Amanda, Returned Mission Partner from India
Guy BentonNZCMS Mission Enabler
Ever since the start of our nation-wide lockdown way back in March, I have often been asked two questions: “where are all the NZCMS Mission Partners currently located?” and “when is NZCMS going to start sending Mission Partners out again?” I’m writing today to provide an update, and to invite you into prayer as we look out past the shores of New Zealand. Where are our Mission Partners now?The graphic shows where our Mission Partners are currently located. Some were already in NZ in March and find themselves stuck here. Others returned to NZ for health or other reasons. Some had been accepted as Mission Partners but had not yet departed to their overseas location of service. The majority of our Mission Partners who were overseas at the time that COVID-19 became widespread have chosen to stay on location. They face a range of difficult situations – some have very restricted lives, while others have more freedom of movement. All are seeking to be faithful in their roles and responsibilities, and discern the new opportunities that God is placing in front of them.When is NZCMS going to start sending Mission Partners again?Sending out Mission Partners globally during a pandemic requires different conversations and planning. The NZCMS staff team, with governance oversight from the NZCMS Trust Board, have put in place new processes for making decisions which take into account COVID-19 impacts on sending out Mission Partners. Recently, two Mission Partners were approved to return to location and are booked to fly out by the end of August. Godly safety For mission organisations like NZCMS, decisions around sending out Mission Partners during a global pandemic brings to the forefront questions around risk. Engaging in global mission generally requires taking on greater levels of risk in terms of personal safety. Mission Partners who serve with NZCMS accept that there is a higher chance of experiencing things like political instability, tighter finances, or lower quality of medical services on location.Furthermore, the call of Mission Partners is to live long-term in another country: to learn language, to enter another culture, and to walk alongside others in living out and proclaiming the good news of the Gospel. The loyalty to stay and serve often urges Mission Partners to be present in vulnerable situations, and to stay during difficult times alongside local partners. The reality of risk-taking in global missions is to be held in tension with the duty of care that NZCMS has for our Mission Partners. An article from the Lausanne Movement describes well the balance required between avoiding risk and embracing the inherent vulnerabilities of global mission. Both the call to leave a place of safety to serve, and the call for caution, are found within Scripture, and these values need to be held in healthy tension. The author suggests asking the following questions:1) What is my missiology of risk? What are my deeper values and beliefs around risk-taking?2) Am I falling into the trap of wanting to be a hero, even if, with staying, I only become a liability?3) Whose decision is it whether I leave or stay? What weight should be given to the voices of the ministry partners, the sending church, the leadership of the organisation, and the workers?4) Is it time to consider new ways of working in which the ministry is less dependent on expat presence?These are not easy questions to ask or to answer. The NZCMS staff team are committed to walking closely with our Mission Partners as we make these decisions together. I am thankful that during my time serving in Egypt, I personally faced these questions and I received invaluable support from NZCMS at that time. It is a privilege to journey alongside our Mission Partners during these times.Reminding ourselves that God is on His throne A NZ leader in global missions recently wrote his perspective on missions in this time of COVID-19. In that article he writes that as he wakes each day, he reminds himself that God is on the throne. This is a posture that I’m reminding myself to live into in these uncertain days. For an organisation with a global focus, it is challenging to continually respond to evolving global contexts, develop new policies, and support our Mission Partners who face uncertainty. As NZCMS family, let’s keep reminding each other that God is in control. Let’s give thanks that the work of mission is not all up to us! God is conducting God’s mission. Closed borders do not stop God’s mission. The Spirit of God continues to work in the world transforming us into Christ’s likeness, and bringing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Thanks be to God!
Rosie Fyfe, NZCMS National Director
It’s always such a joy to sit and listen to people tell stories about God’s mission and how they found themselves caught up in it.This week we bring you a video of Dianne Bayley, – recently retired Mission Partner – chatting with NZCMS’ Mission Enabler Kirstin Cant about the beginnings of her journey serving in the Philippines 43 years ago. We hope it inspires you about how God works and calls each of us so differently.Watch the video HERE.
