Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Shift a little" (Durban, Kwazulu-Natal)


Over looking the townships of Durban 
from the grave of John Dube in Ohlange.

John Dube was the founding president of the South African Native National Congress, which became the African National Congress in 1923. His leadership formed a legacy that would be carried forward by other Africa leaders, and ultimately in Nelson Mandela and the ending of apartheid. 

Walking around the first school that he started for the black children of his community, it was evident that the people of Ohlange are deeply proud of their forefathers. For the vision and courage that they had for all of South Africa. 

Following the Baptist World Alliance Congress, Erica and I had two great days with a few of our CBM colleagues to experience the beauty and history of Durban, and to reflect on the work of Canadian Baptist Ministries.



At the International Printing Press, founded by Mahatma Gandhi.
Sam, Erica, Aaron, TJ, Lee, Joyce, Heather and Ken


During the ninenteenth and twentieth centuries, South Africa became deeply fractured by racial segregation. Clear lines separated black communities, from coloured communities (a term referring South Africa's interracial people), from Indian communities, and White communities. Even post-apartheid, the division is still seen in the different townships that continue to remain racially distinct.

These divisions continue to be felt in wage disparity, tension and violence. The process of healing and living into the vision of South Africa is ongoing.

It was wonderful to see during the BWA worship people from South Africa's distinct communities worshipping together in unity and a common identity. After the Xenophobic attacks in Durban this past Spring, Baptist Churches were active drawing people together and showing grace and hospitality toward the immigrant workers being targeted in the streets.

As one pastor shared, "We held up the words of Leviticus 19 before our people: 'When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.. love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.' God says that we must love these people as one of us. This is our prayer."


Nelson Mandela

One of the highlights of our time was visiting the small school where Mandela cast his first vote in South Africa's post-aparthied elections. On the plaque posted by that ballot box is sign that reads as follows: "It was here at Ohlange, that Nelson Mandela cast his vote in South Africa's first democratic election in 1994. After voting he walked up to John Dube's grave. "I have come to report, Mr. President," he said, "that South Africa is now free."

In many ways, South Africa is a young country, but it has a rich heritage.



Aaron with Ken Bellows, past-president of Canadian Baptist Ministries; Terry Smith, deputy executive director; And Sam Chaise, past executive director.

We are very thankful for the wonderful opportunity to experience South Africa with other members of our Canadian Baptist family. We often become so focused on our own local church and immediate ministries that we miss the richness of the great fellowship and common mission of the Church. 

Another highlight was visiting the home of Mahatma Gandhi together with our CBM friends and colleagues.



Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Durban in 1893, where he began to practice law eventually moving to Johannesburg and then returning to his native India in 1914, at the age of 46. Before Gandhi's great struggle and triumph over the British Raj system in India through non-violent protest and passive resistance, he began to stand against injustice in South Africa. 


The view from the porch of Gandhi's small home in the townships of Durban 

Many South Africans see the influence of Gandhi as an important part of their story of ending apartheid. In Durban, Christians and Hindus alike are proud of the early journey walked by Gandhi in their townships. He is seen as an important voice and great example of the dignity and worth of all humanity, and the power of God to bring about transformation through the humility and obedience of faithful men and women.

What a powerful message for us.

In the Gandhi Centre is a beautiful wall sized picture of three white robed African Christians entering a river for baptism. Printed on the side of picture are the words of a South African Hymn.

"Behold, the Zulus
Are dancing
for the Eternal one
Shift a little
Jehovah is coming."
........................ Hymn 158



Aaron, Erica, Heather and Terry





Monday, July 27, 2015

21st Baptist World Alliance Congress


21st Baptist World Alliance Congress
Durban, South Africa 

Dr. Michael Okwakol of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF) chaired the African regional meeting during the BWA Congress. The gathering followed an afternoon session on the impact and responses of Baptist Churches to the Ebola epidemic that brought such devastation to West Africa. As Okwakol shared: "Ebola struck our countries in West Africa, but the good Lord stopped the ravages of the virus and healed our land." During the presentation of the Liberian Baptist Church, we saw first hand how the local church participated in the great effort to halt the spread of the virus and provide compassionate care for the people who lost so much through this great crisis.

