Lesley Smith

Celebrating Debbie Jones

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Debbie was born in Kansas, Missouri. After training as a nurse she joined Operation Mobilisation and worked on the ship MV Logos. She and Andrew met there and married in 1987. Cross-cultural ministry was a part of what brought them together. In 1990, after an intense period of searching and struggling with God over what he wanted their lives together to look like, they made a

commitment to ‘itinerant ministry.’ Since then, in response to this calling and with their growing family, they’ve lived out of backpacks, in tents, vehicles and sometimes in houses all over the world for the sake of the Gospel. Andrew and Debbie have five children, from 25 to 14 years old.

They became involved assisting in the planting of new churches in both USA and Europe, especially among the emerging generation; these are sometimes known as ‘fresh expressions’ of church. Woven into this work was an itinerant ministry that saw them connecting with people on the margins of society, especially nomadic, ‘new age,’ pagan and seeker communities. They sought to provide a holistic, contextual and appealing Christian witness to these communities. They did this by journeying with these groups as they moved from one festival to another, and sharing their family life with them. This was largely possible because, for much of their married life, they have lived and travelled in a motorhome or truck. In fact, many of those who have shared life with Andrew, Debbie and their family have lived and travelled with them in their truck.

During 2015, as the refugee migration hit Europe, they travelled with and ministered to some of the refugees in various places in Europe. Along with their two youngest daughters, they also participated in ‘Rainbow Gatherings’ in Eastern Europe and Egypt and travelled with small groups of people they had met during those. Rainbow Gatherings are intentional gatherings of all kinds of people who come together for a month somewhere in nature to cook together, sing around the fires, make workshops, share experiences and generally come together as a ‘family.’

In June this year Debbie was in Ethiopia attending the Rainbow Gathering there and travelling with a small group. It was there, as Debbie was celebrating life and sharing Jesus with this group of young people, that she fell ill and passed away so quickly and unexpectedly.

Debbie’s deepest desire was to share God and his love with all he brought along her path. She was a colourful, fragrant flower; her warm, vibrant personality drew many to want to share life with her and Andrew and their family.

We will perhaps never understand why such a bright light was taken from this world so suddenly, and there is inevitably darkness, loss and grief where she is no longer. However the colour, hope and reflections of God that she brought to life carry on in all those who knew her.

Changes on the horizon

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At the end of July NZCMS Council approved a part-time position to come alongside the full-time role of Personnel Director. This is to enable NZCMS to continue offering our Mission Partners good support on the Personnel side of things. Over the last few years both the breadth of the Personnel Director role has increased as the number of Mission Partners (long-term and short-term) has increased. At the same time, the depth of the PD role has also increased due to extra responsibilities stemming from changes and improvements.

As Maureen has been assisting me in Personnel for almost a year, we asked her if she would like to consider applying for the part-time role. She felt that this was not the right timing for her and Gerald for such a commitment. She will however continue to remain connected in a volunteer capacity, the details of which have still to be worked through.

At the same time, over the last few months, I’ve been thinking about my future and have decided I would like to move into the area of Counselling. I am planning to do a Bachelors of Counselling at Laidlaw or Vision College starting in February 2017. After discussing things with Steve it was agreed that I will move into the part-time Personnel role and we will search for someone to fill the full-time position. I’m excited about this as it allows me to pursue further training while remaining connected with our Mission Partners. I see it as also being advantageous to NZCMS as I will be able to support the person who moves into the full-time role. The plan is to divide the current job by spreading the Mission Partners between us, with each of us being responsible for a certain number of Partners. How this will be done will depend largely on the experience of the person moving into the full-time position.

We began advertising this position on September 30 and applications will close on October 30. Our plan is to interview in mid-November and for the person to be in place by mid-January to allow for a full handover. I find it hard to believe that I will have been in this role for five years by then!

While change is always unsettling we will endeavour to make this transition as smooth as possible and I’m sure the person who God has ready to move into this role will bring a wealth of experience that will enhance our current care and support of our Mission Partners. And of course Steve and I will still be around!

I’ve enjoyed journeying with our Mission Partners over these past few years. As I’ve supported them in different ways I’ve also been inspired by them and how God is using them in so many varied contexts around the world. I look forward to continuing to work alongside them through the part-time role.

