This week, we’re savoring this season of Christmas, the sunshine, the celebrations, and the slow-paced days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. All around us (and on our social media feeds), there are reminders that we’re deep into the season of Christmas. These are 10 signs it’s Christmastime in New Zealand. And, while some of these are slightly belated because the days leading up to Christmas are full-on in every first world country, we’re not finished with our Christmas celebrations just yet. My parents are coming next week, and we can hardly wait!
So, in the spirit of the season…
You know it’s Christmas in the Southern hemisphere when…
Santa-types are wearing fake beards, black boots, a red, red coat and matching pants rugby shorts, and a cut off t-shirt.
Also, if rugby shorts and cut off sleeves are not your thing, rest assured. They sell Santa costumes like this one with shorts and short sleeves.
Families are watching ‘The Grinch’ and ‘Frosty’ in Christmas jammies short-sleeved pjs.
Every event has mugs of hot cocoa with marshmallows water with ice.
There’s an explosion of red baubles, stockings, wreaths and heavily decorated Christmas trees strawberries, cherries, and heavily flowered Pohutakawa trees.
This picture was taken on a trip over to the Coromandel Peninsula last month when the Pohutakawa trees were just turning. Now the coastlines are filled with the vibrant red blooms of the “kiwi Christmas tree.” This one has a stunning view of the marine reserve.
The oven BBQ grill has been working non-stop in preparation for Christmas dinner. (We had a fresh caught snapper served grill-side for our Christmas dinner.)
Dining tables Picnic tables are laden with festive foods of every kind.
We celebrated Christmas with our dear friends. Precious people, great fun (and nerf wars), delectable foods, and the most stunning setting makes for a wonderful celebration. (P.S. There really is brown on those hills. Can you believe it? After an exceptionally wet start to the year, we have been unusually warm and dry for over a month.)
Worshipers gather for Christmas Eve candlelight services Christmas morning daylight services. (There’s just something odd about a candlelight service when you’ve just had the longest day of the year. That said, we still had a Christmas Eve candlelight service. We joined our friends at an Anglican/Methodist/Presbyterian Cooperating Church for Christmas morning.)
Cities Beaches are bustling.
Flipping the calendar to January means going back to work summer holiday, church camps, and 3 consecutive weeks off work for many. (We don’t have a three-week holiday coming up anytime soon, but we are making the most of summer vacation and looking forward to a few days at youth camp in a couple of weeks!
We’ve spent the rest of our holiday week hosting friends, picking strawberries, playing tennis, and catching up on a few work-related projects. Shhh… don’t tell the kiwis. They’re all in full vacation mode.
Life gets back to normal January February 2. (Actually, Q will be back to school and our mums’ groups will resume February 7. There’s a new year to ring in and plenty of fun to be had between now and then!)
Merry Christmas from the Southern Hemisphere. We hope you are warm (by the sun or the fireplace), well fed (with fresh fruit or comfort foods), and enjoying family and friends who are like family!
Here we are (or were last week) enjoying a bit of sunshine on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula.
Things have been especially quiet around Adventure Graham of late because life has been especially full. As we wrap up the last of the Christmas parties and end-of-the-school-year activities over the next week (think northern hemisphere May + December all rolled into one), but here we are! We’re jumping back on the blog for a #throwbackthursday post.
We’re throwing it back to this time last month when we were gathering in Auckland for District Assembly, the annual gathering of all of the Nazarene churches in New Zealand. It’s a highlight of every year, but this year was especially fantastic—an experience I won’t soon forget.
With no further ado, here are 5 things I love about NZ District Assembly.
Our district has it’s own Parade of Nations. A huge thank you to Cathy Detalo, Pam Kili, and David Tonga Harris for taking the best pictures of district Assembly. I didn’t take a single one, but I am thankful for those who capture special moments like this on camera!
1. We are a multicultural snapshot of the Kingdom!
Our district is made up of about 900 Nazarenes, which is a relatively small group of people, but we represent at least 30 different countries, and even more cultures if you account for language variations, religious backgrounds, and food preferences. For example, someone who grew up Hindu, speaks Hindi as a first language and is from Northern India is culturally quite different from someone who grew up Christian, speaks Telugu and is from Southern India. Our district does a great job of celebrating, sharing, and inviting others in to each of our diverse cultures. We affirm our differences, celebrate our strengths, acknowledge our own cultural weaknesses, and laugh all along the way!
