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

Life at Dolphin Lodge

Those of us at CCSP this semester are the first group of students to call Dolphin Lodge home. We have the privilege of being the group who can first form traditions here, and notice the quirks that make it special to live here. Living in a house with eighteen other people can take some time to adjust to. But now that I’ve been here for a month, I can say without hesitation that the positives outweigh the negatives. Life at Dolphin Lodge is very centered on shared work and shared fun. A tour through the house and property will give a glimpse into all the different aspects of life that we share with each other. Beginning outside in our backyard where there’s a lemon tree, an apricot tree, and a Pohutukawa tree (also known as a New Zealand Christmas tree). There are wash basins where we do our laundry by hand. A laundry line where we hang our clothes out to dry and hope that wind doesn’t blow our underwear away or rain fall and soak everything all over again (both have happened). Outside is our back deck where we eat meals gathered around picnic tables. Doors lead into the kitchen where we take turns washing dishes after meals. In the kitchen there’s lots of things to share besides responsibilities. There’s always someone to split a pot of French press coffee with. There’s always someone to talk to about whatever might be tumbling around in your mind after a thought provoking class session. Sometimes we use the kitchen to make late night desserts without recipes, throwing ingredients into the bowl and having it still turn out delicious in the end. Upstairs we have our classroom space, which we also use as a common area to sit on sofas and read. There’s a little cozy library filled with books about New Zealand history, Maori culture, gardening, ecology, community development, or whatever other fascinating subject you want to dig into. Also upstairs is a deck that looks out over the ocean. If you pay close attention, you can spot a pod of dolphins from up there. The beach is a three-minute walk down the hill and across the road, so spontaneous swimming is almost a daily occurrence at the Dolphin Lodge. We swim out to a rock that we can climb on and sunbathe and jump off of. Dolphin Lodge is often full of laughter, good food, good friends, and learning. We learn in classes, but we are also learning much from simply living with each other. We’ve been learning how to live well with each other and how to manage conflicts. We’ve learned the abundant joy that occurs when you share life with others.

~ Emma Buchanan

“Kekeno”

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.

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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.

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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.

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A Different Sort of Life

Hi! I’m Sara Warmuth. I am a junior Business Administration major at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, and now call Kauai, Hawaii home. I love being here in New Zealand. Kaikoura is a wonderful place, one where you can swim with snowcapped mountains in view.

Our wonderful blog-running fairy, Essie, asked me if I could write a post about what is different here at CCSP in comparison to home. The first thing I noticed in Kaikoura was how similar it was to other places I had been. On the drive from Christchurch to Kaikoura, the homes reminded me of Hawaii, and the cutting and burning happening on the drive felt familiar, and sad. The forests were unique in some ways, but still felt fairly similar to the forests in Hawaii. Even the people were sarcastic, and had a similar humor to that of the Massachusetts area I have come to know and love. As I grow more accustomed to being here at The Old Convent, living in community, I begin to notice little things that are different. First, The Old Convent is a place where people drop in. So many locals have connections with it, so they come randomly throughout the day, and sometimes stay for a meal. This is a great way to get to know the locals and the culture of the area, but it can also be frustrating when I am in the middle of homework and then suddenly have a visitor show up. However, the main differences about living here have nothing to do with the Kiwi (New Zealander) culture or the land we live on. Our community of North Americans (the two Canadians make it so I can’t just say Americans) is an eclectic group that often dances through doing the dishes, the laundry, the weeding, and through life. Whether it is Amy sending “real life snapchats”, which is really just her making weird faces towards someone, or Joey saying “Sara help me” whenever the slightest thing happens, we always interact in ways unique to us and to our experience here. This can also lead to some frustration, as we are always together. Victoria last night, when unable to find a staff member, exclaimed, “I didn’t want to tell any of you my problem because it has to do with my secret homework spot!” A part of her needed to protect that one space of privacy, and I respect that. Yet part of me is going to miss the feeling of being cramped when I go back. We are so close here, physically and emotionally, because we don’t have the opportunities to be apart. That creates a community unlike one I have ever been a part of before. And it is still only half way through the semester! Here’s to a second half of loving nature, loving God, and loving each other here in beautiful Kaikoura.

