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Q & A with 2019 Better World team, LIVE from Cambodia

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On November 21, Thursday at 7:00pm the Better World participants and leaders will be hosting a live video Q & A from their location in Cambodia discussing their experiences of the past year as they come to the end of the programme. To tune in you must log into your Facebook account and find the Better World Facebook page. Or you can follow the link HERE. This year has been the very first year our Better World gap year has run. Better World is a radical social justice gap year experience for school leavers and young adults that digs deep into the issues of our broken world and journeyed into understanding how our response to these issues is central to the Gospel. Through out the programme, the participants have learned about ethical consumption, climate change, urban poverty and refugee and migration. They have also lived in community here Aotearoa and also gone abroad for extended periods of time in Fiji and Cambodia.

NZCMS National Director Commissioned

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November 9 was a great time of celebration as Rosie Fyfe was commissioned as National Director of NZCMS by Peter Carrell, Bishop of Christchurch.. The newly appointed Bishop from Nelson, Steve Maina, also attended and gave his support and encouragement to Rosie as the previous National Director from 2009 to 2019. The CMS Australia International Director, Peter Rodgers, also attended the commissioning and spoke on behalf of all the Church Missionary Societies around the world as he welcomed Rosie into the CMS leadership family. There were also many NZCMS supporters, staff and board members who stood with Rosie and prayed for her in her new position. Bishop Richard Ellena, the President of the NZCMS Trust Board, gave an inspiring and challenging talk on our need to re-claim the “why?” question of mission. He quoted Luke 19:41:“As he (Jesus) approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept bitterly.” “Jesus wasn’t weeping because of what he knew he would experience…” the Bishop said. “He was weeping over Jerusalem. And in the midst of the tears, he said “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it’s hidden from your eyes.”  Bishop Richard went on to explain that the city of Jerusalem was created to glorify and host the praises of God. It was God’s plan to have Jerusalem as a light to the nations because of the peace and joy of those who lived there. But it was full of corruption, ruled over by the Romans and spiritually led by priests who were motivated by greed and neglected God’s justice and love. “Our mission begins when we look out over God’s beautiful creation and weep” Bishop Richard said. “Mission happens when we, like God, so love the world that we weep when we see the injustices, the poverty, the violence, the greed, that complete devaluation of life. Mission is our response to the tears, and we support those who go.”The new NZCMS National Director, Rosie, is already well acquainted with us, having been a Mission Partner with for five years in Egypt. She spent her time there as the Director of the Diocesan Partnership Office, responsible for partnerships to support the ministries of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa. This involved her in the planning and implementation of health, education, theological, interfaith, and community development projects, as well as communicating what the Church was doing in Egypt. With this history and relationship with NZCMS already in place, she has a deep understanding of our DNA and a passion to see us continue to move forward in inspiring and equipping. Would you please pray for Rosie as she continues to be led by God in this exciting new venture.

Your Labour is Not in Vain

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Just before I flew to the US for the conference, I had a severe bout of back pain that left me bed-ridden for four days. I did not want to cancel my Bible Study class with the women, and so I had them all come into our guest room and sit around the bed. I had assigned each of them texts from the Bible to lead a short Bible Study, based on seven questions. That day, two women led and I will never forget what happened. One woman, Doris, led the Bible Study with confidence that she had not had the first time I assigned her to lead. Afterwards she said something to this effect: “I am unschooled and I am ashamed to read at home. Even my husband and children have not heard my reading voice because I don’t want them to laugh at me. Today is the first time I am reading the Bible aloud, and though nobody helped me prepare for leading this Bible study, the Holy Spirit has led me and told me what to do.” After this, another woman, Hilda, took the lead with another text and again it was evident that she had renewed strength and confidence in the Holy Spirit. As she led, the other women were eagerly looking into their Bibles and contributing to the discussion and trying to see how they could apply the word to their lives. At the end she spoke to me and referred back to how far they had come in their spiritual walk with the Lord. “When we arrived here, you treated us like little babies. You fed us and fed us and now we have teeth and can eat anything!” Hallelujah! I went up to tell Jon and began to cry with joy at the realization at what God was doing in these women. We thank God for each of you and pray that as you labour in His vineyard, you will know that your labour in the Lord is never in vain. May His power be made perfect in weakness! Love from all of us in the Solomons,Jon, Tess, Avalyn, Cohen, Caeli, Judah, Immanuel, and Moses Hicks The Hicks family are NZCMS Mission Partners in the Solomon Islands, supporting the training of Church leaders. Jonathan teaches at a Bible college while Tess home-schools their children and engages in ministry with local women.

