SIMS Students say So-Long

The team–after getting off the airplane in Auckland.

By Elizabeth

We’re coming up for air after nearly three weeks with eight fantastic students and one marvelous faculty mentor from Southern Nazarene University. SNU’s SIMS program connects students with opportunities to engage in cultures and missions experiences all over the world. This was our third year to host a team of SIMS students. You can read about our 2016 and 2017 teams here and here.

This team was the biggest we’ve ever hosted, which meant we were squeezing into often unused sleeping spaces and squishing into the cars. It also meant that they brought a ton of energy, talents, and a wide array of personalities with them. Our full schedules and full home were wonderful. We wouldn’t trade the opportunity to be involved in these kinds of experiences for the world!

Several families from our church joined in for our (and most of the team’s) first rugby game. This is relational ministry at its best!

One big challenge for this team was the fact that they were asked to completely disconnect from internet/phone calls/text messages/etc for the 19 days that they were on the ground. For Americans between the ages of 18 to 22, that feels nearly impossible—like they’re being cut off from the world and everything they know. (Don’t worry, both we and the faculty mentor had access to all kinds of emergency contact info, so they weren’t nearly as disconnected as they felt.)

What they didn’t know, is that it was the best possible thing in the world for them to have the opportunity to completely disconnect from the bombarding messages of social media and constant connectivity with home in order to be fully present with the people right in front of them. They were able to genuinely engage with the person across the table at morning tea, the person at the cash register at the coffee shop, and with each other.

This week, I’ve heard many people connected with our church community comment on what a special team this was. They facilitated lots of super cool activities, but even more important was the intentionality with which they engaged in relationships. The students took time to genuinely listen to people’s stories and build authentic community. The result was a formational experience for everyone involved.  

The team at one of our favorite locations. Halfway through the trip, we said, “We’re going to a place called Blue Spring where you can walk along a path by an amazing stream. You’re going to have 2 hours to get alone and be quiet. Take your lunch, your journals, etc.” They told us afterward that they thought they were going to be bored out of their minds at some boring old river. Haha! Where is the trust?! 😉 It ended up being a really special experience for all of them.

The relationships among team members became deep and significant as well. At our debriefing times, our students shared things like…

“…You’ve become like a family to me…”

“…I had no idea we would become this close…”

“…You’ve accepted me for who I am, and I really don’t feel like that anywhere else…”

They were honest about who they are and where they are on their journeys, and that was a beautiful thing.

Our students helped us host our second annual Young Adult Retreat for 18-30 year olds from across the district. Testimonies from our young adults was one of the most powerful parts of the weekend.

Here’s how a few of our SIMS students reflected on their time in New Zealand.

Our second annual Midwinter Christmas party was a smash success!


In my time in New Zealand I had a ton of fantastic experiences as I interacted with over twenty different cultures and had the pleasure of meeting locals, refugees, and the Graham Family. In the three weeks I spent in New Zealand, I was able to learn people’s stories and see God moving in many people’s lives. This trip has refreshed my spiritual life and given me a new perspective on the world and most importantly God. The message I can’t wait to take home to my church and family is that God is moving in Crossroads Church of the Nazarene, God is working in Hamilton, God is working in New Zealand, and God is working all over the world in the lives of different people with their own different and unique stories.

-Daniel Buckwalter

Our play groups offered plenty of time for baby cuddles!


I was so excited to come meet the people of Crossroads Church and get to know them during the time we are in New Zealand. I expected to walk away with new names and some funny stories, but God did a lot more than that. I learned about what it means to really be a part of a church community and truly participate in the lives of others. At the same time, I got to meet children of refugees from Somalia, Columbia, and multiple other countries. I have made so many deep connections with the Crossroads family, and I hope I am able to stay in touch and maybe even return to Hamilton one day. God is doing big work in this church, city, and country, and I am so glad I got to see a small part of this at work.

-Sarah Gunter

Some special families got together and hosted a night of kiwi kai (food) and a little kiwi English quiz. It was hilarious! The universal truth of cross-cultural relationships is that the minute you think you know exactly what the answer is, you’re wrong. 😉


New Zealand was amazing! The air here was so fresh, and it was nice to experience that. The people here are so sweet. I am so glad that we got to know a fair amount of people in Hamilton. It was so neat to see God moving through this country! I hope to come back some day.

-Hannah Glass

We celebrated a kiwi birthday complete with Indian food and kurtis (traditional Indian tunic-style dresses).


When preparing to go to a different country, I was warned of culture shock and how tiring this process can be.  While there were differences which I experienced such as different outlets, driving on the left side of the road, and shorter store hours, I was struck by how similar the culture of the church remained.  The people of Crossroads were inviting and kind.  I never felt like that weird outsider, but rather was adopted into the family.  In short, while my brothers and sisters from New Zealand may sound different from my brothers and sisters in America, they are still my family and we are all united through our love for God.  This trip has been a huge blessing as it showed me that though other cultures may show love differently, love is always shown, and that is a beautiful thing.

-Bekah Lumpkin

The university students spent their afternoons providing homework assistance and playing very silly games at an after school program for refugee children. These kids became real people with real faces and real names and real stories.


Everyone told me that going on a mission trip would be life changing. Now that we’re at the end, I realized that it was life changing in all the ways that I didn’t expect. After being immersed with over 20 different cultures and with people of all ages, I have learned how to be intentional in my interactions with people who are very different than me. I have loved getting to hear the testimonies and stories of people who are living out the faith over 8,000 miles away from where I live. I’m so thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to meet some incredible people and establish relationships with them through the love of living for Christ.

-Shelby Massey

The students wrapped up their time in New Zealand by shelving this entire shipment of books in catalogue order to get ready for the team of librarians that is coming next month!

Parting Shot

And the weather was perfect–much warmer than the two weeks prior. It rained, of course, but the leaves were putting on a display of brilliant colors and the sun graced us with its presence on several occasions.                                    Japanese Garden of Contemplation, Hamilton Gardens






  1. Thanks so much for hosting the SIMS team. When Hannah got home, she shared stories with us for almost 3 hours before we called it a night. Thank you, Elizabeth & Jaron, for hosting them, spending time with them and giving them this awesome opportunity. Thank you to the church for being a blessing to the team while letting them serve you. “May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may be filled with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit!” (Rom. 15:13)

    • Our pleasure! Thank you for this beautiful blessing from Romans 15:13. We loved having Hannah. Q, especially, adored her. He was immediately attracted to her knight t-shirts and loved her tireless patience and willingness to play!! It will be a delight to see how the team’s time in NZ continues to shape them for years to come!!

  2. What beautiful testimonies. Truly made me want to visit New Zealand again but especially Crossroads Church.

    Many prayers and blessings.
    Pastor Rhonda Bare
    Seattle 1st Church of the Nazarene

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *