A Light in New Zealand
About the Guest
Andy and Nikki, directors of FamilyLife New Zealand, realize their marriage and family are a miracle from God. Through various circumstances, they have experienced the pain of divorce and know what a mark it leaves. Today Andy and Nikki talk about how they started FamilyLife New Zealand and what they’ve seen in the lives of countless couples as a result of this ministry. Andy also talks about the serious health challenges he’s faced at the ministry and at home as he’s coped with ongoing kidney failure.
Andy and Nikki, directors of FamilyLife New Zealand, realize their marriage and family are a miracle from God.
A Light in New Zealand
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today® for Monday January 25th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine. Andy and Nikki Bray join us today to talk about their great FamilyLife adventure in New Zealand.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today®, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. We want to pause here at the beginning of today’s program. This is the last week that we’re going to be encouraging listeners to make sure you spend some time together in God’s word, during 2010. As a family around the dinner table, as a couple before you go to bed at night, however you want to fit it into the rhythm of your life.
But, we’ve been looking at different passages and actually what we’ve been doing is going to the devotional that you and your wife Barbara wrote, Dennis which is called Moments With You.
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: Because you start each of your daily devotionals with a verse from scripture. What’s the verse on the 25th of January?
Dennis: James 1:24, it says “Once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”
Bob: This is the man looking in the mirror intently…
Dennis: That’s right. The passage is talking about being a doer of the word, and not merely a hearer. It’s talking about the guy who isn’t a doer. He looks into the mirror of God’s word and forgets what it says. He doesn’t apply it, doesn’t practice it, and walks away from it. I’ll tell you, if there’s a need today, it is for people to be not merely hearers, but doers of the scripture.
Bob: So, as we talk together about this passage today, pretty simple to talk about, “Are we doing what we’re supposed to be doing?”
Dennis: Yes, and I think in a marriage relationship if I might stretch the analogy a bit, are you reflecting the truth of God’s word to your spouse? To remind them to obey and not enabling your spouse in some areas where perhaps they’re dabbling in things where they ought not to keep doing it. Maybe it’s something you’re watching on TV, a habit or lifestyle issue. In marriage, we can speak the truth in love to one another. So perhaps, what you ought to discuss is, “Is there an area of our lives where we can better mirror God’s truth to one another.”
Bob: I have mentioned already this month that if our listeners are interested they can sign up to receive your daily devotional via e-mail. Go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s information available there as well, about how you can get a copy of the book Moments With You. Whether you use this book or some other book, or if you just use the bible itself. We’re hoping you’ll spend some time together in God’s word each day throughout the rest of this year.
Now, most of the time, when we do our radio program, we do it from our studios in Little Rock.
Dennis: Yes, where we are right now.
Bob: And there have been occasions where we have actually done remote recording. We’ve gone to visit a guest in a particular location and recorded from that location.
Dennis: That’s correct.
Bob: When you first came to me and said, “Well we ought to have Andy and Nikki Bray from New Zealand on FamilyLife Today®.” I was thinking road trip. I was thinking, “Yes! We’re going down to New Zealand to record!”
Dennis: That’s because you’ve been and I haven’t, and I’m bitter.
Bob: I’m a little disappointed.
Dennis: You have truly experienced southern hospitality.
Bob: I’ve been close. I’ve not been to the land of the Kiwis, I’ve only been to Australia.
Dennis: I thought you had been to New Zealand!
Bob: No, I’ve never been to New Zealand. And, you can ask Andy and Nikki, they’ll tell you that Australia is really just a poor man’s New Zealand, is all it is. Isn’t that right Andy?
Andy: Absolutely we’re much more refined down here, than the Australians. It’s so good to talk to you guys!
Dennis: I do want to welcome you to FamilyLife Today®, Andy and Nikki Bray, who are directors of FamilyLife of New Zealand.
Nikki: Thank you very much.
Dennis: I want you to begin Andy, by just telling a little bit. You and Nikki have been married for 20 years, you have three children. And, you were an advertising executive when God kind of tapped you on the shoulder and had other plans for you. Would you share with our listeners a little bit of that faith journey of what took you out of the marketplace to make a difference in families in New Zealand?
Andy: Well, I came home from work one night and my beautiful wife here, flashed a pink photocopied brochure in front of me and said, “Why don’t we go to this marriage conference?” To me coming from the advertising background where I did glossies, annual reports and high quality production numbers, this pink photocopied flyer didn’t quite do it for me. I thought we’d be doing something in a church hall or something. Not quite my idea of a romantic weekend.
Andy: Though I had made a promise that we would do something on a regular basis to pursue our marriage so I was in a bit of a spot, agreed to go, and well, it’s history now. We went to this amazing weekend at a hotel nonetheless and heard you guys speaking, and we were just completely, profoundly turned around on the spot on how we needed to get this amazing message to our Kiwi patriots here in New Zealand. After a little bit of persuasion, I talked to Nikki, and we decided to throw in our jobs at the advertising agency and join the ministry full time. It’s kind of history now, but it was an amazing event for us.
