Mission Partners

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.”

Christchurch Cambodian Evening

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Join Anthony and Anne McCormick for an evening celebrating all things Cambodian, complete with Khmer cuisine, entertainment and an update from folk who have recently returned from Cambodia. Saturday 5 August 6pm at St Christopher’s Church (corner Avonhead Rd and Coniston Ave). 

Tickets $25 per adult (family price available).

Tickets available from Anne (ph. 022 457 6924), the NZCMS Office or St Christopher’s (Office hours 9am-2pm Mon-Fri).

If you’re planning on coming, please respond immediately as the caterer needs to know final numbers on Thursday morning.

Summer in Albania

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Summer has arrived in this part of the world, and our daily temperature is usually in the mid 30°c, which changes the way life happens here. Our daily routine at the moment often includes an afternoon siesta, and more time meeting with people in coffee shops for a drink. We are currently making a list of people we haven’t seen in a while so that we can meet them for a coffee and a catch up while life is less busy.

Team. Some of our team members are now on Home Assignment and all the kids are off school for over two months. This means our team meetings take on a different feel, as they are more often like family outings together. We are yet to get together this summer because last week we were all away together with the Kosovo and Bulgarian missionaries for our annual ‘Prayer Days.’ This was a time to focus on deepening relationships, studying scripture (1 Peter) and praying together.

Community Centre. In our last newsletter we told you about the new vision that the pastor, Erion, has been developing regarding beginning a community centre called “Ethos” in the main church building. The vision has developed. There is now a venue for youth to go to learn, or practice, their English, learn a musical instrument, or just to hang out together with other Christians. With a short term team they have also begun to make some contacts. Pray for the centre as it develops. 

Main Church. With the development of the community centre, the main congregation has now begun meeting in the building where the church plant is based (the majority of the congregation actually live in that area), and a new leadership team is being set up to oversee and lead the main congregation as the pastor’s main focus will be on the community centre. Some people are struggling with the change as it was done quickly, and without a lot of time for consultation. Our role has developed to support and work with the new leadership team, who are largely unprepared for the task ahead.

Outreach to Poliçan. Murray, Bujar and Genci have begun regular weekly visits to Poliçan with the aim to develop a number of small Bible study groups.The first Bible study group met last week, and it was a positive and encouraging time.

 

“Can I talk about rubbish?”

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We’ve been busy, but it’s been a good kind of busy. Our sewing enterprise continues to take shape. We’re hoping sales in New Zealand and Australia can help us keep the prices affordable for the local market, thereby contributing, even in a small way, to reduced rubbish and carbon footprint. We’re approaching food banks in NZ about whether they’d accept our re-usable cloth sanitary pads if donated for those unable to afford disposable pads (apparently topical there right now). Let us know if making such a donation interests you or a group you know. Email office@nzcms.org.nz if you want to hear more.

Hearing about our products, our girl’s teacher invited one of us to be the “creative parent teacher” on the theme of “women’s empowerment” to celebrate the birthday of a famous campaigner for girls’ education. “Can I talk about rubbish?” she asked. “Of course,” he replied, “the main thing is that you’re a woman.”

So began our series of presentations: “Living with rubbish”. Where does rubbish go? What animals are affected? What happens when you burn it? All novel questions, it seems, around here. Promoting the three “R” (reduce, reuse, recycle), we discussed alternatives to buying heavily packaged takeaways, which left parents and teachers in the audience challenged to change their consumption habits. “This is really important,” said one parent, “everyone should hear this”. After three years of living with the overwhelming reality of the rubbish around us, it is deeply satisfying to share meaningfully about this.

We’ve done the presentation five times now, including in our neighbourhood. As well as a platform to promote the products, it feels good to celebrate our rubbish-picking neighbours as eco-heroes. Without them, our city would have 30% more rubbish to deal with! Unfortunately, they are often regarded as dirty, impolite, unhealthy bottom-feeders. “They’re actually richer than many of the legitimate citizens of this area,” the local government official tried to tell me, “squatting for free, paying no tax. They can just go home to their houses in the village.”

Such discussions have been informed by my part-time study. This semester’s topic was “climate change, justice and sustainability.” One of my first assignments was to write a letter to people back home about my convictions about climate change. You can ask for a copy by emailing office@nzcms.org.nz. I’ve also written an essay regarding “Rich Christians in an Age of Climate Change” with some thoughts for the church here, and another essay on climate change risks for our rubbish-picking neighbours and local perceptions and priorities to adapt to an increasingly uncertain future.

New wheels for Dianne

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We’re delighted to share that our big item of praise: a new set of wheels! Its a “new” but not new diesel Toyota 2.5E Innova, the 2010 model with 7 seats (with removable seats), only 61000 kms on the odometer and it’s had only one owner. Other than one slight mark outside, it’s pretty much immaculate. So we are very happy.

I asked Obet to put it on a rise outside our Home of Love and Compassion so I could take a good photo. At that moment some of the children from the Children’s Home arrived from school, and they were excited to be in the photo. And Melany our Social Worker happened to also arrive with Gelai, our little Cerebral Palsy child. They had just brought her new set of wheels as well – a stroller!

This means we’re now set to fetch you from the airport when you visit! In fact, we’ve recently been able to pick up a team from the airport using this car for the first time: a group from St John’s Rangiora.. And what a great time we have had with them over National Disability Month. (Plus its really nice to just be with kiwis!)

