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Where gladness and hunger meet

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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.

Shadow and mission (Intermission – Issue 34)

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Guilt. That silent foe that can yell louder than any outside distraction. That internal voice screaming from within that diminishes any joy or life meant to be lived. I’m very conversant with this inner voice. Not so much in words, but in feelings. Not visible to others but always felt. Like a CD stuck on a scratch, jumping, repeating, and skipping over and over. Always heard, it becomes a familiar part of life. In the business, it may fade into the background but it’s always there, following me like a shadow. A guilt shadow.

I grew up as the child of both missionaries and ministers. Most of my childhood was exceptional. I have many wonderful memories and experiences that I find myself drawing from more and more as I grow older. However, like any child, my parents could not control everything in my life, and certainly not how I would interpret different events. Somewhere along the way, guilt crept into my soul. Like a subtle, dark shadow that followed my every move. Guilt for what I did and said. Guilt for what I didn’t do or say. Guilt for how I looked and what I wanted. As a primary aged child, guilt was my constant shadow, blocking the light.

On one level it could simply be due to my personality type and a deep conscience. However, in recent reflections, I have come to recognise it as a tool used so well by the “enemy of our soul”, paralysing me from hearing and following the call of God.

What does this have to do with mission?

For many years as a young adult, I wrestled with this shadow for not being a missionary or in Christian ministry. Instead, my husband and I lived in an idyllic, picturesque country town in South Canterbury. Sure, we were involved in our local church, but I felt guilty that it wasn’t ‘real ministry’. Every time I listened to a visiting missionary or watched something on TV about aid work overseas, the guilt shadow would cloud my vision, hindering me from seeing anything else. In hindsight, I realise I allowed it to be my reason for avoiding God. After all, how could God call me when I was so full of guilt?

Sometime in the midst of this, I read the following passage:

“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us (1 John 3.19-22).”

The context of this passage is the assurance of salvation as evidenced by our actions of love for each other. This was truly living water for my parched soul. Although my own heart condemned me, I realised that God was greater than any guilt, or false conscience. God alone knew the depths of my heart and my desire to live in love for Him and for others. God also knew that for so long, this desire had been overshadowed by the guilt shadow. 

What you see when the shadow fades

I began to see that the guilt for not doing things in a certain way was actually hindering me from following God’s call to believe in Jesus and to love others. Guilt for not doing was preventing me from doing!

In the light of this truth, the guilt shadow gradually began to fade and my eyes began to see. Loving my husband and teaching my children was ministry. Taking soup and flowers to the new Mum who moved into town was mission. My heart sang when I saw light in my friend’s eyes as we talked about the grace and love of God she had found. I began to sense the smile of God as I helped to clean when a family was moving house or agreed to look after a child while their Mother went to an appointment. The more I spent time with God, and read the Word, the more confidence I felt in the Spirit’s call on me to actively look for ways to show love to those around me.

How often do we sit in guilt for what we are not doing in Africa or Bosnia, when we do not even know the name of our next door neighbour? How often do we forget to see the love and care for the elderly and the sick in our communities as mission and ministry just as equal to working in the slums of Kolkata if God has called us to it? The Spirit whom Christ gave us is the One who calls us to where God’s love can shine the brightest through us! For some, that will be with war victims in Syria. For others, it is with the lonely widow next door or the special needs child at your son’s school. Perhaps the lowest caste of Bangladesh is where the Spirit calls you. Or maybe it is to the professional woman at work who looks immaculate but is eaten alive by regret. The road worker on your street whose son committed suicide last year. The 90-year-old, loyal church attendee who is afraid of death. The enemy revels in believers who stay trapped by the guilt shadow to live a pale, dim version of who they are created to be. But no matter who or where we are, living out the love of Christ is what we’re all called to do.

So I invite you: acknowledge and repent of living under the guilt shadow and remaining paralysed. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes to live in love, whether that’s in your street or on the other side of the world. Wherever you are, if you are living in the love of the Spirit, you can be confident you are living in God’s Mission.  

Questions to consider 

In what area of your life do you feel paralysed by guilt? Ask God to reveal any lies you’ve believed and replace them with the light of his truth.

