Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Month: July 2016

Mission Away: Mixing Work and Play

By Elizabeth

My parents, Lon and Mary Dagley, at Hamilton Gardens

My parents, Lon and Mary Dagley, at Hamilton Gardens

My parents were here with us for the past few weeks. We had a great time with them. Truly, we are so grateful that both sets of our parents are willing and able to travel so far to spend time with us. We don’t take it for granted. Several months ago, my mom (Mary) and my dad (Lon) had put together their short list of what they wanted do in New Zealand, including Hobbiton, the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, and the Zealong Tea Estate. We had a few other ideas as well, but a few weeks before their scheduled departure, we had a phone conversation that went kind of like this:

Me: Hi Mom, We’re so excited for you to come, but I just want you and dad to know that your New Zealand vacation is actually going to be more of a Work and Witness trip.

Mom: O.k. We know how to do that.

Me: Great! Can you lead the art station at our school holiday program? Can Dad build bunk beds for a missionary family? Can you both help remodel a manse (parsonage) in Auckland to get it ready for a new family?

Mom: Well, the mantra of Work and Witness is, “Be Flexible!” so we’ll do whatever we need to do.

My parents have lots of Work and Witness experience under their belts so I knew I could count on them to roll with what stacked up to be a pretty crazy schedule.

Here’s their take on Work and Witness and why it has been so significant for them. 

High Tea at the Zealong Tea Estate

High Tea at the Zealong Tea Estate

From Once in a Lifetime to a Lifestyle

“My first trip was to the Dominican Republic in 1999. Our team worked on building a church that had been devastated by a hurricane and showed the Jesus Film,” said my dad, Lon Dagley. “I thought, I’d like to do something like that again someday, but I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance. At that point, it was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

However, eleven months later, he was on a plane to Buenos Aires, Argentina for Work and Witness trip number two. It was this trip that would pave the way for many others.

“The trip that set the tone for everything was the 2000 trip to Argentina because that was the first time that anyone had taken computers into the field,” Lon remembers. “We took computers in and took them to the seminary and moved them from typewriters to computers in one jump. We realized what a big impact new technology—not hand-me-down technology—could make on the field.

Dad realized his library and technology skill sets were needed elsewhere in the world as much or more than they were at home and he had a responsibility.

It proved to be a great time to spot several koru at Hamilton Gardens.

It proved to be a great time to spot several koru at Hamilton Gardens.

My mom, Mary, isn’t one to be left out of the action. She wanted to be obedient as well, but her first Work and Witness trip, in 2001, didn’t fall into the niche of her skill set. Rather, it was really far out of her comfort zone. She participated in a team that traveled to several Guatemalan villages where they shared the hope of Jesus through the evangecube during the day and then showed the Jesus film in the evenings.

“I didn’t think I’d ever go again. Ever.” Mary said. “It was a such a big deal for me to get to go. Plus, being more of a doer type person and not so much a sharer type person, it was a hard mission trip for me. It was out of my comfort zone.”

But God had other plans. Over the past 17 years, they’ve taken a sum total of 12 trips as a part of Work and Witness teams. Their trips have varied in length from one week to two months (Busingen, Germany, 2008). We think they can probably go ahead and add New Zealand to that list.

We spent several days working in Auckland, but we did manage to catch downtown Auckland from the Sky Tower.

We spent several days working in Auckland, but we did manage to catch downtown Auckland from the Sky Tower.

Take-a-Ways to Talk About

They’ve both found the experiences extremely valuable and formational.

“The take-a-way from every trip I have been on is that I have so much,” reflects Lon. “God has given us the ability to give so much if we let Him to use us to give. American culture puts so much emphasis on things to make us happy. You look around the rest of the world and that’s not the case. Everywhere else I have been, when the people have so much less stuff, they often have so much more joy.”

“It—for me–has broadened my understanding of God’s grace so much more,” Mary said, “It has given me such a better understanding of how vast God’s work is—whether the people speak German or English or Spanish or something else altogether. It’s amazing to see how others worship. I think about Heaven and what that will be like with everyone worshiping in different languages or maybe in one language. I don’t know. The church is not America. The church is God’s people. It makes my heart sing to worship with other believers who may be singing or praying in a different language and to worship the same God together. It doesn’t matter if I understand, God does.”

