Martin, a Youth Pastor in Christchurch, reflects on where he sees the need for the Gospel here in New Zealand. I came to New Zealand about 5 years ago. Before that, my experience of this beautiful country was limited to a high school case study about cattle and sheep farming for geography class. It’s safe to say that never in my thoughts could I have envisioned living here. However, as I’ve come to realise and accept, God’s plans and my plans are very different, and it usually works out for me if I abandon my plans and follow his. Growing up, I always knew I was going to be a lawyer. This position was emphasized for me in high school, because all the teachers talked about was excelling and joining the “Big four” professions, i.e. Lawyer, Doctor, Engineer and Pilot. It was while studying Law in university, in my third year, that I specifically heard the voice of God calling me into full time ministry. The first time I ignored him for two reasons – I did not know if it was my own thoughts playing a trick on me. And, secondly, I was enjoying law school, so why would I quit and do something different? Thankfully, God did not give up on me and, in my fourth year, he came calling again. This time, he’d been working in my heart and I said yes. After graduation, I started working at Nairobi Chapel as an intern. The plan was to do the internship program for two years then go out and plant a church somewhere in Nairobi, or around Africa. About a year in however, St Augustine’s Anglican Church from Christchurch came calling. How did I know it was God’s plan? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to adjust to the culture and, even if I could, I would never get the documentation required. However, it was God who had called me, so that process, although long and tedious, went smoothly and I became the youth pastor at St Augustine’s Anglican Church. This was the beginning of a deep learning process for me.The Kiwi CultureThe first thing I realised about this community is that people were friendly, but without any depth or commitment to the friendship until they knew who you were and they felt they could trust you. This is what I call the ‘small wall’ and the ‘big wall’. In many cultures, especially in Africa and America, if the community does not like your ministry or presence, they will make their feelings known very quickly. So you’re under no illusion as to where you stand. You immediately experience a ‘big wall’, and you have to start bringing it down brick by brick. When the big wall is down, people can trust you and mission becomes easier. Generally, I’ve found this can take six months to a year. In the kiwi context however, it’s the other way round. Everyone seems friendly and happy, giving you the illusion that everything is working well and things are good. But no one trusts you for a long time, until you have proved your worth. This process can take between 1-2 years depending on how consistent you are in interacting with people. However, underneath the clean and neat exterior that forms the thread of our society here in New Zealand is a hurting generation that needs a saviour more than it realises. This Kiwi community needs healing, the healing that Jesus Christ himself can provide, and the confidence that comes from believing in a saviour who loved humanity, not only in word and thought, but through action. This is what I’ve discovered when I started to scratch the surface. Our society is suffering from many things, but I see two big problems. A Life About OurselvesWe are individualistic and are struggling to grow the value of community and togetherness. But because we look like we have it all together, those people who are struggling are repelled by us. The irony of this is that not one of us has it together, yet we drive each other away from ourselves, and from real and authentic community. Reducing GodThe second problem is that we often reduce God to an understandable and malleable concept. Our God has become too small and manageable. By doing this we dethrone him, thinking that we’re autonomous and can do all things right in our own eyes without any consequences. The result of this way of life is that our mental health suffers, especially when we discover we cannot do it on our own, and we end up feeling even more inadequate. These two issues become a vicious cycle hidden under nicely mowed lawns, picket fences, manicured nails and fancy clothes.What Does Mission Look Like?These are the core reasons why I think New Zealand needs missionaries, people who are totally sold out for the Gospel, ready to die to self and proclaim Jesus as king in their lives. People willing to be in an authentic community of believers to grow and be known by others in order to attract and not repel. Henri Nowen, a Dutch Catholic priest and theologian, articulated it well in his book “Out of Solitude: Three meditations of the Christian Life”. “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” In New Zealand today, mission is denying ourselves and putting away our inclinations of individualism, consumerism and anything else that the western world offers as an alternative to real authentic community. We need to pick up our cross daily and realise that we’re all fallen people. We’re not mistakes needing correction. We’re sinners needing a saviour. A saviour who tells us that he is strong when we are weak. Finally, mission is following Jesus. This means prayerfully and intentionally gravitating towards those in our society that are looking for an authentic relationship, first with others and, even if they do not realise it, with Jesus Christ who understands their deepest hurts and pain. This type of mission cannot be fulfilled within a year or two years. New Zealand needs people who are willing to commit at least seven to ten years of their life to intentional communities that are full of life, love and grace. I finish with the words of Jesus in Matthew 9:37-38. “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest”. There are many ways you can spread the Gospel, but perhaps the first most important question would be to ask the Lord of the harvest Lord, “What are you doing within me and around me, and how can I be part of it?”
