#NZCMS (for under 30s)

Meet our New Staff Member!

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We are very excited to announce that NZCMS has employed a new staff member! Anna Smart will be our new Promotions Officer, working part-time with our Mobilising team to promote Better World gap year. In this article, she shares the incredible way God has led her into this role. Ko Te Tiriti o Waitangi tōku kawenataI tipu ake ahau i raro i te maru o ngā Remutaka maunga ki te taha o Te AwakairangiKo Te Ati-Awa te mana whenuaKei Te Whanganui-a-Tara ahau e noho anaKo hāhi mihinare te whare karakiaKo New Zealand Church Missionary Society te rōpuKo Ngāti Pākehā te iwiKo Anna Smart tōku ingoaKia ora tātou, say hello to the new kid on the block! I am delighted to have just accepted a role with NZCMS as a Promotions Officer! But before telling you more about this role, I wanted to share some of my personal history and story first.  Involvement with CMS is a family tradition, it seems, with my maternal grandparents, Ross and Pauline Elliott, paving the way for me with their years of mission abroad. My mother and her siblings grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, which has not only shaped them profoundly but also blessed me with a deep sense of connection with such a rich and beautiful nation. I have memories of praying for my grandparents as a child while they were living in Uganda, reading books that they sent back to us about life in East Africa, and mum cooking us her favourite dishes she learned from her childhood in Kenya. I’ve been undeniably shaped by the ways my parents and grandparents have chosen to partner with God in their context, and what a joy it is to recognise and draw strength from that.In 2019 I ditched university and took a gap year with NZCMS, Better World’s pilot year. So many things were learnt, new experiences had, and friends made, all of which I will be writing and speaking about over the coming months. During this time, I realised how little opportunity most young people get to engage with the world’s brokenness in helpful forums. There are not many safe spaces for our rangatahi/youth to wrestle with that brokenness, engage with truthful historical narratives, and practice participating with God in bringing his Kingdom to earth. Better World is one of the few. Sadly, the global pandemic has thwarted a lot of plans and elicited logistical gymnastics the NZCMS Mobilising team never knew they could accomplish. But God has been present in all of that. There is something peculiarly special about Better World, and I am convinced that it is here to stay.So, cut to 2021, and I’m sitting in a café with our director Rosie Fyfe and suggesting to her, with all the zest you can possibly imagine, that if ever there was an opportunity to work with the Mobilising team, I would be extremely keen. And folks, a few months later, here we are.So what does my role as Promotions Officer for NZCMS look like? I will predominately be promoting the Better World gap year to schools and youth groups across the mōtu/country. It is my privilege to be involved in the mobilisation of future change-makers, knowing that there have been some phenomenal mentors in my own journey who have helped me recognise my own giftings and strengths that I have to offer the Kingdom. Special thanks and acknowledgement of those people. You know who you are.I am full of hope for the ways in which young people can be drawn to connect with the heart of NZCMS, and Im hopeful for the future of Better World. Ultimately, it is my hope that people, young and old alike, come to see the hand of God in their neighbourhoods, whether that be in Aotearoa or abroad. And upon noticing that presence, having the passion and the tools to work alongside our good God to see justice, healing and restoration come.I’ve recently been thinking a lot about spiritual ancestry and the ways in which we are connected to the spirituality of those who have gone before us. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, it does not escape me that I am standing on the shoulders of giants, especially those in my own whānau.  It is an immense privilege to be invited to work with NZCMS and to be part of the story that my whānau was writing long before I arrived. Who we are really matters because we are each created for different purposes, are shaped differently by our contexts and families, and have different gifts to bring to the table. Who I am and the people I come from has led me here, and I am excited for the journey ahead. To quote one of my favourite characters, Rafiki from The Lion King, “The question is: who are you?” We all know (and if not, watch The Lion King, you will not regret it) how much the answer to this question phenomenally changes Simba’s life. I wonder how much more it might change ours?

