Kia Ora Friends,
Merry Christmas! I hope each of you are well as you approach the holidays this year. I’m sitting at my desk in our home writing you from a Christmas environment different from any other I’ve experienced. Instead of cold weather, I’m in shorts and wrestling with humidity. Instead of pine trees dusted with white, we have pohutukawa trees (the New Zealand Christmas tree—look it up on Google—they’re beautiful) in blossom. Instead of a real tree, we decided on an artificial one. We can’t find a copy of A Christmas Story to watch (THIS IS TRAGIC – we watch it every year!). I can actually find parking at area shopping stores and not learn new sign language from other drivers because Christmas is much less commercial here (that’s a good thing!). Our Christmas routine is a bit different this year.
At the same time, we’ve been able to hold on to many things. I came home with a Poinsettia plant for DaNae yesterday and it shouts Christmas from the center of our lounge. As I write this, I hear Aedan practicing his lines for a Christmas play at church (he’s Joseph – his first leading role). “Don’t worry Mary, God will take care of us. Let’s try this inn.” Knock-knock-knock. “Hi sir, do you have room for my wife and I.” Each night, we work our way through our advent calendar (one we’ve had for years that both boys look forward to each Christmas). In a very different environment, we’ve been able to hold onto what’s important about Christmas.
If you would, I’d like a few moments of your time to share what has taken place, what is going on now, and what is to come in the next month. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join us here in New Zealand through this letter.
We’ve been here for one month now. In this time, we’ve set up our home, built relationships with people at cession (our church), started relationships with our neighbors, and started the ministry God has for us here. The picture to the right is the view from our home. This is the Highland Park neighborhood – the community our church reaches out to. It is a very diverse part of Auckland – over 180 nationalities are represented in this community. It is just as common to hear a foreign language spoken as people walk by as it is to hear English. Our church is a 15 minute walk from home.
For those praying for our adjustment, thank you! I’ve been amazed at how God has worked. The boys love it here and made friends right away. Caleb looks forward to Tuesday mornings because he serves with us at a community ministry cession does called Mainly Music (a biblically-based toddler music program). He’s following in Dad’s footsteps and running the technical side of things – he’s our power point person during the program and plays with the toddlers afterwards. It’s a great fit for his desire to serve and connect with people. As a family, we are picking up bits of Maori (one of New Zealand’s three official languages) and looking for ways to learn more. I think this is the language we will learn while here. Skype and MagicJack have been lifesavers in our efforts to stay connected with friends and family in the states.
Please continue to pray for us as we serve in New Zealand and pray for others to become part of this team. When we left the states, we knew we were still in need of funds. Even though we’ve been appointed for 2 years, the reality is that we are here as long as our support enables it – we will need to come home early if our financial support runs out. As churches and individuals, would you pray for God to continue to provide the financial support to keep us here for the full term? Throughout this journey, God has surprised us many times in how He’s provided for this to happen. Sometimes it’s been through people who already support us, sometimes it’s been through people we’ve approached, and sometimes it’s seemed like it was just “out of the blue.” We know God has brought us here and really feel blessed when people have moved when God has prompted them.
In this next month, we are setting the foundation for community ministries through cession, even as we help with existing ministries. DaNae and I are here to help cession engage their community through outreach. We are working through how to mobilize members and turn their ministry ideas into realities. For those of you who are organizational in your thinking, we are here to model serving others and help leaders put a ministry plan to their vision. Pray for us as we meet with people (inside and outside of cession) to determine community needs and cession’s ability to act on them.
It’s still a bit surreal when I think that we are finally here in New Zealand, finally partnering with the church God put in our heart several years ago. Each of you receiving this (churches and individuals, prayer and financial supporters) are part of the team God pulled together to make this happen – several times each day, we thank God for you! We are here investing in the church because you resonated with the vision for the New Zealand church and invested in us. We can’t do this without you – it’s pretty cool how God knits us together! With that said, ka kite (kah-keetay – Maori for see you again) – thanks for joining us in the journey.
Rob, DaNae, Caleb, and Aedan
Please email us if you are interested in the nicer newsletter version with extra pictures. We have limited bandwidth each month and couldn’t send it as a mass distribution. If you want it for your reading or to print and share at church, please just say so in a comment on the blog and we will have her mom send it along to you!