An Experience I Will Never Forget

The EncouragerIn July this year, I went on a ministry trip to Fiji, which had a profound effect on me. Pastor James and Viv Anson from FaithPointe Church in Auckland led this amazing mission alongside Atawhai Morgan and myself. During our stay, we were hosted by Pastors Samu & Radini Susana who set up FaithPointe South Pacific in Nadi a number of years ago.

Pastors Samu & Radini Susana sitting within the village

Pastors Samu & Radini Susana

We travelled to Vatulele Island, where there was a Sevens rugby tournament in which our planted church had a team playing. There were no shops or resorts on the island, so we were billeted in the village community. No mobile coverage or WIFI was available to us while we were there, and so we had a truly unique “village experience”. There were only five foreigners on the island, ourselves and a lady from Australia who was helping to sponsor a village team from the mainland. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. They had a generator for the village that started at 6 pm and shut down at 1 am.

During our stay, we ministered to people at night, visited different village huts with our team, played worship songs, prayed and sought healing for many. During this time, I met Viti Dranica, a 65 year old, born again Christian lady, who shared her story with us. She had been unable to walk for five years due to knee issues. Living with her was a 13-year-old named Saimoni, who she had looked after since her sister died giving birth to him. My first impression was that I could see “the joy of the Lord” all over her. She was “shining” with God’s glory.

She had a powerful passion for all things about God. We had many conversations over the days I spent on Vatulele and often prayed together.

…My first impression was that I could see “the joy of the Lord” all over her”

Blair Woolley & Viti Dranica

Blair Woolley & Viti Dranica

We visited her house one evening with the ministry team, and many tears were shed as we worshipped and prayed together. Viti had a profound impact on me. The way she prayed and the joy she possessed was truly amazing. Pastor Samu told me she was a prayer warrior and an encourager to people who are lay preachers in the Village Church. She was actively involved in sharing the gospel and had a real passion for praying for people within the village community.

Viti had minimal furniture in her hut as she could not use it. She moved around the house crawling or sliding on the floor, which genuinely humbled me. She was unable to leave her hut due to her mobility issues. While on the island there were a number of large formal get togethers, and each time as I made my way to them I saw her dressed up and sitting in her doorway so she could take part in the activities and worship from afar. It broke my heart.

Tapa cloth made by Viti with a turtle design

Tapa cloth made by Viti

Pastor’s Samu & Radini Susana (from Vatulele originally) set her up to make tapa. Bark cloth, or tapa, is not a woven material but is made from bark that has been softened through soaking and beating. The inner bark is taken from several types of trees or shrubs, often mulberry and fig, and designs are applied with paints and vegetable dyes of light brown, red, and black. Viti has a floor bench and the tools she needs to beat the pulp into cloth within the confines of her home. This allows her access to work at her own pace.

The tapa is regularly collected and put on a ferry back to the mainland, where Pastors Samu & Radini Susana pick it up and bring it back to Nadi. It is sold online and makes its way to all over the world. This allows Viti (along with others on the island) to provide for herself and her sister’s orphaned son who she has looked after since he was born.

I hope to return to Fiji one day for further mission work. I would love to reconnect with Viti.

She was a genuinely inspiring soul; utilising her talents to make a living for herself and her nephew. In addition, she reached out to others to make a real difference for the glory of God. What a great example she is setting.

By Blair Woolley


Blair Woolley has been volunteering for Elevate for 10 years and is an Auckland CFFD committee member. He would like to acknowledge his daughter Nadine Rogers, who took time out from her busy job as a journalist, to write this article together.




Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!



God Calls Us to Work Together

The Encourager

In Nehemiah we see that God always keeps his promises. Nehemiah prayed trusting that God wanted the walls rebuilt.

Nehemiah chapter three onwards tells us that the people worked next to each other. Cooperating and working as a team. Some couldn’t do the building as they weren’t physically able. I know I would have problems building the wall! Everyone was able to do their part. Some were able to contribute money or equipment. I guess the women would have been feeding the workers, so their energy levels were maintained.

