“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 email@example.com. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.