Anna Smart, Promotions Officer

Listening at Waitangi

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Ko Te Tiriti o Waitangi tōku kawenata I tipu ake ahau i raro i te maru o ngā Remutaka maunga ki te taha o Te Awakairangi Ko Te Ati-Awa te mana whenua Kei Te Whanganui-a-Tara ahau e noho ana Ko hāhi mihinare te whare karakia  Ko New Zealand Church Missionary Society te rōpu Ko Ngāti Pākehā te iwi Ko Anna Smart tōku ingoa The Treaty of Waitangi is my covenant  I grew up under the shadow of the Remutaka mountains beside the Awakairangi river Te Ati-Awa are the people with authority over the land I live in Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington)  The Anglican Church is the church I belong to  I am part of the New Zealand Church Missionary Society I am Pākehā  My name is Anna Smart This Waitangi Day in 2021 I found myself curling my toes in the grass of the whenua at Waitangi, washing dishes in the wharekai, and swimming in the beautiful moana at Paihia beach. Unlike most other Waitangi days in my lifetime, I spent this February 6 immersed in the story of our nation, and what a privilege that was.  Listening and Serving  Our history as the New Zealand Church Missionary Society is deeply entwined with the history of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and so our identity as an organisation is shaped by the events at Waitangi, both past and present. For this reason, NZCMS sent a small group of staff and friends of NZCMS to join the Karuwhā Trust in their Hīkoi ki Waitangi 2021, to learn more about our collective history. Ngā mihi nui Karuwhā Trust for your mahi. For myself and many others, the central objective of this hīkoi was to go to Waitangi to listen and serve.  The weekend was spent visiting significant historical locations related to Te Tiriti o Waitangi  – alongside tangata whenua and assisted by qualified historical narrators -, serving with hau kainga at Te Tii marae, swimming in warm Northland waters, observing public commemorations, asking plenty of hard questions and learning new things.  In my reflections of the weekend, I am reminded of Mary and Martha’s story in Luke 10:38-42.  Like Mary’s part in the story, this week was about listening. In this particular story, Jesus emphasises Mary’s choice to sit at his feet and listen, and I’d like to think that when Martha was called out of her work to listen to Jesus, after some time they’d all get up and start working together. Much like this story, it is essential that we in Aotearoa take the time to listen to our partners under Te Tiriti o Waitangi so that we might be able to work together well.  In this beautiful nation of Aotearoa, we have a complex history that colours our landscape and shapes the people that have walked, currently walk, and will walk in this land. For so long, this story has predominately been told through a Pākehā perspective, in a way that dodges the uncomfortable parts, the gruesome parts, and some of the really profound parts. In this moment of information accessibility, the ability to borrow books and use Google, we must extend our horizons of learning. Especially for those of us who identify as Pākehā, we must learn how to listen. As we have conversations in the church in Aotearoa about local mission and the decolonisation of mission, we must place Te Tiriti o Waitanig, te kawenata tapu – the sacred covenant – at the centre of these discussions.  Choosing Powerlessness I’d like to speak directly to my Pākehā readers now Something I have been reflecting on while I’ve been in Northland is the importance of choosing powerlessness as a wāhine Pākehā. As a Pākehā living in a Pākehā dominated society, I, by virtue of my skin colour and my whakapapa, have more privileges and power than my Māori friends. When I enter a te ao Māori context, it is essential that I put down that power, choose the place of powerlessness and of humble learning and service. This choosing of powerlessness and of choosing interdependence with others is the way of Jesus.  By placing myself into this place of powerlessness and interdependence I can begin to put my worldview aside and try and step into that of another. I begin to see things I wouldn’t otherwise. I certainly don’t get it right all the time. I choose self-preservation over vulnerability, and there is grace for that. It is, after all, a process of learning. But to walk towards reconciliation, us Pākehā need to learn to put down our power and pick up a spirit of repentance, of humility. I’ve learned these things while ironing tablecloths with hau kainga. While watching the sunrise above the flagstaff on the Treaty Grounds. While eating watermelon under the Northland sun.  From this stance of listening and serving, we are able to enter friendship. When we have a foundation of relationship, we can walk towards honouring Te Tiriti, towards reconciliation, towards partnership with each other. When we dance this delicate dance of friendship, not shying away from that which renders us vulnerable or afraid, we journey closer to one another. Brené Brown, an American professor, said “…it is hard to hate anyone close up”, and to that I say, lean in.  Our time with the Karuwhā Trust, being so generously hosted by Te Tii marae, and serving alongside hau kainga, was the utmost privilege. For me, it felt like a look into the possibility of being reconciled to one another. I have been left with more questions than I have answers, and that is okay. There are many things I am reflecting on and will be writing about in coming weeks, but for now, I leave you with the challenge of deep listening. As Te Rautini sing in their song Te Ao Marama; “Listen to the land, listen to the spirit, listen to the breath, listen to the life we share.”  Anna writes regularly in her blog which you can check out here.

