Pastor Nick

Last week my colleague and I got to spend an afternoon being shown round a community by a friend, the local Pastor. He had invited me to speak on community transformation that evening at the AGM of the local Churches Together group. As I reflected on what I saw that afternoon, my thought was: the most effective way to transform this community and others would be for this Pastor to mentor and coach others in what he was doing!

As we walked past the blocks of apartments he would tell us about the different individuals and families that lived there. It was school home time so we wondered down to the primary school to be greeted by parents and kids alike, some stopped to talk and share news. ‘Hello Pastor Nick’ was the call of most of the kids as they rushed by, free from school for the day! After some friendly banter with the Head, ‘Pastor Nick’ showed us round the school, stopping to greet and chat with various members of staff. We spent 15 minutes with a couple of teachers at the end of which we had a plan for dealing with the issue of kids turning up to school on an empty stomach and dehydrating through the school day. (When I say we, I mean Pastor Nick and the teachers of course!).

Pastor Nick is gently leading his congregation to reach out and welcome the local residents into their lives. They open up as a café a few times a week and recently ran a curry night in partnership with the local curry house: 80 members of the local community showed up!

What has all this got to do with community transformation and for that matter, what does it mean to transform a community? Traditionally we have focused on two areas in answer to this question, firstly ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to give their lives to Christ and secondly meeting the practical needs of the community. But is that enough? In our effort to build from these two starting blocks we have often tied ourselves in knots confusing discipleship with indoctrination or ‘house training for church life’. Then we get stumped over the ‘need’ to bridge the gap between social action and sharing the gospel.

What if we took Jesus mandate to us as our template for transformation? He told us to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey my teachings’. Jesus’ teaching was about living with God as the centre and Lord of life – your life and the world around you. Everything he did and taught was about living that way. He didn’t bring a set of rules or doctrines, he brought a revolutionary value system based on a relationship with our eternally loving Creator God, the saviour and redeemer of the world. Apparently Jesus expected us to teach entire communities and nations to live that way.

Not surprising when we recall God’s plan expressed in his promise to Abraham whereby all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. We are told in Hebrews that Abraham had a God given vision of a city or community that had God as the source and the centre of its design and very life. Or during the exile in Babylon when God instructed the people to work for the Shalom of the place where they had been sent. For centuries God had been calling his people out, pointing them to the things that would make for their Peace, then with Jesus he births and models this new order, this new creation. Which it turns out isn’t so new after all but is simply what God designed for us from the start.

So could it be that our mission therefore is to disciple our communities in the ways of Christ thus bringing about a transformation of our values, our way of life and so too the transformation of our culture?

Pastor Nick does life with his community; at every point of conversation, collaboration, grief or celebration, he brings a God centred (NOT religious) presence. As others join with him in this mission, gently but irresistibly a new norm will form as the community is discipled. Some may come to profess faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, many will not, but all will experience God’s action in their lives and learn those things that ‘make for our Peace’… and they will teach the next generation the same. In this way we will see our nation discipled and transformed.

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want to be inspired?

Hi, this week i posted two new links on my blog, i’d love you to have a look if you havent already. You’ll find them on the left under ‘newsletters’. the first is the most recent edition of Beyond the Horizon, a vibrant collection of stories and interviews with youth and community workers on the front line in the countries across the two thirds world. the second is an exciting report of the last 18 months or so here in the UK with Fusion. i KNOW you will be inspired by one or other of these and i will be suprised if you’re not encouraged by both!!

Explore the past, engage the present, dream the future.

Its here again!
A chance to take part in three weeks of Training, Mission and Pilgrimage that could help transform the UK and prepare us for our future!

Scores of young adults and the young at heart from across the UK, Europe and the world, will convene this summer for a Pilgrimage of Hope that could see their lives and the streets of the UK transformed.

Pilgrims will be learning from the lives of Shaftsbury, Wilberforce, Wesley and others who changed the course of history as they stood up for justice, mercy and compassion. After three days of training in community transformation, they will get to work in teams of 10, alongside local Christians running community events in their neighbourhoods – one step in a long term strategy of mission and service. Through celebrating the London games, teams working with local churches will help their communities experience a taste of God’s kingdom – the way life was meant to be.

Then after eight days of mission, pilgrims will re-convene for a life defining journey to Iona and Lindisfarne and from there, retrace the steps of some of the heroes of our faith whilst sharing and learning together with fellow pilgrims from diverse backgrounds and nations what it means to live a life sold out for Christ, bringing his life and love to our streets and neighbourhoods today.

