Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Aotearoa (New Zealand) Christmas

We wanted to update as soon as possible because we knew so many of you were carrying us in prayer over the past week. Thank you for covering us, We have felt your prayers and carried that into the past weekend with us. This past Saturday morning our church (which meets in a community center in the center of a large park) opened its doors to welcome families from our community to a morning of quality time with their children, in a fun environment with activities, crafts, challenges and live puppet show. One of the huge wins with this outreach was the way our church community came together to see this happen. This has been such a busy time between the Santa Parade and then the Aotearoa Christmas (pronounce A-O-TA-Row –A; which means New Zealand) this past weekend. We had so many involved from singles, to families, to youth. It was an awesome time of serving together and have had several comments of people sharing they didn’t feel craziness or stress. The other big win was that we saw several families come through that had nothing to do with cession or the other programs we offer. They came from the community because of the Santa Parade or the printed invites we had. I saw children giggling, parents smiling and most stuck around like they wanted to be there. We have names and contact info for these families and we will be doing “gentle” follow ups with them. We are grateful to God for all of his provisions both in staffing and supplies and for the families brought onto us. Continue to pray for these families, that our churches name might stick in their minds, that they may choose to come to a Christmas service or some of our other programs and that they would be open to our follow ups.
So amazing to believe that we are now only days away from Christmas Day!! I have shared this with many of you but, I have done a lot of pondering in my heart in mind over these past weeks of what does it means to be thankful….it would be easy for me to just go down the list of things I have, people in my life…..all the good things. But I think the word, thankful, means so much more then the list of provisions, people or blessings in my life (although of course I am thankful for those things). I think that true thankfulness is also an attitude of the heart. Am I thankful in the trying times as well as the good times. Am I thankful on thanksgiving and Christmas, or on all days? I feel that having an attitude of thankfulness directly effects my worship to my God, and then as a result effects how I live out my day. It helps to keep me from being in that place of “entitlement” and instead strive to be in a place of surrender. It tenderizes my heart to remember that all of this, my life, my family, serving in NZ……..all of it, is all about my Savior and that it is not about me.
As Rob and I look over this past year and serving in NZ…..words cannot express the gratefulness that overflows in our hearts. We have seen our family through transition and adjusting to a new culture, we have been given amazing relationships both within and without our church walls, we have seen hundreds of people exposed to Christ through community outreaches, we have seen the birth of youth ministry within our church and the opportunity to influence youth ministry as a whole on the North Island, we have witnessed the pain of a city literally broken by earthquake and were blessed to help be a balm to weary souls, we have seen healing of relationships and have been blessed to mentor some on their journey, we have seen the growth of the Trust which will enable cession|community to continue to reach out to their community, we have had the opportunity to work with at risk teens, God has carried us through illness, home sickness and times of fear and doubt. And God has taught us about His provision and His manna month after month as He has continued to keep us here month after month through our partnership with so many of you. As God continues to remain at work here, we would love to hear how God has remained at work in your lives over this past year as well. I would also love to hear your thoughts on an attitude of thankfulness.
In our last post we were pretty open about our current goal to remain here at least until February to see the National Youth Camp through completion. We are still waiting and fully trusting on our Lord to provide our “manna”. We desperately need your prayers in this area. If you at all felt your heart nudged in our last post about end of year gifts and would like to have further conversation, we have a way to call you for free so just drop us a note at or you can go to giving links on this web site.
Please know that during this season, and all other days that we are deeply grateful for you, for the offerings of your prayers, love, friendship, gifts and support. We are here representing you and we serve with a humble and joyful heart.

Friday, December 9, 2011

There is so much I could update on this blog I would be writing (and you reading) for a week! So we will do it in chunks instead  We put out the word that this month is a huge month in outreach opportunities for our community. I know that several of you have been praying because we literally feel your prayers sustaining us, thank you! Our God delights when His people pray. Last weekend we participated in the Santa Parade. Now you may be asking “how is being in a parade an effective outreach tool”. Well for us it was just that, a “tool”. It served two functions. First It was an event that our church community came together with families from Mainly Music (which is one of the ministries we offer to families in the wider community) to create and participate in this fun event. We had a least 4 families that came and “rubbed shoulders” with us all morning, it was awesome! Secondly, the way the float was designed it advertised to hundreds of people the event we have this coming Saturday along with some of us handing out over 150 invites along the parade route. It allowed from some great conversations with families watching the parade. Thank you for praying for us, and now shift your prayers to this coming weekend. It has been a lot of working doing the two events back to back, but we have an awesome team along beside us, and we are anticipating at least 300 kids this weekend. Pray that people from the community was would come, would be blessed and fell loved on, would hear good messages, and just might choose to connect with us because they feel loved and welcomed. Pray for our energy levels, this has been an intense two weeks plus looking ahead to our Christmas services and even our health as some families have been attacked with throat and stomach bugs. I really look forward to updating you on this event.
God remains at work in our lives, the life of cession|community and the impact she can have on her community. We had another huge prayer answered last week as we found out we received money from a grant Rob worked on, that will allow cession to be able to fund this Christmas event and the events that will revolve around Easter. This is a huge blessing and a great win for the beginnings of the Trust.
Finally as most of you know, we are probably in one of the most crucial periods financially that we have been in since we arrived. We do not know how long our ministry will continue here in NZ, we do know that God remains at work in our lives and we will strive to approach each day we have to minister here with thankfulness. Because God has used so many of you, we are seeing these current December projects through. We are humbled and grateful. We now are trusting God to provide our manna to keep us into Jan/Feb as Rob leads the National Youth Camp. We have a deficit of a few thousand dollars to make up by Dec. 15 and have made it our goal to do what we can to stay at least that long (Jan/Feb), knowing that all of this belongs to God.
As we look at the last few weeks of 2011, Rob and I would like to ask you to pray about considering an end of year gift, and to have the conversation with God if He is asking you to join us now.
We are aware that many of us look to this last month of the year as an opportunity to give to nonprofit organizations as we evaluate our giving over the year and taxes for the next. If you are in that place of evaluating would you consider an end of year gift to invest in what God is doing here in NZ? We were so blessed by individuals who stood in the Gap a few weeks ago to insure our commitments could take place this month, we know that they were blessed in return to be a part of it, and ultimately God will use their gives to help touch the hearts of those who will be influenced by our outreaches this month. Would you pray and ask if God is asking you to invest in our ministry in January, by offering a onetime gift now before the end of the year?
We are very aware that this is a huge season for most of us with the extra business, family focus, travel, church……..the list goes on during the holidays. Rob and I feel the magnitude of the upcoming Dec deadline, and strive for the goal of at least seeing ministry through Jan/Feb to see the national youth camp project through to completion, knowing full well this is all in God’s hands. We appreciate your time in reading this update and would be humbled if you set aside a few minutes to pray over this area and discuss with God if He may be asking you to be a part of this journey. If He is nudging your heart there is more information on the tabs here on the website or you can go directly to our giving link - click here or go to .
It is with a thankful heart that I close this, knowing that God can and will do more then we could possibly imagine and that He alone is our past, present and future

