Hello there, and welcome to our blog! We are the Sonchasers – chasing the Son…get it!? Very cheesy, I know, but it’s true. We are, in any case, going on an adventure in just a few weeks and this is the place to read all about it!
Week Six & Seven - Goodbye North Island
Kia ora friends!
These past two weeks have been full of endings and new beginnings, goodbyes and meetings. We said goodbye to both Tauranga and the North Island and all the people we’ve met and worked with here, but said hello to new places and people! Our sixth week of outreach, our very last one in Tauranga, was a busy one, but a good one. Tauranga has been such a good home to us these past six weeks and a place where God has really worked through us, and while we’re sad to leave it, we’re excited for our coming adventures!
We’ve had more scheduled ministries to work with this week, which has been nice, even though our Holy Spirit days can be good too. Tuesday and Thursday we spent working with Pregnancy Choice at their opp shop and koha shop for the last times, helping them with sorting, tagging and hanging clothes as well as some gardening and painting. It’s a really nice place to be – they have created this amazing atmosphere where you just feel welcome and at peace, and it has been such a privilege to work here! We also got to help one of our main contacts in Tauranga and her housemate with some gardening one day, which was really appreciated by them. It’s so great to be able to just love people in a practical way.
On Wednesday we helped a family with their move back to the States by entertaining their two boys for a day so their mom could pack and clean for a while. We spent the day starfish hunting at the beach, looking around the rocks for anything cool in the water and having an absolute blast with these amazing kids while being a massive blessing to their mother. Before leaving with the boys, we also prayed for the mom and gave her some cookies, and you could tell it really meant a lot to her that we were there and willing to help. It may not have felt like much to us – we just had a fun, if tiring, day – but it meant the world to her.
Working with Steiger this week has been a lot of fun and opened up to some great conversations. On Thursday evening we were with them at their weekly community potluck for the last time, eating lots of food, meeting awesome people and talking to friends both old and new. The evening ended with a late-night trip to Krispy Kreme and a whole bunch of us jumping off a bridge (we’re all alive), and the whole night turned out to be something special. On Saturday we also got to be a part of Steiger’s outdoor open mic night, this time at the actual event as well, and not just with the setting up, which was so much fun. It ended up being one of the best ones they’ve had so far! The whole event is a way to create an open, safe space for conversation and to invite new people into the community. Besides the night being a fun one, there were some great talks happening throughout it and overall it was such a great ending to our ministry with Steiger!
Evangelizing, which is what we were really doing at the potluck and the open mic, is a very important part of outreach. It can stretch us out of our comfort zone, but it can also be so rewarding. We are here to share the love and good news of Jesus, and we do that in different ways. One is the street interviews we’ve been doing with Steiger, where we go out and ask people the big questions about life to start a conversation, and while it sometimes is uncomfortable or awkward, a lot of great things have come out of this. We also try to come up with creative ways to evangelize by ourselves. This week, for example, a few of us baked cookies, put them in little bags and handed out cookies and prayers to people. The results were mixed, and we ended up being quite frustrated by it, but the thought was good and we’re going to keep trying things like this in the future. Our main focus here is backpackers and travelers, and so a big part of our evangelizing is talking to backpackers in our hostel, making friends, inviting them to things and building relationships. We have met so many incredible people through this. Our group has throughout outreach been very good at making people feel like a part of our family, inviting them to dinner or done fun things with them as one of us. One day, however, it went the other way around when a girl invited a few of us to come with her to the Mount Maunganui. We ended up spending a whole day with her, and it was so cool to just hang out with her, hear her story and get to share ours.
“Hey guys, here’s a short update to a project that we started a while ago. While thinking of new ways of evangelizing I had this idea of setting up a poetry table in the city of Tauranga. I think the sign is self-explanatory so here is what it says: „Dear stranger, congratulations! You made it this far and discovered our Poetry table. What does that mean!? On this desk you find pen and paper. Write a little poem, a short story or just what is on your mind. If you want people to find you, you can write your contact data (facebook, Instagram, etc.). Our goal with this and other projects is to bring people closer together. Want to support us with projects like this? Throw something in our donation box.“ Before we were able to set this up, I went to the council and talked to them. I went in, explained my Idea and after the nice lady behind the counter talked with a co-worker, she came up to me and explained that it would cost us 10$ per day to place it somewhere in the city. A little bit disappointed I left and thought about other ways to start this project. A week later I decided to walk into the city council again to ask them if there is a way to set up the table without paying for it. After a short talk with a one of the employees, he made a call, gave me a paper to fill out and said I’m allowed to set up this table wherever I want to, without paying anything. A little bit surprised but happy I left. The table has been in Tauranga for a while now. Before Christmas I put a little note on it, with an invitation for backpackers to celebrate Christmas eve with us and the Steiger’s.
