Today we’ll time travel all the way back to November 16, 2013. That was the day Kylie drove me to the airport and I flew from Melbourne to Auckland (then a quick drive to OMS HQ in Hamilton) – the beginning of my second trip to work with OMS New Zealand. I hadn’t been to New Zealand since April and planned to stay for three weeks. Kiana C., HOPE61 volunteer, had permission from her parents to join me in the last week. I planned to travel from Waikato to Taranacki to meet prospective recruits and had the possibility of hosting a showing of “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.” The last time I’d visited New Zealand, God had filled me with His spirit and shown me this by giving words of knowledge to a couple of believers I didn’t know. With a history like that, New Zealand couldn’t fail to be even better the second time. The magical beauty of the place is intoxicating.
Owen and Avalon Brown, the directors of OMS New Zealand, picked me up from the airport and took me to the Houghtons’. (Not to be confused with Houghton College, my alma mater.) The Houghton family has been on the OMS NZ board for a couple of generations. Brent, his wife, and his youngest daughter took me in with complete hospitality.
I know a lot of people who get used to the discomfort of temporarily sleeping and eating in the homes of people they do not know. We have to. I love people, but I really need space to recharge, so the constant eating and sleeping in the houses of strangers can be difficult. I recognize the feeling of strangers, of discomfort, when it slips onto my skin. But at the Houghtons’ home I felt only comfort. They left no doubt that I was welcome to use anything I needed, eat anything I could find, and to be a part of their normal routine. They asked questions and they shared with me, but there was not one lick of pressure to be social if I needed to chill. Staying with them was a gift. Their eldest daughter, living in Auckland, even let me borrow her car.
On the first evening, I brought up my heart for preventing human trafficking in the southern hemisphere. In the vision God has given me, it begins with preventing demand for trafficking – being a part of His spirit moving Kiwi and Aussie men from the vulnerability of engaging in the cycle of supply and demand. Pornography, prostitution, sharing Jesus Christ…topics such as these. I had no idea that my brief comments would immediately give me an unexpected opportunity.
“I’m part of the men’s ministry at church,” Brent said. “They’re all coming here tonight for a planning meeting. Why don’t you share with them for five or ten minutes?”
“Uhhhh,” I replied with grace and professionalism. “That would be great!”
It was also intimidating. Walking into a room full of people I’ve never met is always a mix of excitement and terror. Walking into a room full of men to tell them that pornography is a part of the global slave trade – knowing that, statistically, several of them could struggle with the issue – is a good way to keep yourself in your place. It’s one of those moments when you remember that if anything intelligent came out of your mouth it would undoubtedly be God speaking.
I met their eyes, I tried to be honest and sincere, and I concluded by letting them know I’d be in Hamilton for a few weeks if anyone wanted to chat about the topic further. Then I scurried away to “my” room to toss myself on the bed because, essentially, I am a seven or eight year old in a twenty three year old’s body. (Hey, twenty four in June!)
I couldn’t have known then what would come out of those few audacious moments. Couldn’t have known even when I walked into the OMS office a morning or two later, or known when I heard that some of the guys had spoken with their pastor about giving me a meeting. I couldn’t have made those spontaneous words equal what they did. The pastor met with me, asked me about HOPE61, and explained that he didn’t want his congregation to invest themselves in so many things that they couldn’t really invest in anything. I’ve heard that speech before, so I thought he was about to politely tell me that it would just be impossible to begin ministry with the church. Instead, he invited me to return in 2014. I walked on clouds for a week afterward.
This is exactly what I’ve prayed for, and I know it’s not me making it happen because all I had were five or ten minutes to talk with a bunch of guys I’ve never met. This is how I know it’s the Holy Spirit making HOPE61 happen in New Zealand, and I have a feeling we haven’t seen anything yet.
While I do not normally use my blog to focus on fundraising, during my time back in the motherland I will conclude each entry with my progress. As a long-term missionary, monthly pledges are imperative to continuing my work. Each person who has prayed, encouraged, or given is a part of my team. You’ve read just one story of how God is making HOPE61 happen in New Zealand. It’s important that I return to Australia and New Zealand in a couple of months…and my ticket is set for the end of March! Please consider if this is a way God is asking you to build His kingdom. Please join me in thanking God for what is already being given and trusting and asking Him for the remainder.