Mission Partners

The Mayor Saga Continues

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“He has arrived; he is in office.”

Excellent. Against all odds, we have everybody in the same space. Media present? Tick. Religious leaders? Tick. Mayor in his office with no known escape routes? Tick. Ready for ambush.

Since the Mayor intervened and ruined the last sachet alcohol-impounding operation, he had affectively blocked all enforcement by refusing to let his enforcement officers take part in operations. Theres a lot riding on this ambush.

Our District’s former Anglican Bishop (still an influential figure) and Muslim Sheik lead the way with a gaggle of media swarming behind them. At first, I tactically remain outside. The last time I saw the Mayor, we both lost our tempers. I waited. Then my phone rang and I was summoned inside to join the discussion. Things weren’t going well. The Mayor dodged everything, weaving in lies and half truths. His attack was threefold-

He claimed enforcement was unfairly targeting certain businessmen in the town area, and that we should be going out to the villages. This is true but justified- the main suppliers of illegal alcohol are in town! He claimed that business owners had not been properly ‘sensitized’ to the ordinance, and there should be multiple meetings hosted for business owners to have ‘input’ into implementation of the ordinance. Firstly, the news about the ordinance had already saturated the media since its launch the previous year, and business owners had already had illegal product confiscated! The time for ‘sensitization’ had clearly passed. ‘Sensitization of business owners’ is at best a delay tactic to make sure nothing happens, and at worst, an opportunity for business owners to rebel and swing things to benefit their profit focus. Most bizarrely, he claimed that the first round of impounded sachets were never actually burned, and that the big public bonfire was ‘faked.’ How on earth he thought this ridiculous claim would even help his position, I’m still not sure. Afterwards I provided the video footage and photographs to the media of the sachets being burnt.

The Mayor completely dominated the discussion. The religious leaders (who I clearly had not prepped strongly enough), folded under his pompous display of authority and importance. Too gentle, too polite, their message demanding the Mayor release his enforcement officers for operations was lost. My own attempts to ‘up the anti’ were shushed. We left, I felt deflated.

Outside, we reshaped things with the media, and managed to rework the message to make it stronger!

Despite having essentially failed in our main mission of influencing the Mayor, our ambush had an unexpected positive result. Perhaps frustrated by failed ambush, the Muslim Sheik called the District Chairman and they went on radio and thoroughly dressed down the Mayor. The District Chairman then resolved to go above the Mayor’s head, and ensure enforcement would go on, with or without the town enforcement officers. Boom.

Most of the media coverage was on local radio, but a local reporter also wrote it up on their news blog. 

A busy month coming

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Murray and I have a bit of a heavy travel schedule in October for which we would appreciate prayer for:

From October 5 to 7 we’ll be in Kosovo for a Field Council meeting (oversight group for the Albania/Kosovo ECM missionaries), and to have annual review discussions with the missionaries in Kosovo. From the 7th – 10th we’ll be in Bulgaria to have annual review discussions with the ECM missionaries and national workers there.

From the 17 – 21 October we’ll be in Montenegro, as this year it’s our turn to be the our organisation’s missionary representatives at the annual Albanian Encouragement Project conference and board meeting.

Then from the 24th – 27th Féy will be in Spain to lead the Ministry Direction Group group as they look at all ECM’s missionaries ministry plans for the coming year, as well as evaluating all the new project funding requests.

So yes, October promises to be a busy month! Please keep us in your prayers.

Protests in Togo

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Since early September, there have been demonstrations and protests across Togo, demanding that the current president step down for power. President Faure Gnassingbe has already been in office for 12 years, and he became president following the death of his father who had ruled the country for many years, meaning the Gnassingbe family have been in power for 50 years. Protesters want to see the Togolese constitution limit presidents to two terms in office.

In response to the protests, the Togolese authorities have intermittently blocked internet access, seemingly in an effort to hinder protesters from gathering. The scale of recent protests, which the opposition said were attended by hundreds of thousands of people, represented the biggest challenge to Gnassingbe’s rule since the aftermath of his ascension to power in 2005.

Earlier this week the Togolese parliament sought to pass a bill limiting presidents to two terms in office, but it failed to win approval due to a boycott by opposition lawmakers. Though the opposition are hoping for the two term limit, under the terms of the bill, the current president would be eligible for two further five-year terms that could leave him in power until 2030.

The above video which was released on September 7, gives you a clearer picture of the situation. For more information you can see the articles on the situation at Al Jazeera or Reuters

Nationwide protests are planned again for this Wednesday and Thursday starting at 8am (8pm NZ time). Both the pro-presidential group and the opposition party are planning on protesting at the same time. Miriam Tillman’s team at the Hospital of Hope are taking every precaution to keep safe, and there has been no reported danger for expatriates. But please keep them, and the whole country, in your prayers.

