Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Sound of Melodies" by LeeLand

“Well Pua, do you have any prayer requests?”
I’m sure I looked a bit confused. One of my students, a 12-year-old boy, had just come up and asked me if I wanted prayer about anything.  True, we had been talking about prayer at Bible study, and true, I have a good relationship with this student… but having a 12 year old boy think to ask if he can pray for me about anything and then actually pray with me moments later is NOT a common occurrence. Ask any youth pastor that you know.
“Actually, I’d really appreciate any prayers about being homesick. Homesickness is starting to settle in my heart.”
This was true. Actually, this is still true.
Just this morning I walked into a Starbucks and almost started crying. My co-worker wanted to grab a cup of coffee and Starbucks is located just around the corner from our building. There are hundreds of little caf├ęs around Wellington, so I had not been inside a Starbucks since arriving in New Zealand. As we stepped inside, my mind had to do a lot of calculating very quickly. My brain thought that I was back home. Literally.
The reason?
Starbucks in New Zealand looks exactly like Starbucks back home. It is THE most recognizable thing that my eyes have seen in 35 days: the sugar packets, the counters, the menu, the drink names-I recognized them all, and my brain immediately sent a message to my heart reporting that I was back home, back in familiarity, back in familiar relationships, back on familiar streets…
and at the delivery of the next (painfully obvious) message from my brain, you are not home, my heart stumbled. Or maybe that was just my knees buckling in the doorway of Starbucks.
                “Dear Jesus, I just pray that Pua would start to feel at home in this youth group…that we could be like a home for her…” The student’s prayer ended about thirty seconds after it began, and it was one of the most beautiful prayers I’ve ever heard. And it was one of the sweetest moments I’ve had in New Zealand.
                As this post demonstrates, God is taking care of me. Not only financially and tangibly, but He is listening to the small whimpers and sighs of my heart and answering them with profound insight and love. I’m praying that you all hear and see the ways God is speaking to the sighs and whimpers of your own heart. I am blessed to know you,
Prayer requests:
1) In 9 hours I will be with Ignite doing a session on “Inner Fitness,” a part of our school program where we talk about Identity: how our identity is not based on what we do, but who we are. I am sharing part of my story, and I’d love your prayers as I talk about my faith to the students.
2) Ignite was offered an opportunity to conduct a sports day with refugee students from Somalia (!!!!) Please pray that everything lines up for this to happen. I would LOVE to spend any time with refugee students.
3) Please pray for continued health for me and the Pa’u family
4) I currently know 3 women who are pregnant: Ruth, Jo, and Marvie. (Marvie is my sister-in-law and I mentioned Jo in my previous post) Please pray for these women and the life growing inside of them!

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Video Killed the Radio Star" -Buggle

So.... the song I chose for my title... it's just because I was trying to think of a witty title to introduce my videos... Don't worry, I already realize that my attempt at wit has failed.

The first video is a group of pacifika dancers from The Cook Islands

This second video is from my youth group. If you get motion sick easily, then don't watch it. When students start carrying around my Kodak Sport, the picture looks like the whole world is shaking. I just wanted to share their accents with you all!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"The Gift" by Angels & Airwaves

I just wanted to share some recent pictures from my life. God is so good!
These are some students from last night's Bible study. I spoke about how significant keeping a prayer journal for the last 9 years has been in my life. We planned to let the students decorate their own journal, and the students really got into it! They had lots of questions like, "so, what am I supposed to write in here?" but we welcomed all their questions. We challenged them to write/draw in their journal twice before the next youth group meeting.
This is a photo of all the students Ignite Sport works with from NaeNae College. We had just finished an intense hour-long workout that included spinning for 30 minutes and a 30 minute set of weightlifting stations. This week we are teaching the students two new sports: Ultimate Frisbee and TchoukBall (you should look up this sport- it's awesome!)
This is a picture of my two Samoan sisters, Abby and Gabrielle and me. Last sunday we spent the afternoon at the beach and we found these two blue starfish (pictured in my hand). Our time at the beach was really valuable relaxing family time. After the beach, we went into town and grabbed some Gelato! Abby and Gabrielle attended the Hillsong Women's Conference in Australia, and they've been gone for a week-and-a-half. I'm ready for them to come home! I can't wait to hear about their time at the conference!

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Small Rebellions" by jars of clay

