Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Around the World Ministry...In One Country

Oh how time flies! As I sit here reflecting on all the amazing things that the Lord has done during our time here on the South Island I am reminded of how faithful our God is and how much he loves his children. Over the last few weeks we wrapped up our time in Christchurch by helping out with C3 Church, packing and delivering food packages with 0800 Hungry and spending quality time with the backpackers in our hostel.

ATW Backpackers
Around the World Backpacker's Hostel
During our time in the hostels, we believed that it would be most effective to split into two groups so we weren't overwhelming anyone with our large group. Us girls stayed at Around the World Backpackers Hostel while the guys stayed at Foley Towers Hostel just down the road from us. Our objective at the hostels was to spend quality time with the people staying at the hostels and to build relationships. One day I had the opportunity to bake some cookies which was a great conversation starter. The cookies were gone faster than I could put them on the plate. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen conversing with individuals from all around the globe (France, Germany, China, UK, Israel, Australia, USA to name a few). Another night we invited our roommate to join us for dinner. We provided the steak and potatoes and he brought the dessert. This reminded me of the story in Matthew 9 where Jesus was having dinner at Matthews house and many guests, despite their unpleasant disposition, ate a meal together. I love how Jesus was after mercy and not religion. He invited the outsiders not the righteous. It really opened my heart to just loving people for who they are and where they are at because that's what Jesus did. It was hard to say goodbye to our roommate at the end of our week stay but I pray many blessings upon him.

Beth about to win a messy game at Primal Youth
Looking over all the people I met, there is one individual that has made a lasting impression and her name is Shanita. I met Shanita at Primal Youth. She's a 15 year old with a heart that burns with passion for the Lord. I love how God uses us despite our age to do amazing things. Shanita has multiple siblings and I could tell from the first time meeting her how much of a positive role model she was to them and other youth. As I got to know her she shared with me her dreams of going to school to become a youth pastor. I was able to pray for her and share some words of encouragement. I really had the since that God was so proud of her and that he was building her up to be an amazing leader. The funny thing about all of this is that she was such an encouragement to me. She would randomly Facebook me and just bless me with words of encouragement telling me of how I have blessed her. God truly doesn't need months to build lasting relationships, just give him your time and he can do things beyond our comprehension. I was super excited to see her multiple times throughout our time in Christchurch. It was hard to leave her without a "proper" goodbye but I know all things are possible and maybe I will see her again. I am so thankful for technology though. She truly has a special place in my heart and I am forever grateful for the time I did get to spend with her.


Worship at Primal Youth
After over two weeks in Christchurch, we drove several hours up to the northern tip of the south island to a town called Motueka. From there we embarked on a 3-night adventure backpacking on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. This is one of New Zealand's Great Walks, and for good reason - it is a beautiful walk through coastal rainforest and across spectaculars beaches. This time of year large numbers of people hike the trail or take water taxis in to some locations, so as we walked and camped we were again able to speak to heaps of people from all over the world. We brought extra food like popcorn, bacon, and pancakes to share and to help start conversations, and we connected with quite a few people just by chatting around campfires. 

Our team beginning the Abel Tasman Coast Track
Through this time, we were able to share about God several times, especially communicating the message that God wants a relationship with us rather than a group rule-following religious people. I even ended up in conversation with an atheist at about 7:30 in the morning as he walked up to me during my quiet time. As before, we learned the value not of shoving the gospel at people but of first loving them and communicating the love of Jesus. Overall, it was a challenging few days but an incredible way to end our outreach!

Backpacking down the beach (photo: Kent)
Sunrise near Apple Tree Bay (photo: Dan)
Afterward, we spent a couple days in Motueka resting and reflecting on the trip before jumping back in the van and heading back up to North Island across the Cook Strait ferry. A couple days later, we were back at the base in Tauranga!


