April 2018

Meet the Dunbars!

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NZCMS is proud to introduce our newly accepted Mission Partners Neill and Rebekah Dunbar, along with their children, Jonathan, Aaron and Emily. The Dunbars will be heading to Cambodia to serve the church through discipling and empowering the local believers.

After its brutal turbulent past during the Pol Pot regime, Cambodia has now begun to grow into a youthful nation, with over half the population under the age of 25. With a rapidly rising urban population and a high rate of development, this predominantly Buddhist nation is in desperate need of the Good News of Jesus.

Neill and Rebekah are answering the call to join the Church in Cambodia, where they will work in the field prepared by God for harvest. They are excited to see what God has in store for this beautiful country as they serve and disciple members of the developing church.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” – Luke 10:2

In a time where the NZCMS office and wider national family have been earnestly praying for more Mission Partners to be found and accepted, it is incredibly encouraging to see this year begin so well with various people hearing and answering the call of God. He is indeed calling his workers to the harvest field and they are answering! Praise the Lord!

Memory + Geography = Mission? – An update feature

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During lent our family was engaged in an unusual devotion. Not a devotional, but an act of devotion. Christ and his mission was certainly at the heart of it all, but rather than giving something up we took something on. And it ended up being much bigger than we ever imagined. This lent we were devoted to learning the flags of the world.

It all started when our six-year-old son William, decided to support the NZCMS Valentine’s appeal. Rather than taking the easy way out and washing the car so he could buy a $10 Bible for the Philippines, William was dead set on raising $200 for a sewing machine to help women in South Asia. $200 is a lot of money for a six-year-old boy to find. Even I was a little daunted!  

In our dining room, next to the NZCMS Mission Partner profiles, is a huge map of the world bordered by National flags. William was able to recognise about ten, so we decided that would form the basis of his fundraising efforts. He would then raise the money he needed by asking people to sponsor him for every flag he correctly identified on a Facebook live feed to be run on Easter Sunday. And so William’s ‘Flag-a-thon’ was born. This was a journey William drove himself. He asked us daily to practice flags with him and would also spend his own time going over the flags again and again. We started with an initial batch of around 50 flags and gradually began to add more and more in. Our final number of flags – some National, some Territories, some Protectorates – was a total of 216.

During the six weeks, we spent learning the flags William and I had some amazing conversations about the impact a sewing machine would have on the life of a woman and her family. I’m not sure it’s normal to talk about the intergenerational impact of empowering women, female social status in Islam, or the radical Christian idea that men and women are created to be complementary and equal with a boy still in his first years at primary school, but these are some of the places this journey took us.

Why this interest in mission from a boy who is usually talking non-stop about Pokémon, Beyblades and Fantastic Mr Fox? Well, we’re a family who keeps Mission Partners at the forefront of our prayer time. We aren’t as diligent as we’d like, but NZCMS Prayer Fuel is an important feature of our daily prayer. We summarise the prayer requests for our children, William and Amelia (4). They both know the names of our Mission Partners and where they’re serving. We’ve been fortunate to have some of them over for meals, to hear their stories and learn more about what God is doing through them overseas. So the driver for William’s fundraising was that constant awareness of who our Mission Partners were and how they were sharing the Good News of Jesus.

On the big day, Easter Sunday, William correctly identified 214 of 216 flags, raising a total of $2701.02. That’s not a typo. Two thousand, seven hundred and one dollar and two cents!

So what have we learned on this journey? Firstly, God is gracious and works through surprising people. People from all parts of our lives were inspired and encouraged by William’s heart for the women he wanted to help. Even people who don’t know Jesus got right behind his fundraising efforts. Secondly, God blesses those who labor for him. William worked hard and saw an amazing result (Proverbs 14:23). We’re thankful for the way God has used William to teach us to trust Him more and to show how He abundantly blesses and inspires others for the work of the Gospel.

 

William and his family came into the NZCMS office to hand us the money he had raised in cash. Have a look at some of the photos of this visit below. 

