We are so thankful that five (#6 through to #10) of the ten Johnson cousins could meet like this in Auckland, 1000s of miles across land and sea from Madurai. Ten years ago, who would have thought that such a thing was even possible!

The first day of Cuzmas (19 Dec)
Prasanna landed in Auckland on 19th December 2010 from India in the Cathay Pacific flight via Hong Kong. His plane was an hour late. By the time he came through Customs it was 3:30 pm.

It was too late for the children to have lunch and leave again for the afternoon service at Sovereign Grace at 4:30 pm.

When Philip and I returned after service, we all went for a drive. We drove past Macleans College and Eastern Parade. We then went to Botany Mall to get some cough syrup.

On the way back through Cascades Road, the Christmassy lights on Eastgate Christian Center caught our attention, and so we turned into that road. Initially we just wanted to see the show from the sidewalk, but we all ended up going in to see the Time Tunnel, a “20 minute theatrical time journey on the search for Christmas.” The show was an enjoyable experience and obviously much effort had gone into it. Although we are not
particular about celebrating Christmas as a festival, any church that uses this opportunity to speak about the Incarnation of Jesus gains our immediate respect.

We returned late for our dinner and prayer, somehow managing to keep Prasanna from giving in to jet lag and falling asleep.

The second day of Cuzmas (20 Dec)
Tim had to go to Unitec and so the girls and Prasanna tagged along. They drove past the marae there. It was pouring in Auckland (with rain forecast for seven days more). They then went to Botany Mall to buy Cluedo, a board game, in Whitcoulls. After lunch, with Prasanna’s help (he was always good at things like this), they figured the game out before sitting down to play it.

After dinner, we gathered for family prayer. We sang ‘Speak O Lord’ and ‘In Christ Alone.’ We then brought our many requests and thanks to God in prayer.

After this, GB left to retire for the night, and the rest of us settled down to watch the first session of our study using the DVD ‘Amazing Grace, the history and theology of Calvinism.’ Our method this time is to study a section, pause the DVD, discuss, and write down notes (Philip or I dictating) before continuing. This DVD was chosen for this holiday by Lydia who said that she became comfortable with theological terms only after she went through this DVD. Tim was behind grouping the material into meaningful chunks.

Today’s chunk included Part 1:  ‘History of the Debate’, ‘Church History’ (Arius and the Council of Nicea), and Part 2:  ‘Free Will Controversy’ (Pelagius and Augustine). We had a break between Parts 1 and 2 to have tea and snacks.

After this Philip went to bed and I succumbed to the children’s persuasion to play a long game of Cluedo.

It was 3:00 am when we went to bed. And I am told that Tim and Prasanna were talking in their room for long after that.

The third day of Cuzmas (21 Dec)

Contrary to earlier weather reports, the day was sunny. Arun joined them after lunch. The kids played Cluedo in the afternoon. After Philip and I returned home, we all went to the nearby creek for a walk.

Native Pohutukawa trees, New Zealand’s Christmas tree

After that, we sent the children to spend some time (not money) at the Sylvia Park mall.

After they returned, and after a pizza meal, we gathered for prayer. We sang ‘God never moves without purpose or plan’ and ‘God moves in a mysterious way.’

Today’s Amazing Grace chunk was entitled  ‘The Reformation’ which we listened to after giving Arun a summary of what we saw yesterday.

The fourth day of Cuzmas (22 Dec)

Today’s outing was to Kelly Tarlton Antarctic Encounter Underwater World.

One thing we were not allowed to forget was that today is Lydia’s birthday. What do we do for a cake? Prisy made two instant cakes. Several of us, including Lydia herself, decided to make random shapes with marzipan to decorate the cakes.

We went to Nandos for dinner.

This was followed by a more formal singing of Happy Birthday. We did not need to rely on our terrible cakes after all, because when we were out, Natalie brought a beautiful cake that she had made for Lydia.

We are (or maybe it is just Philip and me) too tired for the Amazing Grace DVD today. So we sing a couple of hymns—‘O to see the dawn of the darkest day’ and ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’—and pray.

The fifth day of Cuzmas (23 Dec)

To the city by train
Lunch and looking for the best route
Sky Tower
Sky Tower
Sky Tower

The main chunk for today from the Amazing Grace DVD was  ‘Arminianism vs. Calvinism,” for which we made notes. We also finished another little bit, just over a minute long, called “Testimony of Scripture.”

The sixth day of Cuzmas (24 Dec)

Today we set out to go to Hamilton. On the way we suddenly decided to go to Coramandel instead.

We first went to the Hot Water beach.

We then decided to go to Coramandel Cove. After we parked the car, we took a few photos.

We then began the trek and in a short while came to a fork with two options ’35 mins to Coramandel Cove’ and ‘3 mins to Gemstone Bay.’ As we were already quite tired, we selected the later. But this involved a steep incline and steps leading downward. Needless to say, coming up was another story, and Philip and I needed some time to get our breath back again.

We were back home in time for dinner.

As it was Christmas Eve, when the world celebrates a day that began as a celebration of our Saviour’s birth, we focused on the Christmas theme for our family prayer. We began by watching a beautiful “greetings” made by our friends, the Thomases, with the help of their children. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaDoCHypVLA&feature=player_embedded). We then  sang ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Joy to the World,’ before closing with prayer.

