Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, September 1, 2019

A sense of "Sacred Place".

Silenced by the place
Years ago I was fortunate enough to go with friends to visit Uluru, or Ayres Rock and Kings Canyon in central Australia.  At Uluru three of us jogged around it at sunrise. (It is about 9k around) As we ran we burst into singing a chorus or a verse of a hymn. It felt sacred. A friend and I climbed it, though even then there was unease about climbing "the rock". My wife and I walked around it in the early afternoon. There was a patch where in a shallow cave you could see markings on the wall that showed Aboriginal habitation from thousands of years earlier. At Kings Canyon we walked around the top and at sunset we came across a group of people sitting in silence, watching the sun sink over the desert. Both places gave that sense of the passage of time, of life and the mystery of life itself. It "forced" a sense of reverence/respect to come over you. There have been similar experiences in other places. As I looked into dwellings that were thousands of years old at Scara Brae on the Orkney Islands, and walked among the circle of standing stones nearby, the same sense of awe pervaded me. When I tramp up Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh and look at the city underneath and muse on all the changes these rocks have witnessed, I wonder at humanity's journey and creation itself. I recall standing outside the Houses of Parliament in London and thinking of all the debate, drama and decision making that has gone on there to produce the democracy, the freedoms and rights we have in the West. There are many places that invoke that sense of awe, often because of the things that have happened there. My wife and I yesterday visited such a place.
Treaty House

Carving on the bow of ceremonial canoes

The Treaty of Waitangi
When New Zealand was "discovered" by Europeans in the 18th Century, Maori lived here in tribes spread throughout the islands of NZ. Europeans began to move here and establish themselves. Missionaries, whalers, traders good and bad arrived. Inevitably trouble between the two cultures broke out. In the early 1830's a representative of the English Crown (Busby) was sent out to help bring order. A Confederation of Tribes - or at least their tribal leaders established relationships and a flag was even designed so that other nations new that New Zealand was a nation, governed by Maori tribal leaders. More Europeans came and so the English crown decided a Treaty had to be established between Maori and English. A Governor Hobson arrived on an English navy ship to preside over matters. A document was drawn up, Maori leaders called together and signatures gathered. This was on 6th February, 1840. Copies were made and sent around the country, where other tribes' leaders signed them.  Not all tribes were reached or signed the document, but enough for England to declare New Zealand one of its colonies and a special partnership with Maori established by this important document.
Document difficulties and disastrous departures.
For it's time it was a great document declaring a partnership with Maori and the Crown. But there were difficulties. There were significant differences in Maori and English understandings of "ownership" of land. This brought problems as governing bodies acquired more and more land. There were differences in understanding as the English version was translated into Maori. Maori seemed to be promised "authority" and the expressions used did not mean the same in Maori as in the English. There were wars, confiscations of Maori land and injustices. The Treaty was not adhered to by the settlers and the Governing bodies. There continued to be breaches of the treaty right through to the present time. Having said that, the Treaty brought about better race relations between settlers and indigenous people than in most other colonising situations. It was and is an important document. In the second half of the twentieth century, there was a growing recognition of the Treaty breaches and readiness to re-establish the essential partnership between Maori and European in NZ. We call ourselves a "Bi-cultural Country" and more and more the Maori culture is finding an important place in New Zealand society. (Of course we have many other cultural groups in NZ but ideally Maori are recognised by all as the "Tangata Whenua" - the people of the land.)  I have grown up as this resurgence of Maori Culture has been happening and the renewed recognition of the place of the treaty is being established. The above is a very much abbreviated introduction to "The Treaty of Waitangi."
The "sacred" place.
Jean and I have been holidaying. We drove north from Dunedin to Christchurch and caught up on family there. (The Maori word for "extended family" is "Whanau" and is becoming a real part of New Zealand's spoken English language.) We flew across Cook Strait to Wellington and saw more whanau there. We caught a scenic train ride to NZ's biggest city Auckland (We really do live in a beautiful country) then went by car further north to the beautiful area known as The Bay of Islands. This was our first visit there. It is there that Waitangi is to be found, the Treaty Grounds. There is a Museum, the original house where the English Diplomat, Busby was living, a Maori Meeting House and a significant flagpole. Busby's house (named now "The Treaty House") was where the treaty was drawn up. The new Governor Hobson was to establish himself so he signed on behalf of the crown.  The Flagpole has three flags flying upon it. The original Maori Confederation flag; the New Zealand Flag and the British Union Jack. The flagpole marks the actual spot where the "Treaty of Waitangi" was signed. The treaty established NZ as a place where diversity of culture was to be recognised, and it still stands as a "North Star", an ideal vision for New Zealand as a society. So yesterday we travelled slowly through the museum reacquainting ourselves with the Treaty's history. We walked almost reverently up a grassy slope to the Treaty House and I sat at the table where the treaty was finalised. We then watched a Maori welcome at the Meeting House and went down to the flagpole marking the spot where the signing took place. We went to the beach where Governor Hobson landed and explored ceremonial war canoes. It was for me a pilgrimage. I am a proud New Zealander. I have had a growing appreciation of Maori culture. In our family we have children with Maori in their ancestry. I love the values that the Treaty in its day endeavoured to express and establish. So I felt that the time we spent at the Treaty Grounds was one of those special times where we walked on "sacred ground". I am grateful to have visited and really do love my country and its people.

