Sunday, December 28, 2008

December 23-29

Christmas in the Square
Merry Christmas! This season is always really busy for church workers, and doubly so for those of us who work at a pastor-less church! Tuesday was filled with last minute preparations for Christmas Eve - Ken finished his sermon, I practiced a lot of piano, and we did grocery shopping to get what we needed for our traditional Slovak Christmas Eve dinner.
Pakutahowa (NZ Christmas Tree)
Christmas Eve service went wonderfully - my choir sounded great and Jen and I sang a duet (O Holy Night) that brought many to tears. Ken's sermon was titled "Beautiful Feet" and spoke on Isaiah's prophecy of how beautiful the feet are that bring good news. Ken tied that into Christmas, how Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophecy and how "beautiful" his feet are as they walk to the cross and get nailed there for us and our sins. How "beautiful" those feet that rose again, bringing us life and salvation. And how "beautiful" our feet are, as believers, who are called to go and spread this news to others.
Christmas Eve Choir

Jen and Sam

Before the service Ken and I did our traditional Slovak meal - it was a bit odd not having all the family around for it, but we made it our own and I felt pretty proud that we were able to pull it off! After the service we came home to open presents - Pepper had a great time with that! (see the pictures below for proof).
Ken preparing the fish

Our little Christmas Eve

Opening presents

Pepper enjoyed this

Merry Christmas from the Chitwood's!

On Christmas Day we went to Trinity in Feilding where I played music and Ken led the service. Following the service we went to the Cuttle's for Christmas dinner - it was really fun to be with them and their family. We played lots of fun trivia games and had a $2 gift exchange game where you pick a gift to unwrap and then the next person can either pick their own gift or steal from another person. Ken and I walked away with a really awesome elephant pencil holder and some NZ playing cards! Talk about jackpot! haha. I brought over a plate of Slovak cookies that were almost all eaten within the first two hours! Their grandparents came over as well and treated Ken and I just like family - even gave us some gifts! We enjoyed getting a picture book of NZ as well as some Cinnamon Toast Crunch and chocolate Pop Tarts (the Cuttles have family back in the states who mailed those over!) Yum! When we got home late in the afternoon, we took Pepper on a special Christmas Day walk and then ended the evening with The Nativity Story.
Christmas Dinner at the Cuttles

Pop tarts and CTC!
Lesley and Brett Cuttle
Trinity in Feilding

Yum - these went really fast!
A lovely day for a walk in the park

Friday Ken and I went in to work - we boxed all our books and things as well as finished last minute office details. We won't be back in to the office now until late January. Ken will take his work on the road with us when we go on vacation since the first week of vacation I will be at a choral conducting conference, so he will finish writing his world religions book as well as some tips/resources for the new pastor.
Saturday was Ken's 24th birthday! So we celebrated by going to the rugby museum (something he's wanted to do the past 16 months!) and then went out to dinner. It was a really nice relaxing day.
A dream come true

Us in the square

Palmerston North Square
Mao Bar
Pepper celebrating Ken's birthday too

Sunday was my last time playing music for St. Luke's! After the service we went to the Nelson's for a bbq and had a really nice time visiting with them and Paul and Carol Argyle. We've made some great friends at both St. Luke's and Trinity that will be sad to say goodbye to...
Monday Ken went on a 22-mile run! Yuck! While he was doing that, I worked on the inventory of our stuff. The movers are coming on the 31st to pack us up! It's amazing how quickly everything is coming!
Thank you for your prayers for Themba - we have now raised about 1/3rd of what we need! But please continue to keep us in thought, especially as we await some important papers to come from South Africa so we can work on our visa as well as apply to defer a student loan. As nerve wracking as it can be, I rest in the Angel's words to Mary in Luke, that NOTHING is impossible with God. May it be done as He wills! Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

December 16-22

This week has been a blast! We had dinner parties and events just about every evening! Tuesday evening we enjoyed a time of fellowship with Lawrence and Judi Satherley (our Kiwi "parents"). I was busy Tuesday afternoon baking sweet and savory muffins for them as a Christmas gift.

Wednesday Ken took the day off and went to Feilding to hang out with Tony and do a Star Wars Marathon (including the newest movie, Clone Wars)! Needless to say, I was intrigued and joined them half way through. It was a really fun time, ending at 12am Thursday morning!
Thursday evening was the PLT Christmas party at Chris and Denise's home. It was a really fun evening visiting with everyone - you can tell the leadership team of the Manawatu Parish are not just leaders, but really good friends. There is such love and commitment to both the parish and each other among them. Really cool!
See the white rectangle dish on the left of this photo that's empty?? That was my dish that I brought over - guess it was yum!

Ken and the blokes outside

Our Kiwi "parents" Judi and Lawrence

Look at those awesome desserts!

