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A final reflection

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With my departure from the office imminent, I wanted to share a reflection I’ve been mulling over for a while now. I’ve been in this communications role for almost four years, and as I get ready to leave my role, this is a good chance to share some reflections on NZCMS and our future – especially as we approach our 125th anniversary as an organisation.

A while back I was representing NZCMS at a conference. During a worship time we were invited to ask God to speak about the group we represent. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to hear anything, so was a little surprised when a couple of Bible passages along with an image popped into my mind. As I’ve pondered this, I believe it captures an important element of where we are as a nationwide community.

Picture a small group of soldiers with their shields, chain-mail, helmets, swords. These soldiers have truly ‘fought the good fight.’ They’ve been in the battle so long that their armour is worn and tired and dull – it’s not going to last much longer. But unlike the rest of their set-up, their shields are glowing and bright. There’s something about who they are and how they’ve fought that, though everything else has aged as you’d expect, their shields have become almost supernaturally illuminated – rather than wearing out, they have become stronger.

Through this image I felt God was speaking of the loyal NZCMS family who have been committed to this community for decades. Many of you have fought the good fight and are nearing the end of your race (2 Timothy 4:7). This raises questions for both you and for the wider NZCMS family: what will the future of our community be like? Who will rise up and ‘take your place’? How will we be sustained into the future? For years we’ve been seeing decline across the church and fewer people are picking up the mantle of mission. If something doesn’t change, is there a future for mission in and from New Zealand (… and is there a future for NZCMS)?

At the end of the image I’m describing I felt God ask, “How can you hand on your ‘faith’”? In Ephesians 6:16 Paul describes the shield of faith/faithfulness, one of the key pieces of the Christian’s ‘spiritual armour.’ The question to you is, what would it mean to hand over this ‘shield’ to the next generations? Are there things you can do so that your years of faithfulness and faith will be, in a sense, passed on to those stepping into your place in the battle?

These questions make me think of my friend Stewart Entwistle who passed away earlier this year. He dedicated the final years of his life to various research and writing projects, ensuring stories of faithfulness in mission endured. Now that he’s joined the great “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) he’s no doubt cheering us on, knowing that he did what he could to make sure this ‘shield’ was passed on. Let’s all do likewise!

When Prayer Meets Calling (Issue 32)

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By Steve Maina (NZCMS National Director)

I remember it clearly. Floating above the earth, glancing down at the world, wondering where I’d land. When my feet finally rested in Saudi Arabia, I was a little caught off guard.

No, I’m not an astronaut, and no, NASA hasn’t invested in a base in the Middle East. Let me explain. During my university years, I was part of the Christian union group. We felt God calling us to invest in prayer for the world, so we developed a unique model to make it work for us.

Every so often we’d roll out a giant map of the world and spread it across the floor. This thing was massive, easily filling the average Kiwi living room. The line from Psalm 2, “Ask of me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,” inspired us to pray for God’s Kingdom to come to the nations as we literally stepped on different nations on the map.

Because of the busy uni schedule, many of us would start gathering as early as 5am, and since sleep might be unnecessary distraction at that hour, it only made sense to walk about while praying. We’d walk across the map without looking down, praying for God to be at work in his world. It wasn’t until you felt the Spirit’s nudge to stop walking that we’d look down to see where in the world we were stepping, and at that point we were encouraged to spend 10 minutes interceding for that specific country. We had Patrick Johnstone’s Operation World as a resource if we needed more info on how to pray for specific countries, but often we’d find God give us the words – and the heart – to pray for places we previously had no connection to. In prayer, God shared with us a glimpse of his heart for the nations! 

I remember the morning I landed on Saudi Arabia, the heartland of the Middle East. I didn’t just pray for those 10 minutes and move on, but felt God lead me time and again to pray for this country for a number of years. In fact, over this time I felt a growing sense the Lord was calling me there as a cross-cultural worker one day. But I didn’t know at the time how to take the next step. With a growing heart for the Middle East, after university I stumbled upon a dream job with an organisation that was seeking to disciple followers of Isa in this region of the world. I studied the Koran and helped run a discipleship correspondence course for several thousand inquirers and young Christians from Muslim backgrounds. That involved writing many thousands of letters – by hand! – for the next year and a half.

