Monday, December 31, 2012

We made it to 2013!

  We made it to 2013!  And in true Kiwi fashion, we've been able to enjoy the new year at the beach under the hot summer sun.

For those of you shivering in the northern hemisphere, wondering if all we ever do is go to the beach, know this:

1) You are invited to visit!

2) Kiwis of all shapes and sizes have a great appreciation of the sea and find in it much of what is needed for daily life.  Just as many Americans gather to watch the ball drop in Time Square on a frigid New Year's Eve, most Kiwis find themselves at the ocean with a bit of BBQ and bottle of beer. (sadly)

3) Incarnational ministry is all about participating in redemptive relationships and doing the hard yards of life with those around you.  Thankfully, God has built a sabbath rest into the rhythms of life and we are wise to take advantages of these opportunities for respite and rejoicing that He provides. It is those times when we need not feel guilty for refueling and preparing to re-enter the battlefield. 

Wherever you are, I pray that you choose to trust God with every second of 2013 and in doing that, find your true rest there.

PS- Please pray for Rock Solid Breakaway Summer Camp next week.  100+ teens and brave (or crazy!) adult leaders will gather at Kauri Mt for 6 days of camping under the stars.  We pray that we are able to point many kids straight to Jesus and that this next week will be the most life-changing week of their lives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas with the Careys

Nga mihi o te wa me te Tau Hou!
("Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" in Maori)

A full stomach and a full heart.  That is how I describe Christmas 2012.  Despite the wet windy weather (see previous blog), I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas day with the Careys and Briles again this year!

Enjoy some pics below:

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The sea was telling us something.

   A beautiful blue sky watched over us as we followed the windy roads to one of my favourite beaches , Pataua North.  The air was calm and it seemed as good a day as any to go soak up the sun and catch a few waves.  One of the great things about Pataua is that you can enjoy both wild open surf and a tranquil shallow estuary, perfect for younger swimmers and casual beach bums.  
 We landed ourselves under the shade of a quiet little Pohutukawa tree near the estuary.  However, we soon realized that we wanted to enjoy a bit of open sea, thus packed up our gear and made the 5 minute walk around to where we had hoped to see the waves.  That calm little cove, with it's crystal clear water reflecting the cottony clouds above seemed to whisper peace and tranquility, like all was well with the world. 
 But were we in for a treat when we got to the other side and discovered that the sea was telling us something completely different!  Our mouths hung open and eyes got big as we rounded the corner to see the banks of the beach swallowed by walls of water and unruly waves slamming themselves against everything in their path! 
The nervous sea seemed to communicate, " I know something that you don't know. A storm is coming. Cyclone Evan is on his way!"
The water was rough and wild, barely suitable to step into, let alone consider swimming or boogie-boarding. That would have to wait for another day. (That being said, a few experienced surfers ventured far off shore to catch the ride of their lives. They showed off some amazing stunts, but I dare say they were just plain crazy!)

All other signs around the beach that day pointed to peace and safety, but the sea was calling out a warning. This has got me thinking about Christmas.  How, you say?

Before Christ 's first advent (coming) at Christmas, there existed a period of 400 years of perceived silence from God.  During this time between what we know as the Old and New Testaments, there were no prophets, judges, or even angels to bring God’s word and instruction to his people.  It seemed as if God had gone silent, leaving his creation to fend for themselves and find their own way out of their mess.

I dare say that some living in that era thought to themselves, “Well, that must have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.  We’ve finally done it. We've sinned one too many times and now have completely cut ourselves off from God.  I guess we’ll just have to accept the fact that there remains no help for us and we must find our own way to be righteous, our own way to appease the Almighty. It’s up to us to makes sense out of this world.”

And then it happened.

