December 2019

Apologies that this is the first letter I’ve written since we arrived in New Zealand.

As those of you who know me well will be able to attest, this isn’t particularly surprising. Hopefully this letter will update you on what has been going on since we arrived.

Settling in

We touched down in Christchurch at the beginning of September, with our visas arriving only a few days before we were due to fly out! Thanks to everyone who prayed not only that our visas would turn up in time, but also that we would be content with what God had determined to happen regardless.

Since arriving, our church – a congregation of around 60 based in the south-east of the city – has been very welcoming, having us over for lunch or taking us out to some of the scenic spots near the city. I’ve managed to tick off one Lord of the Rings location already!

We stayed with the family of Steve, the vicar, for a couple of weeks upon arrival and they have been a great help to us as we’ve settled into Kiwi life. We’ll be spending Christmas day with them and I’ll be trying not to complain about all the ways in which Christmas doesn’t make sense in New Zealand – no Christmas jumpers, 25⁰C temperature, Christmas lights are redundant because it never gets dark, etc.

Church life

We have been able to get stuck into a bunch of different things at church since arriving. One thing that both Christianne and I are involved with at church is the youth group. There is a group of about 10 kids between the ages of 11-16 but, before our arrival, the church was having to get in help from other churches to run the youth group - mostly because our congregation is quite elderly except for parents. For the last few months, we have been looking at Revelation with the kids which has been challenging but has led to some good discussions about the difficulties and blessings of following Jesus. Looking to the future, we’re hoping to start some small-group bible studies with a few of the older youth, and we’ll be praying for new people to join the church who can continue this work once we have left.

I’ve also been leading a men’s bible study each week where we have been going through the Gospel of Mark. The guys who come along to this study are among the younger men in our congregation and so are likely to be leading the church well into the future. It has been really encouraging to see their commitment to attending, and their engagement with the Bible.

Looking to the New Year, we’re aiming to focus on training everyone in the church to engage their friends with the gospel. The congregation are keen, and understand the importance of telling people about Jesus, but many are unsure of how to go about it. We haven’t yet decided on a programme, but it will likely involve training in leading bible studies, apologetics, giving testimonies, and some other things.

There’s also a big bible-study training camp coming up in early January for the whole South Island, as well a church camp (Kiwis love their camps) for our congregation in February.

Things to pray for:

  • Thank God for us making it here at all, and then settling in without much hassle. Pray for our new visa applications to go through without much trouble – our current ones only run until March.
  • Pray for our church – that the youth group would flourish, growing in faith and friendship. Pray that we would be able to equip the congregation to confidently share the gospel, and that a few younger people would join who can be of help to the church looking to the future.
  • Pray for us – that our time here would be of benefit to the church. Pray that Christianne will be able to balance a busy work-schedule at the hospital with church-life and rest. Pray for me as I lead bible studies, preach and plan apologetics training.

Thanks for all of your prayers!

Philip

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