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Dennis Visits the South Island

Visiting old friends is always a pleasure and despite being only just back from Fiji (see last week’s Update), I headed Thursday last week to the Wellington ferry and over to the South Island for a week of reconnecting and encouraging everyone. Starting in Blenheim, I drove south to Kaikoura, Oxford (NW of Christchurch) and Ashburton before retracing my way up the coast and across to Nelson, and finally home Wednesday. I was reminded as I made each stop that everyone’s story is important, that God is at work in each one (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6), and that we ought never overlook or devalue the small things in our day. Those little things of our day are so often where the Spirit shows up to help and to guide us on to what is prepared ahead of us.

Blenheim is home for Helen Horton, where I stopped the first night. The ferry crossing had been smooth and was again on my return trip. A day or so before heading south swells of 5m and more had been experienced, and today, not even 24 hours after returning, the winds are blowing strongly again. Surely, I was being looked after, and I thank all who were praying for me and this trip. Helen and I enjoyed an evening meal together and she told me of her connections with the local 4WD club where she serves as secretary. As some of you will know, she had her home renovated recently and is still unpacking and clearing away the detritus that always happens with moving house. She is well and we should see her on Zoom again soon.

Next stop was Kaikoura to enjoy the hospitality of Phil and Susan Baldwin. And the magnificent view from their lounge and deck. Phil and I discussed some of the challenges GCI faces: responding to the Great Commission with an aging membership; moving beyond past traditions; speaking together about what is being taught week by week; and of personal issues some of us continue to wrestle with. We also started a conversation around plans and a possible theme for next year’s Refresher Weekend.

My stay with Phil wasn’t all work, however. He also invited me to walk with him and their dog Max down to the township and back up. And we did the same loop again the following Monday on my return trip, plus another ramble around his suburb, all ostensibly for the sake of Max, but it was helpful to me also since one doesn’t exercise much driving a car. And, as it happens, Saturday morning was the big All Blacks vs Pumas match to which Phil had invited his neighbour from the next street over to join us for the game plus a breakfast of pancakes and real Canadian maple syrup. As you know, the ABs did just fine, and it was a pleasure to meet and chat with Phil’s neighbour during and after the game. (The accompanying photos show the view from Phil’s home and breakfast with the Baldwins.)

Following the game, Phil and I headed down to Oxford for first a quick lunch then over to the Karadean Rest Home where Jan Visker lives and where the GCI group were meeting (Susan had taken their car and brought up Sandra Joy from Kaiapoi). We were a tight group of nine and met in the rest home’s library. The message I gave was a repeat of what I’d given in Suva the weekend before (time factor was one reason for this and my fondness for the book of Philippians). So, we looked at “this mind” that the two ladies who were at odds seem

to have lost sight of, at what may have divided them, and Paul’s purpose that they and the church return to the

Great Commission work they had been active in earlier.

I’m sure you are all aware that the Great Commission is a key driver of all that we in GCI are doing and planning

for. Earlier this month Daphne Sidney opened discussions with her pastoral group around pursuing ways of

being more effective in this. To that end she has engaged Chris Dickons, a church consultant in this area of

church revitalisation, who had spoken with senior church leaders at their February retreat on the Gold Coast.

Two further days of consultations are set down for November 8 and 9 to progress this a stage further. Please

pray that these days of intense discussion and vision casting lead us to an even clearer understanding of the

role GCI might play in the future living and sharing the Gospel.

My next day, Sunday, was spent in Ashburton visiting first with Cameron and Julie Hay at their home, and later

with Brian Collins and Chris Hoskins at Brian’s home. Julie’s condition that we asked everyone to pray about

last year is still not fully resolved and inhibits normal life at times. She and Cameron care for four teenage boys

plus work, which is quite a challenge, but they remain cheerful and positive toward the future.

My afternoon with Brian and Chris, as I am sure you would have expected, was a fun time. We talked across a

range of topics from life in retirement and its challenges to prospects and challenges for our church, even

Christ’s return and what those times may turn out to be. But much of our conversation was around my topic

the day before: how we had been more focused on expecting Christ’s return than stepping out to make

disciples. Chris, of course, can and did get excited talking of these things, but he listens also. And Brian,

naturally much quieter, listens closely and makes telling contributions to the discussion. I came away uplifted

by my connection with this interesting and engaging friendship Chris and Brian share, and their deep desire to

know the mind of Christ and do the Father’s will.

Monday evening was again spent with Phil and Susan, and on Tuesday I went on to Nelson to see first Beryl

Salmond and later Dean and Anne Asher. Beryl finds moving about more difficult (she is in her mid-80s) but is

in good spirits. Life in her rest home never ceases to be interesting and a challenge, interacting with people

from all sorts of backgrounds, and having a variety of health issues. But she enjoys it there, is well set up and

gets on with those she shares table with every day. She passes along her best wishes to everyone.

For Tuesday evening I was invited to dinner with Dean and Anne Asher, who I have mentioned in past years.

Formerly of WCG, they serve now on the pastoral leadership team of the Stoke Elim Church, and so we swap

ministry experiences and what God is doing in our respective churches. I continue to be amazed at the level of

overlap that comes to light. And how much we encourage each other from those experiences and the things

we are thinking about. What came out for me strongly this time was how pivotally important the little things in

life truly are in our witnessing to the life of the Spirit within us. To this end, Rom. 12:1-2 is a significant passage

for the spiritual life is worship. We don’t usually make that connection all that strongly but truly the simple

attitudes and practices of life that emerge from our relationship with our Saviour in the Spirit are a major

aspect of our living and sharing of the Gospel. We all have something to offer, as the rest of that chapter goes

on to say, and we do it so much better and more meaningfully when we do it together, swap our stories, and

glorify God in what we see being done in the lives of others who share our faith. It was not surprising that we

parted with a time of prayer in which we gave thanks for who we are and what God has made and is making in


And now that I am back home once again, I am left with a warmth of heart having seen God working quietly

and beautifully in the lives of all I had spent time with over the days of this last week. We have much to be

joyful about, we have people and situations to be praying about, and much to be grateful for, for God has

called us first to Himself, having always known and loved us, and called us to walk alongside each other in His presence. How blessed we are.

May God watch over you in all the moments of your days and may you know His presence and encouragement in everything you step out to do in His name and for His glory. Life in the Lord is good. And in this life is our worship.

Blessings, Dennis


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