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My Journey to here

Written by

Pastor Chrissie Lander

About author

Pastor Chrissie leads our Tuakau Campus and she is also Senior Pastor at Activate Papakura. Chrissie and her husband Rich have three older children and they love serving Jesus together. Chrissie's favourite thing is to help people encounter the presence of The Holy Spirit.

My Journey to here

Chrissie Lander

I used to live in a lot of darkness, but now I know “it is for Freedom that Christ has set us free…”

I don’t know if my parents realised when they named me Christine Frances, that they were partnering with heaven’s declaration over my life; because Christine means ‘Follower of Christ’ and Frances means ‘Free One’, but I guess God knew.


As a child I would lie awake at night and plan my road to freedom.  How to escape from the chaos and darkness of life. I would imagine that if I could just make it to the roadside, someone would find me and I would be free. In those days my mind’s-eye rescuers usually took the form of Officers John and Ponch from the 70’s crime drama Chips…but I actually would have been happy with anyone coming to rescue me.  


As an adult who has journeyed through many stages of forgiveness and healing, I feel like I’ve gained perspective on the issues that tormented my childhood. Back then no one really talked about depression, mental health, alcoholism, and abuse, but my life was impacted by them all.  I always wondered why Mum never packed me and my three brothers up to leave my Dad.  Now I understand that he wielded power and seemed to have connections, so when he threatened to take us kids to Australia if she ever left him, she felt she had no choice but to stay. Today I am incredibly grateful for a mum who walked in desperate faith in the secret place, and protected and provided for her children in the best way she could.


By the time I reached my teens I had become a product of a broken environment. I was lost and tried everything I could to fill the emptiness and darkness I felt.  I was ruled by fear and insecurity and had become familiar with demonic dreams and encounters.  When I finally left home to study at Waikato University, rather than granting me the freedom I’d imagined for so long, I felt even more hopeless, with my life spiralling out of control. 


It was October of my first year at uni when I found myself at an evening service at Eastside Apostolic (now Activate Hamilton), but I wasn’t seeking God or any sort of redemption. I’d met another student tramping and rock-climbing who was a Christian and when I made fun of his faith, he challenged me that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  Not about to be outdone, I accepted his challenge to attend church that weekend and expected to find more ammunition for my argument against him.  That day the church happened to have guest speakers from my hometown sharing testimonies from former gang members. I was familiar with their story and confused by the transformation that I saw and heard about.  I went home to my flat with a question beginning to form in my heart… I reached out to this God I didn’t know and simply said, “God if you are real, and you can change people like that - could you possibly do something with me?”.


That night I had a supernatural encounter with The One who is Freedom. His love and kindness, His forgiveness and grace, His Light and Life flooded my room and my broken heart. I was saved and set free, and I committed my life to knowing Him and helping others to know Him too.


During my high school years I was labelled by friends as ‘the least likely to become a Christian’.  Clearly God had other plans. When I was water baptised, I had a prophetic word spoken over me that I would be “a leader, an initiator and a frontrunner”. I felt this was a clear direction from God on how to position my life. Despite being riddled with insecurities, from that day I accepted and stepped out in faith into any opportunity that I was given to lead. I saw each one as an invitation from Him and so I just said,Yes, OK, I’ll give it a crack”.


I had only been saved four months when I had my first invitation to lead. I was asked to take over the student ministry at my uni hostel in Dunedin, where I’d moved to for a fresh start. I really knew nothing but I still said “Yes” and just learned what to do as I went along. Over the years, as I married my husband Rich and we started our family, this looked like both of us saying yes to all sorts of invitations from God from leading youth to leading worship, and then to leading churches.


I never imagined that I’d become a pastor and I never felt particularly called. But as I walked with God, He opened doors which enabled me to love people and then point them towards the One who first loved me.  It’s a privilege to walk with others on their own freedom journey. I’m still learning, but I understand now that when I follow Jesus one small step of obedience at a time, He leads me into my kingdom-designed destiny. I’ve also learned to stand firm in Him when life gets rough.  As it says in Galatians 5:1 Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you! (The Message). 


My journey to here has been an ongoing invitation from God to know His Presence and freedom every day. I would encourage you to do whatever you can to walk in obedience and faith.  Be encouraged that there is always more of Him and His freedom to know and experience as you keep walking with Him and grow in a greater understanding of who He is and who He has called you to be.

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