The Blessedness of Waiting

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21b ESV).” This has been my mantra since the flood. Our “secure” housing fell through three days before we were supposed to move in, and just twelve hours later our car drowned in the flash flood. The auto insurance agency would not cover flooding, so the incredible minivan that was such an amazing deal, ended up being a total loss. In the hopes of reviving it or selling it for parts, Dan rented a truck and towed it over the mountains to Dunedin. He and Mark Lovejoy, our teammate, were able to get it running with a loud hammering sound, but it left us debating what to do next.

Should we buy another vehicle? Fix this one for the $4,000 quoted to us? Neither seemed a good investment and both meant far more money than we had budgeted. Meanwhile we moved into a three-bedroom student apartment with the Lovejoy family at the edge of the university. The Dunedin staff team came through with mattresses, dishes, a table, and a delicious home-made meal, which was a great comfort. They also secured the apartment for us from some of their student leaders who would not be arriving for another five days.

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Five days. Five days to find housing, decide what to do about the car, and prepare for the first Facilitator School that we would be leading in three days. We know that God is Sovereign, and although this did not seem the most economical route to us, we knew it was His money, and He would provide in His timing. But we couldn’t envision how or when—especially because we were only looking for a few months of housing, not a year or even a six-month lease.

Soon we bid farewell to the Lovejoys who moved into their new home and we rejoiced over God’s provision for them. Instead of eleven people in the apartment, now there was just the six of us. I sat on my sleeping bag looking at my clothes piled on the apartment floor and remembered our home in New Hampshire. Thinking of that familiar place, our loving friends and family, the comfortable furniture and ease of life that is waiting for us filled me with peace. Wow. I was struck by the realization that the hope of heaven should have that same effect on me.

That night we purchased the cheapest van we could find—brand new in 1996. We all fit inside and it runs. I have dubbed it “the Green Clunker.”

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On the morning of February 8th, we were feeling stretched to the limit. It was the first day of our Facilitator School which would run from 9am to 5pm for the next three days. We also had to move out the following morning. At that point we had looked at the only house available for short term rent and the owner had yet to clean out any personal belongings. I had believed that God would provide, but time was running out. I opened my Bible and began searching for the purpose behind the waiting. Why would God choose to wait until the last minute?

God, in His grace, led me to several passages, including Deuteronomy 8:2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” 1 Peter 1:7 added more insight, “These [trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

As we gathered the kids together that morning to pray, kneeling before the couch, our only remaining piece of furniture, I explained to the kids and myself that this was our real test of faith—it is easy to trust when things are going your way, but true faith is the assurance of things hoped for and yet unseen. God was building our faith for His glory and for our perseverance and maturity. We have been in the Lord’s school and He has been strengthening us for the task at hand here in New Zealand.

That afternoon, we received word through the church that one of the member’s father-in-laws would be willing to rent his home to us. The Lord completely cared for us through the Body of Christ: the night after the flood, in Wanaka; during our waiting period in Dunedin; and through the church providing housing both for the Lovejoys and for us. He protected and helped us through the tangible arms of His church body.

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God provided above and beyond all that we could ask or imagine through this home in Mosgiel, a small town just south of Dunedin. There is even a trampoline in the back yard! And somehow during all the upheaval, the Facilitator School turned out to be a success.

In the Facilitator School, we strive to help people grow in authenticity, recognizing that the key to bonding is being vulnerable. God is very clear that it is when we are weak that we are strong, empowered by His Spirit, and dependent on Him. Mark Lovejoy led the very first activity—an experiential Bible study in which participants wore masks upon which they had written what they wanted people to think about them. The study focused on 2 Corinthians 11 and summed up with verse 30: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

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It occurred to us right away that God had brought us to the beginning of the school year in New Zealand, not as super heroes with all the answers, but in weakness and need. I had prayed for this very thing—a humble introduction—but perhaps I didn’t really mean it. I had also been praying that God would make me love the staff members here as I do our team at home, but I thought He would do it by merely super sizing the love I already had. Instead, He made me dependent on this team; it has not been through the strength of my love, but through their loving response to the depth of my weakness that He has endeared them to me.