Friday morning Carol came to the church to help Ken and I decorate the Christmas tree! It was a lot of fun - we rocked out to some carols on the church music system while hanging the chrismons up. Made me think about Mom and Dad being out last year to help decorate the church tree with me...That evening was Ken's first official FREE night from youth! As of last week, he is done! So we decided to meet up with Jen and Sam for a beer after work since we hadn't had a chance to talk with them in a while.
Carol and I with the finished product

Saturday evening we went to the Clausen's for another Christmas party. Roger also showed us a slide show of his latest motorcycle adventure - all across Europe! He rides with Jo and Garreth Morgan, two Kiwi riders who do a lot for social justice through their rides (as well as write books - we have their America ride, "Backblocks America," that is filled with pictures of Roger Clausen - and he signed our book too!)

Sunday morning was the Children's Christmas production. It was a cute show about finding out who is Jesus. Ken gave the devotional message following the production. That afternoon we had choir practice - two more members joined up (yeay!) and we sound really nice. I am looking forward to Christmas Eve. Sunday night Ken lead about 14 people in a James Bond Bible Study (only Ken could do this!) - we went and saw the film, then had a discussion about the nature of evil and being sinners and saints. It was a really good discussion - some of the participants had never thought about our lives in Christ that way (that in Him we are saints, but at the same time we will still sin). There was a lot of good discussion and I think some people walked away with a bit to think on. One of the members thanked Ken for all the studies he has led in the parish this year for adult education - there is such a hunger to learn and grow in the faith here. Please keep these adults in your prayers that they continue to desire to learn more about their faith!

Because Christmas is coming up so quickly, Ken and I decided to work again this Monday. He is still working on that world religions book. Four people have signed up to buy one so far. He is also preparing sermons for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (he will be leading services at both St. Luke's and Trinity and I will be doing all the music, along with my choir). We also took Pepper to the pet store today to pick up a chew bone (Santa will give it to her come Thursday morning). She choose a pet Christmas Cracker - meaning it is a rawhide bone that is shaped like a Christmas Cracker (the kind you pull the ends and goodies come out from the middle) - and her cracker is filled with more rawhide goodies inside once she chews it threw! She saw us wrapping her presents earlier this week and got sooooo excited! She already tore a hole in one of them that's under our little charlie brown tree! What a cutie.
As we come into the Christmas season and end advent, we are reminded that the faith we have in Christ is not so much different than that of our forefathers in the faith. Before Christ, believers were long awaiting the time when Christ would come. Now Christians today celebrate when He came as a baby on Christmas, but we too await the time when He will come again with glory at the end of time! May you and your family have a blessed Christmas this week - enjoy the festivities of parties and fellowship as we celebrate together the birth of Christ. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

December 9-15

The holiday season has definitely begun! Wednesday evening was our last all-music-team-meet of the year to look at next year's Jan-March roster, review the past year, and have a little Christmas party together! It was a great meeting and everyone seemed to enjoy the devotion, fellowship, and Christmas celebration together. Ken and I also had our last music team practice - we lead worship on Sunday, and that is the last time our whole team will be together! Lots of lasts...although I pray that these are only OUR lasts, and that the music team will continue next year with new leadership, and that the all-music-team-meets will also continue under Pastor Lee (the next one for roster April-June is already scheduled in for March!)

Thursday Ken went to dinner with one of the youth as well as prepared for the Friday evening "break-up" (that's what kiwis call end-of-the-year parties). He prepared lots of Christmas games, food, and had Elf the movie available to watch. There was a great turnout and all the youth seemed to have a really fun time!
Saturday we finished some last minute Christmas shopping for people here in the Manawatu, went to Trinity to practice for Sunday evening, and then ended the evening watching Elf again while decorating our gingerbread house!
The box of goodness!

Pepper relaxing with a Christmas bone

Laying the foundations
Ken about to enjoy his Christmas tree

Putting on the finishing touches to a yummy project!

Sunday morning our team play music, Ken lead worship, and after the service Lawrence and Judi took us to lunch with their family. That afternoon Trinity had a family advent craft event that we attended - unfortunately no families from St. Luke's came and there was low attendance from the Feilding community. Ken and I led music for the service and following that there was a bbq. It was neat to remember that last year my parents were here celebrating with us! Everyone at Trinity remembered that and asked how they were doing.

Trinity BBQ

Advent crafts

Monday we did some work in the office and began packing up some files. Ken is busy finishing up that World Religions book he is writing for the parish based on their last adult education study, as well as preparing for sermons/worship leading over the next two weeks. I am busy editing my last Olive Tree (we go to press sometime this week), and creating services up through February so that Pastor Lee has something to work with when he begins his minsitry. That evening we went to the LSM Christmas party, which was really nice! I got to use one of my new dishes from the wedding that I hadn't used yet. I felt like a real married woman (hahaha)!