Anna Smart, NZCMS Short Term Intern

Participating in God’s Work of Hope in Aotearoa

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On February 3, 2020, I began my role as one of two Māori Evangelist for the Manukau, Auckland area in Aotearoa New Zealand. Just over six weeks later Aotearoa moved into alert level 4, putting us all into lockdown.You might be thinking it must be hard to be grateful to God for starting a new evangelism ministry right in the middle of a pandemic. Businesses and education facilities shut down. Tangihana (funerals) were limited to small numbers. Churches were unable to gather. Fear was so present during lockdown in my community that many were tempted to lose hope. But I will show you why I have had many reasons to hope, and many reasons to be grateful for all God did in 2020.New Initiatives of HopeForty-eight hours before Aotearoa moved into level 4 our team, led by the Venerable Archdeacon Lyndon Drake, decided to serve our church community online with an Anglican Eucharist service. We acted straight away and purchased all the equipment required to ensure our live streaming and pre-recorded services ran smoothly. I gave thanks to God for providing the funding needed to purchase this equipment.I also felt that God had told me that a spirit of fear was present in my community. So we advertised our services online and through print, including Psalm 23:1 written in both Māori and English. Incredibly, we reached over a thousand people! Over lockdown, my bubble was the worship team for these services. We recorded songs of hīmene (hymns of praise) and helped to lead some of the liturgies as well.Many people began reaching out for prayer while watching from their homes. They also commented on the preaching, singing and liturgy being broadcast live on social media. How could we not be grateful to God for such an impact!?The team’s second initiative over lockdown was to offer pastoral care by any possible means. We used phone calls, text, e-mails, Zoom and even a couple Facebook messages! We listened to people and prayed with them through their struggles, and many relationships were formed with people who had fallen away from the church. Even in the midst of this pandemic, the Gospel was being shared.Widespread Reach In May, we were able to gather in small groups of 10 people. My whānau and I were part of the worship and prayer group who live-streamed our Sunday Eucharist service from our church, Te Karaiti te Pou Herenga Waka, in Mangere. This service had over 1400 views and 215 comments from people watching, showing how engaged they were. We had more attendance at this online church than we’ve had in quite some time in our Māori Anglican church. On May 24, NZCMS’ second Māori  Evangelist, Howard Te Hauoterangi Karaka, and I were given a weekly, 30-minute slot every Sunday morning on a Māori Radio station called Waatea News. We provided a contemporary, bilingual liturgical service and reached up to 5000 people most weeks. This was made possible through our partnership with the Christian Broadcasting Association who helped us record the program we called “Karakia Rātapu”. We continue to lead this service every Sunday at 9:00 am. The team at Christian Broadcasting Association has also blessed us by making Karakia Rātapu into a podcast, which we hope to reach a younger audience with the Gospel.Finally, I also began facilitating a new discipleship program at Te Puea marae here in Auckland, alongside Reverend Mark Barnard, the priest in charge of St James Church in Mangere Bridge. This discipleship program is called Moko-a-Rangi, which translates as “a Heavenly mark of approval”. We use the medium of tāmoko (cultural tattoo) to teach on the theme of identity.We’ve seen the Holy Spirit move powerfully among those who have attended the program, with about ten coming regularly. Our hope is that we will be able to use this program to help people take steps towards Jesus Christ and explore faith through discussion and activities in a safe but also ‘stretching’ environment. We have seen real hope become tangible this year. And it has only inspired us to hope for more. In all this, I give thanks to God for making a way through a very tough year, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I feel as though the Spirit of God is at work, and I’ve just been catching the wave and joining in on what he is already doing! Praise be to God.“…I nga mea katoa me whakawhetai atu; ko ta te Atua hoki tenei i pai ai i roto i a Karaiti Ihu hei mahi ma koutou.“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”– 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Floods, mosquitos and COVID-19

