Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Month: December 2015

H is for Hospitality

I have long thought the great pastoral theologian Henri Nouwen nailed it with this quote on hospitality.

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

It’s a quote that is particularly relevant in our current political climate. It is also very relevant in this phase of our journey. In a more profound way than any other time in our lives, we find ourselves as the stranger in need of hospitality.

We’re the ones who don’t know the right words to say.

Who don’t have the right accent.

Who don’t know our way around.

Who are trying to navigate a healthcare system that is foreign to us.

Who find “our foods” in the international aisle at the grocery store.

Who don’t know the rules of the road.

Who aren’t sure where to purchase household supplies.

Who don’t know how to read the names of places.

Who misunderstand and mispronounce names.

We are other.

And we are in need of hospitality—a kind of hospitality that allows us to become a friend instead of an enemy, that allows us to change and grow, that doesn’t create dividing lines.

It is this very type of hospitality we have received in ways that keep us feeling humbled and grateful and ever-mindful of the ways God is calling us to extend hospitality.

Our neighbor from down the road, Cedrick, stops by weekly to check in—usually with something like passion fruit ice cream, or a bag of freshly picked plums in his hand.

Cedrick and his wife, Stephanie, graciously invited us to share Christmas brunch with their family, where there were delicious foods assembled in ways we’d never tasted or seen before. They told us they’d be giving each of their grandchildren a gift and then provided Q with a small gift as well.

Paul spent hours and hours one week helping us car shop, price compare, negotiate, and complete the purchase of our car.

Hope has invited me to work out on Monday nights, hike Hakarimata Summit early in the mornings, join their family at the park, and try new restaurants—and she has driven every time so far! 😉

Carlos and Mercedes invited us to their house where they treated us to a Guatemalan barbecue complete with homemade salsa, guacamole, and tortillas. We savored their food and the familiarity of their accents and the commonality of being other.

Andum and Joyful and Joan, members of our new church family, gifted Q with thoughtful gifts to commemorate his first Christmas in New Zealand—sand toys for the beach from Andum and Joyful and a stuffed kiwi bird from Joan.

Gladys made extra sweet mince pies to share at tea time on Sunday so we could taste a treat her family loves at Christmas time.

Hayley, our next door neighbor, brought a pot of yellow flowers for us and a Christmas gift for Quentin, even though I usually just see her through our kitchen windows as we prepare dinner in our own homes.

The farmer we bought a dining table from stopped by a couple of days later with trout he had caught and smoked the day before. Never mind that the reason he had to sell his table in the first place is because a new motorway is scheduled to go right through the middle of where their house currently stands on their family farm.

The couple whose dog we’re dog-sitting (more on that next week) has invited us out to their farm for tea so we can get a true taste of the country-side.

Phill and Pam generously gifted us their old barbecue grill when they got a new one and then brought it over along with ready friendship and delicious pavlova to share.

It’s hospitality. Defined in word and deed. We couldn’t be more grateful. These and so many others have been a means of grace to us. Just when I thought I hadn’t ever been on the receiving end of such gracious and continuous hospitality, I read this blog post by Dr. Dan Boone, president of Trevecca Nazarene University. The entire post is worth a read, but in the midst of this season of Christmas, I can’t get these thoughts out of my head.

“The heart of Christmas is hospitality…This God has provided posada – a garden with food, water, air, shelter, safety, clothes, and companionship. God has thought of everything we need and shared it freely. What a gracious host. And even there in the garden, we raid God’s tree to rid ourselves from being dependent creatures on God’s hospitality…. The story of Jesus is the ongoing story of the hospitality of God.”

As I read and I reflected, I realized that perhaps I have taken such extreme hospitality for granted. I assumed that I was not the stranger that needed a placed to stay or the one who was thirsty and needed a drink. And yet, I am a person in need of the great hospitality of God as much as any other.

What’s more, my call as a Christian is to extend radical, gracious, limitless hospitality to both stranger and neighbor. Those who are like me and those who aren’t. Those who know how the systems work and the words to use and those who don’t. For it is in my extension of hospitality that others will see and come to know the very image of God.

Parting Shot

The view from the car park (parking area) at the rodeo.

The view from the car park (parking area) at the rodeo.

A Very Kiwi Christmas

We enjoyed a Christmas party with Happy Feet, a group for mums and little ones (bubs) that meets at the church.

We enjoyed a Christmas party with Happy Feet, a group for mums and little ones (bubs) that meets at the church.