What opportunities are available for you to reveal the love of God? Ask God to highlight a person or situation to you. 

 

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.

 

“We all have a voice” (Intermission – Issue 34)

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Re-thinking previous models of mission

“Help me understand … there is a lot of poverty in Kenya, right? Shouldn’t more missionaries from developed countries take the gospel there, where there is poverty? I don’t think we need missionaries in New Zealand. We are not poor. What makes you convinced that you are called to New Zealand and not back in Kenya where the need is evident?”

This was in 2015. My husband, Kinyua, and I were invited to an interview for a pastoral position in an averaged-sized, Open Brethren church in Whanganui, New Zealand. Unfortunately, I couldn’t travel at that time and my husband came for the interview alone. Part of the interview process included meeting congregants in their homes and small groups. The idea was to have church-folk check him out to sense if he was a right fit and vice-versa. This was a fair process. After all, this church was seeking to bring pastors all the way from Nairobi, Kenya, Pastors from a different country, culture, context and with a distinct color. Both parties were either crazy or listening to God! Due diligence had to be done.

The lady asking these questions was not being rude. In fact, now that I have met her, I really like her. She loves the Lord and she supports my husband and I in our ministry. But she was genuinely confused about why her church and her country would need missionaries.

These questions are not uncommon. To be fair, we too have had to grapple with them. You see in the last 100 years global mission movements have been characterized as being from the ‘west to the rest’. Missions have also been increasingly associated to addressing social-economic & social-justice issues and less or no proclamation of the gospel.

For Kenyans like us, we have been recipients of western missionaries for many years. We have benefited from their expertise and resources. They built schools and hospitals, most of which run excellently at affordable prices to this date. Our first daughter was actually born in a mission hospital in Kenya! They built social halls and rehabilitation centers. They dug bore holes to provide clean drinking water, started agricultural projects and food distribution centers. Bringing the gospel was synonymous to bringing community and socio-economic development projects. This was the only model of missionary work we were exposed to.

Therefore, for us to consider coming to a wealthy nation like New Zealand, we had to think hard about what it was that we had to offer. My husband must have passed the interview with flying colors (or the church must have been generously gracious!), because in May 2016 we landed in Wanganui. We joined Ingestre Street Bible Church as Pastors.

Why did we come?

So why did we come to New Zealand? What did we bring to New Zealand? I believe the answer is in taking Christ at his word with faith, courage and in obedience. I believe that every follower of Christ should be able to go wherever and whenever God sends them. Jesus said to his followers, “You shall be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are followers of Christ. We have witnessed His love and power. We have seen His salvation and therefore we came to New Zealand to bear witness of him.

It didn’t take us long to see that in this materially rich country there was saddening spiritual poverty. Some of that poverty is obvious. It is seen in the breakdown of relationships, fractured families & marriages, increasing suicide rates, individualism, hopelessness and the list goes on. But I believe that one of the worst forms of spiritual poverty is evidenced by the weak state of Christians. Christians are no longer persuaded that the gospel is the power of God that brings salvation (Romans 1:16). Our brief time here in New Zealand has revealed a caliber of Christians that are bruised, maimed, shy, joyless and even faithless. I have sat in meetings with fellow believers that didn’t even begin  or end in prayer let alone share a word from scripture. I have attended church youth meetings that had no biblical content in the agenda simply because there were non-believers present and we didn’t want to “offend them”. Coming from a Kenyan context this is an anomaly.

Many Christians in New Zealand have resolved to participating in safer modes of sharing Christ, like sharing pies and casseroles. Don’t get me wrong, such acts of love are great and very biblical. I have eaten more baking in the last one and half years of being in New Zealand than I had before in my entire life! But in that time, I can count with one hand the number of people who have asked me if they could pray with me. I can count with one hand the number of people who have said to me that they have shared the gospel of Christ… Even though we were saved by this very gospel, Christians in New Zealand have somehow come to believe that it doesn’t work anymore. That is a poverty that breaks my heart.

