Q relsihed the opportunity to chill in his own seat and watch a couple of movies.
Watching the plane land never gets old.
Snoozin’ over the ocean.
The Napping House–airplane edition.
The sun was rising as we were preparing to land in Auckland.
So much luggage. Jaron pushed and pulled. I pushed and pulled. Q rode on top like an Arabian king on an elephant.
Jim Clayton and Q feeding the ducks in the river on our first afternoon in NZ.
I am writing this on Friday at 9:45 p.m., but my computer thinks it is Friday at 1:45 a.m. It’s a little confused. Understandably so. On Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. we blew our last good-bye kisses through the window glass and walked outside to the small commuter plane that would take us from Hobbs, NM to Houston, TX. We turned and waved at the beloved faces peeking through the concrete architectural forms separating them from the runway we were walking across. It was real. Very real. Suddenly, all of the months of planning, preparation, travel, speaking, selling, packing, support raising, and Skype meetings were being realized as we walked up the steps to our small plane. We said good bye to all we had known before as we crossed the threshold anticipating the time we’d start saying “Hello” to all of the new.
An hour and 45 minutes in the air to Houston.
Super rushed layover.
4.5 hours in the air from Houston to San Francisco.
Super long layover. (4.5 hours)
14 hours in the air from San Francisco to Auckland, NZ.
2 hours collecting bags, navigating the airport with four luggage carts, setting up phones, and passing through customs.
30-minute stop for breakfast.
1 hour 30-minute drive to our house.
27 hours from door to door.
And a day. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean after we passed Hawaii crossed the international dateline and lost a day. The computer still hasn’t caught up.
That said, it all went as smoothly as it possibly could have. We checked 11 bags with relative ease (No, they were not free. Yes, they did cost significantly less than shipping.) We made every single flight on time. Quentin napped part of the way to San Francisco, walked a traveling cat on a leash in the airport, was thrilled to watch a couple of movies, and played happily with his toys. Then, we propped up the foot rest on our Sky Couch (a real thing you can see here, but don’t be fooled…it’s not that much space ;)) and slept our way across the Pacific Ocean.
All 11 checked bags, the stroller bag, the car seat bag, the guitar, the two carry-on roller bags, and our carry-ons all made it, and so did we.
We were greeted warmly by Neville and Joyce Bartle, our District Superintendents, and Jim and Nancy Clayton, the interim pastors who have been simultaneously preparing the way and holding down the fort for us. Quentin, in turn, doled out hugs readily, delighted with the grandparent-esque attention.
The grass is green, the hills are rolling, the plant-life is diverse, the guys in Santa costumes are sweating, and the people are driving on the left side of the road—but more on all of that later. For now, our bodies think it’s 2:20 a.m. and we should go to bed. Saturday is almost here. 😉
My family has this Thanksgiving tradition. The breakfast table is set with china. A spread of coffee cake (grain free and refined sugar free these days), frittatas, and halved grapefruits are prepared. Is that weird? Maybe no one else in the world eats grapefruit on Thanksgiving morning, but we do. Before we pour the milk into the goblets or dig into that deliciousness, we take turns sharing what we’re thankful for around the table. It’s a tradition significant enough to have survived several locations and alternate dates. The when and where are not important. Rather, it’s the giving thanks.
This year, our veins our coursing with a sense of deep, deep gratitude.
We are grateful for a baker’s dozen of churches that this fall welcomed us with open arms, extended incredible hospitality, loved our family, and then gave generously so they too might partner with us in the work God has called us to in New Zealand. Truly, we have been blessed and humbled by our worship and our fellowship with each one.
We are grateful that Q is healthy. All of the physical exams and tests have made one thing very clear: we have a strong, healthy, growing boy. He has braved the countless hours in the car, transitions, and doctor’s appointments of these past weeks well and with a sense of humor. God has equipped him well for the cultural and social transitions that are coming.
We are thankful to be a part of a global church family—a group of people from all of the world who were willing to pray for Q’s visa, who are a part of this call, and who have surrounded us with their love and support. They are our partners in ministry as we collectively seek to embody the Kingdom of God in the world.
We are grateful for Lovington First Church of the Nazarene. They’re a church family that gets it. They get what it means to serve the community and in doing so, point people to Jesus. They get what it means to care for the poor and powerless. They get what it means to be a part of the global church and the importance of continuing to look outside themselves. They get how to love pastors well—and how to send them well. As challenging as this transition has been for them, they get how to handle it with grace. They get how to celebrate the past while looking toward the future. They get what it means to be the people of God in the world.
