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.