Mark Twain (and the missionaries) in Hawaii


Liz and I have recently returned from two months overseas visiting a friend in Alaska and family in Canada. En route to Alaska we stayed for a few days in Hawaii. When we got outside the urban cocoon of Honolulu we were struck by the beauty of the island of Oahu, especially the beaches and rugged, bush-clad hills of the north-east coast. We also discovered a little literary gem there.

In 1866, at the age of 31, Mark Twain arrived in the Hawaiian Islands to spend four months as a correspondent for the leading newspaper on the Pacific Coast of America. In 1872 he drew upon these articles and his personal notes for the Hawaiian chapters in his travel book, Roughing It. In recent times the Hawaiian material has appeared on its own in a little volume titled Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing it in the Sandwich Islands (Mutual Publishing, 1990, 106 pages). It is a fascinating and engaging read. It includes photos and engravings of Hawaiian scenes from the time – particularly striking is a scene of Hawaiians surfing on wooden boards.

Mark Twain in Hawaii

The self-deprecating humourist describes his first experience of surfing: “In one place we came upon a large company of naked natives, of both sexes and all ages, amusing themselves with the national sport of surfbathing. Each would paddle three or four hundred yards out to sea, then face the shore and wait for a particularly prodigious billow to come along; at the right moment he would fling his board upon its foamy crest and himself upon the board, and here he would come whizzing by like a bombshell! It did not seem that a lightning express train could shoot along at a more hair-lifting speed. I tried surfbathing once, but made a failure of it. I got the board placed right, and at the right moment, too; but missed the connection myself. The board struck the shore in three-quarters of a second, without any cargo, and I struck the bottom about the same time, with a couple of barrels of water in me.”

The book is rich in historical interest and enlivened by Twain’s robust sense of humour. He describes, for instance, what happened when the missionaries imported and distributed clothes in order to get the people not to come to church naked: “And they did not; but the national spirit of unselfishness led them to divide up with neighbours who were not at the distribution, and next Sunday the poor preachers could hardly keep countenance before their vast congregations. In the midst of a hymn a brown, stately dame would sweep up the aisle with a world of airs, with nothing on but a “stovepipe” hat and a pair of gloves; another would follow tricked out in a man’s shirt, and nothing else; another would enter with a flourish, with simply the sleeves of a bright calico dress tied around her waist and the rest of the garment dragging behind like a peacock’s tail off duty.”

Mark Twain’s take on the missionaries is at times satirical – “How sad it is to think of the multitudes who have gone to their graves in this beautiful island and never knew there was a hell!” But I was struck by how positive he is about their overall impact upon the lives of the Hawaiians. He writes of the tyranny of the chiefs before the missionaries came, and sums up the impact of their arrival: “ the missionaries have clothed them, educated them, broken up the tyrannous authority of their chiefs, and given them freedom and the right to enjoy whatever their hands and brains produce with equal laws for all … The contrast is so strong – the benefit conferred upon this people by the missionaries is so prominent, so palpable and so unquestionable, that the frankest compliment I can pay them, and the best, is simply to point to the condition of the Sandwich Islanders of Captain Cook’s time, and their condition today. Their work speaks for itself.”

A major transformation brought by the missionaries, to which Mark Twain refers several times, is the ending of human sacrifice. The extraordinary change which has taken place becomes vivid as he visits the national Legislature and contemplates the figure of the eighty year old President: “This man … has charged at the head of a horde of savages against other hordes of savages more than a generation and a half ago, and revelled in slaughter and carnage; has seen hundreds of his race offered up in heathen temples as sacrifices to wooden idols, at a time when no missionary’s foot had ever pressed this soil; has believed his enemy could secretly pray him to death; has seen the day, in his childhood, when it was a crime punishable by death for a man to eat with his wife, or for a plebeian to let his shadow fall upon the King – and now look at him; an educated Christian; a high-minded elegant gentleman; a man practiced in holding the reins of an enlightened government, and well versed in the polities of his country.”

Also intriguing is Twain’s account of the death of paganism just before the missionaries arrived. When a new king broke a number of ancient taboos without suffering any ill effects, belief in the old gods quickly withered. As a result, the nation was effectively without a religion when the first missionaries arrived. Twain writes, “The missionary ship arrived in safety shortly afterward, timed by providential exactness to meet the emergency, and the Gospel was planted as in a virgin soil.”

Mark Twain famously described the Hawaiian group as “the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean” and more than twenty years after his visit he wrote this poignant tribute:

“No alien land in all the world has any deep strong charm for me but that one, no other land could so longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf beatP1070512

is in my ear, I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud wrack; I can feel the spirit of its woodland solitudes, I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.”

The Wonder that is Wendell Berry

The Wonder that is Wendell Berry

Over the summer holidays I read one of the finest novels I have ever come across – Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. For those who haven’t yet encountered him, Wendell Berry is an outstanding figure on the contemporary literary scene. He has not only published over forty books of poetry, fiction and essays, but he is also a widely-respected social critic and environmental activist. Berry is also a Christian and therefore in the uncomfortable position of finding his faith unpalatable to some who share his social and political values, and at the same finding those values alienate him from some who share his faith.

In a profoundly counter-cultural move, he turned away from early academic and literary status to spend most of the last forty years of his life farming a small patch of land in Port Royal, Kentucky. That locality is obviously the inspiration for the fictional community of Port William on the Kentucky River which is the setting for Jayber Crow and a number of his other novels and short stories.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                wendell-berry-c-guy-mendes_crop

The central character and eponymous narrator of Jayber Crow sets out to become a minister, but loses his faith and his calling and returns to his small community where he becomes the town barber. In that role he becomes the astute observer of the changing social landscape and unintentional confidant of many of its inhabitants. This is above all a novel about love – love and respect for the land, love of a way of life that is being destroyed by a harsh modern economy, and love for people and the value of community. And at its heart is a haunting story of an unusual and unrequited personal love.

images (8) This is a highly evocative novel without a word wasted. You find yourself inhabiting the lanes and fields, the town, the farms, the hill-sides, the river and the sun-dappled plantations of Jayber’s world. It’s a novel, too, about the value and dignity of ordinary people battling the destructive forces let loose in the wider world. It wonderfully captures the down to earth humour of a country community.

It is also a novel that intriguingly and insightfully addresses the big issues of time and eternity. Jayber is an intelligent and reflective character. He grows back to a faith that is much more rooted in the love and goodness of God. He reflects: “If love could force my own thoughts over the edge of the world and out of time, then could I not see how even divine omnipotence might by the force of its own love be swayed down into the world? Could I not see how it might, because it could know its creatures only by compassion, put on mortal flesh, become a man, and walk among us, assume our nature and our fate, suffer our faults and our death?”

Because it is a novel about love it is also about suffering and the reflection that brings: “Just as a good man would not coerce the love of his wife, God does not coerce the love of His human creatures…. To allow that love to exist fully and freely, He must allow it not to exist at all. His love is suffering. It is our freedom and His sorrow” (p. 254). The big question about suffering, of course, is – why does God allow it? Jayber poses the question well:

“Christ did not descend from the cross except into the grave. And why not otherwise? Wouldn’t it have put fine comical expressions on the faces of the scribes and the chief priests and the soldiers if at that moment He had come down in power and glory? Why didn’t He do it? Why hasn’t He done it at any one of a thousand good times between then and now?” Jayber answers his own question:

“I knew the answer. I knew it a long time before I could admit it, for all the suffering of the world is in it. He didn’t, He hasn’t because from the moment He did, He would be the absolute tyrant of the world and we would be His slaves. Even those who hated Him and hated one another and hated their own souls would have to believe in Him then. From that moment the possibility that we might be bound to Him and He to us and us to one another by love forever would be ended.” (295)

This is a wonderfully moving book about love and suffering, and what Wendell Berry calls our “short, surprising, miserable, wonderful, blessed, damaged, only life.” More than that, it is shot through with glimpses of another life. So while the directness is unexpected, it is not surprising or out of keeping near the end to read: “This is a book about Heaven. I know it now. It floats among us like a cloud and is the realest thing we know and the least to be captured, the least to be possessed by anybody for himself. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which you cannot see among the crumbs of earth where it lies. It is like the reflection of the trees on the water.” And a little later – “But the earth speaks to us of Heaven, or why would we want to go there?”


How do we decide how to vote?

As New Zealand’s national election nears, my mind goes back to a conversation I was part of years ago as a post-grad English student at Otago University. In the Senior Common Room of the College where I was staying at the time there were a young doctor and a young dentist, also doing post-grad work in their disciplines.

An election was approaching and the dentist was seriously undecided. “How do you decide who to vote for?” he asked. The doctor chuckled knowingly and said, “Hey, it’s easy. You’ve just got to work out whether you’re a ‘have’ or a ‘have not’. If you’re a ‘have’, you vote National; if you’re a ‘have not’, you vote Labour.”

Sounds cynical, and of course it is cynical. In fact, there’s the very definition of cynicism – “believing that people are motivated only by self-interest.” If we vote on that basis, the gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen, and our society will become increasingly less compassionate and more divided.

It seems to me that the only way to vote ethically is to consider whose policies will do most for the poor, the powerless and the deprived. Diametrically opposed to the guideline quoted above is a billboard which I saw recently: “If you’re doing OK, then cast your vote for those who aren’t.” That is an altogether more commendable (and Christian) guideline.

It concerns me when an organisation like Family First puts out a voting guide which examines the values of the political parties on a purportedly Christian basis and totally ignores care of the environment, poverty, and housing affordability. Of course, issues such as euthanasia and abortion are important, but the narrowing of the focus to social and sexual issues is seriously misleading – and a distortion of Christian faith.

From a biblical perspective, care of the poor and care of the earth are huge priorities laid upon us.  Both of these values are trodden under foot when the primary focus is on maximising profits and accruing personal wealth. The degradation of New Zealand’s rivers, lakes and waterways has become painfully apparent in recent years and no effective Government action has been taken to counter this. Instead our conservation estate has been run down (with over a hundred DOC rangers laid off) and the current mantra is no longer “Conservation for Posterity” but “Conservation for Prosperity.” Whichever party we’re going to support, we can’t do it on the basis of narrow self-interest or complacency about the last nine years.

At this point you may be thinking, “But hang on. What about the economy? Doesn’t our nation’s welfare depend to a huge extent on how well the economy is managed?” Indeed it does. And there is a prevalent view that National is the more astute economic manager of the two major political parties, and therefore to vote National is best for the country.  But have a look at the graph below. It’s a NZ Treasury graph for the years 1972-2017 showing which governments have been in surplus and which in deficit. (I’m indebted to Kelvin Wright, till recently Bishop of Dunedin and my predecessor as Vicar of Sumner-Redcliffs, for posting this on Facebook and colouring the graph according to which party was in power at the time.)


While the  graph shows that the greatest deficits occurred during the Muldoon, Shipley and Key administrations, and the greatest surpluses under Bolger and Clark, the significant thing is that overall surpluses and deficits are pretty equally shared between National and Labour governments. So it is a mistake to think that one party will necessarily provide better economic management than the other.

That being the case, it is not naïve to vote altruistically for the party which will do most for the poor and powerless – especially when we recognise that the “poor and powerless”  includes the environment which does not have a voice to speak for itself.

A Special Spiritual Memoir


Ever since Augustine’s Confessions people have recognised the value of spiritual memoirs –that is, the value of personal accounts of a life lived with or in search of God. Recently I re-read Lew Smedes’ little spiritual memoir, My God and I (Eerdmans, 2003, 178pp) and found it as engaging and heart-warming as I did the first time.

Lew Smedes was a much loved teacher, preacher and author who taught for many years at Fuller Theological Seminary primarily in the area of ethics. This book, completed shortly before he died in 2002, is not written for academic theologians, but for ordinary people who wrestle with the idea or the experience of God. It is warmly personal, wonderfully honest and very readable. 51085POa8iL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Smedes was born to Dutch immigrant parents and grew up on struggle street in Muskegon,  Michigan, his father having died when he was two months old, leaving his mother, who had no job skills and very little English, to bring up five young children on her own. He writes of her: “She never asked why she should have been stuck in a strange land with no husband, no money, and with five unreasonable kids; the question of “Why me?” never seemed to enter her head. She seemed convinced that whatever her lot, it was what had to be and that her job was simply to do as well as she could with what little she was given, never doubting that God has a tender spot in his heart for widows.”

Having grown up in a rather austere Calvinist setting where “God seldom wore a happy face”, he found God unexpectedly – in an English class at Calvin College. There his lecturer introduced him to a God the likes of whom he had never even heard about – “a God who liked elegant sentences and was offended by dangling modifiers.”  He writes:

Once you believe this, where can you stop? If the Maker of the Universe admired     words well put together, think of how he must love sound thought well put together; and if he loved sound thinking, how he must love a Bach concerto; and if he loved a Bach concerto, think of how he prized any human effort to bring a foretaste, be it ever so small, of his Kingdom of justice and peace and happiness to the victimised people of the world. In short, I met the Maker of the Universe, who loved the world he had made and was dedicated to its redemption. I found the joy of the Lord, not at a prayer meeting, but in English Composition 101.

The book is not a detailed autobiography; it is a pared-down memoir which could be read in a couple of evenings. It highlights key episodes in his life and his on-going wrestling with faith. Some of the things that intrigued or fascinated me:

  • Common Grace or Selective Grace?

One of the most intriguing things is seeing a Dutch Calvinist wrestling with Calvinism. Despite all that is good in the theology of John Calvin, at its heart is the dark doctrine of double predestination – i.e. the belief that God, before the creation of the world, choose some people to be saved and rejected the rest. Smedes asks the obvious question: “How can [some] Christians believe that God would do such a horrible thing as damn people before they had a chance to earn their damnation?” The Calvinist answer is that God created the world primarily for his glory, and that his power and glory are displayed in the fate of both the elect and the reprobate. To which Smedes responds: “It seems to me that we make God out to be a complete narcissist – someone who loves only himself – when we say that his main motive for creating the world was to get honour and glory for himself. It simply must be that he created us in order to love us, all of us, and all of us with the same love.”

This leads to the question – will everyone, then, be saved? As a young man doing his doctoral research, Lew Smedes was privileged to meet the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth. Conservative evangelicals were concerned that Barth inclined to the belief that all people would be saved, so he pushed him on this question. Here is what happened:

The folksy theologian fairly sizzled, put his face a few inches from mine, and crackled, Ich bin kein universalist (“I am no universalist”)! But he was not finished with me. He poked his finger into my chest and said to me: “You believe the Bible? Fine, then believe this verse too,” and he quoted St Paul, who said that Christ had died “not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.” “If you are so worried about universalism,” Barth continued, “you had better begin worrying about the Bible.”

Although he is not prepared to be dogmatic, Smedes does admit to what is a bold hope given his background. He knows that none of us is “good enough to buy a seat in heaven with the small coins of our virtue” and that, while God is merciful, he is also the judge. Yet he holds the hope that all people will be saved. “In fact,” he writes, “I cannot not hope for it. My hope is a spirit’s wish, a mind’s dream, and a heart’s faith that it never pays to underestimate the mercy of God.”

  • Learning from Great Novelists

While a post-graduate student at Oxford Smedes did a lot of his research at the Bodleian library. No books could be taken from the library and it closed at five, so he used his evenings to read the novels of Dostoyevsky which, he says, “were to be more important to my life with God than any single theological work that I have since read; no theological system could expose the complications and contradictions of the human spirit so vividly or demonstrate the mercy of God so powerfully as did the greatest of all Russian novelists.”

  • Knowing God in Tragedy

After a decade of visiting fertility clinics, Lew Smedes and his wife finally conceived – only to have their baby die within twenty four hours of birth. Smedes had been “intellectually excited” by what he calls “John Calvin’s tough-minded belief” that all things – the good and the horrible – happen just as God decreed them to happen and that they happen for his glory. After the death of their child, he could no longer believe “such hard-boiled theology” and his understanding of God changed. Yet in the midst of their suffering, he experienced the reality of God with them:

Doris and I cried a lot and we knew in our tears that God was with us, paying attention to us, shedding ten thousand tears for every one of ours. Neither of us had a moment’s inclination to give up on God, to quit believing in him or to quit trusting him. In fact, he never seemed more real to either of us.

Lew Smedes memoir could be read as one man’s wrestling with and humanising of hard-line Calvinism. But it’s wider and richer than that. It’s full of lively anecdotes and diverse experience as a humble, lovable, gifted man journeys through life, always seeking to live his life in relationship with the God he has met in Jesus:

I put all my eggs in God’s basket for one reason: Jesus died and came back to life again. Then he became the life-giving Spirit to give us, be it in driblets, a sampling of the good world we are waiting for. This is where the trolley stops. If it could be proved beyond doubt that Jesus did not come alive after he was murdered, we have lost our one and only reason for hoping that there can be a good future for the world. Without Jesus we are stuck with two options: utopian illusion or deadly despair. I scorn illusion. I dread despair. So I put all my money on Jesus.

