Posts Tagged ‘NCM’

Nazarene Compassionate Ministries in the Middle East

Ramping Up the Compassion Factor

by Rod Green
.

Recently, someone asked, “How are the Nazarenes doing in the Middle East?” The answer varies from country to country. Nazarenes in Baghdad face the dangers of explosions in the market; Egyptians live in uncertainty with a drastically weakened economy and a newly-elected government; Syrians are exhausted from civil war and ministering to hundreds of displaced families; Jordanians are coping with thousands of refugees; and people in Israel and the West Bank continue on with occupation and violence.

.
Media tools keep us updated on the unfolding events, but real people, Nazarenes and their neighbors, are living under this canopy of hurt and threat and strive for normalcy as best they can while the world rages in their own backyards.
.
Twenty Nazarenes just finished the second of a three-part training program in lay counseling in Beirut, Lebanon. The purpose is to equip parishioners, who have skills in attentive listening, to be effective in bringing healing and empowerment to people in distress. Next year, a number of the participants will graduate as trainers so that the program will multiply over time.
.
Three years before the lay counseling program started, Marlene Mashantaf was wondering where she could get training in counseling. Marlene lived through the Lebanese civil war of the 70s and 80s in which she and her neighbors lost family members to the conflict and were themselves traumatized by living in crowded bomb shelters.
.
Once, the fighting in their neighborhood turned so intense that for an entire month 2,000 people shared a single bathroom in the shelter. If you can get Marlene to tell her story, it is short with very few details, and you know she is protecting herself from the memories that still sting even after decades have passed.
.
Marlene is the principal at the Beirut Nazarene School, which serves 170 children of low-income families in grades K-9. An increasing part of her role at the school is spending time with the mothers of her students. She listens to them as they share their stress, which has roots in the past and nourishment in the present. Marlene always wanted training in counseling that would enable her to help parents and students. “I started asking God where I could get training in counseling so I could help others, and out of the circumstances happening to us three years ago we got the opportunity to have a lay counseling program. Now I can see that God is answering my prayers!”
.
The circumstance to which Marlene referred was the death of her pastor, Raja Nwaisser. At the age of 40, he suffered a heart attack while he was baptizing new believers in Beirut. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries sponsored a grief seminar led by Rand and Phyllis Michael, university educators from Portland, Oregon, with the help of Tom and Karen Gray, missionaries in the Middle East. The seminar helped Raja’s wife and the church grieve in healthy ways.
.

Rand and Phyllis shared with us about the concept of lay counseling and how they were experiencing success with students in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. We started thinking of Nazarenes in the Middle East who at the time were facing their own crises:

  • Teachers in the Damascus church were asking for advice on how to attend to the emotional needs of adolescent Iraqi refugees in an after-school program, whose behaviors were reflecting the trauma of war.
  • Israelis and Palestinians were at their peak of tension after the bombardment of Gaza in retaliation for mortars fired by a militant wing of the Hamas.
  • Jordanians were exhausted and stressed from relief work for the thousands of Iraqi refugees who were living in their neighborhoods (not to mention the stress and uncertainty of the Iraqis who were now homeless and vulnerable).

As they sipped hot tea together following the grief seminar, someone spoke for the group by saying, “We wish we could have more training in counseling so that we can help our neighbors and friends who are going through difficult times.” Rand and Phyllis set their tea cups on the table and replied, “We can help with that.”

Beirut from the air. (Photo Credit: Rand Michael)

Beirut from the air. (Photo Credit: Rand Michael)

By the late summer of 2011, the Michaels and the Grays started teaching 20 students from Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt in basic counseling skills. The second phase of the training finished in the summer of 2012, and part three is scheduled for July of 2013. “The really exciting part is that we have identified seven students we feel will be good trainers so that this ministry can expand in the churches,” says Rand.

A stipulation of the course is that participants must practice their newly-acquired skills throughout the year. Some hang out with their college friends, some lead small discipleship groups, and one young man, Mukhlous Halasa, taught the concepts he learned in year one to people in his college fellowship group at his church. “My aim is that in Jordan we will go to the churches and train others,” explains Halasa. “The students were amazed when we began to compare our culture with values in the kingdom of God. We then began to practice listening to each other and we found that it was really helping us to experience peace.”

This year the students have expressed interest in visiting the refugee camps set up in Lebanon and Jordan for hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing from civil war. Nazarenes are delivering food, medicine, and cooking aids, and the lay counseling students want to train the Nazarenes who take part to understand the healing power of listening with love and care.

