Bike grease… war paint… You won’t get any details from this guy. Those eyes scream, “Who, me?!”
Our own “sand lot” or maybe “green lot”
“Bounce Bounce (the bull) and I were riding in our boat. We are looking for a floating island. My boat has a front end loader that picks up rubbish in the sea.”
“Can I type?” Q asked excitedly.
“Yes. You can type and you can tell me some things that you’d like me to type. How about that?” I responded.
“I like writing a blog,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Between now and our next blog post, our little guy will turn four. It seems completely surreal. “The days are long but the years are short so enjoy the days,” a wise friend told me before Q was born. That sentiment couldn’t seem more true at this moment.
If you know our little guy at all, you know that he is full of words and ideas expressed in the forms of constant motion, a whirlwind of imagination, and sound at high decibels. Since he has so much to say, we figured there would be no one better to write this blog post than the birthday boy himself. We took turns typing. He couldn’t have been happier about it.
To All My Friends in All of America and the World,
I like living in New Zealand. It’s kind of like different than America. Sometimes I miss my friends I am wanting to go to my green house, but I like my race track, my room that has a loft, and playing baseball with my friends at the park. Today, I went to kindy (preschool). That is my school. We cut down a tree that the caterpillars were eating and gave it to the chickens. I played with Matthew because his friend was gone today. I think his friend was off for the weekend. The other kindy day we went on a bus on a field trip to the airport. Daddy went with me. We learned how to fly the planes. When you want to go up, you pull way back. When you want to go down you push forward.
His turn to type:
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After kindy today, my friends from the neighborhood came over. They usually come by to see if I can play. We went to the park near our house to play baseball. I had the bat sometimes and I played catcher. I am teaching my friends all about baseball and the Royals.
I do a new thing at church at my New Zealand church. I have tea time every Sunday. That’s my new thing. Tea time is after church. I drink some tea and eat some cookies and sometimes chocolate cake. I like that the best. When my daddy says, “You are dismissed.” I yell, “Tea Time!”
Q typing again:
Wwdwd 4ry 6bv5rvtr4ttv343434t4t4vtv4 4 44tvmt crr,crcrccc1cececrrrrrr3rc3c3rr3c334cc3ev3b2av4,pv],v e 2e2,3e,3c325vg g,lqr5cv5codc clp,orcccccrg, m4remctmr5mtttghgghgggggggggggggv ggggg ggv gc g5i=o 66666666906hn6hynvnv5ynyhoyvnv6vvyv6yb65yby6nnn6npnyp5vn5ycnc 6v5il65oubp].vymnbwwvccy56 v w v 65ov5vo5 5 66yu7u7uoi87uojjjjjr
I’m becoming kiwi now so I don’t always wear shoes. Kiwi people don’t wear shoes sometimes because they like to not wear shoes. When I do wear shoes, I wear tennis shoes or jandals. Those are flip flops. Mommy and Daddy wear shoes all the time and sometimes. That’s a joke.
I want to go in a rocket sometime. I am going to go to space. After I go to space for 5 minutes, I will get back in the rocket and fly away. I am going to get the moon. I am going to take it home and play with it. When my friends come over, I will say, “Look, I got this moon from space.” I am going to get back in the rocket and blast off and while I am still flying I am going to be really careful and open the door and throw the moon outside into space and then go back home to my house. Then, I’ll go in my house and go to sleep. We’re going to have jet packs at my birthday party when I am four. I think we’re going to have fun with jet packs.
I live in New Zealand because I have to tell people about Jesus. They might not know that Jesus loves them.
That is all of this blog post. I will type another blog post another day.
Pukekos, or New Zealand Swamp Hens, have been thriving since people have inhabited the island. Clearly, they’re strutting proudly through this pond at a neighborhood park.
This is our first installment in a series you may periodically see pop up on the blog over the next several months. We’re calling it “Meet New Zealand.” The goal is to intentionally gather and share some stories of the people who make up our church and New Zealand as a whole. If you’re academic, you’d call it Appreciative Inquiry. If you’re not, you might call it story sharing. Either way it’s important. One thing we’ve learned in these past few months is that our newer people and our long-timers know very little of each others stories. We’re just learning all of them for the first time. These individual stories shape our collective identity as a church and will in many ways propel us into the future. Plus, they give some of the most fascinating insights into the culture in which we live. It seems fitting that the first installment is an energetic gal who has been around the Church of the Nazarene in New Zealand since some of its very earliest days.
We had been waiting in the car for nearly half an hour and were about to drive off when Joan Ranger (cue the Lone Ranger jokes… they’re unavoidable) sauntered around the house wearing a long apron and smelling of oil paints. “I thought… Surely, they must be here by now,” Joan exclaimed as she dried the bristles on her paintbrush. “No one ever comes to the front door and no one ever knocks,” she said. Now we know. Joan replaced her apron and paintbrush in the garage studio filled with paintings reminiscent of the one hanging in the dining room at our house before leading us inside.
Actually, it wouldn’t have surprised us one bit if Joan had been held up at her morning engagement. Her days are filled with visits with friends, speaking engagements about her army experiences that open doors for her to share the ways God has worked in her life, pulpit supply at various churches of many different denominations, children’s Bible classes, prayer meetings, and gospel singing groups. We were glad she had been able to work us in.
“My friends and I all go to functions at each other’s churches. They’re mostly Anglican and Methodist. One time about four years ago a new vicar had just come to the Anglican church. I went to the 8:00 service so I could meet him before driving down to Hamilton for our 10:30 service. They served communion. I took it and then I looked up at the vicar sputtering and coughing and said, ‘I wasn’t expecting real wine,’” Joan recalled with laughter.
We had made the drive to Joan’s house in just under an hour and now it was time for afternoon tea. It was a warm day and the autumn sun was streaming through the window as Joan served us steaming hot tea—black at our request, though Kiwis find it strange for us to drink it without milk and sugar—and date scones she’d made fresh that morning. Quentin played with a basket of army figures and blocks on the floor of the nearby living room.
We hadn’t been to Joan’s house before, and the view of the mountain at Te Aroha was breathtaking. We were there to take in the view and to dip our feet in the hot soda water that comes up from the ground, but mostly we were there to hear pieces of Joan’s story. For Joan’s story holds some pieces of the past; some tales of our own story as part of the Church of the Nazarene in New Zealand.
Joan moved to New Zealand as a single young English woman enlisted in the New Zealand Women’s Army Corps in 1952. She’d come to know Jesus as a 15-year-old as a part of the International Holiness Mission in England, but army life and the death of a fiancé later, she felt far from God and any faith she had claimed as a teenager by the time she moved to New Zealand. She just wanted to get away and live it up.
But God hadn’t forgotten Joan. In one of those strange and winding ways, pastor friends in England knew missionary friends in Africa who had heard that the work of the Church of the Nazarene was just being begun in New Zealand by Reverend Roland Griffith. Along with his wife and his young daughter, Connie, Griffith had moved to New Zealand in 1951. When he learned of the English woman named Joan in the military, he didn’t miss a beat. Joan’s base was a 12 hour drive from Griffith’s home in Auckland, but when Griffith passed through Wellington on his way to look into planting a church in Christchurch, he stopped in to visit Joan.
“He didn’t know me from Adam,” Joan said. “He must have gone through the military to find me, and there he was showing up at my work. He said, ‘You were a part of the International Holiness Mission in England, weren’t you? We are starting the Church of the Nazarene in New Zealand, and we want you to be a part of it.’ The rest is another story, but that’s how I gave my life back to God.”
One of Joan’s beloved pictures of Rev. Roland Griffith
Within months, Joan was transferred to a base near Auckland where she could ride her bike 35 kilometers (23 miles) each way to the site of the new Dominion Road Church of the Nazarene (now known as All Nations Church). She helped with the back-breaking labor of removing rock to dig the church’s basement and began worshiping with the budding congregation.
Frank Ranger was a handsome military man who had his eye on Joan. As a young man in 1955, Frank didn’t think church or faith held much value at all. The only problem was, Joan wouldn’t go out with him unless he was a church going man. Frank decided to trade some church attendance for a date and ended up experiencing the hope of Jesus for himself. Three months later, they were married.
Frank and Joan were active members of the Dominion Road church. Their lives together were wrapped up in the church and the community that it provided. Once they were married, they began saving diligently for a trip to England so Joan’s parents could meet her husband and the baby that was soon on the way. Their first son was about one year old when they finally sailed off. They returned to New Zealand seven years and two more kids later. God was not finished using Frank and Joan in New Zealand. In the years that followed, they had three more kids, studied theology through Nazarene Theological College in Brisbane, Australia and became church planters—planting five churches around New Zealand’s North Island.
It wasn’t until after their church planting years were winding down in the 1990s that Frank and Joan began driving to Hamilton Crossroads Church, first from the south end of Auckland and then from the scenic town of Te Aroha. After 54 years of marriage, Frank went to be with Jesus. Joan lives in the little gray cottage at the foot of the mountains by herself now, but God is not finished with her yet.
Te Aroha, NZ
Joan’s waiting on back surgery. She’s hoping they’ll call sometime soon because she can’t play golf with her back in its current condition. It doesn’t appear to be slowing her down at all otherwise. John called to make sure she’ll be stopping in for her weekly visit on Wednesday and she has an engagement at the Anglican church at 1 p.m. the same day. Anzac Day is coming up, which is a big deal for the former military gal. She’ll share the fruit that is ripening on her trees with her neighbors and squeeze in time to bake a cake for tea after church on Sunday.
