July/August 2011 - Vol. 51

Brian LaLonde (left) with a young man from Oasis hiking near Mount Arthur, New Zealand
Serving Youth from Down Under

by Brian LaLonde

Many New Zealand youth are facing a severe loss of faith. One study suggests that religion there will die out within this generation. This is what was on my mind as I asked the Lord how I could serve the young men living there. I realized that the opportunity to take such a trip was a total gift from God, but I knew I’d need to receive more from him in order to be a servant down under.

After 20 hours of travel and some time with the family hosting me with them making a valiant attempt at explaining to me  the rules of cricket and rugby, I was ready to see some young people. My main purpose on the trip was to lead a household of young men in the city of Christchurch. Household move-in was Saturday. But the day after move-in, we were all  thrown into 3-day event for young people called “Summer Oasis,” held near Christchurch. Can you imagine being thrown in to lead a group of eight young guys from four New Zealand cities, without meeting any of them before? Questions hit me, like, “Where’s the grocery store?” “Have they even heard of Jesus?” “Are these guys going to be bored?” I prayed, “Lord Jesus, I need your help!”

youth dressed as martyrs -  "Summer Oasis" retreat

By the grace of God, I was able to deliver some meaningful material to the 75 youth at the Oasis event. One presentation was on the Christian martyrs. I used some multimedia profiles that I helped put together for a previous youth conference, and students also learned about a particular figure through a small group activity, using only newspapers, tape, and sticky notes, each group had to transform a group member into a famous martyr of old. The best costume was of a martyr from the Boxer Rebellion in China. According to local New Zealand custom, that team was rewarded with a big bag of “lollies.” (From what I can tell, all candy isn’t “candy” there, but “lollies.”) The Summer Oasis for me overall? It “went off a treat!” as they say.

Brian (right) and a young Kiwi explore a cave

My personal highlight of the trip was the second-to-last day in our household. I spoke to the guys about the story of the prodigal son, followed by a frank discussion about sin. We considered James 5:16: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” And then we did just that, taking a time of confession and prayer for one another. For most of the guys, it was the first time they’d opened up like that. Later that night, we visited two of the fathers in the community, Darren Humphries and Mark Challies, who had both spent time when they were single living with households  in the Servants of the Word in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We did an evening of “ask anything,” and the young men received some great advice for living a Christ-centered life. That was “Sweet as!” (Everything is “something-as” down there, so I always asked them, “Sweet-as what?” “Funny-as what?”)

Shortly after I left New Zealand, a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch in February – followed again by another major earthquake this past June. 

Our brothers and sisters in Christ living in and around Christchurch remain in my prayers. My personal connection with them has continued.  So when I heard of the first quake, I built a website to connect our network of Christians here in North America with those in Christchurch. If you’d like to read more about their reactions to the earthquake, visit http://christchurchquake.posterous.com..

[Brian LaLonde made his lifelong commitment to the Servants of the Word in September, 2009. He currently serves as Mission Director for University Christian Outreach in Lansing, MI and is Webmaster for a number of websites. ]

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