Eighteen years ago George Kopa was ready to return to his family in Auckland, but instead decided to be a minister at Tapanui Presbyterian Church.
Leaving the role last month, he finally made the move with his wife Lusia after raising a family of their own.
Mr Kopa said Auckland was where they both hailed from and it made sense to return now their children had left the nest.
Initially, they planned to return as soon as he finished his studies in Otago, but that changed during his final year.
“We were staying in Tapanui for about a month,” he said.
“I distinctly heard what I took to be God’s voice … it was saying ‘I want you here’.
“There was a group that was set up to help future ministers like myself back then to find a parish.
“They gave us the profile for the church in Tapanui and that’s how we ended up there.”
The night he was inducted by ministers in the area, a six-month drought was broken, he said.
“As they prayed, low and behold, thunder and lighting was heard outside and rain fell.
“That was confirmation for me,” he said.
He had experienced many “highs and lows” since then.
Highlights included helping start the Tapanui Men’s Fellowship.
Also known as “Dad’s Army”, the group raised over $250,000 for Christian and community causes by chopping and selling firewood.
Seeing the church and the community work together to establish the Early Learning Christian Centre was another highlight, he said.
“With ministry and the kind of work we do, work is never really finished, but you just change when you feel God’s leading.
“We felt that here, that it was time to move, but our time in Tapanui was absolutely wonderful.
“We have really valued our friends there over the years. Tapanui will always have a special place in our hearts.”
Mr Kopa is now the minister of St Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Manurewa.