reverse-mission

Reverse Mission Update

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I thought it’s about time I gave you an update on our efforts to support what we’ve been calling ‘reverse mission’ here in New Zealand. New Zealand has become a largely secular nation despite its deep Christian roots. At the latest census in 2013, no fewer than 1.8 million people declared themselves as having no religious affiliation or objected to answering the question. That made up 43% of the population and could soon surpass the number of New Zealanders (44%) who identify themselves as ‘Christian.’ If we look at the Christian scene, most traditional denominations are in decline and Roman Catholics now outnumber Anglicans.

A second trend is also evident: the rapid growth of non-Christian religions in New Zealand. Almost 300 000 residents belong to others faiths, the largest group being Hindus which has grown 126% in number since 2001. Overall, affiliation to non-Christian faiths has grown by 67% in the past 15 years.

All that makes it clear: New Zealand is no longer just a ‘sending country,’ but also one in need of focused mission engagement! 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.

Like Paul, many Christians from places like Africa and Asia have heard a ‘Macedonian call’, “Please come to help us” (Acts 16:9). These are people who follow Jesus as a result of the hard work of missionaries from places like New Zealand over the past two centuries, but now the Gospel need in our own land is driving them to come as missionaries to our shores: the tables have turned, mission has been reversed and now we’re in need at least as much as their countries. 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? 

The NZCMS Board has recently endorsed ‘Reverse Mission’ as part of our broader mission strategy. Essentially, what’s envisaged is a greater emphasis on facilitating the placement of these ‘reverse missionaries’ in ministry in New Zealand churches.

I see one of NZCMS’s main contributions as facilitating contact between ‘reverse 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 ‘reverse missionaries,’ pastoral care back-up, advice in crisis situations and prayer support, as well as help host churches prepare to receive their ‘reverse missionaries.’ Please pray that God raises workers from other parts of the world to come to NZ to support the Kiwi Church in her mission, and that we’ll have open hearts to respond to what God is doing.  

Kenyans in Wanganui

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Earlier in the year NZCMS, in partnership with a number of churches and groups across the country, hosted a ‘reverse-mission’ team from Kenya. This team was split into smaller groups and sent to various parts of New Zealand. We’ve invited representatives from the team to write some reflections on their experience. Other reflections can be found by clicking here.

By Pastor Kinyua Kathuri (Ingestre Street Bible Church, Wanganui)

He had been advised to be very careful about publicly sharing his faith. Now he was in a public toilet talking about Christ with a total stranger! And the stranger loved it! Joseph shared aspects of his story and the Gospel in the most unlikely and unpredictable places.

A month ago, we at Ingestre Street Bible Church (ISBC), Wanganui, were privileged to host Joseph, Tony, Lilian, Calista, Jimmy & Milly and Emma from Kenya for a short-term mission. One of the objectives for their visit was to work alongside us, as a church, in reaching out to our city with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This team acted as a catalyst in assisting us engage our world.

Wanganui is our immediate world. The ISBC planning team did a splendid job in creating avenues for the Kenya team members to share their faith. The Kenya team members shared their faith with courage and in winsome ways. Many days after the mission, we still receive encouraging feedback from people whose lives were touched and challenged by the team. Their sacrifice for the Gospel was worth it. Through their work here, God is opening opportunities for us to enter schools, people’s homes and hearts. The narrative they started hasn’t stopped-sharing the Gospel through our stories. How would it be if each one of us shared our faith story to our neighbours, colleagues or even strangers? How would it be if each one of us continued to intentionally invite people both to church and to a relationship with Christ? What will it take for us to engage those who live next door to us?

Engaging our world means that we will present the Gospel across the street and around the globe. We are being challenged to not only pray and support missionaries but we will also to pray and participate in outreach (in its different forms) within our city. Engaging our world is a call for us, as individuals and as a church, to be salt and light in our city.

Did the stranger come to faith in Christ? Not then, but a seed was planted. The stranger attended ‘The Kenya Experience’, a cultural concert that the Kenyan missionaries put together. Was Joseph embarrassed? No! Actually he was surprised at the wisdom and boldness that God granted him at his hour of need. Each one can reach one.

Kenyans in Christchurch

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Earlier in the year NZCMS, in partnership with a number of churches and groups across the country, hosted a ‘reverse-mission’ team from Kenya. This team was split into smaller groups and sent to various parts of New Zealand. We’ve invited representatives from the team to write some reflections on their experience. Other reflections can be found by clicking here.

 

By Susan Mwathi.

