Why New Zealand?

So I got stopped in the street downtown the other day by someone who recognised me… which happened often in Kandern, but is much less likely in a big city… but this is a New Zealand size big city, so here we are. It was one of the students from the youth group who asked me why I wanted to move to New Zealand.

As we interacted at the bus interchange in the beautifully recently rebuilt central city, I laughed to myself about why wouldn’t I want to live in New Zealand? The truth is actually much more beautiful than the smooth streets and English signs and five accessible coffee shops within five hundred meters. My thirty second version before I crossed the street was about how I missed this place and saw Jesus people at work here and wanted to be a part of it. Spoilers for the rest of this post, my thought out version is still about how excited I am to be working with Jesus people passionate about transformation in the lives of young people in this city.

New Zealand is a beautiful country; you’ve all seen The Lord of the Rings (or Narnia or King Kong or Whale Rider or Hunt for the Wilderpeople). The landscapes are breathtaking, but that wasn’t my big draw. New Zealand has excellent health resources and shares my mother tongue, but I could have found a couple other countries that fit that description too. New Zealand has a laid back island culture that I find actually has a lot of overlap with PNW culture which I love, but even that isn’t the biggest draw for me because I fit just fine in my southwestern German culture in a lot of ways.

No, what drew me here was RCC and the Jesus followers passionately living out their faith without letting anything get in the way of the Gospel.

I was asked a version of “why New Zealand” a couple of times this week, and one person asked me “What’s the biggest difference between New Zealand and Germany and America?” which was a fun one to think about. I realised I had to take a beat before responding because so much of my love for New Zealand is rooted in the Jesus loving Kiwis that welcomed me in here and made me feel at home. I actually met a Kiwi TCK who was born and grew up in Germany after service today, and we had a lovely chat about what he’d noticed was different between his passport and host cultures. I had dinner with my Oregonian friend who lived in Austria for a bit tonight, and she and I reflected on some of the same themes. With a bit of time to think about it, I think what is most distinct about New Zealand culture is the openness and interest in engaging other people and cultures. Kiwis are curious, and they are willing to listen and receive new things; they value multiculturalism and actually refer to their country as Aotearoa New Zealand rather than just New Zealand.

Several weeks ago, I had an interaction with someone who forgot I’d spent a year in New Zealand before giving me a mini lecture based on his one or two weeks visit several decades ago. “You’ll find New Zealand is such a young country that it doesn’t have a culture of its own,” he pontificated. While I was immediately offended on behalf of all New Zealanders, I’ve come to realise he missed the fact that a core value of this country is welcoming in other cultures and making space for them. That’s something that stands pretty distinct from American and German culture. I still have plenty to learn about Kiwi culture, but by the grace of God I have years and years to do it. Also by the grace of God, I can see the value of this particular city and particular church in which I’ve been placed that is unique in fulfilling the mission to spread the Gospel. So the real answer to “why New Zealand” isn’t anything about how great I happen to think New Zealand is (which I obviously do), but it’s how great Jesus is who brought me here to work with other Jesus minded people.

These Jesus people brought me up to the front of the church this morning in both services and a different elder laid hands on me to pray for my transition* and to commission my service here. What an absolute gift. Why wouldn’t I want to be here – right where God called me?

*They also prayed for my housing which is still an immediate and urgent prayer need; I have a couple weeks bridge but no idea what my permanent landing place will be yet.

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