2. Our kids play hard!
Kids are the best at effortlessly bridging cultural gaps. Q loves any excuse to spend time with his friends from across the district. District Assembly was no different. In a matter of minutes, he was part of a circle of kids, mostly four to seven-year-old boys (which there seemed to be a lot of), all playing with the superheroes he’d brought along. I wish I had a picture of this. Little blond, black, brown, curly, straight, long, and short-haired kiddos crouched over Superman, Spider-Man, Captain America, and Iron Man. Their parents come from Samoa, India, America, and New Zealand, but these kids are far more concerned about what brings them together (defeating imaginary bad guys with outlandish super powers) than what makes them different. It’s the best sort of life-formation for a kid.
3. We have the best music!
Our worship is led by representatives of all of those cultures and a variety of ages—people whose foremost desire is to worship God. It makes for a rich worship experience—one that reflects the relaxed, un-stuffy vibe of island life.
4. There might be a bit of dancing!
With the mishmash of Pacific Island, African, South American, and Indian influences, there comes a bit of movement with one’s worship. Some might call it dancing. It’s good for us white westerners who lack the cultural formation of rhythm and movement that is ingrained from birth in many other cultures. It’s also very joy-filled and worshipful.
5. We know how to celebrate!
This year, we were celebrating the retirement of our district leaders, Neville and Joyce Bartle. They have served and led faithfully for 13 years. As a result of their deep and intentional investment, they are extremely well-loved. As a district, we got to work together to celebrate Joyce and Neville, their years of service, and all that God is doing on our district. It was one of a kind.
Check out this clip taken from a Facebook Live video of the celebration. I’m guessing that the last retirement party you attended didn’t exactly look like this!
Cathedral Cove, NZ. Doesn’t this look an awful lot like that standard screen image on Windows?
P.S. Did you know that we just celebrated our two-year anniversary of life in New Zealand last week? You can take a look back at our one-year anniversary post and our very first arrival post here and here.
Charlie Hinson, a lover of sports, pranks, Jesus, and the church. Photo by Bryan Swisher
“Charlie died tonight.” We received the text a couple of days ago. Charlie had been sick for a while, in and out of the hospital, finally landing in a nursing home. A few days later, just a few hours after my parents visited, Charlie drew his last breath.
I grew up with Charlie in my life. He was always around at church. For many years he and his sister Gail cleaned the church building every week so that we could gather for worship. I’ll never forget the one year that Charlie (presumably while cleaning the church during the week) decided to play a prank on the church choir of whom my dad was the director. The choir was planning to sing a Christmas cantata the following Sunday. They had been practicing for weeks for that act of worship and were finally prepared for the big day. When Sunday morning rolled around, my dad arrived at the church early and found that the music for the cantata had disappeared without a trace. He looked everywhere for the missing music but to no avail.
He immediately suspected Charlie. This was, after all, not the first time something like this had happened. Charlie had a reputation as a prankster. When confronted with the missing music, Charlie denied any and all knowledge of the missing choir books. Alas, the cantata was not sung, and the books were not found until later the next week when they mysteriously reappeared in their normal location. This was quintessential Charlie.
Charlie always carried a notebook with him so that he could jot down everything that happened around him. You never knew if something you said in Charlie’s hearing would be quoted in a later conversation. When I later pastored the Lovington Church of the Nazarene, the same church in which I grew up, I asked Charlie to serve as our greeter and head usher. He absolutely loved doing these jobs in the church and he took them very seriously.
He did however go about his duties in his own unique way. It was not uncommon for Charlie to be conversing with everyone who entered about the Friday night Wildcat football game, or the Thursday evening J.V. game, or even a seventh, eighth, or ninth grade game from earlier in the week. All of which he had entered by conspicuously flashing the Lovington Leader press pass my dad had given him. He was even caught commentating from the announcer’s box a time or two at J.V. baseball games. If someone in the church made the paper, Charlie would proudly present them with the clipped article and/or picture as they entered for worship.
When there was no sporting event to talk about, Charlie would bring along one of his joke books. You know, the thin ones you used to buy from the end caps at variety or grocery stores. He would read selected jokes to me or other members of the congregation throughout the morning. On occasion, I would suggest he choose a different joke, but most of the time the whole practice was rather funny and enjoyable in a corny joke kind of way. I do have a favorite from those Charlie shared over the years. With a completely serious face Charlie recited it to me one Sunday morning as we stood in the foyer waiting for worshipers to arrive:
Charlie: “How many Nazarenes does it take to change a light bulb.”
Me: “I don’t know Charlie, how many?”
Charlie: “Twelve…one to change the light bulb and eleven to plan the fellowship dinner afterward.”
