News, updates and thoughts about standing for the Gospel.

2013 Stand Conference Personal Reflections (Joe Fleener)

This past weekend (16-18 August) Howick Baptist Church had the privilege of hosting our 4th annual Stand for the Gospel Conference.

This year our keynote speaker was Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands.

As you can see in the above photo, Thabiti travelled with his wife and children all the way here to New Zealand. (When they left here, they flew to Sydney, Australia where Thabiti is speaking with Mark Dever here & here. They then travel on to Lusaka, Zambia to join Don Carson and Conrad Mbewe here.)

The Anyabwiles came to New Zealand about 10 days before the conference. This gave them some enjoyable family, holiday time and an opportunity to see a small part of New Zealand. (You can read some of Thabiti’s reflections on his blog herehere, & here.)

They were able to stay in a Mission House near the church for the duration of their visit, so unlike previous years we didn’t have the conference speaker staying in our home. This allowed them more independence and privacy. (I am not entirely sure privacy was achieved as Thabiti did say, I “looked after them like his Mama!”)

However, we were able to spend some blessed time with this dear family.

On the day of their arrival we tried to keep them moving and busy so they didn’t fall asleep. This is one of the best ways to adjust to a new time zone quickly. It was fun showing them around Howick and East Auckland and just getting to know them. We finished off with a beautiful sunset and “Fish N Chips”.


Off for a “picnic”

Sometime in the week I suggested to take them on a trip/picnic/tramp to Rangitoto Island. We had never been, but heard it was a beautiful walk, providing a great view of the city. So we planned to go on Saturday.

Rangitoto is a volcanic island in the gulf, a 25 minutes ferry ride from Auckland.

As Saturday approached the forecast was calling for rain. Yet, it had been calling for rain every day that week and each day ended up sunny! So on Saturday morning, I looked at the forecast and it was very specific, the rain was supposed to die down mid-day until late afternoon. Perfect, as that would be the time we were on the island.

So we headed downtown to the ferry terminal.

Well, we missed the ferry were we aiming for. It was raining, but I was confident it was going to stop. So we booked ourselves on the next ferry.

It rained the whole way out to the island. It rained the whole time on the island. It started to rain even harder near then end of our trip while waiting for the return ferry.

Not only were we soaking wet, but the Anyabwiles are not used to climbing to the top of volcanoes! They live on an island in the Caribbean which is entirely flat and they don’t walk many places!

Needless to say it was a long hard slog! I am sure I will never live this one down, nor do I think I will take future conference speakers on such a trip.

To make up for it, the next day we had a serious meat and potato BBQ at our house with the Young Adults from Howick Baptist Church!

As an added bonus, they joined us on the Thursday night before the conference began for a birthday dinner celebrating both Mandy & Mekaela’s birthdays.

(This was after Mandy & I had spent virtually the entire night before in the hospital with Gavin as he was having emergency surgery!)

I am so thankful for their kindness to us to spend a bit of time together as families during their time here in New Zealand. It is a blessing for our family.

I especially enjoyed just “hanging” out on these occasions and talking with Thabiti about all kinds of items related to life and ministry.

They will be missed. Yet, we are so thankful for their willingness to go where the Lord takes them and serve Him faithfully.

If you are interested:


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