June 2018

Diaspora mission (Intermission – Issue 35)

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“Dad, can I show you a simpler way of doing that?” my teenage daughter remarked. I like to problem solve issues with my electronic gadgets but as I get older, I’m realising that I’m not as tech savvy as I was when I was younger. My digitally native teenage daughters have become my tech consultants. The roles have reversed.

When I (and my family) first arrived in Christchurch nine years ago, I had an interesting conversation with my neighbour when he asked what I did. I said I was a missionary from Kenya. After the initial shock, our discussion centred on what a contemporary missionary looks like. It was all new to him.

My friend, Mark Oxbrow, tells the story of African missionaries who are using the JESUS film and Arabic New Testaments to take the Gospel into hundreds of Arab homes in the Middle East. There they are able to share the film with children and read the Bible with their mothers. Sadly, these maids will never appear in any statistics of foreign missionaries. They will probably attract little prayer or financial support from Western churches so concerned about reaching the unreached. Mark calls this “mission from below” or “Majority world mission”. Those who were traditionally recipients of missionary work are now carriers of the Gospel.

Missionary migration  

The twenty-first century is shaping up as a century of immigration. Globally, the number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly in recent years, reaching 258 million in 2017. Some of these migrants are missionaries.

The idea of God using migration to reach the nations with the Gospel is not new. God called Abraham to leave his homeland and go to a foreign land. God promised not only to bless Abraham but to bless the nations through him. In Acts we see the believers scattering due to persecution which led to the Gospel arriving in Africa! God has used “people on the move” as carriers of His Gospel to the corners of the earth and that includes Aotearoa. I personally have been recently meeting a number of people who told me God called them to come to New Zealand to share the gospel.

At NZCMS we’ve noticed what God is doing and have become more intentional in equipping churches in New Zealand to receive a diaspora missionary from the Majority World.

This idea of missionaries coming from places that previously were considered mission fields is what we are calling “diaspora mission”. I know the term is not necessarily the best one, but we use it because we want to help change the current narrative or paradigm that a missionary is one who comes from the ‘West to the Rest’, ‘The Powerful to the Less powerful’, ‘Wealthy to the Poor’ or any other sayings that are around!

You see, we need to radically revise our paradigm of who a missionary is in the contemporary, globalised world. A careful reading of mission history shows that the midwives of the Gospel over the decades have often been people in the margins rather than those at the centre of ecclesiastical power.

So why diaspora mission?

It’s about reciprocity and mutuality. As a product of the Western missionary movement, I am so grateful for those Kiwis who have served overseas, including in my country Kenya. But I think for far too long, mission has been a one-way street. It’s time to complete the circle. A reading of I Cor 12:21-22 from a global perspective affirms this idea and challenges us to consider how we can receive the gifts of the global Church.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”  

If the Lord is sending these “diaspora missionaries” here, are we willing to welcome them?

It could be like Joseph and Daniel of old where our ongoing prosperity as a nation spiritually, depends on how we welcome the strangers among us. As Jesus says, ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward Matt 10:42

We need their help

New Zealand has become a largely secular nation despite its deep Christian roots. Kiwis need to hear the Good News in fresh and relevant ways, and sometimes ‘outsiders’ can do this more effectively than those immersed in their own culture. Missional Christians from other cultures can also play an important role in encouraging Kiwi churches to get involved in mission, both locally and beyond our borders, and can help them become better skilled and more effective in cross-cultural ministry. Diaspora missionaries who come from multi-ethnic contexts can also help us develop strategies towards becoming an intercultural church.

Like Paul, many Christians from places like Africa and Asia have heard a ‘Macedonian call from the West’ (Acts 16:9), “Please come to help us.” The Gospel need in our own land is driving them to come as missionaries to our shores. But, is the Kiwi Church ready to recognise our own struggles, faults and failures, and are we open to being challenged and changed by new ideas, outside voices and fresh approaches?

A strategy towards embracing intercultural missions 

So if your Church would like to call a diaspora missionary, where do you start?

I see one of NZCMS’s main contributions as facilitating contact between diaspora missionaries and host churches – a bit like a dating agency really! We’ll receive requests from New Zealand churches and use our global networks to connect these churches with overseas people who have the skills, abilities and experience needed. We’ll also provide cross-cultural orientation for diaspora missionaries, pastoral care back-up, advice in crisis situations and prayer support, as well as help host churches with cultural issues to help them receive their diaspora missionaries. 

I’ll close with a quote from Kenneth Bailey. “The gospel is not safe in any culture without a witness within that culture from beyond itself ”.

Diaspora missionaries are not only workers who provide capacity for the Church to reach more people, but they also help identify some of the cultural and spiritual blind spots we may have.

Questions to consider

What do you notice about the faith of those from other cultures around you?

What do you notice about the blind spots in your culture that ‘strangers’ might be able to point out?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

Manaaki Mission Motivations: The Power of Hospitality (Intermission – Issue 35)

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What Aotearoa New Zealand’s bi-cultural journey can teach us about our mission among the nations.

Māori culture is a hospitality culture. We have a whakataukī (proverb), He tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu — If people abuse or disregard their guests, their marae will be dusty. There is a play on words here with reference to the marae. It could refer to the marae ātea, the public forum or open area in front of the wharenui (meeting house) where visitors are met in a pōwhiri (welcoming protocol), but it is more properly understood as a verb to mean being generous or hospitable. Their hospitality will be dusty. In other words, shameful.

Integrated Foundations

In order to understand something of the Māori perspective of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the intercultural responsibilities of each party to that covenant, we need to appreciate some of the kaupapa (foundational values) of te ao Māori (the way Māori view the world) and its resulting priorities.

Culture is a complex concept. For Māori, cultural values are deeply integrated with each other and inseparable, making it impossible to discuss one aspect without inferring its relationship with our entire way of understanding the world. A life essence permeates it all, connecting all things to each other. Christians must not dismiss this view as pagan, animist or pantheist. Those terms are just modern Western constructs. No, Christians should readily attest to the life essence of all things, rooted in the very story of creation itself, a result of the utterance of the Word (John 1:4) and reverberating with Christ, in whom all things hold together (Col 1:17).

To develop healthy intercultural relationships from and within Aotearoa New Zealand it is helpful to understand the genesis of our bicultural foundation. To understand our bicultural foundation we need to comprehend our covenantal obligations under the Tiriti o Waitangi. To comprehend the intention of Te Tiriti we need to appreciate how Māori view hospitality (marae). To appreciate the values of hospitality for Māori we need to grasp the underlying concept of manaaki. Grasping manaaki will also help us better work out our participation in God’s mission in this world since Christ is the ultimate manifestation of manaaki.

Reinforcing Mana 

Māori concepts have many shades of meaning depending on the context in which they are used. Manaaki is one such concept-word. The Māori Bible translates as manaaki Hebrew words like berakah and the Greek eulogia (both translated as “blessing” in English). In my doctoral research, manaaki was explained to me by Māori Christian research participants as, “to āki (encourage or lift up) the mana (esteem, respect, honour, life essence) of another”.

Mana is core to understanding mana|āki and it is grossly underappreciated in our common usage. We could argue that mana is one of a handful of reinforcing rods that run through the foundations of a Māori view of the world. To see mana as merely honour or respect is to treat it very superficially. We do not have sufficient space here to do justice to the complex spiritual roots beneath the surface that emerge as mana. Suffice it to say, it is deeply compatible with a Biblical view of reality being created by God’s Word and breath.

Mana is the evidence in a person of their life essence and spiritual virtues. Pākehā would call it a person’s psycho-emotional make-up, preferences, strengths, and talents. Mana is a person’s charisma in the spiritual sense—our divine grace. Mana is the manifest evidence of all these things at work through all that a person is and does in relationship with others. For Māori, and no doubt many other tribe-oriented societies, a person’s mana is recognised by their community and ascribed to the person by the community—you cannot claim it for yourself. You can do things that affect the community and lose mana and you can do things for the community and gain mana. The more mana you are recognised for, the higher standing you have in the community. Mana is therefore relational currency, and a highly prized and defended treasure it is at that.

