loren Eric Swanson: Made it to New Zealand

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Made it to New Zealand

Sam Williams and I are in New Zealand. The great thing about flying to New Zealand is lifting off at 11:30pm in Los Angeles and arriving in Auckland twelve hours later at 8 in the morning…two days later. After clearing customs, Andrew Cox and Howard Webb (photo above) welcomed us with big smiles on their faces. Andrew and Howard work as part of Campus Crusade’s “Love Your Neighbor” campaign (http://www.loveyourneighbour.co.nz/). They’ve done a great job setting up the trip with pastors and leaders culminating with a conference in Auckland on Saturday. We were greeted with the traditional meat pie as we awaited our domestic flight to Christchurch. Looks like it will be a great trip. I may eat only meatpies on this trip.

(On a side note…and interesting note, the last time I had an authentic meatpie was in Sydney in 2000. A photographer snapped my photo and the next day my pictures eating a meatpie were on the front page of the inside section of the Australian along with a few quotations of me muttering something about meatpies containing all the nutrients a man needs to subsist and thrive since they contain both meat and potatoes. So here these Olympic athletes work a lifetime and may get a byline in the paper and I get the front page for gobbling down a meatpie. Is there no justice? The picture was passed around Australia media, was in a couple other articles and ended up being the photo for a book called, The Man Who Ate Too Much)

At the moment I’m looking out the window as we fly between the North and South Island on our way to Christchurch. The north Island looks like a huge golf course from 28,000 feet...and now that I'm over the South Island, that Island does too. Remember this is the place where Lord of the Rings was filmed so who knows if we'll need to address how to reach Hobbits through externally focused church...maybe by giving them large shoes.

We arrived at Christchurch and the boys rented a nice SUV to take us to the Holiday Inn. I believe I can smell the meat pies. Lunchtime!

Our first meeting of the day is with the church leadership of Spreydon Baptist Church (http://www.spreydon.org.nz/).

After our presentation to the leaders of Spreydon on the Externally Focused Church during the first hour, we took the second hour to learn all about their ministry from Senior Pastor Murray Robertson and the staff he assembled. One by one they went around the room and shared their passion and ministry. It was quite amazing! They are engaged in a number of externally focused efforts and have done so for many years. A couple of breakthrough ideas… A few years ago some folks in the church started a "bank" called Kingdom Resources led by John Exton (kingdomresources.org.nz). Because debt is eating many people for lunch Kingdom Resources, after screening and debt counseling, loans the money to the debtors to pay off their debt in full, charging them zero interest on their loan. The concept is based on a few key ideas that they linked together. First, many believers have money sitting idle in the bank getting 1-2% interest...money that could be used for the kingdom. Many people are trapped in high interest loans they will never be able to get out from under. In the past five years Kingdom Resources has paid $2.6m of debt for Christchurch people and, as part of the debt restructuring, work with them in budgeting, money management, saving program etc. They have 130 "budget counselors” to help these folks with budget advise, employment counseling etc. They are setting the captives free. The money is pooled from believers who want to put their money to good and godly use. Contributors put in betwe$100 and $100,000. Over the years they've only lost $36K (1.5%) through default. Even this loss was covered by a couple of women in the community. It's really about "little people helping little people."Senior Pastor, Murray Robertson says God touched his heart 20 years ago when he was walking through the slums in Manila with a team doing incarnational ministry. God was telling him that they needed to do in Christchurch what they were doing in Manila. Recently the City Council approached Spreydon Baptist and said, "Do you realize that you are the largest supplier of human services in the city? How can we help you more?"

Their efforts to help children in after-school and holiday programs is has spread to other churches so that today 1/10 of children’s centers are located in churches. Some government officials says that they want all children’s programs to be influenced by Christians. What Spreydon Baptist is doing is absolutely remarkable. They teach English to recent immigrants, they have after school and holiday care for children, they work in the art community, they have a service during the week made up mostly of folks with mental illness, and they work with the poor. As staff member Graeme Reid says, "A church with an absence of the poor is a church in poverty itself.” All of their ministries begin with one question—“What are the needs of the community?” The only “criticism” from the community is that they are a “church filled with activists” (and may their tribe increase).After the afternoon session we went for "tea" (code word for large dinner) and came back to a public meeting made up from folks for around 75 folks from the community. Lots and lots of energy. Sam gave his grace and truth talk, which was well received. I followed with my “Five characteristics of externally focused churches” PowerPoint and then Sam and I finished with some practical how-to’s. Pastor Murray is leading the charge in this part of the world and we are grateful to count him as a co-laborer.


At Wednesday, October 26, 2005 11:55:00 AM, Blogger r.fuel said...

Mmmm. Meat pie.


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