This phrase comes up all the time. “Next to”. Were they all best friends? Probably not, but they were happy to be next to each other because the job was more important than how they felt about each other. We don’t always get on well with the people we’re working with, but our common goal is more important.

If you’d asked a builder on the north side of the wall what he was doing it would be the same answer as the builder on the south side. “We are building the wall of Jerusalem so God’s people can come and worship safely and His purpose can be carried out.”

So, how did the wall get built? They did it by working together. Different people had different jobs to do. The priests or leaders could have been working with the builders. And the goldsmiths and the gate keepers could have been like security guards keeping an eye on everything. They needed each other to get the job done.

Different hands holding 4 pieces of a puzzle

Good things happen when we work together. We get more work done. For instance, one person painting the drop-in centre would take so much longer than 12 people. Different skills are used and we learn new things. Someone may know how to paint the edges or show me how to put masking tape around the windows.

It’s more fun to work together. We can laugh, sing, chat and meet new friends. Finally, when the job is done, we can enjoy each other’s company around a meal and praise God together for a job well done.

So, the young, the middle-aged and older people can use what they have for God. 1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us that “just as a body though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body. So, it is with Christ” (NIV). Verse 18 says “But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

The body of Christ is a group of people working together but we are all different with unique skills and gifts. That doesn’t make you less or more important than someone else, just different.

Just as each person had a part to play in building the wall, we have a part to play in building God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Use your gifts and skills for God. And be ready to tell people about Jesus and what he’s done for you. We are a team serving the Lord together. What part can you play in serving God? Let us all pray and ask God to show us what we can do to build His kingdom, for God calls us to work together.

By Jan Bridgeman




Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!



Stronger Together

Two hands clasped together with the words 'Strong Together' and 'Nehemiah 3'

Keynote speaker of National Camp Online 2022, Reverend Timothy Lee spoke about Nehemiah and people rebuilding the city walls and gates of Jerusalem. This is an edited summary of his presentation.

The Encourager

God’s people had spent time in captivity with the Babylonians. It was about 100 years before they were allowed to return to Judah, their homeland. The temple had been rebuilt, but Jerusalem was unsafe without a city wall around it.

How could God’s people be a strong nation again? How could they reclaim their city and re-establish their spiritual roots? They needed someone close to God’s heart who could lead them well. Enter Nehemiah.

We are stronger together because of our concern for one another

Nehemiah was working in government for the King of Persia. A visitor told him, “The survivors who escaped captivity are in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been destroyed by fire.”

When Nehemiah heard this, he mourned for days. He prayed and fasted for God’s people. His heart was stirred out of empathy for them.

We can show the same empathy by thinking of each other before we meet again in camp next year. Maybe there are some people we can pray for especially. We can send a text, an email, or a card to others we normally meet at camp. By helping one person you may not change the world, but you will change the world for them.

We are stronger together because of the different gifts God gives us

God gives gifts to us out of His grace toward us. He likes it that we are all different. It’s like pieces of a puzzle—they are not all the same but are all needed to form this wonderful picture.

There were approximately 42 groups and individuals working hard, side by side, to rebuild the city walls and gates. They included priests, tradesmen, tribes people, temple servants, goldsmiths and even perfumers! All these people were important.

Lots of people are needed to make camp happen: planners, kitchen servers, small group prayers, cabin buddies, leaders, teachers and sound system people. And all of us are needed to sing and share stories, and to laugh and cry together.

We are all skilled differently in life. Our differences reflect something of God’s creativity. We are all important and we are made stronger together.

We are stronger together when facing the challenges of life

Opposition grew as Nehemiah continued to rebuild the wall and city gates. There were lots of enemies and they were just over the other side of the wall. Consequently, as the people worked away, they could hear their enemies accusing them.

We are all skilled differently in life. Our differences reflect something of God’s creativity

The enemies’ words became discouraging. Nehemiah encouraged people by praying for them. He said, “Hear us, O God, for we are despised. Lord, turn their insults back on their heads.” Nehemiah 4:4 (NIV). He helped to shift the people’s focus.

God thwarted the enemies’ plans. His people rebuilt the wall and the city gates in 52 days! It was an impossible task, but it was made possible with God and with all the people working together.

