Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October 22-31st

Hot springs and cities and glow-worms OH MY!!! This past week has been packed full of adventure, spiritual growth, developing relationships with other LCNZ church workers, and seeing more of this beautiful country.
We began Sunday afternoon once the 125th celebrations as St. Luke's came to a close. We packed our bags and drove to Ohakune where we found ourselves staying in the motel where the Lord of the Rings cast stayed, called The Hobbit! The town was a sleepy little ski town at the base of Mt. Ruapehu. Unfortunately, Monday morning was overcast and cloudy, hiding the mountain from view. So we decided to head up to Taupo to do some tramping and exploring. On our way, we spotted some gorgeous rainbows, a very common sight here in New Zealand. Once we arrived in Taupo, we visited Huka Falls - a massive, powerful waterfall.

After our hike up to it, we rested in natural hot springs! We ended the evening exploring Craters of the Moon, a system of hot steam vents coming out of the earth. The ground was extremely unstable and so we had to walk on the wooden planks provided as you can see in the pictures. We ended the evening with Burger King and a long trek to Auckland. WOW - talk about culture shock, going back to a large city with freeways! Ken enjoyed driving in traffic again, and I liked all the city lights! That night however, I got sick (food poisoning by Burger King??!!) and so Tuesday we took it easy, sightseeing Auckland from various hilltops (most of which are old volcanoes, or craters) surrounding the city. It was fun to imagine the landscape when the place was filled with lava, steam and ash flying everywhere! Now in it's place are green hills with sheep (yes, can't get away from them even in a metropolis like Auckland) amidst city skyscrapers, Sky Tower prominently jutting into the cityscape.

We met our billet family Tuesday night - Bob and Eris. A wonderful old couple who played Rummikub with us (reminded me of my Grandma Steinbart), let us watch Law and Order, and told us exciting stories from their latest adventures to China. Kiwi people are the most traveled people in the entire world.

Wednesday the national LCNZ conference started - it was very intimate with about 20 of us there, and Harry Wendt was our guest speaker. He was awesome! A real inspiration to all of us, and gave us quite a bit to think about. That's needed for us church workers every once in a while-we need to re-think our reason for doing ministry and what that ministry really is. He focused a lot on how Jesus' life was a living display of what He talked about, and how He is a radical God, coming to earth to live the life of a servant to free people from demonic control of living life for self. For there are only two "rulers" he claims, fighting for you in the world - Satan and Jesus. But a favorite statement of Ken and I from Harry was that we don't put God 1st in life...because what idols then come 2nd, 3rd, and 4th?...but instead God is to be the ONLY in life because He is not an "important" part of life, but IS life. In Jesus' ministry, He talk-about, walk-about, show-abouted everything to His disciples, and we too have to walk-talk-show people the Jesus we want them to believe in (Ken likes how Harry said, 'walkie, talkie, showie'). Hmmm...interesting things to think about.

It was great for Ken and I to meet other church workers as well - there is some great youth ministry going on in Upper Moutere, which Ken enjoyed hearing about and swapping ideas with. He also enjoyed visiting with Harry Wendt, learning more about his ministry and thoughts. I got to know two other musicians pretty well, one from Christchurch on the South Island, and the other from Wellington. We are planning a possible music ministry retreat for sometime next year for all church musicians in the LCNZ.

Saturday we ended our time in Auckland by visiting the Zoo...this Zoo was unlike any other I've been to! They take their elephants on walks twice a day around the park! And there was a bird sanctuary where the parrots would feed from your hand (or in Ken's case, shoulder)! And of course, we saw a kiwi bird! Yes! They have a special place where they make it "night" in the daytime so the bird will be active (they only come out at night.) It was a great way to unwind from the week. That evening, we enjoyed walking around the city at night after having a nice dinner (yes, we even found a Borders and Starbucks and indulged in some American living!)

Sunday Rob Erickson was installed as the new LCNZ President and we were able to meet his wife Betsy. Both Rob and Betsy are from the states (Rob is from Arizona!), and we are excited to welcome them to New Zealand and into the St. Luke's family. The people here really are a family to us, so generous with their time and talents! It's humbling.