NZCMS Mission Enablers, Guy and Summer Benton, reflect on the misconceptions the New Zealand young adult community has about mission and what they have been doing in response. A Valuable GenerationWhile our family lived as long-term missionaries in Cambodia for eight years we learned a lot about what mission could look like in reality. We didn’t realise that some of the preconceptions we held about mission would be challenged.Where do the ideas come from about what missionary work might be like? Is it through one-off missionary talks? Is it through history lessons at school? Is it through scrolling Facebook feeds and seeing youth mission trips? At the end of 2017 we moved our family from Cambodia to New Zealand where we took on a role as Mission Enablers with NZCMS, working primarily with young adults. Through this role we’ve been surprised to see how many misconceptions the younger generation in New Zealand has regarding mission. And these misconceptions can often become a massive barrier to their interest in and willingness to participate in mission. As a response to this we’ve developed a new gap year called Better World which strives to combat many of these same misbeliefs. Our hope is to show our younger generation that they can not only participate in mission but that their presence in those spaces is incredibly valuable. Young people are actually striving for significance and a way to engage in God’s work in the world. But sadly the barriers they have around mission often stops them from seeking out these opportunities and recognising that they may even be called to mission themselves.Mission Misconception: EvangelismOne of the misconceptions we’ve encountered lies in the role of evangelism in mission. Many young people have communicated to us that they think evangelism means only preaching and teaching. Evangelism is then often reduced down to single events of preaching the Gospel, the cross and the resurrection across cultures, often in clunky and awkward meetings with strangers. While we know it does include those very important things, it is also much more than that. Due to many dynamics that are present in our younger generation, they often shy away from verbal evangelism for a variety of reasons including fear of repeating mistakes of the past such as colonialism, manipulation techniques and preaching a fear-based Gospel. There is also fear of appearing to embrace a spiritual paradigm that is dominant to other paradigms in the culture. When society is saying “There is no one way and all ways are fine” then it’s incredibly hard for a young person to declare that Jesus is the only way. Lastly, there can be a lack of discipleship which often results in no real conviction that God is actually good news that’s transforming their own life. This misconception means that you have a whole generation of young adults cringing away from any idea of sharing the Gospel. Mission Misconception: Traditional RolesAnother misconception often held by the younger generation is that to be a missionary you have to have life aspirations that fit into ‘traditional’ missionary roles of teacher, preacher, doctor, or church planter. These misconceptions are often the result of exposure they may have had to other missionaries and the type of work they’re doing. If young people don’t feel called to a more traditional vocational ministry then they often don’t think they could be called into mission. That couldn’t be further from the truth, especially today. The modern mission field is filled with missionaries who are business people, lawyers, IT specialists, lawmakers, human rights activists, engineers, and artists. It’s arguable that what the world needs most is Christians who are bold in their faith and offering their unique gifts for the work God is doing in the world. We are the body of Christ and we all have a part to play in God’s Kingdom work.The Temptation of Shallow MissionsIn addition to these misconceptions, in a society built on fast-paced answers and instant gratification, there is a risk that a young person who is passionate to make a difference in the world is looking to altruistic volunteering short-term opportunities as the answer for that. Further to this, the explosion of connection and networking through the information age has created a dynamic where young people are bombarded with information about things happening in the world and, while they may feel that they’re able to engage in issues they’re passionate about, this risks a glassy-view of helping without much depth or commitment. Also, if they do choose to participate in mission work, they don’t necessarily know what it takes to thrive in that work long-term and, as a result of their individualist culture, they often go about it alone rather than surrounded by a community of support.Better World These are just a few of the core tenants behind the vision for NZCMS’ Better World Gap Year. This program strives to combat these misconceptions by taking young people on a ten-month journey of exposure to what God is doing, both around the world and in New Zealand, and walking with them as they discern how their personal gifts and passions may intersect that work. Our first year of Better World participants have returned from five weeks in Fiji where they’ve already learned so much about what serving God and sharing their journey authentically with other people can look like in the world around them. And it’s an exciting place to be in as we watch God take hold of these young lives and set them on a path to serve him in the unique way that he created them to serve.The Better World programme has recently begun taking in applications for their 2020 intake. To learn more go here or, if you want to download an application, click here.
