Monday, June 21, 2010

laboring in the vineyard

The one area about which I have said the least is the sole purpose for which we came: our ministry to the youth. While that may seem to be a terrible oversight, in reality, it is a simple fear of indiscretion. In the end, it however, is the reason we are here - it is the reason that such a bewilderingly large group of benefactors, well-wishers, prayer warriors and supporters have gathered around us - and as such, it should and will receive ample attention in the blog!
So, what prudence may widely publish is that truly, the harvest is abundant and the laborers few. There are many, many young people here who are able to respond generously to the Lord but need help to hear His still, small voice in the inner chamber of their hearts. Richard and I have done nothing remarkable, nothing extraordinary, and yet we are already seeing fruit after only a month's time. We are nothing in ourselves and virtually anyone could be here instead of us, but it is obvious to us already why someone, anyone is needed here. There is so much more that we could take on, if there were but world enough and time.... For example, several young adults who have aged out of the senior youth group scene have approached us to request that we help set up something for them too.
 (pajama party for the girls' group)

The preteen and teens have welcomed us with open arms. They absolutely loved the girls who preceded us and their hearts have plenty more space for us too! Our hearts too are expanding to make room for them. These kids are a lot of FUN! We're having a great time getting to really know them. In the previous blog, for example, I published a photo we took after I transformed myself into an elderly woman and was pushed into youth group in a wheelchair at the end of Richard's talk on being ready for The End (aka death) at all times. It's amazing how many people you can make laugh just by dumping a half bottle of baby powder in your hair.....
"But what specifically do you do there?" you may wonder (and you would not be alone). On Friday nights we run the junior youth group; the senior youth group meets on Sunday nights. On Wednesday nights Richard meets with the boys only and I with the girls. During the week we are available to teens who request one-on-one mentoring. And we plan. These events need much planning - topics, games, activities, logistics, AV supplements, etc... There are 2 retreats per year for each youth group and a monthly youth Mass. There is one annual nation-wide youth conference Set Free- it was born last year of Fr. Michael's vision and was a fantastic success - the planning for #2 is already underway. The planning of all these events takes up much of the rest of the work week.
Henceforth, I will be making a greater effort to more regularly mention our work and share some of what we are doing. It is difficult to be specific or thorough since we wish to stay away as far as possible from breaking any confidence or publically "parading" any of the youth or their experiences (we do seem to have mysteriously gathered a readership here in New Zealand!) - basically, we want to be sure to reverence the dignity of the youth and of their spiritual growth.  I'm afraid of seeming too vague or superficial or general in describing our work here as I intend to err on the side of being overly discreet. But I'm sure that our wise and understanding readership takes that as simply a matter of course!   :)

                LOVING the sand........

                                  HATING the sand.....

Friday, June 18, 2010

hole in the ozone

The photo above was taken in the Auckland airport about a month ago when we arrived. My friend Toni was moving back to the States from New Zealand the same day we were moving here and coincidentally, her plane was taking off just shortly after ours landed! We had a bittersweet 6.7 minute reunion and then said farewell for another 2 years.....
Just to demonstrate the severity of the problem with ozone depletion -  only several sunscreen-free weeks have elapsed since the photo above was taken, but see for yourself the effects of being exposed to the harsh, unfiltered NZ sun. Below, the aging effect of the sun. A picture worth a thousand words.

potato peelers and christmas carols

I was preparing potatoes for dinner with the hemisphere's most useless excuse for a peeler when I suddenly thought of my wonderful Good Grips peeler back home and was filled with desperate regret that I had not had the foresight to bring it to New Zealand. As I dwelt for a few more moments on the longed-for peeler, my yearning broadened to include not just my cooking gadgets but my kitchen, and then, not just my kitchen, but my house. My tiny, peaceful, wonderful little house.  MY house. As in, the house wherein only I would be horrified if Bernadette (hypothetically) spilled cold coffee all over a (hypothetical) white couch. Meaning I would not have to worry about the reaction of my boss-landlord-pastor-best friend-aforementioned couch's owner. If this hypothetical event were to happen.
"Richie," I called into the other room. "What do you miss most about home?"  I was about to clarify that I meant "other than people" but I didn't get the chance. "My X-box". Pressing him for more was fruitless. He said that living right next to the beach made up for everything else he could possibly miss about life in the States. Even when I tried baiting him with the things that seem to bother him most here - like the fact that only our living room is heated, not the bedrooms or bathroom. No, even then, he stood firm. And I realized that it actually doesn't even bother me that much now either - in fact, it sort of seems very sensible. Admittedly, I have had to retrain myself not get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, but it's now a matter of course.