Little has gone according to plan and there is little we can commend ourselves for, but there is so much we can praise God for.  He is glorious and all His ways are right. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

South Island Travelogue

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It seems my time is now marked either pre-flood or post-flood these days. I am sure it was the same with Noah, and for all who have escaped a flash flood with a child strapped on their back. Here is the pre-flood story of our trip south and our first impressions of the South Island as we left the Tandem staff conference for the long drive to Dunedin.

Sunday, January 29

The ferry meanders through azure waters, navigating the labyrinth of land that reaches out like craggy fingers stretching into the sea. Dusky dolphin splash in our wake. This is the Marlborough Sound at the northern tip of the South Island. Our first glimpse of the South Island is one of mystical beauty and we are moments from jumping off the gangplank and immersing ourselves in it.

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Now we have left the boat behind and are driving through the countryside, amazed by the buttercups, Queen Anne’s lace, and purple clovers that line the road—God has picked wildflowers from home and planted them here among palms, firs, and magnolias. He has evidently chosen the best of each climate and gathered them here in this bouquet named New Zealand. Sheep and vineyards stretch across the landscape, each with its own boxes of bee hives, as if to prove that this is the land of milk and honey.

At last we reach Nelson, the Kiwi’s holiday spot, and sag into a chair at the best pizzeria I can remember. The eleven of us plow through one pie after another, draining carafes of water like sunbaked ground. Each of our families had a casualty on the windy road in, and we hope the pizza stays down.

Monday, January 30

What a shock last night when we found the campground! It was a shanty town of tents and campers, cars and awnings as far as the eye could see. We barely eked out a spot for our three tents, touching one another and bumped up against a camper trailer. But, we slept like champions and rose to a gorgeous morning and made the short walk to a deserted stretch of beach. I am amazed that the shells here are much like those on the coast of Maine: clams, mussels, sea urchins, and sand dollars mixed up with shells from the Florida shoreline and coastal birds that are uniquely New Zealand.

Today we drove across the South Island over to Westport. Along the way we stopped at New Zealand’s longest swing bridge, which we had to cross, and then ran into a man with a jet boat who gave us an incredible deal on a boat ride up and down the Buller River. Wow!  We were soaked and ecstatic—it was like white water rafting in a speed boat with the opportunity to do the rapids over and over! Yes! In the middle of the ride, our guide pulled over and panned for gold and actually found some gold flecks. We need to add this to our Lifelines repertoire. 🙂

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It was drizzling when we made it to Westport to walk out to see the resident fur seal colony and share some fish and chips wrapped in newspaper from a local food shack.

Tuesday, January 31

Much thanks to Paul, the motel owner who told us about a fantastic hike in the area, which we followed past rushing waterfalls, through tropical forests, over an ancient swing bridge, and through old mining tunnels. We felt like true explorers!

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Following our hike, we continued south with a short stop at the famous and fascinating pancake rocks, on to our next campsite just beyond Hokitika. After dark, we visited a small dell by the roadside that was filled with glow worms—an incredible New Zealand phenomena. The greenish points of light against the dense woodland were like the pinpricks of stars in the night sky. Unfortunately, glow worms in the light of day are extremely ugly.

Wednesday, February 1

This morning in Hokitika we visited the kiwi center where we watched the antics of these famous, flightless, nocturnal birds. We also got to view New Zealand’s famed Tuatara lizard and feed giant eels (though Dan was the only one crazy—I mean, brave—enough to pat them!

Our next stop was at a glass blowing studio and then on to a Jade carver’s house where we saw the process of turning native “Greenstone” into Maori-inspired jewelry. The native Maoris used the durable greenstone for weapons, decoration, and even for money.

By the time we reached Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers it was pouring so we pressed on, hoping to Catcha glacier sighting later this trip. In the evening, we tramped through growing puddles to our motel room in Haast, which is where we encountered the flash flood. For those who have not heard this story, please refer to my previous post.

Stay tuned for our upcoming post-flood adventures.  We would appreciate your prayers for housing and for a new vehicle, both of which we lost on February 1st.  More posting soon.

Flash Flood

I thought I would spend much of this blog telling you about the New Zealand scenery as we traveled south, but I must begin instead with the events of last night.

Last night we stayed in a sleepy hamlet south of Haast Beach, which is barely a town itself. Rain poured all day as we drove south and we were thankful to find a motel room with a solid roof and a big bathroom where we could hang our wet tents from the night before. We watched as the puddles outside our window grew into ponds and still the rain beat down as we corralled the kids into bed. We had a hard time falling asleep due to the bellowing of cows in the field behind us, who were no doubt upset about the water.

