It’s school holiday time down under. This isn’t a summer vacation kind of school holiday. It’s a middle of the winter school holiday. Think: Christmas break minus all of the holidays and associated festivities. The school schedule in New Zealand is actually quite a bit different than students in North America experience. The school year starts at the beginning of February after a 6-week summer/Christmas holiday. Every term (quarter), the kids get two full weeks off of school during which families make a break for the beach. Except during the winter holiday when every family escapes the relative cold to a nearby Pacific island or road trips to the one spot on the North Island that has snow. Due to our exceptionally mild winter, the ski season hasn’t officially begun on Mt. Ruapehu (3 hours south of us), but there’s enough man-made snow for the bunny slopes and sleds and a few icy snowball fights. Then, there are those who remain at home: parents who are working and saving days off for another holiday… parents and kids huddling together on the frosty mornings… caregivers who are escaping to the malls to keep small kids occupied during two solid weeks at home… and us.
What would we do during a winter school holiday? Put everything we’ve learned from years of Vacation Bible Schools, after school care, and summer programs to good use, of course! We’re spending our week facilitating Mission to M.A.R.S., a school holiday program for 5-12 year olds. It’s part Vacation Bible School with goofy character-driven skits, dramatic Bible story retelling, artistic endeavors, themed morning tea (snack), crazy games, and the silliest of songs. However, since our school holiday program takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, it’s also part after school care or summer care with space-themed science experiments a visit from the Hamilton Astronomical Society and giant bubbles.
We’re having a great time singing, playing, dancing, eating, laughing, creating, and learning with a great group of kids. A few are from our neighborhood, our church, and Kids’ Club. Others are the older siblings of littles who come to our groups for mums and tots during the school sessions. Still others are brand new to us, jumping in for a week of fun while parents work or are otherwise occupied. As amazing as these kids are, we couldn’t do it without a great team. Our intern, Caleb—a.k.a Sid, is helping to lead the way. Parents and partners in ministry are giving up work days to squeeze in time to help. Secondary students from Hamilton and Auckland are hanging out with kids half their size (or less… see the pictures!!). And, as an added bonus, my parents are here. As expected, we promptly put them to work.
If you know us, you know this week is about more than just school holiday care. It’s about investing in kids and families. It’s about planting seeds, and shaping lives, and serving our community. We’re having a great time this week, but we also anticipate that these days will bear the fruit of new and deeper relationships, and that ultimately the hope and love of Christ will shine through us into the lives of these fantastic kids and their families.