When our plane flew over land, I fell in love. New Zealand is a riot of simultaneously rising and crumpling lines, mountains and hills with outspoken curves. I’ve seen many beautiful places but I’ve never instantly loved a place like I did last week. By the time plane landed I was hopelessly head over heels.
Despite similarities with Australia, Kiwi culture is something all its own. Living at “the end of the world” – the first to wake up in the morning and the first to go to sleep at night – gives New Zealand an air of expectation. And growing up amid so much hill and sky? How could it not affect forever your imagination and view of the world?
(Yes, being a big Lord of the Rings fan like I am…it really does seem like Legolas and Aragorn are about to run out in front of you. Also, I think this is where Narnia is.) (To my Writing Circle friends – I think it’s also where I’d find the 25th hour.)
You may remember hearing about Kiana C., the 14-year-old girl volunteering with HOPE61 (read her blog HERE). She was on school holiday and was able to take the trip with me. Kiana was a big help with photography and detail work that would have taken a lot of planning time from me. Chuni, the outgoing OMS New Zealand director (heading to India for one year), picked us up from the Auckland airport. During the hour or so ride to Hamilton Chuni filled us up with New Zealand’s history and culture, and told us how OMS operates in the country. We talked about HOPE61. Chuni told me he believes there are “a lot of young people here who want to give their lives to something like that.” (Fighting slavery.)
As I fell asleep in our hotel room, I wondered if I would wake up in the morning, away from the charm of the starry night, and find myself out of love. Chuni picked Kiana and me up at 10 AM to head to Eastwest International College. Eastwest is a missionary training school that is a part of WEC. OMS New Zealand has a good relationship with the school, and it’s a great place to introduce OMS ministries like HOPE61 to people already called to the mission field. The short drive to Eastwest proved my love for New Zealand was just at its start. Blinking felt like a waste of time, time I could be staring at the rising blue mountains and the long legged birds skittering along the roadside. At Eastwest I was given the second session to speak for forty five minutes.
Before I left Australia for this short trip, several friends asked if I’m scared of speaking. No, I actually enjoy speaking, and I don’t feel nervous. Not until the final seconds before I have to open my mouth and then for two minutes afterward. Then, I pray, the Holy Spirit takes over. Then it’s just me trying to explain my passion. One of my housemates in Australia (who is not a Christian but thinks very well of Christian missionaries) told me that he thinks you “have to have a heart if you’re going to be a missionary. Or else there is no point, no way you can be a missionary.” I hope God always increases my heart. That’s what matters – sharing my heart. (That’s also the advice Chuni gave me when I had a moment of nerves before Eastwest.)
For twenty five minutes I shared about the revolution I’m called to start; a revolution of changing hearts and minds so that Jesus Christ can be the freedom fighter moving on behalf of the 27 million slaves that live on this planet, slaves breathing the same air as you and me. Knowing that the students listening already are called to give their lives to missions was so cool. It enabled me to give a direct challenge that they would take seriously. Because I’ve met many missionaries who struggle with how social justice and missionary life should be one simultaneous action, I also shared why HOPE61 believes the two are intertwined. For about fifteen minutes the students asked great questions about HOPE61 and OMS, and I was able to share lunch with them following the session. Chuni and I were both quite pleased. Chuni especially found that a few of the students he knows were interested.
It’s a small world after all! Following the session we ate lunch at Eastwest and found out the principles (an American couple) are from the same small Pennsylvania town as I am!! Seriously…they still own a house a mile away from my family’s home. And I’m pretty sure I’ve been to their home church. Also, their son-in-law, an Australian, and their daughter are good friends with an American woman and her Australian husband who go to the church I attend here in Melbourne. They worked together a few years ago in Darwin, Australia. Really cool how God does things like that. It was neat to talk and know the same pizza places. Clearly, New Zealand is a magical place.
Kiana and I got the Hokey Pokey ice cream Chuni promised us after we left Eastwest. Hokey Pokey is basically toffee-fied pieces of honey comb and it’s put into delicious vanilla ice cream. Kiana and I walked through a bit of Hamilton and back to our hotel.
The next day we’d planned to meet with a law student interested in HOPE61. For many reasons I’ll discuss another time, I think it’s vital to meet her. Unfortunately she was recovering from the flu. Please pray that I will be able to Skype with her sometime soon. Instead, we used the day to explore a bit of the North Island. We visited Otorohanga Kiwi House & drove through the countryside to Raglan (beach/coast). I wished I could strap on hiking boots and explore the entire island.
Tomorrow – “Filled with Blue Fire” (more on New Zealand & amazing gifts from God)
Wed. – “The Dingo & the Baby” (promised post on Australian culture)
Thur. – “Boys and Love and Stuff” (just that)
Fri. – “Whereupon God Speaks and I Don’t Want to Hear it” (News for you, faithful reader)