We are thankful for the community of Lovington. It has been a great privilege to serve this community over the past seven years. This community has embraced us with open arms, given us a place of leadership, and loved us well. The people of this community give generously to feed the hungry. They volunteer their time to care well for others. It is a place where the cities and the schools and non-profit organizations can create the coolest partnerships. They supported us while we were here, and are continuing to do so as we go. We are proud to say that this is home.
We are thankful that all of the details—support raising, visas, insurance, etc—have fallen into place perfectly over the past few weeks. We are grateful for the assurance that provides and the needs that have been met.
We are thankful that God is already at work in New Zealand, and that we’ll get to be a part of the things that God is doing there. We are thankful that there are people there who will become our friends and help us navigate a new culture.
We are thankful for technology. Airplanes (Yippee for direct flights from Houston to Auckland starting soon!), What’s App, Skype, Facetime, iPhones, Facebook, videos on YouTube, and blog posts will all help make it possible for us to stay connected to people we love. They’ll help us tell the story of what God is doing in New Zealand. They may even help us tantalize you into coming to visit us. 😉
We are thankful that in the midst of being called to a place very far from home, that there are many things we’ll enjoy doing. We’re really looking forward to bike rides along the river, lots of swimming, trips to the beach, and exploring glow worm caves and the Shire and geothermal areas and so much more.
We are thankful that when we realized our dog-child, Bailey, wouldn’t be able to go to New Zealand with us, my parents willingly offered to make a place in their home and lives for her. As Q says, “Grammy and Papu will walk her and feed her and throw her ball for her and play with her.” As hard as it will be to say good bye to her in a few days, we are grateful that she will be lovingly cared for.
We are thankful for the grapefruit tree in our yard. There’s a grapefruit tree in the yard of our house in Hamilton. We’re excited about the delicious, fresh grapefruit it (and the lemon tree) will produce—almost year round. We are thankful that when we eat the juicy, tart fruit we will be reminded of the tradition of our family Thanksgiving breakfast, and we will be reminded of all that we have to give thanks for.
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.
We all love a family outing to First Watch. There’s no ordering off of the kids’ menu for this guy’s breakfast.
One of Q’s favorite places in the world: The Wilson’s Farm with Farmer Chad and Jack.
Play time at the park while on the road with our Bailey Dog. Soaking up our time with her.
Making space for family time. Daddy and Q play date at Wonderscope Children’s Museum.
These last two weeks have been full to say the least. We’ve made stops in 6 different states and spoken at as many different churches. Last week, I was a part of a conference called ignite for children’s ministry leaders. One of the things the ignite conference does is create space for us to reflect on why we do what we do. The words, “For the sake of the Kingdom” kept running through my head. So that others might come to know the hope of Jesus because of the way we live in the world.
At the end of our time together last week, a gracious friend said, “…I know God is and will continue using you for the sake of the Kingdom…”
This week, those words have been a powerful and helpful reminder about why we’re doing any of the things we’re doing these days…
Driving to Dallas to visit NZ approved panel doctors for the visa process. For the sake of the Kingdom.
Chatting with friends new and old around a bonfire at a friend’s farm. For the sake of the Kingdom.
Celebrating the snapshot of the Kingdom at a church that embraced people of all ages with special needs… an adult man playing with dominoes on the floor during the service, a child in a wheelchair, another being loved unconditionally in the nursery. For the sake of the Kingdom.
Driving in 4+ hours of heavy traffic to speak at a church. For the sake of the Kingdom.
Fellowshipping with long-time Nazarenes and homeless people alike over bowls of soup at a church that intentionally ministers with displaced and homeless people through a clothes closet, laundry ministry, and kinship meals together. For the sake of the Kingdom.
Sitting in long meetings, ironing out details like our new insurance policies, employment status, and deputation funds. For the sake of the Kingdom.
Scheduling follow-up appointments and further follow-up appointments for Q as we seek to get him cleared for a NZ visa. For the sake of the Kingdom.
Speaking the truth of God’s call on our collective lives in all kinds of different congregations. For the sake of the Kingdom.