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One of our Mission Partners in Pakistan recently sent this update and a collection of photos from her area. Please join us in praying for her and the community in which she serves.After the Pakistan government announcement that schools and Colleges are allowed to reopen on September 15 (after 6 months of being closed), seemingly good news, it is not even possible for many in the rural areas. Extreme monsoon rains and widespread flooding have caused havoc in the area, with water not draining away and therefore many villages becoming flooded. Many people are living on charpais on the side of road which is where the highest land is. They are currently dealing with trying to access food and basic needs while being exposed to a plague of mosquitoes which some describe as being as thick as the locusts which came through previously. These mosquitoes bother not just people, but animals too, causing many deaths from the ensuing disease. People are therefore seeking mosquito netting to protect animals as well as themselves.The grounds of the School and Colleges which our hostel students attend are themselves flooded out, and cannot open by next week and not until the water can be drained. While the rains happened at the end of August, due to the drainage issues water still lies deep in many places.In light of all this, the Hostel will delay calling the students back. We are watching the situation as rains are predicted again September 22. We are hoping that we will be able to bring hostel students back so they can continue their studies by the end of the month. Please pray with us for the many challenges these communities are facing.

This article was originally written September 10.

Miriam’s Moments in Mango

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Miriam runs the Pharmacy at the Hospital of Hope in the town of Mango in Togo, Africa. Life in Mango has been affected by the Covid-19 virus as has most of the world. Borders, airports, roads, schools, mosques, churches and ‘disco techs’ have all been ordered closed by the Togolese government. So far we have been fortunate not to have any confirmed cases at the Hospital of Hope. However the number of cases do continue to climb slowly in Togo and the surrounding countries. Worldometers is now a daily addiction… when the internet works.The closure of the airport has meant that short-term volunteers are no longer able to come and with scheduled furloughs upon us we have drastically reduced missionaries on the field. This has increased the workload on the remaining long-term staff. Please pray for stamina, grace and patience for those who stay behind.Ministries outside of the hospital such as village churches, French club and prison visits have been suspended due to the government regulations. We are very grateful that the radio ministry has been able to continue, including broadcasting sermons from a local church on Sunday mornings. Groups of up to 15 people are still able to meet so we are able to visit our Togolese friends. Please pray that people are able to tune in to the radio and continue bible studies on their own.I felt a little left out from all the hoarding that I heard about going on around the world but as you can see I was able to join in a little bit ‘Mango Styles’.Read more about Miriam’s life and ministry in Mango by clicking the image below.

Miriam Tillman,

Mission Partner in Togo, Africa

Better World Update

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Kia ora everyone, Guy and Summer here. We are excited to bring you an update about what Better World Gap Year has been up to during and post Covid-19 Lockdown.In February, as the circumstances surrounding the pandemic began to escalate, our team were in Fiji. We made moves to bring them back early for their safety and managed to get them back to New Zealand on the last commercial flight out of Fiji just days before our country went into Level 4 lockdown (a bit of unexpected excitement for our crew!). In the days that followed, as decisions came down from the government, we made the very difficult decision that Better World 2020 could not continue under the current global circumstances. We got our team back home to their bubbles and debriefed them via zoom. We are also currently helping to support them as they make choices about how to spend the rest of their year, and working with ministry partners to provide opportunities for discipleship and community that don’t depend on open borders and international travel.Our leadership team spent levels 4 and 3 in prayer and discernment, asking God to show us our next steps for the future of Better World as a programme. With so much unknown both here and around the world, it has been quite difficult to know how to move forward. Now that things are feeling a bit more certain for New Zealand, however, we have been working hard to re-imagine Better World for next year.Better World was designed and founded on the principles of discipleship through deep engagement in mission and social justice both in New Zealand and around the world. We seek to take young people on a journey full of adventure, discovery, and a deepening relationship with God. At this point we have no idea when it will be safe to travel overseas again, but we do know that we can still do all those things and go on a radical journey together right here in New Zealand in 2021.Together with Sam and Luca, our amazing Better World leaders, we are in the process of designing Better World 2021 to take place right here in New Zealand. We will explore the same deep and important issues of social justice from and in our own backyard. We will travel around the country to meet phenomenal people, be a part of radical communities of Christians who are doing their part to bring about God’s Kingdom here on earth and find plenty of amazing adventures.Are you or someone you know interested in joining this once in a lifetime, local edition of Better World Gap Year? Get in touch with us at info@betterworld.org.nz. Details on applications are coming soon. Or check out the Better World website here.Better World 2021 is going to be huge!

