God of All Nations: Students from America Serve New Zealand Nazarene Churches for Three Weeks

Jun 21, 2024

A team of 12 students and two leaders traveled 13 hours by aircraft, 6,597 miles, from the United States, to serve six churches of the Nazarene in the North Island of New Zealand from 8-29 of May. The team was sent by LoveWorks, a short-term mission organization through Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), in California, United States.

LoveWorks is a program that sends multiple teams to different areas of the globe, by invitation, for three weeks, engaging in acts of service through the work the missionary hosts are already participating in. New Zealand was one of nine countries students could apply to join a team. According to the LoveWorks site, the program is built upon the missionary hosts’ “long-term established community work.”

 The New Zealand team’s students’ ages ranged from 19 to 25, all with different areas of study, united by their devotion to serving God. The students brought their own culture to represent and share with the people in New Zealand including Hawaiian, Haitian, Mexican, German, Marshallese, Korean and Chinese.

They trained for their trip for 14 weeks, preparing games for youth ministry, learning the culture and history of New Zealand, bonding as a team, and practicing a set of songs to lead churches in worship.

Over the three weeks, the team worked with their hosts, Jenna and Andrew Stout, in serving several churches of the Nazarene in the North Island, all of different cultures and ethnicities including Indian, Samoan, Māori and English. The churches they served include Takanini Samoan, Mangere, Seabrook, All Nations, Crossroads and New Hope Church of the Nazarene.

“The LoveWorks team blessed the New Zealand district, but the team was also blessed by the district,” said Andrew. “That’s the goal of these trips.”

There was a mutual interest between the team and the people of New Zealand when sharing stories, backgrounds and life experiences.

“Neither party [LoveWorks or local churches] was giving too much; there was a mutual exchange of knowledge and support,” said Chris Fernandez, LoveWorks team member.

The team’s service ranged from painting walls and murals, leading church services, volunteering at a primary school, engaging in conversation with the people of New Zealand and sharing cultures and often testimonies.

“It [leading worship] was transformative and made me realize a passion that I didn’t know was there,” said Reaves Dayton, a LoveWorks team member who led worship on guitar. “It sparked a fire in me to want to lead worship in other places.”

The team got to apply their strengths and passions to their service, making a connection to New Zealand churches different among each student.

“When I went to the primary school, it was so special to be with teachers that cared for the children as much as I care for children,” said Bella Harvey, a LoveWorks team member studying elementary education. “I want to be just like them as a teacher.”

The LoveWorks team was trained to be flexible and ready to do anything asked or needed by the churches in New Zealand. Facing many unknowns each day, the team remained grounded in their willingness to serve God and His people in a foreign place.

“It was amazing to watch all of the students grow in faith and confidence just in the three weeks we were there,” said Jim Bergherm, one of the LoveWorks leaders. “We [the team] got to see God perform miracles right in front of us and change lives.”

Living in a new culture in a place the team had never been can be intimidating, but they instead found beauty in the differences—they embraced them.

“Relating to people from another country or culture is easy if God is our common denominator,” said Elizabeth Bergherm, Jim’s wife and the other LoveWorks leader. “A sincere desire to share Jesus in our group was evident when we served other churches and communities; I think that made it easier to develop relationships.”

PLNU’s LoveWorks learned there is a God of all nations—no boundaries.

“There’s only one church, and that’s God’s church,” said Ken, a retired pastor and current member of New Hope Church in Whangārei.

While they all looked and spoke differently, there was a genuine understanding and beauty in that there was no division among the people of differing ages and ethnicities, but a love that surpassed all barriers—God’s love.

By: Sydney Brammer

APNAZ Communications

Asia Pacific Nazarene Communications

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