Asia

Shouting for joy

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Here’s a short update from a partner working in Asia. Out of respect for them and the people they work with, we have not included their name.

Aaiza’s husband was in a rage. He held her up against the wall and pressed a knife into her throat. Afterwards she realised she couldn’t speak – he had damaged her vocal cords. Four months later she was still mute. Then she had a dream, about one of our team mates who she had met once in church when she was registering for aid. She felt God was telling her to go see her. So she knocked on the door of the church and using her cellphone she wrote that she wanted to see the team mate. A group of women gathered to pray for Aaiza, and after about 20 minutes she was speaking and shouting!

Since then Aaiza has been following Jesus, making some serious commitments and has forgiven her husband. “My husband has been different since the war,” she says. Sadly this is true of many men.

Aaiza has been using her new voice to tell many people about Jesus and what he has done for her. “I was at the hospital yesterday and this lady was sitting next to me and told me how she was mute and then people prayed for her in Jesus’ name and she was healed,” another lady we know told us. “She told me some stories about him, and I told her that I already knew them,” she said.

Word is spreading! Please pray that many more will come to know the healing, love and forgiveness that can only be found in Jesus!

Awards for Documentary

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We’re delighted to share that a short documentary film – put together by a relative of some Mission Partners – has won the award for best documentary and best editing in a Christian film festival. The film, which captures the day to day life of these Mission Partners living in a slum in Asia, has also won various other awards.

Though we’re unable to put the documentary on our website, if you contact the NZCMS office we can tell you how to access it. Please email office@nzcms.org.nz for more information.

Final Hearing For Asia Bibi Today

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The following is an excerpt from ChristianToday.com. We encourage you to read the full article here and to pray for her trial which is happening today (Thursday October 13).

Asia Bibi, the Christian mother sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, will on Thursday face her final appeal. It was announced over the weekend that the date has been set for October 13, after years of postponement.

Who is she?

Bibi’s actual name is Aasiya Noreen, though she has become better known as Asia Bibi through media coverage of her case. Bibi is a general term widely used in South Asia as a term of respect towards older women.

She is from Ittan Wali, a rural village in the Sheikhupura District of Punjab, eastern Pakistan – about 60 miles west of Lahore. She has five children, and before being arrested in 2009, worked as a farmhand to support her family. Her husband, Ashiq Masih, is a labourer.

What actually happened?

A row broke out between Bibi and a number of Muslim female colleagues in June 2009. They were picking berries together when the other women refused to drink from a water cup used by Bibi because she was a Christian and therefore deemed ‘unclean’. Bibi reportedly said: “I believe in my religion and in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammad ever do to save mankind?”

Reports vary as to what happened in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Her husband told the New York Times in a 2010 interview that Bibi was immediately accused of blasphemy by her fellow workers. “Suddenly she saw men and women walking towards her with angry gestures,” Masih said. “They started beating her and shouting that she had made derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad”.

Masih said the mob dragged his wife to the local police station where she was charged with blasphemy and jailed.

However, the BBC’s Orla Guerin reports that it was not until a few days after the argument at the farm that Bibi was accused of blaspheming.

Whatever the exact timeline of events, campaigners are united in the belief that the charges levelled at Bibi are trumped up, and that she was falsely accused to settle a score.

Judge Muhammed Iqbal sentenced Bibi to death in November 2010. In a memoir written by Bibi and translated into English in 2012, she recalled the moment she was told of her fate: “I cried alone, putting my head in my hands. I can no longer bear the sight of people full of hatred, applauding the killing of a poor farm worker. I no longer see them, but I still hear them, the crowd who gave the judge a standing ovation, saying: ‘Kill her, kill her! Allahu akbar!’

“The court house is invaded by a euphoric horde who break down the doors, chanting: ‘Vengeance for the holy prophet. Allah is great!’ I was then thrown like an old rubbish sack into the van… I had lost all humanity in their eyes.”

Is this common in Pakistan?

Sadly, yes. At least 95 per cent of the Pakistani population is Muslim, and Islam is enshrined in the constitution as the state religion. The US Commission for International Religious Freedom last year said the country represented “one of the worst situations in the world for religious freedom” and accused the Pakistani government of failing to provide adequate protections for faiths other than Islam. It argued that repressive blasphemy laws in particular are used to target religious minorities.