We are all vulnerable to attack in life. People’s words hurt us. Worry robs us of life. Tragedy and sickness grieve us. We become depressed and lonely. We need people to pray for us and stand with us, side by side, to give us courage to carry on in life.

We are stronger together when we fight together using the tools God provides

Life is like a spiritual battle, but God provides us with tools and armour: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes for the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Prayer unites us. The Spirit helps us, guides, leads and equips us. Side by side, we can change the world with the message of God’s love. Will you join me in building God’s Kingdom, together? We are strong in His sight.

Reverend Timothy Lee



You can watch Rev Lee’s full presentation at:






Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!



Reflections on Prayer

This is a written summary of a workshop about prayer by Di Willis. The workshop was part of Elevate National Camp Online 2022.

The EncouragerDi says she is not an intercessor, nor an expert on the subject of prayer. Nevertheless, she loves talking to God and hearing His voice. There are so many different ways of praying. For example in churches Christians can use written prayers, set prayers, memorized prayers, or they can just let God lead them.

The Bible has many examples of prayers which we can use as a basis for our own. There are so many ways in which to speak with God, including Spirit-inspired ones as we speak in tongues.

Di has a little teddy bear that appears to be in a praying position. These are called Prayer Bears, and they encourage people to seek divine guidance from the Lord as they pray. The Prayer Bears also remind people that they don’t need to pray out loud because they can pray quietly in the Spirit.

When God speaks to Di she hears a still small voice, and the following scriptures encourage her:

1 Kings 19:12:
     “And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”

Matthew 7:7:
      “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”

Di loves to model Jesus and uses Him as an example. Jesus would be walking along the road and when He would see someone who was, say blind, He would stop and pray.

Di’s story:Di Willis

As a child, Di grew up in the days of World War II, and she was given a teddy bear named Timmy. When she came to New Zealand she became a Christian and then got married, she brought Timmy with her. Di heard of a family that had no teddies or dolls, and the Lord spoke to her and said, “Give your teddy bear to this family.” As much as Di loved Timmy, she freely gifted her childhood friend.

Di was also given many beautiful china dolls from a friend’s mother who had passed away, and once again, the Lord spoke to her and instructed her to gift them to people whom He had handpicked to receive them.

Whom do we pray for?

  • Pray for friends
  • Pray for family
  • Pray for neighbours
  • Pray for anyone that needs prayer
  • Pray for salvation for others
  • Pray for people’s needs (healing and comfort)
  • Pray for the sick people who are having operations

God spoke to Di and said situations can be like a jigsaw puzzle, and so we need to take life one day at a time. Di is a SPONTANEOUS prayer.

S – Pray for someone who is sick.
P – Provision.
O – Operation. If someone is going through an operation pray for them.
N – Need. Someone is in need.
T – Thanking God. This is so important.
A – Expect prayers to be Answered. And thank Him for Answers.
N – When praying for someone name the person.
E – Exams. Ask God to give knowledge and focus to people sitting exams.
O – Pray Over your current situation.
U – Pray for Your own needs.
S – Pray for your Studies including God’s Word.

Be confident that God will show us what to pray for, and then remember to end in the Name of Jesus because we are not asking God in our own strength, we are praying in HIS strength. Amen!


Two hands clasped together with the words 'Strong Together' and 'Nehemiah 3'


You can watch Di Willis’ full workshop at:






Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!



Volunteer Spotlight

Dave Palmer

Dave PalmerOver 12 years ago Dave Palmer became the chairperson of Christchurch CFFD. Six years prior, in 2004, his friend Bruce Catherall, chairperson at the time, invited him to CFFD Christchurch camp at Woodend. Dave was going to be there for only two hours but stayed for five.

“I enjoyed what I saw!” Dave said about that afternoon at camp.

He got to know people during an afternoon session and enjoyed the Israeli dance in the evening. In the short space of time he attended, Dave “was very much welcomed there and was impressed enough to think this would be a good group to be part of.”

When Dave’s involvement in the children’s ministry at his church came to an end, his next venture became volunteering for CFFD.

