Andrew

Dreaming with God (Issue 31)

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One of the most encouraging trends I’ve witnessed in the global church is an exciting wave of creativity which is igniting new ways of being church and is bringing the flow of God’s regenerating life into communities and families, especially those that linger in the margins of culture and the shadow of abundance. In every field, whether technology or agriculture, finance or the arts, hospitality or science, the people of God are positioned at the creative edge of innovation.

And what really lights my pipe is the fact that these pioneers and missional entrepreneurs are most usually not the collared clerics nor the degreed theologians. Neither are they the ecclesial superstars that fill our pulpits, stages and bookstores. They’re ordinary people who simply believe God’s still active and that they are, each one of them, strategically positioned to make a difference in their world.

Will you take a bribe, minister?

Some years ago when I was a minister – before the missions bug bit me again and sent me on another pilgrimage – a very ordinary but lovely lady in our church invited a few neighbours to her home to learn some crafts, enjoy a cup of tea and have a short reflection from the Bible. Word spread and the group outgrew her living room, finding a new space in the church where I worked. In a few years the group had grown to 400 people learning 40 different crafts, filling the church building to capacity every Wednesday (even the cleaning closet was used) and creating a two year waiting list to join. I often had people on the streets recognise me as one of the ministers and ask me to bump their name higher on the list (and no, I didn’t take bribes). We added Thursday nights which I attended to give the 5 minute devotion called ‘Think Spot.’ The numbers only continued to climb. 

Even my mother signed up to learn the art of painting, which soon became her profession, enabling her to make enough money to occasionally visit us overseas. But even more encouraging, my mother was deeply impacted by one of the Think Spots when I asked a craft teacher to give her testimony of how she found God. Not all of the teachers were Christians, but she’d recently decided to follow Jesus so I asked her to speak out of the freshness of her life transformation. This was a significant moment in my mother’s life. “Now I know that I am a Christian,” she told me later.

Pioneers who dare to dream with God

There’s so many stories I could tell of ordinary people who would most likely never be asked to lead a Bible study or give a sermon but who felt empowered to launch some tiny initiative that took root and blossomed into something that transformed lives and the local community. Here’s just a few examples:

Last week I met a lady who went to a food pantry at an Episcopalian church and was asked to lead it. She later came to faith and was baptised – which might be in the wrong order but it didn’t seem to matter too much. Today she still runs the Food Pantry for 450 families each week and has helped to start multiple food pantries in her city. And through her books, including a New York Times bestseller called Take This Bread, Sara Miles is sharing how food and faith are intrinsically connected.

Over the last month I’ve visited a few times with Timothy, the son of an Anglican Canon in Singapore who was told by his father not to enter ‘the ministry’ but instead pursue a career in business. So he became a banker. He and his banking friends launched a missional cafe that hosts Alpha groups. A few more missional cafes have already popped up in a few countries and the movement is just underway.

A new initiative by the Methodists seeks to start hundreds of tiny Kingdom initiatives by empowering ordinary people to give birth to the dream that smoulders in their hearts and minds. What I find interesting is that they expect most of them to fail. But what’s important to them is that God’s people are actively involved in launching tiny endeavours among the poor that bring hope and the living message that our Creative God is still active in bringing new things to life that will be conduits for his love and grace and gifts.

I wish I could tell you about the many other inspiring missional entrepreneurs I’ve encountered. Like the family in Portugal who teach struggling mothers each week to cook a meal for under 5 Euros. Or the retired businessman in Germany who visits a Syrian refugee camp three times a week to teach the German language. Then there’s the Silicon Valley entrepreneur who created an Artificial Intelligence based phone app for detecting depression and preventing suicide. Or the Catholic school teacher in The Gambia who’s starting libraries for children and permaculture projects to provide food during the rainy season.

These are just some examples of how ordinary people have found their place participating in the great mission of God. The beautiful thing is, there are simply no rules about what mission can and should look like – we need innovators willing to listen to God and creatively step out and try something new, even if it might fail. Every garden begins with a single seed and a step of faith. As church leaders equip and release their people to be the church in the world – to be grace-bearers and risk-takers – we’ll see the whole church begin to take the whole Gospel to the whole world.

For discussion

Is God inviting you to ‘dream with him’ in a new way? What part of your life might he be pinpointing, what opportunity might he be opening up, what group of people might he be highlighting?

“If you try the same old thing you get the same old results.” What are some new things you and your group could try? (Why not brainstorm a number of ideas while asking God to give you creativity and boldness).

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

Update from Andrew

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Though its a little late, I wanted to say Happy New Year! Wishing you a bright and hopeful entry into 2017. Thank you for your friendship and support. 

2016 was the toughest year ever for our family. As you know, my wife Debbie passed away in June in Ethiopia due to malaria and typhoid. This has been an indescribable loss for me and also for our five kids. We are getting on with our lives but she has left an enormous hole. Thank you all for your consolations, encouragements, thoughts and prayers. 

