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.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

November 18-24

Marla's in New Zealand! She arrived in Wellington on Wednesday and is staying with us until next Friday! It has been a really fun week having one of my best friends from university around again!
So Monday and Tuesday Ken and I spent a lot of time in the office getting things done so we could take Wednesday off and enjoy Wellington with Marla. Tuesday evening I played music with the Tuesday team (they are playing on the 30th which is a big Christmas/Advent kick-off outreach event and their keyboardist isn't available so I am playing for her). It was really fun to play with a different group. Then right after practice, Ken set up the church for the "round table discussion" Adult Education study on secularism. We had a lower turnout with just under 20 attendees, but the discussions were very lively and I think everyone walked away with a better understanding of New Zealand's second most popular belief (secularism, which comprises atheism, agnosticism, humanism...).
Wednesday was a busy day - we left early and took a different route to Wellington, going through Upper and Lower Hutts. We also stopped at a really yum chocolate However, because of our longer drive, we were a few minutes (well, almost an hour!!) late to pick up Marla! But it didn't matter - we had a great afternoon wandering around Wellington. We went to our favorite brew spot (Mac's), took the trolley up to rose gardens, and had a nice look at the Bee Hive. On the drive home, we stopped at the beach at sunset to look for Paua shells and found quite a few!

Welcome to NZ Marla!

Taking the trolley up to the gardens

Sweet Love

Marla and I hanging out in Narnia

The Bee Hive

Enjoying some good food and beer to end the day in Welly

Finding Paua shells

Sunset over the Tasman
Thursday we went in to work and let Marla get some jet lag rest. That afternoon I took her on the grand tour of Palmerston North! It was nice to have the whole afternoon and evening hanging out with Marla as Ken was busy with work (and a PLT/Directors meeting). I haven't had some good one on one time with another chick for a while, so it was much needed. :)
Friday we went to the beach and enjoyed a sunny afternoon...although leaving proved difficult as our car got stuck in the sand!!! That's the first time that has happened to us! But thankfully, two beach bum guys came over to help us push the car out! Thanks! That evening we helped Ken at youth night (they were studying one of the Flight of the Concords songs which was appropriate for Marla as she got to study a New Zealand song). After youth we went home and watched Eagle Vs Shark to give her an appreciation of New Zealand movies. It was super fun and we painted our nails too. Ken made us yummy snacks and we had some fejoia liquor. Good times.

Enjoying the beach

Saturday morning we slept in and then made chocolate chip pancakes before heading over to the Islamic Centre for an adult education field trip. It was an opportunity to learn first-hand about the Islamic religion. There was a great turnout of about 20 adults from our church and one down the road. That evening was the Thanksgiving dinner at the church (had nothing to do with American thanksgiving) to celebrate all the different ministries going on in the Manawatu Parish. Marla helped lead the songs with me singing which was really fun (someone asked if all my friends sing! haha...)
Ken introducing the Thanksgiving Service

Marla and I leading music

Thanking God for His abundant Love and Gifts was the theme

Sunday Marla sang with my team again and then we went to the Speights Ale House with Jen and Sam for lunch. Then we went on a hike to show Marla some New Zealand bush. On the way back, we stopped at the turbine wind farms. Then we had some of my pizza before calling it a night.

A Minnesota Sandwich (with Arizona in the middle)

The whole gang - Sam, Jen, Ken, Marla, Pepper and myself

The turbines

Monday we lounged a bit and did some souvenir shopping.It's been a super busy week so far so we though it was important to have a much needed relax day!

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 11-17

Well, this was the last week Pastor Rob Strelan was here in the Manawatu. We enjoyed a nice cuppa in the Esplanade on Tuesday afternoon together as our final "get-to-gether." Although as sad as everyone is to say goodbye and be pastor-less for the Advent season, spirits are high as we anticipate the coming of Pastor Lee in January! Yeay, a full time "real" pastor for the parish! Ken and I laugh about our time here as we have never worked with so many pastors before coming here (seeing as how we had 3 interim pastors, Pastor Greg, and Pastor Rob Erickson the national president/pastor)! But it's been good experience.

Tuesday was a fun but busy day - it began in the morning with Ken leading the devotion for our office. Then we went to a bbq with other youth workers in the city and then headed over to the park to have tea with Pastor Rob. After that we took Pepper to her first vet visit since we've had her - she did really well and seems to be all healthy! That evening we learned about Buddhism from a Christian who finished up a PhD in Buddhist studies. It was really neat to learn about the religion from a uniquely Christian vantage point (especially learning how John 3.16 means little to nothing to Buddhists...but that's a whole other blog!)
The bbq

The feast!

Gardens in full bloom at the Esplanade
Pastor Rob and Irene Strelan
Pepper's vet visit

Wednesday I visited Daina and had a nice cup of coffee with her. It was good to catch up as she has been super busy lately and unable to be a part of much at church. This was Ken's first Wednesday being done teaching - it was a bit odd, as we only went to the college to drop off his grading!

Friday night youth went really well - they studied the "gummy bear" song and played lots of gummy bear games (I think some of the youth went home sick because of how many gummy bears they ate! haha...) I spent the evening helping Jen pick out different things for her new house that her and Sam are renting out.

Saturday morning Ken and I went over bright and early to help Jen and Sam move their stuff - their new house is awesome! I love the wood floors. We enjoyed a bit of lunch at a garden cafe next door to their home. That afternoon Ken and I got a lot of Christmas shopping done - woohoo! Now we just have to get them in the mail...

Ken helping move Jen and Sam's stuff
Their new home

I love the kitchen
Enjoying some lunch after all that moving
Sunday we went to the early 9am service and met another American who is visiting her kids who now live here. It's amazing how many Americans we've met who have kids who have permanently moved to New Zealand! Although I see the perks - the nice working hours, the holiday breaks, the relaxed atmosphere...all things that Ken and I will really miss! The rest of Sunday was absolutely gorgeous - Ken went on a 13 mile run (basically a half-marathon) and I went sunbathing for a bit in the backyard while the clothes dried. We enjoyed a yummy bbq of kebabs that night for dinner.
Some pretty flowers Ken surprised me with
Pepper enjoying her day off too
The view from my kitchen
Our yummy kebabs
Ken the master griller

Monday was a work day - our friend Marla from the states comes to visit on Wednesday so we are taking that day off to hang out in Wellington (that's where she flies in). So we worked on Monday instead.
We've been super busy this week with our fundraising letters! We've mailed off well over 100...please keep us in prayer as we seek to raise $6100 for our 16 months in South Africa where we will be volunteering with the Themba Trust. It is a huge leap of faith, but we believe God will provide. But your prayers are very much welcomed!