Here are some photographs taken at the New Zealand Christian Network’s Unsung Heroes Awards 2013. The event was a-buzz with excitement and celebration. Once again, congratulations to the recipients and thank you to all who made this event a memorable occasion.
Our first award tonight is for the secularism category and is presented to the person who is Director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues, and holds the Howard Paterson Chair in Theology and Public Issues at Otago University.
In the four and a half years he has had these roles since their inception he has set a wonderful example of respectful and thoughtful dialogue, engaging with academics, media, politicians from across the spectrum, business and church leaders.
He has raised the profile of public theology in New Zealand and made a significant contribution to public discourse and policy thinking.
Through the Centre, he has been prolific in organising forums, seminars, and conferences, in addition to his regular teaching responsibilities.
His areas of interest include:
• The value of the ‘common good’
• Theological responses to ‘global’ issues
• Meanings of ‘secular’, and
• The use of religious language in the public square
Just last week, he and a colleague released an important piece of research on Understanding Secularism in New Zealand.
He has been a good friend of New Zealand Christian Network.
We are sad that he is returning with his wife Helen to live in England at the end of this week, but we are delighted that he could make the trip up to be with us here tonight.
Please welcome Andrew Bradstock
Our next award, for the Marriage and Family category, goes to two people who have been leading Family Life and helping Kiwis build successful marriages and families since 1994.
Family Life has grown from an idea discussed in someone’s living room 22 years ago to conferences and events all around the country, reaching over 20,000 people through the “Weekend to Remember”, “Day Together” and “Understanding One Another” events.
Family Life receives feedback constantly from couples whose marriages have been given hope, many even saved from the brink of divorce.
The husband is a walking miracle, having survived a kidney transplant, a serious stroke, on-going dialysis, and a number of cancers. The wife is a gracious tower of strength.
They are parents to Olivia (18) and Ben (17). They also have a 3rd child, Natasha, who died tragically at 16 years old in the Mangatepopo River Tragedy. Natasha’s story is recorded on the dvd “Jumping in Puddles”.
In addition to speaking at Family Life live events they are sought after conference speakers, have authored 2 books “Treasures in the Darkness” and “First things First”, and have regular slots on New Zealand’s Radio Rhema.
Please welcome Andy and Nikki Bray
Our next award in the Value of Life category goes to a young woman who leads the Pro Life group that was facing disaffiliation from the Auckland University Student Association in 2012 after complaints alleging it was harassing students and spreading misinformation about abortion.
This person’s gentle, gracious style and leadership were instrumental in challenging the attack on freedom of expression and truth, winning a vote against disaffiliation following a public debate by 227 votes to 125. Support came from many students who were not members of the club, but who recognised that freedom of expression is a right worth protecting.
Her deep belief in her cause and ability to unite hundreds of likeminded people from the University together are two qualities which were crucial to this result.
New Zealand Christian Network had an opportunity to see this person first hand when she addressed a gathering of Christian leaders at very short notice. Many present were powerfully moved by her words and manner.
ProLife New Zealand aims to:
• Inform young people of the effects of abortion and other choices
• Support women who have had, or are considering abortion, and refer them to appropriate counselling services.
• Running public forums and seminars
• Promoting the adoption option as a viable choice
Amy Blowers is not able to be with us tonight but we would like to show this brief message from her
Our next award in the All of Life Faith category goes to the Director of Youth Services at the Eastern Southern Youth Trust in Wellington.
This is a Charitable Trust founded by 2 Youth Pastors, one from the Eastern Suburbs and the other from the Southern Suburbs.
The Trust was formed to address a significant gap between the quality of youth work and care of families in the 2 churches compared to what was available in the wider community.
This person has worked on the ground with young people in the Eastern Suburbs for over 10 years, and works through the Trust to establish, enable and sustain effective long-term faith-based youth workers in these communities.
Under her leadership the trust has been intentional about developing professional Youth Workers and has become known for consistently delivering a high standard of work in complex culturally diverse settings
She is passionate about helping young people reach their potential and will create any opportunity she can for them to explore their gifts and talents and use them to help others around them.
She has 3 children, is a Nurse with experience in Surgical, Outpatients, and Acute Psychiatric wards, has been a Baptist Youth Pastor for 10 years, is a Strength Coach, holds an Advanced Diploma in Youth Work, and is a Professional Supervisor.
She lives her faith
Please welcome Lorna Gray
Our last award – Bicultural Mission – goes to a man who in 1991 planted a church on the East Coast. The church has seen rapid growth and today helps hundreds of people discover a new quality of life applying the teachings of Jesus Christ.
When we asked the local minister’s group convenor about this man, he talked about his staying power, his commitment to the local people, and his work in building bicultural relationships.
He believes the Church must go beyond just a Sunday activity and also have a significant social and economic ministry to its community as well.
To this end House of Breakthrough has a 20 year social and economic development plan for Tairawhiti involving housing, education, health, social justice, employment and reconciliation relationally and culturally.
The Church’s main thrust is to the city of Gisborne, with ministries such as budget advice, marriage and family counselling, addiction counselling programmes, food parcels to the poor, and after school care for children.
At a bicultural peacemaking hui organised at Auckland in May this year, our award recipient delivered an impromptu message which impacted those present powerfully because of the history, the expansive vision, and the mana of the person who spoke it.
Please welcome Norm McLeod from the House of Breakthrough in Gisborne