We ended our time with our university students a few weeks ago with a few hours at one of our favorite places, Blue Spring Walkway. If you’ve read this blog much at all, you’ve probably seen pictures of Blue Spring. It’s a place that lends itself to getting quiet, making space, and sensing the Holy Spirit. In the words of NT Wright, it’s a place where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. We told our students to spread out, take some time to reflect, and listen to what the Spirit might be saying as they prepared to go home. During that experience, one of our students, Nathan, wrote the following. It was significant for all of us. He kindly agreed to let us share it.
The Pure River
By Nathan Cummings
The water was roaring, because everything else was silent.
The delicate green plants swung with rhythm, tugged by the rushing water.
The water is pure, blue and clean. What feeds on The Pure River, also is pure.
The greenest life is closest to the river.
What is the river in my life, if I were a tree. Is that river pure?
Am I a river to other people?
Can I be both a river and a tree?
Without The Pure River, my tree could not survive.
Without the Pure Source, my river is corrupt.
Are the trees on my river feeding on pure water?
The birds have arrived, here to keep my company.
Perhaps I am a bird.
I can fly away, but The Pure River always welcomes me back.
But The Pure River provides all I need.
Why would I fly away?
About the Author
The author, Nathan Cummings, is a sophomore history major at Southern Nazarene University. He’s into all things marching band. Nathan is a part of the fourth generation in his family to attend SNU. Here, he is pictured at Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan, NZ.
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.
We started by building some giant games that would be fun ways to engage kids all over the community.
There was lots of painting involved.
Blue Springs. Always one of our favorite places.
The whole gang on a chilly Saturday morning at Blue Springs.
The games “popped-up” in our neighborhood first. We got to meet many neighbors we hadn’t yet (and play with the ones whose scooters regularly park in our yard as well).
Creative games in action.
Age-old hand games passed down from generation to generation.
Play group friends.
Play group friends.
The most… raucous… retelling of Elijah’s encounter with God in 1 Kings 19 you’ve ever witnessed.
Scrumptious homemade puris and curry, thanks to Paddy and her amazing kitchen helpers!
Bike grease… war paint… You won’t get any details from this guy. Those eyes scream, “Who, me?!”
Our own “sand lot” or maybe “green lot”
“Bounce Bounce (the bull) and I were riding in our boat. We are looking for a floating island. My boat has a front end loader that picks up rubbish in the sea.”
“Can I type?” Q asked excitedly.
“Yes. You can type and you can tell me some things that you’d like me to type. How about that?” I responded.
“I like writing a blog,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Between now and our next blog post, our little guy will turn four. It seems completely surreal. “The days are long but the years are short so enjoy the days,” a wise friend told me before Q was born. That sentiment couldn’t seem more true at this moment.
If you know our little guy at all, you know that he is full of words and ideas expressed in the forms of constant motion, a whirlwind of imagination, and sound at high decibels. Since he has so much to say, we figured there would be no one better to write this blog post than the birthday boy himself. We took turns typing. He couldn’t have been happier about it.
To All My Friends in All of America and the World,
I like living in New Zealand. It’s kind of like different than America. Sometimes I miss my friends I am wanting to go to my green house, but I like my race track, my room that has a loft, and playing baseball with my friends at the park. Today, I went to kindy (preschool). That is my school. We cut down a tree that the caterpillars were eating and gave it to the chickens. I played with Matthew because his friend was gone today. I think his friend was off for the weekend. The other kindy day we went on a bus on a field trip to the airport. Daddy went with me. We learned how to fly the planes. When you want to go up, you pull way back. When you want to go down you push forward.
His turn to type:
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After kindy today, my friends from the neighborhood came over. They usually come by to see if I can play. We went to the park near our house to play baseball. I had the bat sometimes and I played catcher. I am teaching my friends all about baseball and the Royals.
I do a new thing at church at my New Zealand church. I have tea time every Sunday. That’s my new thing. Tea time is after church. I drink some tea and eat some cookies and sometimes chocolate cake. I like that the best. When my daddy says, “You are dismissed.” I yell, “Tea Time!”