The truth is, I will miss Charlie. He was so much more than a prankster. He was an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. Because of Charlie our church began playing in the city softball league, where we had tons of fun together and engaged intentionally with people in our community who needed to know the love of Christ. It didn’t matter if we won or lost, Charlie loved it and our church became stronger for it. He made us better, with his simple faith and his enthusiasm for life.
Charlie taught me some valuable lessons about the Christian life. One day, Charlie stopped by our office and told pastor Aaron and I that he didn’t have any furniture anymore. When we asked him why, he told us that a homeless man had come to visit, so he gave him his furniture. Charlie didn’t have much to begin with, a couch, a chair, a dining table, a T.V. a coffee table a bed. We were a bit upset by this, but Charlie just said: “I thought he needed it more than I did so I gave it to him.”
Wow! What generosity. Charlie would literally give the shirt off of his back if he thought someone needed it more than he did. I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus in Mark 9:35 “Whoever wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” In the kingdom of God Charlie is not poor. He is rich, for he was indeed a servant of all.
Charlie had more than his share of challenges. He lived with a mental disability for his entire life. In many ways, he was a 12 or 13-year-old boy trapped in the aging body of man. This brought with it significant challenges. At times Charlie faced bullying and ridicule. At times he didn’t understand what was going on around him. More than once he was the target of thieves who no doubt thought he was an easy target and that his bicycle or other processions should be theirs.
But these are not the things that defined Charlie. I will always remember his unconditional love for our church and community, his giving spirit, his sense of humor, and his childlike faith. And so I look forward to the day of resurrection when our Lord returns and we are raised to new life. For on that day, I know I will see Charlie again.
Rest in the presence of Christ my friend!
Springtime worship in November at Crossroads Church, Hamilton, NZ. photo by Padmaja Chagaleru
At a crisp 48 degrees Fahrenheit when we took these pictures, it was the coldest first day of school I’ve ever experienced. Thankfully, the sun was shining and it warmed up beautifully.
School Days, School Days
Dear old golden rule days
Our school boy and his dog, who waits for Q to return with her nose pressed to the porch railing every afternoon.
It’s official! Two weeks ago, Q started school. Real school. No longer in kindergarten (the kiwi word for preschool), we have a real school boy. That means a 9 am to 3 pm Monday through Friday kind of routine with morning tea (snack) and lunch to pack and reading homework in the afternoon. It’s all new for us.
In so many ways, it’s the most nostalgic school experience imaginable. Our neighborhood school is on the next block over—just a short walk or scooter through an ally pathway. Kids attend this school from year 1 (kindergarten) through year 8 (7th grade).
Not a cafeteria in sight, students chatter as they eat the morning tea and lunch they’ve brought with them on simple benches under awnings outside their classrooms, which open directly to the outdoors, or put on their sun hats and sit in the grass before hurrying off to play. 30 minutes for morning tea. 45 minutes for lunch.
Jaron and I both confessed to each other just yesterday morning after school drop off that we may have been known to test our own speed on Q’s scooter on the way home. Empty scooter to return home? Wouldn’t you?
The morning scooter ride is fun, but pick up times are simply the best.
As 3:00 pm nears, parents gather on those same benches outside the classrooms. Some push strollers while others share tips on strawberry picking and commiserate on yet another rainy weekend. The kids bound out of the classroom barefoot, dragging backpacks and jerseys behind them. I absolutely cannot wait to see our boy’s great big smile and hear the words, “Hi Mommy!” It’s the best part of every single day.
Then, everyone from our neighborhood walks home in a big stream of independent big kids with muddy legs from playing in the field and little kids with mums and dads in tow, all chattering about the adventures of the day.
For convenience sake, some of our friends from church who live further than walking distance park on our street for school pick up as well. It’s one big community building revelry every afternoon.
All of these things evoke a Leave It to Beaver sense that all is right in our world, but there are some unusual idiosyncrasies about our education situation as well.
Kiwi kids typically start school when they turn 5, no matter when that is in the school year. Then, everyone moves up when the new year starts in February. As it works out, some kids have more time–up to a year and a half of new entrance/year 1 (the American equivalent of kindergarten), while other kids have only 2 1/2 terms or quarters of their first year of school. It’s one of those things that can make your head spin if you didn’t grow up with this system.
Q turned 5 in May. Had he started school then, he would be starting year 2 (1st grade) in February at the ripe old age of 5 years 9 months, having had 3 quarters of year 1 (kindergarten). That’s a wee bit young and there’s no need to rush things if you ask me. This educational philosophy of mine jived perfectly with delaying his school start until we returned from the US. As it stands, he’ll have 5 quarters of year 1 (kindergarten) and start year 2 (1st grade) when he’s almost 7. Sounds like the makings of a great educational foundation if you ask me.