They quickly realized that participating in Work and Witness trips is not solely about having something to offer. It is as much about having something to learn.

“Everybody has something, not only to give to work and witness, but to gain from it,” Lon says. “Work and Witness is the place—because we’re out of our American comfort zone—that we can hear God in ways that we can’t even begin to hear him in the US because we’re home, we’re comfortable, we’re busy. First of all, we will have prayed for the trip, which means we will begin to open ourselves up before we even leave. When we get there, we get to see God in action in a way that we can’t even imagine in our home contexts. Sometimes you’re participating in instruction, but often you learn so much more than you could ever teach.”

Mary quickly jumps in, “Oh more—You gain and learn so much more than you could ever give.”


Dollars and Sense

Some may wonder how normal people afford to regularly participate in Work and Witness. For my parents at least, it isn’t impressive salaries that have made these trips possible. It has a lot more to do with planning on a regular basis. As my mom explains, “it’s a matter of living below your means so you can be available to do whatever God calls you to.”

“I used to have extra teaching assignments that I set aside for work and witness,” Lon explained. “Now, we literally set aside money every month to a missions account. We don’t know when a trip will come up that we need to do. Two years ago, I went to Swaziland. It wasn’t a trip I was planning to do, but I got a call asking for my expertise at Southern Africa Nazarene University. I had the skill set they needed, and I felt like I should go. If we hadn’t had the money set aside, I wouldn’t have been able to go, but when I got the invitation, I said yes.”

Mary agrees with that line of thinking. “For the church in America—for any Christian, but especially for the church in America— it is important to remember that the money that we earn is not ours. It’s God’s first,” Mary says. “We need to remember that we don’t always need the latest and greatest. God provides for our needs and God provides abundantly.”

Hobbiton, of course!

Hobbiton, of course!

Work and Witness isn’t all work and no play. While they worked right up until the minute they needed to leave for the airport yesterday (literally), they also got to see everything on their New Zealand short list. They have both loved their time in New Zealand, I hope, as much as we have loved having them.

“It’s an amazingly beautiful country and so diverse in population,” Mary said. “It is truly blended. Very few people that we’ve met were actually born in New Zealand. Over the past few weeks, we’ve gone to India without ever stepping foot in India. As always, we’ve met some amazing people. Our church and our friendships have grown. We still are friends with people we met in Argentina or Germany. That will be true of New Zealand. We’ll look forward to visiting our friends in New Zealand too.”

There’s one simple truth that compels them to serve wherever they are in the world, whether it’s Kansas or New Zealand or somewhere in between.

“There are hurting people and lost people no matter where you are,” Mary said, “We want to be a part of serving and bringing hope.”


Parting Shot

Blue Springs Walkway, one of our favorite places, never ceases to amaze.

Blue Springs Walkway, one of our favorite places, never ceases to amaze.

This Week’s Mission…. to MARS

By Elizabeth


It’s school holiday time down under. This isn’t a summer vacation kind of school holiday. It’s a middle of the winter school holiday. Think: Christmas break minus all of the holidays and associated festivities. The school schedule in New Zealand is actually quite a bit different than students in North America experience. The school year starts at the beginning of February after a 6-week summer/Christmas holiday. Every term (quarter), the kids get two full weeks off of school during which families make a break for the beach. Except during the winter holiday when every family escapes the relative cold to a nearby Pacific island or road trips to the one spot on the North Island that has snow. Due to our exceptionally mild winter, the ski season hasn’t officially begun on Mt. Ruapehu (3 hours south of us), but there’s enough man-made snow for the bunny slopes and sleds and a few icy snowball fights. Then, there are those who remain at home: parents who are working and saving days off for another holiday… parents and kids huddling together on the frosty mornings… caregivers who are escaping to the malls to keep small kids occupied during two solid weeks at home… and us.

