Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so they say. I am certainly not above it. After all, why reinvent the wheel when someone else has a good thing going? Case in point: Play Café. A few months ago, missionaries Ted and Sarah Voigt described their school holiday Play Café in their weekly “Newsyletter,” a fun way they keep people informed of their goings-on. (You can find out more about Ted and Sarah’s ministry at wicklownazarene.com ). I immediately replied with an e-mail that said, “Tell me more.”
New Zealand and Ireland are in some ways similar ministry contexts. We have a strong café culture. I don’t mean a sit-alone-and-work-on-your-laptop-while-drinking-coffee type of café culture. I mean, a strong, “Let’s meet up at a café for a tea or coffee or lunch or any old reason and chat” café culture. Our cafés are more likely to have a play area (indoor or out) for children than wifi or extensive outlets.
New Zealand also has a strong mums group culture. As in, if you are a mum (or a caregiver) responsible for little people during the day, you will most certainly go to at least one play group or music group or mum meet-up every week. You’ll let the kiddos play while you chat with other adults and eat your caramel slice. If you can, you’ll participate in said groups 2 or 3 mornings a week. Through various formats, we have little people with mums or caregivers in our church building four mornings a week.
The exception is school holidays. Right now, our kiddos are on a two week break from school following the end of the first term of the year. The mums’ groups are on break too, but mums and caregivers everywhere are looking for things to keep their school kids and little ones occupied.
That’s where the Play Café comes in. Just like Ted and Sarah suggested, we’re using the school holiday time to switch things up a bit. We set up play areas for kids of all ages and recruited people to make and serve yummy morning tea items. (Note: Morning tea is the snack time that transpires sometime between 9:30 and 10:30 every morning. It typically involves a hot drink such as tea, coffee, or drinking chocolate, along with some type if delectable slice, scone, or snack to get you through to lunch time. Nearly every casual and professional establishment respects the need for morning tea. School kids drink milk and nibble something from their lunch boxes for morning tea.)
Today, more than 50 people played and sipped and nibbled and colored at our first ever Play Café. For us, it was a great time to connect with people we see every week and meet some new ones. For the mums and caregivers, it was a great, free excuse to leave the house and interact with other adults while letting the kids burn off some energy. We’ll do it all again tomorrow, and we can’t wait.
Thanks for sharing your great idea, Ted and Sarah.
In honor of a great two weeks with our first guests with kids, we’ve put together our list of top 10 international travel tips for parents. We’ve had so much fun over these past 12 days. We think the memories are definitely worth the jet lag, long hours on the airplane, and overcoming the apprehension of traveling with kids.
So, with no further ado, here are the Top 10 things we think parents should remember when traveling internationally with kids.
Welcome to New Zealand, sign design and wording by Q.
Get the Sky Couch.
Air New Zealand has this really cool thing where if you’re already buying three seats together, you can pay a teeny bit more to have a foot rest thing that raises and makes your seat into a bed. This is especially perfect for 2-8 year olds who are too big to be lap children, but aren’t really all that tall yet. When you’re flying overnight, it’s so worth it. At the very least, make sure your row has reclining seats and arm rests that raise. Once, ours didn’t, and it made for a verrrry long night.
Carry-on a surprise.
There are moments during long layovers or even longer flights when kids need a distraction. A small surprise—something they’ve never seen or gotten to play with before—is a great source of entertainment. Sticky window decals, a little action figure, or a new sticker book, etc. can all keep kiddos occupied in confined spaces for chunks of time. There’s something about the newness and the surprise factor that make simple things all the more fascinating.
Drink your water.
It seems so obvious, but it makes a big difference. If you fly much, you know the drill: take your empty water bottle through security and then fill it up. Jaron is especially good at making sure we all have our water handy. It’s even more important on international flights. Some people say that staying hydrated really helps reduce all the yucky side-effects like jet lag and ankle swelling. It’s probably true. Those little airplane cups don’t provide enough water to keep a flea hydrated. Plus, they’re totally not kid friendly. Everyone needs their own water bottle. Flight attendants are typically more than happy to refill them too.
