Shortly after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, in recognition of the contribution of churches in providing hope and comfort as well as material assistance, NZ Christian Network’s board inaugurated a new award, known as the New Zealand Christian Network Unsung Heroes Awards.
The purpose of these awards is to honour the good work of individuals and groups which has gone largely unrecognised, to encourage others, and to give glory to God who inspired and empowered them.
In an age which has forgotten or never knew the significance of Christianity in our history, and which increasingly does not appreciate the importance of God in our country today, we are grateful for the privilege of being able to hold this event at Parliament and celebrate what God is doing in and through the lives of people. We are thankful also this year to Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga who hosted the event.
The awards are presented in categories related to New Zealand Christian Network’s key projects – Secularism, Marriage & Family, Value of Life, and Missional Living. This year we were pleased to also make two special awards for Christian Publishing and Unity & Mission.
Special Categories for 2016
Our first award tonight is to a woman who received an MA Honours degree in German language and literature from Victoria University.
After spending 16 years in America with her husband Russell, she returned to New Zealand in 1986 and worked various jobs including three semesters teaching business communication at AUT.
In 1987 she joined the New Zealand Christian Writers Guild and was president from 1993 to 2003.
In 1993 she was appointed editor of the New Zealand Baptist newspaper. She graduated from Carey Baptist College with a Bachelor of Theology in 1998.
She joined ARPA – the Australasian Religious Press Association, a network of editors of Christian publications, and in 2006 became ARPA’s New Zealand coordinator and vice-president.
In 2012 ARPA presented her with the prestigious Gutenberg Award for services to journalism.
She has served on the board of New Zealand Christian Network. From 2009 to 2014 she served as President of the Baptist Women’s Union of the South West Pacific. She is still involved with New Zealand Baptist Women’s Board.
In 2001 and for nine years she was the founding editor of DayStar newspaper which eventually became a monthly magazine.
She is a co-director of DayStar Books, an independent publishing company.
In recent years she has run workshops in India to encourage Christian writers. She currently writes a regular column for Press Service International, a Christian Media resource based in Australia.
Today freelance writing and editing occupy much of her time, along with leading conversation classes at her church for new immigrants. She and husband Russell live Auckland and they have two adult children and five grandchildren.
Please welcome the recipient of our first award tonight – Christian Publishing – Julie Belding.
Unity and Mission
Our second award is for a man who was born in Australia and moved to New Zealand in 1972. Since then he has worked tirelessly to foster unity and collaboration in the church in line with the prayer of Jesus.
An accountant by trade, he has worked in a number of companies. He has served in various administration and pastoral roles within the New Life Churches in New Zealand at both the local Church and National level.
He served in leadership of the Association of Pentecostal Churches NZ and was a founding executive member of NZ Christian Network from 2002 to 2008.
He is currently the Executive Director of Life Resources and is responsible for developing the vision, leadership and networking of Life Resources. The vision of Life Resources is to evaluate, source and provide realistically priced resources for media, marriage, leadership, church health and growth and charitable support. They also provide administrative and accounting support for a number of trusts and ministries including CEC (Bible and Chaplaincy in Schools) and One to One Trust.
He is also a New Zealand Immigration Advisor and works for Horizons New Zealand Immigration Consulting.
He is married to Sandra and they have three adult married daughters and 7 grandchildren.
Receiving this Unity and Mission award please welcome Max Palmer.
Key Focus Categories for 2016
The Secularism award this year goes to a man who has been the CEO and Managing Trustee of the Christian Broadcasting Association since it was re-founded in 1995.
For 21 years, he has developed radio programmes that have been broadcast on New Zealand’s top-rating commercial networks, and won awards nationally and internationally.
He says, that “86 percent of this audience don’t regard religion or spirituality as important in their lives which is exactly why we’re there.”
The Easter programme on Newstalk ZB averages 300,000 listeners.
The “Real Life” programme which plays every Sunday night on Newstalk ZB and Radiosport is the most-listened to show in that timeslot across all NZ radio stations.
Past guests have included the late Sir Paul Holmes, Dave Dobbyn and Sir Graeme Henry who all shared about their life, passions, faith, spirituality, and “God-stuff”.
The list of his accomplishments is exhausting:
- He founded ‘Media Prayer Day’ which has involved more than 1,000 churches in a nationwide day of Prayer for those working in NZ’s media.
- He developed the ‘LoveIt’ media brand, New Zealand’s ‘go to’ provider of independent seasonal radio programming.