Details about the Personnel Director job can be found by clicking here.

Celebrating Debbie (Sunday August 14)

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NZCMS Mission Partner, Debbie Jones, passed away while travelling through Ethiopia in June. Lesley gathered with the family and friends in Portland, Oregon, USA on August 14 to celebrate Debbie’s life.  

It was a privilege to be able to share, along with Andrew and all the family and many of their friends, an appropriately simple and yet colourful and profound celebration of Debbie’s life. We joined together under some trees at a park in Portland. There was time for people to share their memories of Debbie aloud, in writing or by drawing. We mixed and mingled, shared good food together, and felt Debbie’s presence as people came from different corners of the world to celebrate this woman who had touched our lives (and so many others) with her effervescent love of God, life and all who came across her path.

In a tribute to Debbie’s wild and free nature we sent some of her ashes along with the messages people had written or drawn for Debbie out on the river on a small raft. The wind and the current of the river meant things didn’t turn out quite as had been planned… but that in itself somehow seemed ‘right.’ Debbie was a master of ‘going with the flow’ and revelled in all of life however things turned out.

While she wasn’t with us physically that afternoon, she was with us in many many ways. And while there is some darkness where she is no longer, her way of doing life will continue to inspire and encourage those of us who were lucky enough to have shared life with her.

NZCMS is proud to have had Debbie as one of our Mission Partners and we continue to support Andrew and the family in this next season of their lives.

Souls, Seals and Creation (Issue 27)

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When you hear the words ‘Creation Care,’ what immediately comes to mind? There are three typical Christian responses:

Irrelevant. Caring for the earth isn’t important for Christians – we should be concerned about people’s eternal future, not this earthly dwelling. For these people, the Gospel is about saving souls, not saving seals, and environmentalism is a distraction from real mission.

Incidental. Caring for creation is right and important but it’s not everybody’s calling. Just as some are ‘Christian Surfers,’ others are ‘Christian Conservationists.’ These people are glad somebody’s caring for the planet – so long as it doesn’t have to be them!

Integral. Caring for God’s world is a core Christian commitment. It’s found throughout the Bible and is essential to discipleship, worship and mission. All of us are called to witness to God’s creating, sustaining and saving love in how we care for the natural world.

God’s World, God’s Story

The story of Scripture can be summed up as Creation, Fall and Redemption. As Christians we often see this story as two dimensional, about our relationship with God and our relationship with others. But the story has a third dimension: a relationship with non-human creation.

As God created the world, he saw that all his creation – human and non-human – was good (Genesis 1). Human beings are a part of creation; we’re creatures, made on the same day as the animals. However, being made in the image of God, we’re also called apart within creation (1:26-28) and given a role to care for non-human creation (2:15).

We know that Adam & Eve’s disobedience (Genesis 3:1-19) caused a fracturing in the relationships between God and humanity (they hid from God) and between people (e.g. Adam blames Eve). However there were two other fractures: between humans and the rest of creation (3:17-19), and even between God and his creation (Romans 8:18-21). All of these relationships are damaged.

As we move through the Old Testament we see the importance of God’s relationship with not only people but also non-human creation. It’s emphasised in Genesis 9:8-17 where God establishes his covenant between himself and all life on earth. If we had space we could look at Israel and their relationship with the land, and some of the ways God expected his people to care for the land and wildlife (e.g. Deuteronomy 22:6,7; Leviticus 25:1-7).

Turning to Jesus, Colossians 1:15-20 tells us much about Jesus’ relationship with human and non-human creation. He’s the reconciler of everything on earth and in heaven. Jesus’ death brings healing to all these broken relationships, and his resurrection brings hope for the future of all things. It’s Jesus’ resurrection that’s the guarantee of hope for the whole universe. The risen Jesus was neither a ghost nor a disembodied soul. There was no dead body left behind in the tomb. He was and is physically alive. The risen Christ is the guarantee that those who trust in him will be raised from the dead and that the whole created order will be transformed and renewed.

So… what does this mean for you, me and those three damaged relationships? If we truly love God, we’ll love and care for his creation. If a friend you loved gave you a beautiful ceramic fruit bowl that she’d made, would you use it as a rubbish bin, allowing it to become dirty and trashed?