Guy & Summer BentonNZCMS Mission Enalbers

Meet our new National Director: Rosie Fyfe

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It is NZCMS Trust Board’s privilege and pleasure to announce Rosie Fyfe as the New Zealand Church Missionary Society’s new National Director, taking up her appointment on July 22nd.One of the most striking features of this appointment is that Rosie already embodies NZCMS’s missional DNA, having worked for five years in Egypt and understanding what it means to be a Mission Partner and to live cross-culturally.  While living in Cairo she was the Director of the Diocesan Partnership Office, responsible for building partnerships to support the ministries of the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, a large diocese which includes eight countries. This involved her in the planning and implementation of health, education, theological, interfaith, and community development projects, as well as communicating what the Church was doing in Egypt. Prior to becoming a NZCMS Mission Partner, Rosie graduated from Victoria University of Wellington with an honours degree in History and Statistics. Recruited as part of a graduate leadership development programme, she then worked for several years at Statistics New Zealand, including leading a project that developed New Zealand’s first official measures of sustainable development.After completing her time in Egypt, Rosie continued her studies in the USA. She gained a Master’s degree in Church History and Theology at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, an evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition that aims to form Christian leaders for mission. Founded by a CMS Australia missionary, Trinity continues to base its vision on the mission principles first expressed by John Venn in 1799 in England at the beginning of CMS’s history. Rosie returned to New Zealand at the end of 2018, and took up a role in the Intercultural Communities project, a partnership between the Diocese of Wellington and NZCMS. She currently lives in the Community of the Transfiguration, a missional community with rhythms of prayer, hospitality, and outreach to Victoria University, connected to St Michael’s Anglican Church in Kelburn, Wellington. Rosie seeks to be involved in mission wherever she is, and is passionate about the Church reaching out beyond its walls to show God’s love. Living in Egypt during two revolutions and the Arab Spring, she witnessed the way that the Church in Egypt continued to reach out in love and serve their neighbours even during challenging times. Over the years, Rosie has been involved in a number of community ministries in Wellington, including outreach to international students, community dinners in inner-city Wellington, and refugee resettlement. She has been actively involved in the life of St Michael’s through leading services, preaching and leading the global missions group. Rosie loves to get out into the great outdoors of New Zealand whenever she can. Rosie’s life has been immersed in outreach and mission – she has lived and breathed it.  She brings gifts of communication, wide cultural understanding, strategic leadership and team management skills.  She has vision and theological depth, and we look forward to ways in which God will use her to grow His Kingdom in the coming months and years.  As she anticipates her new responsibilities, Rosie feels honoured to be part of the NZCMS story in Aotearoa New Zealand and is excited to serve NZCMS in this role.We would value your prayers as Rosie prepares to take up this important role.