My health has improved, after contracting the same illnesses Debbie had, and I feel like I am almost back to normal. I still have to keep an eye on my blood pressure and heart rate but my weight has returned (still skinny though).

I’ve been musing  on the reformation of the church in this 500th anniversary year, focusing on the creative missional entrepreneurs who are reshaping the form of missions and church to impact the world. (Contact office@nzcms.org.nz for more.)

Your financial support helped us equip Europeans to reach out to refugees from Syria and beyond and bring God’s light to spiritual seekers in various festivals and gatherings. It also helped us to mentor African agriculturalists and social entrepreneurs in seven West African countries. 

In 2017, we plan to increase our efforts in Europe to respond to the refugee crisis, assist the formation of a training base in Europe, equip Christian leaders in at least 14 European countries, and offer training and teaching to churches and organisations in impacting the next generation. Your continued prayers and gifts will make this possible. Our support level is critically low at the moment and we really need your help.

Thank you for your partnership!

Syrians in Turkey

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I write this from a poor fishing village on the Black Sea, about 120kms from Istanbul. There are eight street dogs outside on the road but they don’t move for cars. One of those dogs guarded our truck last night. They are not territorial like the city dogs and they don’t bark all night.

The cafe is full of men drinking tea and occasionally playing cards. The summer fishing season has ended yet a few boats go out early in the morning and return at 5pm with meager amounts of small fish. They must be operating at a loss. Perhaps they are subsidised? Perhaps the fishermen just need something to do.

Two days ago we were in Edirne, not far from the border to Bulgaria and Greece. The Turkish authorities were using the stadium to house many of the refugees but these were moved away from Edirne to, or so they tell me, the bigger cities of Istanbul, Adana and Izmir. Refugees are now no longer to be seen in the city although there are accounts of some of them inside houses of generous people.

On our way out of Edirne we saw a group of about 12 young Syrian refugees walking fast along the railroad tracks. We parked a little ways ahead of them and walked over to the tracks. They all looked about 17 years of age and were quite scared of us but I waved at them and they eventually walked up to us. One of them spoke English and told us they could not stop or even walk slowly since the police were after them. We were able to convince them we had no connections to the police and he told us they were trying to get to Greece. I left the group with 50 TL to buy bread and tea for the group once they arrived at the next town – this came from the funds people like you have provided.

We have pulled back to a fishing village on Turkey’s Black Sea, about 120kms from Istanbul. The last few weeks have seen some intense times. We have been moved off by the police on many occasions not just in Turkey but also in Serbia and Hungary. Most times they check all our passports and it takes a long time. The Turkish police were quite friendly to us and took photos of themselves next to our truck.

The Turkish are a friendly people. At the fishing town where we are currently parked up, I have been to the cafe a few times but have never been able to buy tea because someone always buys it for me. Last night we were given a large bag of fish by the portmaster. Sometimes the subject of Gallipoli comes up and they call me “Anzac”. I remind them that the New Zealanders and Australians fighting here a century ago felt a friendly connection to the Turks that was unexpected and actually caused the English to send many troops away and replace the with new soldiers since they were not motivated to fight the Turks.

In many ways, both New Zealand and Turkey discovered themselves during that war and entered a new era with a new identity after the war.

It’s good to be back in Turkey. I hope the friendliness they extend to our nations, and what they extended to the European refugees during WWII, will be applied to the two million refugees from Syria, along with the willingness to recognise them as true “refugees” (with work permits and permission to stay) rather than the current status of “guest” that allows them no such privileges.

 

The Thornberrys are now focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. They urgently need more support to enable them to effectively serve many in need. Please consider donating towards their increased expenses that this ministry is incurring for them. Your donation, whether one-off or on-going, will support real ground-work with the refugees.

Information about giving can be found by clicking here.

 

Image by Freedom House.

Responding to the Refugee Crisis

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We’re currently in Turkey, witnessing what some are calling the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time and the largest mass movement of people since WWII. There are four million refugees from Syria outside their country and two million of them are here in Turkey, a country that doesn’t want them. We’ve been active in feeding them at the borders and helping to manage relocations into homes of compassion and missional centres in European cities. It’s been good getting to re-establish relationships with ministry leaders again, joining forces to respond to such a serious crisis and huge opportunity for the Gospel.

Half of the four million Syrian refugees outside of their country are under 18 years of age and half don’t have passports. The two million refugees in Turkey are not given ‘refugee’ status but are rather treated as ‘guests’ – without permission to stay or work. Thousands have died this year in boats during their desperate journey to Europe. Some have suffocated in trucks during the land journey. It’s a horrible crisis but there is hope. Thousands upon thousands of homes have opened up for them around the world and we are witnessing one of the greatest acts of compassion in our lifetime. Many of these homes are Christian and already stories are emerging of transformation by the power of Jesus.

