We’re back! Finally. It has taken us a long time to get here. A month to be precise. Well, actually, it only took us one extra day to get home, thanks to this fuel crisis, but it has taken us a month to work our way back into some sort of normal. However, the world of our little family is changing drastically again this week as Q starts school at our neighborhood school. He’s going to love spending so much time with his neighborhood friends and some friends from church too.
Since pictures say it best, every now and then we sum up our day-to-day life during this season in five pictures and five pictures only. Right now, it looks something like this. You can see our previous picture summaries here, here, and here.
I was home in New Zealand for 7 days, and then jumped on a plane for Singapore, where our regional offices are located. We spent our days visioning for the future of theological education, so I didn’t get to see much except through taxi or bus windows or walking back to the hotel at night. Even so, it was fascinating to engage in this English-speaking Asian culture!
These three held down the fort at home, and even hosted out-of-town guests while I was away in Singapore. Aren’t they the cutest?!
It’s VISA time again! A massive amount of Jaron’s time has been spent collecting, filling out, and organizing all of the necessary elements for our VISA renewal, which, once approved, will allow us to live and work in New Zealand for two more years.
We’re savoring Q’s time with us during the days. We’ve squeezed in some time for art, lots of reading (We’re on book #14 of The Boxcar Children!), hosted a Play Cafe, and took a trip to the zoo. On Thursday, this kid will officially become a school kid!
It’s springtime in New Zealand, and I am 100% sure we have the most stunning tree on the block. This beauty greets us as we round the corner of our street to pull into our driveway, but don’t be fooled by that snippit of blue sky you see. Saturday was just a teaser. We’re back to chilly, windy days!
In honor of a great two weeks with our first guests with kids, we’ve put together our list of top 10 international travel tips for parents. We’ve had so much fun over these past 12 days. We think the memories are definitely worth the jet lag, long hours on the airplane, and overcoming the apprehension of traveling with kids.
So, with no further ado, here are the Top 10 things we think parents should remember when traveling internationally with kids.
Welcome to New Zealand, sign design and wording by Q.
Get the Sky Couch.
Air New Zealand has this really cool thing where if you’re already buying three seats together, you can pay a teeny bit more to have a foot rest thing that raises and makes your seat into a bed. This is especially perfect for 2-8 year olds who are too big to be lap children, but aren’t really all that tall yet. When you’re flying overnight, it’s so worth it. At the very least, make sure your row has reclining seats and arm rests that raise. Once, ours didn’t, and it made for a verrrry long night.
Carry-on a surprise.
There are moments during long layovers or even longer flights when kids need a distraction. A small surprise—something they’ve never seen or gotten to play with before—is a great source of entertainment. Sticky window decals, a little action figure, or a new sticker book, etc. can all keep kiddos occupied in confined spaces for chunks of time. There’s something about the newness and the surprise factor that make simple things all the more fascinating.
Drink your water.
It seems so obvious, but it makes a big difference. If you fly much, you know the drill: take your empty water bottle through security and then fill it up. Jaron is especially good at making sure we all have our water handy. It’s even more important on international flights. Some people say that staying hydrated really helps reduce all the yucky side-effects like jet lag and ankle swelling. It’s probably true. Those little airplane cups don’t provide enough water to keep a flea hydrated. Plus, they’re totally not kid friendly. Everyone needs their own water bottle. Flight attendants are typically more than happy to refill them too.
“No worries. Don’t be uptight. Don’t stress. Don’t freak out over the little things.” That’s what our friends said in that order. It’s true. It’s not like you can change it anyway. Forgot to pack underwear? No worries. You can buy those. Kid spills lunch all over their clothes? Take a chill pill. Failed to pick up your passports off the kitchen counter? Now, that’s a reason to freak out. But really, the more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your kids will likely be.