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A note to catch you up from Rob...........

HI team, just a quick note here. We’ve just finished a busy month here in New Zealand. At the beginning of October, our family moved into Oasis Home for two weeks to act as house parents for special needs kids. New Zealand provides families with special needs children 1-4 days of respite care each month. We were asked by a local ministry that runs one of these homes to provide vacation coverage for friends who were the regular house parents. We had 1-3 kids each night and lived life full-on! It was a blessing to be there, love on kids, and support their families. It would be awesome to see something like this in the states!
A week after we finished at Oasis, a team of students from Houghton College arrived as part of a semester abroad. DaNae and I have been helping them with onsite logistics and planning as the students seek to experience what is unique about NZ culture and art. It’s been a fair amount of work but they’ve been great to work with. I find a lot of joy in seeing young adults in environments that expand their worldview.
In the middle of these, we had our national conference. For some of you, just mentioning that puts you to sleep. You think of long meetings of reports and church business. This one was pretty exciting for me. Yeah, there were the business portions but I was also part of the community of pastors growing a Wesleyan denomination here. It was a blessing to be challenged by speakers and grow together. I was even able to lead a few youth breakout sessions.
During the Pastor’s training portion of the conference, one of the speakers was sharing on caring for your Soul and one of his statements stuck with me. He said, “We think the grass is greener on the other side. But, the reality is, the grass is greener where you water and fertilize it.” It was a challenge to us pastors to focus on what we can do where we are and not wish we were somewhere else. It was a challenge to us as individuals to focus on our soul’s wellbeing today and not later (when things change). I left that day with this challenge ringing in my head and it’s continued to ring since then. I wake up asking myself how I’m making my grass greener in a faith-nourishing way. One way has been to change my running tunes to podcasts from teachers/pastors I respect. Another has been challenging Caleb to do a 21-day biblical character study with me (from my Bible iPod app). So, I pass that challenge on to you – how are you watering and fertilizing your faith? As pastors and leaders, how are you watering-fertilizing-even weeding where you are? We’d love to hear what’s working for you.
I’ve updated the prayer list on our blog. Please make sure you read the one about IGNITE Camp, OK?
As for a support update, we continue to minister as God provides. The Oasis Home and Houghton College projects have helped with support and built up a reserve here but we still keep striving for our support target each month. It is amazing to look back and see how God has continued to provide support just as we’ve needed it for the last 7 months. Even though we approach another funding deadline on the 15th, we are trusting God will amaze us once again and provide support for our continued investment here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Happenings, Updates and Celebrations

For the most part, this is a fun update to write. Just to get it out of the way, the “unmost “ part – the non-fun portion – is that I’m writing it as the muscles in my upper back and shoulder are spasming from an injury a week ago. That wasn’t going to keep me from sharing what’s been happening on this side of the globe, though. That’s just how I roll – pain, shmain…

These last two weeks have been a lot of fun from the church and trust perspective. Just to give you a taste of what’s in the following bullets, we’ve been involved in youth ministry, cooking, policies, and have heard back on one of our funding apps (Hint – it was a good response…). Caleb and Aedan have been able to reach out to friends and we’ve made creative progress towards some of our funding goals. But, enough of teasers – read on for the full-course meal.

What’s Happening with the Reynolds:

• At cession|community (the church), we’ve been working through what youth ministry looks like for us. This is a old and new role for me – old because of my youth ministry years but new because now, I’m also a parent. We have 4 students in the intermediate age and relationships with 10 high-school age students at our facility but outside of the church. We don’t want these kids to be overlooked and find ourselves in a cool spot – the kids want something more and we have a team of leaders who want to work with them. I’ve been asked to act as a consultant to this process and help the church pull together their ministry strategy and plan. It’s been awesome to be involved with teens and leaders again and be able to feed into their development.

