The author of this article is one of our Mission Partners serving in South Asia. Due to the location he serves in we need to refer to him and his location vaguely and carefully to protect him, his family and the community where they serve. Early in my twenties, I signed up to be staff on a mission training school. I found myself responsible for the growth and development of a number of young adults from all over the world. It was on me to support them in their spiritual journey, lead them on three months of cross-cultural mission experiences, and then release them back into the wild as well-formed, mature young adults. After a month’s worth of leadership training, I was supposedly ready for action.As it turns out, developing people is far more complex than I had supposed – both a science and an art. I felt increasingly incapable and incompetent, fumbling along without knowing what I was doing. I found it pretty easy to meet with those I was responsible for, listen to them process and get them talking. But I found myself tongue-tied when it came to offering profound advice that would solve all their problems. All the while, my fellow staff seemed to be rocking it! They had no problem diagnosing people’s problems, identifying what was going wrong, and telling them what they should do (At least, that’s what I thought was going on).As it turns out, just like me, all of us can buy into false understandings of what makes a good leader. I had defined a good leader as someone so wise that they always had the right answer to share. And perhaps a better leader would have an answer ready before the person has finished sharing the question. But is that what leadership, discipleship and developing people is all about? Having the right answers?What Would Jesus Question?This raises a pretty obvious question: how did Jesus lead? Or more specifically, what was the role of questions & answers in Jesus’ ministry? A big part of my role is applying coaching skills to develop emerging leaders in Asia, and, crudely, we could say that coaching is all about asking powerful questions. So, naturally, I’m very interested in the questions Jesus asked.Stop and consider for a moment how many questions did Jesus ask?Think about the question itself. The Son of God, God-made-flesh, is walking the earth. It’s amazing he asked any questions at all! Surely God-in-person would invest all their energy telling people what to do. After all, isn’t a lack of information our core problem? Well, Jesus asked about 307 questions! That’s considerably more than the approx. 183 he was asked, and he only actually answered a handful himself. Whether we can consider Jesus an example of ‘professional level coaching’ or not, he certainly put a lot of value on asking powerful questions.So what do questions do? Typically we think questions exist to extract information. But questions do far, far more than that! Questions get our minds and hearts engaged. Questions help us see new options and different futures. Questions create space for possibilities. Questions get us out of hard-wired neuro-pathways and onto new ones. When you use powerful questions they turn the focus from your brilliance, experience and skills to their strengths, internal resources and ability. Questions enable others to listen to and follow God for themselves rather than always relying on you.Let’s turn back to 20 year old me. I thought I had to have the answers to be a good leader, but it turns out I only needed to have the questions. In fact, giving answers can actually undermine the development process and stunt someone’s growth. Stunting the physical growth of a child is something we all find appalling, yet we stunt people’s growth all the time in churches and discipleship groups without giving it a second thought! And amazingly, when my role isn’t seen as fixing things but listening well & asking questions that provoke discovery, there’s a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. In fact, coaching at its best is a “facilitated monologue”; the coach is playing the role of a mirror, disappearing so that the person can hear themselves think and process. Listening And MissionIt turns out, learning to listen and ask questions can do wonders for our leadership. But it also has huge implications for mission. This paradigm helps us see that our role is to empower other people and to never get in the way of their own development. It also helps clarify the role of the ‘outsider.’ Whenever possible, we shouldn’t be coming in and fixing everything for or doing everything for someone, but finding ways to empower others to ‘do the stuff’ for themselves. If I can come alongside a person and empower them to reach higher and further, then not only is the task of mission accomplished but people are developed and meaningful partnership is forged. And what I’ve discovered is it’s so much more fun and fulfilling – and honestly easier – when we don’t need to carry it all on our own shoulders but are instead trained in how to empower others. Over one cup of tea, I can help someone influence a network of 130 church planters reaching well over 10,000 people. Just by being deliberately present, listening intently, and asking a few well-placed questions. All over just one cup of tea.If Jesus would spend so much of his time asking questions, perhaps it’s time we learn to do so too?
