Tag Archives: Christian

Church of the Good Shepherd


Now New Zealanders or Kiwis as they are affectionately known, are not generally an arrogant bunch.  Yet, they refer to  their homeland as  “God’s Own Country”.  What cheek!  What audacity!   It seems to implies that they share the same postal code with God while the rest of us non-Kiwis live in the slummier side of creation.

Now, of course, I believe that God is omnipresent which means that He is everywhere and He does not solely hold a New Zealand passport.  Indeed, the wonders of God’s creation can be seen in so many things and places all around the world.  Yet, one has to agree with the residents of Aotearoa, the “Land of the Long White Cloud” (yet another fancy name they have for their country), that they seem to have more than their fair share of natural beauty for such a small piece of real estate.

This being Easter week, the week in which Christians remember Jesus’ journey to the cross of Calvary, I thought about the worship of God and decided to pay a visit to “God’s Own Country” and specifically to the little Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo.

Now I have seen many impressive cathedrals with towering spires, massive domes and ornate carvings.  Some of them have been awe-inspiring but I have found others too over-the-top and gaudy.  And really, my favorite place to meditate and worship God is really on a mountain top; not surrounded by any man-made structure but amidst God’s wonderful creation.  Of course, out in the elements like that can be rather cold and wet at times!

So this is why the Church of the Good Shepherd is rather special to me.  Rather than some elaborate and ornate man-made altar, this simple chapel of stone just has windows which allows the beautiful mountains and the glistening Lake Tekapo to be the main feature of the altar.  I think it is stunning and a wonderful place for communing with God in prayer or in praise.

The Church of the Good Shepherd (Photo by LGS)
Lake Tekapo (Photo by LGS)
The Awesome Altar View at the Church of the Good Shepherd (Photo by LGS)

Invariably, Lake Tekapo and the small stone church is very much part of the tourist circuit these days but even so, there is still sufficient awe and tranquility to make a visit worthwhile.  Another interesting attraction is a bronze statue that rightfully honors the faithful service of the New Zealand Collie Sheepdog, without which, New Zealand would not have been able to become a nation with more sheep than people.  2009 figures indicate a human population of 4.2 million while there were actually 40 million sheep.

The New Zealand Collie Sheepdog is Honored in Bronze (Photo by LGS)
Sheep Not-so-much in a Rush Hour (Photo by LGS)

 

Spiritual Highs


As you may know, I was away attending a Christian Youth Camp about 2 weeks ago.  I had agreed to share the teaching duties with my friend, Michael and so I found myself amongst a group of about 45 teenagers.

This Is Where We Stayed

The camp was held in a small fishermen’s village located on the coast about 10 km from the town of Kuantan.  This area has some great beaches but ours was not so much.

Our Beach Was The Not So Nice One Next To This

The programme was exhausting. The typical day starts at 7 am when campers are encouraged to do some morning exercise like a run along the beach.  That is followed with breakfast, an hour of singing and group games, an hour talk, an hour of group discussion, lunch, a short break, an hour of indoor games, another talk, another group discussion, an hour of football, an hour at the beach, dinner, more group games, talentime and skits until 11 in the evening.  They kept up the frantic pace for the three days but there were some tired souls by the end of camp.

Some of the Young People

I spoke to them on two topics; freedom and self-esteem.  My colleague spoke on “boy-girl relationships” and he ended the camp with a powerful session of personal sharing and the gospel message.  Some non-Christians responded by wanting to know more about the Good News.  We were also blessed as we witnessed 4 young people share their testimony of faith in Jesus Christ and were later baptised in the sea (although they had to walk a long way out as it was low tide).

This Young Lady Is Giving Her Testimony Before Being Baptised

Among the many activities, one of the highlights was when the campers made rocket ships out of plastic bottles.  These ships were then launched from a special apparatus with a little bit of help from some water and pressurised air.  Surprisingly, after a few false starts, we had a few rockets reach up to about 15 m in the air and traveled as far as some 150 m distant.

Houston, We Have a Problem

It took many shots before I got this one which captures a rocket in flight soon after lift-off.  Two important lessons I learned from camp was that God is Good for all generations and that I am not young anymore.  I needed some serious R & R after this camp. 🙂

Houston, We Have Lift Off!!!!

 

Say No to Intolerance


Regular readers will know that apart from my Chicken Little – the sky is falling approach to the topic of climate change and the very rare, occasional rant,   I try to keep this blog a bright and happy place.  But there has been too much happening in the news to keep the dark clouds away.

The situation in Egypt and Tunisia is one of great tragedy.  It starting in Tunisia when a poor street vendor,  Mohamed Bouazizi, was prevented from trading and earning an income in a place with 30% unemployment as a result of petty corruption and bureaucratic indifference.  The young man, left with no options or hope, set himself alight in front of the governor’s office and died of his wounds.  His cry for a chance to live with dignity and freedom resonated with the Tunisian people and was the spark that led to the protests that brought down the government of President Ben Ali.  And the vision of a chance for a better life spread to Egypt where the protests have claimed more than 300 lives already.  However, there have been uplifting moments too.   I cannot feel but inspired when I heard about how Christians and Muslims in Egypt are uniting for the common good.  Specifically, it has been encouraging to hear of both Christian and Muslim services conducted to pay respect for the dead or when the Christian protesters stood on guard by providing a cordon of protection for their Muslim brothers while the latter performed their Friday prayers in Tahrir Square – the epicenter of the protests in Cairo.  While we hope for a good outcome to all this for the people of Egypt in the future, it is already a blessing to see this kind of mutual inter-faith cooperation and respect.

