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.
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?
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.
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.
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.