A Platform For Many

And so we come to Te Tiriti. There is no doubt in my mind that our Māori forebears understood and signed Te Tiriti as an act of manaaki. As a relationship-forming protocol. They extended hospitality to the British Crown on a national level, viewing the signing of Te Tiriti in a similar way that a hongi (nose press) seals the relationship at a pōwhiri on a marae. Māori leaders elevated the mana of the British visitors by extending them hospitality, allowing all those represented by the authority of the Crown to come in and treat the land as their home (but without ownership, for that was largely a foreign concept to Māori at the time). The offer of co-residence came with full expectation that the new settlers would do so guided by the ethics of the tangatawhenua (people of the land), just as you would expect to do on a marae. The British clearly did not see things the same way and used their mana against the people of the land, thereby losing mana in the eyes of Māori.

Most of us are well aware of how the relationship went bad. My aim is to emphasize why the relationship was formed in the first place. It was an act of generosity and hospitality, NOT an act of surrender in the face of a greater power. In the creation of the (enduring) covenant we know as Te Tiriti o Waitangi we have an agreement between two peoples: the tangatawhenua and the British Crown. That is why we call the relationship a bi-cultural one, but this is actually inappropriate terminology because the British Crown represents many cultures. Even in 1840, when Te Tiriti was covenanted, the British Empire ‘represented’ the Australian, Canadian, Indian, East and Southern African, and some Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Island indigenous peoples. How much our Māori Chiefs understood about the reach of the British Empire we cannot know, but they knew Queen Victoria was the head of a very large, multi-cultural domain. Te Tiriti therefore included all who would come under the auspices and rule of that empire, as permitted by the Queen’s delegated authority here—the Government.

The Government of Aotearoa New Zealand now represents the Crown in extending permission for migrants to come and settle in our land. To an extent, this is the Government’s right under Te Tiriti. Te Tiriti allowed them to govern and hold rule of law over those entering the land on the basis of the hospitality of the Crown. Māori were to retain their own sovereignty and co-reside in the land with a rule of law compatible with the Crown’s. But we all know how that has worked out in reality to date.

A Foundation To Build On

Māori may have had our hospitality abused by the Government and its settlers but that does not dismiss the power of hospitality as a deeply spiritual discipline. Christ had His hospitality abused by Jewish powers and Roman law as He held out an invitation to enter His Kingdom. As the Father sent the Son, so we are sent into the world (John 18:18) to extend Kingdom hospitality to those willing to come in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to provide the very best manaaki you can to those seeking a place of peace where they can fully be who God has made them to be. This is our intercultural responsibility under Christ’s New Covenant. We must not let Jesus find our marae dusty. (Philippians 2:1-11)

Questions To Consider

How willing are you to extend hospitality to a stranger and open your home to them? What motivates you most when facing a stranger: fear of being abused, or the desire to esteem others in love, regardless of the potential cost? In what ways would mission ventures as we know them need to change for us to shift from condescension (imposing ourselves to give something we feel they lack) to mutuality (interdependent development)?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

The stories of those who come to us (Intermission – Issue 35)

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There is a need literally three metres outside the doors of our church. Every day hundreds of students walk past. So many have come so far to be here but they don’t seem to have anyone who cares about them. They fall into a world where there is only a lecture theatre, a shoebox apartment and the internet.

I’ve always admired how international students can take the risk (and expense) of leaving their home, family, friends and everything they know. They are young and come to better themselves in a place where everything is new and different – people, culture, food and even simply trying to communicate are all things they need to get used to and learn.

Sometimes the pressure can be intense. Tim, a successful Chinese honours student we know, was the only one from his village who had ever gone to university. Tim’s study cost so much and was so important that his father back home decided not to tell him he was dying of cancer. By the end of the year, it was too late and Tim’s father was gone.  The same thing happened for a dying brother of a young Iranian postgraduate student. I know an Indian student whose parents sold their house to get him here.

You get the idea of the sacrifices many make to be here in New Zealand. And you can begin to understand that there are cultures that think and do things differently to the way Kiwis do. In that difference, we can find the joy of intercultural engagement in Christ. I don’t believe Jesus is interested in us either conforming others to our image or living in our own separate worlds like marbles in a bag – in the same place but completely disconnected. I believe scripture affirms that while we are made distinctively within our own cultures, those worlds are made to overlap to the glory of God and the benefit of all.

