One of our Mission Partners in the Pakistan recently sent this update and a collection of photos from her area. Please join us in praying for her and the community in which she serves.After the Pakistan government announcement that schools and Colleges are allowed to reopen on September 15 (after 6 months of being closed), seemingly good news, it is not even possible for many in the rural areas. Extreme monsoon rains and widespread flooding have caused havoc in the area, with water not draining away and therefore many villages becoming flooded. Many people are living on charpais on the side of road which is where the highest land is. They are currently dealing with trying to access food and basic needs while being exposed to a plague of mosquitoes which some describe as being as thick as the locusts which came through previously. These mosquitoes bother not just people, but animals too, causing many deaths from the ensuing disease. People are therefore seeking mosquito netting to protect animals as well as themselves.The grounds of the School and Colleges which our hostel students attend are themselves flooded out, and cannot open by next week and not until the water can be drained. While the rains happened at the end of August, due to the drainage issues water still lies deep in many places.In light of all this, the Hostel will delay calling the students back. We are watching the situation as rains are predicted again September 22. We are hoping that we will be able to bring hostel students back so they can continue their studies by the end of the month. Please pray with us for the many challenges these communities are facing.
After close to six months our children are finally able to physically be back in school. Praise God!Theirs is one of the few schools in the country that is now open and this comes with some fairly strict requirements from the government. Jonathan, Aaron and Emily are still getting used to full-time mask wearing, constant hand washing, separate desks, no library and limited play time.They are into their first week back and are glad to be there but hopefully there will be an easing of the restrictions soon.Life in CambodiaSome things are open and others are still closed. All religious venues are still shut, however the malls and markets are open and most people are carrying on with life as normal. There are odd ways in which things are operating too. Karaoke bars are only allowed to open if they serve food as well (as then they are classed as restaurants, which have different rules. The big movie theaters are allowed to open but only to sell food from the snack bar, not to show movies. People have also been asked to refrain from going to beauty salons and hairdressers. All this, alongside the heavy-handed approach to schools, can lead to people being uncertain about the seriousness of the current situation.Pchum BenNo, this is not someone’s name. Rather, Pchum Ben is one of the main religious festivals in the Cambodian calendar. It is a 15 day festival where Cambodians remember their ancestors and earn merit through visiting the temples and offering food to the monks there. It’s believed that during this time, the gates of hell open, allowing tortured spirits unable to pass onto the next life to enter the land of the living. Hungry, the spirits roam the earth searching for food. If they fail to find it, it is thought they will avenge their living family members and curse them.This year the festival concludes next week and friends of ours here comment that it can feel like a spiritually dark time. Cambodian Christians are often at odds with their non-Christian families over what they should do. It can be a difficult balance between showing respect to your family but not compromising in their love for Jesus.Thank youFinally, thank you always for your thoughts and prayers. We know that even though we are far from “home” we have so many people here alongside us, supporting us. Thank you especially for the many kind messages over the last couple of months since my (Neill’s) father died. We were able to watch his funeral with no internet or power issues, and were delighted to hear the kind things said about him. We continue to miss him but thank God for his life. Please keep Mum in your prayers as she copes with life with him not in it. Blessings,Neill, Rebekah, Jonathan, Aaron and Emily.
Neill, Rebekah and family, NZCMS Mission Partners to Cambodia
Normally, when I get complaints about my speaking, they are of the “You spoke too long!” variety. Nearing the end of our school-year today, I delivered a short, impromptu chronicle of the year to our school community. So much has happened. I was surprised, however, to discover how difficult it was to fill my ten-minute window. How odd, I thought, walking home. And then the reason came to me this afternoon in conversation with my wife, Tess. For obvious reasons, this year has been short on big events – which usually fill school chronicles and make for interesting stories – and long on the kind of relational drama that you cannot talk about in front of everyone. “Like what happens to a family in quarantine?” Tess offered. In past years, Trinity STM (School of Theology and Ministry) has been engaged in outward mission weekly by: – Prison visitations – Praying for the sick in hospitals – Taking Bible studies into people’s homes – Preaching and singing in the marketplace – Reading portions of the liturgy on festival days in other villages The value of this has been unmistakable. But this year we were given something different. Stay at home. Work together daily at close quarters. See the same faces every day for weeks on end. At the best of times this has looked like: Wake up for prayer. Go to class. Go to work session. Pray before the evening meal. Study. Sleep. Repeat. At the worst of times it has looked like: Be annoyed by someone. Gossip about them. Be alarmed at the relational chaos that ensues. Say sorry. Repeat. It has not been easy. But we have, like so many this year, learned some important things in the process. Outward mission, taking the Gospel to places where it has not been heard or is not yet believed, is not total mission. Outward mission can assume a dimension it should not for the Church. We can overlook the work of God that is taking place in our homes and churches among people like us who have believed the Gospel already, but who need deepening. When this happens, we pursue shoots at the expense of roots. The outward and visible replaces the subterranean. Far from preventing God’s mission this year, the coronavirus has opened up to us afresh its grandest scope. God is at work everywhere, but chiefly in the Church.