After 400 years of darkness and silence, an angel is given a summons to  break the sound barrier. .. the one that had kept the people from hearing from God for so many years.  His message was that NOW was the appointed time for the ultimate Word of God to come to them!  And this time that word would not be in the form of second-hand messages from prophets or judges as in the past.  Now the Word would come straight from God. In fact, the Word would be God himself!
No middle-man required.  No need for a priest to stand between the people and God.  Now this people walking in the darkness of uncertainty about the future would not just receive a word from God; they would be the recipients of THE Word of God!  God himself would make this journey to earth.  Any other way simply would not suffice.  He had to do it himself. 
God himself would be the way out of the mess.
 In fact, God in Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Basically Jesus is saying that this earth is where the mess is at.  The Father is where the mess is not.  You need a way to get out of the mess so that you’re not  trapped in it for eternity. .. and I am the way out!”
The message of HOPE had broken the silence in the form of the cry of the Son of God.
It’s almost as if that 400 year period of waiting to hear from God was like the calm before a great storm. Let me explain.  I come from Kansas in the USA where tornadoes and severe weather are par for the course every spring.  Often right before an approaching storm there exists an eerie calm when everything goes still, as if the earth is holding its breath, just waiting to let it blow. 
 And then it happens.
 The storm makes a grand entrance . .  and you had better be prepared to ride it out!  That the period of waiting for the Messiah to be born was like the calm before a great storm.
 It is the storm of God’s love that would bring the collision of a beautiful baby’s cry with a terrible cross, resulting in the salvation of all who would dare enter into the eye of that tempest and there find perfect peace.  It’s a storm where the Light of the World, who is Jesus Christ, in his loving fury swallows up the dark, sin-filled humanity like a tornado that overcomes any and everything in its path.
You might be a bit unsettled at the thought of comparing God to something as destructive as a tornado or tropical storm.  ‘"That’s a bit negative", you might think.  It's not what we normally think of at Christmas when we turn our attention to the humble baby Jesus, God incarnate in vulnerable and broken human flesh.  

 But consider this, God is ferocious about destroying sin!

He is relentless about annihilating evil, because evil and sin bring ruin to you and me, whom God loves so much!  As 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” So the next time that the roar of the waves you hear is a bit more intense than usual, remember what the sea told us that day, "A storm is coming."

The storm of God's love.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Crazy Christmas Weather in the South Pacific

  Cyclones.  Typhoons. Tornadoes.  This was the early Christmas present to the south Pacific.  I dare say this is probably not what most of you would have in mind when considering how best to celebrate the holidays.

Cyclone Evan in Samoa
photo: New Zealand Herald
Unfortunately however, the islands of the south Pacific have been hammered by all three of these devastating storms in recent days.  On Dec 4, Typhoon Pablo struck the Philippines killing hundreds, followed by a tornado in west Auckland, New Zealand on Dec 6 that killed three.  Now this week both Samoa and Fiji have nearly been swallowed by Cyclone Evan, causing widespread destruction and hardship, and taking the lives of some.
New Zealand is home to a large number of Samoans and Fijians trying to make contact with loved ones back in the islands and many of them attend our Nazarene churches.

Tornado in Auckland
Cyclone Evan in Fiji
photo: TV NZ
  Cyclone Evan is expected to head south to northern New Zealand (where I live) just before Christmas.  Thanks to our cooler ocean temps, forecasters predict that Evan will lose its tropical storm status by the time it hits New Zealand and will just be more of a nuisance than anything else.  This means that we can still expect heavy rains and gale force winds, but hopefully nothing in comparison to what Samoa and Fiji have recently faced.
Please pray and look for ways to support those who are suffering from these storms in the Philippines, New Zealand, Samoa, and Fiji.  

We believe that God is present and active at times like these, bringing healing and help in the midst of such turbulence.  After all, the first Christmas wasn't such a peaceful time in the land of Bethlehem.  The Jews were oppressed by the Romans and King Herod sought annihilate all babies under the age of 2 years old when news of Christ's birth came to him. Rest assured that Jesus knows what it feel like to step into suffering and chaos.  Also rest assured that only he knows how to provide the perfect peace necessary to withstand the storm.