We all have a voice

I am at lousy baking. The last time I made muffins they were soggy in the middle and my husband asked if it was a new recipe! I don’t knit, and I have minimal gardening skills. So no, I don’t find gardening to be therapeutic! We do not have money or even the smarts to make it. We are not practical people when it comes to handy skills, a limitation we pay for dearly in this DIY culture. Therefore, if missions were all about solving problems in a practical way, then our coming to New Zealand would be totally irrelevant. But I believe that God asked us to bring what he has already given us. Borrowing the words of Peter and John we can similarly say, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”(Acts 3:6)

My calling is to use scriptures as the tool of influence wherever I go. I witness to people by telling them what God has done in our lives. I tell them what I have learned from scriptures. Many people have said that as soon as you identify yourself as a Christian people shut you out. Well, sometimes that is true. But many times it is not. I recently met a lady in the swimming pool and we started chatting. Before long I was telling her how I came to New Zealand and how I now serve as a pastor. She said to me that she had never spoken to a pastor in her life. We are now friends.

I pray with people in the name of Jesus, offer biblical counsel and just tell them God loves them. I take Bible studies with pre-teen girls and people who are curious about faith. To me, preaching to many is as big a privilege as preaching to one.

In New Zealand (or maybe I should just speak for Whanganui) we do not lack for kindheartedness and generosity. But what we do lack is people ready to say why they are doing what they are doing. There is very little proclamation yet we somehow hope that there will be transformation.

Paul asked “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom 10:14).

I believe that what we need is more voices that proclaim the name of Jesus. I strive to be one of those voices and I hope that in the process I can help others do the same.

Questions to consider 

When was the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

Ask God to teach you how to spread the Gospel effectively then think about the following: What is one thing you can do that will help teach you to evangelise?

 

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.

 

Staff journals: Mike & Ruth in Cambodia

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Personnel Managers Mike & Ruth recently took off on a long awaited journey to Cambodia. They have been busy travelling around the capital city Phnom Penh and the smaller town of Battambang. Along the way they have caught up with their son and daughter-in-law who live there and have also spent some valuable time with our Mission Partner’s Anne and Anthony McCormick. The NZCMS office has received some great photos and videos from them! To give you the chance to follow along on their mini adventure, we’ve decided to post up some photos and videos on our Social Media accounts. Feel free to follow NZCMS’ Facebook and Instagram accounts where we will be posting new content every day.      

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/nzcms.org.nz/

Instagram: 

https://www.instagram.com/nz_cms/

We’re called across the street

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Acts 3 is proof that something had changed in the Apostle Peter. I know in Acts 2 he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then he preached and saw thousands of people come to Christ. And that’s awesome. But it’s pretty easy to be bold and courageous in certain environments isn’t it? Peter, on the day of Pentecost, was no doubt feeling pretty good. The adrenaline was probably pumping. His friends would have all been cheering him on. But what about later when the moment had passed and when the feelings had faded? What did Peter do when things all went back to ‘normal’ again? Well, Acts 3 tells us.

The story and what we learn from it

Peter walks with a friend down the road. It would have been busy, dusty and hot. Stinking donkeys are led past them by grumbling young men, woman work busily in the hot, morning’s sun. It’s just a regular day. Then, all of a sudden, the Apostle and his friend see a crippled man being carried to the temple gates. Nothing unusual about that. He’d seen that same man numerous times before, begging for money. But what does Peter do? He walks across the street and he speaks to the man. He speaks the name of Jesus. He speaks with boldness. And he declares healing. And the man is suddenly able to walk.

The question has to be asked-Why, when Peter had probably seen this man countless times in the past, did he go over to speak to him then? I think it’s because Peter finally realized what God’s mission was. I think he knew he was called to join Him in it. And I believe, perhaps most importantly, he knew he could. Finally, after all those years of Jesus training and teaching him, Peter believed in God’s mission enough that, even on a regular day, he walked across the street and declared the love and power of Jesus into a hopeless situation.

The questions we ask about missions

Though many churches and organisations speak on how important missions work is, it often remains undefined doesn’t it? When the topic of missions is bought up we ask ourselves “What does a missionary do? Am I qualified? What does a life of mission look like?” And sadly these questions are not often answered. Or sometimes we’re not even brave enough to ask the questions.