• We launched a new programme this last Monday – Depot Masterchef. About two months ago, a leader at cession birthed this idea over coffee. She’s a professional chef and wanted to help youth and adults see how they could cook/eat better. As the idea developed, we saw a fit with the alternative school we share our facility with. On Monday, we cooked our first meal. Many of the kids were used to just cooking instant noodles or toast but, on Monday, they made homemade pasta, meatballs, homemade sauce, and pear cobbler. It was awesome to see the relationships begin to develop between the students and leaders present. Our hope is that this programme gives the students real life skills while opening relational doors with the leaders involved.

• Policies – yes, to some of you (me included), I just said a nasty P-word. Part of investing in the trust so it is sustainable is developing policies for how we run our programmes – funders and government agencies want to see practical policies that apply to our programmes. Because we’ve submitted 2 significant funding applications for trust programmes, we need these in place. Believe me, this has been work for me – I need to do it first thing in the day or I’ll keep putting it off for more people aspects of my role. But, it has been a huge leap forward organizationally for the trust.

• We heard back from one of our funding applications (a small one) – AND IT WAS SUCCESSFUL! BP gives fuel vouchers for volunteers and we applied for some this year. This was our first successful “funding” application for the trust (that was your queue to stand up from your chair and do a little happy dance). This allows us to appreciate people who give so much of themselves so the trust can connect with our community. We don’t have the blessing of having a volunteer appreciation budget – this is it – so it’s huge for us!

• Caleb and Aedan have been able to reach out to their friends. Caleb invited a few boys from his Jujitsu gym to youth group and they said yes! Last week, two were there and they’ve said they’ll return this week as well. This is pretty significant – Caleb’s instructor is also the youth pastor for this youth group. Caleb’s willingness to ask these boys opened the door for his instructor to share more as well! Both boys help me out with Mainly Music each week. A few weeks ago, another boy showed up that was Aedan’s age (Mainly Music is for toddlers – kids Aedan’s age are in school). It turns out this was another home school family who was new to the area and the two boys have really hit it off!

• Funding Update – We are still underfunded for our term but have seen God move in incredible and creative ways. God has been providing our support like manna – just in time for when we need it – for the last six months. This month, our goal was $3,000 by September 15. Right now, we are about $900 away from that goal. This will secure October for us.

In addition to this, we’ve been able to pick up some contract work for DaNae (and I). Houghton College is coming at the end of October as part of a semester-abroad programme and we are acting as the on-the-ground coordinators. In addition, we may also have the opportunity to be relief parents in a special needs respite home for two weeks (this would be an awesome opportunity to love on some really cool kids). Assuming we’re able to fund this next target, both of these opportunities significantly help fund November and maybe even December!

• DaNae just celebrated five years of being cancer-free (another queue for a little happy dance). We’ve known she’s been cured but it’s nice to know that insurers in the US now see it that way too! We had several celebrations of Gods goodness in the last month, Rob had his birthday, we celebrated 20 years of marriage and our sweet Aedan turned 7!

As you can see, a lot’s happened since we last wrote. Most of these things are things that wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t here. AND, we wouldn’t be here without your partnership. I hope you can see how that investment is rippling outward!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rainbows and Unicorns

I mentioned earlier this week that we live in “the land of rainbows and unicorns.” Just in case you didn’t realize it, I was kidding about the unicorns (we keep looking but have yet to see one). But the rainbows… we see them so often, it’s becoming commonplace. Since winter started back in May, I’d say we see about 2-3 a week with all the showers we’ve had.

I saw one driving home on Monday and, for whatever reason, was reminded of the evidence of God’s work that’s attached to rainbows. Maybe it was because missionaries always have holy thoughts but I think it may have had something to do with the brilliant rainbow over our house. I started to wonder how Noah felt every time he saw a rainbow after the flood. I would think it would have been emotional for him, like when I walked by a race finish line a year after running a 25k road race – I was all weepy because of the feelings that symbol reignited. I like to think that Noah would get all choked up as he pondered how God became real to him.

Then, I started thinking of our journey since we arrived here. It has been awesome to serve the church here in New Zealand. It’s been energizing to help them develop their outreach to their community and build relationships with people in our community. It’s been a blessing to come beside the church’s leadership and encourage and partner with them to help the church live out its vision. But, I think the part we most treasure has been seeing how God has become real to us. The area this is best seen has been our funding.

Since last fall (or spring in the US because the seasons are opposite here), our time here has been measured in adding another month. Since March, we’ve started each month not knowing if it would be our last. Yet, each month, God has provided what we’ve needed. It’s been amazing to see how God has met this need and allowed us to continue investing in what He is doing here.

As I continued thinking, I connected our team at home with rainbows. This sounds real cheesy but you are our rainbows. As we look over the last several months, we see how God has used you to speak a word of encouragement and give when able. The faithfulness of what you’ve done added with the faithfulness of others has sustained us when we wondered how God would keep us here an additional month. Now, I see a rainbow (then) think of how God used it to remind Noah (then) think of how you all remind us of God’s care for what is happening here (then) get a bit teary over how God makes Himself known. Thanks for being part of this kaleidoscope God uses to work around the world.

We’re not out of the woods yet. We’ve had a lot of people join our meal plan but continue to look month to month regarding our time here. This month, our target is $2,529 by August 15 – that’s how much is needed to stay an additional month. We’ve come to embrace Paul’s sentiment in Philippians 4 – “I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (vs12-13).” Each day, we are blessed to be in New Zealand and serve the church here. We crave to stay our full term but are also blessed with what God enables. We ask that you’d pray for the ministry here and that God would continue to meet our month to month needs. If you feel prompted or able to help meet September’s goal, let us know how we can help. We have two goals, the 1st is obviously getting enough funds to sustain another month, but a 2nd goal we have that would change the overall future of our funding is gaining monthly support, money that is counted on every month. This is where the New Zealand Meal Plan comes into play and there is more information about that under our “links” on the left side of the page.

