Sunday, November 22, 2015

Swallows & Amazons

Swallows & Amazons
by Helen Edmundson and Neil Hannon

This year's Rosslyn Academy High School Play was the rollicking fun children's story of Swallows & Amazons. The musical play is based on the novel of the same name first published by Arthur Ransome in 1930. The story was adapted to the theatre by the Royal National Theatre and debuted at the Bristol Old Vic in December 2010. Rosslyn Academy is the first high school to stage the musical play. 

The story is of the four Walker children (John, Susan, Titty and Roger) and their imaginary outdoor adventures in the English Lake District during their summer holidays in 1929. Together they sail a borrowed dingy to camp on a nearby island where they meet the precocious Blackett girls (Nancy and Peggy). The children become the Swallows and Amazons and swear loyalty against the Blackett's uncle James Turner, who they call "Captain Flint".

Their imaginary adventures escalate as the children encounter the real terrors of storms and a mysterious crime.

The Swallow's camp taken by the fierce Amazons

Poor Roger fleeing the swooping cormorants 

Captain Flint warning John Walker

Titty all alone on Wildcat Island

Susan, Roger and Titty calling for John

The great battle of Houseboat Bay

The cast and crew

As parents we are thrilled over the opportunities that Tristan and Emma are having in staging theatrical productions at Rosslyn. We are so grateful for the dedication of Steven Slaughter and Audrey Statler to work with the high school students on such ambitious projects. 

Director, Steven Slaughter welcoming guests to the Friday night show.

Mrs. Audrey Statler, musical director, with Ezra, 
Emma, Tristan, Emerson, and Abby.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Transforming Mission: Reflecting Together

Certificate of Integral Mission Training
Kigali, Rwanda

Learning together is at the heart of partnership. This week CBM's team and partners in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are learning together about the complex causes and experiences of poverty in central Africa. This is an important part of the certificate of integral mission program that is helping our partner churches enhance their ministry in Africa.

Reflecting together on our perceptions of poverty in rural and urban contexts helps us strengthen our understanding of poverty. It is a crucial part of the local church identifying how to better respond to the needs of its community.

 Association of Rwandan Baptist Churches
Worship Service in Gichiru, Kigali

Intergral mission seeks to move local churches beyond Sunday morning into their community where they encounter their neighbours in the market place, schools, streets and fields. 

It is the intentional witness of Christian faith that touches every dimension of life.

As Canadians, we have a lot to learn from the African church, which is far less individualistic and consumer driven than our North American culture. In places like Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, people realize that communities are deeply interdependent. The idea of "family" is much broader and significant to one's own identity. 

Unlike Canadians, who tend to view family as the nuclear unit of parents, children and siblings. Most African cultures associate family with extended relatives that are united by a common clan or ancestor. This broader family matters a lot. This is why it is so significant for many African Christians to identify their church as a spiritual family. Family takes responsibility for one another. Together we are stronger.

Our friends the Gakwerere family

Rev. Gato Munyamasoko reading scripture and sharing
the opening devotion for the second CIM module

Given this highly relational context, the issue of poverty is extremely personal. Our African partners are keenly aware that the heath and well being of the community (and wider family) is directly tied to their own health and well being. In the words of the Rwandan proverb:
Umugabo umwe agerwa kuri nyina
A lone man is worth nothing

Rev. Andre Sibomana

During today's sessions, our colleagues Andre Sibomana and Polisi Kivava led us through reflections on the experience of urban and rural poverty in Central Africa. Together they helped us to understand the web of disadvantages that create poverty in their context. As part of our sessions, we divided into groups and visited urban slum areas in Kigali and later compared and contrasted our experience with the way of life for people living in Korogocho, Kenya.

At one level, poverty can be observed as a lack of material wealth. In the words of a man living in Kenya:
"Don't ask me what poverty's because you have met it outside my house. Look at the house and count the number of holes. Look at my utensils and the clothes that I am wearing. Look at everything and write what you see. What you see is poverty." 
But all poverty is not so visible. Material poverty is often coupled with social, mental and spiritual poverty that robs people of the life that they were created to live.

Polisi Kivava

Understanding African experiences of poverty also leads us to wrestled with the complex causes of suffering in society. Identifying the particular roots of poverty in a given context is essential to finding appropriate solutions and developing effective responses. 

We are so thankful for the incredible team of African colleagues that we serve with. Please keep us all in your prayers as we work together.

Dr. Rupen Das, Gato Munyamasoko and Ruth Munyao
Kigali, Rwanda

We are also thrilled to have our friend and colleague, Rupen Das, joining us as the keynote lecturer for these modules which are being held in Rwanda and Kenya. Rupen's generosity in sharing his expertise and experience in leading international relief and development is of great value. 