Jesus said to his disciples “Where two or three of you gather in my name there I am among them.” (Matthew 18:20). What a mystery that must have been for his followers. Can you imagine your leader or pastor saying that to you? How would you have interpreted this statement?The Church Missionary Society was birthed out of a group of men who gathered in the Castle and Falcon pub in London in 1799. Their topic of discussion that day was how to form a new society that would spread the Gospel in a globalising world. And from there an entire missionary movement was born. In just over 220 years there are now Church Missionary Societies scattered all over the world. And that’s not even mentioning the other organisations and causes that have been birthed from this same community. What must it have been like in that pub that day? A group of people had come together in the name of Jesus, to find ways to participate in God’s transforming work in the world. And Jesus was among them. I can just imagine him pumping his fist with excitement and cheering when he saw the passion for mission stirring in their hearts. I can almost hear the Holy Spirit whispering ideas to them and fanning into flame the spark beginning to grow. A part of a Heavenly Family NZCMS was born from a group of people who were attempting to live in community as a part of joining God’s mission work. They were people who loved, trusted and were committed to sticking with each other. Not easy stuff sometimes, but it was driven by their desire to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. And this vision of family and community has continued to be intricately a part of NZCMS’ DNA. Not as something that we feel we’ve manufactured ourselves, but something that naturally overflows as we live in our identity as the Body of Christ. Words like ‘community’, ‘family’ and ‘whanau’ seem to be common buzz words these days. When something is over-used it can lose its essence or feel like a fad. However, in using ‘family’ and ‘community’, we’re trying to find words to explain our sense of belonging and serving together, not because it’s a new idea, but because it seems to be God’s idea of how we are created to be as his people in the world. Jesus sent a group of 72 followers out in pairs to preach the Gospel and heal. He chose twelve to be the growth catalysts and leaders for the budding Church. Before he ascended to heaven, he told his followers to pray together for the coming Holy Spirit. Jesus commands us to work in community. In teams. As family. Just as God’s very nature and being is communal – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – so God calls us to be image-bearers on earth, living in an interdependent community. Where once we have all been strangers to each other we are now God’s adopted children in Christ. To become a family under our heavenly Father. And as we grow in relationship with each other we reflect the glory and majesty of God who has made us. It is a posture we believe God invites us to express in every aspect of NZCMS family. Our NZCMS ‘family’ includes those who pray, those living overseas as Mission Partners, those who give, those who are on staff, those who serve on our Board and those who gather to hear stories about and pray for God’s mission work to extend in the world. Learning to be an NZCMS Family At NZCMS we’re constantly attempting to ask ourselves questions like: “Is what we are doing here deeply relational?” “How are we participating in ‘family life’ with one another across NZCMS?” “Who do we need to learn from about what belonging looks like in this cultural moment?” These questions are often difficult to ask and know how to outwork, as we feel the prodding, and sometimes the conviction, of the Holy Spirit to uphold God’s call to be an NZCMS family. As I’m sure you’re aware, interdependence and doing deep life together with family isn’t easy! Often it can feel like the hardest way to do things. It takes a lot of humility, learning and grace. Sometimes it can get messy. But for the furthering of God’s transforming work in the world, we commit to coming together and remaining together in the name of Jesus. Because this is who Christ has called us to be. And this is how Christ has called us to live. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, we’re grateful for the ways we are part of this NZCMS family with you. It is through family that God has chosen to bring his Kingdom to earth. We pray we can continue to grow in understanding of what that looks like for you and me and NZCMS as we come together in the name of Jesus.
Jairus Robb, NZCMS Communications Officer
Dr. Omar Djoeandy is the SIM Australian Missions Engagement Consultant. He has recently published a book titled “Redefining Success According to Jesus.” In this article, he gives an intro to the book below. If you would like to buy it, you can order it here. What makes a successful year? 2020 has come and gone. Possibly it was a good year for you, but many might have thought, “Good riddance to the year of the COVID pandemic, deaths, disruptions, recession, cancelled plans and failures.”I struggled with feeling like a failure because I didn’t meet some major goals. I was anxious and afraid when our income and savings declined, partly caused by cancelled speaking engagements.At the start of 2021, there was hope that we turned the corner. Surely it could only get better. Within weeks, we discovered that 2021 might be similar to 2020. Most people are still living under some form of lockdown, and life cannot return to the pre-COVID ‘normal’, even with the vaccine.Was 2020 a failed year? Will 2021 be a failure too?Most people suffer from harmful definitions of success, but they might not be aware. Just as we define a successful life, we often measure a successful year according to more possessions, achievements, external gains, and the fulfilment of our dreams and plans. We often expect that each year will bring more money, new purchases, unique experiences, opportunities to climb the ladder of success, and so on.When so much of 2020 was disrupted and cancelled, we are tempted to consider it a loss and failure. We are anxious and afraid that 2021 may be more of the same.Would Jesus consider 2020 a loss and a failure? What if we could see 2020, even with the losses and cancellations, with a different perspective? What if the pandemic – though tragic and terrible – could contribute to us being a success according to Jesus? Perhaps you grew closer to God as a result of the pandemic?How might Jesus define a successful year?In Luke 12:13-34, Jesus shocked the crowd when He contradicted the popular definition of success. Even back then, most people succumbed to worldly success that defines your worth according to your possessions, popularity, power, achievements, appearance and other external signs.Jesus warned against all kinds of greed – the desire to acquire and wanting more. Measuring ourselves and others according to worldly success will only lead to harm. But Jesus doesn’t just oppose worldly success; He teaches us how to be a success in His eyes.He mentions three essentials which you can read in the table below.
Whatever comes in 2021 can become an opportunity for us to identify harmful definitions of success and grow in ‘Redefining Success according to Jesus’.
After lockdown last year and as I went through my week of debriefing with NZCMS, I found myself asking “What could I, a retired missionary and rather weird senior citizen, do?”The debriefing showed me how I was going in adjusting to New Zealand life, where I’ve come and how I can go forward.I’m an encourager and I have a real love for people. When St. Paul’s Symonds St, my home church, reopened after the first lockdown in 2020, I discovered they had an international ministry for students. So I asked if I could help. I joined them on their Wednesday “Free lunch and English conversation” sessions they had. St. Pauls is right between Auckland University and the University of Technology so there are heaps of people walking past! People from Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Nigeria – you name it! I learned that Auckland City is amongst the top five most cosmopolitan cities in the world! For many of these people who attend, it’s the first time they’ve ever been in a church. We have about 20 people who volunteer, from many nations and backgrounds. And each and every one of them serves so that they can eventually help those who attend come to Jesus. The leader is Jeremy – a Korean man who has just the right laidback leadership style for this. Some of those who attend are lonely, dispirited, financially struggling and/or poor in English. But most are also willing for prayer. One time a very troubled young woman came in for the lunch. She was from Sri Langka. As one friend of mine Grace and I chatted and prayed for her, it surfaced that she was a Buddhist. I thought “Oh I’m out of my depth here.” But Grace told her of her Buddhist background and how she came to Christ. And the woman responded! It’s so encouraging to see some come to Christ and grow in Him. After attending the lunch they’re then invited to join a Thursday night Worship and Bible study or the Friday English lessons that the church runs. When their time in NZ is finished, some of the people have gone back to their countries of origin and started Bible studies and even churches!More recently, I’ve joined the Church prayer team. One day as I made my way to the front to stand with the other prayer team members during a response time – and telling myself that I am a very inadequate prayer team member – a young Indonesian Muslim woman came up to me with a cry in her heart to get closer to God! I was able to lead her to Jesus and after just one week she is looking so much happier and has also found an Indonesian woman in her office who is also a Christian. Isn’t that incredible! Who knows what else God has in store for her. Recently my beloved sister died in November. Her sickness was one of my main reasons for returning. I still don’t have a place to live yet. But I have found ministry and I am believing in God for more. If you would like to know more about how you can learn to engage with the nations on your doorstep see our events here.
Dianne Bayley, Former Mission Partner
Robyn Appleby served as an NZCMS mission partner at Msalato Theological College in Tanzania for six years and now serves as a priest with All Saints’ in Palmerston North. Robyn first heard the call to ordination in Tanzania. Recently priested in the Wellington Diocese, she reflects on the journey from first acknowledging the call to ordination, to fulfilling it.“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”I liken my journey toward priesthoodto God leading the Hebrews through the wilderness before the time was right for the next step of His plan. They had lots to learn.Like the Hebrews, I wondered what it was all about and if the wandering would ever end. They complained, were impatient and wanted fulfilment of the promise “Right now!”. Being the ”Doubting Thomas” that I am at times, it was easy to think that I’d been mistaken in the call to ordination. But it is God’s faithfulness and love that patiently leads, and He provides and teaches us through the challenges as well as the celebrations. I needed to learn the grace of walking into the darkness and trusting that God was leading the way.Like Abraham’s wife Sarah, I laughed when some of my students at Msalato said I should be a priest. ’Yeah right!’ I said. I thought they were just being nice and honouring me as their teacher. But when it came up more than once in different contexts I realised it was time to talk to God about it. Unlike Sarah, it wasn’t the promise of a baby in my later years but it sure was a kind of rebirthing and definitely the start of a new life. For a while, I felt guilty about doubting and questioning but I eventually realised it was okay. Even the ‘greats’ like Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen asked questions about what God was leading them into and whose desires were driving the thinking.I imagine it was similar for Sarah when that little butterfly-like stirring happened within and the realization of something growing within her. Could this really be true?” She may have asked herself. “Is there really a promise growing and taking shape in me?’Over time and through conversations with trusted praying friends, my wondering turned into amazement then denial, then dread but finally excitement. “Wow!” I said. “This is amazing and wonderful. Yes Lord, here I am!”Fortunately, the 10-year journey hasn’t been as long as the Hebrews’ 40 years or as traumatic as having a baby in old age but I’m truly thankful for the way I‘ve been guided along through this journey.. In my 6th and final year at Msalato, I sensed a withdrawing in my spirit that troubled me until I realised this to be ‘Godly discontent’ and preparation for time to move on. This made me sad, as I love Tanzania and the people and the teaching, but the energy and passion had left me. I felt a failure and guilty, but to stay meant I needed to recommit another three years and that just didn’t fit comfortably.‘Hope deferred …’My first big test came when back in NZ, the diocese discernment team closed the door and said no to ordaining me! If there was ever an opportunity to give up, this was it. The temptation was great to give up and to take myself out of this sense of rejection and of not being good enough. But, like Peter, I had nowhere else to go! I believed in the priesthood of believers and I knew I had to keep going in faith. By grace, I was given a pastoral role in the church and I perceived this to be the call of God. was serving God’s people and building the church.However this was to be the continuation of my training. I needed to get over my sense of rejection and learn to engage with the New Zealand church and community. I only knew my passion for the church and I thought this to be the same in New Zealand as it was in Tanzania. But no, this is of course a different culture. Same God but different needs.I often reflect on the words of the “Hound of Heaven”/ All that I have taken from thee is not for thy harms, but that you would find it in my arms. There were deep valleys in my wilderness – re-entry, culture adjustment, finding a home. And these were just small things compared to some major health and financial crises. But the deepest valley was the death of my youngest son with cancer in June 2019. All these are the prisms of God’s loving refining work. But even in the midst of all this came the invitation to reconsider and re-apply for ordination discernment again! I’m very thankful that it didn’t take another ten years in the desert, even though the repeat process was more intense than the first.Now I feel deeply centred, and I no longer wonder about God’s Call.Like the Hebrews who sang their way into freedom and the new life, I can sing a new song of “Goodbye” and “Hello” with the melodies that continue to grow within me.“Somewhere within my yearning has been metThe God of graciousness has gracedThe God of tenderness has blessed.” -Joyce Rupp
