Reading Week Spring ’18

It’s reading week here at Dolphin Lodge. I love to read, and so the idea of spending an entire week reading ahead in our school books excites me. We haven’t spent all our time reading, though. There are also assignments to be written, and fun to be had. They told us in the pre-arrival letters to be prepared to re-learn how to “recreate” without technology, but I wasn’t prepared for how much fun it is to spend time together without electronics (except for music, which is always a good thing to have).

Before I jump into reading week, I would like to recap the weekend. CCSP arranges it so that we don’t have assignments over the weekends, which means that a lot of us students are enjoying “real” weekends for the first time in a long time. Landon, Heather, Teri, and I kicked off our Saturday with some surfing on the point. It was Teri and I’s first time surfing, and it was so exciting to be out in the waves with the other surfers pretending we knew what we were doing. We got back from surfing just in time to head to mini golf with the whole crew! I spent a lot of vacation time growing up playing putt-putt, and so it was great to get a chance to play again. Everyone ended up doing quite well, despite a couple balls hitting the nearby shrubs. 😉

My favorite part of the weekend has to be Saturday night, when Lex, Landon, and all of the students were all hanging out in the living room. We did a variety of things, like coloring, journaling, talking, and doing a puzzle. I just can’t get over how much fun it was to relax and be creative all together. We laughed so much that night, and I went to bed full of thankfulness for the opportunity to live in community with such great people, in such a beautiful place.

I have a tendency to go into too much detail, so I won’t recount every detail about Sunday, but my favorite parts of Sunday were leading worship at the Anglican church (a hilarious experience) and reading The Fellowship of the Ring on the window seat upstairs.

On to the actual week, finally! After we had our reading week debriefing on Monday, we all went separate ways to begin reading. We went to the marae garden to work after lunch and had our first Te Reo Maori class after dinner. Tuesday, I went to poetry class with Lex, went with Landon, Jonathan, Teri, Lex and Heather to read on the beach at the point while others surfed, and then we had Te Reo again. On Wednesday, some of us had a Valentine’s Day sunrise picnic before coming back and doing more school work. Then, we celebrated Jonathan and Kat’s Birthdays with burgers, games, headstands, handmade icecream (with homemade hot fudge and candied almonds), and Pavlova! It was so much fun celebrating them and eating good food. On Thursday we spent most of our time doing school work and then had Te Reo again in the evening. Friday was spent preparing (with a brief beach break) for our Te Reo Exam and presentations in the evening.

So, you could say it’s been a good week. One full of learning about the Maori culture and language, fun times, and reading. A week of further bonding as a community and of learning how to balance school time with fun time in this beautiful location. I can honestly say that so far this experience a student with CCSP has been one of the best in my life. Here’s to more growing in our wisdom, our faith, and our friendships.


A Weekend Away

Greetings from Kaikoura, New Zealand! We’ve just gotten back from a long weekend of tramping. (That’s Kiwi for backpacking.) One group went to Lake Angelus and the other group, the one I was a part of, had planned to go to Mount Owen in Kaharungi National Park. When we got to the information center, however, they informed us that the impending weather meant that we should consider changing our plants. We also didn’t rent a four-wheeled vehicle which meant that we would have had to walk an extra eight miles that afternoon in order to get to the trailhead, so that was a no go. Instead, we decided to stay in Nelson National Park and do a tramp there. New Zealand has this awesome network of tramping huts all over the country that only cost $5-$15 a night and they’re right on the trail, so it makes it a bit more accessible to people and certainly made things a bit easier for us. We bought some hut passes, took a picture of the map on the wall because we didn’t want to buy a paper map, and headed on our way. Overall, the trails were gorgeous. We walked through forests covered in ferns, mosses, and mushrooms in many colors. Here’s a picture of what some of the trail looked like:


The change of plans turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however. On our way to our second hut, we met a couple from France who said that they had just stayed at that hut and that there was an amazing waterfall only an hour’s hike from the hut. Once we got to the hut, we warmed up by the fireplace, dried our socks, and decided to go find that waterfall. Despite being pretty tired from a long day’s hike, the thought of a pretty cool waterfall pushed us forward and once we got there, we were certainly glad that we had. Not only was there a waterfall tumbling down and weaving its way between rocks, surround by lush greenery, but directly opposite was the biggest, most impressive valley I had ever seen. We were all speechless. Standing in between that waterfall and the mountains towering ahead of me, I felt small. There aren’t adequate words in the English language to try and describe the experience of being there, but in an effort to, I will say that it was a manifestation of the grandeur of God, played out in His creation. It reminded me just how small I am and just how grand and majestic my God is. It is the kind of experience you impress upon every corner of your brain, hoping it will never leave you. Following are a couple of pictures I took in an attempt to capture this beauty:





