Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year, Endless Possibilities.

Above: My best Julie Andrews impersonation on New Years Eve.

More than 100 new photos have been uploaded to the Cromwell 2012 Link on the right for your enjoyment. They range from Laurens arrival, Christmas on the Farm to New Years Eve in Queenstown.

On Sunday December 31st Lauren and I packed our communal bag and headed to Queenstown, aware that all accommodation was booked in the city. Lauren and I said I quick prayer as we walked to my prized hitch-hiking spot for this and safety among other things. This was her first time ever hitching and I assured her that everything would be good. It took all of 4 minutes to get picked up by a middle age woman in a camper van with 4 'yapper' dogs. Phew. Laurens tension nearly followed her hair out the car window as we enjoyed the sunny ride into Qtown with the windows down. Our host couldn't drop us all the way there but brought us to a good spot some 5 miles outside of town. It just so happened that our next ride was a mid-20's female from Christchurch (that wanted to get away from all the earthquakes) that knew of available camping in the area. We got dropped off on the towns rugby field, paid our money to the man at the gate and then set up my tent with a 1000+ of our closest friends. This was a relief to me as I was responsible for the groups well being could rest knowing that we had secured a place to lay our heads when the night was over.

After a beautiful Fergburger dinner on the waterfront we watched the opening bands play on Queenstowns mainstage. The first band up was the worship team from Freedom Church. I knew Pastor Alister wouldn't be to far away scanning the crowd. We enjoyed the mainstream+ subversive worship music at this public venue and after some minutes I found the Pastor and his wife, introducing my sister to them as we all sat together. We then made our way up at 9:30 to the Gondola which elevated us up to the highest point in Qtown where we walked around the sprawling hills and embraced the sunset. Awe inspiring beauty. Unbelievable. Cruisen' our way into the Gondola Center where the New Years party was heald we were greeted with a assortment of all you can eat cheeses and a fantastic cover band named Mojo. Cheese and music followed by dancing the night into the New Year and the fireworks show took place. Towards 12:30am we took the Gondola back into the city and were assaulted with more drunk folks and personalities then I could point a stick at. We enjoyed some great dubstep/trance/techno drum and bass type music until 1 then called it a night after watching people vomit lost all its appeal.

Rule #484: When camping with 1000+ of your closest friends, be prepared to not get any sleep. I only had a single man tent (my ultra-light travel necessity) so I rigged the rain shield over the tent itself and into some flax bushes to provide me with some level of shelter. We survived the night. 

Breakfast on the 1st was followed by a quick hitching journey home and Laurens views on hiking in this fashion might have changed. So much fun.


A Theological New Years and Christmas reflection:

Farmer Bob woke up that fine day at the same time he did every other day, 4:45am. He had been feeding Chicken Jim, without fail at 5:30am shortly after the moment Jim broke through his white shell barring him from the wide the world. Day after day, Jim ate his fill at the hand of Bob until he was content and satisfied. All Jim knew was the hand that brought him nourishment, day after day after day. On this particular day as Bob rose and Jim's great expectations were aroused, Farmer Bob did something that Jim had never ever in his existence prior experienced. Farmer Bob unsuspectingly wrung Chicken Jim's neck to make food for his family. Until this moment, the chicken could have never even comprehended that this could have been a possibility. Jims reality was changed (albeit briefly) forever. In the same radical manner, the seemingly closed world that  Jesus entered as a child had only known and comprehended life and it's end in a single way. When you died, you stayed dead. That was the reality that all the world had known, but Christs rising changed all that. Forever.

Of all the Christianese terms that get thrown out there, 'born again' could be one of the least understood. It can sound like a very abstract litmus Christianity test of sorts that is rarely qualified with a clarifying statement... I'm not saying I have the market covered on understanding this beautiful thing, but let's take a look at this in light of God entering into our world as defenseless baby. When I observe babies (at a safe distance), the first thing that I notice is that they bring nothing to the table, they are highly demanding and they can smell unpleasant but that's besides the point. We all know that babies are unable to do anything on their own without the loving care of a parent. They would die without the daily resources provided to them by those with the means to provide. Recent natal psychology has shown how intrinsic external sources are to a babies temperament and awareness of the world. Babies actually can't regulate their emotions without the (for example) help of someone other than themselves (General Theory of Love, 2007). Without love, they will die. When a baby falls down, it will look to her loving mother for a response. If the mother grimaces in pain, rushing to the child the baby will cry, on the other hand if the mother smiles knowing that the fall wasn't harmful the child might giggle. In this way she learns her place in the world.