“No worries. Don’t be uptight. Don’t stress. Don’t freak out over the little things.” That’s what our friends said in that order. It’s true. It’s not like you can change it anyway. Forgot to pack underwear? No worries. You can buy those. Kid spills lunch all over their clothes? Take a chill pill. Failed to pick up your passports off the kitchen counter? Now, that’s a reason to freak out. But really, the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your kids will likely be.
Cave explorers at the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
On more than one occasion, I have pulled two suitcases while carrying a car seat on my back and pushing a kid-filled stroller with my stomach while balancing a pack-and-play on top of the stroller handle. Crazy stuff. I was happy to ditch the pack-and-play when Q outgrew it. However, on our last trip to the States, I said, “Never again.” Not “Never again will I travel,” but never again will I attempt to pack every little thing. Traveling is challenging enough. Struggling to manage your stuff sucks every last bit of joy out of the adventure, especially when you add managing a little person to the mix. It’s best to have at least one hand free at all times. We are mastering traveling very light, and my trapezius muscles are thanking me!
Oh, and our friends packed for a family of 4 for two weeks in NZ with 3 carry-ons and two checked suitcases, plus the car seat. Total. Considering they had at least 20 pounds of our stuff with them, I’d say they definitely killed it! I am so impressed and proud.
Our friends say: “Even if your kids no longer use diapers, don’t forget the wipes, water bottles, a change of clothes (in case your luggage doesn’t make it), toothbrushes, passports, food, a blanket, the essential stuffed animal, and a very few small toys and activities in your carry-on.”
A day at the beach in Raglan
Rock the routine.
There’s just something about routines that tells our brains what we’re supposed to be doing. On overnight flights, I make sure to change Q into pjs, brush his teeth, and do his normal bedtime routine to encourage the best possible sleep scenario. We carry on a small travel blanket that was gifted to us from a sweet church in Roswell, New Mexico and his stuffed dog. They are familiar and comforting. In the morning, he gets dressed and brushes his teeth, which signals that he can start his day.
Balloons over Waikato
Talk about it.
New experiences are often so abstract and even scary for kids, but the more we talk through what’s coming, the more successful their travel experience can be. Read books about travel. Show kids pictures. Talk about your routine on the airplane and let them know there might be lines at the airport. Talk about airport safety, what you’ll do when you get there.
Long before you leave, it’s great to help your kiddos get involved in the planning process. Q’s friend had heard about the glow worm caves. She thought they sounded so cool so we made sure to put that on our agenda. Today, when they were getting ready to leave, we asked the kids to help us plan what they’ll do together when we see them in America next.
These boys need alllll the snacks!
Snacks. All the snacks.
Kids (and parents) are happier humans when they’re well-fed. In order to avoid any opportunity for “hangriness” (that’s hungry and angry at the same time) to take over, pack snacks. Lots of them. Plan for the worst-case scenario: you sat on the tarmac with no flight service for 3 hours. Your child refused to eat any of the airplane food on the flight. Your flight was delayed so you didn’t have enough time to get food during the layover. And, you had to stand in a two-hour line in customs, which delayed your access to food even further. I haven’t ever had all of those happen on one trip, but flights and airports are sometimes unpredictable. Let’s be real, eating also keeps kids occupied, which is an added bonus. Take enough nutritious snack options to keep the family happy for the entire duration should you need to. We love individual packages of peanut butter and almond butter, nuts, fresh fruit (but not too much because you can’t bring it in to NZ), cheese sticks (for early on), sandwiches, rice cakes, non-sugary snack bars, pre-sliced raw veggies… you get the idea.
Tiffany family at Cathedral Cove
Ask for help.
Or simply just take the help that is offered. Sometimes you just need an extra hand, or you’re not sure where to go. Fellow travelers and airport employees alike can be so helpful. Don’t hesitate to ask, “Do I need to declare this?” or “Could you please fold this stroller for me?” or “Could you keep an eye on my kid while I just take a little nap?” Just kidding!! 😊 But really, ask for help.
The farewell picture… before the tears.
And our number one piece of advice…
Take your time.