Becoming a ‘Slow Activist’

Hi, my name is Amie, and I’m a senior Writing & Rhetoric major and Religion minor at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. I am currently learning and living at The Old Convent in Kaikoura, New Zealand with a community of pretty cool people, if I do say so myself. In this post, I’d like to share some thoughts with you all about life here at CCSP and what I’m learning about the joy of work. Enjoy!

“Become a slow activist” was one piece of advice that our Professor, Mick Duncan, gave us during our second week of class on Sustainable Community Development.

“Hurry,” he told us, “will damage your most important relationships in life.”

Now six weeks into my time at CCSP, I can clearly see how hurry damages our relationship to the joy of work. In my daily life as a college student in North America, it is all too common for me to feel like I am constantly rushing from one activity to the next—from class to lunch to a meeting—leaving my dishes in the sink in my apartment and telling myself that I’ll wash them later tonight when I have more time. And I’ll confess that I often put off doing my laundry, wearing some articles of clothing probably a few more times than I should, just so I don’t have to sacrifice the few hours it takes to oversee the washer and dryer.

For the average American, this hurried pace of life trains us to see activities such as cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry as inconvenient chores rather than dignified work. We turn to dishwashers and washing machines in order to maximize efficiency and purchase processed or premade foods at the grocery store, rarely giving any of these choices a second thought because it’s so easy to consider them all normal and even indispensable parts of life. But I’d like to raise the question, “Are they?”

Life at The Old Convent has given me the opportunity to reconsider the pace of life and the value of work both individually and communally. Whether we are throwing dance parties in kitchen while doing dishes or playful moaning about pulling weeds in the rain, when we share the responsibility of work, we also share the joy of work—the tangible results of our actions and the time spent together. When I do my laundry by hand in the wash table outside, I spend my time engaged in the process instead of waiting for a machine to do the work for me, and I can use both my hands and my mind throughout the duration of the activity. Doing laundry by hand teaches me to appreciate the whole host of factors which have to align in order to make the process possible. The weather — not too cold, no rain, hopefully some sun to aid the drying process. The time of day — morning or early afternoon so I have daylight. The tools — a relatively small amount of water, some powered laundry soap, and a brush — no electricity required. Surprisingly, I’ve found that despite the fact this process requires more effort on my part, I always seem to have time for it. Because I live my entire life at a slower pace, I can appreciate the time I spend doing laundry as time to reflect on the day or meditate on deeper thoughts which surface in the quiet.

Baking is another way in which I have experienced the joy of work. In my daily life at school, sliced, store-bought bread in a plastic bag is the norm. That’s not to say that we don’t eat the same kind of bread here at CCSP (anyone living here this semester knows just how much we love peanut butter on toast and how quickly we go through it), but we also have the opportunity to bake and eat our own bread. Learning this ‘homemaking skill’ has been one of my favorite things this semester and is a practice I’m very excited to bring back to North America. Turns out, baking bread isn’t hard and has a ton of benefits. Through making my own bread, I am able to control what goes into it. I can reduce the amount of packaging and energy that result from my personal food consumption. Also, I get to enjoy the smell and warmth of baking bread on a cold day. How great is that?  It’s unfortunate that the need for speed and convenience has stripped away these simple joys from many people, especially when I consider how that mindset affects many of our fundamental relationships.

For me, recovering the joy of work and the sense of satisfaction that comes from seeing a process through to completion is a key part of what it means to be a slow activist. Transforming my mindset toward ‘chores’ such as laundry, cleaning, or cooking from one of annoyance and inconvenience to one of enjoyment spills over into my attitude toward academics and community. When I can see listening to a lecture or developing a relationship with someone on the margins of my life as an opportunity to do good work, I am able to take joy in these activities as well, and my life becomes oriented toward a greater goal—the dignified work of ushering in the Kingdom of God.

A Day in the Life of the Cook

By now this semester’s group of students have settled into the general routine of making the Old Convent their home. They’ve been on a weekend break, been on a week-long field trip to Wellington, and completed the class called Sustainable Community Development. You’ll get to read insights from several of those students soon, but for now you’ll have to settle for hearing from me, the Kitchen Manager. I was a student at CCSP exactly a year ago and am thrilled to have the chance to be back as a staff member and live the Convent life for a while longer.

In case you were wondering, (I’m sure you weren’t) I am a recent graduate of Houghton College and CCSP alum Fall 2015 (NGA!).

