Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 18-23

If there was one word for this week it would be: Adventure.
After church on Palm Sunday, Ken and I packed up the car. He dropped me off at Kate's bridal shower: here her mouth is filled with bubble gum for a game we're playing.
Opening gifts

Then it was off to Easter choir practice. When that was over, we began the adventure to Ohakune with Pepper. We decided to get away for two nights before the barrage of Holy Week began. However, when we arrived at the park (mind you it was late) there was a sign that lit up with our headlights that showed a dog with a big red line through it. No dogs. Great - we didn't know what else to do but to stay there and hid little Pep. As we set up tent next to the only other campers on the grounds, we killed our car battery (we used the headlights for light...) Luckily we woke up early enough to catch the other campers just as they were leaving. They jumped our car and we then decided to relax with a nice cup of tea...but we forgot the matches! So instead we enjoyed our water and read from Scripture together for almost an hour. It was very relaxing to be in the wild, completely alone, reading Job where God talks to Job telling Him how great and massive He is - how He completely rules this earth and cares for each and every living thing, so who are we, His creation, to question Him?! It's very moving reading that I recommend you check out (chapters 38-42).
Then we thought we better get out of the campground so we took Pepper and drove off to the city. However, the city was anti-dogs too, so we had a fun time of hiding her throughout the day in the car. We had some close scares, but she was never found. Phew! That night we decided to set camp up on the side of the road by a ski tavern. We enjoyed St. Patty's day with some kumra chips and beers. That's where we met Bill and Craig. Bill is a local drinker who is billed monthly by the bar. He bought us a round. Craig is his friend - an old man who works as a carpenter and told us we're welcome to come back to make a rimu bowl with him! He then went on to tell us that he is a drug dealer, but never deals to school children, only to "equals" - adults who have made their life decision. It was a rad evening listening to his life stories. And it was really touching to see the generosity of these guys who didn't even know us. Their actions towards us, even when they learned we were church workers (people in NZ tend to ignore you once they hear that) was awesome.

The campsite where Pepper was an illegal...
The Ski Villa with Ruapehu in the background (yes, it's an active volcano people ski on!)
The dog friendly park we found

Some pretty scenes

Playing in the creek by our campsite off the roadside
Pepper fishing for rocks
Pepper and Ken thinking about life

Home sweet home
Morning sunrise

When we arrived back in Palmy, the metal hit the grinder! We were full on this week getting ready for Maundy Thursday service, two Good Friday services, and Easter Saturday prayer vigil, and Easter Sunday services. A woman from the music team who was leading on Good Friday had her baby and so I stepped in to sing with her team for her. She is currently in the hospital with her newborn who has jaundice complications, so keep them in your prayers. The Good Friday morning service was an experiement: it used tangible items throughout the service. So after reading about the crown of thorns, we sang "Where you there when they crowned him with the thorns" as a crown of thorns was passed among the congregation. We did this for the nails, the gall, and the wooden cross. The service ended with the main cross being carried out and Pastor giving us an absolution, that we could leave knowing we are forgiven and free. It was a shorter service, but a great sucess! The afternoon service is a unique one to Palmy - all the churches in the city work together. The people begin at one church for the first reading, then move to the next church for the next reading and so on. St. Luke's is doing the reading of Christ being speared and we are singing two songs. Besides leading singing, I played the recorder while another woman played piano to O Sacred Head Now Wounded. It was great to see all Christians regardless of denominations, joined together to worship Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Ken left Friday evening for Taupo. Damien (Kate's fiance) had his "stag du" that night and Ken was invited. He had a blast being with other guys for a weekend. They spent most of their time in the local pub or on a boat they rented where they went swimming, fishing (yes, caught some and ate it raw!!!) and clay pigeon shooting. He came back Saturday night just in time to relax before Easter morning where he preached for Trinity's service! I led the Easter Choir in three songs for the 10:30am service at St. Luke's, which went wonderfully! It was a bit nerve-wraking being the first choir I've ever led! Then we enjoyed a lunch with the LaGrow's before heading down to Wellington for a Bach Cantata at St. Paul's. We stayed the night with Pastor Mark and his family (I made them cross sugar cookies as a a thank you) and we came back Easter Monday. Ken and I enjoyed dying our Easter eggs that evening.

Enjoying our Easter goodies from our baskets:
Jen and Sam after church
St. Paul's in Wellington
Warming up for the Bach Cantata
War Memorial in Wellington
A fun fountain on Cuba Street
The bay
So, He is risen! He is risen indeed! May this Easter be filled with joy and peace as you rest assured that the victory over death is won! Because He is risen, because He lives, we can know that we live too. Yes!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 11-17

This week was full of meetings:

Ken had a youth ministry team meeting where he continues to emphasize their purpose: "The purpose of REFLEX youth is to create a ministry through which God will draw youth closer to himself by providing opportunities for students to build relationships, grow in discipleship, engage in worship, give in service, and reach out to the community with the saving message of Jesus Christ." It's his goal to leave this church with the youth ministry team having a clear vision for why they exist. At their meeting they also filled the calendar for the year. Here's a peek at some upcoming activities: national youth camp at the end of April, various service events in May and June, youth worship in June, a New Testament overview Bible study, and a mission trip to the South Island over labor weekend next October.
For the past two weeks he has also had an adult education survey going out in the church. There are 29 people interested in a Bible study class and Ken is planning to begin the first study sometime in April on Luke.
In the overseas mission partnership meetings that Ken helps lead, they have decided to go through LCA Missions to Indonesia in late June of this year. Because Ken has been actively involved in this team, there is a good chance he may be able to be one of the team members going to Indonesia to "scout out" the area and church. Please keep that in your prayers.
My meeting was with the music team members - we had our very first monthly meeting. It was a great success, with about 12 musicians turning up, two members from the PLT and myself! The meeting itself went a lot longer than a usual meeting will go (we began at 7pm and ended at 9pm but will normally end at 8pm) but it was due to all the discussion regarding the worship vision at St. Luke's. The PLT took some of my notes and created an outline for what worship should look like (what things are essential, such as the Word, sermon, Sacraments, Confession/Absolution...) and had an open disucssion for the music leaders to have input as to how they feel the worship services should look. We decided that our goal is to have live music teams (led by musicians and vocalists) by the end of the year. How is this going to work? That's up to me. So please pray for me as I seek wisdom to discern how to transform the CD team into a music team. Pray that they will have open hearts and servant minds to work with musicians for the good of the church body.

I also was busy decorating for Palm Sunday service. Doesn't the altar look nice? The new music team that I lead was on that Sunday and we sang the song that Ken and I wrote - the congregation is beginning to really enjoy that song and it's awesome to hear something being sung by 100 people that is an original by the Chitwood's! Ken also was leading worship and preaching. It's great when he leads and my team is on because we can communicate very well to handle any little bumps in the service with grace (as there always seem to be a few bumps!)

Some other exciting news: our wedding album arrived! It's been great to re-live June 9th. The photos are awesome and the album is very unique - it is "magazine" style so the pictures are lazer-ed on to the page. It's pretty sweet! Enjoy a few pages...

And Pepper kept us on our toes - we found a flea on her! Being a neat freak, I went to the store and bought her a flea collar (it's red, and Ken says it's her "scarlet collar"...haha...) and some flea spray as well as carpet cleaner. Needless to say, I think we killed that flea.

Well, that about sums everything up. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers - may you have a blessed Holy Week as we prepare for the Easter celebration of our risen Lord!

March 4-10

(Team Life)

Ken has been very dedicated to running – he is planning to run a marathon this year, and his goal is to run it in 4 hours. So this weekend he enjoyed holding the “torch” for St. Luke’s and running for an 1.31 hours at Relay for Life! Each lap was counted on the “torch” towards our team (we can in 43 out of 100 I think.) It was really fun to support for a few hours – I walked 18 laps in an hour (almost 5 miles) and enjoyed dressing Rachel up in newspaper for a competition.

Ken after his 1.31 hour run!

Me being silly
Doesn't Rachel look fab in the Manawatu Standard?

After the race we had Kate and Damien over for some home-made pizza and watched the Bourne Ultimatum. Ken and I had seen it in theatres and it’s amazing how different an action movie looks on a small screen versus the big one!

Sunday Ken and I both had surveys going on: Ken was asking for all interested adults to fill in a survey for adult education – he received 18 sheets back! I was asking for five favourite hymns and/or songs and ended up with quite the list! We were both pleased with the results and are expecting a few more to trickle in over the coming weeks. Sunday itself however was very very busy…we attended the 9am service (for two reasons: one, I am available for the 9am service in case of glitches in sound, ppt, music etc, and was reading the Gospel dramatic reading with a few other people) and then at the 10:30am service Ken led the children’s talk and I read the readings for the day. After church Ken had confirmation and I had choir practice. Confirmation is going very well – after last time (which was major catch-up day since the youth were falling behind in homework) things are beginning to click with the youth. Right now they are learning about Law and Gospel, and may be going on a “field trip” to the courthouse to see the law enacted out in every-day life. Choir is going really well – only one more rehearsal until Easter! We are singing one song acapella and two other songs (I am trying to conduct and play piano at the same time…it’s been a challenge!) After both those activities, we had just enough time to run home and take Pepper for a walk before going to Trinity for a 4pm service that Ken led. It was a simple service with two songs, readings, prayers and a short devotional-sermon by Ken. This was done because usually on the second Sunday of the month the evening service at Trinity is from 5-6pm with dinner following. However, last month their kitchen was set on fire (arson) and so there have been no dinners for the past two evening services. Plus on the 9th the Manawatu parish was attending The End of the Spear together, and the movie began at 5pm. So we had a shorted evening service from 4-4:40pm which allowed everyone enough time to go straight to the theatre. The movie was really awesome and led to some great discussions. It made Ken and I glad that we took time to learn more about the Kiwi-culture before just jumping in (although I’m sure that we wouldn’t have been speared like the missionaries in the movie!) Then the day finally ended, 11 hours later. Phew!

Please continue to keep us in prayer. As much as we enjoy our work, we are feeling a bit discouraged by some issues arising. We thank God that He is with us and gives us the strength we need, but please pray for peace to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). Thanks!