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A Mission Partner’s Miraculous Story

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My wife Shona sensed the call to global mission at 12 years old at her home church in Auckland. In her 20’s she did mission trips to Tanzania and Colombia. I grew up as a son of British missionaries in Peru and we later met in Spain in 1999. We bonded over our shared experience living in Latin America during very dangerous times. Shona had always had a conviction that she would marry somebody with a passion for global mission and he would decide where we would go. Our question at the time though was “Where?” I met a key leader from the Middle East and asked him how I could strategically serve the Muslim world. Without flinching he gave me an answer that changed my life. “Andy with your background and bilingualism, mobilise the church in Latin America! This one conversation mobilised me. I married Shona in London in 2000 and we moved to New Zealand in 2001 to start a family. We thought that after 2-5 years God would call us to be part of facilitating a missional movement from Latin America to the unreached nations.Upside DownAt that time I felt God had told me it was not time to leave but to work on my character as I had been struggling to control my emotions for a few years. Unfortunately, I just didn’t know how bad it really was. In 2002 my life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In that instant, despite the strong sense of calling Shona and I had received, I disqualified myself for service in global mission. How could I take my family to a foreign country away from our support structures if I was emotionally unstable? So I decided that we would serve in the church in New Zealand.In 2005 I received a very strange prophetic word. A friend of mine said to me “Andy, somebody is going to give you a pair of shoes and it will be a sign to you that you will travel across many nations with a message from God.” I thought it was weird at the time but it impacted me and I held onto it.After spending some time serving as youth pastors in Tauranga, we moved to Christchurch in 2009 and I made a serious attempt to understand the bipolar diagnosis, researching with doctors, Christian counsellors, and psychiatrists. What followed were some of the hardest years of my life. I had terrible side effects from all the medication and even went on the sickness benefit for a time. We got to the point where my medical team and I agreed that it wasn’t working and in 2013 I came off all my medication slowly. I felt like I had no solution. My mood swings wouldn’t stop and every three weeks I battled with suicidal thinking. During this period Shona started training as a teacher and I became the house husband, looking after the kids, working part-time, and serving at church in the children’s ministry and small groups. Again, I felt disqualified from global mission and quite ashamed. The MiracleIn 2015, I was invited by my friend Gabriel, to a meeting run by a healing evangelist named Susan Pillains who was visiting from England. I didn’t want to go but I knew Gabriel wanted me to translate and was hoping I would be healed. Gabriel is a passionate intercessor and over the years he had prayed with many tears for God to heal me. I had experienced God’s healing over the years in other ways, but it had been 14 years since my bipolar diagnosis, God had not healed me and I was feeling a little jaded. I decided to attend the meeting, telling Shona I would change my attitude.It turned out Susan had an amazing ministry with miraculous healing meetings across India and Africa. She began to pray for me but after a couple of times of commanding the sickness to leave, I apologetically said to her that I felt no different. She asked if we could pray and wait on God. So we did and I stood there with my hands stretched out before me as she quietly prayed. After about ten minutes Susan said she believe God told her that my illness had been passed down to be me from previous generations. So she began to methodically go through my family generations one by one, asking Jesus to release me from any sickness that had begun there. When she counted to the eighth generation I suddenly collapsed on the floor and began to scream!I am not going to give you more of an explanation or an interpretation of this story because I simply cannot. I can only tell you the story as it happened. All I can say is as Susan prayed, the power of God began moving in my life in a way that was beyond my understanding. After a while, Susan began to pray for peace and said “I think something significant has happened.” I replied, “I think so too.”I knew it would be very easy to check because for the past 20 years I hadn’t gone three weeks without facing a cycle of uncontrollable depression and elation.From that day on March 8, 2015, the mood swings stopped. One Christian psychologist told me that’s impossible as a bipolar diagnosis is incurable. However, I know what I was like then and I know what has changed and there is no way I would be taking my family to a foreign country and away from our support networks if God had not healed me. A miracle had happened.The ShoesIn June of 2015, I was invited to speak at a combined service. I was at the church social event on a Monday night and the Pastor, Pastor Jorge, decided to pray for some people. All of a sudden the social event became a ministry time and he began to pray for me. Incredibly he said that I would have a ministry travelling across Latin America and countries where Christians faced persecution.“Like the valleys are raised up and the mountains are lowered and the favour of God goes before you and you are walking in some shoes…” Then all of a sudden he slowed down for a bit before continuing. “Like my ones…” He stopped for a few seconds again. Finally, he said “This is going to sound very odd to you. But I believe the Holy Spirit is saying that I am to give you these shoes and they will be a sign to you that this will come true.” I couldn’t believe it. That was it! When I got home I chatted to Shona and within a month I had resigned from my job.Jesus’ ScarsJohn 20:20 and 20:21 have been a theme for me over the last couple of years. Jesus enters a room where the disciples were hidden away from the world for fear of death. Jesus surprises the disciples and meets them at a point when they had been blindsided by the unexpected. They had been ravished by the trauma of the death of their hero, the hero that most of them had abandoned. All were overwhelmed by their circumstance and totally baffled by the apparent news of the resurrection of Christ. And then, suddenly, he appeared to them.Jesus showed them his hands and he said “As the father has sent me, I am sending you”. Jesus shows them the scars of wounds that should have declared his demise but now proclaimed his victory. I believe this point is relevant to all of us. God sends us fully aware of our weaknesses, frailties, insecurities, and our quirks. And yet God still calls us to go and be an incarnation of the Gospel to the world.Andy and Shona have been Mission Partners with NZCMS since 2017. They work with Pro-meta (an online Christian university) to train leaders and work alongside missional organisations across Latin America to Mobilize the church into the call of God. Andy and Shona believe passionately that Latin America can be a powerhouse to accomplish the great commission among the remaining 7000 unreached ethnic groups around the world.  

Small Steps Toward Mission – The Most Excellent Way

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How do you get from growing up in rural mid-Canterbury to Global mission in the megacity of Tokyo? This is week one of a four-part miniseries “Small Steps Towards Mission” following NZCMS Mission Partner, Luke Sinclair. In this series, Luke highlights four key turning points in his life and four small steps of everyday discipleship that God can use to send each of us out on mission. This is week 2 in the series. You can read the first article here. My first car was certainly no head-turner – a light blue 1989 Hyundai Excel granny-hatchback affectionately named “The OG-mobile” after the first two letters of the number plate. Yet the second turning point on my path towards Japan involved this car – both metaphorically and physically. The big change came about when I finally understood the second half of a single Bible verse.The verse was 1 Corinthians 12:31 and the first half I understood well, “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.” At High School, I had spent a lot of time reading this chapter and the similar passage in Romans 12 about spiritual gifts. I had tried to work out which ones God had given me and which ones I hoped he would one day give me. Although I would have said I’d be content with whatever the Holy Spirit gave, in reality, I wanted the more impressive, more powerful, more ‘spiritual’ ones. The gifts of serving or giving money described in Romans 12:7 -8 seemed like drawing the short straw!But as I came back to following Jesus while at University, I spent time in 1 Corinthians again and began to spot things I hadn’t seen before. Previously I’d read chapters 12 and 14 as “Paul’s guide to spiritual gifts” – almost as if it was an instruction manual. But I’d never stopped to ask what chapter 13 was doing in the middle of them – that famous passage about love. Reading through the whole letter I saw how the Corinthian Church was full of the Holy Spirit and very gifted (1 Corinthians 1:5-7).  And yet Paul said they were “still worldly” and “mere infants” (1 Corinthians 3:1). They were a church divided over many things, one of which was spiritual gifts that they appeared to be using to gain recognition, status and power. And so smack in the middle of his teaching on this topic in 12:31 Paul says, “Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way.” This way is the way of love. Not the romantic kind, but the love that sinful people at church are to show to each other and to build each other up to persevere in following Jesus.All of a sudden my understanding of this passage was flipped upside down. In my eager desire for the most ‘impressive’ spiritual gifts, I was acting just like the Corinthians! I realised that rather than looking inward to ask ”What is my spiritual gift?”, the most excellent way was to look outward and ask “How can I love my brothers and sisters at church one step more?’”Around that time I had been helping with the church logistics team which set up and packed down the primary school we met in each Sunday. Rather than this just being a ‘good thing to do’ I started viewing this as one way the Holy Spirit had gifted me to love my brothers and sisters. And as I kept looking at what the needs were in front of me, I didn’t see any ‘impressive’ upfront roles, but I did see that the logistics team needed more leaders who could take on responsibility for the Sunday set-up. Not quite what I had imagined or desired (being a non-committal 21-year-old). I had wanted the spiritual gift equivalent of a Lamborghini – impressive and powerful! But God had given me a Hyundai. Literally. Yet this was the way to love at that time. So, I and the OG-mobile started turning up early to transport gear to the school and organise set up.If you had told me back then that I would later become a cross-cultural Mission Partner sent overseas, I would have laughed. That was not something I wanted to do nor believed God had gifted me in. And yet, looking back now, I can see how that season of meditating on 1 Corinthians was a key turning point. God had transformed my mind by his Word to change the way I approached service, putting love at the centre. And by his grace I’ve (imperfectly) tried to keep asking the question and remaining open to God’s answer – “How could I love my brothers and sisters one step more?” Who knows where God will lead me, or you, next with such a question!?Do you know someone discerning what it means to be “Sent by Jesus”? We invite you to share this series with them. We will be publishing one article a week here on our website and Facebook Page.

