Heather Fraser

At home with Mission

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When I applied for my current job at NZCMS (New Zealand Church Missionary Society) I had no idea of what the letters stood for or what the organisation did.  That was pretty much my knowledge of missions as well.  So as you might imagine I went on a bit of a learning curve.

The staff here include an ordained Anglican minister, one who spent 15 years in the mission field, another who in their spare time lectures at Laidlaw, a Pastors kid,and more recently we have been joined by a couple who have served on the mission field in the Pacific and Cambodia.  At the time I started I was one of only two staff who had never been on a mission trip, had no theological training and no inclination to offer our lives in service in the mission field.  Boy did I feel overwhelmed!

Over the years since I’ve gone on what I jokingly call my backwards journey into mission.  I have been absorbing as much as I can to understand the incredible people who serve overseas, why they go, and the joy they bring in sharing the Good News about our Lord.  This backwards journey has been accompanied by several underlying questions:  Why are less Christians engaging in mission than in the past?  And how do we engage churches and people in mission?

Mission isn’t limited to going overseas, it includes all Christians in New Zealand, many who are called to support those who serve as missionaries.  My journey has immersed me in educational opportunities:  The Samaritan Strategy to learn about “Seed Projects” (“Seed Projects” are small-scale, holistic outreach initiatives through which local churches demonstrate God’s love in practical ways to those in their community);  studying Biblical Theology through Laidlaw; Kairos; learning about the Five Marks of Mission as decreed by the Anglican Church;  “Friendship First” a course focused on making friends with our Muslim brothers and sisters; Care of Creation and a myriad DVD’s, books, articles and frequent musings over our coffee breaks.

These experiences started to influence how I viewed life in my local parish of St Augustine’s.  Like most churches we have a small missions committee that prays regularly for mission, but in the wider congregation there is so much to prioritise.  This includes worship teams, ministries, events, family, school, work and life in general.  Amongst all this arose a quandary, how do we get others to consider overseas mission when many of us are struggling to be missional right here in our own backyard.

Recently I was introduced to a course called “Empowered to Influence.”  It’s a four week course of two hours a week that brings about a paradigm shift in how we approach our faith on a daily basis.  It’s founded by a Singaporean businessman who wanted to be a missionary but God placed him in the market place instead.  A huge disappointment for him.  However, after 20 years spent figuring out why, he has realised that God has placed him (and us!) right where we are now for a reason.  We have been placed right here to be salt and light to the secular world around us.  We can flourish in a non-Christian workplace.  We do have the power to influence those we encounter.  Some may be familiar with the terms Theology of Work or Monday Church, where church is not just sitting in a pew on Sunday but about the rest of the week—that Monday to Saturday we are living out our lives.  In this course we were introduced to seven tangible paradigm shifts that can be implemented immediately, and without barely even realising it.

I ran the course in my home group where we found much to discuss.  Ten thought provoking weeks later the results were clear.  One man who works as a driver where every second word is non-printable realised that he could be missional right there in his work-place, resulting in increased job satisfaction.  He gained the confidence to start conversations with some co-workers struggling with issues and even to pray with them.  For a mum, there was the realisation that hosting foreign students isn’t just a great cultural experience, but also an opportunity to be salt and light in those student’s lives.  Her desire being to make such an impact that they will be inspired take back to their native land with them.  Another participant was so excited she insisted the course needed to be opened up to our whole parish.

After a couple of brief conversations, the course was booked and the promotion of it throughout our church organised with the parish office.  As the driving force behind this new thing a doubt surfaced in my mind, ‘is this me forcing this on my church or is this really the will of God?’ 

The following Sunday rolled around quickly and the sermon was based on Mark, chapter 6, where Jesus is teaching his disciples how to do the work of ministry and giving them some important tools for that ministry.  Our minister saw the promo video about the course for the first time at the early service.  He was so excited by what he saw that he incorporated it into his sermon for the later service!

God’s way is to have all believers taking part in his mission, Missio Dei, and collectively we will influence the whole world for Him.  One of the things holding many of us back is the feeling that we are not equipped.  We are challenged on this course that we are all equipped, in fact we’re over equipped to such an extent we don’t know where to start.  Too many programmes and too much teaching on the rights and wrongs.  There is also the mind-set that it’s the ministers, missionaries, the volunteers, the retired, the lay people with whom the responsibility lies.  But it’s actually us, the normal day to day Christians who step out into our communities who are best equipped and placed by God to be influencing others.

The course does not tell us to go out and ear-bash anyone.  We do not stand on a corner with a Bible in our hands. It is actually quite the opposite.  As Christians living in a secular society we will be judged in our workplace and communities as being those Christians.  It is by getting alongside our secular colleagues and our friends that we can live out Kingdom values in front of them.  They will see that there is something different about us.

Ken Chua the facilitator of this course says that 8 out of 10 people who join his work-place come to know Christ.  To quote Dr Ravi Zacharias, “When the beauty of Christ is seen, He draws people unto Himself.  Conversion is never an enforced thing.  It is an attractive thing, the work of God… I say, live for Jesus and when people see the beauty of Christ in you, they will ask you questions and they will want the same results in their life.”

And back to that underlying fear… ‘Is this my will or God’s?’ After the introduction evening, the room is a buzz and the future of this course is again moving into another realm as the participants brain storm the next step with comments such as “this course is wasted on just the 12 of us… this needs to go to the whole church,” “It’s good enough to replace a sermon…actually…could we run this each week instead of the sermon…?”—“Let’s give our vicar a rest….” All these responses are not of my making. Such is only possible when God’s will and the power of his Holy Spirit is at work. 

It is hard to believe the time when I didn’t even consider mission was something I could participate in.  Finding out I can do it as I am, where I am, has not only opened my own eyes to the possibility of God working through me but is changing our congregational outlook as well.  I encourage you all to investigate it for yourself and be ready to see God at work.  

 

Empowered To Influence

A Place at The Table

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As we celebrate the birth of Jesus this year, let us not forget that Jesus was not born in the home town of his parents. His parents had been on a journey, there was no room at the inn, there were no invitations and so they made do in a stable. We challenge you this Christmas to remember a stranger amongst us. Studies in Asia have shown that the majority of Asian church leaders have spent time living overseas. This is a time when they were exposed to Christianity and became curious enough to learn more, so much so that now they are Christian leaders back in their homelands. Maybe you know a foreigner in our midst: a foreign student; an overseas worker; or another new resident to our shores. We ask you to take that first missional step and invite them to your church or to your home during this season so that they can learn what and who it is that we celebrate at Christmas time. Just an invite is all you need to do, then prayerfully ask God to do his work in them.

From the team at NZCMS we wish you all many blessings and family times, as we remember the birth of one small baby born 2000 years ago who changed the world for us all.

The NZCMS office will be closed from Thursday 21 December and reopen on Wednesday 3 January 2018.

Cambodia – Teaching Opportunities Available

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Two positions are available for January 2018 and a number of positions available in August 2018.

January 2018

Primary Teacher – HOPE Siem Reap

Preschool Teacher – HOPE Phnom Penh

August 2018

Primary Teacher – HOPE Siem Reap

Librarian – HOPE Phnom Penh

Secondary Science Teacher – HOPE Siem Reap

Secondary Business Studies – HOPE Phnom Penh

Secondary English and English Literature – HOPE Siem Reap & Phnom Penh

Learning Support Coordinator – HOPE Phnom Penh

 

Interested applicants should send their CV and cover letter to recruitment@hope.edu.kh or go to www.hope.edu.kh for more information.

The Bible Project

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The Bible Project… What is it?

Their mission “is to show how the Bible is a unified series that leads to Jesus.”

I first heard of this few months ago and eagerly signed up to ‘read daily scriptures.’ Each video is 5 – 10 minutes long covering different books and topics of the Bible. Cartoon sketches appear on the screen as a narrator takes us through the big picture of the Bible and how it fits into Gods greater story. It is fun, well told, visually appealing, and there must be close to a hundred videos to watch! There are even downloadable resources such as posters to accompany most of the videos.

Despite all that, our busy household couldn’t keep up with the length of the daily readings, although we did thoroughly enjoy their videos which give a big view of the Bible as well as overviews of each Biblical book. So we eventually gave up on using it as a daily family activity.

As usual, it is God that prompts us back to something that is really good. Our home group somehow ended up talking about Jonah when our current study guide asked us ‘are you a Jonah?’ Most of us have grown up knowing the story of Jonah and the whale. Young children can get quite amused at the concept of Jonah being vomited up on the beach from the mouth of a whale; as we get older we ponder the reality of being stuck inside a whale stomach for several days. Is that even possible?

We kept chatting, considering the truculent Jonah running from God, finally obeying God, and then sulking on a hill because God forgave the Nineavites and there was no mass destruction of lives. So we looked up the Bible Project. It’s American, it’s well done, only 9 minutes long and it gave a totally different perspective. Did you know the story is almost a comedy of paradoxes: of the one anointed by God continually running, yet the non-believers (the sailors) praying to God for safety from the storm; Jonah asking to be thrown – with certain death – into the raging seas rather than being obedient, and once he falls in the water the seas calm down. We see the same again as the Ninevites after hearing just seven words – and not one word mentions God – repenting from their sinful ways. Instantly! And Jonah the deliverer of the message throws a tantrum?

The outcome of our 9 minute video was running way over time with our home group, our youth group is studying Jonah at present, so guess what they’ll be watching on Sunday. And one mum in the home group will be showing the videos to her 10 year old son to encourage him to read the Bible. Now that is one powerful use of new media to get a new generation to think about the meaning of the Bible and how it all leads us to Jesus!

I for one will be turning to it a lot more often in future, to help our understanding when reading the Bible. Click the link below and go take a look. For those of you with grandchildren over the age of 10, why not give it a try, and get their feedback?

www.thebibleproject.com/explore

And am I ‘a Jonah’? Yes, it seems I might be. The story of Jonah it seems is a reflection of humanity. God calls us and we so often refuse to listen. But he is persistent and loves us, saves us from some unusual predicaments in some very creative ways and when he sets us a task does a lot to help us achieve it.

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. 

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.

Resource: Missions Dilemma (part 2)

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This series is so good that I just had to write about it for a second time. The first ‘chapter’ of this DVD series gets us to think about mission from the receivers’ point of view, particularly when it comes to short-term teams.

Often the receivers don’t want to say or do anything negative towards a mission team and so will allow the mission team to continue on a course of action that might actually be detrimental. This session of the series includes interviews with Oscar Muriu (of Nairobi Chapel in Kenya that has grown from 20 to 3000 people), Dr Florence Muindi (who is a thought leader in community development) and Steve Hawthorne, all giving their perspective on how missions teams can get it wrong. This is not a negative session, it is simply highlighting points that can so easily be missed such as “don’t come to fix us,” “come to be our friends,” and “don’t make up projects for God.”

One reason this seven session course never gets dry is that Steve interweaves Bible readings from Bible versions that we would possibly never consider reading. He intersperses it with quotes from Da Jesus Book (a Rastafarian translation) along with more conventional bible versions. As an example have a read of this:

Numba 2 Fo Da Corint Peopo 5:17, 17 & 20

Dass why, whoevea stay tight wit Christ, dy one new guy. Da old tings no stay no moa! Look! Da new tings wen come. All dat stuff come from God. He wen bring us back da same side wit him, cuz a wat Christ wen do. An he tell us for work so da odda peopo can come back togedda wit him too…”

 

Mission Dilemmas could easily be shown after a church service over a cuppa, in place of a sermon or as part of a home group discussion. This is a powerful and compelling series that can expose the entire congregation to solid missional reflection.

Resource: Missions Dilemma

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Our NZCMS office is continually on the lookout for great training materials. So whenever a new book or DVD comes into the office I like to take home and share with my husband. Neither of us have much experience in cross-cultural mission, so we’re the perfect test subjects to see whether a book or course can relate to ‘normal Christians.’

Missions Dilemma has struck a chord with us. Steve Saint’s back story is compelling; his father and four other missionaries were martyred by Amazonian tribesmen. Despite that, at the age of 9 Steve, his mother and aunt were invited to live back in the village and share the Gospel. Forgiveness and reconciliation was forged, and the tribe now “walk God’s trail.”  And out of this incredible experience, Steve has dedicated his life to global mission.

This DVD series builds on concepts that Steve discussed in his 2001 book The Great Omission. He explores some of the common mistakes made by well-meaning short-term and long-term missionaries. Though it’s told from an American perspective, the stories could just as easily be about Kiwis. Each session is a 30 minute long video with several interviews in different parts of the world. 

Many churches struggle knowing how to bring everyone on to the same page when it comes to mission. Well, it’d be easy to invite people to stay after one or two Sunday services to watch a session over a cuppa. Those who especially enjoyed it could be invited to complete the series as part of a focus group. Or better still, a session could easily be played in place of a sermon one or two Sundays – a powerful way to expose the entire congregation to solid missional reflection.

