Friday, June 29, 2007

Piha Beach

10:54 PM
For our off day on Thursday, we drove over to Piha Beach which is on the coast of the Tasman Sea. It was one of the most renown surfing beaches in New Zealand, as well as one of the most deadliest. Because it being winter and all we didn't get in the water, but we did take tons of fun photos and climb up Lion Rock (somehow that huge rock looks like a lion laying down!!). But it was super fun and we had a great time. We are now in Whangarhei getting ready for a Youth For Christ camp that starts next week. Enjoy the pics!!


Make Your Own Kind of Ministry

9:20 PM
Sometimes ministry happens when you plan and organize, but sometimes the best ministry happens when you don't expect it. That's what happened today. Rebecca and I were sent into Auckland on the train to do ministry. Armed with a few extra dollars and sidewalk, we prepared to take the city by love.

Our first stop was lunch. As we walked the busy streets and approached a McDonald's, we saw a man outside, sitting on the street, holding a sign proclaiming his hunger. We looked at each other and knew we had found our ministry. We bought our lunches as well as an extra meal for the man. Then we walked outside and asked him if he had yet. He said no, so we gave him the lunch and asked if we could join him. His face lit up when he said yes, of course. We figured a lot of people passed by and dropped some coins, or some snacks, but how many actually stopped to talk. So we did. His name was Paul, and he had been living on the streets of Auckland for a few years now. After a few unfortunate incidents involving robbery and abandonment, he was left with few options but a life on the streets. He said it wasn't too bad until the police made him move. Despite his condition, Paul was pretty upbeat, asking tons of questions about us, what we thought of New Zealand and what we were doing. It was a great opportunity to share what we've been doing these last few weeks. As we were talking, Paul's friend Vickie came up. She has been living on the streets for 18+ years after a beating left her mentally challenged and alone. It was obvious that Vickie and Paul had formed their own kind of homeless community. It showed us how everyone craves community. We were later joined by their friend Steve, who used to live on the streets, but now has a home, but is still sympathetic to the homeless. He was quite friendly also. So here we sat, 3 homeless Kiwis and 2 Americans just talking about life. Who could plan this kind of ministry??

After leaving our street friends, we decided to visit the University of Auckland. We found a spot outside of their campus bookstore and began "chalking" truth and promises of God's love. We tried to make it as bright and cheery as possible, and we ended up covering up a pretty big area. No one really approached us as we were doing it, although I did notice some strange looks from passer-bys. But we believe that even if a tiny seed was planted through those messages, then it was worth it.

So at the end of the day, it was pretty awesome to see God's hand all over our day. He had orchestrated ministry and meetings we never could have planned. We hope to go back in the city and see Paul, Vickie or Steve, as they regularly hang out around the McDonald's. I'm loving this kind of ministry!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Knock, Knock, Knockin'

8:53 PM
This week we began our relational ministry. Two of us (Julianna and Autumn) went to a woman's shelter to build relationships with the women and children that live there as well as cleaning. The other four of us set out around Mangere to knock on doors and offer prayer and practical help to people. OK, I have to admit, the thought of knocking on someone's door for any reason freaks me out, and when it's God-related, it's even scarier. And I'm not in a third world country where I can knock on someone's door and say God's name and they get saved. New Zealand is a different place. But nonetheless, I set out with Julie to meet some people and share some love. I'm sad to say I have no exciting story, just the pleasant rejections, the doors shut in our faces, and the laughter and smirking. However, Michelle and Nani (an intern with Mangere Baptist) had a really cool story about a door they knocked on. I'll just say it involved a shady teenage boy and a knife. Don't worry Mom, I'm safe! Read about it here in Michelle's trip update. Not to be frustrated by the day, we made chocolate chip cookies for the friendly houses and our painters that night. Dropping those off was quite fun, one little old lady said that we made her day. Then Julie and I spent another hour knocking on doors with little response again. Dean (the pastor of Mangere Baptist)'s wife, Jackie gave us some encouragement though. She reminded us that although we may not see the fruit or know what we've watered, that we are still doing God's work. At least now they know that there is a church out there that is active and caring for people. So maybe we did do something big today. But maybe we didn't. All I know is that today I walked in what the Lord had for me, and that's all I can do.


Creativity Unleashed

1:52 AM

Psalm 148

1-5 Hallelujah! Praise God from heaven,
praise him from the mountaintops;
Praise him, all you his angels,
praise him, all you his warriors,
Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, you morning stars;
Praise him, high heaven,
praise him, heavenly rain clouds;
Praise, oh let them praise the name of God
he spoke the word, and there they were!

