08 Jul Video: AsiaCMS and CMS-Africa in conversation with CMS UK
Rev Dr Chan Nam Chen, Executive Director of AsiaCMS, attended the commissioning event for Alastair Bateman as CEO of Church Mission Society on 8 June 2019 at St Andrew’s Church, Oxford. Whilst there, he sat with the Rev Canon Moses Bushendich, International Director of CMS-Africa, for an interview with Debbie James, Director of Mission Transformation and Deputy CEO of Church Mission Society.
[Debbie James] – Well, welcome. They certainly look fresh. They only flew in yesterday so, well done…
[Chan Nam Chen] – We’re OK!
[Debbie James] – *laughs* Moses has come in from Uganda, he works for CMS-Africa and they have their office space in Nairobi, Kenya. And we welcome Nam Chen, who works for Asia-CMS and their office space is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. So quite a long flight for you yesterday. So, great to have you here with us.
Bishop Anthony commented, in what he shared, about how mission has changed and one of those very significant changes has been the tremendous growth of the church in the global south and CMS has in part responded to that in the founding of our sister CMSes in Africa and Asia and I think the next slide shows a representation of that – there we are – so we have those bases in Nairobi and in Kuala Lumpur, but with work that reaches across those continents and one of the things that the video mentioned was that mission is about being locally-led so we’re really excited to be investing in and building capacity for locally-led mission in Africa and Asia and partnering, as Bishop Andrew and as Bishop Anthony said, the value of partnering together in mission, we’re delighted to be doing that with you. So, my first question that I’ll put to you Nam Chen is: what does it mean for mission to be locally-led in Asia?
[Chan Nam Chen] Now, I’ve just been thinking about the response of that and I think to really be able to understand where we are coming from we need to recognise the incredible change in the demographics of Christianity over the last 50 years. I became a Christian in 1975 and in 1970 the entire Christian population of Asia is four and a half per cent. Right now it is at nine per cent.
So even though Christianity is a minority faith in Asia it is actually growing incredibly fast and all of it is basically through conversion and right now when you want to speak of the largest churches, the fastest rate of conversions – it’s happening all over – not all over – but some key countries in Asia. Let me just give you an example: Nepal – you’re having less than 500 recorded Christians in 1960.
Right now it’s anywhere between one to three million and when I was in Kathmandu last year I found out that there’s something like a – more than a hundred Bible schools in Kathmandu alone. Now what am I saying? Simply this. It’s that Christianity – the face of Christianity – in Asia has changed and what you do have is actually, you’re having a church that is rising very rapidly and there is resources: there are spiritual resources, there’s also money resources because some of your economic dragons are all there. And you’re also having a lot of innovation. Spiritual resources – I’m just quite amazed that you know even in the South Asia alone you’re having mission organisations each having 1,000 cross- cultural mission workers, church planters. Now where this fits into Asia-CMS is this: our vision is simply this is that we want to be able to mobilise and we want to be able to facilitate what is done by some of these key local thinkers, movers and shakers, really, in first of all, reaching the least reached, the unreached, and secondly also to spearhead initiatives in spheres of mission that what we term us under engaged or necessary. For example, we have one local mission partner in India; he is an ethno-doxologist. What does he do? He simply develops music he goes into a community, understands their music and begins to do worship and help them to develop contextualised worship. So really this is where Asia-CMS, this is where we are right now, we are just trying to pick up people and mobilise people to do what we term as “on the edge”, okay. And how do we do it? Simply we connect, we collaborate, we resource – sometimes it’s resourcing with a bit of money, resourcing with connections, networks and training.
And that’s where you’re gonna see mission really – it is already running – but we want to see it pick up pace even further from Asia to Asia and of course working together with everybody else in other parts of the world and we’re gonna see it coming to Europe too.
[Debbie James] Great, thank you. Very exciting. And it’s been a tremendous privilege to be able to partner with you in the local partners that you have working across Asia. We heard from Bishop Anthony, in fact he was encouraging CMS to continue to be innovative and pioneering and you talked about mission being both innovative and entrepreneurial. So I wondered, Moses, if you could tell us: what does it look like for CMS-Africa to be innovative and entrepreneurial?
[Moses Bushendich] Thank You Debbie and thank you Bishop Anthony, when you said mission has to be innovative and entrepreneurial I felt, yes, you have spoken!
One and a half weeks ago, I went through a clinic in Nairobi, I was not feeling so well, and I met a nurse called Esther and so she, as usual, she interviewed me: where do you come from? What do you – where do you work? What do you do? And quickly I said I work with the church and I work with Church Mission Society and so she asked – what is it that you do? – We work with churches. – To do what? And I said, yes, we do – we would like people in the church to see Christianity being relevant to all their lives. And she said, tell me more. And I said we do trainings like, we mentor people in taking care of their resources – God’s resources that have been entrusted into their hands – to acknowledge first that God has given them resources and they need to work with those resources in appreciation for what God has done and also to be sure that those resources are able to meet their needs. And she told me: I have been working as a nurse for so many years, I have been receiving funds but I feel I’m not fulfilled, there’s something wrong with the way I manage my finances. It’s like – something – there’s a curse on my finances and I am thinking of going to a church – I belong to a church but I would like to go for a special deliverance service to deliver me from the demon that takes away my resources. I said, No: we have a training which we call – we have what we call Financial Freedom for Families; we have a training for women, especially for vulnerable women, and I told her these are the kind of trainings that we go through, that we teach people and it – for those we have trained – it has totally changed their view of the of their resources and she told me: When is that training? Can I go for one of them? Even tomorrow?
