We ended our time with our university students a few weeks ago with a few hours at one of our favorite places, Blue Spring Walkway. If you’ve read this blog much at all, you’ve probably seen pictures of Blue Spring. It’s a place that lends itself to getting quiet, making space, and sensing the Holy Spirit. In the words of NT Wright, it’s a place where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. We told our students to spread out, take some time to reflect, and listen to what the Spirit might be saying as they prepared to go home. During that experience, one of our students, Nathan, wrote the following. It was significant for all of us. He kindly agreed to let us share it.
The Pure River
By Nathan Cummings
The water was roaring, because everything else was silent.
The delicate green plants swung with rhythm, tugged by the rushing water.
The water is pure, blue and clean. What feeds on The Pure River, also is pure.
The greenest life is closest to the river.
What is the river in my life, if I were a tree. Is that river pure?
Am I a river to other people?
Can I be both a river and a tree?
Without The Pure River, my tree could not survive.
Without the Pure Source, my river is corrupt.
Are the trees on my river feeding on pure water?
The birds have arrived, here to keep my company.
Perhaps I am a bird.
I can fly away, but The Pure River always welcomes me back.
But The Pure River provides all I need.
Why would I fly away?
About the Author
The author, Nathan Cummings, is a sophomore history major at Southern Nazarene University. He’s into all things marching band. Nathan is a part of the fourth generation in his family to attend SNU. Here, he is pictured at Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan, NZ.
Yesterday, we bid Kia Ora (be well) to the six Southern Nazarene University students and two adult sponsors who had spent every waking hour of the past three weeks with us. What adventures we had! Over the past three weeks (technically 19 days on the ground, though 20 makes for a better blog post title 😉 ), our volunteers built intentional relationships with people who represent approximately 20 different cultures. I am not even exaggerating! It was truly an amazing (and sometimes exhausting) feat for them.
Our “uni team,” as we fondly call them, spent their weekdays volunteering at three drastically different primary schools, helping out with our playgroups, and tutoring and playing with refugee children at a couple of area after school programs. They also got to experience the many flavors of the Nazarene church in New Zealand through a culture night complete with a haka and the traditional dances of the Samoan and Cook Islands, as well a young adult retreat (think touch rugby in the church at 2 am and a full-fledged Samoan lunch). They wrapped up their time in New Zealand by hosting an amazing mid-winter Christmas party for our Kids’ Club. It included all of the traditional American festivities and all of the traditional kiwi foods. There was so much merry making!! In each of these places, the uni team encountered an array of different cultures.
However, it wouldn’t be a truly kiwi experience if their time with us had been all work and no play. They surfed with our favorite instructor, Surfer Steve (click on the hyper link to see their awesome surfing photos), hiked the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, wandered through the Redwoods, visited Hamilton Gardens, and made space to reflect at the Blue Spring Walkway. Along the way, a couple of them got special nick names like “Pillows” and “Squash Bug” from Q, dubbed “Wiggle Worm,” and all of them were loved by the small one who proudly claimed his role as a member of the team and his new nick name.
The entire experience was one that is much better told with pictures and videos than words, and we certainly have lots of them. Enjoy!
While most of the world is heating up… we’re definitely not. We’ve enjoyed a spectacular autumn!
We’re getting ready to host another group of American university students and sponsors in just over a week. The eight of them will be with us for three weeks, volunteering in local schools, playing with little people at our mums groups, and spending time at an after school program for refugee children. They’ll also get a feel of some of New Zealand’s diverse culture as they hang out with a group of teenagers from all over Auckland and then a group of young adults later in their trip.
With their arrival just around the corner, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to compile a list of a few of the things that make New Zealand unlike anywhere else in the world. Don’t get me wrong… some countries have one or two of these things, but when you put them all together, you get a country and a culture all its own.
Let’s start with the obvious. With 8,700 miles (14,000 km) of coastline (10th in the world), New Zealand is guaranteed to have a significant amount of beaches. I’ve heard people joke that if you feel a little too crowded at a beach (as in there are more than 20 people), just drive down to the next one. They’re a dime a dozen. However, it’s not just the quantity that makes New Zealand’s beaches so amazing. It’s the vast variety as well. Black sand. White sand. Large rocks. Small rocks. Driftwood. Calm, protected waters. Big surfing waves. Whatever you want in a beach, you can find in New Zealand… unless it’s warm water. That’s one request New Zealand simply can’t fulfill.
