Sunday, August 2, 2009

Aug. 2nd Update (SDTS)

Hey guys! I hope you all are well upon receiving this. I myself am well at the time of writing it, just doing my best to stay focused and not get distracted and side tracked from the task at hand, writing this update, which can sometimes be quite a mission (the writing as well as the not getting distracted). Well, it’s been brought to my attention that while most you know what I’m doing (staffing on a DTS), you don’t really know what I’m doing or am part of, so I thought I might take a moment to explain to you guys just what it is that I’m actually doing these days as a member of the staff team on this year’s school and just what kind of school I am part of.

For starters, the school is a YWAM DTS. Youth With a Mission, YWAM, is an international and interdenominational Christian organization that runs Discipleship Training Schools (DTS) all over the world. A DTS is a 6-month course split up into 2 phases, the lecture phase and the outreach phase, each being roughly 3 months. During the lecture phase, we have different national and international speakers come in for a week and teach on different subjects, all of which relate to the Christian walk of faith. For example, there might be a week on worldviews, another on healthy relationships, another on the character and nature of God, and so on and so forth. Then, for the outreach phase, we split up into teams and go out and try to apply practically what we learned during the lecture phase. The outreach portion may be done either nationally or internationally. For instance, both of my previous outreaches have been international (my first one, as a student in 07, being to India, and my second, as staff last year, to Indonesia) while some of my friends’ have been national (here within New Zealand). The goal of it all is to inspire and challenge the students to have a deeper and more personal faith.

The school I’m on staff for right now is a Snowboarders DTS, which is really cool for everyone who is involved with it because it means that we have all been brought together by our shared passions of snowboarding and God. We have 29 students and 10 staff and 7 different nations represented on this school. A typical weekday consists of lectures in the morning and either work duties or outreach prep or other community activities in the afternoons. We have a weekly trip to town on Fridays into Christchurch, where, after having done some shopping for the week, we split up into teams for local outreach (I’m one of two leaders who lead a skate-park outreach). Also, being a snowboarding school and all, we go up riding twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

I have found my DTS experience as a member of staff to be quite different from my experience as a student. For myself, I would say that my experience as a leader has been far more stretching, and growing, and beneficial, and enjoyable even (because of all those thing), than my experience as a student. My experience as a student was good but my staffing experience has been better, which I would attribute to having been given responsibilities and having to step up to see them accomplished.

My responsibilities this year abound. In addition to the regular responsibilities of staffing, which would include mentoring a small group of guys (4 of ‘em), having weekly one-on-ones with them (which is a set aside time where I check in with them, to see how they’re going, to offer help or advice, or to help them process stuff), driving to and from wherever, and putting together an outreach, I have several job roles on the staff team specific to me, such as coordinating all multimedia stuff and taking care of transport. It feels like I’m quite often very busy, which I’m trying to learn how to handle gracefully, by trying to improve on my time management skills. I know the old saying that says 'it’s not about working harder but rather working better' to be true, but the application of it I feel still evades me. However, busyness and all, I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing right now for anything. I am very passionate about what I’m doing and find it to be very satisfying. It’s so cool to see and be part of what has the potential to be such a transformational season in these students’ lives.

One of the other really exciting things about this school is our involvement with the local snowboarding culture and community. For example, last week we co-hosted a rail jam (a backyard snowboarding contest) with the Christchurch SFC crew. SFC, Snowboarders For Christ, is an international community of snowboarders, and it’s been really cool to be able to team up with them this year, to ride with, and support, and co-host events with one another. One of the events we co-host with SFC is Dinner On The House. Dinner On The House is basically a free feed. Every Saturday night, after a good day of riding, we offer a free meal to anyone who wants one. It’s held at a local church located at the base of one of the mountains at which we ride. While on the chairlift, or during lunch inside the lodge, we’ll hand out flyers advertising the event. At the event, in addition to the food, we have a projector set up showing some sweet as snowboarding films, a couple of ping pong tables, some foosball action, and pool table. It’s been awesome to see the interest in it grow and to have more and more people show up each week.