Passing the other ferry while on our ferry ride through Marlborough Sounds

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lending Hands and Loving Deeply in Christchurch

       The last week and a half have been busy, but full of God's goodness.  After leaving our brief time in Wanaka, we packed our van to the brim and set out for Christchurch. Our team had made arrangements to stay with a family from a church called South City C3.  This family had an open flat on the back of their house and welcomed us in for our first week in Christchurch.  The flat had one bathroom, one bedroom, and a kitchen/ lounge area. Our team of 7 made ourselves comfortable in the small space.  The men during the night slept on mattresses in the kitchen while the women got the bedroom.  It was a little crammed, but it was more comfortable than camping.
Old Anglican Cathedral still damaged from the earthquake.
Temporary Building for Anglican Cathedral
made mostly from cardboard
and recycled wood
         For our first day, our band of ragamuffins went into town and began to pray over the city.  In 2011, Christchurch suffered from a large earthquake that destroyed much of the city.  Even now, as we walked around, many of the building are either in disrepair, or being rebuilt. One of the saddest sights was the broken down old Anglican Cathedral in the center of the city.  Half of the back wall was gone and the rest of the walls were lined with cracks.  As the years have traveled by, Christchurch has worked to bring life back to the city.  We walked around, praying over every space, asking God to come and fill this city. We felt God's heart to bring this place back to His glory, again.
           Since coming to Christchurch our team has been working along side South City C3 Church helping them build up their programs.  We have assisted in their local youth group (called Primal Youth), set up church on Sundays, and helped in a small way with the renovation of what will be a community center/kids ministry building, among other tasks. We also supported another local outreach to underprivileged youth in one of Christchurch's poorer communities, a place called The Palace. Along with all this we have been assisting a local food bank called 0800 Hungry that helps get food out to people with low income. Finally, we participated in and served at a continuous 24 hour prayer and worship time led by several different churches around Christchurch!

Pulling nails out of lumber so it can be reused in the renovation of a building which will eventually become a community outreach center for South City C3 Church.
DEEP: 24 hours of going deep with Lord through prayer, worship and creative expression. An event initiated and implemented by collaboration of Christians all over Christchurch! We were there for almost 6 hours of it!
We have shared God's Love with many in the city and helping people rebuild. Here are a few stories from our time here:

Beth beating the Primal Youth at Marshmallow pick up
       What an amazing week it has been! From the moment we got to Christchurch I knew our time was going to be well spent. For me one of the greatest highlights of our first week was on Thursday when we got to join in on a youth group meeting called Primal Youth. I have never seen a group this... lets go with eccentric! But I've also never seen a group of kids this on fire for God, it truly was a blessing to get to be a part of. With the group going there the youth pastor, Luke, asked if we could have two of us share a short testimony with them, and I had the privilege of speaking to them along with Julie. There was one kid in particular that I really got to talk to and pray for. After sharing some words of encouragement that I got for him during worship, after we talked for a bit I just knew that he wanted so badly to run a place like this. His heart for kids was so big and he himself only being 17 made it a little difficult for that dream to come true just yet, but I know God will do amazing things with him one day.                                                              

A picture of the Palace at the beginning of the
Summer/Christmas season.
     We've been all around Christchurch helping organizations and people out. I think my favorite part of our time in Christchurch so far has been helping out the girls at the Palace. This is a little program run by one dedicated woman with a huge heart, named Mel Hillier. She has developed some amazing programs for young girls so they could have a place to be safe and not have to worry about problems at home.  At the Palace (the name of the building), the girls would be pampered, dress up, and learn of their place as princesses in the Kingdom of God. We had the privilege of helping this woman out just by cleaning the entire Palace. She was so happy when she saw what we had done. While cleaning the Palace I found that I enjoyed working for her. It is amazing to see how God has worked on me personally. I never thought I would be cleaning someone's place willingly and with a smile on my face. Its so awesome to see such amazing people and the desires God has given them!  I've seeing how much of an impact it has on the young girls, that they have a safe place to enjoy one another's presence while learning about God.                                  


