Welcome Home, to the United States of America!
Watch for updates, as the Team now works to adjust to the culture, food, and people of the 9th Country... their final stop... for now.
A good friend from Colorado came to visit us a few days ago! Arriving at the airport coming in from the south island, Jamie Welch went with us to get an authentic lunch from New Zealand: meat pies. Another friend, Hayden (we met after night church a few days prior) was our driver and tour guide. He took the three of us, and Jamie, around Auckland to see all the beautiful sights of the city. He also gave really well-detailed information on New Zealand for us tourists.
The five of us set out to do a trek through one of the North Islands most beautiful areas. This started at a black sand beach that we later found out was a hot spot for surfers, but we weren't between the red flags meaning we were in shark area! Escaping the sharks, we body surfed and then made our way further up the trail. We hiked along beautiful mountains and up a really cool river. On the river we got the opportunity climb some rocks and jump in it! During the few days of Hayden, and all of hanging out together, we went to a local bible study group of about 20 called "block party." Here we planned to give a huge speech and testimony... but it ended really short and the night was spent with us just talking in small groups ( very laid back ) about what God was doing in our lives and funny stuff on the trip. Here we really felt God take conversations out of our control. We sat in a group and the Holy Spirit took our words from us!
We also had a "Gathering" meeting and another teen bible study. On Wednesday night we split. I am very passionate about the Gathering and felt led to go there. The rest hung out with the group that meets here in the PACT building. At the Gathering, it was not as rowdy as usual, and the lady that was pacing, cursing, distracting and yelling the whole time didn't make as much of a scene. As we prayed beforehand that there wouldn't be any distractions, we say God answer our prayer this time as it was radically different. Just being amidst the homeless and drug addicts, it came obvious to me that although Ben's message was very clear and powerful, it would take the Holy Spirit, God Himself to lure them in -- to overcome the lies of failure and rebellion. Please be praying for the people at the Gathering. This was a successful night.
Coming back after the Gathering, I joined the group a bit late to join in a conversation involving how many chickens the "take away" place across the street sold per week. Very excited to try to win the bet, I jumped up and ran over to the fast food joint in the dark alley and straight up asked him. Surprisingly, and totally out of my hands, this led to an amazing conversation. I ended up sharing my faith and we talked about the miracles that God does. I plan to go get some fish and chips again and continue our conversation.
Debbie has been doing much better. THERE IS VICTORY!!! Turns out that night she went to night church, she had been planning to take her own life. SOMETHING made her go with her mom where God spoke to her and gave her a hunger to push on. Debbie's dreams have subsided, a few nights she hasn't had the same haunting dream. She has been getting a better nights sleep, and God is giving this to her. she understands that the hardships she is going through are because of the enemy. During this time we are giving her encouragement as we see the enemy drift as Gods power and love for Debbie conquers all evil. One more story, that Debbie's car was towed while she was in south auckland with her niece. In this scary part of town, Debbie prayed that God would protect her. Shortly after, God provided her with a member of the church to come and give her a ride. God is on the move in Debbies life, and our prayers are being heard.
Tonight was more than full!
On this Sunday we have received many opportunities to plug into this place really well. Brent invited us to his church and we excitedly agreed! After church we found ourselves amidst a huge group of people around our age who were inviting us to come and be a part of what they did.
First was Phil. We went to lunch with him, and explored the Auckland Botanic Gardens and learned from him as he is a landscaping designer. We made a very good friend, and looked forward to seeing him later on in the evening for night church.
After this, we headed off for night church (same church but contemporary) - which turned out to be a blast. We were asked to lead worship and give short lessons. After we all shared we saw how God tied all our lessons together very divinely. I shared how God is immovable for Job. How he is unchanging, and in a world of changing culture, amidst struggle and calamity- God is a calm in the storm. There is something that God is -- and is in us -- that when tragedy strikes we can be centered and even respond in love! Not only can we have a God in these times who cares about us, but He even asks us to give our burdens to Him, trusting that He will take us through it all. Not only that, but God is so good and His love is so great that we can respond to it without fear. Peter jumped out of the boat to swim to Jesus as soon as He recognized him, 100 yards to shore. And Peter didn't care what it looked like- he wasn't doing it to look a certain way, or how a christian "should" love Jesus... but it was an impulse. Peter was so in love with Jesus he couldn't help but swim to him and didn't care if he looked silly. Only Gods love can move us enough for us to go against the grain of the opposing crowd and culture. Brent wrapped it all up with an AMAZING sermon, answering this common question, "you're a Christian... so what? what does Jesus do for me?" This was an experience we won't forget, getting to be apart of such a cool crowd. We found ourselves again around the same big group who comforted us at church earlier, but many many more people! After finishing, Brent gave the opportunity for people to give themselves to Jesus...
