We ended our time with our university students a few weeks ago with a few hours at one of our favorite places, Blue Spring Walkway. If you’ve read this blog much at all, you’ve probably seen pictures of Blue Spring. It’s a place that lends itself to getting quiet, making space, and sensing the Holy Spirit. In the words of NT Wright, it’s a place where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. We told our students to spread out, take some time to reflect, and listen to what the Spirit might be saying as they prepared to go home. During that experience, one of our students, Nathan, wrote the following. It was significant for all of us. He kindly agreed to let us share it.
The Pure River
By Nathan Cummings
The water was roaring, because everything else was silent.
The delicate green plants swung with rhythm, tugged by the rushing water.
The water is pure, blue and clean. What feeds on The Pure River, also is pure.
The greenest life is closest to the river.
What is the river in my life, if I were a tree. Is that river pure?
Am I a river to other people?
Can I be both a river and a tree?
Without The Pure River, my tree could not survive.
Without the Pure Source, my river is corrupt.
Are the trees on my river feeding on pure water?
The birds have arrived, here to keep my company.
Perhaps I am a bird.
I can fly away, but The Pure River always welcomes me back.
But The Pure River provides all I need.
Why would I fly away?
About the Author
The author, Nathan Cummings, is a sophomore history major at Southern Nazarene University. He’s into all things marching band. Nathan is a part of the fourth generation in his family to attend SNU. Here, he is pictured at Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan, NZ.
Yesterday, we bid Kia Ora (be well) to the six Southern Nazarene University students and two adult sponsors who had spent every waking hour of the past three weeks with us. What adventures we had! Over the past three weeks (technically 19 days on the ground, though 20 makes for a better blog post title 😉 ), our volunteers built intentional relationships with people who represent approximately 20 different cultures. I am not even exaggerating! It was truly an amazing (and sometimes exhausting) feat for them.
Our “uni team,” as we fondly call them, spent their weekdays volunteering at three drastically different primary schools, helping out with our playgroups, and tutoring and playing with refugee children at a couple of area after school programs. They also got to experience the many flavors of the Nazarene church in New Zealand through a culture night complete with a haka and the traditional dances of the Samoan and Cook Islands, as well a young adult retreat (think touch rugby in the church at 2 am and a full-fledged Samoan lunch). They wrapped up their time in New Zealand by hosting an amazing mid-winter Christmas party for our Kids’ Club. It included all of the traditional American festivities and all of the traditional kiwi foods. There was so much merry making!! In each of these places, the uni team encountered an array of different cultures.
However, it wouldn’t be a truly kiwi experience if their time with us had been all work and no play. They surfed with our favorite instructor, Surfer Steve (click on the hyper link to see their awesome surfing photos), hiked the Waimangu Volcanic Valley, wandered through the Redwoods, visited Hamilton Gardens, and made space to reflect at the Blue Spring Walkway. Along the way, a couple of them got special nick names like “Pillows” and “Squash Bug” from Q, dubbed “Wiggle Worm,” and all of them were loved by the small one who proudly claimed his role as a member of the team and his new nick name.
The entire experience was one that is much better told with pictures and videos than words, and we certainly have lots of them. Enjoy!
While most of the world is heating up… we’re definitely not. We’ve enjoyed a spectacular autumn!
Paddy is such a great cook, host, and cultural guide! She expresses love through food (and sharing her wardrobe)!
Ready to go caving!
Waitomo, NZ by Brianne Morrow
Slime and “big friends” at playgroup = entertainment for hours.
A surf lesson in Raglan. What could possibly be more kiwi?
Our monthly Telugu (an Indian language) service took place last Saturday.
Once upon a time, Jaron and I were college students with stars in our eyes, dreams in our hearts, and a vast future full of possibilities ahead of us…
In those days, Jaron and a group of fellow students spent time working in Spain and led groups of high school students to serve the homeless populations in Toronto. I traveled with my family to work in Buenos Aires and cuddled babies with HIV in South Africa. In each of the places we traveled, we were welcomed and guided by people like Ronald and Shelly who eagerly shared the culture in which they lived and served. They helped open our eyes to the wide world beyond our familiar boarders and facilitated opportunities for us to hear God’s voice in fresh, new and challenging ways. We journeyed with peers like Gavin and Jill who became great friends (and matchmakers) and partners in ministry across the globe. We both found that our time spent in cross-cultural experiences across the globe was significant and formational, and would have been even if we’d never hopped the pond.
There is something rich and challenging and growing about stepping outside of our own normal to give of ourselves, and to learn from a different culture and context. Its’ the kind of experience that shapes ones worldview in tangible and intangible ways.