We’re all Polished Arrows

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Andy and his wife Shona along with their children, live in Costa Rica and have served as Mission Partners with NZCMS since May 2018. Andy is fluent in Spanish and works with Movida, which seeks to motivate young people to better serve local churches and to reach out through world mission. Recently I attended a summit for mission mobilisers for the whole Central American region. Around 500 key leaders from seven countries representing at least 3000 churches were present. I was expecting to just be a delegate. However, one of the key note speakers, Alex Paniagua, had to cancel at the last minute. This man is one of my mentors. Though we’re similar in age he has 20 years’ experience working across Latin America and is one of the key leaders of the Latin American Mission movement. Alex had to cancel as he fell ill with kidney stones so he “volun-told” me that I was doing his presentation! He said “Andy the doctor says I cannot travel, but I’ve told the conference that you can take my place, I hope that’s ok!” He gave me three days’ notice and was going to send me his presentation on “New Trends in mobilising the church to the Mission of God”. I was preaching for three days in another region so I only had a short time to prepare. We had travelled up as a family to Nicaragua; an eight hour road trip from San José to Managua with two hours to negotiate the border. What Does the Lord Want to Say? As I prepared the message, I felt strongly that I should speak from Isaiah 49:1-7. This is a favourite teaching of my father and has become very much part of my missiology and sense of calling. The picture of being an arrow is very special for me because for over 20 years I’ve been challenged by Psalm 127:4 which says “…the children of your youth are like arrows in the quiver of a warrior”. Essentially, my ministry in Latin America is building on the last 40 years of my father’s ministry and passion to train a rising generation of Latin Americans who can effectively engage in the mission of God. Back in 2007, I helped connect a mission trip from The Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Auckland to the churches of the two pastors that baptised me, one in the capital city of Peru and the other in the jungle. At the time I felt very frustrated with God that He was sending them and not me. However, when they returned, we got together and the team prayed for me. The team leader had a picture he felt was from God for me and said “Andy I see you like an arrow poised in God’s bow. You’re drawn back and when the Lord shoots, you will fly true and hit the target”. We are the polished arrow that Isaiah talks about! It applies to me and you. In fact the passage starts “Here distant coastlands” and you can’t get much further from Israel than New Zealand to the South East or Latin America to the west!What else does this passage say?

“Before we were born He knew us”“He has placed His word in our mouth like a sword”“His hand in upon us”

And lastly, it says “He has made us like a polished arrow and placed us in his quiver.”A normal arrow was shot as part of a general volley into the enemies’ ranks so this didn’t require great accuracy. A polished arrow on the other hand was honed, practiced with, oiled and kept so that it would fly accurately and hit a specific target when required. Each one of us has specific giftings, upbringings and passions.  The Lord uses these, even the painful processes of our lives, to shape us into the arrows He needs in His quiver. In fact our painful or shameful experiences are often the most relevant as they teach us dependence on Him. A Word in SeasonWhen I shared this message at the conference I knew it had hit the mark! It resonated with many people and a number of deep conversations ensued over the next few days. Being on the speaking team changed everything about this conference for me. All of a sudden I found that God was answering one of my deepest yearnings. I had prayed “Where can I find mentors who really understand what I’m called to do?” Well now I was spending quality time with the other speakers, all of whom are mobilising networkers like me with similar gifting but 20 years more experience. During this time I was also interpreting for the key note speaker in private meetings with the leaders of a church denomination. It was an intense time of learning and of developing new relationships. This speaking engagement had opened up more opportunities and was challenging me to expand my thinking.Now, this is where the Holy Spirit blows my mind. On the last day of the conference, their intercessory team brought me to one side to tell me they had a word from God for me. They had written this word down on September 19. It was Isaiah 49:1-3. And they had added the imperative for me in particular to press on because “The Lord Himself would direct me as His polished arrow to His targets”. How could they possibly know I was going to speak on that passage and what that verse meant to me, ten days before the conference began?! On September 19 my friend Alex didn’t know he wasn’t going to be able to make it and it was ten days before I had even thought of sharing that message. I was incredibly moved as the intercession team proceeded to pray for my family and our ministry. The Holy Spirit directs us and goes before us and, sometimes, outrageously demonstrates that we are in the centre of His will. You are also a polished arrow in His hands. Each one of us has a part to play in His mission. 