The results of engagement

St Paul’s is a central city Auckland church, situated between two universities on one side and student accommodation blocks on the other. We tried not to overthink what we saw. We prayed and decided to find a day to open the doors of the church, invite people in and do a simple meal of soup and cheese toasties.

Our small volunteer leader’s group talked to others and the team grew. Six years after opening the doors, we have a leadership team of around 25 people from at least 8 different Auckland churches. On a normal Wednesday lunch, around 120 people come through the doors. People from China, Iran, India, Japan, Colombia, Chile, Indonesia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Russia gather to eat and meet informally. 

We always pray that we can make known the love of Jesus, whether it’s by making a sandwich, sharing a smile or letting someone know the good news. Over time, many have come into contact with a group who think Jesus is real and can be trusted in real life. Intercultural connection in Christ is not rarefied air for specialists. It is basic human kindness for those who are guests in our country. We help with CV’s, give people lifts, teach English and piano, go tramping and skiing. We make good friends. Sometimes it’s hard on the heart as most eventually return home. But some take a new faith in Jesus back with them!

Needless to say, we’ve had some pretty significant disappointments and failures along the way. But we kept going. Now, in addition to the meals we provide, around 25 people regularly come to a weekly pizza and Bible study night we run. We let people look at the Bible for themselves and ask them open questions to enable them to engage. We pray. A core group of people have put their faith in Jesus and want to grow. We are currently planning our first discipleship weekend. They will be the leaders in future.

Here are some comments I’d like to finish with. As well as love for Jesus and neighbour, I think there are some key ideas underlying what we do.

Key ideas to consider

Dignity:

The person God puts in front of me is a human being with his or her own story, loves, dreams, fears and challenges. Faltering English doesn’t change that. Let’s not treat people like children and pat them on the head simply because New Zealand is new to them.

Understanding:

I need to be patient and listen and learn to see the world through other eyes. Interaction with different cultures brings strange worlds of ideas, behaviours and foods that may initially make no sense or even repel me. It might make me impatient. But without that understanding of the other world, I will introduce someone to the saviour of only my world and culture. The real world of the one I am sharing with will remain largely untouched. If I persevere in listening to the person God has put in front of me I might be able to see past the strange symbols and concepts and come to appreciate what they understand a person to be, and how they are related to both their family and the unseen world. Finally, they may begin to let me into the dark places of their world – things that make them ashamed, anxious or despairing.

Enriching:

When I am patient and listening and understanding, I will begin to see the Lord and Saviour of the other person’s world. I will see Jesus in a new way I’d never seen before as He meets the needs and aspirations of that person. I will begin to worship and proclaim Jesus in a new and fuller way in terms I’m only just beginning to understand. The Lord will have led me into a fuller and deeper worship of Him through an intercultural engagement with someone who has become my brother or sister. That is why we need intercultural engagement. 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

What is Intercultural Engagement? (Intermission – Issue 35)

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I am partial to a good Sri Lankan curry – and I’m slowly learning how to make them. I line my curry leaves, cumin, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon and mustard seeds up on the bench. I grind and mix them with the other ingredients and then simmer them all together. Finally – and often salivating from inhaling the aroma – it’s time to eat. Delicious!

 What is Intercultural engagement?

Intercultural engagement is a bit like the spices in a good curry. It’s incredible how a small amount of any spice can add flavour to an entire dish. But a concoction of spices simmered together can produce an incredible flavour; one with a richness and depth that no single spice can produce. It’s still possible to pick out the distinct notes of each spice. If anything, the contrast with the other spices complements and enhances their flavour. Together, they have been transformed into something else.

