Thursday, December 01, 2005

On New Zealand

So, New Zealand. Apparently the next furthest place from England would be in outer space. Having been to New Zealand it doesn’t feel like the furthest place on the earth from England.

It has often been said to me that New Zealand is like England 20 years ago. That is not the case. Some things are a little under developed (the main road from Auckland to Wellington is one lane only for a large stretch, broadband internet access is not available everyway and is expensive compared to England) but from a cultural perspective New Zealand has always been ahead. To give but two examples New Zealand was one of the first countries to give women the right to vote and legalised gay marriage before England.

It is a land of great beauty and in some ways ugliness. The land is stunningly green. Everyway I look there are green hills and forests. There is so much space. This place has taught me to see the glory of God in his creation (For a guy like me who is not normally bothered by scenery this is quite a big deal). The people I’ve met have been amazingly friendly and couldn’t really have made me more welcome. The pace of life is relaxed and laid back and generally enjoyable.

But I met a Barnardos children’s worker who told me that New Zealand has the second highest recorded rate of child abuse in the world. I have also been told that there is also a high suicide rate amongst adult males.

Amongst the students I have met they seem to struggle with being disconnected from their families, not in simply in a homesick kind of way. Greenday released the song “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” from the album “American Idiot”:

“I walk this lonely road, the only one that I have ever known… I’m the only one and I walk alone”

Sounds like the people I am meeting.

From a Christian perspective, the church is in an interesting time. Christians are seeking to make church relevant and accessible to the people of New Zealand (which I think in some ways is why they have been so good at welcoming new comers like me), but I have gotten the impression that teaching the bible well is not a priority and in some places not desired. It is vital that we are being relevant and engaging with people in way that connects with them, but doing that without reference to what God has revealed to us in the bible is going to go wrong.

As a Christian I cannot help but think that New Zealand as a culture is what England will be like in a few years. Now as much as ever people need to hear the good news about Jesus. The Church in New Zealand is trying to engage with it but in some quarters is drifting in the process. I hope that the Church in England is watching what is going on over here. Not because we are getting it all right but because this is what things might be like there before long.

The main reason I came here is to play my part in the Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship, whose main function is summed up as “Students as a bridge for other students to meet Christ”. That function is something I am very excited and very keen to be a part of. Another reason I am here is to do my best to support the team that I came over as a part of.

I’m here for a while. Let’s see how things go. I am new to blogging, hopefully I’ll get better.