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Loving our neighbour

CMS missionary Maggie Crewes serves with Hope for Justice in Cambodia, helping girls who are victims of exploitation. Here she reflects on the needs and opportunities in locations in our region.  

When we consider mission in locations close to Australia (or even in it, like Northern Australia), do we assume this nearness could make it easier or quicker? Does mission within our region require less preparation, time, or financial investment? The short answer is probably no, on almost all counts. Certain locations may be geographically closer but culturally very different, with worldviews and people groups often disparate from our own.      

Many of the people groups in these geographically closer locations are also quite rightly called ‘gospel-poor’ (defined by CMS as places where less than 2% of the population are Bible-believing Christians).  

One neighbour in need  

Here in Cambodia, there remains a great need for organisations like CMS to place missionaries to help bear witness to the gospel. The longer I am here, the more the unique challenges of this country and its people are revealed. Most Khmer follow the teachings of the Buddha, and this is often intertwined with ancestor worship, as well as family and cultural commitments that rule daily life and practice. Add to this the legacy of a country still recovering from genocide in the 1970s. The subsequent trauma and issues of suspicion are a real challenge in establishing deeper relationships with people. To be a credible witness here takes significant preparation, together with patience, humility and a willingness to build trust and relationship bridges that God can use for his gospel purposes. Only in the Lord’s strength can we cross the road to the other side and seek to help our neighbour in their need.  

Few people in Cambodia know or have even heard of the name of Jesus. The Cambodian church is still very young and finding its feet. Pastors need training, ministries need supporting, and creative ways to reach communities who have not heard about Christ need to be developed. Outreach must be conducted with sensitivity and care and in a way that touches the daily lives and needs of the poor and vulnerable. People need to know that you care about them as a person before you start to share any kind of message. 

My work in Cambodia 

As a CMS missionary I am seconded to a ministry, Hope for Justice, that reaches out to young girls who have been lured and groomed into sexual exploitation and trafficking. Pray with me as we seek to build a strong team to reach out to these very vulnerable girls, and that God would provide opportunities for the Christian staff to speak of their hope in Jesus and the new start he offers to each one. When we are willing, and we ask him, he takes our small and often pathetic attempts, with all our cultural bungling, and uses us in this work.  

There are other possibilities worth considering. For example, Australia has been and still is a destination country for refugees, economic migrants and students from our region. Can we creatively explore how to build on these links and open up new gospel opportunities? The ‘rice-fields’ of those who have not heard the gospel in our region are ripe for harvest!  

Who is this neighbour?
A poem by Maggie Crewes

Who is this neighbour—
this one just near to me? 
Same world, and yet so very
differently we see— 
perhaps discomfortingly. 

That culture, worldview—
so diametrically opposed to mine.
Yet we, as God’s creation,
united in our common need
of mercy, justice, 
Love divine.  

Our need to know,
believe, belong and hope—
depends not upon our race.
It is our common human need.
So for us, to share our God’s
amazing grace—
Embrace.

GO

The gospel needs in our region can seem overwhelming, but this only makes the challenge to ‘Go’ more urgent. Discover what opportunities there are by contacting your local CMS branch.