A Pohutakawa (a kiwi Christmas tree) had just a few remaining blooms.
Dr. Neville Bartle
Small group seminars
Every camp needs great cooks! We were so thankful for ours!!
The parents jumped in to cook some new-to-NZ meals and served them up as well.
Camp may be the coolest for the young ones who get to tag along with their parents.
Q and Papu
Watching schools of fish swim below the wharf
Baptism in the bay
You can’t see it very well in the picture, but this captures Pastor Filipo baptizing 7-year-old Z while his newly baptized parents look on proudly. Nothing better.
Answering the call to ministry
Samoan representatives at the talent show
Ending the camp with the sacrament of communion. The girls in the foreground are a part of our local church.
The best group of volunteers ever!
I just clicked submit on the final reports for our NZ District youth camp. Thanks to a grant for school holiday programs and camps for at risk 11-17-year-olds, one of the most liberal governments in the world funds our Nazarene district youth camp every summer. Our kids literally attend for FREE. It’s the kind of thing only God can orchestrate so perfectly!
Actually, the entire youth camp was filled with moments that only God could orchestrate so perfectly. Jaron and I have been a part of a lot of camps through the years. This one will certainly be remembered as one of the most spirit-filled, incredibly transformational, and fun camps we’ve experienced.
There were about 117 of us gathered at Parua Bay near Whangarei near the northern part of the North Island the week of January 8-11. While the vast majority of our students are Pacific Islanders, we also had Pakeha (white kiwi), Maori, Singaporean Chinese, Zambian, Sudanese, and Filipino participants.
One of our volunteers who recently moved to New Zealand from the US said, “I felt like I was in a foreign country (different from the foreign country that I already live in).” And there’s truth to that. I think the Pakeha and Singaporean kids from our church felt the same at times. There’s no doubt that Pacific Islanders grow quick and they grow big. They’re practically born singing and dancing and chanting in ways that our straight-laced Western cultures simply don’t. And it makes it all so fun.
Really significant God-orchestrated things happened. Jaron preached on the four types of soil from Matthew 13 the first evening. It provided some important vocabulary and set the tone for the week. Throughout the week, the narratives of Joseph, David, and Jonah challenged us and gave us hope for the ways God might want to use us.
Sparked by a request from one of our young adult worship leaders, we had a baptism service in the bay on Thursday afternoon. We’ve never had a baptism at camp before! Three young adult volunteers, two teenagers, and the 7-year-old son of two of the volunteers were baptized in the bay while everyone cheered them on. Check out the video! The body of Christ responded by saying, “We affirm God at work in you! We celebrate with you! We welcome you into the family of God!” It was a fantastic celebration where Heaven came very near.
Then, that evening, at the close of the service, 12 students and young adults answered the call to full-time pastoral ministry. Ranging in age from 8 to 26, we can’t wait to see what God has in store for these guys and gals. It’s particularly fun for us to help our young adults get started on ministerial preparation right away!
And, on a personal note, it was especially special for us to have my parents at camp. They were the Grammy (and Papu) nannies playing on the beach and watching the fish at the wharf while Jaron and I were helping to coordinate the details of camp. At the request of their opinionated and ideating 5-year-old grandson, they slept in a tent all week. They also cooked two of the camp meals, rescued the faulty sound system (what else would one expect from my dad?!), and helped tackle the mounds of post-camp laundry!
Of course, Q has many youth camp celebrations as well like sleeping in a tent. And the dessert. And running barefoot all week. And easy access to the beach. And kayaking. And everything.
Before we headed home, we took my parents to one of our favorite beaches, Matapouri. We hiked over the big hill to the Mermaid Pools were the view is breathtaking.
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.
As summer ends, a stop by giant fields of sunflowers is a must, especially in Kansas, the sunflower state.
Q has taken every possible opportunity to cuddle his big dog, Bailey, who is enjoying her sunset years at a “retirement home” (as we joke) with Grammy and Papu.
Another adventure involved lunch at the iconic Fritz’s restaurant, where a train delivers your order to the table.
It’s not a trip to Grammy and Papu’s house if it doesn’t involve at least one bowl of Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream with a few chocolate chips sprinkled on top.
Adventures with Grammy have been numerous. This one took us to the Moon Marble Factory, where we watched marbles being made by hand.
We loved getting to worship with the people at Shawnee this past weekend.
The Royals didn’t win, but we still had a great time at Q’s first Major League Baseball game. This kid has always loved baseball.
Folks, this is the breakfast food aisle at Super Walmart. Both sides, From one end to the other. Be overwhelmed.
Q has long been fascinated with fishing. His uncle, David, took him a few weeks ago, but Q only caught a tree. This week, our special family friends, the Edgar family, met us at a new-to-us park for a picnic and some very successful fishing.
