1975-1976 BCNZ Diploma (Henderson Campus)
It was 1974 and Cyclone Tracy had flattened Australia’s Northern Territory’s capital city, Darwin. I had recently returned from an overseas trip, was busy paying off loans and saving for Bible College. The intent was to attend the local Melbourne Theological College; however our church’s minister (Rev. Dr. George Lazenby) had other ideas and suggested the Bible College of New Zealand. He attended to all the details, and I applied.
New Zealand, I pondered, men wear grass skirts in that land. That was all I knew of Aotearoa.
I was a young man and young in faith also. I did learn, though, that the staff of this college were committed followers of Christ. I could sense their collective and earnest prayers for me, in seeking God’s perfect will in their decision to accept me.
My arrival by plane into Auckland was late at night so I missed those who had kindly come to pick me up. “The aboriginal guy hadn’t shown up”, they thought. I taxied myself out to Lincoln Road, Henderson.
Thus, my theological training was upon me. How can a student fill their time at a theological college, I pondered?
With my new The Living Way Bible translation in hand I attended the first class in the main hall, along with the other 200 or so students in the 1975 cohort. We were asked for a show of hands as to who was using this personal paraphrase: only one student’s hand went up!
As a new Christian I was given the Good News New Testament Bible and found the gospel stories lifting off the pages and acting themselves out in 3D. At BCNZ it was the Old Testament (with lecturer Rev. Kirkby) which came alive for me, and has remained that way into my old-ish age! I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved church history with Rev. Bob Glen the most, but got the lowest mark for it, due to the inability to put the right dates against events!
Students had to choose their practical courses and mine saw me, along with others, out on the streets of Henderson’s shopping strip singing and talking of Jesus. In the second year I was privileged to take primary school Religious Education classes in Te Atatu South. It was also a privilege and honour to engage with churches on the South Island’s Canterbury Plains over the breaks. Some of us students remained friends with those families for years to come. Fond memories still linger.
The orchard no longer exists, but fond memories do:
In the stillness of the night
And running water
God met this Aussie youth
Who had responded to the call,
The call of God on their lives
Lives which would be forever changed
Due to His faithfulness
His faithfulness in meeting with them
Night after night
Day after day
In the quietness of the orchard
In the classrooms
In the numerous outreach programmes
In friendships forged
Dr Elley’s approach to teaching was inspirational. His style was collaborative. Instead of always teaching from the front, he gathered students around, asking questions, allowing us to work out answers. His subject was Communication 1.
Rod and Denise Edwards lived close to the men’s accommodation quarters. On one occasion I noticed Rod dressed in formal shirt and tie whilst working in his garden/veggie patch! Students were regular visitors to his office and their home, as was I. It was easy to notice Denise’s big smile, hospitality, kindness, and Rod’s commitment to the tasks at hand. The kids were a pleasure to be around. When the family moved off campus, I followed them, with plumbing equipment in hand to help rectify some drainage problems.
BCNZ were kind enough to allow my sister to board on campus, while she toured NZ. It was at this time I got to know the Dean of Women, Dr Stretton. I remember walking up to the front of class on one occasion, and only one, asked to marry her: to this day I await her reply – which leads well into the next topic…
With a large gathering of young people, it would be expected for some mischief to occur and occur it did. Students awoke one day to find the main lecture room (also used as a dining room that year) had a small car sitting in it. On another occasion a student was carried in, in a coffin. Down the front of the college a two-story wooden structure had a student write on it “Principal’s Study”. Out in the main quadrangle a boiler suite with footwear and gloves for hands and a volleyball depicting a face appeared overnight. Somebody, or persons, had taken the time to stuff the overalls and gloves full of sawdust. There was a note on it blaming two of the students.
Some years after graduation I and my wife Marina, who I first met at BCNZ, pastored amongst the Māori Evangelical Churches (MEF). Also, after graduation, I found myself back at college using my plumbing trade to find and map the sewer pipes and commence the disengagement of the central hot water boiler system. Many repairs were also made to the family flats’ asbestos roofing and installing drainage, along with landscaping changes to limit flooding of the units.
Before coming to college, I asked myself two questions: How can a student fill their time at a theological college? I soon found the answer to the above query. However, if not for the first question, the second would not have arisen. The first question was this:
What would Jesus do (WWJD)
My four siblings and I were orphaned by the untimely death of both parents. The will was soon to be acted upon and the five of us were the sole beneficiaries.
Should I invest it in my trade business?
I was a three-year-old follower of Christ and had just finished reading the book with the same question as its title. Jesus left His trade behind, could I mine? The College Board accepted my application. And as they say, the rest is History.
Did I regret the decision? No, no, no. It changed my life. That in turn changed the course of my life. Thus, building into my soul a relationship with the Life Giver Himself!
Above are 4 photos, three of which are related to the story;
Top left is of the 1976 end of year south Island trip. This Anglican church, somewhere near nelson, is where we did an overnighter when the borrowed van, broke down. The priest found us the next day, sleeping down the aisle
Top right: is the principal’s study facing onto Lincoln Rd
Bottom row: are of the funeral of Stanley which ended in the dining room