Thank you for your continued prayers for our family. The last month has seen the wrap up of The Love Languages Course, a successful end to term 2 for Mainly music, a strong ending to our home schooling for term two, and two completed applications for grants for cessions trust. We have had some bumps along the way as well. The cold/flu found its way into our house hold not once but twice, along with that DaNae injured her ankle and she is about ½ way through physical therapy. So a busy and at times crazy month, but God just continues to show up over and over.

We are so grateful for you taking the time to peak in on our lives and sharing the journey with us. We look forward to updating you again soon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Winter ?!?!?!

For those in the states it is “welcome summer”, yes we are having a bit of seasonal confusion going on in these American bodies! The USA has moved into summer, ending school, looking ahead to holiday…..Here in NZ we are in the thick of term two for school and we have started our “winter”. I do ok, putting on the jeans and sweaters and feeling the desire to do “cozy” type activities, but when I look at the calendar my brain has a bit of a wig out!! Winter for NZ means wet, with a few raw days but then some beautiful sunny days as well. It basically feels like it is fluctuating between a wet early November and perfect October days.

It is fun to read our last entry and remember all that took place in just those two short months, and seeing how God just keeps moving ahead right into June. We talked about Mainly Music and the start of our Love Languages Course in the last update. Mainly Music only continues to grow and every week there seems to be a new mum or care giver that darkens the door of the Depot, and they are not connected with the church. The atmosphere has been energized, staff is working well together and just loving on these ladies (and in some cases fathers too) who come spend a couple of hours with us on a Tuesday. Some have been opening up personal parts of their lives to us and it has given us an opportunity to speak into/serve the need they may have rather it’s a listening ear or a few meals to help get through the week. It has been a really beautiful thing to watch grow. Our Love Languages Course kicked off 3 Wednesday nights ago, and we have 17 people involved. It has been so exciting to see people in all different stages of life and from different parts of our community come together to learn how to strengthen the relationships they have in their lives.

Since the last time we wrote, our family had the opportunity to attend The Gathering. This is a day when the Wesleyan churches in the greater Auckland area come together for a full day of fellowship. The best part of this day for me was to meet other leaders that I have heard about from earlier trips that Rob had to NZ. It was just wonderful to see these churches from different cultures - Fijian, Tongan and others - come together in the same space. I was blessed to be reminded that we are in this together and that God is so much bigger then what we are trying to accomplish in our own little neck of the woods.

The biggest thing we are in the middle of right now is something called the “Discovery” process. This is a program that was developed by TearfundUK (google it if you have a minute) to aid churches in identifying needs in their community that they can do something about. Over seven sessions, the program walks a group of people through a process of discovering the needs of their community and the compatibility of the organization to meet those needs through their resources, talents, and gifts. It’s goal is to help the church see where those two meet so they can respond. This is being sponsored through the cession trust and it has been an amazing process of surveys and meeting with community leaders and organizations to assess what the needs are and how we can best meet them. The program is so well defined and exciting to see how it works that Rob has had thoughts of “I wonder how we could use this in the United States”. It has been a lot of work, and involves a high level of commitment for those who have agreed to go through the process, but the end result will be clear answers and direction for the cession community trust and church to understand how to best meet their communities needs.

Finally, and probably our biggest prayer need right now, is our funding to be able to stay here to complete these projects God has brought to our plates. By now many of you, if not all, have seen an invite to the New Zealand Missions Meal Plan. If you have not, click under the "helpful links" in the left hand margin, labeled the same name and that will explain everything. God has been so amazing and continues to surprise us and sustain us. Right now we are seeing God provide months at a time to be able to stay here for the full term. Global Partners has been wonderful in working with us and letting us know certain dollar amounts that need to be reached by certain dates to ensure another month, and another month. Our hope and prayer is that so many of you latch onto the NZ Missions Meal Plan, that we will be fully funded for the next year and two months so that we are no longer “buying” a month at a time. Would you join us in praying this with us and would you be willing to consider being part of the Meal Plan if you have not already.

We are thankful for each and every one of you, for the way you love us, support us and encourage us. We look forward to updating again soon.

Friday, May 13, 2011

NZ Missions Meal Plan

Hi friends,

We have something new for you to check out and prayerfully consider - the NZ Missions Meal Plan. It's our effort to both raise the remaining support we need AND build awareness for global missions. Check it out by following the Meal Plan link on the left or just click here. If 124 people can do this, we would be funded for our full 2 years.

All things Easter................

It is so hard to believe that we are into May now!! Our first Easter season in NZ was awesome! It was busy and at times all consuming, but God was in the center of it all! We hope you had a beautiful Easter season celebrating our Risen Savior as well!

The Reynolds are doing really well. Both DaNae and Caleb just celebrated birthdays. We are now parents of a teenager – and a pretty awesome one at that! Having just come through Easter we had an awesome season connecting with our community. Each year, cession has hosted an Easter Egg Hunt and Art Gallery around the Easter services. This year, over 200 people attended our egg hunt IN THE RAIN! Yes, there were times it was down-pouring but people showed up, had fun getting wet, and heard the Easter story shared kids-style. I think the best part was that the rain did let up for only 15 minutes – the 15 minutes we went outside to find eggs!