Jonathan and Tess Hicks, NZCMS Mission Partners in the Solomon Islands
We are thrilled to welcome our new Mission Partners – the Sinclairs! Luke and Naomi Sinclair, along with their daughter Angeline (aged 18 months), and a little boy coming mid-October, will be serving in student evangelism ministry in Japan. Read below to learn more about them.What have you been doing up till now professionally and personally? Luke grew up in Ashburton, then moved up to Christchurch to study engineering. Naomi grew up as a missionary kid in Japan where her parents served with CMS Australia, then returned to Australia to study global studies. After both doing ministry apprenticeships, our paths converged at Bible College in Sydney where we met and married. Since then Luke dragged Naomi to Christchurch (it’s the most rural place she’s ever lived!) where we’ve been working for three years at Cornerstone Church, a church which has an outreach to university students. Luke serves as the mission pastor with a particular focus on evangelism and training others to share Jesus with their friends, colleagues, and neighbours. Since Angeline’s arrival, Naomi hangs out with the local mums looking for opportunities to speak about Jesus. She also leads a women’s Bible study and helps to train several ministry apprentices. Tell us about the place where you will be living and what you hope to do there? We will be moving to Japan, home to over 126 million people and where less than 1% profess to be Christian. We are preparing to partner with KGK, which is the student Christian group – equivalent to TSCF (Tertiary Student Christian Fellowship) in NZ. Sandwiched between their exam-pressured high school years and workaholic professional years, university is a critical time for Japanese people to engage with the Gospel. How have you come to know that God has called you to cross cultural missions?We have both been captured by the love of Jesus, who ‘though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that we through his poverty might become rich.’ – 2 Corinthians 8:9. We want to model our lives on this Jesus by sharing the eternal riches of the Gospel with anyone who is spiritually poor. We would be willing to labour for the Gospel in any location, but since both of us happen to be fluent in Japanese (Naomi a bilingual-missionary-kid and Luke a language-nerd who went on exchange in Japan during High School), we feel that God has uniquely prepared us to serve in Japan. What do you hope and pray God will do through you in Japan? The Japanese church is rapidly aging and desperate for a new generation of Christian leaders (the average age of pastors in Japan is 68). Our hope and prayer is that God might use us in his work of raising up Gospel workers in Japan. How can those reading this pray for you and your family? Praise God for pastors who are serving faithfully in Japan. Pray that God might grant them perseverance and encouragement amidst difficult labour. – Pray for God to raise up a new generation of Gospel workers. – Pray for the KGK student ministry as it reaches out to curious students and equips Christians in ministry.– Pray for courage for Japanese people to step apart from their culture to investigate Christianity. – Pray for our family as we prepare to make transitions to a new country and ministry. Want to Support Luke and Naomi?If you’re interested in connecting or supporting the Sinclairs see their online profile here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive news and updates from them. They are also looking for link churches in Christchurch to join their support team.
Luke & Naomi Sinclair, Mission Partners to Japan
NZCMS’ evangelist to Māori, Rev. Hauoterangi (Howard) Karaka, has been busy. During this year, and even during times of lockdown, God has opened up many opportunities to reach out to others with God’s love and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just in the last month, Howard has had the opportunity to lead and minister at five funerals and three unveilings (unveilings are a ceremony held one year after a person passed away).“Due to this wonderful ministry of evangelism,” Howard said, ” I have had the opportunity to lead five people to salvation on the marae and at their homes and also see six re-commitments of faith to God.” From this group of people, six of these families are now attending the church that Howard leads, Hoani Tapu Anglican Church in Drury, South Auckland. The pews are filling! The worship has been powerful and large numbers are stepping forward for prayer every Sunday. “If I was to describe the experience,” Howard says, “I would say many people are practically running forward for prayer!” Howard shared about one couple who walked away from church a long time ago. Their marriage came under significant spiritual attack, and they separated for many years. “The husband was suicidal not long after leaving the church,” Howard said. “He and his wife then separated as he turned back to drinking and anything else he thought would take away the pain. Now it is so encouraging to see them both reaching out for support, prayer, fellowship and rededicating their lives back to God and each other.” Howard also shared that he led a gang member to the Lord during lockdown. This young man is now attending church regularly and attending a discipleship program. We invite you to continue praying for Howard and his wife Gladys as they pastorally care for and disciple those in their parish and continue the work of evangelism in South Auckland. Pray that God would continue to open springs of healing and transformation at Hoani Tapu Church and that God would open more and more opportunities for Māori to hear the Gospel. To read more missions stories and NZCMS updates, subscribe to our fortnightly email newsletter.
