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27 October 2019

One plants, another waters—Maggie Crewes on partnership


CMS missionary Maggie Crewes supports Hope For Justice country directors and teams who rescue child victims of exploitation and seek to restore lives. Her main focus is on programs in Africa and Cambodia. Here she writes about the global partnership that supports her work, and the deep joy that it brings her.

Many years ago, I read Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. I must confess I can’t remember too much detail of the book now, but remembering the title is encouragement enough! It applies to own relationship with God, other relationships we are committed to, and the work and service we do in his name. In this day and age of instant, quick and immediate, the tasks of perseverance and partnership, seem to be rather counter-cultural!

Paul’s picture of partnership

Reflecting back on the years, there is an amazing sense of joy in being able to understand, in just a very small way, Paul’s agricultural image when he spoke of God’s work and ministry.

“One plants, another waters—but God gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:6).

Now I don’t want to doubt Paul’s farming prowess. But I always want to add to his list of tasks! How about all the other things that go into it: those who plough, fertilise, who weed, who protect, who feed and encourage the worker? How about all those who support and pray and sustain? Ministry is often multi-faceted, and the reality is that it needs many to come together, to contribute their bit so that the work may grow. Some are seen, many are not. This is what partnership means.

But one thing never changes: it is God who gives the growth!

I write this piece from Ethiopia, where I first came nearly fifteen years ago to set up a new branch of Retrak (now Hope for Justice, HFJ). We sought to begin a new outreach work to children living and working on the street. The first years were tough! Coming to a new country and a new language, we navigated the bureaucracy of registration and set-up on a very slim budget and in the face of overwhelming need.

God had previously taught me much in DR Congo about perseverance in tough situations, but obviously more learning was still needed on my part! The lessons of ‘one day at a time’, ‘do what you can, not what you can’t’ and at the end of the day ‘it is only in God’s strength and through much prayer, that there will be any doors opened and progress made’—these lessons all had to be repeated many a time!

The birth of a new branch of Retrak in Ethiopia

This article is a testimony to the countless committed and godly individuals who have partnered and been part of the Retrak-HFJ story over the past 15 years (in Ethiopia but also elsewhere!). Those who have taught, encouraged and strengthened our ministry, and me personally. Those within Ethiopia, and those in Australia and other places. I am so grateful for God’s provision through his people, to enable this ministry to flourish. What a privilege it has been to work shoulder to shoulder, to share the joys and see the growth, but to also share the pain, the disappointments and the struggles of setting up and continuing this work—it’s from here that the relational depth of partnering really comes.

As I have moved around our now many project sites in Ethiopia, I have been overwhelmed anew by how God has taken some very few seeds and watering, and has brought such amazing growth. God’s hand was at work in the way it all came together.

Fekadu was lawyer and policeman who had for many years felt God’s call to work with struggling youth but hadn’t quite found the right thing. Yosef was one of my Amharic teachers who, as I explained to him with new and stumbling language what Retrak was hoping to do in Ethiopia, approached me one day saying God wanted him to join Retrak and teach the children. God brought all the right people together ‘for such a time as this’ (Esther 4) so that some of the most vulnerable and marginalised of his children could hear about Jesus and have their lives transformed—physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Working cross-culturally teaches humility

Working across cultures is very good for taking you down a peg or two! As a complete learner in a new place, there are special lessons on humility and submission to elders that you have to learn! Often my ‘elders’ were younger in years than me, but were my elders in knowledge, experience, language and cultural nuance. As we came together with a shared desire and commitment for growing God’s work, we put all our contributions on the table together, for God to use for his purposes.  Rich times of sharing God’s Word with other Christians, who from a very different cultural perspective and understanding, have taught me much over the years.

To move around our centres now and see some of the enthusiastic, young team members I recruited over ten years ago now in senior positions—strong, confident and professional, leading their teams and still enthusiastic and committed to this ministry—is truly something for which to praise God!

At the end of the day, none of this work, to the now thousands and thousands of children and families here, would have been possible without the amazing partnership of so many. Counted amongst them are the many faithful CMS supporters—like you reading this—who have given, prayed, supported, written and encouraged. The named ones who go out are the more public face of the very many unnamed ones who have so faithfully enabled the work to be built by years of faithful partnering and support.

Working together, whether here or there

We all do our bit—and without each other, we can do very little. God has an amazing way of weaving together people’s lives in different continents, for his purposes.  Committed Christian partners who faithfully commit their (often) secular work, their income, their time and energy and their priority to pray and support God’s work and ministry and yet who remain ‘at home’ are the critical stuff which enables God’s worldwide work to grow.  This is the stuff of partnership.

I have also had the immense privilege of being supported by a special group of monthly pray-ers, who have met every month since 1992, partnering with me in an amazing ministry of encouragement!  Again, without their support, I could not do what I do. I know that through their monthly coming together, they also have had the joy of seeing God at work, of praising him for so many answered prayers, of seeing the impossible turn out to be possible, and hearing and learning first-hand what he is doing in such an intimate way. Many people have shared with me how God has encouraged them through this partnering.

God gives each of us the opportunity to serve him in some way or other. We all contribute, whether it’s time, prayer, skills, finances, practical helps or by going. And if we serve wholeheartedly, whatever we do, we can also share with him in the joy of partnering in the gospel and seeing him at work in a world that so desperately needs to know his life and light, and the transforming power of Jesus.  Geography is irrelevant. Let us all partner and serve wherever we are, in whatever capacity we can, right now, where God has us today. God is inviting us in to participate in this, and so to know all joy and hope in believing.

Pray

Give thanks for how God has been at work through Hope for Justice in Ethiopia and around the world. Pray that he will continue to raise up local leaders to spread the gospel and care for his people.