Let me tell you a story

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Last time Mama Miriam, 40, was pregnant, her baby died at birth. “A” was determined this time would be different.

Every week, a dozen pregnant women gather with A and her team-mate. They talk about nutrition, foetal growth, breast feeding and other revolutionary ideas. They even practised putting condoms on cucumbers. (The bananas were too ripe). They usually finish with some stretches and A checks their blood pressures.

She noticed Mama’s blood pressure was high. “It’s happening again” said A, remembering last year’s tragedy. “You must go to the clinic as soon as possible”.

A local midwife did a quick ultra sound and estimated her pregnancy at six or seven months, and the baby only 1kg. The government clinic agreed that keeping her blood pressure down for the next two months was going to be important. “But your case is too complex for us here” they said. “You need a letter from Social Services to get free treatment at the public hospital.”

Thankfully Mama has been diligent with her documentation, and is one of the few people in our neighbourhood with an official identity card, somehow obtained for her unofficial address. She even managed to get a letter out of the local government representative to show she was ‘poor’. She remembered smugly: “He was asking me for money, because I’m not in his official area, but I just kept silent, and he gave it to me anyway.” Her own husband was ill, so she had waddled her own pregnant self to about four different public agencies on public transport getting the right signatures.

Knowing time was precious, Mama and A gathered all her documents and set out early the next morning for the Social Services office. It turned out that Social Services wasn’t at the location the clinic said it would be. So where is it? “It’s close” a bystander said. “That way I think”. If you’ve ever experienced an Asian megacity then you know how unhelpful such vague directions can be, with roads rarely signposted, buildings unnumbered, and houses and offices mashed together in an impossible pile of human enterprise.

The goose-chase that followed took them (via other loosely associated government offices) to a home for street kids and the homeless. The place was oddly empty except for a group of uniformed men hanging about smoking. A well-meaning social worker visiting from out of town took pity on this odd pair: a blustering foreigner and a heavily-pregnant, one-eyed woman from the dump. He personally escorted them in his car to the correct location, some 6km from the original destination. The office was entirely un-signposted and set back from the main road behind other buildings.

It was right on the start of lunch break. Several staff were sitting at desks staring determinedly into space. Not leaving. Not even eating. Just “on break”. Incredibly frustrating to watch! The walls were covered with notifications of missing children. Who would ever see these posters? They recognised the faces of two kids from our own neighbourhood (who, we found out later, were actually being held in a police cell for begging in front of a fancy supermarket).

Then the break was finally over, and getting the letter was surprisingly fast. They wrote the date wrong, so twinked it out and typed over it, wondering among themselves how many other letters that day they had dated incorrectly. “Just take this straight to the hospital, and they’ll take care of the rest”. Good news, finally! They returned home, exhausted but satisfied, A ignoring the neighbours tut-tutting for leaving her own baby for so long.

Mama and A made time to tackle the hospital two days later, A worried about the possibility of preeclampsia. Upon registering, they produced their precious letter. “The date’s been tampered with!” the staff informed them. “We can’t accept this!” In despair, A tried to explain that it came like that. Another staff member rescued them: “Actually you don’t need this letter at all. Your supporting documentation is sufficient.” So their well-earned letter was discarded. Good to know!

The biggest surprise was still to come, however. After a 3hr wait, Mama finally received her free consultation. “You’re dry,” the doctor declared after the ultrasound. “The water’s gone. You’re lucky you came today, because the baby needs to come out, now!” It didn’t help that A’s phone battery died, but she was able to borrow a charger from another patient and call me. The father, still unwell, visibly deflated when I informed him. He carries the burden of providing for four other children, and no doubt the grief of last year’s stillbirth. And now the prospect of a tiny prem baby added to the mix. Another of our team-mates was able to give him a lift to hospital, and his wife made sure the kids were properly fed for the next few days.

The baby was born that night by c-section at no cost to the family.* To everybody’s amazement, she was 3.2kg! A healthy weight, and breastfeeding fine. “What miracle is this?!” we all asked ourselves. And then… “how incompetent is that local midwife at reading ultrasounds?!!” (We’ve had a lot of bad experiences with her, but our neighbours keep using her).

In hindsight, Mama remembers some fluid discharge the night before, but as it didn’t come with pains, she thought nothing of it. By the time we were at hospital the baby was already in distress and would not have lived much longer, though her mother didn’t realise. Maybe the same thing happened last time. But this time, our intervention saved a life, and for that we are all so grateful to God.

The news spread in our neighbourhood. A few days later, a man stopped me on my way home from teaching English. “It’s so great what you guys did. Usually nobody offers more than a bar of soap from the nearest shop. But taking someone to hospital is no small thing.” (From our experience I have to agree). “And you care, even if they are a different religion.” he said. I tried to explain that Isa teaches us to love our neighbours as ourselves. In the current climate of fear and intolerance, it seems that more of this is what’s needed.

 

*PS In another baffling twist of bureaucracy, at the moment of birth, the baby was classed as a new patient and therefore not eligible for funding (and the mother prohibited to leave) until the correct documentation was produced. Thankfully our team-mates and the father did this part of the leg-work, visiting all the same government officials again, only this time for the baby.