These laws prescribe life imprisonment for the desecration of the Qur’an and the death sentence for “defiling” the Prophet Mohammad, and accusations of incidents have often prompted mob violence. According to the Centre for Research and Security Studies in Pakistan, more than 62 people have been killed in such incidents since 1990. More than 40 people are currently on death row for blasphemy, the majority of whom are members of religious minorities.

Bibi, however, is the first woman to be sentenced to death in Pakistan on blasphemy charges.

What can we do?

Campaigners are urging Christians to pray for Bibi’s release ahead of Thursday’s appeal. CSW has launched a 24/7 prayer for supporters, and Release International is calling on the Pakistani government to repeal the blasphemy laws – a petition can be signed here.

To read the full article click here.

The Zoo Visit

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An update from a partner in Asia written earlier in the year.

About the same time we moved back to the slum, ‘Doug’ and his daughter moved to a room behind our house. His wife had died of breast cancer a few days prior. We knew the family as they used to live near our team-mate and we had helped them access treatment for his leprosy. We squatted with him outside his new house, and he told us about the harrowing past few weeks.

“We have public health insurance,” he said. That’s an achievement in itself, given the bureaucracy involved. “But the hospital had run out of blood. They told me to go and buy eight bags from the blood shop.” A bus ride later, he found blood, but baulked at the price: $50 per half-litre bag! Where was he going to find that sort of money? He normally makes a living by peddling small toys for children, going for perhaps 10c-a-piece. Somehow he scraped together enough to buy two bags, and he hoped they wouldn’t spoil on the hot bus-ride back to the hospital. “But the blood just poured straight through her. It was no use.”

Two days later his eleven-year-old daughter said she had seen her mother outside, beckoning to come to her. “I told her it’s not possible. Mamma is no longer here”. At this point he wiped his eyes, a rare sign of emotion in our neighbours here, who see more than their fair share of death. Left with nothing, the two of them moved to this bare one-room unit to save money.

Not too long after this we organised a zoo trip, taking advantage of the unusually empty roads caused by an annual national celebration. We invited Doug and his daughter along. “I haven’t been to the zoo in twenty-four years” he said. As it happened, 170 000 others had the same idea, making it the zoo’s busiest day of the holiday period. It was even forced to close its doors temporarily in the middle of the day as the park was full. Apparently a good number of children were separated from their parents during the day. Needless to say, it was an exhausting trip!

One of the challenges of being out in public like this is managing the attention our girls get. Most people here have only ever seen blonde hair on their imitation Barbie toys or in advertisements as a symbol of health and prosperity. In one encounter near the end of the day, a balloon seller elbowed her way to us, keen to practice her English. We didn’t want to buy a balloon, but she insisted on giving one to our daughters anyway, “because I like!” she said in English. Of course the younger of the two then kicked up a fuss because her balloon wasn’t pink. Meanwhile Doug’s young daughter, who didn’t get anything, stormed off in tears. Who can blame her? So much in her life seems unfair right now.

We persuaded our oldest to share her balloon, to everyone’s relief. Later that night we explained that our young friend’s mother had died last week, and that it was important that she was kind to her and do things like share the balloon.

“But the lady gave the balloon to me!” our daughter said. “And why did she give it to you and not the other child?” we asked. “Because we have white skin and they have black,” our daughter replied. “Is that okay? What does Jesus think about that?”

Her young mind began to connect the dots. Conversations like this makes raising kids in a slum almost seem worthwhile. We don’t need to use abstract words like “human rights”, “racism”, “global injustice” – such concepts are played out in simple everyday life.

“Maybe we can give her money,” suggested one of our girls. After more processing about how that might not always be helpful, they decided they would be friends with the young girl, “because Jesus loves her too, especially because she is sad and lonely.” There is more we can do to help her and her father during this time – teaching her to cook, for example, since without the mother in the home they only eat what junk food they can afford.

Family Extraction Time

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Phil, Becky, Bryn, Toby, Pippa and Molly Sussex left New Zealand at the beginning of 2011 to work as NZCMS Mission Partners in Cambodia. Phil has been training dentists and providing dental care for the poor and vulnerable while Becky has been teaching at Hope International School – a Christian School which provides education for Mission families working in Cambodia.

We have hugely appreciated your support over the past 5 ½ years that we have been living here in Cambodia as NZCMS mission partners. Early in January 2017, we will be finishing our work in Phnom Penh and relocating back to New Zealand. There are a number of family reasons which have led us to the conclusion that this is God’s timing for us. We have a real sense of peace about our decision in spite of the sadness which comes in leaving behind people we love in the place which has become our second home.

