August 2017

Learning to Breathe (Issue 32)

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By Jeremy Harris (Grace Collective Auckland)

Prayer is a beautiful thing. When we pray we’re participating in Jesus’ relationship with the Father through the Holy Spirit. We enter the Triune dance between Father, Son and Spirit of God through Jesus who is our Great High Priest, sitting at the right hand of the Father and making a way for humanity to come back to a relationship with God.

There’s so much going on in a conversation with God that we don’t always have the capacity to acknowledge it all at once, but I want to remind us of two elements in this transcendent and yet very grounded practice at the heart of our faith. Spirituality and mission are intrinsically connected, and for today’s cold, anxious and groaning world, the slowness, silence and solitude of the contemplative spiritual practices of the monastics is good news.

Resting in a busy world

I’m an anxious person. The first thought I have as I wake up is worry. I’m not alone in this. There’s a well-known and often ignored trend of growing mental illness in New Zealand. Ever increasing demands – whether financial, work related or self-imposed – are getting to the fabric of our hearts and damaging our souls. We have leaders who spread suspicion towards the most vulnerable in our world and anxiety about what refugees might do if we let them in. Meanwhile thousands displaced by war, violence and climate change are desperately anxious for a place to stay and food that’s regular. Anxious war-lords hoard wealth and fight for power at the expense of their own people, and single parents working three-jobs worry about what will happen to their kids if they can’t keep living off adrenaline from one thing to the next. The world is oftentimes an anxious place.

When I wake up, I’m often cold now days too. I’m flatting in a kind of accidental community of friends in an old uninsulated villa in Central Auckland. But as with my anxiety, the cold is reflective of the world we live in. It’s a reminder of the experience of the homeless on Queen Street who are passed by and given the cold shoulder by the public. It’s a reminder of the empty seats on the bus next to each of us just so that we don’t have to talk to someone we don’t know. It’s a reminder of the concrete floors of garages that families inhabit, or the winter winds beginning to blow against vans of homeless families in South Auckland. It is reminiscent of the colder winters and conversely the hotter summers of climate change, and likewise the West’s ignorance of the rising sea on Pacific Islands.

And like most of you, when I wake up I’m groaning – particularly on Mondays. But unlike my superficial groan of “not todaaaay,” the earth we’re slowly eating away at is crying out from deep within its belly. Our fast paced, over-consumptive and unsustainable life-styles are slowly but surely causing the rocks to cry out how glorious God is… and how fallen we’ve become.

Our world is moving at a pace faster than ever before, the earth’s resources are being used quicker than it can sustain, and we’re drawing borders between ourselves more than ever – whether national borders, picket fences, gated communities or smart phones. The earth is crying out for a spirituality that warms it, that slows it, that gives it solace and rest. We’re in desperate need of rest for our souls. But even though the Creator of the universe took time away to pray when he took on flesh, we are continuing to live like we don’t need to.

But the gift of the monastic traditions is a spirituality that speaks missionally right to the heart of the human condition: it offers community, connection with God by the Spirit through Jesus and his Body, and provides a stillness and slowness that our ever-accelerating world craves like the groaning of the earth.

Learning to breathe

Mother Teresa said that breathing is to the body what prayer is to the soul. Bill McKibben, the author and climate activist, says that when he feels down, the only healing is action. They are both right. We need both spirituality and mission. It’s the ancient art of breathing. Monastic spirituality offers a vehicle for these two to come together.

Two days before any march, Martin Luther King Jr would gather with others to pray. When the Waihopai Three were on trial for getting in the way of government sanctioned violence, they made a camp in a Wellington park and prayed all night for their enemies and the victims of war. They were joined by street kids and security guards, who later returned without uniform to keep praying with the kids. Nuns have prayerfully broken into a nuclear weapons facility and literally beat weapons of war into ploughshares with hammers. John the Baptist retreated and ended up being followed by his community to receive baptism. And Jesus died on the cross crying the words of a Psalm, and through it saved the world.

Mission. Spirituality. They go hand in hand. And the world is crying out from deep within itself for a spirituality that spills out of church walls to offer healing.

Before I leave each morning I sit with a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and the Scriptures, and with a friend or by myself, I sit in silence and pray the Jesus Prayer. I follow the words of those gone before me, prayed around the world and throughout history. I’m sent out by God into the world to participate in his Missio Dei. My anxieties are more and more stilled by the Word of God, and my heart is strangely warmed by his presence.

The world is over-stimulated and over-entertained. We don’t need more parties to help us forget all that we have to do. We need more stillness in the presence of God, like those silent times looking into the eyes of a loved one, to find happiness and rest once again.

My prayer is that we rediscover the ancient art of breathing. Spirituality and mission are intrinsically connected, and for today’s cold, anxious, groaning world, the slowness, silence and solitude of the contemplative spiritual practices of the monastics is good news.

