This Sunday I "preached" for the first time in my life, in which I capitalized on microphone time for an an accidental 54 minutes. Apologies to everyone that were still tuned in past the 40 minute mark, I was pretty amped up that day on what God has done in the world.
In the previous week, my spirit had become quite restless and I wasn't content with just hanging out around the house studying any longer. I needed an adventure. I thought about starting a monastic monastery treehouse in the Waitakere forest, to no avail. On Saturday night I knew I wanted to trek to the most northern point in NZ, Cape Reinga, and my plan was to leave Sunday after church with my backpack, Bible, and a dream. I didn't realize that preparing/talking for nearly an hour up front was just about the most draining thing I could ever do and I ended up napping all Sunday afternoon.
12 cars, 1000 kilometer hitch-hike journey. Going to Reinga I had a sign that said "North" and then my sign to Auckland said "South." This is a long post. Feel free to skim through. I give you permission. Seriously. At the end I will throw in a brief summary for the skimmers. It will be highlighted.
Monday at 10:15am I excitedly set out from Avondale to the cape with aspirations of drawing closer to God and experiencing His spirit, not just studying about how it's moved over history- I wanted to experience it firsthand, ending a dryspell of tedious predictability in my life. I chronicled what followed in the "notes" section of my Bible (the blank pages at the very back that no one uses.)
I didn't catch the first mans name, but my first hitch that came some 20 minutes after I stuck out my thumb landed me well outside of Aucklands north shore, where I was then picked up by a Indian man named John outside of the freeway. We talked about life and then the conversation drifted to Christ where I found out he was a believer from Fiji making a living here in NZ. He dropped me off on the far side of his town to assist me closer to my destination. Not long after a woman named Denise picked me up. Denise is runs her own farm and is keen on organics. The conversation shifted again to Christ and I found out she was a sister, and involved (at one point) with YW AM. She is experiencing some rough medical conditions, and her Aunt from the middle east renounced her relationship with Him as she is slowly dying. Driving down the road, I just prayed for her and it was encouraging for both of us. I asked her why she picked me up, being a woman, and me being a guy with a sweet beard; her reply was that I just had "an aura of Jesus all over," and she knew it was ok. I found that statement curious, and I slowly realized that "my" trip up north might have little to do with myself. We stopped at an organic farm, then her farm where she gave me fresh eggs, sweet potato and pumpkin. We attempted to move a young piglet from one pen to another as "Abraham" and "Sarah" the cows watched in delight. Denise decided that she was up for a drive and took me all the way to Wellsford(?) after we hiked a scenic 1.5 mile cliff(Kava Kava?) that overlooked the river far below. Nearly an hour passed until a warrant of fitness officer picked me up and took me past Whangarei. Again the conversation moved to Christ and we talked about his Irish/Catholic upbringing and then life in the UK until he moved to NZ. I was dropped off on the outskirts of town as the light faded fast from the sky. Andrew a Baptist preacher picked me up with hopes of converting me to Christ, after it was established what both our lives where about, we talked about preaching, techniques/failures of new preachers. He offered to pay for a hostel after hearing about where I planned to sleep, but I turned him down as I didn't want him to spend his own money. He then took me to his mentally challenged friends house that attended his Bible Study, where I spent the night. Ananta was Jewish by birth, raised in NZ and at 17 was in a car accident that left him mentally handicapped.... this didn't seem to phase his passion of singing and reading of scripture. We took turns reading Matthew from chapter 2 and Anata decided he liked the way I read so he just asked me to keep reading. After key points in Jesus message, he would say, "we need to stop and sing," then would start singing hymns. Anata chain smoked and the house was clean but smelled repulsive- even with those conditions I laid in bed that night thankful that the lord had abundantly provided for me. The next morning Anata walked me out of town, where I found a loaf of bread in a plastic bag. I didn't take it as I wasn't sure of it's origins but to me it symbolized Gods provision. At the start of the journey, my plan was to fast, but that shifted to , "I won't eat unless God provides it." Shortly thereafter a Maori man picked me up for about 10k , I didn't catch his name, but he dropped me off at a gas station.
Sue, a middle age woman that picked me up next was one of my favorites along the way. We talked about life and my travels etc, in which she told me about her journeys and dreams to sail around the world with her husband. I shared what Christ had done in my life with her, and she asked me to keep talking even after I prodded her to share as I felt I was hogging all the talk time. She said I was "so inspiring to listen to," and that I was the first hitch hiker that she had picked up in 20 years. I asked her why she broke her 20 year streak, and she replied with, "I saw your smile, and something just told me to." God, have in given me the ability to encourage her to consider Christ, greatly encouraged me. She drove me over 200 kilometers and even took me to coffee (*hot chocolate). She was on her way north to discuss chemical/fertilizer options with a farmer and dropped me off just before the farm. She initiated a big hug, and I was more than happy to embrace her with joy.
It took around an hour to get picked up at this point by a corn farmer named Bryan. Bryan drove me to his house just some 40k south of my desired destination. After knowing me for a solid 10 minutes, he offered me a place to stay- I was completely baffled by this hospitality shown to a stranger. We worked on his flat tractor tire for a moment, then I walked around his million dollar home that was RIGHT ON THE BEACH. He drove me back to the road, and I told him I would take him up on his offer and that I would see him later in the day.
