March 2017

Transformational Community (Issue 30)

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Ruby’s dad finally succumbed to cancer a few Saturdays ago. Her visa for our country was due for renewal just a few days later. So first thing Monday morning, fellow students took her to the visa office, explained the situation about her having to get back to her home country, and encouraged them to quickly renew the visa. In the meantime we also took her to the travel agent who, by 2pm, had booked her on a midnight flight. By 3pm the visa office had come through with an updated visa in record time. By 4pm other students were packing her bags. By 5pm she was on the bus with a fellow student for the 3 hour trip to the airport. On top of all this, they had also raised a serious amount of money to pay for her ticket home and to help with funeral expenses. That’s my definition of a loving, caring community.

My turn came a few days later when I pulled a tendon in my foot. For two weeks now students have been giving me daily massages to speed up the healing. They’ve been washing dishes, going to the market, buying meds, doing household chores, cooking food, doing regular visits. They even helped me get to an important meeting.

Two days before Christmas last year we received a photo from a graduate. He was dressed in a Santa suit (minus the beard), a half decorated Christmas tree standing beside him. He’d started a fellowship like the one he experienced with us, simply because he missed the community here. He told us he was planning to have the fellowship and related friends to his home for Christmas dinner – we were more than a little surprised to hear he was welcoming about 100 people from his newly formed community to the feast! Transformational community is something that grows and spreads.

A worthwhile cost?

Community costs, especially when it comes to time. It’s a cost everyone interested in community needs to take seriously – you simply can’t have transformational community without taking time to invest in that community! And it takes place in the ordinary ‘stuff of life.’ Community gets messy and we need to be ready to help with the seemingly less important things. One example would be teaching some guys simple hygiene – what do you do when you get a number people complaining of itching in various parts of their body and find out their bed sheets haven’t been washed for six months?! Many students also tell us about their ailments first and we have to direct them to the right medical attention. In two cases recently this meant being with the students in the operating theatre while they underwent minor surgery and also taking care of them afterwards.

When people ask us what our model for community is, we simply say the love of God. (What’s the formal model of community demonstrated in Acts 2: 40-47 or John 17:20-23?) When students graduate even the excess clothing they can’t take with them is left for the incoming students. Nothing is hidden; indeed all things are shared in common, especially the Father’s love. The end result is that many lives are transformed for eternity because they have not only discovered the healing power of God but the healing power of godly family. My prayer is that the wave of transformational community that has begun here will ultimately go out and transform the whole world.

For discussion

Have you ever been part of a deep community like this? If so, what was it like and what do you most remember? If not, what would such a community mean to you?

What would a step toward deeper community look like for you?

 

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.

The Show Down

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This article is a continuation of part 1 and part 2 of a series of posts by Tessa.

On Saturday morning my phone buzzed, early. “The Ministry of trade are coming on Monday.” Coming to make our councillors halt the alcohol ordinance. The snake show-down. I leapt out of bed with a rush of adrenaline. Good-bye sleep in, good-bye weekend.

“Real” Organizing

For the next 60 hours, I got to feel like a ‘real’ community organizer, constantly on the phone saying things like, “So Pastor, you are Councillor Simon’s friend? Think you can influence his vote on Monday?” and “how many people can you bring with you to the council hall?” The tactic was two fold. 1) Fill the the council hall with as many community members and prominent religious, cultural and political leaders as possible, and 2) create pressure on each of the councillors to use their vote to defend the ordinance. Those councillors got a lot of phone calls in the following 48 hours. Despite all the efforts, on Sunday night we were still nervous. There were still rumors of bribes floating around.

On Monday, Wakonye Kenwa members were the first ones there (pictured above).