We are looking forward to continuing to strengthen our understanding and practice of transforming mission!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Seeking Mutuality with our Muslim Neighbour

BRIDGE Certificate Program
November 2015

This past week, we had the joy of opening the third module in the CBM Bridge Certificate on Integral Mission in a Majority Islamic Context. It was a great pleasure to have our friend Rev. Cannon Mary Nzyoki present six sessions on "Understanding Islamics for Fruitful Christian Muslim Relations". The Garissa pastors and Christian leaders deeply appreciated her passion and expertise.

Aaron leading the BRIDGE class on a session about "mutuality"

With the end of this course, the Bridge Certificate cohort has reached the half way point in the program. As a praxis based training, Aaron has been helping the participants work through applying the content of the training to their ministries and leading them through times of reflection and analysis. 

"We don't learn from our experience," shared Aaron. "We learn from reflecting upon our experience. Good reflection requires us to be intentional as we go about ministry. Being attentive to what we are doing and why we are doing it. Taking time to articulate this and then to think, and discuss with others, the impact of how we are approaching ministry. What are we learning from our experience of ministry? Is there a better way?"

One of the themes during this past week of BRIDGE was the importance of mutuality among Christians and with our neighbours of other faiths. Strengthening our common understanding and practice of trust and interdependency has been a major part of the program.

 Erica with our friend and guest lecturer, 
Rev. Cannon Mary Nzyoki

Mutuality starts with an open hand. It is the step of faith that moves us toward the stranger with a spirit of hospitality and humility. This first step is an incredibly vulnerable position. It is a movement towards the unknown. If we are driven by fear, we will never take that step. Fear often causes us to  follow the base instincts of flight, fight, or flocking together. Fear cuts us off from the other. But faith does the opposite. 

By faith we believe that God is at work, even in the most distressing of times. By faith we believe that God's Spirit is moving in the lives of all people drawing them towards the fullness of life. By faith we trust that God is able to change us, and all people, for the good.

The experience of mutuality requires us to embrace the strangers among us, and to seek to know and to be known. This means that we open ourselves to listen and to share with people. In the process of building mutuality, we discover our differences and our common hopes and values.

It is true that it takes two, or more, sides to build mutuality, but it begins with one who is willing to extend grace to another. Experiencing mutuality provides a foundation for us to work together. It drives us toward a common future. 

In Prayer

Please continue to join us in praying for the Christian leaders of Garissa as they seek to strengthen bonds of understanding, trust, and solidarity within their community.

Pray for "bridge people" in both the Christian and the Muslim communities of Kenya, who are courageously drawing people together to overcome forces of division and distrust. 

Pray for Muslim leaders who are apposing radical Islamic movements and terrorism in Kenya and throughout the world. We also remember in prayer Muslim and Christian moderates who are being persecuted by those who wish to divide and destroy society. 

Pray for peace and for healing. We especially remember this week the thousands of families directly affected by the terribly attacks in Lebanon and France.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Transforming Mission: Connectivity

Crossing the Nile River in Uganda

If you are looking for a source to the Nile, you will soon discover that there are a multiplicity of sources. As the mighty river snakes from Egypt through Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda, it draws water from many tributaries. Follow the water, and you will be lead to sources flowing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Eritrea. 

Great ideas, like great rivers, never have just one source. They are fed and strengthened by hundreds even thousands of people who share a common dream and passion.

As Canadian Baptist Ministries works in Africa with our partner churches, we also work in cooperation with various other stakeholders and like minded agencies. Together we are seeking to participate in God's great redemptive work to bring hope and transformation into the world.

Connectivity is the recognition that we are at our best when we work in collaboration with others. A big part of CBM's work in Africa, and around the world, involves networking with local and international partners.

Aura, Uganda

This past week, we participated in the "ECHO East Africa Symposium on Best Practices in Conflict Situations", in Arua, Uganda. Aaron was able to share about fruitful practices of Intergal Mission in multi-faith contexts.  Along with contributing lessons from the Canadian Baptist's forty years of ministry among the Muslim communities of Kenya, it was wonderful to learn from others as they reflect on ministry success and failures. 

It was a joy to meet with leaders from dozens of other Christian organizations committed to holistic ministry.

Stella and Robert working with ECHO

Through Canadian Baptist Ministries' work with Canadian Food Grains Bank and our partner organizations, we are networking with organizations like ECHO that are seeking to reduce conflict, poverty, hunger and physical hardship by engaging rural communities more effectively to adapt their livelihoods and farming/agro-pastoralist systems.

ECHO is especially committed to increasing connectivity among local and international organizations serving in East Africa. 

Ambrose Toolit

Ambrose works in Karamoja, Uganda, seeking to promote human rights and conflict management. "Conflict is everywhere!" shared Ambrose. "It is not restricted to war zones. It is a cross cutting issue that we must respond to holistically." 

