Steve Maina

Back in Business

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It was a privilege to spend 5 months away in East Africa, the UK and the Middle East. Our teenage daughters had such a great time over there connecting with friends and family – they could have happily stayed on. But you could see their ‘kiwi-ness’ coming alive as they entertained friends and family in Kenya with a haka.

I spent time meeting missional leaders in Kenya and the UK to explore the ‘reverse mission’ trend and learn from non-western missionaries serving in the UK. I’m still processing my reflections and will share my thoughts in due course. I’ve come back rested, refreshed and re-energized. I’m thankful to God for your prayers and for the wonderful team at NZCMS HQ that’s been led by Lesley – thanks for stepping up and doing such a sterling job while I was away!

During my spent time in Kenya, I also met with several church leaders to explore how they develop leaders to lead missional communities. This particular network of churches is planting several churches each year. Because of their carefully designed leadership training pipeline, they have no shortage of world class leaders ready to be deployed. I was also inspired as I spent time with CMS Africa, hearing their vision to see ’50 million families living in transformed communities and transforming Nations through their local Church by 2050.’ Wow! This made me think: is my vision too small? The impact of NZCMS League of Youth is still felt over 50 years on!  Do we need to consider how to lay stronger foundations for the changes we want to see 50 years from now? NZCMS’ vision is to see Jesus shaping every culture, every sector of society. The work ahead is immense and may last several generations, so let’s get busy investing well for the future so that generations after us will know the wonders of God (Psalm 71:18).

National Director’s annual report

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The following report from Steve Maina was shared with those who gathered at the recent AGM in Christchurch. 

In our last AGM in Nelson, we made reference to the Strategic Plan for for 2015 to 2020. We have called it Vision 2020 – Jesus Shaping Every Culture. NZCMS’ vision is to see disciples of Jesus influencing every sphere of life across cultures around the world, especially in the Asia/Pacific region.

Our strategic intent is to enthuse, equip and engage the church to flourish in ways that sees disciples equipped to live and speak the whole Gospel in all spheres of society. To unpack this a little more:

a) Enthuse. We partner with the Church to mobilise believers for Christ’s mission in New Zealand and beyond.

b) Equip. We seek to enable individuals and churches to grow into missional communities by equipping, training and resourcing them for cross-cultural mission, both locally and globally.

c) Engage. We seek to support Christ-centred cross-cultural leaders to engage creatively in a world in need of the Gospel, making disciples especially in the Asia & the Pacific region.

 

I would like to share some highlights from 2015 along these lines.

1) Enthuse

We have seen an increasing number of individuals, small groups and churches actively engaging with NZCMS and utilizing our mission resources and training (such as our Intermission publications). We are seeing an increasing number of people mobilised, funds released, stories told and healthy partnerships being developed. Each of our Mission Partners is intentionally partnering with about five ‘Link Churches’ with whom a deeper relationship is being established. We have produced resources to help Link Churches know how to support Mission Partners and will be running a Hui for Link Church co-ordinators on July 1 & 2 to provide space for mission advocates to share their stories/experiences and to get some input/resourcing from the NZCMS team.

2) Equip

We are strengthening our bi-cultural and multi-cultural identity by exploring ways of serving missional needs of Tikanga Maori and Pasefika. Tikanga Maori have requested NZCMS to support them as they engage in the Decade of Mission. The fortnightly missional conversation/blog commonly known as #NZCMS has been a resource for equipping the under 30’s with ‘mission tools’. You don’t have to be under 30 to benefit from this great resource available online. 2015 was a year of re-evaluating the Haerenga Mission Internship and this has now evolved into a mission apprenticeship. You will hear more about it in due time. We are hoping this (along with other projects) will develop into a more sustainable ministry of developing missional young people. Last year, NZCMS provided training for Short term Encounter teams (such as PNG Pilgrimage team from Napier Diocese, Nepal rebuilding team and BOLD youth team to Fiji in Dec. Rather than NZCMS running our own Encounter teams, we continue to partner with Parishes and Dioceses to provide training for effective teams.

