Saturday, 1 December 2012
Great Barrier Island is about 90 kilometres off the east coast of New Zealand and acts as a barrier from the storms of the South Pacific Ocean that batter Auckland and the Gulf of Hauraki from time to time. This is the third such school we have been part of. About 65 students have come from 16 different countries to invest three months of their lives in going deeper into the revelation of the Father's love. The major focus of the school is to explore the Father's love for the nations of the earth and for people to look at nations that he may have put into their hearts. The very fact that so many nations are represented at the school adds to the dynamic of the school. To meet and talk with people from all over the world is a huge privilege. It is an amazing coming together of cultures as diverse as Finland and China, the USA and the Netherlands. What happens as much as anything else over the course of the three months is that people from these vastly different cultures and life settings grow together into a community that begins to really connect and appreciate each others differences and celebrate our communality.
Today was a classic example. It was the last Saturday of the school and the weather was great, bright and sunny but with a typically brisk New Zealand wind blowing. We all went to the most beautiful beach on the Island facing east in to the Pacific. We gathered in the shade of ancient puhutakawa trees that were just beginning to show their red flowers that soon will drench the northern coast of most of The North Island. They are also called the New Zealand Christmas tree for obvious reasons. The long lines of breakers rolled ashore onto the golden sandy beach. An aerial bombardment of Australasian gannets decimated a shoal of fish a few metres out in the swell while students of all ages from INS enjoyed the beach. We all culturally responded so differently to the setting. A group from south east Asia heavily shaded from the glare of the sun sat along side northern Europeans exposing as much white flesh to the sun as possible. One group wanting to get lighter another wanting to get darker. A curious cultural reaction.
One thing that all will share in common after three months together at Orama is a sense of vision about the way we see our world, each other and perhaps more significantly than all these, our vision of God as Father. Many people have longed to "see" God in that they want to experience him and know him and be known by him. This is a legitimate longing. In the tranquility of a place like Great Barrier Island it is easy to encounter and experience him in nature and beauty. At Orama there has been also an opportunity to get to encounter him and experience him loving us in a very tangible and personal way. For many it has been life changing. Their vision is bizarrely of the Father's back! Following him, keeping in step with him and going where he goes, doing what he does and saying what he says, just like Jesus did. Pretty good vision really.