Luke & Naomi Sinclair Preparing for Ministry in Japan

Small Steps Towards Mission – Saved and Sent by Jesus

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How do you get from growing up in rural mid-Canterbury to cross-cultural mission in the megacity of Tokyo? This is week one of a four-part miniseries “Small Steps Towards Mission” following NZCMS Mission Partner, Luke Sinclair. In this series, Luke highlights four key turning points in his life and four small steps of everyday discipleship that God can use to send each of us out on mission. We begin with Luke’s first article “Saved and Sent by Jesus”. The most radical step I have made on my path towards Japan was to invite some classmates to go and watch Batman at the cinema. That may seem like a mundane, everyday affair but in the journey God has led me on, this became a significant turning point. To see how the Dark Knight fits into the picture, let me first backtrack to earlier in my story.I grew up in mid-Canterbury and had followed Jesus my whole life. Through encouragement at youth group, I had loved sharing the message of Jesus with my friends at school and did outreach in our community and in short term mission trips to Fiji. Yet, after moving to Christchurch to study at the University of Canterbury, it took only six months for me to walk away from Christianity. The shock and loneliness of living in my hall of residence coupled with the challenge of vocal and provocative atheists made me unsure whether I could trust anything about Jesus. And so, I quietly withdrew from Church, from Christian friends, and from seriously trying to engage with my questions.After 18 months or so of drifting, I finally admitted to myself that I was miserable and needed to find answers. I had heard of a new church for students and so I started attending. At the same time I was continuing to think through atheism and agnosticism and, to keep my mind open, also joined some Buddhism classes. While comparing and contrasting all these worldviews I increasingly saw how the Bible’s answers to the big questions of life fit best with my experience of the world. And as I went back to the Bible I was brought face to face with Jesus again and was amazed by Him. There wasn’t an individual moment, but over that year God slowly brought me back to being a follower.Then one morning as I sat reading my Bible, I came across a passage speaking about God’s judgement. And the question rose in my mind for the hundredth time – “Do I really believe all this again?” So I worked through my findings: Do I have good reason to trust these words are the reliable records of the eyewitnesses? Yes. Do I have good reason to trust that Jesus rose from the dead and that His words can be trusted? Yes. And on top of all that – is it good? Absolutely! I hadn’t learnt anything fundamentally new about the Gospel over that year. But what I now had was a deeper view of grace. I had turned my back on God, but He had not stopped loving me. Jesus, the good shepherd, had left the 99 and had come after this one sad, lost sheep.Then along floated in the next thought – “This matters for all my Uni classmates who don’t know any of this!” And as I prayed I came up with one very small but totally radical step: Batman.We were a reasonably nerdy bunch who only talked about assignments, sport, and TV shows. However, we didn’t do much together and our relationships weren’t at a depth where we could discuss what really mattered to us. If I wanted them to know Jesus, something would have to change, and the new Batman movie seemed a good start to connect with each other more and grow in friendship. Though I was shy and disliked taking the initiative, I invited them, organised the event and got them all along to watch the movie.That small step of everyday discipleship was the turning point God used to get me praying for and, timidly, trying to tell people about Jesus. I knew that as a disciple I was saved by Jesus and sent to tell the world about Him (John 20:21). But it was only until I knew how good His good news was for me personally, that I became motivated to go outside my comfort zone to do this. Saved and sent by Jesus – how could I not want the people in my life to know the good news He offers them too?Do you know someone discerning what it means to be “Sent by Jesus”? We invite you to share this series with them. We will be publishing one article a week here on our website and our Facebook Page.

