Miracle! Absolutely no doubt about it, there is no question that this project that we have had a passion for and now physically completed is nothing short of a divine miracle – in fact it has been miracles upon miracles. We have no doubt that our God has been leading, not only in this project, but right through our lives.
One verse that has come very real to us is Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Thirty seven years ago we discovered the message of Jesus Christ and His soon coming. This faith which we have grown to understand and love has given us a passion to share it with others. While fraught with our human weaknesses, we have never lost that vision as a family and as a ministry.
Now as we look back over those 37 years, we do see the evidence that was not seen. This newly completed building project has meant so much to us. It is a new beginning in some ways, as Angela and I move back from the day to day running of the ministry and see it progress to the next generation. It never entered our minds when we were young people joining our lives together in marriage in February 1977, that we would be anything but local workers in our local town doing a local work in our trades. We were typical local Kiwis living as the locals do! But God had some plans of which we were totally unaware.
Both Angela and myself grew up in the town of Rangiora in the farming province of North Canterbury in the South Island of New Zealand. Children started to come along in October 1978.
We were dealing with some minor health issues and started to search for answers. About this time we met a carpenter who was a strong vegetarian and spoke to him about the health issues. He encouraged us to give up eating meat, much to our disgust, as “all Kiwis eat meat, spud and veges!” But he persevered and won our confidence and we tried eating vegetarian for two weeks—never to return to meat again.
As our minds cleared from our diet change, we realised we had the responsibility for our growing family’s moral future. So working for a company that had goodly spiritual principles, many conversations were entered into with my employer on the whereabouts and purposes of life.
As the spiritual interest grew, we followed the leading of my employer who’s interest was with the World Wide Church of God, then led by Herbert Armstrong. Angela picked up a Plain Truth magazine and that issue was on the topic of “Revelation, The Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.” (Revelation 10).
An advertisement in our local paper promoting a lecture on this topic of Revelation caught our eye. It was April 26, 1983, Pr Raymond Stanley was sharing that lecture series. Here we heard the message of salvation in Jesus Christ for the first time. From that time on, we studied the Bible, were baptised December 13, 1983 and never looked back. Despite trials and struggles along the way, there have surely been rich blessings – blessings from out of this world!
Within two years we were approached by a family leaving for Australia who had been entrusted with funds for the purpose of distributing inexpensive literature. They put this responsibility in our hands and that is where it all started. Others became involved in spreading literature and still others contributed more funds to continue and grow this work.
We soon saw that our garage was not sufficient and realised we needed more space, so we purchased a property better suited for the growing ministry purposes. That property was in a semi-rural area about 6 kilometres outside of the town of Rangiora, and the work just continued to grow at that property for a total of 32 more years. With the increased needs and new technologies developing, we soon realised we were becoming crammed for space and inefficient. About five years ago we started searching for solutions. We originally thought of building on our existing property, but this wasn’t going to be the best option.
So we then continued to look elsewhere for an existing building that we could move to, but since the earthquakes in 2010/2011 in Christchurch, many people and businesses had moved to our area and created a shortage of commercial buildings and land. What was available was both unsuitable and unreachable for us, having virtually no funding to start with, not even a deposit.
We continued to press ahead seeking other properties in country towns, pushing at doors to see if they would open. We constantly sought for God's leading. Some doors seemed to be opening, then as we pursued them, they would seemingly close with a bang in our face and leave us wondering if we should continue to hunt. Then we would again see the need and continue looking for property, but nothing would come up.
The Chosen Property
One day, Damon found a section with an old house on it that could be made suitable if we could work through the physical and legal complications to convert a residential home to a full ministry base. Something told us to keep pressing in this direction.
We pursued this course, putting an offer on the property, subject to us getting resource consent for ‘light commercial’ use. The owners agreed and the consent process started. There were many set-backs but three times the owners granted extensions to allow the process to continue. Eventually we had full permission to operate a ministry on that property. This confirmed the purchase of the property and we paid a deposit. Although we were trembling as to where the rest of the funding would come from, by the time we took possession of the property the funds were available to pay for it in full – a miracle that happened before our eyes, only one of many to come.
With no funds on hand to develop it to be suitable for ministry use, we started to do what we could ourselves, taking worthwhile articles out of the house and selling them. This not only raised some funds for the project, but also raised interest about our project from the people who came to collect the items.
Building In Faith
We continued going ahead, getting quotes and finding people that were best suited to help us. We had building plans drawn up, then building permits were submitted. All were passed and consents came through.
With all the paper work in place, we had nothing to do but step forward in faith and begin by tearing the old house down and start the earth-work for the foundations. Miraculously funds were available at each step to pay the invoices as they came in for the work that was being done.
With enough funds in hand for the builder’s bond, we contracted a builder to lay the foundations and began erecting the building. Every step of the way, it has been obvious that God has been working with us—and He very much continues to work, sometimes well ahead of us, to perform miracles.
These miracles included having funds—not before time or in excess—but available as every bill came in to be paid. There were also services offered at reduced rates or entirely free. Suppliers also provided discounted or gifted building materials.