Growing up on the Mission Field

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In the Breaking Barriers story we heard from Mike and Ruth about what sort of barriers people can face when taking children onto the mission field. Below, we interviewed three of their now adult children and discussed how growing up cross-culturally on mission has impacted their lives. Lydia spent the first eight years of her life alternating between living in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. While Hannah, and to a lesser extent, Abel do have vague memories of PNG, most of their cross cultural reflections come from when they moved to Cambodia with their parents for two years as teenagers. ABELWhat were some of the things you experienced on the mission field that were the major influences in your formation as you grew older? I would say the Christian community was very different to my community in New Zealand in terms of culture, society and privilege, with many struggling day-to-day and yet, desiring to serve God regardless. Do you think growing up in another country made you into the person you are today? If so, how?  I think that my time in Cambodia certainly made me more aware of the world in general, in all its diversity and beauty but also its brokenness and sin. It helped me understand Christ is needed in all countries and cultures. That’s not to say I didn’t think this before, but it had just never really crossed my mind in my small, New Zealand bubble of Christianity. So I guess learning that at a young age was pretty influential to who I am and what I value today. What did you learn about what missions work is from living overseas with your parents?   That it is presenting Christ by loving, serving, equipping, learning and doing life with those in your community and beyond and using the skills and resources God has given us.   Would you encourage other families to take their children overseas on missions? Why or why not? Absolutely yes. The perspective it can give a child is invaluable. But it must be something the parents and their children journey through together. Talk about why you’re there doing what you do, talk about culture and faith and involve them in your ministry where you can. Find a local community that you and your kids can be a part of and expect them to be involved and making friends. HANNAHWhat were some of the things you experienced on the mission field that were the major influences in your formation as you grew older? Seeing the poverty and physical need in the individuals and communities we lived in overseas impacted me as a child and teenager hugely, mostly when seeing the pain and suffering that is in the world right in front of me and realising that God has the biggest heart and compassion for those situations. But also I learned that material things are not the be all and end all. It showed me how incredibly blessed and fortunate many of us in New Zealand and the West are.  Lastly, I learned that all of these realisations require a response from me personally, and from the church as a whole. Looking back now, my experience as an “overseas missions kid” shaped the way I view God and His loving character. Do you think growing up in another country made you into the person you are today? If so, how?  I definitely think growing up overseas made me into the person I am today! In a positive and practical way, my understanding of other cultures and languages grew from just being thrown into them. My self-confidence and security in my own identity was most definitely challenged, being a kid and teenager who very much sounded, looked and, at times, thought differently to those around me. It was an awkward and uncomfortable experience at times, but ultimately it was a very positive (and accelerated!) way to learn these things. My wider worldview and love for others has definitely benefited from growing up overseas. What did you learn about what missions work is in general from living overseas with your parents?   In general, I learnt that ‘missions work’ is just living your life with people, in community, giving your life to ministry and ministering Jesus’ love and wisdom to those who need it. As ‘ministry’ was just a normal part of family life for me – and it was incorporated into every aspect of life – I took from it that we can do that wherever we are. Not just overseas, not just with those we work with but anywhere and everywhere. And for that life lesson, I am grateful to my mum and dad for modelling it. Would you encourage other families to take their children overseas on missions? Why or why not? Yes I would encourage families to take their kids overseas. For me it was hugely positive and enlightening. I think it gives kids a kind of maturity that other experiences often don’t and provides them with a chance to see the big wide world that is so much bigger than just them and their needs. It also gives them the chance to learn languages and other ways of academic learning. It takes them out of their comfort zone and helps bring up questions and interests they might not know they had and also a way to articulate them. It puts a lot of things into perspective! LYDIAWhat were some of the things you experienced on the mission field that were the major influences in your formation as you grew older? There are so many, so here are just a couple. First, the difference between feeling like one of the crowd and feeling like an outsider. There were times over my childhood that I felt like I blended in perfectly, and at other times like I stood out like a sore thumb. Interestingly, I think I felt more at home among people in Papua New Guinea than I did among my so-called ‘peers’ in New Zealand while growing up. From teenage years onward I think I found my groove a little more. Into adulthood I’ve found a way to come to terms with being different while fitting in and being comfortable with my differences, so to speak.  Secondly, I was very aware of haves and have-nots. I found it very frustrating in New Zealand when my friends would complain about not having enough. Even now, I often want to shake people and yell in their face, “You have everything you could possibly need!” I guess that comes with seeing people who do not have what they need.  Do you think growing up in another country made you into the person you are today? If so, how?  Yes it was definitely fundamental to many of the values that I hold onto strongly today. I think everyone is a product of their experiences, especially in their formative years, and I think that being exposed to different cultures, demographics, and many people who were, materially, much worse off than me, gave me a very strong sense of the world and my role in it. As a very privileged person I’ve learned how important it is to be an active member and bringer of change, justice and equality. I don’t want to be a passive observer in this life. But if all I had ever known was what was around me and similar to me in New Zealand, I may not feel the way I do now.  What did you learn about missions work in general from living overseas with your parents?  I learnt that, like many other jobs, there are very good days and very bad days. However, unlike other jobs, it’s often a very lonely life, where you need to rely heavily on those around you and especially on God. I learnt that your family are your very best friends. I learnt that you can be pushed beyond what you think your limits are, and survive to tell an incredible story of God’s faithfulness, in ways we do not get to experience in New Zealand very often. And practically, I learned that missions work is largely unseen, under-acknowledged, and definitely underpaid! Haha! Would you encourage other families to take their children overseas on missions? Why or why not?  My first instinct is yes absolutely! However, after more consideration, my answer would be yes absolutely, if they are well-equipped, prepared, educated and determined to make it work with God’s help and commitment to family. It is not for the half-hearted, but also I believe anyone can do it. It is not just for a few special people who are called by God;  I think it is for anyone who is willing to sacrifice their comfort and way of life to give to others. The rewards are incredible, but not without cost. Family must be a priority in the process, not just tagging along for the ride, but fully committed as a family unit to the work that they’re doing. Otherwise I feel that children may resent the hardship if they have no investment. I personally would love to do mission work with my family, and I think it is invaluable for children to experience that environment.

