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When Gravity Shifts:

How God used missionaries from Kenya to help transform His church in Whanganui

How does God help Whanganui believers share the truth of Jesus Christ, when they've been culturally conditioned to keep quiet? He gives them leaders from another culture.

The church is Ingestre Street Bible Chapel, the pastors are Alice and Kinyua from Kenya, and this is how God brought them together.

A Disturbing Question

Back in 2009, Alice and Kinyua were in full-time theological studies in Kenya. During that time, they were confronted with the idea that a missional shift was taking place in the world: more missionaries were now being sent from the South and East to take the gospel of Christ to the North and West.

A disturbing question arose in their minds: "What if God is sending us from Africa as missionaries?" As Alice recalls, she was not at all comfortable with this direction. "I was not enthusiastic about the idea. I was comfortable in Kenya and the thought of leaving Africa scared me."

She and Kinyua prayed. "What else could we do but at least make ourselves available to the possibility that God might use us in this way?"

Five years passed during which time the couple completed their studies, married, and became fulltime pastors in their church. Then, in 2014, the possibility of taking the gospel to the West became decidedly real.

Alice and Kinyua's church, Mamlaka Hill Chapel, had received an invitation from the Church Missionary Society. The invitation was to send missionaries to help with evangelism in New Zealand for one month. Alice and Kinyua were among the 12 who were sent.

"Each of us was attached to a different church in Dunedin." Says Alice. "We did outreach work every day for three weeks. After that we were sent to Timaru where we did exactly the same thing."

Paralysis in New Zealand

During that time, Alice noticed a kind of paralysis that was common among New Zealand Christians. "They wanted to reach out to people, to tell the truth about Jesus, but they felt so unqualified. The believers were paralysed. And I could see why. New Zealand society seemed very loud in its anti-Christian attitude. It was overpowering, like a kind of social persecution which made many feel that their gospel message was irrelevant and unwelcome. The believers really took this to heart."

The Kenyan disciples also sensed a lack of faith in the Gospel's power, that God's message of grace had the capacity to transform others. "They definitely knew that the gospel had the power to convict them" explained Alice, "but they were not sure that the power was there to move another person. I think that's why New Zealand Christians seemed resigned to encouraging one another in their salvation."

Uninterested or Uninformed?

In spite of her own confidence, Alice also experienced resistance from those who were unwilling to hear her Christian message. But even among these people, she discovered that ignorance, not hard-heartedness was the reason for their hesitation.

"I met two teenage girls and told them what we were doing and why we were in New Zealand. I invited them to an event but they were reluctant to come. When I asked about their spiritual background, I was surprised to learn that neither they nor their parents had ever been to church. They asked me 'What happens in your church?' I realised that they were not resistant – they just had no idea of what Christianity was about. They were completely unreached! This made me wonder how many other New Zealanders were seeking but uninformed."

Called to Return

Upon returning to Kenya, Alice and Kinyua felt to pray about returning as missionaries to New Zealand. Their prayer was simple: "If the Lord opens a door for us to go back to New Zealand by the end of the year, we'll go."

Within six months, they'd received three invitations to interview for pastoral positions –two from churches in Christchurch and one from Ingestre Street Bible Church (ISBC) in Wanganui. Initially, the interviews were via Skype, but in March 2015, Kinyua was flown back to New Zealand for face-to-face interviews with the ISBC leaders.

Alice recalls: "All of us felt that God was in this; Kinyua even received several confirmations that Whanganui was God's mission field for us. But even though we were supposed to start in 2015, we couldn't travel since I was expecting our first child."

In fact, it was a full 10 months later than the expected start date before Alice, Kinyua, and Kara were able to set foot in New Zealand. "That was a long delay, a long time for the church to wait for us. But they were so convinced about Kinyua and me, they were willing to wait."

The couple started work in May 2016.

Missionary Pastors

Though they were employed as pastors for ISBC, both Alice and Kinyua felt that they were also missionaries and needed to approach their work as such. "We both felt strongly about this." said Alice. "The culture here was completely new to us, so we needed to take the time to learn about New Zealand life and the people, and to be accepted by our local community and neighbours. It was no different than if a Kiwi had come over to serve in Kenya."

God's wisdom in bringing this couple to New Zealand was apparent. As missionaries from outside the culture, Alice and Kinyua were not conditioned to expect gospel resistance. As pastors of a local church, they were now in a place to lead their people into the freedom and confidence they had always enjoyed.

Alice puts it like this. "Even though Kinyua and I do not regard ourselves as Evangelists, we do feel we have something to offer our New Zealand friends. As Kenyans, we are more willing to share with others and not be paralysed about telling our gospel story."

How do you help others share Jesus?

It's one thing to be confident in your own gospel sharing; it's another to help others to overcome their fears and do likewise. Alice explains their approach: "The first thing is not to be in a hurry to change people. There is no hurry, no need to push in the first few months. At the same time, we constantly focus our people's hearts and minds on the purpose of God for us, His work of making disciples and our part in that work.

"One very important key is that Kinyua and I demonstrate how we do it; we show them so that they can see a living example, rather than just hearing exhortation from the front.

Another practical thing we do is to help our people think through their own story, so that they feel sure about what they have to share. Then we challenge them: 'Share with one person and pray intentionally for them.' Praying for someone is so important, because that's how love is cultivated, and in evangelism, love is the most crucial thing."

In spite of the preparation and excitement, many are still apprehensive about sharing their faith. Alice and Kinyua understand. "It will take time, there's no need to rush. We will push a little when the time is right, and God willing, we will all begin to experience the joy of seeing others come to know Jesus.

"And not just us. We want to share ideas with other churches and to do God's work with them. Together is always better!"



 

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