“Killing Time”, our art gallery was set up using Mark’s account of the passion story and his focus on time. Over 65 people came through to see it. It was an awesome creative expression of worship from artists in our community, a cool way to connect with people near us, and a creative way to walk visitors through the passion story using art as a medium. Look below for pictures to each of these events.

Our efforts with the trust are moving along. Mainly Music (a Christian toddler music program designed to be a non-threatening community activity to introduce faith concepts to families and use music to foster parent/child relationships) is now averaging 45 mums and kids each Tuesday morning. We have a great team connecting with mums each week through this program. We are also in the middle of a discovery process that is helping to focus our efforts to meet needs in our greater community. It’s a great program developed by a UK ministry called TearFund.

As we rubbed shoulders with families in our community last month, we spotted an interesting trend. People who weren’t ready to consider church were craving our community. They were interested in anything we could offer but weren’t ready to check out a service. With this in mind, we are offering a Love Languages course at the end of this month and finishing in June. The interest is crazy – I was just speaking with a woman last week who can’t wait to come and is bringing a friend (as a matter of fact, her whole workplace is coming, all because they started to see the community one person working there had as a member of cession|community). This woman is an atheist/agnostic who can’t stand the idea of church but she loves our community. She’s said, “I wish I could have friends like that.” This event is tailored for folks like her so we can get to know each other.

We’ve also kicked off our NZ Missions Meal Plan. If you haven’t already, check out the meal plan link at the top of this page. We have given this plan to God and would ask that you would join us in praying over it.

We are excited to see what this next month brings as we continue to see Gods hand in everything while we are here. Thank you for your prayers and support. Hitting the 6 month mark is beginning to make us miss “home”, we would love to hear from you and if there is a way we can be praying for you please send it along, we love praying for all of you and it helps us feel a touch of home as well.

Stations of the Cross Photos

easter egg hunt 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

For the Kingdom of God Belongs to Such as These...

At parents at cession, one of the ways we all help staff Kid’s Encounter (our children’s ministry) is by serving as helpers once a month. Last weekend was our family’s turn and I was class helper Sunday night. One thing I learned is that the perceptions, comments and questions are radically different from adult focused ministry (and a tad more entertaining). While Brett was teaching out of Psalms 51 and talking about confession and transformation, I was exploring scripture from a different perspective.

As a pastor, one thing I look for is people’s personal expression and embodiment of what I taught because it helps to understand someone’s faith perspective and what really came out of my mouth. With that in mind, I want to introduce you to
Jedi-Jesus, the personal expression and embodiment from Aedan’s perspective. Apparently, he feels Jesus used his skills with the force to make us right with God. Although I’m not sure what Bible story he found his inspiration, I must admit that the light sabers and Jedi belt seem to fit right in with the drawing he was given…

I process comments people share. I love to hear about the thought process that a message can birth. Of all the comments shared with me in class, my favorite was, “If you eat too many chips, you’ll die.” This was said with a matter-of-fact earnestness only a five-year old could have – there was no question in his voice whether this was true or not. I'm sure it had some connection with the story being shared.

I also encourage questions and processing what I teach. I work hard at not being surprised by any question and ready to work through an answer. My favorite question this weekend came after the teacher asked, “Why did Jesus come to us here on Earth?” Someone in the class answered, “To save us” which prompted another question by another five-year old – “What about Mars?”

So, with that said, if you feel like you’re not engaged in your worship service and have fallen into a rut or, if you feel like you’ve been in church long enough to hear it all, see if you can help out in children’s ministries. There’s a whole new perspective on faith that adds meaning to Luke 18:16-17 …

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mana and Resiliency

Most of you know I spent last week in Christchurch working with the Salvation Army as they respond to the earthquake aftermath. I’ve spent much of this week thinking through my time and trying to process all I experienced. It was a blessing to be there with them but also very challenging to come back to normalcy – more so than I expected. I’m in a healthy spot – I just didn’t put much credence into the need to debrief the experience until I was flying home. I’m blessed with good relationships that helped and listened as I shared.

While there, I was a member of a team of 13 people from all over New Zealand and Australia. About half were Sallies (that’s what they call Salvation Army members here) and half were people like me who just wanted to help. We’d meet every morning at 6:30 AM and head to our home base for breakfast before being disbursed to area communities. We would go door to door checking on people until 4:30, return for a debrief time and dinner, and be back to our rooms around 7:30 PM. Each day, my partner and I checked on 60 – 100+ homes. In a sense, we were doing triage – spending up to a half-hour with people listening and assessing needs and referring them to other teams if they needed more time.

During the week, we visited Ferrymead (a new development hit hard but still liveable), Bexley (one of the hardest hit areas – at least 5 out of 6 homes were unoccupied, most of which were red-stickered/damaged beyond repair), Lyttleton (close to the epicenter and just recently opened to aid workers), and New South Brighton (the 5% of homes that had to wait weeks for services to be restored). Our goal was to connect with the residents still there and offer any help we could – often it was just offering a listening ear and time for a cup of tea. I was amazed at the power in the combination of those two things. It’s worth sharing some of the connections here. We talked with:

• An elderly couple who were looking after their neighborhood and trying to hold it together. The husband was pretty chipper and said they were fine, but his wife was struggling to hold it together. We prayed for a natural opportunity for someone on our team to connect with her at a later time. Later, she met us in the driveway of one of their neighbors and shared for 20 minutes how difficult the last 5 weeks have been. They suspect their house will be red-stickered – there are so many cracks in the foundation slab that the house shakes every time a truck drives by. This was to be their retirement home. She just wants answers but knows they won’t know details for 4-6 months. Just being able to talk was a relief for her.