Ko Te Tiriti o Waitangi tōku kawenata I tipu ake ahau i raro i te maru o ngā Remutaka maunga ki te taha o Te Awakairangi Ko Te Ati-Awa te mana whenua Kei Te Whanganui-a-Tara ahau e noho ana Ko hāhi mihinare te whare karakia Ko New Zealand Church Missionary Society te rōpu Ko Ngāti Pākehā te iwi Ko Anna Smart tōku ingoa The Treaty of Waitangi is my covenant I grew up under the shadow of the Remutaka mountains beside the Awakairangi river Te Ati-Awa are the people with authority over the land I live in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) The Anglican Church is the church I belong to I am part of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society I am Pākehā My name is Anna Smart This Waitangi Day in 2021 I found myself curling my toes in the grass of the whenua at Waitangi, washing dishes in the wharekai, and swimming in the beautiful moana at Paihia beach. Unlike most other Waitangi days in my lifetime, I spent this February 6 immersed in the story of our nation, and what a privilege that was. Listening and Serving Our history as the New Zealand Church Missionary Society is deeply entwined with the history of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and so our identity as an organisation is shaped by the events at Waitangi, both past and present. For this reason, NZCMS sent a small group of staff and friends of NZCMS to join the Karuwhā Trust in their Hīkoi ki Waitangi 2021, to learn more about our collective history. Ngā mihi nui Karuwhā Trust for your mahi. For myself and many others, the central objective of this hīkoi was to go to Waitangi to listen and serve. The weekend was spent visiting significant historical locations related to Te Tiriti o Waitangi – alongside tangata whenua and assisted by qualified historical narrators -, serving with hau kainga at Te Tii marae, swimming in warm Northland waters, observing public commemorations, asking plenty of hard questions and learning new things. In my reflections of the weekend, I am reminded of Mary and Martha’s story in Luke 10:38-42. Like Mary’s part in the story, this week was about listening. In this particular story, Jesus emphasises Mary’s choice to sit at his feet and listen, and I’d like to think that when Martha was called out of her work to listen to Jesus, after some time they’d all get up and start working together. Much like this story, it is essential that we in Aotearoa take the time to listen to our partners under Te Tiriti o Waitangi so that we might be able to work together well. In this beautiful nation of Aotearoa, we have a complex history that colours our landscape and shapes the people that have walked, currently walk, and will walk in this land. For so long, this story has predominately been told through a Pākehā perspective, in a way that dodges the uncomfortable parts, the gruesome parts, and some of the really profound parts. In this moment of information accessibility, the ability to borrow books and use Google, we must extend our horizons of learning. Especially for those of us who identify as Pākehā, we must learn how to listen. As we have conversations in the church in Aotearoa about local mission and the decolonisation of mission, we must place Te Tiriti o Waitanig, te kawenata tapu – the sacred covenant – at the centre of these discussions. Choosing Powerlessness I’d like to speak directly to my Pākehā readers now Something I have been reflecting on while I’ve been in Northland is the importance of choosing powerlessness as a wāhine Pākehā. As a Pākehā living in a Pākehā dominated society, I, by virtue of my skin colour and my whakapapa, have more privileges and power than my Māori friends. When I enter a te ao Māori context, it is essential that I put down that power, choose the place of powerlessness and of humble learning and service. This choosing of powerlessness and of choosing interdependence with others is the way of Jesus. By placing myself into this place of powerlessness and interdependence I can begin to put my worldview aside and try and step into that of another. I begin to see things I wouldn’t otherwise. I certainly don’t get it right all the time. I choose self-preservation over vulnerability, and there is grace for that. It is, after all, a process of learning. But to walk towards reconciliation, us Pākehā need to learn to put down our power and pick up a spirit of repentance, of humility. I’ve learned these things while ironing tablecloths with hau kainga. While watching the sunrise above the flagstaff on the Treaty Grounds. While eating watermelon under the Northland sun. From this stance of listening and serving, we are able to enter friendship. When we have a foundation of relationship, we can walk towards honouring Te Tiriti, towards reconciliation, towards partnership with each other. When we dance this delicate dance of friendship, not shying away from that which renders us vulnerable or afraid, we journey closer to one another. Brené Brown, an American professor, said “…it is hard to hate anyone close up”, and to that I say, lean in. Our time with the Karuwhā Trust, being so generously hosted by Te Tii marae, and serving alongside hau kainga, was the utmost privilege. For me, it felt like a look into the possibility of being reconciled to one another. I have been left with more questions than I have answers, and that is okay. There are many things I am reflecting on and will be writing about in coming weeks, but for now, I leave you with the challenge of deep listening. As Te Rautini sing in their song Te Ao Marama; “Listen to the land, listen to the spirit, listen to the breath, listen to the life we share.” Anna writes regularly in her blog which you can check out here.
Anna Smart, NZCMS Short Term Intern
This Sunday, we begin the season of Advent. Growing up, my long-lasting memories of this season include making advent wreaths, lighting candles each Sunday, and the joyful anticipation recalling the Christmas narrative. Advent is a hope-filled time brimming with excitement as we remember God coming to dwell among us as a baby boy. It surely is a season where we party! In the year of 2017, Advent came alive in a new exciting way for me, as my husband and I had just received the news that we were pregnant after years of challenges trying to create a family. I identified with Elizabeth, I resonated with Mary, and felt the wonder and celebration of the season so profoundly. Then, on Christmas Day, we lost our baby. We were confronted not only with the heart-wrenching loss, but also faced the painful juxtaposition of this celebratory season all around us. Where were we to find ourselves in the joyous Christmas story – and not just this year, but in all the years to come? In the biblical narrative of Christmas, there’s a couple of verses in Matthew I had never noticed before. They’re not the ones we hear sermons on or write Christmas carols about (Who’s gonna write a Christmas carol about a genocide?). Herod goes on a power trip, and fearful of the news of Jesus’ birth, he orders the genocide of all baby boys under the age of two across the region (Matthew 2:16). Here in the midst of our Christmas narrative we find awful, ruthless loss. We see injustice and political powers destroying the most vulnerable in society; it’s not all ‘joy to the world’ in this moment. Quoting Jeremiah, Matthew reveals the grieving reality of those who experience these horrors. “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comfortedbecause they are no more.”– Matthew 2:18A voice is heard. A weeping. A collective of voices, mourning mothers (and fathers) who are in the gut-ripping claws of grief. This inclusion of the brutal reality of loss that first Christmas made it possible for me to feel a part of the Christmas story. I identified with Rachel, a weeping mother. At the same time that Rachel weeps for the children who are no more, there is celebration for a child born – the Saviour of the World. Here is the juxtaposition right before us. A paradox of lightness and darkness that we still see today. The birth of Jesus is the inauguration of God’s Kingdom coming on earth, yet all creation is groaning and awaiting Jesus’ final return as King, making all things new.We can see in our world today that the rule of the King and restoration of the Kingdom has not-yet reached fruition. And there are a lot of things in our world not-yet restored. There is so much loss this year. So. Much. The world feels more fragile than it ever has, a global pandemic, political upheavals, racial injustice, ruthless poverty and hunger, uncontrollable fires, devastating floods and much, much more. There will be a great mourning this year for the 1,430,000 families (to date) who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, not to mention all the ‘hidden’ losses of babies, the loss of jobs, livelihoods, or homes. There is much to grieve in our world.In the Advent narrative, like Rachel’s weeping, God’s sorrow at a broken world is the very reason God has come to dwell among us. Advent actually invites and makes welcome our tears and grief as a part of the story. We see our ‘not-yet’ realities, and we look to a future hope where all will be restored and every tear will be wiped away.Loss and grief are no longer an end, they are included as part of the way to resurrected life in Christ. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.And that really is hope for our world.So as God’s people who are sent into this world, we are invited to live into this juxtaposition. Grieving for the losses while celebrating that our Saviour is born and all that means for our future hope. NZCMS sends people to the hard places to demonstrate Kingdom reconciliation. We hold the global realities before the NZ Church that we might be stirred to pray, to give and to go. As God’s people we hold hope in the spaces of our world where it looks hopeless. We embody peace and reconciliation in a violent world tearing each other down. We practice joy by celebrating any small miracle or good news amid the sorrows. We enact radical love in a world handing out cheap love and calling some ‘unlovable’. We grow in faith as we courageously (and fearfully) say ‘yes’, like Mary does, to the arrival of God in our midst.To those of us who are carrying grief and loss into this Advent season, you are included. May we live the juxtaposition deeply this Advent. May our Advent be a joyful party and a season for grieving as we know God with us.
