Preparing for the Leap to New Zealand

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How do you get a 60-pound girl to carry a 50-pound bag? How do you convince that same child that packing a rain coat is more necessary than packing a floppy brown stuffed beaver and a giant bag of bubble gum? How do you help your daughters cope with leaving their backyard chickens, a cat and dog, all of whom have been proclaimed to be “part of the family”? And what of our son who thinks a single pair of pants and some flip-flops will sustain him for three months?

With six days to go we are beginning to pack and slowly realizing that we are actually leaving for New Zealand. Leaving is something we do a lot—leaving for conferences, summer missions, spring break expeditions, road trips to see family—but traveling to the other side of the world for three months is new to us. It’s hard to imagine that we will soon be in a country with penguins and 8,700 miles of coastline.

As usual, I am optimistic (though some would call it unrealistic) about how light we can travel. I remembered that we would need a duffle for sleeping bags and tents and others for clothes, but I forgot about the computer, the heavy pile of rock climbing gear Dan has erected in the bedroom and my own homeschool resources that I set aside in September. Somehow that pile of books seemed smaller in the fall—and I can’t help but feel we are forgetting something.

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Suddenly there are only six days to see all the people that we have been wanting to get together with over the year, to make arrangements for the ministry assignments that will happen when we return home, and to finish the eternal chore list by my bed. Glancing around the house I can only see the cleaning that needs to happen and I’m wondering, what do we do with our plants?

It seems I have more questions than answers. Not only in packing, but also in envisioning and preparing for what’s to come. Yet we are not the least bit concerned. I fear we are under-praying (but really, can you over-pray?) and I wonder if my “trust” in God’s provision is true faith or just a lack of care. With six days to go everyone is asking about our mental and emotional well-being. Shouldn’t we be more nervous?  We still have not found an apartment, but thankfully some leads. Still no vehicle, but going with the assumption that we will find something when we get there. I have never met the staff members we will be working with, but Dan says they are nice. I don’t know much about the student body other than what is on the university website, and I know nothing about the Pacific Islands outside of seeing pictures.

It will all be new. We will be aliens in a foreign land. Still, I have not been anxious. I was just discussing this phenomenon with an older friend who nodded and explained that as you get older, you have had more opportunities to see God provide and you just trust Him. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen—(Hebrews 11:1).” I do not consider myself a spiritual giant, but I am encouraged by the words of my friend, because despite being six days away from a major expedition, none of us are stressed. I feel like we can walk into the unknown with confidence because God will lead us.

I have always thought that Abraham’s faith to leave his home and follow God to the promised land was an act of great courage.  More than that, I think it was a deep assurance that no matter what happened, God would provide, and even if he faced hardship, God would see him through it. In fact, God intended for him to face whatever he would face, and in God’s sovereignty it would be for Abraham’s good, and for the good of his family.

I am not claiming to have the faith of Abraham. But I have been a beneficiary of God’s grace for over forty years now, and in almost twenty years on staff with Cru I have experienced God’s amazing and faithful provision.

Just since we made the decision a year ago to answer God’s call to go to New Zealand, He has provided a new tenant to watch over our home and cat and chickens—someone who has become part of our family and who we love and trust completely, who was undoubtedly hand chosen as a gift to us. He has provided someone to care for our dog, and has provided ALL the money we need to travel to New Zealand and to pay for rent, and just yesterday our pastor came over with a check that will help cover the expense for a car. He has provided a family who are co-workers who will go with us as a team so we will not be alone, and even some of our own family members have bought tickets to come and visit us! A couple of weeks ago we met a recent college graduate who attended our church in Vermont who will be in NZ at the same time we will; he now wants to volunteer with us while we are there. The Lord has even blessed us with one of the snowiest Decembers on record so we could experience some of winter before leaving it. (Grin!)

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He has already provided all this, so how could I doubt that He would provide the rest? Truth be told, we are a little giddy over the excitement of the unknown and the surprises that God has for us—the treasures of His hand at work as He makes a way for us.

That being said, I DO worry about how we might get in our own way by not listening to God or being attentive to His urging. I don’t doubt that He will lead us but I sometimes doubt that we will wait and listen. We so want to approach this building of a new ministry with humility, as an offering of fellow Kingdom builders. I want the Kiwi staff members to experience us as ones who offer help to someone who is lifting a heavy frame of a wall, that we would rush alongside them to help heave the wall to standing. We want to help them tackle their goals, together. And I pray that God will give us the same heart for the students of New Zealand that we have for the students of New England. We want to reflect God and give Him glory. In short, we want to obey the words of my morning devotion as I wrapped up the book of Hebrews: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13: 15,16).”