 

 

Where gladness and hunger meet (Intermission – Issue 34)

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“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC)

My deep gladness and the world’s hunger

Several years ago a group of my friends chose to relocate our lives to a neighbourhood where the social fabric was wearing thin, with holes and tears in some places. After a year spent praying for the neighbourhood we discerned that the best way to ‘help’ was to move in and become part of the neighbourhood. Early on, one of our team shared this quote from Buechner at our team night. Over the years, a passion for sport led him to start a Sunday afternoon football club for neighbourhood kids and he began to coach local sports teams so that young people who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity could not only play sports but also receive mentoring and discipleship. A passion for education and the different people and cultures in our world led him to become a teacher aide and eventually a secondary school teacher specialising in geography. With others, he opened his home to students from refugee backgrounds who had nowhere else to go. None of it was easy for him. But he could have joy amongst the day-to-day struggles because he’d found the sweet spot where his own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.

When I first heard Buechner’s quote and tried to figure out what my deep gladness was, the first thing that came to mind was good food. I felt very unspiritual! Yet, when I think about my ministry in that neighbourhood, it was my love of food (making, eating and sharing it) that was foundational to meeting a deep hunger. No pun intended. God is in the business of satisfying the hungry with good things (Luke 1:53), and in opening our meal table we were able to join him in this task. Bellies were filled. But equally, loneliness and isolation were eased? and desire for connectedness and belonging satisfied.

In the early days, our family celebrations became opportunities to bring people from every part of our community together. Over food, friendships were formed between people who might never have otherwise met or only met in adversarial settings: migrants and former refugees, self-identified gangsters and ‘streeties’, religious leaders and social service providers, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, law-makers and activists. For that season our call to ‘go’ was actually to stay home and reclaim the kind of hospitality (literally “love of strangers”) described in the gospels (Mark 2:13-16; Luke 14:12-14, 19:1-10; Matt 25:35-36). In doing so we were privileged to experience the richness of God’s banquet table and to invite others to experience the goodness of God’s Kingdom.

When the going gets tough

Following God’s call is not always easy. It does not always include happiness, security or comfort (Matt 16:24-26). However, there are many things that help to sustain us in our call when life gets difficult. One aspect that offers sustenance is the joy to be found at the intersection of our passion and God’s mission. Straight out of university, I volunteered as a lawyer in South Asia to help rescue people from modern-day slavery. It was hard, gruelling work. The pursuit of truth and justice is part of my hardwiring so when freedom and justice for victims seemed elusive, living in the intersection of my passion and God’s mission helped sustain me as we waited for God’s kingdom to break through.

A few years later some of us started a social enterprise cafe that helped equip young people who weren’t in education, employment or training. I did the baking and helped mentor the young women. It was a different type of hospitality than that practised in the gospels, but one that had potential to provide economic and social justice for those who might otherwise get left behind. All twelve young people who completed their work experience with us successfully transitioned to paid employment and a few years later we can see the fruitfulness of the investment in many of their lives. It was physically exhausting and financially draining (we were only open a year and had some debt to pay back), but in the midst of a painful and challenging season, we knew that we were at the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.

How to find your call 

So how do we discern where God is calling us to? Buechner helpfully writes: “There are all different kinds of voices calling to you, all different kinds of work and the problem is finding out which is the voice of God, rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego or self-interest. By and large, a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to, is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do, and (b) that the world most needs to be done…

If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you have missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leprosy colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you are bored and depressed by it, the chances are you’ve not only bypassed (a) but you probably aren’t helping your patients much either…”

How kind it is of God to call us to serve His Kingdom in ways that are life-giving for us too. If you find yourself pouring out for the sake of God’s Kingdom but you feel heaviness, bitterness and the weight of your sacrifice and service overwhelming you, then perhaps you need to consider whether you’re serving where God has called you. Conversely, if you already love what you do but struggle to answer how it is advancing God’s mission, perhaps you need to re-think how you can meet the world’s deep hunger. God’s call always sends us to serve His Kingdom in the world (Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:18, 20:21). What we must learn to do well is to discern the intersection of our passion and God’s mission in every season of our life.

Questions to consider:

What do you think Buechner means by “deep gladness”? How is this different from happiness? What are the things that could be your deep gladness? Where could these meet the world’s deep hunger?

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.

