Sunday, April 29, 2012

Our Kids Need Us!

Here is an interesting, yet disheartening fact:
"The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) estimates that within a generation, the primary responsibility of raising children will have passed from biological parents to the professional."

As a pastor, teacher, and youth worker within a western cultural context I have seen this to be true.  Scary, eh? If parents aren't raising their children, then what are they doing? Most of them are working long hours just to pay the bills and put food on the table. Others spend their days in jail for drug/alcohol abuse and crimes of other kinds. Some are at a loss as to how to raise their kids and thus leave it up the "professionals" or other seemingly well-suited family members. Others are back at university pursuing a new career, in hopes that this new education will allow them to more adequately provide for the family. 

Regardless of the reasons, noble or not, our children are spending less time with their biological parents and more with alternate care-givers: babysitters, after-school programs, extra-curricular activities, church programs. . . . and the harsh characters that the cold streets have to offer. This is why I believe in children's ministry. Our children need us!

Many of us have constructed for ourselves a pace of life that is faster and more "productive" than ever before, yet simultaneously less fulfilling and less satisfying.  As a result, our youngest and most vulnerable are suffering from the lie that money is god, that life consists of what you can create with your own two hands, and that you shouldn't have to wait to get what you want. The pace of life has stolen parents away from their children, out of necessity, and families are being re-defined as we speak. 

Thankfully this shallow way of living does not exceed the capacity for God's grace and help. He is not restricted by our expectations, and sometimes does not give us what we want. . .but rather what is best. God is altogether not like us; different and holy. Fortunately his wisdom far exceeds ours and he knows better than to subject Himself  to our limited timetable. This is good news.
So, as you look into the faces of the precious ones in these photos, remember this. . .. God loves kids and the only way our kids will see this is through us!

Monday, April 23, 2012

From the top of the bottom of the world!

Yes, you read that correctly. I have now stepped foot on Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of New Zealand, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.  On Monday, April 16  four van loads of Kiwi youngins (and some not-quite-so-youngins) hit the road for Rock Solid “On the Road Camp” 2012!   
Our goal: to give young people a chance to meet Jesus through his spectacular creation and the love of his followers.   Our 5-day trip took us through the entire Northland region: from Whangarei to Dargaville, Rawene,  Waipua Forest, Opononi, Kaitia, Cape Reinga, Manganui, Paihia and a million hidden beaches and towns in between! Each day was met with new challenges and the unparalleled beauty of the rugged New Zealand coastland.    
Our site-seeing excursion included a visit to the massive Tane Mahuta, “Lord of the Forest” in the Waipua Forest, famous as the largest existing Kauri tree in New Zealand.

On boogie- boards we whizzed down steep sand dunes headed straight into the sea.  Interestingly enough, a few friendly stingrays awaited us in the water below, so we kindly waited for them to depart before beginning the craziness. 
Never in my life have I seen so much wild marine life!  See the seal? To our  surprise and delight, he was sunning himself on the rocks, allowing us to walk right to him and say a quick hello.
 See the dolphins?  On our excursion through the bay of Islands and Hole in the Rock near Paihia, we entered the playground of the dolphins and were graced with quite a show!  This is now the second time I have seen dolphins in the wild!  When they weren’t splashing wildly and flipping about, it seemed they were determined to race alongside our boat. . .until the NZ Navy Vessel came by offering a better ride than our boat could offer and they were out of sight again.

I could go on and on about the stunning scenery, sheer cliffs, midnight blue water, and emerald green mountains, but I think you get my drift. 
The only thing more beautiful than the landscape  and wildlife surrounding us is the love of God the Father who crafted all of this for our benefit. And what’s more. . . the beauty that I see is only a dim reflection of the future to come when God restores all things and puts things to right.  On that day what has been invisible will become plain sight and those who have trusted Christ will see him as He is and rejoice!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Family Carnival!

Easter is a wake-up call, literally!
We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the reality of Christ's resurrection than with a family Easter carnival!  It was a time to invite our neighbours to come awake to the reality of God's love and victory over all that keeps us from genuine fellowship with Him.                                                                                                     In typical Kiwi fashion, we hosted a sausage sizzle and had face painting, crafts, and games for the neighbouring families to enjoy!  Throughout the evening I had a chance to chat with parents and families and to share God's love and salvation through some clever science experiments and the Resurrection Eggs!   We praise the Lord for 17 kids + a handful of parents and volunteers that participated, and for the opportunity to rub shoulders with more folks in Whangarei!  Enjoy some pics!


