Our regional camp was an excellent adventure! Although it rained constantly for two days and two nights that did not dampen our spirits as we explored what it means to follow Jesus. You should not follow someone you don’t know or trust, so on the Friday we pondered the question, So, exactly who am I following? On Saturday morning we then considered how Jesus is a realist who is ‘straight up’ about the cost/benefit analysis when it comes to following him. On Sunday morning we concluded by looking at Peter’s adventure with Jesus that involved initial self-confidence, failure, reinstatement and the call to mission.
Two sunny days … 550 kms of beautiful Waikato - Bay of Plenty scenery … an overnight stay in Rotorua … only one visit to the hospital … delicious green curry and spicy chicken dinner … huge English breakfast … new friendships … new stories … what’s not to like?
“To my friends in New Zealand.
I really miss you guys and I’ve already settled down and started my internship for one week.
Following are the words that I wrote on the plane back to my home country:
Out of my expectations, the last month here totally changed my mind of the student exchange experience in New Zealand.
The first month here was terrible. I secretly cried in my room on my 21st birthday because of loneliness. I greatly regretted the decision of choosing New Zealand for student exchange, instead of going to Taiwan with my friend. I tried so hard trying to make friends with local students but what I felt was disappointment and rejection. I wrote diary every day to comfort myself, although this method was always useless. I felt increasingly very anxious and and impatient, which in turn gave me too much pressure to try to make New Zealand a positive experience.
The first place that made me feel welcomed and the sense of belonging in New Zealand was the Friday ISM bible study group. I went there nearly every Friday for as long as I can. It was the first place that I got to know more about Jesus and found some peace in my nervous heart. The Friday bible study group could somehow give me superpower to reset myself and helped me be prepared for the next week to come.
The first time I cried in front of others, was just before I was leaving New Zealand when I saw my Christian friend Dan who was trying to hold back his tear and looked up to the sky. This image will stick with me forever, as this reminded me that we must not close our hearts because of fear of being hurt and rejected. We must open our hearts and look up to God.
The 145 days in New Zealand gave me plenty of time to get along with myself, to discover myself, and to think about the important questions of life and God. I have not found all the answers of who I am yet, but I can say I found the answers to what I want and what I love now; I cannot say that I have 100% believed in the Great Lord yet, but I do want to get close to him and keep seeking Him until I find Him.
The final week here in New Zealand for me was particularly hard, as I had to say many goodbyes to my New Zealand friends. It is not until then that I realized how many beautiful relationships I have been blessed with here. These are all but God’s blessings, and not because how good I am.
Saying goodbye is difficult. I prayed to God every night now and for the people I care for here in New Zealand, because my memory of New Zealand would be plain and indifferent without knowing you and receiving your love.
No matter where we are and no matter when we will see each other again, the memories with ISM will always be kept in my heart. I will cherish these memories as the reminder and courage to keep being myself and searching.
Lastly, I am back in my home country now knowing that I am very different than before, this is only because of you all. I know that I am better prepared for life now than before, this is because You are always by my side. Let’s continue to grow in faith together even we are so far apart.”
“My biggest reflection for this year is “gratitude”. It has been a very difficult year for everyone. Covid has increased the challenges of employment. For me, I am facing the pressure new graduates face in finding a job, which has brought upon many negative emotions. However I am so blessed to have help from my ISM friends and family. ISM staff helped me with my resume, cover letter and interview, provide New Zealand employment advices, and most importantly walked along me in learning from the Bible. I give thanks to God as now I have a permanent job in my field, and He has blessed me above and beyond what I imagine.”
International Friendship Club
Co-working with us at Victoria University is Daniel Luey (from the Chinese Anglican Church), who continues to support the International Friendship Club. As a Club, we continued to meet over the Summer and our weekly meetings on Thursday afternoons have resumed. The students have enjoyed building friendships and connecting with each other over food, games, discussion and student presentations on different countries and cultures, with both domestic and international students attending.
Clockwise from top left: IFC Stand at Victoria University’s Orientation Week; Saturday day-out at the Botanical Garden; Student presentations
This year we moved location from Victoria University’s Rutherford House at Pipitea Campus to Ramsey House at the Kelburn Campus. Ramsay House has been a great centre for our work and the partnership we have with the Anglican Church is invaluable.
Almost 20 years ago, Rey Enriquez, our staff worker and Rev David Newton, the Anglican Chaplain pioneered and developed News-watch. We continue to use News-watch to aid international students in their understanding of New Zealand language and culture, through using TV News bulletins, sharing food together, having fun and community engagement activities.
News-watch stand at Victoria University’s Welcome Festival
Friday Bible Studies
The Friday night fellowship consist of students and alumni/working adults who are/were mainly from Victoria University. A few people from Massey University and Wellington Institute of Technology also join us.
