At Kids’ Club, we play hard, but we also worship, learn a little more about God’s Word, and enjoy table fellowship. It looks a little like this.
We have a tradition around here. We kick off the new year at Kids’ Club (our twice-monthly activity for kids and their families) with s’mores. The gooey, marshmallow-y, chocolatey treat that’s a staple of campfires and autumn gatherings all across the United States is the center of attention. It’s a tradition three years in the running, so you know it’s a real tradition. At first, no one knew how to make s’mores. Most of our participants hadn’t roasted a marshmallow before. But three years in, we have developed some pretty marvelous expertise.
One of the really cool things about cross-cultural ministry is sharing cultures—language, music, clothing, and food, of course. Our friends feed us curries and pavlovas and savory pies and gelatin desserts made from seaweed. We feed them tacos and chili and… s’mores. It’s great fun to share food and in so doing, share bits and pieces of ourselves.
When we gather each year for S’more S’mores, we’re bringing with us all the nostalgia of marshmallows roasted around a campfire, chocolatey Hershey’s bars, crisp autumn evenings, and warm apple cider, and we’re allowing it to be shaped and given significance among a different body of people. It becomes for us a symbol of shared experience, of an intentional willingness to do life together, despite our vast differences.
While any grocery or convenience store in the US can fulfill your s’more ingredient needs, our ingredients are imported to New Zealand. Kiwi marshmallows just don’t get that essential toasted on the outside, gooey in the middle combination when you roast them. Meanwhile, Hershey’s bars and Graham crackers flat out aren’t a thing here. We’ve done the importing ourselves in the past, but we relied on an American imports store in Auckland this year. Luckily, they had *just* enough chocolate.
This year, it was unseasonably warm on the afternoon of our marshmallow roasting a few weeks ago. We may have stood as far away from the hot fire as we could, but that didn’t deter us. We gathered, we roasted, we ate, we licked our lips and our fingertips, and we looked forward to the great year ahead. In the process, we were formed a little bit more into a community, a little bit more into the body of Christ that chooses to be united by Him and allows our food to help us along the journey. It’s marshmallows and ministry. Food and faith. Cuisine and community. The bread and the cup.
In the same way that we offer hospitality when we share our food with others, we reciprocate that hospitality when we eat the varied foods of those we do life with. We create space in our lives and in our palates for others. In some small way, gathering around the fire pit (or brazier, as kiwis call it) is like the disciples gathering around a fire to cook their morning catch for breakfast. Really, there’s only one thing that brings this odd bunch together—Jesus. In him, we find that we have a place of community and belonging. It may even involve marshmallows.
Since pictures say it best, every now and then we sum up our day-to-day life during a given season in five pictures and five pictures only. Right now, it looks something like this. You can see our previous picture summaries here, here, here,here.
A visit to Duck Island Ice Cream was one of the last remaining items on our summer bucket list. We finally made it a couple of weeks ago. Nothing could contain this boy’s excitement! Can you tell?! While we didn’t check off a couple of the items on our list, we made a really good go of it! There’s always the autumn or the winter or the spring! So much to enjoy, so little time!
My sister, brother-in-law, and the world’s cutest nephew came to visit us! We had such a good time showing us little snapshots of our world, though we didn’t venture very far from home. Traveling with kids, even internationally, is worth it! We treasured our time together!
The very first signs of of autumn are tingeing the tips of our leaves, although many days have remained unseasonably warm. The trees are whispering of the inevitable change of seasons and the coming winter.
This is for real. We had similar signs last year too. Entire shelves where one would normally find greens are completely (or nearly) empty. We’ve had a kumara (sweet potato) shortage too. The fields were too wet in the winter and spring to harvest, so one of NZ’s biggest crops rotted in the mud.
Q gets to swim every single day at school during the warm months. He also takes swimming lessons once a week. It’s lots of pool time (and lots of laundry), and our little fish couldn’t be happier.
Today was Q’s 1st day of school (year 1, aka US kindergarten)… You may have felt like he just started school here, and he did, but that was just the bonus term. Summer vacation is over. This is a brand new year, new class, and new teacher!
Peals of laughter rang out from the bottom bunk. “I’m so glad he wrote that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be laughing so hard right now,” Q gasped between fits of giggles.
I had just read, “Spin, Silkworm, spin, you great fat lazy brute. Faster, faster, or we’ll throw you to the sharks,” from James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. The words struck Q as absolutely hilarious!
