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SURRENDER EXISTS TO RAISE UP CHRISTIANS TO LIVE THE RADICAL CALL OF JESUS AND FOLLOW HIM TO THE LEAST, THE LAST AND THE LOST.

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How to use what’s in your hands to fulfil your calling

Liana Pantalone

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Liana Pantalone, Communications Officer at CBM Australia, reflects on using what is literally in your hands to fulfil your God-given calling.

So there I was, in a remote part of the Philippines watching a person’s life change before my eyes.

Children and adults from some of the poorest communities, were lined up ready to receive cataract surgery that would literally restore their sight.

It was Miracles Day, a special day where Australians join to give the Miracle of sight-saving surgery for those living in poverty... And here I was witnessing this transformative change right before my eyes.

When you feel like you have little to offer

I have to admit, standing about a metre away watching the doctor’s skilful hands restore sight in just 12 minutes, the feeling of being a spectator became uncomfortable.

I could hear the woman speaking, and the doctor translated her words to me, smiling “She says she can see!”

Wow. All of me in that moment was regretting my career choice… why hadn’t I chosen to pursue something that could literally transform someone’s life so tangibly.

I’d like to think of it as a humble jealousy of the impact that this one doctor was able to make in minutes.

Identifying what you hold

There I was taking photos on my phone, the one thing I had in my hands to share the impact of Miracles Day. It was in that moment my mind remembered the beautiful hearts of Australians, many of whom were donating these amazing miracles from back home.

With a few clicks on their phone, these people were using what they had in their hands to donate to a mission where all people can live to their fullest potential.

They were participating in the work of the Lord’s heart, to spread hope and restore life.

These people, perhaps like you… may have never met the lady with poor sight, or the little boy who had never seen his mother’s face.

Yet, back in Australia amongst their busy schedules, men and women everywhere were making a quick call to donate a miracle and bring justice to someone in need.

It was in this moment I was reminded, that our actions, no matter how small, aren’t just significant…but necessary.

With every donation made, people’s actions were advocating for the worth of those living in poverty with disability. People, who some might call ‘the least, the last and the lost’.

Using the little you do have

With every photo I captured, I began to ask… What more can I do?

Mark 12:41-44, is an encouraging passage from the bible about The Widow’s Offering.

People all around her were throwing in large amounts of money into the temple treasury. In that moment, it would have been so easy for her to look at the two coins in her hand and render them useless, insignificant or not valuable enough.

But she chose to participate with all she could offer.

I wonder how many of us look at our own passions, skills, gifts and abilities and render them… not ‘good enough’.

Yet, here Jesus’ response was profound; “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others…”

Be willing to participate

With a passion to write and communicate, I knew that this is what I could offer. I took to the CBM Facebook page with live videos and photos from the field. Since then I have written blogs and shared with anyone who will listen about the wonderful things that happen on Miracles Day when people choose to give.

If you are looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of those who are often unreached and provide them with a sight-saving surgery, you don’t need much.

Every person holds something that is powerful to make a difference in this world.

Whether giving a gift, spreading the word or performing the surgery, we are all called to use whatever it is that’s been placed in our hands to fulfil his purpose for us in reaching the least, the last and the lost.

You can give a miracle by calling 1800 678 069 or learn more at cbm.org.au/miraclesday

Meet Ben and Chelsea Chong...

Ben and Chelsea Chong

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Ben and Chelsea are travelling for 6 months to 8 different countries, exploring God’s call to love people on the margins. They are meeting with followers of Jesus who live and work in various contexts to see how God is working around the world, gain wisdom about sustainability, and to discern the next steps for their own vocations.

‘I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert’ – Isaiah 43:19

This verse in Isaiah speaks to me about how God is in control and can do anything – He can cause water to spring up out of a barren desert. He has been teaching me this in so many ways during our time in Cambodia.

The team from InnerCHANGE Cambodia extended us extraordinary hospitality, inviting us into their homes and lives for 3 weeks and so we had the privilege to glimpse life as a missionary living with the urban poor. These are people who have been serving in Cambodia from a few months up to two decades. They taught me that following the call of Jesus to love people on the margins in a cross-cultural context is laying down your life for the pearl of great price: the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We witnessed what a sacrifice it is to learn a new language as an adult: re-learning basic words for daily survival. It’s a humbling process that seems to strip you back and require a deepening of your dependence on God.