Cave explorers at the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves
On more than one occasion, I have pulled two suitcases while carrying a car seat on my back and pushing a kid-filled stroller with my stomach while balancing a pack-and-play on top of the stroller handle. Crazy stuff. I was happy to ditch the pack-and-play when Q outgrew it. However, on our last trip to the States, I said, “Never again.” Not “Never again will I travel,” but never again will I attempt to pack every little thing. Traveling is challenging enough. Struggling to manage your stuff sucks every last bit of joy out of the adventure, especially when you add managing a little person to the mix. It’s best to have at least one hand free at all times. We are mastering traveling very light, and my trapezius muscles are thanking me!
Oh, and our friends packed for a family of 4 for two weeks in NZ with 3 carry-ons and two checked suitcases, plus the car seat. Total. Considering they had at least 20 pounds of our stuff with them, I’d say they definitely killed it! I am so impressed and proud.
Our friends say: “Even if your kids no longer use diapers, don’t forget the wipes, water bottles, a change of clothes (in case your luggage doesn’t make it), toothbrushes, passports, food, a blanket, the essential stuffed animal, and a very few small toys and activities in your carry-on.”
A day at the beach in Raglan
Rock the routine.
There’s just something about routines that tells our brains what we’re supposed to be doing. On overnight flights, I make sure to change Q into pjs, brush his teeth, and do his normal bedtime routine to encourage the best possible sleep scenario. We carry on a small travel blanket that was gifted to us from a sweet church in Roswell, New Mexico and his stuffed dog. They are familiar and comforting. In the morning, he gets dressed and brushes his teeth, which signals that he can start his day.
Balloons over Waikato
Talk about it.
New experiences are often so abstract and even scary for kids, but the more we talk through what’s coming, the more successful their travel experience can be. Read books about travel. Show kids pictures. Talk about your routine on the airplane and let them know there might be lines at the airport. Talk about airport safety, what you’ll do when you get there.
Long before you leave, it’s great to help your kiddos get involved in the planning process. Q’s friend had heard about the glow worm caves. She thought they sounded so cool so we made sure to put that on our agenda. Today, when they were getting ready to leave, we asked the kids to help us plan what they’ll do together when we see them in America next.
These boys need alllll the snacks!
Snacks. All the snacks.
Kids (and parents) are happier humans when they’re well-fed. In order to avoid any opportunity for “hangriness” (that’s hungry and angry at the same time) to take over, pack snacks. Lots of them. Plan for the worst-case scenario: you sat on the tarmac with no flight service for 3 hours. Your child refused to eat any of the airplane food on the flight. Your flight was delayed so you didn’t have enough time to get food during the layover. And, you had to stand in a two-hour line in customs, which delayed your access to food even further. I haven’t ever had all of those happen on one trip, but flights and airports are sometimes unpredictable. Let’s be real, eating also keeps kids occupied, which is an added bonus. Take enough nutritious snack options to keep the family happy for the entire duration should you need to. We love individual packages of peanut butter and almond butter, nuts, fresh fruit (but not too much because you can’t bring it in to NZ), cheese sticks (for early on), sandwiches, rice cakes, non-sugary snack bars, pre-sliced raw veggies… you get the idea.
Tiffany family at Cathedral Cove
Ask for help.
Or simply just take the help that is offered. Sometimes you just need an extra hand, or you’re not sure where to go. Fellow travelers and airport employees alike can be so helpful. Don’t hesitate to ask, “Do I need to declare this?” or “Could you please fold this stroller for me?” or “Could you keep an eye on my kid while I just take a little nap?” Just kidding!! 😊 But really, ask for help.
The farewell picture… before the tears.
And our number one piece of advice…
Take your time.
Don’t get in a hurry. I learned this really early on in our parenting experience when flying domestically with a wee one by myself. The truth of this statement is amplified a hundred-fold when traveling internationally. The world is a better place when you’re not having to rush, when you can walk through the airport at the pace of your toddler, and when an urgent need for a potty break doesn’t derail the entire plan. Of course, there are exceptions where you have to frantically run through the airport. In that case, refer to #2. However, you can set you and your kids up for a really successful travel experience by getting to the airport plenty early, planning ahead for long enough layovers, and building in time to let the wiggles out.