6 He set them in place
from all time to eternity;
He gave his orders,
and that's it!

7-12 Praise God from earth,
you sea dragons, you fathomless ocean deeps;
Fire and hail, snow and ice,
hurricanes obeying his orders;
Mountains and all hills,
apple orchards and cedar forests;
Wild beasts and herds of cattle,
snakes, and birds in flight;
Earth's kings and all races,
leaders and important people,
Robust men and women in their prime,
and yes, graybeards and little children.

13-14 Let them praise the name of God
it's the only Name worth praising.
His radiance exceeds anything in earth and sky;
he's built a monument—his very own people!

Praise from all who love God!
Israel's children, intimate friends of God.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Out and About

1:52 PM

Over the last several days, we've had quite a lot going on. Friday was our first "off" day and we went into downtown Auckland. It was such a cool city!! While most of our team got tattooed or pierced, I spent the day exploring. I found this really awesome park, Albert Park, up by Auckland University, that had fountains and sculptures and flowers, and it was so pretty! When a sudden downpour hit, I was able to hide in a gazebo there too! After the park, I went through a couple of art galleries of local and international artists. I found a really cute used bookstore and spent awhile browsing through there as well. I got some internet time at an internet café, and I enjoyed some coffee at a café on the harbor. I window shopped and just walked the streets, checking out the interesting city life and taking tons of pictures!! Auckland is currently preparing for the New Zealand International Film Festival that is in July. I picked up a booklet, and was so excited to find out that someone in the UK made a documentary about the font, Helvetica. OK, maybe that's only exciting to me, but I really want to try and get into the city and see it. We met back together for dinner at MexiCali and enjoyed some yummy burritos that reminded us of home.

Saturday morning we did our DRIMES that we learned at training camp in the town center of Mangere. It was our first time performing them live and it went really well. I even got to speak and explain one afterwards! Some people showed interest, but nothing really groundbreaking happened. It just provided another chance to get out in the community, and show our faces, and engage people in conversation. After driming, we ate our first New Zealand fish and chips meal. Because of its English influence here, NZ has quite a lot of fish and chips places. Wasn't too bad! Saturday night we had a movie night at the Papatoetoe Youth For Christ building with Michelle's American friend. We watched "Sneakers" and ate popcorn and it felt like home.

Sunday morning we visited FaithCity Church, where Michelle had visited last year. It was a church alive in the Spirit, and even more so as they were coming off a weekend retreat of healing and restoration. It was exciting to see God work in ways I'm not used to or haven't seen before. Sunday afternoon, Michelle took me to the Auckland Botanical Gardens (because its like 5 minutes from our house) while everyone else was out getting coffee. The gardens are so pretty, and I wish I had more time to see them all, but it was beautiful. I have just been overwhelmed with the plant life here in general. All of it is so colorful and so magical looking. Weird description, I know, but it's true.

This island has definitely captured my heart. I am looking forward to our new ministries this week and our upcoming travels. God Bless!


Monday, June 18, 2007

Home Life

7:40 PM

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." - Helen Keller

We have been so blessed to staying in a home this summer. It has 5 bedrooms (although we only sleep in three), one bathroom (or "toilet" here in New Zealand), a kitchen, and a sunroom that is full of windows (which keeps our house either hot or cold, depending on the hour!). Sadly, there is no central heating, but Mangere Baptist Church has let us use some space heaters, which mainly helps in drying our clothes. We have a washer, but no dryer. The carpet has been torn up, so its wood floors (with some nails) throughout the house, which doesn't help in keep it warm! The house is across the street from Iosis, which is a community social service center. We will be able to volunteer with them soon. We don't have a ton of down time, but when we do, it's been fun to sit in the sunroom and chat, or curl up in our bunks and read. I've been reading a ton since I've gotten here, finishing Ted Dekker's Blink , and am almost finished with Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution and Francine Rivers' Lineage of Grace. So that has been exciting. We have divided up the chores and regular household life. We have cooking partners and rotate cooking responsibilities. It'll be a challenge, cooking on a budget and just cooking for 7 people in general. But fun! The food here is pretty great, similar to America, just smaller portions, and not as sweet. So I'm glad I have been enjoying everything so far. We also split all the chores, and I am "blessed" to be cleaning the bathroom weekly (cheers!). Our house is also surrounded by some beautiful plant life, including a poinsettia tree and a poisonous lily! So that's a glimpse into my living conditions. Definitely not able to complain, God has blessed with a great place to live!


