Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Category: Support

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.

 

Home Assignment, Week 2

By Elizabeth

My favorite cowboy! <3

We’ve wrapped up our second week of Home Assignment—a six-ish week period that we’re spending with family and friends (old and new) in the US. You can check out the first week’s reflection here. Home Assignment is an important part of the rhythm of our life for practical reasons like sharing the story of what God is doing in New Zealand and on the Asia-Pacific Region, getting finger-printed for an updated FBI background check, and reconnecting with people we love.

We spent last Sunday, August 6 with two awesome churches. One of the churches has been a part of the work God has called us to in New Zealand from the very beginning. The other church was brand new to us. While they were only a 30-minute drive apart, they had very different but equally wonderful flavors. It’s so fun for us to see how God works through different groups of people in different contexts.

Our days during this past week have been spent with extended family and at the 82nd Lea County Fair and Rodeo in Lovington, NM. The Lea County Fair and Rodeo is a big, week-long event that is quintessentially small town America and a significant part of Jaron’s heritage. In many ways, it’s a throw back to days gone by when America was primarily populated by farmers and ranchers. Jaron grew up raising animals (chickens, sheep, and steers) to show and sell. He also grew up eating all the fair food (caramel apples and funnel cakes), riding the rides, cheering on the bona fide cowboys and cowgirls at the rodeo, and listening to the late-night concerts.

Q has been captivated by the rodeo since he was a tiny boy (he attended his first rodeo at 3 months old) watching riders get bucked and steers get roped. Decked out in his hat, pearl snap shirt, jeans, and boots, he stays up late, enthralled by the music, the clowns, and the horses, and the carnival rides. It was extra-fun for him to get to share the joy with his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of the family.

The view on the way home from Denver City, TX last Sunday.

 

At the end of the second week, our Home Assignment stats look at bit like this:

On the Odometer: 436 miles (702 km)

The running total on the odometer only crept up this week. It was pretty nice to stay put, especially since we have some long drives in store for the weeks to come.

On the Road: 8 hours

(Kiwi friends–check out a map of the US. You’ll notice that the states we’re visiting all boarder each other, but they’re also really big. We’ll end up driving the equivalent of Auckland to Invercargill several times over by the time we get on the plane to return to NZ.)

On our Plates: Juicy red watermelon, green chilis, & ice cream sandwiches (Thanks to our brother-in-law turning 30 and my mom’s excellent ice cream sandwich skills! YUM!)

On our Minds: All the Fair and Rodeo must-dos—the extreme bull riding show, see all the show animals, ride all the rides, watch all the rodeo.

 

 

Home Assignment, Week 1

By Elizabeth

 

“Welcome back, Qoo Qoo!”

We’re switching things up for seven weeks! We’re writing from the US where we are on Home Assignment. Home assignment can be a confusing concept. Is it work? Is it holiday?

In fact, when one of our friends in New Zealand asked that very question (as many have), Q quickly piped up, “I’ll be holiday-ing. My parents will be working.” In reality, it’s some of both. This is a great time for us to see our families and friends in the States. We are looking forward to lots of grandparent cuddles, cousin play, and family fun.

However, we’re also looking forward to getting to make new friends and rekindle relationships with old ones as we visit churches in New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Their love, support, and participation in what God is doing make our time in New Zealand possible. We’ll get to share lots of stories about what God is doing in New Zealand and across the Asia-Pacific region.

For people like us who live and serve in a place that is not our country of origin, it’s an important part of the rhythm of our ministry that allows us to serve elsewhere in the world, in our case, New Zealand.

We’ve been preparing our congregation and district for this for weeks and connecting with churches and family members that we’ll visit for months. In fact, we emailed a relatively complete schedule to our family way back in February!

We want to bring the people we love in New Zealand along with us, so I’m pledging to do my best to see this part of our world through kiwi eyes. While we’re on home assignment, we’re going to track the number of miles we drive, the places we go, and the very un-kiwi things we see.

Currently, we’re at one of our favorite places—Bonita Park Nazarene Camp and Conference Center, located just outside Ruidoso, NM. Located in the Sierra Blanca mountains, Bonita Park is a place near and dear to Jaron’s heart. Like his mom before him, Jaron grew up coming to camp here every year of his life. But it’s also special, sacred space to us as a family. Q made his first trip to Bonita Park at just a couple of months old.

We’re here to participate in the New Mexico District Church of the Nazarene family camp. It’s like a big ol’ family reunion complete with a rock wall, giant slide, zip line, creek, cool kids’ activities, giant cinnamon rolls, plenty of sunshine, an occasional thunderstorm, and really good worship services.

As we near the end of the first week, our Home Assignment stats look at bit like this:

On the Odometer: 372 miles (598 km)

On the Road: 7 hours

(Kiwi friends–check out a map of the US. You’ll notice that the states we’re visiting all boarder each other, but they’re also really big. We’ll end up driving the equivalent of Auckland to Invercargill several times over by the time we get on the plane to return to NZ.)

On our Plates: fresh cherries, salsa, and bacon cheese burgers

On our Minds: Sunscreen! Hello, sunshine! It’s good to see you!

 

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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