Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Month: May 2016

Memory Problems

By Elizabeth

Mr. Memory, himself

Mr. Memory, himself

I wish I had a better memory. Really, I do. Q can remember the tiniest details from random experiences from months or even years ago. When I am trying to remember something, I often ask him. He’ll usually say something like, “Oh yeah. I remember,” and spout off the details. Maybe it’s because he’s four and he doesn’t have as many things to fill his mind as his much older mother. Maybe it’s because he’s really engaged in his world and pays better attention than I do. Maybe it’s because life experiences are still really new and fresh and significant for him so he’s always making connections. Whatever the reason, he has a really good memory, of which I am jealous sometimes.

Just the other night, Jaron was singing to Q before bed.  As Jaron started singing, Q blurted, “Oh, I know that song. Mommy used to sing it to me when I was little, but I could talk like I do now, and I slept in my crib at our green house.” He hasn’t had a crib for well over a year! I have a hard time remembering the login for our online banking.

Jaron’s parents were here for their second visit (yes, we’re all just that crazy) recently. They made several comparisons from their first visit that got me thinking about my memory. We’ve only lived in New Zealand for 6 ½ months, give or take, but already God has done some really cool things. How quickly I forget. I barely remember the beads of sweat on my forehead as I attempted to drive on the left side of the road. Now that I think about it, I barely remember how to drive on the right side of the road. But there are lots of other things from our first weeks here that I was reminded of as well. We have journeyed through the seasons of Lent and Easter. Now, it is the season of Pentecost and the Spirit is moving. There’s a stirring. We see it in the form of relationships being formed. Bridges being built. Collective dreams taking shape. Clarity of vision. Answered prayers. Anticipation for the days ahead. When I exercise my memory, I realize that quite a bit has changed in these six months.

I have quite a bit of company among God’s followers when it comes to memory problems. Take the Israelites, for example. God freed them from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh in a mighty and miraculous way, but they too had serious seemingly hereditary memory problems that plagued them. Moses was still on Mount Sinai getting instructions for how God’s newly freed people should operate in the world when the Israelites made a golden calf to worship. I mean, really? They had just been witness to one of the most dramatic miracles in all of history. It wasn’t all that much longer before they forgot what back-breaking labor felt like at the hand of the Egyptians.

“If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:2-4)

Shoot! They hadn’t even heard yet that their forgetfulness was earning them 40 more years of wandering in the desert. They just couldn’t (or didn’t) believe that the God who had rescued them from the mighty pharaoh and provided manna and quail in the desert could conquer the peoples that were already established in the Promised Land. Oh the troubles these memory problems can cause!

One of the best memory tools around is story-telling. The more we tell a story, the better we remember. It becomes  ingrained in our minds. Much of Scripture is a compilation of the once oral stories of God at work in They are the stories that, while so easily forgotten, need to be told and retold, read and reread, passed down from generation to generation as reminders of who God is, what God has done, what God is doing, and what God is going to do. Because otherwise, we—just like the Israelites— just forget. We get too bogged down in the day-to-day and our 30+ year old memories don’t work like a four-year-old’s. At first the details escape us and then the events are long forgotten all together.

This week, I was praying for a precious friend and letting my mind wander again over the years that I have known her, remembering the pain we’ve journeyed through, the joys we’ve celebrated, and the ways God has worked. Some of it is fuzzy now, and I have to think really hard to remember some of the details, but I shouldn’t have to remember on my own. I am reminded that we have a responsibility to help each other remember—to remind each other of where we’ve been and where we’re headed. You remember some of the details, and I remember others. Together, we have a lot to say about what God has been up to in our lives. God is indeed at work in our world. Between us, we have countless stories to tell that will help us remember. We just can’t let dementia set in.

 

Parting Shot

We're in the season of rain showers, on and off, day and night. It makes for incredible clouds and the greenest greens.

We’re in the season of rain showers, on and off, day and night. It makes for incredible clouds and the greenest greens.