Through dialogue, peace initiatives, community-based reconciliation, and livelihood enhancement, the people of Karamoja are beginning to find a new way forward. Cattle rustling and the related violence is declining. But challenges continue to persist.

Among the successes that Ambrose has been a part of is the work of youth groups coming together to promote dialogue and mutual understanding. Everyone desires a future and well being. Together these peace ambassadors are using sport, music, and the arts to build bridges toward a better future.

One of the initiatives has been youth groups sewing traditional hats, like the red one Ambrose wears. Once a symbol of soldiers and raiding parties, the multicoloured hats are new symbol for peace and co-existance. 

A little more diversity in your diet?
Grasshoppers ready for frying!

Aaron with Romano Longole

Romano works with Kotido Peace Initiative, Uganda. It is a ministry of the Catholic Church of Uganda that is taking a traditional approach to reconciliation among pastoralist communities in Kotido District.

Serving among the six subclass of the Karimojone, Romano realized how high poverty among people had lead to conflict as a means to survival. "'What can we eat?' Is the question that lies behind the conflict there." 

In Karamoja, conflict centred on natural resources and cattle rustling. The shortage of pastoral land, access to water, and demand for beef had exasperated the violence between groups. Raiding had become socially accepted and even blessed by traditional religious leaders. 

After years of work, people are finally turning away from cattle raiding. But now they are desperate to find another source of food security many have turned to cutting down trees for charcoal. Romano realizes that this is a short sighted and disastrous move. Helping the people find a sustainable means for food security is the great challenge.

Please pray for the people of Karamoja, Uganda. And remember ambassadors for peace like Romano and Ambrose, who are committed to seeing transformation in their communities.

The ultimate source of mission is God in Christ. As new springs of hope and transformation begin to break through in Africa, we recognize that these are all the work of God in and through God's people. 

"So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is 
anything, but only God, who makes things grow." 
I Corinthians 3:17

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

CBM Africa Team: Jose Da Silva

Rev. Jose Da Silva preaching in Quimpondo, Angola

We are very grateful for our friends and colleagues that make up the Canadian Baptist Ministries'  (CBM) Africa team. Last year, we wrote a series of blog posts introducing the CBM national staff serving with us in Kenya and Rwanda. Over the next six months, we look forward to introducing you to our Canadian field staff and colleagues serving in Africa.

Jose Da Silva is a strategic associate who serves part time as an integral mission consultant with many our French and Portuguese speaking partner churches in Brazil, Rwanda, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Jose and his wife, Johanne Gosselin, live in Montreal, Canada, with their two daughters. Along with his work with CBM, he also leads the "Multicultural Mission in Action" (AMM) in Montreal. AMM is a ministry of the French Baptist Union reaching out to refugees and immigrant communities in Montreal. Since Jose founded this outreach about thirteen years ago, AMM has made a vital impact among mostly Latin American refugees who have come to Canada in search  of a new beginning.

Jose knows what it means to start over in a new country. Born in Lisbon, Portugal, Jose moved to Angola when he was four years old and spent the next twenty years of his life living in Luanda where his father served as a Brethren minister and managed a coffee export company. With the end of the Portuguese Colony of Angola in 1974, Jose's family had to leave everything behind. They travelled back to Portugal and then to Canada where they resettled. 

One gift of living through such transitions, is the remarkable linguistic ability Jose developed. He speaks and writes in Portuguese, Spanish, French and English.

In 2012, Jose was asked to assist CBM in our response to the humanitarian crisis in Hatti. From that time, he began to serve as a strategic associate of CBM and today is assisting in areas of capacity building and theological education among several of our partner churches, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Angola. 

"I believe that I can be of help in areas of pastoral training and helping Bible Schools improve contextualized curriculum," shared Jose, who is beginning a three year project of assisting the ITECHA seminary in Cabinda, Angola. 

Jose is passionate about helping churches understand and embrace holistic ministry.  He sees the work of evangelism, social transformation, and ecological stewardship as deeply related and essential for the holistic witness of the Church. 

Please pray for our friend Jose, for his family, and for the great work that he is leading in Montreal and with our African partner churches. We especially pray for his safety as he travels to remote areas, and for the effectiveness of the training and leadership development that he is directly involved with.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Angola: A Legacy of Transforming Mission

Igreja Evangélica de Angola (IEA) Soyo
Quimpondo, Angola

Decades of war and conflict have left deep scars in the country of Angola, but the power of Christ and the good news of the Christian faith are bringing change and hope.

Canadian Baptist Ministries first began work in Africa in 1958, in the then Portuguese Colony of Angola. After the death of the Scottish missionary and founder of the Igreja Evang√©lica de Angola (Evangelical Church of Angola), Rev. Mateus Zacharias Stober, Canadian Baptists sent 24 missionaries to  serve in the West African country.

