Above: hanging out one afternoon in Queenstown.
This has been a most spiritually transforming summer. I reflect back to the the grape vines I had been working on in connection to my life. It would seem that God has allowed me to face various seasons and circumstances in relatively quick times. At the start of the summer, I was in a bad spot with many faith questions and challenges in contrast to the end of the summer where I knew God had met me in these dark places, ministered to me, then I was able to minister to others out of overflow. Compare this to the various seasons of the vine shoots. At first, the vine is a small branch, capable of tremendous fruit and an unsustainable rate, the smallest vines at times have the greatest ability to produce grape bunches that when ripened will snap the vine under its own weight. It takes a pruner with an eye for what is best for the vine that is connected to the plant to remove potentially 3 of the 4 grape bunches so that the branch won't snap and next season it will be even bigger and equipped to carry more weight. I feel like this summer I was pruned in a good way, being prepared for this new season of leadership and responsibility. What I know as one who had a chance to tend vines, is that healthy branches become stronger over the various seasons, to the point where they are strong enough to carry those 3-4 grape bunches with ease, but from the wine makers perspective 3-4 bunches on a vine isn't preferable. What is preferable is a vine that maybe had 3-4 bunches pruned down to 2 of the best. In doing this, the sugar from the Sun can be concentrated into the fewer bunches to produce sweet, healthy fruit. Getting pruned each season is something that will occur over the entire life of the plant, a process in my life that I will only entrust to Farmer Christ.
This year, I will need more of your prayers than ever before. Coming back to Auckland, I walked back into my home church that was experiencing its head pastor resign in tragic fashion. I was told on Thursday evening what I was coming back to, then this Sunday the 20th. I witnessed something I had only seen once before in my life at DCC. Please pray for Avondale Baptist church in this time. As I enrolled for school (all paid for!!!!) and my classes, I moved into my dorm on Friday the 18th. It has dawned on me that the role as Mens RL (recent name change from Resident Assistant to Resident leader) will take more time than what was previously described by those who interviewed me . I'm involved with pastoral community life as well as bridging the gap with our international students. The young men I will be journeying with are going to the music school separate to Laidlaw and can be young Christians, or not at all. I will essentially be involved in two communities, consisting of Laidlaw students from 8-4pm and then the Excel Music school students on campus in the dorms from 5pm onwards. Praying for the best way to reach the Excel group and draw them into the larger community. I have been praying over the dorm rooms and halls and will continue to do this for the next 10 days until school starts. (I settled in on campus a bit early to prep for the year). With being on the Laidlaw Student Council and being the RL for the Excel group, I will be leading Kinetic High School youth group at Avondale Baptist while double majoring in Biblical/Pastoral studies studying Hebrew, Theology of Suffering and Hope, Ways of Knowing and Biblical Interpretation this semester. I'm so excited and I know God has been fully at work in my life this summer preparing me for this new season, but I desperately need your prayers. Tomorrow I celebrate my 25th with peers at a mean burger joint in town, tonight with my Church Family. Life is so beautiful.
Prayer list in short:
Leadership- RL, student council, Youth leader (praise God for the Toyota!! donated to me that will greatly increase student ministry and potential to journey with them)
My Church- transition time
Visa- Medical fees and timely acceptance from the government etc as well as fees for 2nd semester this year at Laidlaw. EDIT 2/22/2011 Visa+Medical fees will be $600 if all goes well, if not it, it could be another $100 for further blood tests etc. Please pray for all to go smoothly and for the ability to make this money in a short time. The goal is to submit my visa to the government on March 3rd. Pray for it to be accepted and validated by March 31st.
His first, and truly yours...
Now for the travel story:
On Wednesday Thursday the 17th at 6:45 I arrived to Auckland after traveling non stop from just outside of Oamaru in Danseys Pass (Narnia was filmed here, Elephant Rock was stunning) where rugged Kiwis go to get away from it all. This wasn't the beginning of the trip though, that started Sunday night. With completion of this trek, I have now hitched from what is considered the furthest south to the furthest north, the entire length of NZ, set aside Stewart Island.