• Another gentleman said he was fine but invited us in for tea and shared his story. He was in the CBD (central city) when the quake hit – his wife was 5 km away. When he couldn’t reach her, he ran to her location only to be turned away due to the damage. He started working up the evacuation route and found his wife in the crowd. It then took them 2 hours to travel a 15 minute drive to collect their boys from school. Even though out of work, they were getting on with life but he just wanted to talk.

• A single mom in one of the harder hit communities. All the homes around her were red-stickered or abandoned. Her kids were relocated to schools across town. For a shower, they had to travel 3 km to portable facilities set up by the government. She shared how looters pulled into her driveway on Feb 22 – the night of the quake – and only left when they saw her son walk around from the back of the house. She wanted so much to talk that she followed us to the road when it was time for us to leave.

It’s almost impossible to really empathize with the people living in the effects of a disaster like this and know the importance of crisis support until you see it firsthand. Think of life right now as you know it. Now take away all the things you take for granted as being there – clean water coming out of your pipes, sewage going where it is supposed to when you drain or flush, power and phone service being available, roads being safe enough to drive on, the store down the street being open for business, your neighbors still living next to you, your house being weatherproof, contractors being available on a moment’s notice when you call with an emergency, , being able to easily get answers so you can act on the damage you see, being able to easily brush your teeth. This begins to give an idea of what the people are struggling through. I can still hear one young guy sharing, “Hey, we’re doing ok, I guess. We feel overlooked. You hear of how power and services are restored for 95% of Christchurch – well, this community was in the 5%. We just had services restored (5 weeks after the earthquake).” One doesn’t realize how much your daily and emotional wellbeing is built on what we take for granted. Now, add to this the daily aftershocks as reminders of how this started and you begin to sense what it could be like. In the midst of this, the Sallies play a giant role. Their mana is huge!

Mana is a Maori term for respect, prestige, and honor. It can be sourced in one’s family lines, in one’s actions, or in the actions of a group. The Sallie’s mana comes from the last two. The Sallies have mana in the community because, time and time again, they’ve been the group to help pick up the pieces. People would toot and cheer when they drove by and thank us for being in their community. In the entire week we were there, we only had one person shut his door on us (and even he did it politely). Wearing the Red Shield vest (our vests with the Sallie emblem) gave us access where we normally wouldn’t have it. I would work with them again in an instant!

When we first arrived, it was obvious that the Sallies wanted faith to be lived out in actions right now. The faith conversations can happen but, at this point in the crisis, the loudest faith voice you could have is responding to their immediate needs. They accepted people where they were and just focused on their needs at this moment. And this, they do very well. They didn’t just help with physical needs, they had the capacity and things in place to help with emotional needs as well. If someone needed food, fuel, or clothes, we could help. If someone needed help making ends meet or needed help getting out of Christchurch for a break, we could help. If they didn’t know who to call (which agency), we could help. If they just wanted a visit, we could do that too. Even government officials recognized their mana. One said, “I’m glad the Sallies are working with us. We know they are Christians but they’re not forcing the Bible down our throats.” They recognized that the Sallies work to live out their faith and let their actions be their voice. What would it be like if every church in every community had mana like this?

The other key impact the week had on me was the resiliency of the people in Christchurch. They can’t return to the old normal of life. They’re stuck in a rebuilding time where every decision is measured in months and years. Yet, the majority of people we connected with were doing their best to get on with life. Time and time again, we saw how people were looking after their neighbors. One elderly woman had a zoo of sorts – she was caring for all the abandoned pets on her road. Several others were looking out for elderly residents next door or down the road. Because Lyttleton was cut off for days after the quake, we heard of how the community organized itself to check on its residents and make sure people were safe and fed. We heard story after story of how people congregated together after the earthquake and cared for each other. Their road to getting back to a new normal is pretty long but they’re making it happen. As one there, you begin to see how bounce-back-ability is encouraged just by knowing you are not alone.

Thank you so much for your prayers while I was there. I felt them each time we entered a house and shared time with people. I felt them as we tried to discern real needs from fake ones (yes, people were trying to scam the system too. Not many, but they were there). I’ve felt them since coming home as I’ve processed the experience. They were the fuel that kept me healthy and going all last week. Please continue to pray for the residents of Christchurch, the teams that are there each week, and the role the church plays in the future:

• For the people because, as a whole, this is typically the lowest part of the process as people respond to crisis and disaster. Pray that they practically know people are there for them.

• For the Sallie teams – they are the first line of relational support right now. Pray that people wouldn’t continue to volunteer to serve and that the Sallies can continue to staff the teams they need. Pray that the right people would be drawn to this – good listeners with empathetic, caring, and discerning hearts. Pray for these individuals as they head home and adjust back to life (the Sallies even help with this if needed – they have a handle on the whole process).

