Sunday, March 31, 2013


What an awesome week this has been telling people what Jesus did for us so that we may celebrate Easter! It has also been an eye-opening week, as well. We have been surprised by how many people (of all ages) have never heard the real story of Easter, or have never even heard of Jesus or God before either. But it has been our privilege to share this good news! 

On Tuesday evening we had Rock Solid. We played tons of fun Easter games, had an Easter hunt, and some of them even had a food competition to see who could eat a hotcross bun, chocolate Easter egg, and banana the fastest. It was all fun and games, but in the end it is not what Easter is about. So, we ended the night with a discussion of the true meaning of the holiday. Alison used a rubber glove to show that when we put the glove on, we can make it do anything we want- pick up stuff, touch things, etc. But as soon as we take the glove off, it cannot do anything on its own. This illustrated how "we can do all things through Christ." Without Christ in our lives we are dead, but through him we have life. And that is why Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then rose from the grave... to bring life! There were only 11 kids at Rock Solid this week, but that is 11 more people who know the true story of Easter. For some of the kids there, that was the first time they had ever heard it before. 

On Thursday morning, we had Bible in Schools. Jenna has a class of year 3s and 4s (7-8 year olds) and Jesse had new entrants (5 year olds). There are some strict rules when it comes to Bible in Schools about what you can and cannot say in the classroom. One of the things we are not supposed to talk about is death. So, sometimes we have to get very creative in our approaches to teaching kids the bible stories. This week, instead of making it about death, we taught them about life! That is what Easter is truly about, because Jesus gives us new life. Jenna asked her class if they knew why we celebrate Easter. One girl said, "because it is the Easter Bunny's Birthday!" some others said so that we can have Easter eggs, and some just said isn't it a christian thing? It was an exciting day to be able to bring the message of Christ into the public schools. 

On Saturday morning, our church had a Family Easter Carnival. The day included face painting, balloon animals, Easter egg decorating, coloring contest, fun games, as well as a garage sale and sausage sizzle to help raise money for our pastors to attend General Assembly. This was a great opportunity to build new relationships with people in the community. And we praise the Lord for holding off the rain for us- our event was intended to go from 9am to noon. It literally stopped raining at 9am and started raining at noon. Thank you Lord!

This morning (Sunday morning), our church hosted a free breakfast. Just about every seat was full (which for our small church is only 35, but that is almost 3 times as many as we have on a regular Sunday!). We transformed the church into more of a cafe style with tables and chairs. Pastor Donna and her family made a beautiful backdrop for the stage, Jenna set up the table decorations, and Jesse helped make yummy french toast. It was a beautiful service and it was exciting to see families worshiping together.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

It's amazing to see what He'll write, when you let God write your life story.

As the number of months left in New Zealand have been decreasing and we are getting closer to the end of our program, we have been praying diligently that God would guide and direct us to where He would have us serve next. Whether that meant staying in New Zealand, going back home to Michigan, or serving somewhere else in the world, we were leaving it up to him.
 A few months ago, I (Jesse) was drawn to a job posting on the Nazarene job board.  I immediately applied for the position without even consulting my wife (oops).  I gave the church the warning that we were in New Zealand and planned to stay there until May.  I sent off my resume and the warning and just prayed that God's will would be done.  Over the next few months, I talked with the Pastor and started to get very excited about the possibilities of the position. It was really cool to see that the church was willing to wait for us if we were the people for the position.  Well fast-forward a few months, I found myself on a plane to go visit the church and "interview" for the position.  I quickly fell in love with the church and the potential in the position.
 We had been praying that God would make our path clear and He did that.  He has been preparing Jenna and I for this position. It has been awesome to see how God works through our experiences (both successes and failures).  We are truly learning that God knows best and if we let Him write our story He will write a story that we could never have imagined.  Who would have thought we would be blessed working with the people here in New Zealand.  We are excited to see what the next chapter God is writing is going to be about.
We are sure that God will do amazing things through us at Clearwater First Church in Florida.  I will be the pastor to children and families at the church and will work on revitalizing the After-school program.
Our hearts are sad that our time here in New Zealand is quickly coming to an end but we are so grateful for the time we have had here and the relationships that we have been able to build.  God is working worldwide and we are just glad that he has chosen us to play a small part in His story.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Baptism Sunday