Because someone asked, this is a glimpse into what Nazarenes are doing in the Middle East.

.

.Rod Green is Nazarene Compassionate Ministries coordinator for the Eastern Mediterranean (Middle East) Field.  This article first appeared in Holiness Today, September/October 2012.  It can currently be found at Holiness Today online.
.
.
Advertisements

What’s So Great About Being a Nazarene?

This article by David Young, pastor of Clinton (IL) First Church of the Nazarene, was originally posted at his blog site, “All Things New.”   (Reposted here with with permission)
.

What’s So Great About Being a Nazarene?

.

In our Sunday evening services, I have been responding to questions that individuals in my congregation have asked. One of those questions was this: With so many different churches and traditions to choose from, 12 churches just in our own little town, what is the benefit of belonging to and attending the Church of the Nazarene? The very first thing I want to say in response to that question is that I regard all Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ and I think we can learn a lot from other denominations. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy participating in our minster’s association here in town, why I always strongly encourage our members to attend the community services we have with other churches every year, why our teens are currently learning about and visiting other churches in town, why we combined with the Methodists and Presbyterians for VBS this past summer, and why we are happy to have those same two denominations participate with us in our community 4th Wednesday meal. As the priest at the Catholic parish we visited just last Sunday reminded us, there is much more that unites us than divides us.
.
That being said, there are meaningful differences between the different denominations within the body of Christ. Furthermore, while our allegiance to Christ should always be held in higher regard than our allegiance to a given denomination, I do think there is something to be said for digging in deep and putting down roots into a single tradition. This is not because one denomination is without fault or superior to all the rest but because the only way to truly know Christ is to know his Church in all its humanity and brokenness. Our loyalty to Christ inherently entails some loyalty to a local congregation and, therefore, the tradition of which that congregation is a part.
.
I confess and rejoice that I was born into a family of Nazarene parents and grandparents and that this has a lot to do with me being a Nazarene today. In spite of that, I could have found a home somewhere else at any time. Instead, I have not only remained but become a minister in this denomination. That doesn’t mean that I think the Church of the Nazarene is perfect or without the need for Spirit inspired change. But it does mean there are good reasons I have happily stayed. Here are my top ten.
.
10. We affirm historical Christianity. This may seem an odd way to begin a list of what makes us distinctive as Nazarenes but I think it is important. There are some traditions and non-denominational groups which acknowledge little or no connection to the history of Christianity which has preceded their own fellowship. As Nazarenes, we confess the historic creeds of the Church and acknowledge that our story does not skip directly from Jesus and the apostles to our founding as a denomination in 1908.
.
wesley9. Our Wesleyan heritage as a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism. We typically refer to ourselves as protestants and John Wesley certainly wasn’t Roman Catholic. However, as an Anglican, he was part of a tradition that had found a blended, middle way between the Catholic and Protestant traditions which had alternately prevailed at different times inEngland. Since we often look to Wesley as our theological father, that moderate, catholic spirit has been passed down to us. The earliest Nazarenes followed the maxim “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity”.
.
8. We believe that God’s prevenient grace makes salvation available for anyone who will accept it. This is not an attempt to put down our Reformed brothers and sisters. They remind us of the important reality that salvation is not first and foremost a matter of human will. It is primarily an act of God. However, we do not believe that God chooses to elect only a few for whom that act is efficacious. We believe that God’s work of salvation in Christ has freed every human will to the extent that they can choose to accept or reject Christ. While salvation is entirely by the grace of God, we believe that God’s Spirit enables our spirit to cooperate with that grace.
.
7. We Are Not Fundamentalist (but neither do we exclude fundamentalists from our fellowship). Nazarenes have an extremely high regard for Scripture. We confess that it is “inerrant in all things concerning salvation.” Wesley described himself as “a man of one book.” Yet we also recognize that one can not read this one book without making use of reason, experience, and tradition. Our understanding of Scripture does not require us to choose between a faithful interpretation of Scripture and modern scientific and historical research. We believe that the two can easily co-exist. However, neither do we make an attempt to exclude those from membership who do see a conflict between modern science and their faith. We believe there is room for both approaches in our tradition.
.
