Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Category: Church Community (page 1 of 2)

5 Things I Love About Our District Assembly

By Elizabeth

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!

 

Parting Shot

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.

 

See You Later, Charlie

By Jaron

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.”

Funny….right?!

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!

 

Parting Shot

Springtime worship in November at Crossroads Church, Hamilton, NZ.
photo by Padmaja Chagaleru

Home Assignment: Wrapping Up

By Elizabeth

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.

 

Play Cafe on Today

By Elizabeth

 

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, so they say. I am certainly not above it. After all, why reinvent the wheel when someone else has a good thing going? Case in point: Play Café. A few months ago, missionaries Ted and Sarah Voigt described their school holiday Play Café in their weekly “Newsyletter,” a fun way they keep people informed of their goings-on. (You can find out more about Ted and Sarah’s ministry at wicklownazarene.com ). I immediately replied with an e-mail that said, “Tell me more.”

New Zealand and Ireland are in some ways similar ministry contexts. We have a strong café culture. I don’t mean a sit-alone-and-work-on-your-laptop-while-drinking-coffee type of café culture. I mean, a strong, “Let’s meet up at a café for a tea or coffee or lunch or any old reason and chat” café culture. Our cafés are more likely to have a play area (indoor or out) for children than wifi or extensive outlets.

New Zealand also has a strong mums group culture. As in, if you are a mum (or a caregiver) responsible for little people during the day, you will most certainly go to at least one play group or music group or mum meet-up every week. You’ll let the kiddos play while you chat with other adults and eat your caramel slice. If you can, you’ll participate in said groups 2 or 3 mornings a week. Through various formats, we have little people with mums or caregivers in our church building four mornings a week.

The exception is school holidays. Right now, our kiddos are on a two week break from school following the end of the first term of the year. The mums’ groups are on break too, but mums and caregivers everywhere are looking for things to keep their school kids and little ones occupied.

That’s where the Play Café comes in. Just like Ted and Sarah suggested, we’re using the school holiday time to switch things up a bit. We set up play areas for kids of all ages and recruited people to make and serve yummy morning tea items. (Note: Morning tea is the snack time that transpires sometime between 9:30 and 10:30 every morning. It typically involves a hot drink such as tea, coffee, or drinking chocolate, along with some type if delectable slice, scone, or snack to get you through to lunch time. Nearly every casual and professional establishment respects the need for morning tea. School kids drink milk and nibble something from their lunch boxes for morning tea.)

Today, more than 50 people played and sipped and nibbled and colored at our first ever Play Café. For us, it was a great time to connect with people we see every week and meet some new ones. For the mums and caregivers, it was a great, free excuse to leave the house and interact with other adults while letting the kids burn off some energy. We’ll do it all again tomorrow, and we can’t wait.

Thanks for sharing your great idea, Ted and Sarah.

 

Parting Shot

 

Milford Sound, South Island. January 2017

Meet Rob

By Elizabeth

 

Meet the Fringer family.

Teamwork makes the dream work. It’s so cliché and so true. Over the past year, we’ve been a part of developing education for pastors in New Zealand. If you haven’t already, you can read more about it here. The simple truth is, that we couldn’t make it happen on our own. We definitely sense that God has brought together a great team for just such a time as this. One of the people that we’ve gotten to work closely with is Rob Fringer, the principal of Nazarene Theological College in Brisbane, Australia.

When we met Rob for the first time less than a year ago, we had no idea if he’d be on board, if he’d want to work with us, or if he’d think we were totally crazy and blow us off. Thankfully, we came to the table for the very first time with a common vision and a big piece of the puzzle in each of our hands.

Now, a year later, Rob has just spent eight days teaching an Intro to Old Testament intensive to one master’s student, six bachelor’s students, five certificate level students, and two auditing participants. Over the course of the class, we got numerous text messages like, “This is so great! We need more time with him!” and “This is opening up a whole new world for me. Thanks for making this possible.” Now, the real grind for the students begins as they work on their post-work while maintaining full time jobs and pastoral responsibilities. We have the utmost confidence that they will rise to the occasion.

While we were with Rob, I asked him a few questions to help us get to know what motivates the person who has been charged to lead NTC and is helping to provide feet to a dream God has given us.