The journey to New Zealand was a faith journey, beginning with raising the actual amount for flight and also for the visa – this was not an easy task. We had intense training and classes every Sunday morning to prepare us and also to give us an overview of what we were getting into. During each lesson my desire grew deeper and my faith more as I saw myself being part of this mission. I was in it to learn, share my faith and let others know of God.

As the departure day drew closer, the challenges increased and my faith was tested. The visas took so long to be approved and still my flight fare was not enough. We finally got the visa on the very day we were due to travel. Our long journey of 22 hours finally begun. We were curious and expectant. We finally got to Auckland and after some orientation we set out for our different locations. Christchurch is where I would be located. When we landed heaven must have known because it was raining and way colder than Auckland but the reception at the airport made it warmer.

Christchurch has amazingly beautiful architecture. Even with the earthquakes having happened it was still beautiful. We got to interact with the people in Christchurch and everyone we met left us amazed. The hospitality and love shown made us feel at home even if we were away from home. Getting adjusted to the time difference was a challenge. The team had prepared for us a well-organised time table throughout our stay.

After each and every meeting we went to I was left impacted, and just sharing my story and listening to others share made me realise we can all be effective where we are and no one is less useful. One of the many encounters is when I had a one on one with a young lady and my heart was broken. Her story has made me pray for her that she will get to know Christ for who he truly is. She is a young girl yet has taken up the responsibility of taking care of her siblings since her mother cannot due to a drug addiction. On top of that, she’s been brought up in a home where she has had different religions blended together and cannot understand which is true. She wants to encounter God but is still held behind by the different religions and their teachings and cannot understand real from fake. She constantly reminded me that at times we complicate the gospel. It’s been a prayer burden for me that she will find Christ and that also through finding Christ she will lead her family to Christ and that she will not give up searching for the truth.

As I sit and write this I carry a lot with me from New Zealand. What God has taught me through that short mission is that we have so much to give to others if only we avail ourselves to missions. I don’t need to be a preacher….  My story is a testimony in itself and I should be bold to share it. I should not be ashamed to share it at all everywhere I go and with whomever I meet. My heart was moved for New Zealand and even for the young people who are needed more in the church to serve and give of themselves. For me one of the many take home prayer points that I have is that there will be a revival and it will indeed start with the youth and will spread across the church of New Zealand. The church needs to also be ready to pass the baton to the young generation; there is a big need of young people to serve in the Church. I will keep praying that the church will equip and mentor them to be the next wave of effective leaders.

Kenyans in Wellington

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Earlier in the year NZCMS, in partnership with a number of churches and groups across the country, hosted a ‘reverse-mission’ team from Kenya. This team was split into smaller groups and sent to various parts of New Zealand. We’ve invited representatives from the team to write some reflections on their experience. Other reflections can be found by clicking here.

By Ken Muchiri and Samuel Kiautha.

The Nairobi Chapel Ongata Rongai (NCOR) mission team to Wellington was sent to Newtown.  Newtown is a mixed neighbourhood with a mix of the upper and lower middle class living right next to the poorer in society.  The team of six missionaries were hosted in people’s homes with three of us hosted by the Greenhaus community.  The Greenhaus is a large wooden house built in the 1920s and has more than a dozen bedrooms, a large lounge, a large kitchen and dining area and a lot of warmth. The community consists of 12 people living in one house! There were two couples and eight single people. In terms of their faith, 8 are believers and 4 are non-Christian. These guys share the kitchen and the lounge, the bathrooms and toilets. They have a duty roster of who cooks, who goes to the market, who empties the dishwasher, among others. Each person has something they give to the community. They share what they have so that no one misses provision, even the non-Christians in the house. Living with the Greenhaus community provided our first major lessons – even a paradigm shift – on what mission is all about.

We interacted with the homeless, mentally challenged and drug addicts as they ate their meals in church funded soup kitchens. We met people that lived on the streets, in their cars or in drug/mental rehab facilities among other folk. Back home we are afraid of the mentally ill and drug addicts – we had a paradigm shift in Newtown! We wanted to tell our stories and share our testimonies, act our rehearsed plays and sing songs of praise we had practised, but instead we learned to sit and listen as they shared their stories and asked about our culture. At first it was difficult for some – listening is not an easy skill but as we adapted and got the grace to practice listening. We served them breakfast and engaged in conversation.

