Prayerless Striving. I used to work for a global anti-slavery organisation. The founders of the organisation were passionate, faith-filled, Jesus followers who were dedicated to seeing God’s Kingdom come through the rescue of men, women and children around the world. They were willing to pay the price to follow God and serve His world. Yet after several years of giving their all, there was little to show for it.When one of the founders talked to his mentor about this frustration, the mentor described their deep commitment to their work as “prayerless striving.” They were desperate to see God’s Kingdom break through but spent little time in prayer. When I joined a decade later, the work day for the entire staff began in personal devotion and prayer. Later in the day, every office around the world stopped their work as investigators, lawyers, social workers and administrators, and gathered to pray for God’s Spirit to move powerfully.
Setting aside “productive time” to pray saw more fruit than we could have imagined, breakthroughs in places where there had been resistance, and thousands of people rescued into lives of freedom. The work remained as challenging and costly as ever before, but was now under-girded by prayer and that made all the difference.Praying as One Many of us already have rhythms of prayer in our daily lives individually and as local faith communities. Many of us already pray faithfully for our Mission Partners, and for the places and communities they serve. We pray because we believe that God’s Spirit is active and working to bring about His Kingdom. We pray because we believe that prayer makes a difference – in this world and the one to come. What we do here has echoes in eternity!But sometimes we forget the power of praying together. In Chronicles, God says to his people “[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (Chron 7:14), God makes this promise to a collective. Jesus affirms this when he says “when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I with them”(Matt 18:20).Yes, God hears and responds to our individual prayers. But when God’s people come together in agreement to pray for the things of God’s Kingdom, something happens, something shifts.This year, the NZCMS Intercultural Communities Project is helping to lead the Wellington Anglican Movement as they engage in Thy Kingdom Come, a global prayer movement from Ascension to Pentecost. After Jesus ascended into heaven, his disciples “along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers”(Acts 1:14) joined together constantly in prayer. When the day of Pentecost arrived, God poured out the Holy Spirit on these followers and sent them to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.We know that our world still needs the transformative work of the Spirit. We know that frequently the movement of God’s Spirit has come through a movement of prayer. The most powerful thing we can do, to see God’s Kingdom come, is to pray together; to pray as one people in the name of Jesus.One of the founding principles of the Church Missionary Society is to begin with prayer. As a global mission movement, the call is to begin with prayer before acting, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide our actions. This is part of our DNA as NZCMS, and it is a constant challenge and reminder to pray for our global partners in mission, and for the transformative work of God to break through in the communities where they serve.The Global ChurchThy Kingdom Come helps to connect us with our brothers and sisters in the global church in a way that we don’t often have opportunity to do. Joining our brothers and sisters in this way is an act of loving care, mutuality and solidarity. It reminds us that we are all part of the one body – and that we are united in both our joys and suffering in Christ, through the one Spirit. Likewise, we can be encouraged that others will be praying for the things that we long for, interceding on behalf of our friends and family, community and country.Praying with the global church also helps to reinvigorate our own prayer lives.Have you ever been in a room with someone fervently interceding and been inspired to pray with more boldness?Have you sat in silence with others, the air thick with thepresence of the Holy Spirit?Have you heard testimonies of healing, of freedom, of miracles and had your faith enlarged?Have you spoken words of a liturgy that feel like they were written just for you?Praying with others who are different from us reminds us of God’s goodness and faithfulness, refreshes and redirects our energy, and enlivens and re-energises our own faith. Will you join us in this global movement of prayer?Join the Global MovementYou can access the resources created through the Intercultural Communities Project and Anglican Movement Wellington here: https://movementonline.org.nz/blog/thy-kingdom-come-21-31-march-2020Or connect with the global movement here: www.thykingdomcome.globalAs NZCMS, one of the gifts that we offer to the church in New Zealand is our connection to those engaging in God’s mission throughout the world. We have curated these multimedia presentations from our partners sharing from around the world to be used over Thy Kingdom Come.
Ana Fletecher, NZCMS Intercultural Communities Enabler
WANT TO READ MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS? SIGN UP FOR OUR REGULAR EMAIL NEWSLETTER HERE.