My boys and the Graham Fam Sandcastle
This blog post is really just for me. Life at 5 ½ just deserves to be captured. I want to be sure to remember these moments. Statements that make us laugh out loud. Statements that make us want to laugh out loud but necessitate that we turn away and compose ourselves before redirecting our little person like the dutiful parents we are. And ones that make us cringe and think, “Ouch! We sure hope we are doing something right.”
We were watching The Greatest Showman in the movie theater a few weeks ago. It wasn’t my first choice of a movie for Q, but we had just finished a week of teen camp, it was blazing hot, and we were desperate for an activity that involved sitting in cool air. Since most buildings in NZ are not air conditioned, the movie theater seemed to be the only obvious choice.
In the movie, Phillip Carlyle and Anne Wheeler sing a duet to trapeze choreography. As the song ends with Carlyle and Wheeler in a quiet embrace, Q exclaimed loud enough for all to hear, “I thought this movie was supposed to be about a circus.”
Well, yes, there is that…
But it wasn’t a total loss. Just a couple of scenes later, as P.T. Barnum is singing “From Now On,” Q quipped, “This guy is so creative. He thinks of a song for everything!”
I mean, the music was phenomenal, but the most entertaining part of watching the movie for us was viewing it through the eyes of the 5 ½ year old.
Honestly, Q was fascinated with the song-for-everything-style of the musical, which isn’t the least bit surprising since Q’s life is a musical of his own design. He has a song for everything. He has been great at rhyming since he could string words together, so making up songs is a natural progression.
Just a couple of weeks ago, he was assembling his wooden train tracks independently on the living room floor and singing to himself. The words were to the tune of ‘Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.’
“Q…. the P…… Graham (insert: first, middle and last name)
Had a very great brain
And if you ever saw it
You would say he knows everything.”
So, maybe we need to work on humility? At least we can celebrate the self-confidence.
Conquering McLaren Falls… This was right before he slipped and stuck his foot in the river. Never mind, he just took his shoes and socks off and hiked out barefoot like a true kiwi.
At 5 ½, Q has no end of ideas and he’s constantly putting them into motion. He spent several mornings over the past few weeks turning a refrigerator box into a fire truck. He instructed Jaron where to cut and asked me to get his paint, but Q alone was responsible for creating, painting and attaching all the parts including, the lights, the grill, and the signs on the sides.
Firetruck in progress
He can rally a group of adults (grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles… you name it) to whatever cause strikes his fancy at the moment. Last week, he rallied his two uncles (including one who absolutely despises the cold) to begin fervently praying now that it will snow a lot when we’re in America on home assignment next winter (North American winter, that is). Never mind that it’s still a year away. The uncle who most despises the cold agreed to it with the condition that Q would help him build a snow fort. Q one-upped the request and has promised that they will build an igloo, saying, “I know how to build an igloo. I haven’t ever built one before, but I know how.”
Causes are Q’s thing. He’s an environmental activist in the making, obsessed with litter and pollution and helping us think constantly about ways to further reduce our waste. We don’t take a walk or bike ride without picking up trash. Q’s current goal is to be an FBI man who searches out people who pollute the earth.
Q started a brand-new school year today. While he thrives at school, he said he wasn’t looking forward to it. He has great friends and voluntarily helps the teachers on duty, but he claims he’d rather eat large and leisurely breakfasts, read lots and lots of books, pursue his latest passion, and go on adventures with his parents.
At the top of Mt. Maunganui, Tauranga
You know… the ice cream eating, playing at the beach type adventures. Not too many hiking adventures, mind you. Last week, we took a couple of days for holiday and took Q on two rather strenuous hikes within 48 hours of each other. We love hiking as a family, but the morning following the second hike, he rubbed his calves and said, “My legs just hurt right here. I thought it was because I was up so early in the morning before I normally get up, but I would surely be awake by now. It’s not even early.” When we explained how building muscles works, his scowl over the mild discomfort a couple of hikes caused was monumental. Oops! Parenting fail? Nah.
And, lest you’re concerned that he thinks a little too highly of his parents. Never fear. In the midst of a lengthy and detailed outline of one of Q’s new ideas, I attempted to provide direction for some of his thought processes. Not to be deterred, Q burst out angrily with, “Mommy! I am a genius at this, and you are tearing up my genius.” See comment about humility above.
