Ever since the start of our nation-wide lockdown way back in March, I have often been asked two questions: “where are all the NZCMS Mission Partners currently located?” and “when is NZCMS going to start sending Mission Partners out again?” I’m writing today to provide an update, and to invite you into prayer as we look out past the shores of New Zealand.
Where are our Mission Partners now?
The graphic shows where our Mission Partners are currently located. Some were already in NZ in March and find themselves stuck here. Others returned to NZ for health or other reasons. Some had been accepted as Mission Partners but had not yet departed to their overseas location of service.
The majority of our Mission Partners who were overseas at the time that COVID-19 became widespread have chosen to stay on location. They face a range of difficult situations - some have very restricted lives, while others have more freedom of movement. All are seeking to be faithful in their roles and responsibilities, and discern the new opportunities that God is placing in front of them.
When is NZCMS going to start sending Mission Partners again?
Sending out Mission Partners globally during a pandemic requires different conversations and planning. The NZCMS staff team, with governance oversight from the NZCMS Trust Board, have put in place new processes for making decisions which take into account COVID-19 impacts on sending out Mission Partners. Recently, two Mission Partners were approved to return to location and are booked to fly out by the end of August.
For mission organisations like NZCMS, decisions around sending out Mission Partners during a global pandemic brings to the forefront questions around risk. Engaging in global mission generally requires taking on greater levels of risk in terms of personal safety. Mission Partners who serve with NZCMS accept that there is a higher chance of experiencing things like political instability, tighter finances, or lower quality of medical services on location.
Furthermore, the call of Mission Partners is to live long-term in another country: to learn language, to enter another culture, and to walk alongside others in living out and proclaiming the good news of the Gospel. The loyalty to stay and serve often urges Mission Partners to be present in vulnerable situations, and to stay during difficult times alongside local partners.
The reality of risk-taking in global missions is to be held in tension with the duty of care that NZCMS has for our Mission Partners. An article from the Lausanne Movement describes well the balance required between avoiding risk and embracing the inherent vulnerabilities of global mission. Both the call to leave a place of safety to serve, and the call for caution, are found within Scripture, and these values need to be held in healthy tension.
The author suggests asking the following questions:
1) What is my missiology of risk? What are my deeper values and beliefs around risk-taking?
2) Am I falling into the trap of wanting to be a hero, even if, with staying, I only become a liability?
3) Whose decision is it whether I leave or stay? What weight should be given to the voices of the ministry partners, the sending church, the leadership of the organisation, and the workers?
4) Is it time to consider new ways of working in which the ministry is less dependent on expat presence?
These are not easy questions to ask or to answer. The NZCMS staff team are committed to walking closely with our Mission Partners as we make these decisions together. I am thankful that during my time serving in Egypt, I personally faced these questions and I received invaluable support from NZCMS at that time. It is a privilege to journey alongside our Mission Partners during these times.
Reminding ourselves that God is on His throne
A NZ leader in global missions recently wrote his perspective on missions in this time of COVID-19. In that article he writes that as he wakes each day, he reminds himself that God is on the throne. This is a posture that I’m reminding myself to live into in these uncertain days. For an organisation with a global focus, it is challenging to continually respond to evolving global contexts, develop new policies, and support our Mission Partners who face uncertainty.
As NZCMS family, let’s keep reminding each other that God is in control. Let’s give thanks that the work of mission is not all up to us! God is conducting God’s mission. Closed borders do not stop God’s mission. The Spirit of God continues to work in the world transforming us into Christ's likeness, and bringing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Thanks be to God!
Rosie Fyfe, NZCMS National Director