In this regular column, our Baptist National Leader, Charles Hewlett, keeps us posted on the happenings in Baptist faith communities across Aotearoa. The original Charles Mail is emailed out on a Friday and reproduced here the following Monday.

Kawepūrongo

Baptism photos always go to the top of Charles Mail.

Pastor Markus Schonberger shared these photos of recent Putaruru Baptist Church baptisms. Four young people and a man who had recently started coming to church were baptised in the Waikato River on Sunday. Markus says the rain stopped as they began, and the Holy Spirit filled those being baptised. 

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Cor 5:17)

And then come photos of people learning together about the gospel of Jesus...

Dave Giesbers (pastor - Mount Roskill Baptist Church) writes,

"Last Tuesday we kicked off something which is a bit new for us, called the “Life Course” – 5 evenings over dessert thinking about what is the purpose of life, and how Jesus gives us a meaning and purpose which deals with even that great adversary, death itself. 25 people from across the generations at MRBC came along including some friends who are exploring who Jesus is, some who are in the process of establishing a foundation for their faith, and some who are keen to experience the Life Course so they can invite friends to come along when we run the course in future."

Dave writes, "Our prayer and hope is that God would use these small steps to see people take hold of that wonderful offer Jesus makes in John’s gospel, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Lunch with Craig

A very significant highlight was having Craig Vernall (our National Leader before me) drive up all the way from Tauranga just to take me out for lunch!

Mostly we talked about Jesus, the Bible, the Gospel, the Church, and Mission. Then we talked a bit more about Jesus! We prayed for each other, and that gospel renewal would come through New Zealand Baptists. 

Thanks Craig for your care, wisdom, and support. This visit is gonna keep me going for quite a while :)

Regional Leaders Retreat

A major part of my week was being on Retreat with our Regional Leaders. How special to host the Retreat in my home – starting with dinner on Sunday evening (my wife, Joanne, makes the best spaghetti meatballs), and then being joined by the Lead Team on Tuesday morning.

We talked a lot about Jesus, and our choseness, and how functioning as a child of God is crucial in Christian leadership. We talked a lot about Baptist faith communities and how we might help them to thrive - especially to grow young. 

My highlight was going to the movies together to engage with the Korean film, 'Riceboy Sleeps'. We talked at length about the challenges raised in the film of transitioning between cultures, and what it might mean for us as a family of churches. 

I love my colleagues.

Our Chinese pastors’ monthly meeting

It was quite moving for me to walk into the middle of the Northern Baptist Association's monthly meeting of Chinese Pastors – with Reti Ah-Voa and Peter Anderson (see photo below). What a team! I look at each person in this photo and give thanks to God for them. I know that these leaders will be integral in shaping the future of New Zealand Baptists. Thank you Jesus.

As you can see in the photo above, I accidently cut Pastor Andrew Lai in half - I am so sorry Andrew! But here he is here :) Andrew is one of the pastors at Pakuranga Chinese Baptist Church (back in the day he completed a Diploma of Mission through Carey Baptist College). Thank you, Andrew, for many many years of faithful service within the Baptist family of churches.

Catching up with our Children and Families coaches

I always look forward to my monthly catch-up with our Children and Families coaches. This week Jan, Raewyn, Steph and I talked about the many Easter resources that are available for churches and families. The thing that caught my attention was a beautiful Bible storybook that teaches young children the gospel, helping them to understand why Jesus died and rose again. Ha, pretty good for adults to hear too!

The Garden, the Curtain, and the Cross.

These women are a real gift to our movement - be proactive in contacting them if you need ideas and support.

eCamp 2024

Speaking of Easter, how cool to see the amazing team pulling together eCamp 2024 (photo below from their Tuesday night meeting). Raewyn Moodie tells me they're looking forward to welcoming hundreds of intermediate age youth to Finlay Park, Waikato over the Easter weekend to meet with our wonderful God and enjoy this beautiful setting.

If you haven't signed up your Year 7-9 youth visit eCamp.co.nz. If you want to visit during the weekend, you'll need to also sign in on the website. They'd love you to come and see what God is doing in this generation!

Baptist Union Constitution Review

Over the last week I have also participated in a Baptist Union Constitution Review Team meeting (photo below with Rewai, Wayne, Jordyn, Jenny, Rod, Peter, and Greg). Thanks, Peter Crow, for being such an excellent Chair. As discussed at the National Hui, the purpose of this group is to bring recommendations to the movement on what future governance might look like. We look forward to their consultation with us at our Regional Hui and Hui a Māori.

Te Pouarataki mō te Hīkoi

From our Treaty Guide

In the week ahead, the Lead Team and staff at the Baptist Support Centre will go on a haerenga (journey) to tell the story of the early days of Baptist Māori Ministries in Pukekohe, Waiuku, Tuakau and across the Waikato River to Te Puaha o Waikato (Port Waikato). It's a story of mission and ministry, a story of Te Rongopai, Gospel Renewal from 1954.

In preparing for this time, I've been very thankful for those who responded to the call to join God in His mission. By the 1990's much had changed and one of the exciting Māori initiatives was the formation of Te Waka o Te Rongopai (The gospel canoe), a Baptist Māori Ministries kapa haka group based in Pukekohe. Te Waka o Te Rongopai performed many times over a few years with the joy of honouring Jesus through toi Māori (Māori arts).

I live in the anticipation of what shape the new Waka o Te Rongopai might look like.

Ngaa manaakitanga (blessings).

(From Luke Kaa-Morgan)

Matawhaiaro

Kia ora Baptist Whānau

I pray that you have been encouraged in your work this week. 

In the role of National Leader, it is sometimes hard to stay connected to a local church. You are often away on a Sunday, and weeknights can easily get filled. It is easy to become removed from (and lack a fresh understanding of) the very communities you are trying to help thrive. 

However, I'm excited to let you know that on Sunday Joanne and I got commissioned to our new role of Young Adult Connect Group leaders at our church (see the photo below).

This means we get to regularly host a small group of young adults in our home – to help them make sense of their studies, vocations, and world through a biblical worldview (and provide them with a good feed too!).

We are very nervous about our new responsibility. Will anyone turn up? Am I wearing the right t-shirt? Will I be able to relate to them? Will they think I'm too old? What if they ask a really hard question? And what if they don't come back!! 

But also, we are so very excited. What a privilege we have been given – I can't wait for the young adults to turn up! I will let you know how we get on.

Stand firm in your faith, and be courageous and strong.

Charles

Karakia

This week I have been praying this simple prayer by Walter Brueggemann.

I invite you to pray this with me, not only for the war-torn world we are part of, but for the communities you inhabit. May New Zealand Baptists be active participants in making peace real. 

God of all,

Remove boundaries that exclude and hurt, and replace our fear of the other with trust and compassion.

Bring peace to all places that are torn apart by war and violence.

Give us courage to be active participants in making peace real.

Amen.

 

Photos supplied by Charles Hewlett.

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