Friday, December 30, 2011

Kerikeri to Wellington

We are off! There were no suitable campervans in the Kerikeri area, so our friends John and Michelle took us to Auckland on their way to a family camp at Totara Springs in Matamata. They have done so much for us, and made the buying of a van as easy for us as could be. Don't laugh: it is an 1997 Toyota Previa with (you won't believe this) 739,000 km. However, both engine and transmission are fairly new, everything works and we will just hope and pray that it will keep doing so for another 5000 km! People do tend to keep their vehicles a long time, but this is a lot even for here. Cars have to be checked and certified every six months, so they are kept up well.

By the time we completed the purchase, gassed up and found some food, it was getting on in the afternoon. We had the option of going to another friend's place near Hamiltion this day or the next, so we decided to go the two hours south and get to their place 12 km from Ngaruawahia that day (here is how they remember how to spell it: nine-girls-are-running-under-a-wharf-and-here-i-am). So glad we did! Mike was in my C&C group at my first church where I was youth pastor and also used to work at Camp Qwanoes as chef in the summers. Except for a bit of gray hair he hasn't changed a bit. Still full of fun and mischief, and still the talker. And he struck gold when he found his wife Helen (also at Qwanoes) - she is a farm girl from nearby and one of those Proverbs 31 kind of people. They and their son David made us feel at home right away. David took me down to the creek to find crayfish by torchlight, Helen laid out a gracious meal for us (though we told her about our McD's burger on the way) and Mike had story after story, about our days together long ago and all that he has been doing since.

We spent the next two days with them. They took us to the little surf town of Raglan, where we had lunch at a little cafe and wandered along the harbour. We went to the best left-hand break in the southern hemisphere, but the day was flat and there were no surfers. Mike loves to cook and loves to eat, and he and Helen pulled out all the stops, with roast ham and amazing steaks, with kumara and barbequed smoked potatoes and wonderful veggies. I may not fit in my plane seat on the way home! David and I had nerf wars all over their beautiful 95-year-old house, slipping on the hardwood floors. Mike loves to talk theology, and Helen and Sarah got along like sisters. It was hard to leave, but we hope to connect with them again on our way back north, when they will be staying at their bach on an east coast beach.

The day we left was a wet one. A cyclone has been building in the Tasman Sea, and we got the first taste. Much of the drive was typical Hobbiton, but there were also steep and snaky parts through jungle growth, and several places where the beach was right beside the road.

This photo is interesting, because it looks like a sunny beach with shadows coming from the left. Actually it wasn't sunny and there were no shadows; it is the sand that is black. Someone was surfing here, and it was at least double overhead with some nice tubes.

We didn't have any plan of where to stay that night. We passed a few campgrounds, but nothing seemed quite right. We were nearing New Plymouth, and Sarah suggested pulling into a smaller town by the beach to see what we could find. We drove past many houses and directly down to a park that was free of "no camping" signs, which made it fair game. It was right by the beach and had a washroom. I talked with a local on the beach, who told me that no one would mind us staying there overnight, and that a few locals might come by and drink and beer or two and leave, but it was quite safe. He was right.

We got through cooking dinner out the back of the van, and then the mist turned to rain, which drummed on the roof all night, so that we often could not even hear the breakers. But we slept well, and I think our little van stood the test - or we stood the test in our little van. I coudn't imagine we will find worse weather than that.

Until today. When we got up, it was still raining, and we had to dry the condensation off the windshield. All day, the rain pelted down and the van was rocked by the wind. We missed seeing a majestic cone that in the pictures looks like Mt. Fuji, and really couldn't see much of anything until we got near Wellington. But we accepted the journey God gave us with grateful hearts that we were safe and dry. A friendly cashier from Toronto recommended that we see the Cable Car Museum. We went, and it was cool, but we decided to come back a sunnier day. Instead, we went to Hannah Dunn's home (she also spent a summer at Qwanoes), for which we are grateful, though Hannah herself is in Australia! We will see her on our trip back north again. As I write, the wind is howling around the house, and it is cold! Hannah's dad turned the heat off for the summer, so her sister's New Years party will be a bit chilly. By the way, Happy New Year's, a whole day early for you North Americans!