Rev. Howard Karaka, Maori Evangelist
The passage that has been my focus in this season is 2 Kings 6:8-23. The armies of the Arameans surround Elisha, and his servant sees an impossible situation.“Oh no, my Lord, what shall we do?” he exclaims in verse 15.This is very much the exclamation of the world around us at this time, and in a sense, we feel a bit like Elisha’s servant. Those of us in the US, UK and Latin America have been hard hit, and although New Zealand has the pandemic under control, the economic consequences are affecting us all. Yet in this scripture, Elisha has a word from the Lord for us in verse 16: “Don’t be afraid…”Perhaps, like the servant, we don’t see the purpose of this time, but God has a different perspective.Elisha prays to God to “Open his eyes Lord that he may see…” and all of a sudden, the spiritual reality is made manifest around them. The armies of the Lord had surrounded the Arameans!The State of our Mission HereIn 2019 I was asked to be in charge of mission mobilisation for Costa Rica on behalf of a Latin American wide movement, and it has been a privilege to be involved in these serious strategic conversations. Leaders all over Latin America and the World are asking “Is it the end of the Mission of God as we know it?” Many of you know that my father, Ray Miller, has developed an online Mission Training course. His aim over the last seven years was to create a specialised Masters Degree to equip a rising generation of Latin American missionaries for the needs of an ever-changing world.Our timing could not have been better. Just before the lockdown started, we launched this Masters degree in “Intercultural Development”. This initiative fits the need of the whole continent at a time when those called to Mission cannot travel. We are also offering Masters courses in Biblical studies, leadership and counselling for local church pastors.Andy and his family having a “Blue Day Party” during Lockdown
I am taking part as one of the students in the new Master’s degree as a guinea pig, as well as being on the development team. For this course, we will be initially targeting Mission Leaders. However, the aim is to eventually open it up to those professional graduates who are looking for biblical and missions training. We are very excited about the prospect of expansion. What we SeeThis time is a massive opportunity for the Church. I feel like Elisha’s servant looking at the Syrian army all around them but then suddenly seeing that God’s angelic troops had them all surrounded. God is for us and is challenging the Church to open our eyes of faith!This pandemic is a massive opportunity for the Gospel into the future. It’s like the earthquakes in Canterbury. Though that season was devastating and painful, after going through it I also felt that I belonged in Christchurch and even now I consider myself much more a New Zealander since then. Currently, there is a shared experience and starting point for a conversation of depth about life and death—such a global opportunity for evangelism into the future.This is what we see:1) A rising relational movement of Kingdom-minded church and mission leaders focused on transformational co-operation and collaboration for the sake of God’s Mission.2) An increase in the capacity and reach of the Global Church as we suddenly all develop an online presence and upskill our technological connection.3) Growing dependence on God amid a financial crisis and a re-organisation of priorities towards investing in the eternal purpose of expanding the Mission of God.4) A season of preparation and online training for the church and mission leadership. To be ready to take advantages of the new opportunities that will be created when borders finally open.May the Lord open the eyes of your heart today and build up your faith to know that He is for us, may He give you creative solutions and bless you abundantly as we all partner together to expand God’s Mission from Latin America to the nations!
Andy Miller, Costa Rica
It’s always such a joy to sit and listen to people tell stories about God’s mission and how they found themselves caught up in it.This week we bring you a video of Dianne Bayley, – recently retired Mission Partner – chatting with NZCMS’ Mission Enabler Kirstin Cant about the beginnings of her journey serving in the Philippines 43 years ago. We hope it inspires you about how God works and calls each of us so differently.Watch the video HERE.
