Saturday, January 26, 2013

With Open Arms

The journey to this point has been a beautiful. Five years ago I became the junior high ministries intern at Dungeness Community Church. When I return from New Zealand after completing my bachelor degree in theology at Laidlaw College in Auckland, I will be the Youth Pastor at the church. For those that don’t know me, allow me to briefly recount this journey journey.

I accepted Christ into my heart at two years of age, but at 21, the gospel of Jesus Christ exploded in my heart like it never had before. I was working with people who had disabilities in Guatemala as a wheelchair mechanic (among other things) when I began to see what God was up to in the world. From the Christian scriptures we have, we see a story that began with a loving God creating and ends with that loving God returning to renew all things. Prior to this, as your average kid in the states I had no idea that was the full story I was living under and much less what it looked like to participate in this renewal- or even a desire to. The apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 13:13 for those who are in Christ, we press on in faith, hope and love until the return of Christ. When I came back from Guatemala I had a fire to bring the gospel to those who didn’t have it. I thought I was going to Afghanistan to teach English; God had other plans. For the next two years I worked with a special people group, American teenagers to be exact. This season ended up being some of the best years of my life. I didn't know what the future held, but knew I wanted more God in my life. What that looked like for me was an education in New Zealand at a school called Laidlaw. A friend of mine had done a semester abroad there, told me about it, then I couldn’t get the country of NZ and Laidlaw out of my mind. I ended up moving there some 8 months later in January of 2010. I didn’t know anyone in the country, leaving the home of my birth in complete faith. At a layover in Fiji I discovered that my plans of riding around the country sharing the gospel with a friend had fallen through. That friend was unable to secure the funds to make the trip happen. I found myself in that layover without any plans or connections in NZ for the next two months. That night I shared Christ on the beach with a few vacationing Kiwi’s. Long story short, they invited me to come live with them as they lived 6 miles from my future school. Two days into living with them I discovered a church across the street. Longer story short, that church had been searching and praying for a youth pastor for over 18 months. The person they were praying for became me! It was incredible. God provided me with a church and ‘family’ nearly instantly. I worked with the junior high and high school students at this church for nearly 3 years, simultaneously studying at Laidlaw. At Laidlaw in my second year I was elected to the student leadership council as well as leading a community of nominal Christian students from lower socio-economic backgrounds in NZ. The time was amazing and challenging. That second year though, the stresses of studying and the various hats I wore wrecked havoc on my immune system. I ended up nearly dying in the emergency room of an Auckland hospital. I didn’t. God had other plans. I returned to the states for surgery where I realized that I loved that town called Sequim and didn’t want to go back. As God had called me to study in that season I returned to NZ, stopping off in Fiji to build chicken coops with my Auckland church before heading to NZ’s south island to work at a vineyard. It was during this time that my faith was rocked, I began to question God and some very dark nights of the soul were held. God brought me out of that season in an incredible way that helped put down steel like pillars in my faith. I returned back to school much different than I left some 6 months prior. God was moving in my life and my love for him and his mission grew exponentially.

Since my life was radically altered in a dingy Guatemalan apartment in 2007, I’ve wanted to serve God with everything in me. Post Laidlaw I had plans in the works to work with the poor in South America but again, God had other plans. While I was helping lead a youth camp, God began to work on my heart and open my eyes to his vision. Up until that point, I had been doing fulltime school and part time youth ministry. That week of nothing but youth ministry reminded me of how much I loved it. Without the other stresses of school and leadership I was able to simply engage with the teenage heart and mind. On the third day of that camp, DCC and its people was strongly placed on my heart; this came out of nowhere. On the 5th day, I told God that if he wanted me to work with youth, I was ok with that. That was huge for me! I thought my season of youth ministry was coming to a close. As I returned home from camp, a email out of the blue from an elder at DCC sent my mind spinning. He asked me if I would consider the role of youth pastor at DCC. I few months prior to this email I had turned down then youth pastor Wayne Yammamoto’s same request as I was then heading to Paraguay. I said… "really God?” It was all to much for me at the time. I tried not to read to much into it, but two months after that email, I realized it wasn’t a coincidence. In December, I filled out the application for youth pastor and the journey of prayer and seeking guidance from those older and wiser began. On January 23rd after writing over 10,000 words on doctrine+practice and a few correspondence emails, I was voted on by the elder board to be the youth pastor at DCC. I accepted the offer, feeling total peace in my heart about it.

I honestly believe that ministry to youth is one of the most important aspects of the Church. The years between Junior High and High school are the most formative in a persons life. The pains and hurts acquired during this period could last a lifetime. I take this seriously and I am extremely thankful for those that journeyed with me through this (awkward?) time. Stories are powerful and they say if you want to communicate something and have it stick, say it multiple ways. If I was to promote an event I might: call the student, text the student, email the student, Facebook the student or even update the website. In the same light, when conveying gospel truths it’s best if the youth hear it from more than one person (myself).  While the youth have passion and energy, they can lack wisdom and direction. In 1 Samuel 3, God calls a young boy named Samuel three times but the boy is unable to discern who or what is calling him. He continually rises to the challenge with more enthusiasm then I could muster after being woken up in the middle of the night. Eli, his mentor, had been unable to hear the voice of God for some time but had the wisdom and experience to help the young and confused boy understand who was calling him. I share that not to say that I think older people can’t hear the voice of God or that younger folks are incapable of making informed decisions; it’s just that as we go through this life in whatever season we find ourselves in, we need people from a wide variety of ages/races in dialogue with each other for the mutual benefit of all involved. I will seek to link the ‘young’ and ‘old’ at DCC partnering students with the wider body among other things that have been laid on my heart. It takes the whole church to help form students into the image of Christ. I have a heart for both local service and mission as well as international; I do believe that 'mission' must first start in our own backyards and will pursue practical ways of being Jesus hands and feet to reach teenagers (and the wider community) in Sequim with the gospel.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and if you’re new to the site, take a look around! Please continue to pray for me as I pray for you.