So, as we stuff the beaver in with the flip-flops and the rock climbing gear, I think of how God might use all of it for His glory, and I thank Him for providing duffle bags with wheels.

 

 

Launching a Radically “New” Year

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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.

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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.

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Our Lifelines scouting team of four (one not pictured) spent a few days in Mount Cook National Park during their 2-week trip in early 2016.

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

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Looking back on the city of Dunedin, located in the southeastern part of New Zealand.
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Some of the seascape and topography reminded Dan of Maine.
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Some of the beaches near Christchurch felt reminiscent of parts of central California.
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New Zealand has lots of coastline (more than 8,700 miles) and tons of mountains.

On the Move

Our house sports a new for sale sign out front which I have to admit makes me a bit sad.  At the same time I am hopeful and anxious for people to come and see our home.  The house is in the best shape it has ever been – even the little projects are finished and it is clean!  That alone makes me want to stay.  (Grin.)  We are living in that middle ground of trying to enjoy every minute we have here and at the same time looking forward and preparing for the future.  We are praying for a great family to move in here and that this house will be a blessing to them, just as it has been for us.

Vision and Direction

Robert Coleman writes, “People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation.”  Yet what we so often give students today is just the opposite.  Jesus on the other hand demonstrated in powerful ways the things he wanted to get across.  When he wanted to teach a lesson on faith he placed his disciples in a sinking boat.  There he showed the power of the One they were being asked to put their faith in.  When it was about love and service, he washed his disciples feet.  Jesus often gave his followers hands-on challenges like entering the wilderness where there was no food and telling his disciples’ to feed the crowd.  As Lifelines staff, we stand in amazement of the Master of experiential learning and the growth that took place in the lives of those involved.  Jesus’ ministry involves adventure!  Jesus used it time and time again.  He push his followers out of their comfort zones.  When we are at the end of ourselves and the edge of the unknown, faith shows up and growth takes place.

God has called Lifelines to champion experiential learning and adventure ministry within Cru.  The leadership of Cru has commissioned Lifelines staff to be a group of specialists who will resource the campus ministry globally in this endeavor.

There are four Lifelines Resource team in the U.S.  These teams will focus on what Lifelines does best: opening new doors on campus so that campus staff can connect with the lost and helping students and staff grow personally, professionally and spiritually.  As the world population moves to the cities Lifelines will need to offer wilderness experiences where students can encounter God away from the distractions of their city campus as well as taking experiential learning to their scope and turf.  Through our Lifelines Guide Program we will also train campus staff to use outdoor experiences and experiential learning more effectively on their own.  Within the next five years, we are trusting God for 100 trained Lifelines Guides working throughout the world.  In order to reach these goals Lifelines will need to do a better job at recruiting and training others.  We look forward to offering a yearly outdoor Guide School and more venues for facilitator training outside of our summer missions.

It will be up to Lifelines to provide multiple experiences and opportunities to model and show others how experiential learning and wilderness ministry can be used by God to change lives and make disciples.  Wilderness ministry is not just for the U.S. but for the world.  God has been using the wilderness to call people to a greater faith for centuries.  Wilderness ministry is not expensive but does require training and personnel.  Campus Crusade for Christ has laborers around the world with a heart for God; we just need to add technical skills and experience for them to be able to offer some life changing adventures to students from every tongue, tribe and nation.

The adventure awaits!

40 day wilderness experiences

Noah, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all spent 40 days in the wilderness.  God used these times to bring about life changed and dependence on Him.  I often will ask students where they feel closest to God.  9 out of 10 will say when they in the outdoors.  For me the outdoors is a place where my soul comes alive and I can’t help but worship God in all that I see.  For others they might be unconformable and challenging when in the outdoors or wilderness.  I have to confess, I have yet to spend 40 days straight living in the outdoors.  It is a goal for me and something I look forward to.  I have spend quite a few 10 day wilderness experiences with students.  I have seen God at work during those times.  They are trips that will not be forgotten and often ones where there they have God encounters.  Ones where He becomes bigger and the world a little safer.

Want to help us out?

Go to http://www.ClimbHigh.com for your Christmas shopping!  If you buy something, enter in “Lifelines” for a code.  20% will go to Lifelines UVM and you will also get 5% off your purchase as a thank you.  Spread the word.

A Mountain Top Experience! Encountering God.

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When you stand on top of a mountain, there is no denying that there must be a God.  God has been calling people into the Wilderness throughout history to reveal more of who he is.  Dan and Heather Litchfield were two of the four co-founders of “Lifelines”, the outdoor and experiential learning ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.  This website/blog has been set up to let you know more about the Litchfield’s ministry and how God is calling people into the wilderness to encounter the Living God.