We know we are here in New Zealand for many reasons, but there are two very special girls who we believe are a huge part of why we are here. These two sisters are 11 and 13 years old and recently lost their older sister to suicide just 7 months ago. This past year has been a year of grieving and change. They have struggled with the temptations that today's world brings and finding their true identity. We have had the privilege of building relationships with these two beautiful young ladies. The 13 year old, Hannah, attended the EPIC Nazarene Youth Camp a couple of weeks ago. It was here that she made the decision to re-dedicate her life to Christ. This past Sunday she gave a public proclamation to  this re-dedication through baptism. Our church carpooled out to Ngunguru, a nearby beach, to celebrate this very special day for Hannah. What a gift it is to be part of this spiritual journey and to witness a change taking place inside of a young girl's heart. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

EPIC Nazarene Youth Camp

The Nazarene youth camp was exactly what it says in the title... EPIC!! The camp consisted of about 70 youth and 30 volunteers of all different cultures. Some of the cultures represented came from the Pacific Islands, Australia, Asia, UK, and America. Our speaker was Kenny Wade, an American who currently lives in Australia and works at Nazarene Theological College. He delivered powerful messages throughout the week that challenged the youth to think about living a life that makes God famous so they could receive the Eternal Prize in Christ (EPIC). 
Even though the camp only consisted of 2 half days and 2 full days, a lot of fun activities were able to be squeezed in during this short time period. Some of these included water skiing, tubing, swimming, kayaking, water fight, wharf jumping, giant water slide, and a photo scavenger hunt. Many of the youth are city kids who came up from Auckland and they don't get to experience being in the ocean too often. Many of them had first time experiences at this camp as well. Jenna had the privilege of water skiing in the ocean for her very time along with teaching youth how to as well. 

The highlight of the camp for us was the very last day when Kenny delivered his last message and communion was offered. One young man stood up and confessed that he didn't know God before coming to camp and he thought camp was just going to be a bunch of fun activities without the mention of God. However, that day he decided to give his life to following Jesus! Many others chose to dedicate or re-dedicate their lives to Christ. Jenna was approached by 2 girls asking for prayer. She prayed with them and then listened as they each prayed for Jesus to come into their hearts and take control of their lives. Praise the Lord! Jesse also prayed with the youth and was able to better explain the meaning of communion to them. 
When we returned home from camp we were thrilled to read some of the post on Facebook from the campers. The young man who stood up and gave his testimony was excited to share with the Facebook world his new found hope in Christ. Another one of the girls posted that her and some friends committed to reading at least one chapter of the bible a day and then they were going to share with each other what they had read. It is so exciting to see them on fire for Christ and we pray that this excitement will continue and they will share it with everyone they meet! 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Camping, Caving, Creation, and Koreans

