We’re thankful that Brian took us home to his farm. Although we’re living without electricity and internet-access, this location is giving us the breathing space we needed to bring our family back into harmony.

Brian’s Broadwood base is a small farm of 100 acres of rolling pastures and crystal streams, backing onto hills of native bush reserve. Brian is the custodian of this land for his friend John who resides in Auckland, and this arrangement is another example of how it’s possible to live in a house rent-free.

Brian Stewart and John McLean, June 2012
When the owner John comes to check on his house, he's startled to find a family of seven living in it with Brian. He's welcomed us too, and we're grateful for his generosity.

The cottage is off-the-grid and uses solar power to provide simple lighting at night. A gas bottle powers the small fridge, the main toilet is an outhouse and the tap water always runs cold.

Wind whistles through gaps in the floorboards and walls, but a pot-belly stove keeps the interior toasty, boils water and cooks the meals. A generator is available for power tools, but there’s rarely anything so urgent that it demands diesel over muscle power.

Pot-bellied stove, June 2012
Keeping the fire going is a priority — we need it for cooking as well as warmth.

Calista and Brioni drawing, June 2012
On rainy days, our girls are inside drawing and colouring magnificent pictures.

Aisha and Brioni on the quad bike, June 2012
Aisha and Brioni love riding the quad bike with Brian. He invites them whenever he needs to go out to patrol the property.

Brian, Calista and Elijah in the bedroom, June 2012
Our family is sleeping together in one bedroom. There are enough beds for us all and extra blankets keep us warm.

Elijah and Calista, June 2012
Our children are remarkable in their ability to adapt to a variety of living circumstances.

Red shed, June 2012
As Brian has showed us around, we enjoy the beauty of the countryside.

Old tractor, June 2012
Old machinery reminds us of the days when this was a working farm. Now it's simply a retreat from city-life for John and his friends.

Old wool shed, June 2012
The old wool shed looks like it did twenty years ago when the last sheep was shorn and everyone went home for the day.

It’s a simple way of living, and Brian is content to be out here — surrounded by hundreds of acres of land and without a single other dwelling in sight. We’re privileged to be living here with him, getting to know him better.

After years of dairy-farming, he moved into carpentry and building. Always keen to contribute to others’ lives, Brian took his church youth groups camping and opened his home to street kids with nowhere else to go. After woman in his church handed Brian a pamphlet for Habitat for Humanity, he started volunteering with that group, building houses for low-income families. His experience and commitment led to him being offered a paid position as a project supervisor and he later moved to the United States to coordinate new homes that were being built in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Brian has worked with thousands of volunteers on his building projects. All these contacts proved to be beneficial when he needed votes to win a free ticket back to New Zealand. A 2010 promotion by Marmite to celebrate its centenary offered 100 Kiwis living overseas the chance to return to their homeland for Christmas. Although he entered the three-month competition when there were only three weeks remaining, Brian’s volunteers boosted his votes until he reached #53 status and received a ticket to Auckland from Colorado. Marmite’s marketing company coordinated the arrival of all one hundred Kiwis so they flew into Auckland airport on three separate flights from all around the world within two hours of each other — a marvellous achievement.

Brian Stewart, June 2012
Brian models the t-shirt he received as part of the Marmite promotion. He says that for days afterwards, whenever he came across people in Auckland wearing the shirt, he would approach them to let them know that he was one of the lucky hundred too!

While on the farm, Brian is living off his savings and supplementing his income by selling possum for — it’s worth $140/kg. An adjoining farm has asked Brian to look after their property as well, providing electricity and a telephone in a large home in exchange for property maintenance.

So next week, Brian will be the custodian for over a thousand acres of beautiful land, living in a furnished house with modern conveniences — for free! This is a beautiful example of what is possible when we seek first the kingdom of God — as Jesus said: heaven on earth, right here, right now — we know it, we’ve seen it, we’re seeking it, we’re living it. Everything else falls into place at the right time!