Jaron's mom made this precious (and sturdy) nativity last year. It joined us in NZ where sees a lot of narrative "action"--retelling the story of Jesus' birth and otherwise.

Jaron’s mom made this precious (and sturdy) nativity last year. It joined us in NZ where sees a lot of narrative “action”–retelling the story of Jesus’ birth and otherwise.

Jaron and Q at Blue Springs in Waikato

Jaron and Q at Blue Springs in Waikato last weekend

It's picnic season.

It’s picnic season.

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‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house

Not much looked very festive, just the tiniest ounce (oh wait…that’s not metric)

Three stockings were hung on the wood walls with care

On oddly spaced nails that had already been there

A hand-made nativity perched near the TV stand

Awaiting numerous retellings oft reenacted unplanned

And mama in her workout capris, and I in my shorts

Relaxed as the warm breeze blew in from the north

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter

I sprang from my couch to see what was the matter

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the curtains and pushed open the glass.

The sun on the breast of the fresh-mown grass

Revealed lush green and a hydrangea deep purple at last

When what to my wondering eyes did appear

But a passel of small children heading to the pool that’s near.

With little bike riders so lively and quick

I knew in a moment this wasn’t a trick

More rapid than eagles the vacationers came,

Others whistled, and shouted, and hopped on a plane

To Brittan! To Aussie! Now a beach or a mount!

On a trip! On holiday! We’re off! School’s out!

To the islands up north! They’ve been planning since fall…

Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!

Last week, school let out for the summer holiday. Kids are running around in shorts and bare feet. The breeze is ruffling the curtains as it provides some cool relief from the afternoon sun. Businesses are shutting down. “I’ll be back mid-January” automated e-mail responses have been set. The beaches are filling up and every flight off the island is packed. It’s Christmas-time in New Zealand.

We’re experiencing a very kiwi Christmas, indeed. We live very near one of the biggest shopping districts in the country where a giant Christmas tree graces the lawn where the children play while parents shop. Garland with gold and red ornaments are draped across the store fronts. But it’s just not quite the same. For one thing, there are very few Christmas lights. After all, what’s the point, when it’s still light outside at 9:30 p.m.? No one is rushing in out of the cold. Santa costumes lack fur and padding (who can blame them?). But there are other things that seem slightly amiss too—we haven’t seen one Salvation Army bell ringer, despite the fact that the Salvation Army has a significant presence in New Zealand. Very few houses have wreaths on their doors and we haven’t spotted any lawn decorations—tacky or otherwise. There’s no Christmas music station on the radio.

When I mentioned these differences to a kiwi friend, he pointed out that most of the traditions associated with secular Christmas celebrations apply to the Northern Hemisphere where candles and Christmas lights distract from cold, dark nights and greenery gives life to barren landscapes. Then he quickly said, “The biggest culture shock I ever experienced was walking into an American mall at Christmas time. I just said… ‘Let’s get out of here!’ The displays piled high. The music. The decorations. The people. It was just too much.”

That’s not to say that kiwis aren’t as easily distracted. They’ve had graduations and Christmas parties and end-of-the-school-year celebrations on top of each other for back-to-back weekends. Not to mention plans to holiday abroad, trips to the beach, days on the lake, and two weeks to a month off of work for almost everyone!

We’re not gallivanting off of the island we’re just getting settled on, but we do have a very kiwi Christmas planned. (Disclaimer in case you’re feeling sorry for us: We celebrated Christmas all-out, tradition-packed Northern-hemisphere-style with our families in November.) We’ll celebrate with our new church family on Christmas Eve—though many kiwi churches opt for a Christmas morning service. Our tremendously gracious neighbors down the street have invited us to join their family for Christmas brunch that is sure to include sausages, sweet mince pies, and tea. Then, we’ll load the car with a camp-stove we discovered in our garage and cookout foods and drive about 45 minutes to Raglan, a beach town with black volcanic beaches and a big reputation among surfers. We’ll dip our toes in the cold surf and fly a kite per Q’s request months before we moved. “When we live in Moo Zealand, can I get a kite and fly it really, really high?” Your wish is our command, Buddy.

And in the midst of it all…big moves and new cultural norms to navigate or gifts to wrap and food to bake, Christmas lights or no Christmas lights, shorts or sweaters, ski slopes or beaches, the Kingdom is breaking in as surely and as quietly as it did all of those years ago when in the middle of the night a special star appeared in the sky, angels made a fantastic announcement to a bunch of unsuspecting, rag tag shepherds and a young girl gave birth to a baby in a barn. I don’t want to miss it. I don’t want to be so caught up in the differences (or the sameness), the decorations (or lack thereof), the holiday hoopla (or the relaxation of a summer vacation day) that I miss what this Advent season has been preparing us for. All the expectation and waiting and anticipation will culminate in the profound truth that the Light has come. Christ has come.

 

Parting Shots (1 just doesn’t do it justice this week)

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Blue Springs is the location of some of the purest water in New Zealand. The water spends up to 100 years filtering through rocks to this spring. The blue tint to the water denotes it’s purity.

Blue Springs 1

Airing a Bit of (Clean) Laundry

Everywhere we look, there are things that look familiar— such as a giant hardware store with an orange color scheme that gives nod to Home Depot, even though it is called Mitre 10 and car makes we’re familiar with but models we’ve never seen or heard of.

Our little Ipsum.

Our little Ipsum.

Case in point: the newest resident at our address—a Toyota Ipsum we purchased last week. It’s a 6 seat crossover type vehicle (minivan meets small SUV). Like us, she’s a recent import. However, she came directly from Japan where large numbers of gently used cars are exported to other left hand drive countries at relatively low prices. The Ipsum greets us in Japanese and warns us if we’re too close to another object in her mother tongue, but some of her control buttons are in English. Go figure. Thankfully, you don’t need to know a language to use a backup camera or put the car in drive.

New washer and dryer set for sale.

New washer and dryer set for sale at the local Mitre 10.

Washers and dryers fall in a similar category. They look similar. Sort of. Our washing machine is on the small size by US standards. The dryer is positively miniature. Most people in New Zealand use dryers very rarely, if at all. Nearby, the mighty Waikato River cuts the city of Hamilton in half. Along the river are million and multi-million dollar homes with laundry flapping from clothes lines out back. It’s part cultural norm, part New Zealand’s emphasis on being green, and part economic. The cost of the electricity is high. Using a dryer just isn’t worth it for many kiwis.

A regular site on our walk/bike route along the river.

A regular site on our walk/bike route along the river.

I’m still trying to navigate this new means of laundry. Gone are the days of large loads washing, drying, and getting folded once or twice a week. Instead, a small load or two must be washed early in the day and hung out on the line with enough time and sunshine and breezes left to get it dry. Bring it in and fold it in the afternoon or evening. Repeat every day or two.

Our kiwi laundry room (complete with a small portable indoor drying rack).

Our kiwi laundry room (complete with a small portable indoor drying rack).

Unless you forget. After spending the evening in Auckland (an hour and a half drive each way) and arriving home late one night last week, I completely forgot to bring in the laundry. Wouldn’t you know, it rained? Confession: I got my damp sheets and towels off the line the next morning and threw them in the dryer, ready to start again with the next load.

Monday's laundry.

Monday’s laundry on our rotating clothes line.

I asked my new friend for some laundry advice. You know you have a good friend when she’ll laugh at you and then answer your questions to the best of her ability.

Laundry not drying fast enough? Maybe I need a portable clothes hanger that I can move around the lawn following the sunshine. That’s what she uses. Good idea.

Detergent to buy? Persil. Or this Eco ball thing she is loving. Excellent suggestions. There’s nothing remotely like a Sam’s-sized dispenser of Tide or All on the shelves here.

No, the sun does not fade the laundry. No, it’s not really a problem in winter. (I’m not yet convinced on this one… Cloudier, rainier, colder, and more humid conditions do not seem ideal for drying clothes.) By then, I will have mastered this, of course.

There is one thing I am pretty confident about, however—my undies go in the dryer.

 

Just for fun… A Parting Shot

The mighty Waikato River cuts the city of Hamilton in half, providing beautiful walking and biking routes about a half mile from our house.

The mighty Waikato River cuts the city of Hamilton in half, providing beautiful walking and biking routes about a half mile (less than 1 kilometer) from our house.

Similar…But Different: The First Sunday

I anticipate that this will be one of many installments of “Similar…But Different.” We’ve been in New Zealand precisely one week and already the list is long…grocery shopping, driving, laundry, banking and money, daily routines (i.e. morning and afternoon tea)…. This installment, however, has to do with two first Sundays: our first Sunday as pastors of Lovington Church of the Nazarene, 7.5 years ago, and our first Sunday at Hamilton Crossroads Church of the Nazarene. They are so similar…but different.

Similar… There were 27 people at church. This was the case on our first Sunday in Lovington, where the church board had sent letters to everyone who had previously been involved in the church, inviting them to welcome Jaron home and engage in the future of the church. There were about 27 people who worshiped at Hamilton Crossroads this past Sunday as well. Both groups were made up largely of a handful of committed church members who find their bodies to be aging and their energy waning.

But different… When Jaron and I arrived in Lovington, we were the youngest people in the church. His parents were the next youngest. There weren’t any children. At Crossroads, there were a couple of other young families and a total of 7 children, including Quentin.

Similar… It was summer.

But different… Our first Sunday in Lovington was at the beginning of July 2008. Summer was in full swing. Our first Sunday in Hamilton was the beginning of December 2015. Summer is just beginning. This is the last week of school before a six-week summer holiday.

Similar… A husband and wife pair led the worship with a piano and a vocalist.

But different… In Lovington, the husband and wife pair was Jaron’s parents, life-long members of the church, and were accompanied by another vocalist. The Hamilton worship leaders are a husband and wife team from Singapore who have recently been granted permanent residency in New Zealand. They have two children and are acclimating to new jobs and ministry roles as well.

Similar… We ate a potluck meal after church. Everyone brought a dish or two to share and there were more desserts than anything else, as is the Nazarene potluck way.

But different… Included in the fare in Hamilton was a fried rice dish from Singapore, corned beef, and pavlova. And of course, everyone drank hot tea. Lots of it. We weren’t squeezed into a small fellowship hall space, but we were huddled around tiny tea tables as we broke bread together for the first time.

Similar… The church gifted us with a food pounding. The food pounding included great staples, as well as foods we would rarely buy.

But different… This food pounding included treasures like pulled lamb, Vegemite, crumpets, and Edam cheese.

Similar… We were setting up residence in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house owned by the church just a short drive from church.

But different… This parsonage is called a manse. We’ll save everything else for another blog post dedicated to window screens and heating and cooling and faucets and the loo.

Similar… We felt incredibly welcomed, incredibly blessed, and incredibly humbled to be a part of the work of God in each place. We anticipated what God might do. We made space for God’s dreams to fill our minds and hearts. We saw a place and a people filled with hope and potential and possibility. We also saw a community that was lost and hurting and in desperate need of the church to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

 

 

The Eagle Has Landed

I am writing this on Friday at 9:45 p.m., but my computer thinks it is Friday at 1:45 a.m. It’s a little confused. Understandably so. On Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. we blew our last good-bye kisses through the window glass and walked outside to the small commuter plane that would take us from Hobbs, NM to Houston, TX. We turned and waved at the beloved faces peeking through the concrete architectural forms separating them from the runway we were walking across. It was real. Very real. Suddenly, all of the months of planning, preparation, travel, speaking, selling, packing, support raising, and Skype meetings were being realized as we walked up the steps to our small plane. We said good bye to all we had known before as we crossed the threshold anticipating the time we’d start saying “Hello” to all of the new.

An hour and 45 minutes in the air to Houston.

Super rushed layover.

4.5 hours in the air from Houston to San Francisco.

Super long layover. (4.5 hours)

14 hours in the air from San Francisco to Auckland, NZ.

2 hours collecting bags, navigating the airport with four luggage carts, setting up phones, and passing through customs.

30-minute stop for breakfast.

1 hour 30-minute drive to our house.

27 hours from door to door.

And a day. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean after we passed Hawaii crossed the international dateline and lost a day. The computer still hasn’t caught up.

That said, it all went as smoothly as it possibly could have. We checked 11 bags with relative ease (No, they were not free. Yes, they did cost significantly less than shipping.) We made every single flight on time. Quentin napped part of the way to San Francisco, walked a traveling cat on a leash in the airport, was thrilled to watch a couple of movies, and played happily with his toys. Then, we propped up the foot rest on our Sky Couch (a real thing you can see here, but don’t be fooled…it’s not that much space ;)) and slept our way across the Pacific Ocean.

All 11 checked bags, the stroller bag, the car seat bag, the guitar, the two carry-on roller bags, and our carry-ons all made it, and so did we.

We were greeted warmly by Neville and Joyce Bartle, our District Superintendents, and Jim and Nancy Clayton, the interim pastors who have been simultaneously preparing the way and holding down the fort for us. Quentin, in turn, doled out hugs readily, delighted with the grandparent-esque attention.

The grass is green, the hills are rolling, the plant-life is diverse, the guys in Santa costumes are sweating, and the people are driving on the left side of the road—but more on all of that later. For now, our bodies think it’s 2:20 a.m. and we should go to bed. Saturday is almost here. 😉

 

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