Moving goal posts

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It was a pleasure to see Rev Steve Maina from NZCMS two weeks ago at the Enthronement of the new Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea. The day was bright and colourful – though I can’t say the same about the weather, which was somewhat damp at times. It was also a delight to meet many other old friends and make new ones. The highlight for me however on the Monday following the event where the PNG Bishops sat with their fellow Bishops from Melanesia, England, Australia and New Zealand. They shared their challenges and their mutual hopes for the future of the Anglican Church in PNG.

Now to the question I’m sure you’ve been wondering: Where in the World am I?!  In some earlier newsletters I had said that I’d be relocating again on June 30. It’s now well past 30th of June but… I’m not in the Archbishop’s Office and we are no closer to knowing when I will actually relocate again. Winding back the clock a little, in January I came across to Popondetta to assist at Newton Theological College for ‘six months’ until Archbishop Clyde Igara retired in June.

The new Archbishop, Allan Migi, asked me to continue in my role as his executive assistant for a further term. However that did not mean I would leave Newton College in July, and there continues to be a level of uncertainty around timing – hence the mixed messages in the NZCMS Prayer Fuel about my whereabouts. Simply put: ‘the goal posts keep moving’.

What we do know is that ++Allan will be based in Lae on the same site as the National Office (when he finishes in the Diocese of New Guinea Islands near the end of the year). This means I will not be returning to live in Port Moresby for the foreseeable future but will eventually go to Lae. The building where my accommodation and office space will be is in the process of renovation. So I find myself still living at Newton Theological College in Popondetta.

Thank you once again for your love and prayers.

Thanks from Anthony and Anne

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We’ve both been overwhelmed at the warmth of the support we have received during our time of Leave & Home Service here in New Zealand. We want to say a very big thank you to all of those churches which have hosted us and the many people who continue to pray & support us on an ongoing basis. 

We return to Cambodia in two weeks and hope to communicate with you all more regularly during our next term. We’ll be writing more regularly on our blog in this coming season, which can be found at www.anneandanthony.wordpress.com. You can even sign up to receive email alerts when we write new blogs – just scroll down the page a bit and look for the “Follow blog via email” heading. And if you’re not on our newsletter list, please email office@nzcms.org.nz and ask to be added.

Sponsorship and education

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SHE’S MADE IT!  Back in 2003 a sad, small and sickly 5 year old Giselle entered Hebron Children’s Home from a very unhappy family background. With the help of some generous sponsors, she was able to finish elementary school well, and we sent her home to help and to go through high school – which was a bit daunting, but she did it.

But how would she be able to pursue a career? Again, sponsors stepped in and enabled her to do a two year course in Culinary Arts followed with a graduation and then job hunting. Finally, she has her first job! Giselle helps run a snack corner in a very nice mall. It’s a good start and she is doing and learning lots. Thanks to sponsorship who gave her a chance!

(The photo above is Giselle in 2003, the year she joined the children’s home.)

 

Reacquainting our knees with the carpet (Issue 32)

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By Katie (Serving in Spain with NZCMS)

“I pray but I could always pray more.” I hear myself say that time and time again. But why should I? Why are we ‘all called to pray’? Living in Spain in the midst of a different culture and language has taught me a lot about the importance of prayer for my relationship with God and for mission. As we pray we express our dependency on God – not only for own lives but also if we’re to see any change happen in the lives of others.

Learning to be dependent

They say people respond in various ways during the process of cultural transition. When I started off here in Spain, with only about five words of Spanish under my belt, my initial response was plenty of frustration. I battled away with trying to express myself and simply understand what was going on around me, and for a while I became pretty dependent on other people. I felt more like a pre-schooler than a ‘sorted-out’ mature adult.

This is how God wants us before him. He wants us to be dependent like children so that we cry out and, like the writers of the psalms, pour out our hearts to him. In those first few months I spent a lot of time talking to God as I knelt next to my bed, went for long walks around the city and wrote words to him in my prayer journal.

The process of cultural transition called me to pray and helped me see how much I depend on God – in my weakness but also when I might feel strong. As Christians we’re called to pray because we’re dependent on God, and because of his love for us in Christ he desires to listen to us.

I’m loving working alongside a Spanish church that has a heart to see people discover who God is in the Bible. However, the non-believers I meet are on the whole reluctant to ask questions or engage in any conversation about God. I think it’s about the same in New Zealand as well. Wherever we are in the world, a lack of spiritual curiosity makes mission at times feel discouraging. As a response, prayer has been where my team has been turning because as Christians we depend on God to be at work in the lives of others.