The Encourager“I had very little clue about disability and didn’t know much about CFFD, but I had a decent car and thought I could offer transport to meetings and activities, and maybe not much else,” he says.

Dave quickly learnt he could offer more! He became the guitarist on the worship team. Then he was asked to join the CFFD Christchurch committee. Eventually, Dave began organising and leading meetings. His reason for stepping up was “not because of ability but because I had the enthusiasm to give it a go, and I’m definitely the most extroverted.”

Dave says that through volunteering for CFFD, “I’ve learnt what I’m good at and what others are better than me at. I do my part, others do theirs, and we’re a great team. I’ve found that it’s best I relate to everyone there in the way of the Golden Rule. I want to treat everyone with the same respect and dignity that I want for myself. What that means is I talk and interact with people in a way that I would want for myself, no matter their abilities or disabilities.”

Dave has Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and he experiences what is familiar to many in the disability community.

“I know how it feels to be treated differently or a bit ‘lesser’… and I find that horrible. But I have to say it’s been a joy to have been treated with complete respect by everyone in Elevate/CFFD and I trust I’ve done the same. I suppose if there is one thing that I’ve learned it’s that ‘disability’ simply means someone may need a bit of help with tasks others can do for themselves – but only if they ask for help!”

Dave has been happy being the chairperson. He appreciates the encouragement from the committee and people of Christchurch CFFD. He listens to the advice of wise members of the committee and always strives to reach a consensus. Therefore, it is important to Dave that the committee discuss everything fully “because if one person disagreed with something, they could be the one who is right.”

He speaks highly of his committee members as being “people with brilliant and differing abilities and giftings. They are huge on encouragement and there have been no arguments or personality challenges in all my time in the chair. Probably if there is one thing I bring in leadership it’s that I don’t try to do too much. We stick pretty much to the core of why we’re there, which is prayer and worship…I’ve learnt from this group, that’s what they want.”

Dave loves volunteering for CFFD and says, “unless it’s clearly time to move on, I’m very much still here.”





Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!



The Anchor: Jenny Hook’s poetry book

The Anchor book's front coverIf you meet someone on the streets of Auckland handing out free poetry books, it is a good chance that you have met Jenny Hook. The once long-serving volunteer at the Drop-In Centre in Onehunga (2004-2017), the CFFD Auckland Camp and National Camp has published her first book, The Anchor.

“God will do the distribution. I just had 250 copies printed, and I hand them out. Some copies even went overseas. God will lead who will receive a copy, as it is His book. My poems are a way to communicate the gospel message,” says Jenny, who currently volunteers at Pinehill Primary School and leads a Friday morning Bible study group.

The Encourager

Sometimes it does take a bit longer for received gifts to become public for everyone to see. Jenny wrote poems in the nineties, but only published them this year. She talks about her book with a smile, but the content of her poems is deep and personal. The writing started when Jenny was a 21-year-old student at Lifeway College in Snells Beach and was encouraged to use her writing skills.

“I had a difficult time before. I was bullied at school. I was lonely and withdrawn and felt sorry for myself. Poetry gave me the option to reflect on those feelings and bring it back to God. A blank page is a great way to start talking with God. I always loved writing, encouraged perhaps by my Dad who wrote little, funny poems. Being at Bible school was my first time away from home, so my poems helped me to live my life outside the comforts of home.

“My favourite poem in the book is ‘The Anchor’. That poem is about eternal life, which is a great thought for anyone in a miserable position. Jesus is my anchor. The harder life was, the more reason to hold on to Jesus. But remember, the poems were written when I was that person. I am better now. I added a new poem, ‘The Exchange’, to reflect that.”

By Onne Hiemstra


Onne Hiemstra used to be Elevate’s accounts person until he moved to Cambridge, Waikato. Onne volunteers at Waikato CFFD events and serves on the National Camp committee. He has a great sense of humour and always keen for a chat or to provide a helping hand.


A chance to win!

Do you want a free copy of The Anchor?
Send us a little story about how Elevate has impacted you, whether through one of our groups, camps or The Encourager magazine. Your story can be a few lines or a whole page; either way, you’ll go into the draw to win a copy of Jenny Hook’s poetry book! Please send your story in a Word document or in the body of your email to




Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!



