Pieter Kruger says moving to New Zealand from his native South Africa already felt like he had arrived in the land of milk and honey.
But since starting his role as maintenance man at Lynfield’s Murray Halberg retirement village he says he’s found his very own piece of paradise.
Indeed, Pieter says it was God’s calling that prompted him to move his family down under six years ago.
“My sister came to New Zealand and we came to visit her on holiday,” says the dad of 12-year-old Josiah and eight-year-old Talita. “That’s when we felt God’s calling to come to New Zealand as well. We feel our kids need to be here.”
The ordained pastor had previously worked with Christian missions in Africa helping widows and orphans alongside his wife Liesl.
On arriving in Auckland he landed two jobs hosting visitors to the Carey Park Christian Camp in Henderson and the Piha Mill Campsite where the family lived in the cottage on the grounds.
But after the riverside camp flooded three times last year – possibly another act of God - Pieter found himself looking for a new job and a new home.
“I used to love working with people in camping and I never thought I would enjoy working with older people as much as I do but I absolutely love it,” he says.
Along with regularly checking lights, gutters, water temperatures, fire doors and escape routes as part of monthly building WOFs, one of Pieter’s tasks is to hang pictures and help set up the washing machine, dryer and entertainment systems for newly arrived residents.
“It takes a good hour or so and when you’re hanging all these family photos you will often hear the whole story behind it, they will tell me all about the holiday or the people in the photo. Just from the pictures you learn so much.
“They’re all excited to move in and to share their memories and they’re beautiful stories to hear if you just listen.”
Pieter has some pretty good stories of his own to tell too, being the great great grandson of Paul Kruger, the former president of the South African Republic who Kruger Park is named after.
But Pieter says he feels much safer in New Zealand and appreciates the systems and processes the country has in place, and even more so since he started working for Ryman.
“My mum was in a retirement village similar to this but it was not even close to the level of professionalism as here.
“That’s something that really struck me was the professionalism and caring nature of Ryman and the management are so down to earth, friendly and helpful.
“It’s almost like a big family, it’s really nice and I really enjoy it.”
The family vibe has now become quite literal for Pieter - his wife Liesl recently got a job working as a porter in the village so it truly is his home away from home.