Ironically at Piahia, the township closest to the Treaty grounds we called at a shop owned and run by an Asian man. We were wandering around looking for bargains and heard raised voices at the counter. A Maori man had taken exception at something the owner had done, and was ranting threateningly at the Asian man. Some of what he was saying was racist anti-asian ranting, and he was looking for a fight. The Asian man remained calm but did not back down. (I kept hoping he would just shut up and let the other man run out of bluster.) He even invited the Maori man to come back at the end of business and they could "sort it out". i.e. fight. We stayed in the shop moving closer to the counter hoping that our presence would stop any physical confrontation. At one stage the Asian man said, "This is my country too!" The Maori responded, "This is my town!" followed by more threats... Eventually he left after a mate came in to encourage him to stop. The Asian man had his phone out and was threatening to phone police. We wondered if the aggressor was on drugs of some kind. ... I love my country; I love its ideals. But I am deeply sad that New Zealand like many places still has many problems. Even at my age, I still want to be part of the solution in some small way.   

Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Cracked!" though not insulted.

My daughter sent me this card (and a book) for Fathers Day that is coming up in NZ in a couple of weeks time. I appreciated the message.

The book looks interesting. One of my favourite authors is Karen Armstrong and it is called "The lost art of Scripture - rescuing the Sacred Texts." It discusses the sacred texts of various religions and how we understand and use them. But it was the card that intrigued me. On the front it reads, "Blessed are the cracked for they let in the light." Part of my daughter's message inside the card read, "I saw this card and present ... and thought of you! :) 'Cracked' in terms of the world's expectations but working to let in the light! Thank you!" 

When you call somebody "cracked" in NZ it is often an insult - it implies that they are not 'right in the head', 'different' or 'strange'. I'm certainly 'different' but it seems my daughter "gets" me. 

I hope Prue does!
I was asked if I could mentor a trainee chaplain. I warned my CEO that I was not orthodox in my theology and that my approach to my work as a chaplain was also a bit different. So I have taken this lady (named Prue) with me as I have visited the firefighters. Where ever we have gone the fire fighters have teased me. There has been much laughter and joking about me as a chaplain. I came away wondering what this budding chaplain thinks of my relationship with these guys and what prompts the wisecracks. Of course there has been some serious discussion, but the guys love to seize upon the opportunity to try to embarrass me in front of this new visitor. I hope Prue understands that I love the firefighters and I think they love me. The joking is an expression of that love. A person had come down from "Head Office" and was doing presentations to the fire fighters about mental health and psychological wellbeing today. She came into the afternoon tea room and her comment to me was "I have heard a lot about you this afternoon!" All I had time to say was, "Oh dear."  When I visited a suburban fire station I heard that during the lecture, people had commented on my presence in a positive way. - I hope I do "let in some light" for my fire fighters.   

Sunday, July 28, 2019

"You keep talkin' to the big fella upstairs, I'll deal to your trees"

At our house we have an acre of ground. There is the house section with lawns, apple and plum trees. Then you can walk down the back path through to the vegetable garden where we have a hen house, pear and apple trees and garden plots, then an open paddock. There are sheds where we house garden tools and other stuff. Up against those sheds on the border between house area and vege garden there were four big trees, a twisted eucalyptus and three fir trees, growing quite high. They had got to the stage of shading us, the vege garden and our neighbour's section at different times in the spring and summer months. 