In this story, we hear from our Mission Partner John and how he and his family chose to respond to their unexpected evacuation. We also share a video from one our Mission Partners for prayer, and don’t miss an important update of NZCMS family news at the bottom of this email.Responding to Times of ChangeBeing an evacuee has not exactly been something I had on my bucket list. And though the country my family and I we were in had a fairly severe lockdown, my thought was “Well, evacuation is a pretty strong word. It’ll never happen to us.” Needless to say, it was a shock when our course suddenly changed and we quickly found ourselves being evacuated to Europe, sitting on a Qatar Airways charter flight with the airline staff dressed in hazmat gear.Response vs ReactIt’s a unique time for humanity, where all of us find ourselves caught up in a global mess with no clear solutions, answers or pathways forward. Each and every one of us has been forced to react to what’s happening.And that’s what we’ve seen: a lot of reacting. Panic buying. Anger. Blaming. Protests. Counter-protests. Anti-counter-protests. Instinctive, emotive, knee-jerk reacting has been hard to avoid.But I believe, in times like this, God actually calls us to respond rather than react. To pause and, from a posture of trust, lift our hands to heaven and ask how should we act in this present moment? Responding isn’t to deny the reality we find ourselves in; it’s simply to recognise that we always exist within a much greater reality, God’s reality, and to think, process, decide, feel and imagine from within God’s reality rather than ours.Put differently, it’s easy to get caught off-guard by all the things that are no longer possible, and as a result we can miss the new opportunities that are in front of us. The pandemic has absolutely disrupted life as usual, but it’s also opened doors that we had previously missed, and even created new ones.There are a good number of people, families and organisations who have faced the reality of our current situation and asked “What do we need to change?”. They’ve found a way to pivot and to hold onto their vision, purpose and calling and make whatever changes are needed to continue forwards.What has been our response to this?While we were still in Asia we found ourselves unable to do pretty much anything we were there to do. But as it turned out, because everyone else in Asia was facing more or less the same thing, we realised that we could start running our trainings online from Europe. After all, everyone else was also stuck at home!Within a month, we were able to offer training to around 100 people and were quickly adapting our methods for online platforms. And what’s more, because we’re now thinking in a different way, we discovered that the potential reach from our humble home office is actually huge, in spite of it being hundreds of miles away!As a result of this, though our vision is the same as it was before, it feels like the pipe-dream that we originally had of influencing and empowering leaders right across Asia, is actually possible!We have new tools, new strategies, new partners, and even new dreams, all which will still carry that vision forward in far better ways than before. Rather than merely hunkering down, we chose to respond rather than react and therefore discovered opportunities we previously couldn’t see.My family and I have decided to embrace the stressful, scary unknown and take some pretty real risks. We’re still in the middle of the unknown and have basically no idea what the future holds. But we’ll keep trying to change, respond and lean into God as best as we can.So what’s God placing in front of you, and how are you responding?John,NZCMS Mission Partner to Asia
Nick Laing, Uganda
Hearing for the First TimeWe gather together at the end of the day, sitting on grey plastic chairs, our open Bibles illuminated by one solar light. I look around at my sisters in Christ, women from different language groups, representing diverse cultures yet together nonetheless to share in the hearing of the Gospel.We start with a few praise choruses accompanied by an eight-string hand-made ukulele. After a brief prayer of thanksgiving, we open our Pidgin English Bibles to The Sermon on the Mount. As I begin to read aloud, they turn toward me, attuned to the words of Christ: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. As we meditate upon and discuss the text around our circle, the words of Scripture come alive in the tropical evening.As a missionary in the Solomon Islands, a chain of islands in the South Pacific, it is my joy to work with my husband as teachers at an Anglican Seminary. The enrolled students are all men and many of them bring their wives and families to the school for their last two years of study. Their wives are then able to join the Women’s Ministry Program, which equips them to partner with their husbands.All but one of my women students have only a primary level education, and on average they finished formal education after the fourth grade (approx age 10). They struggle with feelings of inferiority and ineptitude when it comes to studying anything, especially the Bible, a realm that they are more than happy to leave to their soon-to-be ordained husbands.However, it is a beautiful thing to behold these women, despite their fears and insecurities, showing up every Monday night and opening themselves up to hearing the precious word of God. Many of them are unable to read fluently, so instead they open their ears to let the Gospel in. Their attitudes represent what it means to be poor in spirit, in a place of emptiness and need at the feet of Jesus. Most of the time, they are hearing the words being read for the very first time.Listening WellIn an oral culture, listening is a far more practiced art than the act of reading. Sometimes I am shocked when someone repeats back to me something I said in a context where I thought nobody was listening.At feasts, when important