Recently, we announced that our long time National Director of ten years, Steve Maina, will be taking up a new assignment as Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Nelson. We’re very excited for him entering into this new season and look forward to seeing all the things God does through him and his family in this position, though, with a bit of sadness as well at the prospect of him leaving us. As of now, the NZCMS board is now taking in applications for a new National Director. For more information regarding this role please click here.
After the attacks that Christchurch and its Muslim community experienced, there has been a need to process all that this attack means for the future. And, perhaps more importantly, it has brought up many questions for how we, as New Zealand Christians, should respond.Nick Laing is a CMS Mission Partner in Uganda and has written on how we can respond to Jacinda Ardern’s slogan “This is not us” in a balanced and honest way that will continue to deepen our conversations. To read his article, click here. Rosie Fyfe was a Mission Partner with CMS for a number of years in Egypt and is now partnering with us as our Intercultural Communities Enabler based in Wellington. She has a unique perspective on how we can build bridges with our Muslim brothers and sisters and she hopes her article will be an extra resource for you as you reflect on what you can do. Click here to read her article. We pray that these insights will be helpful to you and will continue to deepen the conversations and actions that need to happen following the events of the last couple of weeks.God bless.
John and Elaine moved to Papua New Guinea two weeks ago. Elaine writes a bit of their story and what they will be involved in there. John has just finished working as a building tutor at Ara Institute of Technology, where he’s been since 1985. Over twenty years ago he took three years sabbatical to work in Mendi in the Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea in the early 1990’s. When we left there with our four sons, we said “Well, that’s done, goodbye PNG!” Now we’re saying, “Who would have thought we’d go back?!” We always thought we’d like to volunteer around retirement age but this was just slightly sooner than we imagined. Now we have four grandsons and will have no family with us at Kapuna. We feel God has really set our path straight before us with support coming in from Gulf Christian Services, Hope Hornby Presbyterian Church and NZCMS.I’ve worked as a Midwife and Registered Nurse and have just finished work in Christchurch. In Kapuna, I’ll be working to help with health education and anything else along those lines that is required and John is going to assist in hospital extensions, renovations and various other projects around the hospital.Please Keep John and Elaine in your prayers as they settle into their new location and work in Kapuna, Papua New Guinea.
NZCMS Board member, Ian Daily, reflects on how those gifted with singleness find and belong to an intimate, fulfilling and outward looking community. “Don’t expect us to be your friends – we’re very busy people!” The words of this thoughtless and unfeeling remark left me stunned and without words for a minute. Here I was, returning home to New Zealand after 21 years away – a single person without a spouse with whom to share the challenges of adjusting to a new life in an environment that was now strange and unfamiliar. I suddenly felt very alone. The family members and friends I’d had when I’d left so long before had all moved on with their lives and I realised that my network of relationships had to some degree unraveled. There were now few common interests, and not many could relate to my overseas experience and weren’t very interested anyway. I needed a new community into which I could be welcomed, where I could find a place to give and receive, and where I could serve God in a new context. And I was now well and truly middle-aged!Of course, all this had happened in reverse 20 years earlier when I’d arrived in South America, but I was young then and was invigorated by discovering how to live in a new culture and learn a new language. There were quite a few other single Mission Partners (as well as welcoming missionary families) and friendships were quickly formed, many of which have endured to this day. There was an instant missionary community we fitted into and we forged friendships with many of the local people.The number of single people in overseas mission was, and still is, quite striking. At present 30% of NZCMS’s Mission Partners are singles. This is a far higher proportion of single adults in this age group than you will find in the general population. What would overseas mission look like were it not for single women who have been open to serving God in this way throughout the generations?The blessings and dangers of a single life We all start our lives as singles, and as God’s children we are to accept that gift. For many, there comes the opportunity to exchange the gift of singleness for the gift of marriage and they are to embrace that gift as God’s calling on their life. For the rest of us, we still have the gift that God means us to have. Some will go on to take vows of celibacy but most of us are “unintentional” singles who “ended up this way” but who are to continue embracing the gift God has given. Singleness often brings loneliness and a lack of human intimacy, sometimes a sense of not fitting in and an unwarranted sense of failure. But it brings freedom and opportunities that couples often don’t have. I’m not sure I would have visited more than 70 countries on mostly work assignments had I not been single! And, for many, a deeper level of intimacy with God is found. It also brings dangers of self-indulgence and of shutting other people out. The bottom line is that we must echo Paul’s words in Philippians 4. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”So what can we singles do to find a sense of community? Looking back over the 20 years since I returned home, I have found the following strategies helpful.Maintaining family networks while awayI have literally dozens of cousins and we have reunions every few years. This engenders a sense of belonging and reinforces a sense of personal identity. I have people out there who belong to me, and I to them. Get to know them again and strengthen old ties.Building relationshipsA place of work is a great place to build new relationships. The same applies to where you live – getting to know neighbours and getting involved in local activities. This has certainly been true for me, living in a community of 59 families, and now co-chairing the committee that oversees the care and maintenance of our homes. Many nationalities live here and I can even speak Spanish to my Colombian neighbour!VolunteeringEvery Friday I drive the buggy at Selwyn Village for those with mobility issues. This has allowed me to get to know a totally different group of people, both staff and residents, and provides me with moments of ministry and a window into a completely different world.Being involved in a faith communityDespite the dispiriting start to this article, my closest and most faithful friends and prayer partners did surround me with encouragement and support. I also joined a small and warm congregation, which incidentally has many singles, including the “once-were-married” and the widowed. Very quickly a sense of belonging and community developed and this is where I felt the strongest sense of community as I became involved in the activities and ministry of the parish.Those who have never married are not to be considered objects of pity, suspicion or condescension. Their life has simply taken a different path – they have received a different gift in life from the majority. They have been granted freedom and time to devote to Christian ministry as the Apostle Paul noted as being one of the advantages of singleness (I Corinthians 7). And many have discovered a special intimacy with their Lord and the joy of being able to channel their reserves of love to the widest possible number of people around them. Let us bless God who gives us the grace that goes with each and every gift he bestows!Questions to considerIn a society that is so focused on romantic relationships as being the pathway to true happiness and fulfillment, in what ways can singleness be viewed as an alternative model of human completeness? How can love of others, as opposed to love of the human “significant other”, help us to understand the character and breadth of God’s love?What ideas do you have about how the gifts and experience of single people (whether they have overseas mission experience or not) could be harnessed to enhance the ministry and outreach of local faith communities? Most churches have significant numbers of ‘home-aloners’ in their congregations. Many will have felt that their networks of relationships have unraveled over the years, or have worries about living alone, especially if they are older. What more can your faith community do to strengthen a sense of community, belonging and care?
As Chairperson of NZCMS I am writing to you as NZCMS supporters to inform you that this morning it was announced that our National Director, Steve Maina, has been named Bishop-Elect of the Anglican Diocese of Nelson.I know you will join me in congratulating Steve on this appointment and we wish him and Watiri every blessing as they take up new responsibilities and ministries in Nelson. We also wish to thank God for the immense contribution Steve has made to the life of NZCMS for more than ten years. It is expected that his ordination as a bishop will take place later this year at a time to be determined. Please pray for us all as the first steps are taken to search for a new National Director, and especially for Steve and the Nelson Diocese in this period of transition. Best regards, Paul Cooper, Chairperson NZCMSPlease follow the link below for an interview with Steve about this new transition. http://anglicantaonga.org.nz/news/tikanga_pakeha/steve
CMS Mission Partner, Dianne, reflects on the fruit and faithfulness of God as she leads a children’s ministry in the Philippines. “You did not choose me but I have chosen you…….that you might go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” – John 15:16I went back to Philippines in January 2018 with a broken arm. A good way to start the year! But I knew that way back God chose me to come here to the Philippines and therefore he would fix it. In January 1976 I was driving my rusty little VW over the hills to Camp Raglan where 120 plus children were arriving for a week long camp. I read the verse for today on my dashboard which said ”…the Lord has chosen you…to serve Him.” – 2Chronicles 29:11. At that moment the word “Philippines” flashed across my mind. I told the Lord “I don’t want to go there!” I could go to England yes, because I could visit relatives I’d never seen before. However I then added “Well Lord, if this is really from you please make it clear!” The next day my director went to our P. O. Box for the mail. I hardly wrote letters, so I hardly received any. He gave me a blue airmail letter, which was my first ever letter from the Philippines, and it