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Karen Lawrence

2017-2019 / Bachelor of Ministries (Manukau/Henderson Campuses)

I absolutely loved being part of the Laidlaw whānau. The beginning of my studies in 2017 was very challenging for me; my mum passed away in January, my dad in February, and my only child started boarding in the city to attend Auckland Boys Grammar, also in February.

The staff at Manukau, notably Animoa Goold, Terry Pouono and Anne Segedin, were instrumental in making sure my orientation and inculcation into student life occurred with ease, simplicity and patience. I will forever be grateful for their understanding, wise counsel, and compassion. The support, accessibility, and patience of all my lecturers and student services, namely Fiona Sherwin, contributed to three years of challenging, inspiring and transformative learning.

I was also privileged to go to Nepal three times during my study at Laidlaw. I was part of a team that facilitated healing ministry. My perspective and understanding of poverty, sin, worship, and faith evolved as a result of the Holy Spirit-led courses I attended at Laidlaw. While I was studying, God provided an opportunity for part-time work with Barnabas Fund and the persecuted church. I wouldn’t have understood the depths of persecution Christians suffer had I not been involved in this work while studying.

I had never felt like I fitted into this world. I started to get some understanding of why, when I became a Christian in 2012 - albeit I committed my life to God in 2004. I got answers to all the unknown questions that came to light while immersed in the life of Laidlaw. Questions like: is the Bible real or just a made-up story for people who have wild imaginations? Why are we here? Why is there such cruelty and hatred in the world? How can a world that has so much wealth have so much poverty? What does it mean to renew one’s mind? Who is Jesus? Is Jesus real? What does love really mean?

My identity was challenged - am I a Christian woman who is Māori or a Māori woman who happens to be Christian? Today, the Bible is my one and only true counsel. I lean on God’s word for wisdom, direction, clarity and guidance on a daily basis, sometimes numerous times during the day. My prayer life is no longer routine but a priority. Studying at Laidlaw helped me understand I have a purpose here on Earth and the Lord is in total control. I have become comfortable with the unknown and the unseen, and I appreciate the discipline of being present.

I have a dual leadership role working for Visionwest. I'm currently site manager for a transitional housing community in Ōtāhuhu, stewarding 42 whānau as they transition from homelessness into long-term housing. I have been very intentional that my team lead from a pastoral posture inclusive of offering prayer every opportunity we get. We now have whānau who come to the office asking for prayer.

I also connected with Otāhuhu Baptist Community Church and Pastor Mike is an active part of our team. I also lead a team of tenancy managers in West Auckland. In November 2019, I was invited by Wilberforce Foundation to be part of a governance training programme. This led to an opportunity to serve on the board for Christians Against Poverty (CAP) which I did for two years, resigning in February 2022 to pursue further study.

I was very unsettled in my church where I found myself questioning their theology. In 2020 I felt led to fast. After months of preparation, my 40-day fast began on 20 July which ended up being for 52 days. The Lord moved in so many ways during this time; I received a salary increase after only being in my role for 8 months; he moved me from South Auckland to Greenlane where I now live opposite my new church; he blessed me with movers who donated their time; I grew to love and adore the book of Esther; he introduced me to my spiritual teacher, who today continues to support, help and guide me as I continue to grow deeper in my relationship with Jesus, constantly challenging my theology; he renewed my mind towards food as I still had to cook for my son during this time.

At the end of the fast, I found myself in a new home, attending a new church and I got a work promotion. The Wilberforce Foundation sponsored me to attend a three-day Women’s Leadership Conference in May 2021. There were many learnings from this conference, however, the most profound was a heightened awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion especially where people are in a position to make decisions that are life impacting for individuals, their whānau and their communities.

I lead a Sisters connect group and also mentor two women. One is a young counselling student attending Laidlaw and the other is an older lady who has recently come back to the Lord.

As a registered Gallup Strengths Coach, I had the privilege of facilitating a coaching workshop with the AOG Leadership team (February 2021). I would never have done this before Laidlaw! I was then invited to facilitate another two workshops with two other churches (Otorohanga, Whitianga).

In June 2021, I was invited onto the board of my church, Gracecity which I humbly accepted. This has been and continues to be a great learning platform, full of wisdom and initiatives as the church attempts to navigate its way during these strange times of uncertainty and constant pivoting. I continue to grow my knowledge and experience around governance with my mentor, Animoa Goold. I also have a career strategy which I have never had before!

I'm blessed to work for an organisation that encourages and supports ongoing professional development. So, 2022 is a year of intentional equipping and learning. I’ve started studying at Carey Baptist, doing their Ngā Pou Amorangi (Māori Leadership) course and am also attending Te Wananga o Aotearoa, doing the level 3 & 4 Te Ara Reo (Māori Language) course.

Seventeen years ago, I gave birth to my son, Nathaniel (his name means 'A gift from God'). He was my 9th pregnancy and the first child I was able to carry. Although not a Christian at the time, at the moment of birth, I committed my life to God and committed my son to Him. My son is a constant reminder to me of God’s faithfulness and love. Every day, I honour and give glory to God, for allowing me to steward Nathaniel, in this crazy world we are in.

Laidlaw was the catalyst for transforming my life. I'm grateful to God for all the people: lecturers, fellow students, student support services, my son and my whānau, for their patience, encouragement, honesty and love as they walked beside me. I’m grateful for His truth - the Bible in its entirety is the only integrity I listen to, setting me apart and enabling me to share the Gospel. I’m grateful to God for convicting me when it's needed and being my provider. Also, for the ongoing renewing of my thinking, doing and being and my salvation, and for every opportunity to share who Jesus is and why 'you' need to know him.

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