#NZCMS (for under 30s)

Introducing Sam

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Kia Ora team.

Sam here, and I feel very privileged and excited to be a part of the NZCMS internship, heading over to Kenya and interning with Nairobi Chapel. I will be in Kenya for three months as I experience African culture and intern at the Nairobi Chapel Church. I will learn what it means to be an effective disciple of the Lord while being trained and taught in various areas of ministry.

I have lived in scarfie land (Dunedin) for the last 12 years, doing high school and then heading along to the university here. Currently, you will find me at Emerson’s brewery In Dunedin, helping brew and craft the finest beverages. However, where I find my joy and passion is not in beer but in following the Lord, experiencing him deeper and becoming more like him. I love people and hearing their stories. I also have a big passion for worship and love the closeness it brings me to the Lord. I hope that I will be able to further both of these passions throughout my internship.

The reason for Africa and an NZCMS internship? Last year I felt a very strong calling that the Lord was saying I needed to surrender and give up my pride, time, skill, and money and to put him first. I’ve always loved experiencing new cultures, Africa seemed like the ideal place for this and God’s hand was on this decision.

I pray that my time in Nairobi will grow my relationship with the Lord and that I can be used to help and minister to others.

Finally, I pray that I will pass on what I learn and will be able to bring back the skills that I have gained to train and equip others. I’m really excited for what the future holds and what the Lord has in store for me.

Diaspora mission (Intermission – Issue 35)

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“Dad, can I show you a simpler way of doing that?” my teenage daughter remarked. I like to problem solve issues with my electronic gadgets but as I get older, I’m realising that I’m not as tech savvy as I was when I was younger. My digitally native teenage daughters have become my tech consultants. The roles have reversed.

When I (and my family) first arrived in Christchurch nine years ago, I had an interesting conversation with my neighbour when he asked what I did. I said I was a missionary from Kenya. After the initial shock, our discussion centred on what a contemporary missionary looks like. It was all new to him.

My friend, Mark Oxbrow, tells the story of African missionaries who are using the JESUS film and Arabic New Testaments to take the Gospel into hundreds of Arab homes in the Middle East. There they are able to share the film with children and read the Bible with their mothers. Sadly, these maids will never appear in any statistics of foreign missionaries. They will probably attract little prayer or financial support from Western churches so concerned about reaching the unreached. Mark calls this “mission from below” or “Majority world mission”. Those who were traditionally recipients of missionary work are now carriers of the Gospel.

Missionary migration  

The twenty-first century is shaping up as a century of immigration. Globally, the number of international migrants worldwide has continued to grow rapidly in recent years, reaching 258 million in 2017. Some of these migrants are missionaries.

The idea of God using migration to reach the nations with the Gospel is not new. God called Abraham to leave his homeland and go to a foreign land. God promised not only to bless Abraham but to bless the nations through him. In Acts we see the believers scattering due to persecution which led to the Gospel arriving in Africa! God has used “people on the move” as carriers of His Gospel to the corners of the earth and that includes Aotearoa. I personally have been recently meeting a number of people who told me God called them to come to New Zealand to share the gospel.

At NZCMS we’ve noticed what God is doing and have become more intentional in equipping churches in New Zealand to receive a diaspora missionary from the Majority World.

This idea of missionaries coming from places that previously were considered mission fields is what we are calling “diaspora mission”. I know the term is not necessarily the best one, but we use it because we want to help change the current narrative or paradigm that a missionary is one who comes from the ‘West to the Rest’, ‘The Powerful to the Less powerful’, ‘Wealthy to the Poor’ or any other sayings that are around!

You see, we need to radically revise our paradigm of who a missionary is in the contemporary, globalised world. A careful reading of mission history shows that the midwives of the Gospel over the decades have often been people in the margins rather than those at the centre of ecclesiastical power.

So why diaspora mission?

It’s about reciprocity and mutuality. As a product of the Western missionary movement, I am so grateful for those Kiwis who have served overseas, including in my country Kenya. But I think for far too long, mission has been a one-way street. It’s time to complete the circle. A reading of I Cor 12:21-22 from a global perspective affirms this idea and challenges us to consider how we can receive the gifts of the global Church.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”  

If the Lord is sending these “diaspora missionaries” here, are we willing to welcome them?

It could be like Joseph and Daniel of old where our ongoing prosperity as a nation spiritually, depends on how we welcome the strangers among us. As Jesus says, ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward Matt 10:42

We need their help

New Zealand has become a largely secular nation despite its deep Christian roots. Kiwis need to hear the Good News in fresh and relevant ways, and sometimes ‘outsiders’ can do this more effectively than those immersed in their own culture. Missional Christians from other cultures can also play an important role in encouraging Kiwi churches to get involved in mission, both locally and beyond our borders, and can help them become better skilled and more effective in cross-cultural ministry. Diaspora missionaries who come from multi-ethnic contexts can also help us develop strategies towards becoming an intercultural church.

Like Paul, many Christians from places like Africa and Asia have heard a ‘Macedonian call from the West’ (Acts 16:9), “Please come to help us.” The Gospel need in our own land is driving them to come as missionaries to our shores. But, is the Kiwi Church ready to recognise our own struggles, faults and failures, and are we open to being challenged and changed by new ideas, outside voices and fresh approaches?