contained a direct invitation to join the children’s ministry there! Since then, I’ve known very clearly this whole time that God has chosen me to minister in the Philippines and he provides what we need to obey him.Fruit that I’ve seenOur fruit for Jesus just keeps on growing! From teachers sharing the Gospel in their classes, parent’s Bible studies and the odd parent our Principal leads to the Lord, to children and staff devotions in the Children’s Home and visiting disabled people who are “shut ins” in their homes. We held a Summer Children’s Camp, to which 80 came. I worked with four Bible Clubs which saw 80 plus come to Jesus. Two training seminars brought in another 170 children. A very meaningful event for me was hearing the blind pastor in our Camp for Disabled clearly preaching a salvation message along with his own personal testimony using his braille Bible.Overall, I can conservatively estimate that 400 people have come to Jesus in the past year, most of those mainly children. What incredible fruit!Fruit going on for JesusAnother area where I have seen fruit is in the ongoing involvement of former students. We held reunions for both former Bible College alumni and Children’s Home alumni, which brought about 80 people to tell their stories and catch up with us. A good number are involved with churches, some with Christian schools and some are overseas or in far distant places. Three new teachers in our school are former pupils and converts, who want to continue this legacy. To top it all off one of our former children’s home boys, who is now a businessman, contacted me a month ago from Qatar. He had started a church plant there for a Baptist church a few years back and wanted lecture material on children’s ministry so he could teach their members! How is that for fruit going on for Jesus!“Whatever you ask in my name, I will give to you”. – John 14:13Another story is very close to my kiwi heart! One of the most joyful events in the Children’s Home is when we celebrate a children’s birthday. All was set for the day. The decorations were ready, the gifts were wrapped, the games were prepared, and the favourite food was ready to cook. And of course we had a cake. Unfortunately, we had no ice-cream! We had prayed, but there was just not enough in the budget for it. However, the Lord says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” – Isaiah 55:8.Early next morning there was a knock on the Children’s Home door and a man entered with a steel container with two big tubs of ice-cream! The owner of the Popular Ice-cream Company was having his birthday that day and he thought he would share his blessings with the children in the home. Everyone was surprised and jumping with joy. Thank you Lord!If you remember, at the beginning of this article, I wrote about how I broke my arm at the beginning of last year. Well it has now healed beautifully and I can even do push ups! In reflecting on the fruit that I’ve seen God grow in the last year, I am constantly reminded, just like with the story of my broken arm, when God chooses you he provides your needs!
What are the challenges inherent in Jesus calling his disciples friends? Our Mission Partner in the Solomon Islands, Jonathan, shares his story.Election is a difficult subject for most people. And I’m not referring to what went down at the polls in the United States. I’m speaking about the scriptural teaching that God elects or chooses certain people to fulfil specific purposes. This teaching raises several tough issues. While talking to God, Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof points out two of them when he says – “I know, I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?” 1) The choosing of some means that others are not chosen. 2) The chosen do not always like it. Though we can’t hope to address both of these issues adequately here, we can look for a moment at the second.We overhear Jesus in John’s Gospel declaring that he has elected his disciples. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (15:16). Jesus speaks of his election in the past tense. And as it turns out, he is referring to something he mentioned just a verse earlier when he said “I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends.” If any evidence is needed of Jesus’ right to call his disciples friends, he has already supplied it when he says that he will lay down his life for them in John 15:13. So Jesus elects the disciples as friends by loving them to the end. The Challenge of ElectionListening in attentively, we hear Jesus telling the disciples what this friendship entails. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing” (15:15). And a little later in verse sixteen – “I…appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” The two thoughts, knowing what the master is doing and going to bear fruit, are connected. The friend, knowing the master’s plan for the vineyard, can no longer use the servant’s excuse for passivity. The servant will spoil the master’s plan if he acts in ignorance of his will. So the prudent servant waits and does not act until the master commands him. But not so the friend. He knows. And because he knows he is summoned continually to “Go! Bear fruit!” As long as the master is working, his beloved friends work with him. Far from lessening the workload of the newly-befriended, Jesus has increased it three-fold! Warming to the challenge that this election will present to his disciples, Jesus continues. The world will hate them because, now that he has chosen them, they are no longer of the world (John 15:18-19). If they needed any proof of Jesus’ words, they had only to wait a few short hours before the mob arrived in Gethsemane. “So let’s get this straight,” they might have been thinking. “Now that we’re your friends, we’re going to work harder than ever before, and we’re going to be hated by the world the same way you are?” To borrow a line from Shakespeare – “Ay, there’s the rub.” And we’re not even done yet! 1 John makes it clear that God’s friendship with the apostles is paradigmatic for his friendship with other disciples. That’s right, with us. When John calls his readers “beloved” he is referring primarily to God’s disposition toward them (4:7, 11). We have this name because of God’s choice. 