Friday, April 11, 2008

April 5 - 13

Ugh…this week was exhausting. After church on Sunday Ken decided he wanted to go backpacking in Otaki. So we packed up our bags and hiked up a three hour uphill mountain! When I thought I could go no further, a most beautiful sight appeared: the hut! It was sunset as we set up camp and warmed up our canned spaghetti. Monday morning we woke up and decided to take a hike up to Table Top – wow, was it worth it! We were on top of the mountain ranges, watching the clouds fly by us (it was storming) and was very spectacular. Then we packed up our gear and trekked back down the mountain…only to realize at the base we had left our pocket knife and head lamp back at the hut! We decided to leave a note with the caretaker and drove back home. Two days later – we got a phone call that someone found our stuff, read our note, and left both items with the caretaker! Yes! So we’ll be going back on Monday to pick it up. After that journey (our first official backpacking journey in New Zealand) we got back to work. Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with a million meetings for Ken and a lot of prep for national youth camp for myself.
At the bottom of the hike
Pepper got nice and dirty
The most glorious site!
Views from Table Top
On top of the world!
The hike back down
One last shot of our hut

Ken found out some sad news about the BCNZ this week...the Palmerston North campus will be closing it's doors in the fall 2009! But on a happier note, all the students told him how much they love his class and even some of the other faculty are impressed with his class!
We're finally getting things running at Trinity again. In January, their kitchen was burned down and therefore we didn't not have the live music evening service. In February, none of us were around for that service and then in March, Trinity joined St. Luke's in the evening for the movie night to see End of the Spear. SO, 13 April is the first live worship service at Trinity! It was awesome to meet with the team after three months off and play together again - we actually felt like we hadn't taken such a long time off, because we all jivved really well together!

Ken had a busy Saturday morning - Shedmen, the men's ministry for the Manawatu Parish, was held at our flat. That meant at 7:30am 15 men were coming over for breakfast and devotions! Ken was a sweetie and let me sleep in, taking care of cooking the hash browns and sausages for them all.

Our Shed

Anyone up for bangers and mash?

Last but least, Ken and I received some interesting news this week...the Themba Foundation contacted us and asked for our CVs. They will be having a management meeting on 18 May to discuss our CVs, however, the director of the program told us that she is sure the board will be as excited as she is to welcome us to the Themba project next year! Wow, so we'll know more next month, but it seems that if this is where the Lord wants us next, that doors are beginning to open! Please continue to keep this in your prayers.

"But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." Romans 5:25

Thursday, April 3, 2008

March 31-April 4

This week was refreshing! We left on Monday morning to go to Havelock North for the Church Workers Conference. It was great to be with about 12 other church workers and pastors from both islands, sharing our ups and downs, learning more about New Zealand culture, and digging into the Word. Ken was asked to give a presentation, so he wrote a paper entitled “What’s a Lutheran to do with the Emerging Church?” and gave an 1.5 hour long presentation/discussion on it. We both had the opportunity to lead everyone in devotion, and were asked to lead music for other’s devotions as well. But it wasn’t all work and no play: we enjoyed a time at the local pub together as well as wine tasting at some of Hawke’s Bay vineyards. But the best part of it was learning more about the Kiwi culture – one of the pastors shared a book review of a book entitled The Great New Zealand Argument. It was written by New Zealanders looking at why Kiwi’s are the way they are. It gave Ken and I a lot of insight about this culture. You see, sometimes we get so discouraged here because we do everything we’re asked to do by the congregation, yet we’re always being criticized. We decided it just must be that people here are overly negative. However, this book explained the “tall poppy syndrome” – New Zealand is a relatively new culture (approx 200 years old Pakeha history) and the people don’t really have a strong grasp of who they are. Therefore, they rest in the fact that they are all the same and anyone who tries to be anything different is looked down upon because they are being “uppity.” Mediocrity is encouraged and people strive to be good, not their best. This can be seen in the people here as more and more intellectuals are leaving New Zealand for countries that appreciate them (like Australia, Britain, and America.) Also, New Zealanders have a jaded opinion of Australians and Americans, believing them to have this attitude “we’re better than you.” Therefore, even as Ken and I work at doing things we’ve been asked BY New Zealander’s to do, they view what we do as if we think we’re better than them and therefore criticize what we do. It’s a nasty circle, but at least we better understand it.
The crew at the local pub
The grapes at a winery
Ken playing rugby with the pastors

We got back from the conference on Thursday in time to pick up our friend Aaron – he is exploring New Zealand for 7 weeks and stopped over in Palmy to visit us for the weekend. It was good to catch up with an old Concordia friend and to give him a place to rest.
Friday night Ken began his newest Bible study series with the youth: Rooted New Testament. This study will be easier than other studies as it is a fill in the blank study sheet, but it’s what the other youth leader feels the youth want. The first study went pretty well and Ken thought the kids seemed to enjoy it.
Aaron, Jen, Sarah and myself picked up Ken after youth to take Aaron out on the town – we hit up some Irish pubs and enjoyed live Celtic music! We ended the night back at the house where Aaron taught us a fun Israeli card game he learned from one of the hut caretakers in the Tongariro Crossing called “Yaniv.” If you come over, we’ll teach you how to play – it’s a blast!