We also got time with youth groups from neighbourhoods and from churches. We visited an aged care home, joined in playing at a kids club, and met the coolest Anglican bishop in New Zealand who walks bare foot and has dreadlocks but has great vision for the church in NZ, Bishop Justin. We sang at a local market, attended a powerful Bible study called ‘Soup and Luke’ at the local priest, Mark’s home.  We also attended a Maori class, ate raw paua (a shellfish) with Malini, visited the beautiful Tepapa museum, shopped in the op–shops and watched an All Blacks rugby match.

Ministry Highlights

Fred – The policeman from Karatina and Old People’s Home

On one occasion we went into an aged care facility, Ultimate Care, Mt Victoria. Old folk listened to the songs and watched a skit we did for them.  As we sang songs in Kiswahili, Fred heard the Kiswahili and came out of his room. When we sat down to interact after our presentations, a few of us sat with Fred. Fred was a policeman in colonial Kenya in the 1950s. Imagine that!! We learnt later that Fred had not talked to anyone for more than five minutes in the last one year. On that day he talked and we listened. He spoke of the Mau Mau and a trusted African Police lieutenant he had from Western Kenya. Yes we talked about God too – and he said, “God can’t love me – I have done too many bad things.” One of us spoke to him and said, “God has already paid the price; you don’t have to pay the price for your mistakes.” We told him God loves him and had forgiven him unconditionally. We sensed that was God’s message – ‘Fred you are forgiven’ – delivered by the sons and daughters of Kenya whose fathers he probably killed! The past does not have to weigh on him anymore. We pray that he will experience God’s forgiveness and love of Christ.

A woman in the same home, who had never spoken for two years, spoke for the first time after out visit and even sang with us. We pray that she will experience the peace and joy that comes from Christ.

Ahmed – a young Muslim

Ahmed is a young Muslim who owns The Red Sea restaurant in Newtown. We introduced ourselves to him and ate at his restaurant. We shared what we were doing in town. He just loved the fact that we were from East Africa near his home country, Somalia. He invited us for a free cup of coffee or tea whenever we were in his location. He made a superb cup of tea, just the way we like it back home. Wasn’t that God telling us to love everyone and share the gospel with them? Isn’t it amazing how doors can be opened through the smallest things like a cup of tea?

Bishop Justin

The Anglican Bishop of Wellington is barefoot and dread-locked. If you met him on an ordinary day you might dismiss him for his looks. Do we judge too fast? Do we concentrate on small things and miss the bigger picture and plan of God? He lives a simple life, housing the homeless and other people needing care in his house. We encouraged him and he taught us the true service required from Christians. It’s not about being mighty men of God but men who know a mighty God.

The Need – Churches are Closing Down

There are many closed Churches in Wellington. Beautiful churches with no congregation. We visited one, St Christopher’s Church, Seatoun which was sold and was turned into a community centre. It is now used by an atheist music director to play musical instruments with the mentally ill which has a therapeutic effect on them. They call themselves the Ssendam Rawkustra band. We played the many wonderful instruments with the band and shared a meal too. We were left with questions however: What is “church”? Buildings or people in relationship to each other and God?

In the words of Mark, the Anglican priest of St Thomas, the harvest is ready but workers are few. Mark prayed that our visit will be like a spear to pierce the hard ground for Christian ministry. Only about 5% of the people worship God and attend Church. St Thomas chapel has a capacity of approximately 50 people. The first service is about 10 people most from one Samoan family.

We pray for the few Christians so that they may not be discouraged and that their impact will be felt. Though they are few they deeply love the Lord. We believe that our visit encouraged them to carry on with the good work.

Thanks

We are extremely grateful to God for the opportunity and privilege to be part of his work in New Zealand. We know he is at work in this nation. We thank Rev. Steve Maina and the team from NZCMS for the great effort and partnership they created to ensure that the team spread out in New Zealand seamlessly. We thank Richard Noble, Mark and the leadership of the St Thomas Anglican Church in Newtown, we also thank Pastor Ondachi and the NCOR team for initiating this mission, and for NCOR members for the prayers and support. We had families that allowed us to be away; we thank them too.

Some Lessons

We witnessed and experienced God’s miracles through the encounters with our travels documents. Our passports with visas came very late – literally at the airport. Our God still performs miracles. We just don’t pay attention to them.

We had our plan but God’s plan took centre stage. It is ALWAYS about God. When we let go and let God, HIS glory is seen. We only need to avail ourselves as God’s instruments. He will use us for HIS glory. (HE does not share HIS glory with anyone).

Listening, listening, and listening. It is a hard skill. But just staying quiet to hear someone speak is service. Servant-hood is a good place to be. God takes over. After all it’s about HIM, right?

