I have no idea how this large teenager appeared in our house, but he bears a small resemblance to the son I birthed fourteen years ago. On closer inspection I can see that he IS, in fact, a bigger version of that same child. Caleb is now fourteen. Despite his persuasive argument that he should get two parties since his birthday would reoccur the following day in the U.S., we had one birthday party and one cake. Caleb is now the proud owner of a rugby ball and the New Zealand edition of Monopoly, and I am the proud mom.
The staff members here in New Zealand have been doing their best to teach our kids how to play rugby. After watching a bloodied and battered game here in Otago, I am less inclined to having them pursue this sport competitively, but it is great fun to watch them learn. This weekend Mic and Dre, the Student Life campus directors in Otago, invited the Lovejoys and Litchfields to join them on a get-away in Te Anau, where Dre continued his rugby lessons amidst much racing and squealing (from my girls, not Dre.)
This past weekend became one of our highlights of our time in New Zealand. Leaving a day early, we drove to Milford Sound—in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Steep, towering mountains rise straight out of the water, enclosing the sound and dividing the Tasman Sea in the west from the valley and lakes to the east. A single cruise ship lingered in the sound like a toy boat surrounded by the walls of a tub. The mountains silence the earth, offering only enough space for a tiny landing and cluster of low buildings. We stood on the bank of the sound, alone in the grandeur of a mystical world as if it belonged only to us, yet sensing that we belonged to it. God alone could create such a scene.
The drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound is 144 miles of breathtaking scenery. Along the way we visited tranquil Mirror Lakes and the turbulent falls of the Cleddau River as it rushed through “The Chasm.” We also waded our way through the clouds to reach Key Summit. Stopping to wait our turn outside the Homer Tunnel, carved 129 meters through the mountain wall, we were greeted by some “cheeky” Keas. The Kea is an inquisitive, endangered, native mountain parrot. Dre says they are the smartest birds in the world; he has watched them unscrew screws with their beaks. We were enthralled by their antics but wary enough to shut the door when they tried to climb in!
The first night we camped out in the valley beside Cascade Creek. We camped, but didn’t sleep. The wind howling through the valley tore at our tent all night, and though we were warm enough, the noise of our tents flapping, and the occasional collapsing nylon walls, were too distracting for sleep–at least for the adults.
Back in Te Anau, we biked, boated, and ate our way through the weekend. Thanks to some generous ministry partners of Dre’s, we had the use of a gorgeous summer house with plush beds for everyone. I even read an entire novel! The kids enjoyed endless rounds of pool and long zip-lines on the nearby playground. We also visited the local aviary and saw the fascinating, flightless Takahe, of which there are only 300 in the world.
On our way back to Dunedin, we took the southeast coastal route through the Catlins, stopping at Curio Bay to inspect the fossil forest, then hiking in to McLean Falls, and out the craggy arm of Nugget Point for the sunset. “The earth is the LORD’S, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters” (Psalm 24:1). I am constantly struck by the vastness and beauty of Creation. The unspoiled splendor of New Zealand is evidence of the touch of God.