By 10am on Monday morning, the council hall was absolutely packed. The mood was excited and defiant, as the clip on on national TV captured. Every time a prominent Acholi personality entered there were cheers and waving of placards. Our group had made our own signs, messages for the councillors like “Leaders, don’t back down” and messages targeted at NRM (the ruling party) based on their own slogans like”Wealth Creation” and “Productivity and Growth.” Others had written their own edgier ones. My favorite: “Ministry of Trouble, Indecency and Corruption” (instead of trade, industry and cooperatives).

The Debate

I was disappointed Amelia didn’t come in person. Her represent spoke at length, using as many long words as possible. His main point seemed to be “we are sailing in the same direction” but that Gulu needed to wait. He claimed Gulu was breaking Uganda’s agreement with the World Trade Organization (Technical Barriers to Trade, Articles 2 and 3), because Gulu was not giving ‘time’ for companies to adjust their packaging.

One after another, the councilors responded. They spoke about how important the ordinance was to Gulu District. They challenged the Ministry’s motivations for interfering, and why there was no need for Gulu to ‘wait,’ noting all the times the Ministry had blocked national efforts for alcohol law reform. My favorite response was a councilor smoking the Ministry’s WTO defense by pointing out that all of the sachet alcohol trade is within Uganda, not between countries (and therefore has nothing to do WTO agreements).

Acholi pride

A tipping point reached when Norbert Mao showed up, a much loved Acholi (regime opposition) politician of iconic-hero like proportions. Whose name makes him sound like some kind of epic Chinese dragon. A councillor moved a motion that a sample of sachet alcohol be presented to the Ministry’s representative ‘for tasting.’ The speaker emotionally declared that ‘normal procedures’ for a full council meeting would not be followed, and invited all the ‘VIPS’ to speak- Bishops, Shieks, traditional chiefs, and of course, Mao. They spoke about how Acholis had suffered for decades of war. Years of fear, violence and oppression led to heavy drinking patterns. Alcohol companies exploit this. The Ministry wants to protect these companies to maintain their profit at the expense of Acholi people. How dare these people from Kampala tell Gulu to get rid of their law? The debate took on new dimensions. This was a matter of Acholi pride, protection of Acholi people.

In the aftermath of that Monday, there was a collective sense of triumph and unity. While I’d questioned the Chairman (Owl’s) wisdom in allowing the meeting to take place, I believe it achieved something quite profound.

All the local media stations covered the story, and so did the national paper, The Daily Monitor. Norbert Mao wrote an opinion article featured in the Sunday monitor titled “Gulu trailblazing ordinance should be supported”One online media outlet even ran a piece about how the Speaker turned down millions of shillings of bribe money to protect the Ordinance. I took him a clipping and some photos. He was stoked. When a Ugandan politician is proud of turning down a bribe, that is something to celebrate.

Prayer during Ramadan

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The 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World is a prayer focus which coincides yearly with Ramadan (27 May – 25 June), an important month of fasting and religious observance for Muslims. Christians worldwide are called upon to make an intentional but respectful effort during that period to learn about, pray for and reach out to Muslim neighbours.

While Media sound bites about Islamic extremism can too easily incite anger, fear and even hatred towards Muslims, we seek to resist this temptation to generalise, and instead, resolve to respond and pray with the mind and heart of Christ.

Join the millions of Christians around the world who regularly participate in this largest ongoing international prayer focus on the Muslim world. A new full-colour prayer guide booklet—available in both adult and kids versions—is produced each year, and is a proven tool helping Christians to understand and to persistently pray for Muslim neighbours and nations.

Find out more and order copies of the prayer booklet at marn.org.nz

Towards Team-hood? (Issue 30)

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Here’s a little ad I just whipped up:

Cheap avocados. 50c bags of mangos. Hobbit-worthy grass-thatched dome housing. An orange flowering vine winding over the veranda. Living 100% off the grid. It’s the dream! The sun’s energy to charge your laptop and rain to provide water to hand-wash your clothes (which is very idyllic and not at all tedious). Whether you’re a teacher, a change-maker, a business person, a nurse, a mechanic or a theologian, there’s more at stake and more potential here than anything you’ve encountered before. God’s at work and there‘s plenty to do. So come join our little team!