We ended our adventures in Waitomo where we went Black Water Rafting to see the Glow Worms in the caving systems. It was awesome to tube down an underground river system in a cave, jump off waterfalls INSIDE the cave, and to float lights-out while gazing at the "star" filled ceiling (the glow-worms). It was truly incredible and a somewhat spiritual experience as we just took in how awesome and unique God's creation is. There is always something down here that continues to inspire us and take our breath away.
On the long drive back to Palmy, we saw Marikopa Falls and a natural bridge as well as Mt. Egmont (the most climbed mountain here, also with the most deaths totaling 60 so far...) We also enjoyed seeing Angorra rabbits being sheared for their fur - didn't look so humane, but it's supposed to be good for them!

Now it's back to work. Please pray for Ken and I as we hit the ground running full speed ahead this week with lots going on for music and youth/children/adult ministry! The trip was rejuvenating and mind-tantalizing, giving a new boost for getting ready for the end of the year ministry work before the summer break-up (as they call it down here)!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

October 15-21

This week has been all about getting ready to party! St. Luke's celebrated their 125th anniversary (note: one of the oldest Lutheran churches in New Zealand) and the kick off for the big event began Friday evening with a wine and cheese mingling event. It was great to mix and meet other Lutherans from around New Zealand and hear more about the history of this church. Dr. Steen Olsen, late president of the LCNZ, wrote a short book on St. Luke's and gave all who registered for the weekend a signed copy. Ken was excited to see his name in one of the final sentences of the last chapter, which states "Ken Chitwood, a graduate from Concordia University in Irvine Califonia, was appointed for an 18 month term, and he began work in August 2007. This will fulfill his intern requirements and qualify him as a 'Director of Christian Education'." Although, it is humbling to realize that as much vision and excitement Ken and I have for our mission at St. Luke's, we also see that we are but a "blip on the screen" - this church is a strong one that has been around far longer than we have been living, and will continue to exist for many more years, God willing.

Saturday morning was filled with Dr. Steen Olsen speaking on "Past Reflections" and Harry Wendt (world renown creator of Crossways International Bible Study materials and who has worked in over 32 countries as well as pastor here from 1958-1963) who spoke on 'Future Directions." It was great to eat lunch with them and get to know more about these wise leaders who not only have led St. Luke's in the past, but also lead the wider christian church around the world through their mission and research. Ken and I both look forward to learning more from Harry Wendt at the church workers conference coming up this next week in Auckland. Saturday evening closed with a nice dinner at the Palmerston North Convention center with keynote speaker John Henderson reigniting the vision of our ministry to our community and world.

Sunday morning worship held close to 300 people celebrating the anniversary, as well as to say farewell to Dr. Steen Olsen as he was formally released from his position as LCNZ president. Afternoon tea followed with lots of eating and greeting - Ken and I were excited to see other leaders from the youth camp a few weeks ago and to catch up with them.

Over the weekend, Ken enjoyed getting to talk to some of these "big" leaders of the Lutheran church, especially Harry Wendt of whom Ken's classes at Concordia used many of his books. I also enjoyed getting to know some of the other music "leaders" of the LCNZ and am trying to coordinate a possible NZ music conference next fall 2008 (your spring) with some of them leading sessions. Although, both Ken and I tried to keep work out of the weekend and just enjoy the celebrations!

The preceding days to the event were busy for everyone in the church office as it was filled with last minute to-dos and extra people milling around the space. Thank you for your prayers for some ministry issues we've run into - things aren't necessarily "perfect" but they are working themselves out and with time.

We're off to Auckland early this week - leaving late Sunday afternoon, taking a few days for holiday before the conference starts Wednesday. We thank you for all your thoughts and prayers - we really do feel them all the way down here! A great answered prayer from this last week: as homesick as we get sometimes, Lawrence and Judi stepped into our lives and although they had no clue what we were thinking or feeling, just randomly expressed to us how we feel like children to them, giving us hugs! It is awesome how God hears everything we pray for, and the support the Satherleys unknowingly gave to us really boosted our emotions. Especially since Lawrence really reminds Ken of his dad, and Judi is bubbly and outgoing like my mom! So yes, thank you for your thoughts and prayers - this is just one example of how they do get answered every day down here in our lives!

p.s. photos will be posted later next week

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October 8-14

This week has been filled with many ups and downs...