Luke & Naomi Sinclair

Preparing for Ministry in Japan

To the Middle East From Home

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What happens when you remain called and fully committed to overseas mission work but believe God is leading you to return “home”[1] to New Zealand? Are you, then, still a “sent” mission partner?NZCMS took a brave step when it approved the Weymouth family returning to New Zealand while allowing me (Rick) to remain fully engaged in Middle Eastern theological education by extension (T.E.E.) and in tertiary level theological education quality assurance ministries in the Middle East and Asia. I work from a home base in a small country town in the North Island, with Anne contributing locally (may we say, at the “home” end?) and re-engaging in local church and community ministries. And, of course, I would be able to travel back to the Middle East and Asia reasonably frequently each year. Three years ago, pre-Covid-19, that was a reasonable assumption!So, how does it work when a pandemic means, for an extended time, that you are effectively locked up and cannot travel overseas, or, if you can, you will struggle to find a way back?How did the Apostle Paul Serve in his ‘lock down’?Intriguingly, the Apostle Paul found himself in a similar, yet far more severe, situation when he was imprisoned in Rome, facing the death penalty. Was he still a “sent one,” while chained to a Roman soldier and under house arrest? (Our Covid lockdowns seem somewhat trivial in comparison!) Could his ministry, the work of the Gospel, continue under such circumstances? Had it all come to an end?That was the no. 1 question of the Philippian Christians when they heard of Paul’s arrest and imprisonment in Rome. They had a special friendship and a supportive relationship with the Apostle, which he describes as a “partnership” (koinōnia) in the Gospel (Phil 1:5; 4:15). So, they sent Epaphroditus from Philippi to Rome to bring Paul a financial gift, meet some of his practical, physical needs, and to especially ask about the work of the Gospel. Had it now come to an end?At the same time, Epaphroditus brings news to Paul of disunity in the Philippian congregation amid growing opposition, leading Paul to become concerned about the work of the Gospel in Philippi! To answer their concerns, give thanks for their gifts and the practical service provided to him, and to address the crucial issue of unity, Paul writes the letter which we call Philippians.Contrary to what the Philippian believers had expected, Paul reassures them that Gospel ministry has continued and was not merely continuing but was advancing while he was imprisoned! Not only has the entire imperial guard heard that his imprisonment is for the sake of Christ, but local believers have been emboldened in their proclamation of Christ (Phil 1:12-18). Gospel ministry is going on, and their shared partnership in the Gospel can also continue (Phil 1:7), even if the pending trial leads to Paul’s death (1:19-26).Overseas Missions from HomeIn the same way, also contrary to natural expectations, it has been surprising to find that after two decades of mission based in the Middle East, some of the most significant things I have ever done in ministry – by God’s grace(!) – have been accomplished in the last two years, while sitting at a desk in a small home office on the edge of a small town of about 5,000 people in rural New Zealand. We should note, though, that these God-enabled contributions have been built upon our 22 years of physically living in the Middle East and a similar period of active involvement and service in theological education there. Back in 1996, our language school director used to say, of the Arab-world, that maximum effectiveness in cross-cultural ministry required a minimum of seven years of living there. While serving now from home here, continuing mission impact is possible precisely because we have been there – for many years of living, learning, loving, and serving cross-culturally.And, since April 2020, this has all taken place without any overseas travel possible![2] It is amazing what can be done in our digital age, with virtual networking and synchronous video conferencing! The global pandemic has forced us to rethink not only mission, but many facets of what used to be “normal” life, work, ministry, and education!It has given huge impetus and relevancy to the programs of