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More than 40 members met for the 11th Refresher Weekend held at Waikanae, February 28 to March 2, 2014.

The Weekend began with a mihi (Maori welcome) on Friday evening. It was decided to have a mihi this year as part of the recognition that this year is the 200th anniversary of the first public preaching of the gospel in NZ.  Louis Smith introduced the mihi, explaining its meaning and significance. The hosts from the Wellington and Palmerston North churches welcomed the visitors to the Kapiti area in the traditional Maori style.

Dennis Richards recounted the history of the Waikanae region, which had been a stronghold of Te Rauparaha, a renowned warrior who became a friend of the missionaries. I gave a brief summary of the contribution of Christianity to NZ, beginning with the preaching of the gospel by Samuel Marsden to the Maoris in the Bay of Islands. Dennis Gordon produced an empty kete (woven basket), noting that during the weekend the basket would be filled.

Rod Matthews, Kerry Gubb and David Wong responded on behalf of the visitors. They said they had been deeply moved by the welcome, and expressed their joy at being able to share other viewpoints. The mihi ended with the entire group participating in a hongi (pressing of the noses), signifying the sharing of breath, and the inspiration of the ruach or Spirit of God.

Kerry Gubb led the main teaching sessions of the weekend, on the theme of “Stirred but not Shaken”—“Standing within the turmoil of our times”. The material weaved together the key areas of accord, diversity, hope and fellowship into a garment supporting us in our endeavour to remain steady in our faith through whatever difficulties life throws at us. The members had come together in one accord, from diverse backgrounds, to rekindle their hope together in tangible fellowship.

Attendees will not easily forget Kerry’s graphic presentation of the meaning of the Greek word “Homothumadon”. Although it may sound like the name of a terrifying species of dinosaur, Kerry showed the way it refers to the quality of “being of one accord”. Used 12 times in the New Testament, this untranslatable word contains a wealth of practical meaning.

Rod Matthews expounded the collective nature of the temple of God, summed up in the word “together” in 1 Cor 3:9. Rod explained that the Eastern culture of the land where the Bible was written, like the Maori and Pacific culture, focuses on community, whereas our modern Western culture puts the emphasis on individuality. Kerry concluded by unfolding some of the rich guidance he has received from his three personal mentors, William Barclay, AW Tozer and Eugene Peterson.

We were delighted to have with us Manny and Ruth Ornejas and family from the new Masterton congregation. Both Manny and Ruth spoke of the difficult journey they had been on, and an offering was collected for them in the kete mentioned above. Special prayers were also offered for Brian Collins, who is facing a major personal challenge at this time.

The weather throughout was dry and pleasant with cool evenings, and the food was up to its usual excellent standard. The local church ladies prepared abundant and delicious morning and afternoon teas and suppers. A number of attendees enjoyed an invigorating hike to the beach, and on Saturday night the movie “Finding Forrester” was screened.

In the final session, members participated in a meaningful sharing of the Lord’s Table, introduced by Dennis Richards expounding on lessons from the encounter of Jesus with the woman with the haemorrhage.

The weekend closed with Louis Smith leading the group in a poroporoaki (farewell). This moving ceremony enabled the visitors to express thanks to the hosts, and the hosts to respond, bringing the sessions to a deeply satisfying close.

Regards to all, Rex  

PS I’ve just received a report from Dennis on the Weekend, so I will add it here.  It is very hard, actually impossible, to put such a weekend into words: they just don’t do it justice.  But Dennis has put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard as it is these days), and his words add greatly to what I have said above.  Thanks very much, Dennis!


Reflection on a Time of Refreshing

I’m still not entirely sure what to make of the Refresher Weekend in Waikanae – I’m still thinking mostly, “Wow!”  That it was special goes without saying, that it was surprising and uplifting is also obvious.  Nor can I pin it on any one element or aspect – it all seemed to come together in a remarkable and at times unexpected way.  Jesus said that where one or two are gathered in his name, there he would be in the middle of it all, and he most certainly was!

What happened at El Rancho for those who were able to come was something very special.  God dipped into his bag and brought forth something to be treasured. And used.  I do hope that we can retain something of the afterglow of our weekend together and of God’s gracing.  It would go a long way toward making future gatherings even more God focused and God-honouring.

We were once again blessed to have Kerry Gubb prepare and present a special time of reflection and discussion centred on themes of unity, diversity, hope and fellowship.  Accompanied and supported once again by Rod and Ruth Matthews, we explored over two days the mind and will of God for our lives and ministries. Indeed, these four themes were intricately and wonderfully threaded through the whole fabric of our time together.

But wonderful and profitable as our time of discussions were, these were lifted up and bookended with remarkable times of welcoming and parting, in mihi and poroporoaki.  During both occasions we were touched deeply and emotions surfaced plainly as welcome and acceptance was offered and received, as fellowship was confirmed and strengthened, all in settings new to many of us but resting in rich and meaning-filled customs of this land.

And tying all together, standing central to the meaning of ceremonies, teaching and fellowship enjoyed over these two days, was the Eucharist (meaning ‘thanksgiving’).  Truly, we shared together a spiritually rich experience that lights the way ahead, and confirms we are truly God’s beloved children, included in the household and plans of the Son.  Our parting was with hugs and smiles, and I’m sure God was pleased.

Blessings, Dennis