Kirstin Cant, Missions Enabler
Amanda, Returned Mission Partner from India
Guy BentonNZCMS Mission Enabler
Ever since the start of our nation-wide lockdown way back in March, I have often been asked two questions: “where are all the NZCMS Mission Partners currently located?” and “when is NZCMS going to start sending Mission Partners out again?” I’m writing today to provide an update, and to invite you into prayer as we look out past the shores of New Zealand. Where are our Mission Partners now?The graphic shows where our Mission Partners are currently located. Some were already in NZ in March and find themselves stuck here. Others returned to NZ for health or other reasons. Some had been accepted as Mission Partners but had not yet departed to their overseas location of service. The majority of our Mission Partners who were overseas at the time that COVID-19 became widespread have chosen to stay on location. They face a range of difficult situations – some have very restricted lives, while others have more freedom of movement. All are seeking to be faithful in their roles and responsibilities, and discern the new opportunities that God is placing in front of them.When is NZCMS going to start sending Mission Partners again?Sending out Mission Partners globally during a pandemic requires different conversations and planning. The NZCMS staff team, with governance oversight from the NZCMS Trust Board, have put in place new processes for making decisions which take into account COVID-19 impacts on sending out Mission Partners. Recently, two Mission Partners were approved to return to location and are booked to fly out by the end of August. Godly safety For mission organisations like NZCMS, decisions around sending out Mission Partners during a global pandemic brings to the forefront questions around risk. Engaging in global mission generally requires taking on greater levels of risk in terms of personal safety. Mission Partners who serve with NZCMS accept that there is a higher chance of experiencing things like political instability, tighter finances, or lower quality of medical services on location.Furthermore, the call of Mission Partners is to live long-term in another country: to learn language, to enter another culture, and to walk alongside others in living out and proclaiming the good news of the Gospel. The loyalty to stay and serve often urges Mission Partners to be present in vulnerable situations, and to stay during difficult times alongside local partners. The reality of risk-taking in global missions is to be held in tension with the duty of care that NZCMS has for our Mission Partners. An article from the Lausanne Movement describes well the balance required between avoiding risk and embracing the inherent vulnerabilities of global mission. Both the call to leave a place of safety to serve, and the call for caution, are found within Scripture, and these values need to be held in healthy tension. The author suggests asking the following questions:1) What is my missiology of risk? What are my deeper values and beliefs around risk-taking?2) Am I falling into the trap of wanting to be a hero, even if, with staying, I only become a liability?3) Whose decision is it whether I leave or stay? What weight should be given to the voices of the ministry partners, the sending church, the leadership of the organisation, and the workers?4) Is it time to consider new ways of working in which the ministry is less dependent on expat presence?These are not easy questions to ask or to answer. The NZCMS staff team are committed to walking closely with our Mission Partners as we make these decisions together. I am thankful that during my time serving in Egypt, I personally faced these questions and I received invaluable support from NZCMS at that time. It is a privilege to journey alongside our Mission Partners during these times.Reminding ourselves that God is on His throne A NZ leader in global missions recently wrote his perspective on missions in this time of COVID-19. In that article he writes that as he wakes each day, he reminds himself that God is on the throne. This is a posture that I’m reminding myself to live into in these uncertain days. For an organisation with a global focus, it is challenging to continually respond to evolving global contexts, develop new policies, and support our Mission Partners who face uncertainty. As NZCMS family, let’s keep reminding each other that God is in control. Let’s give thanks that the work of mission is not all up to us! God is conducting God’s mission. Closed borders do not stop God’s mission. The Spirit of God continues to work in the world transforming us into Christ’s likeness, and bringing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Thanks be to God!
Rosie Fyfe, NZCMS National Director