Celebrating Allan Anderson

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A tribute to Allan by Brian CarrellAllan Anderson, for over 45 years a key lay CMS member in the Whanganui area, died on the morning of October 22. His funeral was held at Christ Church Whanganui this Friday morning, October 25. Allan was an absolutely vital figure in arranging (and, in his case, accompanying) the airlift in Easter 1975 of sixty two dairy cattle to Tanzania, a project promoted and organised by NZCMS while largely funded by the Tanzanian and New Zealand Governments. Buhemba, under the oversight of CMS missionary Ian Foster, was the main destination of this herd, but one bull also went to George Hart at Hombolo. This was an astounding and unprecedented achievement for such a small mission society in those days. Allan led the lay committee which made this airlift possible. He, with other Christian farmers, inspired the voluntary donation of first class cattle by a number of dairy farmers across the South and North Islands. To achieve such a major airlift they navigated the complicated arrangements for assembling these cattle in Christchurch and Auckland, and negotiated the charter of a Qantas 747 cargo airliner. Allan then saw the gifted cattle safely through to their destinations in Tanzania, half the globe away.Allan and his wife (the Rev.) Rosemary Anderson have been continuing and committed members of NZCMS since that momentous time. One of their last actions together was to attend the episcopal ordination of CMS National Director Steve Maina in Nelson some weeks ago.We salute Allan as a faithful servant of Christ, and extend our arms of love and gratitude to Rosemary and their family.

