On a warm Tauranga evening, a young woman stands on stage in front of a gathering of over six hundred people. It is the Hui of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand. Her husband, Josh and their three children are right beside her.
As a family, they are part of a larger group of people who are being commissioned that night, to serve the Lord in a variety of overseas settings.
What is different for Robyn as she stands there in these significant moments, is that her Mum is also in the group being commissioned, standing on the stage.
For Robyn in her late twenties, she is aware not only of her Mum and Dad, John and Helen, being on the same platform that night, but also that her mother’s parents, Lawrence and Heather once stood on such a stage in the mid-fifties being commissioned to serve in a far distant land.
Robyn’s grandparents left New Zealand to serve in South Asia in 1956, and went on to enrich a community of people with their love and medical skills for the next 18 years. Three children were born into their family, a boy and two girls.
Robyn’s Mum, her brother, Rob, and her sister, Annie some time later on returned with their family to New Zealand. In the course of time, the two sisters met and married young men who later became pastors. Their brother is serving as a veterinarian.
Robyn is very aware of her heritage as she stands there being sent out to serve. It inspires her. She says “this kind of work overseas isn’t strange for us to consider. It seems normal”.
There are moments for Robyn when the example and courage of her grandparents becomes important for her.
Robyn says “that sometimes if I think of some of the difficulties of taking my family to Asia, I am reminded that my grandparents moved overseas in the 1950’s, having never been there before, and at a time when mail from family took three months to arrive by boat. If they could do it back then, then we can do it now. The same God that was with them will be with us also as we follow him on the journey he has for us”.
This story is not just about Robyn. It’s also about her brothers and the cousins on her Mum’s side. One of Robyn’s brothers is serving full time in a church in Christchurch. A cousin and his wife are working part time with overseas university students at Canterbury University. Another cousin has recently returned from serving with her husband and three children in Madagascar. And that’s just part of the story.
Meanwhile, Annie and her husband, Kerry, have been serving in South Asia since 2000. One of their four children, Josh has returned to the same city with his wife, Larissa. Larissa also has a heritage story to tell.
If space permitted, more could be said about how the Gospel has impacted the wider clan, and their vision for the nations. Robyn could also tell you of her Dad’s heritage story of serving cross culturally.
A heritage of serving the poor, the needy, living and telling the Gospel in places far away, has enriched three generations, so far. It has not been without it’s suffering, note. There has been cost, tears, pain, but in sixty years of following this call so far, a family has been grateful for all those who have prayed, encouraged, given and supported. It is to the glory of God, that we tell these things. He has done it.
As Robyn says, “We are grateful for God’s continued blessing on our family, and thankful for the many people who have prayed for us over the years”.