Kevin Park’s Communication Ministry

Although we know God only wants what is best for us, have you ever been surprised by His work and plan?

Kevin Park speaking at the front of church

I became a Christian in 2011 and have understood my relationship with God well. However, God and His work are still my constant pursuit. His knowledge even cannot compare with ours. Therefore, I have been surprised by God’s work in me and His plan for my life.

God’s prompting me to be a Christian writer started when I read online devotionals for self-interest. One of my friends used to send online devotionals to those interested in reading them by email. Reading devotionals motivated me to write devotionals to encourage others spiritually. At first, I thought writing devotionals would become my hobby.

The EncouragerHowever, I noticed promptings of the Holy Spirit each time I wrote devotionals for others. Due to this, I realised becoming a Christian writer has been God’s call on my life. Until I became a student at Carey Baptist College, I think I wrote more than 400 devotionals. Then, I became a Press Service International columnist. Since I didn’t have time to write both a devotional and an article because of my studies at Carey Baptist College, I had to quit one. Although I love my writing ministries, I stopped writing devotionals.

I had written devotionals for over five years, so I thought it was an appropriate time to leave my ministry of devotional writing. I wanted to develop new writing styles as I desire to write Christian books in future.

Since I have a speech impediment, my writing ministry motivated me to write testimonies of my life with God and share these with churches by playing these through the ‘Text to Speech’ application on my iPad. This led me to become a testimony speaker at Waiheke Island Baptist Church.

As a testimony speaker, I aim to link testimonies with the following sermons. Although I now share testimonies of mine related to the church themes at Waiheke Island Baptist, I long to share testimonies of the church theme with other churches as well.

I am also a YouVersion Bible plan leader. As an YouVersion Bible plan leader, I make a space for Waiheke Island Baptist Church community to do life and faith together through Bible plans in YouVersion Bible application. YouVersion allows people to discuss Bible plans together through the ‘Talk it Over’ section of the Bible plans.

God’s prompting me to be a Christian writer started when I read online devotionals for self-interest…

Sharing theological knowledge with stories probably is one of the most effective ways to disciple one another in God’s Word. Jesus used parables to connect His disciples with the knowledge of God’s Kingdom.

Overall, my passion for writing and sharing my testimonies is founded on the good news of Jesus Christ. We experience spiritual death because of our ignorance of the Creator and Sovereign God. However, Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross on behalf of us and rose three days later. Thus, we have been able to surrender our old lives and have a newness of life in Christ.

Therefore, I desire everyone to realise how marvellous the good news of Christ is so that everyone can worship the Lord Jesus Christ in complete unity. If this happens, there would be no more quarrelling, crying, mourning and pain. Instead, there would be an everlasting peace of God in full effect of the message of reconciliation.

By Kevin Park

Kevin Park is studying at Carey Baptist College and finds that Christian-writing is God’s calling on his life. He writes articles for Press Service International and he lives with Cerebral Palsy.





Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!



46 Years in Ministry: Hugh and Di Willis

Hugh & Di sitting on their couch looking through a photo album, smiling at each otherThe EncouragerHugh and Di Willis have stepped outside of the spotlights, but don’t call it retirement. The couple is still very much part of the ministry. With Kirsty Armitage at the helm in the role as ‘National Director’ of Elevate Christian Disability Trust, Hugh and Di continue to give her their full support, with all the mana and aroha that this role deserves.

These two co-founders look back at their 46 years in the ministry. We gave them ten words to respond to. In a few lines, otherwise it would become another book.

The year 1976

Hugh & Di's living room. There is a fireplace on the left, a couch in the middle of the room and a cabinet between 2 large windows that look out on the garden.

“It all started very small. The Lord shared the vision with me (Di) to start a ministry with people with disabilities. A little later I connected again with my friend Margie Willers, who had just returned from a healing conference with Kathryn Kuhlman in the United States. Margie came with the hope of being healed from her Cerebral Palsy, but instead God showed Margie she should use her talents, just the way she was.”