     I just ate dinner tonight with two friends of mine, Jo and Isaac Watts. We met at church a few weeks ago, and this was our third time hanging out. As they dropped me off at the Pa’u home after dinner, I just found myself feeling so grateful for these friends. They teach me about Jesus every time we hang out, but I don’t think they know it. To give a little background about why I say this, you must understand the Nae Nae community we live in. Within a two mile radius of my church (which includes my house and the Watts’ house) there are 3 gang houses, and several streets my Saoman sisters did not want to even drive down. It’s not like an urban city with gang wars or anything, but there exists this oppressive mood around the neighborhood. Young boys typically join gangs and domestic violence is common to hear through our kitchen windows. A few months ago, Jo and Isaac felt like they were being called to live in this neighborhood, so they sold their house in the nice, safe neighborhood and bought a home in Nae Nae.
     Their home is seems like a hospitality center, having only seven days this year without any company or acquaintances sleeping over. (it’s almost the end of march, in case you forgot) They often provide meals and a bed for a neighborhood boy whose father is a drunk. Across the street from their house is an apartment that houses people recently released from jail. Isaac frequently visits the residents and befriends them, helping them acclimate to life outside of prison. Isaac invited the most recent inhabitant to his birthday party. The man had never been bowling, couldn’t remember the last time he was invited to a birthday party, and didn’t realize you could have so much fun without taking any drugs. Apart from the Pa’us, Jo and Isaac have made me feel the most welcome, the most pursued. It has been so wonderful befriending people who don’t talk about theology, but live it. The Watts are impacting the Nae Nae community, and bringing light and Hope to the oppressed. I’m so thankful for them.
     In other news, I have officially been named the Head Women’s Soccer coach for Nae Nae College. I have my first meeting with the team on Wednesday, but I already met some of the girls. Last Thursday, Nae Nae College hosted a sports sign-up day. At the event, I sat at the soccer table and talked to girls who were interested in playing soccer. A record number of girls signed up for the team! They usually have a hard time fielding a team, but we had 28 girls sign up! At the meeting on Wednesday, I’m sure some of the numbers will drop, but even still, I am so excited about getting to know these girls and start pouring into them!
     The past two weeks at youth group I have been sharing my story with the students. This coming week we are talking about and making prayer journals. I know how significant keeping a prayer journal has been in my life, and I want to invite the students to take advantage of the gift of journaling! We have a lot of magazines and newspapers for the students to cut-out and decorate the notebooks we’ve bought for them. If you’re reading this, you should consider prayer journaling as well! I love going back over old prayer journals and seeing how God has answered prayers and taught me such valuable lessons.
     Here is some news I’m really excited about: My brother, Joe, and his wife, Marvie, my sister, Mary, and her husband, Dave, are all coming to visit me! I am so excited! We are planning our trip which will take us to the South Island of New Zealand! They will all arrive in Wellington on May 30th. Mary and Dave will fly out on June 5th while Joe and Marvie will leave on June 8th.
     Please pray for my siblings as they prepare and plan for this trip. Please pray especially for Marvie because she is making this long journey as an expecting mother! I can’t wait to see her with a baby-bump!
     Please also pray for the students as we make our journals and continue to build relationships.
     Please keep praying for the work of Ignite Sport. Pray that the connections we made through volunteering at local sports days would prove fruitful. Pray that the work of Ignite will continue to be financially supported.
     Finally, please pray that I continue to pursue God as he relentlessly pursues my heart.
No matter how beautifully they’re written, new songs are hard to sing in the beginning. We kind of fumble through it until we are familiar with its tune. It is the same with this adventure in New Zealand. No matter how beautiful it is and how God is providing for me, I am still learning the rhythm of the land and the harmonies of my relationships. Please pray for me as I keep learning this song. I am sure that when my time in New Zealand is done, it will be a song that my heart will long to sing again.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"Hallelujah" Shawn McDonald

I was praying for a way to express the way my heart has hurt for the nation of Japan the last 24 hours, as well as a way to process my sports-day working with handicapped students. I wanted a way to speak of the relationships growing around me, and the way God is revealing himself to me.  This is the answer to my prayer:

Matthew 5:3-10
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
Blessed are the persecuted, for they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven
So, in other words
Blessed is the student who recently told me about their deep depression- because the Kingdom of Heaven is passionate about Renewing and Healing.
Blessed are the citizens in Japan who have lost their farms, their houses, their sons and daughters- because God is eager to comfort them.
Blessed are the Haagas, missionaries in Niger, who humbly rely on God for ALL their provisions- because God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and his pockets are never empty.
Blessed is my best friend Daria Wilson as she fights for Justice for dozens of sex-trafficking victims in the Philippines- because God will fill her desire for justice to reign in the Philippines.
Blessed are the Japanese emergency workers who volunteered to help New Zealand when they had an earthquake in Christchurch two weeks ago and are now returning to their own disaster-stricken country- because God will remember the mercy they poured out on New Zealand
Blessed are the children I met today- because they see God in everything from flowers to trampolines!
Blessed are the mentally/physically disabled athletes I worked with yesterday- because in the races yesterday, they congratulated their opponents for getting 6th place out of 6 runners, simply because their opponent crossed the finish line.
Blessed are my brothers and sisters around the world who are forced out of their jobs, forced into jail, and forced to give up their life for their faith- because they understand that it is better to give up what they cannot keep in order to gain what they cannot lose

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing - Sufjan Stevens

"...Come thou fount of every blessing
tune my heart to sing thy grace.
Streams of mercy never ceasing
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it,
mount of thy unchanging love..."