What would we do during a winter school holiday? Put everything we’ve learned from years of Vacation Bible Schools, after school care, and summer programs to good use, of course! We’re spending our week facilitating Mission to M.A.R.S., a school holiday program for 5-12 year olds. It’s part Vacation Bible School with goofy character-driven skits, dramatic Bible story retelling, artistic endeavors, themed morning tea (snack), crazy games, and the silliest of songs.  However, since our school holiday program takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, it’s also part after school care or summer care with space-themed science experiments a visit from the Hamilton Astronomical Society and giant bubbles.

We’re having a great time singing, playing, dancing, eating, laughing, creating, and learning with a great group of kids. A few are from our neighborhood, our church, and Kids’ Club. Others are the older siblings of littles who come to our groups for mums and tots during the school sessions. Still others are brand new to us, jumping in for a week of fun while parents work or are otherwise occupied. As amazing as these kids are, we couldn’t do it without a great team. Our intern, Caleb—a.k.a Sid, is helping to lead the way. Parents and partners in ministry are giving up work days to squeeze in time to help. Secondary students from Hamilton and Auckland are hanging out with kids half their size (or less… see the pictures!!). And, as an added bonus, my parents are here. As expected, we promptly put them to work.

If you know us, you know this week is about more than just school holiday care. It’s about investing in kids and families. It’s about planting seeds, and shaping lives, and serving our community. We’re having a great time this week, but we also anticipate that these days will bear the fruit of new and deeper relationships, and that ultimately the hope and love of Christ will shine through us into the lives of these fantastic kids and their families.

Play-Doh, Crayons, & Worship

By Elizabeth

Lego Elijah at the mouth of the cave...

Lego Elijah at the mouth of the cave…

I’m in search of a New Zealand-sold product to get some crayon drawings off of the folding tables in our church worship space these days. A two-year-old worshiper left them there, and I couldn’t be more delighted about it. She was exactly where she was supposed to be and fully engaged in the task at hand. Worship.

A few weeks ago, I spent some time scraping blue play-doh remnants out of our lovely mauve carpet. Apparently a rock-slide occurred when the earthquake shook the cave Elijah was hiding in and some blue rocks crashed to the ground. No worries. It was a certain boy’s first time to hear the story, and it was playing out in 4D play-doh as it sunk into his mind and heart.

You see, we don’t parade our kids out of the sanctuary every week for an age level worship experience. Rather, we worship together as a family. In the sanctuary. Every Sunday. We’re all there. The mums and dads and grandparents and widows and widowers and wiggly tots and bitty babies and boisterous big kids. All of us together. Every Sunday. We call it family worship. And we do it on purpose.

Oh, it’s not glamorous. Sometimes we have marker on our clothes, early note-taking attempts in crayon on the tables, and play-doh in the carpet to show for it. But it’s meaningful and it’s formational.

Born out of both practical need (hello small church with a tiny volunteer base, noisy plywood floors, and an unconducive floor plan) and an ecclesiastical and theological understanding of the roles of family and church in a child’s spiritual formation, we made a conscious decision to figure out family worship as a significant component of our church’s identity. We believe that parents are the first primary spiritual instructors for their children. In one way or another, they model it (whether they want to or not). They shape it through questions and conversations. They encourage it through priorities, family structures, and daily routines.

Loaves and (gold)fish kind of worship

Loaves and (gold)fish kind of worship

When we gather for corporate worship, we’re all being shaped, from the youngest among us to the oldest, into a collective reflection of the Kingdom of God. We’re not a full reflection of the Kingdom of God if kids are not a part of it. We’re also not a full reflection unless some more seasoned folks are there too. There’s something really valuable that happens when we’re formed together.

We’ve had some great children’s worship experiences both as children and as pastors. We’re not discounting that by any means, but this is where we are right now, in our current context, as parents and as pastors and as people who desperately long to see the children walk out a solid faith of their own from the time they take their very first wobbly steps.