Q caught a fish!
Meanwhile, at Camp Cresswell: Laylee (the second pup in this picture) has loved every minute with our friends, the Cresswells. We’ve gotten regular updates throughout her time with them, and we’re not quite sure she’s going to be keen to return to her life without cows.
Another day. Another trip to feed the cows. Another bath is in order.
Exploring Hamilton Gardens, magnifying glass in hand.
Only Bapa’s shoulders would do.
A rare moment of quiet coloring, resulted in a fine dragon picture.
TradeMe… sort of like Ebay meets Craigs List… has been a source of all kinds of treasures for us (as it is for all good kiwis). This $26.00 playhouse find is almost finished undergoing a fabulous makeover!
Just driving by…
We’re all enjoying the benefits of Jaron’s parents visiting for a few weeks… projects getting completed around the house… laundry magically washed, hung out to dry, and neatly folded on a regular basis… the best kind of childcare… belly laughter and high pitched squeals of joy… an impromptu trip to the beach…. special treats to taste. We have been grateful for the opportunity to share our new world with them, for their willingness to be explorers with us, and most of all for their love and support.
These days have reminded me of some reflections I had several weeks ago when we were at youth camp. They still apply.
Q walked hand in hand with Neville Bartle, our District Superintendent, down the hill and across the grass toward the beach. It was sprinkling lightly, but he was chatting all the way. My giddy feeling of relief was quickly followed by a twinge of guilt. It has been a challenging season for the parents in our house. And for the 3-year-old as well.
I’ve heard little people in this age category described as threenagers or threenados. Both seem fitting.
Tantrums appearing out of nowhere. Meltdowns over the silliest things. Lack of body control. So many necessary consequences for disrespectful words, disobedient actions, and straight up defiance.
More than once, Jaron and I have looked at each other and shrugged in confusion over a little body that had crumpled to the floor in tears and frustration over something we were failing to understand.
“Next time it’s time to go to the park, I’m not going to want to go!”
“Next time I can have a special treat, I’m not going to!”
“I don’t want to do anything fun!”
“I’m not going to play with any friends!”
“Can you help me choose my clothes… No, don’t help me with my clothes. Go out!!”
“Get out of here, Brother! I am not going to play with you!” He doesn’t have a brother. Or a sister.
Real words in the midst of anger, tears, and self-imposed (and sometimes parent-imposed) time-outs in the bedroom. The emotions have erupted out of nowhere on days when he’d had plenty of sleep, healthy food to eat, more than adequate attention, and numerous opportunities to do something fun and engaging. Remove any one of those factors and the volcanic activity skyrockets to hazardous levels.
By the time we watched Q skip off with Neville at camp that day, we were exhausted. A few minutes of a reprieve felt like a gift.
Q returned from his adventure full of tales of fishing for Nemo with sticks they’d found, soccer game play-by-plays, shells they’d gather to use as digging tools in the sand, embellished versions of the 3 Little Pigs, and a cute little rhyme he has repeated numerous times.
The reprieve from Mommy had been a gift for him too, it seemed.
I reflected on the way kids need grandparent-types—biological or otherwise— to shower them with undivided attention, spoil them with things or activities that seem like treats, and give into the rapidly changing whims of a small child. But my reflections quickly turned inward. Two whole hours without a whine, a complaint, or a crumpled-on-the-floor-crying-fit. Two. Whole. Hours. It seemed impossible. What was I missing?
The next morning as the two wandered off again for adventures only known to them, it hit me. The footsteps. They were slow. They were careful. They were wandering here, then there. My footsteps are quick, direct, and purposeful. These two walked exactly side-by-side. How often did I walk 10 steps ahead, calling back over my shoulder, “Come on, Honey. Walk a little faster, Buddy?”
Sometimes slow footsteps aren’t an option. Sometimes my child needs to be hurried out the door if we’re ever going to get out the door at all. Sometimes 3 year olds and adolescents alike just lose it.
But what about the other times? What if I slowed my steps wayyyy down? What if I didn’t watch the clock on my phone? What if when I shared our To Do list with him I didn’t put a time frame on it in my mind? What if I took a page out of Grandpa’s book?
I put it to the test one day when we didn’t have a mum’s group or kindy hampering our schedule. We had three errands to run at three different locations: buy a birthday gift and a thank you gift, purchase 7 items at the grocery store, purchase 3 items at the bulk bin store. It would involve getting in and out of the car three times. It would probably push the 12:30 lunchtime boundary. If disaster struck, the last one could be postponed.
I armed myself with snacks and the determination to take it slow. Even our departure time was delayed by a shared snack before we left. Even though I always pack snacks when we leave the house, we’d really be testing Q’s internal I’m-hungry-and-I-need-to-eat-lunch-bell.
