Adventure Graham

Snippets of Graham family adventures in faithfulness

Tag: community

Marshmallows and Ministry

By Elizabeth

We have a tradition around here. We kick off the new year at Kids’ Club (our twice-monthly activity for kids and their families) with s’mores. The gooey, marshmallow-y, chocolatey treat that’s a staple of campfires and autumn gatherings all across the United States is the center of attention.  It’s a tradition three years in the running, so you know it’s a real tradition. At first, no one knew how to make s’mores. Most of our participants hadn’t roasted a marshmallow before. But three years in, we have developed some pretty marvelous expertise.

One of the really cool things about cross-cultural ministry is sharing cultures—language, music, clothing, and food, of course. Our friends feed us curries and pavlovas and savory pies and gelatin desserts made from seaweed. We feed them tacos and chili and… s’mores.  It’s great fun to share food and in so doing, share bits and pieces of ourselves.

When we gather each year for S’more S’mores, we’re bringing with us all the nostalgia of marshmallows roasted around a campfire, chocolatey Hershey’s bars, crisp autumn evenings, and warm apple cider, and we’re allowing it to be shaped and given significance among a different body of people. It becomes for us a symbol of shared experience, of an intentional willingness to do life together, despite our vast differences.

While any grocery or convenience store in the US can fulfill your s’more ingredient needs, our ingredients are imported to New Zealand. Kiwi marshmallows just don’t get that essential toasted on the outside, gooey in the middle combination when you roast them. Meanwhile, Hershey’s bars and Graham crackers flat out aren’t a thing here. We’ve done the importing ourselves in the past, but we relied on an American imports store in Auckland this year. Luckily, they had *just* enough chocolate.

This year, it was unseasonably warm on the afternoon of our marshmallow roasting a few weeks ago. We may have stood as far away from the hot fire as we could, but that didn’t deter us. We gathered, we roasted, we ate, we licked our lips and our fingertips, and we looked forward to the great year ahead. In the process, we were formed a little bit more into a community, a little bit more into the body of Christ that chooses to be united by Him and allows our food to help us along the journey. It’s marshmallows and ministry. Food and faith. Cuisine and community. The bread and the cup.

In the same way that we offer hospitality when we share our food with others, we reciprocate that hospitality when we eat the varied foods of those we do life with. We create space in our lives and in our palates for others. In some small way, gathering around the fire pit (or brazier, as kiwis call it) is like the disciples gathering around a fire to cook their morning catch for breakfast. Really, there’s only one thing that brings this odd bunch together—Jesus. In him, we find that we have a place of community and belonging. It may even involve marshmallows.

Signs of Life

Admiring the work Photo by Pam Wullems

Admiring the work.  Photo by Pam Wullems

Like father, like son? Photo by Pam Wullems

Like father, like son? Photo by Pam Wullems

Banana buddies

Banana buddies

That ax is real. This is Paul Windle's amazing second place shot.

That ax is real. This is Paul Windle’s amazing second place shot.

By Elizabeth

 

We’re well into the season of Easter these days. If what we as Christians proclaim is true, we’re living in a post resurrection, new life in Christ, conquered hell, sting-less death world. And it’s beautiful. Except when week four of Easter is a whole lot more reminiscent of Lent than a glorious free-spirited worship service and the Easter lilies are wilting and the chocolate has all been eaten. What then? Where is Easter when we’re back to the grind of school and work and there is still a refugee crisis and the world is holding its breath while American politics are in an uproar? Where is Easter when people are still being diagnosed with cancer and marriages are still falling apart?

N.T. Wright says it best. We live in the already-not-yet where the Kingdom of God has broken in, but it’s not yet fully realized. But where is it breaking in? Where is the resurrected Christ in a world that still screams of the chaos of brokenness?

We saw snapshots of the Resurrection in our community this past Saturday. I arrived at the church early, though not as early as I intended due to the pajama-clad three-year-old hanging around my neck as I attempted to walk out the door. Last minute preparations for a garage sale fundraiser for one of our mum’s groups were underway. We worked and laughed and sorted alongside each other. People came. They shopped. We raised money. They asked questions about the church and the play group. We answered them. We were present in the community.

Just down the road, Jaron volunteered at a neighborhood primary school gala. When I popped down, I got to meet some of his Thursday night tennis buddies and some parents of the neighborhood kids who frequent our driveway. We worked and laughed and watched our kids play alongside each other. We were getting to know the community.

Immediately following, a crew of young and ambitious volunteers joined us for some much needed pruning of the church gardens. The thing about New Zealand is that everything grows. A lot. Electric hedge trimmers in hand, we talked and laughed and bagged up overgrown vines. The kids giggled and shared bananas and rode recklessly on plastic tricycles. We were building community.

The last load of weeds was barely in route the compost when our Telugu Indian congregation began arriving for a monthly worship service. We sang, we prayed, we heard the Word, and we broke bread (in the form of spicy chicken curry and rice). We were a worshiping community.

Oh sure. You could say we had a garage sale, Jaron manned the axe throwing station (Yep. New Zealand keeps things exciting.), we worked in the church gardens and then showed up dirty and under dressed for a worship service. Or, you could see—as we do—that these are signs of life where things had gone dormant, the body of Christ being formed among people who didn’t know each other six months ago, little shoots beginning to sprout up and giving evidence to the Resurrection.

As people who are privileged to live on this side of the resurrection, we have the responsibility of identifying and sharing the places we see signs of life—signs of Resurrection breaking through like little shoots springing forth from the ground. And then we have the responsibility of partnering with God in those places—to nurture them and help them grow and create space for more sprouts. Sometimes Resurrection life takes place in the form of dramatic healing and radical forgiveness. Other times, it looks like garage sales and gardening and curry on a Saturday.

If you’re keen on (like that little kiwi phrase there?) thinking about Resurrection and where it might be happening in your corner world and how God might desire to use you to partner with him in that resurrection life, take a few minutes to check out this episode of The Practice Podcast. A weekly resource from Willow Creek, this particular episode provides a helpful framework for seeing Resurrection stories all around us. In the meantime, may God give us eyes to see Resurrection life happening all around us and the courage to join in. We are anticipating many more signs of life around Crossroads church and Hamilton—evidence that we do indeed live on this side of Easter—in the days to come.

Parting Shot

Dog-sitting last week lent itself to some early morning runs as a family and breath-taking views of the fog hovering just above the river.

Dog-sitting last week lent itself to some early morning runs as a family and breath-taking views of the fog hovering just above the river.

Thankful

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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.

 

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