Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Last February I almost toured the Coromandel - that expanse of land that juts-out the top-right of North Island.

And almost 10 months later - this weekend - I actually did!

At 8:15am on Saturday morning, Jamie picked-me up with the news that the other 2 people who we'd been expecting to travel with couldn't make it. Whilst we were initially disappointed, it did of course mean that we both had alot more room in the car.

So girls, here's what you missed...

First stop was a couple of hours in the hot pool at Miranda. Then we had pizza for lunch at a place in Thames. Then it was to the Pak'n Save to buy ingredients for dinner.

I had reservations about this. At the backpackers I've fallen into a pattern of trusting God to provide me with food. However, when I'm away from there my faith in Him wavers. It's like I trust in the hostel a bit more than I trust in Him. Also, I couldn't really expect Jamie to take steps to starve with me. So I relented, and we bought a heap of ingredients.

When we arrived at the backpackers we would be staying the night at, we'd barely begun to cook when the group in front told us they'd made too big a BBQ, and gave us all the hot ready-cooked food we could eat.

The highlight of that first day though was Hot Water Beach. There's a hot spring underneath the sand, so one can dig one's own bath in it. Of course, we had to wait until about 9pm for the tide to go out, so while the water was scalding, the rest of the beach was as cold as space. No idea which direction this bathwater would have spiralled down the drain though - with these extremes in temperature it was like both hemispheres rolled into one.

Back at the backpackers Jaws was on TV.

Of course, all present sagely rubbished it. Then they all fell silent. Then they all gasped in sudden shock. Spielberg comes in for alot of undeserved flack, but I think he's brilliant.

I checked the time. 22:30 had been and gone, taking with it the plane that I had, until last week, been planning to return to the UK on. No changing my mind about where to spend Christmas now.

On Sunday morning we left our new-found friend Christos and drove to Whangarei for a very long coffee. It was one of those 'life, the universe and everything' discussions, although now I can only remember 3 things from it:

1. My telling Jamie something like 'Christianity is so full of promises like God's got great things planned for you just around the corner, but if I'd had great things just around the corner when they'd told me that in my teens, then I shouldn't still be waiting for them at 33. At least one great blessing should have happened by now.'

2. On the subject of my not getting to the Coromandel (and indeed Hot Water Beach) last February, but instead getting there yesterday, was this God's way of rescuing His plan to show me it? I got my Good News Bible out of my pocket and quoted 2 Kings 19:23-25...

You sent your messengers to boast to me that with all your chariots you had conquered the highest mountains of Lebanon. You boasted that there you cut down the tallest cedars and the finest cypress-trees and that you reached the deepest parts of the forests. You boasted that you dug wells and drunk water in foreign lands and that the feet of your soldiers tramped the River Nile dry.

Have you never heard that I planned all this long ago? And now I have carried it out. I gave you the power to turn fortified cities into piles of rubble.

So did God really plan for those soldiers' feet to tramp the River Nile dry? Yes? So... did he really intend for there to be an army? With killing and stuff?

The theory I was following was that His original plan may have been for those people to tramp the River Nile dry on, say, maybe a nice church weekend away. You know, maybe He planned for each of those individual people to have those experiences, but in a far better, more peaceful way. When we come along and impose our own sinful ideas, starting wars and forming armies etc., God still sticks to His original plan, and we do too, unknowingly.

So... when I didn't visit Hot Water Beach, or indeed the entire Coromandel, last February, did God still fulfil his original plan by showing it to me in December instead? A bit like my visiting the Family Television Network last October (instead of my intention to in March) too. That's just the theory that I was exploring. As usual, no conclusion reached.

3. Hard to forget, this. Jamie recklessly agreeing not to buy any more food this weekend, following my diffident assertion that God would somehow provide.

All the way to Coromandel Town I kept wondering whether God would decide to pike out now that I had verbally declared my faith in Him to provide.

Arriving at Coromandel Town, (as I glanced anxiously everywhere for free food), we checked into another backpackers and played a round of Mini Golf, or Crazy Golf as it is more correctly known in the UK. A few holes before the end, Jamie suggested a wager.

Whoever wins buys dinner.

Now I never gamble, but whilst in New Zealand I am determined to try new things out, so I rather rashly agreed. Then I remembered that I was already a point down.

Of course Jamie won, which proves that his faith in God came through and provided dinner for him.

After last night's 10-bed dorm, we had turned-down a quite hippy-ish looking place in favour of what turned-out to be the nicest backpackers on the planet.

Pat's Place was run by a lovely mum who was really only renting-out a spare room in her garage. "It's twenty bucks each!" she declared as though she was just making the figure up off the top of her head. Not only did I get to sleep in a deep (non-bunk!) bed with a window in the room and everything, but Jamie and I even found ourselves provided with free ice-creams to eat as we watched Big Fat Liar with her kid. It was a million (well, a couple of hundred) miles away from that 530-bed skyscraper back in Auckland.

Next morning her son took us out down the stream to feed eels, which was only the second time I've done this in New Zealand this year. The last time was in Waitomo, all my photographs of which got processed by Kodak without any green dye in them. Today was therefore my chance to retake this shot.

Back to Sennacherib's soldiers experiencing the River Nile again.

Pat also had a sideline in making novelty cakes, and showed us through an album of them.

Waving goodbye, we drove up to Fletcher's Bay, on whose deserted shoreline I sat and read my Bible a bit.

This was as far north as we could go without improvising some severe modifications to Jamie's car, but our return journey was enriched by picking-up 2 hitchhikers. Quite what they made of all the Weird Al polka numbers we had playing on the cassette (such as Bohemian Polka, which is everything its name suggests) I will probably never know. They remained silent but, as a Brit, I still like to think that it was a polite unenquiring silence.

On the way back we drove past a sign. On the south-facing side it read ABORTION - THE WORST FORM OF CHILD ABUSE. On the north-facing side it had ADOPT DON'T ABORT.

I remembered first seeing this sign on February 28th. For just a moment, it felt as though we could turn around and drive back into that week.

Although of course we had sort of just done that.


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