NZCMS and Anglican Ministry Leaders Reclaiming Our Story

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Greetings from Rosie, NZCMS National Director!NZCMS were thrilled to be invited to join with the Anglican Diocese of Wellington Ministry Leaders’ Family Camp around the kaupapa of “Becoming Te Hāhi Mihingare (the Missionary Church)”  held on October 10-12 in Waikanae. Fifty people from the NZCMS whānau attended including Mission Partners, staff, members and supporters. It was an incredibly fruitful time of connection, relationship building and learning.A personal highlight was being invited to share the NZCMS story at the camp. It was wonderful to be joined in this by our  partners from Te Pīhopatanga o Te Tai Tokerau (Tikanga Māori Diocese): Rev Howard Hauoterangi Karaka and Rev Dr Lyndon Drake. One benefit of having served myself as a NZCMS Mission Partner is flexibility in the face of unexpected events. As a result of a power cut, we ended up speaking into a megaphone while Diocese friends held a light for us!Another highlight for me was being ordained as a vocational deacon at the end of the camp. Bishop Justin Duckworth’s sermon during the ordination service reminded those gathered that we are called to mission. The deacon is a reminder of the calling that we have: when we see a deacon “we get a sense of holy discontent” and a reminder of our own missionary calling. Part of my role as the National Director of NZCMS is to walk with people discerning a missionary call. In the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand, I hope to provoke a sense of “holy discontent” for the Church to look outside our own country and to learn from and contribute to the global Church. Read more about the camp in the article below from Anglican Movement, Diocese of Wellington.The original vision of the Church Missionary Society in Aotearoa was to serve Māori, but as history tells us, mass European settlement brought colonial oppression which stripped Māori of their land, forests and taonga, despite it being guaranteed to them in the Treaty of Waitangi.  The missionaries worked tirelessly to uphold Māori rights but the wave of settlement eventually saw the Church side with the Crown, forgetting its original missional calling.Reawakening ourselves to that missional calling was the kaupapa of Ministry Leaders’ Family Camp, held recently at El Rancho Christian Holiday Park in Waikanae, and attended by over 400 people, including leaders from our diocese, and from Anglican Missions, New Zealand Church Missionary Society and other dioceses and hui amorangi, and our families. Keynote speaker Jay Ruka, author of Huia Come Home, believes that this can only happen when we rediscover the story of the Church in this land.  He told us of a time when God said to him: “the church has amnesia.” Revelation 12:11 (NIV) says “they overcame [the accuser] by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony,” and Jay challenged us: “What is the word of your testimony but the apprehending of your memory?”

He went on: “If you have amnesia, and you have no memory, you have no testimony.  My Bible tells me that my testimony is one of the greatest tools I have to confront injustice, to confront evil.”Throughout the camp, Jay told us the story of the early missionaries, and told us that now is the time to remember these stories, and to rediscover our original calling.  He told us of Henry Williams and his wife Maryanne.  Henry was the man responsible for the translation of the Treaty of Waitangi into te reo Māori, and travelled around Aotearoa encouraging chiefs to sign it.  They felt called to serve Māori and see them rise to a place on the international stage, and they were well respected amongst Māori as peacemakers.  But as British colonial rule took root and the “growing evil” of land alienation expanded, Henry found himself targeted as a traitor to the Crown.  Heartbroken, he was believed to utter the words “How cruel, how cruel” on his deathbed.His reputation was further besmirched in 1972 when an academic by the name of Ruth Ross blamed him for the problems that arose from the Treaty, by incorrectly comparing his translation of the Treaty with his earlier translation of the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand.  Wherever history is taught in New Zealand, he still gets the blame for everything that went wrong.In the 1830s, the Christian mission to Māori was fruitless.  But Williams and his wife came and focused on literacy, serving Māori and understanding their worldview.  The Bible was translated into te reo Māori and a series of events (which you can read about in Jay’s book) saw the explosion of the Gospel in Aotearoa.  At one point, 64,000 Māori were in church every Sunday, and they were hungrily devouring the Good News and spreading it amongst themselves.Because of the trusted relationship that Williams had built with Māori, the chiefs were happy to sign the Treaty of Waitangi, believing it would genuinely protect their rights and privileges.  It was a document never before seen in colonial history – thanks to Christian advocacy in England, indigenous people were offered citizenship of Britain.  And some of the words used to translate concepts into a Māori worldview were neologisms derived from the Bible – for example, sovereignty was kawanatanga: kawa means law, kawanatanga was used to describe the governorship of Pontius Pilate over the Jews in the time of Jesus.  Jay put it this way: “the Treaty of Waitangi is the history of the church in New Zealand that the majority of the church does not know.”  It was a world-first opportunity to “do a nation together.”Remembering our story means remembering the uncomfortable bits too.  As settlement grew, missionaries were forced to take sides, and they sided not with Māori, but with their homeland – abandoning their missional call and focusing on the settlers instead.  Jay told us a list of laws that were passed that oppressed and excluded Māori, ensuring further alienation of their land.  This was done at the hands of Christian political leaders, too.  “Does that sound like oppression?” he asked us.  “Even though there was revival, there was an awful oppression because of the cultural blinders on the minds and hearts of Christian political leaders.  The orientation of the Church shifted – and it hasn’t shifted back.”  Christianity is now generally seen in te ao Māori as a synonym for colonial oppression.With the learning of our history, there appeared to be a sense of empowerment throughout the camp, but for some – bewilderment.  “What now?” seemed to be the collective wondering of the group.  For some, there may have been a call to action but for others, there may have been a struggle to reconcile this information with life as we know it in our land.  Jay was clear that the time is now for these stories to be remembered, and reclaimed by the church.  Much as a rower looks backwards to where they have been in order to direct their boat’s path, those of us gathered at camp were called to remember our stories in order to direct how we might become missional again in this land.