Looking back over our time in Cambodia I (Phil) have created 8 different undergraduate university lecture series, all of which have now been handed over to Khmer lecturers – it’s exciting that they are now being taught across two dental schools. Over the past five years I have seen a steady improvement in the standards of oral surgery which I will continue to tutor for the rest of 2016. It’s been great to partner with local pastors who have been using the dental outreach clinics as a platform for sharing the Gospel. I plan to hand over his clinic work to the senior Christian students who are soon to graduate. The One-2-One weekly dental prison ministry is in good hands and will continue beyond my departure.

Our family has experienced first-hand the hugely important role that a mission school like Hope has in the pastoral care and education of MKs and TCKs. Over her time at Hope School, Becky has had the privilege of contributing to the lives of many children. Bryn, Toby, Pippa and Molly have had an amazing experience of Christian community and education while I have played a role in the governance of the school as a board member. We are more than ever convinced that Hope School has a vital role to play in enabling mission and we are very sad to leave that behind.

We really do value your prayers as we continue to work here for the rest of the year before heading into this next major transition. During the next few months, no doubt our heads will be straddled between two worlds. Please pray that we will stay ‘present’ here with the work we still have to do whilst at the same time, be in a space to make necessary preparations for our return to NZ.

Memories become reality

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As we approached New Zealand six months ago, the plane banked and we looked down at the golden white Farewell Spit fingering the brilliant blue sea, and the green North Island coast stretched starkly around the Bight up to the white mountain. The sea and sky merged in a seamless backdrop which gave the otherworldly appearance that the land was floating in mid-air. Our daughter, having few (if any) memories of New Zealand, asked: “Is this country in the sky?” When your norm is an Asian megacity, it might as well be.

Nevertheless our kids were very excited to return to Asia. As we flew in to land last week, the same daughter eagerly looked out at the warehouses, fields and packed-in red roofs. “Is this Asia?” she asked. “But where are the malls?” Ah, so THAT’s her primary memory! At any rate, it’s heartening to know they are so fond of the place. Meanwhile, my chest tightened as I saw the smudges of smoke rising from piles of rubbish every hundred metres or so. We know the rubbish smoke was one of our big stressors in our last term, and here we are, willingly returning to the dirty milieu.

From the moment of touchdown, and in spite of already being awake 18 hours straight, the girls nagged us about visiting their old friends. We managed to put them off for two days, long enough for us to recover from heat stroke and jet lag, before visiting our old home (still empty) in the slum. The kids made an enthusiastic reunion with their friends, but quickly realised that something had changed. After a couple of minutes, one of them came to us and asked: “How do you say: ‘I don’t understand?’” After establishing that they couldn’t exchange their news, the kids resorted to running games. Their language will return soon enough.

You may have heard us tell the story of the elderly woman who broke her leg and hip after a motorbike ran into her (she was walking by the side of the road). The driver apologised and gave her about $100 to visit the hospital, but it never really set properly and she was still confined to her bed and suffering hip pain for months afterwards. Adding to her trial was her shack: the worst we know of. Its roof was old billboards and torn tarpaulins that blew open in the wind and was hopeless in the rain, and the plywood walls were little better. We had employed her daughter and son-in-law for odd jobs to contribute to a roof upgrade. Her 8-year-old grandson is a good friend of our girls.

During a skype call from New Zealand we were delighted to learn that the family had finally raised enough money to replace their shack roof with solid sheets of asbestos cement, so at least she could stay dry during the rainy season.

She recovered enough to limp about with the help of a stick. Then disaster struck again. She was picked up by police for begging in the wrong place: and the 80-year-old cripple was clapped in jail for three weeks. She returned home with terrible diarrhoea, and died of dehydration a week later, three days before our visit. “If only you had been here,” said her grieving daughter, “we could have taken her to hospital. As it was, we just had medicine from the corner stalls.”

Six months away and the senseless plight of the poor had almost become a memory, a useful fable for illustrative purposes. On our return it took just minutes for the injustice to become real enough again.

Dianne’s reflections on 40 years

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Last July I suddenly realized that Children’s Bible Ministries Philippines had reached 40 years! That’s just incredible when we think of all we’ve been through. I found it very encouraging to look back. Here are some highlights of the journey so far.