The Fringer Family from left to right: Vanessa, Sierra, Brenden, and Rob.

Elizabeth: You’re a lecturer and principal at Nazarene Theological College (NTC) in Brisbane, Australia. How did you get there?

Rob: NTC needed a lecturer in biblical studies. I was working on my PhD in Manchester while living and pastoring in New Hampshire at the time. When they called Manchester looking for recommendations, Kent Brower gave them my name. Through that process and a lot of prayer, we accepted the call and moved to Australia. We will have been here 4 years in June.

 

Tell us a little about NTC.

NTC was started sometime around 1953 in Sydney. It moved to Brisbane in the 70s. We have about 50 students with our on-campus and extension programs across the Asia Pacific Region. The demographic varies widely. We have lots of islanders, some Aussies, a couple of Brazilians, and some Americans, plus Fijian and Papua New Guinean students at our extension sites in those countries.

NTC is accredited through the Sydney College of Divinity (SCD) and internationally recognized. We offer two bachelor’s degrees, three master’s degrees, and through our SCD partnership, we offer a PhD and a Doctor of Ministry.

 

What other ministry experience do you have?

I was involved in youth ministry for 10 years, followed by an associate pastor of discipleship and outreach for 6 ½ years. I have taught as an adjunct for four different schools. I also served for one year as a Nazarene In Volunteer Service (NIVS) in Swaziland teaching at what is now Southern Africa Nazarene University.

 

How did you go from being a lecturer at NTC to being the principal?

God has a sense of humor. I thought I might become an academic dean at some point. That seemed to suit my skillset. Then, the current principal stepped down after being there for 17 years. The position was open. They asked me twice to apply. I said no the first time. Later, they gathered more resumes and asked a second time if I would let my name run. Long story short, my wife and I prayed about and decided to let my name move forward. Then, big surprise, the Board of Trusties voted unanimously to offer me the job and we accepted the position.

 

Speaking of your wife… You have a family—a wife and two kids. How are they adjusting to life in AU?

Vanessa is my wife. She handles the college finances and serves as the bookkeeper. Sierra is nine. Brenden is six. They love life in Australia. They love their friends, the wild animals they see, the freedom of running all over campus (where they live). They miss the snow.

 

What does your family like to do for fun?

We like to go on family holidays to the beach. We like to go to the Sunshine Coast. We like to go to the Australian Zoo. There are lots of beaches closer to our house that we like too. We also like to go to parks.

 

How often to do you see your family in the States?

We go home about once every two years.

 

What is your vision for NTC moving forward?

Truly, to see it grow. My vision is for NTC is to continue to train many more pastors and lay leaders, and through that training see the church grow, not only numerically but also in maturity.

I also have a vision that we would be a help and a resource for the church in this region (Asia Pacific Regional Church of the Nazarene).

 

We’ve gotten to know you through our work developing the NTC-Auckland extension program. Why are you excited about NTC-AKL?

I think it has so much potential. There are a couple of things I am really excited about.

  1. I am excited because it is strengthening relationships between Australia and New Zealand. On this field, it is strengthening relationships, and that’s really important.
  2. I think it’s exciting because it has been a real need for New Zealand, and now we’re getting to meet that need. I think NTC-AKL has the potential to be bigger in terms of enrollment than the main campus in Brisbane.

 

What about this program is innovative? What makes it work?

I think the things that make this program work are the contextual aspect of this program, as well as the leadership and the mentor concept that has been developed for this program.

 

How can other people be a part of what God is doing through NTC?

It would be great to sponsor a student. We have several students who have financial need. You can do that by clicking here.

People with master’s degrees in theology or ministry can serve as mentors to our undergraduate and graduate students. You can live anywhere in the world and become a mentor. People can volunteer their time if they are qualified to be a lecturer. People can pray for us and for our students.

Principal Rob Fringer teaching Intro to Old Testament in New Zealand.

Rob has had his fair share of other adventures too. He’s the co-author of The Samaritan Project and Theology of Luck: Fate, Chaos, and Faith.