When the builders completed their work and the car-park was laid, then we got busy landscaping and planting the gardens and lawns. We put particular effort into this as we represent a neat and orderly God, making the site attractive and welcoming.
During late August and September we tidied up loose ends at our old home/ministry base and started to move the entire working ministry. This included packing up the bookshop, the publishing equipment, the offices and computers as well as a large shipping container and a shed of bulk books and equipment.
Then of course, we have had the mammoth task of setting it all up again. The book shop has over quarter of a kilometre of display shelving and we took the opportunity to re-categorise and expand the range of products on display. We had a new, attractive reception desk with a counter made to meet accessibility regulations.
The production room where we reproduce literature and media was set up quickly to replicate what had already been functioning well. After getting some additional furniture and shelving we were able to set up the expanded work and storage areas. We have certainly made this new premises more homely, full and well occupied!
We want to express our appreciation to the many helpers who gave of their time and were involved in making this transition as smooth as possible while keeping the ministry functioning.
Finally the local council came for the final inspection, shook Damon’s hand and gave their congratulations on the sign-off of the building and on October 1st we reached full Code of Compliance for the building, and we can officially and legally start operating to the public. This is a huge milestone for this ministry—an achievement never thought possible, but now a reality.
From what was our rural home and ministry base for over 30 years, into this building that is now purpose-built and completed, beside one of the busiest roads in North Canterbury. It is like a candle that has come out from under a bushel and set on a candlestick in the community. Yes, we just stand in awe at the mighty hand of God. It is all to His glory and we freely give it to Him. Miracles still happen, we have just witnessed and experienced a very big one!
A Financial Miracle
We have now come to the point where this miracle building is finished with no contractor or worker owed any money at all. By far, the majority of funds have been generously given and some have been graciously loaned without interest. The personal loans totaling about $330,000 have been given so that the building could be completed without any delays waiting to raise the last funds. We now aim to get these loans reimbursed as fast as possible so we can continue to expand the work.
Every one of our team look forward to serving you and working together to further the work of scattering God's message of truth like the leaves of autumn in a more efficient manner.
The Vision Of The Ministry
Autumn Leaves, from its inception in May 1998 has been a place to offer Christian resources and services to both our spiritual family, and to the community. This ministry has always kept that focus, which has included and involved practical, social, family, spiritual, and health aspects. It has grown to include events such as family camps, youth camps, health and cooking classes, visits by international speakers, as well as offering imported and locally generated resources and production of media for nationwide television and wider distribution.
The field of our work has included New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific Islands, with some world-wide demands. Although our work is wide and varied, we are still relatively small in regards to the business aspect and budget.
Autumn Leaves took its name from the desire to scatter messages of truth and hope like the leaves of autumn – and holds to the mission of helping others in a practical and beneficial way.
We are thankful to God that our children have each given themselves to the work of ministry in some way over the years. Damon in particular, who from home-schooling days has dedicated his life to it and recently managing this recent building project. The two girls, Madelene and Korina have worked in administration over the years, with Korina still helping on a weekly basis. Our younger boy, Malcolm has recently come back from Australia with his family to rejoin the team in ministry as well and he has been invaluable to the finishing of the project. Being an electrician, he arrived home right at the time the building was to be fitted out.
We are also extremely grateful for the many people who have supported, worked for and upheld this work for the many years it has been functioning, right up to this very day. It is a real testimony of what God can do - and has done for His work in New Zealand, plus of the generous hearts that have given in many ways to keep the ministry going.
Currently we have a very valuable team who dedicate much time and energy to keeping this work going to the best of each of their capabilities and capacities. Angela, Damon, Cherie, Korina, Malcolm, Kent, Lena, Peter and Michelle are all deeply appreciated and valued as a team of workers.
As it all settles down and our minds think beyond our present project needs, an amazing fact comes to mind. The location for this new building is about 400 metres from the quiet home where we were living when we first found the message in 1983 and where self-supporting ministry work started with a few cases of Great Controversy books stacked on some boards in the side of our garage. It just seems like God has said, ‘After the many years of labour, I will bring you back to where it started, but on a main arterial road with tens of thousands of cars going past every day. Continue My work with the time left—be faithful to the end!'
What a commission! What an expectation to live up to! Can it be done? The only way is as a whole team, we team up with our God and commit every day to Him, being prepared to go through the good times as well as the bad, with trials and struggles together, to support each other, giving all we can to every soul who we come in contact with through various means.
“Those who minister to others will be ministered unto by the Chief Shepherd. They themselves will drink of the living water, and will be satisfied. They will not be longing for exciting amusements, or for some change in their lives. The great topic of interest will be, how to save the souls that are ready to perish... The love of the Redeemer will draw hearts together in unity.
“When we realize that we are workers together with God, His promises will not be spoken with indifference. They will burn in our hearts, and kindle upon our lips... To every soul a trust is given. Of everyone the Chief Shepherd will demand, ‘Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?’”