Don’t get in a hurry. I learned this really early on in our parenting experience when flying domestically with a wee one by myself. The truth of this statement is amplified a hundred-fold when traveling internationally. The world is a better place when you’re not having to rush, when you can walk through the airport at the pace of your toddler, and when an urgent need for a potty break doesn’t derail the entire plan. Of course, there are exceptions where you have to frantically run through the airport. In that case, refer to #2. However, you can set you and your kids up for a really successful travel experience by getting to the airport plenty early, planning ahead for long enough layovers, and building in time to let the wiggles out.
In fact, “Take your time” is pretty helpful advice for traveling anywhere with kids. Here’s the truth: when traveling with small children you’re probably not going to get to cram 15 hour days full of museums or multiple beach stops. Traveling with small kids may mean you have to skip the surf lessons (unless you have a baby-sitter in tow), take more frequent breaks, or opt for the half day instead of the multi-day tour. However, you are going to get to see and enjoy things together that form deep memories and develop broad world-views. And those things pay dividends that no dollar amount can measure. We say it’s a totally worthwhile adventure!
Teamwork makes the dream work. It’s so cliché and so true. Over the past year, we’ve been a part of developing education for pastors in New Zealand. If you haven’t already, you can read more about it here. The simple truth is, that we couldn’t make it happen on our own. We definitely sense that God has brought together a great team for just such a time as this. One of the people that we’ve gotten to work closely with is Rob Fringer, the principal of Nazarene Theological College in Brisbane, Australia.
When we met Rob for the first time less than a year ago, we had no idea if he’d be on board, if he’d want to work with us, or if he’d think we were totally crazy and blow us off. Thankfully, we came to the table for the very first time with a common vision and a big piece of the puzzle in each of our hands.
Now, a year later, Rob has just spent eight days teaching an Intro to Old Testament intensive to one master’s student, six bachelor’s students, five certificate level students, and two auditing participants. Over the course of the class, we got numerous text messages like, “This is so great! We need more time with him!” and “This is opening up a whole new world for me. Thanks for making this possible.” Now, the real grind for the students begins as they work on their post-work while maintaining full time jobs and pastoral responsibilities. We have the utmost confidence that they will rise to the occasion.
While we were with Rob, I asked him a few questions to help us get to know what motivates the person who has been charged to lead NTC and is helping to provide feet to a dream God has given us.
The Fringer Family from left to right: Vanessa, Sierra, Brenden, and Rob.
Elizabeth: You’re a lecturer and principal at Nazarene Theological College (NTC) in Brisbane, Australia. How did you get there?
Rob: NTC needed a lecturer in biblical studies. I was working on my PhD in Manchester while living and pastoring in New Hampshire at the time. When they called Manchester looking for recommendations, Kent Brower gave them my name. Through that process and a lot of prayer, we accepted the call and moved to Australia. We will have been here 4 years in June.
Tell us a little about NTC.
NTC was started sometime around 1953 in Sydney. It moved to Brisbane in the 70s. We have about 50 students with our on-campus and extension programs across the Asia Pacific Region. The demographic varies widely. We have lots of islanders, some Aussies, a couple of Brazilians, and some Americans, plus Fijian and Papua New Guinean students at our extension sites in those countries.
NTC is accredited through the Sydney College of Divinity (SCD) and internationally recognized. We offer two bachelor’s degrees, three master’s degrees, and through our SCD partnership, we offer a PhD and a Doctor of Ministry.
What other ministry experience do you have?
I was involved in youth ministry for 10 years, followed by an associate pastor of discipleship and outreach for 6 ½ years. I have taught as an adjunct for four different schools. I also served for one year as a Nazarene In Volunteer Service (NIVS) in Swaziland teaching at what is now Southern Africa Nazarene University.
How did you go from being a lecturer at NTC to being the principal?
God has a sense of humor. I thought I might become an academic dean at some point. That seemed to suit my skillset. Then, the current principal stepped down after being there for 17 years. The position was open. They asked me twice to apply. I said no the first time. Later, they gathered more resumes and asked a second time if I would let my name run. Long story short, my wife and I prayed about and decided to let my name move forward. Then, big surprise, the Board of Trusties voted unanimously to offer me the job and we accepted the position.
Speaking of your wife… You have a family—a wife and two kids. How are they adjusting to life in AU?
Vanessa is my wife. She handles the college finances and serves as the bookkeeper. Sierra is nine. Brenden is six. They love life in Australia. They love their friends, the wild animals they see, the freedom of running all over campus (where they live). They miss the snow.