So when we were asked to host a group of students from Jaron’s Alma Mater, we jumped at the chance, although we were most certainly confused about how we could possibly be old enough to sit in the host/mentor seat. Once upon a time wasn’t actually that long ago, was it? We’ll chalk it up to being mature for our age. 😉 We believe in the value of cross-cultural experiences, particularly for young adults. We couldn’t wait to be a part of investing in a group of students.
Turns out, we got the awesome end of that bargain. The mums and caregivers at our music group for little ones agree. They are wondering when the next team is coming! As we put our team back on the plane on Monday, it was with hearts full of gratitude for six 20-somethings who for two weeks willingly served, explored, surfed, played, worked, prayed, and celebrated God’s good work alongside us. They ate all the food (no matter how spicy). They asked all the good questions and listened attentively. They articulated the ways they see God at work in profound ways.
One of our students wrote this in reflection:
“A few months ago, I would of never thought I would be serving God in such a beautiful country. No words can describe the beauty of God’s creation and what I saw while being on the trip. Saying this, my word for the trip was fearless. I was trusting God with all my heart with my unknown destination and there were many moments on the trip where I had to tell myself to trust God and be fearless in the conversations I had with others. One of my takeaways was just being able to see and experience a little glimpse of Heaven while being at Crossroads Church. The diversity of the Church and being able to come together and worship God from all different backgrounds and nationalities was truly remarkable. There were many times during the pop up events that I had to remind myself that we were planting seeds for God’s Kingdom, and even though we may not see the end result it is still very important. Every person has a name and every name has a story, it’s our job as Christians to know those names and find out their story. Thank you for allowing us to come and experience God in a new, awesome, and powerful way.”
In a week punctuated by horrific news in the media, these six were a source of joy, optimism and hope. Indeed a future filled with the faith, commitment, and love that these six live out daily is a very hope-filled future indeed.
It has been a whirlwind week around our house. 21 meals shared + 4 rounds of team building games with primary school classes + 47 puris eaten + 35 cups of tea + 3 mums groups + 2 neighborhood events + 2 caves explored through thigh-high water and thick mud + 1 Kids’ Club + 1 church service + 1 prayer meeting +1 intense mountain hike = tons of relational ministry. Our college students from Southern Nazarene University are still in the thick of it, with 4 more rounds of team-building games, 1 more event, two more church services, and plenty of Indian food left to eat over the next 4 days. I let them off the hook with writing today’s blog post, but I did borrow their team camera to give you a small snapshot of our week through their eyes.
We started by building some giant games that would be fun ways to engage kids all over the community.
There was lots of painting involved.
Blue Springs. Always one of our favorite places.
The whole gang on a chilly Saturday morning at Blue Springs.
The games “popped-up” in our neighborhood first. We got to meet many neighbors we hadn’t yet (and play with the ones whose scooters regularly park in our yard as well).
Creative games in action.
Age-old hand games passed down from generation to generation.
Play group friends.
Play group friends.
The most… raucous… retelling of Elijah’s encounter with God in 1 Kings 19 you’ve ever witnessed.
Scrumptious homemade puris and curry, thanks to Paddy and her amazing kitchen helpers!
These six were just crazy enough to sign up for a huge surprise!
Surprise! You’ve won an all-expense paid trip to New Zealand! That would be amazing, wouldn’t it?! This isn’t that.
However, we have been keeping a secret. It’s the kind of secret that you plan for and you pray about. We definitely couldn’t talk about it. It most definitely didn’t involve a baby.
Last fall 21 teams of students from Jaron’s Alma Mater, Southern Nazarene University, signed up to go on short term mission trips throughout the summer. One of those teams was chosen to participate in a mystery trip to a mystery destination. They would find out their destination as they prepared to leave for the airport, bags fully packed, passports in hand. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, we were plotting and planning and praying for their arrival.
On Monday, those six (4 students + two graduates) found out they would be flying from Oklahoma City to Dallas to Sydney to Auckland! Surprise! You’re going to New Zealand! A little over 24 hours later, we met them at their destination. Everything but one lowly suitcase made it. We offered its owner a toothbrush.
The next two weeks will be busy ones for them (and us). We have a lot on the agenda that will provide opportunities for getting to know kids and families all around our community. They are going to work hard. They are also going to play hard. We are on a mission to feed them as many different foods, introduce them to as many different cultures, and show them as many enticingly beautiful places as we can in just 13 days. We’re off to a great start.
Check back next week for the team’s perspectives and lots of photos. For now, we’ll let them rest. It’s 8:30 p.m. and I hear a lot of…. Silence. No surprise there!
On the way home from the airport, we stopped in the small town of Pokeno, where two ice cream shops next door to each other compete for the best ice cream at the best price. Little boy heaven.
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.