To be truthful, it has been somewhat challenging to remember that we’re going to long meetings, jumping through visa hoops, and spending hours on the road for the sake of the Kingdom. The To Do list has seemed a bit arduous as the unexpected has seemed to pile on. True, we’ve had the great joy of being with some of our favorite people over the past few weeks. For that we are grateful. However, life is not just about the fun stuff. It’s about recognizing that everything we do, whether menial or life-giving, challenging or smooth, we do for the sake of the Kingdom. I wonder what it looks like for us to embrace that line of thinking in the day-in, day-out rhythms of our lives?
We do have a prayer request that we would appreciate you joining us in. When we visited the panel doctor in Dallas two weeks ago, the PA heard a heart murmur when he listened to Q. We know that he didn’t have one two months ago at our first round of physicals, nor had he ever had one before. However, a follow-up appointment in KC confirmed that he has developed a murmur. It is most likely a benign murmur that should not be cause for concern. Last week, an incredible group of people from around the world prayed that our visas would be processed. In a miraculous amount of time, they have been. Jaron and I are approved, thanks be to God! However, Q’s visa will require further review that could take up to 12 weeks. We’re scheduled to leave in 6 weeks. We know there are some options, but really, we’d just love it if you’d pray that 1. The cardiologist finds Q to be as healthy as we believe him to be. 2. That his visa is processed and approved well before our Dec. 1 departure date. Thank you for praying with us. May God’s will be done for the sake of the Kingdom.
When we first arrived in Lovington a little over 7 years ago, we would gather with a small group of people—the handful that remained a part of the church at the time, and we would talk and dream and pray about what God might be calling us to. We prayed for children (there were none). We prayed that we would reflect our community demographically (we were way too white and way too old). We prayed that we would impact teen pregnancy (our county has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation). Those are some of the things that have guided our focus and driven our ministry, and will continue to be essential to the identity of our church into the future.
But there were other things that Jaron and I prayed for as well. In life and ministry, it sometimes seems that we rarely get to reap the harvest of the seeds that we plant. However, in the past six months, we have gotten to see some of the most beautiful answers to those prayers. It’s as if God is putting a giant bow for us on the package of our time in Lovington. For indeed, these have been great gifts to us in our time of transition.
We prayed that we would see couples get married.
In our community, as in many others, couples have children at very young ages and then begin co-habitating. They may co-habitate for decades. Often, these relationships are mentally and emotionally destructive. We longed to see couples enter into covenant relationships where they seek to serve each other as Christ served the church and where their lives begin to serve as small snapshots of the Kingdom.
A couple of years ago, a 21-year-old guy walked up to the church with his small daughter in tow. “My girlfriend and I would like to get married. I came to this church as a kid. Could we get married here?” Long story short, that young man and his wife are living a different narrative these days. He has a great job. She chooses to stay at home with their now kindergarten daughter and their one-year-old baby boy. He’s the newest addition to our church board. She started teaching children’s church this fall. They’re both youth sponsors loved by our teens. Their lives are snapshots of the Kingdom. For this we have prayed.
Six years ago, I had a little boy in my second grade class with a mama who was only 22 years old. He had two younger siblings. He also had a step-father figure living with them that I never saw. Our hearts were broken for this family. After the boy had graduated from my class, the mom and her boys gradually became a part of our church family. She was working and putting herself through college. Fast forward to 2015. That seemingly absent father figure isn’t absent any more. He’s a teacher and a coach now. He’s learning how to be the man and father God desires him to be. I believe he’s going to learn to be a great husband too. She’s a teacher and a rock star mom who doesn’t shy away from tough conversations with her three boys. It hasn’t been easy. At times, the journey has been downright painful and messy—for all of us. By the grace of God, one of our last Saturdays in Lovington will be spent celebrating the marriage of that couple. For this we have prayed.
We prayed that children would feel called to ministry.
This summer at church camp, one of our soon-to-be fifth graders came up to me. “Ms. Elizabeth, how long are you and Pastor Jaron going to be in New Zealand?” he asked. “Well, we’ve agreed to five years, but I really don’t know, Buddy. What are you thinking about?” His next sentence brought tears to my eyes. “I think I want to be a pastor like you and Jaron.” Of course. “Don’t ever forget that,” I said. “I think that desire is God calling you.” This kid asks the best spiritual questions. He points his parents to Jesus when the darkness seems to be overtaking them. His heart is tuned to the heart of the Father. And God is calling him. For this we have prayed. P.S. He’s the middle child of that couple that is getting married in a few weeks. It’s redemption at work.