Fusion youth and community UK, is part of an International Christian movement that had its origins in Australia more than 50 years ago. For many years pilgrimages have been a core part of their strategy for youth work, discipleship and community development, from Australia’s journey to the heart visiting Uluru, to the life of Paul in Ancient Greece or the exploration of redemption in Jamaica’s story of a people obliterated by the slave trade. Through these pilgrimages hundreds of young people have experienced the transforming work of Christ’s love, many have committed themselves to a life of Christian service and mission and whole communities have experienced reconciliation and an encounter with God’s redemptive purpose. Here in the UK as young and old tap into the rich redemptive stories from present day heroes to the reformers of the 19th century and the first celtic missionaries, we hear the call once again of Christ’s love that compels us to make a difference in our day.

This years Annual British Pilgrimage of Hope runs from the 22nd July through to the 9th of August.

To find out more about the Annual British Pilgrimage of Hope, email us at pilgrimage@fusionyac.org , visit our website on http://www.fusionyac.org/pilgrimage or call us on +441844 299 329.

Too Incredible to Ignore

The last couple of weeks have been really quite exciting as the picture of what lies ahead of us this year comes more and more into focus. One thing that is clearer than ever, in flashing neon lights, is that if anything is to happen, if our guys on the front lines are to continue the incredible work they are doing, they need help!!!

On any given day there are around 17 team at the Fusion office in Athens, Greece. These guys have been in the heart of the troubles, finding real and godly responses to the needs around them. Kids are fainting at school and people have been found having died for lack of food. Not only have they found practical responses but they have found their voice in speaking to the heart of their generation through professional quality film and television production. They are amazingly skilled and gifted! But they need help, support, training, fellowship, finances, so that they can continue the job they have been called to.

In Poland is a small group of mates, just starting out and exploring their first steps in becoming a Fusion centre. Becoming a Fusion worker means receiving no salary; these guys need help as they raise their support base and get trained. They have exciting, workable, plans and strategies but they need a hand.

There are the guys in Albania, an amazing group of die hard young people committed to seeing their country changed. They have found that running major theatre productions linked in with local high schools gives them an effective and fun way to engage with the young people, serve their communities, and bring joy and hope. This year i think they are doing the Hunch Back of Notre Dame. They are called upon regularly by the local authorities to help manage community events and youth services. But this growing team need training and support, they need financial help to put food on the table and equipment to run effective youth programs.

Moving to Ghana we have a team there, led by Francis. The team have turned the Fusion centre into a hub for the community. Not only is there fresh running water from a pump and tank that serves several communities within a wide radius. But also most days there is an after schools sports program and kids come to hang out with the team and work together. They have a radio station that has been shut down by the remote powers in Accra and the community is up in arms about it, the Regent is appealing to the powers that be to have it reinstated. The problem is that Yendi is a volatile town, and the powers in Accra fear that a radio station will fuel the violence, but the local leaders plead the evidence to the contrary – the team’s broadcasting program has helped the community come together. Then there is Timothy in Bauku – several times more volatile than Yendi… It can easily feel for these guys, like they are going it alone. They need fellowship, support, training …. you guessed it!!

Travel east from Ghana through Togo and Benin and you reach Nigeria, take the road north to Abuja and then further east to Kaduna, then work your way to the north of the city and you come to the suburb of Nassarawa. Nentawe is there, leading a small Fusion team, now respected and sought after by the community and its leaders. The work that these guys have done is breathtaking, bringing schools and communities together, leading recovery programs to outbreaks of violence or responses to a cholera epidemic, massive community interschool tournaments. A couple of months ago he was in a motorbike accident and required hospital treatment, a few weeks ago he was mugged and had his laptop and mobile stolen. Until we find an answer he is isolated from all support and fellowship and his hospital bills have yet to be paid.

Head down south to Cape Town and we have three young guys from KwazuluNatal who have this last week made the 24hour bus trip from Durban. They are returning to work with Derrick in Kewtown where they have been running kids clubs and day trips, targeting kids in a community where the norm is to drop out of school and enter gang life by your early teenage years. They have been doing a research project on the community and will be using that to help raise awareness and bring about change for good. I would love to send someone in for a few weeks to help get some key administrative jobs done that will set up the team for the rest of the year… from week to week they dont know how they will pay for groceries…

And I haven’t even mentioned the teams in Jamaica and Ukraine, India and Indonesia!! These guys need a team of us to serve them on the front lines – working to keep them connected, to tell their story, to raise support, to encourage them, to assist them in getting to training and in visiting each other for placements and support.

Would you like to be part of that team?

miracles in Nassarawa and Trenchtown

 

The organization I am part of, Fusion International, is a global network of kingdom hearted teams of social entrepreneurs, of all ages, from all backgrounds, working to bring young people and their communities together with hope. Its kind of hope in action, a practical outworking of the ‘good news’, without the bible bashing. I love it!

