Venturing North: Wellington (and beyond!)

I know it’s been awhile since our last update, but this student blog post is well worth the wait! Current CCSP student Judith Marklin (Houghton ’17) reflects on her experiences during the field trip to Wellington for the Sustainable Community Development class last month. Enjoy!

We took the ferry from Picton to Wellington, weaving through the rugged islands of Marlborough Sounds, spotting gannets and terns, and enjoying the beginnings of a new adventure. Upon arrival, it felt strange to be in a city after a month surrounded by cows and sheep. (Oh right, traffic lights do still exist.) Yet it also felt good to be reminded of the reality that is for so many in today’s world. Namely, that of the concrete jungle. It was also nice to people-watch again and try to spot the fingerprints of the Maker on these strangers. To be reminded that I am not alone and that most of us don’t have it all figured out. We just get really good at pretending sometimes.

The first couple nights we stayed at the Te Kakano marae, or Maori meeting house. This one was unique, however, as it was Christian. We began with a powhiri (or welcoming ceremony), listened to speeches, sang a waiata (or song), and then gave our mihimihis (or introductions in Maori – which we learned during Te Reo Maori class). After breaking bread (eating a meal) with them, we were considered family, and the marae graciously welcomed us in. It became our homebase and place of retreat. But for me, it is unique because of Pae. Her full name is Paerangimarie, which means beautiful day. She is mature for an eleven year old: she introduced herself to me, plopping her small body across my mattress. And there is a warmth about her – not just emanating from her beautiful smile, but from her entire being. She took us on a river walk, and we played the games of our childhood: throwing rocks, Pooh sticks, and listening for trains. The next morning we walked her to school in her burgundy uniform and got lost on the way back. And in the evenings she would wait for us to play hide-and-seek or dodgeball or simply talk. Goodbyes were hard, and I wonder about her future. She was my joy.

Pitting plums with Common Unity!

Our trip was jam-packed with a variety of talks, visits, and experiences. We spent some time in Wellington exploring the city and visiting the Beehive (parliament), as well as learning more about restorative justice and empowerment of local teenage boys through a boxing gym. We got to spend time gardening at an elementary school with Common Unity project. It was so encouraging seeing young children planting sunflowers, learning how to knit their own blankets, and cooking meals with their own food. The parents and the rest of the community was also involved in this vision.

We then went a bit outside the city to Ngatiawa, a River Monastery, that is part of the New Monastic movement. It was such a place of peace and belonging. Everyone lived in close community together, and the day was punctuated with times of prayer. My favorite was evening prayer. We entered the chapel slowly and silently, slipping off our shoes at the door. Taize songs greeted us and the entire service was by candlelight (we each had our own candle to hold). It reinforced the importance of rhythm, of spiritual disciplines, of liturgy in my own life. Three times a day we met for prayer, for a re-centering of our lives around Christ. And it was beautiful and good.

Visit to the Leason's Catholic Worker Farm, Otaki
Visit to the Leason’s Catholic Worker Farm, Otaki

On Friday we visited the L’Arche community in Kapiti, a Christian intentional community where people with intellectual communities (“core members”) and those without live side by side. It was such a refreshing and uplifting experience. Here I learned about the importance of presence and being present to those we are with. As we met with the core members and the others, I was struck by the incredible sense of community and mutuality. Often we tend to approach others with the idea of “helping” them or “saving” them, yet they are often doing just that for us. As we spoke to those from L’Arche, Julie, a core member, introduced herself and then excitedly introduced Sue, her ‘caretaker.’ Julie raved about Sue and how much she helped her, but Sue smiled bashfully, yet with a deep joy, simply answering, “we care for each other.”

Our trip to Wellington was deeply enriching and inspiring. It is incredible to meet so many people making a difference in their neighborhoods. And to think this is just in a part of one city, on one island in the world. When I find myself cynical with the headlines, I have to remind myself of all the good that surrounds us. It can be hard to notice, but it is there, in the small, in the mundane, in the ordinary. I pray that I may learn to live out my faith without words; that my actions and my life be an act of worship and a prayer to God. For as Chris, a volunteer at L’Arche, said, “you become more human, because you do little things with great love.”



Houghton College

Class of 2017