Cain and Abel, the first murder. It was powerful to hear these friends talk about the violence in Aleppo in relation to the “blood crying out from the land,” and the universality of the power of sin and violence. Please keep these families in your prayers.

Home life. In August, I moved in a wonderful new flat, located above the SAMS (the USA equivalent of CMS) headquarters and across the road from seminary. I’m living with Grace, a priest who arrived from Kenya to study. She is a great friend to laugh, cry, sing, dance, cook and pray with, and I’m so thankful for her. We’ve sought to make our home a place of hospitality — most recently a winter night gathering with poetry and banjo-uke singalong.

Summer and beyond. In July this year, I will co-lead a small group from seminary to learn from our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church in Egypt. I’m really excited to re-connect with friends there, and it may help with future discernment also. After this, my plans are open to where the Lord leads. I’m planning to write a thesis related to community development and the church, and I have a development professor from another seminary to supervise this.

New job at Anglican Missions

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Here’s a new job opportunity from our friends at the Anglican Mission Board.

Anglican Missions is a non-profit organisation that seeks to fund and support overseas missions on behalf of the Anglican church. An exciting opportunity has opened up for an Operations and Projects Officer, with the right skills and experience to contribute to our Board’s strategic directions and business plan, including a key focus on climate change.

We are looking for a person with strong leadership skills due to their responsibilities as second in command to the CEO.

Specific tasks include but are not limited to:

Designing, overseeing, implementing and reporting on the Board’s Strategic and Operational plans; Assist the CEO to design and manage the Board’s approach and response to natural disasters, particularly in the Pacific region; Prepare high quality project ‘packages’ and assist with securing project sponsorships; Look out for better ways to connect groups to projects overseas; Excellent and sensitive team builder.

Qualifications:

Project management experience – aid and development sector. Excellent interpersonal communication skills. Excellent written, verbal and listening skills. Excellent at building and connecting great rapport within a team. Superb attention to detail and organisational skills. Creative problem solving and flexibility.

Preferred but not required:

Knowledge about Anglican church ethos Knowledge about overseas missions

Please send a covering letter and CV to Metua Takairangi, Executive Assistant to the CEO at office@angmissions.org.nz  or  call  (04) 473 5172.  Our website is www.angmissions.org.nz

Will it work?

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As the rickety pickup rolled in on the narrow village track, I had two thoughts bumping around. One, the nerves and excitement of starting our second clinic. Did we bring all the equipment? Is our young nurse going to be OK? Is the door even going to be unlocked?

And Two. Who is OJ Maxswel?  The picture above is of the hut right next to the clinic.

Don’t worry, this blog is not about OJ Maxswel.

I try to be objective and use head over heart when selecting new clinic sites, but my heart has broken a bit for this place. Ocim needs a clinic, it really does. If you get sick there, even accessing bad quality health care is difficult. And the place is gorgeous. It’s the closest you’ll get to an idyllic village, with pigeon houses, traditional granaries, and decorated huts. Even in dry season I was captivated.

But my heart breaking doesn’t mean that the clinic is going to become sustainable. It’s a 6 month trial, to see whether the demand from the community will be enough to keep the place going. There’s a whole lot of reasons the thing should work. But there are almost as many why it won’t.

 

Why Ocim Outreach Clinic will work 1) When I assessed Ocim, I asked a bunch of locals how many hours it took to walk to the nearest health centre. I couldn’t get a number, but some people said “We leave to go there just after the sun rises, and we get back just before it sets” 2) It costs $5  for transport alone to access any medical care. Our clinic costs $2 at most 3) Reverend Ojok, the local Anglican minister is an publicity machine. On the way back from the clinic he taped 3 posters promoting the health centre on the walls of shops and talked to everyone he saw about it. Legend. 4) The community is proud of their new clinic. They want to make it work. 5) The clinic has got instant cred and trust by being  run by the Church of Uganda. Our nurse Naume is a Christian, and the community knows she’ll pray with them if they want that. 6) My heart says it will 7) Because “OJ Maxswel, king of the king” is there. What more do you need?

 

Why it won’t 1) People are very poor. Nearly everybody there is a subsistence farmer. One dollar for kids and two dollars for adults may not seem like much to be treated for serious diseases, but for Ocim, it still might be too much. 2) The population is relatively sparse compared to around other clinics 3) It’s not on a main road, or in trade hub. We’re using the only available iron roof building in the area. This means the clinic is not very public and visible, and we can only treat locals, not people who are passing through. 4) The day to day existence of a small clinic like this is fragile. One robbery, one fire, and one aberrant guy harassing our nurse and it could be enough to sink the ship. 5) My heart is often wrong

 

From huts within sight of the health centre, two mothers came with their kids while we were still unpacking the truck. Both had high fevers. One had malaria, and had a seizure in the morning. The other had a large skin infection on their right butt cheek. Both mothers had been trying to wait out their child’s illness, unable or unwilling to pay the large transport cost to the nearest health centre. Both if the kids will now be fine. That’s why we’re here.

And the second thing on my mind? Here he is, OJ Maxwell himself. “King of the King”.