For discussion

How does the pace of today’s world affect you?

Have you typically been stronger when it comes to ‘breathing in’ (spirituality) or ‘breathing out’ (mission)? How might you create more of a balance between the two?

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.

Praying for the Hindu World

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With our current focus on prayer, we thought we’d remind you about the upcoming Hindu World prayer focus.

This year, the 15 days between October 8 – 22 is set aside to learn about and pray for our world’s over one billion Hindu neighbours. That time period also encompasses the significant Hindu Festival of Light (Diwali). A new annual Hindu World Prayer Guide is being produced to help Christians know how to pray for the people(s) growing up within this major and very diverse world religion.

Copies of the booklet can be ordered by emailing pray4hindus@missions.org.nz or you can print and send in this flyer.

Copies cost $8 a copy, with discounts for multiple copies.

For more information visit www.pray15days.org

Burning Down The House

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There’s two things I’ve sometimes struggled with here at NZCMS.

1) Despite having lived overseas for five years and an extensive amount of travel, I’ve never actually been on a ‘mission trip’

2) Although my role here is to encourage Link Churches to look after their Mission Partners, I don’t worship at a Link Church, so don’t have the practical experience that others do.

I’ve learned to embrace #1, taking the apparent weakness and turning it into a strength: Who better to encourage those who can’t get their heads around mission that someone passionate about mission that’s never been on even a short-term trip!?

As for #2, my church, St Augustine’s, is connected with a NZCMS Associate family. So when I heard that they were coming back on Leave and Home Service I muscled in on the planning at church. My big idea (which lots of Link Churches do so it’s nothing original) was an Asian themed dinner, since they’re based in Central Asia.

I googled the local cuisine. The names were unpronounceable and it seemed to involve a lot of fiddly work. Forget that! Maybe it’s enough to aim more generally at Asian cuisine? A helpful person at church suggested Green Thai Chicken curry, then I found a super easy Saagh Gohst (Lamb with spinach) in my crock pot book, and a Malaysian woman at church offered to make a vegetarian (non-spicy) salad as well as cook up the rice. Fruit salad and ice-cream followed with glutinous black rice pudding and coconut cream. Delish! After a huge shop, 10 borrowed crock pots and three rice cookers I felt I’d accomplished quite a bit, so much in fact that we attracted some unexpected visitors (see the image above).

 

Well the good news is that I did not burn down St Augustine’s – it’s still happily overlooking Christchurch. Even better, the administrator (Paula) got a huge tick of approval from the fire service on having a comprehensive fire plan (well done Paula!), and there was no call out fee (a huge relief to me). What had happened? Some (very slightly!) burnt onions managed to set off the fire alarm. But look at the pan – they are hardly burnt at all!

The dinner was a huge success. Nothing was burnt, no one got food poisoning, and despite feeding some hungry men there were even left overs. We had a few easy quiz questions, such as: Historically which of these has the least to do with NZCMS? A. Coventry Cathedral B. The Clapham Sect or C. The SPCA? (Do you know the answer?)

We watched a video showing some of the pastors overseas who have benefited from starting up micro enterprises under the guidance of this family. And we heard from them first-hand about their work, their country and about them as individuals. Rev Kevin summed it up beautifully at the end: They are just normal people like you and me. It just goes to show that you don’t have to be someone special to be called by God to work overseas in mission. God can use any of us.

The monetary extra takings from the meal were given to the family towards their support and everyone at my church learnt a lot more about mission.

So, that just goes to show how easy it is for anyone – for you – to make Mission Partners feel super special and we all get to have a great time learning about mission.

 

PS – the answer to that question is A. Coventry Cathedral. The Clapham Sect started up CMS in the UK, and then later set up the SPCA. 

Visits and Forest Fires

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Along with much of the Balkans, Albania is experiencing a heatwave, with the temperatures between 38 – 42°C. We don’t have air-conditioning, so we close our house up at 9am in the mornings, and open it again around 9pm once the temperature drops to below 30°C. Last night when we opened the house up, it filled with the smell of smoke from the forest fires. 

On a very different note, Refika and her husband Çlirim (pronounced Chleereem) moved from Berat (near Poliçan) to Tirana early this year, and now live within about 10 mins walk from our place. Refika has been a Christian for about five years, along with three of their four adult children. After they moved, Refika contacted a friend who goes to our church, and since then she has been a regular member of our church and has joined Féy’s Bible study group.

One day about six weeks ago, she and her husband were out walking and bumped into Bujar and Shkëndia (good friends from our church). They started to talk about Bujar and Murray’s weekly visits to Poliçan and Çlirim asked if he could go with them. Refika was mortified that he had asked, and thought he would just go to meet with his friends and drink raki.