In 1999 I had the privilege of attending a Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Church in Chicago. The best part of the conference for me was a preaching seminar led by John Ortberg. In one session he played a number of clips from well-known preachers. I’ll never forget the short clip of 80 year-old Lew Smedes preaching with great gusto on the incarnation. He mentioned the TV drama “Upstairs and Downstairs” and recounted his experience of that when a post-grad student at Oxford. His wife and he lived upstairs and their landlady, Mrs Harris, lived in the basement below – and she got upset if he broke the distinction of being the “gentleman” and tried to do chores for her. Then, building on this analogy, he declared in ringing tones, “God was in the Penthouse on the 1000th floor and we were in the basement. But Jesus came all the way down, he came down and he brought his toothbrush and his pyjamas, and he came to stay. He came to stay!”


Transformed Lives

Where can we find the power to change our lives? Many of us are “stuck” – trapped in negative outlooks, destructive habits, and unhappy relationships. Where can we find the transformation that we long for when this is the case?

In the last week, I’ve come across two remarkable stories of the difference that coming to committed faith makes in people’s lives. These are stories of the transforming power of encounter with the living God.

The first story I heard at a wedding. The parents of the groom grew up without any faith. I’ll call them Mike and Chris, though those are not their names. When their children were still young, their marriage was in such difficulty that they resolved to end it. They decided that the following Thursday night Mike would move out and they would go their separate ways.

On the Thursday morning they received a phone call from friends who had heard about their decision. The friends said, “We know what you’re planning to do, but we’ve got something we need to tell you. Please don’t do it; we’ll be around tonight to say what we need to say to you.” Mike and Chris agreed to delay their separation and to meet with them that night.

The friends arrived and explained that just a few days ago they had come to faith in Christ and they wanted to share with Mike and Chris the difference this had made in their lives. Mike and Chris listened, and that evening they also committed their lives to Christ.

Since then their lives and their marriage have flourished. They are a wonderful couple and the quality of their family life is obviously special.

Two days later I heard the second story. Matt was interviewed at a church service, and he shared some more of his story with me afterwards. Matt had grown up in a troubled home and had got into drugs and other destructive behaviour. In his late teens he was invited to a Christian youth camp, but had not the slightest inclination to go –  until he heard there would be a rugby game at the camp. He was a pretty angry young man and said part of the attraction of the game was that it gave him a chance to “smash some Christians! ”

However, that night at the camp he had an overwhelming experience of God’s reality and love – an experience that began to revolutionize his life. His addictions to drugs, alcohol and violence fell away; his motivation and relationships were renewed. He’d been well-mentored, had done some study, and gone on to become a youth worker having a significant ministry in his city, and was happily married.

What made his story even more special was the flow-on effect in his birth family. His parents and siblings had come to faith as well and their lives and attitudes had been renewed.

Just thinking about these two stories puts a smile in my heart. And I’m reminded of the words of Jesus: “Look. I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:5)

Valuing our Wilderness


Recently I headed off on my own for a day hike up Bealey Spur near Arthur’s Pass.  A big anti-cyclone straddled the country and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The slightly more mellow autumn light gave a golden glow to the ridges and valleys. There was a wonderful freshness about the morning, and, as I gained height, the spur provided  grandstand views over the wide, braided Waimakariri valley to the peaks of the main divide.


From the little cluster of batches at its base, the spur leads through beech forest, followed by Manuka and Kanuka scrub, then out into open parkland covered in tussock and hebes and dotted with tarns. The view grows grander as you climb higher. After a couple of hours, the track enters more bush and then, in a clearing, appears the charming old musterers’ hut, built in the 1920s when sheep were grazed high up on the ridge, and now owned by DOC. I met three young Brits who’d spent the night in the hut and found it a little hard to sleep with a smoky fireplace and mice scampering over their bunks in the night.


Above the hut is a prominent small peak at 1544m which gives 360 degree views of mountains, valleys, rivers, bush and scree. From there you can look down the full length of the spur past the hut and across to a large tarn on Lagoon Saddle (part of the popular two-day Cass-Lagoon Saddle tramp.) To the north one’s gaze is captured by Mt Rolleston and the dazzling light of the Crow glacier and to the west by the big glaciated peaks at the head of the Waimakariri. It’s very easy to burst out into “How Great Thou Art” up there – especially the lines about looking down from “lofty mountain grandeur.”

