Hello all! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I first wrote this almost three weeks ago, but we had a 7-day block without any internet and then very poor signal since then. Also, the humidity and a sneaky ant colony have both upset my keyboard and rendered a third of my laptop keys useless. I was tempted to write this missing a third of the letters as a Lockdown entertained test for you all, but I decided against it as I confused myself while writing it! So I’ve waited till I could fix my laptop and here we are. The multifaceted work Scott is doing is overflowing with progress and tangible benefits for the community here. The proposals he has prepared and submitted for funding were successful with donors in the Netherlands. From this, a project trialling ten toilets and tanks for the two neighbouring villages will be able to start. Funding for the building of a Grade 9/10 – equivalent to NZ’s year 10 and 11 – classroom has also been secured. Kapuna Life School has recently been approved to offer these grades which will help keep kids at school longer. If these were not offered here, kids would either not finish their schooling at all or, if the families have the resources and family connections, would have to be sent to education centres far away.A plan to build some new staff housing to support the recruitment of quality staff was also part of the funding proposal which will also begin in time. It is so satisfying to see these things happen because of Scott’s work. This also means that many of the building team who were trained for the hospital rebuild will be able to offer work after the first project has reached completion at the end of this year. Thank you to our supporters for getting us here. It is because of you that these things are happening!I, Nikki, have started taking over more of the Shop Manager role here and am learning how to order supplies for the community. All packaged food, household goods and building supplies come on the barge once a month and are ordered through the shop. Of course the ‘shop front’ is more of a window and grate you look through while paying for your goods.There has been less of a need for my expertise as a Physiotherapist at the Hospital. It comes in waves, and fortunately so, as I’ve just recently been asked to take over teaching the Grade 2 class for an undetermined amount of time. The teacher suddenly became ill and may not be able to return, so scanning around, it appeared I am the best option available! It’s funny how things work out because I had a conversation that same morning with our new Dutch neighbours about homeschooling. I was saying that as much as I enjoyed spending time with the kids and knowing what they’re learning, I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a teacher. And then I go and commit to 3, 4, 5 weeks or more of teaching a real class! God must’ve been having a good chuckle that day. But then I’m sure he’ll equip me with the patience and stamina I need. The children will be studying roughly in the equivalent of a New Zealand Year 3 class and are aged between 8-13 years old.A big relief came the day we received our first Covid-19 vaccination. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of resistance here to vaccines that has come from the West, but education is spreading, and free choice is still a priority. We haven’t had any known Covid-19 cases in Kapuna for a month now, so hopefully, that continues, and the Delta variant stays away. Otherwise, the effect could be devastating in this poor, isolated and TB-ridden region.Recently we just received our second jab. A box arrived one day and with two minutes notice, Scott and I were ushered into a room to get them! We’re very happy to have received the full dose, especially with news of a potential Delta outbreak starting in the Capital.The kids are doing well although they did recently have head lice. Levi also had a nasty bout of tonsilitis. Abby’s infected mosquito bites turned into Tropical Ulcers, which were pretty gross and scary looking. You’ll see the scars from those when we get home! Scott is still battling several weeks of Amoebic Dysentry and has just started another round of medication. Prayers for health and protection are much appreciated.The kids continue to enjoy time outside with their new friends. Abby has a group of girls she plays card games with each afternoon while the boys tend to dart around amongst the trees and sugar cane, catching grasshoppers or throwing mud balls. We bought some simple slingshots in the Highlands and have joined the fight against the fruit bats who eat our pawpaw and banana. Scott hit one the other night and our neighbours were very happy. We decided not to eat it and blessed them with an after-dinner snack.So, life here is full of adventures and challenges. We’ve come to recognise how much the heat and lack of food options have taken a toll on us, but we can see the fruit of the labourers who are committed to this place and community. We’re grateful for the longstanding commitment of the Calvert family who are still here in parts, and for the other volunteers who come and go. We’re so grateful for the support, both financially and prayerfully, of all of you in New Zealand and our Whanau and friends around the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you.Amid the internet challenges, we’ve set up an Instagram Page and Facebook page to document and share our adventures. We will update as the internet allows. If you’d like to follow these updates search for “wheelers.on.a.mission” on Instagram and “Wheeler’s_on_a_mission” on Facebook.Many blessings,Nikki, Scott, Isaac, Abby and LeviFun in the mud Our first pineapple!Coconut break Unloading the bargeLevi’s new toyChoresJab number 2Too many distractions!NutsKapuna HospitalThat’s a big boat!
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
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
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
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
Keri-Ann Hokianga, NZCMS Maori Evangelist