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.



Below are links to a video slideshow, a virtual tour of my school, my welcome speech to DCC and finally, a ministry in South America that I believe is well worth taking a look at. Slideshow of various 2008-2010 JH events. Virtual Laidlaw walk through.

I fully support this ministry and pray it would thrive in Paraguay as my mate Judah Mooney and his wife have helped facilitate the transformation of poor women in the country. Keen to learn more about how micro finance loans have transformed over 400 women's lives in the last 2+ years. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Winding Down Winding Up

Hey blog, how’ve you been? That’s good. I haven’t talked to you for some time. Let’s chat.

Without fail, the build up to the end of a semester is always full throttle. I put in hundreds of hours of work with over 10,000 researched and written/submitted academic words in the last few weeks alone; prepared for my exams and landed the metaphorical plane on a sunny Friday morning. At 11:30 am (after completing my second and final exam) I cleared out my desk in the library I had been sitting at all year. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself and it nearly felt like sin leaving the library before it closed that day. My mind was still tuned in, nearly electric- but alas, all work was complete. Nothing more to be done. After a decent sleep, I prepped the house for a graduation party that I hosted with a friend for my entire graduating class. After years of studying with a group of friends and peers, the hours and moments boiled down to this. On the one hand I was excited for them, on the other my heart was heavy as I knew that I still had a semester to go due to the devastating illness I had in the previous year. The evening was glorious. After the rain cleared we ate stone baked pizza on the deck, relishing over the journey by recounting the trials that had since become fun stories. The evening came to a close around 1 am when my head hit the pillow… my mom was just 5 hours away from Auckland at this point.

I picked up my beautiful mother Deanna from Auckland International airport at 6:30am- the journey had just begun. I hadn’t seen her for over a year and this trip marked her first time crossing an ocean and the verge of a new decade in life. We ate breakfast before heading to church where my nearly three years at Avondale Baptist Church was brought to a conclusion. Four months previous to this, I felt in my heart that I needed a window in time to reflect on all that God has revealed to me these last few years. Stepping down was bittersweet and a few manly tears were shed in front of the congregation that morning as I spoke. These were now family members and those whom I called my friends. My heart behind this was giving God a space to speak to me as I climb into his word preparing for the coming season of life. I don't want to miss out on the fact that the last few years have been hugely transformational. A friend of mine and I are going to begin weekly getting down into the heart of Auckland to share the gospel as I did in Port Angeles years ago. I've prayed to God to allow me to be a conduit of healing and salvation to those on the street. 

Over the course of the next three weeks my mom and I drove 3,000 kilometres all over the great country of New Zealand. We saw hobbit holes in Matamata, the deep glow worm caves of Waitomo and the stunning beach of Piha. It would be an understatement to say that this was a very special time with my mom. We hadn’t spent that kind of time together consecutively since I was a boy, outside of my time recovering post surgery which I was mostly out and about on. Highlights for me included my mom, sister and I having Thanksgiving Dinner in Auckland with my Kiwi family the Quirkes… that and every meal we had together. Mom wouldn’t let me pay for anything and I felt like I was 14 again. We ate at so many fantastic restaurants in those three weeks that my body is still coping with nightly eating dinner from a can now. Some very good times getting to know the woman who gave birth to me and her getting to know her now partially Kiwi son.

After mom left the country, I remained in Cromwell where the immediate search for a job began. I was stressed as no position had been secured, but within a day of applying at 14 places, I landed part time work (which became fulltime a week later) at the picturesque Northburn Station. It’s a fantastic vineyard and sheep farm in a breathtaking setting. My work is varied. Sometimes it takes me up the side of a mountain on a quad bike looking for a specific breed of thistles, other days I’m digging ditches and cultivating vines. I live onsite in about the most rugged shepherd’s hut one could mentally conceive. I’m frequently reading my Bible for extended periods (in the communal kitchen as there’s no electricity in my little house on the prairie) and I’m running out of sermons to listen to from my favourite preacher. I feel as if a tap has been turned on to God’s presence; he feels so close- covering me. Lauren and I packed up once more to celebrate my third Christmas in New Zealand in Milton at the Gordon’s family farm. It was nearly the hottest Christmas of my life at 95+ degrees, second only to the 105+ one in Swan Hill, Australia (lovingly renamed Swan Hell by its sweaty occupants… I have NO idea how it got that). Delicious food was eaten, cricket and rugby was played. Bottles of superb wine from my vineyard were opened after solid preaching was heard from one of the Gordon boys at the local church. Eating, swimming and relaxing were the hallmarks of the day as stories and presents were swapped. There was even a man hailing from Canada there. Surprisingly, he didn’t detract from the days festivities but added his own special Canadian flavour to the mix. Lauren and I agreed that this was one of the best Christmases of our lives.

As of today, I’m five weeks and $3,700 NZD away from beginning my final semester of school. I was recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Laidlaw which I’m very thankful for. If I pass my classes, I will return to the states with a bachelors degree in theology. If I fail, I will simply return a bachelor- a disappointed bachelor at that J. I just celebrated my third anniversary in New Zealand (which objectively makes me more Kiwi than all babies). On top of this, three couples I’m friends with gave birth this week and I just want to give a shout out to the Kaemingk’s, Roe’s and Vance’s [EDIT: Jan 19th, also the Estabrooks... wow! So many babies]. Please remember these people in your prayers. Life is precious.

Happy 2013 with love from sunny central Otago,


P.S. The next blog is coming sooner than later and it might just contain a very exciting development. Stay tuned.