New pastor back on faith career path

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New Ashburton Baptist Church senior pastor Rich Fox, and wife Delia, looking forward to opportunities ahead.

Rich Fox is settling into his new role as senior pastor at Ashburton Baptist Church, and excited about the opportunity.

Full-time church ministry wasn’t a career path he saw opening up for him in his new Kiwi life, nor was it something he had considered.

Rich, formerly of Zimbabwe, worked in the ministry during his young adult years, completing a three year Diploma in Pastoral Leadership.

“I didn’t see this door opening up again,” he said.

He and his wife, Delia, experienced the first-hand effects of land reforms in Zimbabwe in 2000 where families were forced off farms, causing food, fuel shortages and disruption.

They eventually made the decision to leave.

They now live rurally, near Hinds. They joined the church just three and half years ago, after their church at Orari closed.

They have spent the past eight years experiencing further “real character building” as they tried to get residency applications approved.

Changes in residency legislation requirements, capped numbers of applications and covid have all played a part.

But it’s put them in tune with many other immigrants in the Ashburton District facing residency battles and with some of the stress people are now experiencing due to covid. Food and fuel shortages, limits on products … it’s about not panicking and keeping calm, Mr Fox said.

The couple, with British passports and higher education, arrived in New Zealand in 2014 to attend the wedding of Mrs Fox’s brother to a Kiwi gal. The couple live in Mid Canterbury.

With other family also here, it was to be a five to seven week exploration of the district with a view to settling down.

They arrived with their four children and just 17 pieces of luggage; they put their household goods into storage and left keys with family. They knew when they left Zimbabwe, they would not return; England was plan B.

But they liked what they saw and had “fallen in love with Ashburton” Mr Fox said.

He was keen to accept the church leadership role and embraced their vision to be more involved in the community.

The church already runs a community cafe and offers a free community lunch each Monday but there were other opportunities being sought to meet the needs of the community, he said. They will be developed over time.

The Fox’s residency journey became an eight year process made all the better by community support including those at Hinds School, Southern rugby, netball and the church, Rich said.

Despite British citizenship and Cambridge qualifications as well as careers in real estate management and primary education they were unable to get residency in New Zealand as first thought, without further education and cost.

So Mr Fox, formerly in real estate management, took up dairy farming in 2014 to aid his residency chances. Dairy farming was on New Zealand’s immediate short skills list at the time and considered a two year pathway to residency. Then the rules changed.

Dairy farming was moved to the skilled migrant list, with five years experience or relevant degree and level five qualifications.

Mr Fox stuck with it and got a dairy farm manager position and completed Ag ITO qualifications.

However by the time they applied for residency in July 2019, legislation had changed again and there was a cap on the number of residency application processed per year.

When they joined the Ashburton Baptist Church, Mrs Fox’s teaching background saw her asked to head the children’s ministry.

Mr Fox’s experience in full-time church ministry was also noticed.

Early this year the couple were granted residency, which opened up the door for Rich to explore the senior pastor position further.

It has been a long journey for the couple.

incredibly challenging and has almost broken us at times but our faith and the overwhelming support of the incredible community in Ashburton, and the many friends we’ve made along the way have been our anchor through some of the toughest days we’ve faced as a family,

“It’s been hard but amazing.”