Through connecting country leaders with houses of compassion and hubs of holistic service in many countries, we hope to create a network that will enable refugees to find a new home, even if only temporarily. And we feel the best way to help at the moment is to be present in the areas where the refugees are. Please pray for us that we will have everything we need to fulfil God’s purposes.

 

The Thornberrys are NZCMS Mission Partners in Europe who are now focusing on the Syrian refugee crisis. They urgently need more support to enable them to effectively serve many in need. Please consider donating towards their increased expenses that this ministry is incurring for them. Your donation, whether one-off or on-going, will support real ground-work with the refugees.

Information about giving can be found by clicking here. (The above image is from European Commission DG Echo on Flicker.)

18 Hippies in one Truck

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We’ve just emerged from a hippie family filled month on a mountain in the Balkans. We’re simultaneously exhausted and invigorated. We’ve felt in the centre of where God wants us to be and we’ve been having a great time!

Granted, we were the only Christians. The only in-tact family present. In fact, the only married couple. I was by far the oldest woman there. It didn’t surprise us that we were soon dubbed “Mother and Father.”

Who was at the gathering? Young people in their late teens and twenties mostly. Some of the men are older. They are mostly from the Balkans but some from around the world. A 19 year old who has been living on the streets in Israel. A young woman from an Australian finishing school on her way to a Canadian University. Young Serbians who can’t find jobs but refuse to give up so they move into the countryside and start growing their own food… and magic mushrooms. Some people just looking in. Many, many young people from around the world who live without houses and work as street musicians or doing odd jobs or dumpster diving in order to eat.

We arrived ten days before the gathering to ‘set-up’ with a small team. This included erecting a welcome centre, kitchen, chai tent, healing tent, meditation centre, main fire, bread oven, fire bath and water access points from the wells.

We were constantly being asked about our lifestyle, spiritual disciplines, family, travel. We were continually sought after for spiritual and relational advice as well as what role drugs have played in our lives. [none, actually]. Many times I would feel the hearts of the mothers of the young people hoping and praying for them.

The day of the full moon celebration we baked 300 bread rolls in the bread oven that Nigel made. I started the night before teaching several women to bake bread for the first time. I don’t use a recipe. I bake by instinct and am teaching this to the young women. More woman gather around. As we are mixing more flour in I start to mention an examination of the conscience. I learned this from the Jesuit bread-baking book I keep in the truck. We clear our workspace and our hearts. We know that our love goes into the bread with every motion of our hands.

All day long we are making unique batches of dough with seeds and herbs and whatever else attracts them. We take the dough up to the bread oven. Nigel is surrounded by men from all over the world. The oven is almost up to temperature. “Have you ever done LSD? I’m thinking about doing it so I can start thinking again.” They are shocked to find out that neither of us do recreational drugs to encourage spiritual enlightenment.  [Nigel: “Call us old-fashioned”]. We tell stories and talk about freedom. We talked of of other ways to attain spiritual enlightenment. This conversation, is repeated over and over with other groups of young people.

Our girls make many new friends. People comment on how mature they are. There is a different set of morals than we hold and we have many conversations with the girls about this. In this context it’s not good enough to simply tell our girls what is right or wrong. We need to journey with them to the truth.  Talking about good and bad of different choices. People are asking them questions as well. They make lasting impressions on many.

One Israeli man says it is like Plato’s cave. We come into the cave to the people who only see shadows and tell them about the real world outside the cave. He says we are the ones coming into the cave to say what real life is. He says we are ‘revered’ here.

We left the gathering in convoy with another van. We have one last food circle in the village before we drive off. We are still 18 in our truck. By the next day our numbers are down to eight.

Our plans are to go to make our way back north by the beginning of July. Over the summer we will go to three festivals. Please keep us in prayer as we visit these festivals where we will speak about new ways of doing church and spiritual communities, the radical Jesus life, and parenting the Jesus way.

Camping in the Balkans

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We’ve decided to go to gathering of spiritual-seekers in the Balkans. We’re having a fantastic time. We’ve been here for two and a half weeks with two weeks remaining. We came early to set up and with eight other internationals we built a kitchen, chain space, tipi, healing space, meditation space, bread oven and fire bath. We are now up to 40 people with the numbers growing everyday.

We’re having amazing times with seekers from all over the world. Many here are exploring different areas of Buddhism though some are looking into other religions as well. We’ve been adopted by all as mum and dad. Nigel has especially enjoyed building and having conversations on Sufism and peace. A highlight for me is time with a Eastern European man who had quit his heroin addiction three days before he arrived. We’ve met so many amazing people but Nigel and I fall into our tent exhausted at the end of each day. Part of this is the intense conversations. I think the low protein vegan diet at the shared meals contributes as well. Our kids are having a blast and have made many friends.

Please be praying for wisdom, strength and protection. It’s nice to know we are being prayed for.