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it would be like here in Gulu, Northern Uganda, if we were part of a mini-team with a shared purpose and common rhythms. My husband, Nick, and I have lived here now for over three years. Determined to connect locally, we dedicated our first five months to language learning and joined the closest Anglican church. We spent time sitting and listening. For our first year we stubbornly turned down invitations from other ‘non-nationals’ to socialize. After all, we came to befriend Ugandans, not Australians, right?

Around a year in, we found we deeply missed culturally-familiar conversations with similarly educated people and fellow Christians who were willing to pursue us, hold us accountable and challenge us. We sheepishly called the Australians back. Why couldn’t we find this amongst our many local friends, who we deeply love and respect? It’s a hard question to answer, but despite being surrounded by many caring local neighbours, we’ve often felt isolated, lonely and overwhelmed by the seemingly endless need around us and the challenges and frustrations of our work.

A month ago I sat in Gulu’s dusty, bustling bus park, carefully scanning the rows of passengers on each bus that swung in. Right on time, our friend emerged with his glorious kiwi-accent, wearing a marmite laden tramping pack. My sister arrived a week later, and another friend just in time for Christmas. Now, with five of us living in our little hut, we have a glimpse at what team-hood might be like here.

Since they’ve arrived I’ve been thinking even more about why doing life and mission as a team makes a lot of sense. Here’s my top five:

1. Becoming more available to neighbours

This Saturday morning our neighbour Lucy popped round to charge her phone with our solar and bring us a papaya from her tree. Our friend Opiyo dropped by to process some bad news: his carpentry teacher was killed in a car crash. After lunch a band of four kids arrived ready to read their story-books, answer a quiz on the content and exchange it for a new one. We want to be available to our neighbours, and we want to be part of our community. But with just the two of us, we can’t always handle so many visitors. Since our three friends arrived, if I have my hands full cooking dinner, or I’ve had a rough day, we don’t have to turn the kids away. There’s usually someone there with the energy to make someone welcome.

2. Life logistics

Without running water, washing machines, a stove top or a fridge, life takes a bit longer. Division of labour is not an overrated concept. We take turns cooking, and it’s just way more efficient. My sister and I wash the clothes, and the boys fetch the water from the borehole with a wheelbarrow. We all get to avoid our least favourite tasks!

3. Greater scope for creative re-charge time

Before we arrived in Uganda, Nick and I never, ever watched TV series. I’m too embarrassed to confess how many I’m now familiar with. As excellent as my personal favourites ‘the Wire’ and ‘the West Wing’ may be, we’ve definitely over-dosed. A combination of factors led to this trend. Often we’ve felt so exhausted by the work day, community interaction and domestic tasks to find the energy to do much else. Local friends don’t like to move around after dark so there are limited social opportunities. Since our visitors arrived, bringing with them new energy and creativity, we’ve spent more time singing, running, playing games and discussing life over long meals outside. Some forms of relaxing are just better for the soul.

4. Spiritual discipline

There’s this bit in Romans which reads: “I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another” (The Message, 7:15). I know I’m not healthy if I don’t regularly take time out to be quiet and listen to God. Yet I too frequently lack discipline to actually do it! I’d love to try group spiritual rhythms and times for prayer, whether it was something collective or an individual thing we all do at the same time. Other people can help us commit to ways of life that we’ve decided we want.

5. Common vision for a common location

A month ago I was part of a disastrous meeting. It felt like our community organizing group was irretrievably falling apart at the seams. I was low, confused. I came home to our temporary team. They were a sounding board, giving me perspective and hope. And sometimes, discussions lead to new ideas altogether. The other day my sister and I were thinking about what the early seeds of an organic woman’s rights movement would look like in Gulu, and we discussed the idea of starting a woman’s dance and discussion group. There’s something special about living with people with common visions for a common location. Frustrations get aired and discussed. Challenges collectively pondered. New creative ideas emerge.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking lately. It’s been a great, tumultuous, inspiring three years by ourselves. But there might be a whole other way of doing things round the bend. I’m sure it won’t be all rosy tinted, I’m sure living in a team would bring its own conflicts and challenges. But I’d love to try. And in case you’re wondering, I’m entirely serious about my opening ad. Get in touch.