“Take a whole bunch. There are bags in the mailbox,” Joan hollered to two teenage girls stopping to take a couple of feijoas from the bowl she has set out near the sidewalk. She loaded our car up too—with fresh red apples and green feijoas, as if the tea and the scones, and the conversation weren’t enough of a gift.
“We’re so glad we didn’t miss you!” we exclaimed.
“Next time you’ll know. Just come around back and don’t bother knocking. Only salesmen use the front door around here.”
That ax is real. This is Paul Windle’s amazing second place shot.
We’re well into the season of Easter these days. If what we as Christians proclaim is true, we’re living in a post resurrection, new life in Christ, conquered hell, sting-less death world. And it’s beautiful. Except when week four of Easter is a whole lot more reminiscent of Lent than a glorious free-spirited worship service and the Easter lilies are wilting and the chocolate has all been eaten. What then? Where is Easter when we’re back to the grind of school and work and there is still a refugee crisis and the world is holding its breath while American politics are in an uproar? Where is Easter when people are still being diagnosed with cancer and marriages are still falling apart?
N.T. Wright says it best. We live in the already-not-yet where the Kingdom of God has broken in, but it’s not yet fully realized. But where is it breaking in? Where is the resurrected Christ in a world that still screams of the chaos of brokenness?
We saw snapshots of the Resurrection in our community this past Saturday. I arrived at the church early, though not as early as I intended due to the pajama-clad three-year-old hanging around my neck as I attempted to walk out the door. Last minute preparations for a garage sale fundraiser for one of our mum’s groups were underway. We worked and laughed and sorted alongside each other. People came. They shopped. We raised money. They asked questions about the church and the play group. We answered them. We were present in the community.
Just down the road, Jaron volunteered at a neighborhood primary school gala. When I popped down, I got to meet some of his Thursday night tennis buddies and some parents of the neighborhood kids who frequent our driveway. We worked and laughed and watched our kids play alongside each other. We were getting to know the community.
Immediately following, a crew of young and ambitious volunteers joined us for some much needed pruning of the church gardens. The thing about New Zealand is that everything grows. A lot. Electric hedge trimmers in hand, we talked and laughed and bagged up overgrown vines. The kids giggled and shared bananas and rode recklessly on plastic tricycles. We were building community.
The last load of weeds was barely in route the compost when our Telugu Indian congregation began arriving for a monthly worship service. We sang, we prayed, we heard the Word, and we broke bread (in the form of spicy chicken curry and rice). We were a worshiping community.
Oh sure. You could say we had a garage sale, Jaron manned the axe throwing station (Yep. New Zealand keeps things exciting.), we worked in the church gardens and then showed up dirty and under dressed for a worship service. Or, you could see—as we do—that these are signs of life where things had gone dormant, the body of Christ being formed among people who didn’t know each other six months ago, little shoots beginning to sprout up and giving evidence to the Resurrection.
As people who are privileged to live on this side of the resurrection, we have the responsibility of identifying and sharing the places we see signs of life—signs of Resurrection breaking through like little shoots springing forth from the ground. And then we have the responsibility of partnering with God in those places—to nurture them and help them grow and create space for more sprouts. Sometimes Resurrection life takes place in the form of dramatic healing and radical forgiveness. Other times, it looks like garage sales and gardening and curry on a Saturday.
If you’re keen on (like that little kiwi phrase there?) thinking about Resurrection and where it might be happening in your corner world and how God might desire to use you to partner with him in that resurrection life, take a few minutes to check out this episode of The Practice Podcast. A weekly resource from Willow Creek, this particular episode provides a helpful framework for seeing Resurrection stories all around us. In the meantime, may God give us eyes to see Resurrection life happening all around us and the courage to join in. We are anticipating many more signs of life around Crossroads church and Hamilton—evidence that we do indeed live on this side of Easter—in the days to come.
Dog-sitting last week lent itself to some early morning runs as a family and breath-taking views of the fog hovering just above the river.
“Can I come visit you at your house in Fiji,” Q asked his friend P as they played on the boat. P responded in her Guatemalan accent with an occasional kiwi lilt thrown in, “Yes! You must come to my house in Fiji!” I guess it’s a good thing it’s only a short plane ride away.
“I love going to America. It’s like anything you could ever imagine has already been invented and they have it there!” our friend Mercedes exclaimed as we ate dinner at their home one evening. Like us, Mercedes and her husband Carlos are sojourners in a foreign land. We are from the U.S. they are from Guatemala, but among other things, we are united by our common love of salsa and guacamole, which don’t really exist here, and which Mercedes makes really well.