I’m in full on cultural translation mode when it comes to about everything else at school as well. Take these examples:
Stationary can be purchased through the school. It is generally the same price as the stationary at the store.
I think: That’s nice. They must be encouraging the practice of formal letter writing by selling fun stationary. Or maybe it’s a fundraiser? Great idea, either way. Maybe Q can use it to write a letter to some friends in America.
What it means: Stationary = school supplies. You can purchase your school supplies, which consist primarily of various notebooks (see picture), through the school so you don’t have to hunt for them at the store. Supplies like scissors, pencils, crayons, etc. are all purchased through the additional school fees and shared. This is a socialist education system, after all.
The notice in the school newsletter said, “Please make sure your child has suitable shoes and clothing for wearing on the field and/or courts for PE, as well as every other day.”
I think: Make sure your child is wearing tennis shoes (not the kind that will mark up the gym floor) and play clothes on PE days.
What it means: No shoes are necessary. Don’t bother sending your child to school with shoes. They just take them off anyway. Kids must wear shorts (not pants) on the field. The rule is “shorts for sports” (Comfort? Mobility? Holes in skin repair more easily than holes in pants?) and they must wear a hat for sun protection. Sunglasses are o.k. too as they protect the eyes.
Another notice in the newsletter said, “Whanau Hui Agenda as Follows: Karakia, Mihi, Whakawhiriwhiri, Karakia, Kai.”
I think: I would definitely benefit from Maori language school.
What it means: The Maori Curriculum Team held a meeting for families at the school. Family meeting Agenda as Follows: Opening prayer, Introductions, Discussions, Closing Prayer, Food.
The outtakes. Always so much silliness with this kid.
All in all, we’re adjusting. There have been relatively minimal tears. And, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t even cry on the first day. In fact, I was feeling quite proud of myself until an older lady in the line behind me at the post office said, “Look at this perfect card I found for my son. It says, ‘I was proud of you the day you were born and I’ve been proud of you every day since. You are a treasure.’ My son is turning 50, and this card says it all!” I smiled and nodded and tried to swallow the sudden lump in my throat and hurried to the counter for my turn. Sheesh. But truly, we are so proud and so grateful that our little guy is becoming a strong, healthy big guy and navigating this new “school days” phase of his third culture kid life so seamlessly.
When we were at the New Mexico District Family Camp in August, the kids made Koru necklaces out of clay. Q loves wearing his. These Koru (the brown swirly things), which symbolize new life, will eventually unfurl into more fern fronds.
We’re back! Finally. It has taken us a long time to get here. A month to be precise. Well, actually, it only took us one extra day to get home, thanks to this fuel crisis, but it has taken us a month to work our way back into some sort of normal. However, the world of our little family is changing drastically again this week as Q starts school at our neighborhood school. He’s going to love spending so much time with his neighborhood friends and some friends from church too.
Since pictures say it best, every now and then we sum up our day-to-day life during this season in five pictures and five pictures only. Right now, it looks something like this. You can see our previous picture summaries here, here, and here.
I was home in New Zealand for 7 days, and then jumped on a plane for Singapore, where our regional offices are located. We spent our days visioning for the future of theological education, so I didn’t get to see much except through taxi or bus windows or walking back to the hotel at night. Even so, it was fascinating to engage in this English-speaking Asian culture!
These three held down the fort at home, and even hosted out-of-town guests while I was away in Singapore. Aren’t they the cutest?!
It’s VISA time again! A massive amount of Jaron’s time has been spent collecting, filling out, and organizing all of the necessary elements for our VISA renewal, which, once approved, will allow us to live and work in New Zealand for two more years.
We’re savoring Q’s time with us during the days. We’ve squeezed in some time for art, lots of reading (We’re on book #14 of The Boxcar Children!), hosted a Play Cafe, and took a trip to the zoo. On Thursday, this kid will officially become a school kid!
It’s springtime in New Zealand, and I am 100% sure we have the most stunning tree on the block. This beauty greets us as we round the corner of our street to pull into our driveway, but don’t be fooled by that snippit of blue sky you see. Saturday was just a teaser. We’re back to chilly, windy days!
We’re wrapping up–Home Assignment, that is. I was prepared to write a Home Assignment update post last week, but in the face of massive fires in the Western US, hurricane recovery in Texas, hurricane Irma in the Caribbean and Florida, and a massive earthquake in Mexico, I felt like there were more important things in people’s news feeds. All this, plus equally difficult climate and political situations across the globe certainly puts many things into perspective.