In fact, “Take your time” is pretty helpful advice for traveling anywhere with kids. Here’s the truth: when traveling with small children you’re probably not going to get to cram 15 hour days full of museums or multiple beach stops. Traveling with small kids may mean you have to skip the surf lessons (unless you have a baby-sitter in tow), take more frequent breaks, or opt for the half day instead of the multi-day tour. However, you are going to get to see and enjoy things together that form deep memories and develop broad world-views. And those things pay dividends that no dollar amount can measure. We say it’s a totally worthwhile adventure!
Home. What does that even mean? Q and I have traded lush rolling green hills and waterfront views for big, blue skies and wide open spaces this week. We are officially on our first trip “home” to New Mexico and Kansas since moving to New Zealand. As I not-so-deftly navigated driving on the right side of the road through familiar small-town streets this afternoon, I came to understand in an even deeper way that home is where you are with people you love and who love you. Home is where you are known for who you really are; where you know others deeply. Home is where some of the deepest and most significant parts of your story are written. Sometimes it’s where you were born. Sometimes it’s not.
Amid the constant mental refrain of, “Stay to the right, Elizabeth. Right lane. Remember, turn wide when you go left. The other right, Elizabeth!!” I again gave thanks that I have a home in a tiny town in Southeastern New Mexico and one in the suburbs of a Midwestern city and one in the middle of an island in the South Pacific. Indeed, we are blessed to have so many places to call home—to be loved by and to love so many.
The truth is that visiting isn’t all roses. Q woke up from his nap today crying for his daddy, ready to go home. Those weren’t the first tears we’ve had this week, and they won’t be the last. But an hour before and again this evening he had snuggled close to his Gigi and said, “I love you, I’m so glad I’m here with you.” So when he woke up sad this afternoon, we cuddled and I said, “I understand, Buddy, I really do. I feel the same way. This is tough. Our love for people and places on both sides of the ocean is real. No matter where we are, a piece of our heart is in the other place. We’re learning together how to navigate that.”
The grief of all we left behind 10ish months ago—the things that have changed and the things that haven’t—is running really close to the surface these days. There are vivid reminders everywhere. Truly, I think “out of site, out of mind” is a little bit easier mode of operation. Easier, maybe, but not better.
So, while we’re here, we’ll play hard, love deeply, write some important pages in our stories, and share some of what has been written there in the past months. Then, in a few weeks, we’ll make the long journey back to another home where we will live well, love deeply, write some important pages in our stories, and share some of what has been written there in the past weeks.
Jaron pulled over quickly to snap this picture while on his way to a pastor’s retreat north of Auckland last weekend. Just ahhhhh….
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
I remember well the black and white picture on the wall and the questions that ran through my young mind as I studied it. Who are those people? Why do we have their picture hanging in our church fellowship hall? How old is it? How old are they?!
The picture of “our missionaries” Wallace and Mona White was a mainstay in my home church in Lovington, NM. We held children’s church and VBS, ate at numerous potlucks, and ran wild while our parents practiced for worship team, all under their watchful eyes. The story goes something like this: Sometime in the 1950s Wallace and Mona White became a part of Lovington Church of the Nazarene where they experienced the saving grace of Jesus. As they began living out their salvation, they eventually answered God’s call to missions and soon became pioneer missionaries for the Church of the Nazarene in Papua New Guinea (PNG). While in PNG, they planted many churches and started a Nazarene hospital that is widely respected and still in operation today.
The picture…. Wallace and Mona White and their family.
As a young child, I heard these stories, but they seemed as distant as the colorless people in the picture on the wall. They were stories of work that began long before I was born and that was continuing in far off places that I knew very little about. And yet, somehow it was a part of our church’s story. I really didn’t catch the significance, but I knew there must be something to it because there the picture hung year after year.
People at LovingtonNaz have always proudly claimed that “we are a sending church,” and the facts back up that claim. While cleaning out my desk after pastoring there for 7 years, I found a letter from one of our long-time members that listed all of the women and men who had been called to full time ministry from our church. The list of pastors and missionaries was long. I had grown up in the church myself and was packing for New Zealand, so my name now fell in both categories.