During a neighbourhood walk we were invited to consider how the Kingdom of God is already breaking out and active in the lives of Cambodian urban poor. A team leader explained that since arriving around 20 years ago, their work has been to try to keep up with what the Holy Spirit is already doing here: such a hopeful and humble perspective to take as followers of Jesus, particularly in a cross-cultural setting.

This lesson of dependence and submission was reinforced for me when I attended 4 days of training in Christian Coaching. We met an inspiring cross section of Christian workers, Cambodians and ex-pats, and witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives through coaching conversations.

One of the premises of coaching in Christian context is that every follower has the Spirit at work revealing His will. The work of the coach is to ask powerful questions to expand the coachee’s thinking and begin to reveal what God has already placed in their heart. Learning the process revealed the depth of my self-dependence as a strong desire to give advice rose up in me time and time again. Over the 4 days of training I was supported to release more control and to see the Spirit powerfully at work. It was a deeply freeing experience, the truth of which I will hold onto and work to remember for all areas of my life.

Through the faithfulness and generosity of the people we encountered in Cambodia, God extended my faith, opened my eyes to see His sovereignty more clearly, and drew me to both a deeper dependence on Him and more concretely towards a life lived with people on the margins.

We are beyond grateful to Mark, Susan and Soriya Smith | Sopheak, F, Bethany, Em and Ben Soeung | Joy Kreider | Olivia Wyatt | Maggie Wong  (Inner CHANGE Cambodia) and to Kevin Stebbings who delivered the coaching training.

Looking forward to what God reveals through our time in Manila throughout February!

For more information on InnerCHANGE please visit - www.innerchange.org

For more from Ben and Chelsea please visit – www.benandchelsea.com.au  and benjaminjchong on Instagram

 

The Homeground Café Project (Tanti Park Social Enterprises)

Sam Hearn

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This initiative grew out of a long term committed Christian community development presence in the disadvantaged Tanti Park (Mornington Park) neighbourhood. Our neighbourhood faith community, Jigsaw, had long held desires to address the need for a positive third place in our community, and also to provide employment and training opportunities for our young people who can struggle to get a fair go.

In 2017 all the pieces came together with a shopfront in the middle of our neighbourhood coming up for lease. It was vacated by the local primary school op shop that we supported the set up of a couple of years ago. We also met a local lady who’d begun doing coffee herself out of the op-shop, and connected this with friends who own a coffee roastery and some other café’s on the Mornington Peninsula. Finally, it was great to get support from Baptcare and the Innovate program, as well as our local council and Federal MP to make it possible!

We launched a couple of weeks ago with a big street party, and while we’re still in the middle of making it all work week to week its been amazing already to see local young people employed and doing great work, and heaps of friends from our neighbourhood hanging out in the café with big smiles on their faces!

HomeGround’s mission is to support young people and create community and belonging in its local neighbourhood and the wider Mornington Peninsula region. We also sling top notch Commonfolk coffees and make great food too!

There are three key areas Home Ground focuses on:

1.    Providing vocational training and employment pathways for young people who are struggling to get a fair go! Hospitality and tourism has the highest skills shortage of any sector on the Mornington Peninsula, and at the same time we have some of the highest youth unemployment in Victoria! Home Ground provides an opportunity for young people to start a journey towards a fulfilling career in the industry. Home Ground partners with Commonfolk Coffee Co to connect with local industry leaders to provide onsite experience to its trainees and offer a glimpse into the some of the best restaurants and cafes on the Peninsula. Upon completion of their training our trainees will be supported to find lasting employment in our cafe and/or the wider industry.

2.    Creating a place to call home! We want our community to be part of creating a 'third place' in our local neighbourhood. A place to hang out, meet new people, and share a sense of belonging, connectedness and friendship. Home Ground has been fitted out with consultation with the local community so the space creates an aesthetic that fits the community and gives them a sense of ownership of the cafe. Home Ground is a place that people feel included and welcome. Community groups are invited to regularly use the café premises as a place for their activities and events.