After meeting with inspiring people, we left to Burger King to wrap up the night. We are very excited to be a part of coming Bible studies to, as well as people giving their time to hang out with us!
Tonight was a night of power of God totally taking control, where we didn't doubt for a second God wasn't with us. We saw Him lead through the night and show up as we gave little feeble prayers for help on stage. Giving God our five loaves and two fish, he took our everything and gave thanks for it, then did His work through out the place. we saw how god answered every one of our prayers beforehand we prayed with the rest of the people.
our trip to rotorua...
not over but incredible! we were able to rest better with the comfort of reservations at another back-packer hostel. After a short walk and getting accommodated, we headed for the usual fish n' chips. We decided to plan for the next day, and this night was going to hold for a special occasion- the maori dinner. This was a cultural show with dinner. This was a three hour event that ended with incredible food, and TRIFLE... an world sacking english dessert. After the whole thing i took a short trip to the souvenir shop and was greeted by a very friendly lady. God gave another great opportunity to share about our trip with and tie in with how God has a plan for all of us. On the ride home we were at total peace, not because of our circumstances but because we began having that little inkling... the still small voice of God saying, "look how much i love you...." just realizing that God really did have a plan for us, no matter what country we are in or where we are at- we have been given everything we need to bring Him glory.
We woke up today with a big list... first was to go "zorbing." this is a huge plastic ball with another ball inside with some water inside where you sit inside with it as well. you slide around and slosh, bouncing around inside the big bouncy ball. After each of us going down this long, zig-zag course, we prepared for the next event... rafting. I remember hearing stories from Dr. Bingham when he guided in New Zealand- and getting really nervous and excited about this coming event! I remember his words so clearly... "you just wait, evan, and see if you raft in new zealand..." as we were picked up by a group of guys not much older than us- all his stories and words were ringing in my ears, as we prepared to go down 14 rapids in one hour, including a 7 meter water fall. Very excited with only us three and a guide who was noticeably smaller than us, we jumped right into it- even practicing flipping the raft! We took full advantage of our small and intense rafting experience... where we learned everything as we went.
After being submerged after the two water falls, we headed for the big one... the largest commercially rafted water-fall in the world! We hung onto the wall as we waited for the photographer to get all set up... and we affirmed to him that we wouldn't sue him no matter what happened. We went down this waterfall completely vertical for a few frames on the camera, a second or so... then pummeled into the water. Going completely under (2/3 of the raft) we popped out of the water side-ways then with adrenalin fueling the raft, pulled out straight into the calm water. Now we were all loosened up and ready that is for sure! going down a few more rapids, we got to push the rules a bit more. going down a few rapids standing in the raft, or paddling the raft back up toward the rapid- getting blasted with gallons of water and filling up the raft to the brim with water, we really got our fill. Here we are in the hostel, very excited about rafting such an intense river... (our guides' words were, "this river gets straight to the point...") we are even more excited about meeting up with an old friend here in rotorua!
The german guy we met up with in Taupo that i shared my testimony with, has traveled here to rotorua... staying in this SAME hostel! We believe that God has given us this opportunity, and it is by no mistake that this same guy we roomed with in Taupo has arrived in the same hostel. Tonight we are hopefully going out to dinner to the "pig n' whistle" with our good friend, then see what else may happen!!!!
The past few days have been packed with adventure:) We left after having a kiwi breakfast with brent. Praying heavily for this trip, we were expecting God to show up in unique and exciting ways. The bus was long to Taupo from auckland. After ariving we shortly found out afterward the "IRON-MAN" race was being held there, which was going to constitute for a lot of non-vacant hotels, motels and lodges. After a quick search, we found a german hostel which was pleasantly cheap! After gettting settled in we made ourselves at home by sitting with a big group of guys to watch some movies, and figuring out plans to come the next day. This night we met two of our room mates, (we stay in dorm style rooms with six beds or so to meet people and love them- westerners are some of the best people we can reach because we can relate so much better) one was from england while the other was from switzerland. I grew a massive heart to reach these guys, and as i was contemplating how to spend time with them and share the Gospel with them- or even serve them in any way i could... the night got crowded with other things and it turns out i didn't even get to talk to them again! from a human perspective, it wasn't success!