Nikki: That’s the male perspective.
Bob: So, give us the other side of the coin here Nikki.
Nikki: Well, we did have a wonderful weekend. Andy came away from that weekend saying, “I want to go to Little Rock and join and do this full time.” I wasn’t quite so keen at the time. Loved the weekend but didn’t know if it was what we wanted to invest our lives into. So, we prayed about it. Andy talked to the team here, and was quite keen to do that. We found out that we had to raise support, of course. It took about nine months for me. Andy didn’t push me; he gave me some time to process it.
I went to him one evening after about nine months and said to him, “Honey, if this is what you really, really feel that the Lord wants us to do as a couple with our lives, then I want you to know I’m 100% behind you.” And the very next day he handed his notice in. That was scary for me because he didn’t give me any time to get used to the idea. It was just, “We’re going to do this.”
Andy: But I need to say, you guys were on video back then. So it wasn’t you in here in New Zealand in person. So it was a slightly different experience than what you’d be used to back in the States.
Bob: Yes, I wanted to ask you about that. Going to a video conference and seeing two guys from the United States who were talking about marriage. Did you feel like it was a little out of sync with the Kiwi culture to hear a couple of Americans talking about marriage?
Andy: We adjust pretty well. It was just so incredibly godly material, and so incredibly well presented. It just touched our hearts so much. Didn’t it honey?
Nikki: I think too, the biblical principles transcend any culture. That’s the beauty of it. There’s something neat about having your faces up there on the video. But then, of course in a live conference, we believed it’s the same there. You might be on stage, but you’ve got those videos where you can see people’s faces and connect with them.
Bob: You’ve had thousands of people who have viewed the video. When you do a Weekend to Remember® conference, there in New Zealand, do you typically have 50, 100, a couple hundred couples? How many come out for a Weekend to Remember®?
Andy: Yes, our capacity here in New Zealand is a little bit smaller than you guys in America, and our conference rooms generally hold about 200 or 300 people. So we’re generally full to capacity. We get as many people into a conference room as we can. So, every time we run a conference, they are full. But nothing like the numbers that you have.
Bob: Nikki, is there real legitimate life-change that takes place when people are sitting in a hotel room in New Zealand and watching a video of a couple of Yanks?
Nikki: It’s absolutely unbelievable. The Lord does an incredible work in people’s hearts. We just have so many stories of how God has changed their marriages and their lives and the lives of their children. It’s just so encouraging.
Bob: You guys have experienced some challenges of your own in giving leadership to FamilyLife in New Zealand. Andy, when you left the advertising world and went full time with FamilyLife, you were already experiencing some health challenges back then weren’t you?
Andy: I was. When I was about 21 years old I got a strep throat sore throat, and that led to a condition that blew my kidneys apart. I suffer from chronic renal failure, which meant that I had to get onto the kidney machine. Now, when I was at the advertising agency I’d actually had a transplant by then, and was living life pretty well. We were having a good time with that transplant. I met Nikki, we got married, had three delightful children.
But soon after getting into ministry, I did lose that kidney. So for the last 12 years, I’ve been back on that kidney machine again. I’m trying to run a pretty fast train here, and keeping the team afloat. Trying to lead the team here, and run the conferences around the country. So it does have with it, its challenges for us, that’s for sure.
Bob: You face dialysis on a weekly basis? How often are you strapped up to the machine?
Andy: I go on, not most days, but certainly every second day.
Bob: For a couple of hours every second day?
Andy: Yes. It’s about a four hour process, Bob.
Bob: And in the intervening time, are there ongoing health challenges related to the kidney failure?
Andy: Well, dialysis only does a certain amount of cleaning out one’s blood I guess. So, I am left with some irritations, like some itchy skin. But we cope pretty well.
Nikki: We do.
Bob: Nikki, I want to ask you about that. Because, it can be incredibly frustrating, painful and challenging to face what Andy is facing. And then challenging and frustrating for you as a wife to have your life wrapped up in that. Have you had to, as a couple, purpose to take some steps so you can stay fresh with one another in this battle?
Nikki: Yes, we have. I remember Andy saying when he first went on the machine. Because, of course Andy had been married before, he became a Christian, and he got sick when he was married. His wife at the time didn’t want to stay married to Andy. She didn’t want to be married to a sick person, so she left him. Then after that he became a Christian.
So when he ended up on dialysis this time, he was very aware of the pressure that it puts on the other person. Of course we had children as well, so that was even more pressure on the family. So, he said to me, “I want you to be involved as little as you possibly can be. I want to do this by myself so it doesn’t have much of an impact on you.”