Next week, NZCMS is mailing out 2018’s first issue of our bi-monthly publication, Intermission. It’s titled “We’re all called to go” not because we want to beat you over the head and say “Do more!” but because we want to encourage you that the mission of God is very, very possible for you to be part of. And we want to show you how. Perhaps, just like Peter, your mission is right across the street.

If you are not on our mailing list and would like a copy of next week’s Intermission, please contact us at office@nzcms.org.nz or call us on +64 3 377 2222

Introducing Ana

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Hello, kia ora, vanakkam, my name is Ana. I am stoked to have recently joined NZCMS as the Intercultural Communities Enabler, in partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Wellington. For me, stepping into this role feels like the next part of the journey that God has been leading me on. I am incredibly grateful for that.

I have spent most of my life living between cultures. I was born in Sri Lanka into a Tamil family and migrated to Aotearoa at the age of one. I grew up in Mt Roskill, Auckland which has a reputation for being one of the most ethnically diverse parts of New Zealand and was involved in a community led development there. After training as a lawyer I spent some time with International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C. and South Asia. More recently, I have been learning Te Reo Māori as I begin to explore what it means to be Pākehā (a person living in relationship with Māori as the tangata whenua). I have also been passionate about mission on the margins from a young age. For the past few years my Scottish husband, Paul and I, have been part of Urban Vision-a missional order of the Anglican Church. We have recently relocated to Whanganui with our son Ishmael as part of an Urban Vision team. Paul and I were both ordained as deacons at the end of 2017.

I am really excited to discern what God is doing among the different ethnicities and cultures in New Zealand and discovering how we, as the church in this place, might better reflect the full diversity of the Body of Christ so that we can receive the integral gifts that each part has to offer.

Sportsfest Filipino style

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Motorcades, athletics, chess, lip syncs, basketball tournaments, flag ceremonies. What do all these have in common? Not much. Unless of course, you are attending Sportsfest.

NZCMS’ Mission Partner, Dianne Bayley, has been involved in serving with Children’s Bible Ministries (CBMPI) in the Philippines for 40 years as the National Director. And every year she has the pleasure of directing her staff and scores of volunteers in an annual sports celebration called Sportsfest which caters for students roughly aged between 4 and 16 years old. Through the supervision of Dianne and her faculty, the students help to organise and prepare for the event, meeting every afternoon for two weeks or so to practise for the various performances and sporting activities available.

The mammoth event is run through the Hebron Christian College which is an amalgamation of four different faculties: the children’s homes, Bible College and the School and Disabled Ministry. As well as celebrating the school’s anniversary, the festival provides the opportunity for students to take part in multiple outdoor and indoor activities. When Dianne was asked what the core purpose of the festival was she answered:

“To give the students a chance to try out and experience different events; to develop their skills and to see where their talents lie. It also trains them in teamwork and how to accept winning and losing! See my photo: ‘Losing is not failure. Giving up is.’” 

Sportsfest runs over three days that’s jam packed with fun, enthusiasm and competition. The opening day is organised by the PTA officers in each class, with each bringing long tables, chairs and lots of food! The families of the students also attend, able to watch the pre-school show that involves calisthenics and a marching program. It is a relaxed, friendly environment and Dianne stated that the kids love to have their parents attend.

On the second day, the Festival begins,  with a motorcade that drives through the town handing out lollies and school advertisements, each truck filled with a single class that have worked hard to decorate it. At 10:00am the Festival formally begins with a flag and torch lighting ceremony.  Basketball tournaments, chess, lip sync, table tennis, running races and all manner of activities are entered into enthusiastically. There is even a Mr & Ms Sportsfest 2018 competition!  

An estimated 500 people, made up of school students, staff, family and former students who are now in University, attend the Festival each day. 

      

 

Memory + Geography = Mission?

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What does memorising flags have to do with mission? I’m glad you asked. 

Two weeks ago NZCMS released a pamphlet on Valentine’s Day that aimed to bless those our Mission Partners were serving across the world. There were various options. One was that you could donate $10 to support children’s Bible clubs in the Philippines. Another was to buy books for those waiting in a Cambodian hospital. Or you could help buy sewing machines for women in South Asia. Enter William, a six year old boy who noticed this last option and began to think about how he could help.  

