Sunday, September 29, 2013

Blessed Messy-ness at the Mango Tree Centre!

The Mango Tree Centre is visited by many different people each day, most of them young children coming to be seen by a physio therapist, attend braille classes, or even learn a bit about computers.   This week all other regularly scheduled classes have been set aside for our team to host a very special, one-of-a-kind camp specifically designed for the most vulnerable in this society: severely disabled children.

   Today was Day 1 of our camp and included a whirlwind of touching, smelling, tasting, singing and overall blessed messy-ness!   We were also able to travel to more remote areas for home visits, ministering to children and families who otherwise cannot find transportation to the centre each week.

Of course a trek into the bush  would not be complete without a nice side trip to the famous Tongan Blowholes!  Enjoy a few more photos from the day.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Arrived in Tonga!

Just under 24 hours ago we arrived in the beautiful Kingdom of Tonga!  After minor delays and luggage hassles with Air New Zealand we set foot on this remote island nation of only 100,000 + people.   Today was spent worshipping with Tongan brothers and sisters and preparing for a big week ahead of ministering to the disabled children and youth in this area.  The weather is warm and humid, and the pace of life quite relaxed.   Enjoy a few photos and stay tuned throughout the week for more details!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bowling and Healthy Bodies

How do you celebrate the end of  a school term with a bunch of teens on a cold stormy night?  Go tenpin bowling, of course!

(Lawn bowling is very popular here in New Zealand, so I must always make the distinction by referring to "Tenpin" bowling.)

As I reflect on all the fun memories created with the Rock Solid kids, I can't help but think of the individuals in Tonga with whom I will be in just a few days, whose reality is quite different.  Many of the young people at the Mango Tree Respite Centre may never know what it feels like to launch a bowling ball from their hands or dart around on two strong legs playing laser tag. For some of them, the freedom to jump, twirl and play is replaced by a wheelchair navigated by a loving parent.  Sharing a plate of hot chips with friends looks more like being spoon-fed or relying on a tube to deliver your daily nutrition.

What a gift it is to live in a body with a heart that pumps on cue without a second thought. How great it is to have muscles and joints that move when I tell them to, that bear the weight of my body and allow me to experience the liberty of doing what I want, when I want.  Today I am thankful for my health, for the health of those around me, and for the opportunity to learn from those whose health may not look the same as mine.

Please continue to pray for our team and those with whom we will work in Tonga.  3 more days until departure! 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Countdown to Tonga!

Mālō e lelei!

12 days and counting!

On Sept 28th 5 women, including yours truly, will journey to the obscure little island country called the Kingdom of Tonga.  (It's actually comprised of 176 islands.)   We are all VERY excited!

Our mission is simply this:  To support God's mission that is already taking place at the Mango Tree Respite Centre, a ministry of the Church of the Nazarene that serves individuals with disabilities and their families.  Many volunteer teams come and go on short term basis all year 'round, providing support, encouragement, and resources to those who live and serve in Tonga long term.  In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok Kim have been full-time missionaries at the centre since 2007.

In recent months, the New Zealand district has sent teams to do manual labour and construction work on expanding the facility.  Our team is a bit different.
As a team of women, half of whom are educators, our focus will be working directly with the disabled children through a kids club/holiday programme of sorts.   Because some may be non-verbal or unable to communicate and create the way that many mainstream children do, we have planned a high sensory programme for the week.  Bubbles, noisy toys, gooey glop, bright colours and the like are perfect way for these youngsters to experience the love of Christ! The messier the better!

It is remarkable to think that these precious children are created in the image of God and He reveals himself to them in ways that only they can understand.

Please join me in praying for our team as we continue to plan, prepare, and raise funds.  Pray for the ministry of the Mango Tree Respite Centre, that they would go from strength to strength in bringing the love of Christ in practical ways to those whom they serve.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two years ago. . .

Today is September 11 in New Zealand.  Most of the world will remember this fateful day because of the act of terror against waged the United States in 2001.  I will remember September 11 for far more personal reasons.

September 11 is an unforgettable date in my own personal history, because exactly two years ago I landed in New Zealand, embarking on a journey to follow God's call and join him in his mission to reconcile the people of Whangarei back to himself as pastor of New Hope Church of the Nazarene.   Little did I know what I was getting myself into!  He he!

In two years, the Lord's faithfulness has brought me through countless obstacles and given me great rejoicing.  I've encountered brokenness and repair, suicide and new life, new jobs and reunion with old friends. I've swam with dolphins and hiked mountains, comforted hurting teens and been consoled in my own times of loss.  I've been convicted of my own sins while confronting others with theirs. I've experienced confidence and inadequacy, joy and pain.  And through it all. . .  the Lord has been faithful.

The journey continues and I am thankful for all of you who have been along the ride with me. We've crossed the two year threshold; let's see where God's road leads this year.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The dangers of being simple-minded.