Tomorrow, we are booked to cross Cook Strait (which could be a bit rough) and start our South Island adventure! Stay tuned.

PS - I'm past 70,000 words.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bay of Islands

We have landed! Our first few days in New Zealand have been quiet and restful, partly because after the first couple of days there has been a steady, soaking rain. Not ideal for us, but the people here are very grateful to have an end to a long drought, both for the fields and for the water tanks everyone uses that are fed by rainwater from their roofs. Anyway, it's warm. No one even wears rain jackets here.

We have enjoyed reconnecting with people we met here six years ago. We were met at the airport by Michelle (she lived with us for a couple of years not long after we arrived at Qwanoes) and her kids Josh and Ellie, who were 9 and 7 last time we were here and are now 15 and 13. We are getting to know them all over again. Then later Daniel (7) and Lana (5) came home from their last day of school and immediately pulled us into their play. Finally Michelle's Husband John came back, driving a small logging truck piled with logs. This family is so good to be with. We are staying in their camper, next to a field with horses, but they have included us in their lives and with their family and friend gatherings. We already have four invitations to dinner this week!

We are still looking for a camper van to take us all over the country after Christmas. I have emailed about a couple of the many listed at but haven't heard back yet. Between now and then, the plan is to park the camper we are staying in at a beach nearby, so we look forward to that. But for now we are quite content to hang out with Michelle and family.

So what will this time be about? We are still wondering and waiting. There are potential opportunities forming at home (no, we don't intend to stay in New Zealand forever!), and for now this is a good place for us. I'm doing more writing (I'm past 50k words now), and the weather is supposed to clear by Friday. God has blessed us by putting us here, and we look forward to watching it unfold.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Following the Sun / Following the Son

We are sitting in the Vancouver Airport, a couple hours from a 14-hour flight to Auckland, New Zealand. The sun just set here but is high in the sky there, and it will set there and rise again before we land. If you are following us on this Blog, we hope that it will be a good journey, and that by following us you will follow Jesus.

Just to catch you up, after our return across Canada in which we got to visit with about 90 Kaleo students and several others, we spent a few days feeling footloose in Victoria and then headed for California at the invitation of Amanda. We had never been down the Oregon Coast, and found it marvelous. I guess it is cool that our coast is rugged and wild, but it was sure nice to drive mile after mile and actually see the beaches and headlands and lighthouses of the West Coast. California was warm and sunny, and Amanda had a fair bit of time off just then so we talked lots and had adventures like a day out on the houseboat and a chilly dip in the lake.

We also visited Bethel while in Redding, which was an interesting experience. Several people prayed for us who were clearly sent from God to speak to our situation and to encourage us. One told me to focus more on what God is doing, rather than what he is not doing, underlining the message that he has been giving us all along the way.

Back in Victoria, we had several weeks of house-sitting, very timely. We had more time with our boys than we have in a long while, and attended a little church and Bible study with Nicki and company where God has drawn together a crowd of young adults, which we found very interesting. I am curious about what God is doing in and through the young adult crowd in Canada these days. I also did a fair bit of writing, which is why this Blog has suffered, but maybe one day you will see the results of what is becoming a book.

One evening, I was sitting downstairs thinking and praying, and I said to God, "You know, we have done all these things you have asked of us during this transitional time. And now it is time to show us what's next." The answer was clear and interesting: in the next four days, after a year of hearing about no opportunities, four were brought to my attention, and another yesterday. All of them were from camps, all were not right now but in the spring, and maybe none of them will work out. But I had the impression that God was saying, "You want opportunities? Here, I have dozens of them in my pocket! I can pull them out any time. Trust me. Wait."

So, we are off to New Zealand, which for us has been a good place for waiting on God. We will stay with friends for a couple weeks in the far north, and then hopefully buy a camper van and tour the country north to south and back again. It feels a bit strange to be away for Christmas, but we had a little celebration with Ben and Danny the other night, and they are okay with it. I understand that Christmas in NZ is typically a barbeque at the beach. We can handle that.

We will try to keep as up to date here as we can, though internet access will be a bit intermittent. We appreciate your prayers!