I arrived back at my temporary home a week ago, and I jumped into the new school year of activities here in Christchurch wholeheartedly. Wednesday I returned to church staff stuff where I also had a fun surprise of getting my birthday extended for the office to sing to me during morning tea. These wonderful Kiwis have included me in all of their traditions, and I feel so loved here. I managed a full day with an evening meeting in preparation for the discussion I'll be leading for youth group students in the coming weeks. Thursday was filled with catch up on calls and emails I'd postponed while away, and Friday morning was another full day.
I was particularly excited Friday morning because I was able to be back in a classroom for half an hour. In my remaining months, I'm gifted with the chance to teach a short Bible lesson in the local school with middle school age students. The day before I'd skyped with a BFA alumnus who was excitedly telling me about his New Testament survey course at university and all the fascinating new things he had learned in just a couple weeks. It was a healthy shot to my ego that roughly two thirds of what he was telling me was content I'd taught in my class that he didn't remember. I joked that must mean I am a terrible teacher, but I know the real success is that he actually is interested in reading the Bible and learning more about it.
With that in mind, I poured my heart into the thirty minutes I had with these Kiwis to let them know I was so excited to have the chance to come to their class each week for the next four months to tell them about the Bible and that I hoped they would get excited about reading the Bible for themselves.
Shortly afterwards, I poured my heart into a lego pullback competition between the church staff and the youth workers who share their office building. I'm happy to report I was on the winning team (though all credit goes to Phil who actually assembled our winning car). Just after that, I filmed a short testimony video for an upcoming sermon before heading to the gym to impress more people with my hard work and determination. I've had so many positive comments this week about the improvements I've made in my few months here, and I'm so encouraged by every one of them. Spending intentional time on my physical care has been a huge benefit to my mental and spiritual health as well. I only had a quick break at home before turning around and going to the youth group pool party.
I really loved being able to sit and watch these young people enjoy the fading summer sunshine before crowding into a classroom next to the school pool we were at to hear a youth leader talk about how Jesus wants us to have a beautiful life. I have a beautiful life, and I'm eager to see what new beauty will come in the rest of this year. One of the significant things that helps me to see the beauty in my life, is to look for it where I live. I've been so blessed to spend this year in Christchurch, and this week I've had some incredible moments engaged in the local culture - from the Bible in schools program to staff lego building competitions.
My friend Jenny also made sure I got to experience the Sparks in the Park event last night where we enjoyed the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra play for a couple hours with a finale of the 1812 Overture accompanied by the most incredible fireworks display I've ever seen. And I'm American, so that's saying something; we really like to blow things up. Tonight I had the extra special cultural treat of watching a musical celebrating a South African written by French authors with a British friend in New Zealand. I love the gift of living in a time when I can engage with different cultures and learn so much. It's beautiful to see the intersection of different lives across the places I've lived, and I always want to be thankful for where I am in the moment.
This week has been full of beautiful things, but I also have the ongoing complications of my body being stiffer and slower than I'd like. I don't have to diminish the good things to still ask for prayer that my body would continue to improve. I have made great gains, but I don't want to settle, so I'm asking for more strength to show up in my legs in the coming weeks as I work hard on my gym routine before checking in again with my physio soon.