Alicia

Go away sun

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I wake up in the morning as the sun starts to inch its way into my room, uninvited once again. Where are those grey cloudy days when I need them? The ones that reflect how I’m feeling. Numb and tired.

Suffering is inevitable. It’s part of being human to experience pain, grief, loss. And as Christians we are definitely not immune to it. We all suffer in different ways throughout our lives. Battles we often face in silence.

My journey in that sense is no different to anyone else’s. There have been times where I have experienced great joy at how well life seems to be going! And then there’s been the pain when it hasn’t. I am currently in one of those difficult times.

Sickness. Cancer. Malignant. Chemotherapy. Terminal. Life? Death?

These are words which have tormented my family for over a year now. We have felt thrown around by confusion, various test results, heightened emotion and many unknowns.

As a theology student I’ve spent much time contemplating the place of suffering in living a life for Christ. In all this craziness I’ve felt guilt over the fact that I don’t feel like I’m living how God would want me to be. I don’t feel like I’m living out his mission. Often I feel so disconnected from the normality of life and don’t know how to function properly. Is this a good enough excuse to not be leading people to God?

Yet I constantly have people, who I know and don’t know, tell me that they’re being influenced by how I’m dealing with what I’m going through.

What?

I haven’t really been trying to live missionally, or influence others or anything. I’ve just been trying to make it through each day!

But maybe the world isn’t looking for people who can show they are strong and immune against adversities, people who are perfectly acting out “God’s mission” at all times. I think the world is looking for people who can be real, and vulnerable, and transparent but still have hope.

Maybe those who came to me were responding to how I was acting, not because I was trying to hold everything all together, but because I was real about the fact that I seriously don’t have everything all together. Yet I still have hope in a God who does.

And “hope” is an interesting thing. I have hope. But that doesn’t mean that I always feel happy and joyous. I don’t always have a positive outlook on life and sometimes things do get a bit too much.

Hope for me is the ability to look to Christ in the midst of my struggles and know that whatever happens he will be with me.

He is with us and has compassion in our grief, in our depression, in our anxiety. When life seems to be throwing us more than we can handle.

And perhaps this is what mission is all about? That a God of hope sent his Son to a suffering world to show us there’s more to life than pain and hardship.

There isn’t one more qualified to know what suffering is like than Christ. Mission in a way is inviting people to have companionship with Christ who also knows what it’s like to suffer. And if we are to be like him that means we are also called to be companions to those who are suffering. To acknowledge pain, to listen, to just show up and be real. To plant hope in the midst of hopelessness.

When we are real with our lives, admitting our struggles, yet giving these to Christ with hope, we are showing people a way of living that addresses the broken needs of our humanity.

We show them that in such a damaged, helpless world that can’t give us answers, there is hope. And his name is Christ.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

 

THE MUSE

Alicia has opened up and made herself vulnerable, sharing what’s really going on in her heart. What stood out for you?

 

THE MOVE

Is there a frustration, struggle, doubt or worry that has been nagging you? Find a trusted friend, share together and pray together.

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

When God doesn’t call us

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I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to chase God’s calling for me. Learning how to hear and interpret his voice. Taking the opportunities I feel God has placed in front of me. Continually seeking what’s next and being open to doing things outside of my comfort zone. There’s this wonderful joy and adventure in stepping out into the unknown, trusting that God will equip me, provide for me and give me the courage I need to fulfil what he’s called me to do. I love living a life open to God’s interception. There’s something both frightening yet exciting about it.

I had one of these crazy God-interception moments recently where I suddenly found myself in Hawaii working as a nanny. Had you asked me about it just a week earlier, I’d never have said that I’d end up there. My sense of adventure was totally tantalized and I was eager to see what this little two month excursion would hold. Because of this I had to put my study and other commitments back home on hold but I didn’t really mind because that’s what trusting God is, right!? Following him even if it doesn’t make complete sense.

I was amazed to see how God provided everything I needed in Hawaii, from my living expenses and flights right down to bedsheets, towels and clothes. (I had arrived there on the way home from a family holiday with almost nothing.) It was an incredible time of feeling like I was in the right place. I was where I was meant to be.