So, my morning starts with some sort of half-groggy form of exercise. Today I biked down the road to the Kowhai (pronounced co-fy) river and jogged part of the mountain bike trail. It was a chilly, foggy morning but turned out to be a beautiful day.

Every weekday I cook lunch and dinner for all the students and staff. It’s a colossal job but thankfully one I enjoy. Not that there aren’t moments I consider regretting my life choice, like when struggling to cut open a huge butternut squash, but when the meal turns out well in the end it is always worth it.

After jogging comes breakfast. As soon as I walked into the kitchen, my mind scattered to the thousand and one tasks I had to do to for the day. Lately our chickens, called “chooks” in NZ, have been laying a lot of eggs and I decided it was time to make some quiche to use the four dozen eggs that had accumulated over the week. Along with the quiche I made cabbage au gratin and a salad. A typical healthy, local, sustainable meal, no big deal.

After lunch, there was a staff meeting. I usually start making dinner around 2:00 or 3:00pm  but today I took a chance and decided I would carpool with two other staff members on their trip into town so that I could get my grocery shopping done for the week. I got back to the Convent at the late hour of 4:00pm and rushed to throw together the Mexican casserole for the evening meal. Dinner, I’m proud to say, was still on time.

Here’s an interesting and useless side note. In New Zealand they call dinner “tea.” It hasn’t really been explained to me how that came into practice; something for further research I guess.

After “tea” the students went to their evening class session and I retired to the staff house for some much needed relaxation. Before dark, I visited with the horses across the street. The stars here are stunning at night and I always look for the southern cross constellation when I walk the short distance from the Convent to the staff house. Now it’s time to rest before another full day in this beautiful place!

~Essie F.

West Coast Walking

Stories.

They make up the majority of communication among people. They have the power to make us laugh, cry, or grow silent in awe. I love hearing stories and if you spend a few hours with me you will quickly find out I love telling stories just as much (if not more). As an ecology major, I love learning the stories of interconnectedness of all living and nonliving things. And yet, time and time again I find myself paying no attention to the stories this earth before me is screaming at me. So, naturally, allow me to share some stories preserved in the West Coast

The week of March 21 was one of my favorite weeks here in New Zealand because

  • A. We were going to the West Coast, which has a completely different landscape than Kaikoura.
  • B. I love roadtrips
  • C. WE FINALLY WERE HAVING OUR FIRST SCIENCE CLASS OF THE SEMESTER.

The first day started off with a bang: one of the three vans broke down a few hours into our trip, testing our fearless staff on their ability to think on their toes (they proved worthy, as always). This unfortunate event did allow the other two vans to spend lots of time at Castle Hill, the famous landscape of the battle scene in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The phrase, “FOR NARNIAAAAA” was constantly being carried through the wind while we ran around. I think the staff were hoping we would get all our energy out during this time. Jokes on them, I don’t think that’s ever possible with our group. 🙂

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Fun fact: Castle Hill is a farmer’s backyard…. WHAT?

Our professor, Dr. Port, from Bethel University, used this as an educational opportunity. He explained that these rock formations aren’t only interesting because of their role in Narnia, but more importantly they tell us a story of New Zealand’s past. These limestone rocks are made from sediments being under immense amount of pressure- that which comes from being submerged under water. The information from these rock formations brought up the questions we asked throughout the week:

Is New Zealand really “Moa’s Ark” and how does that affect what we consider a “native” of New Zealand? Should we really be concerned about native species? Are all invasive species harmful? Is conservation protecting the native ecosystems that would have been around before humans came into the picture? Or has human presence completely altered them?

I’m not going to attempt to answer these questions right now. However, I do encourage you to ask your loved one(s) here at CCSP these questions to see what they think!

After a stop in Castle Hill we continued onto Arthur’s Pass to wait for our broken-down-van friends joined us. Our first night and day in Arthur’s Pass included:

  • Being attacked by sandflies (blackflies) every time we stepped outside
  • Curious keas (a NZ parrot) trying to get into garbage cans on the street
  • Fish and chips for supper
  • Glow worms by the river
  • A walk in a mountain beech forest
  • An intro to the native plants of New Zealand
  • Lovely cushion plants in the alpine zones
  • Typical west coast weather (drizzling, cold, windy)
  • Noting the stories of alpine plants: highly adapted to these elements and poor soils

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First class session in the alpine environment at Arthur’s Pass.