After I turned to the window to regain my composure and stopped shaking from suppressed laughter, we revisited the often-discussed topic of listening and speaking respectfully to our parents.
Always curious… 😉
Each night, after we’ve fished our family prayers and I’ve finished my story telling or reading and kissed the 5 ½ year old good night, it’s Jaron’s turn with a story. If it was up to Q, the story-telling routine would go on for hours. Q gives Jaron some suggestions for the super hero stories they’ve been making up of late. In the Graham household, the Hulk is afraid of big dogs. But best of all is that Thor likes to play practical jokes on Ironman by dropping his hammer on Ironman’s foot when Ironman is taking a nap. That one earns belly laughs every time.
A Pohutakawa (a kiwi Christmas tree) had just a few remaining blooms.
Dr. Neville Bartle
Small group seminars
Every camp needs great cooks! We were so thankful for ours!!
The parents jumped in to cook some new-to-NZ meals and served them up as well.
Camp may be the coolest for the young ones who get to tag along with their parents.
Q and Papu
Watching schools of fish swim below the wharf
Baptism in the bay
You can’t see it very well in the picture, but this captures Pastor Filipo baptizing 7-year-old Z while his newly baptized parents look on proudly. Nothing better.
Answering the call to ministry
Samoan representatives at the talent show
Ending the camp with the sacrament of communion. The girls in the foreground are a part of our local church.
The best group of volunteers ever!
I just clicked submit on the final reports for our NZ District youth camp. Thanks to a grant for school holiday programs and camps for at risk 11-17-year-olds, one of the most liberal governments in the world funds our Nazarene district youth camp every summer. Our kids literally attend for FREE. It’s the kind of thing only God can orchestrate so perfectly!
Actually, the entire youth camp was filled with moments that only God could orchestrate so perfectly. Jaron and I have been a part of a lot of camps through the years. This one will certainly be remembered as one of the most spirit-filled, incredibly transformational, and fun camps we’ve experienced.
There were about 117 of us gathered at Parua Bay near Whangarei near the northern part of the North Island the week of January 8-11. While the vast majority of our students are Pacific Islanders, we also had Pakeha (white kiwi), Maori, Singaporean Chinese, Zambian, Sudanese, and Filipino participants.
One of our volunteers who recently moved to New Zealand from the US said, “I felt like I was in a foreign country (different from the foreign country that I already live in).” And there’s truth to that. I think the Pakeha and Singaporean kids from our church felt the same at times. There’s no doubt that Pacific Islanders grow quick and they grow big. They’re practically born singing and dancing and chanting in ways that our straight-laced Western cultures simply don’t. And it makes it all so fun.
Really significant God-orchestrated things happened. Jaron preached on the four types of soil from Matthew 13 the first evening. It provided some important vocabulary and set the tone for the week. Throughout the week, the narratives of Joseph, David, and Jonah challenged us and gave us hope for the ways God might want to use us.
Sparked by a request from one of our young adult worship leaders, we had a baptism service in the bay on Thursday afternoon. We’ve never had a baptism at camp before! Three young adult volunteers, two teenagers, and the 7-year-old son of two of the volunteers were baptized in the bay while everyone cheered them on. Check out the video! The body of Christ responded by saying, “We affirm God at work in you! We celebrate with you! We welcome you into the family of God!” It was a fantastic celebration where Heaven came very near.
Then, that evening, at the close of the service, 12 students and young adults answered the call to full-time pastoral ministry. Ranging in age from 8 to 26, we can’t wait to see what God has in store for these guys and gals. It’s particularly fun for us to help our young adults get started on ministerial preparation right away!
And, on a personal note, it was especially special for us to have my parents at camp. They were the Grammy (and Papu) nannies playing on the beach and watching the fish at the wharf while Jaron and I were helping to coordinate the details of camp. At the request of their opinionated and ideating 5-year-old grandson, they slept in a tent all week. They also cooked two of the camp meals, rescued the faulty sound system (what else would one expect from my dad?!), and helped tackle the mounds of post-camp laundry!
Of course, Q has many youth camp celebrations as well like sleeping in a tent. And the dessert. And running barefoot all week. And easy access to the beach. And kayaking. And everything.
Before we headed home, we took my parents to one of our favorite beaches, Matapouri. We hiked over the big hill to the Mermaid Pools were the view is breathtaking.