What does your family like to do for fun?
We like to go on family holidays to the beach. We like to go to the Sunshine Coast. We like to go to the Australian Zoo. There are lots of beaches closer to our house that we like too. We also like to go to parks.
How often to do you see your family in the States?
We go home about once every two years.
What is your vision for NTC moving forward?
Truly, to see it grow. My vision is for NTC is to continue to train many more pastors and lay leaders, and through that training see the church grow, not only numerically but also in maturity.
I also have a vision that we would be a help and a resource for the church in this region (Asia Pacific Regional Church of the Nazarene).
We’ve gotten to know you through our work developing the NTC-Auckland extension program. Why are you excited about NTC-AKL?
I think it has so much potential. There are a couple of things I am really excited about.
I am excited because it is strengthening relationships between Australia and New Zealand. On this field, it is strengthening relationships, and that’s really important.
I think it’s exciting because it has been a real need for New Zealand, and now we’re getting to meet that need. I think NTC-AKL has the potential to be bigger in terms of enrollment than the main campus in Brisbane.
What about this program is innovative? What makes it work?
I think the things that make this program work are the contextual aspect of this program, as well as the leadership and the mentor concept that has been developed for this program.
How can other people be a part of what God is doing through NTC?
It would be great to sponsor a student. We have several students who have financial need. You can do that by clicking here.
People with master’s degrees in theology or ministry can serve as mentors to our undergraduate and graduate students. You can live anywhere in the world and become a mentor. People can volunteer their time if they are qualified to be a lecturer. People can pray for us and for our students.
Principal Rob Fringer teaching Intro to Old Testament in New Zealand.
It was an overcast day in Hamilton… the kind that starts with rain and clears just enough to tempt you to go outside without rain gear, but then catches you off guard with sudden and short-lived downpours.
But in my mind, I was here. Matapouri, a beach 4 hours north of us. In reality , we were here a few weeks ago, as a family with friends and our puppy on an adventure to see the Mermaid Pools. But today, it was quieter. Just me and the sand and the waves and the sun… and Jesus.
I have a new year’s resolution. It may be my only serious resolution ever. My resolution is to create space for uninterrupted quiet. I marked it off on my calendar is a recurring event. Tuesday mornings at 9 a.m. Quentin is at kindy. Jaron is at the office. I am hanging out with my journal, Bible, and cup of tea at some undisclosed location.
And on this particular Tuesday, my mind, with all of its rushing thoughts and deep prayers, went here.
To a spot on the beach where the sand begins to rise from the shore, creating a berm before it gives way to pampas grass and the parking lot beyond. A place where the view is a stunning combination of land and sea. Where small, lush, green islands rise steeply out of the ocean. Where the water forms a distinct line between turquoise green and cobalt blue. Here, I sat on the berm with Jesus.
The sun warmed my arms and legs and a gentle breeze blew as I dug my toes into the fine white sand.
My breathing took on the rhythm of the tide. In and out. Slowly. Rhythmically.
And then these words mingled with the in and out rhythm of breath and flow of water.
In… I am… Out… With you
Inhale…I am… Exhale…with you…
See those islands? I called them into being from under the sea.
I am… with you…
See that line in the water? It is I who paint the cobalt and the turquoise and draw a line between the two.
I am… with you…
See those waves lapping up on the shore and slipping out again? It’s is I who beckon them in and nudge them back out again.
I am… with you…
Feel that breeze rustling your hair, whispering against your cheek? It is I who give breath to the breeze.
I am… with you…
Feel the sun’s warm rays on your arms and legs? It is I who infuse them with light and heat.
I am… with you…
I see you.
I hear you.
I am with you.
So wherever you are… whether it’s a soggy northern California or a refugee camp in Lebanon or a beach in New Zealand or just your living room couch… whether your days are feeling hard or hurried or hopeful… breath in and breath out. He is with you.