The ups:
  • Tuesday night was the first "guitar" class at St. Luke's! Ken and I led it together for anyone interested in learning guitar, singing, basic rhythm (using egg shakers) and singing harmonies. There was a good turnout - about five people came. This class will meet fortnightly, and hopefully after a year or so, there will be 5-10 people in the congregation who are better trained musically to filter into worship teams!
  • I was able to lead "The Bass Line" devotions with Trinity's new team, the Tuesday team, the Thursday team, and the youth team! It was awesome to see how different each team responded to the Word, how they applied the questions to their life/music ministry, etc. I believe over time, this will be a great way to shape each team and mold their attitudes to that of Christ as they explore through monthly devotions what it means to be a music ministry team.
  • Ken is on top of the world, as he has completed all plans and projects for October and is getting a head start on brainstorming his work for November! He loves being ahead of the game like this.
  • This Friday night was the youth team's first meeting: we lead worship December 2 and it was awesome to explain Advent, read the Bible readings for that lectionary date, and discuss ideas for how the service will look. The church in the past hasn't always enjoyed this service, but our goal is to create a worship service that edifies the congregation and the youth at the same time!
  • Saturday morning Ken and I went to the Satherley's farm to feed their piglets! We then went to Calf and Lamb day where we watched Josh and James with their calf and lamb win 1st and 2nd place! Woohoo! That evening we had a great dinner with Kate and Damien - it was good to hang out with them and play some Cranium (we won!) We really enjoy their company and look forward to getting to know them even better.

    Mr. Pig
    Baby pigs

    Ken feeding Mr. and Mrs. Pig
    Me, communicating with the pigs
    James and Bubbles
    Josh and Marge

  • Sunday after church was the first confirmation class that Ken's been writing these past few weeks called "Plug In." It was co-led by Pastor and Ken, and will incorporate a lot of technology for this generation including online blogging, texting, etc. Pastor will be exploring worship while Ken will be teaching the basics of the catechism as well as faith integration. Between the two, these youth should get a firm understanding of Christian faith and Lutheran doctrine and how it affects their every-day lives.
  • Trinity worship service Sunday evening was a great success! Thank you for your prayers - the live music ran well, quite a few BLAST kids returned with their families to lead two songs and a short skit, and there was a slide show of the BLAST week.

The downs:

  • Both Ken and I have run into issues with certain people in lay leadership positions at the church. Please pray for wisdom and discernment as we continue to work relationally and spiritually with them.
  • The weather wasn't so great on Monday so we couldn't go hiking. But the wind has definitely proven to be fun - our house feels like there's a "big bad wolf" outside huffing and puffing to blow it down! The doors in our home move and creek when the wind gets going! They call it the "equinoctial October winds"
  • We STILL don't have our boxes that shipped out from CA in June! Please pray as we deal with the moving company and try to get our boxes from Auckland to us during this next week so we can have some gear we need by next Monday!
  • We're both missing our families back in the states...including our pets


  • On Sunday, Pastor Greg had an awesome sermon about the blessings of giving thanks. Even though above, we went through the positives and negatives of our week, we always have something we can be thankful for. Looking at the parable of the ten healed lepers in Luke 17, there were a few interesting things that stood out to us: first off, the lepers as a group of people had a common faith - that Jesus could heal them. second, they asked for the free gift of healing, knowing they had nothing to give Jesus back in return. third, they exercised their faith by going as Jesus said, even though they were not healed as they left Him. But this is where things changed. Nine of them were probably Jews, and therefore after being healed went into the Temple to worship. However, the one Samaritan, had to no where to go after being healed. Therefore he went back to give thanks to Christ, to where he knew God was. In doing so, he was blessed even more than the others for he was given eternal salvation for Christ says to him: "rise and go your way, your faith has made you well." Faith in Jesus = eternal life. This free gift was given to him as a blessing through his faithfulness. How awesome is that! That in our thanks to God, we deepen our relationship with Him. So yes, although there were some rough spots in our week, we are continually thankful to God for everything He does for us, both in this temporal life and for our eternal life.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