In the book of Proverbs, the "simple-minded" are reprimanded for their naivety and tendency to be gullible, believing everything without question.  Simple-mindedness often characterizes children, because they lack the maturity and wisdom to effectively navigate the stormy sea of information that tries to drown its victims.

In my interactions with children the last two weeks through Bible in Schools and Kids Club, I was reminded once again just how important it is for us to pour truth into our kids and teach them how to think critically and ask questions.

Bible in Schools:
I have a lovely 10yr old student in the classroom were I teach Bible who is part of a Hindu family.  After an opening time of prayer and sharing things for which we wanted to thank God, she came up to me, beaming with excitement about a birthday party ceremony her family had just held for one of their many Hindu gods.  She told of the festivities and identified all the things she liked about various gods as though she were speaking of her favourite cartoon character or a TV celebrity.

She had no idea the deception that was pouring right out of her lips . . .my heart was saddened inside. I searched my vocabulary for ways in which to respond to her comment.  (After all, I was in a public school setting and even though I am the "Bible" teacher/ volunteer, I still have to be very careful to avoid "evangelizing" or pushing my own religious convictions upon the students.  Likewise I must avoid condemning or making defining statements about the religious view of others in the class. )  At that point, I could only respond with a simple, " Hmm.  That's interesting.  That sounds a lot different than the One True God that my Bible teaches about."

Following that encounter with her two weeks ago I had been praying for her quite a bit, knowing that her young mind had been fed lies of false gods who can do nothing for her, but cloud her mind and leave her with empty promises.  I prayed for God to help me find more creative ways to infuse into my lessons the truth that the God of Israel is indeed the only true God. Interestingly enough, this week she volunteered to read a prayer out of my "prayer box" at the beginning of class. Then after a brief lesson about how the Church functions the body of Christ, she came up and made the comment, "It seems to me that he is the only real God there is."

 Score!  Bingo! Righto- Cheerio! Now we're on the right track!

Please continue to pray for God to reveal himself as the Only True God who loves her and wants her to be his child.

Kids Club:
At Kids Club tonight we were once again beginning our session (as we do), by reading prayers out of my "prayer box" and then making time for open prayer among the group.  A conversation surfaced about the different Maori dieties that are thought to rule the sea, land, and to have created things of long ago.  Many Maori children are taught legends about these gods as if they were true and therefore a tension arises when they are introduced to the One True God of the Bible who is Lord of all and has no equal.  In my experience, I have observed that some individuals develop a sort of syncretism whereby they accept the God of the Bible as the high God, yet allow the Maori gods to fit into their understanding as lower less powerful gods.  The truth is that God is God alone and there is no other.

Then a comment was made concerning the theory of evolution and the question was asked, "Why do they say we come from apes?" It was evident that this child was distressed at the thought that she was somehow less than human. Ugh. Here we go again.  Our children, the simple-minded, are being fed lies at school that will shape the way they think and approach life from here on out, and if no one pipes in and teaches them to think for themselves, they'll follow the masses like lambs led to the slaughter.

My response this time was, "That is a theory called evolution.  It's how some people try to explain the origins of mankind, but that is not what the Bible teaches us.  God teaches us in his word that HE created mankind in his own image because of his love. God didn't have to make us, as if he needed anything or was lonely.  The cool thing is that He did it because he loves us.  Don't worry; you're not a monkey!"  He he!

I could carry-on about all the quirky questions and conversations that arise when you work with children, but let it suffice to say: There are dangers in being simple-minded.  We who are a bit wiser (hopefully) ought to be watching out for the minds of our children, teaching them how to find and cling to the Truth found in God's Word.

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Spontaneous Walkabout

  A grand network of great hiking trails runs through the heart of Whangarei (and most of New Zealand for that matter!).  Many of these treks are just minutes from my home and lead through the mountains alongside beautiful waterfalls and gentle streams.  As the weather improves and the days grow longer, my friends and I are keen to discover more of these hidden gems of the forest.  With a couple hours to spare on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we set out for the Taheke Scenic Reserve, which took us to the Taheke Falls.

 (Not the same falls in the photo to the right.)  The Taheke Falls are actually quite impressive, but it was frustratingly difficult to get a good photo of them because of the thick forest blocking our view.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"Kids Club" travels the world!

Who knew our little church would be full of such well-traveled youngsters?
Armed with homemade passports and eager anticipation, our kids club has gone on a little adventure around the world in the last 6 weeks, on a great "Kid-Mission" if you will.  We been exploring what it means to follow Christ's Great Commission to "19 [. . .] go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."  (Matthew 28:19-20)

In addition to studying the growth of the early church in the book of Acts, we've also been exposed to a different culture, country, or people group each week.  Our group of children is quite eclectic and culturally diverse, so often an individual is able to present information about his or her own home culture.  

Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Tonga, Guatemala and Brazil have made it on to the itinerary so far.  Where to next? China?  New Zealand? America? . . .