Some of our first friends here in NZ moved to Fiji this past weekend. Carlos and Mercedes have been good friends to us. They are a fantastic Christian couple with a daughter around the same age as Q and a one-year-old son. Plus, they use the same American English lingo as we do, only in the accent of of someone who’s first language is Spanish, which makes us feel even more at home. We love discussing things with them from the perspective that can only be gained by living away from your home country. One of those things is economics.
As a whole, Americans (me included), are completely unaware of how much money we have and how accessible everything is. Case in point: on one trip to their storage unit with a trailer load full of stuff, Carlos was telling me about this cool new service that a man he knew had developed. He excitedly described to me that the man had essentially built large storage shed-like boxes that he would drop off at your house for you to pack your stuff in, after which he would pick the boxes up and store them in a warehouse until you needed your things again. He’d then have the storage box dropped off at your desired location. That sounds oddly familiar to me. Or in a conversation later that day he told me about the new car wash he had recently used that allows you to put money in a machine and use a high pressure wand to clean your car. “It’s so cool! You can even use soap, wax, tire cleaner or any number of other products while you are at it!” Seems like I may have used something like that a time or two. Some New Zealand entrepreneurs are looking at successful U.S. concepts (e.g. PODS and car washes) and introducing them here to great success.
The point is that we as Americans have everything available to us. And we consume a lot. A whole lot. For good or bad this impacts economics and innovation. Mercedes’ comment about America already having everything is in many ways true. Americans have the resources, the demand and the motivation to create any number of products. Our cost for basic necessities is also so much lower than much of the rest of the world that most individual Americans have way more disposable income than any other population group in the world.
This truth has been very apparent to us in NZ. New Zealand is a completely developed Western country. It has a high overall quality of life, relatively high average family income, and lots of things to purchase and use. Yet the amount of consumption by average Kiwis is markedly lower than that of my fellow Americans. I’m sure there are many reasons for this but one of the most noticeable is that things just cost so much. For example, food here is 3 to 4 times more expensive, low oil prices mean fuel is currently the equivalent of a mere $8 per gallon, a 2 x 4 at the hardware store costs $12, and a box of screws will set you back $200. The math is simple. People make salaries similar to the United States but things cost more, so overall they purchase less.
I’m not complaining. In fact I think it’s probably good that consumption is generally lower. It’s just that as a middle class American, my eyes have been opened somewhat to the power of our resources. Along with Western Europe we account for about 60% of the world’s overall consumption. That means that we spend a boatload of money on stuff each day of our lives. The average person in America will consume 53 times more over their lifetime than the average person in China, or 35 times more than someone from India. The bottom line is that we have more disposable income available so we spend it.
As I’ve reflected on this over the past few months I’ve been wondering what would happen if we consumed just a little bit less and redirected those resources to the mission of God? Take for example our good friends Gavin and Jill Fothergill who, with their two kids, serve as missionaries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the poorest countries in the world. Recently while working to start a new church in Congo, Gavin had to drive for hours on unpaved roads, leave his car at the side of a river, and cross in a canoe, in the pitch black of night to reach his destination. All this so that the gospel could be spread. In Congo $12,000-$15,000 U.S. dollars can build a Nazarene school in any number of villages and could serve hundreds of kids by providing education and introducing them to Jesus. Click here to hear Gavin’s version of this story.
We have personally met missionaries from Papua New Guinea who serve in the small Island nation of Vanuatu. A few hundred dollars per month would help put food on their table and send their kids to school. We also have missionaries working knee deep in the refugee crises currently taking place in Europe. They are in desperate need of resources to provide things as simple as shoes for hurting families in search of a new, safer place to call home. Click here to read about their compelling work.
If we consumed just a little bit less, what could we do? If we passed up that new car and bought a used one instead, how many schools could we build? If we ate out just a little less, how many missionaries could we help feed? If we bought just a few less items of clothing each year, how many refugees could we help provide food, clothing and shelter for? If we bought a little bit smaller house, what difference could we make in our own communities?
What if we all just started by tithing? What if we gave 10% of our income, right off the top to our local church? If we all did that, imagine the impact it would make not only in our church but around the world? Imagine the people that would hear the gospel with their ears, and feel the gospel in the extension of the loving hands of Christians who are fully resourced and sent into the world.
What if people like Mercedes could say, “I love going to America, because every way of supporting the spreading of the Gospel you can think of has already been thought of, and they live it out there like nowhere else in the world.”
There were heavy clouds over the pond at Minogue Park as Q and I checked out the new-to-us playground and enjoyed a picnic with this view last Saturday.
The Graham Family
We are the Graham family–Jaron, Elizabeth, the little guy Q. The three of us are on an adventure in faithfulness, currently serving in Hamilton, New Zealand. Being faithful requires much sacrifice and brings great joy. Adventure Graham is the place we chronicle our journey.