If we love God we’ll love what he loves. Every time we’re too lazy to rinse out that container so it can go into the recycling bin, or can’t be bothered walking to the local shops so take the car, we make a spiritual choice to be selfish and say ‘no’ to treating the earth as if it really is the Lord’s. Whenever we buy cheap meat without asking if the animal was cruelly farmed, we show disrespect to our Creator. These are uncomfortable truths, and I don’t always get it right, yet it’s vital we realise the links between our relationship with God and our relationship with the planet.

If we truly love God and love others, we’ll love and care for God’s creation. Today’s average Kiwi uses such large amounts of the earth’s resources that we’d probably need more than three planet earths for everybody in the world to live the same way. How I live and the daily lifestyle choices I make affect everyone else on the planet. We can’t escape the reality that the over-consumerism and waste of 20% of the world, us included, leaves the remaining 80% starving and dying early from poisoned waters, soil and air. (You can do a ‘foot print’ calculator to find out how many planet earths we’d need if everyone lived like you: goo.gl/5WnnD9) .

Changing our lifestyles is one of the hardest things to do, but if our desire for change stems ultimately from our relationship with God and with others then I believe it can happen, just one step at a time.

Acknowledgements to A Rocha International’s Director of Theology Rev. Dave Bookless for some of the ideas in this article. Lesley recommends his book Planetwise: Dare to Care for God’s World.


For discussion

Which of the three views (irrelevant, incidental, integral) have you held throughout your Christian life and why?

What more can we learn about the relationship between Jesus and all creation from Colossians 1:15-20?


Meet Margaret

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We are delighted to be able to announce the recent acceptance of Margaret Poynton as a Mission Partner. Margaret comes to us with a wealth of experience. For the past 13 years she has been the National Administrator for the Interchurch Council for Hospital Chaplaincy and, in addition, for 11 years, their National Training Adviser.  This has meant she has travelled extensively around New Zealand visiting hospitals and their chaplaincy teams.

Margaret has been accepted to fulfil the role of Executive Assistant to Archbishop Clyde of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea. Margaret is currently finishing her Cross Cultural and Mission studies at St Andrew’s Hall and will be returning to Wellington before heading to Port Moresby at some time in the near future to take up this role.

Introducing the Thornberrys

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We are delighted to introduce to you our new Mission Partner family, the Thornberrys.* Nigel (dad) was born in New Zealand and loves to learn and share what he has learned. Marianne (mum) was born in the U.S.A. and loves to be an international mum to all. Debby (their 16 year old daughter) was born in the heart of the Redwoods in the U.S.A. and is a self-proclaimed ‘geek’, bookworm, and wants to be a fashion designer. Eliza (their 12 year old daughter) was born in the Czech Republic and wants to be a zoologist and a radical environmentalist.

This is what they say about their way of life:

We make FRIENDS, share STORIES, give feet to DREAMS, pass on GIFTS and PARTY. Or said in another way, we go to where there aren’t a lot of Christians and share life with them, love them, respect them, help them find a path into the Kingdom. We find out the dreams that God is giving to people and help those become reality. We love to see physical and spiritual gifts make a difference in the world. We take part in large temporary spiritual communities that celebrate life and encourage the formation of smaller long-lasting communities that are a celebration of belonging in the Kingdom. 

They primarily do this type of life among poor, nomadic and local people. Nigel and Marianne have lived mostly nomadic since they met almost 30 years ago. Although they have had brief periods of stationary life, they have raised their five kids while ministering as a family on the road. Their older kids have grown and left, so they are down to two travelling at their side – though the older ones promise they will come and catch up with them when they have a break in their own exciting lives. So, as a diminished group of four they are continuing their nomadic journey. They will be shipping out at the end of September to go back to Europe and Africa.

They too are excited about joining the NZCMS family:

The last many years our ministry has been a bit free range so we are quite excited to have a mission family behind us, helping us stay safe and give us belonging. It is also great to be sent out of New Zealand as our main reason for returning here three years ago was to find a home – we were beginning to feel a bit homeless ourselves. We are very excited to now have a mission family in New Zealand that is sending us out to continue our living and sharing.


If you would like to know more about how you can support the Thornberrys email Lesley@nzcms.org.nz or visit the NZCMS support page.


* Note: any resemblance to a cartoon family is entirely deliberate. We have done this to balance security with humour.