“Everyone needs compassion
A love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
A kindness of a Savior
The hope of nations”
These are the lyrics for Hillsong’s popular song, “Mighty to Save.” I couldn’t help but pause and reflect on that last verse as I listened to the chorus of voices around me. There was Bob, who arrived from South Africa ten years ago; and Timo, of Samoan descent; Chelsea, an Aussie; Roula, from Greece; some Americans who married into New Zealand; a whole group of people from Asia; and an even larger group of true Kiwi kids like Justin and Margaret. Our stories are different, yet we shared the same need for forgiveness, the same love that is never failing and the same kindness of our Savior. Looking at the faces of the staff members singing alongside me I had no doubt that Jesus is indeed “the hope of nations.”
“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV).”
We were at the Tandem national staff conference in Wellington. Tandem is the name of Cru in New Zealand and is dedicated to helping fulfill the Great Commission by connecting people with Jesus Christ. With around one hundred missionaries serving a country of four million people, Tandem reaches out to families, athletes, military personnel, and university students. Every two years these staff men and women come together for spiritual training and refreshment, realigning themselves with the mission. We flew into the country just two days before the conference and this event was the best introduction we could have had to Tandem, the new ministry we will be serving with in the next three months.
We felt at home right away, meeting Dre and Mic Niehaus, the campus directors at the University of Otago, where we we will be serving in Dunedin. They introduced us to Finn, their ten-month-old son, and the rest of the Dunedin team. Our new teammates are energetic, and playful, and young. J They seem up for anything, and they are not much older than the students, so I am certain we will learn a lot from them about how to reach the campus culture. I am looking forward to getting to know them better when we arrive in Dunedin and begin planning for the new semester.
Ultimately, we would like to launch a Lifelines ministry in New Zealand, led by Kiwis and adapted to the NZ culture. Our first step in that effort is to offer our gift of experiential learning and to share our passion for using the outdoors to draw people into deeper relationship with God. We are trusting that God will use us at Otago, by helping our team grow and by offering students abundant and eternal life through Christ. Beyond that, we are searching for people who will catch the Lifelines vision and will be excited to carry it forward in New Zealand.
We are too small for this task, but God is not. I am grateful that He reminds me of that! He used this staff conference to affirm His calling to us to come here. Every morning, Tandem staff members took one of three classes geared toward their ongoing training. We joined the leadership class offered by Marc Rutter, Cru’s Leadership Development Director for North America and Oceania, who focused on the character of a leader. It was as though he was at the head of our marching band, beating the drum of character growth, something Lifelines is all about. We use a lot of the same models and methods that Marc demonstrated in class. I felt like he was teaching at our Facilitator Guide School. What an encouragement!
We were also greatly encouraged by our Tandem classmates, who shared their lives with us and readily befriended the Lovejoys and ourselves. Their kids also befriended our own kids, who seemed unaware that we were in a different hemisphere, but just pleased to be at a staff conference like usual. Emma did notice a change in accent and Aliza thought the desserts to be sub-par, but otherwise the kids felt were in their element. J
Except for the afternoon rugby match and the morning tea times, it felt quite natural to us, too. We loved the sense of camaraderie and were thankful for the corporate worship, the focus on the Word, and the shared mission, which set this entire trip on the right course. We are eager to get to Dunedin and put to practice what we have learned alongside our new Kiwi “mates.”
We will take almost a week to cross over to the South Island and then drive down its length to the southeast corner where we will make our new home in Dunedin. We hope to see the sights along the way, effectively being “on holiday” as it is referred to here. I will take pictures and send them in my next post so you can join us vicariously!