A strategy towards embracing intercultural missions 

So if your Church would like to call a diaspora missionary, where do you start?

I see one of NZCMS’s main contributions as facilitating contact between diaspora missionaries and host churches – a bit like a dating agency really! We’ll receive requests from New Zealand churches and use our global networks to connect these churches with overseas people who have the skills, abilities and experience needed. We’ll also provide cross-cultural orientation for diaspora missionaries, pastoral care back-up, advice in crisis situations and prayer support, as well as help host churches with cultural issues to help them receive their diaspora missionaries. 

I’ll close with a quote from Kenneth Bailey. “The gospel is not safe in any culture without a witness within that culture from beyond itself ”.

Diaspora missionaries are not only workers who provide capacity for the Church to reach more people, but they also help identify some of the cultural and spiritual blind spots we may have.

Questions to consider

What do you notice about the faith of those from other cultures around you?

What do you notice about the blind spots in your culture that ‘strangers’ might be able to point out?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

Manaaki Mission Motivations: The Power of Hospitality (Intermission – Issue 35)

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What Aotearoa New Zealand’s bi-cultural journey can teach us about our mission among the nations.

Māori culture is a hospitality culture. We have a whakataukī (proverb), He tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu — If people abuse or disregard their guests, their marae will be dusty. There is a play on words here with reference to the marae. It could refer to the marae ātea, the public forum or open area in front of the wharenui (meeting house) where visitors are met in a pōwhiri (welcoming protocol), but it is more properly understood as a verb to mean being generous or hospitable. Their hospitality will be dusty. In other words, shameful.

Integrated Foundations

In order to understand something of the Māori perspective of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the intercultural responsibilities of each party to that covenant, we need to appreciate some of the kaupapa (foundational values) of te ao Māori (the way Māori view the world) and its resulting priorities.

Culture is a complex concept. For Māori, cultural values are deeply integrated with each other and inseparable, making it impossible to discuss one aspect without inferring its relationship with our entire way of understanding the world. A life essence permeates it all, connecting all things to each other. Christians must not dismiss this view as pagan, animist or pantheist. Those terms are just modern Western constructs. No, Christians should readily attest to the life essence of all things, rooted in the very story of creation itself, a result of the utterance of the Word (John 1:4) and reverberating with Christ, in whom all things hold together (Col 1:17).

To develop healthy intercultural relationships from and within Aotearoa New Zealand it is helpful to understand the genesis of our bicultural foundation. To understand our bicultural foundation we need to comprehend our covenantal obligations under the Tiriti o Waitangi. To comprehend the intention of Te Tiriti we need to appreciate how Māori view hospitality (marae). To appreciate the values of hospitality for Māori we need to grasp the underlying concept of manaaki. Grasping manaaki will also help us better work out our participation in God’s mission in this world since Christ is the ultimate manifestation of manaaki.

Reinforcing Mana 

Māori concepts have many shades of meaning depending on the context in which they are used. Manaaki is one such concept-word. The Māori Bible translates as manaaki Hebrew words like berakah and the Greek eulogia (both translated as “blessing” in English). In my doctoral research, manaaki was explained to me by Māori Christian research participants as, “to āki (encourage or lift up) the mana (esteem, respect, honour, life essence) of another”.

Mana is core to understanding mana|āki and it is grossly underappreciated in our common usage. We could argue that mana is one of a handful of reinforcing rods that run through the foundations of a Māori view of the world. To see mana as merely honour or respect is to treat it very superficially. We do not have sufficient space here to do justice to the complex spiritual roots beneath the surface that emerge as mana. Suffice it to say, it is deeply compatible with a Biblical view of reality being created by God’s Word and breath.

Mana is the evidence in a person of their life essence and spiritual virtues. Pākehā would call it a person’s psycho-emotional make-up, preferences, strengths, and talents. Mana is a person’s charisma in the spiritual sense—our divine grace. Mana is the manifest evidence of all these things at work through all that a person is and does in relationship with others. For Māori, and no doubt many other tribe-oriented societies, a person’s mana is recognised by their community and ascribed to the person by the community—you cannot claim it for yourself. You can do things that affect the community and lose mana and you can do things for the community and gain mana. The more mana you are recognised for, the higher standing you have in the community. Mana is therefore relational currency, and a highly prized and defended treasure it is at that.

A Platform For Many

And so we come to Te Tiriti. There is no doubt in my mind that our Māori forebears understood and signed Te Tiriti as an act of manaaki. As a relationship-forming protocol. They extended hospitality to the British Crown on a national level, viewing the signing of Te Tiriti in a similar way that a hongi (nose press) seals the relationship at a pōwhiri on a marae. Māori leaders elevated the mana of the British visitors by extending them hospitality, allowing all those represented by the authority of the Crown to come in and treat the land as their home (but without ownership, for that was largely a foreign concept to Māori at the time). The offer of co-residence came with full expectation that the new settlers would do so guided by the ethics of the tangatawhenua (people of the land), just as you would expect to do on a marae. The British clearly did not see things the same way and used their mana against the people of the land, thereby losing mana in the eyes of Māori.