Unfortunately, religious intolerance is still all to real and prevalent in the world.  Now atrocities committed in the name of religion has occurred throughout history.  So much so that atheists like Richard Dawkins point to such atrocities as proof that religion is a subversive delusion and he claims that atheists would never commit the same atrocities.  I don’t happen to agree with Richard Dawkins on a lot of things (after all did not atheist Stalin create the Gulags?  or atheist Chairman Mao oversee the Cultural Revolution in China that killed millions?  or how about the Khmer Rogue?) but religious intolerance really reflects badly on religions and give atheists a lot of ammunition.

I am sure most of us are glad that things like the Spanish Inquisition or the Holocaust has been relegated to history and hopefully with vigilance, never to return.  However, I have been disturbed by recent news from Indonesia and Afghanistan which are the anti-thesis to the religious cooperation shown by the Christian and Muslim protesters in Egypt.

First, I refer to the attacks on religious minorities in Indonesia.  In the video below, an inflamed mob attacks a small community of a minority Islamic sect, the Ahmadiyya.  Buildings and property was destroyed but worse of all, three men were stripped naked and beaten and stoned to death.  Several others are hospitalised in serious condition and two are missing.  The police are seen in the video doing little to stop the violence and to protect the victims.  The government reiteration that they will protect the minority groups ring hollow when the President seems to imply that the sect brought the violence on themselves by not agreeing to stop their activities as per their “agreement”.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Christians are another religious minority  in Indonesia that have suffered from some form of religious discrimination for many years.  There have been civil unrest that have resulted in loss of life.  Last year, there were 45 officially recognised cases of attacks on Christians or their churches in Indonesia; ranging from vandalism and desecration to church closures to stabbings and bombs.  Like in the case of the Ahmadiyya attack, many civil society and human rights group wish that the authorities take more concrete and practical steps to protect minorities.

From Afghanistan, a video has emerged which graphically shows the stoning to death of a young couple sometime in August last year.  According to one report, the young couple eloped and fled to Pakistan.  However, they were enticed to return to their village by promises that the families were willing to reconcile and to give them a proper wedding.  Instead, on their return, they were sentenced by the Taliban to death by stoning for having a love affair.  The video of the merciless and brutal stoning of first the woman and then the man is so horrific that I do not want to have it on this blog.  Yet more people should see it and speak out against it.  If you want to see it, follow this link

Meanwhile, an estimated 5,000 “honour killings” are carried out every year where girls (and sometimes guys) are killed by family members for shaming the family.  In a recently highlighted case in Italy, a young woman, Hina Saleem, had shamed her family by refusing to an arranged marriage, smoking and living with her Italian boyfriend.  In an interview, the father claimed to be a good father and that he loved his daughter.  He slit her throat 27 times and then with the help of others buried the body.

If these things upset you or if you agree they must be stopped than please take action.  I appeal to people and religious leaders everywhere and of all creeds and religion to speak out against religious intolerance and the lack of respect for human life and dignity.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

P.S. Please do not think I am singling out Islam (although I do wish the Ulamas and Islamic intellectuals take a much stronger stand against these acts) but these have been the recent examples of intolerance in the news.  The truth is no religion has been free of intolerance which I hold as a problem of  human beings rather than  the tenets of any religion.

Just Married …..At Last.


The Cute Cherub has Aged

I had a rather busy weekend.  One of the things I had going on was a friend’s wedding at which I took on the role of the master of ceremonies.  So that you do not misunderstand, let me clarify that there was a pastor to give a short sermon and to carry out the solemnisation of the marriage.  My role was merely to make the announcements, guide the congregation through the service programme and to help lead in the singing.  I think the wedding went well and I discharged my duties adequately apart from forgetting to ask the congregation to sit down at one point and on another occasion referring to  the flower girls as “page girls”.

I think there was a collective sigh of relief from all assembled when the bride and groom finally exchanged vows.  The reason is that the couple are both in their late 40’s after having an on again – off again relationship for over 15 years.  15 years!  Can you imagine?

The reason?  I suppose they would tell us that there were many reasons for the long journey but I think at the root of it was the fact that they were to some extent both  “commitment phobes”. Well, at least they finally took the plunge. Better late than never.  We are all happy for the couple.

The next day some of us were discussing “commitment phobia” over lunch and I learned that someone else I knew also has had an on again – off again relationship with this girl who has been his best friend since school, for also over 15 years.  In this case, though, there has been no happy conclusion yet.  In fact, during this time, the guy has gone out with at least three other girls.  Each time, the girl had graciously stepped aside and waited and then returned to his side when that episode was over.  It seems clear that he is happy with being best friends while she is hoping for more.

I remember a episode from the comic strip Bloom County or Outland (not sure which) where Opus the penguin is on a bridge all kitted out for bungee jumping by Ronald-Ann who runs the bungee jumping enterprise.  Opus keeps running up to the edge of the bridge but stops, peers over the edge and then backs off.  Each time he makes reference to how it is a metaphor for a guy excited at the thought of intimacy in marriage but getting cold feet as he peers into the chasm of commitment. After doing this a couple of times, Ronald-Ann finally takes matters into her own hands and shoves Opus off the bridge while giving the advice “You have to give them a push, girls”.

So what do you think? What can we do as friends to people like this?  Should we give them a push?