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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

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?

Grateful for My 2020 Life

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Many of you had little to be grateful for last year – my heart goes out to you. To those who lost loved ones, your jobs, or even your motivation to keep going, I pray that this 2021 brings renewal and joy. We mourn and laugh together.I was fortunate enough to have much to be grateful for despite the challenges. I express this gratefulness with some trepidation. Not out of pride or competition, but perhaps to spark a little joy and hope for the year ahead. I am grateful for so many things in 2020. Here are seven.Grateful for our home. Simple by New Zealand standards, while opulent in the eyes of many Ugandans. Just being at home can fill our cup. “For the homeless and the cosseted, may your home be simple, warm and welcoming.”Grateful that coronavirus largely spared the poorest region on earth. Here in sub-saharan Africa (besides South Africa), coronavirus hasn’t wreaked havoc. It’s rare to have a global tragedy where the poorest suffer less than the rich, but the respite is welcome.Grateful that we launched 11 OneDay Health Centers this year, and extend healthcare to tens of thousands of people in remote places. I’m Especially grateful for Emma in Gulu, Josephine in Kitgum and Innocent in Lira who overcame dead months and transport challenges to achieve remarkable things.Grateful for my inspirational wife, who will again tomorrow bike 100km on dirt roads to help remote communities both keep their only home and aspire towards an unlikely but beautiful peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”Grateful for the overflowing generosity of people who thought beyond themselves during a crisis to give even more than we needed to live here this year, and to support launching health centers, building health centers, peacemaking and co-vid relief. You know who you are.Grateful for our nurses Elec And Acire, who overcame enormous odds to work with the community and build a beautiful new 4 room health center in Pwunu Dyang. The community now boasts the most remote health center in the Gulu sub-region, more than 4 hours travel from town.Grateful for one of the best holidays I’ve had in years, with a bunch of fine people who both think and care deeply about the people around them.Grateful for discovering John Mark Comer, a spiritual teacher who has sparked new insights into our world, our culture and the sorry state of my own heart. I’ve realized more than ever the need to work first on myself before I leap too fast to judge others.“…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”

Nick Laing, Mission Partner to Uganda

Missio Dei in the Solomon Islands

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Normally, when I get complaints about my speaking, they are of the “You spoke too long!” variety. Nearing the end of our school-year today, I delivered a short, impromptu chronicle of the year to our school community. So much has happened. I was surprised, however, to discover how difficult it was to fill my ten-minute window. How odd, I thought, walking home. And then the reason came to me this afternoon in conversation with my wife, Tess. For obvious reasons, this year has been short on big events – which usually fill school chronicles and make for interesting stories – and long on the kind of relational drama that you cannot talk about in front of everyone. “Like what happens to a family in quarantine?” Tess offered.  In past years, Trinity STM (School of Theology and Ministry) has been engaged in outward mission weekly by: – Prison visitations  – Praying for the sick in hospitals – Taking Bible studies into people’s homes – Preaching and singing in the marketplace – Reading portions of the liturgy on festival days in other villages The value of this has been unmistakable. But this year we were given something different. Stay at home. Work together daily at close quarters. See the same faces every day for weeks on end.  At the best of times this has looked like: Wake up for prayer. Go to class. Go to work session. Pray before the evening meal. Study. Sleep. Repeat.  At the worst of times it has looked like: Be annoyed by someone. Gossip about them. Be alarmed at the relational chaos that ensues. Say sorry. Repeat.  It has not been easy. But we have, like so many this year, learned some important things in the process. Outward mission, taking the Gospel to places where it has not been heard or is not yet believed, is not total mission. Outward mission can assume a dimension it should not for the Church. We can overlook the work of God that is taking place in our homes and churches among people like us who have believed the Gospel already, but who need deepening. When this happens, we pursue shoots at the expense of roots. The outward and visible replaces the subterranean. Far from preventing God’s mission this year, the coronavirus has opened up to us afresh its grandest scope. God is at work everywhere, but chiefly in the Church.    

