Firstly thank you so much for all your prayers and financial support. We really value and appreciate your support so much. Without your support we wouldn’t be able to do what we are doing here. Thank you for joining with us and being a part of what God is doing here in Tauranga, New Zealand.
We’ve been here now for 7 weeks and we’re just about to start week 6 of the Discipleship Training School. We are feeling pretty settled into life here and getting to grips with our different responsibilities and duties as staff. We’ve been learning a lot about serving and how God has called us to help facilitate and create an environment where the students can journey with God. We’ve been learning what Jesus love looks like and how we can show that to each other and to the students: through giving time, feeling compassion, believing in potential/releasing, seeing people as they are but also as they can be, showing it unconditionally, identifying with people, radical humility, sensitivity to needs and so much more! I think that will keep us going for the rest of our lives! We’ve been realising how much leadership is about serving.
(The image below shows Ben sharing with a group of students around a bonfire)
Our first 5 weeks with the students so far has been great, getting to know them and getting them acquainted with the place. There are 2 Discipleship Training Schools going on at the same time here, doing most things together apart from some specific focused times. There are 15 students on the Pilgrimage DTS and 24 students on our Justice DTS. We spent 2 days of the first week hearing all of them share their life stories. It was so great to get to know them all better, and hear what God has done already in their lives and hear their expectations and desires of what is God is going to do too. Wow what a powerful time it was of them overcoming by the word of their testimony. How much power there is in speaking out of what God has done but also of speaking out of these things that are hidden, bringing things into the light, and opening up to let God conquer those things. We feel blessed and honoured to share this journey with these students and the staff too. We’re all on a journey of learning more of who God is and who we are in Him, we’re all on a journey of learning to surrender more and more of our lives to Him and His purposes.
(The image below shows the staff and students after the official Maori welcoming ceremony. Ben and Nai are both on the right side of the picture)
Here is a group of world changers. That’s not super cheesy and cliché. It’s so true, seeing the passion and hunger for God in them combined with this set apart time they have with God to go deeper and learn more of God – it’s exciting to see how God is teaching them so much, taking them further, and establishing so much that they can then take on from here back to their families, friends, churches, cities, countries and other countries too. There is a quote that says ” It is wonderful what miracles God works in wills that are utterly surrendered to him.” It’s exciting to be part of discipling and training these young men and women of God and seeing them grow already in these first couple of weeks. Being able to be a part of providing that environment for transformation is a privilege. There are all sorts of ways God is working in their lives. Some are already receiving revelation for the first time of the fact that God wants to speak to them individually and specifically, through to God opening their eyes to injustices around the world and their calling ‘to do justice’ and that there is hope for those suffering injustice.
So what are we doing? you ask. Well we are involved in the day to day running of things for the DTS, from cooking meals to leading worship and intercession times and everything in between. This week Nai started doing one on ones with 3 of the girls on the Justice DTS, basically spending some time with them individually to see how things are going, what God is teaching them, and finding ways to support, encourage and pray for them. She also started this week leading a small group with all 3 of her one on ones together, just kind of providing different ways and space to talk through things and process and get to know people in smaller settings. With there being only 2 guys on the Justice DTS and 3 male staff, Ben doesn’t need to do any one on ones, but is involved with leading the guys small group.
Nai is also in charge of organising various events that happen throughout the DTS. From regular weekly ‘whanau'(Maori word for ‘family’; ‘wh’ is pronounced ‘f’) times, where all the staff and students from the different ministries based here all get together to share, pray, and eat cake together; usually around 70-80 people. Also organising quite a bit of what we eat in general, ordering and cooking it. So a good person to know!!
Ben is taking on the main leadership for worship and intercession and organising that for the DTS, with Nai helping out with that too. There is one set worship time every week, and often some informal/last minute worship times. Ben is responsible for planning and often leading these. One of our goals as a DTS is to encourage student lead worship, so Ben will be encouraging and helping the students to grow in this area throughout the DTS. Both of us lead worship together this week. Two mornings a week are set aside for intercession. Again Ben is responsible for planning, and leading this area of the DTS. Our desire is to help the students grasp the importance of prayer/intercession for the world around us, and to see them grow in their desire, and love, of praying for others.
In the last week we have actually taken on more responsibility for leading the group of 10 staff members as well, as due to a number of circumstances, the leader of Justice Reach, Patty Carlson, has had to shift her attention off the DTS for a few weeks, onto to other things that are going on within Justice Reach at the moment. So although she will still be around as often as she can, and is still overseeing the DTS, she has asked the two of us to take on more of the day to day details of running of the DTS and be responsible for things. This will be more of a challenge for us, and a bit of a step up from how things have been so far, but we know God will lead and guide us in this. Please pray for wisdom and strength for us as we take on this role.
(The image below shows the students during a lecture on the nature and character of God)
We feel so privileged to be here, with these students at this time. Matthew 28:18-20 is a passage we all know so well..
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To be able to help lead and facilitate a 5 month period of time where people can come from all over the world(there are 10 nations represented here amongst the students) to ‘know God and make Him known’; to spend 5 months providing a place where students can spend day after day digging into who God is, figuring what it means to live our lives in light of that, and how we go about sharing that with the world around us, feels to us like such an honour to be stepping into Jesus commission to “go and make disciples of all nations”. Playing our part in the ‘Great Commission’ in this way, at this time, is where we believe God wants us right now, and again, we are so grateful to all of you for joining with us in this, and supporting us, and enabling us to be here. We appreciate you all and pray for you all!
God bless you!