3.    Providing education and connection around healthier food and access to local foods and community meals. Home Ground will work with local community garden which Jigsaw also was part of setting up and other local growers to focus menu items on locally sourced and grown produce. We will develop a supply chain that aims to have a positive environmental and social impact. Our menu will be accessible but healthy. We are keen to offer community cooking and meals that give people from our local community an opportunity to share skills and create awareness around healthy eating.

Check it out at: https://www.facebook.com/homegroundcoffeecompany/

A Different Way

Tom Allen

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Heading into it, I hoped A Different Way would be a time for rest, peaceful reflection and discussion. I came away having found all those things, but also with a challenge; to hold onto and embody the full hope of the gospel.

A Different Way is a week to explore Christian alternatives in the realm of the home economy; money, work, consumption, production, and sustainability. This year it was facilitated by Jonathan and Kim Cornford, and took place in Long Gully, Bendigo, with the Seeds community. Ten of us took part, billeted with various households in the community, all within 15 minutes’ walk of one another.

Long Gully is one of the poorer and more stigmatised neighbourhoods of Bendigo. Originally home to the gold diggings and the miners who worked them, it’s never really strayed from its working-class roots and is home to a fairly large commission housing zone. We began the week with a walk through the bush next to the Cornfords’ home, connecting with the place we were in and its significance to all those who have been sustained upon it—from the Djadjawurrung who lived there from time immemorial, to the miners who scoured the land for gold, right up to the kids of the Seeds community, who make cubbies and huts in the bush.

The walk grounded us, and this was a key theme throughout the week; grounding the often-spiritualised heart of the gospel in material life—this body, this place, this time. As someone who grew up in a fairly mainstream church in inner-city Melbourne I had some insight into the difference of the Christian life. It tended to revolve around sexual morality, some aspects of personal financial frugality and generosity, and treating others with love and respect. It was later as my passion for justice became more closely intertwined with my faith and biblical understanding that I began to grasp how wide and deep was the gospel’s call on my life, and how radical. A Different Way was an opportunity to sit with a community that lived out this truth and soak it up.

Each day focused on one of five topics: creation, good work, salvation, hope for the poor, and money. Every day was bookended by prayer, reflection and singing. We would then move into a bible study followed by a discussion on application. The afternoon was for rest, followed by some physical work, which involved building a garden bed, tending the community garden at the local church, and rendering the new mud-brick house of one of the Seeds community members. Dinner was followed by some sort of reflective exercise or discussion as well.

I found the week satisfying, relaxing and exciting in equal measure. In many ways I felt at home. I know my stuff around the garden, I am attentive to the sustainability of my life choices, I have an appreciation of the biblical cases for creation care, Indigenous justice, service alongside the poor, I am wary of the trappings of wealth and comfort; what could I have had to learn from this week?

What I drew from it was a challenge that went far deeper than something to know or to do. The challenge to hope went right to my centre, and it will be much more difficult to achieve than reading a book or planting some seedlings. I, like many of my peers, am all too often prone to cynicism. This drowns my imagination and creativity, blotting out my aspirations to fullness of life. I have come to associate aspiration, positivity and joy with silver bullets, misguided good intentions, and naïveté. But in a bible study midway through the week we considered Jesus’ sermon on the mount, and someone said ‘eternal life begins now’.

My understanding of the Christian life can at times tend towards self-flagellation. This term literally means self-flogging, and it features in some monastic practice, but has come to describe any practice of beating yourself up. Often I measure authenticity of belief or integrity of action by how much it hurts. This isn’t a great recipe for embodying hope, bringing light to the world, or growing the spiritual fruits of love, joy, peace and so on.

What I noticed with the Seeds community was the fullness of their life; the joy of their children, the bounties of their gardens, the cheerful clucking of their chooks. Does this mean they’re self-indulgent, somehow straying from the dark, narrow, muddy track Jesus wants us to whip ourselves along? Not at all. There can be a joy present in faithful Christian community that truly witnesses to the power of the good news.

Going further:

If you’re interested in spending some time learning with the Seeds community, they will be holding a weekend on The Arts of Home Economy in Autumn 2018. Email enquiries to jonathan@mannagum.org.au

A Different Way runs every second year, so the next opportunity will be November 2019.

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