Where were you in November 1989? Can you remember? I was a broker liaison officer for the Manukau Branch of NZI Insurance. My role was as an account manager looking after insurance brokers and processing their business.
In my group of clients were two Asian insurance agents, Jim and David.
Together we insured a large number of the Chinese restaurants and takeaway bars across Auckland, plus a few businesses of a less flammable type. Every Monday and Wednesday I was out hitting the pavements with these two men who were, for the most part, my translators as I helped manage their insurance portfolio. In the course of the day I found I myself eating in some wonderful Asian restaurants – well, one has to be polite!
At that same time, the then-General Director of the New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society, Rev. Ian Brown, was on a “boat to China.” Not literally. It was actually an aeroplane. He travelled to Hong Kong to discuss the possibility of partnering with national Baptist Leaders and the work they were doing.
In April 1990, the Mission Council of NZBMS agreed to start a new field on behalf of Baptists across New Zealand and during the 1990s we communicated the needs of East Asia and the part we could play in serving God there. Our Prayer and Self Denial theme of 1996 was, “It’s About Time.” In it we outlined the new and unknown journey of heading into East Asia. All these years on we’re still in East Asia, albeit in a slightly different location and working in quite a varied capacity.
In 2011 we asked ourselves, does God still want us to be involved in East Asia? It was a simple question but one that needed careful consideration.
Over the last 18 months we have had numerous discussions at both governance and operational levels, both in New Zealand and in East Asia, where six tranzsend overseas workers are stationed.
Last July, this discussion culminated in a meeting in East Asia with a number of us talking together about the future and seeking God’s voice to confirm and affirm our call to this part of the world. It was a very productive time. We talked about a number of things that required some reflection and research back here in New Zealand. One of the things we needed to consider was the perception within our Baptist churches about our activity here and their involvement in this aspect of Baptist work.
We’ve had a staff presence in East Asia since 1992 and currently have three couples serving in that region. Unfortunately, for security reasons, we cannot say too much here about who these people are and what exactly they are doing. What I can tell you is that we are involved in business, healthcare, pastoral care, church planting, Bible distribution, prison ministry, education, family counselling and community support.
So why am I saying all this? Well, at our March Mission Council meeting, following our review, we agreed to the following motion: “that we enthusiastically affirm that East Asia continue to be a field of tranzsend with particular emphasis in supporting the work of others in the wider context of East Asia from, through and in the southern geographical parts of this region.” (Italics indicate an unnamed but specific location in East Asia.)
Those who have served in this part of the world over the last 22 years have laid down a foundation and legacy for the future and we’re committed to the cornerstone ministry of supporting others called to work in this region.
Many Kiwis have a heart for the people of East Asia and we have many East Asian peoples in our churches. We’re here to support, serve, encourage, learn, mobilise and resource more New Zealand Baptists to go and serve God in this region. Perhaps that includes you.
I used to work with people from Asia in the normal course of my job and now I continue to serve the people of Asia though NZBMS. You can as well. Give us a call, share your vision with us and perhaps you can join our team and go and serve God in a modern Asia that desperately needs to hear the good news of Jesus.
• Peter Mihaere is General Director of the New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society – New Zealand Baptists