Saturday Ken had a meeting with some of the parents and teachers of the children’s Sunday school. For the past month, they decided to begin Sunday School before church and have the children join the service about 15 minutes into the service at the children’s talk time. However, many parents did not like having the children in the service during the sermon, so they scheduled a meeting to discuss ways to arrange the Sunday School around the service so that it is structured, yet keeps the kids busy during the sermon.

After that meeting, we headed down to Wellington with Aaron to go to a Super 14 Rugby game: Wellington Hurricanes vs South Africa’s Sharks. We sat two rows from the field and could almost see the sweat on the players faces!! Or maybe it was rain…because it definitely drizzled most of the game and we were in uncovered seats. But the game itself was a blast – we ended up drawing with the Sharks, but that’s pretty good seeing that the Sharks are undefeated.
It was another rainy day in Wellington
Took him to Mac's
At the game
See how close we are??
Other news: after the CWC as I lamented that I felt no one appreciates me as the church musician, I got an amazing email from one of the music teams thanking me for the hard work and great services that we’ve had! Then I got a gift card from another member for the Christian bookstore to show appreciation for my work, as well as a donation of music chimes for the parish! Wow, God is so awesome – how He moves in His people to uplift His children right when they need it.
Ken has been really really busy with work. Between the BCNZ (planning and preparing for lectures and grading papers), preparing youth night events, getting the Adult Education program running for May, and working on revamping the Sunday School, time is filled! He also applied for a grant to fund his airfare to Indonesia with the mission outreach program – and it looks like it is going through! So in the next few weeks he’ll be booking his tickets. What an exciting opportunity – he also is amazed at how God’s fingers are so involved in this program: it turns out Pastor Rob was involved with the Batak people in Indonesia and has a video about them that the team will watch and possibly share with the congregation; President Preus from CUI told Ken that he’s also worked with and met the same point person Ken will be meeting in Indonesia! And so many other little things that appear to be “coincidence” but we see as God’s fingers working to bring things together for His glory. Another wow! Thank God for the encouraging ways He’s moved in our lives this week. He is so good!

March 24-30

Happy Harvest! Yes, here in New Zealand, we celebrated the fall harvest with a thanksgiving church service. The service went really well – the altar was decorated with fruits and veggies, during the offering everyone brought forward their monetary and harvest items to lay down in front of the altar, and the songs were all geared towards “giving thanks.” It was pretty powerful! But the most amazing part was during the service, the Lord provided the Manawatu with rain! It hasn’t rained in weeks and there is a major drought across the entire nation – and then as we praised the Lord for the blessing of a harvest, He gives us the rain! Wow.

While I was busy preparing for that service, Ken was busy getting ready for the Friday night youth camp out! He had planned to take the kids camping, but the other youth leader didn’t feel well enough to go off site. So instead, Ken took the kids to the park for games and tea, and then after it got dark they headed back to the church to set up tents in the hall! And the set up was pretty awesome – he had them do “blind tent making”! The rest of the night was spent watching movies and playing more games…luckily Ken did not get pranked on (although the kids stayed up most of the night trying to prank him!) Needless to say, it was a fun night.
Fun at the park
Blind tent making
The hall

Pepper was busy giving us heart failure this week as well – Friday night while Ken was at the park with the youth, I took Pepper on a walk to visit them. But on the way home, she decided to swim across the Manawatu River!! Once on the other side of the bank, she proceeded to spend 15 minutes chasing ducks, completely ignoring my cries for her to get back on the other side!!! I met a nice German woman who introduced herself saying “My, your dog doesn’t listen very well, does she?!” I was shocked that Pepper was able to swim across the mighty Manawatu (it is known for its depth and under tows) but she made it back to my arms only to be roped back on the leash. She’s lost privileges.

Saturday was Kate and Damien’s wedding – it was wonderful! The ceremony was at Kate’s girls’ school that she attended and the reception was in her family’s backyard. It was an elaborate, beautiful wedding that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
Right after the ceremony
Cutting the cake
Our table at the reception

Well, as we prepare for winter down here, we are enjoying the brisk days and rain. It’s been an unusually long, hot, dry summer, so the farmers are very thankful for the changing weather patterns. We are enjoying it as well, our favorite days being those that are brisk but sunny! It’s neat to experience fall again with the changing leaves too. So, Happy Harvest!