When we strategically position ourselves to reach out to people however different they are from us (Christians or non-Christians), we can win them for Christ. Jesus himself came for the unrighteous. That is the heart of mission. For many of us, God opened our eyes to the people around us and how we can reach them in non-intimidating ways.

The  Kenya Kiwi Encounter

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The visit by the Kenyan team to our shores in October expressed the spirit of the Maori proverb “With your basket and my basket the people can thrive.” The team of 22 came from Nairobi in response to God’s call to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The journey began with huge lessons on radical faith; most of the team waited for their visas to be issued on the day they were due to leave. Such stretches of faith would put many on edge but the team believed to the last minute that God would open the door for them to come here to encourage the Church in mission.

Spending time at a Marae in Ruatoria, engaging the homeless in Newtown, Q&A time with youth in Christchurch and sharing about Jesus on Auckland’s Queen St gave the Kenyan team an epic Kiwi mission experience. They also shared their vibrant music and many in the congregations couldn’t resist dancing to the African beat. There were many Gospel opportunities and space to experience the beauty of NZ as well as a fitting Maori farewell.

The team left having learned many lessons, such as the challenge of Biblical illiteracy in Kiwi schools and youth groups, the lack of confidence many have in the Gospel, and the need for more workers especially among youth. If you’d like to explore how your church could develop a partnership with one in another culture, drop me a line.

The next wave from Kenya

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A new day has dawned where missionaries are coming from places such as Africa and Asia. After the successful ‘reverse mission encounter trip’ by various groups of Kenyans in 2014, we are excited that the Kenyans are coming again. The ‘Kenya-Kiwi Mission Project 2016’ is about encouraging and supporting the Kiwi church in mission so that kiwis might hear the Good News proclaimed afresh. We’ve invited 26 talented, Gospel-loving individuals from Nairobi Chapel in Nairobi, Kenya to be involved in evangelistic events organised by churches in Auckland, Ruatoria/Gisborne, Wellington and Christchurch.

We’re delighted by the commitment of the African Church to send a team to us for three weeks in October. The Kenyan team are raising their return airfares to New Zealand (about $3000 per person). NZCMS would like to raise funds to cover other local expenses while they are here, including for their orientation and debrief. It’s good to host well aye?  Can you help?

We need people to partner with us by donating towards this important Gospel cause. Donations can be made online by clicking here. For the reference use: Reverse Mission.

God of Nations

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The terminator without Arnie? Pride and Prejudice without Mr. Darcy? The Simpsons without Homer? Bro Town without the bros? – Stories are nothing without a main character.

Have we, as Kiwis, forgotten the main character in our story?

Over Labour Weekend more than 100 guests gathered as part of the NZCMS Hui and Pilgrimage Our Story: Aotearoa to explore our identity as Christians in relation to the New Zealand story.

The welcome offered by Bishop Kito set the tone for the event, telling us that ‘The gospel was invited to New Zealand. Chief Ruatara was a person who was fully committed to bringing the good news to his own people and they created space for the gospel to take root in their lives, minds and hearts… The roots of our nation find themselves in the gospel’. We were each invited to remember that the main character of our story is Christ, and to find our true identity as we respond to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The theme of the weekend was Te Raranga, or ‘the weaving’. This theme of being woven together, of our stories being shared and our futures being knitted together came through time after time. It was a great weekend of discovering more about our history as we heard from expert speakers and explored significant sites around the Bay of Islands.

A visit to Oihi Bay was incredibly meaningful. We could see the Holy Spirit at work when leaders of CMS in New Zealand and the UK officially extended their welcome and embrace to the descendants of Thomas and Jane Kendall. It was clear God’s Spirit was bringing restoration and reconciliation after many years of brokenness.

It was a privilege to hear the story of the Kendall family told in more detail during the weekend, to recognise their contribution to early New Zealand history and to give thanks for the grace of God at work in their lives.

But it wasn’t all looking back at the past. With a global focus we shared stories, hopes and dreams with brothers and sisters from all over the world. Our praise and worship times were led by Taking Back, a Kenyan band from Nairobi Chapel. We had the privilege of hearing from CMS leaders from Africa, Asia and the UK who shared how God is working around the world.

A Sunday service on the grounds of Waitangi proved to be once-in-a-lifetime moment as different cultures gathered to share communion in the shadow of native bush echoing with the sounds of Fantail, Shining Cuckoo and Tui.