This week, we’re savoring this season of Christmas, the sunshine, the celebrations, and the slow-paced days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. All around us (and on our social media feeds), there are reminders that we’re deep into the season of Christmas. These are 10 signs it’s Christmastime in New Zealand. And, while some of these are slightly belated because the days leading up to Christmas are full-on in every first world country, we’re not finished with our Christmas celebrations just yet. My parents are coming next week, and we can hardly wait!
So, in the spirit of the season…
You know it’s Christmas in the Southern hemisphere when…
Santa-types are wearing fake beards, black boots, a red, red coat and matching pants rugby shorts, and a cut off t-shirt.
Also, if rugby shorts and cut off sleeves are not your thing, rest assured. They sell Santa costumes like this one with shorts and short sleeves.
Families are watching ‘The Grinch’ and ‘Frosty’ in Christmas jammies short-sleeved pjs.
Every event has mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows water with ice.
There’s an explosion of red baubles, stockings, wreaths and heavily decorated Christmas trees strawberries, cherries, and heavily flowered Pohutakawa trees.
This picture was taken on a trip over to the Coromandel Peninsula last month when the Pohutakawa trees were just turning. Now the coastlines are filled with the vibrant red blooms of the “kiwi Christmas tree.” This one has a stunning view of the marine reserve.
The oven BBQ grill has been working non-stop in preparation for Christmas dinner. (We had a fresh caught snapper served grill-side for our Christmas dinner.)
Dining tables Picnic tables are laden with festive foods of every kind.
We celebrated Christmas with our dear friends. Precious people, great fun (and nerf wars), delectable foods, and the most stunning setting makes for a wonderful celebration. (P.S. There really is brown on those hills. Can you believe it? After an exceptionally wet start to the year, we have been unusually warm and dry for over a month.)
Worshipers gather for Christmas Eve candlelight services Christmas morning daylight services. (There’s just something odd about a candlelight service when you’ve just had the longest day of the year. That said, we still had a Christmas Eve candlelight service. We joined our friends at an Anglican/Methodist/Presbyterian Cooperating Church for Christmas morning.)
Cities Beaches are bustling.
Flipping the calendar to January means going back to work summer holiday, church camps, and 3 consecutive weeks off work for many. (We don’t have a three-week holiday coming up anytime soon, but we are making the most of summer vacation and looking forward to a few days at youth camp in a couple of weeks!
We’ve spent the rest of our holiday week hosting friends, picking strawberries, playing tennis, and catching up on a few work-related projects. Shhh… don’t tell the kiwis. They’re all in full vacation mode.
Life gets back to normal January February 2. (Actually, Q will be back to school and our mums’ groups will resume February 7. There’s a new year to ring in and plenty of fun to be had between now and then!)
Merry Christmas from the Southern Hemisphere. We hope you are warm (by the sun or the fireplace), well fed (with fresh fruit or comfort foods), and enjoying family and friends who are like family!
Here we are (or were last week) enjoying a bit of sunshine on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula.
Things have been especially quiet around Adventure Graham of late because life has been especially full. As we wrap up the last of the Christmas parties and end-of-the-school-year activities over the next week (think northern hemisphere May + December all rolled into one), but here we are! We’re jumping back on the blog for a #throwbackthursday post.
We’re throwing it back to this time last month when we were gathering in Auckland for District Assembly, the annual gathering of all of the Nazarene churches in New Zealand. It’s a highlight of every year, but this year was especially fantastic—an experience I won’t soon forget.
With no further ado, here are 5 things I love about NZ District Assembly.
Our district has it’s own Parade of Nations. A huge thank you to Cathy Detalo, Pam Kili, and David Tonga Harris for taking the best pictures of district Assembly. I didn’t take a single one, but I am thankful for those who capture special moments like this on camera!
1. We are a multicultural snapshot of the Kingdom!
Our district is made up of about 900 Nazarenes, which is a relatively small group of people, but we represent at least 30 different countries, and even more cultures if you account for language variations, religious backgrounds, and food preferences. For example, someone who grew up Hindu, speaks Hindi as a first language and is from Northern India is culturally quite different from someone who grew up Christian, speaks Telugu and is from Southern India. Our district does a great job of celebrating, sharing, and inviting others in to each of our diverse cultures. We affirm our differences, celebrate our strengths, acknowledge our own cultural weaknesses, and laugh all along the way!