We prayed that we would get to send high school graduates from our church to a Nazarene university.
Jaron and I both believe in Christian higher education. We both experienced first-hand the benefits of spreading ones young adult wings surrounded by people whose life goal is to help you fulfill God’s call on your life. We both have deep, God-honoring, and long-lasting friendships from those days. We were both given opportunities to test our leadership skills, learn, and have tons of fun. We prayed that we might be a part of shaping young men and women who will live out God’s call on their lives with confidence.
This fall, we sent the first student from our church to Southern Nazarene University since Jaron graduated in 2005. The SNU community has embraced her. She’s blossoming. We couldn’t be more delighted. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for her, or for the other teens and kids from our community who may follow in her footsteps in the years to come. For this we have prayed.
We prayed that we would be able help expand our people’s worldview.
We have long had a sense of the importance of short and longer term mission trips as a means of expanding ones view of God and the world. There’s something really powerful that happens when all of the comforts of home are stripped away and you spend a week or two serving others. We prayed that our people could experience the Kingdom far beyond our own city limits.
On October 19, Jaron will be leading a team of seven people on a 12 day trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the past few years, we’ve heard our missionary friends tell their stories of life in the Congo. We’ve given money first to build a school, and now a church and a district center. We’ve built a partnership. And now, we’re sending a team. We are busting at the seams with anticipation with the way this will shape the team members and the life of our church moving forward. For this we have prayed.
These stories represent some of the deep desires of our heart for our people. We are so grateful God has seen fit to tie up our time here in such beautiful and hopeful way.
Jaron is singing these words to me as we cruise down the highway with New Mexico’s wide open spaces and big blue skies in blurry high speed motion outside our windows.
We’re officially deep into Phase 2 of our transition process: support raising. Monday through Friday we spend working through remaining loose ends in the transition process like how to order food to keep the food pantry stocked or guidelines for maintaining a grant for the after school program or final details for an upcoming mission trip to the Congo. The weekends are spent speaking at different churches—often two a weekend, telling the story of God’s call on our lives, the sense of vision we have for the work of God in the world, and the call to faithfulness God is whispering in each of our ears.
On our first trip, we had the opportunity to speak at a Nazarene church just down the road from ours in a community very similar to ours. In New Mexico, that means 70 miles. It was exhilarating to see the way God is working in that faith community. We had a great time of fellowship and worship with them. This past weekend we drove 8 hours across the state to a church in Farmington for Sunday morning and then three hours to a church in Albuquerque for a Sunday evening service. It was an opportunity we wouldn’t have had under any other circumstances. An opportunity we can only describe as life-giving. For in each of those very unique settings, we have undoubtedly sensed that the Spirit of God is at work, healing, calling, and redeeming creation.
In the coming weeks, we’ll get to worship with several churches across New Mexico, at churches in our home community of Lovington, and churches in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas. We couldn’t be more excited about what God has in store.
This support raising phase is a rather important one. Statistically, one of the primary reasons missionaries return home is financial stress. If we’re honest, it’s one of the reasons most frequently stated by pastors who leave ministry. Financial stress is often a very real factor for people whose income is dependent on the generous gifts of others.
In some cases, missionaries get paid a regular salary through their denomination or organization. In other cases, they’re responsible for raising 100% of their living expenses. As hybrid missionary-pastors, we will fall somewhere in the middle. Our church in New Zealand is providing a house (that we’re really excited about), utilities (one of the biggest expenses for Kiwi families), and a small salary that is expected to cover the cost of our food. According to the Financial Information Form we signed shortly after agreeing to relocate, we are responsible for raising the cost of our one-way plane tickets and travel expenses ($4,000.00) and about $12,000.00 per year of living expenses. In addition, we’re responsible for maintaining our retirement investments, Quentin’s educational savings, purchasing a family vehicle, and any other financial commitments.
If you know us at all, you know we’ve been making a financial plan. This one comes in three parts. 1. The portion that our New Zealand church is providing. 2. The portion that people graciously give as we raise support. 3. Rental properties. We’ve used the money from the sale of our house to purchase a couple of rental properties that will help us generate income while we’re engaged in ministry abroad.
