Our Journey Post-Carey
by Richard and Esmae Goodwin
It was hard to believe it had been 21 years since we started at Carey. Seven of us, along with our ever-supportive wives, gathered recently at Bowentown for a reunion to reflect on how and where God had led us in the intervening years, – the highs and the lows, the joys and the disappointments. At age 47, I was the oldest in our Carey Class when we started in 2000. My wife Esmae, graciously worked in an admin job to support us during the 3 years at Carey and she was also able to arrange her work schedule to take part in some college life at Carey.
After graduation and a short stint apple picking near Motueka (a great experience), we accepted a call to Kaikohe Baptist in the Mid-North. Kaikohe had had a difficult history as a church for a number of years and some of my advisors felt it would not be suitable as our first church. However, the call wasn’t surprising as we had spent a summer assignment there and I had a strong sense that we would return to Kaikohe.
The next 5 years were rewarding but not without their challenges. I felt culturally illiterate in many ways, in what is one of the strongest Māori communities in the country, so it was a great opportunity to learn. However, God was good and the church grew numerically and a number of Māori families joined us, enriching the congregation as a community of God’s people.
After 5 years, quite unexpectedly, I felt that our time in Kaikohe had come to an end. In many ways it didn’t make sense, but I came to the point of saying to myself, God and the congregation, that although I didn’t understand it (feeling God was calling me to resign) I felt I had to obey it. I resigned as an act of faith, without any clear idea of what the next step in ministry would be.
Only a week or two before we actually finished, I saw an advert in the Baptist Magazine for a Chaplain at Manawatu Prison. I had been extensively involved in helping to start volunteer ministry at Ngawha Prison which had opened during our years at Kaikohe and had been involved with prison ministry as a volunteer at Tongariro Prison prior to going to Carey. I had a genuine heart for men in prison and Esmae had also been involved in starting ‘Sycamore Tree’ in Ngawha Prison, a Christian based restorative justice program run by Prison Fellowship NZ. The thought of ministry as a prison chaplain felt like a natural ‘next step’ in ministry.
There were some interesting “God-incidences” along the way for both Esmae and I. When the National Director of Sycamore Tree heard that Esmae was shifting to Palmerston North she was thrilled as there was an urgent need for a facilitator there. And so, on the day I started as a chaplain, Esmae commenced as a volunteer Sycamore Tree facilitator at Manawatu Prison.
As a chaplain I had amazing opportunities to share with many very broken men, – the “least, the lost and the lonely” to quote Bishop Justin Duckworth. I often joked with other pastors that if pastoring a large church was like flying a 737 and pastoring a small church was like flying a Cessna 206, then pastoring in prison is akin to flying an F1 fighter plane.
There were more challenges in a day in a prison than I would encounter in a month in a church. I loved working with the men, but found “the system” frustrating and disempowering. The way prisons are structured and run actively seems to works against effective rehabilitation. So, after nearly 11 years I felt I it was time to pass the baton onto a new chaplain with more energy and with perhaps a new approach. The decision wasn’t easy, but in hindsight, I am confident it was the right one.
The Sycamore Tree Program was shut down nationally by Corrections about 9 years ago (what a tragedy, but typical of what I feel is a definite bias against anything Christian in our prison system). Esmae then joined the Manawatu Community Justice Trust as a facilitator and then Coordinator. This has been a very real area of growth for her and although she has stepped back from the leading the team of 12 facilitators and staff, she is still active as a facilitator herself.
My role as Chaplain had only ever been part time, so in 2009 I had started the Masters in Counselling program extramurally through Massey University. For 9 years I worked 3 ½ days/week in chaplaincy and 2 days/week as a counsellor at Te Aroha Noa Community Services, a social service agency started originally by our home church, PN Central Baptist Church. I retired from both roles in mid-2019 but have continued counselling in private practice, working from a lovely room at home.
I am registered with ACC to undertake Sensitive Claims sexual abuse counselling and have also specialized in relationship counselling using an approach called EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy). I find it very rewarding, although at times very intense, helping couples rebuild and strengthen their marriages and relationships. I also get referrals for individual counselling from pastors and others within the community and also do some ministry supervision for pastors and other church workers.
Our daughter, son-in-law and 4 grandchildren are still in Palmy, and life is good. Our respective roles in counselling, restorative justice and some involvement in our local Church PNCBC, feels like a good fit for this age and stage of life and are a meaningful and rewarding way to serve the Lord as we move (but not too quickly) into retirement.