2. Our kids play hard!
Kids are the best at effortlessly bridging cultural gaps. Q loves any excuse to spend time with his friends from across the district. District Assembly was no different. In a matter of minutes, he was part of a circle of kids, mostly four to seven-year-old boys (which there seemed to be a lot of), all playing with the superheroes he’d brought along. I wish I had a picture of this. Little blond, black, brown, curly, straight, long, and short-haired kiddos crouched over Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Iron Man. Their parents come from Samoa, India, America, and New Zealand, but these kids are far more concerned about what brings them together (defeating imaginary bad guys with outlandish super powers) than what makes them different. It’s the best sort of life-formation for a kid.
3. We have the best music!
Our worship is led by representatives of all of those cultures and a variety of ages—people whose foremost desire is to worship God. It makes for a rich worship experience—one that reflects the relaxed, un-stuffy vibe of island life.
4. There might be a bit of dancing!
With the mishmash of Pacific Island, African, South American, and Indian influences, there comes a bit of movement with one’s worship. Some might call it dancing. It’s good for us white westerners who lack the cultural formation of rhythm and movement that is ingrained from birth in many other cultures. It’s also very joy-filled and worshipful.
5. We know how to celebrate!
This year, we were celebrating the retirement of our district leaders, Neville and Joyce Bartle. They have served and led faithfully for 13 years. As a result of their deep and intentional investment, they are extremely well-loved. As a district, we got to work together to celebrate Joyce and Neville, their years of service, and all that God is doing on our district. It was one of a kind.
Check out this clip taken from a Facebook Live video of the celebration. I’m guessing that the last retirement party you attended didn’t exactly look like this!
Cathedral Cove, NZ. Doesn’t this look an awful lot like that standard screen image on Windows?
P.S. Did you know that we just celebrated our two-year anniversary of life in New Zealand last week? You can take a look back at our one-year anniversary post and our very first arrival post here and here.
Charlie Hinson, a lover of sports, pranks, Jesus, and the church. Photo by Bryan Swisher
“Charlie died tonight.” We received the text a couple of days ago. Charlie had been sick for a while, in and out of the hospital, finally landing in a nursing home. A few days later, just a few hours after my parents visited, Charlie drew his last breath.
I grew up with Charlie in my life. He was always around at church. For many years he and his sister Gail cleaned the church building every week so that we could gather for worship. I’ll never forget the one year that Charlie (presumably while cleaning the church during the week) decided to play a prank on the church choir of whom my dad was the director. The choir was planning to sing a Christmas cantata the following Sunday. They had been practicing for weeks for that act of worship and were finally prepared for the big day. When Sunday morning rolled around, my dad arrived at the church early and found that the music for the cantata had disappeared without a trace. He looked everywhere for the missing music but to no avail.
He immediately suspected Charlie. This was, after all, not the first time something like this had happened. Charlie had a reputation as a prankster. When confronted with the missing music, Charlie denied any and all knowledge of the missing choir books. Alas, the cantata was not sung, and the books were not found until later the next week when they mysteriously reappeared in their normal location. This was quintessential Charlie.
Charlie always carried a notebook with him so that he could jot down everything that happened around him. You never knew if something you said in Charlie’s hearing would be quoted in a later conversation. When I later pastored the Lovington Church of the Nazarene, the same church in which I grew up, I asked Charlie to serve as our greeter and head usher. He absolutely loved doing these jobs in the church and he took them very seriously.
He did however go about his duties in his own unique way. It was not uncommon for Charlie to be conversing with everyone who entered about the Friday night Wildcat football game, or the Thursday evening J.V. game, or even a seventh, eighth, or ninth grade game from earlier in the week. All of which he had entered by conspicuously flashing the Lovington Leader press pass my dad had given him. He was even caught commentating from the announcer’s box a time or two at J.V. baseball games. If someone in the church made the paper, Charlie would proudly present them with the clipped article and/or picture as they entered for worship.
When there was no sporting event to talk about, Charlie would bring along one of his joke books. You know, the thin ones you used to buy from the end caps at variety or grocery stores. He would read selected jokes to me or other members of the congregation throughout the morning. On occasion, I would suggest he choose a different joke, but most of the time the whole practice was rather funny and enjoyable in a corny joke kind of way. I do have a favorite from those Charlie shared over the years. With a completely serious face Charlie recited it to me one Sunday morning as we stood in the foyer waiting for worshipers to arrive:
Charlie: “How many Nazarenes does it take to change a light bulb.”
Me: “I don’t know Charlie, how many?”
Charlie: “Twelve…one to change the light bulb and eleven to plan the fellowship dinner afterward.”
The truth is, I will miss Charlie. He was so much more than a prankster. He was an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. Because of Charlie our church began playing in the city softball league, where we had tons of fun together and engaged intentionally with people in our community who needed to know the love of Christ. It didn’t matter if we won or lost, Charlie loved it and our church became stronger for it. He made us better, with his simple faith and his enthusiasm for life.
Charlie taught me some valuable lessons about the Christian life. One day, Charlie stopped by our office and told pastor Aaron and I that he didn’t have any furniture anymore. When we asked him why, he told us that a homeless man had come to visit, so he gave him his furniture. Charlie didn’t have much to begin with, a couch, a chair, a dining table, a T.V. a coffee table a bed. We were a bit upset by this, but Charlie just said: “I thought he needed it more than I did so I gave it to him.”
Wow! What generosity. Charlie would literally give the shirt off of his back if he thought someone needed it more than he did. I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus in Mark 9:35 “Whoever wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” In the kingdom of God Charlie is not poor. He is rich, for he was indeed a servant of all.
Charlie had more than his share of challenges. He lived with a mental disability for his entire life. In many ways, he was a 12 or 13-year-old boy trapped in the aging body of man. This brought with it significant challenges. At times Charlie faced bullying and ridicule. At times he didn’t understand what was going on around him. More than once he was the target of thieves who no doubt thought he was an easy target and that his bicycle or other processions should be theirs.
But these are not the things that defined Charlie. I will always remember his unconditional love for our church and community, his giving spirit, his sense of humor, and his childlike faith. And so I look forward to the day of resurrection when our Lord returns and we are raised to new life. For on that day, I know I will see Charlie again.
Rest in the presence of Christ my friend!
Springtime worship in November at Crossroads Church, Hamilton, NZ. photo by Padmaja Chagaleru
At a crisp 48 degrees Fahrenheit when we took these pictures, it was the coldest first day of school I’ve ever experienced. Thankfully, the sun was shining and it warmed up beautifully.
School Days, School Days
Dear old golden rule days
Our school boy and his dog, who waits for Q to return with her nose pressed to the porch railing every afternoon.
It’s official! Two weeks ago, Q started school. Real school. No longer in kindergarten (the kiwi word for preschool), we have a real school boy. That means a 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday kind of routine with morning tea (snack) and lunch to pack and reading homework in the afternoon. It’s all new for us.
In so many ways, it’s the most nostalgic school experience imaginable. Our neighborhood school is on the next block over—just a short walk or scooter through an ally pathway. Kids attend this school from year 1 (kindergarten) through year 8 (7th grade).
Not a cafeteria in sight, students chatter as they eat the morning tea and lunch they’ve brought with them on simple benches under awnings outside their classrooms, which open directly to the outdoors, or put on their sun hats and sit in the grass before hurrying off to play. 30 minutes for morning tea. 45 minutes for lunch.
Jaron and I both confessed to each other just yesterday morning after school drop off that we may have been known to test our own speed on Q’s scooter on the way home. Empty scooter to return home? Wouldn’t you?
The morning scooter ride is fun, but pick up times are simply the best.
As 3:00 pm nears, parents gather on those same benches outside the classrooms. Some push strollers while others share tips on strawberry picking and commiserate on yet another rainy weekend. The kids bound out of the classroom barefoot, dragging backpacks and jerseys behind them. I absolutely cannot wait to see our boy’s great big smile and hear the words, “Hi Mommy!” It’s the best part of every single day.
Then, everyone from our neighborhood walks home in a big stream of independent big kids with muddy legs from playing in the field and little kids with mums and dads in tow, all chattering about the adventures of the day.
For convenience sake, some of our friends from church who live further than walking distance park on our street for school pick up as well. It’s one big community building revelry every afternoon.
All of these things evoke a Leave It to Beaver sense that all is right in our world, but there are some unusual idiosyncrasies about our education situation as well.
Kiwi kids typically start school when they turn 5, no matter when that is in the school year. Then, everyone moves up when the new year starts in February. As it works out, some kids have more time–up to a year and a half of new entrance/year 1 (the American equivalent of kindergarten), while other kids have only 2 1/2 terms or quarters of their first year of school. It’s one of those things that can make your head spin if you didn’t grow up with this system.