A decade ago, the idea of being a missionary was so problematic for me that I almost didn’t sign up to serve with NZCMS. The label of missionary is value-laden – there’s a whole lot of assumptions underlying how we understand what it is to be a missionary. Is it someone who’s sent out by a missions agency? Is it only people who serve overseas? Is it only front-line evangelists? Is it a dirty word tied up with colonialism?Last week on Happy Hour, a new weekly zoom gathering featuring a panel of Mission Partners, we grappled with the question “Should we still be sending missionaries in 2020?” It’s a bold question to ask for a mission society, but one we ask seriously. God and His mission do not change, but the world does. As NZCMS, we seek to respond to the needs of the world, and we continue to ask ourselves what is our role to play. So what does it mean to be an NZCMS family participating in God’s mission at this time?The world has changedWe don’t ask this question from a blank slate but instead lean into our story and identity. NZCMS is founded on the passionate call of CMS in 1799 to ‘evangelise the unreached world,’ a mission movement which brought the Gospel to Aotearoa in the first place. It’s built on the global vision of NZCMS, founded in 1892 to send missionaries from New Zealand to the rest of the world.But since then our world has changed. When CMS first sent out missionaries, over 90% of the Church lived in the West: now 75% of Christians live outside of the West. New Zealand itself is also a mission field. NZCMS’ recent initiatives around Reverse Mission – bringing missionaries from overseas to New Zealand – and Intercultural Communities – reaching out to different cultures within New Zealand – have challenged the Church here to see these mission opportunities in our backyard.In the light of changes in the global Church, we must ask: what is the role of missionaries sent out from New Zealand now?The distinction that is sometimes made between mission and missions is helpful. “Mission is the whole life of the church witnessing to the whole world” (Michael Goheen in Introducing Christian Mission Today). Mission is what we are all called to do, wherever we are. It is showing God’s love in our words and in our actions; bringing our world closer to the reality of God’s Kingdom and proclaiming Jesus Christ as King. Missions is used more specifically: “Missions is one part of mission, establishing a gospel witness where there is none or where it is weak”.Reason #1: Reaching the UnreachedWe continue to train and send people to participate in missions in other parts of the world. Even with the growth in the number of followers of Jesus in the Global South, there is still a need to establish and strengthen a Gospel witness to unreached peoples. We are called to the places where there is no indigenous community of believing Christians who can share Jesus with people in their own context. Several NZCMS Mission Partners are front-line evangelists in these contexts, sharing the good news of Jesus in other languages and within different cultures.Reason #2: Partnering with the Global ChurchWe also send people to support the mission of local churches around the world. The global Church is the body of Christ, diverse in how we worship and live out God’s missional call, but united in the Holy Spirit. Churches around the world have different gifts and resources to give and receive from each other. For example, the New Zealand Church can learn a lot from the confidence our East African brothers and sisters have in sharing the Gospel.Our Mission Partners offer specific skills or gifts to build up the local Church. They are involved in setting up medical centres, supporting community development initiatives, creating social enterprises, training pharmacists, coaching future leaders, and training theological educators, to name a few.Should we still send out missionaries in 2020?Absolutely! The NZ Church has gifts and resources that we can offer to the global Church. We can extend what we have to directly reach out to those who have never heard the Gospel, and to strengthen the mission of local churches through cross-cultural partnerships.We can also learn from the global Church in ways that challenge our own cultural blindspots. We can receive the gifts of churches around the world and grow our global perspectivePartnering in these ways demonstrates that the Church transcends national barriers. As we serve together in mission, we learn to more fully be God’s hands and feet in a world of need. We start to live into the Kingdom vision of every nation, tribe, people and language worshipping before the throne of God.NZCMS uses the term “Mission Partner” rather than missionaries. This reflects our model of partnership – we never send out individuals to go and do their own thing. We send people to work in partnership with a local church, NGO or network ensuring that there is both care and accountability.What’s my role?Even as we send people globally, we know that New Zealand needs missionaries. If to be a missionary is to be sent out to make known the reign of God through our words and in our actions, then this is a call for all of us wherever we may live and with whomever we may interact. It’s simply evidence of the life of God in us; an overflow of having the living God take up residence within us as individuals and communities.From that baseline, we’ve each been created by God to do particular tasks, in keeping with the ‘vessel’ God has crafted us each to be – our particular gifts, skills, history and abilities, combined with the presence and power of Holy Spirit. This gives each of us a call from God particular to us. And for some, this is about serving the global Church – learning another language, living within another culture, and serving God from a place of otherness and across cultures.PRAY. GIVE. GO.NZCMS describes our calling to global mission as pray, give, and go. We each have a part to play – whether it’s praying, giving, or going yourself. That going may be to your local school where kids need to know that they have a hope and future, to living out your faith in a business network in downtown Wellington, or indeed to the people living in a rural community in Africa or a slum in Asia. Simply, we’re all called to serve as missionaries in our own places and in the way God has formed us to. So, what has God called you to do and be for the sake of the Kingdom? And if you have a stirring towards cross-cultural mission service, get in contact and let’s talk!Every blessing as you pray, give and go!