Most of us are well aware of how the relationship went bad. My aim is to emphasize why the relationship was formed in the first place. It was an act of generosity and hospitality, NOT an act of surrender in the face of a greater power. In the creation of the (enduring) covenant we know as Te Tiriti o Waitangi we have an agreement between two peoples: the tangatawhenua and the British Crown. That is why we call the relationship a bi-cultural one, but this is actually inappropriate terminology because the British Crown represents many cultures. Even in 1840, when Te Tiriti was covenanted, the British Empire ‘represented’ the Australian, Canadian, Indian, East and Southern African, and some Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Island indigenous peoples. How much our Māori Chiefs understood about the reach of the British Empire we cannot know, but they knew Queen Victoria was the head of a very large, multi-cultural domain. Te Tiriti therefore included all who would come under the auspices and rule of that empire, as permitted by the Queen’s delegated authority here—the Government.

The Government of Aotearoa New Zealand now represents the Crown in extending permission for migrants to come and settle in our land. To an extent, this is the Government’s right under Te Tiriti. Te Tiriti allowed them to govern and hold rule of law over those entering the land on the basis of the hospitality of the Crown. Māori were to retain their own sovereignty and co-reside in the land with a rule of law compatible with the Crown’s. But we all know how that has worked out in reality to date.

A Foundation To Build On

Māori may have had our hospitality abused by the Government and its settlers but that does not dismiss the power of hospitality as a deeply spiritual discipline. Christ had His hospitality abused by Jewish powers and Roman law as He held out an invitation to enter His Kingdom. As the Father sent the Son, so we are sent into the world (John 18:18) to extend Kingdom hospitality to those willing to come in. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to provide the very best manaaki you can to those seeking a place of peace where they can fully be who God has made them to be. This is our intercultural responsibility under Christ’s New Covenant. We must not let Jesus find our marae dusty. (Philippians 2:1-11)

Questions To Consider

How willing are you to extend hospitality to a stranger and open your home to them? What motivates you most when facing a stranger: fear of being abused, or the desire to esteem others in love, regardless of the potential cost? In what ways would mission ventures as we know them need to change for us to shift from condescension (imposing ourselves to give something we feel they lack) to mutuality (interdependent development)?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

The stories of those who come to us (Intermission – Issue 35)

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There is a need literally three metres outside the doors of our church. Every day hundreds of students walk past. So many have come so far to be here but they don’t seem to have anyone who cares about them. They fall into a world where there is only a lecture theatre, a shoebox apartment and the internet.

I’ve always admired how international students can take the risk (and expense) of leaving their home, family, friends and everything they know. They are young and come to better themselves in a place where everything is new and different – people, culture, food and even simply trying to communicate are all things they need to get used to and learn.

Sometimes the pressure can be intense. Tim, a successful Chinese honours student we know, was the only one from his village who had ever gone to university. Tim’s study cost so much and was so important that his father back home decided not to tell him he was dying of cancer. By the end of the year, it was too late and Tim’s father was gone.  The same thing happened for a dying brother of a young Iranian postgraduate student. I know an Indian student whose parents sold their house to get him here.

You get the idea of the sacrifices many make to be here in New Zealand. And you can begin to understand that there are cultures that think and do things differently to the way Kiwis do. In that difference, we can find the joy of intercultural engagement in Christ. I don’t believe Jesus is interested in us either conforming others to our image or living in our own separate worlds like marbles in a bag – in the same place but completely disconnected. I believe scripture affirms that while we are made distinctively within our own cultures, those worlds are made to overlap to the glory of God and the benefit of all.

The results of engagement

St Paul’s is a central city Auckland church, situated between two universities on one side and student accommodation blocks on the other. We tried not to overthink what we saw. We prayed and decided to find a day to open the doors of the church, invite people in and do a simple meal of soup and cheese toasties.

Our small volunteer leader’s group talked to others and the team grew. Six years after opening the doors, we have a leadership team of around 25 people from at least 8 different Auckland churches. On a normal Wednesday lunch, around 120 people come through the doors. People from China, Iran, India, Japan, Colombia, Chile, Indonesia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Russia gather to eat and meet informally. 

We always pray that we can make known the love of Jesus, whether it’s by making a sandwich, sharing a smile or letting someone know the good news. Over time, many have come into contact with a group who think Jesus is real and can be trusted in real life. Intercultural connection in Christ is not rarefied air for specialists. It is basic human kindness for those who are guests in our country. We help with CV’s, give people lifts, teach English and piano, go tramping and skiing. We make good friends. Sometimes it’s hard on the heart as most eventually return home. But some take a new faith in Jesus back with them!

Needless to say, we’ve had some pretty significant disappointments and failures along the way. But we kept going. Now, in addition to the meals we provide, around 25 people regularly come to a weekly pizza and Bible study night we run. We let people look at the Bible for themselves and ask them open questions to enable them to engage. We pray. A core group of people have put their faith in Jesus and want to grow. We are currently planning our first discipleship weekend. They will be the leaders in future.

Here are some comments I’d like to finish with. As well as love for Jesus and neighbour, I think there are some key ideas underlying what we do.

Key ideas to consider

Dignity:

The person God puts in front of me is a human being with his or her own story, loves, dreams, fears and challenges. Faltering English doesn’t change that. Let’s not treat people like children and pat them on the head simply because New Zealand is new to them.

