Auckland, New Zealand
Several years ago, Matthew Butler walked away from his Christian faith. The South New Zealander was done with Jesus and had dusted his hands of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. All that would change, however, on a weekend in November.
There were many challenges, but by the weekend all of the scepticism and negativity had faded away and there was nothing but positives.
New Zealand played host to its first One project event earlier this month (November 8-9), with more than 170 people from across the country—as well as Australia, New Caledonia and the United States—gathering at East Auckland City Adventist church for the weekend program.
Among those attending was Matthew, who through the open conversations and presentations about “Jesus. All.”, rekindled his love for his Saviour and his Church.
“[It] makes me want to be involved in the Adventist cause again,” he said.
And he’s not alone.
La Sierra University (Riverside, California) chaplain Pastor Sam Leonor speaks during the One project in Auckland.
“One project has brought Jesus back in sight . . . to the centre of my sights,” said Noeline Timothy. “Every decision I’m faced with, Jesus comes to mind and then several choices come into play because I’m reminded of the One project talks.”
It’s what people have come to expect from the One project—the transformation of lives. The how or why, however, is harder to pinpoint.
“It’s really hard to explain to people what the One project is,” says co-founder and presenter Pastor Japhet De Oliveira. “You simply have to experience it.”
SNZC president Pastor Damien Rice participates in the round table discussions.
Since 2009, 16 One project gatherings have been held in nine countries around the world. Four of these gatherings have taken place in Australia, with Perth the latest city to host an event.
Despite its well-established presence in Australia, Rod Long, leader of the One project in the South Pacific, says each event is unique. “Every gathering is different because the most significant part of the time is spent in conversation around tables,” he says. “Therefore it will always take on a local context.”
New Zealand’s inaugural One project was also unique in terms of the age of its audience, with participants largely made up of mid-30 to 50-year-olds.
“It was definitely a different flavour to the events I’ve been to in Australia, where the audience has traditionally been much younger,” said Pastor Ray Moaga, Youth Ministries director for the South New Zealand Conference (SNZC). “It was amazing to see the movers and shakers of the church so interested and involved.”
A communion service was held on Sabbath morning.
That’s not to say bringing the One project to the fresh, green pastures of New Zealand was easy.
The gathering was almost cancelled several months ago due to slow registrations. New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC) Family Relationships Ministries director, Pastor Victor Kulakov, said “people were asking a lot of questions” in the lead up to the event, “not sure if it would be something they would need and/or enjoy.”
Pastor Moaga also noted the difficulties in getting people to “buy into” the idea. “There were many challenges, but by the weekend all of the scepticism and negativity had faded away and there was nothing but positives.”
Both Pastors Kulakov and Moaga said the success of the One project was due in large part to the collective enthusiasm of Adventist Church leaders in New Zealand. North New Zealand Conference (NNZC) Youth and Children’s Ministries leader, Pastor Lance Boulton, spearheaded the initiative with the backing of NNZC “lead pastor” Eddie Tupai and SNZC president Pastor Damien Rice, both of whom attended part of the program. The One project also received the endorsement of NZPUC president Dr Brad Kemp.
This is something people should understand about the One project—it doesn’t go where its not invited. It only seeks to work hand-in-hand with the greater mission of the Adventist Church.
“I was refreshed to see that One project: Auckland in no way undermined the Adventist belief system,” said local pastor Adrian Webster. “Neither did it introduce strange Emergent Church practices. It upheld Jesus, front and centre, in all we believe and practice as Seventh-day Adventists.”
Attendees join hands in prayer.
Church leaders in New Zealand are finalising plans for a second One project event in 2015, much to the delight of Pastor De Oliveira. “For us, as long as it drives the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the gatherings are a good thing,” he says.
Click HERE for more testimonies from the One project in Auckland.