The vision was to invite people with disabilities to come together, to run camps, to grow closer to God, and to be included into whatever churches were doing. “It all started here in our living room in Torbay on Auckland’s North Shore, in the same house where we still live.”

1 Samuel 16:7b

“This Bible verse is the absolute key of our ministry. That is what we always quote to new visitors. The Lord told Samuel: ‘The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’. It’s an amazing scripture. God gives skills and talents to everyone, even if it is just the skill to smile at someone. There are no excuses not to use what you have for God.”

Elevate Christian Disability Trust

“It used to be Christian Fellowship For Disabled (CFFD), later Christian Ministries With Disabled Trust (CMWDT), as an umbrella organisation for all the different branches and ministries we do. People found that a difficult name to pronounce. So back in 2012 we were looking for a better name. One of the helpers mentioned how our ministry was about ‘elevating people into knowing Jesus and celebrating life’. That was well said and the verb ‘to elevate’ stuck.”

Evangelize, Equip, Educate, and Encourage,“those are ‘The four E’s of Elevate CDT’. Evangelize comes first. We talk about Jesus a lot. We love to see people grow in their faith. For many of our folks I think that encouragement is the most important. We all have the need to feel included in the Body of Christ, and sometimes churches and families find that difficult. We expect our folks to live their lives according to their capacities. That is where the education and equipping comes in. If I talk to one person, or to hundreds, I just ask God what it is He wants me to say. Sometimes we get new volunteers, who have no clue how to be around people with a disability, at the start. Their eyes are opened, and their hearts.”

The Elevate whānau

“The ministry is like family. We have met thousands of people over the many years. We loved their stories. Yes, it is all about people with disabilities, but in addition, so many other lives were touched. It is amazing, how hearts have been changed, how people came to faith. So many people have given towards the ministry, with their love, their time, their finances, it has been amazing. All glory goes to God. Elevate belongs to all of them. Mind you, we have the CFFD branches at eight different cities in the country, and Joy Ministries as well. The local committees are so committed and wonderful, they do deserve acknowledgements for many years of faithful services.”

“Many stories are very personal. We saw people meeting each other at the ministry and getting married. We saw miracles happen, and people receiving healing in other ways than they expected. I don’t use any names, there are too many that God has brought on our path. And yes, we have lost a lot of dear friends over time. What a grace to know that they are all in Heaven, living an eternal life without pain or sorrow.”

‘The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’.. 1 Samuel 16:7b

173 Mt Smart Road

“Our national office in Onehunga, with the Drop In Centre, is a second home to us. It was an absolute miracle how God led us to get it, over twenty years ago. God told me He would buy us a building, and He did. So many things happened in that building. We had so many visitors, students, politicians, some from overseas. We once had this guy from Romania. He only came once, but he was so touched that he promised to do something similar in his home country. The building had some alterations done to it, and more needs to be done, but it has been a huge blessing over the years. We couldn’t do our ministry without it, and God knew that from the start.”

Hugh & Di on their couch with a photo album open on their laps smiling at the cameraThe Knife Edge of Faith

“That book tells our story. It is such a testimony of how people made the ministry of Elevate to what it is today. The book is about faith, about perseverance, about not giving up, about trusting God to provide. We made lots of mistakes over the years, but despite that, God used our work. We just tried to do what we thought God showed us to do. Yes, we had to live our life with a faith that was on the knife edge sometimes. This is a ministry that totally relies on God, and on its financial supporters. That is not always easy. We experienced that even on the day that the book was launched at Elevate’s 30th Anniversary. We had a bit of a celebration organised, but up to minutes before the meeting would start, we still had not received any copies! Again, it was a last minute thing. We thought, God, do you really have to go to those extremes?”

Elevate National Camp

“Our camps are maybe the biggest blessing of all. Well, no, you can’t say that of course, but sometimes it feels like that. Words can’t describe how important camp is. People love to come. They make new friends and catch up with old ones. They learn more about how to live out their faith. People get saved, some get baptised, and lots of volunteers have an amazing experience in serving someone with a disability. New helpers often say how they learned that camp was not about themselves, it was about serving. So the camp is about learning, about acceptance, about fellowship and encouragement. It’s our favourite weekend of the year. Jesus is there.”