Financially reasonable and event-filled, we decided to rent some bikes and ride around to tour Taupo, visiting Huka falls and "crater's of the moon" the next day. we were enthralled with the beauty around us as we rode on a terrifying and tiny mountain bike trail through the mountains. After seeing the amazing falls, and ready to head to C.O.T.M. - i got a flat tire. by this time we were battling also with not getting distracted or irritable by hunger, the rain, andrew and christian's bikes WITHOUT brakes, and being half-lost in the wilderness with no map. Somewhat frustrating for all of us (specifically for christian and andrew desiring to ride ahead but waiting for me at walking speed)- we decided to head back. Finding our bags hidden in the trees where we stored them at the park- we opened up our food to enjoy. Just before we ate, we said a prayer that lifted all our possible distractions and frustrations- that eased everything and allowed us to enjoy ourselves and each other.
It was obvious it was Gods plan for us to be separate at this time, for christian wanted to go straight back to the hostel, while i wanted to take a nap and andrew wanted to lay in his hammock. As andrew and i packed up later to get going back to the hostel, rain poured and we decided it was best that andrew take all the food and such to head home, while i sat under a tree and waited out the storm with my injured bicycle. I walked home after a bit with a unique praying experience with God- and realizing the time of return to a real life was coming soon. This night was different, as our new room mate was a guy from north Germany- who was ready to hang out! We entered into conversation and friendship immediately. On this night... we had the opportunity to go to the hot tub with him. With the same passion to share Christ with him and be with him in any way i could, a wide open door arrived for me to give my testimony to him. I hope that no matter how it all went, that he sees that God is pursuing him, and we weren't there in the same room for no reason! Later on this night i went to the movie room to find a large group of guys from europe watching the "Da vinci code". As i was going to have my quiet time, i sat down quietly in the back of the room and prayed fervently for each one of them.
After another bus ride, here we are in Rotorua. Tonight we are going to an authentic new zealand dinner and buffet. tomorrow we have no idea- but excited (i am) to do something extreme!!! we'll see what rotorua holds...
please be praying for this specific time of our trip. this is a "wild goose chase" that we are on now in new zealand... but we are trying to heed the advice of others returning to "civilization"- and we are praying to remember all God has done, to have remembering minds. We are praying that God would do all the final touches in this time, and that He would wrap all of it together. That we would enter the states on a firm foundation and footing, ready for Gods plan for us there!
We've gotten involved in ministry connected with PACT called "The Gathering." It is a street church for the homeless as well as the people that probably wouldn't come to a church anyways. The Gathering happens on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. The Gathering was started by an ex-professional boxer named Ben. One day, as Ben was jogging, he was pressed to share his faith with 2 men on the street who were getting drunk. From this conversation, The Gathering was formed. We attended on Sunday morning this last week. At all the meetings, the head guys, Ben and Mike (one of the other leaders), prepare a meal for all that attend. After everyone eats and hangs out, one of the 2 guys share a small message, and usually tie in the Gospel in some way. The Sunday morning Gathering is pretty low key and has fewer people. Last night, we attended our first Wednesday night Gathering. It looked different than Sunday. We met in a small outdoor shopping center. On our way, we picked up a man named Trevor who has been blind for 8 years. Trevor has 5 sons, the oldest is 19. Trevor is not a believer. We made small conversation with Trevor about where we were from and also about his home life. After arriving to the location, about 25-30 people showed up to join in the meal and hear the word spoken. A good percentage of the people attending were under the influence of some substance, but they are the reason this ministry exists.
We recognized a few of the people because they had also attended on Sunday morning. It was cool to see their commitment. During the meal time, we began to notice a lady walking around. She was very obviously drunk and possibly on drugs but as the evening progressed we noticed there was something more. After eating, Ben began to share a small message. He shared about how our world may seem messed up and rough place, but that God is here. God loves us and he sent his son Jesus to die for our sins. He referred to the fact that our world may be messed up, but hell is worse. God is present in this world, so imagine a world without God. All the while during his message, the woman I referred to would walk around mumbling, and getting in peoples faces. We began to notice that every time Ben said the name of Jesus, this lady would act out more harshly. We recall a few times, after Ben said Jesus, the lady would stand up, point her finger and say, "Why do we have to talk about Him (Jesus)? He is already here." This happened many times through the evening. As she would walk around, people would get distracted by her, but Ben would quickly grab their attention. Satan did not want these people to hear the message of Christ this night. In seeing this all occur, we were reminded of 2 scriptures:
"For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." Matthew 18:20
"Many were possessed by demons; and the demons came out at his command, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But because they knew he was the Messiah, he rebuked them and refused to let them speak." Luke 4:41
It was very clear to us that God was present at this meeting and He has authority over satan. We are going to continue attending The Gathering for the rest of our time here.
