Friday, September 18, 2009
Just Do It Part 3 - People
TSCF Staff Training Conference was held recently at Silverstream. It was an encouragement to see how the staff team has grown over the past three years both in numbers and in maturity. We looked at the Strategic Objectives I presented to the Board in 2005 and of the 32 things which i spoke about then, 28 of them have now been completed or at least advanced. We have seen growth, change and significant progress over the last 3 and a half years. Students have come to faith, twice as many students are involved nationally, conferences deliver quality input, income has nearly trebled, international links are stronger, graduate ministry has been developed, the Minty intern programme has been initiated, new staff have been appointed, systems have been overhauled. We have incorporated legally, registered as a charity, become an officially recognised Religious Organisation, transitioned to a Governance Board, rebranded and grown our communications, launched a new web site, started using digital media more intentionally and started several new groups around the country.
Basically we have got to what I describe as Base Camp. I will be commenting on this further but where we are now is not the final destination. Significant as getting here has been, we still have a mountain to climb. And we are in the high altitude business. In order to climb a mountain like Everest a process of altitude acclimatization has to take place, this involves going higher up the mountain and then coming back down to rest and build capacity. In this season of acclimatization various staff are having times of "sleeping low" in order to be able to "climb high".
Andy continues to recover. He is now back working 30 hours a week and is increasing the complexity of what he can handle. It has been a long and frustrating road to recovery but he had excellent support from various therapists at the different stages of his rehabilitation. We had an excellent time at his annual review this week. He continues to be a terrific asset to the work as well as a good friend. I find it hard to imagine what it would have been like in New Zealand without him. In the coming year I have asked him to supervise all the Regional Team Leaders and to work on development plans with all our staff. Andy is going to be visiting the UK to reconnect with supporters and friends next month, it will be an important time.
We have been thinking more about our outreach strategy. Much of what goes on here is programatic rather than missional. Ben has had opportunities to speak but is also trying to listen. We have just agreed to try to bring together a small group of people with gifts and interests in relating faith to culture for a weekend in New Zealand early next year. Ben is also a making a fantastic contribution to the work in Wellington and in NZ as a whole. He fits very well into NZ culture and it is great seeing them do so well as a family. Ben and Jen are about to visit the UK to show baby Samuel to friends and family.
Val has just left for a month in India. She is traveling with her Dad and will visit Udhagamandalam where her Dad and Aunt were born as well as spending time at the UESI staff training centre in Kotagiri with South Indian staff. Val is excited about the trip because of the family connections and because of our partnership with student ministry in India. She will be back for the rest of this year but wil then be on sabbatical for the first half of 2010. Val is a tremendous asset to the work in NZ and has done more than anyone to hold things together for the last 6 years. I believe that this season of rest and adjustment will be of huge benefit to her and the ministry going forward.
Jeff and Jane are currently in the US for 6 weeks with Sasha and Josh visiting family, friends and supporters. They had a most encouraging time in Wheaton and will be traveling a fair bit to connect with different people and churches. There are better photographs of them but given that they are raising support I thought one of them looking like they were working hard in difficult conditions might play better than a family snap in front of the Remarkable Mountains. Jane has been working on a review of International Student work in New Zealand and Jeff is leading the Auckland team. This is their first trip back to the US since moving to Auckland in 2006 and we are looking forward to having them back.
Mark and Renee Santich will soon be heading back to Australia for 6 weeks with their 4 children. They continue to spearhead the work in Christchurch and are a testimony to the value of sustained investment over many years and of perseverance.
Viv my new PA is on an extended trip with James, her husband for 7 weeks. All this does leave me feeling a little bit: "will the last person please switch the lights off" But the very fact that we are able to cope with this amount of people being away underlines the growth which we have seen. It was great to see Liz, my old PA (well former rather than aged) popping into the office with baby William Bud. She and Matt are back from Nepal for a couple of months and will return with the baby to Kathmandu in a few weeks. It was encouraging to see them coping so well and being so relaxed about the baby. They live at altitude!
Ailsa has been enjoying the flurry of babies and we have just had Sarah Anderson visiting from Scotland and will soon host Alistair and Sophie from Amsterdam with Matthew and baby Sarah. It seems incredible that Luke was this size fairly recently and has spent the last two nights tramping (hiking) in the Tararuas for his Duke of Edinburgh Silver practice Expedition.
It is fantastic to see children growing up. In Scotland I had the opportunity of a guided tour of Linlithgow Palace. Katie was one of our guides. She has been doing tours for tourists with other senior primary pupils, in period dress. A few years ago this would have been quite a daunting thing but she did brilliantly.
As you can see here!
All this new life and growth is a reminder of how quickly life passes. We only get one life and using it well is a challenge and a responsibility. I remember someone saying once that the great puzzle in life is not why so few live so well but why so many live so poorly. Even as we wait for the next thing and go through seasons of rebuilding, reconnection and change we need to keep sight of the reality that we were bought at a price. The life we now live we live by faith in the son of God who loved us and gave himself for us. There is no time for mediocrity, compromise or cruising. God is at work in us, strengthening and equipping for what lies ahead.
As the writers to the Hebrews reminds us, perseverance is not a passive thing. We need to set ourselves to keep going through the challenges of the life seasons. "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first." (3v12-14)
No one said the mountain was easy. But it's there! And whether you are climbing high or sleeping low at this moment, we are climbing it together, so clip on and enjoy the adventure.