In the words of Okwakol "Through this congress we are celebrating God's unconditional love for humanity. He loves the world and does not want any nation to perish, including Africans."

During our time together, we received a heart wrenching report from our Baptist brothers and sisters in Nigeria who implore the wider Church to join them in prayer for the families of the martyrs, the persecuted and the hostages, who have and continue to be victims of Boka Haram. "We pray with confidence," one pastor shared. "Confidence that God will have victory over Boka Haram! For persecution that has been felt in places like Nigeria and Kenya, we pray for God's intervention and for His Church!"



The importance of God using the Church as an instrument of building peace, fostering forgiveness and healing among victims of civil conflict and unrest was also celebrated in the BWA General Meetings. On Thursday evening, we had the great joy of being present for the BWA Human Rights Award, which was bestowed to Rev. Gato Munyamasoko.

Rev. Gato, and his wife Anne-Marie, received the BWA Human Rights Award from David Maddox (above). Rev. Gato is the legal representative of the Association of Rwandan Baptist Churches (AEBR) and a long time friend and colleague with Canadian Baptist Ministries. You can Read More Here about the work of Gato and impact of the AEBR in peace and reconciliation ministries in Rwanda. 


Gato sharing during a reception hosted by Canadian Baptist Ministries after the award ceremony


Terry Smith praying for Gato and Anne Marie



Erica and our colleague Alia from the Lebanese Baptist Churches

Over the past year, Canadian Baptist Ministries, in cooperation with our international partners, has been a part of coordinating and delivering vital relief and local church-based care for hundreds of thousands of people in places like Nepal, South Sudan, Lebanon, and the Philippines. 

One of the great encouragements of the BWA Congress has been the opportunity to be with other leaders in our Baptist network who are committed to excellence and compassionate responses for both crisis intervention and long term poverty reduction in the world's most vulnerable places.


Aaron with our friend Suraj, CBM Team Leader for India




Our friends the Josephine and Saphano Riaks, from South Sudan


Sam Chaise at a CBM luncheon and meeting on the formation of
the Baptist Relief and Development Network



Working together

One of the exciting developments of the past few years has been the movement toward more intentional cooperation and exchange between Baptist relief and development organizations, and the formation of a global network to facilitate rapid response and deepening partnerships. The fruit of these collaborative efforts has been seen in incredible response to the Vanuatu Cyclone and Nepal Earthquake disasters by a number of international Baptist bodies.

On Saturday, Erica and I participated in a wonderful gathering of Baptist leaders focused on the formation of the Baptist Relief and Development Network. It was encouraging to see fellow Christian leaders pulling together to leverage our global resources and capacity for the good of communities that experience tragedy and brokenness. 



Terry Smith presenting a map of Baptist global relief and development response in 2014
in a plea for deeper and more intentional cooperation and interdependence as a global network

Please continue to pray for our global Baptist network. There are approximately 100 million Baptists throughout the world. It is our prayer that God might continue to draw us together as instruments  in bringing hope and healing into the world.





Thursday, July 23, 2015

South Africa


The Cape of Good Hope

This week Erica and I travelled to South Africa for the 21st Baptist World Alliance Congress in Durban. On our way, we stopped for a few days in Cape Town. And enjoyed touring around the stunning coast and beautiful vineyards and jagged peaks of Stellenbosch.


BWA Congress Durban, South African

The Baptist World Alliance is a global movement of Baptist churches sharing a common commitment of bearing witness to the love and healing power of Christ in a lost and hurting world. Formed in 1905 during the first Baptist World Congress in London, England, the BWA has a membership of 231 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories. Today the BWA is comprised of approximately 40 million members in 177,000 churches.


The 21st Congress is being hosted in part by the South African Baptist Churches. The opening ceremony features a beautiful presentation and song in Zulu that included the flags from every country in Africa. A highlight of the evening was seeing the representation of the Baptist family from around the world. We cheered with our Canadian friends and with our brothers and sisters from India, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and South Sudan. 

The theme of the 21st Congress is "Jesus Christ, the Door" and we are being challenged by Christian leaders from around the world to consider the dimensions of this reality for all people! On the first evening, Reverend Peter Chin, from South Korea, challenged us to "Shine On" as Christ has shone upon us.