Tessa & Nick are NZCMS Mission Partners in Uganda. Tessa heads up a Community Organising group that tackles various social issues in the broader community. For more from the Laings visit ugandapanda.com

For discussion

In what ways do you feel lonely, isolated and overwhelmed?

How could Tessa’s top five apply to your context? What points would you add to your list?

 

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.

Hope International School

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The Hope International School in Cambodia are currently looking to fill a number of positions starting in August this year.

The current needs are:

Secondary Principal Primary Principal Primary Teacher Secondary English Secondary Geography Teacher Librarian Guidance Counsellor Facilities Manager

For more details or to apply for any of these positions visit the school’s website by clicking here.

Remembering Stewart Entwistle

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Stewart Entwistle passed away early morning Sunday March 19. He was deeply loved by many, particularly within the NZCMS family. The following are some reflections on Stewart’s life from long time friend and fellow NZCMS Mission Partner Keith Mitchell:

Stewart qualified as a medical laboratory technician analysing samples sent in by doctors from all over Christchurch. As a committed Christian he used his gifts in a wide variety of areas of service, including managing the NZCMS Bookshop on Manchester Street from 1965 while their children were little.

He and Patricia went to South Asia in 1978 at a time when church leadership was more and more in the hands of locals. He worked closely with the Rt. Rev. Bashir Jiwan, the newly appointment Bishop of the region. Stewart was a wonderful help to the bishop as he fitted into his new role, giving advice in such a way that it was closely considered before decisions were made.

While the Entwistles were back in New Zealand from 1983 to 1989 Stewart managed a number of Christian bookshops in Christchurch. He and Patricia were then welcomed back to South Asia in 1989 where Stewart became the administrator at the Kunri Christian Hospital, again a post needing much tact as overseas doctors and nurses learned to work together with local colleagues.

When they returned to New Zealand in 1993, this time for good, Stewart worked very closely with Patricia to start the Te Waiora Healing Centre at Hororata, a place where many people find healing and renewal. Stewart also continued working closely with the NZCMS team over the 24 years since his return. He spent a bit of time in the NZCMS office going through missionary correspondence files to summarise, for the first time, the contribution individuals made to Christian outreach around the world.

 

The following are some additional comments from Steve Maina, the NZCMS National Director.

Stewart supported the staff team at NZCMS immensely, especially me in my role as National Director. He popped into the office regularly and had a few jokes about coming to catch a few of the ‘melons’ falling from the National Director’s many ideas. Stewart was also a walking encyclopaedia of NZCMS Mission Partners. He helped  manage the NZCMS archives. 

He will be remembered as a pillar of mission for NZCMS for many years to come.

 

At Stewart’s request a small private family funeral will be held.

Awards for Documentary

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We’re delighted to share that a short documentary film – put together by a relative of some Mission Partners – has won the award for best documentary and best editing in a Christian film festival. The film, which captures the day to day life of these Mission Partners living in a slum in Asia, has also won various other awards.

Though we’re unable to put the documentary on our website, if you contact the NZCMS office we can tell you how to access it. Please email office@nzcms.org.nz for more information.

Tethered to Christ, Tethered to Each Other (Issue 30)

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By Scottie Reeves

In Jesus we see this most powerful picture of inclusion. This man of immense integrity, character and holiness is always inviting those to the table we would never expect. The prostitutes, the thieves, the loan sharks and the violent extremists. At Christ’s table there’s room for Trump, room for refugees, room for beneficiaries and room for billionaires. There is room for you and room for me.