So, this Home Assignment update comes with a sense of immense gratitude. Life is good. Our loved ones are safe and dry and warm and calm. In just a week, we’ll be en-route to New Zealand, so we’re soaking up the last few days of State-side adventures and sunshine. Can you believe it? There’s a certain slow-fastness, or perhaps a speedy-length, to a season when you’re totally out of your normal routine. Our lives have been so full in some of the best possible ways—full of story-telling and neck-hugging and grandparent-spoiling and friend-making and road-tripping and blessing-celebrating.
In the midst of all of that, we’re hoping our kiwi people and our dog haven’t forgotten us. We know their lives have been just as full as ours (dog included)—just in the completely different ways of the normal life of the end of winter on the Southern Hemisphere. On the other hand, we’re positive it has only been a minute since we said, “See ya later.”
This past week, we got to spend some of the sweetest moments with my home church, Shawnee Church of the Nazarene. It’s the church responsible for my formation as a baby, child, teenager, and young adult. It’s also just the kind of church that understands the importance of engaging intentionally in the global mission of the church. It’s really beautiful to be a part of a body—even if you’ve been serving elsewhere for many years— and to feel sent and affirmed and supported and loved and championed by that body. Together, we got to celebrate a long history and a beautiful future of supporting, nurturing, shaping, and engaging in the work of missionaries from around the world. Indeed, we are a blessed people to be a part of something so much bigger than any one church, one culture, or one country.
We’ll get to hang out with one last super-awesome church this coming weekend. In the meantime, the pictures are worth 1,000 words.
The end of Home Assignment stats look at bit like this:
On the Odometer: 5,095 miles (8,200 km)
Note: This already includes the 13 hour drive from Kansas City to New Mexico that we’re anticipating on Monday, but HOLY MOLY… We will have accumulated over 5,000 miles, folks! It’s the length of New Zealand about four times over.
On the Road: 75 hours
On our Plates: More Mexican food, and we’re anticipating Kansas City BBQ tomorrow night!! Hooray!! In our bowls: Blue Bunny Ice Cream (it’s simply the best) with chocolate chips sprinkled on top.
On our Minds: New Zealand, you’re on our minds! We’ll see you very soon.
As summer ends, a stop by giant fields of sunflowers is a must, especially in Kansas, the sunflower state.
Q has taken every possible opportunity to cuddle his big dog, Bailey, who is enjoying her sunset years at a “retirement home” (as we joke) with Grammy and Papu.
Another adventure involved lunch at the iconic Fritz’s restaurant, where a train delivers your order to the table.
It’s not a trip to Grammy and Papu’s house if it doesn’t involve at least one bowl of Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream with a few chocolate chips sprinkled on top.
Adventures with Grammy have been numerous. This one took us to the Moon Marble Factory, where we watched marbles being made by hand.
We loved getting to worship with the people at Shawnee this past weekend.
The Royals didn’t win, but we still had a great time at Q’s first Major League Baseball game. This kid has always loved baseball.
Folks, this is the breakfast food aisle at Super Walmart. Both sides, From one end to the other. Be overwhelmed.
Q has long been fascinated with fishing. His uncle, David, took him a few weeks ago, but Q only caught a tree. This week, our special family friends, the Edgar family, met us at a new-to-us park for a picnic and some very successful fishing.
Q caught a fish!
Meanwhile, at Camp Cresswell: Laylee (the second pup in this picture) has loved every minute with our friends, the Cresswells. We’ve gotten regular updates throughout her time with them, and we’re not quite sure she’s going to be keen to return to her life without cows.
Another day. Another trip to feed the cows. Another bath is in order.
We have a system in our family. Jaron drives. I ride. We’re both happy this way. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve had lots of time in this mode. We spend our hours cruising down the highways in a truck (ute) switching between the radio and podcasts like Revisionist History, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, and Planet Money, among others. We listen until a conversation spontaneously erupts, pause momentarily, then hit play again. It’s a great way to pass the hours driving across big states with wide open spaces.
Along the way, we’ve been with old churches and young churches, churches that meet in strip malls; cinder block buildings, and stately brick structures; churches under construction and churches with 80-year-old construction. They’re all delightfully fantastic in their own way, made so by the people who gather there.
During week three, we got to hang out with our LovingtonNaz Church family and with friends in Carlsbad. Then, Jaron and I took an overnight trip across the state of New Mexico to Las Cruces. Jaron’s childhood friend and college roomie is a pastor there. He’s the chill to Jaron’s spazzy-ness, so it’s always fun for them to be together. Someone brought homemade tostados that were to die for to the dinner at that church. Plus, the drive to Las Cruces via Cloudcroft is beautiful.