After Church in Cromwell and bidding farewell to Danny+Kaye and their kids Cory, Ben and Laura- the family that hosted me all summer at there own expense for which I'm very thankful , I stuck out my thumb and was picked up at half past four on the road to Bluff. To kick off the trip, I was picked up by a car of younger Kiwi's (2 guys 2 gals) that were sufficiently impressed by my knowledge of heavy metal music and were surprised that I was a Christian. They took me the extra mile out of Invercargil and dropped me off on the route to Bluff at 8:30pm. As it was getting late I said a quick prayer and was picked up within 20 minutes by a guy named Cory that worked out in New Zealands southern most town. I camped out that night along the Ocean after hiking down a coastal trail that lead out of town in my single man tent. I woke before sunrise, to pray and gaze into the ocean as the sun slowly crept up revealing beautiful bursts of pink/purple and orange. Again I put my thumb out and ended up back in Invercargil by a (nearly positive) Mormon teacher. We talked about his diverse international upbringing and his passion for the muslim world. The conversation turned to Christ and evangelism, but at that time he dropped me off. I at 9am I walked to the highway that lead out of Invercargil. I waited over an hour to get picked up, but when the ride came, it nearly took me to my destination. A woman whose name I can't remember and her dog Bruce drove me all the way to Oamaru. We talked about life and travel and eventually the convo moved to Christ, I was able to encourage her to start reading The Case for Christ again that she just so happened to own, crazy how things like that work.
I found the shortest hitch of my day, by far the most interesting. A woman in her 70's+ picked me up and we immediately clicked. She was highly educated as a philosopher and pychologist and she excitedly talked about her son was a medical doctor whom served in Nepal for many years under Sir Edmund Hillarys (first person to summit Everest) trust fund. After our casual conversation she asked me what I was doing in her country to which I replied: “theology.” From there on out the banter got cranked up a notch, in the end though Christ was shared and I will be reading Bertrand Russel and she will be reading Lee Strobel hopefully. I had been reading Plato/Western Philosophy this summer and it was neat to be able to verbally engage with the concepts in light of Christ.
I arrived in Duntroon around 4pm to connect with some friends of friends from the United States. Mary Anich from IBC set me up with Scott and Margie Dudley that run a holiday park, complete with cabins and camping spots along a picturesque river in Danseys Pass. I enjoyed two very restful days, taking in some stunning sceneary with a early morning hike along the water then a 10(?) meter dive into the water to end the hike. It was so good to hear the North American accent once again and fellowship with some excited/energetic Christians. Wednesday morning, I left the serenity of the Dudleys establishment for the open road, being picked after a short while by a guy named Mike that serviced various dairy farms, delivering parts when needed. He dropped me off in a small town, where I waited for an hour and a half to get picked up. In this time, I met a Mongolian guy named Frank who was cycling to Christchurch and looked exhausted. As he cycled by, I offered him a sports bar... shocked he got off his bike, took a picture of me like any true asian would and then started talking to me. He was impressed by my Mandarin, and I invited him up to Auckland to have lunch with me. Then something strange popped into my head, “ask him if he knows Christ.” I asked him, and he said “No,” I said “Ye su Ji du” to confirm in Chinese that he had never heard, to which he again replied that he wasn't familiar. I was completely taken back by this, as I have never experienced this, ever. My mind went blank as I tried to find a place to start from to explain who the risen Christ was, is and is to come. Long story short, Frank is coming to visit as soon as he cycles up here. We said are goodbyes, then I was picked up by spiritualist/ self proclaimed healer. We talked about everything from reincarnation to stigmata etc, and at first she was closed down to talking about Christ, but recognized him as a great healer then an hour down the road she started opening to me about her past and her hopes and dreams about being a nun and traveling the world and helping people like a mother Teresa type. I asked her if I could pray for her and she agreed, as she dropped me off at a gas station in Christchurch she got out of the car and gave me a massive hug.
From there I waited about 5 minutes to get picked up by a French/German couple, and shortly thereafter we picked up another German hitch-hiker named Toby who was easy to talk with. Toby and I got dropped off at the same spot and we decided to travel together up the coast. He told me about his understanding that religion was the opiate of the masses, which allowed me to share my testimony as well as. It was around 6 when Jaoquin (Chilean) picked us up and we cruised the coast in a classic VW like bus stopping off along a quiet spot along the river for a dinner fit for travelers, beans +noodles and some mean Chilean matte. They dropped me off in Picton, 15 minutes from my final destination for the day. It was 11:30 at night and I was thinking my chances of getting picked up were exhausted, so I sent a text message to a friend to ask when the last ferry was out of Picton left. To my dismay the last one of the day had left at 10:15pm, so I would have to wait until 6:30am or later in the ferry terminal until the morning ferry arrived. When I was waved over by a trucker, I didn't have the highest hopes under the understanding that I would be sleeping out somewhere rough shortly after the ride. I shared with him my plans and he then got on the CB to talk to the ferry dock where he just so happened to be taking his cargo, he helped secure my passage on the cargo ferry across to the North Island, which was awesome. I immediately thought back to my near frustrations of being dropped off so close to my destination so late at night, when it was actually Gods provision. At 1:15 am I boarded the 2am ferry to Wellington with only one other passenger on the entire boat outside of the truckers that stayed in a seperate section of the boat. I essentially had deck number 2 on a massive boat to myself. I was able to comfortably sleep 3 hours in complete peace. As I woke up, I did my best to advertise the fact that I was going to Auckland in front of the truckers in their cafeteria at 5am , no takers though.