"The guys at the station ought to deal to those trees!"
When I was in hospital earlier this year a retired fire fighter called around at our house to see how I was. I am chaplain to the Dunedin fire fighters. As he was talking with my wife he looked down the back and exclaimed, "The guys at the station ought to deal to those bloody trees." He had been part of a group of fire fighters who years ago came and dropped two big trees for me. He rang a friend at the fire station, and he started the discussion with potential helpers. One fire fighter named Peter was quite well known to be an expert at dealing to trees and he was asked to look into it. Among other things he does at the fire station, he drives the "ladder", the fire pump that has a high rise turn table ladder on the back. I got a phone call one day from an officer to say the "ladder" was going to come out to look at the trees. Pete arrived with another firefighter, and they came around and looked thoughtfully at the trees. It would be a tricky job to drop them without them crashing into sheds, or henhouse. "We could do it Dave, we might make your chooks permanently free range though!" he joked. I said that I was not asking them to do it, that I could hire an arborist to do it. "It'll cost you thousands, we'll deal to it." A few weeks went by and he chatted about it on one of my visits at the fire station. He'd have to climb up them, and cut branches off, and maybe cut them down bit by bit. "I don't want anyone to get hurt doing this." I protested. "Nah Dave, I don't want to get hurt either, leave it to me." From then on every time I protested his standard response was, "You keep talkin' to the big fella upstairs, I'll deal to your trees. It'll be alright!" In due course he arranged to come out on a day off and begin the process of planning the trees' demise. He arrived and with ropes and chainsaw, climbed the trees, taking off some branches. He eventually swung over to the Eucalyptus tree and began to cut it down in pieces. At a certain stage I suggested that he could drop it in one piece, and that he did, dropping it into our backyard.  We both cut it up and at times during the next few rainy days, my wife and I transported the pieces to a place where they could be split up. 
The special day.
He then rang telling us he would be out with "a few mates" the next Wednesday to deal to the next three trees. "How many mates?" I asked, "we need to know how much lunch to provide." "Don't worry, we'll bring a barbecue, just make sure a kettle's boiling." On the Wednesday he arrived with some mates, and eventually during the day a total of about twelve of his fire fighter mates came. They had a wood splitter, chainsaws, ropes and harnesses. I repeated that I did not want anyone to get hurt, and Pete again responded with, "Just keep talkin' to the big fella upstairs an' we'll deal to the trees!" So they began. A group began the job of splitting the eucalyptus disks, while Pete and others trimmed branches off the first easiest of the trees, and readied it to be downed. It came down, and they descended upon it with chainsaws, and everything was transported to the splitting crew who stacked the split firewood. I joined in, really enjoying myself, pleased that these days I feel fit enough to work hard.  As fire fighters arrived they would yell out to Peter up the tree asking what they should do. His answer was, "Find a hole and fill it." This they did. It was a great feeling being part of this really motivated hard working group going about naturally, without fuss as a team. The last tree was the widest, the heaviest and in the most awkward position. Peter told me, "You know that they're putting sticks down where they think it will end up?" "Oh" I said. "At least one of them is on y'r house roof!" he continued with a grin.  Everyone stopped working to watch the last tree come down. Some had to leave to do "the school run", that is, pick up their kids from school. They delayed leaving till the last tree dropped. A young fire fighter who had tree felling experience was left to chainsaw it. He was nervous and checked with Peter several times. They had a "turfer" with a wire rope to pull on the tree to help it fall in the right direction. It came down with a big thump, and everyone clapped. There was relief that it had dropped safely, and the crews descended upon it to dissect it.  Pete stood on the tree like a conqueror, "I told you that if you kept talkin' to the big fella, I'd sort your trees! No worries!" he said triumphantly. "You were nervous and just as relieved as me!" I responded.
The last tree tumbles.

They kept working till they had to go back on night shift. Peter and a group were back the next day to complete the splitting and stacking before we finished with a special morning tea. I was a bit stiff and sore from hard heavy work, but I really enjoyed working with these  guys.  That sort of team work is part of their fire fighter culture. I thanked Pete and the guys for their effort. Quite a number came and shook my hand or gave me a thumbs up as they left. "Pay back Dave." Pete said, "You've done so much for us." He told me he had no trouble getting people to help when they knew it was for me. I felt deeply humbled and grateful.  While I have cut down a few trees in my life, I knew I could not do these ones. Pete was right, it would have cost me a few thousand dollars to pay an arborists to do it. The day had many humorous mini adventures. Pete's ute sank to its axles in the neigbour's paddock. A branch nearly smashed a shed roof. Peter, hanging on ropes in the tree, let out a loud string of expletives and we laughed wondering what the neighbours thought. There was "discussion" about how to stack wood. It was for me a special time I will always look back on with deep gratitude. I appreciated the job being done, but really enjoyed the friendship. 


Friday, June 21, 2019

My wife featured for Volunteer week.

A special on the Southern District Health Board facebook page.

It is National Volunteer week in New Zealand and the local health board featured the St John Friends of the Emergency Department on their facebook page, and they chose my wife, Jean to be featured. Here is what they wrote about what the FEDs do.

"Jean Brown has been a volunteer for the last 13 years!

No two days are the same in the Emergency Department and it’s always busy - meaning our staff are constantly on the move. 

This is where our St John Friends of the Emergency Department (FED) comes in - you can always spot Jean and the other volunteers helping out wherever they can!

Be it bringing food and drinks, to comforting the patients and making the bed, they have it all covered!

A big thank you for helping our staff provide the extra support and reassurance to our patients, their whanau and friends during their time here."

#SouthernDHB #NWV2019 #wonderfulvolunteers#thankyouvolunteers

Monday, June 17, 2019

"He earns what? And he is still caught out spending money he ought not to?"

So much money I cannot imagine!
Today in NZ there has been a bit of a scandal hit the headlines. The CEO of the Australia and NZ Bank in NZ has been sent packing. In some enquiry into personal expenses he was found to have spent the firms money on chauffeur-driven cars and wine storage. It involved tens of thousands of dollars. He was not supposed to do this. He pleaded ignorance. He was given a golden hand shake of a couple of million dollars, and sent down the road.  In the process of reading about this I discovered that he was paid in the last year $3,125,000. Why would you need to spend extra money on that salary? The year before that he got even more. That deeply disturbs me. He gets $60,000 a week! That is a few thousand more than ever I earned in my best year, and once when I measured my weekly hours I was averaging at least 66 hours of work a week. So he is earning over 60 times what I earned, and I am not poor. I find myself yelling "unfair!".... Not for me, but for the many others who are struggling in our community.
And yet at the other end...?
I have had lots to do with people who for various reasons have been unable to work. Sometimes it is sickness. Sometimes they have been made redundant so many times that they have got to an unemployable age and have given up looking for work. Often there are simply no jobs that they can do in our technological age.  I recall helping one man to budget while he was living on a welfare benefit. He came to me distraught one week. The ANZ bank, the bank this CEO worked for, had taken $20 out of his bank account. Why? Well he had an AP for his weekly rent and perhaps because he bought his tobacco early that week, or some other expense, he was a few dollars short in his bank account when they went to withdraw his rent. They didn't pay his rent but he got charged a $20 fee because he was overdrawn. So the next week he had even less to survive on and was unlikely to be able to cover his rent again, another extra cost, an unhappy landlord and a search for a cheaper room to rent, with a bad credit reputation. Because he did not ever have much money in his account he was charged bank fees somebody with a reasonable amount would not be charged. The rules and costs surrounding his use of the bank contributed to his struggles. When the bank was asked about such costs, they pleaded poverty, and "We are not social workers, we need to make money." Yet they pay this CEO (and no doubt others) what seems to me a phenomenal amount of money. I look at it and wonder how one man is worth that much and how on earth can he spend that much?  I suspect that the people making decisions about bank charges and rules have no comprehension of what it is like for a beneficiary, or for that matter, a person on the minimum wage, to survive from week to week. $20 sounds like nothing when you are on a reasonable salary, but to the poor it may as well be a million dollars. The gap between the rich and poor in Western societies, is unjustified, despicable, and causes untold suffering, anger and hurt for the people on the bottom.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Home invasions!