Encourager Magazine

“It started in 1977 as a two-sided letter; 40 copies, that Margie typed with her mouth. Look at it now. We print 5,800 copies; and they get send to 40 different countries. It is amazing how it came together. We asked many people to come up with a name for our newsletter, and the name Encourager is really suited. That is our main purpose. The magazine has encouraged its readers tremendously. It is often received at the exact right time. Other readers are inspired, as the magazine educates them how to engage. The magazine has been God’s work from the beginning. We remember the days we had 30 people coming to our home to fold and collate the pages. The electric stapler would go on for hours. Our dear neighbour heard that sound continue until the early hours of the morning. Rest assured, that work is now all done professionally, at the printer.”

Kirsty Armitage

“We are very, very proud of Kirsty. She is a God ordained person, very capable, very talented, the ideal person to take the helm. Kirsty has been around with Elevate for nine years now, and many people will know her from the camps and our communications.”

Di loves it that Kirsty is also an Occupational Therapist, just like herself. Di realises of course she is a different personality. “Kirsty is probably more orderly, a bit of a perfectionist. Her husband Brent will support her all the way.”

“The best advice we can give her is to put God first. He is still the centre of this ministry. Keep close to Him in prayer, and reading the Word. But also, stay in touch with the different ministries, enjoy the company of all these good people.

Have fun doing the role. A sense of humour is essential, but Kirsty has plenty of that.” Have you read Hugh’s book ‘On the Knife Edge of Faith: Stories Behind the Ministry’? Copies are available for purchase from the National Support Office.

Written by Onne Hiemstra


The Encourager Magazine 174



Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!


What is in your hand?

So the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.” Exodus 4:2 (NKJV)

The Encourager

God had chosen Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. But Moses immediately began to enumerate all the reasons why he was not qualified to assume such leadership. Then the Lord asked him, “What is in thine hand?”When Moses looked at his hand, what did he see? A rod – a dead stick. What could be done with it? It was only a rod in Moses’ hand, but when it was given to God it became a rod of power to deliver the Israelites.

Through the years God has challenged His people with the same question. “What is in your hand?” Many have answered and accepted the challenge. An inspiring example is David Livingston who came from the coal mines of Scotland. When God said to him, “What is in your hand? he offered him his heart of love for Africa and accepted His challenge to missionary service. Through him that continent was opened to the Gospel.

God is saying to you today – What is in your hand? He sees your talents and ability. Placed in God’s hand these can be a ‘rod of power’ for Him to use. Your answer to Him may be “nothing – nothing that you can ever use.” But little is much in the Master’s hand – He doesn’t look at our hands as we do. Lift your seemingly empty hands to Him – He will use you. He uses the weakest instruments to accomplish His mightiest works. When God calls, He enables!

The great violinist Paganini was to give a concert. As he was about to begin his programme, to the horror of those present, he deliberately broke all but one string on his violin. Then as he held up his instrument, he said, “One string and Paganini”. What indescribably beautiful music the great musician played on that violin with one string. What glorious harmonies the Great Musician can bring forth from a life – with its ability and inabilities – when it is completely yielded to Him.


By Margie Willers (Reprinted from Issue 26 Nov 1984)

Margie is co-founder of Elevate and lives with cerebral palsy. She has written two books and was a regular guest speaker before retiring.



The Encourager Magazine 174



Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!

Hawkes Bay’s Hallelujah Lady

The EncouragerJoan Parker’s first introduction to Elevate was in 1986 when she attended our National Camp. Her church had heard about the camp and felt it would be good for her. It wasn’t a typical camp introduction though, as her buddy Ruth Jones (now Beale) had injured her back and Joan stayed with her in their accommodation for most of the camp. Despite this Joan became an avid supporter of National Camp and has only ever missed one since then, when she had her leg amputated.

Joan smiling and wearing a bright blue cardigan

Following her first National Camp she became involved in the local Hawkes Bay CFFD. The branch started in 1983 with seven families meeting for prayer and praise at the apostolic church, which is now Equippers. When the leaders, Ivan and Betty Northcott, stepped down 8 years after Joan joined, she stepped up and has been leading it with the help of the committee ever since.