Understanding:

I need to be patient and listen and learn to see the world through other eyes. Interaction with different cultures brings strange worlds of ideas, behaviours and foods that may initially make no sense or even repel me. It might make me impatient. But without that understanding of the other world, I will introduce someone to the saviour of only my world and culture. The real world of the one I am sharing with will remain largely untouched. If I persevere in listening to the person God has put in front of me I might be able to see past the strange symbols and concepts and come to appreciate what they understand a person to be, and how they are related to both their family and the unseen world. Finally, they may begin to let me into the dark places of their world – things that make them ashamed, anxious or despairing.

Enriching:

When I am patient and listening and understanding, I will begin to see the Lord and Saviour of the other person’s world. I will see Jesus in a new way I’d never seen before as He meets the needs and aspirations of that person. I will begin to worship and proclaim Jesus in a new and fuller way in terms I’m only just beginning to understand. The Lord will have led me into a fuller and deeper worship of Him through an intercultural engagement with someone who has become my brother or sister. That is why we need intercultural engagement. 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, the Intermission publication will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

What is Intercultural Engagement? (Intermission – Issue 35)

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I am partial to a good Sri Lankan curry – and I’m slowly learning how to make them. I line my curry leaves, cumin, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon and mustard seeds up on the bench. I grind and mix them with the other ingredients and then simmer them all together. Finally – and often salivating from inhaling the aroma – it’s time to eat. Delicious!

 What is Intercultural engagement?

Intercultural engagement is a bit like the spices in a good curry. It’s incredible how a small amount of any spice can add flavour to an entire dish. But a concoction of spices simmered together can produce an incredible flavour; one with a richness and depth that no single spice can produce. It’s still possible to pick out the distinct notes of each spice. If anything, the contrast with the other spices complements and enhances their flavour. Together, they have been transformed into something else.

All analogies have limitations – and this one is no different – but, I think it does help to explain what we mean by intercultural engagement. Culture is something to be celebrated. Intercultural engagement recognises and honours the differences and commonalities between cultures, and values the contribution of each culture. Intercultural engagement takes place through respectful, authentic interactions that allow each person to be shaped by the others and in the process each is transformed to produce a depth and richness that wouldn’t be possible without the “other.’’ It isn’t a dilution of culture. In the same way that “iron sharpens iron”, intercultural engagement helps to draw out the best of every culture while making us more aware of our own cultural blind spots so that everyone benefits from the gifts that each has to contribute.

What about multicultural or cross-cultural?

We often find ourselves in multicultural or cross-cultural situations. Multicultural situations are an important first step that can provide the basis for intercultural engagement to flourish. Multiculturalism itself doesn’t require any interaction between different cultures. It simply means that there are multiple cultures present and acknowledges the diversity between them. In other words, all the spices are lined up on the bench but they haven’t actually been combined together…yet.

Likewise, done well, cross-cultural engagement becomes intercultural engagement. The term cross-cultural can sometimes reinforce an ‘us’ as the ‘givers’ and ‘them’ as the ‘receivers’ attitude. It can be hard where we are in the majority, or in positions of privilege or power to receive the gifts that others have to offer and for us to allow our own way of being and doing to be indelibly changed in the process. Cross-cultural engagement doesn’t have to be that way! Interculturality recognises reciprocity. No single culture is the ‘norm’; every culture is both giver and recipient.

A biblical analogy

Perhaps the best and most well-known biblical analogy for intercultural engagement is the image of the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians. The church itself is meant to be the ultimate expression of intercultural engagement! The church is the united body of Christ where the difference inherent to each part of the body is essential to the functioning of the whole body. Each part must share a life-in-mutuality and solidarity with others, ensuring care, honour and protection of the most marginalised. It is this body that is the lived expression of unity in Christ.

When our own identity is founded in Christ, we aren’t defensive about our own inadequacies. Nor are we threatened by difference. Instead, we embrace ‘others’ as fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s only once we acknowledge the essential part of each member of the Body that we can flourish, growing into the fullness of Christ. God’s mission is to reconcile all things to one another and himself and the church, as Christ’s body, is meant to be a witness to all of humanity of the reconciling love and grace of God. An intercultural church is good news to a world fractured along cultural divides!

Using our imagination

What might an intercultural church look like? Intercultural engagement is dependent on relationship. Like the spices mixing together, or the parts of the body working together, it is the interdependent relationship that forms an intercultural community. Relationship is one of the best places to discover others’ strengths and gifts (and our own inadequacies and blind spots). We cannot be satisfied with being multicultural or cross-cultural in our church contexts or in the way we do mission. We have to get close enough to those who are different from us for authentic, reciprocal relationships to form.

Imagine a church where everyone’s gifts were known and utilised and where those with power and privilege empowered those from minority groups. Maybe there would be a roster of preachers from diverse cultural contexts. Maybe different languages would regularly be used for scripture readings and prayers. Maybe worship would be led by a variety of people using the style and music from their own cultural background. Maybe leadership would increasingly reflect the diversity within the church. Imagine this church engaging ‘interculturally’ in its local context. People from different cultural backgrounds would know that they are welcome and that this church, Christ’s body, is a place where they have value, can belong and can contribute because of, rather than in spite of, their differences.

Final thoughts

As the Body of Christ, we must learn how to engage interculturally within the church and in our communities. Like a good curry, it will require some simmering for the flavours to develop – we will need love, grace, patience and perseverance. But as we allow ourselves to be transformed into the fullness of Christ, the end result promises to be the best that God has for us. 

