Walking hand in hand…

I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year,

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”

This is one of our most favourite poems. We had it read at our wedding and have it in a frame in our lounge. We’ve often come back to it in hard and uncertain times but also in times of change and opportunity. I’ve pondered it most recently because of the journey we are on in this new chapter of our lives in Opotiki, NZ.

Our natural desire as humans is to grab our torch and light up the path in front of us – heck, some of us would rather wait until daylight before we walk so that we can see where we are going. But actually, when we are walking in God’s plans for us sometimes He asks us to step out into the darkness and walk hand in hand with Him. He knows where He is leading us, we just have to faithfully take his hand and walk step by step. It sure felt a bit like that with our move to Opotiki. There were so many unknowns that it felt like we were walking in pitch black, but knowing God was leading us and we were walking hand in hand we knew we were safe and we knew that He had a plan for us.

We count it a privilege to be walking in this new chapter and can clearly see Him at work in all of it. From opening up job opportunities, to divine appointments on the street, to encouraging words from friends just when we needed it. He is good, all the time =)

Here are a few of the highlights of the last few months:

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I finally graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from Bethlehem Tertiary Institute. It was good to celebrate but did seem a little weird after 7 months of no assignments!

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My bestie Lana also graduated with a Bachelor of Counselling! We were pretty stoked that we even got to sit next to each other at graduation because I was at the end of the Social Work line (S for Suisted) and Lana was at the start of the Counselling line (A for Andrews!) Nice!

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I started my own business to take care of the contract work I do for 24-7 YouthWork and a few other things in the pipeline…website coming soon, watch this space! The name and logo was inspired by a card that my Dad wrote when I went off to Canada for the first time in 2008 which said: “All butterflies will be set free.” Those words have stuck with me since and so it has become the foundation for whatever this small business develops into, ultimately setting people free from anything that holds them back. A big shout out to my friend Nat White from Magic Fingers Graphics who designed my logo. Love it! Check out her work at http://www.magicfingers.co.nz

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Earlier this month the Minister for Business, Innovation and Employment, Willie Jackson made a visit to town. He announced some funding for He Poutama Rangatahi, an initiative aimed at engaging 15 – 24 year olds into employment, education or training. Two local trusts were allocated this funding and I came on board at Whakaatu Whanaunga Trust the day after the announcement! I was basically given a blank canvas to design and develop an initiative that will be successful in engaging young people into employment, education or training. IGNITE Opotiki is the idea that has come from my first few weeks in the job. IGNITE will focus on intensive 1-2-1 mentoring of young people as we help them get from where they are now to where they want to be. Our ‘Future Fit’ programme will focus on getting young people ‘work ready’ physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. What a cool job!

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10 points if you can read the sign…it took me awhile =p Jared is getting his head around being a tutor of Level 3 Construction and what is required of him in this role. He has 13 students in his class, 12 guys and 1 lady! He has built some good relationships and is having great conversations daily with students about their current situations, hopes and dreams. When I go down to the classroom there always seems to be a lot of laughing taking place among the learning =) I’d say he’s in his element!

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So far the class (Jared included!) have learnt a lot of maths and health and safety in the classroom. Now that that is more or less out of the way they are getting stuck into some cool community projects including renovations and building a mini golf course! This job is definitely giving Jared the opportunity to build people not just houses. While he is paid to teach these students how to build (and do some maths!), I believe he is also building them as people and there is certainly plenty of personal development and life skill learning taking place in his classroom and workshop.

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We had some friends fly in to the Opotiki Airstrip for a Sunday visit…its pretty cool to have a friend with a pilot license! It was nice to show them around our new home and catch up. We look forward to more visits from friends and family…consider this an open invite!

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I’ve been trying for weeks to snap a pic of the brown furry friends that live in our garden…but they are so cheeky and quick so this is the best I got! While Weka are near extinct in other parts of the country, they are prolific here in Opotiki, so much so that they are almost a pest. We’ve seen a few fenced gardens around as people try to keep the pesky birds out. I even witnessed one confident Weka steal something from our back door and shoot into the bush with it. Until I have a vege garden of my own I’m happy to share the garden with them…but I’ll be accepting ideas for keeping them away when I get into full vege garden production in near future!

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If you are the praying kind please pray with us… We’d appreciate your ongoing prayer as we settle in to our new community and our new roles here in Opotiki. Please pray that God would give us WISDOM in how to bring transformation both of individual people and families as well as at the government and systems level. We’d also appreciate prayer for finding a church family and a more permanent home that would allow us to live out the vision God gave us before we moved here.  We’re getting closer in both those respects but would really appreciate prayer for WISDOM and God’s continued leading. We are so thankful to have the privilege of being part of God’s plan and are constantly blown away at His goodness to us!

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