Piper makes a friend: after waiting an hour a Aucklander named Mike picked me up. Mike reminded me completely of Ron Tisdale, heading north on a fishing trip. God told Mike that he was going to pick up a hitch hiker that day, and after the convo led to Christ, we were able to mutually encourage one another. He pulled out all the stops, and took me on the greatest tour of Reinga that I could ever imagine, seeing all the spots, doing the hikes around the point. Years prior, he worked as a park ranger and he knew the place like the back of his hand. One highlight after another. To much to talk about. Towards the end of the day we drove over the dunes in his Toyota Hi-lux. I was completely in awe of NZ's natural, unspoiled beauty... we drove through pristine fresh water streams and view untouched beaches with no one insight for days. I have never seen beauty like this before. The northern beaches in there splendor have no comparison. He let me drive at nearly 60 mph down "90 Mile Beach," to which I told him that it was my first time driving down a beach or through streams (illegal in the US) , he said in NZ that that is normal. We went clamming as the sun set, and both caught a limit each within a half hour. We got a flat tire after going down a backroad, but that gave us ample time to view the LUNAR ECLIPSE... something I had never seen before. I'm still in complete awe of this phenomena and Gods creativity. We prayed, and parted ways as Mike dropped me off at Bryans house. Bryan cooked me dinner and we talked about how lonely he was since his divorce. My heart went out to him. Later that night I walked out on the beach and I observed more stars and (I honestly think) galaxies than I knew where possible. I though I could reach out and touch the sky. Incredible. There are no words, I'm not going to try to describe it. Took a shower and went to bed in my own deluxe room with a view of the ocean. At this point I felt that God loved me to much.
Next morning watched sunrise. Bryan drove me down the road and I told him that his hospitality to a stranger mirrored the teachings of Christ. We talked about how he grew up Presbyterian and his mom loved the lord, having died at 102 (1900-2002).
At this point I want to say sorry for the length. Sorry.
After Bryan dropped me off I got picked up by a Maori man on his way to work (at this point im heading back to Auckland). We talked about Christ and Reggae. Really cool dude.
As he dropped me off (9am ish) I went by the bay and read on from Matthew where Anata and I stopped. God really spoke to me. I was picked up some two hours later by a Christian couple from Australia that I tried to share Christ with until they told me that they were believers and that they had a flatmate with a hitchhiking ministry that traveled all around NZ sharing Christ with all she met, leading many to the lord. I was stoked. Cheryl and Brad bought me breakfast and gave me $30. I told them I didn't need anything, and that God was fully taking care of me, but Cheryl INSISTED that I not rob her of a blessing from God by rejecting her money. Wow. Not only did this trip not cost me anything, I made money.
5 minutes later I was picked up by a South African couple (white) that had fled their country because of the genocide/apartheid AGAINST white people. NZ is fairly friendly with the fleeing white folks from SA, but the world rejects that is happening as it's not PC to talk about black people murdering white people on a massive scale. I was shocked and heart broken hearing about the conditions in South Africa. I knew it had the highest crime rate in the world, but had no idea about how the people lived, sleeping with guns under there pillows. Liz and Steven where going to pick up their daughter at the airport, so happy to have finally gotten her out of SA. Steven shared story after story of his close friends and people he knew being murdered in their homes/beds. Gun battles is a normal way of life. Liz told me many stories of going shopping at a mall, then ducking for cover as mall security battled potential robbers as bullets flew over her head. This is normal. They talked about these things like it was normal. They said, "you just get used to it, you don't know otherwise." The couple loved NZ for it's peace and security. Life has no value in South Africa as murders are committed for fun. Liz and Steven are trying to secure there daughter a job in NZ so she can stay, they fear for her. Pray against the nearing all out genocide of SA, "kill the whites" is being chanted by radical government leaders and the Caucasian minority knows they will be slaughtered when Mandela dies; for those of us that know our recent history, chanting is always how it starts... Rwanda etc, and then the children grow up hating even more fervently the faceless-dehumanized enemies, it makes killing easier when a nice song justifies you. Wow. It was alot to take in. Terrible. I shared Christ with them but it didn't really go anywhere.
Some of the best days of my life. So much was omitted, talk to me sometime if you want more. I feel fully alive again, and it seems God has confirmed me as more of an evangelist... speaking to me through the various situations. I'm excited to go back to school with this all in mind. Thanks for reading this chapter in my life. God took care of me in ways I never expected. I'm so glad I put my books down for a few days. Amazing. Life is good.
I left with $20 in my pocket "just in case money" and came back with $50. God took care of me everystep of the way, ministering to and being ministered by the 12+ people I came into contact with. I left with no plans, free for the Spirit to move me where it saw fit- and it was evident. I experienced overwhelming beauty, and also reflected on others painful memories or current state of affairs. From those that had loved and lost, to those separated and lonely; even seeing a handicapped man that lived by himself seeking a relationship or someone to talk to. I was moved by the thought that broken and lonely people experience life alone, physically and spiritually. It was affirmed to me that I need to be spending time with people like that encouraging, not being like them, living out of my room reading books and listening to sermons ABOUT God. Life is what takes place outside of our comfortable walls and church buildings. Bible college can be particularly destructive if God simply becomes an act of the mind, it refreshed my vision to participate in something that didn't follow traditional logic. The passion I feel again is exciting, maybe one day I will be granted an opportunity to see how God moved mightily in their lives... If not I trust that Gods hand was in it even if I can't see it.