Kayaking with Dolphins!

Well everyone came to Kaikoura with this amazing dream of seeing all the sea life. Each of us had the wonderful opportunity to go kayaking. When we went out we went with the hopes of seeing dolphins. We went out over the course of a few days. The first group was Karoline, Matthew, Courtnay and myself. It was amazing. We went out at about 9:30am to Gooches Beach. When we got there it was a little overcast but it was beautiful. I was in a bright blue rain jacket and Karoline was in bright red. We got the yellow kayak which turned out for some pretty fun pictures.

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Honestly all we wanted was to be out on the water and taking in all the views of Kaikoura. The first sight we saw was some amazing jelly-fish! They were a spectacular orange and some were blue. We went right through a kelp forest which was so picturesque!

 

As we continued to paddle out we saw our first dorsal fin! It was a pod of Dusky Dolphins. They were so close it was amazing. When they finally swam away we had squealed and laughed at each one. We started to paddle back in to shore Karoline and I had a little bit of a hard time. We started to paddle and we went well…nowhere. We were not moving. Courtnay and Matthew were having the opposite problem they were motoring to shore. Karoline and I went in a bunch of circles. When we finally got going again we weren’t moving very fast but then we saw another fin! Well the squeals came and we started paddling harder. Fun fact about Karoline, when she gets excited her shoulders go up and her paddle just skims the water and the person in the back, me, takes a little shower! It was amazing! As we raced over the water we saw more and more dolphins! As we got closer we realized the dolphins were all around Court and Matthew. When Karoline and I finally caught up we were surrounded by happy playful dusky’s! I stretched my hand into the water and could feel the waves and the water move as the dolphins swam by. It was by far one of the coolest experiences ever.

 

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During our week of environmental literature with Amy she said to us, “knowing at this moment we are in a memory.” That stuck in the moment with the all of the dolphins jumping around us and the laughs of Karoline and smiles on Courtnay and Matthews faces. This was one of the many blessings from the Lord this semester. Now, the semester is over and we have returned to the states. Being back in Colorado is amazing but I will never forget the memories that were created in the moment with those dolphins and amazing friends.

 

 

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sacred spaces

Almost three months ago now, I moved to Kaikoura, New Zealand. It was my second time moving here, but this time instead of planning to be here for four months, it was going to be almost a year. Almost a year of having my phone on airplane mode and always seeking easy wifi access. Almost a year of being away from my family and my first Christmas not at home decorating the tree the day after Thanksgiving and drinking hot chocolate by the fire. Almost a year of keeping in touch via Skype, FaceTime, Whatapp video calls or basically whatever app works at the time.

Yet, while I said goodbye to many things that I’ve always known (living in the States, being surrounded by people I know, being in a familiar landscape), I also was saying hello to a new year. I was entering into a year living below Kaikoura’s beautiful Mount Fyffe, a year of living in intentional community (that can be equally frustrating and beautiful and growing), a year of learning in a place that I love and have been longing to return to since I left it in May of 2016.

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About two weeks after I arrived, so did eight wonderful new friends who quickly came to be like family. Kelsey, Karoline, Kelly, Robyn, Matthew, Dan, Lilly and Adriannea quickly became Kels, Karl/Karol, Kel, Kobyn/Kob/Rob-Kob, Machu, Dan-O the Man-O, Lil, and Aid (even if sometimes I’m the only one who calls them that). Living in Dolphin Lodge with these new people became my norm, and a place where I felt safe and known. Days were filled with class sessions, reading, making up silly songs on the guitars/uke, playing card games, going on walks downtown, baking after tea, and riding bikes to church.

These few months have been very different than when I was a student here. For starters, I’m on staff now and instead of being a carefree goofball, I actually have responsibilities. I have to set an example, and the closer I become to those around me, the more I realise I am a flawed, broken person. I have had to grow in patience, because living with fifteen people in a cozy little hostel right next to town is not always the easiest, especially compared to a spacious Old Convent in the farmland where I previously lived. I’ve had to learn not to have expectations or compare, but to cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving and joy during this time of my life.

And while it’s been challenging and hard and frustrating at times, it’s been a wonderfully sweet season. I’ve been able to make new friends, both within CCSP and in the local community. I’ve discovered more of who I am as an individual. I’ve learned to cook! I have learned ins and outs of gardening in a country whose seasons are opposite to those at home. I’ve worked on finding joy in chores, volunteering, and serving others. I have found delight in weeding even the most overgrown gardens.