There is a witty saying when a person compares something that is intense to camping because camping is "in tents".  We could however say that camping was not only in tents but also intense this past week at Rock Solid Breakaway Camp.  The week was filled with challenges, adventures, relationships, and good food.  The first day/night of camp was extremely windy. The tents (especially ours) were semi-collapsing due to the wind and the noise of the wind from inside the tent was incredible.  Needless to say, most of those attending and working at the camp got very little sleep.  However, God gave us strength to make it through the long days ahead even though we never really got caught up on our sleep.  Each day we had new adventures that we encountered. On Tuesday, Jesse went hiking with a group through the "bush" (woods) and up a hill and Jenna went with another group and had her first experience at Kayaking and Sea biscuiting (tubing) in the ocean. On Wednesday the whole group took a day trip out to Pataua North and South.  It was here that the campers and leaders were able to swim in the ocean, dive off a bridge, kayak, and climb another mountain. On Wednesday evening, we all enjoyed a time under the stars at the beach that was right next to the camp. Each team got to make their own "volcano" out of sand, sticks, and fire. It was awesome to see everyone working together in order to get their volcano to "erupt." 
On Thursday, the camp took everyone down into the earth as we went caving.  This was an amazing experience as neither of us had ever been caving.  The caving included spotting an eel, wading through waist deep water, climbing up rocks within the cave, looking up and seeing hundreds of glowworms on the cave's ceiling, and working with those campers who were scared or didn't believe they could continue. The caves were definitely a favorite aspect of the camp for the both of us. On Thursday evening the theme was "Islander night." The camp brought in giant inflatables for everyone to jump and play on and a snow cone machine. Everyone dressed up in islander wear and we enjoyed the sounds of island themed music. On Friday, we went for yet another hike.  Jenna braved the tall Mount Manaia for the second time in our time in NZ while Jesse took the more scenic and much more flat walk around Smuggler's cove.  
Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to build many relationships with youth of many different cultures. Jesse had the privilege to get to know Stella and Melody (Their English names).  These girls have left their families in South Korea for six weeks in an effort to better learn English and to serve Christ. Although they were young in age, they were brave as they were making this journey to New Zealand.  Melody shared with Jesse that her dream is to learn to speak English well enough that she can travel the world volunteering and helping others.  She has a huge heart for God and others.  It was so obvious to all that she came into contact with.  We are praying that God will continue to nurture this call to missions that she has and that she will allow for God to use her in big ways. 
Many of the children who attended this camp are in need of prayer. They need prayer that God will continue to work in their lives and that they would allow God to mold them into to who he created them to be. They need prayer that they will be able to be missionaries into their worlds (whether that is in NZ, Korea, or just their homes).  The "theme" of the week was creation and creativity. There was much shared about how creative God is and even though he has created huge stars he still loves us, even though we would be microscopic in size compared to those stars.  We pray that these teens that heard this message will at least always remember how important and loved they are by their creator.
There is so much more that could be written about camp but we hope that this gives you a glimpse into what camp was like.  We would appreciate your prayers as we have our Nazarene youth camp coming up next week.  We have been put in charge of the camp and are excited for what God has in store for the time.  Thanks again for all your support and prayers. We are half way through our time in NZ and God has amazed us with what He is doing.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Camp Preparation

During these past couple of weeks we have had some time to relax and visit the beach. Starting in the middle of December when kids get out of school most people leave and go on "holiday". They go visit family, head to the beach, or take a family vacation. This means we have not been in our normal routine, because we have not had Rock Solid, Kids Club, Food Bank, or Wednesday night bible study. However, we have been busy preparing for something else... Youth Camp! 
Before coming to New Zealand, we both felt that God had laid camp on our hearts. We have both had experience with camps in the past and at the time did not know how God was using those experiences to equip us for what was to come. A couple of months ago we were informed that the current Nazarene District Youth leaders in New Zealand would be stepping down from the position. Once we heard this we felt the Holy Spirit tugging on our hearts to organize this year's district youth camp. Soo... we have stepped up to the challenge! 
This year's camp is called EPIC (Eternal Prize in Christ) and will be held at Paura Bay's HOLY Ground Camp. We have met with the leaders of this camp and formed a strong partnership with them. They have informed us of government funding that will allow us to host a FREE camp for all 11 to 17 year olds. PRAISE THE LORD! We know that many times camp fees can get expensive and hold youth back from attending. But this year God has broken down that barrier. We also thought that transportation for 50 to 60 youth and leaders from Auckland up to the Northland (about a 2 hour trip) would be an issue, but once again God has provided for that as well! There will be a 47 passenger bus bringing youth and leaders up from Auckland. 
In order to make this camp possible and receive funding we were told we had to have at least 65 campers. The registration deadline was on January 2nd and we only had 3 people registered. Our humanness was beginning to doubt if this camp was really meant to be. However, yesterday we received a call from the district superintendent and were informed that he had been speaking to all of the local churches and totaled up 72 campers and leaders coming!! Thank you, Lord. 
God has been so faithful! Will you please continue to pray for this camp that will be held January 21st through 24th. Pray that all of those who attend will be impacted for Jesus and that it will be the most life-changing week of their lives. We know God has gone before us and has great things planned for this camp and we will continue to seek his guidance and direction. We will also continue to keep you updated. 

Also... next week we will be attending Breakaway Summer Camp. This camp is for Rock Solid- the outreach for 11-14 year olds that we have been volunteering with. This is a 6 day camp and we will be sleeping under the stars in a tent on the beach. Please also be in prayer for this camp. We both remember attending camps as kids and teenagers and know how impacting they can be on the lives of young ones.