We all encouraged Refika that it would be fine for Çlirim to go, if not just because he would get to know Bujar and Murray during the two hour drive each way.

Çlirim did meet up with his friends on that visit, but only for a short time, and then he joined the Bible study group in Poliçan. He is now a regular member of the team that goes to Poliçan and is learning about the Gospel and what it means to be a Christian! He is an avid reader, and diligently does his homework in preparation for each study, and he now regularly attends the weekly church services. It is obvious that God is working, and his family are amazed at what is happening in his life.

The visits to Poliçan have finished for the month of August, and will resume in September. Please pray for plans for the coming new ‘academic’ year.

 

Bob Glen

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Bob Glen passed away peacefully away peacefully on Saturday 19 August. His funeral will be held Monday 28 August at 11am at St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Henderson, Auckland. The following is a short tribute about Bob’s life. 

Bob came to know Christ as his Saviour and Lord through the ministry of Harvey Teulon and the Crusader movement, and while a student he attended the Bible Class on Sunday afternoons at St. Martin’s, Spreydon in the late forties and early fifties. He went on to have a Bible teaching ministry in Tanzania and New Zealand, after ordination and a curacy under Harry Thomson at Wooston in 1959.

From 1960-65 the Rev. Bob Glen served with NZCMS in the Diocese of Victoria Nyanza in Tanzania, under the leadership of Bishop Max Wiggins, also from Christchurch. After his marriage to Marian they were mainly at St Philip’s Theological College in Kongwa from 1965-73 with their children Mary, Jennifer and Robyn, where Bob was the Principal. Bob also compiled a Church History Atlas with a special focus on East Africa and wrote several Swahili textbooks for the same subject.

On returning to New Zealand the family lived in Christchurch, before moving to Henderson for Bob to teach at the Bible College of New Zealand (now Laidlaw College) from 1975 until retirement. While there Bob edited Mission & Moko, a book about missionary events in New Zealand. The Glens were at a theological college in Singapore from 1995-97.

Bob became an honorary life member in 2008, served on the NZCMS Council and was Vice President from 2002 – 2004.

The following excerpt from his End of Service letter from NZCMS in 1973 captures something of Bob’s character and personality: “Mr Glen will be especially remembered for the quality of his teaching, for his literary contributions to the Church in East Africa, for his love of orderliness and his care of properties, and for his sparkling wit and sound judgement.”

He passed away peacefully on Saturday 19 August with his family. His funeral will be held Monday 28 August at 11am at St Michael’s and All Angels Church, 425 Great North Road, Henderson, Auckland.

We’re all called to Pray (Issue 32)

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In the latest Intermission we’re looking at the link between mission and prayer. Below you’ll find the introduction – we’ll post the articles from the magazine over the next few weeks. To receive the Intermission in the post fill in this form or email office@nzcms.org.nz

A group of us on a mission school, frustrated at our own apathy, committed to getting up at 6 in the mornings to spend two hours in prayer. It lasted one morning. And even then, most of us fell back asleep within ten minutes.

A problem with teachings on prayer is that they can amp up the pressure we’re already feeling. We all know that prayer is important, and many (many!) of us feel we’re failing in this department. Yet I’ve seen it time and time again: people make resolutions to grow in prayer… but they’re often so incredibly idealistic and unrealistic that they’re doomed to fail.

We’re not wanting to burden you with more pressure, but instead show that it really is possible to grow in prayer – personal time with God, prayer with others, prayer for others. So at the outset we want to make this clear: don’t set unrealistic goals for yourself, because when you don’t measure up you’ll likely give up. If you feel God’s inviting you to become a prayer warrior and pray for two hours every morning, start off with 5 minutes. Once you’ve mastered that, increase it to 7 minutes. God is far more gracious with us than we’re often willing to be. Incremental steps in the right direction are far better than giant leaps that last one morning!

To help us all grow in this area, this Intermission explores prayer as it relates to mission from a variety of angles: How prayer can lead to discovering our calling in God. How prayer and mission fit together. How prayer relates to being a family-on-mission. How prayer is different through stages of life. We hope this inspires you as you pursue God in prayer.

Dreams of darkness

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Here’s a second update from a partner working in Asia. Out of respect for them and the people they work with, we have not included their name.

One night, God showed Aaiza in a dream the darkness that is all around her in her neighbourhood. “You will be a light in this place,” a voice says out of the blackness.

Aaiza, who I wrote about last week, continues to grow in faith and share with others. “You have seen the way Jesus has begun to heal your husband, so why do you not believe in him?” demands Aaiza to another lady. But many here are afraid to believe because of the potential repercussions within the community, even those who have seen healings or had dreams from God. Please pray for breakthrough in this area.