3) Engage

Our goal is to have around six new Mission Partners each year. During this last year we sent seven long-term Mission Partners and one short-term Mission Partner. To the Pacific: Margaret Poynton to serve with Archbishop Clyde in Papua New Guinea and Jonathan and Tess Hicks and their family to teach in a Bible School in Solomon Islands. To Asia: Dean and Amanda and their family to support cutting edge work in anti-human trafficking in South Asia. And to Africa: Peter and Chris Akester to Tanzania to continue the work of Kate and Iri Mato at the Kondoa Bible School. In addition we sent out Carol Roger as a short-term Mission Partner to work as a primary school teacher in Kapuna, Papua New Guinea for a year. We celebrate the work of Mission Partners who completed their service overseas last year: Iri and Kate Mato (Kondoa) and John and Anna (South Asia). We are delighted by the work our Mission Partners are involved in around the world. A growing number of locals in many different countries are being raised up and are multiplying disciples of Jesus. We are currently providing project, scholarship/mentoring support to about 35 local leaders globally. We are working towards our goal to have most of our work focusing on the Asia-Pacific Region. The recruitment of an Asia Network coordinator is underway.

 4) Staff

I am grateful for Council’s generous support in approving a three month study leave for me this year. I am currently undertaking a study programme in Israel after spending sometime in Kenya, UK and a country in the Middle East. We will be returning to NZ as a family at the end of April 2016.

I am thankful to Lesley Smith, NZCMS Personnel Director for accepting to be Acting National Director, taking on some of my responsibilities during these five months I am away. I know she is doing a great job with the entire NZCMS team. I am very proud of them. We are also grateful that Maureen Harley, a former NZCMS Mission Partner in Cambodia, came on staff for six months from November 2015 on a part time basis as Personnel Assistant.

The NZCMS staff team are some of the most dedicated people I know and it is a privilege for me to work with such a team of talented and committed followers of Jesus. We appreciate all the staff for their dedication and creativity at a time of momentous change.

5) Supporters

We would like to thank you for your faithful support in 2015 and over the years. The growth we are experiencing is a direct result of your support and prayers.

Our Society also remembers with gratitude the witness of the lives of former Mission Partners and members who have died in this past year, in particular Kevin O’Sullivan, Edric Baker, Marie Oldham, Rev Noel Bythell, John Sommerville, Phyllis Veal and Ross Elliott. Their commitment and witness in the fellowship of God’s mission has inspired many. The Society is grateful also for generous bequests from a number of people.

 

Conclusion

As we look into a new year, recognizing that we live in a world that needs a Saviour, the urgency for involvement in God’s mission rings even louder. The task of discipling the nations is huge but so are the resources God has promised to provide to those who trust him. Our forebears in mission inspire us to press on and to do our part in God’s mission. Their boldness challenges us to be bold.

I close with Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 4:5-6: For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

May Christ continue to shine in and through us.

 

NZCMS National Director, Steve Maina

Steve’s Sabatical

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It’s nearly seven years since I started with NZCMS. I’ve learned a lot and have seen God do amazing things in and through NZCMS. People often ask: Steve, when do you ever take a break? I’m grateful that Council have approved a three month study leave next year. As I will be taking annual leave as well, the Maina family plan to leave New Zealand for five months (28 Nov 2015 to 29 April 2016). We’ll be based in Kenya most of the time.

I have three goals in mind for my study.

A study tour of Israel. To investigate ‘reverse mission’ models in England to see how NZCMS could help the Church in New Zealand receive the gifts of the global Church. Find spiritual refreshment through prayer, reading, retreats and meeting with leaders.

Please pray this time will bring fresh perspectives and renewed energy and also for great connections with friends, family and our sending churches in Kenya.

While I’m away, Lesley Smith (Personnel Director) will be taking up some of my role as the Acting National Director. To assist with the Personnel role, we are grateful that Maureen Harley (former NZCMS Mission Partner in Cambodia) will come on staff from November on a part time basis as Personnel Assistant.

Thank you for your support over the years. May you know Christ’s unending joy this Christmas.

Reclaiming the Discipleship Roots of CMS (Issue 24)

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Two thousand years ago the world’s true ruler came declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He explained – and demonstrated – what that Kingdom looks like. He died for our sins and rose to inaugurate that Kingdom. But rather than continuing to gather followers and spread the Kingdom himself, he did something peculiar. He told his followers that they were the ones to continue his mission, and central to their mission was this thing called discipleship (Matthew 28:19).

Discipleship is central to mission. As Dallas Willard said, “The church is for discipleship, and discipleship is for the world.” But where does this group called CMS, the Church Missionary Society, fit into the picture?

To be honest, we’ve wondered that ourselves. We’ve wondered where we fit in and alongside the Kiwi Church. And we’ve been wondering how we can make discipleship central to who we are and how we operate.

Back to our roots

As it turns out, when CMS was launched over two hundred years ago, discipleship was already central to our vision, values, models and methods. So when we say we’re making discipleship central, we’re actually talking about reclaiming something of our original DNA. We’re reclaiming this same focus for a changing world and a new generation.

The early CMS didn’t just send people overseas. Joining CMS meant being committed to mission everywhere, whether in deepest Africa or the streets of London. And ‘local’ and ‘global’ weren’t seen as opposed, but two sides of a single coin. After all, can you really say you value God’s mission if you only care about your own neighbourhood or focus only on the other side of the world? That’s why the early CMS sent people from within the community to the farthest reaches, and why they fought the slave trade in England – Wilberforce was one of CMS’ founders you know.

To join CMS meant to be part of a missional community who were together learning what it meant to follow a missional God. And that’s what emerged in New Zealand in the 1940s. Young evangelicals from various churches, calling themselves the NZCMS League of Youth, started gathering to explore all things mission. A movement was born. Passion for mission and the Gospel resulted in many people coming to Christ or going deeper in their faith. And from among the community people were sent into the nations. The League eventually waned, but we hope to see a new movement with that same passion raised up, one that suits our post-modern, post-Christian context.

From Agency to Community

Today NZCMS is typically seen as being a mission agency. We may send people to other countries, but ‘agency’ isn’t the right word to describe us. We’re the Church Missionary Society. First and foremost, we’re supposed to be a society, a community centred on God and his mission. We’re not an organisation you support or a list of missionaries for the church wall, but a community you belong to – a community made up of people across different churches, united by a passion for local and global mission.

How should this look in the 21st century? To be perfectly honest, we don’t fully know yet. Yet we sense God is moving us from functioning like an agency to being a nation-wide missional community once again.

So maybe the question isn’t so much where we fit, but where you fit.

The answer is to become CMS, not just support CMS. Because CMS isn’t, at its core, an office or an agency. CMS is you. It’s you aligning yourself to God’s missional Kingdom purposes and joining others who are on that same journey. It’s about becoming part of a movement that reaches beyond your local efforts to the farthest corners of the earth – because mission here should inspire mission there, and vice versa.

We’re exploring what the Society across the nation could become, seeking to develop and nurture purposeful missional communities. How are we to pass on the rich missional heritage to the emerging generations? How can we invite those God leads us to journey with us in our missional engagement? Can we be a community from which people are sent? All across the country I meet young adults seeking missional-direction. The challenge is finding mentors and coaches willing to journey with and open their lives to these people. We desperately need ‘discipleship incubation centres,’ missional hubs and communities: homes, café groups, small gatherings and churches seeking to shape the next generation of mission workers.

We’ve already started reclaiming this emphasis on discipleship. We’ve launched an online ‘community’ that hopes to engage young adults in an on-going missional conversation (nzcms.org.nz/hashtag). We’ve re-invented our Haerenga Mission Internship as an apprenticeship, reclaiming discipleship through imitation by placing people serious about cross-cultural mission under an active missionary (nzcms.org.nz/haerenga). We’re developing resources to equip you in your local efforts (nzcms.org.nz/intermission). We’re finding ways to expand our regional efforts. And we’re preparing to launch a new initiative for anyone seeking intentional missional discipleship that integrates into their daily lives.

Friends, we’re enthused by the journey God has us on of re-discovering our discipleship roots. Rather than say ‘will you join us’, I want to say:  ‘How can we join you?’ That is, how can we partner with you to deepen and further your missional efforts? We want to resource you, encourage you, challenge and equip you to participate in mission-focused communities wherever you are, and in doing so see you flourish as the Community of Mission Service. I’m looking for key people who want to be equipped to support and network local groups that are seeking to be intentional about living missionally. You may be a NZCMS faithful, you might be discovering who NZCMS is for the first time. No matter your journey, we look forward to where God is leading us together.

To find out how we can partner in mission, email me at steve@nzcms.org.nz

 

For discussion

What would it mean for your group to belong to this ‘community of mission service’?

What do you think CMS could look like in 21st century New Zealand?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Loving the ‘other’

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Today is 9/11! Rings a bell?

It’s 14 years since the September 11 coordinated attacks in the United States that killed nearly 3000 people. These orchestrated terrorist attacks sent shockwaves around the world, and the impact continues to be felt today.

When I travel through airports the security protocol remind me that things are not as they used to be prior to 9/11. In Kenya, I have to be screened using metals detectors even when going to church! Although these procedures make me feel inconvenienced, I’ve been reflecting on how I should respond as a Christian. I need to remember that although the world has been impacted by a few extremists seeking to do evil, good will always triumph!

I was encouraged by a remarkable tweet that an Imam, a Rabbi and a priest were holding a joint prayer session during the Sydney hostage siege at the end of last year. Rather than live in fear and self-preservation, I can devote my life and energy to doing good, loving others and seeking to share the hope I have in Jesus.

But how can I do this?

Recently, I listened to my minister Jay preach from Luke 6. He made a radical statement: “The thing that defines us as followers of Jesus is whom we are to love. It’s not enough to pray for our enemies, we need to act for their good.” Ouch!  That hit me hard and those words have not left me since. I have been reflecting on what it means for me to love my enemy or the ‘other.’

One of my struggles with loving my enemies is that I do have a heightened sense of justice for those who hurt me or others. But I’ve been reminded that vengeance is God’s, not mine! If I choose to hate, I am not much better than the extremists. Jesus came to love the world, including those who hate us. But what’s even more tragic is if I squander my  ability to provide hope to the world.

So I have been thinking about the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East & Europe due to Syrian refugees. The New Zealand government has made a decision to up the number of the refugees by taking an extra 600 people fleeing war in Syria. And the Church has responded by committing to welcome those refugees into our communities. But what will I do?

As one who has lived in Kenya and encountered first hand refugees from Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan, I know that hospitality is something that makes a difference to refugees. It’s not enough to ask the government to more if I am not willing to go across the street and meet the ‘other’ and welcome them for a meal, ask them questions about their family or religion, share with them about life here, etc. My faith needs to be lived out. And it’s in this coal face that I grow and become transformed. So my family have hosted people from different cultures over the last few years and have been blessed greatly in the process.

As Paul says, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).

 

THE MUSE

What’s your experience of loving the ‘other’ in our Kiwi context?

 

THE MOVE

At 9.11pm tonight (0r 11.09pm), and perhaps every night this week, could you ask God to bring an ‘other’ your way that you can show hospitality and kindness to.

 

#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!) 

New Role: Asia Network Coordinator

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Asia is a region of the world that needs some of the most dedicated, strategic Gospel partnerships. The continent is a melting pot for the world’s major religions and is home to an incredible diversity of cultures. Many of its cities and economies are growing rapidly, in many places it is experiencing rapid cultural change due to globalization and many of its people have never heard the Gospel. But God is at work in Asia building his Kingdom through many emerging mission movements. NZCMS is therefore seeking to identify and work with strategic partners to support missional efforts of the Church in Asia.

To better fulfil this vision for Asia, we are establishing a new Mission Partner role based in Asia: the NZCMS Network Coordinator for Asia. This person will provide leadership and oversight for NZCMS in Asia, networking with strategic partners, identifying mission opportunities, developing synergies with our sister organisation AsiaCMS, deploying and supporting Mission Partners, and nurturing key Asian mission leaders.

The successful candidate will have a track record of significant accomplishments in mission engagement and cross- cultural/mission experience in an Asian Context.

For more information and a full job description, contact office@nzcms.org.nz 

Strangers Among Us: Some Biblical Reflections (Issue 23)

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Over the last six years that I’ve lived in Christchurch, I’ve noticed the cultural make-up of our society changing. The nations have come to our doorstep. We hear about this through the media, but often it’s reported in a way that encourages us to be fearful of strangers. Xenophobia is becoming more common in our world as globalisation creates a highway for people on the move. Xenophobia literally means ‘fear of strangers.’ Sadly this fear could cause us to give in to a spirit of self-protection and self-preservation.

The biblical story includes many accounts that encourage us to see things differently. Most strangers don’t come to threaten us but come to give us a deeper appreciation of the richness of life. It’s not only that we’re to welcome them, but we’re also to learn that they have much to offer us.

Welcoming the stranger

We’re all familiar with Jesus’ Great Commandment: Love God with your whole being and love your neighbour as yourself. This stems from the Old Testament, but if you look through the Old Testament you’ll discover another important commandment which is repeated 36 times: “Love the stranger among you for once you were strangers in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19). This was a reminder to the people that they were strangers (‘refugees’) in Egypt in the time of the famine. It was a reminder that through Joseph and Jacob, Israel received hospitality, welcome and settled for many generations.

A ‘stranger among us’ is in fact how Jesus came to earth. He was a ‘stranger in their midst’ asking to be welcomed. As a baby his family escaped to Egypt as refugees seeking asylum in a foreign land. Throughout his time on earth, Jesus demonstrated radical inclusion under what he called the Kingdom of God. It’s a Kingdom of welcome, generosity, hospitality, grace, mercy and justice. This is the Kingdom that the Church is to witness, proclaim and practice.

In this Kingdom there is no Jew and Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female – whatever categories that once divided people, creating an ‘us’ and ‘them’ have been effectively done away with through Christ (Galatians 3:28). In other words, there are to be no ‘strangers among us.’ We’re to embrace all people – especially the marginalised, weak, vulnerable, poor and stranger. We’re to cultivate an openness towards the stranger rather than fear.

Welcoming ‘strangers’ is a critical part of what it means to follow Jesus. It’s participating in mission. In his book You Don’t Have to Cross the Ocean to Reach the World, David Boyd states that the measure of a mission minded Church will not just be how many missionaries are sent out but whether the stranger feels at home in the Church.

What do strangers bring?

Welcoming strangers is not a one way street – strangers don’t just receive hospitality. In Scripture strangers also offered gifts and contributed to needs in the host country. Joseph became governor in Egypt. Ruth became part of David’s and Jesus’ whakapapa. Rahab hid Israel’s spies. Esther saved the Jews from destruction. Daniel served in Babylon. The list goes on!

As I read Scripture, I see God calling his people to be pilgrims, people who are on a journey. This world is not our home – we’re to live as strangers in it (1 Peter 2:11). Imagine if this reality became so real to us that strangers – immigrants, refugees, outsiders – found they could relate to us (or better, that we could relate to them). We wouldn’t just be the hosts, but fellow pilgrims who also don’t quite feel at home here.

Globalisation means that we’ll continue to see more people from different parts of the world in our communities, yet many migrants say that it’s difficult to connect with the Church. May our communities of faith be places of hospitality, healing, hope and grace. Maybe we’ve missed some opportunities, but let’s keep our eyes open for the next ‘stranger’ and open our lives to them. Let’s learn to welcome the stranger in our midst.

 

For discussion

What positive examples of ‘welcoming the stranger’ have you seen?

Why do you think we’re sometimes fearful of ‘strangers’ or ambivalent towards foreigners, immigrants, refugees, those who don’t speak English?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

What’s Next? Moving Beyond 200 Years (Issue 22)

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As I have been traveling around the country lately, people have been asking me: what’s next? As we move forward from 2014, I think there are three important things for us to keep in mind.

Telling the Story

There are many people, schools and groups that still don’t know how the Gospel story is weaved into the New Zealand story. Recently, I spoke at a school assembly in Christchurch on the impact and legacy of the Gospel in early New Zealand history and the events surrounding Samuel Marsden’s first Christmas Day service. 2014 may be over but we can still be telling that story – we have a great opportunity to talk about our history in a way that celebrates what the Gospel has done in our land.

Living the Story

Last year we learnt that New Zealand’s story is largely about the weaving together of cultures. Many people recognize the role of Maori as Tangata Whenua and the unique place they have as spiritual guardians of the land. NZCMS feels called to re-engage with Maori like our forebears did and to rediscover the power of our bicultural identity under Christ. This will mean an ongoing journey of repentance and reconciliation for the wrongs of the past as well as the forging of a future together in local and overseas mission.

Sharing the Story

When we launched our ‘reverse mission’ teams last year we had a sense that God would use the opportunity to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. We had over 40 African evangelists visit New Zealand and the results exceeded expectations. And there is an opportunity to continue sharing ministry with our African brothers and sisters. That may involve inviting African missionaries to come to New Zealand for short or long term or it may mean building partnerships between churches here and churches there.

As an African, I am deeply sensitive to the issues of colonisation and Christianity. The story of the Treaty and the Gospel is one of both real hope and genuine heartbreak for both Maori and Pakeha. Through sharing stories of our colonial and multicultural history, African leaders can assist Kiwis in reflecting on their own process of ‘becoming.’ It has been said that the Gospel is never safe in any culture without a witness within that culture from beyond itself. Visitors may graciously help us overcome our blind spots. As we focus our attention less on our differences and more on what it means to come together as one people, we can join the Apostle Paul in his vision of “being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22).

For Discussion

As we move on from the Gospel bicentenary, what do you feel is the best way forward for the Church of New Zealand? What about for yourself?

How can you tell, live and share the story in 2015?

Steve at St Andrew’s Hall

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Last week Steve visited St Andrew’s Hall in Melbourne. The following are some of his reflections while he was there.

I’m now sitting on my bed in my flat at St Andrew’s Hall after a 3am start this morning (in order to leave Christchurch at 6.30am). I will be meeting the students in 20 minutes time. St Andrew’s Hall is a small community of staff and students – students are called MITs, meaning Missionaries in Training.

Since they live in community, they get to know each other quite well. I was welcomed to my flat by Sharon, the house keeper. She was able to remember not just names but the unique aspects of each of the Kiwis that have trained here in the last few years – that’s the sort of community St Andrew’s Hall is! I’m thankful to God that CMS Australia has opened this place for NZCMS to train our long term Mission Partners for over 50 years.

In the hall way are photos and names of all those who have been trained here. From this place people have gone into all the world sharing the Good News of Jesus. The main focus of SAH is cross-cultural training – although I think many Kiwis find coming to Melbourne to be a cross-cultural experience in itself!

‘Missionaries in Training’ leave this place with great tools to help them minister effectively in other cultures. I believe the training at SAH has contributed greatly to the many years of cross-cultural service these Mission Partners have offered. As we celebrate 50 years of this partnership, it’s only right to honour CMS Australia for their generosity.

“… in all my prayers for all of you I pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel.” Philippians 1:4-5 NIV

A Kenyan at Waitangi

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What’s this guy doing here? Why is an African hanging around at Waitangi? No one asked me the question but I’m sure many were pondering it.

Over the last three years I’ve gone to Waitangi on Waitangi day and I reckon it’s one of the most amazing trips I make each year. But why do I keep going? Waitangi Day is always special for me because it is here that the relational foundation for our nation was laid. We are still on a journey of understanding what that means, but this is where it all began 175 years ago.

As an emigrant to New Zealand, I believe understanding place and history are vital in connecting to the soul of a nation. It’s not just about heritage but it’s about identity.

You may wonder how Waitangi could be important to a Kenyan, to an ‘outsider’? Isn’t your sense of identity connected to your roots in Kenya? Yes I have roots in Kenya, but I’ve been planting roots here too. Over the last six years my family has been trying to understand what it means to plant our roots deep into Aotearoa soil. It has meant to visit the beautiful places in this country, building friendships with Kiwis and seeking to integrate into New Zealand society. It has meant finding a church to belong to and getting involved. I haven’t picked up the Kiwi accent yet, but my daughters have.

And this is how it’s supposed to be. As I read the Scriptures, I see God calling his people to be pilgrims, people who are on a journey. And even when God’s people had been forcibly removed from their motherland, God still told them to see the peace and prosperity of the city to which he called them into exile (Jeremiah 29:7). Part of what it means to be God’s missional people is to be prepared to sink our feet into the soil of the place God has called us to.

Over the last few years, I felt that there was something incomplete with this journey of discovering and integrating into New Zealand. It was like a tree with lovely branches and fruit but without roots. So I began a journey of planting my feet into the roots of New Zealand. Here’s three key lessons I’ve learned along my journey.

1. It’s about People

Governor Hobson’s speech to the tribal chiefs in which he said “He iwi tahi tatou” (“We are all one people)” mirrors the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:11-22. Paul speaks of Christ, “who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”. Paul knew what it was to work among two divided peoples, Jews and Gentiles, but also to see a ‘new people’ brought into being. Can we pray for a posture of unity as we explore our unique identity as kiwis?

Waitangi is special to me because it is through what happened there that this country was established. It means people like me are able to come and live here. Because of the Treaty, we have been welcomed to come and call this country our own. Without the Treaty I would not be here, I would not be welcome in this country. So I see God involved in the Treaty of Waitangi and it’s great that Waitangi day begins with a prayer meeting at dawn attended by politicians, local leaders (and anyone who is able to get there at 4.30am!). Which other country in the world begins their ‘independence day’ celebration with a prayer meeting?!

My involvement as a representative of  NZCMS at Waitangi is in some small way a ‘coming home.’ Members of CMS were among the British missionaries who contributed to the original Treaty process in 1840. I also see the key role the missionaries, especially Henry Williams, played as trusted friends of Maori in the treaty formulation and promotion of it among Maori. While some scholars have painted some of the early missionaries as colonist puppets aligned with land confiscation, a careful reading of history must recognize that these missionaries, although not angels, came to New Zealand for the Maori people, offering support, education and translation work.  This work was often carried on by Maori evangelists working among their own people.

I have many Pakeha friends after being in New Zealand for six years, but until two years ago I didn’t have many Maori friends. So I enrolled at Te Wananga o Aorearoa to study Te Reo Maori in order to communicate with Maori folk as I build friendships. I now have a number of Maori friends and I value their friendship deeply. This has been my bi-cultural  journey connecting to Tangata Whenua.

2. It’s about Place

As I studied Te Reo, I learnt that it was not just about language. Like many African cultures, the class was a community. We prayed for each other, played games and enjoyed kai together – and somewhere in the learned some Te Reo. But the most significant discovery for me was the importance of place among Maori. Its interesting that when you introduce yourself, you talk about where you comes from before you even say your name! So I decided I wanted to visit as many places of significant for Maori as I could. I’ve since been to Onuku Marae in Akoroa, there the Treaty was signed in South Island. I’ve been to Rangiatea Church in Otaki built by Te Raupaha who had been greatly impacted by the Christian message. I’ve been to many other places of significance in North Island.

But Waitangi beats them all! Why?

3. It’s about Posture

Although People and Place are important considerations in finding our roots, I’ve found that a posture of learning, of being a student of culture, is vital in helping me appreciate the beauty of culture. Although there are many things I have not yet understood about Kiwi culture, I have learned to ask questions and not assume.  I believe the Treaty of Waitangi has the potential to cultivate a unique national identity if we approach it with a learning posture. I believe the spirit of the Treaty should be one we seek to live out as we model a posture of ‘peace-making’ in this complex, multi-cultural world.

Moving forwards

I also go to Waitangi day not just to look back but to celebrate the present and look to the future. I go to celebrate a rich multi-cultural event earthed in a healthy and vibrant bi-cultural relationship.  Unfortunately what we mostly see in the media is the negative side, but a lot of great things happen at Waitangi: families on the beach, cultural groups doing variety shows, a stunning array of great kiwi food including mussel burgers and just a lovely holiday atmosphere. It’s like a big camp for the whole country where thousands of kiwis of all shapes and colours gather to celebrate. I think we need to learn the art of celebrating.

But its more than just celebrating the past. The treaty of Waitangi looks to the future too. Looking out over the Marae at the Dawn Service and seeing  representatives of iwi, government, church, and New Zealanders from up and down the country strengthened my conviction that the Treaty is still a significant factor in developing a deeper bi-culturalism and a richer multiculturalism. While we must be aware of the continuing disparity between segments of the Maori population and wider New Zealand society, I do believe there’s significant progress in social and economic development among iwi.  Asking what went wrong with the process will take us only so far. Instead we are better to focus on what is going on now. If we are to avoid criticism and conflict and embrace cooperation and consensus we must learn from our history and take the best of its strengths to build into the future. I believe God is doing something unique in New Zealand and I want to be able to listen to discern where he is at work so that I can join him!