Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand!
Rev. Abhi and I have now been in Thailand for a few weeks, as part of the Asian Ecumenical Institute (AEI) - A young leaders training program hosted by the Christian Conference of Asia. We departed Auckland at 7am (NZT) on October 24th, and after stops in Sydney and Bangkok, arrived in Chiang Mai at 4am (NZT) on October 25th.
Thus far, the long trip has been well worth it. Chiang Mai is a great, mighty city, filled with a warm and vibrant people and energy. The weather has been quite hot so far, so thank God for air conditioning! The nation of Thailand is currently in mourning, in the wake of the loss of his majesty, King Rama IX, and so there are many shrines all over the city, in tribute to the long standing leader of this nation. For 1 year, Thailand will mourn, wearing black and refraining from any celebrations. It is unique time to be in the country, witnessing this, and also respecting the local people in their time of mourning.
As part of AEI, we are joined by young leaders from Myanmar, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Timor Leste and the Philippines. All bring a unique story and great deal of wisdom from within their own respective contexts.
In our first week here, we have learnt just as much outside of the classroom, as we have inside. One of the great benefits of such an experience is that we are able to hear and learn of people from different parts of the world - both in things that are familiar and things that are starkly different.
Personally, I have been constantly reminded of the many things our church (and country) take for granted. The empowering of women, support for the LGBT community, and the ability to follow Christ freely and safely are some of the things that immediately come to mind. These are normalized realities to us, but to many others only distant dreams, which seem far from ever becoming tangible reality. We are by no means perfect, but must never lose sight of the many things that make our Haahi a place worth celebrating.
Keep an eye out for more updates coming soon and please continue to uphold us in your prayers!
Grace and Peace
It was a cold and wet night, I had had a long day so decided to go to bed. I laid down on my wooden bench in AUT's quad, as the wind blew the rain into my face. The noise of traffic in Auckland's CBD was inescapable. A bus stop light shone bright above my head. Every time I would uncomfortably begin to doze off, the footsteps of people walking by would wake me up.
I finally did fall asleep, only to be woken by some of the most violent thunder and flashing lightning I've ever witnessed. The crashing thunder was as if God was ripping holes in the skies above. The lightning, quick flash glimpses of heaven on the other side.
Again, people's footsteps - A reminder privacy was no longer a right, but a privilege I could not attain.
I eventually crashed out again, only to again be woken, this time by two mates who had stopped by to provide a coffee and cookie and some warm cheer, in the face of a dark reality.
They eventually left, returning to their lives and houses, while I tried again to get some kind of "rest" on the wooden bench that for tonight I would call home.
On Thursday July 7th, this was my night as one of 131 people, participating in Lifewise's The BIG Sleep out 2016 - A memorable night to say the least! As part of BSO, we were challenged to raise funds for homelessness in Auckland city, whilst also getting a taste of what it actually feels like to have the shoe on the other foot.
I still struggle to come to terms with the reality that, my one night experience as an Auckland city rough sleeper, is a day-to-to reality for more than 18,000 people in our country.
What was even more heartbreaking to me, was learning that 50% of the homeless population on our streets are 17-24 years old. As a 24 year old, living in relative comfort, and who complains when my WiFi is cutting out and my Netflix connection is lagging, this really hit home.
After a night of learning, workshops and sleep (I use that term loosely), I was deeply challenged to reflect upon my life and comforts, and ask whether there is more that we can be doing.
I believe the answer is yes.
When Jesus says in Matt.25:35 "for I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in," I believe He is giving us a simple reminder - That through faith, we have the power to do something. For orphan, for the oppressed, for displaced and the deserted. WE have the power to look at the problems that inflict everyday, hardworking people face and do something. This is our calling!
So, as I have had the time to reflect on such things, I encourage to reflect on the same - What could you be doing in your life, family or faith community to live out what Jesus is saying in Matt.25.35?
I also want to stress a huge THANK YOU to everyone who donated toward this cause over the last two weeks. Together, we have raised nearly $320k, which will go toward finding houses for homeless people in our city. THANK YOU again!
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity – 1 Timothy 4:12
If you have had any involvement in children and youth ministry, have been a young person in church, or have had the opportunity to talk to young people and needed a verse of encouragement, chances are you have definitely come across 1.Timothy 4:12 at one time or another!
And for good reason. The verse, and chapter for that matter, is an inspiring call for young man Timothy to live and lead in faith, without paying any attention to his age and perceived lack of ability. In this instance, age is to be seen literally as just a number.
Furthermore, Timothy is challenged and encouraged (the two go together) to set an example to the believers. Not just young believers, all believers. These are powerful words, which with God’s spirit breathed into them, have the potential to shape and form a young persons sense of identity and belonging.
Personally, I recall a time when the late great Rev. Andre Le Roux gave me the opportunity to share the message in our 10am service - I was 16 years of age. Without any formal training, lacking a theological degree, and without wrinkles to go with each year in the mission field, he gave me a chance to speak to our congregation, believing God has no interest in age, but only in faithful servants. That day, 1 Timothy 4.12 became a very tangible verse in my journey, and one I am reminded of constantly, even as a 24 year old all these years later.
I believe this verse is a biblical framework for ministry to young people, and one which has more relevance to us today as Methodists than ever before. The reason I say this is because we are one of two people in the story – Timothy or Paul. As I mentioned at the top, we often use this verse as an encouragement to our young people – encouraging them to be a young Timothy in their contexts. How often though do we in turn look to presbyters, parents and leaders and remind them to be Paul?
You see, Paul is the key component in this story. Paul encourages and edifies Timothy. Paul gives him freedom to be his own leader and Paul most importantly chooses not to look at the age of his younger brother, but instead honour him for the very skills and qualities that God has placed in his hands.
For every Timothy in your context, every young leader and potential leader – May there also be a Paul to speak life over and encourage in all situations. My hope is that our church will continue to do everything necessary to nurture and empower our young people, from every room of our Methodist House. This is our mission, and our calling, in Jesus name. Amen.