After throwing around a few ideas of how he might raise the money with his Dad Zane, they settled on combining William’s love of mission with his passion for world geography. Now, William is currently working on memorising as many country’s flags as he can and is receiving a sponsorship from friends and family for each flag that he memorises. A number of people have also made one off donations towards his efforts and he has already raised enough for a sewing machine which costs a total of $200! William is now pursuing another $200 and seems to be well on his way as he is yet to receive any money for his ‘per-flag pledges’. The fruit of his dedication will be revealed on a live feed video on Easter Sunday in which he will recite the name behind as many flags as he can. William was very clear when asked why he wanted to begin this fundraising effort.

“Because the ladies in Pakistan might not have many clothes, so they can sew some and maybe they can even donate them to other people. They might want to join NZCMS too.”

William’s Dad, Zane, hopes and prays that his son will be an encouragement for other young families to see that we can all make talking and praying for Mission Partners a part of daily life. Though Valentine’s Day is over, the love God calls us to display to others is a daily commission. You can donate to the Valentine’s Day project still. Contact the NZCMS office and we will assist you in ways you can do this. 

At home with Mission

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When I applied for my current job at NZCMS (New Zealand Church Missionary Society) I had no idea of what the letters stood for or what the organisation did.  That was pretty much my knowledge of missions as well.  So as you might imagine I went on a bit of a learning curve.

The staff here include an ordained Anglican minister, one who spent 15 years in the mission field, another who in their spare time lectures at Laidlaw, a Pastors kid,and more recently we have been joined by a couple who have served on the mission field in the Pacific and Cambodia.  At the time I started I was one of only two staff who had never been on a mission trip, had no theological training and no inclination to offer our lives in service in the mission field.  Boy did I feel overwhelmed!

Over the years since I’ve gone on what I jokingly call my backwards journey into mission.  I have been absorbing as much as I can to understand the incredible people who serve overseas, why they go, and the joy they bring in sharing the Good News about our Lord.  This backwards journey has been accompanied by several underlying questions:  Why are less Christians engaging in mission than in the past?  And how do we engage churches and people in mission?

Mission isn’t limited to going overseas, it includes all Christians in New Zealand, many who are called to support those who serve as missionaries.  My journey has immersed me in educational opportunities:  The Samaritan Strategy to learn about “Seed Projects” (“Seed Projects” are small-scale, holistic outreach initiatives through which local churches demonstrate God’s love in practical ways to those in their community);  studying Biblical Theology through Laidlaw; Kairos; learning about the Five Marks of Mission as decreed by the Anglican Church;  “Friendship First” a course focused on making friends with our Muslim brothers and sisters; Care of Creation and a myriad DVD’s, books, articles and frequent musings over our coffee breaks.

These experiences started to influence how I viewed life in my local parish of St Augustine’s.  Like most churches we have a small missions committee that prays regularly for mission, but in the wider congregation there is so much to prioritise.  This includes worship teams, ministries, events, family, school, work and life in general.  Amongst all this arose a quandary, how do we get others to consider overseas mission when many of us are struggling to be missional right here in our own backyard.

Recently I was introduced to a course called “Empowered to Influence.”  It’s a four week course of two hours a week that brings about a paradigm shift in how we approach our faith on a daily basis.  It’s founded by a Singaporean businessman who wanted to be a missionary but God placed him in the market place instead.  A huge disappointment for him.  However, after 20 years spent figuring out why, he has realised that God has placed him (and us!) right where we are now for a reason.  We have been placed right here to be salt and light to the secular world around us.  We can flourish in a non-Christian workplace.  We do have the power to influence those we encounter.  Some may be familiar with the terms Theology of Work or Monday Church, where church is not just sitting in a pew on Sunday but about the rest of the week—that Monday to Saturday we are living out our lives.  In this course we were introduced to seven tangible paradigm shifts that can be implemented immediately, and without barely even realising it.