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About two years ago when I was a student here at CCSP, my friends Lisa, Johanna and I created a garden. Maybe we didn’t so much create it, as shaped it. It was already there, but you couldn’t tell from looking at it. It was overgrown with branches, weeds, and layers of dead leaves. For two or three weeks, we pulled weeds, raked up leaves, trimmed branches, and cut the edges of the bushes. We laid down weed mat, poured mulch and wood chips on top, created a gravel path, and put a couple of chairs and a bench in the middle. We got an old wheelbarrow to be the centrepiece of the garden, planted with purple and red flowers, and used old ceramic pots for some succulents. To finish it all off, we got mdeium-sized white stones, wrote on them a verse for every person at the Convent that semester, and placed them in the shape of a koru at the entrance of the garden. It wasn’t perfect or a magazine-worthy garden, but it was a sacred space. It had become a place I longed to be, to sit and enjoy the birds singing and appreciate life in all sorts of forms.

In some ways, I feel like this is the process that our lives follow. The Creator of all things, who also created us, sees us as the overgrown gardens we are. And yet he doesn’t leave us like that. Over the course of years, he cuts off edges of impatience, judgment and disapproval. He pulls weeds of arrogance, pride, and selfishness; he trims off past hurts and plants flowers of love and grace. He replaces branches of envy with the weed mat of joy and gratitude. And though we never reach perfection, we are allowed to become sacred spaces, places where joy and peace and shalom are present. One of the most beautiful things about it is not the end result, but the process: the process of living and growing and learning and being willing to be shaped by a sovereign Creator is a sacrament in itself.

I feel like living here at CCSP is like that – it’s hard and it hurts at times, and we can become blatantly honest or rude with each other. But we also are being shaped into beautiful people that, fortunately enough, are able to grow together. We are able to learn to see beauty in what used to upset us and love in gentle ways. Like ivy, we intertwine together, but also live and thrive individually. And it doesn’t matter if we are student, staff, friend of the program, local of the Kaikoura community, or family member – we are all the same, we are all growing, and we all have the chance to become sacred and safe spaces for each other, for the Creator, for creation, and for ourselves. What a lovely process to be able to be a part of, and to share.

– Alexis (Lex) Draut

Till Next Time

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Snow catching the first rays of sunrise

The month of May has flown by and winter has claimed New Zealand. A few weeks ago we said a tearful goodbye to the students and sent them off with loads of awesome memories. Though it’s sad to let them go it’s exciting to know they’re equipped to change their corners of the world and continue God’s work of shalom.

The Dolphin Lodge is now eerily quiet (though I’m sure the neighbors are enjoying it). The town of Kaikoura is settling in for a busy winter; it is hosting 300 workers who will repair the roads and open up access to the north again. They are housed in a temporary village and while it might mean less rest for locals it will also mean more business for those in food service who will be providing meals for the workers. On the workers’ end, Kaikoura is not too shabby of a place to be stuck for a few months!

Four of us staff have also finished our time with CCSP. Those staying will be joined by a new Program Administrator and two SLCs in August. Soon enough they’ll be welcoming a new crew of students to make more fun memories at Dolphin Lodge!  

As for me, well, I’ll be passing the administration of this blog on to the next staff member. I have no plans to return to New Zealand… yet. Somehow I think I’ll always find a way back. So rather than say goodbye, I’ll say “till we meet again.” It’s been a fantastic semester and I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse into it.

This is Essie signing off.

Peace.

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The Kaikoura ranges from the air

Journals from Kiwiland

Hey everyone!  I’m Annika Hindbjorgen, a junior from Sioux Falls, South Dakota studying biology and secondary education at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa.   My semester with CCSP has been so amazing and fun filled that I am writing this blog post an entire month late (oops!).   I have been truly blessed to be here.  Originally when thinking about what I would write, I thought that I would write about the culture of New Zealand, or about the things that I’ve learned, or about the community here.  But, upon reflecting upon all the wonderful things happenings that are constantly happening here, I thought I would share thoughts from my journal.  No, no; I will not share all of my deepest and most riveting thoughts that are written in my orange fox-printed diary, but I will share with you a line here and there that will give you an idea about what living here in Kaikoura with CCSP is like: 

January 25:  “Today I stepped my feet into the cold ocean water (kind of symbolic of the ‘cold feet’ I have for this trip).”

January 26:  “The air doesn’t feel like this in South Dakota.  Somehow the salty waves make a different kind of humid.” 

January 27:  “MAN, I AM OUT OF SHAPE!”

January 29:  “Today I got up and went to the beach and watched the sunrise—it was, once again, phenomenal.”