My outreach this year will be to China. I will co-lead a team of five with my good friend Sam, who is a fellow Colorado lad, and while there we will focus on doing youth and skateboard ministry. I’m pretty excited about it I must say. But it takes a fair bit of planning these outreaches, making sure you get all of your visas sorted, developing a budget, and etc., so if you could be praying for me for all of that, that would be brilliant. My other prayer requests would be for provision, unity within the team, and protection (for my team as well as our contacts who we will be working with) as China is still a closed country.

Well, thanks heaps to everyone who has been reading these updates and have been following along with what I’ve been doing while out here. And thanks to everyone who has given me little words of encouragement or have written quick little responses, I’ve really appreciated them. I’m not opposed to receiving snail mail either if anyone wanted to send me anything, and thanks to those who have taken the time to mail me the old fashioned way. My address here is:

P.O. Box 47

Oxford, North Canterbury


New Zealand

Just letters though please - I wouldn’t know what to do with a present, unless it were a care package with some hot sauces, as their selection of hot sauces out here is limited to say the least - I could really go for a bottle of Chipotle Tobasco or of Dave’s Insanity Sauce.

Also, be sure check this out:, it’s my staff profile for this year’s school on the Oxford base’s website.

Take care everyone,



my half of the room

the bachelor pad

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19th Update (BCC and Building)

Hey everyone! How are ya? I hope that you are all well when this finds you. As I write this, in one sitting hopefully, it is a pleasant Sunday arvo (afternoon). So far, it’s been a nice day. We got the day started off properly this morning with a great breakfast shared in great company. My roommate and I had the rest of the DTS staff team over at our apartment for pancakes, ham, and skillet style potatoes – it was quite nice. We’ve been doing the Sunday breakfast thing for the past several weeks now and it has been going really well. Everybody pitches towards it and shares in the consuming of what is made. It has been a good experience for me because although having been out of the house or away from home for the past year and a half or so, I haven’t really needed to work on my cooking skills because we live in a community where all the duties get divided up, and we have an amazing chef with us right now who cooks all of our daily meals, lunch and dinner, during the week. And when I say amazing, I mean it. She’s a young British girl who apparently cooked for the Queen on one occasion! So with her in the kitchen, I haven’t felt the need to try my hand at cooking. Plus, if I were to cook for myself, I’d have to supply all of my own ingredients and stuff which means I’d need to buy all that, which I’m uncomfortable with doing because it is, in essence, an unnecessary expense. However, making breakfast once a week has been fun. I hope to make some sourdough pancakes soon. It’s surprising that although they are my favorite style of pancakes, not many people have ever experienced them. And yes, it is an experience to all you uninitiated. It is a wonderful, delightful, and pleasurable experience.

Anyway, our newly established weekly breakfast tradition and pancakes is not what this update is supposed to be about. Rather, I wanted to update you on what I’ve been doing over the past several months and share about what has been happening here on base.

A few of you may recall receiving an update I sent out at the start of the year, in which I said that I was going to be attending, not staffing, another YWAM course – the BCC (Bible Core Course), which started at the end of February and ended in the middle of May. I can honestly say that those three months were simultaneously the best and worst, and hardest, and most intense three months I’ve had in a while. It would seem that I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I signed up to do it, which is a good thing because I don’t know if I would have done it had I known what it was actually going to be like. However, after having gone through it, and learning everything that I have, I’m glad I did it and have no regrets about it. But man it was hard.

The workload was such that, unless you were really, really, focused and on top of things and were super efficient and an ace at time management, you would be working six days a week, easy. I don’t know if you noticed or if you know me that well but none of those qualities really describe me. Not that I try to use that as an excuse for anything, it’s just that none of those skills/qualities are strengths of mine. I found it really hard trying to be disciplined and open to working on those areas of weakness and receive correction while understanding and acknowledging and accepting the fact that those areas of weakness are just that, an area of weakness, an area in which I don’t excel, a quality or skill that just doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. Anyhow, I could go further into detail and explain more about it, about my difficulties with it, but that’s not the point of this update. However, I’m not opposed to talking about it, so if you’d like to know more just let me know and I won’t hesitate to talk.