 

 

Parting Shot

Auckland Harbor

These Faces Might Just Shock You

By Elizabeth

 

This is the face of my friend. She’s a Christian, a wife, and a mom. She’s also a make-up artist who loves to sing as a part of church worship teams.

katia

This is the face of her husband. He’s a husband and a dad who delights in his daughter. He’s a hair stylist who can cut, color, and style with the best of them.

fullsizerender

They met at a salon where they both worked.

This is the face of their energetic two-year-old, who thinks Q is hilarious, especially when he pretends to fall. She’s learning a new word nearly every minute and is an actress in the making, practicing her most dramatic expressions on her parents. She calls Jaron khal–uncle.

These are the faces of a dad who is struggling to learn English so he can get a job to support his family; a mom so homesick she feels that God has surely forsaken her in this foreign land; and a little girl who may never see a blood relative again.

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This is the face of my friend who said, “I was afraid to meet you because they always told me Americans want to control everything. They said Americans are causing war. But I love you. You are not what I expected.”

These are the faces of George, Katia, and Christelle.

They escaped Damascus 3 ½ years ago, a young newlywed couple, seeking safety in Lebanon with her family when the violence became too much. Their government was favorable to Christians, but everyone was caught in the crossfire when the conflict between Muslim groups escalated. They begged UNHCR to let them travel to a new home. But they said no. They begged again and again. Finally, the response came, “You can go, George and Katia, with your young daughter, but your mother, brothers and sister-in-law cannot go with you. You cannot return here until you have your New Zealand passport in five years. Maybe then you can visit.”

“I don’t know why the passed us over so many times, why they wouldn’t let us travel,” Katia still wonders with anguish.

But there are 65 million people in George and Katia and Christelle’s shoes. 65 million displaced people longing for a safe country to call home. The US accepted just over 72,000 this year. New Zealand accepted about 700.

And so, George and Katia are thankful. They’re thankful to live in a peaceful country where bombs are not being dropped daily. They are thankful they are not surrounded by the rubble of destroyed buildings that only serve as constant reminders of crushed dreams. They’re thankful that one day they will be able to get jobs in New Zealand and support themselves. They’re thankful to live in a city with an Arabic-speaking church. They know there is much to be thankful for.

And yet…

Katia's mom and brother

Katia’s mom and brother

Just recently, Katia found out that her brothers would be able to start their new lives in Canada. But not her mom. No, she is a 52-year-old widowed breast cancer survivor. They say she cannot travel to a new homeland. Governments need people who can work, who can contribute to the economy. She will have no one to care for her once her two sons are relocated to Canada.

Katia with her family

Katia with her family

And so, Katia cries. She cries for the homeland she misses, for the mom she left behind, for the loss of all that is familiar, for the language of her heart that few can understand, for a war that has torn everything apart, for the loneliness she feels on a daily basis, for media that paints misleading pictures of people on both sides of the camera and fosters fear of the other side.

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And I cry with her because she is my friend. Because the media in my homeland says I should be afraid of this family, that our children should never play together, that these people belong in refugee camps or back in their war-torn countries. Because these people with gentle eyes and kind spirits are victims of one of the worst humanitarian crises since the Holocaust.

These faces are the faces of my friends. Their faces might just shock you. They might not fit the image painted by your evening news. These are the faces of Syrian refugees.

 

On 9/11, Solidarity, and Today

By Elizabeth

Solidarity. Let's Stand together.

Solidarity. Let’s Stand together.

Out of curiosity, I posed a question on Facebook this we week. Posing questions on Facebook can be a dangerous endeavor, I know. But this question didn’t involve the names of any US presidential candidates so I felt relatively safe. The results evoked feelings I didn’t expect.

Me: Kiwi friends—I am curious. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on this day [September 11] 15 years ago?

A few of their responses went like this…

 

PC  (India) I was in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India – when we got a news that my uncle was flying to London from India and he was stopped somewhere, don’t know in which country he was..No Msgs no phone calls- saw the attack on the news channels and was praying to listen to a good news about my uncle. Can’t forget that moment 😞

PW (New Zealand) I remember I was at the dress makers with my nana when we saw it on TV. Couldn’t believe what was happening. I was thinking of all the people who lost their lives and thinking of their families. Such a sad time. That was before i had so many American friends.