Learning to be intentional

Intentionality and sometimes a bit of planning can be helpful to motivate us to pray. I’ll share a few of the ways we’ve been learning to pray for the city and its people.

Having fellow Christians to push you on in prayer is really helpful and incredibly encouraging. Every Thursday morning I meet with a couple of other women and together we walk around a specific suburb praying for the people, businesses, schools, community centres. Pretty much anything we see can be prayed for! We also pray for churches and church leaders, for local and national governments, as well as for some of the common obstacles to the Gospel.

I enjoy praying through passages of the Bible as well. I find that using God’s word to form my prayers helps me pray specifically. Once a month as we walk we use various Scripture verses printed onto sticky notes to shape our prayers. After we pray we stick that particular Scripture to a park bench, a lamppost or some other item of street furniture with the hope that someone may read about Jesus.

It doesn’t have to always be praying out and about. You can stick verses around the house and use them in your prayers as you lay eyes on them during the day. A dear friend of mine, a busy mum, uses the laundry as her place to pray. She has Scripture and prayer points on the walls and uses that space to pray fervently for God to be at work in our city and province. You can be as creative as you want!

God’s been teaching me that prayer is front-line work in mission and essential for seeing people become curious and want to discover more about him. My desire is to see people in Spain know true and lasting joy in Christ and so I’m called to pray to the one who alone can gift people this joy. Day to day we depend on God to change lives as well as to continue working in our own lives. And so, as Brooke Fraser sings, we’re all called to keep “reacquainting our knees with the carpet.”

For discussion

Have you felt that you are not measuring up to the standard of ‘praying enough’? Why do we often feel this ‘pressure to perform’?

What could you, as a group, do to spur each other on in prayer WITHOUT this pressure?

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.

The Health Centre That Wasn’t To Be

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Phase 1 – Great hope In March, we rode out with our enthusiastic nurse Walter to the frontier town of Elegu on the South Sudanese border. High population, no health centre, traders with a bit of money. What location could be better? The location even came with our Bishop Johnson’ recommendation.

Phase 2 – Bewilderingly slow Things started surprisingly slowly. Only 60 patients came the first month. 97 the second. Walter was bored. The patients who came appreciated the service greatly, but we were bewildered by how few there were. After an amateur advertising campaign where we shouted through a megaphone, smeared A4 notices around town, and gained the trust of the local Maadi tribe, things started to pick up.

Phase 3 – Maybe yes? In July, the clinic broke even for the first time, with a bunch of sick patients coming for IV treatment, in addition to more minor conditions. 175 patients for the month. Walter called excitedly with the statistics, sharing that the word had spread, that people were appreciating him, the health centre, and the care – the only high quality care available in the area.

FLOODED OUT  – We’ll never know On Tuesday August 22, at around 4:00pm the banks of the Onyama River burst. The flooding was swift and violent. The scale is huge – as of now at least 3 people have been found dead, and over 2000 are displaced. Our nurse Walter ran 50 meters to the clinic from his hut in an attempt save the drugs, but only managed to gather half before the water reached waist deep. By the time he filled a bag with drugs, his own home was flooded. He lost all his rice and beans, but he and his wife made it safely up to the safety of the raised main road.

I thought he exaggerated when he said the water level reached over a meter, until I saw the water line on our drug cupboard today. Around 1.2 meters high. Today, a week later the water is still ankle deep, and Fiona from our Health office went to Elegu to retrieve the cupboard, desks and other equipment that were covered in mud. Amazingly the clinic hadn’t been looted. We spent this afternoon washing them up, so we can use them in another health centre soon. It hurts to lose Elegu clinic. something that could have done so much good. Time to mourn and move on.

There’s a great song, “Flood Waters” by Josh Garrells (do listen) which discusses a deep love which can’t be washed away. A love which can’t fail no matter what. Our love for this place, and Walter’s love for the people he treats won’t be washed away by this flood. We’ll all find new ways to put it into action.

Visits and Forest Fires

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Along with much of the Balkans, Albania is experiencing a heatwave, with the temperatures between 38 – 42°C. We don’t have air-conditioning, so we close our house up at 9am in the mornings, and open it again around 9pm once the temperature drops to below 30°C. Last night when we opened the house up, it filled with the smell of smoke from the forest fires. 

On a very different note, Refika and her husband Çlirim (pronounced Chleereem) moved from Berat (near Poliçan) to Tirana early this year, and now live within about 10 mins walk from our place. Refika has been a Christian for about five years, along with three of their four adult children. After they moved, Refika contacted a friend who goes to our church, and since then she has been a regular member of our church and has joined Féy’s Bible study group.