The LSM/Office party

Thank you for your prayers for Themba - this past week the Lord provided more donations from people in the Manawatu. We are now at 10% of our fundraising goal. Please continue to keep this in your thoughts and prayers. Also please keep one of our youth in your prayers as they are going through some difficult situations and emotions. Pray for their safety and that they would go back home.

This past Sunday we read Isaiah 61 in church - I suggest you take a few moments to read it too. It really spoke to us this week as Isaiah is speaking this about himself, but also as a prophecy about Christ. For us today, Christ fulfilled the reading, but also has commissioned us like Isaiah to go and bring His Good News to all! May this be a blessing to you this Christmas as you share the love of Christ with those around you.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December 2-8

This week was much quieter than the past two, seeing as though all our company has left! But it was good for Ken and I to get back to our usual groove of life. It's hard to believe that it's only eight weeks Ken will have completed his internship!

Last Tuesday was the last adult Bible study (until the 21st when Ken is leading a James Bond Bible study...leave it to Ken to be able to do that!!), so this Tuesday we just took it easy and relaxed at home enjoying the Christmas tree and music. Wednesday evening was music team practice and Thursday evening was Ken's last PLT meeting. Friday evening was the last normal Reflex youth night - they finished their remix Bible study (listening to modern pop songs and seeing what the Bible has to say about it). It's been exciting to see all the new youth that have been consistently coming for the past month. There are about four new girls. That evening, two of them asked for a Bible. What an awesome God-thing!

Saturday was a sunny day, so we took full advantage of it and hit the beach! But after taking Pep on a long beach walk, we went to relax on our towels and read, but the flies were obnoxious! I don't know where they came from or why they were attacking us, but they wouldn't leave us alone (including Pepper), so we packed up and went to the Manawatu River Beach. The water was perfect so we decided to wade in - Pepper enjoyed playing where she could touch, but she was quite nervous about going in where she had to swim (although when I went out, she followed me!) Ken decided to swim across to the deep area and jump off the rocks. Good times! Although we did come home with too much sun - I got quite the burn!

Sunday Ken lead the children's message. He decided to teach about the Advent ABC's - A for Awesome, B for Birthday (Jesus') and C for...(my que) - CHOCOLATE!!! Or at least that is what I said from the middle of the congregation with chocolates in hand. He then proceeded to explain that C is not for chocolate, but for Christ/Christmas. That just as we love chocolates and want to share them, we should also want to tell others about the Awesome Birthday of Christ! It was really fun - probably one of his best children's messages ever!

That afternoon I had my first choir practice for Christmas Eve - it will be a small group of five, but the songs I've chosen work well with small groups. We will lead the congregation in a Christmas Medley with a little interlude I wrote for the choir to sing between the songs, and we will also sing a special song about following the star which will be sung between the readings (right after we read about the shepherds following the star).

After choir, we went to Roy and Lois Price's for a Children's Ministry Appreciation BBQ. The weather was wonderful and there was a good turnout of volunteers to thank for their hard work this past year.
Roy and Ken working at the barbie
Everyone enjoying the sunshine

Monday was a day of relaxation (and a little pain from my sunburn). We also saw that the new LOST season was out to DVD so we picked it up and began watching it again - oh it is so good!
Otherwise, we are beginning the process of looking into movers. We plan on packing things up after Christmas, which is only a few weeks away! Unfortunately, movers out here are quite expensive!
Prayer requests: please pray for us as we begin the process of packing and moving. Also keep our Themba Mission in your prayers - we have fundraised $70 so far and also have airline tickets to South Africa from March - September 09 (Ken's uncle donated his airmiles for our tickets, but he could not book them through to June 2010, so is sending us home in September so I can be in Jaime's wedding). So we still need to raise $6030 as well as get two more round trip tickets for September 09-June 2010...this is a great lesson of trust God is teaching us! Finally, please keep the youth in your prayers that are searching and desiring to know more about God - what an awesome gift! Pray that this flame keeps growing in their hearts.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

November 25-December 1

Marla stayed with us until Friday, and then as she left, the Ross's arrived! Phew! It's been busy!