PW (England) I had just got home from High School and saw the news

BB (New Zealand) I couldn’t sleep so got up and watched TV. It was about 2am when I surfed through the chanels and saw the plane hit the building and sat watching thinking how did they manage to make that look so real (thinking it was a movie) after a moment or two I realised it was real so went and woke Adrian saying America has been attacked. We sat watching until 5am when we knew we had to get some sleep before going to work. I still find I get riveted to the TV when programs come on about it, like last night there were some on the History chanel.

AP (New Zealand) Yes, absolutely. We were living in London at the time. So I was at work, word got around as to the terrifying drama that was occurring, so we were all watching it on TV (saw the collaspe live on TV). Horrible, scary stuff.

SW (New Zealand) I was living in Auckland and my sister was staying with me. I remember just watching TV continuously in a complete daze with tears running dwn my face. I felt so helpless.

JM (New Zealand) I was pregnant with Paul and was in a shop that had s TV on and we all stood there saying is this real footage, not a movie??? We couldnt believe it. I worried for the people I met while living in Baltimore if they were safe 😢😢 just stared at all the news reports in complete horror and sadness x

FR (New Zealand) I had got up to go and milk cows. An A.B technician had arrived (if you don’t know what that is we’ll discuss it over a family meal together sometime 🙂 ). It was really early so I hadn’t seen the news. She told me the US had been attacked so as I began the milking I flicked the radio on to listen to the news. I spent the day following it and feeling devastated for those who lost their lives, the families, and worrying about the fear that would grip the nation, and what that fear might lead to. 9/11 holds horror for much of the Americas – also thinking of Chile and their remembrance of the horrible military coupe on 9/11 1973 that saw the death of their democratically elected leader and put the violent leadership of Pinochet in power.

 

As I read those, I felt a lot of things, but the one thing that has really stuck with me is a sense of solidarity. A sense of unity over something held in common. Intentionally shared experience. Though I call these people friends now, I didn’t know one of them back then. 15 years ago, many of them didn’t know a single American personally. Yet, in these responses, I hear them saying, “We stood with you. We hurt with you. We felt your pain. We remember with you.” 9/11 holds for them a significant place of horror in their lives as well. And, while I wish we could erase the atrocities surrounding these memories, the sense of solidarity that those shared memories provide, feels really good. They cared. They felt deeply. That matters.

The more I think about it, the more I can’t help but think of the gift of solidarity that we have to offer to those currently escaping the violence of similar extremist groups. To those whose homes have been reduced to rubble much like the Twin Towers. To those who don’t have the resources to fight back. To those who are desperate to help their families feel safe again. Thousands and thousands of those people will go to sleep in refugee camps tonight, not knowing what tomorrow holds. They’ve had that September 11 feeling every night for months, even years now, with no end in sight.

No matter how helpless we feel, we can certainly offer our solidarity, saying, “On some small level, we know what it is to feel the uncertainty and grief and violation in the face of terrorists, and we stand with you. We remember how painful that feels, and we hurt with you. We remember our own grief and we grieve with you. Even if we never have the opportunity to learn your name, or meet you personally, we stand with you.”

I hope and pray that if anything could come out of those events 15 years ago, it would be hearts of empathy and compassion for those who continue to suffer. It would be eyes that see our own children sitting in shock on the back of an ambulance or lying on the edge of a body of water. It would be hands that offer a cup of cold water and warm blankets. It would be spirits that desire peace and refuge for all. It would be solidarity. Let’s stand together.

 

Parting Shot

The calm, peaceful waters of Blue Springs (as seen in the picture above) pick up speed and force further down stream.

The calm, peaceful waters of Blue Springs (as seen in the picture above) pick up speed and force further down stream.

 

 

Sneaky Shock

By Elizabeth

We took advantage of warm weather and sunshine and took a family field trip to the nearby Pukemokemoke Reserve on Monday.

We took advantage of warm weather and sunshine and took a family field trip to the nearby Pukemokemoke Reserve on Monday.

Caleb, the winter intern

Caleb, the winter intern

Lemons in winter... it's a thing.

Lemons in winter… it’s a thing.

Winter garden

Winter garden

Watching all of our guests lately has me thinking about culture shock. In the case of moving to New Zealand, culture shock is sometimes so subtle you have to look carefully to identify it. We’ve become better about naming it at our house, but it still sneaks in and catches us off guard from time to time.

