Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rock Solid Bonfire

Sausages and onions on white bread with tomato sauce.  This is the classic kiwi BBQ!

 What happens when dozens of 11-14 year olds get together on a beautiful spring evening out in the New Zealand countryside?  Of course there is no shortage of squealing, bathroom humour, and down-right silliness! Last night we enjoyed a bonfire and sausage sizzle with our fellow Rock Solid youths out in Dargaville!  Here are some photos.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Operation Christmas Child

This blog is a great platform for bragging, bragging about the incredible generosity of the people with whom I work and serve.

Last night we hosted a "Packing Party" for Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse which blesses kids in need all over the world with gift-filled shoe boxes in Jesus' name!

 Ever since I began my studies at MidAmerica Nazarene University back in 1999, I've had an affinity for this project and have participated nearly every year since.

 This year I had the privilege of leading the project with our local church here in New Zealand and am pleased to report that we donated. . . count 'em. . . .32 boxes!

The goal for Australia and New Zealand this year is 320,000 boxes. We are grateful to have played a part in reaching that goal, because each box touches not only one child, but also the family and the sphere of influence that they represent.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Gleaning Gratitude" - Women's Retreat 2013

"Gleaning Gratitude".

Is it possible to be grateful when you've planted flowers, but harvested thistles instead?  Can you glean gratitude from the margins of life's fields that you never cultivated?  Can you choose to joy even when circumstances around you communicate anything but?  Of course you can!

God is the source of all that is good and a heart that is open is a heart that has enough room for thankfulness amidst hurt or confusion or sadness.

Think about that. Open your heart.

That, my friends, was the focus of our retreat this weekend.

Our annual New Zealand District Women's Retreat was held this weekend out at beautiful Mangawhai Heads.  Boy, were we spoiled! Perfect weather, challenging messages by Vicki Moore, mouth-watering food, and the unique fellowship that occurs when godly women share their hearts with one another.

Enjoy some photos!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

For Goodness Sake

Koe Otua lelei, Koe Otua lelei,  Koe Otua lelei, Otua lelei kia te au."

You may not speak Tongan, but I dare say that many of you would recognize the tune were it sung to you.  (Don't worry, I'll spare you.  Singing is not one of my gifts!)   

In English, the lyrics are this:
"God is so good. God is so good. God is so good; He’s so good to me."

Each session at the Mango Tree Centre concluded with this song sung directly to each child, with their name inserted at the end.
But how do you tell a boy who can't stand on two strong legs that God is good to him?  How do you show a little girl who is blind that God sees her?   Is God still good when a child, by no fault of her own, is born with a birth defect that will cut her life short and create additional challenges for her family and care-givers already living in poverty?

 Is it possible that God's goodness is completely unrelated to "good" or "bad" circumstances, favourable or unfavourable health?  Is God only good when life treats us well and therefore suddenly ceases to be good when our expectations are not met and things don't go as planned?  Of course not! 

 A water molecule retains its chemical make-up as H20 whether it freezes or evaporates, because it is made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The moment it no longer contains these atoms, it ceases to be water and becomes a new substance. 
 Likewise,  goodness is as essential to God's essence as hydrogen and oxygen are to water.  If God is not good, God is not God.  Goodness is that attribute that disposes God to be kind and compassionate to His people, taking pleasure in them. 

I love how AW Tozer says it in his book, Knowledge of the Holy, "Everything in the universe is only good to the degree it conforms to the nature of God and evil as it fails to do so.”   

So really, unpleasant circumstances aren't a reflection on God at all.  In contrast, they serve to show us all the more the goodness of God and how far off everything else is in comparison to Him. 
   The standard of goodness or righteousness is always God. He is the ruler by which everything else is measured.

Psalm 145:9 (NLT)
9 The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.
So yes, God IS still good to the blind girl and the lame boy.  He still DOES good to them even though systems of the world which are influenced by the power of sin may not.
Never was there a more powerful display of God’s goodness than when He refused to relieve the suffering of his own Son Jesus Christ, as he hung on the cross to pay for the sin that sent this whole world into a tizzy in the first place.  As Christ approached his death, literally paying with his life for our wrongs committed that placed a chasm between us and a holy God, he asked his Father to remove the cup of suffering from him.  And in the Father’s goodness . . . the request was not granted.  He did not answer that prayer.
Why?  Why did God not say “yes” to his own Son’s prayer? One would think that God was cruel and unkind to allow such a prayer to fall on deaf ears.  In that hour, one would have thought God was not good. Circumstances sure did not look good.
Praise be to God, this was the greatest unanswered prayer in history. The shedding of Christ’s blood has broken the curse of sin and allowed each one of us to be a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, should we choose to do so. 
God's greatest pain became our greatest gain. 
This also meant that all the things that have caused these precious Tongan children pain will eventually be judged by the good God and put to rights.  There will be a time when all that plagues the earthly body will go away. Until that happens, God in his goodness has given us the companions of suffering and discomfort to build our character and make us suitable for His heaven. Who knows but that these children have been given an incredible gift that the able-bodied world may never get to experience.
Is God good?


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tonga: Day 5 at Mango Tree

Were time no issue and the cyber world a private place, I would tell you the story of each precious child and adult that finds a place of help and refuge in the Mango Tree Centre for the Disabled.

  Perhaps I'd write about the boy born blind who has a keen sense of rhythm and flashes his pearly whites when loud music begins.  Next on the list might be the little boy who, though he is actually age 5, still looks and functions as an infant.  Despite this, he has the determination of someone far beyond his years.  And you cannot forget the little girl with downs-syndrome who has been given the gift of helps! She always finds a way to provide assistance to her teachers in her own special way.

What about the man who suffered from a terrible accident and was not expected to live nearly three years ago?!  Miraculously he not only survived, but is now recently married, functioning very independently in his wheelchair and as strong as ever!

Our short stay here in Tonga has now come to a close.  As one would expect, it's hard to imagine leaving people with whom a special bond has been formed.  For those who call Tonga home, life here is one of both beauty and hardship, poverty and simplicity.  The island is small and flat, with shallow soil and a high water table, making it difficult to cultivate certain crops.  Much foreign aid comes in from surrounding nations like New Zealand, Australia, Japan and China; you can see their influence everywhere you go.  The people are peace-loving and kind and I am confident that if you ever make the journey to the Kingdom of Tonga, you'll not be disappointed.

Stay tuned for more photos and stories this week!