God also gave Hanna a dream. She walked into a room full of Muslim women from the neighbourhood, all sitting crossed legged on the floor, praying. One lady stood up and came over to Hanna. “Pray for us in the name of Jesus,” she requested.

“I don’t know how,” said Hanna.

“Please pray for us,” the lady begged again.

Hanna opened her mouth and suddenly the words came out. When she woke up, the pain in her leg was gone. Her husband noticed she was better, and when Hanna told him about her dream, he was amazed and intrigued. He hasn’t been supportive of Hanna’s faith so far. He still limits how much she’s able to participate, but thankfully he is happy for us to visit her, and for her to lead a group of women. We have been asking if he would like our male team mate to meet him, but he wasn’t interested. Then he met the teammate on the street and liked him, so now they are spending time together.

 

125 Years

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As you’ll see in this month’s Intermission, NZCMS deeply values prayer. In fact, we’ve been praying together for 125 years!

That’s right: on October 25 we’ll be celebrating our 125th birthday. Back in 1892 God’s Spirit was stirring something in our land. There was a restlessness, a sense that there was more for the people of God to step into, a sense that mission is much bigger than what we’d seen.

It was out of that space that NZCMS was born. Within 8 months of our founding we accepted our first missionary, Miss M L Pasley, for service in Japan. Della Hunter-Brown followed only two months later. Then in October, at the age of 66, Bishop Edward Stuart of Waiapu retired from his position and headed to Persia to serve for 16 years! By the end of the century, we’d sent seven missionaries overseas, and were supporting three working in NZ.

This rapid growth was birthed out of a movement of ‘ordinary believers’ who were committed to seeing the Gospel spread to all corners of the world. And no doubt, early on they recognised that prayer was the key to seeing this happen. It wasn’t long before 55 NZCMS branches were regularly meeting across the country to not only hear about mission, but to pray for God to be moving among the nations.

So as we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us over the past 125 years, let’s pause to remember that “We’re all called to pray.”

Leaving a legacy

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Earlier this year NZCMS produced a new booklet titled ‘Leaving a Legacy for God’s Kingdom – A Guide’. Talking about death can be seen as negative, but we all know that it’s inevitable and as Christians we know it’s not the end – it’s quite the opposite in fact!

Thanks to all our incredible supporters who participate in mission through prayer, time, finances and going, NZCMS is in a strong position. However, it’s hard not to notice the decline and challenges the Church in New Zealand is facing. We’ve been trying to imagine what things will be like beyond 2020, especially in light of declining church attendance and a growing dearth of deep discipleship. In addition there is a growing tendency amongst younger people to simply jump on a plane, scope out a country and dive into mission work. Where is the cross-cultural prep, the language training, solid financing, theological understanding, pastoral support, qualifications and maturity? What about support structures for when things go sour? And what about reentry and reintegrating when they come back home? The result is mission organisations going into decline, with some closing up shop in New Zealand and all around the world on the one hand. On the other hand, the other outcome is good intentions producing bad fruit, often hurting the very ones people have set out to help.

Legacy gifts are essential if we’re to see the future Church thriving in both local and global mission. They ensure the continuation of the work of NZCMS for future generations.

This is a crucial time for mission in all its fullness to be put at the forefront of what it means to follow Jesus.

Our ‘Leaving a Legacy’ brochure covers all your questions about what it means to leave a legacy to NZCMS: Why would I give? Who gives? Where does the money go? How do I make a gift in my will?

 

Download ‘Leaving a Legacy’ by clicking here. If you would like to receive a printed copy of this brochure please contact me by emailing heather@nzcms.org.nz or phone me on 03 377 2222 ext 3.

Shouting for joy

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Here’s a short update from a partner working in Asia. Out of respect for them and the people they work with, we have not included their name.

Aaiza’s husband was in a rage. He held her up against the wall and pressed a knife into her throat. Afterwards she realised she couldn’t speak – he had damaged her vocal cords. Four months later she was still mute. Then she had a dream, about one of our team mates who she had met once in church when she was registering for aid. She felt God was telling her to go see her. So she knocked on the door of the church and using her cellphone she wrote that she wanted to see the team mate. A group of women gathered to pray for Aaiza, and after about 20 minutes she was speaking and shouting!

Since then Aaiza has been following Jesus, making some serious commitments and has forgiven her husband. “My husband has been different since the war,” she says. Sadly this is true of many men.

Aaiza has been using her new voice to tell many people about Jesus and what he has done for her. “I was at the hospital yesterday and this lady was sitting next to me and told me how she was mute and then people prayed for her in Jesus’ name and she was healed,” another lady we know told us. “She told me some stories about him, and I told her that I already knew them,” she said.

Word is spreading! Please pray that many more will come to know the healing, love and forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus!