New Zealand is beautiful this time of year. It’s late Summer in the South Pacific; cool at night but almost hot during the day. The sun sets about 9. The weather reminds me of Chicago in September, only this is nothing like Chicago. This is New Zealand’s south island where it’s mostly farms and mountains. People are small town all the way- super nice and slow-paced. This pic here is Will(left-School Leader), Jeremy(Base Director), and me having breakfast last Saturday.
This is the 5th full day with the students here. It seems like it’s been a month. Every day is jammed full. We work on immunization shot arrangements, setting up recreational activities for weekends, work duty training, facilitation of lectures, attend staff meetings, and early morning prayer. As staff, we are busy locking things into a routine and setting a precedent. It’s easy to be easy once things get going. It’s hard to tighten up later on. We try to lead by example in things like punctuality, cleaning up-basically everything-living life in community.
Part of this is breaking down barriers and going through exercises to create familiarity and unity. It can be uncomfortable, but we’ll travel the world together and go places spiritually together so trust and closeness are key. Among the exercises, we (staff and students) share a “testimony” or short life story in front of the group. We got about 5 minutes each. It might not seem like enough time, but it’s totally possible. You carefully choose your words and make it happen.
We have people from Norway, England, the US, New Zealand, Australia, and Germany…to name a few. About 24 girls and 11 guys(not including staff) ranging from 18 to 39 years old. It’s amazing listening to the differences between people and seeing what they highlight. As we share our geographical and family backgrounds, schooling, travel, loves, failures, successes, and God’s work in our lives, there is diversity but common ground. We all have a strong desire to walk deeper with God and share his love with others. For 6 months, we will walk this journey together.
I talked with at least 2 who said they had a “boring” testimony, meaning not much trouble or excitement. I understand that. When I was a lot younger, I made it my goal to LIVE an entertaining story at any cost. Well, I got what I wanted. I got tons of stories but not for free. There is always a cost.
Two Bible characters came to mind as I thought about that. The first was Nathanael who Jesus looked at and said, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” And then later told him, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:47 & 51) It seems to me that Nate was one of the “pure in heart” who would “see God.” Following God from a young age and not wavering to wayward paths definitely has its advantages. I think there is a correlation between being pure in heart and seeing God.
Then there is another story. “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” When she was criticized for it, Jesus responded, “…her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
(Luke 7:37-38 &48)
I am not saying that having lots of stories is sinful. What I am saying is that when a person used to be “wild,” it’s not always glorious out in the Wild West. Lots of stuff happens, decisions are made, and costs are paid-some on a residual basis for years to come. Having a “boring” testimony looks nice from my perspective sometimes…then again, I have been forgiven for a whole heck of a lot, so I can love a whole heck of a lot!
Bottom line: Each has a unique story… No need to waste time comparing to anyone else. God works all things together for good no matter what…but the geatest is LOVE.