October 1-7

Congratulations - you are a winner! Actually, we're all winners! WINNERS! was the theme for the National Youth Camp 2007 in Hamilton this past week. Ken and I were both leaders for the camp - we led music sessions together, each had a small group for break-out Bible studies, and he also led debriefs after game times (tying the games into the theme for the day.) The camp took a look at what it looks like to be a winner in this world, and how we can apply the principles Christ exhibited to winning in our everyday life such as: winning with humility and leading as a servant. The turnout was great: 25 youth from Christchurch, Marton, Palmerston North, and Auckland came to the first youth camp in almost twenty years! We're hoping for close to 40 youth this next Easter when the next camp is projected to take place.

We drove up on Monday the 1st and on the way saw some more gorgeous land including Mt. Ruapehu! When we arrived at the camp, Ken and I were in for quite the surprise. Being Americans, we are used to professionally run national youth camps that always have something planned out. But that is not how camps in New Zealand run. Here, things are much more relaxed and flexible. There is a basic plan, but how the outcome looks is up to the leadership team each day. Wow...try that on for size! Ken and I at first were greatly troubled by this. And to top it off, Ken gave me his cold from last week and so I was out almost all day Wednesday. With our American goggles on, we couldn't see how this camp would be a success. But then we realized God was answering our prayers...we prayed that He would open our eyes to His will for life, to open our eyes to how He moves. It was then we realied that He is so much bigger than any of us really understand! Because He is so global. As soon as we took off those American goggles and started to view the camp through faith in our global God, we realized that this camp was a great great success! Faith was being renewed, youth were seeking to know more about our personal God who wants a relationship with us, and a family was being formed. A family in Christ. God taught us that it doesn't matter how things are done because He works through all the ways each culture does things. He reaches kids in the states the way we run things, and he reaches kids in NZ the way they run things (although we have been told that some NZ camps run in a more organized, American fashion). He is flexible enough to not lose sight of the ultimate will: to reach all with saving knowledge of Him. Sometimes it's us who get hung up on all the little details, losing sight of His will for our lives.
Eating some grub on our way up

A storm in the desert

Fun times teaching the kids archery and shooting!
Group time
Taking a hike
Ken and I also enjoyed seeing the dedication in some of the students. It is very common here for families to discourage their children from attending church, and yet quite a few of the youth would walk 30 minutes to church alone on Sundays and Fridays for youth nights! As hard as one generation is trying to stop our the church by declaring the nation "non-Christian" and discouraging their children, God is moving in huge ways, giving 13-15 year-olds the strength to follow Him without their families support! It's humbling to see their dedication.

Silly song time!
We also enjoyed seeing how some of the students who don't live the Christian "lifestyle" were really touched by the camp and the love of Christ in it - for the first time, they experienced a family, they experienced true grace, and they walked away amazed.

Bible study led by Pastor Greg

So overall, Winners! was just that - it was a great camp, and Ken and I are both stoked to see what God has in store for the next one!

Closing bonfire

We got back into Palmy on Friday evening and stopped in at Rick and Kerri's for tea - we had borrowed their car for the week since we needed extra seats and so when dropping it off, they insisted we stay for some pizza - can't turn that down! Saturday was filled with unpacking, cleaning, and worship practice at Trinity. Trinity generally does cd music, but for the Oct 14th evening outreach service (the one I mentioned last time that will incorporate BLAST), we decided to try and do live music. The practice was so awesome! We began with a short devotion, and then got to work. The spirit of humility and dedication was so energizing. I know Ken walked away from it feeling rejuvenated from the worship he experienced during the practice! God is so good! Our next meeting is October 13th, so that we'll be totally prepared for the 14th. Please keep that in your prayers.

We ended our weekend recouping from our colds and just taking it easy. It was a great time to rest, reflect, and rejuvenate! Amen