All analogies have limitations – and this one is no different – but, I think it does help to explain what we mean by intercultural engagement. Culture is something to be celebrated. Intercultural engagement recognises and honours the differences and commonalities between cultures, and values the contribution of each culture. Intercultural engagement takes place through respectful, authentic interactions that allow each person to be shaped by the others and in the process each is transformed to produce a depth and richness that wouldn’t be possible without the “other.’’ It isn’t a dilution of culture. In the same way that “iron sharpens iron”, intercultural engagement helps to draw out the best of every culture while making us more aware of our own cultural blind spots so that everyone benefits from the gifts that each has to contribute.

What about multicultural or cross-cultural?

We often find ourselves in multicultural or cross-cultural situations. Multicultural situations are an important first step that can provide the basis for intercultural engagement to flourish. Multiculturalism itself doesn’t require any interaction between different cultures. It simply means that there are multiple cultures present and acknowledges the diversity between them. In other words, all the spices are lined up on the bench but they haven’t actually been combined together…yet.

Likewise, done well, cross-cultural engagement becomes intercultural engagement. The term cross-cultural can sometimes reinforce an ‘us’ as the ‘givers’ and ‘them’ as the ‘receivers’ attitude. It can be hard where we are in the majority, or in positions of privilege or power to receive the gifts that others have to offer and for us to allow our own way of being and doing to be indelibly changed in the process. Cross-cultural engagement doesn’t have to be that way! Interculturality recognises reciprocity. No single culture is the ‘norm’; every culture is both giver and recipient.

A biblical analogy

Perhaps the best and most well-known biblical analogy for intercultural engagement is the image of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians. The church itself is meant to be the ultimate expression of intercultural engagement! The church is the united body of Christ where the difference inherent to each part of the body is essential to the functioning of the whole body. Each part must share a life-in-mutuality and solidarity with others, ensuring care, honour and protection of the most marginalised. It is this body that is the lived expression of unity in Christ.

When our own identity is founded in Christ, we aren’t defensive about our own inadequacies. Nor are we threatened by difference. Instead, we embrace ‘others’ as fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s only once we acknowledge the essential part of each member of the Body that we can flourish, growing into the fullness of Christ. God’s mission is to reconcile all things to one another and himself and the church, as Christ’s body, is meant to be a witness to all of humanity of the reconciling love and grace of God. An intercultural church is good news to a world fractured along cultural divides!

Using our imagination

What might an intercultural church look like? Intercultural engagement is dependent on relationship. Like the spices mixing together, or the parts of the body working together, it is the interdependent relationship that forms an intercultural community. Relationship is one of the best places to discover others’ strengths and gifts (and our own inadequacies and blind spots). We cannot be satisfied with being multicultural or cross-cultural in our church contexts or in the way we do mission. We have to get close enough to those who are different from us for authentic, reciprocal relationships to form.

Imagine a church where everyone’s gifts were known and utilised and where those with power and privilege empowered those from minority groups. Maybe there would be a roster of preachers from diverse cultural contexts. Maybe different languages would regularly be used for scripture readings and prayers. Maybe worship would be led by a variety of people using the style and music from their own cultural background. Maybe leadership would increasingly reflect the diversity within the church. Imagine this church engaging ‘interculturally’ in its local context. People from different cultural backgrounds would know that they are welcome and that this church, Christ’s body, is a place where they have value, can belong and can contribute because of, rather than in spite of, their differences.

Final thoughts

As the Body of Christ, we must learn how to engage interculturally within the church and in our communities. Like a good curry, it will require some simmering for the flavours to develop – we will need love, grace, patience and perseverance. But as we allow ourselves to be transformed into the fullness of Christ, the end result promises to be the best that God has for us. 

Questions to consider:

What might be some steps that can help a church community move towards becoming intercultural? How do you personally identify yourself culturally? Where are you from? What are the cultural influences that have shaped you? How can you learn from those who are culturally different from you in your context? How can you encourage them to use their gifts?

Recommended resources for further reading 

Dan Sheffield, The Multicultural Leader: Developing a Catholic Personality, Clements Publishing, 2005

Jay Ruka, Huia Come Home, 2007

Mark Lau and Juan F. Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership, IVP: Illinois, 2011

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, 1996

Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes, MediaCom Education Inc., 2013

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, IVP, 2016

Soon-Chan Rah, Many Colours: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, Moody Publishers, 2010

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222.