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Adventures In The Bush: Tramping the Greenstone Caples

Our whole team after climbing to the top of McKellar Saddle!
Adventure has filled our hearts this week!  A week ago Andrew and Crystal sadly departed our team to start working in Christchurch.  As we said good bye to our friends, God was setting us up for a new ministry in the bush.  Our team (now seven in company) departed Queenstown and traveled west past Glenorchy.  After a bit of windy road around Lake Wakatipu we arrived at the trail head of the Greenstone-Caples Track.  Packing our backpacks full of food, tying our boots tight, and filling our hearts with love we stepped out onto the 67 km (about 40 mi) trek.  Our team spent 5 nights and 6 days tramping through the Greenstone-Caples.  We would camp outside of huts and fix delicious breakfasts and dinners for the other trampers and share life with them.  Very much like our YWAM school, people had come from all over the world to backpack through New Zealand.  We met many Germans, Brazilians, Kiwis (New Zealanders), Italians, Americans, Israelis, British, and a whole lot more. God opened up many opportunities to share His love.  Though the trail was long at some points God always gave us energy to talk to people once we reached the huts.  Here are a couple stories from our trek.                

Our campsite at the Mid Caples Hut
I was super excited to go tramping into the bush.  I had heard stores, all my life, of New Zealand's beauty from my parents and I was excited to see it first hand.  I was also excited to get away from technology and meet new people.  On our first day our hiking was slow. We had packed enough food not only for us but for any one else we met.  It took us a little bit longer to get to the Mid Caples Hut, where all of us were happy to get out packs off. We set up our tents quickly, and I sat outside the cabin were a few of us talked to an Israeli couple.  The couple were on their honeymoon and they shared some Arabic coffee with Mallory and myself.  I am not much for coffee, but I enjoyed trying their brew.  To be honest, I would rather have their coffee again than Starbucks.

After a bit, I sat inside and talked with a young German lady named Kerstin.  She was sweet and kind.  We talked about Germany for some time, and I told her I had a desire to learn German.  She was puzzled why, but we became fast friends.  Before long, she offered to have me stay in Germany with her.  I plan to take her up on that if I am ever blessed to be back in Germany.  In the morning we offered her bacon and eggs before she started out again.  I like making new friends, and after the trip we have sent emails back and forth whenever we have had internet.

I have realized that sharing God's love is not a short process and above all it should be done in love and not forced.  Also that each opportunity looks different. and it takes wisdom to learn how to discern for each person. We are all learning on this.         
Julie, Isaac, Dan, and Kent on top of Key Summit

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
   --Isaiah 52:7

A couple days ago when we descended down the Greenstone Valley to the parking lot after five nights on the trail, our feet were not beautiful - at least not in any literal sense. Some of us had blisters, one of us had a toenail coming off, and all of our feet were pretty smelly after more than 65 km (40 mi) of walking. But while my body was weary and dirty, my spirit felt invigorated. Our six days trekking around the Greenstone and Caples Valleys west of Queenstown were a physical challenge and a major learning experience as we discovered what it looks like to share God's love and the good news about Jesus with each person we encountered on the way. In many cases, this just meant offering a passing smile and a bright greeting. In other cases, it looked like sharing some of the food that we had carried with us - including some special things you rarely get on the trail, like bacon or pancakes.
Most often, though, we just had conversations with people. These would start out as small talk, but often it was easy to go a little deeper, listen to people's stories, and begin a friendship in a really short amount of time. In this way, we connected with a Brazilian family, three different Israeli couples, several Germans, a few Australians, a group of kiwi high-schoolers, an Italian woman, a French guy, and even a recent college graduate from Raleigh, NC - not to mention quite a few others. After initially being a little bit hesitant to begin talking to these perfect strangers, we quickly found out that it's really easy and our confidence grew.

Many of these conversations stayed light and never got to the point of talking about God. We've found that it's not very helpful to force that; instead, we just listen, share our own stories, and stay alert for opportunities to go deeper and talk about spiritual things. It can be frustrating at times because I have recently gained a deeper desire for everyone we meet to know Jesus and have a relationship with Him. But forcing the gospel on someone who isn't ready to receive it (especially if they have been hurt by Christians in the past) can really do more harm than good. So we are happy to simply be a link in the chain of events that will bring a person to God and to pray for everyone that we meet, starting even before we meet them.