The sharing of meals and spiritual food together, along with spin-off activities such as, home visits, outings and one-to-one personal time, contribute greatly to the growth in discipleship and in following Jesus. Each Friday evening, we begin with conversations over dinner before games and Bible study discussion. As student numbers have fluctuated over the year, we changed from having allocated groups to a presentation-then-discussion type of Bible study. This semester we have been studying the book of Psalms together to help build up young Christians in their faith and help seeking international students come to faith.
Friday Bible Study dinner and discussions
Through one-on-one mentoring, Bible studies, working together on job applications and interviews, and sharing about work experiences etc, we have walked alongside some of our alumni as they have transitioned from students into the workplace. God has drawn them closer to Him through these challenges and they have learnt to be more dependent on God and His providence. God has been faithful to these students/alumni and they have successfully secured jobs after long periods of job searching.
Food, fellowship and friendship are the hallmarks of our Wellington ISM activities. For the students and graduates involved, this wrap around care assists them in their journeys to faith and on into discipleship.
Alumnus and Associate Staff Worker Wellington, ISMNZ
Acting ISMNZ staff leader for Wellington
Consultant and Massey Postgraduate Ministry, ISMNZ
“Apart from getting a flu jab, coming to a foreign country when I was 18 was probably another bravest thing I have ever done. Many have asked how I managed to get through the roller-coaster journey in New Zealand alone without my family; the answer is I am not alone. God has been with me through it all. Not only that God is with me, but He also sent amazing people like Brent, Lily, Brendon and Janeen into my life.
I was so blessed to be able to know Brent and Lily before I came to New Zealand. They were kind enough to pick me up at Wellington airport from Palmerston North! When I first arrived in Palmerston North, Brent and Lily let me and my mum stayed at their home for two weeks, took me around Palmerston North, brought me to their church (PN Central Baptist Church, which has been my home church for the past 7 years) and of course most importantly they introduced me to ISMNZ. What Brent and Lily did might seem common for welcoming someone new to town but introducing an international student like me to a safe, secured and Christ centred community was very meaningful to me.
Michelle with Brent and Lily at her graduation (left)
Through Brent, I met Brendon who eventually became my spiritual mentor. I completely agree with what Andrew Lim said at the staff retreat; “Everyone needs a Brendon”. Through university in Palmerston North, full-time working in New Zealand, working in Indonesia, university (again) in Auckland and full-time work (again), Brendon has been faithfully investing his time in my life.
It's funny how Brendon, Kenny and I always share our stories at the spa pool after our regular swimming session instead of at the Christian Fellowship night or prayer meeting, since we’d be too busy talking to other students. At the spa pool, we would have our fellowship where we mostly talk about our journey with God, ministries, work and everything in between! We let the Holy Spirit lead our conversations which turns into profound discussions. Ever since, we have been referring to the spa pool as the ‘anointed pool’. So there you go! You can have a fellowship literally anywhere, yes, even at the spa pool.
Please rest assured that everything you do for the students is not in vain, be it taking a student to do groceries, picking up a student to go to church, cooking for students or proof-reading their assignments.
After experiencing God’s love and providence through ISMNZ’s staff, I realised that I will never be able to return their generosity, time and love equally. However, God placed a strong desire in my heart to pay their favour forward by being involved in ISMNZ and serving other international students.”
Asian Family Services has released 4 webinars to help you in your journey as an international student.
Webinar 1: Supporting Your Mental Wellbeing as an International Student
Webinar 4: Intercultural Communication
Webinar 5: Health and Safety
Webinar 6: Real People Real Journeys (toward employment in NZ)
To read more: https://www.asianfamilyservices.nz/resources/resource-items/project-connect-international-student-online-resources/
The Insight Story (Issue one) is a a quarterly data-based snapshot of the New Zealand international education sector, by Education New Zealand.
Find out how Education New Zealand is refocusing its efforts to be more future proof.
Going into this weekend, I was already exhausted to begin with and the thought of a very long drive across the North Island only added to the load. Once again, I have experienced God’s provision and His sustaining strength for He works in extraordinary ways which are always higher than my ways, His thoughts higher than mine!
The retreat - a result of persistent prayer and planning. Allen has prepared us with readings which also allowed for self-reflection prior to the retreat. I came with expectation - to meet God (and the rest of the ISMNZ whanau!). After a very long period of ‘staying within your bubbles’ and ‘maintaining social distance’, it was refreshing to be encouraged in His Word and to fellowship with one another again. I was comforted by the truth of God’s nearness as we looked at Psalm 23. Desert or not, where He leads we shall not fear because He is the Good Shepherd. We also had time to look at how student ministry may look in the future and realign ourselves with what God wants us to do going forward.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.