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The Practical Christian Life
The things you believe will affect every facet of your daily life. Our spiritual Church life is completely entwined with the practical Community life. Everyday problems are spiritual issues to be solved through prayer, counsel and by following the Word of God in faith. If we cannot find an answer to a problem directly from the scriptures, we apply Biblical principles as much as possible, and then seek guidance through prayer and counsel.
So far as our economy is concerned, it's never wise to put all your eggs in one basket, so we have several sources of income from ventures such as dairy farming, deer farming, and the manufacture of meat meal.
Our farming company has several ventures; the most prominent is dairying. Our herd is one of the most productive Jersey Studs in New Zealand, and we are constantly seeking to upgrade the quality of our breeding herd through the use of imported semen and embryo transfer work. We milk hundreds of cows on our farms, and send our milk to the Westland Dairy Company in Hokitika. This mainstay of our economy also provides us with meat, drinking milk, icecream, butter, cream, yoghurt and cheese.
Much work has been done to reclaim swampy land on the farms and improve other areas for dairy pasture. The additional paddocks provide winter grazing areas for the herds. We have also planted many trees, including natives, Pinus radiata and Douglas Fir. The exotic trees will provide timber for future building projects from areas of the farm that are unsuitable for grazing or cropping. The native trees are growing in riparian margins, shelter belts and areas for reclaimed natural forest.
Our deer farm raises stags for velvet and trophy heads, and both stags and hinds for the venison market. This operation has been expanding each year, in the total area enclosed in deer fencing, in the number of deer, and in the quality of the livestock we breed using our own stags, artificial insemination or embryo transfer methods. The deer velvet is marketed world-wide as a dietary supplement with a range of benefits.
Our rendering plant, certified by New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, provides a major boost to our economy and an important environmental service to the meat industry. We use the deer offal they cannot dispose of easily, cook it, and dry it into a powder known as cervine meal. We make the greatest quantity of this in the world, to the best quality. The meal is exported in bulk container lots to the USA and Asia as a specialised ingredient for pet food. We also export tallow for use in pharmaceuticals. Other species we process include cattle and sheep, which make a meal for export to Asia.
We have also been involved lately in exploration work for gas and oil in the local district. Our company has an exploration permit from Crown Minerals and under its authority, we have drilled two oil wells and done seismic survey work to determine the best locations for future ventures in this area. Like many projects in the oil industry, the work is expensive and has uncertain outcomes, but there is huge potential for the benefit of the whole local district. We have also been happy to see the money spent on these projects go back into the local economy, providing work for other people. We plan this year to drill our third well - this time in the right location!
Our aircraft company is now flying charters anywhere in New Zealand and making scenic flights throughout the South Island. We presently operate and service three aircraft. The company was established in 2002 to extend the service provided by our previous aircraft maintenance firm that began in Canterbury in 1975 and moved to the West Coast in 1994. Our own engineers maintain all our aircraft and several community members are qualified airline pilots with experience in twin-engined aircraft.
Our men have also established a fire brigade service, and are trained to handle emergencies within our Community, and as a backup to other services in the local district.
The tradesmen who staff our community companies are essential, for without their efforts nothing would be built or fixed. Young people are trained as builders, joiners, plumbers, drain layers, electricians, computer technicians, painters, boiler operators, mechanics, aircraft engineers, pilots, draftsmen, farmers, digger drivers, teachers and accountants. Such is the demand that some learn two trades. In 18 years at Gloriavale, our own building programme has included the large community building, three accommodation blocks, a service shed, two rotary dairies, several farm buildings, an aircraft hangar, engineering and joinery workshops, a hydro electricity generating plant, covered swimming pool and processing factories for the meat meal and moss. Our engineers maintain tractors, trucks, vans and cars, as well as other machinery, while building new machines. Although some people may not generate income directly, they keep everything going for those who do.
Christian society provides a fulfilling lifestyle from birth to death, with salvation for the faithful at all times. The main events in life will be baptism, making a commitment to the community in early adulthood, then marriage, raising a family and taking on responsibilities. Older people will be looked after in the family before passing into eternity with Christ. In all those years, they never lack for spiritual, physical or material needs.
