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The stunning beauty of the snow-capped mountains wonderfully displayed the “Lord of the Rings” landscape, captured in the movies, and it certainly was something to behold.
The similarities with Australia are obvious—the language, similar colonial backgrounds and timing of settlement, the influence of Anglo-Celtic culture, architecture and public institutions. They share with us the haunting reality of living “down under” and being a forgotten corner of the world. Yet, they are proud they are not Australians. To confuse them as Australian is as offensive as suggesting a Canadian is from the USA, or an Irishman is English.
We became aware there are some distinct differences other than the thermal activity, notably their spirituality. The gospel was introduced into New Zealand around the same time as Australia at the beginning of the 19th century along with colonial settlement. In one sense New Zealand seems just as secular as Australia, as it too experiences the demise of Christendom in the face of secularism and the fading notion of being a Christian country. Yet New Zealand spirituality takes on a different flavour because of the influence of the spirituality of the original Polynesian inhabitants.
The strength of Maori culture and history is integral to New Zealand and its bi-cultural nature. This is perhaps best illustrated by the Haka—the traditional challenge performed before battle that is now seen every time the All Blacks rugby team plays. This rugby tradition began back in 1906 and is indicative of the level of integration.
Similarly, the Treaty of Waitangi is foundational. In 1840, various Maori tribes agreed to allow the new settlers to stay. Although over the years it has often been disregarded, since the early 1970s it has increasingly been seen as the founding document of New Zealand. Jenny and I were struck with how different this is compared with the way early Tasmanian colonialists treated our original inhabitants—with a very different outcome.
There is no doubt our different histories are important in appreciating how to share the gospel in our different countries. Our short exploration of New Zealand gave Jenny and me a chance to reflect on many things, that we are still processing.
With all this in mind, it was encouraging for me to meet during my last week away with Baptist Church leaders from New Zealand and hear what God is doing in and through their churches. There is much to be thankful for that brings us back to Hobart encouraged and refreshed.
Always good to take a break from your usual routine and allow God to show you new things. What have you done recently to be refreshed?
Stephen L Baxter
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