The family I was nannying for were doing a YWAM Discipleship Training School. Half way through they’d be going on an extended outreach to another part of the world and I was asked if I’d like to join one of these teams. It was exciting to consider what time for me as I looked at the opportunity of going to either the Philippines, Mexico, Uganda or Norway and England.

I spent much time praying and asking God where I was meant to go… but nothing. There was no word, no sign, no indication that I was to go to any of these places. My calling to Hawaii had been so clear but now I wasn’t feeling anything. It was hard to accept that God didn’t want me to go as I watched these people who had become family head out on new adventures.

Instead I returned home to New Zealand to begin study once more – a little disappointed but nonetheless excited to see family and friends again.

Less than a month after I returned, my Nana unexpectedly passed away. It was crazy to think I could’ve been in the Philippines or England. But I had come home and had made precious memories with her before she was gone. Memories and time I’d  missed out on had I not listened to God’s non-call and gone on outreach anyway. Home was where I was meant to be.

I must be a slow learner because God is constantly reminding me that his ways are better than mine. Why do I find it so hard to believe this and continuously want to do whatever it is that I want to do?

Although it’s important to recognise when God has called us to do something, I’m now learning it’s just as important to recognise when he’s not calling us.

For me, not being called ended up being just as important and significant as if I had been. It’s a hard and courageous thing to accept God’s non-callings but I know that God has a far better idea of what’s best for me than I do. It’s about following him even when it doesn’t make complete sense.

 

THE MUSE

What do you do when God tells you what to do? What do you do when he’s silent?

 

THE MOVE

Think up a practical way to submit your trust to God once again. And do it. Now.

Finding God in Hawaii

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A week ago today I had just arrived home to New Zealand after spending some time overseas. I had come from a warm, humid Hawaiian summer. The air coated with the sweet, scent of coconut oil, tropical flowers and fruit. And many a day spent on a white sand beach with colourful fish swimming playfully in the turquoise water before me. So it was quite a shock to step out of the airport to an icy, cool breeze and winter in all it’s glory. And apparently it was a warm day in Christchurch!

My time in Hawaii was spent at a University of the Nations campus where I was a nanny for a family who were doing some missionary training. Even though I wasn’t attending the classes and was simply looking after their beautiful three year old child, I felt like God wanted me to learn a new aspect of his mission.

When I think about mission, I think about doing things. We are taught how to evangelise and share our faith with others. We will go and serve a community by building or cleaning and supplying their needs. We might preach a sermon or teach a class or play sports with kids. But one thing I feel like we aren’t taught or practice well is how to stop ‘doing’ and just ‘be’. To rest. To Sabbath.

God has ingrained rest in the rhythms of creation. Genesis 2:3 says that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

God created the seventh day to rest, but these days it is hard to find rest at all. We fill our weekends up with activities and don’t take that Sabbath that God provided us with. It makes me wonder how much more healthy we would be spiritually if we took one day a week to actually rest. But the problem is, I don’t think we even know how to any more.

While I was in Hawaii I had a lot of free time. I had a lot of time by myself and when I was with people there was a lot of time of doing nothing. At the start I found this really hard. Sometimes I would be sitting with others who would be doing their own thing. And as I sat there in the silence of my thoughts my mind would tell me, “this is awkward, you need to be doing something, you need to say something.” Just something to fill in the nothing. But I felt like God taught me to appreciate the nothing. And in those moments of silence, of not even trying to hear God, somehow I grew closer to him. It’s like that feeling of being so comfortable with someone that you can sit in silence with them and it doesn’t feel awkward. I learnt to have that with God. There was nothing super spiritual about it. It was just taking time for mind, body and spirit to have time out and be energised again.

To rest is not to give up on those ‘doing’ things. To rest is to acknowledge that those things are still important but to take time out to ‘be’ with God before going back to those things.

I like to think of Sabbath as us dethroning ourselves and trusting God to breathe life into us again.

And now the challenge I have is how I will incorporate this Sabbath back into my life at home. A life that is filled with study, church and other commitments. How am I going to make sure that I take time out for God to breathe life into me again? This is where that trust comes in. I need to trust that when I take time out of the craziness, when I have pressing assignments and deadlines, that God will revive me. That when there is lots to be done, taking time to ‘be’ with God will be worth it.

 

THE MUSE

Do you ever (or often) feel disconnected from God? Might it be because you don’t you how to slow down and rest?