Hiking down the Greenstone Valley
The outside of the Greenstone Hut. We camped in a grassy area behind the hut on our final night out.
On our fourth day out we met an awesome little group of four kiwi high-schoolers hiking with two of their dads. Through conversations, sharing some food back and forth, and a couple games of Farkle (a fun dice game) we quickly struck up a friendship. We soon found out that they were hiking the same way as us, so that we'd be able to hang out with them two nights in a row! 

Creatively roasting marshmallows with our new friends
For a long time our conversations with them stayed pretty surface-level, but we soon learned that one of the dads, Mark, was a Christian, and his daughter Hannah went to church as well. The other three students, like most young people in Wanaka, didn't go to church and had only indirectly seen or heard about Christianity. As we continued deeper into conversation, however, we found that they really were curious and interested to hear about why we followed Jesus and what it was all about for us. As they asked questions, a few of us were able to share our stories of relationship with this personal and immediately relevant God, One who speaks directly to us, cares about our lives, and loves us unconditionally rather than condemning us. It was incredibly fun to be able to share this passion that we have, even if they didn't become Christians on the spot or anything like that.

God's activity was SO evident in our "coincidental" meeting of these young people, our interactions with them, and even our praying afterwards. As it turned out, we had already planned to spend a couple days after our hike in their hometown of Wanaka. This meant that we were able to see three of them again and watch a movie together at the local cinema!

Our team on the last day of our hike with our kiwi friends: Hannah, Michaela, Ashleigh, and Johnny
All this is to say that we had an amazing time learning how to reach out while hiking and camping. God was powerfully with us, planning and orchestrating things. Our feet may not have been literally beautiful, but we could feel God's delight over us as we walked with Him on the trail! As we finished the hike, I read down a few more verses in Isaiah 52, and they rang so true:

For you shall not go out in haste,
and you shall not go in flight,
for the Lord will go before you,
and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.
   --Isaiah 52:12

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cleaning, Coffee, and Conversations in the King's Country

We have had an exciting time here in Queenstown!  For the past week and a half, we have been constantly busy! Our team haven't had much time to stop and talk about what has been happening. We have been staying at the YWAM Queenstown base that  opened one week before we got here.  The base is an old church building that YWAM Queenstown are renting for a little while.  The building was vacant for 7 years and with the combined efforts of the two YWAM teams (the Queenstown staff and our outreach team), we have brought it back to life.  The building now looks might fine, despite the orange carpet from the 70s.  This base will be used as a training and living facility for the Discipleship Training School (DTS) that is starting right after we leave.  Our team has been working hard at the base, but we have also been serving the community with several work projects.  Along with work projects we have also done coffee/tea outreaches on the waterfront and promoting awareness on sex trafficking.  Our time here has been enjoyable and impacting. Here are a few stories from our team from the week:

Our very first morning in Queenstown, we drove to a point high above the town and prayed for the whole area! It was an incredible view, and wonderful to get God's heart for this place.
This week has been quite the busy one for the team and myself. We've done two coffee and tea nights, we've worked with the Salvation Army, and we've done a sex trafficking awareness stand in the heart of Queenstown... I told you it was a busy week! I've loved getting to talk to so many different people and just getting to know their story. The coffee and tea nights have been my favorite, I got to meet people from all over like Estonia, Russia, Sweden, Brazil, Australia and the list goes on and on! Its fun seeing people's faces as you told them that the coffee is free, and usually the question that follows is always "why are you doing this?"! Blessing those people with something as small as free coffee was truly a wonderful experience. 