1 John 4:10 says: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us.” We also have the same responsibility that the disciples had, born of the knowledge of God: “[L]et us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (4:11). And finally, we’re caught in the same intense hostility between the love of God and the world (2:15-17) in which they were entangled. The challenge of being elected God’s friends is no bed of roses! And so we run into the perennial temptation to re-write the script. We internalise the idea of God’s friendship in the following – distorted – ways. Jesus – “Hey guys, I love you all just the way you are. I wouldn’t change a thing about any one of you!” The disciples – “Yeah, we know. We’re all pretty decent…” Jesus – “I don’t want to force this on you, but I want to let you in on my master plan. It’ll be pretty tough, so I don’t want you to agree until you know what you’re getting yourselves into.” The disciples – looking at each other with uncertainty – “All right…” Jesus – “I want you all to love other people the way I love you. It’ll be pretty hard at first, but the world will come around sooner or later to the fact that all it needs is love.” The disciples – “Can we try it on for size first and see whether or not we like it?” The biggest problem with re-writing the script in this way is that we begin to participate in a world that is not real. And “the rub” – as Shakespeare put it – is eventually much stiffer in this imaginary world. Why? Because God is not at work there, in this imaginary world of ours. Instead, Jesus is our consultant friend and we are its kings.Resisting the CallAllow me to illustrate. Recently, obedience to a clear leading from God and ecclesial authority led my family to take up a missionary post in the Solomon Islands. Our first year was difficult and when the second year arrived things didn’t improve. Our children got sick on a regular basis. My wife and I, for what seemed like months at a time, were taking care of their sores from dinner to bedtime. My work wasn’t very satisfying. I spent hours preparing for lectures that, as far as I could tell, had very little impact on my students. The climate was stifling. We had some serious relational problems with our fellow-villagers. So I stopped investing. I began to work on various projects that had very little relation to my missionary vocation, but that satisfied my longing to do something fulfilling. This period lasted for over a year. Through out I had numerous warnings that I was responding to these difficulties in a way that was unfaithful to my calling. I tried to ignore them, and had a sense that I was turning my back on God and the people he had sent me to. I wanted to sleep constantly, but this had more in common with the guilty sleep of Jonah than the tranquil sleep of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee! After my wife and I realised how depressed I’d become, we began to pray, asking the Lord to give us joy in our vocation again. Several months later, after recommitting ourselves fully to the work before us, joy began to return.The Three Facets of Friendship I had been forgetting three spiritual matters so important to the life of friendship with God. First, God remains Lord when he elects us to friendship. “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Within this divine choice we’re free to act as God’s friends, working with him in the way that we know he is working. In my case that means teaching his Word faithfully, loving and being present with his people, and praying for them daily. But we’re no longer free to withhold what God has claimed as his own when he calls us friends. I became depressed because I was acting against my own being as a friend of God. I was acting against freedom.The second spiritual aspect I had forgotten was – “I appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” The kind of fruit we bear depends wholly on whether we’re working in the Lord’s vineyard, or in vineyards of our own planting. We know now what our friend and master is doing. He is planting a harvest that will grow up to everlasting life. To refuse this calling is to bear fruit that will perish or to bear no fruit at all. And finally –“I appointed you so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” For the present, our own evaluation of whether our work seems fulfilling or not is unreliable. We’re told though that our future desire will correspond with his. We will come to love that which he loves. This will happen as we claim that for which God has elected us. We will pray for and receive things beyond our comprehension now, because he is inviting us “further up and deeper in” to that friendship whose depths are eternal. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (15:7). Let us come to know God not in the imaginary friendship we would elect for ourselves. Rather, let us receive God’s friendship as it is, given to challenge and change us, and given before we could even ask for it.