#2 Just a Few (Million) Folks
With a boom pushing the population up to 4.7 million people, New Zealand still ranks as the 127th country in the world in terms of population. It’s not the smallest in the world by any means, but it’s definitely towards the bottom in comparison to other first world Western countries. That translates to daily life in some interesting ways. Often, seemingly common things are a lot harder to come by. Those craft supplies you saw in a Pinterest project? There’s a good chance they’re not available. Things cost more. There’s not as much variety to choose from. It’s a much, much smaller market than the US or the UK or Canada or Australia. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
#3 East Meets West in Polynesia
Those 4.7 million people are really what make New Zealand unlike anywhere else in the world. I could write an entire book about it. It’s a case of Eastern culture meets Western culture on a Pacific Island. The Maori people first settled in New Zealand hundreds of years ago. The Europeans came next. However, most immigrants to New Zealand today come from India, China, and the Philippines. Toss in a large number of immigrants from other Pacific Islands like Samoa and the Cook Islands and you have a people group that is unparalleled anywhere in the world. It’s Western, but with an Eastern flair, and strong Pacific Island roots.
New Zealand has two national languages—not all that unusual. English is the obvious one to outsiders, but Maori, or Te Reo, is also a national language. It’s a Polynesian language not spoken anywhere else in the world. In New Zealand, it’s used on a daily basis for common items like kumara (sweet potato), names of places, greetings, karakia (prayers), and more. A beautiful language, it is known for its extensive use of vowels. Just take for example Aotearoa, the name for New Zealand, meaning land of the long white cloud.
#5 Treaty of Waitangi
When the Europeans were busy colonizing the rest of the world, they were notorious for taking over indigenous people groups by force, running them out, or killing them off, and most certainly subjecting them to the prowess of the white man. It’s a gruesome reality in the history of the Western word. Things went a little differently in New Zealand. Instead of being run off or killed off, the Maori demanded a treaty. I think they were just intimidating enough to get it. The treaty was written in Maori and in English and hundreds of Maori chiefs signed the treaty, known as the Treaty of Waitangi declaring British sovereignty in 1840. However, since the Maori chiefs couldn’t read English, they didn’t know that there was a disparity between the two versions. It wasn’t until more than 100 years later that the Maori people began holding the New Zealand government accountable to the version that their people had signed. As a result, the Maori culture has a much more significant impact on the lives of kiwis from every heritage than the culture of indigenous people does in many other places, such as the United States.
Did you catch that in number 5? The British were just colonizing NZ in 1840. While there had been a handful of explorers and settlers in New Zealand for quite a while, New Zealand as we know it is a very young country—practically making the US look matronly.
Have you looked at New Zealand on a globe? It’s really one of my favorite things to do. New Zealand is practically on the bottom of the earth—the last stop before Antarctica. Auckland, the most populous city in NZ, is located at a latitude of 37 degrees south. There are only three other countries in the world that can claim that location! Australia, Argentina, and Chile all have narrow bits of land on the 37th parallel south, but if you account for New Zealand’s South Island, you will find it is only rivaled by Chile and Argentina in proximity to the South Pole.
#8 Holiday Destinations
New Zealand’s location in the South Pacific makes for some interesting and exotic holiday/vacation destinations. Life is pretty grand when your nearest neighbor is Australia and a trip over is roughly the equivalent of a US domestic flight. Other nearby destinations include Fiji, French Polynesia (including Bora Bora and Tahiti), and Rarotonga (a favorite wedding destination among kiwis). Such exotic neighbors, I tell ya! That said, many kiwis make an annual pilgrimage to the UK. By pilgrimage, I mean more than 30 hours of actual flight time, not including layovers. Yikes! Others opt for a 6-week tour of US hot spots like California and New York.
#9 No Native Land Predators
You can’t mention New Zealand without mentioning it’s flora and fauna. It’s truly stunning and one of a kind. The climate lends itself to rampant and varied plant growth and animal life. Home to a wide variety of unusual birds, New Zealand has (or had) many flightless species that thrived with no natural land predators. That’s right, not a lion, a tiger, or a bear to be found. Not even a fox or a snake. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for domesticated cats and dogs to take advantage of the wee birds roosting on the ground. Many flightless birds are endangered or extinct due in part to our pets!