Singles & Community

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NZCMS Board member, Ian Daily, reflects on how those gifted with singleness find and belong to an intimate, fulfilling and outward looking community. “Don’t expect us to be your friends – we’re very busy people!” The words of this thoughtless and unfeeling remark left me stunned and without words for a minute. Here I was, returning home to New Zealand after 21 years away – a single person without a spouse with whom to share the challenges of adjusting to a new life in an environment that was now strange and unfamiliar. I suddenly felt very alone. The family members and friends I’d had when I’d left so long before had all moved on with their lives and I realised that my network of relationships had to some degree unraveled. There were now few common interests, and not many could relate to my overseas experience and weren’t very interested anyway. I needed a new community into which I could be welcomed, where I could find a place to give and receive, and where I could serve God in a new context. And I was now well and truly middle-aged!Of course, all this had happened in reverse 20 years earlier when I’d arrived in South America, but I was young then and was invigorated by discovering how to live in a new culture and learn a new language. There were quite a few other single Mission Partners (as well as welcoming missionary families) and friendships were quickly formed, many of which have endured to this day. There was an instant missionary community we fitted into and we forged friendships with many of the local people.The number of single people in overseas mission was, and still is, quite striking. At present 30% of NZCMS’s Mission Partners are singles. This is a far higher proportion of single adults in this age group than you will find in the general population. What would overseas mission look like were it not for single women who have been open to serving God in this way throughout the generations?The blessings and dangers of a single life We all start our lives as singles, and as God’s children we are to accept that gift. For many, there comes the opportunity to exchange the gift of singleness for the gift of marriage and they are to embrace that gift as God’s calling on their life. For the rest of us, we still have the gift that God means us to have. Some will go on to take vows of celibacy but most of us are “unintentional” singles who “ended up this way” but who are to continue embracing the gift God has given. Singleness often brings loneliness and a lack of human intimacy, sometimes a sense of not fitting in and an unwarranted sense of failure. But it brings freedom and opportunities that couples often don’t have. I’m not sure I would have visited more than 70 countries on mostly work assignments had I not been single! And, for many, a deeper level of intimacy with God is found. It also brings dangers of self-indulgence and of shutting other people out. The bottom line is that we must echo Paul’s words in Philippians 4. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”So what can we singles do to find a sense of community? Looking back over the 20 years since I returned home, I have found the following strategies helpful.Maintaining family networks while awayI have literally dozens of cousins and we have reunions every few years. This engenders a sense of belonging and reinforces a sense of personal identity. I have people out there who belong to me, and I to them. Get to know them again and strengthen old ties.Building relationshipsA place of work is a great place to build new relationships. The same applies to where you live – getting to know neighbours and getting involved in local activities. This has certainly been true for me, living in a community of 59 families, and now co-chairing the committee that oversees the care and maintenance of our homes. Many nationalities live here and I can even speak Spanish to my Colombian neighbour!VolunteeringEvery Friday I drive the buggy at Selwyn Village for those with mobility issues. This has allowed me to get to know a totally different group of people, both staff and residents, and provides me with moments of ministry and a window into a completely different world.Being involved in a faith communityDespite the dispiriting start to this article, my closest and most faithful friends and prayer partners did surround me with encouragement and support. I also joined a small and warm congregation, which incidentally has many singles, including the “once-were-married” and the widowed. Very quickly a sense of belonging and community developed and this is where I felt the strongest sense of community as I became involved in the activities and ministry of the parish.Those who have never married are not to be considered objects of pity, suspicion or condescension. Their life has simply taken a different path – they have received a different gift in life from the majority. They have been granted freedom and time to devote to Christian ministry as the Apostle Paul noted as being one of the advantages of singleness (I Corinthians 7). And many have discovered a special intimacy with their Lord and the joy of being able to channel their reserves of love to the widest possible number of people around them. Let us bless God who gives us the grace that goes with each and every gift he bestows!Questions to considerIn a society that is so focused on romantic relationships as being the pathway to true happiness and fulfillment, in what ways can singleness be viewed as an alternative model of human completeness? How can love of others, as opposed to love of the human “significant other”, help us to understand the character and breadth of God’s love?What ideas do you have about how the gifts and experience of single people (whether they have overseas mission experience or not) could be harnessed to enhance the ministry and outreach of local faith communities?  Most churches have significant numbers of ‘home-aloners’ in their congregations. Many will have felt that their networks of relationships have unraveled over the years, or have worries about living alone, especially if they are older. What more can your faith community do to strengthen a sense of community, belonging and care?