Ever wonder where your petrol comes from? Out of the ground in a land where there are pump jacks like these as far as the eye can see. They call it the oil field for a reason.
These tank batteries store the oil that has been pumped out of the ground.
That white isn’t water. It’s the sparkling white sand of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.
At white sands, this sign is for real.
Then, we made our way north over the course of Sunday—from Pueblo West where we got to watch a baptism in the Arkansas River after the morning service to Canon City where we got to hang out with the sweetest octogenarians.
Celebrating baptism in the river with the Pueblo West church family.
When you have an awkward amount of time between engagements, finding a great park for reading like this one in Canon City, CO.
From there, we drove up, up, up to Breckenridge, a mountain town known for its world-class skiing, but it’s also wildly popular with summer vacationers because of the fantastic hiking, biking, outdoor adventuring and general holidaying. Jaron’s cousin’s family so generously offered to let us use their Breckenridge condo as a home base for the week. What a gift!
We scheduled in a couple of days of Sabbath, which for us, looks like reading, hiking, napping, exploring, and catching up on the newer episodes of Fixer Upper and Food Network. It has truly been glorious! We’re feeling so renewed and invigorated. Hooray!
The streets in Breckenridge were lined with people checking out the eclipse on Monday.
Our lungs let us know we’re used to breathing at 134.51 feet (41 m) above sea level. Breckenridge is at an elevation of 9,600 feet (2,926 m). By the time we reached our destination on this hike, we were over 12,000 feet. What a great hike!
Our cute little chimpunk friend joined us for lunch on top of the mountain.
Midweek, we took a trip to Loveland, Colorado where Pastor Robin and the Hope Springs church family were delightful. Now, back at our Breckenridge home base, we’re putting in some “office hours” over the next couple of days as we mark the halfway point of our time in the US.
Meanwhile, Q has been enjoying “spoil days” with his Graham grandparents. With more “spoil days” to come with the Dagley grandparents, we may or may not want him back. Just kidding! He’s having the time of his life and making great memories. We’ll be ready for a giant family hug when we meet up with him on Monday.
Q loves birthday parties!! It was extra special for him to get to celerate his good buddy’s birthday!
Busy day at “The Duck Cafe!”
These two cousins had a great day at Science Spectrum with GIgi. Of course, they got to go to Chick-Fil-A too. That might have been just about as exciting. 😉
Fourth week Home Assignment stats look at bit like this:
On the Odometer: 2,232 miles (3,592 kilometers)
On the Road: 32 hours
On our Plates: Watermelon lime sorbet, green chili chicken soup, a giant omelet, and Blue Bunny Ice Cream (Are you noticing a trend with watermelon and green chilis here? We just can’t get enough!)
On our Minds: So many big, big mountains! We love the Rocky Mountains!
It was extra special to get to celebrate my birthday with our family and friends in the States. This watermelon lime sorbet as a birthday dessert was delish!
We’ve wrapped up our second week of Home Assignment—a six-ish week period that we’re spending with family and friends (old and new) in the US. You can check out the first week’s reflection here. Home Assignment is an important part of the rhythm of our life for practical reasons like sharing the story of what God is doing in New Zealand and on the Asia-Pacific Region, getting finger-printed for an updated FBI background check, and reconnecting with people we love.
We spent last Sunday, August 6 with two awesome churches. One of the churches has been a part of the work God has called us to in New Zealand from the very beginning. The other church was brand new to us. While they were only a 30-minute drive apart, they had very different but equally wonderful flavors. It’s so fun for us to see how God works through different groups of people in different contexts.
Our days during this past week have been spent with extended family and at the 82nd Lea County Fair and Rodeo in Lovington, NM. The Lea County Fair and Rodeo is a big, week-long event that is quintessentially small town America and a significant part of Jaron’s heritage. In many ways, it’s a throw back to days gone by when America was primarily populated by farmers and ranchers. Jaron grew up raising animals (chickens, sheep, and steers) to show and sell. He also grew up eating all the fair food (caramel apples and funnel cakes), riding the rides, cheering on the bona fide cowboys and cowgirls at the rodeo, and listening to the late-night concerts.
Q has been captivated by the rodeo since he was a tiny boy (he attended his first rodeo at 3 months old) watching riders get bucked and steers get roped. Decked out in his hat, pearl snap shirt, jeans, and boots, he stays up late, enthralled by the music, the clowns, and the horses, and the carnival rides. It was extra-fun for him to get to share the joy with his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of the family.
The view on the way home from Denver City, TX last Sunday.
At the end of the second week, our Home Assignment stats look at bit like this:
On the Odometer: 436 miles (702 km)
The running total on the odometer only crept up this week. It was pretty nice to stay put, especially since we have some long drives in store for the weeks to come.
