I am leaving…

To my wonderful friends, good mates, and whanau. Greetings.

I have some news to tell you all…

it is now time to leave New Zealand.

That’s right. I am leaving Lifeway, FTN, and New Zealand. All at once really. And not too far away. I will be back in Australia (from whence I came originally) by the 28th of May. That gives me about 8 days left here.

And I will miss this place too. New Zealand is a very beautiful country and has tremendous customs and culture. The people I have met have engraved themselves onto my heart and I will surely miss them greatly. They have been a wonderful part of my life during the 4 1/2 years that I have been here.

What follows is a multi part series. First is my history in New Zealand and what I have done during my time here. Then details on how and why I know God has called me to South America will follow. This is the different events and processes that took place to get me to the point I am at now – holding a one-way ticket to Brisbane.


History of NZ – TNaT

At the beginning of 2000 I formed my own business – TNaT (Thiesfield Networking and Troubleshooting).

I had just got a job contracting to the Wellsford Medical Centre and needed a company to keep my finances separate. TNaT did this very nicely. It also allowed me to provide computer assistance to local companies around the area. I didn’t advertise and generally made myself available only one day a week, working for Family TV during the other four days. So with most of my one day focused on Wellsford, it was understandable that work from other sources was generally sporadic.

At Wellsford, I provided technical support, business decisions on future technological moves, and training and assistance to the staff. It has been one of the best places that I have ever had the privilege to work. They included me as a part of the medical staff, inviting me to Christmas parties and all varieties of events throughout the years. What an incredible honour that was. I am really sad to leave these people. It is hard to say goodbye to a place that has embraced me so kindly, with people as wonderful as they were.

TNaT is no longer now that I am leaving. I have passed my business dealings on to Andrew, my technical co-worker at Family TV. He is the only one I would trust with such a responsibility and have since spent the last number of weeks training him in the position.

When I leave New Zealand, I leave TNaT behind. It served me well while I was here, and will be a sad thing to leave. Most of all though, it is my friends at Wellsford that make it sadest.

They gave me a very beautiful poem that outlined all the truths and myths of my work there over the years. I was incredibly touched that so many staff took time out of their busy days to come and wish me well. They are a great bunch. I have been really looked after by them. Thank you Wellsford and crew. You are an awesome buch.

And then it was over.

But a new beginning was waiting.

Moving On…

To all my friends,

I trust this finds you in good health. As you all know, I am leaving New Zealand in 2wks to go to South America, with a stop in Australia on the way. It would be great to keep in touch and let you know how things are going with the journey.

To help me, I have set up an email list and added you to it. Thanks for joining me in my journey, Rob.

History of NZ – 2000

After the dawn of the new millenium, and nothing the doomsayers claimed actually happened, life returned to normal.

It was during 2000 that our Evangelism team thought up a new course for youth leaders. After much deliberation on names, we all settled on “R18”. Something that points at youth and makes a visual impact.

My next task was to create an R18 website with Walter and I spent months writing up all of the details. Actually Walter came up with most of the details while I typed them into the computer, but if you ask him, he will say that I helped.

Someone came up with a great idea about creating groovy folders for students to put their notes into. It sounded a lot less groovy once I realised that I had the mamoth task of creating the folder covers and printing them all. And it sounded even less groovy when it was decided that since the R18ers could have a fancy folder, all of the courses should have a fancy folder. It took a very long time to finish creating fancy folders. I think they have gone back to plain ones these days. Smart people.

Walter and I took the opportunity of the mid year break to go spearfishing in Fiji. We wanted the big ones. Those fish that are so huge they take you with them once you have speared them. Our first few trips to the reefs revealed sharks and turtles. No fish. A night dive brought me nose to nose with a shark. Gulp! Then, hearing about a great fish place, and since none of us knew how to sail, it made sense to borrow our host’s yacht to get there.

In the dark of morning I don’t know if it was the weak sounding engine or the two metre swells crashing over the bow that prompted us but we returned to the safety of the harbour. We had a good day of snorkeling using our spear-guns as ballast though.

The rest of the year saw me complete my earlier tasks and was somewhat uneventful.

Something happened that was to change the way I did things from then on. It was around this period of time that I was confronted with what many would politely call my “work focus”. Of course when I wasn’t there they would often talk about me being a “work-a-holic”. I didn’t think that about myself. I thought all was quite good – that was until I was confronted about it.

At that point I started to see how isolated I had become by my habits. This was the start of a series of changes. They have redirected my entire outlook on life. I now don’t hear the terms “work focus” or “work-a-holic” anymore. And that has been a very good thing.

History of NZ – 1999

In 1999 I arrived in New Zealand on the 21st of January 1999 believing that God had directed me to join Lifeway, based in Snells Beach. The details of this are a story in themselves so I won’t go into that here. When I arrived my first six months were enjoyed as a student on the Certificate in Evangelism (CE) course.

After my first brief tour of New Zealand, I returned to join up with Walter Scheer and the Evangelism team. We were different to the College team but worked together closely.