• For the church down the road. The Sallies have a long term commitment to Christchurch. They told us that there will be a time to share their faith (it’s just not now). Pray for them down the road when they begin to share what drives their concern for recovery there. Pray for the Wesleyan church as well. In 2012, Christchurch is the next strategic church plant for the New Zealand Wesleyan Church (this was in place well before the Earthquakes). Pray for Clint Usher (the planting pastor) and the leadership here as they discern what that plant will look like.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rob in Christchurch

Hi Everyone, so many have asked about Rob going to christchurch and many of you are praying. Thank you so much. We wanted to get a note out to everyone because I'm sure there are some that do not know the opportunity Rob had. It has been hard to watch NZ go through the aftermath of such a disaster as the one in Christchurch nearly 6 weeks ago. Both our church and our family were left with this sense of "how can we help". Soon after that the salvation army put out a call for urgent need for pastors and councilors to help with their earthquake relief efforts. Rob put his name in and he got a call last week to be on a plane this week to go down. When it was time it happened pretty fast but we were blessed that he could help in this way. We have had good phone coverage so we have been able to talk and he is doing really well. Exhausted, but good. Their days start around 5:30am and end at 7:30pm. As he has said "there is a reason the salvation army does what they do". He feels very well taken care of, their operation is very well organized and he feels fully equipped for what ever he may come across. There are still several neighborhoods that have not been assessed yet, so it has been a lot of going from door to door, checking in on families to make sure they are ok and find out their needs. The last few days they were in Littleton, which is where the epicenter was of the quake (not the massive massive damage that you see in the central business district) because of this location they are dealing with a lot of damaged homes and some that have already been marked with red paint to signal these one are beyond repair. As Rob has said he is encouraged and blown away by the resilience of the people of CHCH and he is also broken by the level of emotional hurt. There are so many different scenarios, stories and needs he has come across, and all the while feeling Gods hand and that some how in a little way he is making a difference.
The boys and I are doing well during the separation, but there is just something about being separated in a different country, its like its more "heightened" or something. The church family has been awesome looking after us, and the big news of the week is that I actually started driving!!! Look out Auckland! I have been holding down the fort here between family, working hard on our fund raising efforts and the church ministry needs as we are approaching the Easter season and there are several community outreach events we organize. Please continue to pray for Rob, he will be home soon,his safety and that God would equip him with everything he needs and his processing time once he is home. Pray for the people of CHCH, this is going to be a long journey for sooo many of them.
Thank you for your love and prayers!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

American Friends, We are OK.

Hi all - a note to say we are OK - the physical impact on New Zealand was pretty minimal (I believe the waves were about 20 inches high when they reached our coast). Our hearts are pretty heavy after watching the footage in Japan. We are praying for the country as they continue to respond to the tragedy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Significance of March

March is a significant month for us here in New Zealand. It was back in 2004, about this same time, that I first stepped off a plane in Auckland for the first time to help plan and launch the Wesleyan Church’s youth camp. I still remember heading home after that trip was over. For most of my waking moments on that flight, I remember thinking through how I could share the experience with DaNae and Caleb. I had expected to spend a week planning and learning and instead, fell in love with a culture on the other side of the globe. You could say that our journey here started on that trip.

March 2004 is also significant for cession|community. It was then that cession|community was birthed as a church by East City Wesleyan (ECW). Brett and the early leaders had a vision for a community that reached out to young adults not necessarily connected to a traditional church. They began meeting on Sundays in the early evening in the same space ECW met in the morning. Who would have known that this dream would have developed as it has – cession has grown from a starting group of people to a community reaching out to the people and families God has placed about them. So, I guess their journey started about the same time.

The reason I was reminiscing like this about us and cession is because March 2011 is another marker for our shared journeys. DaNae and I came here to partner with cession and help lead their community ministries and we do that through a community trust the church has established. This past week has been huge for us because we’ve made two big steps forward.

In December, we were asked to staff the Depot (the community center that we meet in) with a youth worker who could act as a chaplain for students in some of the programs there. This week, Paul (cession’s Intern Pastor), along with Sara (a cession member), started a weekly class discussion/teaching time centered on life topics with a biblical perspective. They start with a video and then facilitate a class discussion afterward so begin building relationships with the students in class. Paul also has office hours at the Depot where he can be present as needed. I think what excites me most about this is the match with Paul. It allows him to focus on counseling and one-on-one ministry (a sweet spot for him).

In December, we also saw God working in another way when Sara began pursuing a dream she had for a music ministry to at-risk students in our area. God started moving the roadblocks in a serious way for her (new job that freed up her schedule, time to think and plan so her dream could happen, a grant we could apply for to purchase instruments). She already has two schools interested in the program and just needs drums for it to happen. This week, we sent in our first grant application. We know it was received on time and is being evaluated as you read this.

This may not seem like a big deal to Americans as you read this but it is here. Grants are one avenue the New Zealand government uses to address social and community needs. Cession has known they were there but never tried to access them before, largely because they didn’t have a point person to lead the process. With DaNae and I here, they now have that point person, which gave Sara the freedom to run with her vision and pursue funds. She was a superstar in this process. Please pray as we wait to hear if the application was approved.

We share this with you because many of you were key players in making this happen. We couldn’t have made it here if it weren’t for the support of a huge team. Your investment has enabled us to be involved with cession|community and has helped to give birth to these dreams of ministry. All this started with investments and action in 2004 – seven years ago. I can’t help but wonder what another seven years will bring!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Tough to Watch the News Right Now

Hi all. I'm assuming you've heard by now of the earthquake in Christchurch. If you haven't, there was a 6.3 earthquake today only 5km underground. The footage from Christchurch leaves a hole in my chest right now. As I write this, they're sharing that the central city is shut down and rescue efforts are ongoing. Earlier today, we watched as they worked to free people trapped in collapsed buildings. To make it more difficult, it started raining this afternoon and is raining as we speak.