#10 Direct Bank Transfers
I’ll confess. I don’t really know if other countries have this or not, but it was so foreign to me when we moved to New Zealand, I’d like to say only New Zealand could make it work. New Zealand banking is such that when you want to pay an individual (for, say, a used table they are selling), you acquire their bank details (as in, they give you their actual bank account number). You then enter their account number and the amount of the transaction into your phone app and click confirm. Nearly instantaneously, your money shows up in their account, and apparently, nothing is ever stolen this way. 4.7 million people participate in transactions like this all the time, and I haven’t read one news story about it going awry. It’s strange. It seems so risky, but it’s also awfully convenient.
This birthday boy loves treats–particularly chocolate ones. He also loves making silly faces and being goofy any chance he gets!
We’ve reached a big milestone in our family this week. Mr. Q turned 5! From Baby Q to Big Kid Q in a flash, it seems. Over the years, we’ve celebrated with Little Man Q, Construction Man Q, Cowboy Q, and Astronaut Q. This year, after much deliberation on the part of the birthday boy, we celebrated Paleontologist Q. Dinosaurs and fossils galore! I know these sweet days of themed celebrations won’t last forever, but they have served as really fun markers of our little guy’s ever-developing interests and inquisitive nature.
Turning 5 is a BIG deal in our neck of the woods. Typical kiwi kids head off to school on their fifth birthday, whenever that is in the year, or shortly thereafter. This mama is a little bit thankful that our travel schedule dictates that Q won’t start until fourth term in October. (Whew!) However, I did deliver all of his school enrollment papers to our neighborhood school this week, and it’s all feeling quite real!
Meanwhile, Q is jumping at the chance to give you his two cents on turning 5 and boy life in general. We took turns typing, with Q dictating the part that I typed. You can check out his blog post from last year here. Reading through it reminded me again how much he has grown up over the past year!
I am five. I am actually five. Turning 5 is cool because I will get to ride horses. I am not that excited to turn five though because things won’t be the same. I won’t get to ride in my stroller. (Yes, we have tested the limits on that jogging stroller.) I also won’t get to be with Mommy and Daddy as much because school will be every day and last longer than kindy. I won’t go to my kindy any more. I will go to my neighborhood school. I will have to do homework, and I am nervous about having to do a lot of things at school. I have friends that go to my new school already. They are from our neighborhood. Their names are Luke, Cadyn, Corbin, Hunter, Lucas, and Marshall. Plus, some friends from our church go there.
Celebrating as “King for the day” at kindy.
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Since I turned four last year, I have learned to ride my bike without training wheels, been skiing, learned about dinosaurs, and seen hundreds of dolphins in the ocean. I have been swimming like a fish! I like to swim, especially diving under the water and doing water twirls. That’s where I jump in and twirl around under water. One of my favorite things about this past year was that I had spoil days with Bapa and Gigi and my friends Ellie and Maxwell came to visit me. It was Ellie and Maxwell’s first time. I really hope they come again.
[Here Q entered a gazillion emojis, basically every emoji that illustrates something he likes (many of them multiple times). They, of course, don’t translate well to the computer, but it’s rather fitting because since he discovered the beauty of emojis a few months ago, he insists on adding his own personal touch to every text message we send to the grandparents. The conversation usually sounds like, “O.k. That’s all I want to say now. Can you take me to the part where I can choose my pictures?” If it’s something cool, you’ll likely get a rocket in his response, though he has a particular fondness for all of the vehicle, party, and food emojis. Typical.]
Laylee is my pup pup. She steals my furry friends, even though she has her own furry friend. She is the vacuum cleaner of food under my chair. She climbs up on the chairs and puts two paws on the table acting like she is a human. She gets in trouble for that.
You Will Never Run by Rend Collective is one of Q’s favorite Songs to play on the cajon (a box drum). Here, he decided to spontaneously demonstrate his musical skills for one of his teachers at kindy (April 2017).
I am really excited that later this year I get to go to America to see all my American friends. I made a bucket list of things I plan to do there. I am also excited that when I am five I am going to learn to tie shoelaces. I will learn how to ride a bigger bike, read more of my own books, and play some more songs on the cajon (that’s a box drum that I sit on). I play it at church sometimes. Oh yeah!!
I’m still nervous, but it sounds like 5 might be pretty cool.
Newly emerged Monarch butterfly on a grapevine in our backyard (March 2017). Q loves watching nature unfold in our yard. While there is still a butterfly or two around, We are currently watching the leaves turn and feeling the weather cool significantly. We brought the heaters inside this week.
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.