The annual update from the General Director of Arotahi, Alan Jamieson, for 2023.

This is the first annual report for Arotahi. We launched this new outward-facing name at Hui in November 2022, and while we are constitutionally and legally committed to our original naming (The New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society), we are now popularly referred to as Arotahi. As we step into the new, we also look back and know the stories we carry forward with us.

We spent this past year digging deeply into our original purpose. For 138 years, we have carried the same mandate and purpose: “The general object of the Society is to enable Churches of the Baptist Union of Churches in New Zealand to fulfil the “Great Commission” of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20) in those areas of the world to which He may direct.”

So, we used Matthew 28:16-20 as the basis of our three weeks of missional resource for faith communities – because it’s here that we see the risen Jesus’ command for us all. It’s all summed up in these few verses:

> That Jesus has all power in heaven and earth.

> That we are called to all nations.

> That we are to go, and as we obey, we go with all of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

> That we are to baptise and teach all Jesus has told us.

> That as we go, Jesus will be with us always.

In 1886, when Aotearoa New Zealand Baptists sent our first global worker (the first woman sent as a missionary from New Zealand), we went to what is now known as Bangladesh. Over 137 years, we have had a continuous stream of Kiwis travelling to Bangladesh and working alongside the Bengali leaders in church planting, discipleship, health care, education, humanitarian aid and efforts to alleviate poverty. That is six generations of on-the-ground partnership . Today, the Baptist Church in Bangladesh is made up of over 500 churches and over 50,000 baptised members. They are a key family of churches in a country where only 0.3% (a third of one per cent) identify as Jesus-followers. Today, we long that New Zealanders would once again hear and heed the call to ‘go’. To live with, be in relationship with, and work alongside our Bangladesh brothers and sisters.

The Bengali leaders are asking for New Zealand Baptists to work alongside them. Because of our longstanding relationship, the Bangladesh government have allowed us entry into the nation, and we are asking you to consider if this is a personal call to you or to the people in your church. We will continue to ask. Our heart prayer and primary focus is that a new team would be willing to go.

As an organisation, we are very grateful for our Mission Council, our governance body that oversees the spiritual life of Arotahi. We especially want to thank David Allen, who has been Chair of the Council for the last five years, and Rewai Te Kahu and Sharon Dando, who have each given more than a decade to our council. David, Rewai, and Sharon’s wise and caring leadership will be greatly missed at our meetings. Thank you very much for your contributions. Ravi Musuku has also been on the Mission Council in his capacity as President, and we are thankful that as his presidential term ends, he has been nominated to remain a member of the Mission Council.

Please pray for or send an encouraging message of support to our global team. They faithfully work in often demanding and difficult situations amongst the world’s least-reached and most vulnerable peoples.

This year, our New Zealand team has consolidated with key staff who have become proficient in their leadership roles and have grown to support and work together strongly. It is with sadness that we will say goodbye to Kelly Enright as she and Jordan head to Australia next year. Kelly’s creativity, communication skills and commitment to the work of Arotahi have been exceptional.

Jesus said, “as the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” Please pray that as a movement, we will hear and respond to this call to the Bengali people — a people who are today the largest unreached people group in the world and amongst the world’s most vulnerable peoples [1]. Are you sensing the call?

[1] Vulnerable as measured by poverty and persecution.

Photo: Provided by Arotahi

This update is from the 2023 Annual Report of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, which you can view here.

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