Q typing again:
Wwdwd 4ry 6bv5rvtr4ttv343434t4t4vtv4 4 44tvmt crr,crcrccc1cececrrrrrr3rc3c3rr3c334cc3ev3b2av4,pv],v e 2e2,3e,3c325vg g,lqr5cv5codc clp,orcccccrg, m4remctmr5mtttghgghgggggggggggggv ggggg ggv gc g5i=o 66666666906hn6hynvnv5ynyhoyvnv6vvyv6yb65yby6nnn6npnyp5vn5ycnc 6v5il65oubp].vymnbwwvccy56 v w v 65ov5vo5 5 66yu7u7uoi87uojjjjjr
I’m becoming kiwi now so I don’t always wear shoes. Kiwi people don’t wear shoes sometimes because they like to not wear shoes. When I do wear shoes, I wear tennis shoes or jandals. Those are flip flops. Mommy and Daddy wear shoes all the time and sometimes. That’s a joke.
I want to go in a rocket sometime. I am going to go to space. After I go to space for 5 minutes, I will get back in the rocket and fly away. I am going to get the moon. I am going to take it home and play with it. When my friends come over, I will say, “Look, I got this moon from space.” I am going to get back in the rocket and blast off and while I am still flying I am going to be really careful and open the door and throw the moon outside into space and then go back home to my house. Then, I’ll go in my house and go to sleep. We’re going to have jet packs at my birthday party when I am four. I think we’re going to have fun with jet packs.
I live in New Zealand because I have to tell people about Jesus. They might not know that Jesus loves them.
That is all of this blog post. I will type another blog post another day.
Pukekos, or New Zealand Swamp Hens, have been thriving since people have inhabited the island. Clearly, they’re strutting proudly through this pond at a neighborhood park.
The author grinning proudly after making it safely back to our driveway.
Libby and Janci had us over for the most amazing authentic Indian meal. Another story for another day.
Elizabeth, Jeanine, John, Q, & Jaron enjoying a little park on the edge of Napier.
There’s nothing better than a leisurely breakfast at Emporium during a rainy morning in Napier.
Bapa and Q in Napier.
Kiwis are all about their tea… and their coffee too. They claim they invented the flat white pictured here (and probably the tall black and short black as well).
Napier’s coast line.
Just followed one of dozens of little “scenic view” signs visible on any road trip and found this little gem of a view.
Afternoon neighborhood shenanigans. The neighbor kids think the American grandparents are fascinating. They’re also pretty excited about a little project we’ve been working on in the front yard.
Jaron’s parents are here visiting us for the first time. We’re having a blast showing them our stomping grounds, exploring some new places, watching the sticker shock register on their faces over the prices at the hardware store, and savoring Quentin’s delighted belly laughs as he plays with Bapa and Gigi. We’ve even snuck in a couple of dates…early morning at the Hakarimata Summit and late night at Star Wars (Yes, we are the last people on the planet to see it in the theater!). This week’s post is a guest post courtesy of Jaron’s dad, John.
by John Graham
“Does this car have cruise control?” I asked myself as I struggled behind the wheel of the 2004 Honda Fit.
I would have to wait to find out because there was no way I was going to take my eyes off the road until I reached my destination 124 kilometers away in Hamilton, New Zealand.
In fact, I was having a flashback to the summer of 1973 when I took Driver’s Ed as a 14-year-old on the Lovington High School campus. I can still remember the steely stare of Coach Bill Rippetoe as he ran me through the paces of driving a car through the streets of Lovington.
That seemed like such a piece of cake compared to what I faced now.
Jeanine and I had barely been in the island country four days before my son, Jaron, who now is the pastor of the Church of the Nazarene here in Hamilton, asked me to help him pick up a new car he had bought in the capital city, Auckland, an hour-and-a-half away.
It seemed like an easy assignment to me. In fact I kind of looked forward to the challenge.