Summer has finally arrived in New Zealand. We’ve been waiting for our turn at sunshine and 80 degree (27 degrees Celsius) temps since… June, if we’re honest. It arrived just in time for the kids to go back to school. Between yesterday and next Tuesday kids all over the country will load their Sistema lunch boxes and shiny new school supplies in their backpacks and march off to meet their new teachers. It’s like August in America, complete with the “back to routine” happy dances and fatigue.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve enjoyed the long days and short nights that are quintessentially summer. We’ve filled them with youth camp, grandparent time with Jaron’s parents, a few days on the South Island, preparation for the next Nazarene Theological College—Auckland (NTC-AKL) class, doctoral dissertation writing, work on a library for pastors, and a sizeable Graham Fam Summer Bucket List.
Most of the boxes on the bucket list have been ticked, and we’re gearing up for a new year.
Next week, our groups for Mums and Tots, Mainly Music and HappyFeet, will resume. On the 19th, we’ll kick off a year of Kids’ Clubs—fun and formation for the whole family—with gooey s’mores (a tradition that began with imported ingredients last year) and the ball will be rolling. In addition, pastors from across New Zealand will gather for their second NTC-AKL class. Read more about the incredible partnership we’ve been working on with Nazarene Theological College in Brisbane, Australia here!
This year, we’re also anticipating another SIMS Team from Southern Nazarene University, several weeks of support raising and story sharing in the US, the joys of unexpected adventures with people in our community, and the bittersweet flavor of Q starting school in October.
We are excited about what this year will hold. We’re anticipating the familiarity and comfort that comes with doing things a second time, with knowing some names, and with having a sense of the year’s rhythms. We can’t wait to see what the next stage of life and ministry will hold now that our feet are grounded and our ears and brains are more acclimated to our world where summer and the start of a new school year come at the end of January.
Sometimes pictures say it best. If we had to sum up our day-to-day life during this season in five pictures and five pictures only, they would look something like this. You can see our fall and spring picture summaries here and here.
Camp and Parua Bay is the stuff of little boys’ dreams. Sticks and sand and rocks and shells. Water and rope swings and late nights and bare feet and a giant slip and slide. And lots of bigger kids and grown ups to provide endless attention for the “camp mascot.”
Hiking at one of our most favorite and most often mentioned locations… Blue Springs Walkway. Hiking the entire 10 km trail was on our summer bucket list. Check.
Bapa (John) & Gigi (Jeanine) with Q on the first of their “spoil days,” as Q dubbed them…. a few days without parents where abundant spoiling transpired.
The Graham family at Ruakaka beach on the way to youth camp.
This time last year, I wrote a blog post about our adventures in dog-sitting. It was a great way to have a furry friend to play with without any of the commitment. Q, in particular, loves having a canine companion to cuddle, chase, and partner in his escapades. I love the freedom of short-term pet obligations. It also proved to be a great way to make friends of the human variety. We even ate Christmas dinner with a precious family we met through dog-sitting.
Meeting Laylee for the first time
However, when Q and I visited our dog Bailey at my parents’ house in the States this past October, all of his four-year-old longing for a canine companion of his very own came rushing back to him in a flood of unquenchable hopes, dreams, and emotions.
I on the other hand, have about a million reasons for not wanting a dog. We travel a lot. We have a very small yard. Dogs create added expenses and bigger messes. The list goes on. However, things really came to a head one day in the car after dog-sitting Macey for a day. “Mommy, I like dog-sitting Macey. I want to keep dog-sitting her, but I also really want a dog of my own that doesn’t have to go home at the end of the day.” It was a knife in this mama’s heart.
The happiest of boys
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 4 ½ years of parenting our boy, it’s that sometimes the very best thing a parent can do, is throw all reason to the wind and do the unreasonable.
Laylee’s first trip to the beach
So, Jaron and I hemmed and hawed and thought and prayed and then we plotted. On Christmas morning, Q’s face morphed from confusion to elation as the realization dawned that he would be getting a puppy of his very own. When we asked him what he wanted to name his puppy, Q promptly said, “Laylee.” A few days later, a sweet Miniature Schnauzer puppy named Laylee came home to live with us. She is the fulfillment of a certain little boy’s deep longing. And she’s doing a pretty good job of stealing my heart too.
This is the face of my friend. She’s a Christian, a wife, and a mom. She’s also a make-up artist who loves to sing as a part of church worship teams.
