Quentin loves superheroes. After all what 6 year old boy doesn’t? Most nights as we lay on his bed after family prayers, he asks for (read begs for), a superhero story. I do my best to oblige with outlandish tales of Captain America, The Hulk, Ironman, Superman, Batman, or a host of other characters. They fly around accomplishing harrowing feats of skill, all the time making the world a better place. A place where there is safety and hope. While there are some individual stories, Q’s favorite are those that feature multiple superheroes working together. The more the merrier when it comes to superheroes, right?
When I think about it, superhero teams are a pretty good analogy for the church at its best. After all, the church is made up of all kinds of people with different passions, strengths and gifts. Alone they can accomplish quite a bit, but when they work together they, like superheroes, accomplish seemingly impossible feats. I mean Captain America is fast, strong, and smart, he can do a lot, but what if he needs a little help getting to the top of a building or flying across the city. In steps Ironman to fill the gap with his futuristic rocket boosters.
We experienced a superhero like effort over the past several weeks. For the past two and a half years we have been blessed to lead the formation of Nazarene Theological College’s Auckland Campus. We have established four courses a year and the program is serving right around 50 students each year. It has been incredible to be a part of the work of God in this way. During each class, the teaching has been excellent, the students have worked hard, but there has been one glaring problem. We needed a library. Our students had very limited access to resources to aid them in their studies.
In stepped our very own team of superheroes. It all started almost two years ago when we were discussing this program with my librarian father in law Lon Dagley. Lon offered to see what he could do to help with this problem. Over the next few months God planted a vision for a fully functioning NTC-AKL library in Lon’s heart. Lon started collecting books to add to the few we already had, packing them in bags and bringing or sending them to NZ one 50 pound airplane checked bag at a time. We also started receiving books in the same fashion from the main NTC campus in Brisbane, Australia.
In the meantime, I enlisted my parents to help build bookshelves during two of their trips to visit us. We were preparing for the day when the library would be ready to go. About a year ago it really started coming together. Lon came into possession of 2,700 books earmarked for New Zealand. Over the course of the next several months Lon and his library assistants sorted and packed 88 boxes of books. The boxes were numbered and the books itemized, definitely a superhero like feat. In December of 2017 the books were loaded on pallets to begin their long journey to New Zealand. They arrived at our doorstep in April of this year. Read about it here.
By this time we knew we had somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 books. We were so excited but there was still one major obstacle. The books had come from at least 4 different places. Some had been part of libraries, some part of donated personal collections, and some were just already here. Somehow we needed to take all these books and organize them so that they would be accessible to our students. After all it doesn’t matter how many books you have, if you can’t find what you’re looking for.
Enter our superheroes. I lovingly call this group Lon’s librarians, and yes they are superheroes. I imagine them shouting “Librarians Unite!” as they travel the globe preparing and equipping libraries for the training of pastors and lay people. A few weeks ago this team of four librarians arrived in NZ from around the world. Two came from Kansas City, one from Vermont, and one from Manila Philippines. They descended on the library like ants on honey. Noreen, the last one to arrive on Monday, walked into the library after traveling for around 24 hours, and said “What can I do, where do I start.” She worked for several hours before dinner that evening.
Noreen wasn’t alone though, this team of people attacked their work with a vengeance. They were determined to sort, catalogue, and shelve every single book during their two week trip. The goal was clear, when their time was up, students would be able to begin checking out books.
After the first day however, the general consensus was that there might just be two many books and not enough time to get it all done. But united this team had the ability to do even more than any of us could imagine. One day I watched in amazement as Lon worked on library technology elements, Meagan catalogued books at blistering speed, Debbie entered new titles into the system, and Noreen catalogued and shelved. Occasionally they would converse in library lingo I couldn’t understand, but judging by their tone I could tell they were quickly resolving any problems they encountered along the way. Each day they got even faster and at the end of the first week there was a gleam of hope that this project could be completed.
Fast forward to the last day in the library. When we packed up to make our way to the airport Lon’s librarians had catalogued over 4,400 books, all of which were properly shelved and ready for checkout. A computer and scanner had been set up to facilitate student checkout and nine bags of duplicate books were ready for transport to other NTC sites around the region. As we left Debbie remarked “It is a miracle that we were able to get this all done.”
She’s right, it is a miracle. It’s a miracle God has done through this team of faithful servants. They were willing to give fully of themselves and their gifts so that God’s miracle could be worked through the completion of a theological library. Their faithfulness will literally impact hundreds of pastors and leaders as they study for ministry. Those pastors will impact generations of Christians. Truly this was the effort of heroes, even super heroes.