In early 2014 I made the decision that, as a professional in the foreign service field, I needed to finally do postgraduate studies. My eyes set to see the world, I found a two-year master’s in international studies to be undertaken by scholarship in Vienna, Austria.
Much to my dismay, I didn’t get the scholarship and I guess you could say I was really cut up. Nevertheless, I decided to pray about it, and the peace of God that I found in this loss, was true comfort. God had assured me that he had bigger plans, and though I had no idea what they were, I was content with just knowing that.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs chapter 19 verse 21, NIV).
A chance encounter with providence
I did not know what would be next, but one day in the office, a colleague called my attention to another Government employee she was currently assisting with a visa to study in New Zealand. She basically invited me to seize this opportunity and I took some time to peruse the information. Feeling confident with what I saw, I decided to apply.
I would go off on vacation to New York to attend my uncle’s wedding that June, and the very morning after the wedding, I awoke to the email advising that I was provisionally accepted to the University of Auckland in New Zealand. At that moment, I started to see the onset of ‘the bigger plans’ that God had spoken of. I had not secured a scholarship yet, but I knew God was on to something.
When I returned home, I submitted the scholarship application and in October of that year it was made crystal clear that I had secured a New Zealand Aid (NZAID) Scholarship to undertake postgraduate studies in Development at the University of Auckland. As amazing as this all was, this was very new terrain. First, I had never thought I could get a scholarship, and I never dreamed I would get to live in the astounding New Zealand.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans chapter 8, verse 28, NIV).
It took me about twenty hours just to get to New Zealand, but I relished the journey. I started out on a Sunday morning and arrived in Auckland on Tuesday morning. I completely lost Monday.
I was in this beautiful new place to acquire more qualifications, but little did I know that this journey would be life-changing; that it would bring me closer to God. Though I had one friend from Jamaica who considerably helped me out, I quickly began to get homesick without the fellowship of a church. Eventually, on club expo day at the university, I found the University of Auckland (UoA) Christian club and soon signed up for weekly Bible study and gospel dinners.
This considerably changed my outlook and whole stay in New Zealand. Their Christian hospitality was heart-warming. My Bible study coordinator was into full-time ministry. Though she had attended the University of Auckland and attained her degrees (Bachelors and Masters) in Engineering, she explained that this was her full-time ministry. She would relentlessly take us to UoA events and just ensured we were generally okay.
Eventually during my second semester, when I changed dorms, one of my hallmates heard me mention the need to find and church. She invited me to Life Church, which was a Hillsong affiliate. The first week I attended church the theme was “God, Money and Me”.
It was basically about the importance of stewarding your money in the Kingdom. I found this very timely as God had been teaching me some new things about money/tithing before I had come to New Zealand. Needless to say, they had a Christians Against poverty (CAP) programme which I gladly took.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs Chapter 3, verses 5 – 6, NIV).
I learnt some important lessons about loving myself as is, without all the additions I was used to back home. Let’s just say there were some things I believed to be true about my appearance and God stripped that away. I must admit that I never thought I could look great without straightened hair or make-up.
These were two things that I lived without for all of nine months and now I can choose to wear make-up or not. When I do wear it, it’s not because of that lie I used to believe. I can now choose to go out without wearing it and feel just as beautiful. As for my hair, I chose to wear it natural and lock it. I have never felt queenlier.
I realised that I am smart enough to get and maintain a scholarship and though I am still not a straight-A student, I certainly represented the Kingdom well. I would not have had that chance, I believe, had it not been ordained by God.
I got the opportunity to develop my writing skills through workshops with published writers I met in New Zealand. I documented a few memorable moments from my Kiwi experience in this blog at https://jamaicankiwikim.wordpress.com/.
I was able to live in a faraway land, and although there were times I literally felt like God wasn’t with me because of the unfamiliar, I know that he is everywhere.
I found an amazing set of believers at school and church and it became hard to leave that fellowship behind. But it wasn’t just fellowship, it was truth Christian growth.
I ultimately became a stronger person and I now know what God was talking about when he said he had bigger plans for me. You see, I thought New Zealand was about school, and yes it was that too, but for God, it was my pilgrimage to certain truths I needed to learn. I got to see the world from a whole new angle…I got to see me from God’s eyes. It was after my return that I realised that this whole experience was my modern-day pilgrimage.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah Chapter 29 verse 11, NIV).
Kimberley Salmon is a praise and worship leader who remains passionate about touching hearts through singing and writing as she thrives to become a published author of Christian women’s fiction. She loves the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is grateful for God’s saving grace which continues to transform her life. As a senior Press Service International Columnist, she is elated that she can now share her journey with God with the world.