There was one little hitch I was a little nervous about. My license back in New Mexico expired at the end of February so I made a trip to the MVD in Lovington two weeks before we left the country. I paid my fees, got my usual bad mug shot and was told the new license would arrive in 10 days as the clerk punched a hole in my old license and handed me a piece of paper that said I was legal to drive—sort of. The temporary license stated that whoever looked at the “temporary license” I possessed could make their own determination of whether I was legal to drive or not.
To compound the problem, I failed to bring my “temporary license” to New Zealand with me.
I told my son I was a legal driver, I just didn’t have the right papers to prove it. In fact, all I had to do was follow him closely and do everything he did and all would be well.
On the way to get the car, I kept replaying in my mind how I was going to explain the hole punched in the only license I had with me to a New Zealand policeman. “Yes sir, that’s right officer. In America they punch a hole in your license so you can wear it on a lanyard around your neck so you don’t lose it.”
I hoped I wouldn’t get stopped.
So there I was, behind the wheel of a car the size of a big go-cart zipping through city traffic at speeds of 100 km per hour (60 mph) and driving on the wrong (left side) of the road. Every part of driving that had been ingrained in my being since a young teenager was now being turned upside down in this 57-year-old brain.
It took all my mental power to keep the car in the middle of my lane while sitting on the right side of the vehicle. It was so unnatural. Soon I could feel my hands getting sweaty as I gripped the steering wheel with both hands. Sweat started to form on my forehead.
“I need some air,” I thought to myself. My fingers fumbled across the dash trying to find the controls to the air conditioning, but my eyes never left the road.
Every time I reached up to turn on the blinker, the wipers came on. (Like everything else in this car, they are opposite what I am used to in the USA.)
Maybe heading out in an unfamiliar car, in an unfamiliar country, in traffic in the country’s biggest city, and without a legal license was not the best idea.
After about an hour of white-knuckled driving I began to settle down and the traffic was now moving at a steady pace as rolling green hills passed by. Hey, this isn’t so bad, I thought.
By the time we pulled into the driveway of our destination in Hamilton, I was feeling like that confident 14-year-old 43 years ago. And as the wheels rolled to a stop, I finally took my eyes off the road and checked the steering column.
No, the car does not have cruise control.
Sometimes the shot through the window captures it best: the Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand. Photo by John Graham
Our visas are here! In case you didn’t hear the news, all three of our visas came suddenly on Friday. In a flash, the wait was over. Jaron and I spent the weekend with a couple of fabulous church families who, like so many others before them, poured out incredible hospitality and blessing on us. Then, we bounced (yes, bounced) home in a vehicle in which the rear airbag suspension had gone out. All that bouncing (and the news about the visas) propelled us into a flurry of packing and last-minute “To Do” lists. D-13 days and counting.
It’s an interesting time for Q. On Monday morning, the dishes had barely been cleaned up from breakfast when he announced, “This is not the best day of my life. Everyone is doing too much work!” We laughed, but truly, we’re paying attention to those statements–and to him. He even got a special movie night with Gigi last night.
Our friend Margaret Tyler has spent some significant time thinking through the process of helping kids move and journey through major life changes well. Margaret is the wife of Don, mom of two, grandma of five, pastor of many, lover of children, and bearer of much wisdom. Pastor M and her son, Kyle, put together a list of 11 things think about when it comes to nurturing children through big changes. They are as insightful and helpful for people who are moving across the state as they are for those moving across the world.
Pastor M and her husband Don
On occasion, I hear from young parents who ask, when considering a move and the needs of our children, how do we move them well? When should we tell them? How can we help them understand? Are there tangible ways that can help them understand? How can we make it easier on them? These are really important questions! It is wise to recognize that “moving well” is not as simple as discovering a new job, packing boxes and loading a moving truck. There are actually multiple layers including the good and necessary work of grief for the whole family (those moving and those left behind).
Here are a few thoughts related to the subject:
1. “Moving” is a pretty abstract concept for little people. Until you actually “move” it is difficult to grasp the concrete interpretation. So, depending on the age of your children, it may require more work to help them wrap their mind around the concept. Moving from left to right and up and down is different than moving our whole life where every norm will be altered. For little ones, I would not begin to tell them about moving until you have something to tell. However, as soon as you know where you are going and a timeline, it would be most appropriate to begin to introduce “moving language” to your daily conversations. I would especially tell them just before you begin to make the news public. You don’t want them to hear this foreign language from others.
