A three and a half hour drive south east of Auckland, Kawerau (Maori for Spirit of the Forest), a town in the central North Island of New Zealand, is not a typical place on the map of any international organisation. Yes, Norske Skog, the Scandinavian multinational, has a paper mill in this town of 7000, and yes, Kawerau is picture perfect at the foot of Mt. Edgecumbe in the midst of the Tarawera forest, but this idyllic setting belies a town beset by problems. With perhaps the highest unemployment and youth suicide rates in the country Kawerau is a town that has over the last year seen an amazing outpouring of the move of God in transforming lives and bringing hope and love to the youth of the town.
Left: Norske Skog Papermill / Right: Tarawera River waterfall
In a town beset by problems, drawing kids as young as 11 away from the dope house to the church house has been the hallmark of the revival taking place in this town over the last year. This transformation has had one simple hallmark – Love. Based around the Kawerau Community church and its pastors Matai and Cissie Bennett, this awakening has been driven by a simple desire to let the people of the community and especially youth, know that they are created for a purpose, they are loved and that there are people who for no other reason than pure love are willing to invest into their lives and plant hope where none existed. No theology, no agenda, just the commitment to draw the youth into all that they were created to be.
For those of you who may not be aware there has been a major revival early last year in Kawerau. Led by the Kawerau Community church and pastor Matai, this town beset by problems, unemployment, youth suicide and drugs had over 300 young people attending evening services and giving their heart to the Lord.
Let Your Light Shine Charitable Trust has been formed through a partnership with the church to take revival to more than spiritual – to build on it to transform the community by meeting practical needs. We have committed to going down once a month (on the third weekend of each month) and helping with practical projects as well as doing some preaching/teaching. We have already had so much enthusiasm from people to come and help and would love for more people who may feel led to join us.
Outline of Programme
- Business and Strategic Planning workshops
A group of business-minded people conduct these workshops. We invite local people with business ideas to come together and work through their plans at the micro level, one-on-one with local businesses, but also at a macro level, thinking of and working through some of wider business and community issues. We also conduct business workshops on different business topics. Our new initiative is to introduce business from out of the Bay of Plenty area to Kawerau and assess the advantages of setting up business in Kawerau.
- High School students workshops
Adults and young adults with a real passion for Maths and the Sciences conduct homework and study workshops. We want to see students excelling in these subjects, especially in high school. If the kids are at intermediate level we will extend these workshops to them. We will be building a team and will extend these subjects to other study streams to help kids come to grips with, excel in and then develop a passion for these academic subjects. We have set up a chess club and we are gearing up the kids to enter in the national chess championship.
- Women empowering women
Women will come alongside the local women and build relationships. The goal of these sessions is to build relationships but though these relationships they can pass on various skills, be it parenting, sowing, crafts, or character building.
Healthy Living and Cooking Group
We build garden boxes in backyards of selected people and then we help them with information and also assistance to grow their own veggie gardens. Once a month when we go there for the weekend we have cooking classes and give them the knowledge and skills to cook healthy food. We are planning to work with a local supplier and provide them with fruit trees as well.
We have a Saturday evening session once a month and have a speaker and worship and end the session with praying for healing, wholeness and spiritual direction.