We are grateful for all of these ways that God is providing. We are extremely humbled and blessed by other people who want to be a part of the work of God in the world by partnering with us. If that’s you, you can click here or visit our Financial Support page to make regular or one time contributions. Literally, every dollar makes a difference. Either way, we hope and pray that you’ll be a part of our support team by praying for us, for the work that we’ll get to be a part of New Zealand, and for the courage to say yes to whatever God might be saying to your heart.
We’re still enduring the blazing heat of summer in our part of the world, grateful for a little bit of relief in the evenings and early mornings. Q, in particular, is longing for days when he can choose to wear jeans, cowboy boots, chaps, a vest, and a hat without Mommy saying, “Sorry, Buddy, you’ll be way too hot in all of that.” Jaron, however, is enjoying much cooler weather in Ireland, as these videos give evidence to. At the same time, we’ve been busy thinking about and planning to clothe our growing boy in a different hemisphere. Will these summer clothes last until “winter” hits New Zealand sometime around April or May? One thing is for sure: there won’t be warm Christmas sweaters for us. Enjoy the latest installment of Jaron’s Celtic Pilgrimage vlogs.
St. Brigid’s Cathedral– St. Brigid must have been quite possibly one of the coolest women ever to live.
Down Patrick Cathedral–Watch this if you want to know a little bit of how a boy Donamed Patrick became St. Patrick.
Down Patrick Cathedral (from the outside)
St. Patrick’s Well–Can you say, “Brrrrr?!”
Struell Wells (where St. Patrick’s Well is located. Cold bath, anyone?)
Jaron is over halfway through his time in Ireland He has spent every day visiting different sites significant to the life and development of the church and then worshiped with an Irish church family on Sunday. In this post, you’ll find short video blogs of a burial ground, a cathedral, and a library. And, just to melt your heart a teeny bit, I shared his sweet little goodnight video for Q.
We’re definitely missing Daddy on our end, marking off every single day on the calendar, and extremely grateful for the technology that has made it possible for us to talk everyday, if even for just a few minutes. There will be more video blog posts (vlogs, if you’re super hip) this week. If you’re like me, they’re good for living vicariously through Jaron and plotting my future trip to the land of the Irish.
The Burial Ground: Newgrange
The Cathedral: St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin
The Library: Trinity Library (home of the Book of Kells), Dublin
I shook the water off my rain jacket as I prepared to shove it back into my day pack. After one day in Ireland this has already become the routine, one I anticipate for the duration of our entire 11 day intensive class. The weather changes from sunny, to cloudy, to rainy in the blink of an eye. It’s a small wonder the countryside is so beautiful.
The rain isn’t a problem though. We’re on a pilgrimage after all and part of pilgrimage is intentionally taking things as they come. The focus is on God, not on my own comfort. We spent the day at Glendalough (which means valley between two lakes), a former monastery that now serves as a cemetery. The monastery buildings were built in the 11th century entirely of stone. There’s a complete church, a tall tower, and several semi-ruined structures. These buildings stand as a testament to a monastic community that existed here for over 1000 years. You can catch a glimpse of our view in the video below.
St Kevin was the first to bring the Christian message to this part of Ireland about 1400 years ago. Having been rebuffed in an earlier attempt he persevered and returned to spread the light of Christ to these people. His journey and faithfulness eventually led to the formation of the monastery here.
Back to our pilgrimage. We started by walking part of the Pilgrim Way, over relatively rough terrain to the monastery grounds. This path has been traveled by thousands if not millions of pilgrims over the course of history. We contemplated the beauty of God’s creation as we passed waterfalls, prayed at the few remaining stones that had been St Kevin’s home, and were challenged to embrace forgiveness on the shore of the lower lake.
After a quick lunch break we enter the monastery grounds through the archways of the main gate.
As we walked through the gate, our guide Father Mike, points out a stone to the right of the gate with a cross carved in the middle. This is the sanctuary stone. Check it out in the video below. Glendalough is a sanctuary, a place of safety and rest. Anyone who enters these gates, will be welcomed and protected, no matter what their past holds. No matter what they are running to or running from.
This struck me as incredibly profound. The community of the people of God is intended to be a sanctuary for all people. A place that provides welcome and safety to all people. I’m reminded of the lyrics to an old worship song.
“Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”
My prayer is that as I continue this pilgrimage, God would create in me a sanctuary in the midst of this turbulent world. I pray that through my faithfulness, God will shape a people into a community formed by the grace and love of Christ. A people whose words and actions become a sanctuary stone that assure people that they are safe and loved no matter where they have come from or what they have done.
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.