Moving on. Difficulties aside, what did I come away from it with? I came away with a much better understanding and appreciation of the bible, the times and the people it is written about, and a passion to continue to study and read it. Probably one of the biggest and most meaningful things it did for me was that it helped me to see how and where ‘biblical history’ and the rest of ‘world history’ intertwine and come together. It seems that as you grow up in the church you can start to sub-consciously develop a split mindset or understanding of world history. In Sunday school, all you hear and read about are the bible stories of the Israelites and in regular school all you hear about are the old world empires and kingdoms like the Egyptians and Assyrians, and while these are mentioned in the bible stories, the focus is never on them, so it can feel like there are two lines of history that never cross paths. However, we never realize, or at least I never did until recently, that the lines are one and the same. It was so cool when we laid stuff out on timelines and put dates to the stories, events, and people of the bible and saw how they interacted with the empires and kings and kingdoms of their time. It was super cool when we saw pictures of a wall that had been removed from an ancient Assyrian palace and put on display in the British history museum that had etched out in stone, in hieroglyphics, a story from the bible. A bible story recorded on what is a piece of ‘secular’ world history! So cool. It really made everything come to life for me.

While I was doing the BCC, there was another school going on as well here on base – the AW80 DTS, and while both of those were going on, there was a new building going in, so it was a bit crowded here for a while. It was a really cool time to be here though, so much change and growth was happening. It seems as though we are in a transitional season here, going through growing pains of sorts. The new building is to permanently hold the offices, as to this point they’ve been running out of some mobiles behind the main house. It also is where we’ll have the lecture hall and dining room and kitchen. The office and lecture portion are fully functioning and being put to use, but the kitchen has yet to be put in and probably wont be for maybe a year. Until then, we will continue to use the kitchen and dining facilities of the main house.

So the new building is finished for now. All that needs to happen to it for it to be ‘complete’ is for the kitchen to be put in and the heating system hooked up, both of which again will happen eventually in the next year or so. They went with a radiant floor heating system, which if you’ve had any experience with Kiwi building is a really, really big deal. I imagine it could easily be the only building in the North Canterbury region to have radiant floor heating. Their heating and insulating systems here are not impressive to say the least, if even in some cases existent. However, that is something that they are working on. The government is providing incentives to families that get their homes properly insulated. Funny thing though, I would’ve thought heating practices and technology to be the same worldwide, but I have come to find that they are not.

Another funny thing, while the building and the schools were going on, all of the builders made their residence on a plot of land behind the staff apartment mobiles. Basically, they created a little gypsy village! I’m deadly serious. The lived in these fifth wheel trailers and mobile homes of sorts, which were quite impressively remodeled I must say. The builders were volunteers from another missions oriented group and lived off of support as well during the span of their projects. They were some really cool individuals and families and I learned a lot from them and feel honored to have met and known them.

Well, I guess that brings us to now. Things have settled down a bit, there’s just one school going on, the Snowboarders DTS, of which I am part of, and excited to be so. We are already starting week 4 of the lecture phase, which is difficult to believe – man time goes so quickly when you are busy. But I will save that update for another day.

Take care guys,



Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 30 2009 Update

Hey guys! How are you all doing? I hope that you are all as well as I am. I count myself as being greatly blessed and quite fortunate to find myself again at the start of a third winter down here in New Zealand at the start of another Snowboarder’s DTS with YWAM. I did an airport run today to pick up some of the students, which was fun but quite a slap to the face as well, a strong reminder that this school is actually happening. The past several weeks we’ve been in staff training preparing for it, but now prep time is over and ready or not, here it is. I’m feeling ready enough for the school, a bit behind where I wanted to be with my own personal projects i.e. photo stuff and updates, but it’s all good.