Obviously, we live in a highly developed, westernized country. It’s not a country or a culture where everything is drastically different from our birth country. Instead, we make our home in a place that, in so many ways, allows us to rock along like we have our whole lives… until it doesn’t. It’s that whole similar… but different thing we talk about so often.

So many things seem the same, but it would be ignorant to assume that this is business as usual and that we know exactly what to expect in any given situation. And we’ve found it takes a lot of energy at some of the most surprising times. It’s an input thing.

Most of us function as full participants in most situations in our daily lives, meaning we’re in our jam, naturally tuning out all of the details that are irrelevant at a given moment. It’s what we do instinctively to avoid going into input overload. However, when we choose to intentionally engage in a new culture or situation, we become participant observers.  James Spradley talks about this in much of his writing including, Participant Observation. As participant observers, all of a sudden, we’re having to pay attention to everything. Those words, that voice inflection (Did I miss a joke?), those signs, this traffic pattern, these daily routines… and the list goes on. We are part of the scene and observing every detail of the situation at the same time. It’s input to the max.

Take Caleb our winter intern, for example. One afternoon last week, he wandered into the kitchen and said, “I’m totally beat, and I can’t figure out why. I haven’t done that much.”

Right. Except that he had gotten dumped out of the car (by me) downtown in a city he was completely unfamiliar with, hunted for a seemingly obscure coffee shop he had not been to, had coffee with someone he had never met before, navigated conversation with someone from a culture he is brand new to, and ridden his bike back across that brand new city on his own (on the left side of the road no less).

Then there was the day this week that Caleb set out on the simple mission of finding a coffee shop nearby to work from. He expected to type “coffee shop” into Google Maps, hop on his bike, and find a hip little joint with Wi-Fi and a plethora of electrical outlets and hot beverages to choose from. Everything he saw around him, his access to technology, and the prior experience he brought with him told his brain that’s what should happen. What he found instead was super outdated geo caching that led him from one mistaken location to another (some closed, others without coffee, and still others without outlets) until he was many kilometers down the river. When he returned home a few hours later, he ravenously consumed six meatballs and a load of pasta and then retired to “Mabel” (his camper/caravan/refuge) at promptly 7:32 p.m., not to emerge for a solid 12 hours. True story!

It’s culture shock making its appearance in the sneakiest and most subtle of ways.  We can totally relate. Research says there are other symptoms besides fatigue (our primary symptom), such as family conflict, frequent illness, sadness, mental fogginess, etc.

This isn’t a bad thing. It’s normal. And it’s important to name it. As things have become more familiar over the past seven months, we’ve experienced input overload less and less, but it still happens and will as long as we make it a point to be participant observers of the culture in which we live.

It’s a cycle that kind of goes like this over and over again:

Honeymoon (This is the best place in the world!)

Confusion (I totally don’t get this! What was I thinking?!)

Disillusionment (This is the worst place in the world!)

Determination (I can and will do this!)

Success (I am totally rocking this!)

At any point it can start all over again, marked by those sneaky symptoms that creep in when we least expect it.

So when Caleb described his time at a prayer group he really enjoyed yesterday morning with this little tidbit, “I was talking to people and feeling pretty good about understanding what they were saying, and then someone else would say a complete sentence, and I would just think, “I have absolutely no idea what you just said!” I wasn’t the least bit surprised that he followed up by saying, “I took a power nap when I got home” … at 8:30 a.m.!

 

Parting Shot

The view from the top of the Pukemokemoke Reserve

The view from the top of the Pukemokemoke Reserve

Through Their Eyes

By Elizabeth

It has been a whirlwind week around our house. 21 meals shared + 4 rounds of team building games with primary school classes + 47 puris eaten + 35 cups of tea + 3 mums groups + 2 neighborhood events + 2 caves explored through thigh-high water and thick mud + 1 Kids’ Club + 1 church service + 1 prayer meeting +1 intense mountain hike = tons of relational ministry. Our college students from Southern Nazarene University are still in the thick of it, with 4 more rounds of team-building games, 1 more event, two more church services, and plenty of Indian food left to eat over the next 4 days. I let them off the hook with writing today’s blog post, but I did borrow their team camera to give you a small snapshot of our week through their eyes.

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.

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