Conclusion: Sadly nobody came to our Christmas eve Potluck because of the table. The whole thing doesn’t really have anything that is pointing to God either, even though we wrote a passage out of ecclesiastic on one of the first pages . On the other side, now and then you find a funny or a personal comment somebody left in this book. This little project is not there to make a huge difference. It’s just a attempt to try something new. Maybe it’s a lead balloon, maybe it is another way to get one or two people thinking. You never know. I guess what I want to say is ‘just try to work with what you have and make the best out of it.’”
For our last few days in Tauranga we all (except for Celeste) got the best surprise when our school leader, Bex, finally arrived for her pastoral visit! She spent time with all of us to see how outreach was going so far, how we were all doing and help us out a little bit. We loved having her with us, and were so sad when she left us on Sunday. As we dropped her off at the airport, though, we picked up Alec! It’s so great to have him back on outreach – our team is finally complete again!
“This week God showed me that he knows me better than I know myself. During the week I didn’t feel that close to him somehow, but I still tried to seek him every day. Nothing changed… On Thursday I also got a little bit homesick, so I talked with God about how I felt and prayed for a Swiss person so I could just talk once in my mother language. This prayer seemed so hopeless and I didn’t really have any expectations that this would happen soon. But God is so kind, he knows exactly what we need and takes us seriously! That same day, as I walked in to the hostel after grocery shopping, Pauline came up to me and told me that two Swiss guys were staying here in this hostel. I spoke to them and for me it was such a gift to speak in my mother tongue. That showed me that God knows us better then we know ourselves, he knows exactly what we need and he is always there, also in the moments in our lives when we feel far apart from him!”
“~Lounging at the hostel
Was never a more ordinary day
No thought of the divine
No memory of the prophesy
God saw differently
He brought her in
And plopped her down
That’s how it happened. One evening we were just hanging out at our hostel and that’s when I met her- the lady in the grey sweater.
A bit of background on that: while we were still prepping for outreach someone got a word for me that I would meet a lady in a grey sweater and that my testimony would bring her to Jesus. Now at the time I wasn’t thinking about whether or not this lady was wearing a grey sweater. I was just excited to have met another Canadian! And someone from BC! Turned out we had a lot in common and got along really well. Over the next few weeks when she was available I would invite her to join us in whatever we were doing. We went to a Christmas concert, the beach, potluck dinners, did puzzles together and watched some movies. God lit a fire in me for this girl and I couldn’t figure out why. About a week before we were to leave Tauranga Celeste pointed out that she thought this girl might have been wearing a grey sweater when we met. That’s when it all made sense. God had brought her just as I thought he would- with me totally unaware that she was the one. I hung out with her one last time before we left, but never shared my testimony with her. I’m not mad about that, because now I have a friend that I can share my story with.”
Our seventh week of outreach was the week of our Great Walk! We walked almost 60 km over four days around Lake Waikaremoana, one of the twelve Great Walks of New Zealand. We split our group into two, started at opposite ends of the hike and met in the middle. We had the best time wandering through the forest, enjoying the breathtaking scenery in both rain and sunshine, while talking or in silence. There’s something so peaceful about just being surrounded by nature and letting you mind wander – it makes you feel very close to God. We spent all three nights in huts along the way, where we hung out with all the other hikers and did some hut ministry. We would talk to people, play lots and lots of card games, make friends and just spread love and encouragement wherever we went. We did have some really good conversations, and even got to pray for one family before they left. We met one kiwi family in particular that was with one of our groups for the entire hike, and we became good friends with them and their kids. It felt like our being with them really had an impact on them, and hopefully we could show them what the love of Jesus looks like. We had so much fun hanging out with them, and we absolutely loved getting to know them during the few days we had together. Meeting them was such a blessing!
Sore and bone-tired after four days of walking, we spent a night in a hostel in Napier before heading down to Wellington. As we drove into the city, we prayed for the place, just like we did when we left it in the very beginning of outreach. We had a well needed rest day where we got to explore Wellington a little bit and recharge our batteries. The next day we drove all the way down to Kaikoura where we will be spending the remainder of our outreach.
The North Island is now behind us, and we begin the final part of outreach with a renewed vision of what we want our outreach to be. Our time on the North Island has been truly incredible, through all the challenges and rewards, and now we can’t wait to see what Kaikoura and the South Island is going to bring!