Crossing the Ditch: Joe Carey’s Faith-Fuelled Move to Sydney
Joe Carey, his wife Vanessa and their three young children swapped their spacious five-bedroom house in New Zealand for a two-bedroom apartment in Sydney this year—and Joe couldn’t be more grateful.
Joe grew up in a Christian home in Auckland. The youngest of four kids, as a teenager he turned his back on his faith for a number of years in a “pursuit of happiness”. At age 23, that pursuit led him back to Christ.
“I finally felt that conviction to live my life for Jesus,” Joe explains. “And that’s when I started to explore how to get back into church.”
Initially, Joe found it hard to get plugged into church again. He found that others in their early 20s were already in established friendship groups, and didn’t make much of an effort to welcome him in.
“As an extrovert, and someone who’s quite willing to talk to people, it was an interesting struggle to have,” Joe admits.
At the time Joe was studying to become a teacher. It wasn’t until he discovered a Presbyterian church in the middle of Auckland that his faith really started to grow.“I wanted to know who God is? And what has God got that I haven’t?” Joe says. “And then I walked into this church where there were just a whole bunch of 20-somethings—all asking the same questions.”
Joe had no idea at the time how significant this church would be for him. The pastor took him under his wing and helped him work through all his questions, discipling him over a number of years.
After Joe married his wife, Vanessa, they moved to New Plymouth and joined another local Presbyterian church. Joe says he started asking his new minister even more questions.
“I started to ask him about preaching, because I thought, ‘I’m a teacher. I could give this preaching thing ago.’ And then I was quite surprised because he said ‘No.’”
Joe’s new minister also took him under his wing and began discipling him. Over time he realised that he wanted to know more about God in a way that wouldn’t be possible while teaching full-time.
“It was pretty amazing, because God really just provided the opportunities for study to happen,” Joe says.
A combination of different churches ended up supporting Joe to begin theological training. He started out with a number of Intensives through Christ College New Zealand.
“The pull for me to come over to Sydney was that I was towards the end of my studies, but had never experienced on-site learning,” Joe explains. “And one of the biggest difficulties I’ve come across is that you are a bit of an island when you’re studying by yourself.”
So at the start of this year, Joe and Vanessa moved their family to Sydney so that he could finish off his study on campus.
“Having come here now, I couldn’t imagine not coming,” Joe says. “I would love to highlight the benefits to anyone studying online. Do all you can to study on campus! When you’re on Zoom, you don’t know the lecturers. When you’re here, you realise that they love you, and they care for seeing you succeed—not from an academic perspective, but from a growing in Christ perspective.”
One of Joe’s most cherished experiences this year has been the way lecturers have responded to his many questions.
“I’ve been encouraged to explore these issues and questions I have,” he says. “And not only from the Presbyterian perspective, but from a variety of perspectives, in order to understand how my issue fits in the context of church life.”
Joe admits it hasn’t all been easy.
“It’s been difficult. We’ve got three young kids. We moved from a five-bedroom house with two lounges to a two-bedroom apartment,” Joe shares. “And the culture shock surprised me!”
Despite the challenges, Joe is adamant that studying within the community is an irreplaceable blessing. He had only intended to be in Sydney for one year, planning to finish off his studies via Zoom in 2024—but that plan has changed.
“We’ve decided to stay for another year,” he says. “I’m just so convinced that it’ll be best to finish studying here, and then go home.”
Joe and Vanessa are looking forward to seeing how God will use them in gospel ministry back in New Zealand in the future.
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