via Wikimedia Commons
The flight went well – Singapore Airlines are GREAT: 60 on demand movies, TV programmes, CD collection and arcade games on the in-seat screen – just what you need to while away 24 hours on a plane. It was not so great that I sat behind a screaming 18-month-old child on the first flight – neither he nor I slept much!
The slightly weird thing was the food – not that it wasn’t great as well, it was, truly was. Its just that I think I ate 6 times in 24 hours and lunch, supper, breakfast, breakfast, lunch and a ‘snack’ didn’t help with the time confusion. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for it all, but it was just weird.
We were half and hour late into Auckland and going through New Zealand customs is a bit of an ordeal. The immigration officers are nice, polite and helpful – but the threat of a hefty fine if you inadvertently bring fruit, soil, plant seeds or a myriad other things into the country throws the most certain of travellers into paranoia. As I was queuing, in my sleep-deprived state, I began to fear that I may have accidentally packed a whole kilo of granny smiths without noticing. I worried in case they discovered something that contravened the rules, that I was destined for prison and that this would be the end of my New Zealand career ever before it began. Needless to say, I was not arrested for granny smith smuggling!
However, I was granted my residence permit – so I’m now an official resident of New Zealand: it is both strange and encouraging to be granted residence in a country I’d only just arrived in. The big burly Maori guy who granted the permit, stamped my passport and said, “Welcome to your new home, Mr Andrew Shudall”. The last six months have all been about preparing to come and now that I’m here, I’m not here as a visitor but as someone who ‘belongs’ – when I return in September with Ines and the kids, we don’t have to go through the tourist lane at the airport but through the lane for New Zealand residents.
Although I now ‘belong’ here I still very much feel like an ‘alien in a strange land’ (Gen 2.22) – the stamp in my passport which grants me residence in this land that I do not know is just another miraculous provision of an open door. I know with greater certainty that this land is not my home, and strangely enough, I know too that no land this side of the Great Border is home to any of us who hold to the Lord Jesus. Our city, our land has not yet been made know, though our citizenship is secure.