As you go through these next few days, would you keep Kiwis (New Zealanders) in your prayers? The whole country is hurting. Pray that the phone systems would be restored so that families can contact each other. Even though Christchurch is on the other side of this nation on the South Island, there are lots of people here in Auckland (including friends of ours) trying to reach loved ones. The phone lines are overwhelmed with people trying to get through to friends and family. Thanks for joining us in this.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Start of a New Year!

It’s hard to believe that today is our 3 month anniversary in New Zealand. On November 16 of last year, we stepped off the plane and into the community God had for us. It seems like so long ago that driving was such a mental activity (thinking through what side of the road to be on, how to navigate intersections, who has the right of way, etc). It seems like so long ago that we had no idea of where to shop or how to get somewhere. It seems like so long ago that we were trying to figure out what to do.

At the same time, it seems like just yesterday. Just yesterday, we came to a new country. Just yesterday, we started to develop cession’s trust. Just yesterday, we were overwhelmed with the newness around us.

This month has been the start of the new year here in New Zealand, much like September is the start of a new year in the states. Schools are on break from mid-December to the beginning of February. This month, we’ve been revisiting the church’s vision in our services and exploring what that means for each of us. DaNae and I have used this time to gain greater clarity of the programs that run under the trust and the needs they have as well as the future direction of the trust. In addition to putting its vision, mission, and values into words, we’ve been giving leadership to current programs and helping new ones start. We’ve been familiarizing ourselves with the grants available to fund trust activities.

What we’ve been doing with the trust:
Mainly Music – this is a Christian program cession has been running. It reaches out to young families in the community and provides a social group centered on music. Parents and toddlers gather together for structured music time and tea. Our focus has been to build connections with the parents and the cession community. Caleb and I play a support role while DaNae has been building relationships with other moms. We’re helping this team define their needs, recruit new members, and find funding for the equipment they need.

Drumbeats – Sara, one of cession’s members, was trained last year in a program that builds into the lives of at-risk teens. It uses drumming as a tool to talk about issues they face and work through them. Sara’s prayer was that she’d find a job that would allow her a day off to do this program through the trust. Well, in December, Sara was hired as a music teacher for a local school. Her schedule – 4 days a week! We just presented the program to an alternative school in our community and she will start a group at the end of April (term 2). Please pray for us as we apply for grants to underwrite the instruments she will need.

Depot Chaplaincy – cession is one of several tenants in a community center called The Depot. One of the tenants approached us and asked if we would staff a youth chaplain there. This came at the same time we were sorting out Paul’s (an intern currently in Bible College) role. He has a heart for counseling teens and is really gifted for a position like this. In two weeks, he and Sara will start leading group discussions with students at the center to build relationships and credibility for their new roles. Please pray for them as they move forward.

Trust Administration – Prior to our arrival, cession|trust existed as an idea and legal charter. Now that we are here to lead it, we have a lot of groundwork to cover in establishing it as a reality. I’ve been working to identify its vision, mission, and values as well as put together a policy manual and history for future grant applications. The first part of that I enjoy but the policy manual is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me – pray for me as I work through that task (or, even better, that God would help me identify an administratively gifted person that loves putting together things like policy manuals).

What we’ve been doing as a family:

Building neighborhood relationships – We’ve gotten to know 2 out of our three neighbors. We almost got off to a bad start with one neighbor. When I was first talking to him, the conversation died when he found out I was a pastor but God gave us another in. He's in the food industry and I asked him for help with knowing where to shop/what to eat. That reignited the conversation and we talked for over 30 minutes. Since then, we talk almost every day and have been for dinner and trade movies to watch. He’s been pretty clear that he has his own beliefs but also accepts us for who we are.

Our other neighbors just moved into the other house over the fence. We’ve talked to them and have tentative plans to cook out together as well. This time, when I introduced myself, I said I run a trust in the community – it’s kept my role as a pastor from being a stumbling block as we get to know each other.

Rob – Outside of the trust role above, I serve on the teaching team and tech team at cession. I’ve really enjoyed being back in a pastoral role once again.

DaNae – Has been busy setting up home, orchestrating home education and learning a new ministry and country along side of her family. She has been enjoying building relationships with young women and moms in the congregation/community and coming along side our worship arts teams to help with the process and team building. She has even had a few moments to pick up a guitar that has been loaned to her and learn a few things.

Caleb and Aedan – Caleb attended youth camp last month with 175 other students from the Auckland area and had a blast. He attends youth group at cession’s parent church – East City Wesleyan – and serves with us at Mainly Music. Aedan has fit in well, too. He’s made friends with many of the kids at church (many are his age) and is a sponge when it comes to learning things in other languages (Mandarin Chinese, Maori). We were able to find a Jujitsu gym for both boys that fit our budget so that they can continue their martial arts training, too.

How God has been challenging us:
Me – God has been using the book, A Hole in Our Gospel, to challenge me in my faith. If you haven’t read it, you should pick it up (whether you’re a church person or not). It’s a book that makes you rethink how you view those less fortunate than you and challenges you to live like you care. So far, every chapter has stuck in my thoughts well after I put the book down.

DaNae – God has been reminding me to stay in that place of surrender. Trying not to just see things through my eyes and my thoughts, but through God’s. There are many promises that God whispered to me through his word over the last few years, and I am daily striving to stay in that place of trust and surrender.

Caleb – God has really been challenging me to figure out how to serve God in the church. I’ve been serving with children’s ministry and on the tech team.

Aedan – The children’s program sponsors a child in India (Sanjay). One Sunday, Aedan came home with a passion to give what he could to Sanjay. The next week, he gave all the money he earned that week to help support him. I want to be able to give sacrificially like him.