As part of this team I would like to say I struggled valiantly with the administrative tasks I was assigned. Bogged down in paperwork, the only thing I struggled with was keeping my head above water! I discovered one thing during this time – I hate paperwork!!

Over time I turned to other things. Creating a student records database and remaking the Lifeway website. Database building wasn’t my thing either and the huge task consumed all of my days and nights right into 2000.

Nonetheless, these were exciting times. Walter and I became good friends and together we terrorised the local fish population with our spearfishing.

We seemed to be a dynamic duo, after all, during this time we also managed to sink Eric Vandy’s boat – with Eric onboard (sorry Eric), shoot a bullet through dad’s car – with me in it (sorry about the hole dad), and went possum, deer and goat hunting together. Generally, we caused havoc in a fun way.

I learnt much off Walter, and it was his influence that caused such radical growth in my life. He is a solid friend whom I am glad I got to meet.

By the end of 1999 everyone was celebrating the dawn of the new millennium.

Lifeway also celebrated by organising Gateway 2000 held in Gisborne. I helped in the organisation of it too, although given my poor history of administration, something alternative needed to be found for me. My role became “IT”, the fix it guy where I fixed anything that went wrong as fast as possible using anything available to me. I may have been known as Mr. No.8 Wire, but “IT” was easier to say.

Gateway 2000 incorporated some high profile speakers and plenty of family based events, and initiated events of reconciliation between Maori and Pakeha (Europeans). With such a huge event, it was grueling work at times, and staying up all night for the sunrise paid its toll. But it remains as one of the highlights of my time in New Zealand.

History of NZ – 2002

Near the beginning of 2002 I was moved to FTN. This is our regional television station, now known as Family TV. It seems that the transformation I brought about to the computers throughout the college was noticed, and now it was hoped that I would bring a similar change to the desperate state of computers in FTN.

It worked. But I was only one small part of this puzzle. Simon O’Shaughnessy, our new station director provided a flow of funds without which it would not have been possible. Also Andrew, the sole technical guy here when I arrived, brought his expertise and willingness to experiment to the picture. It was together that we were then able to transform the landscape of FTN’s computer shambles into something effective. In the words of Simon… “well done guys”.

While at FTN, I also became part of a major restructure. With Stu’s knowledge (the TV course lecturer with lots of industry experience in TV), Simon’s ability to source funding, Andrew’s technical savvy, my organisational skills, and the physical help of Carl and his brother Dave in building things, we managed to totally rearrange the room structures throughout the station. Eventually we reached a design that was technically brilliant. Well, we think so anyway.

By the end of it the station was brand new again. It had new paint, new carpet, new editing suites, new cabling throughout, new station graphics, a new name, new programming of shows, and new teams being formed. We had transformed Family Television Network into Family TV. It was a fresh station. But boy! What a year that one was.

History of NZ – 2001

Once the new R18 course started this year things were in full swing. I found that I was starting to do a lot more computer work. Supporting people with computer problems was the main area, but there was also some competition between the technical guy, Matt, in FTN and me. This resulted in a competition to build the best mail server. I won. In the end my server was adopted as the main server for Lifeway. This became my other area of growing involvement.

During this year I took the opportunity to teach part of the courses in the college. Working with the students was a lot of fun albeit lots of hard work too. My brief foray involved parts of the Study Skills course and a group from the Decision Making Course. At the end of the year there was talk of me taking on more teaching in the college. I kinda liked this idea but also didn’t. It would mean more work, and stepping outside my comfort zone. That was ok though because I needed to hone these skills. However I never did do any more teaching. I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to jump ships – from the College to FTN. This would take place early next year.

Meanwhile, Walter and Cindy Ruakere had been talking for a while of doing a trip somewhere together. This would be a preaching and singing type of trip. Around August Cindy was getting ready to release a new album. This was the perfect timing. A trip was born and after lots of preparation, “The South Island Tour” was ready to roll. And roll we did. Most of the trip was driving.

As with anything Walter is part of, there is always an element of fun. We got to see lots of the countryside and best of all, we even got to go skiing. Well think of it as skiing as they did in the days of old. Without lifts but with new gear. Yep. The lifts had closed the day before we got there. Undeterred, we walked up the slope and skied back down again. Over and over. By the end of the day we were stuffed, but very happy. The girls went Jet-Boating while we skied and said they had a great time.

The tour took us to Invercargill at the very bottom of the South Island and back, stopping at churches and halls on the way. Cindy sang, Walter preached. It was a great combination. Once at Invercargill we were done. The only thing that remained was the drive home. Almost the length of New Zealand, the drive took two days and was an awesome trip. I especially enjoyed the tension of the part where we almost missed the ferry to Wellington. We ended up making it there within 40 minutes of it leaving or something just as close.

These were great days and there were smiles on all of our faces. I have many wonderful photos and memories of these times. After this everything changed. For me anyway. And for Walter. Walter and Teresa left Lifeway. I moved to FTN. It was different now, but the memories of these times will always remain with me. They were great days. The highlight of my time in New Zealand.