NZCMS Staff Update – Kirstin Cant

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NZCMS’ Youth Mobiliser, Kirstin, and her husband, Rowan, are delighted to announce they’ve just become Permanent Foster Parents for a 10 month old baby boy in need of a Home for Life. They are looking forward to this new season of Family on Mission. Kirstin, after a month’s leave in October, will continue Youth Mobilising for 10 hours a week while Rowan takes the Primary Parental Leave. Please pray for Kirstin and Rowan as they adjust to this new parenting role and provide a stable family environment for their son. (They only found out the news one month ago!)

Breaking Barriers

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Obstacles we can face when taking family on mission and how we can move through them; a feature on NZCMS Staff members, Mike and Ruth Robb. Mike and Ruth’s missions journey began in 1980. A friend of theirs working in Papua New Guinea (PNG) sent them a letter inviting them to join him for six months and asked “Give me three reasons why you couldn’t come and help us…?”. The Robbs couldn’t think of one.In 1983 and with their first child Esther in tow, they went back again to live on hospital grounds in Rumginae, PNG. This would be the beginning of twelve years of missions work there in which they would extend the Gospel through the vehicles of maintenance work, nursing, discipling and bible college lecturing. In this time, they had five more children after Esther: Lydia, Adam, Hannah and the twins, Abel and Jairus. They left Papua New Guinea for the lat time in 1993 but after ten years of pastoring in New Zealand, they were then off again in 2004. With their now teenage children, Hannah, Abel and Jairus – Esther and Lydia had left home already – they moved to Cambodia to become the directors of Asian Outreach Cambodia for two years. When considering raising their family on the mission field, their friends’ and families’ main concern would often be about health care. And for good reason! In the small village that they lived in Pangoa for most of their time in PNG, the nearest hospital was an hour’s plane trip away and you could be waiting for half a day before the nearest plane even arrived. And that was only if there was a plane available and near you. Mike recollected a time when their son, Jairus, suddenly stopped breathing and started going blue. In such a critical time, not even the fastest plane trip to the hospital would have helped if Jairus hadn’t suddenly started breathing again. “Most of you were about six months old when we would return to PNG again – After returning to New Zealand and giving birth there -” Ruth said, commenting on how young the her kids were. “So it’s important that you do your due diligence and have things in place in case situations go wrongMike commented that after a couple years, certainly people began to make statements like “Well, you’ve done more than most people have, isn’t it time to settle down, get a mortgage and find a  real job?” However, when people asked whether PNG was too dangerous to raise children Mike and Ruth often responded “Not any more dangerous than New Zealand!”. They said that their children’s health was actually better and safer in PNG than it ever was in New Zealand. Sadly, their son Adam had died in December, 1986 and almost immediately after that, their daughter, Lydia, was hospitalized with meningitis.Both of these events happened in Christchurch, New Zealand! So, for Mike and Ruth, anywhere could be dangerous at some time. Mike said that they’ve come to believe that the best place for any Christian, even if it’s not the safest place, is always in the will of God. Another potential barrier that faced the Robbs was around education. In fact, many people presumed that, when they returned to New Zealand from PNG for the last time it was so that Esther, who was 12, could attend high school. Mike and Ruth found the best way through these challenges or concerns was to constantly pray about how they should raise their children, whether they were living on the mission field or not, and never to ‘presume’ to do something just because it had always been done or was supposed to be done  a certain way. “I often used to say ‘God why didn’t you put in your Bible ‘Thous shalt not end your kids to boarding school’?,” Ruth exclaimed with a laugh. “Then I could point to it and say ‘See that’s why I’m not doing it’. But He didn’t. And He didn’t do that with a lot of things. He didn’t tell us how to live, He tells us to have a relationship with Him and listen. And so it’s listening to what the Holy Spirit is telling you. And we were praying all the time and continuously re-assessing and evaluating…and also listening to those people around us. Don’t be isolated in making decisions.” With this in mind, they continued to home school most of their children (except Esther who attended Year 13 in Dunedin) right through to the last year of High School. Ruth said that whenever it came to missions work and the decisions they needed to make when raising their children, it was the communication lines they kept open between God and those they lived with that broke down what could have become barriers to mission.One of the most common themes that Mike and Ruth picked up from Christian people that also became a barrier for them in pursuing missions was a belief among many parents that their children need to be happy. However Mike and Ruth have a very different approach.“Happiness depends on happenings,” Mike commented. “And sometimes things happen that aren’t that good. But we wanted them to be content. And the Apostle Paul said that, he’d learnt in all things to be content. Yeah ,sometimes life is really tough…but we want you to be content that we’re ok in this. That was more important than just happiness or being entertained.” “Parents going overseas can feel like they’re denying their children things they could have back home,” Ruth said. “So they felt like they had to make it up to their kids.” “And letting them away with behaviors they shouldn’t!” Mike added. The Robbs believe that, much rather than denying their children experiences that others feel they should have had, living cross culturally provided them with opportunities and experiences that formed them into the people they are today. Now, all five of their children are grown, married and each serving God through various endeavors, whether that be through church ministry, missions or community development and support. Mike and Ruth commented that they believe one of the reasons for how their kids have grown up was because they got to experience a relationship with God on the mission field.“We saw God answer prayers to situations where there was no other way out of it,” Mike said. “There was no plan B a lot of the time. And I feel like in New Zealand, there’s always another answer. There’s a hospital down the road, there’s a policeman you can call, there’s a mechanic you can call. So I think they saw things in that that they wouldn’t have experienced at home.”The Robb’s believe that, when it comes to parents of young children deciding whether they should do mission or not, perhaps they need to re-evaluate what obligations God has given them as Christian parents. Much more than seeing their obligations as parents becoming barriers to doing missions overseas, Mike and Ruth feel they are motivators. “Probably, the biggest thing is God’s more interested in our character than in our happiness,” Ruth said. “I love that Steve Maina quote,” Mike said, referring to NZCMS’ previous National Director. “You can be brave or you can be safe, but you can’t be both. And if I can add to that quote, choose the brave option, don’t choose the easiest option. Choose the more difficult option, generally in life. I think that’s a good way to live.”  

