Celebrating 175 years in the South Island
By Stephen Opie – 175th anniversary Project Lead.
I was really nervous about our 175th anniversary events. “Have we bitten off more than we can chew?” “Are we being too ambitious?” Planning 19 events around the country has not been easy, so when we left for Invercargill the week after Easter, nerves were running high.
I’ve worked in charities for 20 years and know full well how many things can go wrong on big projects. So, it was fantastic to unload the truck at Lindisfarne Methodist Community Centre and start setting our roadshow up. To see it all in place before everyone arrived was a joyous moment after more than a year of planning.
What better place to start a national tour than Invercargill? Friendly people, faithful and gracious supporters – it was a brilliant start to our 175-year celebrations. I loved watching some of our older supporters interacting with the giant touchscreen we built, as they learned more about our history. Some were fascinated by the rare Bibles we had on display and others enjoyed learning more about Bible translation and Manna bookstores.
There was a real and deep appreciation for the role Bible Society has played in supporting Bible mission in New Zealand, especially in the first 50 years after the arrival of the Bible in 1814. But what struck me was the excitement about the future. As CEO Neels Janse van Rensburg told each of the audiences, we have always stood firm on the Bible, and that will never change. “Hallelujah” one man exclaimed in Nelson.
This same excitement was present at all our South Island events – Dunedin, Timaru, Christchurch, Greymouth and Nelson. In all, 350 South Islanders came to celebrate this amazing milestone with us. We met many former staff, long-time supporters and were even given an old and rare 1841 edition of Te Kawenata Hou (the New Testament in Māori). My favourite moment though was meeting Helen Boon, a third generation Bible Socciety collector (fundraiser) whose grandparents began collecting for Bible Society in Hokitika in 1923. Their family has beeen collecting funds for Bibles ever since. What a wonderful testimony of faith and perserverance. I wonder how many Bibles they’ve raised funds for and how many lives they’ve indirectly touched.
So now we turn our attention to the North Island. We start in New Plymouth this weekend and finish with three events in Auckland. In between we’ll visit Matamata, Hamilton, Wellington, Palmerston North and Whangarei to name a few. I wonder who we’ll encounter and what stories we’ll hear.
We’ll be sharing stories like this at our 175TH anniversary events! Check out the one near you here.