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.