Questions to consider:

What might be some steps that can help a church community move towards becoming intercultural? How do you personally identify yourself culturally? Where are you from? What are the cultural influences that have shaped you? How can you learn from those who are culturally different from you in your context? How can you encourage them to use their gifts?

Recommended resources for further reading 

Dan Sheffield, The Multicultural Leader: Developing a Catholic Personality, Clements Publishing, 2005

Jay Ruka, Huia Come Home, 2007

Mark Lau and Juan F. Martinez, Churches, Cultures and Leadership, IVP: Illinois, 2011

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon Press, 1996

Rosemary Dewerse, Breaking Calabashes, MediaCom Education Inc., 2013

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World, IVP, 2016

Soon-Chan Rah, Many Colours: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church, Moody Publishers, 2010

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles and contexts, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. 

Each Intermission article will be uploaded periodically and can be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission. Alternatively, to receive the physical copy, feel free to email us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on 03 377 2222. 

Chelsea’s stories

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Last month we had the pleasure of hearing Chelsea speak of her time in Uganda as part of her Missions Internship with NZCMS in 2017-2018. Below is a summary of some of the stories and reflections she shared. 

An Introduction with Lucy

Chelsea’s best friend in Uganda was Lucy. Lucy has a disease which usually takes a person’s life by the age of 7. She is now 33 years old and is almost a walking miracle. However, her life isn’t exactly simple and she isn’t able to work due to her illness. Lucy was just one of many people Chelsea met in Uganda and, by the end of this story, you’ll know how powerful an impact she has had on Chelsea’s life and faith. But before we continue Lucy’s story, let’s journey through some other adventures Chelsea had through her Internship. 

Getting through the checkpoint

Chelsea sat on her ‘boda’ (motorbike taxi) as they flew down the dusty roads, flying past the endless farmlands and beautiful clouds of butterflies. Nervous energy crackled in the air as Chelsea and Nick drove towards a checkpoint. They needed to get to a village called Apaa but there was a high chance that they would be turned away at the checkpoint.

With them was a fantastic young nurse who, with a box full of medical supplies, was travelling with them to get the abandoned health clinic back up and running. The last staff member had been forced to flee because of the local conflict. The impact of this conflict has been slowly displacing thousands of the locals, most of whom are very poor and cannot afford to leave the only home they had ever known. It was very important that the nurse and supplies made it to Apaa otherwise the healthcare ramifications for the locals could be tragic.

Finally, they arrived at the checkpoint. The drivers slowed down to be checked, holding their breath and waiting for the guards to call out. However, incredibly, they noticed that the guards at the roadside were asleep! Without any challenges, the team’s boda drivers drove straight through as fast as they could.

When they arrived at the village, a woman immediately came to them, ecstatic that they were there. She had two sick children. Any other clinic was either too far away or too expensive for her to reach. As they began cleaning up the clinic talking to the locals, it was evident that the land conflict was extremely tough yet there was absolutely no way that the locals would leave unless, in their words, “They were dead”.

When the team left Apaa, they couldn’t help departing with a sense of worry for the people there, unsettled by the news they’d heard and what would become of the people in that area.

As part of here Internship, Chelsea stayed with NZCMS Mission Partners, Nick and Tessa, in their local community for two months. She said that the time she lived there was just a taster of what a Missionary’s life looked like. But it was two months of life-changing moments that consistently stretched and grew her faith. She would often find herself asking “Where is God in this situation?” or on a different day “God is so present here!”

Breaking into a refugee camp

“The worst they could do is get you arrested, and we’ll sort that out later if that happens.”

Quoting Nick’s words brought a laugh from the CMS Support Group that Chelsea was speaking at. During her time in Uganda, she wanted to visit a refugee camp, however, Nick was busy that day. Of course, he had no qualms at all about letting Chelsea loose to find her own way there!

She was warned to keep a low profile when entering the camp and to stay away from the camp authorities who might not be happy to see her there. If she was found, of course, he said she’d either be kicked out or arrested. This didn’t seem to be a big issue for him although Tessa was a bit more concerned. In the end, however, Chelsea decided she would go on her own. 

Through bodas, taxis, and hitchhiking, she eventually arrived at the camp, headed round to the back and entered (Hitchhiking is a way many Ugandans make their living and very different to hitchhiking in New Zealand).

The roads were worse than the Christchurch roads in 2011 post-earthquake. In this one refugee camp, 30,000 people were crammed into a space of dusty paths, huts and barren land, interspersed with the occasional small tree. Chelsea made friends with a young man named Richard who walked around translating for her. 

 

She learned that he was trying to save money to support his family, as his father was injured and couldn’t work. After building a farm in South Sudan, the war tore over his region and they were forced to flee and start again. He was hoping to return to South Sudan later that week because he needed to get some papers to be able to work. Chelsea never found out whether he was successful or not.

For three hours Chelsea walked around the refugee camp, meeting many people and hearing their stories. By the end of the day, when she arrived home, the impact of what she’d just seen hit her. The following is a quote from a journal entry she’d written the night she got home from the camp.

“It’s honestly been a very, very heavy day here. I’m always struggling to find hope in such a hopeless place. Tonight I just curled into a ball, and I cried. A camp of 30,000 people, sort of forgotten by the rest of the world. Why could all of this be happening? Why do some people, so full of the need for power or greed …hurt so, so many people? And what do I do…?”