In our time here, we have also gotten involved in a few more things. One Monday and Wednesday mornings, Ben and Mike (same guys that do The Gathering) host a boxing/training time at the PACT building for high school guys. They teach the guys good technique and healthy exercises, feed the guys breakfast, and give a small testimony/message at the end. Evan really enjoys being a part of this because he loves to box, and its a great way to reach out to these guys. There is also a guy who works for PACT named Glen. His works primarily with elementary aged kids and their families. On wednesday, Glen has a small group of students that he takes around to places and spends time with. This week, we joined him and took about 6 boys to the local swimming pool. We got to share with them what we have been doing and they asked lots of questions. It was great, and we plan on continuing ministry with Glen. Last but not least, we have also been working with a guy named Ian Foster. He runs The South Auckland Food Bank. We have been helping him around the food bank with organization and lots of lifting of heavy things! Its what teenage guys were made for!We have had a great time here getting involved with PACT and meeting so many people. God is definitely at work here in Papatoetoe. We are going away for the next week to see some sights and reflect. We will post and update as we have internet access.
Grace and Peace,
AHA! boxing this morning was a celebration as we were able to fully enjoy being with the guys, and with NO pain, be in fellowship with them! we found that it is going to take us to step out of the box, and really reach out. This is quite the opportunity that we want to make the most of.
I am excited to write all of you on this fine day here on wednesday! A quick update... we were invited to go on a boat ride with Ian to Rangitoto, a little island on the coast of auckland, that was a volcano. He picked us up and we drove across the bay and hiked to the top to get an incredible view of Auckland and surrounding areas. We also got a few good shots of the actual volcano, as we stood at the mouth of it. After a quick swim and dive off the dock, or "wharf"- we headed back home for more events! Ian willingly has brought us to his home for dinner, a swim, friendship and taking us out on his day off to enjoy the ocean on his boat- then leading us on a beautiful hike. After praying and spending some time alone, we went over to Yvette's house for dinner.
Yvette approached me one day and invited us over to spend time with her family, share about the trip, and hopefully spark some inspiration- we were simply excited to go and love and serve her family. She is a very nice lady who cleans the PACT building and was excited to have us over to visit with her sons and husband. Her passion was great because her husband doesn't know the Lord, and has great desire for her sons to be close to God as well. We met her three sons and slowly began in our friendship, eating dinner and later doing a bible study.
They gave us a ride over to the PACT building where we met for a bible study/hang-out group. This was started one day, again unexpectedly! As we were in the offices late alone the night previous, a man came in who worked for PACT and asked us our tentative schedule. He was excited too that we accepted his offer for coming to the bible study/hang-out group, and that we would participate in the random side-job ministries he was hosting. That night we prayed over the bible study and our time in the future with him. So, we went with Yvette's three sons to this man's bible study for the young adults. Later we found that her three sons were already members, and that these two events had all connected with timing and being her with her sons (as well as getting to participate with this man whom we have briefly met).
God guided the whole thing exactly as He wanted. We entered the thing with a few young adults that we had nothing in common with, and just opened the floor. God guided the conversation to teaching and sharing, then praying for each other at the end! This also ended with a few funny videos, one being me eating the water buffalo yogurt/cheese, and others that were more hilarious. We are looking forward to meeting more with our new friends, and hopefully making an impact on them for Gods Kingdom.
It is pretty funny, because the majority of our time has been taken up by people simply who work here, ask us if we would like to do something... then they do it! We have been so blessed with this gift of an amazing community of believers that network together for all around. So, we are participating in that bible study, as well as his other ministry opportunities like swimming with the much younger children. Ben is another man who has invited us to box three times a week with troubled youth. God has healed my shoulder which is an amazing sign and green light to jump in with the guys and serve them. Not only does Ben do this, but he runs a sunday and wednesday church called "the gathering." this is a street church, where he brings food to feed the homeless, prostitutes and anyone who needs love- then shares the Word with them. On wednesdays we are so priveledged and honored to be apart of this experience, serving these members of the gathering in any possible way we can. There is so much opportunity to serve (specifically the youth here) in the bible study, boxing, the gathering, and whatever else comes tomorrow!
This week we will be traveling for seven days seeing whatever God has for us on the road- and finding Him in the adventure!!!! Totally our bag. Please pray for this time... that God would go with us, and lead us through. As we are using this time to wrap up this trip...