So what about Wallace and Mona and that black and white picture? Last week I had the privilege of attending a meeting of Nazarene educators from around the Asia Pacific region of the world. On the first day, I was introduced to the man across the table from me. He is from PNG, and serves as the President of our Nazarene College of nursing there. His name…Wallace White Kintak. He was named after Wallace White. Our Wallace White. The Wallace White whose black and white likeness hanging on the wall captured my curiosity and raised so many questions in my mind.
Jaron with Wallace and Regina Kintak of Papua New Guinea.
All of the sudden the story came alive. No longer is Wallace White just a name. No longer does Papua New Guinea seem far away and the stuff of dreams. For sitting before me was a man who is a follower of Jesus Christ, the president of a college, and new dear friend because a family from my home church answered the call of God to serve in a far off land. Wallace White Kintak proudly carries the name of the man who changed his family–and his country–by introducing them to the love of Jesus.
The implications are incredible. First it speaks to the faithfulness or our church—a small church in rural New Mexico—who carried the love of Christ to its community so that Wallace and Mona could experience the transforming grace of God in their salvation. It speaks to the faithfulness of a local church who discipled, shaped, and ultimately sent them with prayer and support to the mission field. At least in part because one little church took seriously the call of Christ to “go and make disciples of all nations,” there are 11 Nazarene Districts in Papua New Guinea. The church is on fire there, and is growing rapidly. Women and men are being called to ministry and are being educated and trained by people like Wallace Kintak, who like his namesake, is following the call of God to make disciples.
Watch as Wallace and Regina tell Jaron a bit of their story here.
There are families like the one who is a part of our congregation here in Hamilton who are getting to study abroad in first-world university settings because of the Nazarene missionaries’ commitment to high-quality education. There are babies born in clean, safe environments and medical needs being met 24 hours a day 7 days a week at a highly respected hospital because a missionary couple saw the need for easily accessible high-quality healthcare.
In a world where Christians are tempted to get hung up on which communion bread to use, where flashy lights and professional-sounding bands are touted as essential, and where pastors (and laymen) spend way too much time one-upping each other on Facebook, I am convinced that these are non-essentials that can easily distract us from the important work of the Kingdom. Over 60 years ago a little church, in a small town few have ever heard of welcomed a new couple into their fellowship. The church didn’t have a fancy worship team or flashy lights or much in the way of bragging rights, but they did know how to love. What they didn’t know was that their love and care for this couple would someday extend to thousands upon thousands on the other side of the planet who had not yet heard the name of Jesus. It’s a legacy that is thriving today.
I think my ancestors at Lovington Church of the Nazarene might say; “Son, we are not a fancy church. It’s not about being fancy. A sending church though…yes, that is what we are. So by all means, go, love well, and tell them about Jesus. That’s what will change the world.”
While Daddy was away, Mommy and Q explored Parana Park, a beautifully hidden little children’s play area in Hamilton.
Q relsihed the opportunity to chill in his own seat and watch a couple of movies.
Watching the plane land never gets old.
Snoozin’ over the ocean.
The Napping House–airplane edition.
The sun was rising as we were preparing to land in Auckland.
So much luggage. Jaron pushed and pulled. I pushed and pulled. Q rode on top like an Arabian king on an elephant.
Jim Clayton and Q feeding the ducks in the river on our first afternoon in NZ.
I am writing this on Friday at 9:45 p.m., but my computer thinks it is Friday at 1:45 a.m. It’s a little confused. Understandably so. On Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. we blew our last good-bye kisses through the window glass and walked outside to the small commuter plane that would take us from Hobbs, NM to Houston, TX. We turned and waved at the beloved faces peeking through the concrete architectural forms separating them from the runway we were walking across. It was real. Very real. Suddenly, all of the months of planning, preparation, travel, speaking, selling, packing, support raising, and Skype meetings were being realized as we walked up the steps to our small plane. We said good bye to all we had known before as we crossed the threshold anticipating the time we’d start saying “Hello” to all of the new.
An hour and 45 minutes in the air to Houston.
Super rushed layover.
4.5 hours in the air from Houston to San Francisco.
Super long layover. (4.5 hours)
14 hours in the air from San Francisco to Auckland, NZ.