I wanted to, as briefly as I can, get you up to date with how I am doing/have been and what I’ve been doing and what I will be doing.

I wanted to start out by sharing how my artistic/photography endeavors have progressed. A few of you may recall hearing about my being accepted as a finalist into a pretty well established New Zealand art competition, which I was pretty excited about, so I thought I should share how that ended. Basically, I didn’t win it, which I was a bit gutted about as I was really hoping, almost expecting that I would. I had it all planned out, how I was going to use the winnings (ten grand NZD) to pay off my schools and buy a camera, but as Robert Burns says “The best-laid plans of mice and men, Go oft awry”. So yeah, that plan has had to change a wee bit, which is a bit of a bummer because it seemed like such a good one. So anyway yeah, it was a bit of a disappointing finish to what was such a strong and encouraging start where I received two giant 20”x30” prints for the price of one, which even that one was paid for by an absolute stranger. However, disappointing finish aside, it was an awesome experience, which I know I was quite fortunate to be a part of – out of almost 400 entries, my piece was one of the few chosen to be shown. You can check out the website for the gallery where my piece was displayed and for the contest results at:

This whole art contest thing occurred during the BCC (Bible Core Course), which I attended and will speak more on latter, so on the opening night of the exhibition I grabbed a few friends and headed into town for the festivities. We had a good time attending the opening night. After finding my piece and being disappointed that it didn’t win we decided to have a look at the competition, or, uh, the other pieces on display. There was a little bit of everything there. A good mix of different medias (painting, sculpture, photography, etc.) were represented as well as the different styles within each (modern or contemporary, abstract, etc.). We found the piece that won and the three pieces that received the highly commended award and provided our obligatory commentary for each, we weren’t too impressed to say the least - blasted contemporary art! As we were preparing to leave, we found ourselves once more in front of one of the pieces awarded highly commended when one of my friend’s brothers who had come out for a brief visit all the way from Canada decided that the piece was wrongly awarded and took it upon himself to correct this dreadful mistake and award mine as being the rightful recipient of the highly commended award. The awards were simply an engraved plastic strip stuck to the wall with double sided tape so with the skills of a ninja he walked up and removed it and walked across almost the entire gallery to put it up under mine and then promptly exited. It was pretty funny. I went back a couple of days later and it seems they didn’t think too highly of our correction as they had returned it to its original location. Oh well, we tried.

So yeah, I think I’ve entered a total of five contests so far, and nothing has come out of any of them, but whatever. Almost four months ago, at the start of the BCC, I got some prints framed and put into a local gallery hoping to sell those, but those haven’t sold yet so I’m reconsidering my options there. However, the gallery has just moved to a slightly bigger town a little ways down the road so we’ll see if anything happens now with a bigger, fresher audience. I have also looked into trying to do a joint photo show with a friend at a couple of churches out here but that as well has been turned down. I’m looking at my options stateside. I’m looking into a couple of cafĂ©s but nothing’s certain yet. You can be sure though that if something does come through I’ll let you know. You can also be looking forward to a Jon Farmer photography website, which I am working on putting together, well not me but my friend Ryan Carter, but until that gets up you should check out, it’s not my website but I think the Jon Farmer who it belongs to bears a striking resemblance to me (you’ve got to check it out to see what I mean – it’s a good laugh).

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, take care guys.


jon farmer

My piece with its freshly awarded Highly Commended tag on display in the gallery

A close up

‘…in the eye of the beholder’ by Jon Farmer

The contest-winning piece - 'Place Getters in a Long Distance Race' by Hannah Joynt

The “mistakenly labeled” Highly Commended piece - 'Hold (Grey)' by Marie Le Lievre

Me and the friends that came with me to the exhibition opening night in front of the Christchurch Art Museum

Matt, Dan, Hailey, Christie, Kieran, Me, Sven