Shadow and mission (Intermission – Issue 34)

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Guilt. That silent foe that can yell louder than any outside distraction. That internal voice screaming from within that diminishes any joy or life meant to be lived. I’m very conversant with this inner voice. Not so much in words, but in feelings. Not visible to others but always felt. Like a CD stuck on a scratch, jumping, repeating, and skipping over and over. Always heard, it becomes a familiar part of life. In the business, it may fade into the background but it’s always there, following me like a shadow. A guilt shadow.

I grew up as the child of both missionaries and ministers. Most of my childhood was exceptional. I have many wonderful memories and experiences that I find myself drawing from more and more as I grow older. However, like any child, my parents could not control everything in my life, and certainly not how I would interpret different events. Somewhere along the way, guilt crept into my soul. Like a subtle, dark shadow that followed my every move. Guilt for what I did and said. Guilt for what I didn’t do or say. Guilt for how I looked and what I wanted. As a primary aged child, guilt was my constant shadow, blocking the light.

On one level it could simply be due to my personality type and a deep conscience. However, in recent reflections, I have come to recognise it as a tool used so well by the “enemy of our soul”, paralysing me from hearing and following the call of God.

What does this have to do with mission?

For many years as a young adult, I wrestled with this shadow for not being a missionary or in Christian ministry. Instead, my husband and I lived in an idyllic, picturesque country town in South Canterbury. Sure, we were involved in our local church, but I felt guilty that it wasn’t ‘real ministry’. Every time I listened to a visiting missionary or watched something on TV about aid work overseas, the guilt shadow would cloud my vision, hindering me from seeing anything else. In hindsight, I realise I allowed it to be my reason for avoiding God. After all, how could God call me when I was so full of guilt?

Sometime in the midst of this, I read the following passage:

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us (1 John 3.19-22).”

The context of this passage is the assurance of salvation as evidenced by our actions of love for each other. This was truly living water for my parched soul. Although my own heart condemned me, I realised that God was greater than any guilt, or false conscience. God alone knew the depths of my heart and my desire to live in love for Him and for others. God also knew that for so long, this desire had been overshadowed by the guilt shadow. 

What you see when the shadow fades

I began to see that the guilt for not doing things in a certain way was actually hindering me from following God’s call to believe in Jesus and to love others. Guilt for not doing was preventing me from doing!

In the light of this truth, the guilt shadow gradually began to fade and my eyes began to see. Loving my husband and teaching my children was ministry. Taking soup and flowers to the new Mum who moved into town was mission. My heart sang when I saw light in my friend’s eyes as we talked about the grace and love of God she had found. I began to sense the smile of God as I helped to clean when a family was moving house or agreed to look after a child while their Mother went to an appointment. The more I spent time with God, and read the Word, the more confidence I felt in the Spirit’s call on me to actively look for ways to show love to those around me.

How often do we sit in guilt for what we are not doing in Africa or Bosnia, when we do not even know the name of our next door neighbour? How often do we forget to see the love and care for the elderly and the sick in our communities as mission and ministry just as equal to working in the slums of Kolkata if God has called us to it? The Spirit whom Christ gave us is the One who calls us to where God’s love can shine the brightest through us! For some, that will be with war victims in Syria. For others, it is with the lonely widow next door or the special needs child at your son’s school. Perhaps the lowest caste of Bangladesh is where the Spirit calls you. Or maybe it is to the professional woman at work who looks immaculate but is eaten alive by regret. The road worker on your street whose son committed suicide last year. The 90-year-old, loyal church attendee who is afraid of death. The enemy revels in believers who stay trapped by the guilt shadow to live a pale, dim version of who they are created to be. But no matter who or where we are, living out the love of Christ is what we’re all called to do.

So I invite you: acknowledge and repent of living under the guilt shadow and remaining paralysed. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes to live in love, whether that’s in your street or on the other side of the world. Wherever you are, if you are living in the love of the Spirit, you can be confident you are living in God’s Mission.  

Questions to consider 

In what area of your life do you feel paralysed by guilt? Ask God to reveal any lies you’ve believed and replace them with the light of his truth.

What opportunities are available for you to reveal the love of God? Ask God to highlight a person or situation to 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.