Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A gift to treasure.

Jean and I and our daughter and son-in-law received an invitation to the Night Shelter for morning tea on Friday. It came through my daughter and she said it was "just a thank you thing." So we went, and when we arrived there were a couple of other volunteers there and two of the staff. One of the staff is a down to earth "been-there-done-that" Maori woman named Matekino. She has been a great asset to the Night shelter and has been with us for about 18 months - 2 years. There was a table full of food to eat and warm cups of tea and coffee. I was wondering what prompted this, when Matekino spoke up and said she had something to give "Mr & Mrs B, David and Jean". She left the room and came in with two Maori cloaks or Kakahu. In Maori tradition the Kakahu was a sign of Chieftainship and was a significant honour or acknowledgement that was given to "special" people. Matekino had made these two Kakahu using as their base two donated blankets. She placed these over our shoulders and said they were a gift of appreciation for our acceptance of her into the work of the night shelter and our role in that work. I was lost for words. She is an over night supervisor for us and a community worker helping clients find accommodation and access the help they need. She is sort of shy and bashful, but wanted to express her regard in this special way. I think the job at the Night Shelter is one she loves and a significant step for her. She is good at it and says the Night shelter is her "whare" or home, "where she can offer hospitality".  I am not sure when or where I will wear it, but I treasure it and her loving gesture. It was a special time.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

Encouraging happenings.

I realise lately that I lead a pretty interesting, encouraging and fortunate life. I thought I would share some events with you.
Students raise funds - At the beginning of the University year I had a lecturer approach me through the volunteer coordinator at the University to see if his management class could partner with the Night Shelter. The idea was that his class would be split into groups and each group had to fund raise for the Night Shelter. They would be given marks for their work, with the group raising the most getting the most marks. I had to go along and speak to them and they made further contact with me if they wanted to ask questions. Recently they had their final tutorial of the class and I was invited along to speak and receive the proceeds. I will let the photo speak for itself.

It is quite a pleasant duty to be there and receive this generous donation from these bright young people.
Local's enjoy the space. We attend the local Presbyterian Church at Sawyers Bay/Port Chalmers. While at first we found it hard to fit in, we have been progressively becoming more involved. We felt we were needed there and could help the Church in its life. My wife and I are now on its Parish Council and I lead two services each month. We have been taking a lead role in getting the Church to relate more purposefully with the people of the local community and serve needs there. The Church is right next to the play centre and to the school, with school families using the Church car park regularly. My wife has begun a Tuesday afternoon coffee time when parents and others can come in at the end of school, catch up with each other and have a hot drink together. The numbers enjoying the hospitality of the Church supper room are slowly, but surely increasing. Secondly we recently started an intergenerational family night time in the Church hall. I have been repairing a pool table, a foosball table and we bought a table tennis table. We had our first night a couple of Friday nights ago, after letterbox dropping every house in Sawyers Bay. We opened up and waited. About five to ten minutes after opening we had a whole influx of Children and parents. We had nearly thirty through on the first night! It was a happy noisy time, which we have named Rumpus Room @Emmanuel. It was a good feel to be making new friends.  We look forward to building this service up. 

Toward the end of the evening when things had quietened down.
Brief break away-  My wife kept telling me we needed a break out of town, so on the Saturday morning after our Rumpus Room night we drove the two and a half - three hour drive to New Zealand's southern most city, Invercargill. We booked into an "executive suite" (with a spa) at a Motel and in time went out for dinner at an Irish pub, "Waxy O'Shea's" We came back to the Motel and enjoyed the Sky Sports on offer, watching the visiting Lion's Rugby team (UK) playing a local team. The next morning came the main reason for traveling south.  First we went around to a special Hardware store which we had visited a few years ago. It has old motorbikes (the original Bert Munro Fastest Indian) some old and interesting machines and tools and various classic cars on display. Apart from that the store stocks the most interesting array of hardware and tools. I wandered around in man-heaven, soaking in the sights. From there we went to the Transport Museum. On display were countless cars, vintage and classic, trucks of all sorts and farm machinery. There were other displays as well. So we wandered around in petrol-head-heaven for a couple of hours before retracing our journey home. It was an enjoyable break.
The Brewery where I am chaplain once had this with a tanker delivering beer to inner-city pubs.
We once owned an Ambulance of this model.