Meet Me Under the Mango Tree

By Elizabeth

Tonga is a small Polynesian kingdom of 110,000 people.

Tonga is a small Polynesian kingdom of 110,000 people.

There are only a handful of people who call us on our house phone so when the phone rang one evening, I wasn’t surprised to hear our District Superintendent Neville Bartle’s voice on the other end of the line. “Would you be interested in having In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok from Tonga speak at your church?” I have to confess, sometimes I still get hung up on is understanding names said with a Kiwi accent. Attempt to relay Korean names in a Kiwi accent and it’s over. “Can you spell that?” I asked.

Turns out, I was already on to In-Kwon Kim and his wife Jeong-Seok and their story. After reading a couple of short articles here and here about their ministry, I had hunted down the video below via my friend Annie who works at the Nazarene Global Ministries Center to share as a sermon illustration the following Sunday. “Yes. Most definitely. We want them!” I exclaimed. These were people whose lives and stories were challenging me deeply. I most certainly wanted to meet them and hear from them first hand, and I wanted our church to have that opportunity as well.

 

This video is an excerpt from a longer documentary a Korean group produced several years ago.

In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok are Koreans. They’re also Kiwis. No matter where they live, they are servants. They raised their older children while serving in some of the poorest slums in Nairobi, Kenya.  Currently, they’re raising their youngest son who is almost 10, while serving a marginalized group of people in Tonga.

As young a young person in Korea, In-Kwon felt called to serve the special needs population. Jeong-Seok felt called to missions. Almost a decade ago, they were living in New Zealand with two teenage children and a 6-month-old baby when they felt a very strong and specific call to serve people with special needs in Tonga.

In-Kwon Kim

In-Kwon Kim shares the Gospel and seeks to live it by serving those with special needs in Tonga.

When the Kim family arrived in Tonga in 2007, there were no services of any kind for people with disabilities. An untrained eye may have assumed that there were no people with disabilities at all. They were all in hiding. According to the Kims, many people in Tonga believe that a disability is a curse from the gods, a direct result of some hidden sin. Many of them couldn’t have left their houses even if they wanted to. They didn’t have wheelchairs or even doorways big enough to push a wheelchair through.

Imagine laying in a bed, unable to move yourself, attempting to catch a glimpse of the sky through the one tiny window in your home day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade of your whole life. That was the reality the Kim family discovered as they began to seek out the people they felt called to serve.

Jeong-Seok visits the family with a visually impaired child and delivers some basic necessities.

Jeong-Seok visits the family with a visually impaired child and delivers some basic necessities.

It took nearly two years for people to begin to trust In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok, but God had planted a big dream in their hearts for a respite center, a place of refuge and rehabilitation for people with all kinds of disabilities. It was a dream that could not be squelched. Nearly 10 years later, the ministry provided through the Mango Tree Respite Center has exploded and continues to expand as quickly as financial and human resources allow. Through rehabilitation services such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy, Braille instruction, Bible Camps for children and adults, and special education services, In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok and the staff at Mango Tree are offering hope to the hopeless in practical and tangible ways. They are the hands and feet of Jesus.

Thailand has cerebral palsy, but with the help of a walker and therapy, he is learning to walk.

Thailand has cerebral palsy, but with the help of a walker and therapy, he is learning to walk.

Their work does not only take place at the Mango Tree facility. Regular home visits provide opportunities for in-home therapy and the formation of relationships with families. Mango Tree seeks to provide mobility equipment such as crutches, shower chairs, and wheelchairs, and at the same time improving the quality of life at home by installing ramps and making bathroom facilities suitable. While these things are basic necessities of life, they aren’t always readily available for Tongan families. Mango Tree is making a difference.

Like Jesus, In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok, show up among the untouchable and outcast of society. They have much to offer and loads of education and experience, but they take a posture of humility, offering their whole lives to people who have often been scorned and rejected by their society.

Sport day!

Sport day!