In this story, we hear from our Mission Partner John and how he and his family chose to respond to their unexpected evacuation. We also share a video from one our Mission Partners for prayer, and don’t miss an important update of NZCMS family news at the bottom of this email.Responding to Times of ChangeBeing an evacuee has not exactly been something I had on my bucket list. And though the country my family and I we were in had a fairly severe lockdown, my thought was “Well, evacuation is a pretty strong word. It’ll never happen to us.” Needless to say, it was a shock when our course suddenly changed and we quickly found ourselves being evacuated to Europe, sitting on a Qatar Airways charter flight with the airline staff dressed in hazmat gear.Response vs ReactIt’s a unique time for humanity, where all of us find ourselves caught up in a global mess with no clear solutions, answers or pathways forward. Each and every one of us has been forced to react to what’s happening.And that’s what we’ve seen: a lot of reacting. Panic buying. Anger. Blaming. Protests. Counter-protests. Anti-counter-protests. Instinctive, emotive, knee-jerk reacting has been hard to avoid.But I believe, in times like this, God actually calls us to respond rather than react. To pause and, from a posture of trust, lift our hands to heaven and ask how should we act in this present moment? Responding isn’t to deny the reality we find ourselves in; it’s simply to recognise that we always exist within a much greater reality, God’s reality, and to think, process, decide, feel and imagine from within God’s reality rather than ours.Put differently, it’s easy to get caught off-guard by all the things that are no longer possible, and as a result we can miss the new opportunities that are in front of us. The pandemic has absolutely disrupted life as usual, but it’s also opened doors that we had previously missed, and even created new ones.There are a good number of people, families and organisations who have faced the reality of our current situation and asked “What do we need to change?”. They’ve found a way to pivot and to hold onto their vision, purpose and calling and make whatever changes are needed to continue forwards.What has been our response to this?While we were still in Asia we found ourselves unable to do pretty much anything we were there to do. But as it turned out, because everyone else in Asia was facing more or less the same thing, we realised that we could start running our trainings online from Europe. After all, everyone else was also stuck at home!Within a month, we were able to offer training to around 100 people and were quickly adapting our methods for online platforms. And what’s more, because we’re now thinking in a different way, we discovered that the potential reach from our humble home office is actually huge, in spite of it being hundreds of miles away!As a result of this, though our vision is the same as it was before, it feels like the pipe-dream that we originally had of influencing and empowering leaders right across Asia, is actually possible!We have new tools, new strategies, new partners, and even new dreams, all which will still carry that vision forward in far better ways than before. Rather than merely hunkering down, we chose to respond rather than react and therefore discovered opportunities we previously couldn’t see.My family and I have decided to embrace the stressful, scary unknown and take some pretty real risks. We’re still in the middle of the unknown and have basically no idea what the future holds. But we’ll keep trying to change, respond and lean into God as best as we can.So what’s God placing in front of you, and how are you responding?John,NZCMS Mission Partner to Asia
Hearing for the First TimeWe gather together at the end of the day, sitting on grey plastic chairs, our open Bibles illuminated by one solar light. I look around at my sisters in Christ, women from different language groups, representing diverse cultures yet together nonetheless to share in the hearing of the Gospel.We start with a few praise choruses accompanied by an eight-string hand-made ukulele. After a brief prayer of thanksgiving, we open our Pidgin English Bibles to The Sermon on the Mount. As I begin to read aloud, they turn toward me, attuned to the words of Christ: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. As we meditate upon and discuss the text around our circle, the words of Scripture come alive in the tropical evening.As a missionary in the Solomon Islands, a chain of islands in the South Pacific, it is my joy to work with my husband as teachers at an Anglican Seminary. The enrolled students are all men and many of them bring their wives and families to the school for their last two years of study. Their wives are then able to join the Women’s Ministry Program, which equips them to partner with their husbands.All but one of my women students have only a primary level education, and on average they finished formal education after the fourth grade (approx age 10). They struggle with feelings of inferiority and ineptitude when it comes to studying anything, especially the Bible, a realm that they are more than happy to leave to their soon-to-be ordained husbands.However, it is a beautiful thing to behold these women, despite their fears and insecurities, showing up every Monday night and opening themselves up to hearing the precious word of God. Many of them are unable to read fluently, so instead they open their ears to let the Gospel in. Their attitudes represent what it means to be poor in spirit, in a place of emptiness and need at the feet of Jesus. Most of the time, they are hearing the words being read for the very first time.Listening WellIn an oral culture, listening is a far more practiced art than the act of reading. Sometimes I am shocked when someone repeats back to me something I said in a context where I thought nobody was listening.At feasts, when important