Jonathan and Tess Hicks, NZCMS Mission Partners in the Solomon Islands

“People are practically running forward for prayer!” NZCMS Maori Evangelist Says

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NZCMS’ evangelist to Māori, Rev. Hauoterangi (Howard) Karaka, has been busy. During this year, and even during times of lockdown, God has opened up many opportunities to reach out to others with God’s love and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just in the last month, Howard has had the opportunity to lead and minister at five funerals and three unveilings (unveilings are a ceremony held one year after a person passed away).“Due to this wonderful ministry of evangelism,” Howard said, ” I have had the opportunity to lead five people to salvation on the marae and at their homes and also see six re-commitments of faith to God.”   From this group of people, six of these families are now attending the church that Howard leads, Hoani Tapu Anglican Church in Drury, South Auckland. The pews are filling! The worship has been powerful and large numbers are stepping forward for prayer every Sunday.   “If I was to describe the experience,” Howard says, “I would say many people are practically running forward for prayer!”  Howard shared about one couple who walked away from church a long time ago. Their marriage came under significant spiritual attack, and they separated for many years.   “The husband was suicidal not long after leaving the church,” Howard said. “He and his wife then separated as he turned back to drinking and anything else he thought would take away the pain. Now it is so encouraging to see them both reaching out for support, prayer, fellowship and rededicating their lives back to God and each other.”  Howard also shared that he led a gang member to the Lord during lockdown. This young man is now attending church regularly and attending a discipleship program. We invite you to continue praying for Howard and his wife Gladys as they pastorally care for and disciple those in their parish and continue the work of evangelism in South Auckland. Pray that God would continue to open springs of healing and transformation at Hoani Tapu Church and that God would open more and more opportunities for Māori to hear the Gospel.  To read more missions stories and NZCMS updates, subscribe to our fortnightly email newsletter.

Rev. Howard Karaka, Maori Evangelist

Listening and Growing in Partnership

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Tēnā koutou te kāhui ā te Atua,Greetings to all God’s people. Kāhore he Hūrai, kāhore he Kariki, kāhore he pononga, kāhore he rangatira, kāhore he tane, wahine rānei; he tangata kotahi tonu hoki koutou katoa i roto i a Karaiti Īhu.There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) This Sunday marks Te Pouhere in the Anglican church calendar, which celebrates our life as a three Tikanga Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.  What is Te Pouhere and Why Was it Formed?What is the meaning of Te Pouhere? The Māori word ‘Pou’ is translated ‘post’ and the Māori word ‘here’ is translated ‘bind’. Te Pouhere is a revised constitution established in 1992, which provides an opportunity for each of the three partners to express their tikanga – their way, style, or cultural model. These three partners are Tikanga Māori, Tikanga Pākehā and Tikanga Pasefika. They are to express their minds as equal partners in the decision-making process of the General Synod and to exercise mission and ministry to God’s people within the culture of each partner.For Māori, the 1857 constitution and the 1992 revised constitution has not been truly honoured in terms of partnership and resource sharing. However, in recent times we have seen that there have been some promising steps that we are working towards in achieving an equal partnership. Below are some examples of the turning of the tide.Te Pouhere in Te Takiwā o ManukauMission and Ministry Continues Under Lockdown The Māori ministry team has been blessed to continue proclaiming the Gospel throughout this period of lockdown in New Zealand through the use of live-streaming networks and media platforms. From the 24th of May 2020, Howard Karaka – fellow Evangelist to Māori with NZCMS – along with Archdeacon Lyndon Drake and myself (Keri-Ann Hokianga), have started offering a weekly 30-minute worship service called “Karakia Rātapu” onto Radio Waatea here in Auckland. We collaborate with our Pākehā brothers from the Christian Broadcasting Association who use their resources to pre-record the service for us. They have also created a podcast for the service and we are so blessed that they’re using their gifts to help us proclaim the word of God in our context. We are receiving communication from some un-churched people who are now subscribing to our podcast and letting us know that they will be listening every Sunday. Praise be to God!This has been made possible by the grace of God through Te Rangapū (Partnership) between Te Takiwā o Manukau, the Christian Broadcasting Association, and Radio Waatea.Te Pouhere in the Context of Māori EvangelismThe roots of the Gospel being shared in Aotearoa began through friendship and partnership. At Oihi Bay on Christmas Day in 1814, Reverend Samuel Marsden from CMS preached from Luke 2:10, with Ngā Puhi chief Ruatara translated into Te Reo Māori. This partnership to preach the Gospel message began a journey of many Māori being converted to Christianity and this continued to grow as Māori became pivotal evangelists to their own people. The pattern of this partnership between Rev. Samuel Marsden and Chief Ruatara to effectively spread the Good News of Jesus Christ here in Aotearoa is still being realised today. Praise God that I am one of two Māori Evangelists to partner with NZCMS in 2020, proclaiming the Gospel to our nation. God is doing a powerful and wonderful thing and we are so excited to be part of His plan as we work together. Keri-Ann is one of NZCMS’ Mission Partners evangelising to Maori. Click the photo of Keri-Ann below to learn more about her life and ministry.

Keri-Ann Hokianga, NZCMS Maori Evangelist