One day about six weeks ago, she and her husband were out walking and bumped into Bujar and Shkëndia (good friends from our church). They started to talk about Bujar and Murray’s weekly visits to Poliçan and Çlirim asked if he could go with them. Refika was mortified that he had asked, and thought he would just go to meet with his friends and drink raki.

We all encouraged Refika that it would be fine for Çlirim to go, if not just because he would get to know Bujar and Murray during the two hour drive each way.

Çlirim did meet up with his friends on that visit, but only for a short time, and then he joined the Bible study group in Poliçan. He is now a regular member of the team that goes to Poliçan and is learning about the Gospel and what it means to be a Christian! He is an avid reader, and diligently does his homework in preparation for each study, and he now regularly attends the weekly church services. It is obvious that God is working, and his family are amazed at what is happening in his life.

The visits to Poliçan have finished for the month of August, and will resume in September. Please pray for plans for the coming new ‘academic’ year.

 

The ordination (part 2)

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One might expect that the official, long holiday break from Bible College might have offered a break from hectic activity, something that could be termed, ‘holiday’. Dream on! 

When I last wrote a newsletter, at the end of May, the 3-year Theology students were about to sit their final papers, set by the Anglican Province of Tanzania.  As Peter was sent off driving and translating for all the different groups of visitors to the Diocese, I was left to administer the papers, amongst the tension of both students and teachers.  The 2-year course students were sitting their exams at the same time, so I had some supervising and marking of papers to do as well.  Peter was back in time for the Graduation service and celebration meal, but as the 3-yr papers had to be taken to Kongwa for marking, we didn’t know the results until a few weeks later.  I must say that we were amazed that 10 out of our 11 students passed their Certificate of Theology.  There was much rejoicing!  Bishop Given was thrilled too, and has plans for the top students to further their studies; the others will be placed in parishes of the Diocese.

A group of eleven 17  year olds and three teachers from Bishop Justus School in Rochester arrived to help with building projects in the village of Chemba.  Their school has sent different teams for three years now.  The local children adore them.  We have a World Heritage site only 45 mins drive from Kondoa, at a place called Kolo.  Peter and I accompanied the students to have a look.  Massive rock formations and rock paintings there have been estimated as at least 20000 years old, through carbon dating. 

It is seen as a very spiritual place by the locals, especially at one site where there is a large ‘room’ under a massive rock.  It can only be reached by slithering through on your stomach!  Not one of us cared to try that!  The guide said he had brought many people there to pray to the gods for things small and big, such as to be elected into Parliament!

In the middle of the school’s visit, Peter and I were required to go on retreat for two days before his ordination to the priesthood, on July 16.  This was at Chemba this year.  There were just three couples involved: John and Christina, Amos and Joyce, and Peter and Chris!  John, Amos and Peter had all been ordained as deacons last year, and found worthy by the bishop to be ordained as priests this year.  Sunday’s service was a huge affair.  The school students who were present, reckoned that it was 6 hours long!  There must have been at least 8 choirs from surrounding villages, Kondoa and Chemba itself, and each had prepared a special item for the day.  The large church was packed out.

After one day back in Kondoa, Peter had to travel again, this time to Korogwe, in the Tanga district. It is a long drive, and he decided to bus to Dodoma then join in with others destined for the same meeting of principals of Bible Colleges.

In the meantime I was expected to be part of a Mothers’ Union leaders’ meeting gathering in Kondoa from all over the Diocese.  As I am now a Mama Mchungaji, basically meaning a pastor’s wife, I am expected to turn up to all these meetings.  If they are as long as that one was (3 – 11:30pm), I might start becoming creative with my excuses.  One thing that did excite me was a discussion about children’s work.  It was noted that all Muslim children are expected to go straight from school to classes about the doctrines of Islam, but we Christians don’t have even a mid-week children’s class.  Do we not think it’s important that children get a good grounding in the Scriptures, they asked? Most Sundays there is Sunday School, but there is little organisation to it.  Please pray that the passion expressed in that meeting, will be turned to action, so that we can disciple children to be strong in their faith and their knowledge of God’s Word.

The Bible College students, both the new 3-year course and the 2-year course, are expected to arrive by August 6.  The first week will be an orientation week, then straight into lectures.  Please pray especially for the new students, as they get used to study and a new environment, and for their families coping at home without them.

Please pray for Bishop Given as he will be going on Sabbatical leave from half way through August until December.  Pray also for continuity of support for the Bible College financially.

Peter spoke at our Saturday morning fellowship today on Hebrews chapter 11 verses 1,2 which are well worth reflecting on:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”