So – but I asked her: what has the pastor been telling you to?
– The pastor tells us what to say.
The pastors tell us to sow a seed. Give and God will give you. And I have tried to do this investment – it’s not, it’s not really doing very well, I still find I’m still the needy person, and she said please take my contacts, let me know where the next training is. I want to do that training. Last year we did a training like that in Watoto Church in Kampala.
Watoto Church is one of the biggest Pentecostal churches at the centre, at the heart of Kampala. They were planning to give women finances to start their personal businesses. But our country coordinator there told them: there is a training that CMS-Africa can do for these women before you give them money, because they need first of all a renewed mindset so that they have a good ‘software’ where they can actually – which can help them to handle finances. And the church reluctantly accepted and gave us the opportunity. And we did that training over six months – we meet once in a month for three hours and we give assignments for this team to do throughout the month. In the first month we ask them to record all their expenditure, whatever expense you make, record it down, but you know, you are spending God’s resources not your resources. Now, at the end of the month when we come together, we ask them to present their expenses for the month and we ask them – what did you learn? And they said: We have so much. Writing down my expenditures showed me that I have so much resources and God has already blessed me. By the second month they were able to do their own budgets and by the third month they said: We do not need loans from the from the church; we just need to manage what we have.
I met one lady – Joanita – she told me: now she saves more, she gives more to the church and she has started her own business and she hopes to increase her income. And this is not only limited to women, it’s not limited to families – we we have the same programmes with young people – we do what we call 3D – the 3 Ds represent discovery development and deployment. And these young people – you know, Uganda, Africa has very few jobs and these young people have discovered their talents and they are beginning to develop them, deploy them, and they are making a huge difference in their own lives and in their churches. A Presbyterian pastor told me but last month, he said: At last, I have developed a team of responsible fathers in these young men. There is a lot more… thank you.
[Debbie James] Brilliant, thank you. It’s wonderful to hear of the – [Chan Nam Chen] Let me very quickly just add to Moses’ story: what they’ve developed in Kenya is what we term as the Samaritan Strategy training, which is a transformed worldview about money and stewardship. That same programme has been translated into Urdu and used in Pakistan and it’s actually changing communities there right now. Now that’s collaboration!
Fabulous, fabulous. That leads me on very nicely – segue into my next question because – we know that very much mission isn’t just parochial, you know, it’s contextual but it’s also around partnering and working collaboratively in other contexts, so I wondered, Nam Chen could you give us an example of what mission from everywhere to everywhere, as we sometimes call it, looks like in the context of Asia, I mean you’ve given that lovely example of how the training in Africa has been shared in Pakistan…
[Chan Nam Chen] Now, we are living right now in a world of migration and some of those stories and the incidents that I’ve come across, it just kind of blows my mind of what God does. This was just a couple of months ago: I was in Dubai. I met a Nepali professional in his 40s who became a Christian somewhere in about 15 years ago but because he came to faith at least three other districts in Nepal right now has plants, has church planting going on inside. And then he was telling me about another three persons that is ready to be baptised and he was speaking to me and with his Nepali accent and I couldn’t quite catch what he was trying to say about these three persons ready for baptism and finally I realised what he was telling me: he was talking about Lisbon, Portugal.
So in other words, you have got this guy, became a Christian in a Gulf country reaching back to Nepal and then also at the same time reaching another person in – or a group of people – in Portugal. And two months ago I was in Vietnam. I discovered a church planter that was sold off as a child bride to China, 30 years later coming back and planting a church. And what we are really seeing is that they are connecting across national borders, they are connecting across ethnic boundaries and different socio-economic groups and this is what I will say that it is: from everywhere to everywhere. But it’s not just evangelism and church planting, you’re also talking about skills in community development, social justice issues, human trafficking, where – you are literally seeing it’s from everywhere to everywhere, where they are connecting resources and doing things together.
[Debbie James] Fabulous – and Moses, what does it look like from an African context? What does ‘everywhere to everywhere’ look like?
Perhaps it could be Africa to Asia or elsewhere, can you give us a flavour of that? Yeah, Nam Chen talked about the work that we started, that we did in in Pakistan. It didn’t start in Pakistan: this young man came to Africa, to Nairobi, he attended a training, the Samaritan strategy training, and he stayed with one of our trainers called Mosheni. So in the morning, Mosheni wakes up early to polish shoes and he polished the shoes of this man… the next morning, when he came out he saw his shoes were really shining – and that was a big surprise to him. And one of the messages about the Samaritan strategy is loving your neighbour. We didn’t know that the cultural aspects in Pakistan are such that you cannot polish someone’s shoes. That’s the work of a servant, the lowest of the servants. And so he said if this is what it means to go through a Samaritan strategy and to love your neighbour, I want to take this training to Pakistan. And he did it. His mission was so effective in Pakistan that it got to be noticed by the authorities and today he is not there, he has actually relocated, because of the threats to his life, to Canada. But amazingly the mission in Pakistan is moving on because of the Samaritan Strategy. God has changed ways in which he moves: churches, big churches and big congregations may no longer be the move that God is using but God is going into individual lives wherever they are, even if they are underground, and this is what we would like to spread around – that God would send us where his people are, where the souls are, not that people would come into a big building. We are looking forward to having mission – we call ourselves Church on Monday not Church on Sunday. The Church of Monday – which is Monday to Saturday – affecting the lives of the people. We look at church in the marketplace, the church in offices, that somebody who works in the Ministry of Finance, or the person who works down in the market selling tomatoes, will look at themselves as people in mission.