e‑Learning and, much more recently, doing theological education by m-Learning through mobile devices such as smartphones, both of which we’ve been seeking to establish in the Middle East. There is significant need for appropriate quality measures, standards and guidelines for online evangelical theological learning as theological schools re-think their delivery of Bible, theology, and leadership education, without compromising in any formational area.Of course, these new ways of education bring up all sorts of other challenges! In the online environment, how do you ensure that learning remains holistic and transformational? How does one tap into processes of personal, spiritual, character, and ministry formation from an online, educational point of view? These are issues we have been carefully addressing, but I digress. We will need to save that discussion for another article!The Challenges and the Benefits   For sure, there are limitations to mission work, whether from prison (as in Paul’s case) or “home” in New Zealand, including some previously unheard-of tech-hazards, such as “Zoom burnout”. Working relationships with colleagues require additional efforts and time, including many evening video conference calls, necessitated by the 9- or 11-hour time difference between New Zealand and the Middle East, and occasional middle-of-the-night calls, most of which I try to avoid.Yet, it is a blessing to remain actively involved in ministry in the Middle East and Asia from New Zealand. With appropriate care and effort, home-based, overseas-focused mission is not only possible but can bring unexpected outcomes.With the Apostle Paul, his imprisonment led to a bolder witness from believers in and around the Roman capital. For a home-based Mission Partner, the personal time and energy saved through not regularly travelling overseas are significant. And it is valuable, too, that not being present on location in the Middle East means that my co-workers are less dependent upon my presence, which is a good thing. It also means that my inputs can be more thoughtful, considered and strategic. Indeed, that is what I call “the crazy thing” about serving from home – finding that significant things can still happen! Probably a “God thing,” wouldn’t you say?As it has happened, I now have several roles in Middle Eastern and Asian theological education and serve in them with a heartfelt passion. Whether an overseas-based or a home-based Mission Partner, it is incredibly rewarding, and a privilege to follow in the footsteps of the model Servant, sent by the Father, who “came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).“As the Father has sent me, I also send you”In this respect, I am encouraged by Don Carson’s insightful words about Jesus’ saying, in John 20:21b, “as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” He notes that the perfect tense of the verb “has sent” (apostellō) suggests that “Jesus is in an ongoing state of ‘sentness.’ Just because he ascends to his Father does not mean he is no longer the ‘sent one’ par excellence. We as Christ’s disciples do not take over Jesus’ mission, replacing him, but rather his mission continues and is effective in our ministry.[3]So yes, one can be a ‘sent one’ as a home-based, overseas-focused Mission Partner, for the work we do, wherever and however we do it, is carrying on Christ’s work of mission, not our own. Our service, placed in Christ’s hands, is to continue his service as “the sent One” within this world, so loved by God.Footnotes(1) “Home” is in fact a very relative word. For our two (then) teenage sons, who grew up in the Middle East, returning from that part of the world, early 2018, to live in New Zealand was not returning “home”; it was leaving their home! But the important matter of TCKs (Third Culture Kids) and their experiences is the subject of another article, another time. This one is written from not-a-TCK perspective! And, to muddy the waters further, it is penned by a West Islander, for whom New Zealand has become an adopted home.(2) God willing, that may change in 2022, if/when quarantine free travel is permitted again for vaccinated travellers.(3) D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (Pillar NTC; Eerdmans, 1991) 649; cf. also Luke’s introduction to the book of Acts, with the ministry “that Jesus began to do and teach” now continuing through the apostles (Acts 1:1).