This is the face of her husband. He’s a husband and a dad who delights in his daughter. He’s a hair stylist who can cut, color, and style with the best of them.
They met at a salon where they both worked.
This is the face of their energetic two-year-old, who thinks Q is hilarious, especially when he pretends to fall. She’s learning a new word nearly every minute and is an actress in the making, practicing her most dramatic expressions on her parents. She calls Jaron khal–uncle.
These are the faces of a dad who is struggling to learn English so he can get a job to support his family; a mom so homesick she feels that God has surely forsaken her in this foreign land; and a little girl who may never see a blood relative again.
This is the face of my friend who said, “I was afraid to meet you because they always told me Americans want to control everything. They said Americans are causing war. But I love you. You are not what I expected.”
These are the faces of George, Katia, and Christelle.
They escaped Damascus 3 ½ years ago, a young newlywed couple, seeking safety in Lebanon with her family when the violence became too much. Their government was favorable to Christians, but everyone was caught in the crossfire when the conflict between Muslim groups escalated. They begged UNHCR to let them travel to a new home. But they said no. They begged again and again. Finally, the response came, “You can go, George and Katia, with your young daughter, but your mother, brothers and sister-in-law cannot go with you. You cannot return here until you have your New Zealand passport in five years. Maybe then you can visit.”
“I don’t know why the passed us over so many times, why they wouldn’t let us travel,” Katia still wonders with anguish.
But there are 65 million people in George and Katia and Christelle’s shoes. 65 million displaced people longing for a safe country to call home. The US accepted just over 72,000 this year. New Zealand accepted about 700.
And so, George and Katia are thankful. They’re thankful to live in a peaceful country where bombs are not being dropped daily. They are thankful they are not surrounded by the rubble of destroyed buildings that only serve as constant reminders of crushed dreams. They’re thankful that one day they will be able to get jobs in New Zealand and support themselves. They’re thankful to live in a city with an Arabic-speaking church. They know there is much to be thankful for.
Katia’s mom and brother
Just recently, Katia found out that her brothers would be able to start their new lives in Canada. But not her mom. No, she is a 52-year-old widowed breast cancer survivor. They say she cannot travel to a new homeland. Governments need people who can work, who can contribute to the economy. She will have no one to care for her once her two sons are relocated to Canada.
Katia with her family
And so, Katia cries. She cries for the homeland she misses, for the mom she left behind, for the loss of all that is familiar, for the language of her heart that few can understand, for a war that has torn everything apart, for the loneliness she feels on a daily basis, for media that paints misleading pictures of people on both sides of the camera and fosters fear of the other side.
And I cry with her because she is my friend. Because the media in my homeland says I should be afraid of this family, that our children should never play together, that these people belong in refugee camps or back in their war-torn countries. Because these people with gentle eyes and kind spirits are victims of one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Holocaust.
These faces are the faces of my friends. Their faces might just shock you. They might not fit the image painted by your evening news. These are the faces of Syrian refugees.
We’ve spent a year with you now, and we must confess, we are infatuated with your beauty, captivated by your diversity, and thrilled by the adventure.
Here are 10+ things we love about you:
Blue Springs Walkway. Please visit with reverence and be respectful of others who want to do the same.
10 Greener Living
We are composting and recycling kinds of people so it’s a real treat to live in a city with curbside recycling. Somehow living in a place where nature is in many ways more pristine than we’ve experienced before has only served to make us even more conscious about our environmental footprint. When one of our favorite natural getaways became a tourist hot spot before our very eyes earlier this year, we were delighted that New Zealand quickly responded by banning swimming and educating tourists in order to protect the fragile ecosystem. Quentin is in on the game as well, he picks up every little piece of rubbish (trash) he sees when we are out for a walk, a hike, or just walking across a parking lot.
The average American and kiwi incomes are essentially the same. However, with petrol, food, utilities and housing (not to mention everything else) costing three to four times more in New Zealand than it does in the States, the living naturally becomes… simpler. Living with less is refreshing. However, there’s also a simplicity of schedule that we are appreciating. Kiwi kids go to bed between 6:30 and 8:00 pm. Plus, people start jobs with four weeks of paid holiday, and they actually take all of it.
All the Indian food!