One girl specifically stands out. It was during our time with the sex trafficking booth. She came up one time and was really interested in the topic. After a few minutes of talking she went on her way, but a few moments later she came back to talk some more. The second time she came around you could just tell that she was filled with curiosity, and after ten minutes of talking to her i could tell how much she cared for other people and how close she was to coming to Christ! We learned that her name was Isabel. After a few more minutes of talking we prayed for her and she went back to her friends, but after she left the three of us that talked to her just knew how close she was to coming to truth! All we could do was hope that our conversation would set Isabel on the journey of rediscovering her faith.   
After a crash course on the growing issue of sex trafficking around the world, we set up a booth in town to raise awareness about this injustice. In addition to raising awareness, this provided an easy conversation starter that sometimes led to sharing our stories or the gospel.
So as we said, we did practical work to serve the community. And every time it is kind of a surprise : before we go, we only know the address and the name of the person, but we don't know what we are going to do. I remember a few days before beginning these practical works, I asked God "God it has been a long time since I've been around horses (I used to ride horses before). Could you please give me 5 minutes with them? Just 5 minutes ?" So we were going to our first community help time, and what a surprise when we arrived! They told us that our job was to clean paddocks full of horses! So God gave me not only few minutes around horses but a whole morning with them! Well, we basically cleaned horse poop during couple hours, but it was so great to have the opportunity to pet them and be around them. It was God's little gift for me, and I really enjoyed it  :)

We’re at the end of week 2 of outreach – we’ve been in Queenstown staying at the new YWAM base… and what a GORGEOUS setting it is!  Heaps of practical outreach – helping the base get ready to begin their very first DTS and volunteering time in the community. We also did justice awareness downtown and have had free coffee, tea & slack line nights by the waterfront.

The "new" YWAM Queenstown building! We were a Godsend for the YWAM staff here, who have had a very short time to prepare the building for the first DTS, beginning at the end of January.
Connor and Isaac doing practical work (landscaping) at the new Queenstown YWAM base.
Andrew and Crystal making heaps of bunk beds for the first Queenstown DTS!
Reaching out to people in the western culture is so unique… and kind of challenging! We love on people and spread Jesus’ love in a very relational way. It’s been cool meeting people, talking with them and hearing their story. We’ve had some great conversations about what they believe and getting to share what we believe and how real the love of our personal God has been in our lives.

Raising awareness for the injustice of sex trafficking was pretty impacting. To hear people say they never knew this happens blew me away! I loved raising awareness and helping to fight something that steals life and joy from so so many people.

One evening, we hiked a mountain that towers above Queenstown and spent the night on the mountain, under a big starry sky. It was AMAZING! And seeing the sun rise the next morning over the quiet peaceful town was breathtaking.
       --Andrew & Crystal

Monday, January 5, 2015

Traveling Tales

After saying  goodbye to my friends at the base - some of whom I've grown very close to over the course of my DTS - and my beloved fiancĂ©, it was finally time to begin our journey to the south island. My thoughts were filled with excitement, anxiousness, anticipation, and nervousness. It was pretty bittersweet for me because I was sad to say bye to my loved ones, excited for our journey, yet nervous about not knowing what to expect. In that moment of saying goodbye I was leaving behind my comforts and conveniences—replacing them with unknown expectancies. All the while there was a still, small voice echoing in my heart saying, "Peace I leave with you- not as the world gives, rather my heavenly peace which surpasses all understanding." I treasured this deep in my heart as we departed on what would be one of the longest road trips I've taken in my life. Sure, I've been on some road trips before- however, never have I been on one where I was packed like a sardine (which is inevitable when you're in a van of 7 people and tons of equipment). So far I've experienced nausea , breathtaking views of mountains, exhaustion, and adorable baby seals! As we are now on our second day of driving, I sit here in the van filled with joy, feeling incredibly blessed. I'm blessed to be on this journey with my team, blessed that we're listening to some good tunes, and that when I look outside my window, I'm surrounded by God's wondrous creation. May we never lose our wonder and amazement at who You are and all the good works you do, Lord. :)