But life is also about people, and I didn’t have this mountain world to myself. In the course of the day I met a succession of young people – from Britain, Italy, France, Belgium, Israel, Germany, and the US. (If you want a cosmopolitan experience without the cost of air travel, just go tramping in the South Island back country.) In total, I met 21 people on the track, and only one of those was a Kiwi.

It raised a question or two in my mind. Admittedly, it was a week day when most Kiwis are working and it was a prime month for overseas tourists. But might it be that, while the rest of the world is appreciating our national parks as never before, New Zealanders are taking them for granted? As we become more urban, are we losing sight of the amazing natural world which beckons beyond the city?

And does our Government value our natural world sufficiently? Towards the end of the day, I met an older American couple who told me they were on their third visit to NZ. It was their last full day before flying back to the States and they’d come up from Christchurch especially to spend their final day in our high country. The husband said to me, “You should be charging us a wilderness tax for this.” I said, “I think our Government is afraid that if it did it would lose tourist dollars.” His response was: “This would be cheap at almost any price!”

Meanwhile two Government ministers, Paula Bennett and Stephen Joyce, have recently ruled out a tourist tax to support infrastructure and conservation. This seems bizarre when many tourists would obviously be only too willing to contribute to our national parks and when the Department of Conservation is chronically underfunded.


Two Friends, Two Lives

On successive days last week Liz and I attended the funeral/memorial services of two very special friends – Jeremy Clark and Tim Pidsley, aged 50 and 53. The sense of loss was heightened not only by their relatively early deaths (and in Tim’s case by its shocking suddenness) but also by the sheer quality of their lives.

Jeremy grew up in Christchurch, came to faith in early adulthood, and entered the Anglican ministry.  After a curacy at St Stephen’s, Shirley, in Christchurch, he and his wife Catherine moved to England to be closer to her family. He ministered in parishes in the Wirral and Devon until a little over two years ago.

Jeremy Clark

Liz and I were in England in September 2014 visiting family. We hoped to catch up with Jeremy and Catherine during that time, but it didn’t work out with our travel plans and his. He e-mailed me to say, “Don’t worry. I’m coming back to Christchurch in November. I’ll see you then.” We returned to New Zealand in early October, and the day after we returned Jeremy was diagnosed with terminal melanoma. He e-mailed me: “Won’t now see you in November. It will be at a later date, or in a greater light.”

Jeremy has now entered into that greater light, but during these last two years he has had an extraordinary ministry through his blog, Tracing the Rainbow through the Rain. The blog is remarkable – and it has had over 170,000 hits. It is movingly human and honest about the fears and struggles of terminal illness; and it is simply inspiring in showing the difference faith in Christ makes when facing the greatest challenges. (Within a few months of his own diagnosis, Jeremy had to also face the loss of his 23 year old son, Ben, who caught a rare virus and died after suffering repeated brain seizures.)

The trajectory of Tim Pidsley’s life was the exact reverse of Jeremy’s. He grew up in Devon, did a degree and worked in the UK, then came to Christchurch to live and work in the area of leadership and organisational development. As a director of Tricordant and Leadership Lab, his clients included NZ District Health Boards, The National Library, Shell, and the National Health System, UK.


Tim became a very involved and hugely loved member of the church I pastored in Sumner-Redcliffs. He had a great appetite for outdoor adventure and was an expert climber, skier, sailor, kayaker, and cyclist. It wasn’t long before he completed the Coast to Coast, the classic race from one coast of the South Island to the other. It was an enormous shock to everyone who knew him when he was found dead in his bed after completing the BDO Cycle Race from Wellington to Auckland in February.

Tim had a remarkable gift of friendship. Although single, he related to a whole range of couples and families with whom he was a great hit. He had a penetrating, thoughtful mind and was a stimulating person to talk with. Despite his physical strength and intellectual ability, he was gentle and humble in manner and very considerate of others. Calm and positive in outlook, he was an excellent person to have around in a crisis.

Everyone who knew Tim well saw that his character qualities flowed from his faith. He embodied what he believed. A close friend said of him that “his faith was under-stated and over-lived.” Another friend said that “he gave us a master class in living.” He walked humbly with his God and lived a life of love.

With the loss of Jeremy and Tim, the world seems a poorer place. Yet the quality of their lives and the reality of their faith were such that I am convinced that death does not have the last word over them.  At Jeremy’s service, his father read the well-known passage from John 11 in which Jesus comes to Mary and Martha after their brother Lazarus has died and says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). I’m a Christian because I believe that Christ, not death, has the final word over human destiny.