Children are reared to serve God in stable families where husbands love their wives, wives obey their husbands, and children honour their parents. As we trust God for our needs and do not practise birth control, a married couple may have 12 or more children. This natural increase helps us keep our living standards realistic and prevents us from becoming self-indulgent. Many aspects of our life revolve around managing these large families. The married sisters’ time is organised so they can keep their Community work commitments and still care for their children. The single sisters help married ladies with large families, knowing that when they are married, someone will help them.
Community living also allows us to economise on many items. For example, if our present families lived separately, we would have more 80 houses instead of four hostels, 160 cars instead of 16 vans and cars, and 70 mowers instead of one ride-on. We buy food and many supplies efficiently in bulk.
Our two-storied accommodation buildings have an open floor plan to encourage fellowship among the families on each floor. An extended family may take up one entire floor, allowing grandparents to be near their married children. We try to shift families around so that younger married couples can spend time with each set of parents. Our way of life is very different from western society, where the spirit of independence drives children out of the home and often far away, neglecting their parents in their old age. There is no generation gap in our society, but children honour parents for the gift of life.
Home births are important events, with about 35 babies born per year. In Australia in the 1950’s and 60’s, when few midwives or doctors would attend a home birth, the Community’s founder and his sweet wife had their babies at home. This inspired a young couple in the Church at Springbank in 1974 to believe in I Timothy 2:15 and have their first baby at home. This started the modern New Zealand home birth movement which spread throughout the country and is now an accepted option for mothers. Christian mothers take hold of God’s promise that they will be saved in child bearing if they walk in faith, charity and holiness with sobriety. Midwives who attend our births often testify to the ease with which our women have their babies. If complications arise we will go to hospital, but our mothers all prefer to have their babies at home, attended by their husbands, family members and a midwife. In 38 years, about 400 of our children have been born at home.
With the family as a cornerstone of our community life, stable marriages are essential. A young man seeking a wife will pray and seek God’s will with his parents and leaders before approaching his bride. The couple refrains from all physical contact during their courtship, which may last only a few weeks. During this time they learn to share their hearts and thoughts with each other. On the wedding day, the Church gathers for a meeting to share exhortations, songs, scriptures and experiences.
The couple make vows to God and each other before the Church, for no preacher can “marry” them. Then they go to a private place pleasantly prepared for love-making. As they consummate their marriage before God, He joins them together in a bond that only death can break. They return as a married couple to a wedding feast with the rest of the Church. God's plan is for couples to come to marriage as virgins, and remain faithful to each other for life. The state gives a piece of paper to certify a marriage and it also gives a piece of paper to grant a divorce, but what happens in the consummation of a marriage is not like paper, and cannot be torn up. It is a union that lasts until one partner dies. Priests, JPs and marriage celebrants cannot marry a couple. The committed man and woman marry each other through the sacred act of sexual union. The sexual aspect of marriage is not just a physical thing; it is a spiritual part of God's plan for people to be united in a special bond. Considering that a woman is the only female of any species to have a hymen, it is evident that God has created her in a special way, setting a seal upon her virginity to show the importance of marriage in His eyes. Marriage is a symbol of the bond between Jesus and his Church, and we look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, which we will celebrate when Christ returns shortly to take the Church out of this wicked world, unto himself. Keeping in mind this spiritual concept of marriage, and the plain teachings of scripture, we do not accept divorce and remarriage among our people.
The Community provides its members with a full life from the cradle to the grave. Young people enjoy a busy social life organized around the weekly family nights, young peoples' meetings and games, pre-wedding parties and special celebration days. School children have an end-of-year celebration each year, organizing the evening with their parents.
Each family enjoys a weeks' vacation each year, using the natural facilities around the property for include camping, boating, bush walks, sailing, fishing or water skiing.
Every person in the Community has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, so we have a brass band, several ensembles and an orchestra which practice regularly to keep up a repertoire of items for concerts and public performances. Community items are popular at Greymouth's Waitangi Day picnic and at other social events on the West Coast.
Among ourselves, we also have an active social system where couples, families or extended family groups may go out for a night to one of the houses or other buildings on the properties. We find this an excellent way to keep in touch with people that we may not see much of in the everyday working situation. None of our people lack for social entertainment as it is all provided in the midst of a Christian setting.
