Greetings from Auckland! Here’s a report just in from Dennis:
I have been away in the South Island the last few days visiting members and old friends in Southland and Otago. As always I return encouraged, and although some attend other churches I rejoice that their faith and belief structure remain strong.
I had promised the church in Invercargill that I would bring Sue with me on this next time, and they were truly encouraged and uplifted. It is simply true that ladies enjoy and feel uplifted when Sue (and other wives of ministers) can share her time with them. Fellowship is a crucially important part of the Christian way of life and it was a joy to see the ladies (and men too) happily chatting about family, life and lessons learned. Many of the relationships we enjoy, of course, began many years ago and I am uplifted to see these friendships continuing and deepening. Such fellowship, after all, reflects the freedom we have been graced with in Christ, who brought down every barrier that might divide us (Eph. 2:14) in the cross. I even found this to be true with those no longer fellowshipping with us.
As we typically do, Sue and I stayed with Les and Kaye Evans, who are generous and thoughtful hosts. They are in the process of selling the house they currently live in so they can move into their new house (built on the same section, in the process of being split into two separate titles) which is nearing completion. I am sure they would appreciate our prayers for a successful transition.
While in Invercargill Sue and I visited with Eric and Ann Miller, whom we’d known since our days together in Dunedin in the 1980s prior to my call into full time ministry. They were long-time friends of my parents also, and further reason why I would not overlook them (Prov. 27:10). Eric’s health remains in a perilous state following his heart attack a decade or more ago but he remains positive, cheerful and at 75 is still involved in photography at the competition level, and as a mentor of younger photographers. Ann is also happy, even bubbly, and enjoyed every minute of our time together, which included dinner and a long chat after that. They pass on their regards to all who know them, and are grateful for our prayers for them, their children and grandchildren.
Church services are always fun. While our format is somewhat modelled on a church setting, it is nevertheless a small group. Hence, while I gave a ‘sermon’ (on “Doors” – Rev. 3:7-13) there were also questions or comments along the way that spiced up the occasion. And afterward we enjoyed afternoon tea, a lengthy chat and finally a pot luck dinner, i.e. lots of scope for fellowship.
Beyond Invercargill I visited (separately from Sue, who could be down only for a couple of days whereas I spent five days there and travelling about) with Alan and Raewyn Minty (who had been down to services also the day before), with Bert and Noeline Chandler in Queenstown, and with Ken Smith in Wanaka. I wasn’t able to connect with Mike and Ana Wright, who were in the throws of shifting from their home in Queenstown to a new retirement village in Arrowtown that weekend. All of those I met with pass along their greetings to everyone.
As I always do, I enjoyed my chat with the Mintys. They typically ply me with interesting questions and the discussions can go on for some time, and did, over lunch. The Chandlers are doing really well and remain cheerful and focused in their faith and family. Bert’s hand (which we didn’t actually talk about at all this time) seems to be much improved. He was using it adeptly on his laptop keyboard when I arrived and seemed not to be focused upon it. And his description of his work-life left me with the impression that although his duties are now very different (clearly because of his injury) he remains active and an important part of the team he works amongst (thanks to all who have been praying for him, and for Noeline’s support through this difficult period). While in Wanaka I stopped in overnight with Ken Smith (sadly his new wife, Betty, formerly Betty Thompson of Christchurch, was away visiting with her daughter) and we shared a meal out together. I have always enjoyed Ken’s company and have appreciated his encouragement and support over the years. Now in his 80s, his health is on the mend following being hospitalised a couple of times over this last year, but he is slowing down as you would expect. He remembers you all fondly and passes on his regards too.
Dunedin was where my journey ended, where I visited with Gary and Pat Pullar, and also Gordon Bisset, both of whom had been in the Dunedin congregation Sue and I served in the 1980s, and thus constitute our oldest friendships in that region. All are well and in good spirits. Sitting with Gary and Pat was again a moment of refreshment, and of sharing our respective Christian journeys. I hope they were as encouraged by my visit and stories and I was with theirs. Finally, I dropped in on Gordon and his wife Betty prior to going out the airport to drop off their hire car. We spent an enjoyable hour and a half nattering, and catching up on each other’s stories of the last year. (Once home, I learned there had been a severe storm that caused considerable flooding in Otago, including the Mosgiel region. He told me on the phone that while there was flooding down his street, his home had escaped that, and he and Betty are fine.)
Some of these whom I have been visiting are quite scattered and rarely can make it to our services in Invercargill, but remain committed GCI members (or positive friends) and pray for all of us regularly. I hope we also remember them too. It is important that we strengthen the bonds of friendship between us, despite differences and distances, paying attention to “The Ties That Bind” (as the song says), for we are Family after all. Blessings, Dennis
Advertising: We are continuing to engage with the general public via Facebook postings for GCI and "Inside Life".
At the time of the 100th anniversary of the WW1 armistice, I put out a Facebook ad referring people to "Inside Life" issue 24 on the Causes of War. For a cost of $50, the ad reached 50,000 people, mainly in Fiji. Of these, over 1,000 “liked” or shared the post, and 55 people clicked the link to read the magazine. There were a number of comments and questions from readers—a dozen or more people I was able to engage in conversations with.
Our latest "Inside Life" Facebook ad features a photo I took of the 18,000 crosses at the Auckland Museum marking the Kiwis who died in WW1 and pointing to the article on “What Happens after Death?” We now have 856 regular followers of the "Inside Life" Facebook Page, which can be seen at https://www.facebook.com/Inside-Life-117763038408881/
Warm regards to all, Rex