From the U.S. to New Zealand

On the 17th of November, 2018 we boarded a plane with our two boys and six suitcases holding the contents of our life. We had always planned to go back to where Luke’s beginnings were and we had waited eight years to make the move. Full of excitement and hope about what God had in store for us in New Zealand we waved goodbye to our home in the US. Our first year here was nothing but new relationships, long hours of study, and many days spent exploring our new home. We loved every bit of it. Luke decided to do a second year at the South Pacific Bible College and so we found ourselves going for round two on top of taking on new leadership roles at the Otumoetai Church of Christ. We could very clearly see the trajectory of the path we were on.

In March of 2020, New Zealand went into Alert Level 4 lockdown. The country was in a panic and the grocery stores became zoos. We could no longer meet with our church family in person and people were beginning to realize that whether they liked it or not, Covid had become part of our reality. Being an island country can so often make you feel disconnected from the rest of the world, but on that day we didn’t feel like an island. When we arrived in New Zealand Our small family had moved into the student housing on the Bible College campus and we very quickly realized that it would be unrealistic to maintain study and sanity in our tiny space so we decided to pack some suitcases and move out to Luke’s parents farm.

We carried on there for six weeks while the country was at level 4. Luke continued his studies online and we did our best to remain a steady and calm presence for our two boys who understood very little about the current situation. Though it felt like lockdown would last forever we got news that we could now move to level 3 which allowed for a bit more freedom outside our homes. We decided it was time to move back to our place. Thanks to the leadership of our country and the unity of the individuals all working to rid our island of Covid we quickly moved from level 3 to level 2 and finally to level 1 lockdown where we have remained for the last seven months.

Luke has been able to study in the classroom, mask free, since June of last year. Amos started Primary School (First Grade) and was able to focus on learning to read and write with no thought of the pandemic. We continue to meet together with our church family every Sunday morning and it feels so normal that we often forget about the state of things beyond our borders. In these times we are reminded that there are many things in life outside of our control. When we boarded that plane a little more than two years ago now, we had no idea what God had in store for us here in New Zealand. Regardless of the pandemic, we plan to continue on the trajectory where we’ve seen God putting us on from the beginning of our relationship. Luke is now in his third and final year at the Bible College while also serving the church as a minister. He hopes to use all he has learned to better serve in the Kingdom here in Tauranga. Kelci has begun her own studies this year in counseling with the hope of using her training to journey beside people through the chaotic world we live in to a peaceful joy in Jesus Christ.

A timely worship song that comes to mind frequently is the Casting Crowns song; “Praise You In This Storm”. These lyrics ring true; , “I will praise You in this storm, and I will lift my hands. For You are who You are, no matter where I am.” The pandemic does not deter us from the work that the Lord has set before us. We will continue to serve Him in the midst of the storm, whether he calms it or not. We want to encourage you all to focus on who God is, not the storm around us and to know that God does not change. Through all of this we are thankful that God has blessed us with a house to rent, which we had been in need of for months. We have an incredible church family here at the Otumoetai Church of Christ that has supported us through thick and thin these last two years. We are also deeply grateful to the Broadway Church of Christ for their partnership with us, the Southside Church of Christ for their love and support from day one, and also to the Oldfield Church of Christ who has been so generous in these trying times.

Grace and Peace to all our brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Merricks

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