Mission Misconceptions About a Family Called to Go

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By Tessella Hicks, NZCMS Mission Partner to the Solomon Islands.Being born in Germany in the 1980’s to missionary parents working with Muslim groups, I was automatically included in the day-to-day workings of mission in a cross-cultural setting. Looking back at photos of myself being held by Turkish believers during Bible Studies and sitting side by side with Uyghur and Kazakh children, I can only feel like I was always meant to be with people from other cultures, sharing the love of Christ with them. So when it came time for Jon and I to take our own children overseas to the Solomon Islands in 2015, it felt like the most natural thing to do. Natural, but not easy. Becoming a mother has made me realise all the details my parents had to plan, worry about and deal with so that my siblings and I could live our ideal childhoods overseas. And now it was our turn to apply for passports and visas, get medical exams, raise funds, pack and plan for our new life.  Flashback to my family landing in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 1994 with 10 black suitcases containing all our worldly possessions. We waited around in the airport for what seemed like hours while my father used his Russian and Kazak language skills to secure us a taxi ride and get to our beds for the night. Dad must have been super-stressed, but I was just going along for the ride! But even harder for Jon and I than all the physical preparation if moving to the Solomons, was the knowledge that we would be separating ourselves from our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and how this would impact our children. Going onto the mission field with a family is often the best thing to do and also the hardest. However when we discuss taking our children overseas, we’ve found just how many misconceptions people have about a family living on the mission field. Here are a couple of the ones I hear most often. Misconception One: Your Children Will Miss Out on Opportunities This is one we’ve heard many people voice over the years. Initially people were supportive when we told them that we would be raising our family in the South Pacific with statements like, “Wow, what an adventure!” or “Your kids will have so many great memories!” However, as a bit more time went by, many people have questioned whether living in such a remote location limits our children’s opportunities to engage in sports, music, access to technology and mainstream education.  While our children are confined to the limits of our tropical seminary campus – we can only make it into the port town once every few weeks to get an ice cream and check the post office for letters or parcels – I think it’s a very real misconception that their lives can’t be rich and full of opportunity.  They have at least two hours of outdoor fun with their friends each day and with the children of our faculty colleagues and seminary students. They play soccer, tag, hide and seek and all sorts of imagination games, including a reenactment of the life of Christ around Holy Week that they did this year! We gather to sing as a family once a day, as well as with our church community at evening services and Sundays. They’ve learned to harmonise and memorise lyrics to dozens of songs in not only English, but also Pidgin English and several indigenous languages.  We’ve also found that being unplugged from technology has been a great blessing to us. We have lots more time to read, explore the outdoors and engage face to face with friends. Our homeschooling programme gives the children freedom to read about diverse cultures, religions, people groups and time periods.  I can say with confidence that far from limiting their possibilities, living cross-culturally has given my children incredibly unique opportunities that have expanded their worldviews in amazing ways and given them an insight into how God works across the globe. Misconception Two: It’s Too Dangerous to Go Without Proper Healthcare. Some people were very concerned about how adequate – or, rather, inadequate – the healthcare would be here. Some questions were “What if your appendix ruptures? What happens if somebody breaks a bone or gets a severe case of …well, you name it!?” Access to decent healthcare is taken for granted by so many of us that stepping into a situation with lower than average healthcare seems naive at best and negligent at worst. We live about a 45-minute drive from the provincial hospital on the island of Malaita. While the basic Kilu’ufi Hospital does have an operating room, scanning facilities, medicines in stock – however, not always the ones you need – and trained doctors and nurses, we’re thankful we’ve never needed to go in for emergency treatment.  