We slowly walked the length of the mall to find what we were in search of. Q perused every toy, pushed every lever, felt every stuffed animal, and commented on every action figure before settling on a game and a book for the birthday gift. We walked across the parking lot to the book store, slowly, while he munched on raw cashews out of a Tupperware container. I declined when he asked if we could ride the carousel. He conceded. We talked about our favorite horses on it as we walked by slowly. At the bookstore, we searched out the other half of the birthday gift by plopping on the floor to read half a dozen books, look for hidden pictures, and re-read the gift book just to be sure. Errand #1—gift buying–accomplished. 1 hour 45 minutes. No tantrums. No whining. Time consuming. Miraculous.
The you’re-teetering-on-the-brink-of-lunchtime-alarm was going off in my head, but we headed to the grocery store. 30 minutes. Boom. I can handle that. In a world where we’re still navigating a new-to-us grocery store and new-to-us food products, that was a win for everyone.
Errand #3 proved to be easy. The bulk bin food store carries his favorite granola which we were planning to buy. We thanked the store owner and climbed in the car. As I pulled into the driveway, I realized I was tired, but not harried. I felt accomplished and peaceful. We accomplished our To Do list. And we enjoyed it. We enjoyed each other.
There are plenty of days when it isn’t possible for three “short” errands to take three hours. But there are a few days when they can—when I can match my steps and my pace to a three-foot-tall person who is busily exploring his world, wondering about how the carousel works, and requesting that every book be read aloud.
There are hours when tantrums happen. Out of the blue. For no reason. And, there are times when my slower steps and less-hurried persona cultivate peace in my little person. And I am reminded to take a page out of Grandpa’s book just a little more often.
Hamilton Gardens is always one of my favorite places to visit, especially when they open cool new gardens and structures.
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
Isn’t this how every living room should look on Christmas morning?
Daddies passing on the tradition.
Qoo and The Nut make cookies. Actually, The Nut made cookies. Qoo Qoo played in the flour.
Thick icing is the butter cookie rule in this family.
Qoo Qoo and The Nut practice their bear roar with Bapa and Gigi.
More bear roars. It’s the only way to capture a picture.
5 Generations of Patman/Graham family have enjoyed retreat at Bonita Park.
Gigi and her grandbabies.
Qoo Qoo and The Nut.
Qoo Qoo and The Nut
A precious moment captured during the family photo session with Danielle.
“Thanks for opening up the gym for us on the holiday—” My father-in-law stopped mid-sentence and laughed. He was talking to our friends Korey and Lauren Frazier, who had opened the Events Center at Bonita Park for us to play in. The words had snuck out before he realized what he was saying. We all laughed along with him. It wasn’t Christmas for anyone but us. But Christmas it was…complete with lights on the tree, decorations, chilly weather, a fire in the fireplace, gifts, yummy food, cookie decorating, matching Christmas jammies for the little ones, and a little bear nativity, all in one of our favorite settings—Jaron’s parents’ cabin at Bonita Park Nazarene Camp.
We may be #seasonallyconfused as my sister-in-law put it, but it’s not without purpose. There are traditions—as important for the grown-ups in this family as for the kids—that must be upheld and passed on, even (or especially when) your scheduled departure date is Dec. 1. The season is so important it’s worth celebrating with family six weeks early if need be. The Patman family butter cookie recipe must be made and piled with frosting and stowed in the freezer (because the “experts” say somehow they’re better frozen). A nerf shooting device must be retrieved from every stocking for impromptu battles. The table must be filled with delectable foods for every meal of the weekend, and gifts must be exchanged. All this in celebration of the greatest gift of all—the hope of Jesus.
Not one thing was amiss. Qoo (pronounced cuckoo, as Q’s cousin calls him) and The Nut as he dubbed her wrestled through our attempts to capture their pictures, played with their Christmas gifts, reveled in the rare opportunity to eat cookies with icing, wallowed in the giant beanbag chair, and only paused their shenanigans long enough to let the adults catnap in the afternoon. Together they are Qoo Qoo and The Nut. No title could be more fitting.
Wrapping and gifts were collected into piles. Stuffed snowballs were thrown across the living room. A puzzle was assembled way past midnight. Then, we all gathered for worship at Angus Church of the Nazarene on Sunday morning, squeezed in a family photo session with Danielle Rush, and played at the playground before hugging good-bye on Monday.
So, while you were probably thinking about football and fall leaves this weekend, we were jamming out to Christmas carols, thanks to Lauren, as we climbed the rock wall and slid down the giant slide late in the afternoon of our Graham family Christmas day.
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.