January 31:  “I hope to love.  People. Creatures.  Places.  All of it.”

February 1:  “We say dusky dolphins off the dolphin lodge porch! Now I fully understand its namesake.” 

February 3:  “We went to a playground that had a three story high slide, waterpark, trampolines, zip lines, and so much more.  We were very happy to play—but these would never exist in America—NZ kids must be tougher.”

February 12:  “Our professor Mick Duncan blew my mind and challenged me in a spiritual and moral way.” “I got to ring the bell outside the Anglican Church—made my day!”

February 13:  “I never thought that scooping seaweed filled with maggots from the beach for the garden would be so much fun!”

February 20:  “I feel loved.  It’s a good feeling.  It’s not like the love that I feel at home, but it is love none the less.”

February 21:  “The North Island forests are a lot like Jurassic Park, just instead of dinosaurs, there are tuataras [endemic lizards].” 

February 22:  “At the Ngatiawa River Monastery—this place is kind of magical.  I feel like forest fairies must come here to live.  Yes, this place definitely has a Tinker Bell vibe.”

February 24:  “I feel like I walked across the Bridge to Terabithia.  Looking at the stars—a different night sky than the one at home.  Amazing.”

February 26:  “4 cups of coffee (so far).”

March 2:  “My tan lines and freckles are getting serious.” “I have trained the bottom of my feet to walk on gravel barefoot.” “Ketchup in New Zealand tastes funny.  So does salsa.  Really sweet.”  “I’m feeling fitter—I’m no longer dead when I walk up the steep hill from town to the Dolphin Lodge.”

March 7:  “Our homestay was fantastic with a wonderful couple right across the street—we helped with a conservation project and saw baby water buffalo!  Not to mention chocolate cake from scratch.” 

March 11:  “I SAW A WHALE.  I smelled whale breath, and then the juvenile humpback, that we named Moana, BREAHED.  It was definitely the highlight of my life.  I was so sea sick, but I didn’t care—I would get sea sick every day of my life to see things like this.” 

March 12:  “Pastor Kevin sheared a sheep during church the old fashioned way.  I went to go pet it afterwards, and found it casually chilling in the trunk of the pastor’s tiny SUV.”

March 23: “Biking Alps2Ocean—The 80 km from Mt. Cook to Twizel was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Ever.” “Gasp! I’m actually reading a book for fun! (The Magician’s Nephew).” “Biking the 900 meter altitude gain was literally the hardest physical thing that I have ever done but when we went down we FLEW and I felt FREE and it was FUN.” “We saw 3 dead wallabies. What the heck.  Do these even exist in NZ?!”  (apparently they are invasive in only one little town) 

April 13:  “Oh my goodness.  I didn’t even finish my sentence from 3 weeks ago.  So much can distract you from journaling:  so much fun and beauty and conversation and frustrations and homework and new experiences and people that need you and times that you need people… and now we have less than a month left and I am so sad to leave and so happy to go home all at once.”  “Extreme levels of trust in Marae bathrooms late at night with friends and first aid scissors lead to short, short haircuts. “

April 16:  “It slept last night from 11:30 to 3:30 to wake up and participate in 24 hours of prayer at the Presbyterian church.  It was amazing to pray so intentionally.” “God painted the sunrise with Easter in mind:  pastels of pink and purple, blue and yellow, danced across the sky, over the ocean, and bounced off the ocean.”

April 18:  “Only 24 days left.  So many feelings of sad and happy.  Happy.  Yup—that’s me. Happy.”

 

Despite the Earthquake, God is Here

On November 14th, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Kaikoura. Given the strength of the earthquake it was a miracle that only two people lost their lives. A holiday weekend with lots of tourists visiting here had just ended, and most people were at home instead of the hotels or other common areas that were among the most damaged. Nevertheless there was a lot of damage: particularly in the commercial district that was gearing up for what would usually be a peak tourist season. But the road northward was blocked, and few tourists came.

This was the setting that my cohort of CCSP entered. I, for one, was largely naïve of the impact of the earthquake. Our program was relocated, but it was to a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean and close to town. I had nothing to compare it to, and thus no sense of the loss that occurred. The loss first began to hit me when I biked out to see the old convent with Kelly, one of my friends from the program. As we carefully walked around the outside of the building, I saw what a beautiful place it was. It was large with balconies and porches, and surrounded by flowers and fields. Sanctuary seems like the only word to describe it: it was a place set aside for the work of God, a place of peace, healing, and contemplation. Even in its brokenness it was beautiful; there were still vegetables growing in the garden and at a distance through the windows we could see artwork on the walls and a bowl of fruit sitting in the living room. But now there was glass on the ground and caution tape surrounding the parameter. Like the pictures you see on TV, I saw a perfect place frozen in time by a natural disaster. I started to understand the deep impact of this event on those around me, and saw how deep the hurt ran.