A week or more ago I shared about Nentawe in Nassarawa. As I write he is in the midst of an annual interschool tournament in Nassarawa that he and the team have organized for the last three years. On the first day they had 2000 kids and about 150 adults including dignitaries, the police and the press, all thrilled with the day! Here’s how he describes it:

‘the kids were all dressed smartly in their various school uniforms and were ready for the march pass and other ceremonies, I asked some of them how they felt, and they were so excited answering me, it was very pleasing to hear the kids expressed themselves about what the tournament meant for them I shed tears when a kid told me that he felt so proud of himself and he will want to join Fusion and want to play a role in making Nassarawa safer and friendly! I was very grateful to God that the tournament was making a huge impact in the lives of these kids… The team in particular were in their best working real hard to see how to make things happen, everyone delivered at his duty post and crowd management and control was superb, the police were just having a nice time playing (with) the kids and they learnt a important lesson from us, be an example to the kids and don’t use the whips. And it was so nice how the crowd was managed – We had over 2000 kids and about 150 adults at the events.’

Someone gave a donation of $5000 to help finance the project, and we were able to get Francis across from Ghana to help:

‘It was so nice having Francis from Ghana come over, we thank God for granting him a safe trip over and his presence motivated the team loads!’

I’m looking forward to hearing how the rest of the tournament went!

I also wanted to introduce you to some other friends of mine. Dave and Liz have been working in Trenchtown, Kingston, Jamaica, for a number of years, Dave for over 20 years. Both their kids were born in Jamaica! Trenchtown has one of the top murder rates per capita in the world, but is home to some of our precious team who are giving their lives to make a difference in their community.

Here’s a bit of their story:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDj8F-dlgmQ

 

 

 

quietly changing the world.

Not long ago I caught up with a colleague of mine who heads up the work in Nassarawa, Kaduna (Nigeria). I first met Nentawe in 2007, I think, he may have been part of the first Foundations course we ran in June or the training I did with the team in August of that year. At any rate, from the time Dave and Jo Ireson relocated to Kaduna to establish the work in October 2007, Nentawe was part of the core team they were working with.

He is a quiet, respectful, unassuming man in his late 20s with a love for his people and a dream for his country. Well before I met him, he had become active in a number of youth forums and had already earned at least one scholarship to travel to the UK, representing his country. By 2008 doors were open for him to earn a reasonable living which would enable him to support his younger siblings, as is expected in the culture there. But it was during that year that he chose two things, firstly to stay with the community in which he grew up, Nassarawa, one of the poorest suburbs in that part of the country, and secondly to serve his community as a full time member of the Fusion team with no salary.

More than three years later Nentawe is still there with a small team of volunteers, and they are busy as ever. Running a Kids Club in the community each week for the last three years has helped build trust and credibility in the community with parents, community leaders and schools. Each year they run a primary school soccer tournament, advent pageants and other events which bring the community together. The team from Ghana, led by Francis, makes the two day road trip to join Nentawe and his team for the tournament. But a new thing seems to have emerged over the last 18 months or so.

At points of crisis, where the community would ordinarily look to local government services that often fall short of delivering what’s needed, both the community and church leaders come knocking on Nentawe’s door. Earlier this year an epidemic of cholera swept through Nessarawa taking the lives of many, at least one of Nentawe’s close family was lost to the disease. But it was Nentawe and the team that the community leaders and churches looked to in order to facilitate a way forward in dealing with the outbreak and preventing a recurrence. Within a few weeks the national elections were held and violence broke out both in the lead up and afterwards. I was in South Africa at the time receiving emails sent out by Nentawe, together the team there and I joined many across the world and prayed for safety for Nentawe and an end to the violence. But once again it was Nentawe and the team that the leaders approached seeking help in the aftermath of the violence and further loss of life in community.

When called upon at these times, Nentawe often feels inadequate, mostly he feels as if he doesn’t have the answers. Usually what he does is bring the leaders and stakeholders together and facilitate a discussion from which a strategy for a way forward emerges; sounds pretty all right to me! Some times he can assist with navigating government departments or editing letters to officials, but mostly he just turns up for work and does what’s needed as best he can. And so Nentawe’s faithfulness to his God and his people has meant that hope and life has come to his community; on $50 a month, barely enough to support one person, he supports himself and his volunteers and keeps taking each day as it comes. He has become one of my heroes.

 

(you’ll find Nentawe Gomiyar on Facebook, linkedin, youthpolicy.org and even on U-tube, posted by ‘trust entente’)