The Mango Tree Respite Center has been blessed with buildings funded by the likes of the Korean Government and the offerings of Nazarene children from around the world, but the they run things on a tight budget—managing the facilities and the ministry on about $25,000 US per year. It’s incredible, really, but they still have a significant need. For example, they could use another wheelchair accessible van to help get people to therapy, education classes, and Bible camps. However, the gift of a van would be futile without the resources to purchase insurance and petrol as well. They are always in need of wheelchairs and other devices that can be customized to fit each individual. You can be a part of the incredible work that God is doing through Mango Tree through praying and through financial support.

Therapy in the garden

Therapy in the garden

But there’s a bigger narrative here. Not everyone is called to start an entire special needs respite and education program from scratch, but we are all called to offer ourselves in humble service, wherever we live. In fact, In-Kwon and Jeong-Seok have an additional purpose when they return to Tonga.  They are going to begin intentionally equipping the very people they have been serving to serve as well. Their hope and prayer is that the people with disabilities and their families will begin reaching out to the homeless and addicted who live around the center, passing on their new-found love of Jesus to others who desperately need it.

Computer classes are provided at the Mango Tree Center

Computer classes are provided at the Mango Tree Center

And so these men, women and children are not cursed, rather they are bearers of the promise of God, witnesses to the light of Christ, and the embodiment of the Kingdom in their neighborhood.

 

Parting Shot

There are a lot of sheep in New Zealand, but not nearly as many as there used to be. In the Prior to the 1980s, the entire NZ economy was based on their sheep. Then the wool market crashed. Now the economy is based more on dairy and tourism.

There are a lot of sheep in New Zealand, but not nearly as many as there used to be. Prior to the 1980s, the entire NZ economy was based on their sheep. Then the wool market crashed. Now the economy is based more on dairy and tourism.

Adventure 368

By Elizabeth

To infinity and beyond!

To infinity and beyond!

It’s one of those moments with events leading up to and following that are frozen in my mind. May 9, 2015. The phone call. The question. “Would you be willing to move to New Zealand?” The prayers, conversations and events that followed. Asking our family, our friends, our church community, and a group of people on the other side of the world that we had never met to take a giant leap of faith along with us. Happy one-year anniversary!

Astronaut in training

Astronaut in training

Day 364. Saturday. There we were again. Hosting a birthday party. In a different city. In a different country. On a different continent. In a different hemisphere. This one involved rockets and planets rather than horses and lassos. There was a giant cardboard rocket in our driveway instead of a horse in the back pasture. A bakers’ dozen worth of jet-pack clad kiddos blasted around the yard. I was overwhelmed with the community that joined us to celebrate—from church, from our neighborhood, and from Q’s kindy they came, offering the greatest gift of all—friendship. We are incredibly grateful.

IMG_2148

 

At the very same moment, my sister was in labor with my nephew 7,500 miles away. Baby B didn’t make his entrance into the world until later that night when we were devouring fresh homemade dosas (the most delicious Indian food ever!) with friends. When we got the first snapshot of Baby B’s sweet little face via text message, I wanted more than anything to be on the other side of the world, kissing those baby cheeks and cuddling that sweet boy. We’re the kind of family that shows up—for the ordinary and extraordinary—and I wasn’t there. No amount of wanting or willing or wishing could get me there. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was supposed to be right where I was. Truth be told, it was in the top 10 of most difficult days of the previous 363.

Who wouldn't want to kiss those perfectly sweet cheeks?!?

Who wouldn’t want to kiss those perfectly sweet cheeks?!?

On Sunday morning, as I stood worshiping with our church family, it struck me. The call that the Spirit had begun whispering in our ears 365 days before was still the same. You can find it in Luke 9:57-62. “Come, follow me—don’t worry about your family. I’ve got them. I am holding them and loving them and caring for them in ways that you could not, even if you lived in the same town. I have called you to follow me no matter what.”

Excited cave explorers--grateful to have Bapa and Gigi here with us for a little bit.

Excited cave explorers–grateful to have Bapa and Gigi here with us for a little bit.