Where God Guides, he Provides

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CMS Mission Partner, Dianne, reflects on the fruit and faithfulness of God as she leads a children’s ministry in the Philippines. “You did not choose me but I have chosen you…….that you might go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” – John 15:16I went back to Philippines in January 2018 with a broken arm. A good way to start the year! But I knew that way back God chose me to come here to the Philippines and therefore he would fix it. In January 1976 I was driving my rusty little VW over the hills to Camp Raglan where 120 plus children were arriving for a week long camp. I read the verse for today on my dashboard which said ”…the Lord has chosen you…to serve Him.” – 2Chronicles 29:11. At that moment the word “Philippines” flashed across my mind. I told the Lord “I don’t want to go there!”  I could go to England yes, because I could visit relatives I’d never seen before. However I then added “Well Lord, if this is really from you please make it clear!” The next day my director went to our P. O. Box for the mail. I hardly wrote letters, so I hardly received any. He gave me a blue airmail letter, which was my first ever letter from the Philippines, and it contained a direct invitation to join the children’s ministry there! Since then, I’ve known very clearly this whole time that God has chosen me to minister in the Philippines and he provides what we need to obey him.Fruit that I’ve seenOur fruit for Jesus just keeps on growing! From  teachers sharing the Gospel in their classes, parent’s Bible studies and the odd parent our Principal leads to the Lord, to children and staff devotions in the Children’s Home and visiting disabled people who are “shut ins” in their homes.  We held a Summer Children’s Camp, to which 80 came. I worked with four Bible Clubs which saw 80 plus come to Jesus. Two training seminars brought in another 170 children. A very meaningful event for me was hearing the blind pastor in our Camp for Disabled clearly preaching a salvation message along with his own personal testimony using his braille Bible.Overall, I can conservatively estimate that 400 people have come to Jesus in the past year, most of those mainly children. What incredible fruit!Fruit going on for JesusAnother area where I have seen fruit is in the ongoing involvement of former students. We held reunions for both former Bible College alumni and Children’s Home alumni, which brought about 80 people to tell their stories and catch up with us. A good number are involved with churches, some with Christian schools and some are overseas or in far distant places. Three new teachers in our school are former pupils and converts, who want to continue this legacy. To top it all off one of our former children’s home boys, who is now a businessman, contacted me a month ago from Qatar. He had started a church plant there for a Baptist church a few years back and wanted lecture material on children’s ministry so he could teach their members! How is that for fruit going on for Jesus!“Whatever you ask in my name, I will give to you”. – John 14:13Another story is very close to my kiwi heart! One of the most joyful events in the Children’s Home is when we celebrate a children’s birthday. All was set for the day. The decorations were ready, the gifts were wrapped, the games were prepared, and the favourite food was ready to cook. And of course we had a cake. Unfortunately, we had no ice-cream! We had prayed, but there was just not enough in the budget for it. However, the Lord says “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” – Isaiah 55:8.Early next morning there was a knock on the Children’s Home door and a man entered with a steel container with two big tubs of ice-cream! The owner of the Popular Ice-cream Company was having his birthday that day and he thought he would share his blessings with the children in the home. Everyone was surprised and jumping with joy. Thank you Lord!If you remember, at the beginning of this article, I wrote about how I broke my arm at the beginning of last year. Well it has now healed beautifully and I can even do push ups! In reflecting on the fruit that I’ve seen God grow in the last year, I am constantly reminded, just like with the story of my broken arm, when God chooses you he provides your needs!

