Thursday, September 29, 2011

Out in Dargaville

This week I had the privilege of heading out to Dargaville to help with the "Rock Solid" youth outreach.  What a blast hanging with 11-13 yr olds who are ripe for the harvest and looking for a place to be loved and shaped by God!  Almost all of the kids who attend this outreach regularly are not part of any local church, so this is often their only spiritual feeding and outlet through the week.

Prior to diving into Rock Solid I spent some time with my new friends Nigel and Jae who own some property out in the country (which would actually typify most of New Zealand).  Horses, ponies, chickens, bamboo, distant mountains. .. ahhh.  See pics:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Signs that I am beginning to settle in. ..

It's been over two weeks now that I have been in New Zealand. Some signs that I am settling in:

-- I have my very own library card at the Whangarei Central Library.  (I'm a big girl now!)
-- I have my own cell phone
-- Made my first purchase at the "Dispensary" (aka Pharmacy).  I seem to have acquired dozens of itchy insect bites that haven't gone away for 10 days now.  It's nothing serious, just very annoying!
-- Preached my first sermon at New Hope Church of the Nazarene
-- Watched my first official Rugby World Cup game (All Blacks vs. France)
-- Did my first load of laundry
-- First trip to the farmer's market

Enjoy a few more photos from my new home:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Road of Life

 Many have requested that I share this following poem, entitled, "The Road of Life".  Below are also a few photos from my new home here in Whangarei. Enjoy!

                                                With Kaitlyn at the women's retreat.
Renting a room in my new home

The Road of Life (Anonymous)
At first I saw God as my observer,
My judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong,
So as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die.
He was out there, sort of like a president.
I recognized his picture when I saw it,
But I didn’t really know Him.

But later on, when I met Christ,
It seemed as though life were rather like a bike ride,
But it was a tandem bike,
And I noticed that Christ was in the back helping me pedal.

I don’t know just when it was,
That he suggested we change places,
But life has not been the same since.
When I had control, I knew the way.
It was rather boring, but predictable.
It was the shortest distance between two points.

But when he took the lead,
He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places
At breakneck speeds it was all I could do to hang on!
Even though it looked like madness, He said, “Just pedal!”

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn to trust.  I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure.
And when I’d say, “I’m scared, he’d lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed,
Gifts of healing, acceptance and joy.
They gave me gifts to take on my journey,
My Lord’s and mine.
And we were off again.

He said, “Give the gifts away;
They’re extra baggage, too much weight.”
So I did. . .to the people we met.
And I found that in giving, I received,
And still our burden was light.
I did not trust him at first, in control of my life.
I thought He’d wreck it;
But He knows bike secrets,
Knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners,
Knows how to jump to clear high rocks,
Knows to fly to shorten scary passages.

And I’m learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places,
And I’m beginning to enjoy the view
And the cool breeze on my face
With my delightful constant companion,
Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do it anymore,
He just smiles and says, “Just Pedal!”

Spring has sprung!

Monday, September 19, 2011

When in New Zealand. . .

 - Prepare for 4 seasons in one day. 
- Never leave home without an umbrella!
- Wear good walking shoes.
- Keep your head up because the sun will eventually come out.
- Don't be ashamed to admit you're American and have no idea what they're talking about when all of the sudden the conversation is happening in Maori.

I have now moved into my home in Whangerei (pronouncved "Fung- er- ay"), with my lovely new friend Adrienne and her daughter, from our church. The house is right in the middle of town, walking distance from everything I need. Even now I am sitting in a quaint little cafe with free wi-fi (which is a blessing, because internet seems to be quite expensive.)  Whangerei is a town of about 48,000 people and is considered the largest city north of Auckland.   It is even also home to a few Rugby World Cup matches this week. . . I think Tonga and Canada are in town tomorrow night.

This weekend women from all over the north island gathered for our annual district women's retreat, a beautiful time of worship, fellowship, and girl time at Camp Morely.  Photos to the left are from the retreat.

Day by day the Lord is helping me to acclimate to life here in Whangerei.  It is quite different than being in Auckland, and as each day passes the Lord will help to learn what that really means.  I'm not going to lie, moving to another country by yourself if not easy by any means.  I've had my fair share of "I don't know if I can do this!" moments, but the Lord is near and always provides strength and perspective when it is needed.    

This Sunday will be first Sunday preaching at New Hope Church of the Nazarene. Thank you for your prayers!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New Zealand Day 3: Culture Stress, Spiritual Warfare and . . dancing?

Yes, dancing!

My heart was so blessed tonight as I spent the evening with the youth  from the All Nations church here in Auckland, praying, singing, reading scripture and . .. yes, dancing! (Cultural dances and really, just plain silliness!)  A whole slew of ethnicities were represented: Korean, Fiji Indian, Fijian, Cook Islander, Samoan, Kiwi, Maori and of course yours truly, the resident American.

What a life-giving time of fellowship and refreshment to me!  The past two days we have been receiving helpful insight and orientation regarding the various cultures and people groups here in New Zealand and the very real struggles that they are facing.  Contrary to popular belief, there is trouble in paradise.  There is a growing resurgence of the traditional Maori religions here in NZ and syncretism (the combining traditional beliefs and worship of false gods with Christianity) is resulting.  Domestic violence and teenage suicide are issues that face youth in our churches way too often, and the country as a whole is becoming increasingly secular.  Prostitution is legal here in NZ and our own people are dealing with issues I would never even imagine. 