"Home Invasion" often refers to the act of breaking into a person's home and causing mayhem. But I want to suggest there are other types of home invasion. 
Unwanted Telephone Calls 
The other day I was just preparing to leave the house to go to my chaplaincies when the phone rang. This friendly mature woman's voice said, "Oh hello, I'm from ..... and I have an offer for you." It was an Electricity company, though she rattled off the name so quickly I could not pick it up. "I can offer you electricity a whole lot cheaper than what you are getting it now." (They all say that - how do they know how much I am paying for my Electricity anyway?) She waffled on in enthusiastic terms about her offer. I politely said "No we do not want to change power companies." (I did not have a clue what power company we had anyway - that is my wife's domain.) Undaunted the lady went on... "But why not? We are offering you a really good deal and there's a free winter discount thrown in. What are you paying per month now? We will be better than whatever it is." "Look" I said, "I don't have time for this. We are happy where we are. There are so many callers offering deals. Sorry." She was not put off, "But why not? Why not when we are offering it so cheap?" and she continued to try to push her deal, in a bright pseudo friendly way.   "Sorry" I said, "I have to go." "When can I call back? What day would suit?......." she was going on... "Ohhhh..." Click!

I felt invaded. I wanted to scream at her..."When I want to change power companies I'll come looking. Don't call me, we'll call you!" Somehow this person felt it OK to come into my house, interrupt what I was doing and keep up her prattle even when it was obvious I wasn't interested.  It is "Home Invasion".

Then of course there are the dirtbag computer callers... We have had three today. "We are from Microsoft Windows. (or whoever) We've noticed .....  activity from your computer...." or some such thing. Some times I just go "Click".  Sometimes I lead them on then tell them they are evil then go "click." I once had a loud piercing whistle by the phone which I blew down the line.  Once I felt really mischievous and kept the person talking. They were talking as if I had a "Windows" based PC and they "knew that at that time unscrupulous people were getting into my computer." I listened and made the appropriate responses.... they were talking as if they could see my screen..."But.." I said innocently, "I wonder how you can know all this stuff? Something must be wrong! Its amazing....You see ....  I've got a Mac...! .....and you are evil." ... ........silence ... then they went "Click!" I probably should not call them "evil" but I feel angry because I know of elderly people who have been badly ripped off by these scammers. 

Then there are people who mean well... Some years ago we went away for a trip and came back to find a group from a place I worked for had come out and painted our house. That was nice, but we did feel awkward about it. We were intending to paint it. Maybe we would have chosen a different colour? We did not leave the house and grounds in a condition that we would feel comfortable to have people visiting. While their gesture was very generous, there was a sense that our privacy had been invaded. Then the local community newspaper got onto it, and the reporter made a date to come with representatives of the group for photographs etc. My wife in particular felt uncomfortable and felt boundaries had been crossed. It felt like they were implying that there was something wrong with the way we lived and they were going to "fix us" in some way. It was, however, a generous gesture, and we expressed our appreciation. This feeling of "invasion" emerged for me the other day though, when I was visiting the place where this group came from. Sitting in a small group, one of the guys asked, "How many old cars have you got in your drive now Dave?" I'm used to people joking about my old cars, but where was this leading? "I have three, and they are all going and all registered and warranted." I replied. "Oh!" he grinned, "Is that a sensitive subject? It's just that I remember painting your house and your drive being full of elderly cars we had to work around." I felt judged and put down just because I choose to drive and own (perhaps - can only afford to own) older vehicles. I just accepted his humorous scoff, and moved on in the group conversation. But I felt like yelling, "If you are going to play the 'saviour' and paint my house, at least have the wisdom, grace and empathy to accept me for who I am!" I have been conscious for a long time that even our charitable acts can be invasive, hurtful and belittling sometimes. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Celebrating 50 years of marriage - the weird journey.