Maria came charging through the kitchen so I asked her what she misses most about Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania represents the entire United States of America in conversation with Maria - it alone is bigger than she can wrap her 3 year old mind around.  "I don't miss anything." I didn't believe her. I asked her to think really hard. I may even have thrown out some suggestions. No. She missed none of it. Finally, "I miss my Christmas songs."  She was referring to a homemade CD of Christmas carols that we have been listening to in the car year-round since the Christmas before her second birthday. These, unfortunately, were "forgotten" when we got rid of our car.
How can it be that no one but me has these moments of sheer longing for the simple daily accoutrements of our old life? Things like child car seats that might actually protect a child in a crash. or clothes dryers. or soap that makes you feel clean.
And then at last, my Richard remembered that there was something that he missed wildly from the States. Something he missed so much, that he was going to write it down and ask his parents to send a care package. And that something was.... Pop Tarts.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

a trip to the grocery store

standing in our driveway looking at the mall

pushing our trolley through the mall

the view of the grocery store entrance

some American brands in disguise

I love it when the weekly special is a great deal on a vacuum cleaner!
(Another shopper laughed at me for taking this photo)

Teeny tiny boxes of laundry detergent (this is as big as they come)

Kiwi checkout candy display

the photo of the egg aisle would not upload, but in NZ
the idea of putting an egg in the fridge (in a store or at home) is quite funny

Saturday, June 12, 2010

farewell danielle and kerstin

This morning we said goodbye to our housemates and predecessors, Danielle and Kerstin (photo above from our goodbye dinner last night). They were the pioneers here in terms of the youth group and we have very large shoes to fill. It's actually a bit scary now that they are gone - tonight we will meet with the senior youth group and for the first time, the old pros won't be there. Fortunately for us, Daniel will be living and working with us for a few more weeks. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

How are the girls?

Everyone is worried about our girls. Our friends and family ask, "How are the girls settling in?" while our Kiwi friends ask "Are you all sorted with the children?" but the question is the same.  If Bernadette notices a change, she's not letting on. Actually, much has changed for her. Since she vetoed the baby food here, she's eating mostly big girl food now, and seems quite pleased with the switch as it suits her independent streak. We're giving cloth "nappies" our first try, but her only complaint is that it takes a bit longer to change her and she hates to lie still for a nanosecond longer than necessary.  There are many new faces in her world - and many old faces not quite as present as they used to be. Plus she is trying some new things out; she's tried to take her first steps (unsuccessfully) and is working on some new words (aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhppph!  for apple). And she's taking her daily bath in a large Rubbermaid bin.  But she's taking everything in stride and appears very happily adjusted to her new life here.

photo top: saying goodbye to our daily Mass community at Our Lady of Fatima, Hopewell
above: getting ready to go through Security at the Pittsburgh Airport 

Maria is openly thrilled with life in New Zealand.  It's a bit early to say for sure whether she's just pleased with the novelty of it all - at some point she'll probably start asking to visit with her family back home and may take it quite hard when we can't comply. She's slowly adjusting to the food and is totally adjusted to the time and climate difference. There's so much going on for her all the time (consequently she goes to bed quite early and fast, thus thrilling her parents as well). There are many many high school and college aged girls to show off for - girls who wear fancy earrings and brightly colored shoes. We thought she'd be more aware of or curious about the different accent, lingo, plants, birds, landscape, etc... but she's taking it all as a matter of course. We've been watching her closely but her behavior is no worse than at home (and sadly, no better either) so we can only assume that she's okay with all the change and chaos we've had for the past month.  She enjoys talking to her grandparents via video chat and asking them "Do you miss me?" and showing them the seashells she's collecting for them. Her one complaint is that there are too many "Scary Men" in New Zealand. Chief among these would be our dynamic Fr. Mike, who has a booming voice and a personality to match. He's tried sweets, trips to the sheepfold, horse-feedings, piggyback rides - all to no avail. She did paint him a picture this morning, so perhaps we're getting somewhere.

Maria and Fr. Mike finding fruit  for the sheep                              
Maria's last singing, dancing show for the wonderfully gentle (and patient!) Fr. Howard

Thursday, June 3, 2010