Rosie FyfeNZCMS National Director
WANT TO READ MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS? SIGN UP FOR OUR REGULAR EMAIL NEWSLETTER HERE.
This article was written by one of our Mission Partners serving in South Asia. Are there any good reasons for not serving God overseas? You bet! There’s heaps: obligation, middle-class guilt, idealism, Saviour complexes, a thirst for adventure. And no doubt many more. Motivations are funny things, aren’t they? More often than not we actually aren’t truly aware of what really is motivating us. Self-awareness is important for everyone, but even more so for mission partners. It’s so important that its a major thing that NZCMS personnel look for as they interview prospective mission partners. “Hmmm” you might be thinking, “Surely there is no such thing as perfect motivation.” Am I a write-off as soon as something murky is discovered lurking in my motivational faculties?” Good question. What hope is there for those of us with mixed motivations? If dodgy motivation is our topic of choice, there’s no better Biblical passage to explore than Matthew 20 (v20-21). The passage opens with two of the disciples (James and John) getting their Mum to ask Jesus a doozy of a request. “Give your word that these two sons of mine will be awarded the highest places of honour in your kingdom, one at your right hand, one at your left hand.”This must be one of the most ridiculous requests of all time! And to make matters worse the brothers got their Mum to ask for them! Although the rest of the disciples get mad when they hear about this sneaky request (fair enough!), Jesus doesn’t. While on one hand, he calls their arrogance what it is (pivoting into a teaching point on humility), he seems to honour whatever good intention there was behind the request. Check out his answer (in verses 23-24) for yourself. Jesus response to James and John’s poorly motivated request is 1. To gently call out the motivation for what is it, 2. To honour whatever good motivation and intentions there are, and 3. To offer to redeem the stink stuff. My experience has been similar to James and John’s. There have been several moments in my life when the penny has dropped, and I have realised that my true motivations were much more ego than the Kingdom. But when I’ve taken these hard-earned truths to God, I’ve been met by his grace rather than judgment. Rather than condemn me for my bad attitude, I get an opportunity to move forward in greater awareness of myself and my motivations.
By Rev. Ana Fletcher, NZCMS Intercultural Communities EnablerYou may have heard the phrase “adapt or die.” But it suggests that adapting merely leads to survival. What if, instead, we enlarged our imaginations to adapt in order to thrive? In this time of transition and change we need to believe that God is still building the church. Where is the Spirit nudging us to do things in new and creative ways? Many of the different faith communities I’m in touch with through the Intercultural Communities Project have seized this opportunity and are reaching new people and making new disciples as a result. At St James in Lower Hutt, a Mandarin-speaking small group has formed over WeChat, some of whom are new to faith or had not previously been involved in church. This is the first time the group’s facilitator has stepped into this kind of leadership role – and within a few weeks they are getting ready for their first baptisms. At St Mary’s Silverstream, through the commitment of its Chinese ministry leaders some of its existing Mandarin-speaking activities have moved online with additional gatherings to discuss Sunday services and intentional discipleship grounded in scripture. In other places, lockdown has acted as a catalyst to be more intentional about gathering together. Rev James Vinod had been running a prayer and study group for Hindi speakers around Wellington – but numbers were inconsistent because of people’s busyness. In the past two weeks they held their first meeting over zoom and 17 people attended! Not all those who attend the group are Christian, but within this group they are being discipled in the ways of Jesus. Similarly, Anglican Chinese Mission has begun offering its services over zoom, and seen a number of people join who were previously unable to. Rev Henry is also offering weekday gatherings for bible study and Q&A together with daily offices of prayer. As Rev Jimmy Luey says “technology and lockdown have enabled some things to happen, which normally would not.” These are just some of the ways that our faith communities have responded to the challenges presented over the lockdown. Some thoughts to ponder.What would it take for your local faith community to adapt in order to thrive in this new context? What are new and creative ways that the Spirit is encouraging you to engage with and disciple people – especially those who were previously ‘outside’ the church’s walls? How can you make disciples who make disciples during lockdown and while physical distancing remains a reality?