During first 5 months of our dating days at a Church youth Leadership weekend.
At a youth Hangi we helped organise. (Hangi is traditional Maori cook up - food is cooked above heated rocks in a pit in the ground) We had so many there we had to go buy fish and chips to supplement the Hangi food.
A Christmas Camp in the North Island 1968? We are in the front row 2nd and 3rd from the left.
My wife, Jean, and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary last weekend.
It all began in 1965/66
There was an Ecumenical youth gathering in Hamilton, in the North Island over the summer holidays that year. Jean and I were part of a group from our town that travelled up. We attended different Churches but I knew her from shared youth group events we attended from time to time. Fifteen hundred young people gathered in Hamilton, and we had a couple of conversations on the train going up. But at the conference there was a table tennis area where during breaks in the program people could play. I was among the youngest attending (I was a year short of the age group allowed to attend, but my minister assured them I was mature enough) so I rarely got to play. I enjoyed watching the games some very skilled players participated in, and it turned out that Jean and her friend also enjoyed these. So sitting watching table tennis we talked, enjoying each other's company. I went on to holiday nearby and eventually went back to Dunedin. I had actually started a humorous correspondence with a girl I met on that second part of my holiday, who lived in the North Island, but I decided I needed to catch up with Jean again. I nervously rang her one Saturday inviting her to come to the films with me and our friendship began in earnest. You have to understand that I was very shy, especially around girls so this was a big step for me. We dated on Saturday evenings and sometimes phoned during the week. In time Friday night meet ups and Sunday afternoon walks or bike rides happened. I was beginning a plumbing apprenticeship and she was training to be a teacher and almost a year older than I was. I did not have a car so we walked miles together. While we walked we talked. For two years we dated. I recall one time I had walked her home to her place having had coffee after a film and stopped to talk in a bus shelter. Then I walked the two and a half miles home to my house. It hit me that this relationship was really serious, and did I really want that? I walked and stewed and even kept walking past my house, because I hadn't stopped thinking. I decided I wanted to continue in this relationship and pretty soon after that we were engaged. I think all the talking we did was a great and important investment in our future. Secondly we had similar values and beliefs and got involved in church youth work and activities. We had similar beliefs, similar questions and basic directions.
We were married at St Andrew St. Church of Christ on 10th May, 1969. 
I've always thought that this photo begs the question, "What's ahead for us?"
We bought a house on Baldwin Street, which is now classified as "The steepest street in the world."  I was plumbing and she was teaching and we thought that was what it would always be.
Not long after I had decided to go to University (1971) and study to become a minister, our first baby arrived.

A big change of direction

I finished my plumbing apprenticeship and was studying for Advanced Trade Certificate when I decided to attempt to change careers. I was deeply troubled. I attended Church on Sundays and was still very active, but then worked on big building sites with tradesmen during the week. It seemed to me that there was a big gap between my two worlds. What happened in Church would not ring bells with the guys I worked with. They accepted me. I recall a foreman introducing me to a new workmate, saying, "This is Dave, he's religious but he's OK." Later that new workmate ended up in deep trouble. He was an alcoholic and tended to get violent, so his marriage blew apart and he had no where to go. He came and stayed with Jean and I and we and our friends supported him. We eventually found him accommodation elsewhere, but shortly after he committed suicide. Our experience with him had me asking questions of the faith and of the Church. I decided to study toward ministry, at the very least the study would help me sort out my faith. Family thought I was too shy to be a minister, but in spite of the fact that Jean's dad had been a minister, Jean felt we ought to begin study for Church ministry. We began in NZ and then moved to an Australian Theological College for four years. We established deep friendships with some fellow student families that have lasted for years. When we came out of college we moved back to NZ and had a six year ministry in Palmerston North in the North Island. We learned a lot during a busy ministry. The Church had Youth groups, Boys and Girls Brigades and lots of contacts. We were very busy each week.  While we were there they decided to build a new chapel. 
After some University work in NZ we moved to an Australian Theological College in Melbourne. We had a flat at the College for three of four years of study, and our second child was born.

During college we assisted ministry in Churches. In our last year of College we worked at Boronia Church of Christ where a new Church was being built.
Back in New Zealand our first full time ministry was a six year ministry at the Takaro Combined Church.

My first wedding where I was the officiating ministry with full authority "vested in me".

A mobile ministry
While at Palmerston North we added two more children to the family. We had decided to adopt a "special needs" baby and ended up doing that twice. Apparently the Social Welfare department found it hard to find homes for mixed race babies, so we adopted first one, and a year or so later a second little baby boy. We were then appointed to a travelling ministry doing "fieldwork" in Churches throughout New Zealand and living in a 25ft Caravan towed by an old ambulance. We enjoyed that, doing the North Island one year and the South Island the next. Our tasks depended on what the local Church needed or wanted. We did a lot of group work and encouragement. After that we were unsure about continuing in Church ministry. We had purchased an old house on an acre of ground in the little country village of Apiti to store our furniture and as a place to come back to.  We moved into it, did some repairs and enrolled the children in the local schools.  We milked goats, bought chickens and planted a vegetable garden. I had a part time ministry at a Church some distance away, and earned some extra income working on farms. It was a delightful place to live, but I always felt conflicted. When I was working at the Church, I often wished I was doing stuff on our acre, and when I was doing stuff in Apiti, I felt like I ought to be at the Church. One of my dear friends from the Palmerston North Church visited and was quite blunt. "Stop hiding away out here. You're burying your gifts!" Another elder visited who used to be a farmer and was intrigued with me working on farms, but was also quite blunt. "But you've got what it takes to be a good minister! That's where you should be!"
On top of the "Desert Road" in the North Island of NZ

The family - the children did Correspondence schooling for two years.