The years from 1958 to 1961 were an incredibly important time of establishing new schools, medical programs, theological education and churches. A legacy that was not lost in the long decades of war  and civil conflict that broke out in 1961. Although the Canadian missionaries were forced to leave Angola and start new work in Zaire, the ministry of the IEA continued. Perhaps their greatest impact was the investment in young leaders who to this day speak with great affection for Canadian missionaries like the Malcolms, Harveys, Sears, McBeths, Dorthy Sowden, Jose da Silva and the many Canadians who have invested so much in their church.

Luada, the capital of Angola

This past week, Canadian Baptist Ministries joined our Angolan friends for the celebration of ninety years of ministry in the province of Quimpondo, Angola. The Quimpondo mission, which was established in 1925, was the third station of Stober who had initiated earlier ministries in the centres of Zeta (1898) and Cabinda (1902). But it was here in Soyo, Quimpondo, that Stober died and the first Canadian missionaries began their work.

It has been remarkable to see the growth of the IEA as it now has churches, schools and social outreach ministries in all eighteen provinces of Angola. In addition, the IEA has established new missions among the Angolan diaspora living in both Portugal and Namibia. Today the church has grown to now over 60,000 members.

Aaron with IEA General Secretary, Rev. Estanislau Barros

Earlier in March of this year, the denomination elected new leadership. General Secretary Rev. Estanislau Barros, and his colleagues, are determined to see the church raise up a new generation of theological teachers, pastors and leaders.

It was with great pride that the church invited (at their own expense) representatives from Canadian Baptist Ministries to participate in the 90th Anniversary of the ministry in Quimpondo. Rev. Barros made the important gesture as a sign of the IEA's self reliance and maturity as a denomination. 
"We are no longer a church with its hand out," shared Rev. Barros. "We believe that the time has come for the church of Angola to stand up. We are working to improve our seminary and, in the next four years, to have both masters and doctoral degree graduates. We are thankful for how God has used the Canadian Baptist Church to bless our people. We are grateful for how we can continue to walk together as friends."
With a background in education himself, Rev. Barros believes that investing in young people is among the highest priorities of the church. During our time together, it was wonderful to see the church open new computer centres and tailoring projects to assist young people in the rural area of Quimpondo.

Rev. Barros visiting with students of the 
IEA Nova Jerusalem School, Luanda

Aaron with Eduardo Sasa, IEA director of development
and students of the IEA Betel school in Viana, Angola

Education is an important dimension of the ministry of the IEA. Today it has twelve schools scattered across Angola providing quality education and opportunity for thousands of young people. As Principal Jim Joaquin explains, 
“There are many communities like this one, where there is great poverty and no access to school. In order to accommodate the need of so many children, we divide the day in half with 250 students coming each morning and a second group in the afternoon.”
Many pastors within the IEA are bi-vocational working both as a pastor and as a teacher in one of the church schools or public schools. The presence of pastors in the schools provides an opportunity for intentional Christian witness as the pastor/teachers seek to share a good example of Christian life and character.

Rev. Jose Da Silva, serving as Canadian Baptist Ministries' 
Strategic Associate in Angola

It was a great privilege for Canadian Baptist Ministries to sign a new memorandum of partnership with the IEA during this important occasion. Over the next few years, Canadian Baptists will continue to walk with the denomination in strengthening and developing missiological curriculum for its theological college in Cabinda. We are so happy to have our friend and colleague Rev. Jose Da Silva serving with the IEA in this capacity of aiding in the formation of the theological training program of the church as they embrace Integral Mission.

Rev. Da Silva with pastor and historian Rev. Dr. Pedro Manuel

Another highlight of our time together was the launch of the book A Caminhada da IEA em 133 Anos (1898-2011), written by Rev. Dr. Pedro Manuel. The history includes an extensive reflection on the impact of Canadian Baptist missionaries within the development of the evangelical church of Angola. 
"We remember the faithfulness of the Lord. This is not just about the past. Remembering allows us to evaluate how we must go forward to advance the kingdom of God. We share gratitude to God for what he has done and what he will do."

Meeting with pastors and spouses in Soyo
for a time of teaching, prayer, and encouragement

All Glory to God!

Throughout the celebration services in Quimpondo, we experienced the rich harmonies of Angolan church choirs. During the Sunday worship service, 2500 people joined voices in praise as a mighty choir. 

Please join us in praying for the Church of Angola. May it be a force of healing, reconciliation and hope for the people of Angola and for the generations to come.

Please pray for the ministry of our colleague Jose Da Silva as he seeks to increase the education of pastors by teaching and working to improve contextualized curriculum of the Bible School (ITECHA) in Cabinda.