Q turned 5 in May. Had he started school then, he would be starting year 2 (1st grade) in February at the ripe old age of 5 years 9 months, having had 3 quarters of year 1 (kindergarten). That’s a wee bit young and there’s no need to rush things if you ask me. This educational philosophy of mine jived perfectly with delaying his school start until we returned from the US. As it stands, he’ll have 5 quarters of year 1 (kindergarten) and start year 2 (1st grade) when he’s almost 7. Sounds like the makings of a great educational foundation if you ask me.
I’m in full on cultural translation mode when it comes to about everything else at school as well. Take these examples:
Stationary can be purchased through the school. It is generally the same price as the stationary at the store.
I think: That’s nice. They must be encouraging the practice of formal letter writing by selling fun stationary. Or maybe it’s a fundraiser? Great idea, either way. Maybe Q can use it to write a letter to some friends in America.
What it means: Stationary = school supplies. You can purchase your school supplies, which consist primarily of various notebooks (see picture), through the school so you don’t have to hunt for them at the store. Supplies like scissors, pencils, crayons, etc. are all purchased through the additional school fees and shared. This is a socialist education system, after all.
The notice in the school newsletter said, “Please make sure your child has suitable shoes and clothing for wearing on the field and/or courts for PE, as well as every other day.”
I think: Make sure your child is wearing tennis shoes (not the kind that will mark up the gym floor) and play clothes on PE days.
What it means: No shoes are necessary. Don’t bother sending your child to school with shoes. They just take them off anyway. Kids must wear shorts (not pants) on the field. The rule is “shorts for sports” (Comfort? Mobility? Holes in skin repair more easily than holes in pants?) and they must wear a hat for sun protection. Sunglasses are o.k. too as they protect the eyes.
Another notice in the newsletter said, “Whanau Hui Agenda as Follows: Karakia, Mihi, Whakawhiriwhiri, Karakia, Kai.”
I think: I would definitely benefit from Maori language school.
What it means: The Maori Curriculum Team held a meeting for families at the school. Family meeting Agenda as Follows: Opening prayer, Introductions, Discussions, Closing Prayer, Food.
The outtakes. Always so much silliness with this kid.
All in all, we’re adjusting. There have been relatively minimal tears. And, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t even cry on the first day. In fact, I was feeling quite proud of myself until an older lady in the line behind me at the post office said, “Look at this perfect card I found for my son. It says, ‘I was proud of you the day you were born and I’ve been proud of you every day since. You are a treasure.’ My son is turning 50, and this card says it all!” I smiled and nodded and tried to swallow the sudden lump in my throat and hurried to the counter for my turn. Sheesh. But truly, we are so proud and so grateful that our little guy is becoming a strong, healthy big guy and navigating this new “school days” phase of his third culture kid life so seamlessly.
When we were at the New Mexico District Family Camp in August, the kids made Koru necklaces out of clay. Q loves wearing his. These Koru (the brown swirly things), which symbolize new life, will eventually unfurl into more fern fronds.
We’re back! Finally. It has taken us a long time to get here. A month to be precise. Well, actually, it only took us one extra day to get home, thanks to this fuel crisis, but it has taken us a month to work our way back into some sort of normal. However, the world of our little family is changing drastically again this week as Q starts school at our neighborhood school. He’s going to love spending so much time with his neighborhood friends and some friends from church too.
Since pictures say it best, every now and then we sum up our day-to-day life during this season in five pictures and five pictures only. Right now, it looks something like this. You can see our previous picture summaries here, here, and here.
I was home in New Zealand for 7 days, and then jumped on a plane for Singapore, where our regional offices are located. We spent our days visioning for the future of theological education, so I didn’t get to see much except through taxi or bus windows or walking back to the hotel at night. Even so, it was fascinating to engage in this English-speaking Asian culture!
These three held down the fort at home, and even hosted out-of-town guests while I was away in Singapore. Aren’t they the cutest?!
It’s VISA time again! A massive amount of Jaron’s time has been spent collecting, filling out, and organizing all of the necessary elements for our VISA renewal, which, once approved, will allow us to live and work in New Zealand for two more years.
We’re savoring Q’s time with us during the days. We’ve squeezed in some time for art, lots of reading (We’re on book #14 of The Boxcar Children!), hosted a Play Cafe, and took a trip to the zoo. On Thursday, this kid will officially become a school kid!
