A weekend in Wanganui

We’ve just come back from an enjoyable weekend away in the beautiful river town of Wanganui. The drive down from Auckland took 5 1/2 hours, and we thoroughly enjoyed the rolling hills and lush landscapes (though the North Island still have nothing on the vistas of the South!)

We were fortunate to be able to stay with Jonker family. Calvyn was formerly a pastor at HBC, one of our close friends, and officiated our wedding in February. We stayed at their beautiful farm house (complete with veggie garden, chickens and two cheerful farm dogs).

Admittedly it’s true that many of us at HBC still miss the Jonker family terribly. In just 18 months, they made such a huge impact on the lives of many people. Yet one thing we picked up from being their guests this weekend is that for them, Wanganui is home. As Calvyn took us for a quick tour around the town, folks were constantly stopping to say hello to him. He talked of people he’s known since they were schoolchildren, and pointed out the various ways in which the town had changed and developed over 12 years. It almost felt like he was the mayor of the town!

It was also good to see Alice, Clare, Jenny and her Wellington-beau Dave. These two ex-students are now jobhunting, nervous yet eagerly anticipating the next phase in life. Clare is standing very straight after her recent surgery, and loves to sing to us her favourite Andre Rieu songs. She picks up the various classical melodies with ease on the piano.

Alice looks the part as the quintessential country gal, feeding the chooks and clambering up and down the grassy banks of their lifestyle block. On a clear day from their deck, you can see Mt Ruapehu one side, and Mt Taranaki in the opposite direction. A sliver of water on the horizon has Alice excitedly thinking of ways to build a homestay cottage and trumpet it as accommodation with “sea views”.

We also visited Wanganui East Baptist Church on the Sunday morning. The people are friendly, and they sing God’s praises with a gusto that fills the room. Calvyn’s currently preaching from the book of 1st Peter, and they’re already up to chapter 3. His preaching style has changed since we last heard him; it’s less lecture-like and more pastoral. It’s preaching that’s down-to-earth and thoroughly biblical – and we appreciated the thought and care he evidently put into making the verse-by-verse approach as practical as possible for the congregation.

Most of all, CJ and Alice don’t just preach the gospel – they live it out. Here’s a couple that seek first His kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33), and continually encourage us to trust in God’s transforming power to mould us to love each other better. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, they’re another picture of Christ and the church (Eph 5:25) that we can, and do, look up to.

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Cheryl and William Chong

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