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Checkpoint

A pastoral visit to the Webbs in Broome

In September 2018, CMS International Director Peter Rodgers went on one of CMS’s annual pastoral visits to support the Webb family in Broome. Here he gives some first-hand observations about their work, including his warm endorsement of how they are coping with the cultural differences that they encounter.

First things first, because the purpose of a pastoral visit (whether by me, or by one of CMS’s Regional Mission Directors) is to provide face-to-face support for those serving with CMS, I am very glad to say that I found Chris and Karen (together with their children, Ezra, Daniel and Emily) in good health, in good spirits and enjoying ministry.

In the Summer edition of Checkpoint 2018–19, Chris gave several brief but revealing examples of the pastoral issues that he sometimes has to deal with quite unexpectedly. His summary of the situations he occasionally faces was brilliant, simple and to the point:

The gospel I used to teach to university students in Newcastle is the same gospel that Aboriginal people in the Kimberley need to hear. But Aboriginal people in the Kimberley are quite different to students in Newcastle. Their needs are different. Their fears are different. Their experiences are different. What they value is different. So how do I explain the message about Jesus in such a way that it sounds like genuine good news for the family who fear that their mum is under spiritual attack?

One of the many reasons why CMS is so delighted to be able to support what the Webbs are doing alongside the Aboriginal people of Broome is that they are prepared to sit with the unease of having just such a question, without then feeling the need to jump to an immediate but potentially ill-fitting answer. In many ways, their approach to mission is exactly what we hope and pray for when, as a mission agency, we interview and continue to train and support those who want to cross cultures with the gospel.

In the first place, they are in no doubt as to the lordship of Jesus and his power over every part of creation. They themselves have put their trust in Jesus, and whether in Newcastle or Broome, they are speaking of that lordship and praying that it will be reflected in their lives and the lives of those they live amongst.

Secondly, however, they are in no hurry to give quick or careless answers, preferring rather to learn wisdom from the Aboriginal elders and friends they are relating to on a daily basis. Because the Webbs, like CMS, want this to be a long-term commitment, the urgency of gospel proclamation doesn’t over-ride the need for continual, patient listening and attention. They are fully aware that some of the best gospel answers may not come from their lips, but from the lips and lives of the Aboriginal Christians they are working alongside, and whose advice they are often seeking.

I was thrilled by the level of understanding and interaction that I was able to see, and that has been reported by others who see them in action far more frequently. They encourage me not only to pray for the progress of the gospel amongst the Aboriginal peoples in Broome and across the Kimberley, but to ask that CMS supporters will do the same now and in coming years.

PRAY

Pray for CMS missionaries to trust in the lordship of Jesus and his power over all creation. Pray that they would be quick to listen and slow to give answers, seeking God’s wisdom in every situation, as well as the cultural insight and biblical understanding of local believers. Pray that the gospel would progress amongst Australian Aboriginal peoples and in people groups throughout the world.

Karen Webb teaching Sunday school at their church.