So, he has tried to protect us I think from the burden and the pressure of that. He sets up the machine, basically on his own. But, he does it at home in the lounge while we’re all there. But he’s tried to put boundaries around it. Then, just recently as he’s had to increase his dialysis times, which is now every day and a half, he’s said to me. “You have to continue to go out and do things that you want to do. Don’t feel that you’ve got to be stuck here, just because I’m stuck here at home.” So, he has always been very thoughtful of me, and not restricting my freedom or the children’s freedom to match.
Of course I think one of the things that we’ve both had to do for each other, has been to extend grace to one another, because we both get fearful. That machine can be quite frightening. Things have gone wrong and it’s quite scary. We haven’t always responded in the best way. But, we’ve had to extend God’s grace to one another in the midst of those situations. We’ve seen Him do incredible things in the midst of those situations.
Bob: I’m thinking back to last fall when my wife Mary Ann took five or six days, went to another city, to visit our daughter, son-in-law and our grandbaby. So I was at home, being Mr. Mom. I’m just thinking, Nikki, you probably haven’t had the opportunity to take five, six days and get away and be on your own, in 20 years of marriage have you?
Nikki: Well, I hadn’t. That’s exactly right. Because I had never felt like I could leave Andy. Because, he had the machine there, and I didn’t want to leave him to do his dialysis on his own. But, I have just experienced that incredible opportunity, and I’m so thankful for it. Last year, I won some money.
Andy: Let me tell you about this. Nikki won some money because she was voted by the New Zealand public as the best mum of New Zealand, “Mum of the Year” award, she won.
Bob: That’s great!
Nikki: There are not a lot of people that live here in New Zealand.
Dennis: I want our American listeners to know that “mum” is “mom.”
Bob: “The mum of the year”
Dennis: That’s right, The Mother of the year award of New Zealand.
Bob: So, you were named the “Mum of the Year”, in New Zealand, and you won a cash prize with that. What did you do with the money?
Nikki: Well, I had always planned to take our oldest daughter to England when she was 21. So I was left with this money, and decided at the time that I would take Olivia, our middle daughter. So we went to the UK for four or five weeks. I haven’t been back to England for 19 years.
So, Olivia and I went to Paris and London, and I took her to the university that I attended in England, just visited where I grew up and my family. We had the most amazing time. And yes I haven’t been able to do that. So it was just precious to spend that time with her, and to enjoy the freedom. But, of course, I must say I did miss the boys back home.
Bob: Andy, you got along okay while your wife was gone for four or five weeks?
Andy: Well, I had my son Benjamin with me, so we had quite a good boy’s bachelor party really. In fact, the second day that Nikki left, we went out and bought a deep fat fryer.
Dennis: There you go!
Bob: That sounds like guy time right there!
Dennis: That’ll work right here in Arkansas! You’ve written a book called Treasures in the Darkness. You told a story about how one day you got out of bed on the wrong side of the bed. I found it interesting that there’s a wrong side in New Zealand just like there is here in America. You were grumpy and, kind of grouchy, and you were short with Nikki, and said some things you shouldn’t have said to her. And you arrived at the office, and you opened your e-mail, and there in your inbox was an e-mail from Nikki.
Nikki, what I’d like you to do is get your book, turn to page 126, and I want you to read what you had written to him. Is there anything else you want to add, about how grumpy and grouchy you were that day, Andy before she reads this?
Andy: I just remember—you know. You’ve probably been there yourselves. When you get out of bed, you just hit the wrong vibe. Just saying some things and behaving in a way that’s deplorable. Just, not good. You just wish you could wind the clock back. Then I arrived at work, knowing I had abused Nikki with my tongue and maybe the kids as well. Not being as good as I could have been. I turn my email on, and this is what she wrote me.
Nikki: “I was just folding some washing and thinking what an amazing husband you are. I continue to admire the way you faithfully take the kids out to breakfast once a week. You may wonder whether you are having an impact. Take it by faith, you are having a huge impact, and you will only ever know it when they are older and can tell you some of their treasured memories. Bringing up a family takes a great deal of effort. Thanks for striving to be the best that you can be. I appreciate all that you do, the notes to us all, comments in their books, art classes keeping the home and garden neat and tidy, cleaning our cars, reading to the kids when you’re on the machine. I know you’d rather crash, but you never say “no”. Plus so much more.
We think you’re terrific, and we’re blessed to have you as our family leader, husband, and dad. Your loving honey…”
Andy: When you don’t deserve, even a kind word, to have all of those words poured out, as I arrived at work, the very first thing I read. It’s an incredibly uplifting, inspirational person to have in your life that can bless you in such a way when you least deserve it. She is my rock, guys, I just can’t say that often enough, how I just so appreciate this woman in my life that enables me to do what we do.
Bob: Nikki, that sounds a little bit like giving a blessing for an insult. I’ve heard something about that at the Weekend to Remember®.