Our next stop was Bruce Bay on the west coast. I was questioning the weather because when we arrived it was sunny and warm- not what we had been told to prepare for. The Makaawhio Marae was definitely a welcoming and refreshing place to stay for the first part of our trip. Our hosts, Jeff and Marie, told us stories of their people and their land. These stories are preserved with every detail on the walls and ceiling of the wharenui (Maori meeting house).

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One story the west coast is known for revolves around a type of stone. Special stones, pounamu, as Maori call it. This stone is “grown” in the mountains of the west coast: “Te Wahipounamu” the place of greenstone. Jeff is involved in this story. He’s a famous pounamu carver, which involves him getting the stones from the mountains and rivers. However, in Maori tradition, they believe the pounamu reveals itself to the seeker: a reminder of our connection with the land. There’s so much more to this story, and I encourage you to look into the traditions deeply rooted in this beautiful stone.

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Our trip to Fox Glacier was unexpectedly moving for me. Dr. Port had told us in advance to make note of the changes in landscape as we drove from the marae to the carpark. In my head I was naming the different trees we had been learning and little background stories of them.

  • Tree ferns: r-selected species. found in recently or commonly disturbed areas. aka: EVERYWHERE along the roadsides.
  • Juvenile lancewoods: have different juvenile and adult forms. juveniles look dead.
  • Kahikatea:  the New Zealand white pine. Tallest tree in the forest. Found in swampy lowlands. My favorite native.

Trust me, the list could go on, but I will get back to the glacier. Signs along the road marked where Fox Glacier reached in certain years. In the 1950’s the carpark was well under the glacier and the trail that lead us to the face of the glacier is always changing due to the receding ice.  As we started our walk to the glacier, I observed my surroundings: steep cliffs called glacial schists, beech forest, small shrubs along the trail, algae on rocks, and grey, murky water rushing from the glacier.

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Class by Fox Glacier.

Soon I found myself standing in front of the story teller itself, and I was brought to tears. I had only seen pictures and documentaries involving glaciers and the stories they hold, so this was an overwhelming experience. I couldn’t help but think about my time on earth compared to the glacier’s time on earth. Obviously, the glacier has and it will remain here longer than I. The very ground I was standing on once was under hundreds of tons of ice. Funny then, that my actions and my lifestyle in the States can affect something so massive and powerful halfway around the world. If I ever return to Fox Glacier, the reality is that the carpark will be moved closer, the trail will continue farther back into the valley, and this glacier will be hardly recognizable from my memory. I was reminded of why my passions lie within science as I stood in awe of our powerful God who is reflected in nature.

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The face of Fox Glacier.

The rest of the week was filled with walking on trails while Dr. Port and our knower-of-plants-TA Lauren pointed out native plants and birds we would need to know for our field exam. All of the non-science majors were gently introduced to the world of ecology: made up of little riddles to remember the differences between tree ferns, hand gestures to distinguish needle types, and lots of frustration along the way.

However, I also noticed how much everyone enjoyed learning the names and features of each plant and bird we came across. Many times I heard phrases along the lines of, “Wait, science is actually fun!” or “I want to be able to do this back home!” I cannot express how much joy it brought me to know the rest of my CCSP family was seeing the world through my eyes: to see God’s creation as complex and beautiful, and to have the desire to take the time to learn details and be able to call a plant by name. Basically, I was pumped because I wasn’t the only one geeking out over plants anymore. I have a hunch that God was doing a little boogie dance too, seeing his children taking delight in his creation.

 

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Each place we visited told a different story of the past. This includes Pancake Rocks, Monroe Beach, Lake Mattheson, the West Coast Wildlife Centre to see Rowi kiwis, Rotariti Gorge, Lewis Pass, and many in between. During this week I realized how much I don’t pay as much attention to these stories as I should. Just like in Christian circles we like to say every person has a story worth telling, I believe that can go beyond humanity and apply to all of creation. Every stone, every bird, every fern, every glacier, and every human has the ability to tell of a great story. One that has been told throughout time. One that brings people to tears. One that celebrates the gift of life. One that shouts praise to the Creator.

I pray that I may have the ears to hear this beautiful story being told all around me.

Will you join?

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Check out the video I made to see more of the beauty found on the West Coast.

— Ashley Maloney

NorthWestern College, Class of 2017