     How can I describe the amount of blessing that is falling upon me? Not only did God invite me to New Zealand, give me a paid internship (paid for by people who said "While I was praying, God laid it on my heart to provide X amount for this project"), provide everything I could need financially, surround me with prayer support, prepare a welcoming and loving family and home, give me a comfortable bed, place me in the middle of one of the most beautiful places i've ever seen, provide me with a laptop, adapter/converter, cell phone, Kodak Sport, and Camera to share my stories with loved ones back home, and bring me here safely- Today he did it again.
     After finally figuring out my cell phone plan/bill/number today (yay!), Doug received a call. The call was from a man who had committed to donate some money to help buy me a car. He said, "Actually, we have a car for Pua to use. And my company is going to pay for the insurance."
So, essentially:
I'm getting a car for free- automatic (thank you Jesus!), fuel efficient, hatchback (great for all the soccer gear I'll be carting around soon), ABS (which not all cars have in New Zealand), and the insurance is covered.

really God? you really needed to show me one more way that you delight in providing for your people?

Our God is good. He is teaching me about His love in ways that thrill and terrify my heart. Everyday he reminds me about the upcoming ten months, that they are for Him. and for me.

And even in the midst of blessing, I am starting to struggle emotionally with being surrounded by infamiliarites. I almost feel it would be easier to adjust in Kenya or Bolivia or in a land with customs completely different from my own. In New Zealand, so many things are similar, but there's just enough difference to keep me constantly aware and asking questions, and sometimes I get really frustrated. I give myself a hard time because I can't remember everything. I am tired every night because my mind is constantly soaking up new information, comparing it to old information, and then placing it in new categories and subcategories.

In short, I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss familiar cities. I miss seeing cars drive on the right side of the road. But in the midst of my missing and my sorting and my frustration, God is ministering to my heart. So give God praise for the marvelous ways He is providing.

Here is a picture of my youth group tonight. I shared part of my story with them. I love them so much already. Please pray for me: that relationships would grow, blossom, and bear fruit in the next ten months.
Love and Peace

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

This is my new youth group at St. Columba Church, Wellington. They are saying hello to my former youth group, First Presbyterian Church, Bristol. What they are saying is, "Hello FPC Youth Group from St. C youth group. We're praying for you!" I love my new youth group already! They welcomed me by standing around me and praying for me. It was so beautiful because that is how I spent my last night with my former youth group. It was like being commissioned by one youth group and being received by another. God is so good!

"Airplanes" Ellen Degeneres (it's stand-up comedy. You should listen to it)

Hello Friends,
   It's good to be writing you. I've been in New Zealand just under a week, and all the things to process and take in are a bit overwhelming. Every night before I go to bed, I try to journal about my day, but it is always difficult to select which events or conversations to process and which to save for another day. I figured I could start out with some basics:
   I live with Doug and Liz Pa'u. They are Samoan. They have four children. Their oldest, two sons, do not live at home. Their youngest, two girls, live at the house with me. Their names are Gabrielle, 23, and Abby, 21. I have never felt so welcomed or at peace within a family besides my own. Gabrielle, Abby, and I share a lot of common interests in music/movies etc. The whole family welcomes all the questions I have about New Zealand culture, Pacific Islander culture, the church, shopping malls, culturally appropriate statements, food, and anything else I can think to ask. God has provided SUCH a BEAUTIFUL home for me. Praise God!
   Doug is the pastor of the church next door, and his wife Liz runs most of the youth group activities. I will be the youth intern for the next ten months, helping Liz a lot and spending 2-3 days a week working at the church. I met the youth group last night for the first time, and I love them already. We have about 20 students ranging from ages 11-17. They are so open, and they were so welcoming. One of the youth volunteers, Isaac, found out that I play Ultimate Frisbee. He asked me to come play on his team today at 5:30- I'm so excited!
   I am also working for a company called Ignite Sport. The goal of Ignite Sport is to mentor and direct athletes in the high schools around Wellington. Through this opportunity, I may be coaching a girls soccer team at NaeNae College. (In NZ, high schools are called colleges) (Nae is pronounced like 'Nye')The colleges have Sports Administrators which handle all the administration of all the sports teams including schedules/games/paperwork etc. This means that my job would strictly be coaching on the field at practice and at games. AWESOME! I'm excited about this opportunity, but it is not certain yet. I meet with Liz and Kevin (the owner of Ignite) to discuss my schedule for the next several months.
    Until we have wireless internet at the Pa'us, my updates will be a bit sporadic because I have to be sensitive to the schedules of everyone else in the home. (The computer is located in Doug and Liz's bedroom, so there are obvious reasons for sensitive scheduling) : )
   Tomorrow I work with Ignite at a track and field event- I'm so excited! It is an event for all those who have handicaps, whether mental or physical, in the local colleges to compete. Something interesting I've discovered in New Zealand is their respect for sports like Tennis, Track & Field, Water Polo, and Cross Country. These are sports we typically overlook in the US. It's very interesting to see such enthusiasm for a Long Jump or a Tennis Match. The top sports in New Zealand, however, are Rugby, NetBall, and Cricket.. none of which I have any knowledge about. I'm having to learn quickly!
   Know that God is being good to me, providing anything and everything I need, and surrounding me with people who are loving me well. I know this post was pretty long, but I just wanted to give you an idea of what my time here will be structured by.
   My thoughts and prayers are with my family and friends back home. Please pray for the families still in Christ Church, New Zealand. The earthquake has really devastated the entire city. Love to you all!