guests are given a turn at the microphone for a speech, I look around at the crowds of people sitting around in the shade of fruit trees, eating roasted pig, sweet potato and fish. Most of them seem oblivious to the man talking. Many of them are even talking loudly amongst themselves, chewing and spitting betel nut, barely even looking at the speaker. But rather than not paying attention, these men, women, and children are actually tuned in and could tell you exactly what was said if you asked them afterwards.When Jesus went up on that hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee and sat to teach the crowds, I’m guessing it was a very similar scene to the Solomon Islanders sitting around at a feast. Over the din of playing children, squabbles between siblings and chitchat, those Israelites had their ears tuned in to hear the Master’s words. They were the very first ones to hear what we as modern Christians have the privilege of reading again and again.Poor in SpiritAround our little circle of chairs, we read Jesus’ words to those who would hear and open their hearts to the transforming power of the Gospel: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Those who are poor in spirit are those who do not think highly of themselves, but rather come to Christ ready to be filled with his Holy Spirit. Men and women who are poor in spirit will see God’s will be done here on earth, as it is in heaven. They will get a glimpse of what is yet to come.The women in my Bible Study are hearing the Word of God in clear Pidgin English for the first time and are soaking it all in. One of my students has said to me several times, “Before, I just heard the words being read from the Bible. But now I can actually understand them!”Reading together in a common language is making the Word alive to them. As I said farewell to a woman leaving the school yesterday, she tearfully told me that when she came to the school, she came with an “empty heart.” She continued by saying that she had learned so much, especially about the Bible through our classes and Bible Study.These women have never had access to Bible Study guides, inspirational Christian books, topical studies or video teachings. Instead, they sit in dim light, holding an open Bible, allowing the Light of the World to shine on them and show them the path of discipleship.What about us?We as Western Christians can’t fake poverty. No matter how hard we try to simplify and reduce the clutter of our physical lives, the fact still remains that we are privileged to have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips. So how can we become “poor in spirit” when we are just too rich in comparison to our brothers and sisters in the 2/3 World?When the rich young ruler comes to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark and asks how he can enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus tells him to sell everything he owns and give it to the poor before following him. The young man leaves downcast and bereft, knowing all to well that his heart and very life are set upon his wealth and that he is not willing to give that all up for the sake of following this Saviour.Where do our hearts lie? For many of us, our status, education and wealth are dearer to us than the voice of Jesus. We are like the rich young ruler in this story. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10:23). While he could not make the choice to follow Christ, we can! When the disciples ask Jesus in dismay, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26) Jesus lovingly responds, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” – Mark 10:27.We can make the choice to follow Christ, to hear his voice in the Scriptures and to come to our Heavenly Father as children with empty hands and supple hearts.Simplify for a SeasonI recently met a retired missionary pastor who was reminiscing about how many books he had owned at the height of his ministry. As he prepared each Sunday Sermon, he would pore over numerous translations, commentaries and other Christian texts in an effort to get to the heart of the passage that he was going to preach to his congregation. Upon his retirement, he sold his entire library to a budding seminarian.He thought he would dearly miss his faithful leather-bound companions, yet what he found was quite the opposite. He was delighted by the simplicity of reading a passage of scripture and allowing the words to seep into his heart, mind and spirit. He still preaches occasionally and an NIV Study Bible is his only resource. He has found freedom in dwelling deeply in the Word of God.What if we were to set aside our books, study guides and other devotional materials for a season and simply allow the Word of God to speak to us? Take a week or month, to de-clutter your devotional library and focus solely on the Bible. Join together with millions of brothers and sisters around the world who hunger and thirst for righteousness and find real food and drink in the pages of Scripture.Look at it as a spiritual fast. When the noise of the words and opinions of others are quieted for a while, perhaps we are able to hear afresh what God wants us to hear.Refocused and RenewedWhen you return from your time of fasting, you will have fresh eyes and ears. You will have feasted on the Word and found how it feels to be “poor in spirit.” As you reintroduce other books and materials to your reading, you will be able to better discern those resources that nurture your love for God’s voice and those that distract you. Just as you might return from a physical fast to face a plethora of tempting food choices, you will have feasted on what is good and necessary and know which things you can live without. Let’s be more interested in what the Bible says than what others say the Bible says.Come to Jesus in his Word as beloved children, setting your gaze upon him and opening your empty hands towards him to be filled to overflowing.
