For the past 10 years, the Compass Summer Conference has been hosted by the Venn Foundation in Auckland, New Zealand. This year, it took place from 4th to 11th January at Snells Beach. The Venn Foundation provides contexts for young adults to engage with ideas and the culture that shapes them and their world. Through the Compass Summer Conference, the Venn Foundation brings to life imagination and possibilities. It explores how faith and life connect. The theme of this conference was “Listen. Imagine. Create.”
I am grateful that I was one of the 80 conference delegates from across New Zealand and Australia at the Compass Summer Conference 2014. It was engaging, challenging and inspiring. The schedule was packed with top quality speakers which included Greg Fleming, Minister Bryden Black, Dr Mark Strom, Annette Pereira, Rachel Kitchens, Andrew Shamy, Andrew Dwight, Sam Bloore, Keith Newman and Mark Powell.
The content that we received from the lectures over the course of a week gave way to many reflections, discussions and conversations to emerge. Quincy Filiga, an entrepreneur within the music industry and an employee at World Vision, stated: “Compass was definitely an experience for me. It allowed me to engage with God’s grace and presence at another level by exploring the minds of theological experts which was a different perspective. My highlight of compass was meeting, engaging and appreciating the incredible images of God in different human forms. Compass has taught me the value of respect and appreciation of people, and the much deeper meaning of the beauty of being human. Some of the messages that I have received from this conference are: ‘The glory of God is humanity fully alive, so let us continue to grow into our own image as God intended, and not in the image of others’; ‘the biggest gifts you can offer the world, is the way you see the world’ and ‘lets build a cultural cathedral, allowing the spirit to work amongst our communities’. I look forward to the next compass conference which I am sure will take it to another level. I would like to thank Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o for blessing me with the opportunity to attend this year’s Compass conference. Praise God for your humble heart and generosity thus enabling me to absorb all the goodness and greatness of God at such an event. Bless you always!”
There were plenty of opportunities to meet and to engage in dialogue with the speakers as well as other conference delegates which saw new friendships and networks develop throughout the week. What I enjoyed most about connecting with others at Compass was hearing their stories. In the Tongan language, we call it “talanoa”, and throughout the conference the emphasis that was placed on the telling and re-telling our stories was prevalent. Bridget Lawrence, an Educationalist, stated: “This year I was challenged and really pondered and talked with others about what I really thought about humanity. Do I really believe we are created good? Or… that inherently we are sinful and must work to please God. I felt my eyes opened to dualistic ideas that I still held on to! I was also deeply moved to return again to the wonder and creativity of God in creation and the goodness, grace and power of God in the world.” The talanoa sessions with others were a great way to connect and to begin to understand each other’s background and experiences.
In addition, within the lectures we navigated through poems, narratives and historical accounts from the Bible which enabled us to make connections using our personal experiences. The exploration of identity, culture, faith and how these translate into our daily lives were empowering. Ruihana Paenga, a Youth Enabler at the Anglican Maori Church, stated: “I arrived at compass midway through the week. Having lost my Dad recently, I was not completely sure why God still wanted me there. I soon realised that it was to show me His love through His people. I was deeply touched by the small things, such as a girl in my unit who made me feel welcome and she caught an insect in my room, a father and his children with amazing hugs and advice, friends who joked and teased, strangers who eventually became friends and the plans to stay in touch. I am so grateful that Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o invited me to Compass as I received so much. Also, to be able to share my Maori culture through being God’s beloved was a privilege and a joy.”
There was also a “free time” slot each day which allowed us to have some time to ourselves. People either went for jogs or walks around the vicinity or took time to rest. Others took visits to the beach or vineyards or ice-cream parlours. The balance sufficed.
Since birth I was raised in the Christian faith under the Tongan Methodist Church here in Auckland, New Zealand. My Tongan indigenous values, beliefs and practices were intertwined with the Christian faith. Leading up to the Compass Summer Conference, I was not quite sure what to expect but I knew that I would be inspired and empowered by the experience. I was right. I have come away from this conference feeling quite refreshed with a seemingly new zest for life. While the content that was delivered contributed to my understanding of poems, narratives and historical accounts from the Bible, the conference also provided me with plenty of opportunities to pause and reflect on my life. It has challenged me to implement incremental changes that would help me fulfil my hopes and goals for 2014 and inevitably better navigate throughout my options in life.
One of the many concepts that we explored which inspired me was the notion of “creativity” and the questions which were posed by one of the speakers included; ‘What are you building?’, ‘What are you shaping?’, ‘What are the narratives that drive your environment?’ and ‘What are you creating that acts as a gift for another?’ Those questions acted as signposts for me. Having reflected on them, it reaffirmed the importance of cultivating and creating positive change within my life and the lives of others and it reminded me of the weight of the responsibilities that are inextricably attached.
Annie Rasmussen, a 2013 recipient of the NZ Prime Ministers Pacific Youth Awards (in leadership) and Post-graduate student at the Faculty of Education, The University of Auckland, stated: “The Compass Summer Conference was an amazing experience that sought to build connections between the love of Christ and our lives as we know them through critically listening, imagining and creating. It was a unique forum that built relationships and connections with fellow Christians that share the vision to collectively instigate positive change within our New Zealand society and within our respective areas of expertise. What stood out for me was the power of relationships and the solution to challenging issues and how boundaries can be moved by fostering a strong understanding of each other. I loved how Compass provided a safe place for difficult issues/concerns to be raised and discussed. It allowed us to engage in positive and constructive ways that I am sure will have long-lasting effects on all the delegates that attended as well as those who they will go out and influence. I am really grateful that Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o invited me to this conference. Thank you Emz for getting me involved in such a positive experience.”
I would like to offer my thanks to the Compass Summer Conference 2014 organisers, leaders and speakers for their extraordinary leadership and humility. To my group leader Gael Spence, you are wonderful! Thank you all for an eye-opening experience that I will remember for a long time. To my sis Emeline Afeaki-Mafile’o, thank you for the invitation to attend this conference. I truly appreciate your kindness and leadership. You have made a positive impact in my life and in the lives of many others within our Pasifika community. Thank you for your ongoing examples of humility, faith, love and hope. ‘Ofa lahi atu xox Furthermore, I would like to thank all conference delegates who I had the pleasure in getting know. New friendships have been formed which is a blessing.
The Compass Summer Conference ended on a high note last weekend but sadly while we were saying our goodbyes, Cyclone Ian tore through my homeland, Tonga, and its’ path of destruction has left thousands of people in the Ha’apai Islands of Tonga distraught and homeless. Relief efforts to help families in Tonga rebuild their livelihoods in the aftermath of Cyclone Ian have seen many Government and Non-Government Organisations work collectively to help. If you would like to donate money to the Tonga Red Cross and you reside in New Zealand, you can fund online at www.oxfam.org.nz or by phone 0800 600 700 or text HELP to 4847 for an automatic $3 donation. Alternatively, you can text “HAAPAI” to +6768777827 from anywhere in the world or 7828 from Tonga for only $1 to help Tonga Red Cross’ restoration efforts. You can also log into http://www.klickex.com/ or http://www.digicelmobilemoney.com/ to send money to family in Tonga & Ha’apai ***FREE TRANSFER & WITHDRAWAL*** Please help spread the word and please remember the families affected by Cyclone Ian in your prayers.
I would like to conclude this post by reiterating the questions that I mentioned earlier so that you may ponder on each of them: ‘What are you building?’, ‘What are you shaping?’, ‘What are the narratives that drive your environment?’ and ‘What are you creating that acts as a gift for another?’ And as you ponder on those questions, consider the process of ‘listening, imagining and then creating’. The video link below was shared by one of the conference delegates, Hannah Musuku, during our creative reflections night. It is very inspiring. Press play and enjoy. God bless!