After two years of travelling we moved into an old house in the little village of Apiti. We did "self-sufficiency" things, like milking goats, keeping hens and growing vegetables.

We bought this old house on an acre of ground in Apiti that needed lots of repairs.

A failed project
After a year we were persuaded to go into a venture with some friends. We had enjoyed living at Apiti and had been surprised at how when we gave hospitality to troubled people they often relaxed and found new strength and priorities. We saw people grow, just by enjoying country hospitality and relaxed conversation. A couple we were friends with had this concept of starting a retreat centre at a place just North of Dunedin and wanted us to join them. We could rent it, and work toward setting up a place of hospitality and renewal. So we bundled up our possessions, our hens, goats and pets and moved to this big villa that had been part of a psychiatric hospital. I eventually got work in a hardware store and then we worked for our landlord who owned the whole complex. After two years relationships were strained and I felt we were being drawn into the landlord's projects and the retreat centre was being put on the back burner. I was asked if I would be part of a team ministry at the St Andrew Street Church of Christ in Dunedin. So we accepted. I had to laugh at the divine humour. Years before at my first conference as a minister in New Zealand, one of the St Andrew Street elders had met me, shook my hand and said, "Maybe you'll be our minister one day." We greeted each other briefly and he moved away. I turned to my wife and said, "Like hell!" There was no way I could see myself ministering there! ...  But we did and we ended up ministering at St Andrew Street Church of Christ in Dunedin for 27 years, until we retired. 
We moved to Sawyers Bay, an outer suburb of Dunedin. Pania joined our family as our foster daughter. She copes with severe disabilities, and continues to be an important part of our family. She joined us when she was 9 years old. 

"New Technology" for St Andrew St. an Overhead Projector. When we finished there, power points through computer and big TV screen were the current systems. 

We ran 25 Community Christmas Day dinners at St Andrew Street. 

I have spent 25 years as chaplain to the Fire Service in Dunedin. I am contracted for four hours a week. 

This is a wedding I conducted in the yard at Speights Brewery where I have been Workplace Chaplain for 25 years. Both Jean and I have been involved in Industrial Chaplaincy. I am currently chaplain to fire fighters, ambulance staff and Speights Brewery
For 19 years we ran a Friday Night Drop-in Centre at St Andrew St Church. 

The first of 13 Habitat for Humanity houses we built in Dunedin. Both Jean & I have been directors of Habitat for Humanity in Dunedin. We both put many hours in on the house sites - I was working most Saturdays. We are not involved now.

St Andrew St Church of Christ in Dunedin.  Below the new generation comes... we have 7.5 grandchildren.

We were driven to our 50th Anniversary night out by one of my fire fighters in his fancy Mercedes.
We made it - at our dinner on our Golden Anniversary - fifty years seems to have gone fast. Heaps of experiences along the way. We are now "retired" but helping out in the local Presbyterian Church.
So thankful for the journey.
That is a very quick race through our fifty years. There has been many other things at each place we've been. Everything we have done has been as a team. Jean makes up for my many weaknesses. Jean has done things in her own right. She has done relieving teaching at times, then worked as a Teacher's Aid with troubled children. She has often pushed for changes in the Church that I would be fearful to initiate. Jean was awarded the "Star Community Award" for her community work in 2006. It was promoted by a local newspaper. She works as a volunteer for St John Ambulance in the Emergency Department of the local hospital, and has received a twelve year medal for that. I was awarded a "Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit" medal in 2003. Our children have each married, have established families and are each working in chosen careers. 
Five years ago we retired. We live in an old house on an acre of ground. We grow vegetables, have fruit trees and keep hens. We assist the local little Presbyterian Church. The journey has had lots of ups and downs but I have been pleased with our ability to talk things through. So many people have helped us along the way, many are no longer with us. 

Life is good, we have been fortunate and though poor, we are rich in memories, fulfilment and love.
Left to right - My youngest brother Stephen, stood in for my father who had died in 1964. Jean's mother, the happy couple (I was just 20 years old) Jean's father and my mum. It does not seem 50 years ago.