Alan Jamieson, General Director at Arotahi (NZBMS), proposes the relaunch of Ropeholders, a programme weaving children into God's work in the world.

Since starting in the role of General Director, one initiative of NZBMS’ history has come up again and again as I have travelled to churches and talked with Baptist Ministry Fellowship groups; Ropeholders. 

Clearly this was a very valuable and highly influential children’s programme that nurtured a committed heart for global mission in the lives of those who were involved. In fact, on Sunday, I spoke at an Auckland church and after the service had a woman share with me her deep commitment to global mission because of her experience of Ropeholders as a child. The legacy of Ropeholders has appeared to last a lifetime. 

As many of you know we have been researching if and how an updated version of Ropeholders might be renewed. We hope and believe it could be, and we will describe the fruit of our research below. However, if a new version of the old Ropeholders is to be started, then it will need funding. To get the programme under way and cover the first two years of resources, teaching and input we would need to raise $50,000 ($25k per year). 

Therefore, this year we are going to ask our Baptist Ministry Fellowship groups and supporters to consider supporting a newly named relaunch of Ropeholders as their Baptist Ministry Fellowship appeal for 2023. For those shaped by the gift of yesterday’s Ropeholders, I wonder if this is a gift that you can pass on to the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders? 

Over my 32 years as a Baptist pastor and the last four years as General Director at Arotahi (NZBMS), I have been struck by how many missionaries and supporters of mission were called to global mission as a child through the Ropeholders programme. We know that God can call people to a life of service from a young age, but our churches and children’s ministries need to be resourced and encouraged to put that call in front of children in age-appropriate ways. I believe relaunching a children’s global mission programme, like Ropeholders, could help awaken a new generation of followers with God’s heart for the peoples of the world. It’s exciting to think of what those followers might then do with that committed heart. Will you help us try? 

Keep reading as we outline what our aims of the programme will be, and what a reimagined Ropeholders might look like. Giving details are at the conclusion of this letter. 

RESEARCH AND FINDINGS: 

What we found by talking to people previously involved in Ropeholders, as well as a plan to restart: 

Firstly, thank you for all the feedback on what being a Ropeholder meant to so many of you! It was so inspiring to hear of the impact Ropeholders has had over the generations. The fruit of people is so apparent in those who were later sent, visited, educated, or sent others out to places they had prayed for and became familiar with through this programme that engaged our children to hold the ropes by prayer and work. 

We deeply valued the following priorities found in the 1959 Ropeholder's Handbook: 

-Regular info and correspondence from abroad, “Information leads to Inspiration”.

-Personal contact with Missionaries home on Home Assignment.

-Handworks (crafts) and donations, “showing sympathy in practical ways”. 

You told us that these things are important as we shape something new: 

-Regularity is essential. Our children need consistent mission content.

-Passionate leaders are important for inspiration.

-The pastor sets the tone for mission for the church.

-Connecting with our missionaries relationally is vital, and really knowing their names, faces and the people & places they are in. 

-Resourcing families to talk about missionaries at home is important. Not just a church-based activity.

-Prayer and knowing about answers to ‘live’ prayer needs.

-Personal visits from global workers are very special.

-Teaching simple songs in other languages was meaningful.

-You don’t understand the heat, smells and conditions until you go, so anything that creatively makes things real for NZ children is helpful.

-Finding ways that children can contribute through works.

-Financial giving – sacrificing something for others.

We would like to give you a sneak preview of what we hope will inspire the next generation of children: 

We realised that the old name wouldn’t convey the same heart or meaning today, and a new name would be needed. However, we liked the sense of holding the rope with and for others and the active nature of the name. Therefore, we looked at a new name – Whiria kids. Whiria carries two meanings. As a verb it means to plait or twist. We liked the sense of the children’s programme weaving them into God’s bigger work but also the active sense of the children being weavers who weave the prayer and support of that work. This is a strong link to Ropeholders past. Secondly, Whiria as a noun can refer to a flock of birds. This can link with the migrating birds like the Godwits that travel across the world and then return home. 

Whiria te Tāngata – meaning ‘Weave the people together’, picks up the heart of what we want this children’s programme to do. To weave our global peoples, our missionaries and the children and families of NZ Baptist churches together. Our hope is that children can see how they can be part of God's work in the world. Woven into God's story, everyone is an important part of the family of Christ, no matter how young and little, we can each contribute; each prayer, expression of aroha, and small step is valuable. 