On the Road: 8 hours
(Kiwi friends–check out a map of the US. You’ll notice that the states we’re visiting all boarder each other, but they’re also really big. We’ll end up driving the equivalent of Auckland to Invercargill several times over by the time we get on the plane to return to NZ.)
On our Plates: Juicy red watermelon, green chilis, & ice cream sandwiches (Thanks to our brother-in-law turning 30 and my mom’s excellent ice cream sandwich skills! YUM!)
On our Minds: All the Fair and Rodeo must-dos—the extreme bull riding show, see all the show animals, ride all the rides, watch all the rodeo.
Cowboys on a Tuesday night at the rodeo ready for Extreme Bull Riding. No filter needed.
Q and Gigi sharing moment at the Fair and Rodeo
Playtime with Grammy.
And the cutest nephew award goes to this one!!
Happy 30th birthday, brother-in-law. We appreciate that you thoughtfully chose the tastiest birthday treats!
A few weeks before we left for the US, Q got the idea that he wanted to build a castle fort with his friends and cousins in the US. He held several FaceTime meetings, encouraging everyone to collect big boxes. This week, his dream became a reality, complete with a list of Safety Rules dictated by Q and written by sweet Ellie. They’re my favorite part of the fort.
These two cousins were rodeo-ready. Q has been captivated by the Lea County Fair and Rodeo since he was smaller than little BB here.
5-year-olds are so sweet. Q got to spend the week with his second cousin M and her little sister.
Fair bunnies are so cute!
Fair food includes turkey legs, giant lemonades, funnel cakes, and Texas taters (pictured here).
Carnival rides are serious business!
Cousins at the carnival! Q said his favorite part of the whole week were the carnival rides. Alllll the carnival rides.
The view from the Ferris Wheel.
So many rounds of Settlers of Catan!
This, folks, is the beauty of a red, ripe watermelon grown in Plains, TX.
We’re switching things up for seven weeks! We’re writing from the US where we are on Home Assignment. Home assignment can be a confusing concept. Is it work? Is it holiday?
In fact, when one of our friends in New Zealand asked that very question (as many have), Q quickly piped up, “I’ll be holiday-ing. My parents will be working.” In reality, it’s some of both. This is a great time for us to see our families and friends in the States. We are looking forward to lots of grandparent cuddles, cousin play, and family fun.
However, we’re also looking forward to getting to make new friends and rekindle relationships with old ones as we visit churches in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Their love, support, and participation in what God is doing make our time in New Zealand possible. We’ll get to share lots of stories about what God is doing in New Zealand and across the Asia-Pacific region.
For people like us who live and serve in a place that is not our country of origin, it’s an important part of the rhythm of our ministry that allows us to serve elsewhere in the world, in our case, New Zealand.
We’ve been preparing our congregation and district for this for weeks and connecting with churches and family members that we’ll visit for months. In fact, we emailed a relatively complete schedule to our family way back in February!
We want to bring the people we love in New Zealand along with us, so I’m pledging to do my best to see this part of our world through kiwi eyes. While we’re on home assignment, we’re going to track the number of miles we drive, the places we go, and the very un-kiwi things we see.
Currently, we’re at one of our favorite places—Bonita Park Nazarene Camp and Conference Center, located just outside Ruidoso, NM. Located in the Sierra Blanca mountains, Bonita Park is a place near and dear to Jaron’s heart. Like his mom before him, Jaron grew up coming to camp here every year of his life. But it’s also special, sacred space to us as a family. Q made his first trip to Bonita Park at just a couple of months old.
We’re here to participate in the New Mexico District Church of the Nazarene family camp. It’s like a big ol’ family reunion complete with a rock wall, giant slide, zip line, creek, cool kids’ activities, giant cinnamon rolls, plenty of sunshine, an occasional thunderstorm, and really good worship services.
As we near the end of the first week, our Home Assignment stats look at bit like this:
On the Odometer: 372 miles (598 km)
On the Road: 7 hours
(Kiwi friends–check out a map of the US. You’ll notice that the states we’re visiting all boarder each other, but they’re also really big. We’ll end up driving the equivalent of Auckland to Invercargill several times over by the time we get on the plane to return to NZ.)
On our Plates: fresh cherries, salsa, and bacon cheese burgers
On our Minds: Sunscreen! Hello, sunshine! It’s good to see you!
When you leave Lovington and head Northwest toward the mountains, you’re greeted by big blue skies and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever.
But a couple of hours into the drive, the high planes give way to the foot hills, which are looking surprisingly green right now.