- He established ‘Salt’ – a network of 200+ Christians working within mainstream media
- He established a scholarship programme, attracting 30 excellent applicants annually.
- And he conceived and co-founded ‘NewsLeads’ – a chaplaincy and consultancy service to New Zealand’s news media.
He is married to Annelies and they have two boys aged 13 and 9, and sadly he is overseas and unable to be with us tonight.
So to receive this award on his behalf, please welcome Phil Guyan’s Mum.
Marriage and Family
The Marriage and Family award goes to a Bible scholar and gifted teacher with a special pastor’s heart to see marriages and families be all that God wants them to be.
He pastored a Baptist church in England before PhD studies led to teaching as a missionary in Congo. He and his wife Barbara and their four children were evacuated from Kinshasa by French paratroopers, and spent a few days classed as refugees in South Africa.
From 1993-2012 he taught at Carey Baptist College and the University of Auckland where he received a Distinguished Teaching Award. He has experience teaching the Bible in four continents for three decades.
He prepared the first online hypertext Bible commentary and posts short teaching podcasts at 5-minute Bible.
Since moving to Tauranga from Auckland he has taught intensive and distance courses at Laidlaw College, Colombo Theological Seminary and Australian College of Ministries, and has been an invited lecturer (and participating faculty for the PhD Program) at Asia Pacific Theological Seminary.
He is a key member of the Network’s Marriage and Families focus group. He has spoken at our leadership forums along with his wife Barbara who is a highly qualified counsellor, and contributed a number of articles to the Network which continue to be the most accessed articles on our website.
He runs the website and Facebook page for Marriage Week which is held annually from 8 to 14 February. He is also working with NZCN to develop a video course on “Reading the Bible Faithfully”.
Please welcome Dr Tim Bulkeley.
Value of Life
The Value of Life category award this year goes to a person whose commitment and work for social justice in New Zealand is hard to overstate.
In the 1970s, he started the Inter-Church Trade and Industry Mission providing chaplaincy services to industry and government departments.
He was part of developing the Salvation Army’s national network of Community Work Schemes, and supporting community services to the unemployed.
In the ‘80s, he founded the Community Service Operation of the Salvation Army in South Auckland, and in the 1990s managed the total re-organisation of the Salvation Army Social and Community Services throughout New Zealand.
He was the founder and Director of the Salvation Army’s Social Policy Research and Parliamentary Affairs Unit, and Director of the Salvation Army’s $100m social services in New Zealand, Fiji and Tonga.
The SPPU produces annual State of the Nation reports monitoring progress on key social indicators which are thoroughly researched, widely read, and acknowledged by government decision makers.
He has been an entrepreneur in developing the Salvation Army’s welfare and social policy initiatives in New Zealand, as well as being a leader in wider church and community initiatives on poverty and housing issues, and on prison reform.
In recent years, he helped establish the New Zealand Housing Foundation which is supporting innovative models of providing housing solutions for low-income people.
He co-founded the Rethinking Crime and Punishment Campaign which is working to create a wider change in public attitudes on the prison system.
He has been President of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services, and today leads its Poverty and Housing Task Force, attending regular meetings with Members of Parliament.
There is so much more we could say. But please join with us in welcoming Major Campbell Roberts.
Our final award this evening is for the Missional Living category, previously known as All of Life Faith.
A spiritual awakening led the person receiving this award to help create an organisation to enable those living with disabilities to realise their full potential.
In 1976, around 20 people attended the first official meeting for “Christians with Disabilities” in her family home in Auckland.
Margie Willers, a young woman with Cerebral Palsy, shared a vision that God had given her. Within two years, the numbers had grown to over 80 (20 of those being in wheelchairs).
The ministry grew quickly and people’s homes could not contain the numbers attending. In 1989 they rented a building as a drop in centre and place of work. Within five years, God opened the doors for them to purchase their own premises.
In 1981, the International Year of Disabled people, she and Margie were invited to speak all over Auckland and beyond and soon the word had spread around the country.
Now known as The Elevate Christian Disability Trust, there are 13 branches across New Zealand, and one in the Philippines, staffed primarily with volunteers, many of whom live with disabilities themselves.
They are involved at international disability conferences, running camps for more than 400 disabled people and publishing a free quarterly magazine.
Along with her husband Hugh, the Trust’s co-founder, treasurer and editor of its magazine The Encourager, she has lived her faith 24-7 since day one, helping people help themselves and others, and be all that God intends them to be.
She is a founding member of the NZ Christian Network and remains a member of our Advisory Group.
Please welcome Di Willis.