That night, Chelsea returned home full of questions and wondered where hope was. Hope, however, was found in the life of her best friend, Lucy.

A Conversation with Lucy

One afternoon Lucy told Chelsea her story. At a young age, her mum died, and her dad was murdered. She then cared for and raised her two younger siblings who now did not want a relationship with her. Lucy’s story was full of grief and Chelsea specifically remembered the two of them sitting down for an entire afternoon and crying together as they talked.

However, despite all of this, Chelsea remembered hearing Lucy sweeping the compound around their huts every morning. And every morning while she worked, Lucy sang praises to God. And throughout the day, she laughed at a joke or story. Lucy’s singing helped Chelsea have hope that God could help her through anything. And her laugh proved that he was present in every situation, no matter how hopeless it seemed. 

Through Lucy, Chelsea was reminded that God was not the brokenness. And he was not the pain or grief or loneliness either. God was with those in their brokenness. And, through Lucy, Chelsea saw that God could make something beautiful out of something that was broken. That is Lucy’s story. And this is Chelsea’s. They’re both only in the beginning chapters of their lives. And sometimes their lives are not easy. But they both hold onto God because they have faith that he is the hope for all people.

Hebrews11:1

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

If you would like to know more about the Internship opportunities that NZCMS provides, we would love to hear from you. visit our Internship page at http://www.nzcms.org.nz/haerenga/ or contact us at internship@nzcms.org.nz

 

 

A nation of many colours (Intermission – Issue 35)

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I’ve always loved to draw. Even when I was a kid I would write up little comics for hours (And force my parents to read them no doubt!). For whatever reason though, I always stuck with drawing. I never picked up a paintbrush. I think it was because, at the time, painting a picture with different colours just seemed too overwhelming. And messy! Also, I never found someone to teach me how.

Most of us know that a vibrant cultural diversity has filled New Zealand. But we all seem a bit separate and ‘uninvolved’ somehow don’t we? Sure we may interact with others somewhat. Say hello. Perhaps a couple of us have a friend from a different ethnicity than our own. But what have you learned from another that has challenged the way you view the world? Has your life been forever altered through an intercultural engagement? What memories come to your mind when you try to recall working with a group of diverse nationalities engaged together in God’s work? Have you heard sermons or Bible Studies in your church from an Asian perspective? A Middle Eastern? A Western? A Pacific Islander?

If you’re like me, and if you’re honest, you will struggle to answer any of these questions with a resounding “Yes!”. And if I’m honest, sometimes I don’t even want to think of an answer. Otherwise, it means taking responsibility and possibly changing something in my life. It’s simpler just not to think about it. Easier to understand. Uncomplicated. Not as messy. A little like drawing with a pencil.

But my friends, we’re a nation of many colours. The question is what are we going to do with them? Will we continue to think and dream and create with the only colour we’ve used in the past? Or is it time to begin choosing some different shades? 

I want to learn how to pick up a brush and start painting, and I’d love for you to join me. It will be messy. And yes, it may be quite complicated. But I believe the New Zealand Church is in a unique position to create something beautiful. And I think the Holy Spirit will be more than capable of teaching us how.

NZCMS’ quarterly magazine Intermission will arrive in your mailbox in the first week of June. We’ll also upload the PDF that week to this website. Within it are some incredibly valuable articles and resources all aimed at helping us becoming an interculturally engaged church. Feel free to contact us at office@nzcms.org.nz to subscribe to our mailing list or call us on +64 03 377 2222. Also keep an eye on our “Resources Tab” for an Intercultural Engagement page. Let’s start painting!

 

A story, a culture and a call (Intermission – Issue 34)

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I wonder sometimes if focusing on missionaries and pastors makes us as Christians feel better about ourselves. We go to church, we hear an incredible sermon and we say “Wow, that Pastor is really gifted. It’s so great to have him at our church”. Or we pick up a Christian article (much like this one) and are amazed at the missionaries overseas, working themselves to the bone for the sake of the Gospel. We say “God, it’s so good you’ve given these people such an amazing call from you”. It makes us feel good, doesn’t it? But what if something like that were a bit ‘closer to home’ for you? Let me create a hypothetical situation.

A story

Imagine walking into the smoko room at work and making yourself a coffee. A couple of your workmates are there as well, laughing and talking about the sport over the weekend and moaning about the boss. You join in happily and begin to make your lunch. When you turn from the kitchen bench to comment on the rugby game you suddenly see him through the door window. Jerry. The new guy. The Christian. Well, of course, you’re a Christian too but there’s a difference between you and him. He keeps on talking about it!

“Good afternoon everyone!” he roars as he enters the room with a grin the size of Cheshire the cat. Everyone else greets him but you quickly zero in on your sandwich and don’t reply.

“Please don’t do anything weird”, you think to yourself. But you hope in vain.

“I had a great yesterday,” Jerry says as he puts last night’s leftover tea into the microwave to heat up. “Amazing sermon and incredible prayer time with God. It was powerful stuff. How was everyone else’s weekend?”

You shrivel within yourself, wishing you were anywhere but here, dreading the response from your colleagues and feeling completely uncomfortable for them. You quickly finish your meal, drain your coffee and leave the room. “Why does he always have to make it so awkward?” you think to yourself grumpily.