Erica with Gato and Anne Marie Munyamasoko

We are also excited to be here to celebrate a special award for our CBM friend and colleague, Rev. Gato Munyamasoko, for his work ad commitment to peace building in Central Africa. Tonight Gato will be receiving this award as part of the evening theme gathering "Jesus Christ, the Door to Liberty".



Dr. Harry Gardner of Acadia Divinity College speaking this morning
on Jesus the Open Gate. A powerful challenge for all Christians to be
inclusive and to reach out to those who have become discouraged and
frustrated with the Church.




Cape Town

We are so thankful for the opportunity to participate in this gathering and to connect with members of the Baptist Church from so many part of the world. It is deeply encouraging to see first hand the impact God is making through local churches committed to living out their faith is generous and courageous love for others.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Transforming Mission: Collaborative Teams


Canadian Baptist Ministries' Kenya Team
(Aaron, William, Andai, Ruth, Laura, Pauline, Erica and Geofrey)

Teamwork is essential to the success of Christian mission whether in the local church or within the broader community. Serving cross-culturally on five continents, Canadian Baptist Ministries has embraced a team approach to integral mission, positioning groups of Canadian and international staff  to work in and through partnerships with churches and other Christian organizations. 

Together we rely on one another for support, expertise and insight. Over the past two days, we have been meeting together with the CBM Kenya team at Acacia Camp, near Athi River.  Our time has been spent in prayer, reflection and sharing as we review our progress so far in 2015 and work through our plans for rest of the year. 

Sharing together has been so important in times like this. We recognize that it is more than a truism that great ideas do not come from organizations - they come from people. Leaning on each other for perspective, encouragement and prayer is critical. 



Geofrey and Andai

In Margaret Heffernan's recent TED Talk, "Why it's time to forget the pecking order at work," she observes that social cohesion of collaborative teams consistently out preforms groups that revolve around one or two 'superstars'. Her illustration of experiments with breeding "super chickens" is both hilarious and insightful. Heffernan's research into productivity reinforces the importance of teamwork and building a foundation of social support and trust with your colleagues. We all need to give and receive help from each other. 


Teamwork doesn't mean that we all need to agree all the time. In fact, effective teams learn to disagree and value candour. We make better decisions when we are free to challenge one another and question the options before us. The important thing is that in the midst of our different views and convictions, that we are held together by a common identity and purpose. 

Healthy teamwork understands the importance of working hard together and laughing hard together. It is the balance of tackling big tasks and nurturing essential relationships. 

We are deeply thankful that many people who read our blog uphold our family in prayer. We are also extremely grateful for the way so many of you pray for our colleagues and friends. Here are a few brief items for praise and petition on behalf of some of our team members.



William Wako, project office community development

"Our presence, of weekly meetings in the community, has been so good. Walking through the fields training farmers in their farms has strengthened trust. We share personal challenges and encourage one another through struggles and disappointments. We praise God for the improvements we are experiencing. Early adopters are seeing benefit, and for others we are helping them move from the known to the unknown. Thank you for your prayers." 



Laura Muema, project officer urban self help groups 

"For me the relationship with each other as a team and the acceptance of CBM within the community has been so important. Seeing men and women helping each other, social networking and investing in each other is where progress is coming from. In so many of the things we do with the self help groups it is amazing to hear people saying, 'We can do this!'."


Andai Jackson Ahole, project assistant and logistics facilitation

"I have worked for many years with CBM, but I am so glad for the support of my colleagues here. They have a passion for the neglected people and this has had a big impact on me. Seeing kids going to school, kids who use to just stay at home and do nothing, this makes me so happy. Today the school we built is full. The toilets we built with the community are being used. We use to see human waste lying around, but not any more. Together, with the people, we are reviving the desert. It is very hot and insecure in these places, but we trust God for the work."


Geofrey Mwita, project officer relief

"I am so encouraged by the impact of CBM's ministry in the small villages of Northeastern Kenya. There has been a culture where women do not sit and talk with men. Men make the decisions and women are not welcome. But this is changing. Now men and women are meeting together and sharing their ideas. This alone has led to change in the communities where we serve."