2. Giving children space to participate in the “big deal” pieces of the move is important. For example, seeing the new place (even if it is through Skype of FaceTime). Seeing the new school, visiting the new church and helping in the process of packing to go to the new home.
3. Offering language the whole family can use so children know how to say what they are thinking. For example, our 2 year old Granddaughter referenced her “old house” and her “new house.” Her “old church” and her “new church.” This is a simple way to create clarity. 2 years later the use of this language has faded where she rarely references her old house or old church but at first she talked about them a lot. Now she says, “your state” and “my state.”
Kyle and Menda’s family
4. When my 3 year old friend Tyler made a move from one state to another, he had a really difficult time managing himself. A play therapist recommended we enlist Tyler’s help to assemble a photo album. This simple tool provided him with a “story book” to remember the past and envision today. It consisted of: Photos from “old” favorite places like church, school, neighborhood. Friends and special people from “old” home. Photos of “old” bedroom, kitchen, etc. Photos from “new” places like church, school, neighborhood. Photos of “new” bedroom, kitchen table, playroom, etc. Friends and special people from new home. A photo journal to help the family pray for old and new relationships. At first they used the album nearly every day. Soon, he no longer seemed to have such an intense need. This project helped him reflect on what he lost as well as helped him begin to embrace his new story. This is not always necessary since every child is different. This was very helpful for a sensitive child. Just what he needed!
5. One of the things I have learned from our son’s move 2 years ago, it is important to expect and create space for grief. Grief shows up in many forms and at some of the most unexpected times. Because little children cannot always “name” their struggle, sometimes we forget they are grieving. We may hear ourselves ask questions like, “What is wrong with you?” as a child finds ways to act out their feelings. Our son and daughter-in-law have done a great job of allowing Lucy to hang out in her grief. When Grandma and Grandpa are driving away, they do not say, “quit your crying.” Instead they hold her and validate her tears. They always allow her to walk us outside, wave until we are out of sight and cry for awhile if needed. Lucy has learned that it is just as “safe” to be sad as it is to be happy.
Kory & Katie’s family
At first, when grief was most intense, they allowed her to send pictures in the mail, FaceTime a couple times per week and many visits home. Slowly but surely Lucy is releasing her longing to be in her “old” home and embracing her new life. However, it has been 2 years and I think it is fair to say that it has taken a good chunk of that time to do the work of transition and grief. It just does not happen in a week. We often hear people say, “children are resilient.” This is so true. But parents are wise to recognize the real feelings, real fears, real loss and real adjustments in daily living. While our granddaughter who moved away has walked through significant grief, so have the 3 grandchildren who remain. They grieve of the loss of a children’s pastor they call Uncle. They’ve lost the tradition of our “whole” family gathering at the Sunday table. The loss of cousins who had been in their daily lives. None of this is impossible. It is just real. Don’t be afraid to allow grief to do its work in the whole family.
6. If your “normal” includes living near grandma’s, grandpa’s, brothers, sisters, in-laws, cousins, etc. Moving means a huge shift in your “normal.” Your new normal may include fewer occasions for date-nights or free childcare, family gatherings, ability to attend family/friend birthday parties, etc. Again, this is not impossible but it is real. If you have enjoyed close relationships with family, then they will likely be grieving too.
7. Think about a few practical ways to create opportunities for kids to make choices that affect the family in some way. These could be simple things like allowing them to choose which room will be theirs (within reason), or letting them pick their new wall color, or letting them decide between two choices on where the couch will go, etc. This will help offer a level of ownership and buy-in to the process. Thus, feeling less like “mommy and daddy are moving and we are going with them” and more like “we are moving.”
8. There are children’s books available that teach about moving. Perhaps you could pick one to read together so you have a common language and relevant story to reference.
