Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Category: Support

For Love or Money

 

By Jaron

"Can I come visit you at your house in Figi," Q asked his friend P as they played on the boat. P responded in her Guatemalan accent with an occasional kiwi lilt thrown in, "Yes! You must come to my house in Figi!"

“Can I come visit you at your house in Fiji,” Q asked his friend P as they played on the boat. P responded in her Guatemalan accent with an occasional kiwi lilt thrown in, “Yes! You must come to my house in Fiji!” I guess it’s a good thing it’s only a short plane ride away.

“I love going to America. It’s like anything you could ever imagine has already been invented and they have it there!” our friend Mercedes exclaimed as we ate dinner at their home one evening. Like us, Mercedes and her husband Carlos are sojourners in a foreign land. We are from the U.S. they are from Guatemala, but among other things, we are united by our common love of salsa and guacamole, which don’t really exist here, and which Mercedes makes really well.

Some of our first friends here in NZ moved to Fiji this past weekend. Carlos and Mercedes have been good friends to us. They are a fantastic Christian couple with a daughter around the same age as Q and a one-year-old son. Plus, they use the same American English lingo as we do, only in the accent of of someone who’s first language is Spanish, which makes us feel even more at home. We love discussing things with them from the perspective that can only be gained by living away from your home country. One of those things is economics.

As a whole, Americans (me included), are completely unaware of how much money we have and how accessible everything is. Case in point: on one trip to their storage unit with a trailer load full of stuff, Carlos was telling me about this cool new service that a man he knew had developed. He excitedly described to me that the man had essentially built large storage shed-like boxes that he would drop off at your house for you to pack your stuff in, after which he would pick the boxes up and store them in a warehouse until you needed your things again. He’d then have the storage box dropped off at your desired location. That sounds oddly familiar to me. Or in a conversation later that day he told me about the new car wash he had recently used that allows you to put money in a machine and use a high pressure wand to clean your car. “It’s so cool! You can even use soap, wax, tire cleaner or any number of other products while you are at it!” Seems like I may have used something like that a time or two.  Some New Zealand entrepreneurs are looking at successful U.S. concepts (e.g. PODS and car washes) and introducing them here to great success.

The point is that we as Americans have everything available to us. And we consume a lot. A whole lot. For good or bad this impacts economics and innovation. Mercedes’ comment about America already having everything is in many ways true. Americans have the resources, the demand and the motivation to create any number of products. Our cost for basic necessities is also so much lower than much of the rest of the world that most individual Americans have way more disposable income than any other population group in the world.

This truth has been very apparent to us in NZ. New Zealand is a completely developed Western country. It has a high overall quality of life, relatively high average family income, and lots of things to purchase and use. Yet the amount of consumption by average Kiwis is markedly lower than that of my fellow Americans. I’m sure there are many reasons for this but one of the most noticeable is that things just cost so much. For example, food here is 3 to 4 times more expensive, low oil prices mean fuel is currently the equivalent of a mere $8 per gallon, a 2 x 4 at the hardware store costs $12, and a box of screws will set you back $200. The math is simple. People make salaries similar to the United States but things cost more, so overall they purchase less.

I’m not complaining. In fact I think it’s probably good that consumption is generally lower. It’s just that as a middle class American, my eyes have been opened somewhat to the power of our resources. Along with Western Europe we account for about 60% of the world’s overall consumption. That means that we spend a boatload of money on stuff each day of our lives. The average person in America will consume 53 times more over their lifetime than the average person in China, or 35 times more than someone from India. The bottom line is that we have more disposable income available so we spend it.

As I’ve reflected on this over the past few months I’ve been wondering what would happen if we consumed just a little bit less and redirected those resources to the mission of God? Take for example our good friends Gavin and Jill Fothergill who, with their two kids, serve as missionaries in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the poorest countries in the world. Recently while working to start a new church in Congo, Gavin had to drive for hours on unpaved roads, leave his car at the side of a river, and cross in a canoe, in the pitch black of night to reach his destination. All this so that the gospel could be spread. In Congo $12,000-$15,000 U.S. dollars can build a Nazarene school in any number of villages and could serve hundreds of kids by providing education and introducing them to Jesus. Click here to hear Gavin’s version of this story.

We have personally met missionaries from Papua New Guinea who serve in the small Island nation of Vanuatu. A few hundred dollars per month would help put food on their table and send their kids to school. We also have missionaries working knee deep in the refugee crises currently taking place in Europe. They are in desperate need of resources to provide things as simple as shoes for hurting families in search of a new, safer place to call home. Click here to read about their compelling work.

If we consumed just a little bit less, what could we do? If we passed up that new car and bought a used one instead, how many schools could we build?  If we ate out just a little less, how many missionaries could we help feed? If we bought just a few less items of clothing each year, how many refugees could we help provide food, clothing and shelter for? If we bought a little bit smaller house, what difference could we make in our own communities?

What if we all just started by tithing? What if we gave 10% of our income, right off the top to our local church? If we all did that, imagine the impact it would make not only in our church but around the world? Imagine the people that would hear the gospel with their ears, and feel the gospel in the extension of the loving hands of Christians who are fully resourced and sent into the world.

What if people like Mercedes could say, “I love going to America, because every way of supporting the spreading of the Gospel you can think of has already been thought of, and they live it out there like nowhere else in the world.”

Parting Shot

There were heavy clouds over the pond at Minogue Park as Q and I checked out the new-to-us playground and enjoyed a picnic with this view last Saturday.

There were heavy clouds over the pond at Minogue Park as Q and I checked out the new-to-us playground and enjoyed a picnic with this view last Saturday.

 

Phase 2: Support Raising

Cross Roads Community Church, Farmington, NM

“On the road again…

Just can’t wait to get on the road again…”

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.

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