This is the reckless hospitality of Christ that whips up some more wine for a room full of wedding guests who were likely already inebriated. It’s the outrageousness that kneels down and washes the dusty feet of his disciples. It’s the controversy of a saviour who looks over the crowd immediately in front of him to call the short swindler down from a sycamore tree to eat with him.

In my experience of leading Blueprint, a church community of Millennials in the liberal heartland of Wellington City, I can tell you that my generation loves this radically welcoming Christ. He sits well alongside our near-religious fervour for tolerance at all costs. Our Jesus is shaped by a culture which says daily, ‘how dare you judge me!’ Yet we also follow a Christ who said in Matthew 16 that people weren’t really his disciples unless they left behind their families and began to carry their own instruments of death too. To sit at a table with Jesus was one thing, but to truly follow him meant abandoning family, reputation, career and security. Christ is consistently welcoming, but there is something quite exclusive about the way of Jesus too.

BELONGING AND COMMITMENT

When we talk about what it is to belong we must remember that our sense of belonging will always be equal to our commitment to one another. We belong truly with those who are tethered to us and whom we have tethered ourselves to. So while inclusive hospitality is deeply important, this alone will not build belonging or a dedicated community of disciples. Faith communities that provide constant encouragement and inclusion without a call to look beyond themselves will inevitably create consumers instead of disciples.

Alongside Blueprint’s usual Sunday services we run several community homes of hospitality filled with young adults. My wife Anna and I live in one of these houses on upper Cuba Street with five other young change-makers. Every Tuesday we hold a meal for anyone in Central Wellington who wants to join us. This is an experience of inclusive hospitality where anyone and everyone is welcome, from university students to those in the grip of addictions, from young professionals to those sleeping on the streets. Our guests describe this as a place of love, care, warmth and manaakitanga. There’s something special and profoundly Kingdom-of-God that happens around that enormous table each Tuesday night.

Yet what our guests don’t know is that the power of that hospitality comes from the fact that the seven hosts belong deeply together.

We’ve made unbreakable commitments such as daily prayer, proactive conflict resolution, mission to our neighbourhood and honesty with one another. Everyone is committed to being in our house for at least a year, and some of us are entering our third. When you know you’re still going to be living with someone in a few years it starts to seem silly to avoid the hard conversations.

KNOWN BY OUR LOVE

Jesus said that the world would know we belonged with him “by the love we have for one another” (John 13:35). Love doesn’t just grow in church services or life groups. It grows when we’re committed to one another, when we resolve to belong together even when we’re not sure we necessarily like each other anymore. The power of our dinner table is formed the other six days of the week in a community of people who have done the hard work to love one another sacrificially.

Sadly, if the commitments of our faith communities to one another aren’t deep then our inclusive hospitality is normally severely lacking too. We’re drawn in by the hospitality of God, but we’re formed by commitment to the community of faith we now belong in. As Christians we’re called to become a ‘set apart’ people (1 Peter 2:9), an exclusive people with exclusive commitments to one another and ways of living that stand as stark alternatives to the mindless consumption of the world around us. We are exclusively Christ’s, in order that we may be formed into a radically inclusive people whose dinner tables are always bulging, whose spare rooms are always full and who live out costly empathy, compassion, care and hospitality for all people.

And here’s the really interesting thing. As we’ve begun to pursue this deeper and ‘more exclusive’ way together over the past few years, we’ve seen more people come to know Christ for the first time than ever before. Maybe it is as Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Scottie and his wife head up Blueprint Church in Wellington. He’s an ordained Deacon in the Anglican Church, a Social Entrepreneur, and has previously worked with a nationwide creative arts trust.

For discussion

In what ways does Scottie’s example of the Blueprint house encourage and challenge you?

What would holding together high commitment and high belonging look like in your context?

 

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.

