02DA1159-A666-4D63-9C75-0779AAA52C6BNew Zealand is, for many people, a mystic land of beauty and strange fauna. It is certainly blessed with majestic scenes, a bucolic feel, and a strange tension between a Western future and a Polynesian past. One encounter with birds like the kiwi or tui, reptiles like the tuatara, or just a few of the sixty million sheep (as opposed to three million citizens) will persuade you that you are not in Kansas anymore. And that’s a good thing.

I grew up in New Zealand, from the age of 10-15. My family did mission work in Christchurch (on the South Island—a city most famous recently for devastating earthquakes). The moist, mild, verdant climate feels like home to me. I am comfortable with and enjoy the people. My wife tells me that, whenever I return from New Zealand, I’ve regained something of my Kiwi accent!

Being in New Zealand is wonderful. Getting there is another story. The journey here (from DFW to LAX to MEL to AUK) took over 30 hours. I felt like an extra in the Walking Dead by the time I’d arrived in Auckland: pasty skinned, red eyed, shuffling footsteps, not-so-pleasant odor.

However, I checked into a hotel, got dinner and a good night sleep, and was wide awake and raring to go at 4:00 am. New Zealand is 17 hours ahead of Central Time in the States. Figuring out the difference requires a higher math that gives me headaches to calculate. I have an app on my phone. Bottom line: my body doesn’t know whether it’s time to wake or sleep, eat or go for a run, stay alert or drift into unfocused musings.

If you’ve forgotten High School geography, I’m including a map of New Zealand for your education and edification. My trip will be limited to the North Island. I landed yesterday in Auckland, the main international gateway to the country, located at the northern end of the North Island. In a few hours, I fly to Rotorua, in the middle of the North Island, home to one of the most fascinating and active geo-thermal regions in the world. (For more info on Rotorua, go to: http://www.rotoruanz.com and http://www.rotorua.nz.com/geothermal.aspx.)

There is an annual nation-wide men’s retreat (Men’s Challenge) held every August for Christians in the New Zealand/Australia region. For the past few years, it’s been sited in scenic (and often smelly) Rotorua. I’ll meet with a group of church leaders (preachers and elders) on Thursday and Friday and then with a wider range of Christian men on Saturday and Sunday.

Just to the northeast of Rotorua (on the coast) is the city of Tauranga, home of the South Pacific Bible College. For decades, this college has been responsible for equipping and sending young missionaries into the South Pacific region. They do a great work and could use your encouragement and support. If you would like to know more about the school, visit their website: http://spbc.org.nz. I’ll spend Tuesday and Wednesday with their faculty and administrators, thinking through matters of vision, scope of work, and ministry. That will be fun.

Then, early Thursday morning (Aug 29), I take the long trek home. Your prayers are needed. Thanks for your interest in my work and in this region of the world.

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