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Partners in mission

Lent 2 ABM A Genesis 12: 1-4a Psalm 121 Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We know that there are consequences to any action we take. What we do can set into motion a series of events that may continue long after we have gone. Usually when we plan to do something, we think only of the immediate consequences which may be short-lived and mislead us. Abraham had a choice to make. His decision was between setting out with his wife and family and belongings for parts unknown or staying right where he was. He had to decide between the security of what he already had and the uncertainty of traveling under God’s direction. When God called Abram, he moved out in faith from Ur to Haran and finally to Canaan. All he had to go on was God’s promise to guide and bless him. Abraham could not have been expected to visualize how much of the future was resting on his decision of whether to go or stay, but his obedience affected the history of the world. His decision to follow God set into motion the development of the nation that God would eventually use as his own when he visited earth himself.

God promised to bless Abram and make him great, but there was one condition. When Abraham decided to do what God wanted him to do and set out for an unknown place, God established a covenant, telling him that he would be the beginning of a great nation. Not only would this nation be blessed, God said, but the other nations of the earth would be blessed through Abrams’ descendants. Israel, the nation that would come from Abram, was to follow God and influence those with whom it came in contact.

Through Abram’s family tree, Jesus Christ was born to show us how to live God’s way. The mission continues and through Christ, people can have a personal relationship with God and be blessed beyond measure.

Modern missionaries are a bit like Abraham, stepping out in faith into an unknown and sometimes scary place, and this can be a place where the language is unknown, the customs of the people are unknown and in the early days of mission work, missionaries may be killed and eaten. Today we celebrate and give thanks for the work of the Anglican Board of Mission, hope to be better informed of the How, why, what, and where, mission happens to bring the good news of salvation to others. and I will give you an eyewitness glimpse of ABM at work.

Some years ago, I spent a week in the Diocese of Dogura in New Guinea, where Australian Anglican missionaries first landed and began their work of preaching, teaching and healing. It is a remote place with access by boat across the open sea (an open dinghy with an outboard motor capable of carrying 5 people, enough fuel for the return journey, some provisions for the station and BYO life jacket.) Otherwise a long trek over mountainous terrain on foot carrying everything needed on your back. As we arrived after several hours from the sea and rounded a headland, we saw a beautiful place, and the first sight was the Cathedral on a plateau in the foothills of the Owen Stanley Ranges, looking out over Goodenough Bay, in the Milne Bay Province. In the Dogura Diocese, as in many parts of PNG, before missionaries arrived, people in remote communities did not have access to education, knowledge of health and nutrition, or life skills such as growing and cooking healthy foods, sewing clothes, and small scale income generation and awareness about the negative impact of domestic violence and gender issues on family health and women’s well-being. Missionaries have helped to change people’s lives Even though there is a Cathedral similar in size to Grafton Cathedral, this is not a city but is a small community with a few houses, a Boarding and Day School, a Medical Centre, a General store, an Open-air Auditorium, and assorted outbuildings. There is no public transport and for practical purposes, a tractor, and a few trucks are used locally. The country is steep and there are no access roads. There are narrow strips of flat land at the mouth of streams along the seashore which are used for growing food: cucumbers, chocoes, corn, bananas, beans and other vegetables. If the sea is not rough occasionally people go out to sea in outrigger canoes to fish or use ancient stone-wall fish traps at the mouth of the rivers.

ABM and the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea are in partnership to provide Literacy, Community Development and Information and help with health issues, such as sexual health education and midwifery. Health workers travel on foot along steep river channels on a three to four-week trek away from home to visit small groups of people living high up on the mountainous plateaux.

In 1888 Britain assumed sovereignty over south east New Guinea and the General Synod the Church of England in Australia resolved that ”the recent annexation of portion of New Guinea imposes direct obligation upon the Church to provide for the spiritual welfare both of the natives and the settlers. In 1889 and 1891 two missionaries, Maclaren and Copland King were called to this work. King built a mission house at Dogura and small missions were established along the coast of New Guinea and between 1892 and 1901 the Anglican influence spread to 480 Km along the coast. The only traditional European building, the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul in Dogura, is the largest Anglican church in Papua New Guinea, seats 800 (sitting on mats on the floor) was consecrated in 1939 and was not harmed in the Japanese occupation of PNG during World War II . .In the intervening 80 years the building has suffered the ravages of time, the elements of salt air wind and tropical rain, but it proudly stands as a symbol of earlier times, on the opposite side of the playing fields from the School campus.

There are many ways to support missions. First of all : Donate. Money enables a mission agency to purchase exactly what is needed. Pray for mission overseas. Find out how to get involved with AMB though volunteers, or travel on a pilgrimage to see the work first-hand, join or establish a fundraising group, or join the ABM Auxiliary.

This year's Lent Appeal allows you to participate in mission through ABM's projects: the Encounter Program where an Australian church hosts a church worker from overseas for about 3 months to share the life of the church while honing their ministry skills: The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mission Fund, and the Asset-Based Community Development project in the Philippines escaping poverty. Your gift will help to transform the lives of many people and their communities, making the Word of God fully known. Ask yourself, Is God trying to lead me to a place of greater service and usefulness? If yes, then like Abraham, step out in faith and trust and be a blessing to others. Amen.

The Reverend Camellia Flanagan

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