I’ve still never been to Saudi Arabia and I don’t know if there’s ‘unfinished business’ for me there, but I do know that this ‘mapping prayer’ helped ignite in me a global mission vision that has shaped my vocation as a Mission Mobiliser and eventually led to me being based here in New Zealand. With so many Saudis in this country, perhaps there’s now an opportunity to step further into that original sense of calling right here on my Kiwi doorstep. 

Prayer enables us to align our priorities with God’s and to subject our will to his. I believe prayer is vital in helping us identify the places God is calling us to be involved. There are things God has stored up for you that will only be discovered as you pray! I find many young Christians desiring a sense of calling and purpose in the world, but often that will only come about when they first turn their eyes off themselves and towards God and his world. 

In that moment of prayer I didn’t just intercede for a country I knew nothing about. It was a true kairos moment where God invited me to enter in and started me on a journey of discovering my purpose in his world! The question is: What might he be inviting you into?

For discussion

Like Steve’s prayer map example, what sort of things could your group do together to make prayer more engaging?

Have you ever felt God inviting you into something new during prayer? Have you actually pursued it? Is God inviting you into something new?

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.

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.

Learning to Pray (Issue 32)

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By a friend serving in the Middle East

As I write I hear the familiar voice of our local ‘spinach lady’ in animated conversation on the street outside. Hearing her prompts me to ask God to have mercy on her and let her come to know him.

Earlier today I sat with a new neighbour for an hour and heard her tragic story. She’s not a believer but I prayed that God would speak to her heart as I shared about a current dilemma I’m facing and how God was helping me through it. As I left I told her I’d be praying for her.

Yesterday I met with two friends and we spent time praying for each other’s needs. One woman wept silently as we brought her needs before the throne of grace.

At church on Sunday the preacher asked, “Should we pray for Daesh?” Following a general murmured consensus one man said, “With God all things are possible.” Some of those sitting there were refugees whose lives had literally been turned upside-down by Daesh. I prayed that God would help them to forgive, and yes, to pray for their enemies.

Last weekend we attended a wedding. It was a lovely wedding held in a Catholic church and as the priest spoke his message to the happy couple I prayed that the truth of his words would penetrate hearts and minds despite the distractions of flashing camera lights, glamorous gowns, and adorable bridesmaids and pageboys.

Flossing, Eating, Breathing

Why pray? Prayer opens the way for God’s power to work. How sad is it when we so often go through our days forgetting the awesome privilege we have as believers in a God who hears and answers prayer. That’s why at different times in my life I’ve used prompts to remind me to pray throughout the day – maybe hearing a phone ring, or going into a particular room, or walking up and down stairs. Lord, help us to pray.

Maybe for some of us prayer is a bit like flossing – undoubtedly beneficial but easily postponed till the next day if time is pressing. For others prayer may be like a good meal – a nourishing and anticipated part of our daily routine. For yet others prayer is like breathing – the frequent expression of a deep and abiding, though not always conscious, dependence on God.

During my years of serving overseas I’ve experienced prayer in all of these ways. Yet I confess that sometimes my prayer life has not been what I wished it to be. It’s opportunity that’s now lost. Prayer is the heart of our relationship with God. It’s the life-line that holds us to our Lord and is an essential element in our service for him.

I’ve always been captivated by the thought expressed in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” The amazing treasure that each of us ‘clay pots’ carry is the Gospel, the power of God for salvation and transformation through Jesus Christ. Part of the secret of the clay pot is its porous nature which allows it to absorb water and remain saturated with it. This enables it to keep the liquid it holds refreshingly cool. The pot becomes permeated by what it contains. As we spend time in the Word and in the presence of the Lord in prayer and worship, our lives become permeated by his life. The more permeated our lives are with him, the more we will overflow with his love and goodness. This is surely the prayer of our hearts – more of him, less of me.