It’s springtime in New Zealand, and I am 100% sure we have the most stunning tree on the block. This beauty greets us as we round the corner of our street to pull into our driveway, but don’t be fooled by that snippit of blue sky you see. Saturday was just a teaser. We’re back to chilly, windy days!
We’re wrapping up–Home Assignment, that is. I was prepared to write a Home Assignment update post last week, but in the face of massive fires in the Western US, hurricane recovery in Texas, hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and Florida, and a massive earthquake in Mexico, I felt like there were more important things in people’s news feeds. All this, plus equally difficult climate and political situations across the globe certainly puts many things into perspective.
So, this Home Assignment update comes with a sense of immense gratitude. Life is good. Our loved ones are safe and dry and warm and calm. In just a week, we’ll be en-route to New Zealand, so we’re soaking up the last few days of State-side adventures and sunshine. Can you believe it? There’s a certain slow-fastness, or perhaps a speedy-length, to a season when you’re totally out of your normal routine. Our lives have been so full in some of the best possible ways—full of story-telling and neck-hugging and grandparent-spoiling and friend-making and road-tripping and blessing-celebrating.
In the midst of all of that, we’re hoping our kiwi people and our dog haven’t forgotten us. We know their lives have been just as full as ours (dog included)—just in the completely different ways of the normal life of the end of winter on the Southern Hemisphere. On the other hand, we’re positive it has only been a minute since we said, “See ya later.”
This past week, we got to spend some of the sweetest moments with my home church, Shawnee Church of the Nazarene. It’s the church responsible for my formation as a baby, child, teenager, and young adult. It’s also just the kind of church that understands the importance of engaging intentionally in the global mission of the church. It’s really beautiful to be a part of a body—even if you’ve been serving elsewhere for many years— and to feel sent and affirmed and supported and loved and championed by that body. Together, we got to celebrate a long history and a beautiful future of supporting, nurturing, shaping, and engaging in the work of missionaries from around the world. Indeed, we are a blessed people to be a part of something so much bigger than any one church, one culture, or one country.
We’ll get to hang out with one last super-awesome church this coming weekend. In the meantime, the pictures are worth 1,000 words.
The end of Home Assignment stats look at bit like this:
On the Odometer: 5,095 miles (8,200 km)
Note: This already includes the 13 hour drive from Kansas City to New Mexico that we’re anticipating on Monday, but HOLY MOLY… We will have accumulated over 5,000 miles, folks! It’s the length of New Zealand about four times over.
On the Road: 75 hours
On our Plates: More Mexican food, and we’re anticipating Kansas City BBQ tomorrow night!! Hooray!! In our bowls: Blue Bunny Ice Cream (it’s simply the best) with chocolate chips sprinkled on top.
On our Minds: New Zealand, you’re on our minds! We’ll see you very soon.
As summer ends, a stop by giant fields of sunflowers is a must, especially in Kansas, the sunflower state.
Q has taken every possible opportunity to cuddle his big dog, Bailey, who is enjoying her sunset years at a “retirement home” (as we joke) with Grammy and Papu.
Another adventure involved lunch at the iconic Fritz’s restaurant, where a train delivers your order to the table.
It’s not a trip to Grammy and Papu’s house if it doesn’t involve at least one bowl of Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream with a few chocolate chips sprinkled on top.
Adventures with Grammy have been numerous. This one took us to the Moon Marble Factory, where we watched marbles being made by hand.
We loved getting to worship with the people at Shawnee this past weekend.
The Royals didn’t win, but we still had a great time at Q’s first Major League Baseball game. This kid has always loved baseball.
Folks, this is the breakfast food aisle at Super Walmart. Both sides, From one end to the other. Be overwhelmed.
Q has long been fascinated with fishing. His uncle, David, took him a few weeks ago, but Q only caught a tree. This week, our special family friends, the Edgar family, met us at a new-to-us park for a picnic and some very successful fishing.
Q caught a fish!
Meanwhile, at Camp Cresswell: Laylee (the second pup in this picture) has loved every minute with our friends, the Cresswells. We’ve gotten regular updates throughout her time with them, and we’re not quite sure she’s going to be keen to return to her life without cows.
Another day. Another trip to feed the cows. Another bath is in order.
We are the Graham family–Jaron, Elizabeth, the little guy Q. The three of us are on an adventure in faithfulness, currently serving in Hamilton, New Zealand. Being faithful requires much sacrifice and brings great joy. Adventure Graham is the place we chronicle our journey.