Session one captures the focus of the whole series, getting us imagining the point of view of the recipients of mission. Steve states it plainly: “we can be absolutely convinced that we are right and still be wrong”.

You can go as in-depth with the series as you like. You can happily just watch the DVD’s, but if you want to go deeper there are reflections an discussion questions to ponder over for each session.

If you’re looking for an ‘easy’ introduction to cross-cultural missions, this series is the one! If your church is sending out a Mission Partner or a short term team, or simply wanting to grow in mission as a congregation, then get your whole church on-board by watching this series.

To find out more and to rent/buy the series visit www.vimeo.com/ondemand/missionsdilemma 

The digital workbook can be found at www.itecusa.org/missions-dilemma

Mall worship

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Whenever I head to the local shopping mall, it’s with a time bound purpose. One hour. Grab my usual park. Rush in through the side entrance. Pry off a trolley. Stuff it with groceries. Escape through the even smaller side entrance. Get out of there.

Yep, I’m a mum. So not so much time for indulging in a leisurely window shop. Last week I had half an hour to kill before dropping my daughter at the swimming pool. We popped into the same mall  to grab a quick after-school snack. Time for me wasn’t an issue today, and it was obviously not for many others at the mall.

We parked at the commercial end and elbowed through the main entrance – huge lofty doors, shiny floors, gleaming escalators, and seething with people. To the left the teenage girls clothing shop, to the right the denim shop, then the sports shoes, then the fashion shoes, the sports store, the electronics store, the Two Dollar Shop. Sale signs adorned them all. ‘Made in China’ screamed in my head. The corridor was full as the masses headed in their respective directions, passing the quiet stores, bumping into oncoming foot traffic, minimal eye contact, avoiding physical contact, and barely whispered apologies for getting in the way or bumping into anyone. A mass of strangers caught in the bright lights of the new temple. Worshipping the elusive icon of the dollars in their wallets, praying that the plastic will be accepted as an offering, and rewarded with the false hope that their offering will make them look better, stand out from the crowd, be more popular.

We found a snack in the food court, amongst the McDonalds, the takeaways and the greasies. The overpriced muffin that I could have baked at home and a caffeine fix (actually, I really needed that one!).

Our youth pastor will be holding youth group at this same shopping mall soon, and I wonder what they will discuss as they view it through a Christian filter. Will they discuss the value the of friendships built as youth shop together and snack together? Will they consider the origins of the products on the shelves? Will they spot the mothers on an outing with their babies and infants? The value of the stimulating a baby with bright lights and crowds versus sunlight and God’s creation? Are these people here spending with a purpose or buying to fill a void?

Where once a church was the focal point of a town or community, it seems it’s been replaced by the glistening shopping mall. There is so much there to choose from, but will it satisfy the longing in their hearts? As I head back to my pew next Sunday I shall put up a prayer for those who don’t have the fulfilment of Jesus in their hearts, and the family of Christ to support them when things are down. I’ll look at my brothers and sisters as we put out our hands together to receive communion and give thanks to God for his many bountiful gifts.

 

THE MUSE

Has an everyday experience ever become a moment of discovery like for Heather?

THE MOVE

It’s easy to think that our society has moved on from the ‘silly idolatry’ of the past. Visit a shopping mall on this Sunday, compare the entrance to ancient temples, and ask yourself: have we really escaped idolatry? What about you?

#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!) 

 

Back to where it began

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On March 28 we held our 122nd AGM at All Saints in Nelson where we announced our new Honorary Life Members: Fred and Bev Greig, Jim and Beverley Payne, Owen and Elizabeth Kimberley, John and Alison Croucher, Ann Burgess, and Dale and Marie Oldham. This honour is in recognition of people who have gone above and beyond in their service for the Society, often for extended periods of time. The AGM was followed by a celebratory Hui in the church hall – the same hall where NZCMS had its inaugural meeting back in 1894. Over the course of the evening Steve Maina shared the 2020 Strategic Vision, Natalie Downes spoke of the Master Weaver at work during her time as an NZCMS intern in New Zealand and Fiji, and Phil and Becky Sussex shared stories from Cambodia. Thank you All Saints for your incredible hospitality. We were overwhelmed by your welcome and your heart for mission that is still strong after 121 years.