There are other big things we’re missing out on this week—a nieces’ baby dedication, a first softball game, a dance recital. We won’t be there for those really special moments or many others in the days to come. We’ll miss that proximity and savor the pictures and share in the joy of celebration, but we won’t have a lick of regret. Instead, we will be praising God for his provision for our families, giving thanks for the community of people who celebrate aspiring astronauts along with us, planning and praying for the future, investing in relationships, and anticipating evidence of God’s hand at work at every turn.

We are reminded that “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” We’re not looking back. On day 368 we are as confident as ever that God has called us to Crossroads Church and to Hamilton and to New Zealand for just such a time as this.

 

Parting Shot:

Glow worm caves. They're AMAZING! Pictures don't begin to do them justice. It's kind of like looking at a galaxy... from inside a cave!

Glow worm caves. They’re AMAZING! Pictures don’t begin to do them justice. It’s kind of like looking at a galaxy… from inside a cave!

 

Breath. Inhaled.

By Jaron

Photo by Pam Wullems

Photo by Pam Wullems

Photo by Pam Wullems

Photo by Pam Wullems

Important s'more preparation: marshmallow roasting. Photo by Pam Wullems

Important s’more preparation: marshmallow roasting. Photo by Pam Wullems

The scene was one of ordered chaos. Marshmallows were on fire, kids were running everywhere, and handfuls of leaves were being thrown into the hair of unsuspecting victims. There was a steady din of noise infused with laughter. The atmosphere was crackling with life.

I was standing on the church steps looking out over our Kids’ Club event that takes place twice each month. This week had a bit of novelty. My parents are here visiting for Quentin’s birthday and we asked them to bring the necessary ingredients for s’mores. This idea all started from a conversation we had with our friends Paul and Hope. After describing what s’mores are, Hope insisted that we help her experience this very American campfire food. So this Sunday we made s’mores at Kid’s Club, with ingredients lovingly supplied from my parents’ suitcases. The word had gotten out and over 40 adults and children turned up for the fun.

As I smelled the smoke from the fire, led the group in a rowdy rendition of “Spring Up O Well,” and listened to Elizabeth tell the story of Paul’s Damascus Road Experience, I was struck by the story that God is weaving here. In many ways it felt like a beginning. Like a huge breath has just been taken in and is now ready to exhale flowing forth into the world around us. God is up to something, something big, something transformational, something redeeming.

On May 5 (Thursday) we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord. We remember that Christ has not only risen but has ascended into heaven. But wait there’s more! The Good News is not yet all told. In Luke 24:49 Jesus’ last words to his disciples before ascending are “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

That’s right, Jesus told his disciples to wait, and in waiting to anticipate the power of the Holy Spirit that would come from on high and cloth them. It would be this outpouring of the Holy Spirit that would send the disciples pouring into the world at Pentecost. It’s as if the story of redemption has been breathed in, Jesus has returned to His rightful place, and the disciples, along with all of creation, anticipate the exhale, the outpoured breath that must surely come. The breath of God that will light the fires of salvation and redemption and send them raging throughout the world.

This passage resonates with me today. It feels familiar, real, true, alive. I feel like the disciples must have felt. Christ is clearly on the throne. Christ has all power and authority. Christ has set the stage. The inhale has taken place, and so we anticipate the exhale. The outpouring is coming and it is coming soon. God is at work here. I see it in the faces of the families at Kids’ Club. I hear it in the voices of those not sure what to think of the church. I see it in the colors of the Mongrel Mob down the street. I hear it in the questions of those honestly seeking the face of Christ.

And so I anticipate the incredible outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I look forward to the exhale, to living the story that will be woven. We have glimpsed a new beginning and we look forward with great anticipation to the life that is to come. We are excited to see women and men experience the love of Christ and be caught up in the flow of the Holy Spirit as it flows across our city and beyond.

 

Parting Shot

Super Mario mushrooms really do exist and they are growing in our yard!

Super Mario mushrooms really do exist and they are growing in our yard!

 

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