This type of situation may or may not have happened to you before. But it illustrates my point. Perhaps the reason why we’re so comfortable talking about the talents and exploits of pastors and missionaries is because we think they have a calling that we don’t have. Or, more specifically, we think their passion or gift to proclaim the Gospel is something we don’t have any access to. And it makes us feel better about our lack of ‘Gospel sharing’ to rave about them. It’s a subtle way of saying “See, that’s not my calling so it’s fine that I’m not speaking about the Gospel.”. 

But when someone begins spouting on about God right in front of you who has no such title, he or she suddenly destroys that convenient little reason you’d given yourself for staying quiet. Because then the next question you have to ask is this: “If they’re talking about God, why aren’t I?” And that brings up a whole lot of uncomfortable questions.

A culture and a call

I’m still very young in the grand scheme of things, but I’m old enough to know that an attitude or response to something is often the fruit of a long-held belief or assumption. Another word for this can be the more ambiguous word ‘culture’. And I believe that it’s time for us New Zealanders to realise that there is something not quite right with a certain aspect of our culture, especially in how that translates into an authentic, Kiwi way of spreading the Gospel. Underneath our talk that we’re just trying to be humble and inoffensive, there seems to be another voice deeply embedded in our minds and emotions that whispers, “Don’t be too loud. Humility equals quiet. Passion can be low-key. Beliefs are private. Be a Christian through your actions.”

Now, are there truths to these statements? Yes! But they’re not the full story! And our enemy is a master at using half-truths to create the entirety of how we think we should act. When I read the Bible it tells me that the Holy Spirit comes with noise (Acts 2). It says we’ll be empowered to preach, heal and disciple (Acts 2, Acts 3). It says we’ll be filled with boldness and courage (Acts 4, Acts 5). And it declares that the call for all of us is to be witnesses to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all nations in the name of Jesus (Luke 24, Acts 1). I think it’s time we stop treating these examples in scripture as simply ‘suggestions’ and actually start following their example. Perhaps it’s time to allow Scripture, the full truth, to shape our culture and not the other way around. 

I believe the Holy Spirit is calling us to challenge facets of our culture in light of Scripture, not the other way around. In a country that is experiencing so much tangible pain, both physically and mentally, perhaps moving in the tangible power of the Holy Spirit might not be such a bad thing. Don’t let your personality, culture or feelings shut you up from expressing your faith. You never know what might happen if you just open your mouth and speak.

Personal reflections

Now, it’s all well and good me writing this, isn’t it? But the truth is I find responding these challenges just as hard as you do. I actually find speaking about Jesus to friends, co-workers and -God forbid- strangers, incredibly hard. But, if I believe that Scripture is divinely inspired-which I do-then that’s not a good enough reason for me not to obey is it? Perhaps the biggest facet of myself that actually needs to grow is my faith that the Holy Spirit will “give me the words to say at the moment I need them.” (Luke 12:12). Let’s continue to learn, with his help, how we can be an answer to his call. 

 Questions for discussion

Do you find it easy to talk about Godly things with non-Christians? Why or why not?

What spiritual gifts do you see in others that you wish you had? What could you do to learn more about how these gifts can be activated in your life?

Memory + Geography = Mission? – An update feature

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During lent our family was engaged in an unusual devotion. Not a devotional, but an act of devotion. Christ and his mission was certainly at the heart of it all, but rather than giving something up we took something on. And it ended up being much bigger than we ever imagined. This lent we were devoted to learning the flags of the world.

It all started when our six-year-old son William, decided to support the NZCMS Valentine’s appeal. Rather than taking the easy way out and washing the car so he could buy a $10 Bible for the Philippines, William was dead set on raising $200 for a sewing machine to help women in South Asia. $200 is a lot of money for a six-year-old boy to find. Even I was a little daunted!  

In our dining room, next to the NZCMS Mission Partner profiles, is a huge map of the world bordered by National flags. William was able to recognise about ten, so we decided that would form the basis of his fundraising efforts. He would then raise the money he needed by asking people to sponsor him for every flag he correctly identified on a Facebook live feed to be run on Easter Sunday. And so William’s ‘Flag-a-thon’ was born. This was a journey William drove himself. He asked us daily to practice flags with him and would also spend his own time going over the flags again and again. We started with an initial batch of around 50 flags and gradually began to add more and more in. Our final number of flags – some National, some Territories, some Protectorates – was a total of 216.

During the six weeks, we spent learning the flags William and I had some amazing conversations about the impact a sewing machine would have on the life of a woman and her family. I’m not sure it’s normal to talk about the intergenerational impact of empowering women, female social status in Islam, or the radical Christian idea that men and women are created to be complementary and equal with a boy still in his first years at primary school, but these are some of the places this journey took us.

Why this interest in mission from a boy who is usually talking non-stop about Pokémon, Beyblades and Fantastic Mr Fox? Well, we’re a family who keeps Mission Partners at the forefront of our prayer time. We aren’t as diligent as we’d like, but NZCMS Prayer Fuel is an important feature of our daily prayer. We summarise the prayer requests for our children, William and Amelia (4). They both know the names of our Mission Partners and where they’re serving. We’ve been fortunate to have some of them over for meals, to hear their stories and learn more about what God is doing through them overseas. So the driver for William’s fundraising was that constant awareness of who our Mission Partners were and how they were sharing the Good News of Jesus.