I see God in the eyes of the Christians of Kaikoura. Their eyes sparkle and glow as they talk about the work of God in this town and in their lives. They talk about how fear tried to enter their lives with the earthquake, but how they know that God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power. Therefore, they refuse to let fear enter their lives.

This past break I had the opportunity to stay local for a part of it and get to know the people here. One woman, Fiona, learned that we were staying out of town and welcomed us to stay at her home since it was closer to church and town. I’ve seen a lot of homes and businesses that are still in disarray, but her home was filled with peace. For a while she didn’t put back up the fragile decorations hanging on the wall in case an aftershock knocked them off again. But she decided that she wanted her home to be a place of healing and of peace, so she decided to hang up her decorations anyways. Her warm welcome to us and the peace of her home was such a blessing. As she talked her eyes glowed about God’s provision during the earthquake, the Holy Spirit’s work in her family, and how God has brought her beautiful, full household together. There is life here, and new beginnings despite the pain.

You know that feeling of excitement you get when someone’s eyes light up when they talk about their passions? I’ve never met a group of people so alive that they bring Jesus into every conversation, and found so many people with sparkling eyes. So if you ask me where I see God here: He’s so clearly living in people who see hope amid chaos, and the Sprit working within pain. I see a people who are passionate about how God has redeemed their lives and their pasts, and who desire for others to find the same joy that they have discovered. It’s contagious really, and so far beyond what would be expected given the circumstances. This contagious joy and peace might just be the most beautiful thing I have experienced in New Zealand so far.

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Me with Lisa, one of my favorite faith-filled Kiwis! This post is dedicated to Lisa, Fiona, and Dawn. 

~Christine

This Place is Different! (in a good way)

Kaikoura, New Zealand is very different from where I live near Boston, Massachusetts. But it’s also similar in smaller, more subtle ways. Something I’ve noticed is that even though the ocean looks so different from the ocean I live near back at home, it feels just the same. Near Boston, the ocean is a dark navy blue with bright sandy beaches. Here in Kaikoura, the beach is made up of small gray rocks, and the water is bright blue. However, it smells the same, and has the same peaceful and calming effect that I feel when I’m sitting on the beach back at home. It’s amazing to me how something so far across the world and so different can make you feel right at home.

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Something else interesting that I’ve noticed is that the culture here is so different. Where I live back at home, people are generally very independent and are always moving quickly from one thing to the next. However, here in Kaikoura, people are a bit more laid back, and things generally move a little bit slower. Nearly every person I’ve met has been so kind and welcoming towards me, even though at times it is clear I am not from around here. I had a particular encounter a few weeks ago that made me realize just how different that culture is. I was biking along Beach Road, and a woman in her car was driving behind me. I slowed down to let her pass around me, not realizing that she was also slowing down to turn. Eventually she turned and rolled down her window to say something. I was fully expecting her to reprimand me about not knowing what I was doing (you New Englanders know what I’m talking about). Instead, she rolled down her window, and with a smiling face she apologized and went on her way. I’m sure she could see the surprise on my face!  It’s clear to me now how each individual community member has the incredible power to change and define a community.

~ Heather Sweeney (Gordon College)

All Things New

“Miraculous” is not too strong a word for describing the start of this semester. Several months ago an earthquake rendered our beloved home unlivable thus throwing the future of CCSP NZ into uncertainty. Our campus, The Old Convent, had become synonymous with CCSP and it was hard to imagine the program being located anywhere else. With the next group of students committed to coming, many things had to fall into place before they arrived. In the midst of a plethora of decisions emerged a new home and two new staff members to continue the story of CCSP. We welcomed students to the Dolphin Lodge located a short walk from the beach and complete with stunning views of the mountains.

I enjoy living in this new location close to the ocean and learning its different moods and colors. Sometimes whitecaps whip the ocean surface from shore to horizon. Sometimes nothing more than gentle ripples dance across the sea like blown glass. In the afternoon, the color turns brilliant aquamarine as the sunlight reflects off the trillions of microscopic particles in the nutrient-rich water.  

My role as the cook is now shared with a community member which gives me more time to spend with the amazing new students. You will be hearing more about the new life of CCSP from one of those students very soon. Stay tuned!