We’ve gotten to hang out with these cool kids. Ellie (in the red) and Maxwell (in the yellow) visited us in NZ earlier this year. B (in the pink) is Q’s cousin, and the two big kids are amazing brand-new friends for Q!
This chimney was a part of one of the original buildings on the Bonita Park grounds. While the building itself has been gone for quite a while, the chimney even survived the Little Bear fire of 2012 that burned the majority of the upper half of the camp.
Dr. Fred Huff, the District Superintendent of the NM District (and former missionary to NZ), has been doing his best to make an Alabama fan out of Q since Q was a baby. Q knows to say, “Roll Tide,” whenever Dr. Huff is around. This week, Dr. Huff thoughtfully gifted Q an Alabama cap.
These three crosses by the prayer pond near the entrance of Bonita Park mark a sense of welcome and sacred space.
The kids at Family Camp were learning about cultures all across the Asia-Pacific region, including New Zealand. Here, they’re using clay to make Koru-shaped necklaces.
So much climbing, jumping, and sliding!!
The view from John and Jeanine’s Bonita Park cabin often includes wildflowers and deer.
Q, B, and I walked town the hill from the cabin to the events center one evening with our giant blow-up globe, perfect for impressing kids with New Zealand’s proximity to Antarctica.
These kiddos had so much fun learning about New Zealand. Some of these kids have also lived and served in some really cool places like India and France.
Last week I got to share a post on the Junia Project blog. It was really fun and a great honor, but I couldn’t help but chuckle as I responded to the various social media threads. My Facebook profile picture gave the illusion that I was picking blueberries with my son on a sunny summer day. Instead, I was up to my elbows in cleaning supplies and paint on a shivery winter day in Christchurch. I responded to various comments in between coats of paint on kitchen cabinets and making decisions about carpet. “This,” I thought, “Is the glamorous behind-the-scenes life of a missionary.”
At one point, it looked a bit like this:
With a little bit of superhero action like this:
But have no fear! The house will be a fresh, clean place for John and Abigail Carr and their boys to call home when they arrive in NZ in a couple of weeks.
We returned home Saturday night, just in time to welcome another pastoral family from Wellington for an overnight visit. They have three kids. Two of their kids are boys who like to wrestle, so Q was in heaven. He shouted, “Come again!” at least 100 times when they were getting ready to go.
Jaron Graham, Neville Bartle, Joyce Bartle, Alice Yenas, Regina Kintak, Wallace White Kintak, Elizabeth and Q (in front of Neville) in front of our house in New Zealand. The Bartles served in Papua New Guinea for about 40 years, where Wallace White performed their wedding ceremony and paved the way for Joyce to start a nurses college. Today, Wallace Kintak runs the nurses college.
Then, on Monday, we got to catch a glimpse of the broader Kingdom of God and how our lives in New Zealand are so intertwined with LovingtonNaz in New Mexico and the work of the church in Papua New Guinea. We’re all wrapped up together in the great big story of God. You can read the whole story here. It’s pretty amazing!
The short version is that Wallace White Kintak, is named after Wallace White, who was one of the pioneer missionaries to Papua New Guinea. The original Wallace White and his wife Ramona came to know Jesus through the ministry of Lovington Church of the Nazarene in the little town of Lovington, NM (this is the church Jaron grew up in and the church we pastored for seven years before God’s call led us to New Zealand). They felt called to the mission field and were sent to Papua New Guinea in 1959, just four years after the first Nazarene missionaries arrived.
Wallace White had great vision. It included a vision for a hospital in PNG. Not too long after the dream of a hospital was realized, Joyce Bartle, our current District Superintendent’s wife, moved from Scotland to PNG to serve as a nurse at the hospital. Just a few years later, she started a nurse’s college to train local nurses for the hospital. Today, Wallace Kintak is the principal of that college because a man named Wallace White from Lovington, NM led Kintak’s father to Jesus.
In the midst of all of the painting and hosting and celebrating the work of God in the world, we are in the final stages of preparation for Home Assignment. Very shortly, we’ll depart from winter on our lovely island for the last bits of summer in America. There, we’ll spend time with our families and share other stories of the ways we see God at work in the world. We’re excited to hang out with long-time friends and make lots of new ones. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to invite others to join us with the mission of God in the world!
In the meantime, we’ll get back to the behind-the-scenes preparation that is our To DO list. It is double-sided, 3 columns per page, single spaced, size 11 font.
There’s actually a river down there. The notorious Waikato fog was so dense on our evening walk that it felt like snow. Through low visibility and muffled sounds and a world shrouded in white, we walked in our own sort of Winter Wonderland.
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.