Part 1: Time with friends and God on the North Island
My first three weeks here in New Zealand of a primarily solo nine-month travel and exploration time have been filled with many good memories and relationships. My best friend and his new wife, Jonathan and Tanya (also Climbing for Christ members), have been living here for the past five months as Wesleyan Church interns in Auckland. I have been spending my time up until now with them. I have gotten to know members of the local church where they serve, and have been blessed abundantly by their famous New Zealand hospitality, with many invitations to tea (supper). While here in Auckland, I have also volunteered at their recently-founded church (the Wesleyan Church in New Zealand is only about 4 years old), and gone on outdoor activities around the area with my friends, such as abseiling (the NZ word for rappelling) and mountain biking. In fact, I was able to teach Jonathan and Tanya how to abseil for the first time. This was especially meaningful for them as Jonathan feels called into some sort of full-time outdoor/adventure ministry, but lacks the equipment and personal experience.
Also, the three of us attended a three-day church conference in Napier on the North Island. This conference literally changed my life as during the closing rally, I felt God confirm in my heart that His will for me was to go ahead and pursue some sort of outdoor-oriented personal business, something I had caught the vision for some months earlier while I was serving the Lord in the Dominican Republic and then in Haiti, during a Climbing for Christ evangelical mission there. But that was not all; I also felt God asking me to somehow support Christian ministry through this business. I felt God ask me if I would be willing to do anything for Him in this area, and I answered, “Yes.” Finally, at these same moments, the thought instantaneously popped into my head that, “Wouldn't it be great if I could somehow partner with my best friend Jonathan in this future ministry?” I know this came from God, and not from myself. What is even more remarkable, however, is that God was speaking to Jonathan at the same time, reaffirming his calling to outdoor ministry, and assuring him that it didn't matter what Jonathan felt he could or couldn't do on his own. Only when we feel we cannot do it on our own can God begin to use us, Danny Seaborn (a frequent speaker at Promise Keepers) said that night. When I spoke with Jonathan that night about what God had said to me, he told me that he had felt God leading him for some time to talk with me about some sort of partnership, but was praying that God would speak to me first. Of course, now, we still don't have any specific visions, but are seeking the Lord's direction for our lives, as we continue college education (for Jonathan) and travel and then graduate school (for me).
Before and after this conference, Jonathan, Tanya, and I traveled around the North Island by car for about 12 days. One highlight was tramping (hiking) the Tongariro Crossing, a very popular 17-kilometer day- or multi-day hike up to the col between the active volcanoes Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, around several steaming craters, and down the other side. Another volunteer mission couple from the States joined us for the day, and we all climbed and summited Ngauruhoe successfully. Although there were still large snowfields on the mountain at this time of year, we did not need special mountaineering equipment. I was privileged to be a part of this climb, as it was a first of its kind for Jonathan and Tanya, and the first mountain the other couple had ever climbed! Jonathan and I also had a special time as we also summited Tongariro peak that day, and rejoined the others further along the track (trail).
Jonathan, Tanya, and I also visited bubbling mud pools, went tramping and caving at Lake Waikaremoana, visited numerous waterfalls such as Shine Falls and Damper Falls, visited Wellington, the capital of NZ, and explored the Taranaki coastal region including the White Cliffs. We also attempted a two-day climb of Mount Taranaki, an impressive volcano on the western side of the North Island. However, steady 40-to-50 mph winds and no visibility prevented us from ascending the steep snowfields leading to the top. Jonathan and Tanya valued this experience, though, as their first real backpacking trip.
In all, I really valued my time with my friends and the church, as solo travel and exploration can bring a sense of freedom that must be experienced to be understood, but also often feelings of loneliness. I believe that God made us social creatures, and I know I will miss their company in my future travels and hikes around New Zealand.
Currently, Jonathan and Tanya are preparing to fly back to North America, and I am preparing to fly to Indonesia on a 10-day mission trip. When I flew here to New Zealand, I had no idea I would be going to Indonesia — it is amazing how God works. The Pacific Area director of the Wesleyan Church, a mentor to Jonathan and Tanya, invited me to join him as he flew to Indonesia to work with a Bible college there. I felt this was a great opportunity God had created for me to experience first-hand a primarily Muslim country, and based on others' strong recommendations that I should pray about it, decided to go serve at the college also, teaching English and helping in the library. While these are really two areas I have no knowledge or experience in, I am trusting God completely to bring me through.
I will look forward to continuing this story in a few weeks.
Nov. 13, 2005