The ‘Unpacking Life’ series of videos showcase the stories of everyday New Zealanders who have journeyed through trial to experience triumph. They testify to the promise of ‘hope’ that’s available to us all.

The extended version of ‘Zion’s Story’, carries more about his life in the Gloriavale community and the unconditional love that was discovered through a dramatic life change.

Zion was born into Gloriavale – a reclusive community now based on the West Coast of New Zealand. He tells his story of faith and hope, as he faced up to the control that was affecting their community, which resulted in he and his wife’s excommunication from the community, including the loss of their friends and wider family – and yet they live with hope.

Life was going great – until the debt kicked in. Feeling trapped, their hope started to fail, and even their marriage showed cracks. But their story does not end there. Hear Mark and Carol telling of their lows, but then also of the faith, hope and help they received which helped them not only to get out out of the hole of debt, but to also feel free!

Contending with aggressive breast cancer and losing her only daughter in a tragic car accident would’ve shattered most people. But while these were indeed life shattering experiences… Mandy found courage and strength through her deepening faith. Be Inspired.

While still a child, Raki found himself at home in charge of two younger siblings. Forced to steal to keep life going… with the trauma of molestation to endure… and with alcohol and drugs a tempting distraction… where was hope?

Born with her heart on the outside of her body and other complications, Aisha wasn’t even expected to survive a single night, let alone over thirty years. Overcoming bullying and physical limitations, her vibrant, hope-filled life is a testimony to never giving up.

It was a massive shock when Wayne’s wife Mary was diagnosed with a brain tumour and given six months to live. What followed was a miraculous 24 year journey of never giving up hope.

For David and Linda Cowie, charity is not just something they do, but the focus of their entire lives. Over the years, they have founded several charities. The Vanuatu Family Care Centre is their latest venture, providing basic health care as well as education that aims to break the local cycle of domestic violence through empowering at risk women and children.

As a mischief child, Peter rebelled. Growing up being told that he was a nobody… a waste of space… and was fat, black and ugly didn’t help. Sadly Peter believed these things and they shaped his life – leading to criminal activity and violence. He was disowned by his family, in trouble with the law and very lonely. It took a personal prayer and a powerful encounter in a jail cell to change everything. Today, working as a counsellor, Peter is able to draw from his experiences and to help bring positive change to the lives of others.

Born into a violent home in rural Australia, every day held uncertainty, even danger, for Rosalie and her seven siblings. At 15, she ran away to Melbourne, and immersed herself in a life of darkness and crime. It wasn’t until she hit rock bottom and bargained with the God she didn’t believe in that her life changed forever.

Jerram shares how a sense of God’s calling led him away from his dream job in television journalism and into the adventure of rescuing children from slavery and sexual exploitation in Asia.

Nancy and her husband Paul, were happily married and re-discovering their love for each other as ’empty-nest’ parents. Getting on “the romantic boat again” was a joy and an adventure. At 12:51pm on Tuesday the 22nd of February 2011 a massive earthquake struck Christchurch… and Nancy’s life changed dramatically. Enduring deep sorrow, Nancy also encountered an extraordinary peace along with the care, kindness and love that came through those around her. Ultimately, Nancy entered a whole new chapter in life.

Aimee was faced with a challenging decision. While enjoying her job and having a great home life she was offered a role with a charitable organisation called Christians Against Poverty (CAP), which helps people to break free from debt and poverty. A decade later, she’s now CEO, and the CAP NZ team have helped more than 1300 people previously crippled by debt become entirely free of it.

Jamie’s daughter, Carrie, was just 9 when they found out she had cancer. She underwent gruelling treatment and regained her health, but relapsed some time later. Jamie recounts her extraordinary story of faith and courage, and the way she carried those around her through the experience. Despite everything she went through, Carrie left a powerful message for her family: to smile, stay strong and believe.

Having growing up in a Christian family. Kerensa’s world fell apart when her parents divorced. As a result, her life took a turn for the worse. While in an abusive relationship, Kerensa felt broken and deeply alone and cried out to God. Through the intervention of her Dad, the tide started to turn for the better. While still wrestling with issues of ‘control’ in life, decisions were made that lead to life changing revelations.

Coming from an active life on a farm and a subsequent career as a mechanic, Timothy’s life took a dramatic turn when he suffered a spinal cord injury in 2010. Adjusting to life as a tetraplegic has however opened deep insights that have actually empowered him in the service of others. With the loving support of family and friends and in spite of enormous obstacles, Timothy’s story offers a glimpse at what can really sustain us in life.

Petrina came from “a very dark corner of the world”. From an alcoholic, dysfunctional family she left home and was living on the streets by 12 years old. Gang life and violence followed… along with drugs to try and dull the pain. Her idea of relationships had been sadly shaped by her past, with her considering that the pain, violence and control she had encountered as being an expression of love. An encounter with a new group of people helped open her eyes to what ‘love’ and ‘relationships’ could really be. Now happily married with children, life couldn’t be more different – in a very good way.

Born and raised in a typical Māori family, Shadrach was exposed to racist attitudes towards his culture while attending a largely non- Māori school. At the same time, his parents were involved in treaty settlements, so Shadrach began to see and understand the struggles others had gone through. As a result, he struggled with his perception of self and those around him, and blamed non-Māori for these attitudes. He knew something needed to change, but didn’t know how until he experienced unconditional love and acceptance.

From a traditional Indian Hindu upbringing Lila felt unfulfilled. She was living a double life… and after a failed marriage and the loss of her parents in car accident, Lila was in a bad way. Searching for an answer led her to explore spirituality in variety of forms… but her feelings of guilt, loneliness and rejection persisted and she considered the possibility of suicide. Even business success didn’t help. However, everything changed when Lila made one sincere prayer while alone in her room.

Growing up with family violence, Penni and Mike saw marriage as a possible escape. But having married as teenagers, it was just a matter of time before violence crept into their relationship too. For them, the road to recovery was highlighted by deep personal battles that brought them both to the very edge of life itself. Theirs is a remarkable story that testifies to the fact that even the most broken relationships can be healed and reconciled.

Aaron’s younger years were full of success. He joined the army at an early age, and by 24 was fulfilling his lifelong dream to become a pilot, and settling down to a happy marriage. Unfortunately, academic failure, and the failure of his marriage soon led him to believe he’d actually made a mess of his life. However, Aaron’s hope for the future started to return through a simple scripture that reminded him that he was not alone.

What seemed like an ordinary days work on the farm for Helena and Stef dramatically changed when Stef had a terrible quad-bike accident. The resulting bleeding on his brain, emergency surgery and induced coma put both of their lives in turmoil. While Stef’s recovery was miraculous, it set in motion consequences that brought great trial. Yet the love and support they received through others was both remarkable and hugely encouraging.

By the time Marty was 21, he was an alcoholic and getting caught up in bar fights. He also had two kids outside of marriage, despite being brought up in an Irish Catholic family and going to church most Sundays. He was a hard worker, but needed to find a way to finance the alcohol, and often found ways to play on injuries or even hurt himself to get time off work. All of this changed with a chance encounter with a friend, that left him with the realisation that it’s not until you know God personally that you really begin to change.

Rob was just 12 when he was taken by the Nazis in his homeland, Holland. In a concentration camp, he witnessed the horrific end that waited for so many people. His story is one of understandable anger, yet it’s the message he received from a nurse that Rob says is his most memorable moment – a simple passage from the bible that changed his life. Rob explains how the anger left him, and why he views the bible as the most powerful love story of all time.

Leonie (known as Loll) started life without a sense of identity, belonging or love. She had been given away at birth, without even a name. Her adoptive family was abusive, and by the time she was 11, she was using drugs to ease the pain. At 14, she ran away in a desperate effort to find what she was searching for. Broken after decades of destructive living, a friend’s encouragement to ‘choose life’ set her on a path to a life changing relationship with God.

From a happy childhood, growing up in a Christian family, Hans’ teenage years gravitated toward rebellion against everything that he had been taught. His lifestyle stood in sharp contrast to his initial commitments to God. Hans’ story reflects how life can slide into very dark places – however, through reaching out to others, he received encouragement to make better choices and experienced miraculous changes as a result.

Rebekah understands exactly what it’s like to face difficulties in life, as well as the rejection and misunderstanding that can come as a result of them. She was born with Spina Bifida, which has made even the most simple things an incredible challenge. Her story is one of great achievement, but behind that is a belief that each one of us is handcrafted as an individual, and no-one is a mistake – and that the best is yet to come.

 

Amy’s dad died when she was very young, leaving her mum to raise her and her two siblings. She spent lots of time with her grandparents, who instilled a great respect for the church and education. Then, at 16, she fell in love and became pregnant. In her story, Amy admits she felt like a failure. But even after hard study, a graduation, gaining a great job, and having had three beautiful children, Amy says she still felt like something was missing – but all that changed after she had a dream.