Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Being back on the Kapiti Coast always makes me think about why we came to New Zealand and what we are doing here. I stopped recently as I was driving through with a whole mess of emotions churning around. The past few weeks have seen some great times, some huge encouragements but also some tough times and some difficulties. I have always been slightly sceptical of the value of printing bible verses on tee shirts but it was good to be reminded of the "Minty Verse" and to remember what God has done and is doing in our midst. God is in the growth business. Growth is slow and sometimes painful but God does indeed make his people grow.
The Minty Verse is from Psalm 92. "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him." We look back with thankfulness at all that has been done but long to see people established who will bear fruit through the whole of their lives; who will be strong in God and provide strength and shelter to others.
We have a great group of interns doing Minty this year. Sarah (on my left) and Greg (on the extreme right of picture) are coming to Scotland in August for the first of our Leadership Conversations which we are calling “Influence with Imagination”. Probably one of the best things about the first three years in NZ is beginning to see some really good quality student leaders, interns and emerging staff being shaped by the work. I think we are entering a new phase where there are a number of green shoots beginning to emerge which have the capacity to bear fruit in the future.
Another Australian friend, Joel, who I have seen a couple of times since SPRITE in December, came to stay for a week on his way to lead a student team in Vanuatu. Joel spent a year in Vanuatu pioneering some student work and has a real passion for the Pacific Islands. We had some great breakfasts together and were able to speak about some possible opportunities for the future. I know he and the five students on the team would appreciate prayer for the next three weeks of teaching and outreach.
We took Joel to watch the All Blacks play France the day he arrived. Now to be fair he had been up ALL night getting ready to leave AND it was not the MOST exciting game but for someone engaged in cross cultural mission, actually falling ASLEEP during the game did display an ALARMING LACK or cultural sensitivity
I have been talking to John Criswell from the US about us developing some capacity in the US. The states are a significant player on the Pacific Rim although probably only those on the West Coast have much appreciation of that. John has been in New Zealand this week meeting people and getting a feel for what we are trying to do here. There could be a great advantage in developing new streams of funding, volunteer teams and staff for the Pacific Rim and we would appreciate prayer for wisdom in this. John has a long experience in student and church ministry and could be ideally placed to help us get things moving.
But alongside the green shoots there have also been clouds and darkness. A friend died unexpectedly, within our closer circle in New Zealand there have been a couple of bereavements which have hit our friends hard. We have also been grieved by the machinations in the Church of Scotland at the recent General Assembly, the appalling crisis of leadership it represents and for many struggling to know how to respond with grace and integrity.
My Dad has been in hospital for almost three weeks. It is hard being on the other side of the world when this kind of thing is going on. He seems to be responding to the physio and the antibiotics are getting on top of the infection but they have not been able to discover the source of the blood infection or to diagnose the pain in his back. We appreciate the many expressions of support and prayer from friends around the world. We hope he may get home in the next few days but will be on crutches, will need some adaptions in the house and will be on antibiotics for 4-6 weeks. My mum is waiting for new glasses after her cataract operation but when they arrive should be able to drive again which will make a difference.
Sometimes the tough things and the good things are pretty close together. The Catalyst Graduate Conference got of to a bumpy start. Cameron and Alison were at the entrance to the camp road indicating to turn right. A car slammed into the back of them at 100 km bashing them into oncoming traffic. Another car coming the other way smashed into them. Fortunately the car had spun through 180 degrees so the impact was again to the rear. If it had been side on it would have been much worse. We were stuck in traffic for an hour and when I saw the wreckage I feared that we may have been facing a fatality. It was a reminder to us all of the fragility of life. The turning is notoriously dangerous, after an accident last year the camp wrote to the council and were told that there would have to be 4 deaths at that point before they would consider it bad enough to change the road layout. We were glad that Alison and Cameron did not make a more persuasive case for road safety!
The Catalyst Conference was a great first step. We had over 100 there including a group from Priority Associates (the Campus Crusade connected workplace ministry who we have been talking with over the past year. I gave three key note talks on Daniel and we had streams for Marketplace and for Academics and Postgraduate students. Bob who leads Priority Associates in Auckland wrote after the event:
"I know this is a pretty crazy week for you with two back to back conferences. Thanks so much for your encouragement and affirmation. As I said in the e-mail to Mark partnering with you was an absolute pleasure. Thanks too for your ministry from the Word. I am busy getting feedback from those that we invited and your sessions in Daniel were the highlight for many of them. Cameron (the one who was not in the accident) said “The highlight of the conference was definitely Nigel Pollock's messages from Daniel. It was great to be challenged about being in the world but not of the world which I see as being probably the single biggest issue in the work place and permeates everything that we do.” Your prayer partners can rest in the knowledge that God used you and their prayers to minister deeply to these young professionals. So a heartfelt thanks. Who knows how God will use our mutual commitment to build His kingdom and honour our Lord Jesus Christ in transforming this nation."
"Living the Dream" was the theme of our annual national student conference. As I write we are entering the last day of exploring "work, study and dreams to the glory of God". Andrew Becroft gave an excellent talk on integrity from Daniel 6 and I spoke on Tuesday on Faith Under Fire from Daniel 3. At this evening's talent show the Christchurch group did the best musical summary of any talk I have given - we must try and get it on YOu Tube. I am speaking in the morning at the final session on "Faith for the Future". As part of the conference we hold the TSCF AGM. It was a pretty encouraging meeting, a number of students have spoken to me about it since using words like "inspirational" and "life changing". Which was a little surprising to me to be honest! I was also encouraged by the note to Andrew from Chris Clarke Honorary President of TSCF, until recently Chief Executive of Hawkes Bay District Health Board. "Would you pass on my apologies to the AGM and also pass on my comments that I think it has been an excellent year for TSCF - that we are blessed with outstanding staff, a dedicated board, world class leadership in Nigel and some fantastic new initiatives such as Catalyst to celebrate."
I do not feel remotely world class at the moment. I am just trying to get through one day at a time. I have written a piece on Cultural Connections which summaries what I said at the AGM and reflects something I have been speaking to a number of people about over the past couple of years and more intentionally over the past number of months. This last comment below only makes sense if you have read it!
Steering through the smoke, shells exploding around, waves threatening to swamp my little boat, not always sure what is going on or where we are but glimpsing through the mist other little ships. And realizing that sometimes just keeping going is enough.