As Jesus grew he perfectly responded to the external love of his Heavenly Father. He trusted in the Father with a perfect faith and grew strong and healthy. The faith that Jesus exhibited in God the Father was beyond what any of us are capable of as he was God and Man (Check out Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane!).By faith, we can enter into and participate in this loving relationship between God the son and God the father. Our faith in Jesus as he showed us the perfect faith in God the Father is what changes everything. Before we knew of Christ our earthly births were headed down a trajectory of death and separation. To be born again, is to have a radical transformation of all that we know and hold to be true. There are endless opportunities in the world competing for our collective affections, only one of them leads to life. If we as infants had a negligent mother who didn't understand what was good or bad, our foundation in what was good or healthy would be shaky. If we let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, teach us how to live we are doomed (Eph 2:1-6). When we are born again, we are 'reborn' into a new world of limitless love, where nothing is static. Forsaking all others (Mt 5:8) but seeking the face of the Father that perfectly loves us, for guidance is the only start that leads to life. When we come with faith as a child to the Father- a newborn, unable to care for ourselves or determine our own future, let alone the next few days- we are transformed. Infants come with empty slates. Previous failures and disappointments are non existent and hold no bearing over their lives. Everything is new, everything is fresh, we are ready to molded from the bottom up.

Christs life, death and resurrection are the most important things that have ever happened in our world. If someone truly rose from the dead, wouldn't what they said and did be of immeasurable importance? A baby that was born and never died changes everything. If this event is true, we can hold on to the promises this child made. Everything changes. The resurrection shattered (or clarified) all false ideas that humanities previous reality held. Before Christ rose, we couldn't possibly understand this glorious outcome to our lives. We were just like the chicken in the sense that we were fully unaware of what truly lay ahead. Humanity, shaped by gospel reality  (1Cor 13), can now dream dreams, far grander than a static world could allow where the grave was the final destination. Through Christ, humanity has discovered that deaths victory and sting is no more. Christ the King, the infant child, has changed our world forever.

Merry Christmas, blessed day of the Saviors birth to all of those who are born again into this reality- and Happy New Year.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Above: While you all were opening presents Lauren and I were milking cows : ) Merry Christmas everyone and God bless, from Milton New Zealand.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

These pictures say more than a 1000...

Left: Lauren waiting in San Francisco, heading to Auckland.
Above: My welcome sign for Lauren

Above: Me leaving Cromwell for the airport
Right: My welcome sign for Lauren at the airport. 

Above: Queenstown with Lauren 

Above: Fergbakery having a pie and a Speights... Lauren looking sleepy.

 Above: Where bungee jumping was invented. The first in the world. 

Left: Gibbston Winery and Cheesery.

Above: Lauren loving the sun.

Above: Me posing.

Above: I took Lauren out for a quad bike ride tour (her first time ever) at Zebra Vineyard and we picked roses that are on the end of every row.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Times Like These.

Above:  6:52 am this morning, the sun breaks out from behind the clouds at Zebra Vineyard.

I love the holidays. These are times when the days get longer and hotter; quality time is spent with friends and family around the barbecue... that is, unless you are in the northern hemisphere where the complete opposite is true and most people are beginning to look more and more like the vampires found in Forks, deprived of life giving vitamin D. A notable person in particular has decided to trade the northern hemispheres snow for  southern sun- 9am this Thursday my sister lands at the Queenstown airport. Merry Christmas, to me!

Last weekend I was asked by my South Island hosts, the Pendreighs if I was keen to have a 20 something cyclist from Germany stay in the backyard guesthouse with me later that day. I was totally into it. I even cleaned my room. I met Rob and I instantly liked the guy. Easy to get along with and a very conversational traveler like myself- adhering to the same minimalist traveling/life tenets as mine, such as packing lite and only owning things you really need. He noticed my devotional book by (German martyr) Dietrich Boenhoeffer  that Wayne Yammamoto gave me upon my return to the states for surgery (nice one Wayne) and was impressed. Rob considered himself on a journey with God, but knew nothing of Jesus which became the main point of discussion for the next two days. He questioned me on my journey which allowed me to share my testimony and so much more. Some of the questions he asked me clicked in with some of the recent theological studying I had been doing and a few of my answers I gave back to him solidified some things in my faith that really encouraged me. During these summer breaks I find that some of my deepest times of wrestling with God come when things are quietest in my life and the pastoral care I exert is at a minimal point being away from Church and School. It was during a time like this that Christ met me yet again, through a unlikely source- a fellow traveler. Struggles remain, but the foundation in Christ is solid. I would imagine I'm not alone but there are times in life when you get so focused on a tree, or even a leaf, that you forget about the rest of the forest. Rob attended church with me the next day. In continuity with his ethos, he wasn't traveling with any dress shirts, and it just so happened that I had bought a nice shirt on Trademe so I let him borrow that for the service. I ended up giving it to him as it wasn't quite my style/size. More importantly though, I was able to give him a Gideon Bible, signing the the "From," section with a "David Piper." He was very thankful for both, one helping him in the short term- the other in the long, God willing.

Above: An exceedingly friendly Queenstown duck that didn't understand the, "excuse me I just met you, this is my personal bubble," spacial rules. It's like that person with bad breath that wants to tell you a secret. 

I bid (German) Rob farewell Sunday after church as I was leaving to Queenstown to yet again, pick up another item of bargain priced clothing. He was soooo close to accepting Christ so I continued praying for him even while journeying. I haven't heard anything more from Rob since, other than that he is now staying with other Christians connected to the Pendreighs in other Kiwi towns around the country. He is in good hands. 

If you remember back to a previous post, I met a guy that heard I was a youth minister up in Auckland while some kids were trying to get me to buy booze for them... well, I went to their church last Sunday. I have now found my "Upperroom" type Church in NZ. Highly missional, for people who don't normally like/attend church mixed with those that do. Worshipped my guts out, hands held high and heard a gripping yet simple message about Jesus. Over and over again, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Before the service I met the pastor and he sat down with me to talk about the heart and vision of the church. I will most definitely be attending again. After the service a middle age guy named Peter offered to drive me all the way home to Cromwell, I turned him down, but he insisted. Start to finish, that was a good weekend.

Left: Gotta love the glove tan line. 

 Above: Working in the freezing 60 degree rain this Wednesday. The day before was over 100, so this was a massive shock to the system.

I just completed a 6 day work week and I'm a shade above completely exhausted. After this blog, it's bedtime. Wednesday was a notable half day of work. The boss decided to move the company Christmas party to that day (out of nowhere) because the driving rain forced us out of the vineyard. At the end of the dinner party at a nice pub in Bannockburn, I was the only sober person left. One of my coworkers smashed his head on the pub van door that was going to take us home and blood was everywhere. I was able to organize medical supplies out of the pubs first aid kit to be johhny on the spot with my Red Cross first aid skills I learned at Firwood. The bleeding stopped and I patched him up after checking him for a concussion. You may or may not believe the stats I have heard on the amount of people that get fired for silly alcohol related behavior at company parties such as these, thankfully no one got fired.

Yesterday I met Avondale Baptists Church's new pastor (and my new boss) on Skype and I'm excited for the direction and vision he has. My prayer is that God is glorified and honored even more at our little Auckland church. Thank if you have been praying for this pastor searching process. Last summer I came back from Cromwell with no pastor, this summer I will come home with a new one. This, combined with the warm summer sun today and Laurens coming arrival on Thursday has left me feeling optimistic for the future.



Saturday, December 3, 2011

Day Tripper

 Above: Zebra Vineyard

Like the Cheryl Crow song, I have been soaking up Central Otagos 85 degree sunshine all week. As a vineyard worker, my Portuguese skin just might be the darkest it has been in a long while. The days of work are long and good, I sure sleep well at night and that's no joke. Recently my sister Lauren has decided to make the 8,000+ mile journey down and visit her brother, here in Cromwell. I'm pumped up and have been anticipating her arrival since she mentioned it earlier this week.

Above: Glove tan line.

Even though Summer just went into full effect 3 days ago, it's the dreaded season of the lay-off. As the vineyards wind down on the prep work necessary to produce straight, healthy vines, people lose their jobs (most times temporarily) for a 2-3 week span until January when the vines have grown to full height. 10 days ago I was made crew supervisor of my Argentinian coworkers. There is no pay raise attached to this esteemed honor (sarcasm) just more responsibility and now what I have learned, job security. Starting last week, ethnic groups of people began to get laid off. You are probably thinking right now: “laid off by ethnic groups, what kind of racist farm is this?” - but rest assured that's not the case. Usually, groups of people from a specific country apply for jobs at Zebra Vineyard, then get laid off in the same fashion according to the overall groups perceived productivity. The (4) Argentinians were the first to go, then the (3) Malaysians on Tuesday which gave me a bit of a fright as there were only so many folks left. Then Thursday the (2) Czechs were told there was no work left as well as the (2) Chinese. 

On Thursday I was almost certain I would be in for a cut of sorts, maybe shorter term as I had seniority, but come Friday the boss told me that I would be the last temporary worker standing alongside the (2) year round middle aged Kiwi couple- possibly with work for the entire low season of now until a few days after Christmas. Praise God! On Friday I was given a unspoken compliment of being trusted to work completely alone for the first time ever with a empty vineyard as the boss left early to attend a charity golf event. I'm very thankful for the now* healthy body and ability to work. Ok, enough work stuff....

There is a NZ online classified section that is a hybrid between the highly regulated Ebay and the peer to peer easy going Craigslist called 'Trademe.' Dad imparted me with this intrinsic love of shopping around for the best prices to save money, on Trademe they are found. I have recently picked particular items based upon the location of the Trademe seller as an excuse to hitch-hike to/explore that town and meet its people. Last Saturday after winning two auctions for a guitar and pair of shoes collectively, I made the journey to Queenstown. I was picked up outside of Cromwell by 3 stoners in there beat up 4x4 truck that was living on a prayer. Cruising down the highway we only crossed the median a few times at highspeed until the truck began to sputter. The stonies were heading to Queenstown to get a new fuel filter and the engine wasn't getting the energy it need to continue forward. At one point the truck choked and sputtered- to which the driver responded by going off road on a dirt trail and doing donuts (cranking the steering wheel to one side and pushing the gas peddle to the floor causing the car to travel in a circular, donut like maneuver). The donut was only marginally successful so the passenger had to go underneath the car and manually pump the gas. We were on are way. Upon arrival in Queenstown, I bid them farewell had Venison and portabella mushroom sandwich for lunch (6 bucks dad!) then began to walk to the sellers house, who happened to be a friendly Brazilian guy. He and his sister tried to make me lunch etc, and we had a good conversation. I picked up the beautiful lightly used Vans shoes and headed on my way to collect my guitar. The guitar seller suggested we meet at the Liquor store to which I obliged. During this time my phone kept vibrating, but I was busy looking for the guy in the blue truck. I thought I found the seller, but it was actually a 16 year old student that tried desperately to convince me to buy him booze. I told him I was a youth pastor of sorts, but that before Christ had really changed my life, in high school my friends and I did something similar to what he was trying to do. I was beginning to share Christ with him when I was stopped by separate a car full of guys. They said “you're a youth pastor?,” and I explained to them what I do in Auckland with Bible College etc. I shortly found out that they too were Christians and invited me to church with them. Boom, instant 4 new friends! Fast forward 10 minutes, had my new guitar in hand and then checked my phones messages. Little did I know, I had overpaid the Brazilian guy and he asked me to come back over and get the cash that I left there. Coming back to his house, I found out more about his families history and that they were Christians... When I shared that I was one as well they invited me to dinner with them for legit Brazilian food. Hitch hiking back to Cromwell I was able to talk about Christ with a scientist and a doctor. It was a great day quick hitchhiking pickups, good food, great conversations and potentially 6 new friends.

Above: Wanaka 

As I type to you today I'm sitting on the stunning Wanaka waterfront for the first time, having hitched here to pick up a shirt with a Czech guy named Auto. What a great Saturday this has proved to be. After Church tomorrow I will be making authentic Chinese dumplings with my coworkers from Hong Kong. Catch yall soon.



Just made it home in a car driven by a Frenchman named Mikkel. he got a speeding ticket so I insisted on buying him dinner. After dinner he dropped me off at my house where I invited him in for tea. We (Pendreighs) collectively invited him to church tomorrow and a place to stay tonight but he turned down both. He was a really nice guy, hopefully the spontaneous hospitality made a impact on him- I was frustrated that I didn't have a Gideon Bible to give him...