New Zealand is a very long way away from everywhere. To reach “the land of the long white cloud” from its nearest neighbour New Caledonia takes however long it takes you to travel 1229 miles, which, I’m guessing, takes you quite a while. To reach the city of Christchurch from Belfast in Northern Ireland takes a little longer. Extending no less than eleven thousand-six hundred and forty seven point zero six four (11,647.064) miles, the plane journey through Heathrow, Los Angeles, and Auckland finally terminated about two days after it had begun.Tadhg Lynch, a Kairos Mission Leader serving in Belfast, Northern Ireland, travelled to the Lamb of God Community in New Zealand this past January to visit Kairos New Zealand.
The reason for travelling this mammoth distance around the circumference of the world was twofold. Kairos (the youth and student organisation of Sword of the Spirit) New Zealand was hosting its annual Oasis conference for young people in Christchurch, and by some terrible mistake someone thought that my presence there would be of use. The second reason was a little more sensible – in the midst of the worst freeze in over sixty years, the UK was running out of salt, and the roads were becoming slippery around Northern Ireland, while in Auckland the temperature was an average of 22 degrees Celsius (71 Fahrenheit) and balmy. Travelling and serving with two long time leaders in Sword of the Spirit, Bruce Yocum and Dave “Q” Quitnana, was also a blessing. Sometimes when the Lord calls, though it may be tough, we have to experience some sacrifice...
Participants at the Oasis Conference held in Christchurch, NZ
The main Sword of the Spirit presence in New Zealand is the Lamb of God, a national community with seven branches located around the islands. The range of ages, church denominations, locations, cultures, and ethnicities which comprise the Lamb of God brought the words of the gospel writer Luke in Acts to my mind as I met, “devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2) at Oasis and shared life with them during the 10 days of the men’s household which ran in Auckland afterwards.
Nowhere else but in the Sword of the Spirit could this sun-burnt Irish Catholic share such common vision with a Pentecostal Fijian who found New Zealand’s summer a bit “cold” during the Oasis conference. Malasians, Tongans, Indians, Philippinos and Americans rounded out the international experience which I have come to expect at Sword of the Spirit events as the common life which the Holy Spirit brings to those who know him and live their life in his power was once again evident to me in the South Pacific. The Christian call does not promise perfect life or an end to all problems – indeed it involves suffering and sacrifice (as I had ample time to reflect upon while getting intimately acquainted with Christchurch hospital, waiting for one of our small team to recover from nausea and kidney stones). What it does promise, however, and bring in abundance, is joy. It was pure joy to be with over fifty young people for five days of teaching, recreation, fellowship, and fun. To learn how to bowl a cricket ball against the side of a school building aiming at a school bag, to pray with a group of young people from nations seemingly everywhere upon the earth, to discover that “heaps” is the correct way to describe “a lot,” and to experience, once again, being cared for by mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters whom I did not know, while sickness conspired to make life difficult for our small team.
Household of men with Tadhg (3rd from right, Bruce (far right), and Q (center)
After a number of days at the Oasis conference in Christchurch, the show moved north to Auckland for Bruce Yocum and me, while we left our sick brother Q to the tender ministrations of the Canterbury District Health Board at Christchurch Hospital. Spending ten days in a household with young men from all over New Zealand was a different, but no less blessed, experience.
Sports, service projects, teachings, films, fellowship and prayer were some of the things which went into our daily round as we learned about how to live in household and fundamentally how to belong to the tribe to which Christ has called us. The hearers at the miracle of Pentecost questioned themselves as they understood the apostles each in his own tongue: “And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” A common language and common customs, culture and way of life are what God has blessed us with in Sword of the Spirit, and it was a joy to forge a common bond with a group of men from differing backgrounds and experiences.
chefs-in-training under the watchful eye of Tadhg
To be part of a people or tribe because of race, class or creed is one thing – but to hear a call from God to join one’s life to a people because he wants you to – this is another matter entirely. This call is often a little harder to discover and, consequently, when finally found is the richer and the sweeter for the journey and the effort that has been required to respond. Kairos is what this is about, as one of the young men from Auckland describes, “Hearing about community abroad really lit a fire in me. I had thought that for me, Lamb of God in Auckland is my community, and that is it. I never thought beyond these walls. I decided that this year or next I am going abroad. I want to experience community in different places just to see how God works there” (Nikhil Thakur).
Ten young men, from all over New Zealand, learned how to live in household together
The world is big, God designed it that way, but we are small. Wandering through Hong Kong airport on the return journey, emailing our small mission team back in Belfast about next week’s staff meeting while I watched thousands of people whom I will never know flow past me, I could see some of the plan of God in bringing us, a small and insignificant group of people from far flung corners of the world to try, and live together in community. Our divisions, races, classes, and countries are as nothing to him who formed and shaped the earth out of nothing. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can, and do, live community across, despite, and sometimes through, these barriers. We live it in the power of the same Spirit which breathed on the waters of the Tasman and Irish Seas before they were separated and in whom they will once again be united. The fruit of a life lived in that same spirit is joy, which attended me on the way back across the world from our visit to the Lamb of God.