Besides the amazing views, the trip proved to be a fun time between friends, both new and old. There were six of us, each with a very important role that was essential to the group. Those six roles were as follows:

  • Honorable Toilet Paper Carrier
  • Master Chef
  • Just and Fair Pathfinder
  • Spunky Conversation Instigator
  • Human Garbage Can
  • Bug Attractant

As you can see, we had all the necessary components of a functioning team and it was a pretty great trip. So, if you ever get the chance to go on a tramping trip in New Zealand with people you just met a week ago, I say do it.


–  post written by Ellie Jasper, CCSP student from Dordt College

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.


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.



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.




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.


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



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.


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)



It’s a golden early September. The cool grey clouds still glaze over our heads, but the sun has been pressing closer day by day. Sunlight flickers off of the sea, just for pinpoints in time. Sara is already snug in her cockpit, her neoprene skirt stretched tight around the kayak seat’s protruding upper lip. I lean forward, knees bent, and push the hefty tandem boat from the stern into the softly crashing waves. My neoprene booties seem impenetrable only for a second. The chilled seawater finds its way through the opening at my ankles and seep around my toes. I jump into my cockpit. Stretch the skirt over the lip. Flatten the lever and lower my rudder. Finally, I pick the paddle up by its shaft and push the blade against sand and frothing surf.

We are like an unobtrusive intruder in this polyethylene, tiny red ship, both shooting through the water and bobbing like a top in this sheltered bay. The sea rolls underneath. I can imagine I’m riding atop a massive blue-backed leviathan. Its diaphragm rising and falling.


Gull cries pierce the soft symphony of wind and waves. They peel off towards the Abel Tasman coast, hills cloaked in green and the dissolving morning haze. I watch them glide in circles, beat their wings, and swing back around. Gwen sits in his single-seat kayak, perks of being a guide. He detracts me from my gaze and tells us that Adele Island is our next stop. Straight ahead, it sits indifferently to our tiny presence, as small as it is itself.


As we paddle closer, my shoulder burns. Gwen tells me to swing more, but I reckon to myself it’s because I have to contend to the waves pushing back. My suspicions are confirmed when we near the sheltered Adele coast. The water calms, but still shatters and foams against the coarse, beaten granite boulders. I navigate the shoreline with forced confidence, emulating Gwen who slips unflinchingly between sharp protruding pillars. Suddenly I realize that the rocks, which once appeared empty, were dotted with New Zealand fur seals. Properly, as Gwen explained, sea lions. Many slumber on, either unaware or indifferent to our minute, quiet presence. However, as we press on, a small dark shape flounces ungainly, enthusiastically off a granite shear into the water. Suddenly transformed into a graceful smooth-spinner, it flows and cuts through the water at the same time towards Gwen’s kayak.

Like a little black Labrador pup, the young seal follows closely at Gwen’s heals. He flicks his tail, nose dives, twists, as though dancing with the kayak’s rudder. Eventually Gwen slides away, and I find myself gingerly pressing my foot against the left pedal towards the shore. Sara is quiet, but I sense her excitement vibrating into the air as much as mine. The seal pup is relatively still now, treading, with its head peering above the shallow, bright turquoise water. I can only identify its feeling as curiosity. Then, it decides. Our kayak teeters lightly above small ripples, waiting. Breath. Held. In.

Kekeno. It is the name the Maori people give the New Zealand fur seal. Gwen told us the name means “large eyes”. Rightly so. Between his jovial swim-dance, he would stop to watch us. Watching us watch him. Gwen watches us watch each other. He has the biggest brown black eyes, the white yellow sun glinting off his wide, curious orbs. His fur is slick, brown black too. A pup’s fur is usually darker. The sunlight defines the smoothed, thick hairs which groove together, linear crevasses and ridgelines, basin and range topography.

The pup dives into the water from its outpost. He twists, spins, flows like a swift river’s current. Straight to us he glides. I think I let out a small squeak – the balloon in my chest was so filled with excitement, I couldn’t help let a small bit escape. I twist my torso, limited to the skirt hugging my waist, to see the pup prance at our stern. He could best an Olympic synchronized swimmer. My fibers wish to transform into this furry, joyful body. Slide ungainly from polyethylene into salty, living, seawater. And be free.