 

THE MOVE

Take some time this week to rest before God, with no agenda and expectations. Be sure to slow right down – and put away that phone!

Christmas on the Beach (Issue 22)

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By Alicia Hibbert

As we sailed – or rather crashed over rough waves – into Oihi Bay on Christmas day 2014, I couldn’t help but imagine what this same place looked like 200 years earlier. Of course, instead of our engine powered boats there would have been sailing ships… and there probably wouldn’t have been a film crew set up with cameras dotted around the crowd. And I’m pretty sure when Samuel Marsden shared the Gospel he didn’t use a microphone or have a sound system. Yet, stepping off our ferry onto the rocky sand, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu. It was as if I’d witnessed this moment before, the crowds perched on the hillside waiting eagerly to hear what was about to be said. This feeling must have come from the many pictures I’ve seen over the last year depicting the first Christian service taking place in Aotearoa. This felt like a pilgrimage back to the roots of Christianity in this land.

There was a real sense of joy, respect and honour amongst those gathered to witness this bicentennial occasion. Joy in being able to celebrate what God has done in our land. Respect for the Maori people and how they embraced and shared this precious message despite incredible hardship. And honour for those who sacrificed greatly in order that others may hear of this Good News of Christ.

This buzz gave me hope that the spread of the Gospel we saw begin 200 years ago can continue today. While sitting in the heart of New Zealand and listening to this Good News shared again, I was challenged as to how I can continue on the work of those who have gone before me. How can I share this message of salvation in a way that is relevant to the culture, context and needs of Kiwis today?

Alicia Hibbert is a former Haerenga intern and is currently studying at Laidlaw College. She is starting a monthly gathering in Christchurch for young adults to encourage and support them in living the Good News in daily life. If you are interested in joining this group please contact Alicia on aliciahibbert@gmail.com or 021 129 0264.

For Discussion

What about you? How can you, your church, your small group continue the work of spreading the Good News?

Broken people

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I used to think that missionaries were people who had to have it all together. People who had their life intact, had sorted out all of their issues (if they even had any to begin with), and could successfully navigate their way through the difficulties of life with ease. All while remaining thankful and joyous and always having love in their hearts for everyone… Wow. Now as I write this I’m realising what high standards I had put on those who are agents of God’s mission.

But isn’t that often our excuse for not wanting to get involved? I’m not a good enough Christian. I have lots of problems. I don’t love people enough… The list goes on.

But really, is there anyone who lives up to the standard of that perfect missionary?

Last year as a Haerenga intern in Fiji I became very aware of how I don’t and never will match up to the standards I had for what a missionary should be. It quickly became obvious that I am a messed up individual. I soon began to see myself as the least qualified person there was to be showing God’s love to these Fijian people.

The more time I spent with God and learnt about him, the more I became aware of my brokenness. My insecurities, my failings, my fears, my lack of trust… Who was I to share God’s precious Word with his people?

But that’s just it. We are all broken. Who is more qualified to reach out to broken people than broken people?!

Like Scott Boren says, “The Spirit of God is playing a rhythm through community where the personal weaknesses, brokenness, and pain are not things that have to be fixed in order for the community to work but instead are the very things the Spirit redeems and uses to impact our world.”

As Christians, we are no higher than anyone else. We join all humanity in our sin and incompleteness. But the difference is that in Jesus we are made whole. He fills in all our imperfections, flaws and struggles. We are scarred but complete in him. In reaching out to others as broken people we are admitting that we can’t do it alone but only by the strength of Jesus within us.

Our brokenness shows others how much we need God in order to be made whole. “Here we stare fully at the incredible, wonderful mystery of God: he can use what the world sees as weakness for the salvation of creation.”

 

THE MUSE

Have feelings of not being qualified enough ever stopped you from joining in on God’s mission?

 

(For more see M Scott Boren, Missional Small Groups: Becoming a Community That Makes a Difference in the World.)

 

THE MOVE

Take note of all the times this week when you ‘unqualify’ yourself to be a part of God’s mission. In these times remind yourself of your qualification as a broken person reaching out to broken people and of your completeness in Jesus.

 

Alicia is currently a student at Laidlaw College who is passionate about finding God in the simple things. She loves worship and Fiji and has a wonderful mother who has helped her every step of the way. This year she is doing a ministry internship with NZCMS.