Andy and his wife Shona along with their children, live in Costa Rica and have served as Mission Partners with NZCMS since May 2018. Andy is fluent in Spanish and works with Movida, which seeks to motivate young people to better serve local churches and to reach out through world mission.
Recently I attended a summit for mission mobilisers for the whole Central American region. Around 500 key leaders from seven countries representing at least 3000 churches were present.
I was expecting to just be a delegate. However, one of the key note speakers, Alex Paniagua, had to cancel at the last minute. This man is one of my mentors. Though we’re similar in age he has 20 years’ experience working across Latin America and is one of the key leaders of the Latin American Mission movement. Alex had to cancel as he fell ill with kidney stones so he “volun-told” me that I was doing his presentation!
He said “Andy the doctor says I cannot travel, but I’ve told the conference that you can take my place, I hope that’s ok!” He gave me three days’ notice and was going to send me his presentation on “New Trends in mobilising the church to the Mission of God”.
I was preaching for three days in another region so I only had a short time to prepare. We had travelled up as a family to Nicaragua; an eight hour road trip from San José to Managua with two hours to negotiate the border.
What Does the Lord Want to Say?
As I prepared the message, I felt strongly that I should speak from Isaiah 49:1-7. This is a favourite teaching of my father and has become very much part of my missiology and sense of calling. The picture of being an arrow is very special for me because for over 20 years I’ve been challenged by Psalm 127:4 which says “…the children of your youth are like arrows in the quiver of a warrior”.
Essentially, my ministry in Latin America is building on the last 40 years of my father’s ministry and passion to train a rising generation of Latin Americans who can effectively engage in the mission of God. Back in 2007, I helped connect a mission trip from The Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Auckland to the churches of the two pastors that baptised me, one in the capital city of Peru and the other in the jungle. At the time I felt very frustrated with God that He was sending them and not me. However, when they returned, we got together and the team prayed for me. The team leader had a picture he felt was from God for me and said “Andy I see you like an arrow poised in God’s bow. You’re drawn back and when the Lord shoots, you will fly true and hit the target”.
We are the polished arrow that Isaiah talks about! It applies to me and you. In fact the passage starts “Here distant coastlands” and you can’t get much further from Israel than New Zealand to the South East or Latin America to the west!
What else does this passage say?
- “Before we were born He knew us”
- “He has placed His word in our mouth like a sword”
- “His hand in upon us”
And lastly, it says “He has made us like a polished arrow and placed us in his quiver.”
A normal arrow was shot as part of a general volley into the enemies’ ranks so this didn’t require great accuracy. A polished arrow on the other hand was honed, practiced with, oiled and kept so that it would fly accurately and hit a specific target when required. Each one of us has specific giftings, upbringings and passions. The Lord uses these, even the painful processes of our lives, to shape us into the arrows He needs in His quiver. In fact our painful or shameful experiences are often the most relevant as they teach us dependence on Him.
A Word in Season
When I shared this message at the conference I knew it had hit the mark! It resonated with many people and a number of deep conversations ensued over the next few days.
Being on the speaking team changed everything about this conference for me. All of a sudden I found that God was answering one of my deepest yearnings. I had prayed “Where can I find mentors who really understand what I’m called to do?” Well now I was spending quality time with the other speakers, all of whom are mobilising networkers like me with similar gifting but 20 years more experience. During this time I was also interpreting for the key note speaker in private meetings with the leaders of a church denomination. It was an intense time of learning and of developing new relationships. This speaking engagement had opened up more opportunities and was challenging me to expand my thinking.
Now, this is where the Holy Spirit blows my mind.
On the last day of the conference, their intercessory team brought me to one side to tell me they had a word from God for me.
They had written this word down on September 19. It was Isaiah 49:1-3. And they had added the imperative for me in particular to press on because “The Lord Himself would direct me as His polished arrow to His targets”.
How could they possibly know I was going to speak on that passage and what that verse meant to me, ten days before the conference began?! On September 19 my friend Alex didn’t know he wasn’t going to be able to make it and it was ten days before I had even thought of sharing that message. I was incredibly moved as the intercession team proceeded to pray for my family and our ministry.
The Holy Spirit directs us and goes before us and, sometimes, outrageously demonstrates that we are in the centre of His will. You are also a polished arrow in His hands. Each one of us has a part to play in His mission.