We are not going to lie, we miss vast selections of salsa big time. However, Pavlova, sweet mince pies, curries of every kind, morning tea, Turkish kebabs, egg yolks in the deepest orange color, feijoas in the fall, lemons on our tree, golden kiwis, and the most scrumptious grass fed dairy products leave our palates satisfied and our tummies full.
Our city of Hamilton has the best parks—vast green spaces and really creative play structures. They are fun for our whole family and no two are the same!
Our Southern Nazarene University Students spent two weeks with us in June and Caleb Hoskins spent 8 weeks with us.
6 Hosting Visitors
This year we’ve been blessed with the visits of our parents. They are the best! We’ve also had the pleasure of hosting university students for varying lengths of time. We love this piece of our new role where we get to share the beauty and culture of our new home and shape the worldview of young adults. Plus, they’re just fun to have around!
Last night, we joined the Nazarene pastors from across New Zealand for our annual Christmas dinner. It was a great time. Of the 29 churches and church plants on our district, the pastors alone represent 19 different countries of origin. The people represented in our congregations make us an even more diverse group of people. On a given Sunday, we worship with 30-40 different people in our location congregation in Hamilton. Often those people represent 9 different nationalities. We love and appreciate the diverse food, worldviews, cultures, and languages we get to experience in New Zealand.
September in Tonga
4 Traveling the South Pacific
It was a short hop, skip, and a jump to other exotic South Pacific locations this year… Philippines (Jaron), Tonga (Elizabeth), Australia (Jaron). We can’t wait for more! New Zealand, you’re so exotic, and so are your neighbor islands!
New Zealand has so much to explore. And, since it’s the size of California from tip top to the very bottom, a day trip gets you to any number of beaches, hiking trails, waterfalls, native forests, hilly sheep farms, or glowworm caves. Our proximity in the middle of the North Island is especially great for this. That said, we’ve barely made a drop in the bucket.
Our D.S.’s wife, Joyce Bartle loves to quote Matthew 19:29. “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” As someone who left her home in Scotland to serve as a nurse in Papua New Guinea, she would know! We’re finding this to be true as well. In the past year, we have been blessed with deep and significant relationships, for which we are very thankful! Sure, they make fun of our weird words, accents, foods, and endless questions, but that’s what friends are for. Our hearts are full because of them!
1 Being a part of the work God is doing
Only 47.8% of the population of New Zealand even affiliates with Christianity. This makes it the most “secular society” in the Western world. While those statistics are heart-breaking, we are delighted to be a part of the work that God is doing, both in our local context, and across the country. We are delighted for the opportunity to be a source of hope and light in New Zealand.
It’s spring and the roses are in bloom at Hamilton Gardens.
+ Hello, Beautiful!
I mean, with something blooming in vibrant color 12 months out of the year, a green winter, and lemons on our tree year-round, what’s not to love?! Easy enough for me to say now that the sun has emerged after hiding for 6 long months. Seriously, though, New Zealand really is as beautiful as the pictures might lead you to believe.
Jaron was in Australia the night the creaking and banging woke me. The intruder, it turns out, was seismic activity that began 445 km (275 mi) away as the crow flies. Many others in our mid-sized city of Hamilton, NZ said that it was the rolling sensation and resulting sea sick feeling—as if they were on a boat—that disturbed their sleep. However, in our community on New Zealand’s North Island, sleep was about all that was disturbed by the November 14 magnitude 7.8 earthquake.
It was a different story for the South Island. The community of Kaikoura (population 2,000) and the rural areas to the north experienced complete upheaval. The seabed near Kaikoura was raised about 7 ft (2m). The earthquake changed the landscape above and below the water, crumbled houses, broke sewage systems, fractured water pipes, destroyed road beds, and shifted railroad tracks. Essentially, the infrastructure was destroyed along fault lines stretching past the rural community of Seddon, nearly 1oo miles north of Kaikoura, where the most energy was released in the multi-fault quake. Prime Minister John Key estimates rebuilding costs may exceed $2 billion.
