Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Month: August 2016

Putting it into Perspective Part 2

By Jaron

cool tree

Perspective. It’s a funny thing.  It’s one of those things that comes by way of experience, impacted by relationships and circumstances. Last week, I wrote about some of the ways living in New Zealand has given me perspective on how much disposable income many Americans and New Zealanders have—and how much is available for the average person’s disposal, but I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t take it one step further.

One of the things I love about living in NZ is that it is such a diverse place. In our small congregation we typically worship with people from 7 or more different countries. Because of this incredible diversity we have had the opportunity to build wonderful friendships with people from around the world. What I have learned from some of these relationships is that often those who have the least are the least concerned with getting more. In fact, we have witnessed and experienced incredible acts of generosity from people who understand that stewardship is the responsibility of all who would call themselves Christian whether rich or poor.

One of those people is a friend from a small island country. She has never owned a car and had never buckled a seat belt in a car before buckling up in our passenger seat. Our friend is a single mom studying in New Zealand, far from her young boys, so she can provide a better life for her family. She is (probably unknowingly) helping us gain some much-needed perspective.

Did you know that if you live in the United States, are married with two kids and make $100,000 per year that you are in the top 2.5% of income earners in the entire world? If you are that same family and you make $50,000 per year (just under the national average) you are in the top 8.7% of income earners in the world. Click here to enter your income and see where you stand in terms of world incomes. Did you do it? Kind of puts things into perspective, huh?!

The point is that rarely do we as Americans or Kiwis have any reason to call ourselves poor or act like we don’t have enough. Perhaps our finances are tight because of decisions we have made about what kind of cars we will drive, and how nice our house has to be, or any number of other things. But in truth, these are decisions only the wealthy have the privilege of making.

In fact, Americans and New Zealanders alike are richer than they have ever been, and for the most part give less to charitable causes than they ever have. Even the majority of Christians are unlikely to financially support the ministry of their church in an ongoing way, much less give to other ministries or organizations.

As I meet people from around the world, as I work alongside pastors who have immigrated to NZ who work all day in the secular world in order to support their ministry and then sign up to take bachelors courses at night so they can better serve the church, and as I am confronted with the generosity of those who perhaps steward much smaller storehouses, my perspective continues to grow.

Take our friend from that small island country, for example. She lives on a small stipend meant to cover her living expenses. Out of that, each month she sends as much money as she possibly can to her parents in order to provide for her boys. Yet, before she does any of those things, she gives a tithe of her meager income, and then she gives above and beyond that to help support the work of the church. Every. Single. Month.

My hope and prayer is that we, both from America and New Zealand, will come to terms with the incredible wealth with which we have been blessed. I pray that our perspective would be shaped by the knowledge that we are stewards of significant resources and that stewards carry a heavy responsibility. For that which we have been granted is not for the building of our own kingdom, but instead for investment in the Kingdom that will never spoil or fade. Let us be one in the spirit of generosity and may our faithfulness in this area grow and bear much fruit.

Parting Shot

Mt. Ruapehu and its reflect from the bogs on the Waitonga Falls Track.

Mt. Ruapehu and its reflection in the bogs on the Waitonga Falls Track.

Putting it into Perspective

By Jaron

Mt. Ruapehu, NZ in the winter

Mt. Ruapehu, NZ in the winter

Perspective. It’s a funny thing.  It’s one of those things that comes by way of experience, impacted by relationships and circumstances. For a long time, I have said I wanted to have a broad worldview, and living in a different country is helping me do just that, which means my perspective is being shaped.

We often find ourselves grappling with conversations and experiences that challenge and shape our perspectives. This happens in so many ways, from the grocery store clerks asking me about the U.S. presidential race almost every week, to having to order books 3 weeks before I want to read them (no Amazon Prime here), to finally looking up the statistics for how many Americans have concealed carry permits (its 3%) so I can tell my Kiwi friends that “No, not everyone in America carries a handgun, and no, contrary to what you see on the news and in movies you are definitely not in major danger of getting shot there.”

I’ve recently been thinking a lot about the American perspective on money. Whether we realize it or not we were raised in a land of plenty. Not only do most Americans have opportunity for high household income ($51,949/year on average), we enjoy a relatively cheap cost of living, freeing up more disposable income than much of the world’s population. New Zealand is also a fully developed western society. It too is wealthy by world standards. Healthcare and schools are good, and at $51,000/year, the medium income is essentially the same as the U.S.

On paper, the good ole US of A and NZ look about the same. But when the cost of living is taken into account, it doesn’t take long to see that the Kiwi dollar doesn’t go nearly as far. Here are a few perspective shaping examples.

