Saturday, February 25, 2012

Swimming with the DOLPHINS!!!

video
An ordinary day at the beach turned extraordinary by the visit of 8 dolphins yesterday!  I ventured out to Wooley's Bay, near Matapouri, with some new friends for a day at the beach.  Boy, were we surprised and thrilled to find the bay full of dolphins swimming in and about the people, flipping and jumping, as if to put on a show and say, "Come out and play!"  It was INCREDIBLE and unlike anything I have ever experienced!  The dolphins swam around us for nearly an hour, as if they wanted our company and didn't want to leave. 

Never in my life have I seen dolphins up close and personal like this.  Unfortunately this video was cut short, due to the limited storage on my camera. Nonethless, you can catch a small glimpse into the fun we had yesterday.  Yes, this is where I live ....beautiful New Zealand!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Play in the Rain.

     Apparently our summer up here in the northland is coming to an end. You may remember that when I first moved here to New Zealand last September I often commented (OK, whined) about the constant rain and lack of sunshine.  Then it came. .. the sunshine!  Mid-January found us finally experiencing some absolutely glorious summer days! Blue skies and warmth were on the menu, with only the occasional light shower to keep things green- ahhh. Summer was finally here!  Most days I even dared venture out without my umbrella in hand! This was perfect weather for my half-marathon training, surfing, and really just for me, as a sun-loving girl from Kansas.

     Now, after only a few weeks of relatively dry, sunny weather, the rain has returned.  I was noticing that periods of rain occurred nearly everyday this week and that the mountains were often shrouded in a thick fog each morning.  The first few days I wondered if we just happened to be caught in a rainy spell.  After all, we live on a narrow island in the South Pacific. But for the last 2 days it has rained nearly non-stop and after remembering that we had finally been receiving a steady dose of sunshine each day over the last couple weeks, I had this thought. . ."Oh no, does the return of the rain mean the farewell of summer?"  Apparently, after some deliberation with northland Kiwis, the answer to that question is "yes". The air is still warm and the sky is still full of light at 8:00PM, but that is gradually changing as we move toward the autumn season.  Summer was fantastic while it lasted, but . . .

 "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

  Perhaps you find yourself in a season of rain, maybe even the kind of rain that never stops and lays what feels to be a wet sheet over your life and inner attitude. Maybe you can learn to what I am slowly learning to do here in New Zealand: embrace the rain, play in the rain, run in the rain. .  . for it is the rain that makes the flowers grow, the rivers run, and crops flourish, feeding myself and the ones I love.  May your thirst be quenched and you be fed by the rain of your life. 

Play in the rain.
   

Friday, February 10, 2012

Special letter in the mail. . .

This week I celebrate five months of life here in New Zealand!  In the grand scheme of life, five months is but a breath, but for me every month here is another milestone.  What a better way to be reminded that God has called me here and is blessing the ministry, than to receive this adorable letter from one of the little girls that attended our Kids Holiday Programme last month! (Notice she still remembers the pie in the face!)

After the Kids Club, I sent little hand-written notes to each of the kiddos that attended throughout the week and prayed for them by name.  This week I received one in return!  What a treat!

I am loving life here in Whangarei and feel more established day by day.  Gratefulness wells up within me as I consider the reality that God has placed me here on purpose.  For some odd reason, He has entrusted 'little old me' with pastoring a church and loving children and their families into His Kingdom. It is quite humbling really and I am thankful. When I get homesick or downtrodden by the heartache that I see in the lives of those around me, it is my calling from my Lord that sustains me. Thank you Jesus, that your plans are always good.

Monday, February 6, 2012

'Soul Skool' Camp 2012 and my Maori experience . . .

'Soul Skool' 2012 was a big success and a life-changing experience for many of the teens who participated! Thank you for your prayers on behalf of our young people of New Zealand and the families they represent.  If you have followed my blog, you'll know that this is my third youth or children's camp in the last 6 weeks. Tis the season (Summer holidays just concluded.)!
  Each event may be unique with different students, challenges, and activities, but one thing remains the same:  God is genuinely alive and active in the lives of our young people! We gripe and complain about the darkness and confusion that seems to drive the world around us (I know I've done my fair share), but if we open our eyes we will see that God is STILL changing lives.  He is STILL delivering from addictions and rescuing from abuse and neglect.  He is STILL giving people purpose and leading them into life everlasting! 

This particular camp was hosted in Otara at the Ngati Otara Marae down in Auckland.  The Lord provided safe journeying for my passengers and me, as this was a my first road trip in my own car with my new New Zealand driver's license!  :) Activities included daily worship and devotion sessions, a newspaper fashion show, great meals, team-building games and lots of sleeping. .. NOT! (Do you ever sleep when there's 100 people all crammed in one building and the majority of them are teenagers?  lol!)

For those interested in things Maori, this was an educational experience for me. All activities took place at the marae, a Maori meeting house where the local community gathers for various events such as speeches, council meetings, funerals, weddings, unveilings, etc.  Nearly every city or suburb in New Zealand has a marae for the local iwi (tribe).  At the marae  there is very specific protocol that must be observed.  For 'pakeha' (white- non Maori) people like me, I have to be very careful to ask lots of questions, as not to offend my accident.
 I am by NO means an expert at all, but here are just a few things I learned:

-- Before anyone is allowed to enter the marae, there is always a formal 'powhiri' or welcome that is given to remove the 'tapu' of the visitors and make them one with the local/home people.  This represents a joining of the two groups in peace. A full traditional powhiri includes 10 lengthy steps that included honoring all the ancestors and elders of this marae,  recognizing the land, mountains, sea, etc, and perfoming a haka, offering a gift, sharing food, and many other steps. It can take quite a while.

-- Because we were a Christian multicultural group, comprised mostly of hungry teenagers, we were asked only to offer a short welcome, share a song, and hold a moment of silence in honor of those who have gone before.  We were then invited to enter the marae, women first, followed by the men.

-- Shoes, eating, and drinking are never allowed in the marae.  There are other facilities reserved for eating.

-- Everyone sleeps together in the marae on thin foam mattresses. 

-- Never sit, lean, or lay your head on a table or countertop, or use anything but items strictly reserved for food on tables.  The head, feet, and backside are considered unclean, therefore you never allow those parts of your body to touch a food space or anything that could ever come in contact with/serve food.  This means that bedsheets and clothing must always be washed separately than dish towels. 
  
Many more cultural norms and expectations exist when on marae grounds, but these are just a few I learned this weekend.  All in all this was a fantastic experience!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pure

Today I depart for another youth camp, this one located at the Otara Marae down in Auckland.  As has been my experience thus far, youth camps can be powerful times of worship, community-building, and self-examination, serving as a catalyst for commitment to the Lord. 

This camp is our Nazarene New Zealand District Youth Camp, where a very multi-cultural mix of students from all over NZ (and all over the globe really) will meet for three days to discover what it means to be "PURE in Body, Mind, and Spirit".  As the speaker for Saturday, I am tackling the topic of purity within the body, with special emphasis on sexual purity.  I would appreciate your prayers for myself and the campers, that God would be lifted high and that His way of abstinence and holiness would be not only be required, but actually desired of the teens and they would see that God's ways are truly the best way to live.

This will also be my first 'road trip' with the brand new New Zealand driver's license where I am behind the wheel down some twisty, turvy roads! (I'm a big girl now!  lol!)

We return Sunday evening, so I will be sure to post photos and updates of all that God did for and through us when I return!