As a result, more than 1,000 people had to be evacuated by helicopter. Over 900 chemical portaloos were brought in by ship. And dairy farmers with no way of exporting milk were forced to dump fresh milk down the drain. However, human inhabitants weren’t the only ones affected. Landslides caused by the initial quake and the continued aftershocks destroyed the popular seal pup habitat where seal pups are often spotted playing under a waterfall. In addition, many adult seals were killed. Bird colonies, such as the threatened population of Hutton’s Shearwater, were drastically affected when half of a colony was buried in landslides. Scientists suspect that the dolphins and whales that frequent the waters around Kaikoura were also affected. However, when researchers were able to get back in the boat on November 24, they spotted more than 300 dolphins off the coast, an encouraging sign that wildlife is indeed resilient.
On the Southern tip of the North island, the capital city of Wellington also experienced a shakeup. While no buildings collapsed immediately, the earthquake has compromised the stability of more than two dozen buildings, some of which are among Wellington’s largest office buildings. Buildings like a 10-story building on Molesworth street require demolition, which began this week, while others will require structural reinforcement before they can be used again. Wellington’s port also suffered significant damage.
Two weeks after the earthquake, residents of the northern Canturbury region of New Zealand remain largely isolated and are still experiencing significant aftershocks. The primary road and railway between Christchurch and Kaikoura may take a year or more to repair. Convoys of military grade vehicles are delivering food for those who cannot evacuate. Certainly, the 2011 Christchurch earthquake (magnitude 7.1) caused significantly more damage to buildings and livelihood due to its proximity to a more densely populated area. However, it will take months or even years for life to return to normal for the latest earthquake victims, most of whom rely on the dairy industry and tourism for their livelihood. Sociologists predict that as much as 18% of the population could leave the area permanently in search of housing and other employment opportunities.
It’s spring and the roses are in bloom. Photo taken at Hamilton Gardens.
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that when Q and I greeted Jaron as we walked through airport security in Auckland International Airport, laden in luggage and overnight flight fogginess, the day after the US presidential election that we were quickly intercepted by a woman…And a cameraman…With a microphone.
“Are you American?”
“What do you think of the election?”
“Who did you vote for?”
“Will lots of Americans be trying to move to New Zealand now?”
Since we first arrived a year ago, the conversations have gone like this, “Hi I’m so and so. Glad to meet you. Are you from America? What do you think of the presidential race?” At the grocery store and the playground and church and in lines at New Zealand’s tourism hot spots.” My kiwi neighbor kids told me they were having a mock US election at their school.
America, in case you were wondering, the world is watching. The world is holding its collective breath on economics and trade agreements and civil rights and immigration and refugee policies and all the things that have been front and center during this election cycle. Truly, the impact is more far reaching than American borders. And the world is wondering, “America, are you really the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
What the world needs to see is Jesus.
So, American Christians, while you have the world’s eye, you have an incredible opportunity. Church, don’t miss this. Fellow Jesus followers, don’t take it lightly. We have an opportunity to model for the world how a great and diverse people works through conflict. We have an opportunity to demonstrate what it means to be gracious and merciful and compassionate and Christ-like. Church in America: we have the opportunity to show Jesus to the world.
In the way we…
Offer words of grace to family members who voted differently
Shake hands with the neighbor who rooted for the other side
Offer hospitality to those who come from a different tribe, creed, culture, or context
Stand up for those who fear
Sit with those who grieve
Lend a hand to a stranger
Have compassion for those who lack
Facilitate peace through words and actions
Whether your candidate won or lost. Whether you are on the right or the left or neither. Whether the President does or does not do these things. Why? Because mercy and compassion, humility and grace have always been the way of Christ. Every day. For 2,000+ years. In times of peace. In times of turmoil. Whether anyone is watching or not. Church, do we remember how Jesus loved? Can we live how Jesus lived?
When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” he told a story about a Samaritan man who helped a Jewish man. They couldn’t have been more different in race or religion. They couldn’t have come from more opposite sides of the tracks. They couldn’t have had a bigger cultural divide to cross. This kind of thing… it’s not new to Jesus. He has been here before.
So, American church, the world is watching. And the world wants to know if America is a place where hate is harbored or where love is unconditional; where rioters have the last say or peaceful conversations abound; where lines are drawn or bridges are built. The world wants to know what we are going to do in the face of turmoil. The world needs to see how our God and our faith stand up to chaos. The world needs to see if we have anything of value to offer after all.