Mary Magdalene weeping outside the tomb is a poignant image of Easter. “Mary, weeping outside the tomb, stands for all of us. She is weeping bitterly; weeping for herself; yes weeping for her Lord, yes; but also in her tears weeping for the hope of Israel” (Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship, NT Wright). As we hold in our heart all that is happening around the world, we join Mary in her weeping. This is a different Good Friday than we have ever experienced before. We identify with Mary in her loss and heartbreak as we lament for the world; for the unfolding chaos, death, vulnerability and isolation that is disrupting the fabric of communities and individuals. Most of our Mission Partners remain in the countries in which they serve. Many work in vulnerable communities where the impacts of the virus and the loss of income will be even harsher than it is in New Zealand. Andy and Shona Miller, serving in Costa Rica, share in the video below about the need for basic food supplies in their local neighbourhood. As Mary weeps, as our Mission Partners lament, and as we grieve this Easter, we are invited to reflect on the ‘good’ of Good Friday. Our Lord enters the depths of human suffering and experiences death. In doing so, God fully redeems death, darkness and chaos in His Resurrection. Tears are shed, yes, but tears are also wiped away. Andy reminds us that this is not the first time the Church has faced a pandemic. In fact “Christianity has always been a life and death issue”. We don’t get to the resurrection hope of Easter Sunday without going through the death and darkness of Good Friday or the aching and empty waiting of Holy Saturday when we sit in the disorientation of all that is lost.Mary didn’t know what would happen next that morning as she wept, but we do. As we approach Easter, we remember and experience the hope that comes from Christ’s defeat of death. It is not the end on Good Friday. We know that we live in a world of Calvarys, where suffering and death surround us, and for that we weep, bitterly. Yet as Easter people we hold onto a future hope and assurance that one day every tear will be wiped away. We are each called to live into that Easter hope as our witness in the world. N.T. Wright continues, “we find ourselves to be Sunday people, called to minister to a world full of Fridays. In that knowledge we find that the hand that dries our tears passes the cloth on to us, and bids us follow him, to go to dry one another’s tears. The Lamb calls us to follow him wherever he goes; into the dark places of the world, the dark places of our own hearts, the places where tears blot out the sunlight… and he bids us to shine his morning light into the darkness, and share his ministry of wiping away the tears.” Mission Partners are our teachers in this time. They have followed a calling to accept the invitation of Jesus to live as Easter people in different parts of the world.Mission Partners have already made the choice to leave safety and security, and many live in places where life is more fragile. Andy reminds us that God is in control, and what we need in this time of crisis is the Word of God.He shares how Philippians 4 has been reminding him of our calling as Christians to trust God and give our anxiety to Him. Part of our witness as Easter people is offering a non-anxious presence in a world consumed by fear and anxiety. The image of a woman weeping beside a tomb evokes the pictures we have seen in the media of nurses weeping beside the bodies of those taken by COVID19. We weep in new ways this Easter. We honestly face the world’s chaos, death, waiting, and darkness in this moment in time and say: yes, this is all real, it’s awful, it’s overwhelming, and it’s a suffering I never expected to know, see or experience. Yet what else is true? What else is true is that we are Easter People with a fierce and active hope in God in the midst of suffering and darkness. Being Easter people is to defiantly straddle between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We weep, we are present in the hard, suffering corners of our world, but we also we look for and action signs of God‘s Kingdom arriving on earth, participating in the redeeming work God is continuing to bring forth. Jesus, pass us the cloth. WATCH ANDY AND SHONA’S VIDEO HERE
“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” My work partner Emma shared this on Facebook yesterday. You’ll soon see why. On the surface, lockdown here in Northern Uganda seems relaxed compared with New Zealand. We can move around, buy food and bike where we want. Yes, shops are closed and we can’t catch public transport but Tessa and I live comfortably. If you are poor however the story is radically different. Fragile situations fall apart. Our neighbor Florence used to raise a couple of dollars a day by ferrying water for people. Now the borehole keeper won’t let her continue, as Florence may ferry the virus. Our good friend Opiyo worked as a laborer on a building site, but with hardware shops shut he can’t continue. Forget about recovery packages and wage subsidies. There is zero help from the government here – you’re on your own. Opiyo’s wife Paska is about to give birth she’s not sure how she will reach the hospital. Before lockdown, motorbikes acted as ambulances for over 90% of hospital transfers. Under lockdown motorbikes aren’t allowed to carry people. Reaching hospital is now treacherous, and difficult situations are now deadly.Tessa and I live near Florence, Opiyo and Paska in Lacor center, a hospital village. When Paska’s labour starts, even if she can’t catch a motorbike she’ll walk down the road to the best hospital in the region. She’ll be fine. Deep in the village the scenario is far worse. Yesterday I got a call from nurse Innocent, who manages a remote OneDay Health center, operated under the Anglican Diocese of Northern Uganda. A 10 year old boy was almost unconscious with severe anemia from malaria. Innocent gave intravenous antimalarials and fluids, but the boy needed blood and fast. Unfortunately the motorcycle taxis refused to carry the boy to hospital, fearing police brutality under lock down. The ambulance arrived 6 hours later. Too late. A 3 dollar motorcycle ride probably would have saved him. Nurse Innocent prayed with the distraught father today when he returned to pay his dead son’s medical bill. Obviously we forgave it. Today I feared a similar tragedy. Just a few hours ago nurse Simon was treating a pregnant woman with severe malaria in remote Ocim OneDay Health Center. Fortunately a motorcycle taxi was willing to brave the brutal police roadblocks, and she arrived safely to hospital.As coronavirus approaches , our limited resources will be stretched past their limit. Our staff use one face mask per day while health workers in New Zealand use one per patient. By the end of tomorrow our masks will run out in St. Philips, our busiest health center. Today I biked around 5 pharmacies in town, only to find that all face masks were sold out. The New Zealand health system may be put to the test, but Uganda’s failed before Covid-19 moved from a pangolin to a primate. John the Baptist said “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” Perhaps this applies to face masks as well. I wrote this article last week, and since then there has been an incredible response. We’ve raised enough money not only to buy enough supplies for our 19 Anglican health centers but also to contribute to critical shortages at our local Catholic hospital and pay for transport to larger hospitals if our patients need it. Even in these times which are so hard for New Zealanders it is inspiring to see so many people think of the least of these on the other side of the world. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed” Kia Kaha and God bless, Nick and Tessa
NZCMS National Director, Rosie Fyfe, shares an update from NZCMS and our Mission Partners. God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. (Psalm 46)Grace and peace to you in these uncertain times. As we watch the news, and as we respond in the contexts that we are each part of, let us hold fast to God our refuge. Let us find our strength in Him. Let us remind each other that our Lord is truly an ever-present help in times of turmoil.I want to assure you that NZCMS staff are keeping in frequent contact with all of our Mission Partners in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic. We are assessing and responding to risk, taking into account different contexts and situations. For example, in response to the NZ government directive for New Zealanders travelling internationally to return home, our Better World Gap Year team are returning from Fiji on Sunday 22 March, a few days earlier than planned. At the same time, we know that our long-term Mission Partners have chosen to live and share the love of Jesus amongst people in different parts of the world. While ensuring they do not take undue risk, there can be a calling to stay in difficult times, to stay for the long-term rather than simply finishing a project or a contract.Here in New Zealand, churches are getting active and finding creative ways to support people in their communities, and to continue in worship and mission. Likewise, our Mission Partners are people who have committed to sharing the love of Jesus in the contexts where God has placed them, and they are finding ways to reach out in the midst of this situation.We would like to ask that you would:Please continue praying for Mission Partners. Some are already living in lock-down, others are faced with decisions. Pray for wisdom for unexpected Kingdom moments of seeing God at work, and opportunities to care for those around them in whichever way is possible.Please continue giving towards the financial support of Mission Partners, even if they return to New Zealand for a period. This tangible demonstration of your support towards them and their work is more important now than ever. If a Mission Partner needs to return from their location of service NZCMS will continue to financially support them for a period of time; we will also need you to continue to care for your Mission Partner in this way.For any Mission Partners who return to New Zealand, we will help them find places to self-isolate. We would like to create a list of possible places, such as holiday houses, where any returning Mission Partners could self-isolate. Please let us know if you have anyone in your congregation who may have a property they can offer for this purpose.
One thing that I have always loved about NZCMS is that we see each other as family. If there are any ways we can support you at this time, our staff would love to hear from you (firstname.lastname@example.org). May the Lord bless you and keep you,Rosie.