Tess Hicks, Solomon Islands
Keri-Ann Hokianga, NZCMS Maori Evangelist
Life in New Zealand is starting to feel more normal for many of us. Recent months have been hard, especially for those who have lost jobs, but there is also a strange sense of normality – we can visit cafes, go shopping, and gather at church. However, there is also a sense of disjuncture knowing that even as life goes on here, in many countries COVID19 is causing untold a suffering.What does it mean to be part of the global Church at this time? This question stirs us. In our church calendar this week we celebrate Trinity Sunday. We are reminded of the community of love in God’s own being: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is a relationship and community that extends beyond the Trinity to include us – the Church. Like the God in whose image we are made, our identity is communal. As a member of the global Church we are part of the one body of Christ. This is language that we are used to hearing, and it has become very familiar. But the implications of living into this reality are radical.When we are baptised, we become united with Christ and we become a member of Christ’s body, the Church. At baptism, this membership becomes our primary identity: “for in one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). Our identity as a Christian, part of the body of Christ, comes before our nationality or any other human marker of identity. We are ultimately citizens of the Kingdom of God and this identity comes before what’s written in our passport.Another implication of our membership as Christ’s body is “if one member suffers, all suffer together.” (1 Cor 12:26). When I wrote funding proposals for development projects in a previous role, it was common to use language such as ‘beneficiaries,’ or ‘developing countries’ that signifies the otherness of those in need. These designations, which categorise humans into ‘us and them’ are ultimately invalid in the Kingdom of God. There is no ‘us and them’: there is only one body. We are to experience the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters like it is in our own body.As members of the global Church, we do not have the option of sheltering ourselves in a safe New Zealand bubble and forgetting the rest of the world. We are called to live into our membership of the global Church, a body with Jesus Christ as our head.At a missions conference last year, I sat at the same table and prayed with Bisoke from Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tess Hicks, one of our Mission Partners serving in the Solomon Islands. Recently, I shared with Tess messages from Bisoke about the situation in Bunia, and she immediately wrote back asking how to give. This is what it looks like to live as the body of Christ: to live out this metaphor in our actions.As a family with a heart for global mission, NZCMS intentionally looks out and engages with the global Church. New Zealand is facing an economic recession, and we know that NGOs like us will face financial challenges. At the same time, we want to not only look to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:4).In this context, I want to share with you some needs from our CMS counterparts in Africa. NZCMS is part of a global CMS network – we are sister societies who seek to support and learn from each other.The director of CMS Africa, Canon Moses Bushendich, shared with me recently the needs that their local partners are seeing and responding to. He writes:“Many states have instituted lockdowns in response to Covid19 without capability to support those who live on daily wages. Many people have lost their jobs, a means of survival. Pastors in churches cannot get paid because congregations cannot meet and raise the usual offertory. Many families have a real threat of hunger.Several communities, especially in Northern Uganda, have been suffering drought the last few months and when the rains came, there were fresh invasions of desert locusts that are ravaging crops.In Bunia, DR Congo, Local Partner Bisoke has sent distress calls over war and killing that has hit him closely. Conflict has displaced 400 families coming to his peace centre for refuge. Normally food for the centre comes from the surrounding villages, but now there is no food coming which means that life is so hard. More children are developing malnutrition.Images coming from Kivu Province in DR Congo show floods with many feared dead and hundreds displaced from homes. Our CMS Africa Local Partners are on the frontline all over the continent calling for prayer, for practical relief, and supporting efforts to alleviate suffering.”It hurts us to read and hear this account of our body suffering; it’s overwhelming, and it challenges our own sense of comfort and safety. Together we are brought to our knees in prayer as we bring our concerns before a loving, present, and redeeming God. We pray that God would show us how we can be the hands and feet in this world at this time, with whatever we find in our hands. We invite you to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters around the globe who are experiencing so many devastating challenges. We also invite you to consider how you might offer what resources you have to the global Church.Relational Relief GivingWe are opening an appeal for giving to CMS Africa’s Local Partners who can distribute shopping vouchers to families in need.Here is how a small amount can make a big difference: One shopping voucher worth KEs 2,500 (Approx $40NZD) buys basic food and sanitation needs for a household of 6 people for 1 month.Directions for how to give:– Go to the “What would you like to support?” drop down menu – Select “Other”– Go to the section”Name of Mission Partner or Project”– Type “CMS Africa Appeal”As a member of Christ’s body, we are on a journey of learning what our identity as citizens of God’s Kingdom looks like in this Covid19 world. We pray that God would continue to teach us what it means to suffer, reach out, give, receive, and see beyond our own borders. As we live into the reality of ‘one body and one Spirit,’ we ask God to shape our hearts and to be ever-transformed into the likeness of the triune God. Your sister in Christ,
Rosie Fyfe, NZCMS National Director