The land of mountains and coastal towns, ocean views and palm tree forests.
Red curry, green curry, coconut curry, more curry than I’ve ever eaten before.
Late night board games, ocean kayaking, river swims, and learning new recipes.
Morning prayer, midday prayer, evening prayer, silent in the presence of God.
These are just a few of the things I’ve experienced during my time in New Zealand. I have been on the ground running since the day I arrived on Friday, February 1st.
An hour after landing in New Zealand, I attended a parish party at St. James Anglican Church in Lower Hutt, the home church of the missionaries, Summer and Guy. Saturday, I went ocean kayaking with my host family and tried fish and chips for the first time!
Truthfully, those two days were rest to what came next. On Saturday, I began working intentionally under Summer and Guy as they diligently worked to complete the finishing touches for the Better World Gap Year. Better World officially launched on Wednesday, February 6th and it has been nonstop since then. Guy, Summer, and I have been working with the Better World participants, as they learn to trust one another as well as getting exposure to cross-culture experience, climate change, and how God is moving.
I have been living with the 6 participants, 2 team leaders, Summer, Guy, and their 3 children while we have been in training, all in one house! It has been quite the experience! I have honestly loved every minute of it and I am sad to see it come to an end. On Thursday, the 6 participants and 2 team leaders leave for Fiji for 5 weeks!
I will be returning to Wellington with Summer and Guy, where we will continue working behind the scenes for Better World, as well as engaging in the Anglican Youth Movement.
I can’t wait to see what God has in store next! These last 2.5 weeks have been unexpected and life-giving!
I am interning under Summer and Guy Benton, the two pictured below. They have been in Wellington for the last year. Previous to that, Summer was in Cambodia for the last 8 years and Guy was in Cambodia for the last 5 years.
Summer was born and raised in Texas, while Guy’s home is in New Zealand.
They have 3 children and 1 on the way! Issac is 16, Quinn is 4, Norah is 2. Isaac was adopted in Cambodia!
Better World is a gap year focused on 3 countries (New Zealand, Fiji, and Cambodia), 4 social justice issues (ethical consumption, climate change, refugees and migrants, and urban poverty), in 10 months.
From the Better World website:
“At NZCMS (New Zealand Church Mission Society) we know that young people are deeply passionate about issues of social justice in our world and we believe that issues of social justice are central to the gospel. One of the biggest obstacles to the people of the world believing that God exists and that he loves them is the pain and suffering that we see all around us.
We also know that it’s sometimes hard to find ways to bring about real change in a way that is effective, ethical, and practical. Better World is designed to take young people on a journey to explore things they are passionate about in the world and then learn together how we can bring about lasting change.
Better World has the vision of equipping a whole generation of young people to reach into the suffering in the world around us and bring the light of the gospel of Christ.”
In this first year, there are 6 girls, aged 17-20 years old that have committed to digging deeper into social justice, into the world around them, and into God.
Ngatiawa River Monastery
Better World launched on Wednesday, February 6. There was a commissioning service and then, the team jumped right in. The 6 participants, 2 leaders, Summer, Guy, their 3 children, and myself traveled to Ngatiawa River Monastary, an hour north of Wellington.
The Ngatiawa River Monastery is located in Waikanae, a smaller town nestled in the valley, surrounded by mountains on all sides.
This monastery we’re staying at isn’t a standard definition monastery. It’s a intentional community that revolves around the monastic way; basically praying 3 times a day and making it a commitment to live together, while having an outward focus.
They are part of a mission movement called Urban Vision, which is intentionally living in poverty stricken or high risk communities, and engaging with those who live there. They create safe spaces for children, help out single mothers, invite the homeless in for dinner, fellowship, and education, and literally so much more. The list is endless.
So this monastery is apart of Urban Vision to be a retreat center, communal living, helping and engaging the community around them, and more. One key element is they strive for sustainable living. They have cows for beef, chickens for eggs and meat, gardens galore, and so many ways of being sustainable, as well as eco friendly.
It’s a lot to understand right away because there are endless possibilities of what it could be and what it is, but it’s absolutely amazing to be apart of.
We have been at the monastary for just shy of 2 weeks, where the team has been training and orienting for the beginning of this great adventure.
Kiwi Cultural Fact of the Week
Footwear is completely optional. You don’t need shoes to drive, enter restaurants or stores, or have the fear of stepping on broken glass. Litter is unheard of, so it’s safer to walk barefoot.
It is an unspoken rule that if you are wearing shoes, you remove them immediately upon entering someone’s home and most religious buildings.