Praying for Missionaries

Maybe you’re wondering how to pray effectively for missionaries when you don’t have a real feel for their situations and don’t know what their specific needs are. Rather than just asking for general blessings – which is certainly not a bad thing to pray – perhaps you could begin by praying for their prayer-lives to be enriched. Pray that they will be deeply rooted in God’s Word and for their lives to be permeated with the life of Christ.

We don’t usually need to be reminded that we’re clay pots as we’re often all too aware of it, but pray that they will remember that they are carrying a treasure. Pray that they will have opportunities to share that treasure with those around them. And pray that whatever difficulties or battles they are facing, they will be reminded of the power of God to hold them and his strength to sustain them, and that they will be given new hope in believing.

Of course, there are many more things you could pray. The Apostle Paul has some wonderful prayers in his epistles for example. The most important thing is to simply pray, and as you do, be assured that prayer opens the way for God’s power to work. There have certainly been times when I’ve known we were being prayed for and have literally felt buoyed up by the prayers of the saints! Workers who have people committed to faithfully praying for them are truly blessed.

This article has offered insights into how invaluable and essential prayer is for mission. NZCMS produces resources to guide you in praying for our Mission Partners around the world. To sign up for our monthly Prayer Fuel pamphlet or to receive our email newsletter Interchange, please contact the NZCMS office (office@nzcms.org.nz).

For discussion

In your life, how have you experienced prayer as flossing, eating and breathing? Are you in a season of flossing, eating or breathing at the moment?

What can you and your group do to grow in your prayer support for Mission Partners around the world?

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.

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.

The Bible Project

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The Bible Project… What is it?

Their mission “is to show how the Bible is a unified series that leads to Jesus.”

I first heard of this few months ago and eagerly signed up to ‘read daily scriptures.’ Each video is 5 – 10 minutes long covering different books and topics of the Bible. Cartoon sketches appear on the screen as a narrator takes us through the big picture of the Bible and how it fits into Gods greater story. It is fun, well told, visually appealing, and there must be close to a hundred videos to watch! There are even downloadable resources such as posters to accompany most of the videos.

Despite all that, our busy household couldn’t keep up with the length of the daily readings, although we did thoroughly enjoy their videos which give a big view of the Bible as well as overviews of each Biblical book. So we eventually gave up on using it as a daily family activity.

As usual, it is God that prompts us back to something that is really good. Our home group somehow ended up talking about Jonah when our current study guide asked us ‘are you a Jonah?’ Most of us have grown up knowing the story of Jonah and the whale. Young children can get quite amused at the concept of Jonah being vomited up on the beach from the mouth of a whale; as we get older we ponder the reality of being stuck inside a whale stomach for several days. Is that even possible?

We kept chatting, considering the truculent Jonah running from God, finally obeying God, and then sulking on a hill because God forgave the Nineavites and there was no mass destruction of lives. So we looked up the Bible Project. It’s American, it’s well done, only 9 minutes long and it gave a totally different perspective. Did you know the story is almost a comedy of paradoxes: of the one anointed by God continually running, yet the non-believers (the sailors) praying to God for safety from the storm; Jonah asking to be thrown – with certain death – into the raging seas rather than being obedient, and once he falls in the water the seas calm down. We see the same again as the Ninevites after hearing just seven words – and not one word mentions God – repenting from their sinful ways. Instantly! And Jonah the deliverer of the message throws a tantrum?

The outcome of our 9 minute video was running way over time with our home group, our youth group is studying Jonah at present, so guess what they’ll be watching on Sunday. And one mum in the home group will be showing the videos to her 10 year old son to encourage him to read the Bible. Now that is one powerful use of new media to get a new generation to think about the meaning of the Bible and how it all leads us to Jesus!

I for one will be turning to it a lot more often in future, to help our understanding when reading the Bible. Click the link below and go take a look. For those of you with grandchildren over the age of 10, why not give it a try, and get their feedback?

www.thebibleproject.com/explore

And am I ‘a Jonah’? Yes, it seems I might be. The story of Jonah it seems is a reflection of humanity. God calls us and we so often refuse to listen. But he is persistent and loves us, saves us from some unusual predicaments in some very creative ways and when he sets us a task does a lot to help us achieve it.