Before you write us off as idealists with a quiet, angelic missionary kid who sings all of the songs and hangs attentively on every word of his pastor parents, let me reassure you. I am quite sure our child ranks on the 71st percentile for strong will, the 86th percentile for energy, and the 100th percentile for volume. Translation: he’s loud, he’s active, and he has a mind of his own. Yes, I have engaged in a full on wrestling match in the midst of “Amazing Grace.” I’ve marched a certain wriggling child across an endlessly echoing plywood floor to the back of the sanctuary for a come to Jesus moment all his own. I’ve said, “Use your whisper voice!” more times than I can count, only to be met with a 130 decibel response of, “WHAT!? I can’t hear you!!” I’ve handed out a hobbit’s feast worth of snacks before the third song. I’m that mom. I’ve been there.

Loaf-making and listening

Loaf-making and listening

But I’ve also had real and significant conversations with my four-year-old about the scripture text for the day. I’ve helped make play-doh loaves and fish and related peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to the Story of God. I’ve sung worship songs into his ear and helped him fill out his tithe envelope.

And then, we’ve revisited those conversations both intentionally and spontaneously when we’re reading his Bible, when a song comes on the radio, when we’re on a bike ride, and at the most random of moments. Q’s little mind and heart are being shaped by corporate worship AND by our life together. What happens in family worship shapes our life together and our life together shapes what happens in family worship. It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship that makes the more *ahem* challenging moments all the more worthwhile and the “aha” moments all the more precious.

There are lots of benefits to family worship done well!

  1. Our parents are being formed spiritually AND they’re learning how to engage their children on a spiritual level. At the same time.
  2. Our preaching is better. Who doesn’t benefit from a multi-sensory experience that draws us deeper into the story of God?
  3. Our kids have a sense of belonging in the broader family of God.
  4. Everyone in our family has a common experience that we can talk about and engage with.
  5. New families don’t have to worry about shipping their kids off to unfamiliar places.
  6. The whole church family gets to worship together.

Don’t worry! We’re not asking kids to sit still and listen quietly for an hour. Believe me. Been there. Done that. Wrestling a four-year-old monkey is not my favorite activity.

For us, family worship doesn’t look like:

  1. Kids sitting quietly in pews with folded hands and still feet.
  2. Children’s church for the grown-ups too.
  3. Watered down theology or avoiding the tough stuff.
  4. Parents getting the side eye for their little person’s noises or wiggles.

For us, family worship DOES look like:

  1. The option of sitting in a row of chairs or at a table (the flexibility of our space allows for this).
  2. Hands-on materials to keep little (or not so little) hands busy while ears and minds are working, imagining, and absorbing.
  3. Pulling a wandering tot on my lap now and again.
  4. Quietly guiding my own child (and others who may be around me) through the words and practices of the worship service.
  5. Offering an extra snack to another mum’s kiddo.
  6. Celebrating engagement through picture-taking and quiet high-fives mid-service.
  7. Opportunities for age-level teaching geared specifically towards kids at other times.

Big hands like to be busy too

And then, the one component that took our family worship experience from harried and chaotic to rich and enjoyable…. Never mind that it took 20 Sundays to figure it out. In our context, family worship includes thoughtfully posed questions for discussion and ideas for ways to use the available materials to engage with that week’s text. We realize that parents don’t automatically know how to engage their kids in worship. Kids don’t always automatically know how to reflect on what they’re hearing. We’re here to figure it out together.  It seems giving kids and families (ours included) some specific and meaningful tasks, greatly increased the level of engagement and decreased the amount of effort spent removing a certain child from under the folding table where he insisted on kicking the noisy metal sliders.

I don’t know what ministry with kids and families will look like in our context down the road. Ministries and structures will come and go. Trends and needs change. However, at Crossroads Church we’re learning together how to live out a Wesleyan-Holiness theology, and no matter what ministries come and go we are committed to the spiritual formation of entire families. Even if it means a little play-doh in the carpet.

Parting Shot


Any breaks from the rain lend themselves to rainbows... often full, frequently double, and always beautiful. Photo courtesy of Caleb Hoskins.

Any breaks from the rain lend themselves to rainbows… often full, frequently double, and always beautiful. Photo courtesy of Caleb Hoskins.

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