Today’s Humanitarian Crisis

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The worst humanitarian crisis the world has seen in decades is happening as we speak, yet amazingly it’s not being talked about. The United Nations warns that the world is facing its worst crisis since the end of World War II, with more than 20 million people on the brink of starvation and famine in four countries.

On Friday the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, called for an urgent mobilisation of funds to “avert a catastrophe” in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

“Otherwise, many people will predictably die from hunger, livelihoods will be lost and political gains that have been hardwon over the last few years will be reversed,” O’Brien said in his warning to the UN Security Council.

“Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. Children stunted and out of school. Livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost.”

“We stand at a critical point in our history,” he said. “Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death.”

“All four countries have one thing in common. Conflict,” he said. “This means that we, you, have the possibility to prevent and end further misery and suffering… It is all preventable. It is possible to avert this crisis, to avert these famines — to avert these looming human catastrophes.”

He called war-wracked Yemen “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” with two-thirds of the population, or 18.8 million people in need of assistance and more than seven million with no regular access to food.

With a situation as horrific as this it is hard to know how to respond – which makes this a great time for prayer! We encourage you to learn more about the crisis in these four nations in order to make your prayers informed.

For more about this crisis please click here.

The enforcement begins

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I woke up, wired, my head buzzing with questions. Would the police go ahead with the plan? Will the District send a big truck like they promised? Will we find the sachets of alcohol or have retailers hidden them too well? How will the shopkeepers react? If we do find sachets, will the District come through on their promise to give us somewhere to put them? In Gulu, no matter how much you try, a ‘plan’ is never really more than a series of vague uncoordinated questions. Fred, a key ally is already waiting at the police station at 7am, coolly sipping a mug of millet porridge. We are soon joined by Anthony, Boniface and Cristo, all revving to go.

After an hour and a half of milling around we spot the District Police Commander. “There’s an emergency, the operation will be delayed until its dealt with.” We watch as officers are loaded into an open-topped vehicle and speed off. The Police Commander, standing near us, demands updates on his cell phone “Is he dead? Where are the suspects?” A mob were lynching two suspected motorcycle thieves. By the time the police arrived (an hour late), they had been burnt to death. Officers returned and joined our circle, cheerfully one-upping one another on the most horrific lynchings they had seen, the details of which I shall spare you. I politely declined viewing a cell phone snap of this mornings victims. More time passed. 10am came and went. With plenty of phone calls from our team, we managed to get the District truck sent with a driver to wait on standby, and made sure the police vehicles had fuel.

Then suddenly, my mouth still full of chapatti, we were all go. Officers piled into police vans, last second confusion and changes of targets. My convoy hit up the wholesale street in the centre of town. While I’m used to seeing police operations on my teenage favourite “The Bill’ or more recently the infinitely superior “The Wire,” this operation resembled toddlers playing tag in the dark. The District Police Commander soon became completely redundant as operation commander when he got into what turned out to be an hour long dispute with a shopkeeper.

Most of the police considered themselves above lifting boxes and loading them into the truck. They had no plan for how the loading should take place. We lifted boxes ourselves, and hired some young guys on the spot.

While most of the shop keepers responded calmly, one retailer was furious. He had 30 boxes of sachets confiscated, worth millions of Ugandan shillings. He leapt on the truck and tried to throw his boxes back. The drama attracted a crowd.

By 2:30pm, the mission was complete. Between the two sites targeted, 307 boxes of sachets were impounded. That’s around 44000 sachets. Despite our hassling, a storeroom had still not been identified. I had to check several major hotels to find the District Chairperson at one of two meetings he was supposedly attending, accompany him back to the District Headquarters, find the storekeeper, accompany the storekeeper to find an appropriate store, and ring the truck to come. An hour of lifting heavy smelly boxes in the sun later.

Boom. First operation, done.

It was reported in the national papers…even if they got the numbers wrong:

Daily monitor report “police confiscate 150 cartons of sachet waragi”