Drawing our Hui to a close we looked forward to what God has in store for the future. We were inspired by the vision, passion and enthusiasm of Jade Hohaia. Her message encouraged us to continue trusting in God to restore our land and draw all people to himself.

She spoke of how God is using young Maori and Pacific leaders to make a difference in their communities, and how she has seen the power of God to change lives and hearts.

The weekend was an inspiring journey of discovering our story and remembering who the main character is – remembering the goodness and faithfulness of our God of nations who continues to work mightily in New Zealand and around the world.

Africans ‘Taking Back’ New Zealand

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‘Taking Back’ is an African evangelistic band that will be touring Christchurch, Tauranga and Auckland in October. They’ll be performing at local schools such as Aranui High, Central New Brighton, Avonside Girls, Mairehau High St Margaret’s College, as well as busking in the streets and performing in local churches. We’re looking for some musically minded volunteers who would love to hang out with the band, assist with time-keeping, odd jobs and getting them around venues.

The dates are: Christchurch 10 – 20 October, Auckland 11 October, and Tauranga 20 – 24 October.

On another note, there are still some spots in their performing schedules in particular:

Christchurch:

Monday October 13 (in the evening) Wednesday October 15 (in the morning) Thursday October 16 (morning and afternoon)

Their programme is still being finalised in Tauranga and there are many time slots still free.

 

So if you would like them to come and play for your school, church or other organisation or if you can assist them on the ground, please contact heather@nzcms.org.nz

What do you get if you cross 12 Kenyans and a chilly Scottish city?

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Believe it or not, Kenyans can survive the Dunedin Autumn! Over this past weekend I had the privileged of visiting our first reverse-mission team – a group of twelve passionate, trendy and intelligent Kenyans. And because this was an opportunity not to be missed, I brought with me our three Haerenga Interns. The plan was to throw these three into the midst of the action (while I document everything from behind my camera).

We left early afternoon in hopes of joining in at a combined youth event where the team would be present. Alas, we arrived just in time to hear one of the team utter the final sentences of his testimony. What he said was deep and powerful… but we missed it!

The next morning the team were scheduled to attend the Dunedin farmers market. To be perfectly honest, out of all the 300+ events they will be part of, this was the one I was most excited about. Here was an opportunity for them to meet with people who would never step inside of a church, a chance to glorify God in the public square (… and an opportunity for some great video!).

In contrast to the previous days, that morning we were greeted by some rather sour weather. I was the first to arrive and I half expected to be alone for the morning, but eventually the team drifted in. And, impressively, they weren’t shivering too hard under their warm coats and jackets. (Let’s not forget that Dunedin weather and Kenyan weather sit on the opposite end of the spectrum.)

The team had been assigned a space – thankfully under the train station shelter – where they could set up to sing and dance for passersby, a space jammed between a preserved goods stall and one selling various baked goods. Samuel was the first to arrive and with him came his trusty guitar. At first he thought performing with gloves on was a good idea, but within a few minutes he braved the cold and freed his fingers from their warm abode. As the rest of them drifted in things picked up. The volume and excitement grew as more and more Kenyan voices were added to the mix. A hand drum was brought out enabling our friends to start grooving to the music. Before long people were congregating on that narrow platform, gathering to watch these joy-filled, up-beat Africans move to the music.

What caught us all by surprise was the repeated request that we provide a way for people to give to these supposed ‘buskers.’ A guitar case was laid out, and within a few minutes it was packed full of apples, chillies, chilli paste, coins and cash… So much was given that we had to track down a (large) bag to haul it away in. What makes this even more exciting is that the team were preparing for an African cultural evening this Friday. To properly share a culture you simply have to have food, but the team didn’t yet know how they would fit this into their budget. All of a sudden, and without seeking after it, they have most of the produce and almost all of the money they needed to make that event a success! God’s provision is amazing, and somethings unexpectedly surprising.

With over 300 events they are involved with why share this story? No one ‘got saved.’ Nothing dramatic happened. But here were a group of world-class missionaries-to-New-Zealand rubbing shoulders with normal kiwis in the public square. There were actively and vocally worshiping the God of creation in the midst of stalls, families, sinners and saints. And here they were, depending on God to provide for them as they seek to reach out to New Zealanders. The reason this stands out to me is this is precisely what I’ve been involved with when I’ve traveled to other nations – but in this situation I was the local, the one on the receiving end, the one they had come to bless. To see all they are doing for me and my land is truly humbling. What an honour that God would send such people to my nation in this bicentennial year.