Note: This post begins a series of several posts about our upcoming STINT to New Zealand. Stay tuned to hear more details about our family’s Kiwi adventures, along with knowing how you can pray for us as well as the students and staff members we meet.
This is my first post of 2017. The new year is full of promise, hope and adventure. How do I know that this is what 2017 holds? Because we walk with a God of adventure who makes and keeps remarkable promises and offers us hope in every circumstance.
Sometimes God calls us to live outside our comfort zones, trusting Him to step into the unknown. Our family is about to embark on such a mission. From mid-January to the end of April, the six of us, along with another family, are preparing to answer God’s call to go build a Lifelines ministry in the outdoor paradise of New Zealand. Although our departure date of January 19th looms closer, this adventure began years ago.
As Lifelines has expanded over the years, we have often asked the question, “Where to next?” The ministry has grown from one campus to multiple regions with a host of campuses throughout the U.S., and with each new team planted, we have wondered and prayed about the ends of the earth. If God were to send us internationally, where would we go? Who would benefit and where would this ministry flourish?
One of the locations we’ve been praying about for years is New Zealand. We have often heard of the great spiritual need of this country in the South Pacific, that the people are increasingly post-Christian. In fact, more than 86 percent of the population does not attend church, according to Operation World. While Christianity is decreasing, the Kiwi’s love for outdoor adventure continues to thrive, which is why this country presents such a great opportunity for Lifelines.
We have waited for God to provide the right partnership, as well as the manpower. Last year, it became clear that He was opening the door in New Zealand.
In January of 2016, Dan was part of a scouting team that spent twelve days in country. During that time, the Cru country director welcomed us, and the campus ministry team in Dunedin, home of Otago University, requested that we come and train them to develop a Lifelines ministry using the outdoors and experiential learning to reach their students with the Gospel. With 20,000 students from all over New Zealand, the South Pacific, and Asia, Otago is an influential campus and a strategic launching point to much of the Eastern Hemisphere. Located on the southeast coast of the southern island, it is also geographically poised for outdoor adventure.
Our aim, by God’s grace, is to help turn students’ hearts and eyes toward Him, redirecting the wandering, restoring the fallen, and emboldening believers to help offer hope to the lost. Our role in this Kingdom-building effort will be to partner with local staff members to build a Lifelines ministry, equipping them as spiritual guides who use the outdoors as a practice field for introducing and living out Biblical truth. We will teach some technical skills along with how to use experiential learning for ministry, and pass on the vision of Lifelines while helping the Kiwis to adapt the ministry to their culture and scope.
In all of this we are as much learners and servants as we are teachers and vision-casters. We pray for God to open students’ hearts, for our own eyes to be set on Him and for our actions to be led by Him. We have ideas and strategies, but are keenly aware that apart from Him we can do nothing.
We can’t wait to learn more. Through this blog we hope to keep you updated on what God is doing and to take you along on the adventure. Here you can join our teammates, the Lovejoy family, and us as we answer Jesus’ call to leave what we know and follow Him. We covet your prayers and welcome your responses. It is reassuring to know that with you, and with Christ, we will not go alone.
-Heather and Dan Litchfield