Monday, August 03, 2009

Making it easier to say goodbye

I sometimes feel that life is just one long series of saying goodbye to people. Auckland airport is advertising that its now terminal will make it easier to say goodbye but follows with the line: "but you may not want to leave". There are many people and places that I do not like leaving and the nicest terminals in the world do little to change that. This past month has not been easy. There have been a series of illness, death and crisis to cope with. I have felt the distance from friends and family. I often say that the hellos make the goodbyes worth it but it does not always feel like that at all. We seem to have been saying goodbye to a lot of people.

May and Holmes are the two interns from America who have been working at church. They came to the end of their year and we had a couple of farewell events for them at church. Ailsa spoke at their last morning service about how much she had enjoyed supervising them.

We had them round for dinner on their second last night in New Zealand. It was great to spend time with them and think about some of the highlights of the year together. We had a meal comprising Scottish, Kiwi and American courses. May wrote in the visitors book "Thank you for being family to us and encouraging us all year. You have truly been role models and making me want a family like yours".

Craig dressed in an outfit with Kiwi, Scottish and American elements. He also performed his own version of Caledonia with some verses that he had writen for the girls. Holmes wrote:"This note isn't for a single visit to your home. This note is for the visits all along. Thank you for opening your home to me. I have to say I'll miss you terribly. You have a lovely home and family too. I don't say "goodbye" so "see you soon"

One of the most moving things about the farewells was seeing the impact they had been able to have in the lives of young people in the church. They shared their lives, were unashamed about using the Bible and built relationships with many people in the church and beyond. They have left a lasting impression in the lives of many and we will miss them.

The Shudalls came for a few days in the holidays minus Ruben who was in Germany. Andy is making good progress and is back working 30 hours a week. This was the first time that they had been to visit us as a family. The kids were in great form and a delight to have.

Ruth and Mark McConnell came to from Vancouver visit for a couple of days with Karis and Alana. It was great to see them after quite a few years. They were exploring possible job options with the institution formerly known as the Bible College in Auckland.

We enjoy having visitors as the salt on the barbecue says: "Thanks for coming". While it is great to have relationship with such a wide variety of people distance and time zones shape friendship for better or for worse. Sometimes I sit at my desk and people I wish I could talk to are sound asleep. The motto of Aberdeen is "Bon Accord" which is usually translated as "Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again". I often say that we are not really saying goodbye at all, just: "See you later".

Apart from the hope of reunion, perhaps the thing that makes saying goodbye easier is new life where you are. The koru is a constant reminder here, of how new life unfurls. This new life is evident at a number of different levels.

Ben and Jen Carswell had baby Samuel. It is fantastic to see them doing so well. I was hoping he might last until six minutes past five on the 7th of August as I thought that 0506 07 08 09 would be an awesome birthday. But we will have to wait and see if Matt and Liz can take up that opportunity instead.

Samuel James Carswell is the first of the next generation of those we have worked with or encouraged to come to New Zealand. It is humbling to me so see friends having and raising children on the other side of the world out of a sense of call to work together for the gospel.

Ailsa and I were able to visit him on the day he was born. I had to run from hockey training to get in before visiting hours ended! (and yes I do find this picture slightly scarey!)

Ailsa had been working on a cross-stitch for a few months and completed it just a couple of days before Samuel was born. Only his name and date of birth had to be added before it was framed.

I though the result was sufficiently impressive to warrant a close up!

The boys all very fond of him already and have been to visit on a few occasions for cuddles. . Mark and Emma Grace had their third child a few days later and were delighted to welcome Zoe May Hinemoa into their family.

New life is happening in the student world too. I spoke at the Overseas Christian fellowship Group at Auckland University and was really encouraged by the numbers but also meeting a couple of students who had come to faith. There are twice as many students involved in different groups in Auckland than there were three years ago.

Another new initiative was this past weekend in Welington. The two Victoria University groups put on a Cultural Marketplace event. This was extremely ambitious with food from about 10 countries for sale and a full programme of cultural events.

It turned out to be one of the best organised student events I have ever been to. Peng and Mel spoke very well about what the student groups vision is. The event was partly to raise funds for the groups local activities and IFES projects. I took part by doing three auctions.

I followed Craig's lead by wearing hybrid national dress. One of the student leaders was talking to me about my teaching from Daniel at mid year conference and then commented - "You do realise that you give us confidence to try crazy things".

There were several hundred people there over the course of the evening. They had invited people from some of the embassies, local churches and also some other student societies to put on cultural performances. There was a great mix of styles of music and dancing and people participated from a huge variety of backgrounds. Culture is definitely an opportunity as we look to build relationships, develop mutual understanding and share faith.

Sport continues to be another opportunity for us building friendships and having fun. The hockey season is in full flow. The Wellington under 13 team won our first tournament. We won against Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa and Manawatu but had drawn with Horowhenua. This meant that if Horowhenua won their final game against Manawatu it would come down to goal difference. They had to win by 4 goals to claim the cup. With 5 minutes left they were 3-0 up and pressing forward. Manawatu got a penalty and as we held our breath they scored, so we won by a single goal. Goal difference, like a penalty shoot out, is a terrible way to lose something but it is an okay way to win! We are off to Blenheim this weekend on the South Island where we play in another tournament and will face the might of Canterbury. Jamie has just been picked for the Wellington Under 16 emerging players team. Craig is delighted to have been selected as a "rep" for the first time for the Under 11 Development Team. This makes the weekends quite busy! Craig's Hutt team is top of division one in the primary competition and Luke and Jamie's Wellington College Team is challenging for the semi finals despite being decimated by injury.

The boys sometimes complain when we abruptly stop by the roadside that I am slightly obsessive about taking photographs of sunsets. I enjoy the late afternoon light the most. Perhaps it is the sense of the day saying goodbye with a flourish. The clouds and sunlight drawing patterns in the twilight from the mixture that the previous day has held and signaling hope for the day to come. (for shepherds at least). So thanks for your support, prayers and encouragement. It is never easy saying goodbye but I WILL see you later.

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