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Half-Marathon in Hokianga. . .and that's not the 'half' of it!

    Saturday I completed my first ever half-marathon in Hokianga, New Zealand! Due to a previous back injury that was aggrivated during my training, I reluctantly resigned myself to the fact that I would not be able to run and thus re-registered as a walker earlier this week. Surprisingly enough however, I was feeling great on race day and was actually able to run a majority of the 22KM/ 13.1 miles with almost no pain!

The morning was cool and drizzly, perfect for running, and the scenery was unparallelled as we made the trek from Rawene to Opononi, where the river meets the sea. 
 Were that the extent of my experience this weekend, the blog post would stop here.  But the half-marathon isn't the "half" of it!  The journey that we endured just getting to Hokianga (and back) has all the makings of a good comedy! Even as I write this I have to chuckle.  Bear with me; I'll make this as short and sweet as possible.

Goal #1:  Get There!
The Hokianga Harbour and surrounding small towns (including Rawene and Opononi) is about a 2 hour drive northwest of Whangarei up on the northwest coast of New Zealand. In an effort to avoid to getting up at 4AM to make the journey to Hokianga on race day, my running buddy Julie and I decided to drive up the night before and stay at her house in a small town called Broadwood.  Broadwood is across the harbour from Rawene, and when the car ferry is running, the route only take about 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, with one wrong turn, what should have taken us 1.5 hours, turned into a 4 hour escapade, navigating through rural northland New Zealand on roads unidentified on our outdated map!  To complicate matters, we were basically out of gas, running on fumes.  Of course when we finally found a TINY rural town along our path, the petrol station wasn't even open.  The only other human beings we found graciously gave us directions to the next major town where we could hit the highway and find ourselves on the map again. :-)  Whew! 

As the nighttime sky dropped a blanket of darkness upon us, I pleaded for God's mercy and provision, praying that He would extend the life of our gas/petrol and bring us safely to Broadwood.  We eventually made our way to the highway and were on our way to Julie's house.   Goal #1 complete: We're in Broadwood!

Goal #2: Get Good Sleep!
Upon reaching the home nestled in the woods, we were greeted by dogs, cats, chickens and . ..a goat!  We thanked the Lord for His protection and set out to accomplish goal #2.

Just moments after dozing off to sleep we realized, "Uh oh, the car ferry to Rawene probably isn't open at 6AM on a Saturday morning!  Ugh. . .We're going to have to drive completely around the harbour to get there. . and that takes 2 hours!"  Can you guess what time the alarm was set for now?  Yep, 4:00 AM!  So much for avoiding waking up before the rest of creation!  By now, it is 10:30PM and time to sleep, at least for a few hours!

Goal #3: Get from Broadwood to Rawene!
4:00AM finds us stumbling out of bed and hitting the road, once again trying to navigate in the darkness on with twist-turvy mountains roads with no names. Keep in mind that there is literally no light, save our car headlights. .. and we're still nearly out of gas, because of course there are no petrol stations within many miles. 

Apparently we were not alone in the pre-dawn hours - the possums, bunnies, hedgehogs, dogs and cows were out in full force. Thankfully we managed to dodge them all and finally arrived in Rawene in plenty of time to check in for the half-marathon.  What a relief!
Now, wouldn't you know that after all that, the city of Rawene had actually opened an early car ferry at 6AM for the race participants!  Go figure!

Goal #4: Survive the Hokianga Half-Marathon!
Completed in 2 hrs. 30 minutes!

If you don't have a grin on your face by now, just wait.

Goal #5: Get home and recover!
Now you'd think that after a good stretch, solid feed, and a quick chat with fellow runners, we'd set out for home.  Instead, we decide it is necessary to head back to Julie's home all the way back in Broadwood (this time we took the car ferry across the harbour!) and . . .pack the car with household items to take back to town in Whangarei. An extra hour is spent jamming the car, squeezing a little bit of everything into every available nook and cranny in the car.  Who needs to see out the windows?  That's overrated! And just for kicks, we also have to bring 2 cats and 2 fish home with us!

Guess who was in charge of cuddling with 2 fish on the 2- hour trek home through twisty-turvy mountain roads?  Needless to say, my lap was saturated with fish tank water!

We finally made it home to Whangarei, hot showers, flat roads, daylight, cell-phone service, petrol stations and most-importantly.  .. people!  Home sweet home!  Goal #5 Complete!
 Thank you Lord for the adventure, for my friend Julie and for your provision along every step.  Great memories are made in the most creative ways and I thank you for the reality that these are now part of my history.