Last week, my Dad handed me two letters that had been written by Eric Enright; my great-uncle who was once the pastor of Royal Oak Baptist. Dad received these from a member of his faith community who had ties to people at Royal Oak in the mid-1950’s. I never got to meet my great-uncle Eric, but after reading these letters, I think I would’ve liked him.
I have good news for you. I am today sending forward an official invitation to John Lo to come over and be our missionary to the Auckland Chinese community. How do you like that?”
While Eric was the pastor of Royal Oak Baptist, he identified a need in the wider community. It seems that Eric recognised that the demographic of his community was not represented in his church, and he realised he may not be the one to remedy that. I think Uncle Eric had a heart for the Chinese population in his community, yearning deeply for them to know their Creator and the love of a man named Jesus. He wanted the Chinese community to be ministered to in a way that honoured their culture and their particularities. He recognised that his faith community was missing an opportunity to be in mutual relationship with a people group that God had created; a people group who would add huge vibrancy and richness to the church, painting a more full and wonderful picture of the Kingdom on earth.
Of course we are thrilled with their decision and also with the speed at which they arrived at it and we are happy to take action.” Uncle Eric was ready to take action. He didn’t just talk about what God might do, he stepped out boldly and expected God to work.
We’ve gone through a few changes recently, and a large one has been reimagining what our mutual relationships with other countries and people groups might look like. We are desperate to partner in a way that is honouring and affirming of the Christ at work in others. As AJ says in our strategy plan, “joining God in God’s mission transforms everyone involved. We are not told to go and colonise the nations. We don’t bring the image of God to other people, we identify the image of God in other people. We go, knowing that our missionary God has already gone before us. We go with a listening and learning posture, so we see the good news incarnated in another culture and better understand our own cultural baggage in the process… Peter thought that Cornelius was the one who needed to be converted, but God showed Peter that he also needed conversion (Acts 10) .”
I’m not sure if pastor John Lo ever made it to Aotearoa, or if he did, what the impact of his work was. I do know that I’m pretty stoked to a share a last name with Eric- and I hope that in a couple of generations time, young people are saying that about us and our churches too.