At 5:45am I walked out of the port with my bag to find the road out of Wellington which happened to be nearby. It was still dark at 6:15 when I was picked up by a prostitute on her way home from work. She offered me a meal that was intended for her from a downtown shelter. This was a highlight of my trip home as I was able to explain the gospel to her to which she was more than willing to hear. I described Jesus interaction with Levi and the Christs heart for the sick, not the healthy. She told me that she was a Christian, that couldn't stand her Church leadership for being hard on her etc and how she did street evangelism with the pimps and drug dealers of Wellingtons underbelly. From there the conversation shifted to the gospel writers understanding of the word “hear” in Greek. The Greek understanding of “to hear” was not only to audibly listen to a message spoken but to apply it as well. I asked her if she thought putting herself on the street was something that God wanted for her, she agreed that it wasn't. I shared with her about how she was a beautiful daughter of his, of infinite worth and also how she has never heard the gospel, constantly trying to provide for herself, not allowing her father to give her what she needs. I shared more of my testimony in really dark times of relying on God and how he has always been faithful to me. She cried as I prayed over her, and said she would think about going back to Church. Please keep Quinette in your prayers.
From outside of Wellington at 8 in the morning I waited for an hour to get picked up for two seperate brief hitches , 20 minutes apiece by men named David. David 1 was a painter, and David 2 had traveled the world even more extensively than I had, and we were able to swap travel stories. In short, Nepal is on my list of places to see in a big way.
From there I was picked up by another trucker who was heading pretty close to Auckland, 8 hours drive away at this point, to which really excited me. We talked about life and I was surprised at the social wisdom of this trucker with his insight towards electronic media and the disconnect that people experience by being so connected to their ipods. He had to drop off a load and vowed to pick me up again in another hour if I was still on the road after he was done. Sadly, I didn't see him again, but I'm still somewhat shocked by what happened next. A massive tourist bus pulled up to me with the scrolling neon bars above the driver window that said “Via Auckland.” The driver stopped in front of me, opened the door, asked me where I was going, told me he could get me to within an hour of Auckland, then beckoned me to board. I hesitated, and asked him how much the ride would cost, to which he replied “nothing.” I boarded a completely empty deluxe tourist coach, that was returning back to it's station as Dez the driver had just dropped off the Israeli tour group in Wellington. I consider this a gift from God, as Dez and I chatted about fishing and hunting to life and family for 7+ hours on a private air conditioned bus. He gave me a grand tour and pointed out all the sites to me that I missed coming into Lake Taupo previously late at night. I was able to recline back on a very comfortable seat, fall asleep, then wake up and read that days newspaper in complete style. When he dropped me off outside of Hamilton/Coramandel area I was completely refreshed. From there it was a short ride with a girl from Denmark and then the final stretch with a middle aged couple that I was able to encourage in their faith as well as be encouraged in mine. I arrived home to the Quirkes in Avondale at 6:45 pm on Thursday night right before 'Hall night' where my host family eats dinner at the mall together. After a joyous reunion and much needed shower, they treated me to Chinese and we shared a bottle of wine together that I had been carrying for a thousand miles cross country at the expense of my back and feet. The beautiful wine from Cromwell was very much worth the minor aches it brought. Home at last, home at last.
Encouraged to read this post. Testifies to answered prayers for a safe trip, God's provision, and people encountering Christ. Glory to God!
Piper, that was truly incredible bro. God IS AWESOME. I know you've had your struggles but man it's hard not to notice the providence of God throughout your entire story. The diversity of the people you met along the way combined with their open hearts made for some amazing divine appointments. I will continue to pray for you as you step into a new chapter where leadership and politics tend to tempt a man into doing things he ought not to. I pray that you will remain humble in the face of serious responsibilities. I also pray that you will email me at any point that you feel like you just need an ear to listen or anything. Crazy story brother, which I will be sending to all my family. I know many of them are praying for you. God bless man.
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