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
Waiting. We’ve been doing a lot of that the last six weeks or so haven’t we. Some of you will remember I waited three years for a visa to go to my country in South Asia between 1989 and 1992. That was hard. Hard because I didn’t know why it was delayed or if I’d ever get it. Hard because God had placed before me a vision of what He had for me to do. Would I ever get to do it? And if not, then what has He been saying? Have I got it all wrong?The other reason it was hard was because some of those around me began to hint that it was time to move on to other things, that I was wasting my time and that there were other urgent needs out there and I was in the wrong place. How did I answer them when those thoughts were already whirling around my mind. But they just didn’t ring true.Well, there was an anchor. A promise and a sign that was given. And God gave me instruction to wait for the visa. And when it finally arrived he gave more instructions: “Don’t try and begin what I’ve shown you. Do what you’re asked to do. Wait, and I’ll begin everything at the right time”.That time, waiting for God to start the new things, was another seven years. And now, since serving the original vision He gave me, it has taken another 15 years for that vision to come into being. And, in truth, there is still a lot yet to unfold.So now that I have returned to New Zealand, how am I responding to the wait now? Will I ever get to go back? What about the unfulfilled vision and expectations I have?A Generational PerspectiveOver these many years I have learnt that God’s ways are not like our ways. His timetable is way, way different. We think in terms of months or a few years. Maybe even a decade or two. He spans generations. Just like the mustard tree in the parable, the Kingdom of God grows. But it may not be possible to see its progress in the short time we have on this earth.I’ve also seen Him keep me in a country where fellow workers have had to leave. I’ve seen him time and time again nullify the plans of others that interfere with His plan.Now I’m more relaxed about the future than I would have been 30 years ago. I know that if I rest and trust and remain ready to obey, then God will do something amazing. But it might not look like what I was expecting. It seldom does.Our Part to Grow the KingdomBeing able to rest in this truth means I’m not so driven about being in the centre of it all. Because God’s Kingdom is far larger than my role. Like Jesus modeled, I’m expected to do my part and to follow the guidance given. To see the mustard tree grow in and through my work. Then I need to leave the rest of the results for God to work out into future generations and see its final beauty from the perspective of Heaven.So often we tend to try to wrap it all up and ‘finish’ the work in our lifetime. But we need to see the Kingdom from a multigenerational point of view.I know many who came in years past to my town and area who never got to see fruit in their time. The mustard tree didn’t seem to grow at all. Some left disillusioned. Others trusted that seeds sown would, in time, come to fruition. All of them sacrificed much to be there. Some stayed only months. All contributed to where the mustard tree is now.I’ve been the fortunate servant who has seen many of those seeds sown now start to sprout and become fruit. Was it my doing? No! We owe it to the generations before us to honour their hard labour, tears and prayers in the desert.Seeing our labour in Kingdom terms for many means jagged endings. Unfinished, unresolved issues, questions and situations. It doesn’t gel with our need for closure and tidy endings. It means trusting that our unresolved ending is, in fact, another part of the growth of the mustard tree. We trust God will fit it in the right place. And we wait and trust God with the ambiguities.This Article was written by a Mission Partner who serves in South Asia. For security reasons, names and places have been omitted or changed.
This article was written by one of our Mission Partners serving in South Asia. Are there any good reasons for not serving God overseas? You bet! There’s heaps: obligation, middle-class guilt, idealism, Saviour complexes, a thirst for adventure. And no doubt many more. Motivations are funny things, aren’t they? More often than not we actually aren’t truly aware of what really is motivating us. Self-awareness is important for everyone, but even more so for mission partners. It’s so important that its a major thing that NZCMS personnel look for as they interview prospective mission partners. “Hmmm” you might be thinking, “Surely there is no such thing as perfect motivation.” Am I a write-off as soon as something murky is discovered lurking in my motivational faculties?” Good question. What hope is there for those of us with mixed motivations? If dodgy motivation is our topic of choice, there’s no better Biblical passage to explore than Matthew 20 (v20-21). The passage opens with two of the disciples (James and John) getting their Mum to ask Jesus a doozy of a request. “Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honour in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand.”This must be one of the most ridiculous requests of all time! And to make matters worse the brothers got their Mum to ask for them! Although the rest of the disciples get mad when they hear about this sneaky request (fair enough!), Jesus doesn’t. While on one hand, he calls their arrogance what it is (pivoting into a teaching point on humility), he seems to honour whatever good intention there was behind the request. Check out his answer (in verses 23-24) for yourself. Jesus response to James and John’s poorly motivated request is 1. To gently call out the motivation for what is it, 2. To honour whatever good motivation and intentions there are, and 3. To offer to redeem the stink stuff. My experience has been similar to James and John’s. There have been several moments in my life when the penny has dropped, and I have realised that my true motivations were much more ego than the Kingdom. But when I’ve taken these hard-earned truths to God, I’ve been met by his grace rather than judgment. Rather than condemn me for my bad attitude, I get an opportunity to move forward in greater awareness of myself and my motivations.