Elected to be Friends of God

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What are the challenges inherent in Jesus calling his disciples friends? Our Mission Partner in the Solomon Islands, Jonathan, shares his story.Election is a difficult subject for most people. And I’m not referring to what went down at the polls in the United States. I’m speaking about the scriptural teaching that God elects or chooses certain people to fulfil specific purposes. This teaching raises several tough issues. While talking to God, Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof points out two of them when he says – “I know, I know. We are your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?” 1) The choosing of some means that others are not chosen. 2) The chosen do not always like it. Though we can’t hope to address both of these issues adequately here, we can look for a moment at the second.We overhear Jesus in John’s Gospel declaring that he has elected his disciples. “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (15:16). Jesus speaks of his election in the past tense. And as it turns out, he is referring to something he mentioned just a verse earlier when he said “I no longer call you servants…Instead, I have called you friends.” If any evidence is needed of Jesus’ right to call his disciples friends, he has already supplied it when he says that he will lay down his life for them in John 15:13. So Jesus elects the disciples as friends by loving them to the end. The Challenge of ElectionListening in attentively, we hear Jesus telling the disciples what this friendship entails. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing” (15:15). And a little later in verse sixteen – “I…appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” The two thoughts, knowing what the master is doing and going to bear fruit, are connected. The friend, knowing the master’s plan for the vineyard, can no longer use the servant’s excuse for passivity. The servant will spoil the master’s plan if he acts in ignorance of his will. So the prudent servant waits and does not act until the master commands him. But not so the friend. He knows. And because he knows he is summoned continually to “Go! Bear fruit!” As long as the master is working, his beloved friends work with him. Far from lessening the workload of the newly-befriended, Jesus has increased it three-fold! Warming to the challenge that this election will present to his disciples, Jesus continues. The world will hate them because, now that he has chosen them, they are no longer of the world (John 15:18-19). If they needed any proof of Jesus’ words, they had only to wait a few short hours before the mob arrived in Gethsemane. “So let’s get this straight,” they might have been thinking. “Now that we’re your friends, we’re going to work harder than ever before, and we’re going to be hated by the world the same way you are?” To borrow a line from Shakespeare – “Ay, there’s the rub.” And we’re not even done yet! 1 John makes it clear that God’s friendship with the apostles is paradigmatic for his friendship with other disciples. That’s right, with us. When John calls his readers “beloved” he is referring primarily to God’s disposition toward them (4:7, 11). We have this name because of God’s choice. 1 John 4:10 says: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us.” We also have the same responsibility that the disciples had, born of the knowledge of God: “[L]et us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (4:11). And finally, we’re caught in the same intense hostility between the love of God and the world (2:15-17) in which they were entangled. The challenge of being elected God’s friends is no bed of roses! And so we run into the perennial temptation to re-write the script. We internalise the idea of God’s friendship in the following – distorted – ways. Jesus – “Hey guys, I love you all just the way you are. I wouldn’t change a thing about any one of you!” The disciples – “Yeah, we know. We’re all pretty decent…” Jesus – “I don’t want to force this on you, but I want to let you in on my master plan. It’ll be pretty tough, so I don’t want you to agree until you know what you’re getting yourselves into.” The disciples – looking at each other with uncertainty – “All right…” Jesus – “I want you all to love other people the way I love you. It’ll be pretty hard at first, but the world will come around sooner or later to the fact that all it needs is love.” The disciples – “Can we try it on for size first and see whether or not we like it?” The biggest problem with re-writing the script in this way is that we begin to participate in a world that is not real. And “the rub” – as Shakespeare put it – is eventually much stiffer in this imaginary world. Why? Because God is not at work there, in this imaginary world of ours. Instead, Jesus is our consultant friend and we are its kings.Resisting the CallAllow me to illustrate. Recently, obedience to a clear leading from God and ecclesial authority led my family to take up a missionary post in the Solomon Islands. Our first year was difficult and when the second year arrived things didn’t improve. Our children got sick on a regular basis. My wife and I, for what seemed like months at a time, were taking care of their sores from dinner to bedtime. My work wasn’t very satisfying. I spent hours preparing for lectures that, as far as I could tell, had very little impact on my students. The climate was stifling. We had some serious relational problems with our fellow-villagers. So I stopped investing. I began to work on various projects that had very little relation to my missionary vocation, but that satisfied my longing to do something fulfilling. This period lasted for over a year. Through out I had numerous warnings that I was responding to these difficulties in a way that was unfaithful to my calling. I tried to ignore them, and had a sense that I was turning my back on God and the people he had sent me to. I wanted to sleep constantly, but this had more in common with the guilty sleep of Jonah than the tranquil sleep of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee! After my wife and I realised how depressed I’d become, we began to pray, asking the Lord to give us joy in our vocation again. Several months later, after recommitting ourselves fully to the work before us, joy began to return.The Three Facets of Friendship I had been forgetting three spiritual matters so important to the life of friendship with God. First, God remains Lord when he elects us to friendship. “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Within this divine choice we’re free to act as God’s friends, working with him in the way that we know he is working. In my case that means teaching his Word faithfully, loving and being present with his people, and praying for them daily. But we’re no longer free to withhold what God has claimed as his own when he calls us friends. I became depressed because I was acting against my own being as a friend of God. I was acting against freedom.The second spiritual aspect I had forgotten was – “I appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” The kind of fruit we bear depends wholly on whether we’re working in the Lord’s vineyard, or in vineyards of our own planting. We know now what our friend and master is doing. He is planting a harvest that will grow up to everlasting life. To refuse this calling is to bear fruit that will perish or to bear no fruit at all. And finally –“I appointed you so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” For the present, our own evaluation of whether our work seems fulfilling or not is unreliable. We’re told though that our future desire will correspond with his. We will come to love that which he loves. This will happen as we claim that for which God has elected us. We will pray for and receive things beyond our comprehension now, because he is inviting us “further up and deeper in” to that friendship whose depths are eternal. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (15:7). Let us come to know God not in the imaginary friendship we would elect for ourselves. Rather, let us receive God’s friendship as it is, given to challenge and change us, and given before we could even ask for it.