On the big day, Easter Sunday, William correctly identified 214 of 216 flags, raising a total of $2701.02. That’s not a typo. Two thousand, seven hundred and one dollar and two cents!

So what have we learned on this journey? Firstly, God is gracious and works through surprising people. People from all parts of our lives were inspired and encouraged by William’s heart for the women he wanted to help. Even people who don’t know Jesus got right behind his fundraising efforts. Secondly, God blesses those who labor for him. William worked hard and saw an amazing result (Proverbs 14:23). We’re thankful for the way God has used William to teach us to trust Him more and to show how He abundantly blesses and inspires others for the work of the Gospel.

 

William and his family came into the NZCMS office to hand us the money he had raised in cash. Have a look at some of the photos of this visit below. 

 

 

Where gladness and hunger meet (Intermission – Issue 34)

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“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC)

My deep gladness and the world’s hunger

Several years ago a group of my friends chose to relocate our lives to a neighbourhood where the social fabric was wearing thin, with holes and tears in some places. After a year spent praying for the neighbourhood we discerned that the best way to ‘help’ was to move in and become part of the neighbourhood. Early on, one of our team shared this quote from Buechner at our team night. Over the years, a passion for sport led him to start a Sunday afternoon football club for neighbourhood kids and he began to coach local sports teams so that young people who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity could not only play sports but also receive mentoring and discipleship. A passion for education and the different people and cultures in our world led him to become a teacher aide and eventually a secondary school teacher specialising in geography. With others, he opened his home to students from refugee backgrounds who had nowhere else to go. None of it was easy for him. But he could have joy amongst the day-to-day struggles because he’d found the sweet spot where his own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.

When I first heard Buechner’s quote and tried to figure out what my deep gladness was, the first thing that came to mind was good food. I felt very unspiritual! Yet, when I think about my ministry in that neighbourhood, it was my love of food (making, eating and sharing it) that was foundational to meeting a deep hunger. No pun intended. God is in the business of satisfying the hungry with good things (Luke 1:53), and in opening our meal table we were able to join him in this task. Bellies were filled. But equally, loneliness and isolation were eased? and desire for connectedness and belonging satisfied.

In the early days, our family celebrations became opportunities to bring people from every part of our community together. Over food, friendships were formed between people who might never have otherwise met or only met in adversarial settings: migrants and former refugees, self-identified gangsters and ‘streeties’, religious leaders and social service providers, Christians, Muslims, agnostics, law-makers and activists. For that season our call to ‘go’ was actually to stay home and reclaim the kind of hospitality (literally “love of strangers”) described in the gospels (Mark 2:13-16; Luke 14:12-14, 19:1-10; Matt 25:35-36). In doing so we were privileged to experience the richness of God’s banquet table and to invite others to experience the goodness of God’s Kingdom.

When the going gets tough

Following God’s call is not always easy. It does not always include happiness, security or comfort (Matt 16:24-26). However, there are many things that help to sustain us in our call when life gets difficult. One aspect that offers sustenance is the joy to be found at the intersection of our passion and God’s mission. Straight out of university, I volunteered as a lawyer in South Asia to help rescue people from modern-day slavery. It was hard, gruelling work. The pursuit of truth and justice is part of my hardwiring so when freedom and justice for victims seemed elusive, living in the intersection of my passion and God’s mission helped sustain me as we waited for God’s kingdom to break through.

A few years later some of us started a social enterprise cafe that helped equip young people who weren’t in education, employment or training. I did the baking and helped mentor the young women. It was a different type of hospitality than that practised in the gospels, but one that had potential to provide economic and social justice for those who might otherwise get left behind. All twelve young people who completed their work experience with us successfully transitioned to paid employment and a few years later we can see the fruitfulness of the investment in many of their lives. It was physically exhausting and financially draining (we were only open a year and had some debt to pay back), but in the midst of a painful and challenging season, we knew that we were at the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger met.

How to find your call 

So how do we discern where God is calling us to? Buechner helpfully writes: “There are all different kinds of voices calling to you, all different kinds of work and the problem is finding out which is the voice of God, rather than that of society, say, or the super-ego or self-interest. By and large, a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to, is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do, and (b) that the world most needs to be done…

If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you have missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leprosy colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you are bored and depressed by it, the chances are you’ve not only bypassed (a) but you probably aren’t helping your patients much either…”

How kind it is of God to call us to serve His Kingdom in ways that are life-giving for us too. If you find yourself pouring out for the sake of God’s Kingdom but you feel heaviness, bitterness and the weight of your sacrifice and service overwhelming you, then perhaps you need to consider whether you’re serving where God has called you. Conversely, if you already love what you do but struggle to answer how it is advancing God’s mission, perhaps you need to re-think how you can meet the world’s deep hunger. God’s call always sends us to serve His Kingdom in the world (Matthew 28:18-20; John 17:18, 20:21). What we must learn to do well is to discern the intersection of our passion and God’s mission in every season of our life.

Questions to consider:

What do you think Buechner means by “deep gladness”? How is this different from happiness? What are the things that could be your deep gladness? Where could these meet the world’s deep hunger?

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.