Those who have met Joan know how determined, and dare I say fierce, she can be. But not everyone knows her story and the journey that molded her. Born with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy, she faced challenges from day one. By nine years of age, she was also dealing with a significant effect on her intellectual development. These challenges were the cause of a lot of frustration for young Joan, who found an outlet in the use of swear words. Her grandmother would not allow her to use these challenges as an excuse and never let Joan say I can’t. This attitude has stuck with her through life and to this day she doesn’t allow herself to say I can’t.

Her father was given a scripture when she was born that promised she would be healed at the right time. He held onto this and would take Joan to many healing meetings. In 1966 they attended a healing service and while she was being prayed for, she had a major seizure. Miraculously this was to be the last seizure she had. Gradually she noticed her concentration and communication improving. Joan says that she finally felt she didn’t need to swear with every sentence. It took 18 months before she began to let herself believe that she was healed from Epilepsy.

One day in 1969, Joan became frustrated with people not listening to her. She left home and took a plane to Auckland, without even telling her family where she was going. Amazingly God’s hand was in this, working it for good. One evening from the accommodation she was staying at she could hear modern music coming from St Paul’s church next door, so decided to see what was going on. It was there she received the Spirit and became a Christian.

Encouraged to go home and begin attending church, she began a journey of inner transformation. There were those who even called the change in her miraculous. She became very involved in the Catholic Charismatics movement, leading many people to the Lord. The reality of what God had done, and was doing, in her life was something she could never doubt and had to tell others about. She became known as the Hallelujah lady. Such a contrast to the young girl who swore with every sentence!

… it’s important to allow people opportunities to participate and to try things they may not have before.

When she was 30 years old, while singing in a choir, someone noticed she wasn’t reading the words of the songs but had memorized them. This began an eight-year journey of learning to read and write, with the help of three school teachers. Joan still memorizes things but now it is purely due to convenience.

1993 was the beginning of her volunteer leadership with CFFD Hawkes Bay. Joan shares that she “wanted to see people with disability equipped not just spiritually but mentally and physically.” Her vision was to educate people to work with people with disability, as well as educate those who were disabled. Although she hadn’t had much opportunity to develop leadership skills before this, she was determined to help others, and that determination has taken her far.

A group photo of the CFFD Hawkes Bay members

Over the years Joan has led and organised many events and meetings with the help of the Hawkes Bay CFFD committee. She says an important part of leadership is not being afraid to ask people for advice and being willing to acknowledge when something is not an area of strength.

A few of the highlights over the years have included a seminar in Hastings for 50-60 church leaders, buying a bus, an operatic concert fundraiser with Chris Skinner, running two local camps, joint meetings with other branches, a dance outreach, and fundraising for Philippines CFFD (now Hebron Disability Service) run by CBM Philippines. Throughout all the events, meetings and fundraising Joan has always involved others. She feels it’s important to allow people opportunities to participate and to try things they may not have before. This is one of the aspects she says is most important about camps.

Joan was very behind the beginning of Hawkes Bay Joy Ministries in 1996, having seen the need for people with intellectual disability to have teaching in a way that worked for them. When the Joy Ministries leaders felt it was time to step down from their leadership roles this year, she didn’t want to see the group end so with the support of the CFFD committee they temporarily included the Joy Ministries group in their meetings.

With such rich experience, Joan has learnt a lot about leadership. She shared that patience is key along with learning to delegate, although she admits she isn’t always good at that. Another thing she has learnt is that sometimes you need to push ahead with something despite others not seeing the vision but at other times you need to be willing to let ideas go.

Are you interested in volunteering with one of our ministry groups or branches throughout New Zealand? Many of our volunteers find they not only have an opportunity to use their skills but also find a place to belong. Contact us at the National Support Office 09 636 4763 or

Written by Kirsty Armitage


The Encourager Magazine 174



Want to read the full magazine? Click here to read the current and previous issues or to sign up to get future issues delivered digitally to your mailbox or posted a hard copy!