The date third December 1973 and it was my first day working at my new job at the Government Tourist Bureau in Wellington. I was excited and nervous starting along a career path that was to last me five years. I was living at home and had to commute the twenty miles back and forth every week day. I hated the long commute but after a few years I went “flatting” in the city. I bought a new motor bike and so I was home and hosed I could just bike the few miles from my flat and park the bike very near my employment.
Why the Government Tourist Bureau? I wanted to travel. So you wanted to travel but was not working in travel helping other people travel? Of course but over time I hated arranging other people’s travel I wanted to travel. I did travel but it did not sate my appetite for travel. The more I arranged other people’s travel the more I got frustrated. I envied those people who say took a year off their work and just travelled. It was my dream to go to Europe. I wanted to binge out on travel in Europe. But money, where was the money going to come from? After three years working at the GTB (Government Tourist Bureau) I was able to get a 75% discount on overseas air travel. There were rewards for working in travel. I managed to get three and half months leave from work and Europe was on. Luckily I had saved enough to pay for my accommodation and food etc. I loved my travelling, I did not want to return to New Zealand. I hated the thought of returning to work that I was beginning to dislike and a city that I wanted to be out of, you think the climate in Wellington is good, think again, Wellington is not called windy Wellington for nothing, I hated the cold wind. Wellington weather was miserable to me. I wanted to live in a more warmer climate, and not necessary in Europe. I am ok now, Perth weather is lovely. Travelling gave me a freedom that I revelled in. I wanted freedom from work, money, parents, home town and country.
Were there clues here about Gods destiny for me? Alas at the GTB I knew no God and heard nothing about God. If God was at the GTB I never knew. My parents never mentioned God and I never experienced God living with my parents. I do think of the Holy Scripture that says “A prophet is not honoured in his own family, own home town and his own country”. Such scripture rings true to me. I was called to be a prophet but such talk is freaky when most people are focussed on profit and not prophet. To talk profit was normal and to talk prophet was abnormal.
The GTB was a good grounding for profit. The GTB was a business, it was making money. Customers came and went; selling travel was big business. In some ways the GTB competed for travel business with the private sector. But after my five years at the GTB and about another four years the Government of the day closed all GTB’s in NZ. The overseas NZ Tourist offices were kept open but these offices came under a new quasi Government organisation. The NZ Tourist and Publicity Department literally closed right down. I think the National Film Unit was sold. I don’t think they could get buyers for the GTB’s so they were closed. Staff were made redundant. Thousands of staff just dismissed each with their few thousands of dollars of compensation. A lot of former GTB staff went and worked in the private travel sector. Some even later started up their own travel companies. The GTB was Government so staff were civil servants. But if you stayed too long in this Department your chances of applying and getting government jobs in other NZ Government departments was slim. A Government job vacancies circular came out regularly. Travel training and work specialises you to work only in travel and there is very little use for a travel trained person to be used in any other high graded jobs in other Government Departments. So if you stay in the GTB for say as long as five years you “cook your goose” as the saying goes. You are only good in travel and no where else unless you retrain. At the GTB you were about hotel/motel reservations, coach travel reservations, train and plane reservations and the ticketing. Reservations and ticketing are really no good assets to have in high grade jobs elsewhere in Government. So if you stay in the GTB for too long make sure you are staying in travel.
The GTB as I said had overseas offices, London, San Fran, New York, LA, Brisbane, Sydney and a few other cities that I do not remember. Overseas postings seemed to be the plum jobs. But not everything is good here. Overseas postings seemed to be a boys club area. “The boys got the jobs” as the saying goes. Women rarely got to be posted overseas. If you were a real good worker, mature, and a hard worker you might eventually get posted overseas. I was none of these, I was not mature, I was not a hard worker, and I wanted out of the travel industry but I felt locked into it in ways because I had stayed too long. I did eventually get out after five years but it was in to private travel and it was another five months before I was free of the travel sector. I became a university student. During my time working in private travel I had an encounter. I can’t come up with other words to describe it but “An encounter”. But before I talk about this encounter let me go back a few years to the GTB because in these offices I had an earlier encounter. I was working doing the usual, then I sensed, do I call it sensed? Do I call it thoughts? I don’t think I call it feelings. Let’s call it thoughts, I had these thoughts. I did not feel anything but I was thinking. My thoughts seemed to be stirred up to think about – to be honest I now only remember the word “writing”. I was to be a writer. That’s all about that encounter. In my later encounter while working in private travel but the encounter was at my home I was put in to a thinking mode to apply to be a student at university and to live in a university hostel. I applied to Wellington Victoria University and was accepted as both a student and to live at their hostel. This was 1979. This move changed my life. In all my dim witted ness there was someone, I don’t call it an it, but maybe call it a Spirit, that cared for me and was trying to help me. Some people might call it my angel, I don’t know. I like to call it a Spirit. Angels I know very little about. I moved to the University hostel and that is where I fell in to my own. The people the other students seemed all nice. I knew no one here. But in any group or tribe there’s always the gold. There’s good amongst the bad, just be patient they will look for you or you will find them. I found the gold and this person reached out to me with the message of Jesus Christ. I accepted Jesus, why? Some things are meant to be. You just know. How do you know? You don’t but the puzzle becomes a picture and the picture makes sense. One person reached out to me to bring me in from the darkness to the light. Jesus Spirit came in to me, I was now not alone, I had God as my friend, so look out. I read the scriptures, I prayed. But what about your studies at the University? I was not interested, I passed Geography 101, 12 credits, and walked away from them. I revelled in learning about God. I enjoyed staying at the hostel amongst the students, everyday was interesting. We had students from many countries, they were interesting. I became evangelical.
My Christian mentor and I decided to go to another nearby university hostel and knock on students bedroom doors and invite them to start up a group bible study in one of the students rooms. We got about five students interested. We met about once a week and this went on for about a month or two. After a few months the students were asked if they would like to learn deeper things about the bible. Only one student wanted to carry on. This student was given over to my care. Philip became a good friend. Philip and I met at my home and we continued to meet for a month each week. By this time I was living in a flat with other Christians near the university. Then there came a time when I asked Philip if he would like to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord. Philip received. The uncanny thing about Philip was that his Dad a year after I left the NZ Tourist and Publicity Department became General Manager of this Department. I thought of my self as a failure at the GTB but here I am a friend to the son of the man that now runs the department I failed at, how uncanny is that. I mean Philip even called me his spiritual father. But Philip was special, you saw it, he was taken in by the Christian community I moved with and he thrived. Philip was meant to be a Christian. He met his wife in the church. But I felt like I was not good enough to move in Philips circle of friends, I was a failure, I had failed at the GTB, so not long after, I moved away from Philip. Philip was a masters degree, he was gifted he had very good job prospects. Why I even came into his circle I never know, maybe it was meant to be, I think we shared the same values and he was wise and I coveted wisdom.
Yours Sincerely; Lester John Murray.


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