Our team left base at around 2pm and after  a long drive we finally arrived at our ferry (a boat that's taking us to south island) at midnight. We arrived early so we walked around town for 2 hours and napped until it was time to get on. About an hour later we were signaled to drive onto the ferry, this was our last bit of traveling to reach south island so we were all excited but too tired to show it. We got onto the ferry and plopped ourselves and our stuff on the ground after about an hour of sleep i woke up around 4am to 4 Samoan children jumping up and down on a racing arcade game that was on the ship screaming and making a lot of noise, It's funny how I always end up I these situations after asking God to work on my patience with me lol... So I put my headphones in and went back to sleep.  We arrived in south island at 6 ate breakfast at 7  then started traveling to our campsite which was 5 hours away. We finally arrived at our campsite after almost 24 hours of traveling we slept pretty much all day and ended the day with a trip to the beach. We are now driving to Queenstown which is another 7 hours away. I'm so excited to see what God has planned here for us.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Meet Our Outreach Team

Hey there, I'm Dan! I am originally from North Carolina in the USA, but I've been in New Zealand with YWAM for the better part of two and a half years now. Since I arrived and did my DTS here in Tauranga in 2012, life has been a constant adventure, and God has repeatedly stretched my understanding of Him and given me new challenges. The most recent of these was to lead this Pilgrimage DTS, and now it's time to break some more new ground on a South Island backpacking outreach! I'm so stoked to partner with the Holy Spirit as we tell people the good news, seeing people encouraged, loved, and healed as we do! It's going to be so good!

Howdy, I'm Mallory and I'm from Mississippi. I LOVE all things southern so I'm super excited to be going to the SOUTH ISLAND of New Zealand! I love wrangling up a good ol gader and makin me sum grits. God's been good and I can't wait to lead the lost to the Lord...

Hey, I'm Mallory and I'm actually from Minnesota. I'm the wild and crazy leader that loves to laugh. July 2013, God led me to this amazing country to do my DTS. God wrecked me in amazing ways since then and given me a passion to love people into freedom. I am so excited to be partnering with God in doing his work on the South Island. I can't wait to see what all God is going to do! It's going to be a crazy adventure!

My name is Bethany Clapper and I'm from Turlock, California. I have a passion for exploring the great outdoors, snowboarding, and anything art-related. :) I look forward to sharing these interest with others on outreach.

Hello my name is Connor Martinez and I'm from Clovis, California. I love God, America, hunting, and backpacking. I'm excited to go to the South island and tell people about God.

Hi, I'm Julie, the frenchie of the group. I grew up in a city close to Paris so mountains are not my natural environment, but since I have began hiking here in New-Zealand, I love it ! It is kind of a dream being real for me to be in New Zealand, I am always amazed by the wonderful creation of God, it just blew my mind! I am so excited to go to the South Island with my team, I know that God has prepared crazy stuff for us, it is gonna be an epic adventure !

I am Kent.  I am a pilgrim from Denver, Colorado.  I enjoy the bush and have spent a lot of time tramping in the United States as well as in Switzerland and New Zealand.  My experiences in the bush have given me strength and times to reflect on life.  Back at home, I have the honors of Ranger and Eagle Scout in the Scouts.  I, also, have always had an allure for stories in a wide variety of forms.  I love a good tale and see life as one large epic.  I am excited to see what God brings in our outreach and who we will meet.  I look forward to sharing life with my team and meeting people of the trail.

Hey, my name's Isaac - I'm from New Jersey! Backpacking was pretty new territory for me until I came here to New Zealand, and I gotta say it's been pretty great! Seeing how creative God can be and seeing part of his creation has been amazing. I'm excited to see what he has my team do in the south island, and I'm especially excited to go exploring there as well!

Hi, this is Andrew Wiegand. I'm from the eastern part of Pennsylvania. Nothing reflects the Creator better than His creation and I hear that the south island is filled with splendor. With my passion for hiking over mountains, rock climbing, surfing, mountain biking, snowboarding and sport touring, it fills me with excitement to be heading off to the South Island. What I'm looking forward to the most, is running in to others that share this passion in hopes that I will be able to connect on a heart level and spread the love of Christ!

Hi my name is Crystal. I'm from Pennsylvania, but in my heart, New Zealand is my other home. I came to New Zealand with my husband, Andrew, and together we've absolutely loved exploring and experiencing the beauty that  New Zealand holds. I never get tired of fresh mountain air, a quality cup of coffee and meeting new people. I'm excited for this time!