For more information on the Typhoon in Philippines and how you can help, check out this article from the Nazarene Communication Network below:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gymnastics Christmas Display

I have the privilege of doing many things that I love here in New Zealand, one of which is coaching gymnastics.

 Monday night WAGS (Whangarei Academy of Gymnastics) hosted their annual Christmas display, providing a chance for gymnasts of all ages the opportunity to show off their skills in creative ways.  I thought you might enjoy a few photos of our young athletes!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Looking around. . .

A 1967 Swiss Elna sewing machine, accompanied by threads and fabric scraps give evidence to my last creative venture. 

Cards from loved ones rest upon the shelf above a faucet that flows with clean, drinkable water. 

Photos from home, filled with faces of people I love hang on the wall to remind me that I am not alone.

 My Bible, journal, and an array of half-working pens are scattered on the table that extends from the wall in my narrow hallway that also serves as a lounge.

A pale blue boogie-board leans upon the wall, anxiously waiting for its next chance to hit the waves.

 Fresh sunset-colored hydrangeas adorn the window ledge that peers out to the lush garden from which they were cut.

 Tapa cloths embedded with Melanesian pigin scripture hang from the walls, pointing to precious memories of the past.

A "to-do" list stares at me from my dry-erase board, affirming that, though I often complain about it, being productive helps me to grow.

When I look around my flat here in New Zealand, this is what I see.  At first glance everything may seem so ordinary, so mundane.  Yet for me these are signs of a blessed life, one that is filled with life, love, and purpose. .. and I am thankful.   I am thankful to be serving here in Whangarei, the one true God who freely gives love, grace, and new life to all who will receive it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Advent Conspiracy 2012: FOOD DRIVE

 What if we turned Christmas upside down this year?  What if we thought "outside the box" of how the world around us celebrates Christmas, and instead of overspending, over stuffing and over scheduling, we actually gave of ourselves relationally and intentionally?   What if we worshipped fully, spent less, gave more, and loved all?  This is the idea behind Advent Conspiracy.

Once again New Hope Church has joined the conspiracy! This year we are hosting a much-needed food drive for our local Salvation Army Food Bank, whose shelves are far too bare at the moment.  In addition to donating funds and food, we are giving a little elbow grease in the month of December to fill and distribute very special Christmas parcels for the hungry in Whangarei. 

If you live locally and would like to join us, please see the list below and drop your items off at our church worship centre before Dec. 16th.  We are located at 7 Nixon St, Kensington, Whangarei, 0112.

Chicken Gravy
Biscuits and Mince Pies
Christmas puddings
Tinned Fruit
Reduced cream
Packets of soup for dips
Blocks of chocolate
Coffee/Milo/Choc Drink

For more information about The Advent Conspiracy as a worldwide project, visit

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Keri Keri Half-Marathon

  Yesterday I joined 2,500 other crazy Kiwis for the annual Keri-Keri half-marathon! It is a competitive race of 21.1KM (13.1 miles) across the beautiful terrain of the Northland near the bay of Islands. 

1:10:08 was the record time to beat for this particular race, but I was overjoyed that I crossed the finish line right at 2hours, a personal best! (I personally can't imagine how a human could run that far in only an hour, but apparently the world record is somewhere around 40 minutes- Wow!)

The energy at the start line was electric as everyone crowded in, ready to begin a journey that would take us from Okaihau to the Keri Keri city centre, over hills and valleys, through cold rain and wind.  (the not-so-fun part)

Once all the runners and walkers completed the race, prize-giving began.  The prizes included gift vouchers, sports equipment, cruises, camping gear, free flights and even a new car from the big corporate sponsors. Go figure, out of 2,500 people I actually won one of the spot prizes: a new tennis racket and tennis balls!

It was a great event and other than blistered feet and sore hips, I'm doing well.  :-)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Road sign saves a life. . .

        She wandered up the steps, slightly inebriated, with the scent of alcohol still lingering on her breath.  Swiftly greeted by my co-pastor and soon after by me, she began to reveal that the reason for her unexpected visit was to inquire about our church road sign that said, ". . .everyone valued, everyone loved, everyone welcome. .."