Mangere Baptist

4:50 PM
Not I - not anyone else, can travel that road for you. You must travel it for yourself." - Walt Whitman

Our first ministry opportunity has been partnering with Mangere Baptist Church. The church is pastured by Dean Clarkson, who has an amazing vision and passion for this community. Mangere is a lower-income, poverty-stricken, interracial community. The city has 110 churches, worshipping gods from across the world. Most Christian churches tend to be legalistic and rules-based, and the vision that Dean has for Mangere Baptist is one of grace and freedom in Christ. With such a small church body, the physical demands to the church's building cannot be met. This is where we come in. We have the opportunity to paint, and clean, and strip wallpaper, and garden, and so much more for this new body of Christ. It's really exciting. We will be attending church with them on Sunday nights, which is followed by a fellowship dinner. Thursday nights they have a prayer/small group night at Dean and his wife, Jackie's home which we also are attending. It has been incredible to realize that halfway across the world, we can worship and serve the same God that I was worshipping and serving back in America. It has taught me the vastness of the Body of Christ. I am reminded that God is not defined by a building, or a city, or a country. He truly does love the whole world, and I get to minister to another part of this world.

Dean took us up to Mangere Mountain, which overlooks the city, and led us in a time of prayer for the community last week. It was quite a view and an accurate picture of how small we are in the grand scheme of things. But it was a defining moment in our trip.

We have already begun to minister to people that we meet. The painters who are working at Mangere have made comments about how they can't believe a group of people our age would come here and do this for no money. A Muslim woman who lives in flats that the church owns said she recognized what we were doing as what Jesus did. And we've gone into the prominent town market and have begun intentional conversations with people that we meet. It's a new and scary thing for me, this relational evangelism. But I am excited to know, that when we leave we're able to connect them other men and women of God who will continue investing in their lives.

Please keep in prayer Mangere Baptist, Dean, Jackie, and their beautiful girls Libby Jane and Leah, the community of Mangere, and the work we do.


Monday, June 11, 2007

Up Up and Away

1:50 PM

Don't go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well, training camp has come to a close and we are all preparing to head out to our countries of ministry this afternoon. This week has been so tough, but so rewarding. There are 6 other amazing young women on my team (and I say young because I'm the oldest…freak out!): Rebecca, Autumn, Jessie, Julianna, Julie, and our fearless leader, Michelle. It is so obvious how God has crafted our team. We all bring such passion and strength to the table. It will be a privilege to minister with these girls this summer. There are 5 other teams going out today too: ..:South Africa, Swaziland, India, Peru, and Kenya. All 90 of us have been experiencing this training camp together. Let me give you an idea of what a typical day at training camp looks like…

Prayer meetings begin at 7am, which for some reason means all the girls in my cabin have to get up at 5:45am to get ready (I don't understand that one!). AIM built these sweet cabins that at least 30 girls can sleep in (and there's a smaller one for the boys further down), so needless to say, it's been a treat not to be camping, although sleeping on wooden planks is never comfortable! After prayer, we would have a seminar in which someone would impart wisdom or practical knowledge about our countries, or just how to experience God more. From there, we would learn DRIMES, which are dramas/mimes. They are all set to music to help with overcoming the language barrier. They have a really powerful messages ranging in everything from depression, to deception, to suicide. I got pretty into them and scratched up my leg kinda bad. Oh well. All the meals they prepared for us were just plain amazing and I forgot I was eating camp food! Our afternoons were either more drime practice or team builders. As much as I understand the point of team builders, I truly despise the activity itself. Thankfully, our team is pretty great and the activities were bearable. After dinner, we would have an evening service of worship and teaching. These teams were intense and moving. The Holy Spirit was all over this place. We'd end around 11:30pm and start all over again the next day. From Monday to Thursday, each team had to carry a large wooden cross. It was a team builder/ministry experience. It was heavy…. J Thursday afternoon we got to go into the community and do ministry in an interracial apartment complex. It was fun to do our drimes and songs in front of people and talk to the kids. Friday morning, we got to experience the No Hope Tent (an event I've been part of before). It's an intense experience that walks us through the hopeless lifestyle of the people we will encounter in our country. The experience really brought our team together and pushed us to trust each other more. Friday night, we had a commissioning service. The AIM leadership commissioned our leaders and our leaders turned around and commissioned us. It was a very cool experience.

As we prepare to leave today, we are excited to get there and begin our ministry this summer. Our flight leaves Atlanta at 5:30pm and we arrive in New Zealand at 5:00am Monday ( New Zealand time!). Please keep us in prayer as we travel. Also, pray for unity on our team. And lastly, pray for the hearts of the New Zealanders we will meet. Thanks!