MISSIONS: NEW ZEALAND


NEW ZEALAND MISSIONS REPORT
prepared by Robert J. Young
August 3, 1998

It was my privilege to spend about half of June, 1998 in New Zealand on a campaign with five Ohio Valley College students. The campaign trip actually extended June 8-25. The purpose of the trip was to participate in an evangelistic, door-knocking campaign with the Webb Street congregation in Wellington. One of the five students, Jordan Setters, is a native Kiwi (New Zealander). Jordan did much of leg work in arranging the campaign. His brother, Alistair, had just begun preaching for the Webb Street congregation earlier this year. While in New Zealand, the OVC students participated in youth activities to encourage the youth of the congregation, spent an evening in song at one of the members' homes, and shared five nights of preaching and Bible study during the campaign. In addition we were with the church two Sundays to share in the preaching and Bible classes. Jordan preached both Sundays and did an admirable job; I taught the adult Bible class both Sundays.

Wellington is a metropolitan area of approximately 300,000 with one congregation of slightly less than 100. This ratio is typical of New Zealand where the total population is about 3½ million, with approximately 1000 Christians worshiping in 19 congregations. The Webb Street church is a cosmopolitan church with a wide variety of ethnic and age groups represented.

Preparations for the campaign were well done with the target area of Newlands (a Wellington suburb) already letter-boxed upon our arrival. While several members of the Wellington church helped with the six-day door-knocking effort, we never had more than five teams doorknocking on any given day, and a couple of days only four teams were available, so a majority of the work was done by the campaign team with Alistair facilitating, planning, and helping primarily with followup. While some from other congregations had indicated the possibility of helping with the doorknocking effort, such did not materialized. I was personally disappointed not only because I would have liked to have met more of the workers currently in New Zealand, but also because the cooperative work would have set a nice precedent for accomplishing the Lord's work, and all could have been encouraged by the students.

The weather during the campaign was generally uncooperative as we were in New Zealand's winter season. At least half of the days we knocked doors were rainy, windy, and cold. Nevertheless, we knocked 2115 doors and found just under 1/3 of the people at home. Some of these we engaged in conversation, but many simply indicated their lack of interest in religion. I am more aware than before that New Zealand is highly unchurched, with many claiming no religion, and a significant number indicating a distaste for religion. It is sad that these have made this decision based on denominational experiences (primarily European Catholicism and Anglicanism) and are not aware of the freedom and joy that is part of the kingdom of God in the New Testament church. Even with the higher than usual negative responses, campaign experience held generally true with each 100 doors knocked generating a response of some kind--a Bible correspondence course, call back for further study, or other continuing contact. In New Zealand, this suggests one must find at least 25-30 people at home to generate one response.

The initial followup report from the church indicates that the church may not be able to follow up on these contacts as well as I had hoped. This may indicate the need for more sermons, classes, instruction, and prayer in advance of the campaign so that expectations, hopes, dreams, and ownership of the campaign might be more firmly established in the host congregation.

While the observation may not be totally fair, at least one member of the Wellington church observed that foreign campaigns often end up with American ownership, the local church saying something like, "Sure, if you want to come down and have a campaign for us, that will be fine. You can have your campaign here." Local ownership of the campaign is essential to successful follow-up and fruit-bearing. This is an area that needed more attention in our effort and one to which I will pay closer attention in the future. An added factor was that Alistair had not been with the Wellington congregation very long, was still getting oriented, and is relatively inexperienced. One of the benefits of the campaign with a limited number of campaigners was that Alistair could see the dynamics of a campaign in that particular local congregation.

While one can always wish for a more fruitful response, the trip was well worth the expense and energy for the contacts made, the encouragement the local church received, and the increase in the missions awareness of the students participating. Only one of the American students had previously been out of the U.S. on a missions trip.

For me, one of the special opportunities of the trip came in a brief meeting with Kevin and Lynne Moore who are part of the mission team at Wanganui. They were traveling through Wellington after having been to the airport with Lynne's parents. We also enjoyed time with Kyle and Shannon Tippens, Americans who were in Wellington on a work assignment with EDS.

The campaign ended with a couple of days of R&R--a trip to Jordan's home in Taihape, a day trip to Lake Taupo, and the return to Wellington to prepare for the return flight.

Only eternity will tell the good that has been done for the kingdom, but the church and the students were encouraged. My heart is saying that a return to New Zealand is a must. May God's work advance there, and in every place!


Return to Young Home Page
http://www.bobyoungresources.com/missions/nzreport.htm
Last updated February 26, 2001.