"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8
We are so excited to celebrate the ten year anniversary of our beloved pastor and family for our very first blog post! Let’s draw near to Andrew and his wife Laura and 5 lovely kids, Olivia, Bri, Grace, Micah, and Jade. First, let’s rewind to November 2009...
Andrew had finished 3 years of Bible college pastoral training in Adelaide, Australia. He and Laura had been married for 11 years and at this point had four kids ages 8, 7, 5, and 2. They had been renovating their home in Australia in addition to keeping up with their growing family and finishing studies. With Andrew’s history of being a builder, fixing up homes and reselling them has been a common occurrence in their lives. Andrew and Laura are both originally from Upper Hutt, Wellington and were convinced they wanted to find a job back in their home country of New Zealand. There weren’t many pastoral jobs being advertised in New Zealand, but they had been trusting God and continuing to search. Andrew heard from a friend that a church in Taupo was looking. He followed up and found out the church was called Church@109 and in early December of 2009 he flew to Taupo for an interview.
Andrew was warmly welcomed by the congregation of 109, which was around 70 people at that time. He remembers the people were kind and complementary and there was a strong eldership. The early church mission emphasised showing grace and kindness to each other. He felt and received grace while he was there. He drove around town and saw all the IronMan flags and was excited about the potential of living in this beautiful town where he had gone on holiday in his younger days. During that interview weekend, he preached his first sermon at 109 and it was on Psalm 121.
I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD watches over you-- the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all harm-- he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
He left excited about the job in Taupo at the church with the funny roof.
Andrew shared his excitement with Laura and family back in Australia, and they finished up work on their house in preparation for a future sale and feeling hopeful about the job. A couple months later he found out he received the job and the Hiltons excitedly moved to Taupo.
Andrew and Laura realized while doing this interview what a step of faith it was for the church to hire him full time at that point. He thought he might start out at part time, but the church wanted him full time and trusted God they could support him in that role. They arrived around Easter of 2010 and loved the church and the people right from the start. Pete and Margaret Barry helped them find a place to live and became “local grandparents” to the kids. Laura remembers the first Sunday people were so excited to have them; Ann McGregor hugged her and had tears of relief in her eyes that the Hiltons had come.
What a joy the last ten years have been for everyone involved. Andrew and Laura have both enjoyed the depth of relationship at church that has formed through the years. They can find their best friends there. In those last 10 years, many new people have become a part of the church family, there are currently about 180 people that attend. That building with the funny roof has been renovated on the inside and on the grounds outside. Kids have grown up and learned more about God through many Kids Under Construction classes, and so many have drawn closer to the Lord and discovered Him for the first time through God’s grace at Church@109.
The church family @109 has been blessed by the Biblical, humble teaching and leadership of Andrew. Laura started out playing in the background of the worship team on guitar and for the last five years or so has taken a leadership role on that team. She now shares her wisdom and honesty with us up front while leading us in powerful worship. The three older girls share their musical talent up front or serve in the back with the worship team. Micah and Jade, their younger two children, bring joy and fun to their Kids Under Construction classes and can be seen helping out in a variety of ways.
As Andrew and Laura look to the future of 109, they prayerfully hope to better fulfill the mission to share Christ with the world and specifically with the people in Taupo. They hope to see an increase in pastoral care, and to support more missions. They look forward to building more relationships as the church continues to grow. Thank you Lord for 10 wonderful years with the Hilton family, may there be many more to come.