By Kirstin Cant
Nine years ago, I had just finished studying a bit of theology and I came across a job with a mission organisation I had never heard of, that was offering a role right in the niche of what I was passionate about: journeying with young people who were keen on exploring global mission and making a difference in the world. Little did I know what following that ‘yes’ to take on the role of Youth Mobiliser with NZCMS would be.
Looking back over the past nine years, it can be easy to look for the numbers to measure one’s efforts (Enneagram number 3 anyone?!). But achiever-gremlins aside, it is not the number of talks I’ve given, or the number of flights and places I’ve visited, or the amount of interns or discipleship teams that I’m counting. I am deeply impacted by the faithfulness of God and the many courageous people I have journeyed alongside.
A well-known and well used Māori proverb of our country continues to be true for me:
He aha te mea nui o te ao
He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people!
I celebrate and treasure the people I have met and got to know on this journey through NZCMS. From enthusiastic young people wishing to change the world, to passionate older people praying for the transforming Mission of God week after week. From cynical young adults fed up with religiosity and seeking to put their hands up for God’s radical mission, to people in leadership figuring out how to create communities of missional discipleship.
Time and again, I have been inspired by the sacredness of journeying with someone seeking to step out and participate in God’s mission work. To witness their courageous ‘Yes!’ to God’s mission invitation; whether that was being sent across the street, sent across the country, or sent across the world. Be it two weeks or twenty years, the spirit of ‘yes’ to God’s mission call is alive in Aotearoa and around the world.
However, this ‘yes’ to participating in God’s mission is full of the unexpected. In saying ‘yes’ to following Jesus, in saying ‘yes’ to God’s mission call, it seems we are faced with the brutal realities of all the ways God’s Kingdom is not yet here. There are many reasons to give up hope. There are setbacks, losses, disappointments, and change. It can be a disorienting and brutal journey. Over the years I have known many a youth worker, missionary, leader, intern, or young person who has experienced loss, grief, disappointment and a sense of ‘failure’ on the journey – myself included. It has, at times, been utterly wretched. What we hope for, and the reality of life has seemed miles apart. Our own lives crumble. Our world thrown into chaos. We have hurt one another, failing to uphold the mana and dignity of one another’s cultures, identity, stories and pain. (And for my part in this, I ask for your grace and forgiveness.).
Yet, I have discovered, in spite of this – or perhaps even because of this – we are a people of courage.
It takes courage to honestly face the pain of life. It takes courage to raise our voices to God screaming “What the heck?!” when we have been hurt or see our world hurting. It takes courage to experience loss and still choose to celebrate God’s miracles breaking through elsewhere. It takes courage to weep alongside others in the ‘not yet’ of God’s Kingdom and dare to hold Kingdom hope praying God let your Kingdom come!”. It takes a courageous belief and a gritty, furious hope to choose to participate and enact God’s Kingdom of peace, justice, other-centred love and forgiveness while experiencing all the evidence of the opposite in our world.
We are a people who courageously wrestle with the world around us and our own lives and find our deepest disappointments and griefs are met by a courageous and crucified King. Our scarred and resurrected Lord. One who has entered the pain and darkness of death itself and declared ‘no, this is not the end’.
It is a courageous Gospel story we inhabit each and every day – in relationship with one another and in relationship with our God; Father, Son and Spirit. It is God’s ‘yes’ to us and God’s faithfulness to continue inviting us into God’s transforming work of restoration and renewal. Let’s continue to respond with a courageous ‘yes’ to be God’s sent people in this world – wherever that might lead us next.
To the many, many people who have prayed, given, listened, challenged, inspired, and offered their friendship and courage to me on this journey of seeing God’s Kingdom come, I wholeheartedly thank you. Thank you for witnessing Kingdom Hope to me, for inspiring me with your courage, and for letting me journey alongside the sacredness of your story, whanau and community. I pray that whatever the next steps of our journey might be, you and I would know God’s enduring goodness, God’s steadfast presence in the darkest of nights, and the joy of the Lord’s miraculous, courageous and surprising Kingdom. Amen.
Nga mihi nui, see you around my friends. To the journey ahead.