As rain hurled against the windows I began to pray for the cows who were disturbingly boisterous; I had a growing concern that their field might be flooding. Dan assured me that they would find high ground and be fine. I must have believed him because I dozed off into a light sleep until a gurgling sound in our bathroom and kitchen startled me awake. Dan got up to investigate and I stumbled out behind him. While he was checking out the bathroom I noticed water seeping under the living room wall and into the room. Hastily, I pulled a jacket off the floor, only to turn around and find more water spilling in from the other side of the room. When I looked at the slider door I was dazed—it was like looking into an aquarium. The water was over a foot high and climbing, and now beginning to gush into the room around the cracks.

We raced to wake up the kids and yank things off the floor and onto higher surfaces. The waste basket floated by, and then the refrigerator. By now the kids were up and standing on furniture, shoving their arms into coats as Dan and I prepared them to climb onto the roof if necessary.

Aliza was crying and shaking uncontrollably, Caleb was in a stupor and had lost one of his sneakers. Micah’s jacket was in our newly purchased minivan, which was submerged up above the headlights. As I gathered up water bottles and headlamps, I had a slow-motion moment in which I realized just how vulnerable we were. We had no cell service for over twenty miles and no idea where the high ground was or who else was at the motel, it was pitch-black, and it was 3:30 in the morning.

Dan jumped out a window and searched for higher ground while I grabbed our wallets and pulled a poncho over Aliza’s head, throwing Emma her raincoat in the same motion. I opened the door and let in what little water was left to flow through. Already the couches were floating and we had put all the kids on one to hold it down.

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Dan returned and propped Aliza onto his back and Micah clung to mine as Caleb and Emma and I locked arms to anchor each other down as we waded out over my waist into the dark. The  wailing of desperate cows rung in our ears and logs from someone’s woodpile floated past as we stepped toward a single light in the distance. Soon we could hear voices and see cars parked on higher ground.

Dan, ever resourceful, broke into a vacant room and dropped our most precious cargo, all of whom snuggled, wet and teeth chattering, on a bed. We turned on a space heater and plunged back into the brown pool to retrieve our other valuables. Before long the kids were stripped, dried, and huddled in sleeping bags surrounded by mounds of damp luggage.

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This morning we learned that the swollen river and high tide had caused the flash flood. About two hours before we awoke to the bathroom gurgling, the farmer next door herded his cattle through the motel complex and on to a higher field. Even so, many were loose and wandering.  One cow passed in front of me leading seven or eight nervous calves in tow. Another neighbor destroyed his car after hitting a cow in the early morning fog.  Our room buckled and the kitchen broke off from the living room. And sadly, our new car, which we so enjoyed, is nothing but a shiny lawn ornament marking the site of devastation. Water flooded the engine when Dan tried to move it and this morning the mechanic used words like “engine block” and “hydro-something” which means we need a new engine. Since that would cost more than our car did, Dan has hitched a ride to the next town (3.5 hours through the mountain pass) to try and find a rental.

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Meanwhile, by God’s grace, it has turned out to be a sunny day. We waved good-bye to all our new motel friends as they departed, leaving the kids and I behind with the clean-up crew. Now we have most of the motel to ourselves thanks to other guests who happily passed their room keys on to us.  We are currently occupying four dry, single rooms. We have no internet connection or cell coverage so Dan kissed me good-bye with a promise to return tonight or tomorrow at the latest. I am rationing our bread and peanut butter, so thankful that we have been shopping for breakfast and lunch each time we pass a grocery store.

Micah and Aliza are currently playing in the dirt in front of me as I write this at the picnic table. The water has receded enough to look like a pond in front of the motel, finally having dripped its way out of the last low cabin, which was ours. Emma is sharing her story on postcards and Caleb is somewhere on the premises. Now it is gorgeously sunny with a strong drying wind, much like that of Noah’s day, I assume. Palms and evergreens both are blowing in the wind and the glacial mountains that loom over Haast Pass tower in the distance.

We have not seen the Lovejoys for two days, though we have been in touch whenever cell service was available.  They were somewhere on the road behind us, and we are praying for them.  The road we came through is now closed due to mudslides near Fox Glacier.  We are hoping they decided to stop for the night somewhere before the glacier land.

Although I know you will read this after we are back on the road and have internet service, and that will mean our situation has improved, I wanted to write this while it was fresh—and I happened to have lots of down time. I appreciate your prayers for our family, as I know many of you are praying even when you don’t hear from us. It may be those prayers that woke us up, rather than the gurgling of the sink. We are thankful for God’s goodness and our small losses—a car, a Bible and devotional that are saturated, and a word search that never made it off the floor; Micah’s camera and kindle, and a pile of travel books and brochures. We have never been more grateful for the sun, and for the helping hands of strangers who came together on a dark and stormy night. I watch the kids now hopping around and know that God is good.

Here is the rest of the story from three days later:

Dan found a large rental van in the mountain town of Wanaka and returned to pick us up at 4:00, then re-routed back to Wanaka where we spent the night with a couple who supports our Tandem teammates. We are forever grateful to Stephen and Jackie, the couple who put us up and let us scrub the flood waters off in their shower! The next day we drove straight to Dunedin, though we are sad to report that our housing fell through despite having signed a contract. Battling fatigue and despair, we spent an encouraging night with Dre and Mic, the Tandem team leaders here in Dunedin, then spent the following morning searching for a rental house.

We are pleased to report that the Lovejoys were safe and merely out of cell service and have now joined us here in Dunedin where all eleven of us are sharing a three bedroom student apartment. This morning, Dan and Mark took off in a rented truck with a dolly to make the long drive back to Haast to retrieve our swamped minivan, which they have some hope of fixing. Alicia meanwhile found an apartment which she contracted and will move into on Tuesday. We have an appointment on Monday morning to view a potential place of our own. All in all, things are looking up, and we are so grateful for the Tandem staff team here who have provided bedding, food, and invaluable help in securing housing. Thank you, too, for your ongoing prayers!!

An Introduction to Tandem

“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.”

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“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.

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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!

Island Hopping

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The eagle has landed! Well, actually, it is a giant rental van carrying four adults, seven kids, and 600 pounds of luggage. But, we have made it to our first destination: The Tandem Ministry national staff conference in Wellington, New Zealand. Tandem is Cru’s name in New Zealand, and it has been such a highlight to meet our brothers and sisters in ministry across the Pacific.  I will tell you all about our experience with Tandem in our next blog.
Actually, there have been so many highlights to this trip so far. Thanks, no doubt, to the prayers of many, God has been a most gracious host as He has shown us around His creation. After sixteen hours in the plane we arrived in Fiji at 7 a.m. for a 15-hour layover. Anticipating this, we packed our bathing suits in our carry-ons and hired a van to take us to the beach. Osea, our bus driver, “happened to be” a pastor at one of the local churches. He took us to Viseisei, the oldest village in Fiji. We saw the chief’s house and prayed with Joe, one of the villagers, who is a young Fijian missionary with YWAM home on furlough.
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Fiji has a vibrant Christian community. Cru staff members working there report that one in two students who hear the gospel message receives Christ. The people we met there as a whole are some of the most joyful we’ve seen. Maybe it has something to do with the weather… what a paradise!
After another night on a plane we made it to Aukland, NZ, finding a motel at 4 a.m. to collapse in for a few hours. God then blessed us with a van that both of our families could fit in for the two-day trip down here to Wellington. Because of this crash course in friendship, our four little Litchfields and the three Lovejoy boys have bonded and quickly become inseparable. In fact, here at the staff conference they have taken to calling themselves “the Lovefields.” Having five boys constantly bouncing around them has also been a great motivator for our two daughters to initiate friendships with the girls here at the conference! 🙂
New Zealand’s countryside is void of houses but filled with herds of sheep and dairy cows. Barren fields on steeply rolling hills are divided by stretches of lush, semi-tropical “bush”—the Kiwi name for woodlands. The days have been cool and cloudy, but the sight of green grass has awoken spring fever in us all. We can hardly get the kids to come inside.
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Now we are four days into the conference and are settling in to the New Zealand culture. Aliza, my youngest, has already begun speaking with a Kiwi accent. We have learned about “jandles” (flip-flops) and “stubbies” (short shorts), and when to say “cheers” (thank you) and “no worries” (you’re welcome). And we are excited to report that we have purchased a mini van, although I may never get used to the steering wheel being on the right. Even now the Lovejoys are out hopefully purchasing a car of their own. God is truly providing!
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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.