How God used Peter and Christine Akester to reach Muslims in northern Tanzania. In a small city in Northern Tanzania, God is at work powerfully answering prayers and creating opportunities for Christians to share the Good News of the Gospel with the majority Muslim population. Former NZCMS Mission Partners from 1979 to 1998, Peter and Christine Akester responded to God’s call to mission again in 2015, when they returned to Tanzania to serve in the Bible School in Kondoa. “We both knew it was what God wanted,” says Christine. “But it still was difficult to leave family because we have two daughters and two grandchildren and none without difficulty. It was quite a sacrifice in some ways, but we just had to leave them in God’s hands.”When they arrived in Kondoa Peter was appointed Principal of the Kondoa Bible School, and Christine worked as Dean of Studies and the Registrar. Together they taught students the Bible and prepared them for ministry in the region. But their ministry extended well beyond the walls of the school. As the only Europeans in Kondoa, it wasn’t hard for Peter and Christine to get noticed by the locals, and as they walked around the town and the market, people would approach them and ask where they were from, why they were in Kondoa, what they were doing with the Anglican Church and why. “They were almost dragging out a testimony from us,” says Peter. “It was often a good way of asking the question – why would these people bother to come here and do that? “We did have some really good conversations with particular people – one of the leaders in the mosque bailed me up while I was walking by and we had a really long conversation about who Jesus was to him.” But much of their ministry outside of the school was related to prayer. When someone from their church was ill and in hospital, they (and nearly everyone else from their church) would go visit and pray for them. “Sometimes when we’d go to see one of those people, there’d be a whole lot of people around that person’s bed and they’d all pray together. One time we went in and prayed for this person and then the person in the next bed said, ‘well, aren’t you going to pray for me?!’”Even though the neighbour was a Muslim they were happy to have Peter and Christine pray for them in Jesus’ name. Once they were finished, the next patient asked for prayer too. “We ended up going down the whole ward!” says Christine. “That sort of thing was quite a ministry without us actually realising it. We and others would pray for somebody and they’d get better,” says Peter. Christine recalls another elderly lady who was “old and decrepit and needed someone to prop her up. She asked for prayer, so we prayed for her, and little by little she just started to free up. By the end of it she was just sort of dancing. I think she was praising God and moving freely. It’s sort of exciting to see these things that don’t happen much in New Zealand; the faith is certainly there.”For Christine, one of the great joys of her time in Kondoa was the slow evolution of her relationships with Muslim women. “I was really struck by all the women walking along the road with their burqas on. At the beginning I would look at them and smile but there was no response at all. Gradually, over those two or three years, they’d start looking at me, and I could see their eyes just sort of noticing that someone’s continuing to have contact with me. She would occasionally get to speak to these Muslim women, but not very often. “I’d ask them the names of their children and they’d tell me. That was the ministry I thought I could do at the beginning, just relating to the women. And I thought that was quite special really. Later on, they would stop me and ask how my children are,” says Christine. One special friendship developed with a local Muslim woman who knew all about Christianity but didn’t know Jesus personally. “She could tell you all about the Easter week and what was happening. She was always having accidents, and we were always praying for healing, and every time she was healed. We told her Jesus was the one healing her, not us, and she said ‘yes, yes I understand that. I know about Jesus’.“I asked her if she believed in him,” says Christine. “And she said that she believes he is there. But after three years she never came to the point of accepting Jesus for herself. She had a very large Muslim family in another village and I think she realised they would reject her, totally. And that would have been a very difficult decision to make.”Sharing the Gospel in Muslim-dominated areas of the world like Kondoa, where 95 per cent of people are Muslim, is slow and difficult. But Peter and Christine can attest to the fact that God does the work of providing opportunities to explain the reason for their hope in Christ. Having now returned to New Zealand, Peter and Christine believe that Christians in New Zealand can learn a lot from Tanzanian believers. “We need to be thankful for anything and to trust God within that thankfulness” says Peter. Tanzania recently experienced two years of famine and Christine says, “there are stories of families who would sit around a table in the time of famine and pray and thank God. But there was nothing on the table; they didn’t have any food but were just saying thank you Lord that you’re looking after us. And then there’d be a knock at the door and someone would bring some food.” Tanzanian Christians have a deep awareness that everything they have comes from the hand of God. God chose Peter and Christine to take the Gospel to Tanzania, and having twice made the choice to give up their life in New Zealand and serve God overseas, they have some advice for anyone considering a similar decision: “Listen to God’s voice,” says Christine. “We usually think of the problems that are holding us here, and why we like living where we are and how much we’re needed for our family. Yet God is a big God and he can care for all that. I was full of worry this time, but he showed me to just leave the worries in his hands.”Peter says, “Once you’ve got that surety that God has said this, almost expect that there will be difficulties that will come to try and discourage you, but just keep claiming the promises of God that he will lead us and smooth the path. “God has proved faithful and will prove faithful and it’s our job to run with that task that he’s given us.”