I ran the course in my home group where we found much to discuss.  Ten thought provoking weeks later the results were clear.  One man who works as a driver where every second word is non-printable realised that he could be missional right there in his work-place, resulting in increased job satisfaction.  He gained the confidence to start conversations with some co-workers struggling with issues and even to pray with them.  For a mum, there was the realisation that hosting foreign students isn’t just a great cultural experience, but also an opportunity to be salt and light in those student’s lives.  Her desire being to make such an impact that they will be inspired take back to their native land with them.  Another participant was so excited she insisted the course needed to be opened up to our whole parish.

After a couple of brief conversations, the course was booked and the promotion of it throughout our church organised with the parish office.  As the driving force behind this new thing a doubt surfaced in my mind, ‘is this me forcing this on my church or is this really the will of God?’ 

The following Sunday rolled around quickly and the sermon was based on Mark, chapter 6, where Jesus is teaching his disciples how to do the work of ministry and giving them some important tools for that ministry.  Our minister saw the promo video about the course for the first time at the early service.  He was so excited by what he saw that he incorporated it into his sermon for the later service!

God’s way is to have all believers taking part in his mission, Missio Dei, and collectively we will influence the whole world for Him.  One of the things holding many of us back is the feeling that we are not equipped.  We are challenged on this course that we are all equipped, in fact we’re over equipped to such an extent we don’t know where to start.  Too many programmes and too much teaching on the rights and wrongs.  There is also the mind-set that it’s the ministers, missionaries, the volunteers, the retired, the lay people with whom the responsibility lies.  But it’s actually us, the normal day to day Christians who step out into our communities who are best equipped and placed by God to be influencing others.

The course does not tell us to go out and ear-bash anyone.  We do not stand on a corner with a Bible in our hands. It is actually quite the opposite.  As Christians living in a secular society we will be judged in our workplace and communities as being those Christians.  It is by getting alongside our secular colleagues and our friends that we can live out Kingdom values in front of them.  They will see that there is something different about us.

Ken Chua the facilitator of this course says that 8 out of 10 people who join his work-place come to know Christ.  To quote Dr Ravi Zacharias, “When the beauty of Christ is seen, He draws people unto Himself.  Conversion is never an enforced thing.  It is an attractive thing, the work of God… I say, live for Jesus and when people see the beauty of Christ in you, they will ask you questions and they will want the same results in their life.”

And back to that underlying fear… ‘Is this my will or God’s?’ After the introduction evening, the room is a buzz and the future of this course is again moving into another realm as the participants brain storm the next step with comments such as “this course is wasted on just the 12 of us… this needs to go to the whole church,” “It’s good enough to replace a sermon…actually…could we run this each week instead of the sermon…?”—“Let’s give our vicar a rest….” All these responses are not of my making. Such is only possible when God’s will and the power of his Holy Spirit is at work. 

It is hard to believe the time when I didn’t even consider mission was something I could participate in.  Finding out I can do it as I am, where I am, has not only opened my own eyes to the possibility of God working through me but is changing our congregational outlook as well.  I encourage you all to investigate it for yourself and be ready to see God at work.  

 

Empowered To Influence

Introducing the Bentons

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Hello and greetings to you all!

We are so excited to get the opportunity to introduce ourselves to you. Our names are Guy and Summer Benton and we’re writing to you from Phnom Penh, Cambodia where we have been serving as long term missionaries for 5 and 8 years respectively. We’re moving to NZ later this week and are thrilled to be joining the NZCMS team as mission enablers for youth and young adults.

Guy is a NZ native and Summer is from America. We met at a mission conference in NZ in 2011 where Summer came to speak about her work with survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia. After about 18 months of ‘Skype dating’ and a few overseas trips, we were married in America in 2013. Guy then joined Summer in Cambodia and began working with the Anglican Church of Cambodia to strengthen the youth program of the church here.

We have three beautiful children: A son, Pirum Isaac (14), who has joined our family through a miraculous international adoption, and two daughters, Quinn (3) and Norah (10 months). Summer is a counselor and Guy is a youth worker. We both love seeking ways to use our professional talents for the Lord and have a passion for youth, mission and for missionary care and cannot wait to join the NZCMS team! Looking forward to getting to know each of you in the NZCMS family over the coming months and years!