Our home church here in Aotearoa New Zealand just presented Ann with this beautiful pounamu pikorua (jade twist). It is a traditional Māori design that symbolises how our lives are interconnected, and how important it is to be good and loyal friends. The pikorua is a wonderful symbol of the relationships we have with people who know and love Jesus all around the world. Before the pandemic, leaders of Baptist conventions and churches would invite us to lead training on topics such as how to help kids get to know Jesus, how to start a business that will empower survivors of human trafficking, or how to be a leader like Jesus. So how can we continue to be part of God’s mission if we can’t meet together in person? As good and loyal friends, we are learning to think outside the box and find new ways to connect with one another.
Here are some of the recent ways we have come alongside these partners.
- We are currently leading a Spiritual Journeys training in Portuguese (Possibilidades sem Fim) with regional leaders of the National Baptist Convention of Brazil. We were touched by the unsolicited feedback we received after only two sessions: “This is an ‘encontro divino’ (a divine encounter) – this class is just what I needed! The spiritual journey paradigm clarifies what I am going through and gives me a new perspective.” “I am going through a transition in ministry right now and the paradigm is helping me to make sense of it.”
- Many refugees in Malaysia have lost jobs during the pandemic because the factories and stores where they worked are now closed. Myanmar refugee community leaders decided they needed to develop some businesses to help their people, so they asked us to teach an on-line course in how to start community-based social enterprises. A faith-based social enterprise is a business that does three things at the same time: it makes money, and it also helps people as an expression of God’s love.
- We are coordinating a global task force for International Ministries that is developing new policies and practices to support faith-based economic development initiatives. The group is conducting interviews with cross-cultural workers and leaders of partner organisations around the world. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve conducted interviews with leaders of Baptist partners in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Brazil, and Indonesia. Colleagues have interviewed leaders in Nepal, India, Bolivia and Hong Kong. Our goal is to recommend practical next steps to build up the Body of Christ using kingdom economics.
- Leaders of the Brazilian Baptists’ national theological seminary have asked us to coordinate (long distance!) their next strategic planning cycle using an appreciative inquiry framework. We facilitated the seminary’s previous strategic planning effort in 2015, and are looking forward to seeing what God’s plans look like for them in a post-Covid world.
- TEE Aotearoa: Te Hapori Akonga (Learning in Community) has been invited to conduct Group Leader trainings on New Zealand’s North and South Islands this year. Ann serves on the Coordinating Council of this new movement that has a special focus on equipping leaders of diaspora churches.
- It was with both joy and sadness that Ann stepped down as interim pastor of our local church. Sad for her, since she loves “equipping the saints” (pastoring – Eph. 4:12). Many said she was the right person to guide the church through a very tough year (2020!) marked by a global pandemic and the search to replace two pastors who had moved on to other ministries. This is also a time of joy as the church welcomes two new lead pastors who sense a strong call to serve with this faith community.
God truly is the master jade carver who brings us together in new and unexpected ways to cooperate in God’s mission! As the pounamu pikorua reminds us, we are all connected and support one another.
It is good to be on this journey with you, confident of your love, encouragement, and support.
Ann and Bruce
Praises and Prayers
- Praise God that no one was hurt here in New Zealand during a recent “swarm of earthquakes” and two tsunami warnings! The largest quakes were 7.1, 8.1, 7.4 and 7.6, not to mention over 140 aftershocks to date.
- Praise God for new pastors who accepted the call of our local church.
- Ask God to give us wisdom and grace as we lead on-line workshops, trainings and strategic planning sessions with Baptist partners in Malaysia and Brazil. Pray for stamina for both facilitators and participants: you know how tiring Zoom meetings can be!