So while I agree that the healthcare is certainly lower than many places around the world, it doesn’t need to be an obstacle to following God here. A misconception people may have about missions is that you can and should only go where you know you will be provided for. Just as we trust God in many areas of our lives, we need to commit ourselves, including our heath and our very lives, into God’s loving care. An amazing story of God’s provision for our health was when we arrived in the country three months pregnant with our fifth child. We waited to arrive to tell our families, knowing that they might have advised us to delay our trip until after baby was born. We considered flying back to the USA or to New Zealand, but, since we had just begun our ministry, we felt that we needed to trust God and stay within the Solomons. In country, with the hospitals being quite austere complete with metal delivery tables, stirrups and national midwives being outlawed – we decided to ask an American midwife to fly out to us and deliver the baby. She waited patiently for our baby to arrive and helped me through a smooth and fast water birth in the comfort of missionary housing in the capital city of Honiara. We heard after the birth that the week prior, the nurses at the national hospital went on strike and as a result two infants had died. I was awestruck at how God’s hand was in every detail and was reminded again that we were in the safest place by being in God’s care. We named our son Immanuel to remind ourselves that in the midst of the difficulty of life, God is with us. Misconception Three: Your Children Shouldn’t Suffer With YouI think this is probably the number one misconception we have dealt with since bringing our children overseas with us. On visits back to New Zealand and the USA, we’ve heard comments from well-meaning people that while we have chosen to be missionaries and suffer for Christ’s sake, we shouldn’t be dragging our children into it with us.  Being here, our children have had to go through some tough things. One of us usually has some kind of infected skin sore that requires vigilant washing, dressing, medication and the occasional round of antibiotics. We had two bed bug infestations that made our house feel more like a battle-zone rather than a refuge from the outside world. We’ve seen death up close and personal, attending over five wakes – this is when the mourners gather around the body before burial and cry, pray, talk and sing together – and funerals of men, women and two infants. The children have willingly come with us to pray with the grieving families and see that, while we weep, we do not mourn like those who do not have hope.   Suffering comes hand in hand with following Jesus. We hold a deep conviction that if we try to protect our children from experiencing the fullness of being a disciple of Christ, we would be sinning. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). He asks this of everyone who puts their trust in Him. And suffering knows no age, gender or nationality. We’ve chosen to bring our children into God’s presence, presenting them to him who is their loving Heavenly Father and letting God meet them in trials and difficulty.  There was a moment when we were cleaning out a particularly deep sore, when one of the children said, “I wish we had never come here.” We acknowledged the pain and the difficulty and then prayed to our Lord Jesus to meet us and carry our burdens for us. And the Lord has proven faithful again and again.  Just recently, one of the girls said, “Whenever we travel back to New Zealand and the USA, it feels like I’m just a visitor. The Solomon Islands feels like home now.” Whatever difficulties we’ve gone through, we have done so as a family with the Lord’s strength and are often reminded of these words from Saint Paul.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9).