Tuesday I took Marla to the Hawkes Bay to enjoy some of New Zealand's fine wines. It was a super fun "girl day" as we went to a winery, tried some ciders, and tasted fine chocolate! The weather was glorious (with the high at 30c!) and we had a fun time chatting about everything and anything on the drive. Ken missed us and said it rained in Palmy while we were gone. :( But he was busy preparing for his last adult education course on world religions (Hinduism). He is trying to write a short book for the parish on the various world religions studied during this study as well as others we weren't able to cover - but it's turning out to be a much larger job than anticipated! That evening Marla attended the study while I caught up on some office work that needed to be done for Sunday. This Sunday is our big outreach Christmas/Advent kickoff service, so there is a lot that needs to be done for that.
Hawke's Bay

Best Mates

Enjoying some wine tasting
The Girls

Wednesday morning we let Marla sleep in again as we went in to work. For lunch we went to the Bible College farewell lunch that some of the seniors put together. It was really nice to visit with some of the students and colleagues Ken worked with over the past two terms. That afternoon Marla and I got our hair done - hers got longer, mine got shorter! It was a fun switch, especially for the Bond party we had that evening. Since the new Bond film is released here in NZ on the 27th, we threw a party on the 26th to celebrate with martinis, card games, and a viewing on the last film. It was really fun with eight of us in total.
Marla getting her hair extended
Me before the cut

Now look at us Bond Girls!
Mr. and Mrs. Bond

Playing some card games Bond style
Pepper joining in on the fun

Thursday (Happy Thanksgiving!) I was busy preparing for the Erickson's to come over to celebrate Thanksgiving (the president of the LCNZ is also an American, although has lived down under for the past 20-some years). Marla made a yummy banana concoction, and of course we had a turkey and the usual Thanksgiving fare - this year was so much easier to cook since I had a lot of ingredients needed shipped over to me from the states! After dinner was over, we dressed up and went to see the new Bond film!
This pumkin became pie
Our second Thanksgiving together!
The American Crew
Us with the Erickson's
We dressed up to see the movie

Friday as Ken went to pick up the Ross's, I took Marla down to Wellington the long way (through the Hutt Valley) - it was fun to stop at the Paua factory, another chocolate shop, and enjoy a little of Wellington before she boarded her plane. It was neat - in Wellington we went to a Cathedral and were able to stitch a few stitches in an art prayer project the church was creating! How cool is that? I prayed for the people in Zimbabwe as I did my stitches as they are having such a hard time politically and socially - did you know their life expectancy is now the lowest in the world??!?
Bye Marla...

I didn't get home until early evening and was able to say "hello" to Dr Ross as she went with Ken to youth night. Friday was a busy day for the two of them with meetings for Ken's final evaluation for his internship. Everything went really smooth and Saturday we took the day to visit with the Ross's and show them around Palmerston North. We went shopping for a few souvenirs and enjoyed a good beer at Speights Ale House (yes, it finally opened in Palmy!)

In Feilding at Sage Cafe with the Ross's
Sunday service went wonderfully! I played the keyboard with the Tuesday team and all the songs went perfect, the service flowed together nicely, and there were 17 visitors! I had made a billion take home bags for visitors and families in the church which were given out after the service during the cuppa. That afternoon we took the Ross's down to the Kapiti coast, stopping at a rose garden on the way. We enjoyed some great ice cream and a long walk on the beach. We ended the evening with some Indian take-aways and then Ken and Dr. Ross had their final evaluation discussion. It was a really long discussion (almost three hours!) but Ken said that it was really great to talk with Dr. Ross about his 18-month international internship. She passed him with no reserve but did encourage him to think strongly about pursuing a career in teaching. It appears most everyone at the congregation that was interviewed by Dr. Ross felt that Ken is at his best when teaching. That, combined with his two term teaching at the Bible College led Dr. Ross to believe that this may be a talent Ken should further pursue. Well, when we get to South Africa, Ken will have 16 months to teach high-schoolers religious education, so it will be fun for him to experience that type of teaching after doing so much with adult education and the Bible College here in New Zealand.

Monday the Ross's left at 11am. We spent the rest of the day recouping from all the visitors we've had over the past two weeks! We got back into basic life again - cleaning house, Ken went on a 14 mile run (ugh) and I worked on the budget. Sounds horribly fun, but it actually was very relaxing, getting back into the "groove." Lois Price also stopped by in the afternoon to give us a beautiful painting she created for us to remind of us New Zealand - it is so gorgeous! The red/black/white design over the front is symbolic of the koru, which means new life. Then there are various pictures of New Zealand that we've seen from both the North and South Islands. It is a really special gift...

With flash:

Without flash:
Prayer requests - first of all, thanksgiving for all the blessings God has poured out over us the past week with Marla's visit, the Ross's coming out for Ken's evaluation, the Thanksgiving service and Christmas Outreach service successes, for friends who celebrated American thanksgiving and James Bond with us...the list keeps going! Second of all, please continue to keep us in prayer as we prepare our hearts and minds to leave New Zealand and begin South African mission. We are thankful for those who have already verbally agreed to praying for our mission and taking part of it financially. Please continue to keep us, and those at the Themba Trust School in your prayers.