You all know I've got my priorities, so as soon as I could, I got my Zambrero via uber eats, and it was delicious - as good as I remembered.
This was a whirlwind week adjusting to the time zone, the English everywhere, and the whole office which I get to decorate with photos of my favourite people and places to remind me why I do what I do. One of the coolest things about this past week was being greeted by so many people who love and remember me. And who want me to be here. I've been repeatedly blessed with so many old friends coming up and saying how excited they are that I'm here. I really love this church family, and I am so excited to get stuck in with my job and living here.
Monday was a blustery day in Christchurch, and my body had to adjust quickly to the change in seasons. I also stopped at the mall to pick up a couple sweaters and long sleeve shirts to make it through the end of winter here. I kept laughing with everyone about how I'd left a low of 20 celsius to arrive in a week with highs around 12 or 13. Fortunately spring is coming. I did have a house viewing on Monday at a place that looked ideal on paper though didn't work out in the end.
Tuesday was my first day in the office, and I got to see my actual office. I even have a sign on the door with my name. For now it has naked walls, but I ordered some prints and Christy offered me some plants, so I'll upload a photo once it looks more homey. Going to morning tea after my first "orientation" meeting was fantastic. I saw a bunch of familiar CDN faces and was able to meet several new people as well. Sharing a cuppa with this group again felt so natural, and I really look forward to sharing life here again.
Wednesday had another round of warm greetings and cold weather, and I'm continuously struck by how everyone here wants me to be holistically healthy and to transition well into this role here. One of my friends texted to invite me to a movie Wednesday night, so I got to chat with a few old friends and meet some new people before going to a fundraiser viewing of Sound of Freedom. I fit right back in to life, and I even got fish and chips for dinner. Have I mentioned how much I love the access to good food here? I'm certainly not done talking about it.
Thursday I made some progress on my sleep schedule, and I headed into the office in the afternoon to connect with other people working on the youth team. These are incredible Jesus people here, and it was so encouraging to catch up with them and watch some of the younger youth activities go on. The Lord is absolutely at work here, and it's a privilege to be invited to serve on this team. The Thursday night program sets a foundation for students to step into the high school group beautifully. I'm excited to continue to watch that program and see the connections to my work here. After watching that and interacting with some leaders, I went out to dinner with Liz and got to catch up with her. I ate incredible food yet again, but I also really loved hanging out with another friend with the bonus of puppy pictures.
Friday was the main event - for a couple of reasons. First, Jacqui is probably one of the most consistent people in my life, and I actually got to see her in person which was an absolute joy. Second, I finally got to be at youth group to see all the students who I've come to serve. It'll take a while to learn their names and stories, but I'm committed to this discipleship role, and it was just incredible to be there in person interacting with these young people. I showed up to meet a few at youth band practice, and actually two of them recognised me from four years ago. There are only a handful in total who were year 9 students when I left that are still around as year 13 students now, but it was super fun to see them all grown up. Matt gifted me the opportunity to share the message from Ephesians 3:7-13. If you go read it, you'll easily see why I wanted to talk on it for my first week arriving in New Zealand. Paul, the missionary to the Gentiles with a different culture than him, celebrates the gift of his life calling to share the Gospel. If you can get past any translation bias that you might have, reading it in The Message sounds like something I might have written to these Kiwis I'm so excited to serve.
This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message. It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details. When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God’s way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians. God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities. And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels! All this is proceeding along lines planned all along by God and then executed in Christ Jesus. When we trust in him, we’re free to say whatever needs to be said, bold to go wherever we need to go. So don’t let my present trouble on your behalf get you down. Be proud!
I really love how God has selected and equipped me for this role. I know there's still more equipping to be done, and part of that is still securing permanent housing. I've actually already seen one place today that might work, and I've got a second option to view in just a little bit. This second option is another moment of God working out details. This morning at church, RCC celebrated their 75th anniversary, and I loved the message of hope and stories of transformation that this church has been a part of for the past 75 years. The vision of this church is to see this city become a place of Christ's transforming hope for the world, and I love that I'm a part of that. My life has certainly already been transformed by the time I spent here on sabbatical, and it's such a joy that I get to return and offer my gifts to this community and continue seeing transformation in the name of Jesus spread out from this city.
I also loved how many people came up to hug me or wave or somehow excitedly welcome me back to Christchurch. One of them was a passing wave with a comment about possible accommodation for me. God is working out the details; if it isn't this, it'll be another place even better. I'm doing my best to be responsible with what God has put before me, and I'll keep asking you to pray with me as I go see if this housing opportunity will work for me.