Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Still going...

A team of American Students spending time at Otago University.

My opening speech. I wore many layers to keep the cold at bay.

Around midnight there was a bit of a dance party going on.
Some of the students looking attentive for the national TV slot. We made it to national TV on two channels!
Sze-En Lau Watts (Student Volunteer coordinator) David Clark (Local Member of Parliament) and me.
Both people are great people I am privileged to share with. Sze-En has a way of inspiring people to do great things.
David Clark and I were judges of the team "Forts"
The Town Hall and Cathedral in the Octagon.
A final thank you speech - "You encourage and inspire the Night Shelter Trust members. Thank you."
Student Sleep out.
Last Friday night I joined about 150 university students and some other friends and "slept out". Last year in mid winter, around 200 students slept in the Octagon, a space in the centre of the city, to raise awareness of homelessness and to raise funds for purchasing the night shelter. Then we raised $12,000 and it was fantastic. This year the students wanted to do it again and they worked on it, doing a lot of work while I was in the UK and their coordinator was also overseas. I kept up with it all via emails and through their special facebook page. It all came together and we gathered at the Octagon. We had heaps of packaging cardboard, to build ourselves forts and entertainment was lined up from 7 p.m. until about 1 a.m. A friend and I constructed a fort, but when it came to sleep in it I decided it was too cosy for two men to sleep in. I "slept" outside. There are bars all around the Octagon and they were playing loud music until after three in the morning. I don't think I got a full hour of sleep. I had to do an opening speech. Here is what I said roughly.... 
- The students planning it had said, "At this point Dave, you can tell us how much you love us." So first.. I love you all for being here.
- When I was a boy I loved climbing cliffs, and on family picnics I would go off on my own and climb a cliff near by. One time I got stuck. I was on this cliff face and every time I tried to step to get a foothold, the stones would give away under me, and would tumble down the cliff. Every time I tried to get a handhold it would give way. I was frozen there. I had run out of options, everything I tried failed, and I remember just staying there awhile petrified, not knowing what to do. Well people who come to the Night Shelter, or Phoenix lodge are often like that. They have run out of options, and struggle to get a foothold or handhold to move on in life. The money you raise tonight is going toward ways we can reach out to them, and give them a hand to take the next step. I love you for being here to help us to do that.
- I love you also because of what your presence means. Every day we hear of hatred, division and bloodshed in the world. We hear of angry people seeking to destroy others. But here in the little city of Dunedin, at the bottom of the world, there's a group of young people who are saying "No, there's a different way, the way of compassion, of care and constructive love." Thank you for taking that stand, in the face of all the evil in the world... for that I love you .... Lets have a fun night together!

And that is what we did. At 67 I was a young man sleeping out with a lot of idealistic, energetic dancing students. Snow, wind and rain had been forecast, but it was a calm but cold night. It warmed my heart to be part of it.
Back into it, maybe...
I have been approached by the Session Clerk of the local Presbyterian Church and asked if I would take a more active part in leadership there. It has been a bit frustrating and tough there. I have agreed and we are working out a way we can do it, without hurting the ministers who come to speak, or seeming to take over too much, but in a way my wife and I can help lead, give some pastoral care and help more in worship. It all has to go through the proper protocols, and it does not mean I am back into "ministry", but just able to do more than we are doing at the moment. I am excited but in some ways scared by this, but have decided that if we are going to attend the Church, this is what is needed to help it be the presence it can be in our community. Watch this space.

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