I have had two months worth of America, now. Here’s another story from my trip to New Zealand this past November.
If you like budget travel with a sketchy name, Nakedbus is the way to get around New Zealand. To sojourn the five hours from Hamilton to New Plymouth without the stress of driving the twisting, narrow roads myself, Nakedbus was perfect.
I tried not to tear up at the sight of hills and mountains crumpling and soaring in front of me. This place just catches me by surprise, at every corner. (And yes, I’m a bit of a sap.) I feel the newness of the land spreading over the tips of my fingers, the edges of my face. On the way back to Hamilton I even saw the end of a rainbow. Too surprised to grab my camera, or maybe just wanting to keep that moment as mine, I saw a rainbow’s beginning, or ending, on the ledge of a hill. It stood in plain sight, bolder than I’d thought rainbows to be, and a sweet conclusion to my weekend trip.
I’d left the Waikato region for Taranacki to meet with two wonderful human beings. Malcolm and Chere McGregor had long ago expressed interest in serving with OMS and HOPE61 in Ukraine but had not been able to hear much about what HOPE61’s work and vision is. They enthusiastically brought me into their home for a weekend and arranged that I’d show “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls” at their church, also introducing HOPE61. Before the evening event, I caught glimpses of the mountain, snow capped in contrast to the summer and black sand beach nearby.
On Sunday I shared at the McGregors’ church. When it was over, we conquered the mountain. That is, the road to the mountain’s cafe. They asked me all their questions about HOPE61, asking everything from what it’s really like to be with an organization (Is it worth the extra hassle?) to what HOPE61’s goals are (prevention vs. rescue or aftercare). The soup and honest conversation were good for me.
On another day I made friends with the McGregors’ daughter and granddaughter, and spent time in Chere’s dance studio watching girls in tutus practice for their recital. I’ve shared about HOPE61, said the name of Jesus, in places I can’t remember now. The topics have come up at times I never expected. But the most unique one to date was the chance to talk with the high school girls. Ballerinas sitting on the floor in front of me, me telling them about human trafficking, my asking them to think about the truth that Jesus really is just what, and who, we need. This is not a picture I would have conjured up on my own, but now that scene is secured in the mosaic of my life.
So are the three hours I sat on the pavement with ten or fifteen others, waiting for the bus, which had broken down an hour away. The puhutukawa trees across the road, sheets of rain falling, no matter for the heat. The way the ocean was just behind them, the way I felt when the bus finally came and I could get back to another kind of home.
The night before, Chere and Malcolm and I had “debriefed.” They decided that HOPE61 is still a ministry worth looking into and told me of their plans for a long trip (they’re on it now) to Ukraine, France, and England. God’s hand is already upon them. That day, I returned to Hamilton feeling jewel-toned.
In the realm of human thought, it is not easy to follow God. No one ever said it would be. It’s the joy that makes the burden light. How else could the McGregors obey and go? They prepare knowing only what they do not know – when they’ll see their granddaughter again, how well their Russian lessons have sunk in, what house they’ll live in or if their neighbors will be kind.
The time I spent with the McGregors showed me their loving-kindness, their good humor, their no-questions-asked obedience to God, their fearless and yet deliberate movements. They are concerned not for how they will eat, but for how the orphans just leaving the Ukranian orphanage system will eat; these young men and women vulnerable to being trafficked because of their sudden loss of community, and corruption among leaders.
This is why it is so important to raise up HOPE61 in New Zealand. We need more people like Malcolm and Chere. We need more Kiwis who will unfailingly pursue justice, at home and abroad. We need more of the New Zealander Church to offer support and a lifting up those who are called to service.
I am driven to return here because I see it beginning. As I see the beginning, I envision the potential…and I am thrilled by the way Jesus could move more of His people in New Zealand to prevent slavery from growing one inch further.
If you want to know more about God’s work as HOPE61 begins in New Zealand, check out the New Zealand category.
Please consider partnering with me to build God’s kingdom in the southern hemisphere! In order to return to Australia & NZ at the end of April, I need monthly faith promises equaling $3,210. Here’s my current status.
Please join me in thanking God for what He’s done already.
Please join me in trusting and petitioning Him for what is still needed.