Rick & AnneMission Partners to the Middle East from NZ

Celebrating Lesley

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Let’s start with the basics. When did you begin work for NZCMS and what was your role?I started with NZCMS in Feb 2012 as Personnel Director. The role was to support all the Mission Partners that were overseas and journey with those who were interested in becoming Mission Partners, both long-termers and short-termers.What was it that interested you about working for NZCMS?I knew almost nothing about NZCMS when I applied for the role!  But I knew a lot about living cross-culturally overseas having been overseas myself for 25 years. Additionally, I had been doing a similar role for 2.5 years with a Mission organisation in the UK called Latin Link. Whilst the job description for the Personnel Director role at NZCMS seemed to fit me like a hand in a glove, I made the hard decision to return to NZ principally to be closer to my parents who were in their late 70s/early 80s.What are some of the ‘stand out’ memories you take away from your time at NZCMS? Can you think of any specific moments or stories that stick out to you?For me the ‘stand out’ memories without a doubt are the opportunities I had to visit our Mission Partners in their locations overseas. To become a part of their worlds for a few days and be truly inspired by them as people, the relationships they had built with those they were living amongst, the ways they had adapted to the often-difficult realities of their context, and how they were a part of God’s transforming work in those places.As I remember all those visits what remains with me most deeply are the many occasions in which I sat with Mission Partners as they interacted with the people around them, sensing the mutual respect and care that spoke more loudly than the words that were being spoken generally in languages that I didn’t understand. Whether that was in a small home-based bible-study discussion group in a small city, encouraging international students in a large city, sitting with neighbours in a slum, having a meal together under a starlit night in a tiny rural village, opening the bible in a cafe, listening to patients in a hospital clinic, teaching children English in a small hut, supporting the Master of a Boys Hostel, enthusing young people into mission or sharing knowledge with assistant pharmacists, respect and care flavoured their interactions with those around them.I was also impacted by how the Mission Partners persevered in the face of many challenges; heat, bugs, corruption, mind-numbing ‘shifting sand’ bureaucracy, lack of consistent water, electricity and internet, team difficulties, tough security restrictions, bribery, language learning, misunderstanding and feeling misunderstood, loneliness, and more recently lockdowns and all the uncertainties of a covid-19 world to name a few.I have been challenged and enriched by sharing in the lives of these truly inspirational people.Over the past 9 ½ years with NZCMS, what changes in global missions have you noticed? What do you think will be the future understanding and practice of “missions” in the Church in the coming years? At one level nothing has really changed. I believe global missions as I have seen it through the eyes and lives of Mission Partners has continued to be about God-loving people being willing to step away from the relative security of life in NZ, and share their lives, their love of God, and their God with those they have chosen to live amongst; and in the process allow God to transform them and bring transformation through them.Obviously, Covid-19 has brought tremendous change for many of our Mission Partners and will have an ongoing impact especially with regard to the reality of travel and living in a Covid-19 world. I believe that there will always be a place for God-loving people to reach across cultures to be channels of transformation and in the process be transformed, whether that is overseas or here in NZ.NZCMS is about to publish a series asking people in our community to reflect on John 20:21: “Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” So, what does being a “sent person” look like for you?For me, a ‘sent person’ means someone who is in relationship. Jesus’ sense of ‘sent-ness’ came from his relationship with his Father, for us to be sent we too need to be in relationship with the triune God; that must be at the very core of who we are.Being ‘sent’ also suggests movement; being open to going outside our comfort zone, and that will look different for each of us. And the movement is not an aimless wandering, although where we end up might look nothing like what we had imagined or thought and that would be true for most of our Mission Partners!, It has a purpose, which isn’t just about the destination; the transformative journey is as important, perhaps even more important than the destination.Anything else you’d like to say?Being a part of the NZCMS family has been a huge privilege; there have been challenges, joys, laughter and monotony. I am thankful to God for growing me as I have journeyed alongside our Mission Partners, been a part of a great staff team, and been inspired by many faithful supporters. Thank you to you all!

Lesley, NZCMS Personnel Manager 2012 – 2021

Are we Dragons?

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It’s 4:00am“Doctor, please come now”I sleep poorly on a bamboo mat in our most remote health center Pwunu Dyang. The rain starts pounding on the roof, and soon also on my conscience. Midwife Scovia has fear in her eyes and since I know how tough she is, her fear soon becomes mine too. To cut a long story short, Lucy* is in labour. She had 4 previous cesarian section operations to remove babies from her womb, so there’s no way Scovia can safely deliver her baby in the health center. If Lucy doesn’t get an operation in the next few hours, her womb might rip open and kill her and the baby.Except that the hospital which performs the operation is 4 hours awayAnd the road is close to impassable, even on a motorcycleAnd the rain poursAnd its 4:00amBut we can overcome these challenges. Scovia’s husband had hired a motorbike for a couple of days, and is willing to brave the rain and the road to take Lucy to a halfway point, where she can catch a NGO ambulance the final two hours to the hospital. You might scream “how can a woman in labour with scars on her uterus travel two hours on the back of a motorbike on terrible road?” To which I can offer only an insufficient answer.Because she mustBut one challenge remains – Lucy has no money. And the motorbike transport needs money, as does the ambulance driver. She needs about 20 US dollars in total, not a huge amount even here but still money Lucy doesn’t have. But this time everything might just be OK, because the rich white man is here.This dragon who hoarded his wealth, is about to flick one of his thousand gold coins towards a suffering mother who might then survive the day. Should this dragon feel good about that? Am I somehow a good person because I “helped” someone with 20 dollars?

