Sunday, January 22, 2006

On arriving

Well I’ve been here about 10 days. The first thing to say is how welcoming everyone has been. My host family have been just stunning; they have welcomed me into their home and treated my like I have always been here. They have been chatty and helpful and generally great. I cannot emphasise enough how much this has helped in the move so far. All the other folk I have met through work or through my host family have been friendly, supportive, and understanding of my ignorance about practically everything.

So far my doubts as to whether coming here was the right thing to do have been silent.

I have learnt my first cross cultural lesson: It is okay for the people of a country to make fun of their country but not for me as an immigrant. Yesterday some of the kiwi’s were laughing about how strange some of the things they do and say are, and we all laughed. I pointed out some more things I saw as odd and nobody laughed.

The weather (stupid thing to mention I know) has been wetter and windier than England which considering it is supposed to be summer makes me laugh as it is quite like home.

Home sickness hasn’t been too bad so far. The hardest times have been when people talk about family reunion events or what nephews and nieces have been doing, which reminds me of how long it will be till I see mine again. Work is good; I am enjoying the new challenge though some days it has been a little overwhelming.

I have gotten over my fear of the sun. I read that the burn time is 10 minutes. I have a hate of sun cream so will only put it on when I really have to. I spend my first few days here sticking to the shaded side of the road so that I wouldn’t get sun burnt. I got bored of that, but was mystified by why when doing a half hour walk each way to and from the office to the train station I wasn’t getting burnt. Someone suggested you got burnt worse if you were just lying in the sun, but why would moving make a difference? You can’t dodge sun rays!

My first experience of Church was good. As ever the people were very welcoming. The guest speaker was supposed to be speaking on the body of Christ from Ephesians 4 but pretty much used every passage in the New Testament that mentioned Christ's body. It was what the bible said but it wasn't exactly preaching the passage. What made it difficult was that she preached from the Message version which translated (I think v8) to include the word 'booty' I think in the treasure sense but I still had to stifle my laughter.

Some further observations:

There are enough new brands of coffee to try to last me a few years at least.
I am being lent a car for a few weeks, can’t wait to be mobile again!

There are more Cadburys chocolate bars available here than I saw in the U.K., Black Forest dairy milk for example

Income tax is high, about 33%

All trains around the world seem to have the sign in the window saying what to do in case of a fire. In Wellington they have the amusing addition of what to do if an earthquake strikes.

Manchester: the name for the department in a store where you get bedding and towels

New Phrases to use
“Turned to custard” meaning when it (situation, project or whatever) has all gone wrong

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On leaving

“The hardest part was letting go not taking part”

From “The Hardest Part” by Coldplay, from the album X & Y.

That pretty much sums up how I feel about leaving my home in England. I have run through a whole range of emotions as I have prepared to leave for New Zealand, from excitement at a new challenge to anger at having to leave my life that I was happy with behind. It has reopened and reclosed some old struggles and brought about some new ones, and done the last thing that I expected it to do which was provide an opportunity to grow.

General reflections on relationships: It is pretty much impossible to communicate the value (by that I mean how much you love and appreciate them) you place on someone to that person. I have had two months in which to travel around saying goodbye to some of my closest friends and family. When it came to saying goodbye properly I was always lost for words and could not communicate what I wanted to communicate. Come to think of it I do not understand why I ever thought I would be able to. To some of you this may not come as a big revelation, but to me it was. It has never really bothered me before as I’ve always been able to keep in some contact with people wherever they are in the country. But now I have left I will not be able to do so in the same way and to the same level and this has broken my heart at times. At times I have worried that people would think I don’t care about them any more and that could not be further from the truth. I have since then realised that no one thought that of me except me. So what have I learnt as a result? To be thankful for God’s sovereignty. I can and must trust that the people who I care about are safe in God’s hands. To think any less is to make too much of myself and too little of God. I also can and must trust God that the relationships that matter to me will not fade away (obviously I need to do my part in maintaining them and so must they) due to geography. I have also learnt to be thankful for memories. I have many many happy memories of home which I am thankful to have and which are far better to think about than what I will be missing out on over the next few years.

Old wounds: It has not been easy coming to terms with moving overseas on my own. I have to admit that for a long time I wished I had a wife to move with. I struggled with why I had to move on my own and really struggled as friends got married and started dating. What have I learned? I have far from got being single figured out but for now I have realised how sinful it is to look at other people in wish to be like them. Ultimately it is a form of envy. At best it is envying that fact that they have a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. At worst it is envying them for the girl they are dating too. That is neither loving them nor good for me and just leads towards resentment. Some bible verses that friends have shared that were helpful are Mark 10 v 29, 30. As a wise person once said to me, I can trust that God’s plan is best for me even if it means remaining single for life. Now I am here, in some ways I am thankful that I am single. Having observed the others whom I have moved with it is a much bigger deal to move a family. I really would encourage other single folk to consider overseas missions. In a very small way I have begun to realise more of what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 7 v 32.

I am extremely thankful for my family; for the part we play in each others lives, and for my nephews and nieces whom I love as if they were my own (I will miss watching them grow up and will find it hard not being part of their lives in the way that I have been) and for great time we’ve had so far.

Whose life is it anyway?: I have to be honest for a while I did not want to leave England. I have a family who I am very close to, friends who have become like family, and had a job that I loved building and loved doing. Moving overseas was not part of my plan for my life. I raged at God (and my parents as they happened to be there at the time) as to why he was calling me overseas: it was not part of MY plan! I had similar struggles just moving to Leicester from London which I remembered after. I then remembered (or the Spirit brought to mind?) Titus 2 v 11 – 12. My life is no longer my own for it has been purchased by Christ through his blood shed on the cross which teaches me to say no to sin and yes to obedience.

I am really thankful that I was able to spend time with folk before I left and I had a great time everyway I went (I affectionately referred to it as my farewell tour). Christmas was a wonderful end to the year with family.

I dropped into Leicester for a day shortly after new years and I realised how much life had moved on for folk in Leicester and how I wasn't part of it in the same way I was when I lived there. In many ways I had already left my 'normal' life which made leaving the country a little easier.

So then I left. Not as a begrudging slave who has been beaten into submission but as a son who realises (be it a little) the sacrifice that has been made for him and thankful for what God has in His grace given him (grace, family, friends and memories to name but a few things).