It was really difficult for me to say goodbye to all the lovely people I just met 3 ½ months ago. We have shared so many adventures together: watching little blue penguins waddle up to their burrows, spotting Hector’s dolphins swimming off the beach, then jumping in the water and swimming with Dusky Dolphins, one of the most playful dolphins in the world. And those incredible events just happened in our last week of classes! There are so many stories I could tell— of almost being blown off Mt. Fyffe, or beach campfires under starry night skies with the Milky Way shimmering across the dark horizon. Yet, I don’t want my semester just to be the accumulation of great experiences, consuming the best a place had to offer because I was able to afford it. For me, I believe this semester was more about the people with whom I shared these once-in-a-lifetime moments.
It is not surprising that, once again, I return to the topic of community. Time and again, whether it be La Vida camping adventures or intentional living (e.g. the Dexter house), those memories have been so significant to me because of the people I lived life with at the time, and it is just as true with this most recent adventure in the Old Convent. Days before hopping on the plane at Newark New Zealand bound, I reflected that while everyone seemed to be excited about the beautiful scenery I would see and the wild experience I would have, I was more interested in the community that would be formed in my program, the 15 other names on a piece of paper.
But of course, the community of Kaikoura is more than just the inhabitants of the Old Convent. My church, New Life, played a major role in investing in me and encouraging me to live life with them.
Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. Every four months or so they have new young American faces. They always know that our time in New Zealand is temporary. And yet that knowledge does not stop the members and pastors from inviting us over to their houses for lunch, or to go diving with them. If we sang, they encouraged us to sing with worship. In my case, when they found out I played the violin they got a couple locals to donate me TWO violins, one of which was electric! And of course theywere more than enthused to have me join in worship with them those last three Sunday mornings in Kaikoura. It was not only that they were hospitable and welcoming, but that they genuinely wanted to get to know us better, to invest in us and challenge us to be as involved in their community as possible with the time we had. They made the wider community of Kaikoura, not just the folks at the Old Convent, my home as well.
While it is hard to leave a home, I have returned to my other homes in New York and Massachusetts. I am able to reconnect with old friends and family, to continue those relationships that have shaped those particular places with beautiful memories. As I continue along the path God is leading me, I will probably continue to create more homes wherever I go, because that is exactly what Christ promises to those who are faithful and follow Him:
“'No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.’” Mark 10:29-30