God started the world from nothing. He also started CBM from nothing! And here we are, still going and growing. God used the faith of a couple, ’Uncle’ Charlie & ‘Aunty’ Beryl McRae. They had found that children could be led to Christ and discipled, so they opened their home in New Lyn Auckland so that children in their street could come after school once week for a Bible Club. They ran it for three years and saw many changed lives. That led them to eventually form an organization and run camps for children, provide after school missions, develop stories, and eventually facilitate seminars training adults from various churches. In all this they trusted God for the finance and he provided. A younger couple Bill & Jean Morley worked with them fulltime. It was a very small mission!

 

Finding Space

After some events, Uncle Charlie & Aunty Beryl decided to establish this same ministry in the Philippines. By now they were in their 60s and didn’t have much finance available – some people thought they were ‘nuts!’ But God had proven himself faithful back in New Zealand. Now he would prove himself in Philippines! It’s a reminder for us to never give up on your dreams! As Daniel 11:32 tells us, “The people who know their God shall be strong and do great exploits.”

First they rented a house in Manila and began running training seminars for children’s ministry in the basement. One new Christian, a chemistry professor from University of the Philippines, remarked that she had been there before … when earlier tenants were making Molotov cocktails for the overthrow of Manila and printing communist propaganda! Those previous occupants were now in jail, but she was here, this time learning how to lead children to Christ and become a good citizen.

NOW, 40 years on, we have a 1.5 hectare property with seven buildings and 44 fulltime staff.

 

Making a Home

One day in 1976 a man visited the house. He and his wife had started a small children’s home for 13 children on the island of Mindoro. She had become very sick and he needed to take her back to the States. His question: would we take the project over?

Feed 13 children?!!

We hardly had enough to cover our own needs, let alone look after 13 children! We said we would pray. God gave us Psalm 37:25. “I was young and now am old, yet never have I seen the children of the righteous forsaken or lacking bread.”

We accepted.

NOW, 40 years on, hundreds of needy children have passed through, come to faith in Jesus, received schooling and been given a chance in life. God has never failed us. In 2014 we began a Home for children with disabilities, giving another group of children that same chance in life.

 

Training a Team

One time Aunty Beryl got the idea that we should start a Bible College in our house. One Sunday, while in the States for a conference, she was in a church service listening to the sermon when the preacher stretched out his arm, pointed directly at her and said “That which is in your heart, do!”

She was stunned.

Towards the end of his message he did it again: “That which is in your heart, do!” So, Uncle Charlie and Aunty Beryl began the Bible College in our house. We started with five students, but eventually it grew to 80! We used the backyard, the front terrace, the living room and the basement for classrooms!

NOW, 40 years on, that Bible College has trained several hundred students who have gone out, started Christian schools, pioneered churches, ventured overseas and some became staff members of CBM.

 

Preparing the Next Generation

We started a little pre-school to reach out to local children on our new property early in the 1900s. In 1997 we experienced a fire which almost totally destroyed 20 years of work and most of our building. Parents were clamouring for us to start a primary school… but we didn’t even have a roof anymore! Nonetheless, we received permission and started Grade 1.

NOW, 40 years on, we have pre-school to high school catering for 350 children each day, which includes a department for deaf and autistic students with an Occupational Therapist.

 

Reaching the Forgotten

In the early 90s our International Director Jean Morley visited. Noticing that one of our staff members in our office was disabled she said, “Briccio you are disabled.” She had realized something. “Let’s use your disability to bring others with disabilities to Christ.” He was eager as nothing much was being done for disabled people, so he went to New Zealand for training. On his return he started a small group in our place. From that, he and others formed a group for people with disabilities in each of our 24 towns. Camps for disabled were started each summer and many have put their trust in Jesus.

NOW, 40 years on, at one recent meeting over 300 came from the different towns! We are even asked to attend government planning meetings from time to time as the voice for disabled!

 

ALL THIS FROM NOTHING!!! Thanks to all who have prayed and supported. To God be all the glory!

 

Dianne and her team, along with up to 600 guests, will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of CBM Philippines today (January 22).

Discipleship in Relationship, Discipleship in Community (Issue 24)

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By a partner working in Asia.

In South Asia, relationship and community are central to discipleship. So often I’ve seen that this is what really grows people in their faith. Take the example of Shan.

Shan is a new believer. Hungry to find a worldview that was consistent with the reality he experienced, Shan made the costly decision to become a Christian, the only one in his family. He lived in a Christian hostel, where discipleship for him became a daily learning journey. Without the hostel Shan would have been dependent on occasional Sunday worship and any gatherings he was invited to. In the hostel he was exposed to, participated in and embraced daily rhythms of Christian life: praying before meals, worship and devotion times, learning to express himself to God in his own language. Shan was surrounded by a community intent on living out Christian values, with leadership praying for him by name. The hostel modelled a Christ-like life of outreach and service to others, and he joined teams that visited villages, singing, praying and sharing messages. Shan, like many other hostel students, found routines and patterns which he’s carried beyond his student years into his young adult life.