Expense* United States Cost New Zealand Cost
Petrol (gasoline) $2.29/gallon $1.82/Liter ($6.92/gallon)
Electricity $0.12/kwh $0.26/kwh
1 capsicum (bell pepper) $1 $3
Hot water heater $450 $1,100
8’ 2×4 board $2.68 $12
Paslode Nails (2,000 ct) $59.98 $200
Postcard stamp (domestic) $0.34 $1.00

 

In the day in and day out, this boils down to living with less—smaller cars, a less updated house, fewer clothes…. It’s changing my perspective about what I need and want in what I think are really positive ways. But let’s face it, no matter how you slice it, the United States and New Zealand are both wealthy countries by the world’s standards, with plenty of resources and opportunities. I wonder how living with less, in both countries would allow our perspectives to shift from focusing on how much our dollars can buy for us to how much of an impact our dollars can have in the world around us for the building of the Kingdom of God?

We've enjoyed a few days of rest and winter as a family, skiing on Mt Ruapehu and hiking the Waitonga Falls Track.

We’ve enjoyed a few days of rest and winter as a family, skiing on Mt Ruapehu and hiking the Waitonga Falls Track.

 

* Note that U.S. prices are in US dollars and NZ prices are in NZ dollars. Just remember that the average income for the U.S. and NZ are about the same in their respective dollars, so this gives a pretty clear picture in terms of what the felt cost would be for a normal family. These are all things that we have actually purchased in both places.

 

Parting Shot

We caught a glimpse of winter this week, skiing Mt. Ruapehu and hiking the Waitonga Waterfall Walk.

Waitonga Fall Track… cold enough for bits of snow, warm enough for a hike and picnic, absolutely beautiful either way.

The Normal

By Elizabeth

A couple of sunny days in a row have lent themselves to two-wheeled bike rides on the neighborhood sidewalks.

A couple of sunny days in a row have lent themselves to two-wheeled bike rides on the neighborhood sidewalks.

“Why is it so quiet in our house?” Q asked while sitting at the table for breakfast one morning last week. He didn’t wait for a response. Instead, he burst out with a loud, “Lalalalala!” that expertly filled the empty space with noise. Q’s question wasn’t so off base though. We’ve returned to The Normal around here. After nearly 12 solid weeks of visitors, including these, these, these, and these incredible people, our house and our caravan (vintage camper) are empty. The sheets are washed (though perhaps still waiting to be put back on the extra beds). The fridge is significantly less full. And the house is much quieter. It’s just so Normal.

It’s The Normal that looks like laundry drying on racks in the dining room. A mom, a dad, and a talkative boy at the table for dinner. Leftovers frequently. It’s Sunday mornings at church that start early and go through lunch time. And it’s Sunday afternoons filled with raucous Kids’ Clubs where whole families play, sing, learn, and eat together. It looks like swimming lessons on Mondays and three mornings of kindy for Q. The Normal looks like lots of reading and writing, hours/days of doctoral project work and sermon prep and conference attending for Jaron. It looks like Mainly Music and Happy Feet mums’ groups in the mornings, corporate prayer time on Wednesday nights, and preparing to host a group of Nazarene leaders from all over the world for a dinner of Indian food and pavlova dessert next week.

The Normal looks like teaching Q to ride his bike without training wheels inside the church when the rain just won’t stop and around the loop of our cul-de-sac when the sun peeks out. Noticing the flowering bushes and trees that have taken turns flaunting their beauty all winter long. Planning for a few days of R&R in the snow on Mt. Ruapehu a few hours south of us.

After all of the excitement of the past months, The Normal—as full as it is—might be leaving us feeling just a bit ho-hum. North American summer is coming to a close. Our friends and family are going back to school. Kiwi winter is still going strong. The season of a full house and a calendar full of anticipation is over for now. We aren’t expecting any more guests until after the new year. That doesn’t mean The Normal is the least bit boring. Jaron is preparing to teach a pilot class for a satellite program he is developing that will bring Wesleyan theological education to New Zealand for the first time. I am getting ready for a trip to Tonga. We’re excited to share more about both of those later. Q is swimming under water like a fish, making increasingly developed Lego creations, and arranging afternoon play times with his neighborhood buddies.

We know we can’t survive in the crazy all the time. In fact, The Normal is important. We need The Normal to push reset, to rest, to care for some relationships that have been neglected in the crazy, and to tackle the projects that are demanding attention (yes, I see you class curriculum that was supposed to be written weeks ago), and to plan for the next time visitors come en-masse and the house is noisy, the fridge is full, and the calendar is crammed with a new event every day.

Parting Shot

Flowering bushes year round seem anything but Normal, but you won't find us complaining.

Flowering bushes year round seem anything but Normal, but you won’t find us complaining.

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