Our AIM: To see our future generations woven into God's story in the world 

Through (AIM) Aroha, Inoi, Mahi – Love, Prayer, Works – a direct reflection of the Ropeholders values. 

Whiria Kids would be: 

-Driven by local churches through a local point person

-Resourced by Arotahi – videos, projects, information and a family webpage to back up prayer/learning at home.

-Fronted by 3 young adults involved in intentional local/global mission 

Our whakapapa 

Arotahi has a korowai – Māori cloak that is kept in the Auckland office.  It speaks of our rich history of Mission and holds the Arotahi traditions, of love, prayer and works through long term commitment to people and place. Our korowai has beautiful tones of green and brown. These are colours our young presenters would wear on their T-shirts to be symbolic of this korowai as they help guide our children to love God's world and His people. 

How Whiria Kids would work 

We hope to launch the initiative at National Hui in November and begin resourcing churches in April 2024, immediately after Easter. Our upcoming Young Adults trips to India (October 2023) and Bangladesh (January 2024) would include filming for 2024 resources. 

Each month we would release material and curriculum for a Whiria Kids session. We would focus on one country for two consecutive months. This gives us an opportunity to pray for specific 'live' needs one month and then give feedback the following month. 

For 2024 Whiria kids may focus on:

April/May: Tripura

June/July: Aotearoa NZ – including Matariki

August/September: Bangladesh

October/November: Kolkata - including Joyride project for Joyya kids' fun day - In 2025 we would aim to have material to churches from Feb-Nov. 

At this stage we would have three age groups with names of NZ migrating birds. 

Years 1-3: Kuaka – Bar-tailed Godwit

Years 4-6: Toroa – Royal Albatross

Years 7-8: Pīpīwharauroa – Shining Cuckoo

Ka tangi te wharauroa, ko ngā kārere ā Mahuru.
If the shining cuckoo cries, it is the messenger of spring. 
Māori whakatauki 

For a season these birds are in New Zealand. Then they migrate for the NZ winter and return to announce the new life of Spring.

We want the children to understand and experience how local and global mission are a natural rhythm – each needs and feeds the other. We go and return. Like breathing in and out. 

Arotahi resources we will provide: 

-Information on people and places where our Arotahi people are working.

-Songs x 2 for each area recorded with our 3 presenters and kids' bands from NZ Baptist churches – one with local language content (8 songs in 2024 – 2 songs x 4 areas).

-Prayer needs in month one, and prayer responses the second month.

-Different ways of praying.

-Video of location and Arotahi's work and workers – where security allows.

-Memory verses to learn.

-A project to be part of – 1 or 2 per year – $50 for a month’s hostel or student sponsorship in Bangladesh/Joyya kids' fun day etc. 

-Craft ideas – that reinforce learning or a project to send.

-Recipes.

-Family learning resources.

Children will be able to earn a different medal per age group for: 

-Attending a certain number of times per year.

-Knowing the motto & AIM meaning.

-Knowing the foundational Bible verse for each age group -Contributing to a global project.

We would encourage churches to acknowledge each year:

-Children who have earned their badge.

-Projects that have been supported.

-Other creative ways that churches have engaged in local and global mission.

If momentum grows, we would consider a regional tour in late 2025.

We also want to highlight that this resource would be FREE to Baptist Children’s ministries/faith communities. 

Draft budget

Whiria Kids Budget 2024-2025: $50,000

If you would like to talk more about this initiative, then please email Michelle ([email protected]). If you would like to contribute to this exciting project, then please make a gift through the following bank account with these details. Thank you! 

Bank Account Name: Arotahi Koha Fund 

Bank Account Number: 02-0232-0150075-04 

Statement Particulars: (Your name or BMF name *in 10 characters or less) 

Statement Code: (Your BMF code or unique ID Code in our database) 

Statement Reference: WKS 

Email: [email protected] for any banking details questions. 

Will you please pray and consider supporting the relaunch of a programme designed to instil a lifelong global mission heart in the Baptist children of NZ? If we can raise the $50,000 needed to relaunch, then we can bring this programme to life and re-assess a longer term future after 2 years. If we are unable to raise the money needed, then we will need to put this proposal on hold and all money given to this 2023 Baptist Missionary Fellowship appeal will go to global mission resourcing and missional education of our NZ Baptist churches. But, I am praying and hoping that we can raise the $50,000 needed and relaunch what has clearly been such a key part of our mission history as Aotearoa NZ Baptists. 

Thank you very much for reading this far, for your prayer and contributions, and the way you have committed your lifelong missional heart to being such a significant part of this story. 

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