Roast lamb meal and a guinness at an Irish pub before the rugby started.
St John enrollment ceremony- On Monday night I went to an enrollment ceremony for St John Cadets. The Order of St John have cadet groups, and apparently it is the fastest growing youth movement in the country. I am proud to be their chaplain because they teach good core values and service to the community. Several cadets were being enrolled from various locations, and I as their chaplain had to receive the flag at the beginning of proceedings, and start the night with a prayer. I found the night an encouragement, especially when I was able to catch up on a mum and daughter (now an 18 year old) both involved in the St John Cadets in leadership positions, who I knew well. We had worked with them years ago in building their Habitat for Humanity home. It was delightful to chat with them in this different setting. I admire the Order of St John and its ethos and am pleased to be a volunteer chaplain for them.
Community Leadership Panel- Several weeks ago I got an email from a woman from the Otago Medical Students Association. They have been running sessions on Community Leadership for Medical students, and were planning a panel discussion with some people who had done leadership in the community. She asked if I would be part of this panel. Initially I replied, "Are you sure you have the right guy? I just muddle along." Anyway she had supplied me with questions to begin the discussion and last Tuesday night I went along to join two other panel members in front of about 30 - 40 students. The two others were the local Dunedin North Member of Parliament, David Clark, and Rachel, a lady heading up an interesting community hub project. The first question asked what experiences we had of community leadership? This was embarrassing, because I was by far the oldest. When I told my wife the question, she said, "Good Grief! Where do you start? You have been doing stuff since you were a teenager!" I recall my father in 1963 telling us boys, "Stop complaining about there being no youth group in the Church. Get off your butts and start one if you really want one." I did not bore the listeners in going back that far, but mentioned just some of the projects we had been involved in over the last thirty years. (Christmas dinners, Drop-in centre, Habitat for humanity and the Night Shelter. etc.) The second question was what is your motivation? I suggested mine came from my spirituality as a follower of Jesus, and how as such, I recognised the essential unity of humankind. I talked about the gap between rich and poor and much of what I had initiated was an attempt to in some way lessen the gap. I found the night encouraging meeting this group of caring motivated young people seeking to learn more about serving their community. But as I prepared for the questions I began to really appreciate the journey of life I have been on. It has brought untold experiences, I have met lots of lovely people, I have grown immensely as a person, and each of the projects has been fulfilling. Often it has been bloody hard work with tough passages, but looking back, I have few regrets, and we are still doing it.
I am the old bloke in the middle.
A dead mum - On Thursday last week I was in town between appointments and needed somewhere to eat my cut lunch. I took my lunch out to a suburban fire station where I knew there was a crew whose company I really enjoyed. I walked in and told them I was there for lunch, and we sat, ate and chatted. I was just washing my cup preparing to leave when the officer received a phone call. It was his wife, she was at the hospice where she was sitting with family around her dying mum. The first I knew of it was when the officer, who had departed the room to talk in private with her, re-entered and looking at me said, "What exquisite timing, I've got the Reverend here!" In due course I was asked to become involved. She died that afternoon, but had left instructions that there was to be no fuss, and no funeral. So on Friday I found myself at the funeral Director's in a room around the open casket of this lady with her four children. I asked about their mum. The told me about her tough life, her faithfulness, her devotion to being there for them throughout their life and her personality. There were sobs but also laughter. We then went into a brief ceremony. They had chosen some things to read and I led them through a final committal. Again I felt encouraged. I felt the extreme privilege of being let into this family's life and history, and sharing in this personal way in this intimate moment with them. But I also found encouragement in the effectiveness of the Workplace Chaplaincy model. They had no Church connections, but they looked on me as their "Reverend". Some years ago I had been through a tough time of bereavement with this family, and knew the officer well. I was so pleased that in a very natural way they could turn to me again and receive my support, and I could travel this journey with them also.

That is part of my never dull, interesting and fulfilling life over the last week or so. I am so so very fortunate.