Shan has matured in his faith, but is hungry to continue growing. He doesn’t always feel fully accepted by the Christian community and doesn’t feel free to ask many of the questions which he has. He thrives on informal mentoring relationships where there’s a freedom to come and talk openly. Acceptance, a safe environment, genuine listening, mutual sharing of the joys and struggles of following Jesus, digging into the Bible… all of these have been critical parts of his discipleship journey.

Shan stands strong in his new faith, despite facing opposition from his family. He’s spontaneous and has made some unexpected life choices, but has also learnt that when he makes mistakes he has community who care for him, who will forgive him and encourage him to keep finding God in all he does.

Shan is a young leader in both church and community and his example is encouraging other young people to follow in his footsteps. He’s avoided the trap of becoming narrowly inward looking and continues to make efforts to reach out to his family and the wider community with God’s love.

Investing in discipleship is costly. Hours are spent in prayer, listening and waiting. People sometimes let you down, and the outcomes are not guaranteed. But through nurture, scaffolded support, relationships and intentional community, people such as Shan emerge as confident disciples. They may still be learning, growing, making mistakes and moving on, but praise God that they are on the journey of discipleship. And praise God for all those who have invested in their lives!

 

For discussion

Who had a role in your Christian formation? What made them influential?

What can you and your group do to encourage discipleship in relationship and community?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Honouring Dr Edric Baker

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The following has been written by the team at Kailakuri in Bangladesh.

On Wednesday September 2, we all here at the Kailakuri Health Care Project have bid farewell to our friend and our brother, Dr Edric Baker. He passed away suddenly around 1:45 pm on Tuesday. He was surrounded by people he loved and who loved him. Over the last few days he had been having a rough time with breathing but none of us here expected his passing so soon.

Late last year he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary hypertension, an incurable illness. Right up until the last hour he was giving orders and making phone calls. That was just like Dr Bai (Dr. Brother). The word “retire” was not in his vocabulary. Within half an hour of his passing his room became full of caring people who he had helped over the years. As we started to make calls around, not only Bangladesh but the world, the news spread and more and more people filled our compound and phoned promising to be on the next bus to come and pay their respects.

It is hard to explain how loved and respected he was. Since the moment he passed he was never once left alone. Local Mandi woman sang songs, people read from the Koran, others wept, and other stood silently keeping a vigil. Up until his burial yesterday he was still surrounded by those he loved and who loved him.

People came from all over Bangladesh some arriving in the night and most refused beds offered to them for rest and preferred to tell stories of their time with Edric late into the night. Even in death he managed to bring different communities and cultures together. Christian, Muslim, Hindu, rich, poor, Bangladeshi and Badashees (foreigner) all worked side by side to fulfill his final wishes.

By the evening he was laid out on a table in our waiting room. Hundreds of people came to give their goodbyes and show their appreciation. By the morning many visitors and staff had not slept but no one minded and work began early.

By ten o’clock the whole compound was full of people. He was laid in his coffin and carried to the church (which doubles as a school) beside our Hospital. As the service was progressing hundreds waited outside and then followed his casket back to his house. He had made it clear to the staff he wanted to be buried out the back of his house underneath his veranda.

As he was being laid to rest, two lines of people formed surrounding his house and extending all the way out to the road. Slowly everybody gave their final farewells and each person sprinkled earth over his grave.

At the end of the day the staff was happy that they were able to fulfill two out of three of his final wishes. His first wish was to take his last breath at Kailakuri. His second wish was that he be buried here at the Kailakuri Health Care Centre.

His third wish was that the hospital continues to stay open and operational long into the future. His last wish will never be completed without the help of you.

The Kailakuri family is grateful for all your prayers and ongoing support. We feel you are part of our team and we will continue to send you news.

May Dr Edric Baker rest in peace and rise in glory.

From all of us here at Kailakuri.

 

The NZCMS family praises God for the life of faithfulness that Edric lived. A memorial service is to be held in Whakatane sometime this month. 

More than ever, the Kailakuri project is in need of a medical doctor and nurse, particularly for some time in 2016. Please email jon@nzcms.org.nz if you are interested.