Here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, we’re not under an official lockdown, but still, many things have changed. We’re in our eight week with no school, this will be our eight weekend with no church meetings and our language learning has mostly had to move online.Cambodia, being a relatively poor country with minimal health support, is not well equipped to deal with a major virus. There are few testing kits – mainly limited to the capital city of Phnom Penh – there are no ventilators in the country and if you do have to go to hospital often your family has to be the ones to provide daily care for you.I’m sure you’re aware that social distancing and working from home is a luxury that many people around the world just cannot afford. It’s no different here. If people don’t work, they don’t eat. They generally can’t bulk buy in advance and the lack of tourists is hitting many people hard. For many of the poor they will be affected economically much more than anything else.On the spiritual side, it’s been disheartening to hear of some Cambodian Christians who have turned away from God at this time to lean on traditional religious practices. However, there are hopeful moments too; recently we had non-Christian Khmer friends asking us to pray for their families!One of the biggest decisions that the government has made was to postpone the Cambodian New Year holiday and all the celebrations that go with it. This is one of the biggest holidays of the year and most people go back to their hometowns for a week to be with their families. However the government has said that, rather than travelling and potentially spreading the virus, it is safer to continue working.As for our family, our three children have coped well which has made life easier. They won’t physically be back in school until the new school year in August however, so we’ll see how we’re all doing in a few months’ time. We have delighted in being able to spend some more time together, even if that involves playing the same board game several times a day! It’s also been lovely having “home-church” where we’ve been able to pray and sing together and tune in with various church services from New Zealand. The joys of technology!Like all Christians around the world, we can’t give definite reasons as to why this is happening. But we can endeavour to show love to our neighbours and share the very definite hope we have in Jesus.
Zane writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.There’s no doubt that living with COVID19 in a mega-city of 30 million people raises some questions. How reliable is the drinking water supply? How we can be the church in a meaningful way when we can’t meet? How are we ever going to open a bank account now?We also know that some of our supporters have got questions too. The question we are asked the most by people in New Zealand is “Is it safe?”NZCMS have been brilliant at keeping in touch with us. They have offered us amazing support around planning for this pandemic as things have changed on the ground. And they’ve also offered to help us get back to New Zealand if we felt that was the best option. We haven’t felt it was the best option.When we decided to serve with NZCMS we knew we would have to risk something. Reputation. Lifestyle. Friendships. Aspirations. Hopes. Dreams. We traded them out for something different, something truly unsafe, a gospel vision for Jakarta.We haven’t felt like returning to New Zealand was the right thing to do because we weren’t ‘safe’ here before. Not safe in a kiwi senseThere are inherent risks serving here. Risks of illness, of terror attacks, of disease, of robbery, of motor vehicle accident and risks associated with the healthcare system. But we knew some of the risks of living and working here before we signed on the dotted line with NZCMS. And that’s true for almost all of NZCMS’ Mission Partners.We aren’t unconcerned, über victorious super-Christians. We’re regular, and at times, very sub-par followers of Jesus who have responded to God’s call to live in a different paradigm and a different place. That’s unsafe. Following Jesus should never feel safe.As we’ve grappled with safety, in the wake of our new home having the worst COVID19 fatality rates on the planet we’ve asked ourselves “What’s the worst that could happen?”. The answer is we could die. But what was the worst that could happen before COVID19? We could die.Having just worked through the book of Philippians, Paul’s words ring loudly; “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21. I don’t write that flippantly. My wife, Karen, and I have run through the worst-case scenario a couple of times. It’s scary. Would we go home? What would change? How would life look?We’d be gutted. Devastated. Heartbroken. Yet, God would still be on the throne in heaven. Such a tragedy as one of us dying would undeniably change life forever. And that’s ok, because at the end of the day, we know that our safety doesn’t rest on a set of earthly circumstances, pandemic or not.We can be sensible, and we can minimise our exposure to risk; we’ve been following the advice of the New Zealand Embassy here, which is essentially the same advice as in New Zealand. But the safety we enjoy is in the hands of God, it is in an eternal safety.Our surroundings may not always feel safe, but Christians live and serve in the knowledge that our souls are safe with Him. Psalm 46 says the God of Jacob is our refuge and we serve in an unsafe place so that others might come to know this eternal safety too.Want to keep thinking about this theme of “Godly Safety’? Join in on our “Happy Hour” zoom meeting on Thursday, April 23.