6. Global Fellowship and Missional Unity. In a time when “denominational loyalty” is in decline and “church hierarchy” is often viewed with suspicion, I actually think our denominational structure is one of our great strengths. Nazarenes enjoy a fellowship and mutual support structures across a district that independent congregations do not. Furthermore, even denominations which have such a fellowship often go no further than a district or conference level. By contrast, Nazarenes from around the world gather every four years. Our most recent General Assembly was the first to consist of more delegates from outside the United States than from within and also the first to elect a General Superintendent (the highest office in our denomination) from outside the United States (Eugenio Duarte of Cape Verde, Africa). Additionally, while some churches see the budgets we pay to the district and the general church as a drain on local resources, I see them as an opportunity to pool resources and carry out ministries in other parts of our district and the world that simply would not happen if it was left up to each local church to plant churches or send missionaries.
.
5. Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. I am proud to be a part of a denomination that has an organization dedicated specifically to compassionate ministry to those in need across the globe. NCM works in impoverished areas throughout the world, especially providing nourishment and education for children through their sponsorship program. In times of disaster, NCM is often quick to respond because they have already been working in the area where the disaster struck. When they do not already have resources in place, they are quick to funnel resources to those who do.
.
Church_of_the_Nazarene_Seal4. The Church of the Nazarene began with the stated mission of serving the poor of the inner city. In contrast to the “white flight” pattern of many churches in North America today, Phineas Bresee (usually considered the founder of the Church of the Nazarene) envisioned America’s cities as “centers of holy fire.” As such, service to the disadvantaged in the urban core of America cities has been a part of our identity from the beginning. In fact, the name “Church of the Nazarene” was chosen to reflect the humility of Christ who called lowly Nazareth home and was to be reminder that Nazarenes were always to find themselves among those of humble means as well. To be sure, we have not always lived up to that heritage but it is an encouragement to know it is a part of who we are. A renewed insistence on the presence of Church of the Nazarene in the urban core is not a strange, new development for us but a reclaiming of our ecclesial DNA.
.
3. The Church of the Nazarene has ordained women for ministry since its inception. In a world where a large number of denominations still do not allow women to serve as ordained ministers (and others won’t allow women to hold any office of authority whatsoever), I am thankful to minister in a denomination whose ordination practices reflect Paul’s words when he says that in Christ “there is neither male nor female.” In its 100 year existence, the Church of the Nazarene has always held that women are just as fit for every office of ministry as are men. While there is certainly more work to be done in this area (since female ministers still make up a very small percentage of senior pastors in the Church of the Nazarene), the ordination of women is certainly one of the reasons I am proud to be Nazarene.
.
2. Our Colleges and Universities. This one is especially personal for me. I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Eastern Nazarene College. My time at ENC changed the course of my life in a number of ways. Obviously, my faith already played an important role in my life before college since I chose to go to a Nazarene school but the “conversion” which took place in the way I understood my faith while I was at ENC was, I believe, no less significant than the life changing stories we often hear from others when they first come to Christ. The existence of eight colleges and universities (in addition to the Bible college and seminary) spread across the country where Nazarene young adults (and many non-Nazarenes as well! Two other ministers in Clinton attended Nazarene schools when they were younger.) can find a “safe” environment, full of trustworthy mentors, in which they can ask the hard questions of the Christian faith while also gaining competence in their various future vocations and professions is an invaluable resource for our denomination and the Church in our country as a whole. So many of the graduates of our schools go on to become the lay leaders of our local churches as well as Christian professionals who engage others in their field in thoughtfully Christ-like ways. I know that we are not the only ones with great schools but the schools we do have are, in my opinion, one of the most encouraging things about being a Nazarene.
.
1. Entire Sanctification and the Possibilities of Grace.  Our doctrine of Entire Sanctification declares that we are a people who are optimistic about the transformative power of God’s grace in this life. Our optimism does not stem from a naivety concerning human nature but from the hope that the Holy Spirit can make us truly new creatures in Christ thus fulfilling God’s promise to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. There is little doubt that we have overstated this claim at times in our history. Even as our article of faith on Entire Sanctification has been recently revised in positive ways, I have made no secret of the fact that I believe it needs to be revised further still. Nevertheless, I think we are right to continue to proclaim that it is possible for the Holy Spirit to turn all of our affections toward the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, even in this life. Even as I am painfully aware of our many failings to live up to our calling as Christ’s body in this world, it is good to be a part of a denomination that boldly declares that those failings do not have to be the norm of our existence. We believe that the possibilities of God’s grace are so great as to include a whole and complete sanctification of our lives for God’s purposes in this world. For that I say, “Thanks be to God.”
.
.
This article by David Young, pastor of Clinton (IL) First Church of the Nazarene, was originally posted at his blog site, “All Things New.”  Visit Pastor Young’s site.    (Reposted here with with permission)
.