 With all this information thrown at you, it is easy to become discouraged.  And yet, discouragement is not from God.  That is a tactic that our enemy, the devil, uses to attack the Church, strike the shepherds and scatter the sheep. The reality is that Christ is victorious and is still completely active in changing lives and delivering from darkness. The reality is that we have power through the Holy Spirit, to boldly witness of Christ's love and deliverance, and to be a part of miracles.  The reality is that we pray and God actually hears us and acts on behalf of the people for whom we are praying.  The reality is that God reigns!

So perhaps you need to do a little bit of what I did today.  Whether your facing culture stress and feeling the weight of inadequacy in a new responsibility like me, or just need to be reminded that this in indeed "our Father's world", do a little dance and remember to  . . .

"Praise the Lord, O my soul, all my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord all my soul and forget not all his benefits- who forgives your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. . ."
~ Psalm 103: 1-4

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Zealand Day 2: Be strong and courageous. . .

"Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. . .Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. . . ."

~ the words of the LORD to Joshua in Joshua 1:6-9, as leadership was being passed from Moses to Joshua

" All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

~ the words of Jesus to his disciples in Matthew 28: 18-20 before he left earth, passing leadership on to the disciples.

This morning we (Jenna, Andrew and myself) had a wonderful time of devotions and orientation with Neville and Joyce, our district superintendent of New Zealand.  Neville was good to encourage us with these words from the Lord that were given during times of transition, change in leadership and uncertainty. .. very appropriate for me right now. 

The Lord offers his power and presence to His people.  With that what more could I possibly ask for?

(Photo from my morning run today. .. look at those green rolling hills!)

Here in New Zealand!

I'm here!

 After 2 full days in transit, I finally landed here in Auckland, New Zealand, welcomed by our District Superintendent Neville and his wife Joyce, and our 2 amazing NTS 365M students, Andrew and Jenna.  My layovers at the airports were filled with memorable, seemingly God-appointed conversations with people from all over the world. I am thankful.

New Zealand is teeming with sports fans here for the Rugby World Cup, which is taking place all over the country for most of the month of September. For those of you who follow rugby at all, we are in All Blacks territory now, the New Zealand national rugby team. All other fans beware .  :-)

Thank the Lord for his favor with immigration and customs and processes.  I believe this is the smoothest trip through customs I have ever had,  even with my two year work visa and bringing old bamboo items from PNG!  This never happens.  The Lord has really been helping me and I believe it is due to your prayers.  Thank you!

Promptly after arrival, I had a quick shower at the house and we headed off to a lovely shared dinner with some of the local pastors in the Auckland area, many of them Pacific Islanders from places like Samoa, Niue, Cook Islands, etc.  Above is a photo from tonight's dinner.

Well, I would love to write more, but jet lag is setting in and its time to go to bed. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where in the world is . . .

Where in the world is. . .Carmen Sandiego?  Oops!  I mean, Alison!  (If that doesn't make sense, write me a message and I'll explain it to you.  :-)

In case you are interested, below is my flight path on this journey to New Zealand.  Yes, you'll notice that Sept. 11 is not even on the calendar. Because I am crossing the international dateline while flying over the Pacific, I will not have a Sept 11, 2011 this year.  Weird, eh?

Saturday 10 September 2011
     Depart Kansas City, MO-  1:15 PM
     Arrive: Albuquerque Int'l Airport 2:15 PM

Saturday 10 September 2011 Air
      Depart: Albuquerque Int'l Airport 5:00 PM
      Arrive: Los Angeles Int'l Airport   5:55 PM
 Saturday 10 September 2011 Air
     Depart: Los Angeles Int'l Airport 10:20 PM
     Arrive: Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport  6:15 AM 
  Monday 12 September 2011 Air
       Depart: Sydney Kingsford Smith  11:30 AM
      Arrive: Auckland, NZ 4:30 PM

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Parting is such sweet sorrow?

"Parting is such sweet sorrow."  This famous line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet may be cliche and overused, but alas I'm still going to use it here. 

This week I have done nothing but say weepy good-byes to treasured friends, co-workers, and family members.  Rarely is saying good-bye ever a happy event for me, as I get so easily attached to the wonderful people God has put into my life and cry like a baby when it's time to part ways.  If you are reading this blog, that means YOU!  If you all weren't such wonderful people, this wouldn't be so difficult! (Can you see I'm trying to pass the blame here? :) )

Thank YOU for allowing me to journey through life with you, whether it has been for 30 years or just a few months. You have loved me, invested in me, and taught me invaluable lessons about what it means to love deeply, rest securely and live boldly.

What a gift!

In 3 days I will hop on a plane headed for New Zealand, very sad to leave you all behind, yet eager to spy on our good God and discover the creative ways He is already transforming lives and changing the world! The remarkable things about being a missionary is that God's Holy Spirit is already going ahead of me preparing a path for hearts to receive His Gospel, His good news of real life!  We call this "prevenient grace", or the grace of God that goes before us.  It's not up to me to save; that's God's job.  However, it IS my job to lead people right to the Lord and try to remove any obstacles in their path that might deter or hinder them from experiencing the transforming love of Christ that saves them. What exactly that will look like, only God knows.  I am excited to find out!

May the peace of Christ dwell in you this week.
Please continue to follow this blog, as I plan to continue posting at least once a week, if not more. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Work Visa is here!

I now hold in my hands a very important and very expensive document:  my New Zealand Work Visa, valid until 2013, with the options for renewal!

With my visa, NZ teacher's license, and passport back in hand, and with the wonderful support of so many friends and family, I am finally ready to head to the "Land of the Long White Cloud".  (or at least I think I am- ha!)

7 more days.. ..please keep in touch with me via this blog or e-mail.  My goal is to post every week, if not more.  Please feel free to leave a comment.