Each year, the married couples will host a very special evening for their young people, presenting musical and theatrical items as a token of their love and affection. In response, the young people will host a similar evening for their parents. These events keep the so-called "generation gap" away from our Community life, as young and old both see and appreciate the strengths and joys to be found in a family where Jesus Christ is upheld as the head of the Church.
Education is an essential part of training our young people for a life of service in the Christian Community. We comply with all government regulations in running our early childhood centres and our private school. Many of our people are also involved at tertiary level, completing apprenticeships, cadetships, diplomas or degrees to gain the qualifications needed in their trades.
Four early childhood centres provide undivided love and care for childen until school age while their mothers contribute to the Community work. Babies are given the best of care in one of two special centres, where their mothers come to breast feed them. At 15 months, the children move to our Toddlers’ Centre at one of the accommodation blocks. Here they continue with organised activities in the morning and a sleep in the afternoon. At about three years, they start at Preschool. A large play area and plenty of activities are the background to teach them basic principles of loving each other and respecting authority. The children eat lunch together and have a sleep in the afternoon before going home with Mum.
These four registered centres all pass their inspections from the government Education Review Office. Visitors often comment on the happiness and order of our children, who learn early in life the attitudes they need to live in Community.
Deep concern about the teaching of evolution and other ungodly values led us in 1971 to start our own Christian School where the Bible is read and upheld. Our own Christian teachers set a godly example and help prepare students for Christian Community life. We strongly emphasise literacy, numeracy, and practical subjects. Annual standardized tests show that our students are achieving very well. We currently have more than 120 primary and secondary students and the roll is steadily increasing.
Children spend the mornings in the classroom and the afternoons in practical Community activities with their parents and other adults to gain a balance between academic and practical learning. The 15 year olds normally enjoy their final school year in work experience with some part-time studies before entering into the Community workforce. When needed, some study further for particular purposes. Apprenticeships and tertiary education follow when beneficial for our life.
A common criticism of our community is that we are not "in the world, witnessing to people." We're not on Mars, either - and our witness is actually very strong. The claim that Christians need to be "in the world" too often becomes a snare and believers end up being "of the world", ignoring the strong Biblical principle of separation from the world. These issues were strongly in the mind of our founder.
After several decades of evangelising throughout Australia and New Zealand, our founder came to Rangiora, on the east coast of New Zealand, where several young people showed a willingness to enter fully into a sharing life. This became the nucleus of our Community, and the best possible vehicle for witnessing to unbelievers. A strong, united body of believers now had a real, physical environment in which new converts could find a practical way of serving God; there were no more problems with losing contact with people because you only saw them at meetings.
Literally thousands of visitors have been to our communities at Springbank, Gloriavale, and India, where they can hear the gospel being preached, and see it being lived. The main areas of our outreach today are
- witnessing at every opportunity
- converting our own children
- public concerts
- building a community in India
Our high birthrate and growing population means that we have an average of 30 to 35 new children in our midst every year, all of whom are born with the Adam nature and need to become Christians if they are to save their souls. Being born into a Christian family is no guarantee of salvation, so we spend a great deal of energy teaching, guiding and exhorting young ones to succeed in their personal faith.
A highlight of our social life is our concert season every second year. The concerts are a means of showing our appreciation to the local people we deal with, and sharing with them some of the blessings that God has given us. Concerts are performed in our Community dining room, which is transformed with huge backdrops and sets to suit the concert theme.
Our 2012 concert, Gateways to the Past, was seen by more than 5000 people during 23 performances. Up to 90,000 hours had been spent making costumes and props, painting backdrops, and designing special effects. We also spent many hours practising items and preparing meals. Our guests receive four hours of quality entertainment and a four course meal. The concerts feature musical items, dancing, songs, choirs, comedy skits and an orchestra. Our guests are rarely disappointed.
After establishing our community in New Zealand, we have also reached out overseas, sending people to preach the Gospel in India and to build a Christian Community there. This is a huge and challenging task, both spiritually and economically. But the Lord will build His Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, just as He has done here at the Gloriavale Christian Community. We seek to be as a city set on a hill, as Jesus said, that all men may see our good works, and glorify our Father which is in Heaven.