For the purposes of this blog, we'll call her "Betty". (This is not her real name.)  Betty, in her early 60s, had suffered abuse from her father as a child and was now estranged from her own children and grandchildren because of new information that had recently surfaced relating to this issue. The message fed to her by past and present circumstances was that she was not valued nor worthy of genuine love.  Low and depressed, she drowned herself in alcohol and made a trip to the pokies across the road to spend her last dollars on earth.  Betty explained to us that she was on her way home to take a bottle of pills and end her life when the words, "everyone valued" on our church sign struck her attention.

Feeling valued was the farthest from her reality at that present moment, but she could not ignore the words on our sign that claimed otherwise. She saw cars in the carpark and people milling around (it happened to be Wednesday night, right before our mid-week Bible Study), and was coherent enough to make the decision to approach our worship facility.  Donna and I were able to offer her words of hope in Christ's love and a hot cup of tea, pray with her, and exchange contact details. She declined other methods of assistance and walked back down the road.

Without a doubt in my mind, I firmly believe that the Spirit of God led Betty right to us, using our silly road sign as a spotlight to highlight his love for her when her path seemed so dark. I believe God used us to save a life that night.  We were tools in his toolbox, sharp and ready, and at just the right time and without warning, God pulled out in order to craft a new reality for Betty. What a humbling thought:by no merit of our own, but rather because of  God's grace and infinite wisdom, were we given the privilege of helping a woman choose life who could not choose it for herself.

 God is working, people!  Were the unseen made visible, we might see Christ the Good Shepherd walking alongside her at night with his staff and flashlight, yanking her from the edge of the cliff, turning her eyes to see his light pointing her to a new path. And why?  Because of his love.

We believe we will see "Betty" again very soon, perhaps even tomorrow. Please pray for her and others like herself that are deceived into believing lies that life is not for them.  Choose life.  Choose to love.  Choose Christ.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Handle with Care

Rock Solid Bonfire-Thurs
              “Antiques Road Show".  Ever seen it? For those of you whose fancy is discerning trash from treasure, this is your show.  Here in New Zealand, we are privy to the BBC version which often features ancient paintings, sculptures, jewelry, furniture, books, autographed records, etc.  These items are on display for the express purpose of having them appraised by a professional, in order to discover their worth, their monetary value. (Don't worry, this is not a paid advertisement; there is a point to this!)

It’s quite remarkable the estimated value of some items that make it on to the show.  Some people walk out of the showroom elated that the random lampshade they picked up at a garage sale is now worth tens of thousands of dollars!  On the contrary, others exit the showroom with sheer disappointment that the item in which they invested so much turns out to nothing more than a mass-produced fake, and therefore not worth much at all.
Gorgeous Roses!
To ascertain the value of an item,  the appraiser must research its origins, where it comes from,  who made it, how old it is and the significant events in its history that make could make it unique and valuable.  Surprisingly enough, when a person finds that her object is worth far more than expected, rather than plan to sell it and get the cash, she often decides it is too priceless to sell and chooses to keep it in the family line for generations to come.  If there is a famous name attached to the item, its value immediately increases.  Something as silly as a scrawny piece of tissue could instantly be worth millions if it once belonged to Elvis Presley! 
Rock Solid Bonfire-Thurs
How much are you worth?
 Imagine with me that you want to find out how much you are worth. You place yourself on the stand, quiver under the microscope, and listen as the appraiser begins to dive into your family history, investigates your genealogy and looks for significant personalities in your background. Perhaps he takes note of all the diplomas you possess, the feats you’ve accomplished, the good and bad things you’ve done with your life.  What would be your value? Could you put a number on your worth?

More gorgeous roses!