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” My work partner Emma shared this on Facebook yesterday. You’ll soon see why. On the surface, lockdown here in Northern Uganda seems relaxed compared with New Zealand. We can move around, buy food and bike where we want. Yes, shops are closed and we can’t catch public transport but Tessa and I live comfortably. If you are poor however the story is radically different. Fragile situations fall apart. Our neighbor Florence used to raise a couple of dollars a day by ferrying water for people. Now the borehole keeper won’t let her continue, as Florence may ferry the virus. Our good friend Opiyo worked as a laborer on a building site, but with hardware shops shut he can’t continue. Forget about recovery packages and wage subsidies. There is zero help from the government here – you’re on your own. Opiyo’s wife Paska is about to give birth she’s not sure how she will reach the hospital. Before lockdown, motorbikes acted as ambulances for over 90% of hospital transfers. Under lockdown motorbikes aren’t allowed to carry people. Reaching hospital is now treacherous, and difficult situations are now deadly.Tessa and I live near Florence, Opiyo and Paska in Lacor center, a hospital village. When Paska’s labour starts, even if she can’t catch a motorbike she’ll walk down the road to the best hospital in the region. She’ll be fine. Deep in the village the scenario is far worse. Yesterday I got a call from nurse Innocent, who manages a remote OneDay Health center, operated under the Anglican Diocese of Northern Uganda. A 10 year old boy was almost unconscious with severe anemia from malaria. Innocent gave intravenous antimalarials and fluids, but the boy needed blood and fast. Unfortunately the motorcycle taxis refused to carry the boy to hospital, fearing police brutality under lock down. The ambulance arrived 6 hours later. Too late. A 3 dollar motorcycle ride probably would have saved him. Nurse Innocent prayed with the distraught father today when he returned to pay his dead son’s medical bill. Obviously we forgave it. Today I feared a similar tragedy. Just a few hours ago nurse Simon was treating a pregnant woman with severe malaria in remote Ocim OneDay Health Center. Fortunately a motorcycle taxi was willing to brave the brutal police roadblocks, and she arrived safely to hospital.As coronavirus approaches , our limited resources will be stretched past their limit. Our staff use one face mask per day while health workers in New Zealand use one per patient. By the end of tomorrow our masks will run out in St. Philips, our busiest health center. Today I biked around 5 pharmacies in town, only to find that all face masks were sold out. The New Zealand health system may be put to the test, but Uganda’s failed before Covid-19 moved from a pangolin to a primate. John the Baptist said “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Perhaps this applies to face masks as well. I wrote this article last week, and since then there has been an incredible response. We’ve raised enough money not only to buy enough supplies for our 19 Anglican health centers but also to contribute to critical shortages at our local Catholic hospital and pay for transport to larger hospitals if our patients need it. Even in these times which are so hard for New Zealanders it is inspiring to see so many people think of the least of these on the other side of the world. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed” Kia Kaha and God bless, Nick and Tessa
Just over a week ago, Dianne miraculously found herself flying back to New Zealand on a private jet. A Mission Partner to the Philippines, Dianne first arrived there 43 years ago in September, 1976. At that time, it was her first flight abroad and she had $80 in her pocket. At midnight on March 29, 2020, she flew into New Zealand for free aboard the jet.After over four decades of ministry in the Philippines, Dianne had recently handed her position over and she was preparing to come to her New Zealand home. A farewell party was planned for her and she had even organised a trip to Israel before returning to Aotearoa. But these plans were all put on hold as the Covid19 pandemic spread across the globe. The opportunity to fly home via Singapore opened up but, just as the plane was booked and the tickets issued, all the borders were closed.“Not only was I disappointed,” Dianne said, “I felt like a deflated balloon. Disappointed doesn’t even go near to how I was feeling! However Matthew 6:33 kept coming to me; “’Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.’” And miraculously, God provided. Out of the blue, Dianne was invited to board a private jet flying directly from Manila to Auckland. With facemask on, Dianne boarded the plane. “The rule given was that the plane could not leave unless I was on it!,” she said. “I felt like the Queen of Sheba!” Nine hours later, the plane touched down in New Zealand!Dianne is currently under lockdown along with the rest of the country. When the time is right, she plans to return to the Philippines for a proper farewell. She would like to thank everyone who has been praying for her.