Nikki: Yes, that’s exactly right. I mean, you have to live what you preach don’t you?
Bob: Yes, sometimes it does come back to bite you, you’re right.
Dennis: There is one more story I want you tell here before we’re done today. There happened to be an evening when you had this young couple coming to your house who you were going to counsel. And on your way back home…
Bob: Wait, I think they know the story, just tell us what happened?
Nikki: We’d had some arguments on the Saturday evening, and we went to bed, and it hadn’t been resolved. We got up on Sunday morning, and of course it still hadn’t been resolved. It was still there. We went off to church, and I forgot all about it, while we were going through the church service. We got back in the car, and I said something that really ticked Andy off, and it all flared up again. So, we were driving along the road, and he got so angry that he pulled the car off to the side of the road, opened the door and said, “I’m out of here.” He stormed off across the field never to be seen again.
Bob: Wait, wait. This is the director of FamilyLife in New Zealand?
Nikki: I’m afraid so. We live exactly where you live.
Dennis: And it happened to be raining as you walked across that field, didn’t it Andy?
Andy: It was very wet.
Nikki: And of course, we had three young children in the car looking, saying “What on earth is going on here?”
Bob: Where’s daddy going?”
Nikki: Yes, that’s right. This was probably half-past-twelve in the afternoon. So I took the children home, fed them, and started to get a little bit concerned because Daddy hadn’t come home. I started to feel a bit sorry for him. It was about four hours later by this stage. So, I loaded them into the car, drove around looking for him. It was pouring down with rain, and couldn’t see him anywhere, came home.
Then I think about, finally at six o’clock at night he walked through the door, looking a bit like a drowned rat. Came up to me and said, “Honey, I am really sorry I acted like a fool. Would you please forgive me?” And yes, the young couple came around about an hour later for pre-marital counseling. The first thing they said when they walked in the door was “Didn’t we see Andy around three o’clock walking along the highway in the pouring rain?”
Bob: So they got a little real family life right there didn’t they?
Nikki: They sure did!
Dennis: What a great lesson to pass on to our listeners. I have a feeling there’s someone who may be listening on an iPhone right now, walking beside the road. He’s gotten out of the car.
Bob: A drowned rat who is tuned into FamilyLife Today®.
Dennis: I want to thank you guys for taking this time with us and giving leadership to FamilyLife there in New Zealand. There is more that we can unpack from your story but we’re going to have to do that a little later. But, thanks for being with us, and thanks for being on the broadcast.
Bob: You know, I have to think that in that drowned rat moment, the fact that you guys had attended and, in fact hosted dozens of FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences, and watched Dennis on video all of those years. That had to come back and pay some dividends in that moment. I’m thinking of the listeners—we’ve got listeners that have attended a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember®, some of our listeners haven’t ever attended one.
We’ve got some that have been to a conference or, even two or three. But it never hurts to have a refresher in something like the Weekend to Remember®.
I mention that because here in a couple of weeks we’re going to be kicking off the spring season of the Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conferences. You’re going to be up Valentine’s weekend at the Gaylord National Hotel in the Washington, D.C. area, with your wife Barbara. I’m going to be at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania that same weekend. We have other conferences around the country that weekend and then in subsequent weekends throughout the spring.
If our listeners are interested in attending a Weekend to Remember® Marriage Conference, they can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, for more information about the conference. Or they can register online if they’d like at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also register by phone, 1-800-FLTODAY is the number.
Let me just say a word to regular FamilyLife Today® listeners. Many of you are aware that we have a small group of folks who help support this ministry as monthly donors. We call them Legacy Partners. If you sign up this week as a new Legacy Partner, and you agree to have your donations sent each month by credit card draft or by bank draft, we’d love to send you a certificate so you and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember® at no cost.
So you sign up as a supporter of FamilyLife Today®, a monthly Legacy Partner, you have those donations made by credit card draft of bank draft and we’ll send you a Weekend to Remember® gift certificate, again at no cost, and you guys can attend one of the upcoming conferences as our guests. It’s our way of saying thanks for your monthly support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today®. So, whether you want to go online and register or call us and register, or look into becoming a Legacy Partner, and attend as our guest as a new Legacy Partner, whatever works for you.
Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and make plans to join us for a Weekend to Remember®. And then the next time you walk away from the car and are caught in the rain, you can stop and think, “What was it they said at the Weekend to Remember®?” And maybe the memories will help you out a little bit.
Tomorrow Andy and Nikki Bray are going to be back with us and we’re going to talk more with them about the ministry in New Zealand, but we’re also going to hear about a tragedy that hit their family. This was almost two years ago now. They’ll unpack the story for us tomorrow. I hope you can be here to hear it.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today®.
FamilyLife Today® is a production of FamilyLife® of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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