The return of StormCo to North New Zealand has been something close to North New Zealand Conference Youth leader Matt Moore’s heart.  With hoodies declaring “StormCo an adventure in service,” a team of 9 spent 6 days, from October 3 to 9, serving the community of Taumarunui in the Waikato district. StormCo is an acronym that stands for Service to others really matters. It is a program that encourages youth to get involved with serving in the community. Originating in Australia, Mr Moore has been involved since its early days and have seen how StormCo can be more than a backyard blitz – it has the potential to transform people and communities. Connecting with the local community is key, and the local Morero Marae welcomed the group with a powhiri and became the hub during the stay. The local Adventist church provided beautiful hospitality and connected the group into the community. Particularly helpful in establishing these vital links with the community, was a local elder in the Taumarunui Adventist church, Mr Frank Mariu, who expressed that the church was grateful that Taumarunui was the recipient of this year’s StormCo.

“We are very intentional that StormCo is not about coming to fix things,” Mr Moore explains, “we are here to work in partnership with the community, and as such we don’t come in with a truckload of tools but are here to offer our time and man/woman power.”

Deputy Mayor of the Ruapehu District Council, Karen Ngatai was excited to have a group come and serve her community, and took time to learn that some of the group had family roots in the town with family names being recognised.

Each day the team spent time in bible study and reflection on what they had experienced during the day, and a pattern soon emerged. “We found that one of the biggest needs was companionship and friendship “ Verity Pasione shared, “we were able to provide those, and received both in return. When you take time to listen, it gives you a better understanding of where God wants you to go.”

The team spent time with people without an agenda, simply serving; something Lea Goldstone appreciated “I loved connecting with the Taumarunui Community, being able to serve without any expectations of evangelising, and still seeing where the Lord moved.” Serving with no strings was a challenge for the team who are used to sharing their faith. Genesis Su’a-Tariau initially struggled with this, as he wanted to pray with people he met, yet he came away feeling it was “an uplifting and encouraging experience, being the hands and feet of Jesus.”  Renee Atkinson shared that “StormCo taught me new ways to serve while leaving room for God to move”

The group this year was not a typical college student group explained Mr Moore, they are all leaders in their churches and passionate about the mission. “My hope,” shared Mr Moore “is that this is also an equipping trip for the leaders, so they learn how to lead a trip like this, and when they return to their local churches, they can organise and run their own StormCo in the future.” This resonated with Mr Su’a-Tariau, who shared that he had come on this StormCo to learn from Mr Moore how a StormCo is run. Ms Goldstoneh who has previously been involved in several different mission trips was also keen to learn what it takes to start a movement like StormCo.

“This week has not just been about how to best serve others far from home, but how to apply those newly acquired skills to our own community and churches,” explained Verity Pasione.

Zoe Atkinson summed up the week “it was a very enriching and fulfilling experience being part of this trip, and inspired me to do more in my home community.”

“Ideally some would return to Taumarunui and build on the connections that have been started.” Said Mr Moore, “it is my hope people will see that this is the start of a new era for StormCo in North New Zealand”.

– Kirsten Oster Lundqvist, NNZC Communications and Media Officer

Stormco team w deputy mayor of the Ruapehu district, Karen Ngatai