The seventh day of Cuzmas (25 Dec)

We went to Howick Baptist Church for their Christmas service. There were meaningful carols, many Bible readings, and a gospel message from John 1:1-4,14 by Peter Somerville. John 1 is a great passage to preach for a Christmas service because it tells “the story behind the story.”  You can listen to this sermon at http://www.vimeo.com/18186299

We then spent half an hour in the home of a lovely couple from Kerala who are close friends.

The rest of the day was spent resting our tired bones after a week of activity. We had our prayer at the dinner table today and then moved to the lounge to continue with our Amazing Grace study.

Today we finished the sections ‘Total Depravity’ and ‘Unconditional Election.’  It is a profound feeling when we see others getting exposed to the deeper aspects of the doctrines of grace and seeing the same questions and surprise/shock and caution.

The eighth day of Cuzmas (26 Dec)

Today is the Lord’s day. So we went to church in the morning for the 10:00 am service. Mr. Snowball, who spoke about the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane on two previous occasions, spoke about what he called the the Garden of Golgotha, the garden where Jesus’ body was laid in a new tomb.

After lunch we looked at the section on Limited Atonement.

After a short nap, we went to church again for the 4:30 pm service. In his series on Evangelism, Mr Malan spoke about how Jesus—truly Man and truly God—was the only possible Mediator between a holy God and sinful man.

The ninth day of Cuzmas (27 Dec)

We left the house at 8:15 am for Rotorua. We used the Matamata route. In spite of the GPS, or rather because of it, we got lost for a bit.

Our first stop was Zorb Rotorua. All five cousins “did” the Zorb. It helped that we had GrabOne coupons for this.

We then went to Paradise Valley Springs where the main attraction was to be able to pat Chase, the lion cub.

From there we went to the Redwood forest for a picnic lunch.

Our final stop was at the Mudpool.

After dinner we looked at the section on Irresistable Grace.

The day ended with a game of Cluedo.

The tenth day of Cuzmas (28 Dec)

Philip took Prasanna, Prisy, Tim, and Lydia to Mt. Eden, one of the 48 volcanos that make up Auckland. Mt Eden is the highest and usually offers stunning views over the city and its harbours. But sadly today it was raining and not much could be seen.

After a quick lunch at Burger King, they spent the afternoon in the museum.

Not related to these Johnsons
The Moa, now extinct, once lived in New Zealand
Prasanna in front of a map of Australia and New Zealand

After prayer and dinner, we looked at the sections on Perseverance and Evangelism.

Amazing-Grace time

The eleventh day of Cuzmas (29 Dec)

All through these days, we have noticed that the weather has always been in our favour. After a really wet day yesterday (a day we wanted to see the museum) we had a lovely day today (perfect for a picnic). After catching a bus to the city, we took the ferry to Devonport.

Climbing Mount Victoria was harder than necessary. It so happened that there were a flight of stairs not far from this perilous way to the top.

Finally we settled down under some shade for lunch (‘fish and chips’ takeaway lunch to give Prasanna the experience) and a game of cards.

Some time was spent taking silly pictures

Two weddings took place on top of Mount Victoria when we were there. Some members of the bridal party were cuter than others

After returning by ferry to Auckland city, we took another ferry to Half Moon Bay where Philip was waiting to drive us home, which is just five minutes away from there.

The children then went to Super bowl for Ten-pin bowling

After dinner we gathered in the lounge for prayer. We sang ‘Behold the Lamb who bears our sins away’ and ‘Let it be said of us that the Lord was our passion’. We completed the Amazing Grace DVD today by completing the sections ‘The Law of God’ and ‘Nine Keys to Evangelism.’

The twelfth day of Cuzmas (30 Dec)

After a lazy morning, we shopped for gifts and souvenirs for Prasanna to take.

Millie being offered rare privilege of Prasanna’s lap

After lunch, I drove Prasanna, Prisy, Tim, and Lydia to the church where Philip met us. From there he took us to Piha beach through the Waitakere Ranges.

On our return we did some more shopping, mostly for chocolates for Prasanna to take with him. We had a pizza dinner (speciality pizzas like Butter chicken pizza from Pakuranga Pizza Company).

We asked the kids to spend 10 minutes writing a list of things for which they are thankful to God for His mercies in the year 2010. Sometime later, we gathered for prayer. We sang ‘O the Depths of the Riches the Wisdom of God’ and ‘To the Praise of His Glorious Grace’ before closing in prayer.

Even as I write this at 3:00 am, the children are awake. In the morning about 10:30 am, we will go to the airport to send Prasanna off after an unforgettable two weeks.

Goodbye (31 Dec)

Grouping for our study using the DVD Amazing Grace, the history and theology of Calvinism

Group 1
Part 1
Opening / Overture 0 7:17
History of the Debate 7:17 3:42
Church History 10:59 5:26
Part 2
Free Will Controversy 16:25 18:28

Group 2
The Reformation 34:53 16:54

Group 3
Arminianism vs. Calvinism    51:47    16:10
Testimony of Scripture    1:07:57    1:25

Group 4
Total Depravity    1:09:22    22:55
Unconditional Election    1:32:17    30:15

Group 5
Limited Atonement    2:02:32    36:58

Group 6
Irresistible Grace    2:39:30    13:21

Group 7
Perseverance    2:52:51    34:49
Evangelism    3:27:as40    9:19

Group 8
The Law of God    3:36:59    21:38
Nine Keys to Evangelism    3:58:37    49:9