9. Get children involved in the exciting parts of moving. Check out the local parks to see which one you like best. Let them choose a new restaurant near your new home. Go exploring together. These positive, fun parts of your new location will offer balance when feelings of grief are more intense.
10. Moving “sounds” exciting and the truth is, it can be. But it is kind of like telling a 4 year old, “We are going to get a new baby!” That news comes with hype and excitement until you begin to live the reality of, we have to be quiet all the time so the baby can sleep, it poops on everything including mommy and daddy, it NEVER plays like everyone promised, it’s always in mommy/daddy’s lap, when we walk into a crowd of people, I feel invisible because everyone wants to see the baby. On second thought, getting a new baby is really no fun at all. It takes time for “it” to grow on you.
11. Finally, much of the work of creating feelings of safety for a child is on those who are moving with them. Children want to be with their family. Even if they are sad at times, having the family transition together is the best thing for a child.
Great news! Q’s cardiologist visit went exceptionally well. His heart is working perfectly, and he’s as healthy as can be. We are still waiting on his visa approval. We sent the cardiologist’s report to our visa contact, but she said it is not likely that will make the approval come any faster. So… we’re praying and waiting and thanking God that we have a healthy boy.
One of the things we’re putting a lot of time and energy into these days is helping Q transition. Moving from New Mexico to New Zealand is a big transition for us as adults, not to mention a 3-year-old. When Daddy is in town and we’re all together, the transition seems to feel a bit easier for him. This week, we’re enjoying some better sleep and a little guy who is more at ease.
One of the very first things we did when we began praying about the call to New Zealand was seek advice from people with wisdom and experience that we don’t yet have. We talked to friends who have lived (and currently live) abroad with small children. We gleaned from wise sages around us who understand child development and major life transitions. We quizzed people who were raised in other countries themselves– people who have been there and done that. We’re still asking questions!
Justin and Cara Shonamon
My friend Cara Shonamon is one of those people. She is rich with wisdom that comes from first-hand experience. Cara and her sister, along with their parents, moved to Russia to serve as missionaries when the girls were 2 and 4 years old. Cara and her family served for her entire childhood and most of her teenage years. Today, Cara is wife to Justin and mom to Mackenzie. She serves as pastor to kids and families at Flint Central Church of the Nazarene in Flint, Michigan. Her years as a missionary have shaped her worldview, her philosophy of ministry, and the ways she and Justin parent Mackenzie.
I asked Cara what her parents did that helped both she and her sister transition between cultures, embrace their ministry roles, and live fully into God has called them to be today. These are some of Cara’s insights—tidbits of valuable experience that we are taking to heart.
Kid missionaries Cara and Christy and their parents.
– Missionary kids are called to be missionaries just as much as their parents. My parents always told me that God called our entire family to serve on the mission field.
– My parents taught me to serve to the extent that I was able. I helped with VBS, work and witness teams, sang in the church praise team, worked the overhead projector, etc. I was included in the work of the church and not segregated. I knew I belonged and was called to serve.
– My parents taught me the role of a missionary was to work oneself out of a job. I learned this by giving up my job as the overhead projector operator so a lady in our church with cerebral palsy had a meaningful place of service. I found other ways to serve and remember that ministry lesson to this day.
– My parents always told me that with God all things are possible and that with God we will change the world. They still tell me that and I believe it.
– My parents continually stressed the needs of others above our own. Particularly on airplanes! My Dad was notorious for making sure we did not kick or pull on the chair in front of us and we were responsible to entertain ourselves. So, we packed our carry-ons and knew we were to keep ourselves entertained. It was not Mom and Dad’s job to keep us quiet and entertained.
– My parents actually scheduled dates with us. It was on the calendar so it was important and we wouldn’t miss it.
– We ate breakfast and dinner together as much as possible. At breakfast we would read from the Bible, ask some silly Bible trivia, and pray. These were formative moments in my life.
– When guests came over we helped prepare the meal and sat at the same dinner table.
Grown-up Cara and Christy with their spouses and baby Mackenzie.
The Graham Family
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.