I want to suggest to you today that no amount of money could ever match your worth.  You are beyond price tag.  You are priceless and ought to be handled with great care.
How do I know? Well, why not put yourself in the seat of the appraiser for a moment.  Travel back in time and take a peek at your origins, identify your maker, discover your purpose, and find what you’re really worth. Genesis, the first book of the Bible, is the account of the "beginnings" of all things and will give you  some big clues. Interestingly enough, you will read that at the inauguration of time, God created lots of crazy things like sea and sky, stars and galaxies, stingrays and lightning bugs .  . . all in just 5 days.  All of these he spoke into existence and said they were "good"!

But the 6th day was different. While God spoke everything else into being, to humans he gave special handling.  Mere words  didn't suffice for his prized creation;  He had to get his hands on us! God formed mankind from the dust and breathed into him the breath of life.  How odd of God!
God took extra care in using his own hands to craft the mind, body and spirit of humankind from the very dust he had created just days before.  . . and then breathed life right into him.  And  then God had the audacity to say it was "VERY good"! And do you know why it was very good?  Because God created man in His own image, to bear the resemblance of his designer and enjoy relationship with him.

Generations down the line we find YOU.  And you still wear the fingerprints of the Creator God, whose origins are of old and whose name commands more respect than Elvis Presley, or Barak Obama, or the Pope.  Your genealogy is full of notables, your Maker is unmatched, and your purpose is divine.  You are priceless and you have life because you were made on purpose.

The appraiser scratched his head with utter frustration and looks at you, speechless.  "I can't give you a price for her.  It's impossible; she 's too valuable.  She's priceless."

Life is precious.  Handle with care.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Church Website!

Thanks to Jenna Briles, New Hope Church of the Nazarene in Whangarei, NZ has a new website!  Bits and pieces are yet under construction, but I encourage you to take a peek! We'll be updating frequently.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mega Pizza Party- Rock Solid Whangarei

What do you get when you combine teenagers, pizza, fizzy drinks and lots of silliness?  Rock Solid (and a few tummy aches)!

Tuesday night young teens and leaders gathered at Kamo Intermediate School for our mega pizza party kick-off of Rock Solid Whangarei.  35 kids registered and 15+ leaders were on hand to help pull things off for the evening.  

 The teenage years are one of the most formational seasons in human life.  Bodies are changing, worldviews are being formed and a sense of identity is being shaped by everyone and everything in the surrounding environment. 

We want to ensure that we are pouring truth and love into each young person that God places in our path, giving them a chance to shine.  Will you be in prayer for this new group of Rock Solid young people?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NEW 'Rock Solid' club launches Tuesday!

We are happy to report that, thanks to the quick and amazing work of God's Holy Spirit, and the obedience of our leader Scottie, we are launching another NEW Rock Solid in Whangarei this Tuesday, October 23!

If you've followed this blog much, you've seen many pics and heard stories about the high-energy outreach to young teens called Rock Solid.  Up until now, all the news has revolved around the work in Dargaville . . . but not for long!  God is expanding our territory and has opened wide the door for us to reach students right here in town on the premises of Kamo Intermediate School!

Please be in prayer for our Mega Pizza Party kick-off night.  :-)

Friday, October 12, 2012

It's official. . .

Yes, it's official.  New Zealand is one of the most picturesque places on earth!

In the last few weeks I've had the privilege of visiting Tauranga, Rotorua and few local host spots like the Tutukaka Coast and Paihia, enjoying spare time (the little there is of it!) during the school holidays with friends.

I thought you might enjoy some of the pics from our little country at the bottom of the world!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Kids Club Talent Show a BIG Hit!

Last night we hosted our first ever Kiwi Kids Talent Show here at New Hope Church. 
We've been promoting this event for 6 weeks now, with the intention of giving our children an opportunity to show off their God-given gifts, skills, and talents. 

It was a BIG hit and I don't think I saw one person without a smile on their face as we enjoyed gymnastics, magic tricks, artwork, piano solos, singing, dancing, etc.
 53 people from all over our community were in attendance to support our kids. We even ran out of chairs! (This is a big deal for our little church!)  We are praising the Lord for this great boost to the ministry of New Hope Church and chance to bless families and kids in the Whangarei area!