guests are given a turn at the microphone for a speech, I look around at the crowds of people sitting around in the shade of fruit trees, eating roasted pig, sweet potato and fish. Most of them seem oblivious to the man talking. Many of them are even talking loudly amongst themselves, chewing and spitting betel nut, barely even looking at the speaker. But rather than not paying attention, these men, women, and children are actually tuned in and could tell you exactly what was said if you asked them afterwards.When Jesus went up on that hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee and sat to teach the crowds, I’m guessing it was a very similar scene to the Solomon Islanders sitting around at a feast. Over the din of playing children, squabbles between siblings and chitchat, those Israelites had their ears tuned in to hear the Master’s words. They were the very first ones to hear what we as modern Christians have the privilege of reading again and again.Poor in SpiritAround our little circle of chairs, we read Jesus’ words to those who would hear and open their hearts to the transforming power of the Gospel: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Those who are poor in spirit are those who do not think highly of themselves, but rather come to Christ ready to be filled with his Holy Spirit. Men and women who are poor in spirit will see God’s will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. They will get a glimpse of what is yet to come.The women in my Bible Study are hearing the Word of God in clear Pidgin English for the first time and are soaking it all in. One of my students has said to me several times, “Before, I just heard the words being read from the Bible. But now I can actually understand them!”Reading together in a common language is making the Word alive to them. As I said farewell to a woman leaving the school yesterday, she tearfully told me that when she came to the school, she came with an “empty heart.” She continued by saying that she had learned so much, especially about the Bible through our classes and Bible Study.These women have never had access to Bible Study guides, inspirational Christian books, topical studies or video teachings. Instead, they sit in dim light, holding an open Bible, allowing the Light of the World to shine on them and show them the path of discipleship.What about us?We as Western Christians can’t fake poverty. No matter how hard we try to simplify and reduce the clutter of our physical lives, the fact still remains that we are privileged to have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. So how can we become “poor in spirit” when we are just too rich in comparison to our brothers and sisters in the 2/3 World?When the rich young ruler comes to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and asks how he can enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus tells him to sell everything he owns and give it to the poor before following him. The young man leaves downcast and bereft, knowing all to well that his heart and very life are set upon his wealth and that he is not willing to give that all up for the sake of following this Saviour.Where do our hearts lie? For many of us, our status, education and wealth are dearer to us than the voice of Jesus. We are like the rich young ruler in this story. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10:23). While he could not make the choice to follow Christ, we can! When the disciples ask Jesus in dismay, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26) Jesus lovingly responds, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” – Mark 10:27.We can make the choice to follow Christ, to hear his voice in the Scriptures and to come to our Heavenly Father as children with empty hands and supple hearts.Simplify for a SeasonI recently met a retired missionary pastor who was reminiscing about how many books he had owned at the height of his ministry. As he prepared each Sunday Sermon, he would pore over numerous translations, commentaries and other Christian texts in an effort to get to the heart of the passage that he was going to preach to his congregation. Upon his retirement, he sold his entire library to a budding seminarian.He thought he would dearly miss his faithful leather-bound companions, yet what he found was quite the opposite. He was delighted by the simplicity of reading a passage of scripture and allowing the words to seep into his heart, mind and spirit. He still preaches occasionally and an NIV Study Bible is his only resource. He has found freedom in dwelling deeply in the Word of God.What if we were to set aside our books, study guides and other devotional materials for a season and simply allow the Word of God to speak to us? Take a week or month, to de-clutter your devotional library and focus solely on the Bible. Join together with millions of brothers and sisters around the world who hunger and thirst for righteousness and find real food and drink in the pages of Scripture.Look at it as a spiritual fast. When the noise of the words and opinions of others are quieted for a while, perhaps we are able to hear afresh what God wants us to hear.Refocused and RenewedWhen you return from your time of fasting, you will have fresh eyes and ears. You will have feasted on the Word and found how it feels to be “poor in spirit.” As you reintroduce other books and materials to your reading, you will be able to better discern those resources that nurture your love for God’s voice and those that distract you. Just as you might return from a physical fast to face a plethora of tempting food choices, you will have feasted on what is good and necessary and know which things you can live without. Let’s be more interested in what the Bible says than what others say the Bible says.Come to Jesus in his Word as beloved children, setting your gaze upon him and opening your empty hands towards him to be filled to overflowing.
Tess Hicks, Solomon Islands