Loads of money in this worldThere is in fact loads of money in this world, more than enough to go around. The per capita GDP on this humble earth is US$11,000 a year for every woman, man and child, more than enough for us all to live very well. There’s more than enough money in this world to transport this woman to hospital today and every day.

We are dragonsA lot of us are dragons of various sizes, hoarding our wealth as we build our personal or family empire. Us dragons pour our money into bigger and bigger dragons dens (houses), bank accounts with many zeros and the kind of lifestyle the other half of the world can only dream of.Most of us are rich, perhaps richer than we realise. If you own assets worth more than just $90,000, you hoard more gold than 90% of humans. If you have just $4000 of assets to your name, you are richer than half the people on the earth. I’m not saying this to evoke guilt, only to bring us to the realisation that yes, you and I might just both be dragons.

How did I become a dragon?Well most of it was probably chance. There may have been sound decisions and hard work along the way, but your path to a healthy hoard was largely decided even before you were born. You won the lottery, congratulations! Two lotteries define the lions share of how rich we will become.Lottery 1: Your birth country. I spun New Zealand and straight up won the lottery. Your birth country usually has the biggest effect on how much money you will be able to earn and save. A minimum wage earner in New Zealand might not feel lucky because they will understandably compare themselves to their richer neighbours. But by age 40 or 50, many minimum wage earners in New Zealand will find themselves in the top 10% of the world’s richest people.Lottery 2: Your parent’s wealth. Even here in Uganda, if you are born to the tiny percentage who are rich, you will have a decent chance to amass a healthy hoard. While Uganda isn’t rich enough to provide your children with the ingredients for financial success, the good education and healthcare your children need can be bought.Lottery 3, 4, 5 etc.. Your race, gender, orientation, neural make up and countless other dice were also rolled before you were born that might affect your potential to stash cash in this harsh world.

So how can we shed our scales?Realise you are a dragon. This may be the hardest step of all. It’s tempting and easy to tell ourselves and others that we are in fact one of the financial strugglers, usually by comparing ourselves to an even richer dragon. I’m afraid there’s always someone richer, unless you are Jeff Bezos!Disperse your hoard. Whether through personal connections or high impact charities, it might be time to start dispersing your hoard, giving money to people or organisations that are transforming lives. I want to personally thank a growing group of insanely generous churches, partners and friends who have given away huge portions of their stash, often thousands of dollars at a time towards launching health centers like Pwunu Dyang through OneDay HealthShift our future focus away from stashing gold and towards making a better world. We are so blinded by all our dragon friends with their huge hoards, we feel the need to keep up with the Jones’s by making our hoard bigger and bigger and BIGGER. When we realise we have more than enough to thrive, we can choose to change our life’s trajectory. Whether it’s through choosing a job which makes the world better, volunteering for charity or our struggling neighours, or even earning money for the purpose of giving it away, we can shed our scales or at least become better dragons.And while the committed, talented, skilled and grossly underpaid Scovia rushed around to orchestrate the saving of Lucy’s life, I put my head in my useless hands and cried. I cried at my own iniquity, I raged at the unequal, unfair and unnecessary state of this precious earth, but in the end I allowed myself more than a sliver of hope. Despite all my own issues, I trust that Jesus has the power to transform us and peel off our scales, no matter how painful that might be.Aslan peels of the scales of Eustace –“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off … And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been… and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again…”* Lucy is not her real name* Conservative estimates of over 7 billion dollars spent by Bezos and Musk on their space race would have been enough to buy enough to vaccinate the 1.4 billion Africans twice.

The Questioning Jesus

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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?

Where Two or Three are Gathered…

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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

A Successful Year According to Jesus

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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’.

Reaching the Nations from our Doorstep

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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