2 hours collecting bags, navigating the airport with four luggage carts, setting up phones, and passing through customs.
30-minute stop for breakfast.
1 hour 30-minute drive to our house.
27 hours from door to door.
And a day. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean after we passed Hawaii crossed the international dateline and lost a day. The computer still hasn’t caught up.
That said, it all went as smoothly as it possibly could have. We checked 11 bags with relative ease (No, they were not free. Yes, they did cost significantly less than shipping.) We made every single flight on time. Quentin napped part of the way to San Francisco, walked a traveling cat on a leash in the airport, was thrilled to watch a couple of movies, and played happily with his toys. Then, we propped up the foot rest on our Sky Couch (a real thing you can see here, but don’t be fooled…it’s not that much space ;)) and slept our way across the Pacific Ocean.
All 11 checked bags, the stroller bag, the car seat bag, the guitar, the two carry-on roller bags, and our carry-ons all made it, and so did we.
We were greeted warmly by Neville and Joyce Bartle, our District Superintendents, and Jim and Nancy Clayton, the interim pastors who have been simultaneously preparing the way and holding down the fort for us. Quentin, in turn, doled out hugs readily, delighted with the grandparent-esque attention.
The grass is green, the hills are rolling, the plant-life is diverse, the guys in Santa costumes are sweating, and the people are driving on the left side of the road—but more on all of that later. For now, our bodies think it’s 2:20 a.m. and we should go to bed. Saturday is almost here. 😉
Jaron and a team of 6 others are spending nearly two weeks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s a trip that has been in the works for nearly 18 months, and prayed over and anticipated for even longer. To learn more about the Fothergill family and the work they’re a part of in the Congo, check out their blog here.
We stared at the rundown airport buildings as our plane touched down in Lubumbashi. Let’s just say that the terminal, left over from the days of Belgian control, is rustic. The paint is peeling. Some windows have glass, some don’t. Several places are crumbling. As we deplane in the middle of the tarmac, we wander toward immigration under the watchful eyes of armed soldiers. After a $55 “fee” and some confusion at baggage claim, we stepped into the streets of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo where we were met by good friends and missionaries Gavin and Jill Fothergill. We were also surrounded by 20 or so brothers and sisters from the South Katanga District Church of the Nazarene singing joyfully as they one by one shook all of our hands and greeted us warmly. Before we knew it, we were in Gavin’s Toyota Land Cruiser (which legally seats 16 here) bouncing down the mainly dirt, sometimes paved, road to Gavin and Jill’s house.
Rachelle, a PA-C, led a health clinic where she saw hundreds of people, many of whom had walked long distances. Working through a translator, she was able to assess needs and provide basic health care.
Over 1,000 pairs of glasses were donated for people in the Congo who have no access to glasses.
Since that time, members of our team have diligently matched glasses generously donated by the Lions Club and the community of Lovington with hundreds of recipients. Others have offered medical care. We’ve built relationships while passing out toothbrushes. I was a part of a group that spent three days digging two foot deep trenches in which to lay the foundation for a new church and district center. It was physically demanding work. On the last days of our trip, we laid the cornerstone and then proceeded to lay the rest of the rocks and cement that will form the foundation of the new building.
Most importantly though, we have laid a different type of foundation. A foundation of friendship. A foundation of global family. These foundations are laid firmly on the stronger foundation of Jesus Christ. For several years, our church has sent money to the DRC to fund projects like an elementary school that was completed earlier this year and the project we have worked on this week. We have been working to build a partnership, but that partnership lacked Congolese faces. Now however, we have more than faces. We have friends— Pastor Aimé, Pastor Andre, Pastor Benjamin, Mark, Ntale, Jean Paul, Pastor Marcel and his wife Alfonsine (who has graciously cooked lunch for our team each day), and many others. Congo is no longer a poor place on the other side of the world where we sometimes send our money. It has become a place where our extended church family lives. It is home to people we know and love and who love us unconditionally.
Our team with the students outside the school our financial contributions helped build. They were such eager students. Already there is a need for more schools to house more grade levels.
On Sunday, we worshiped with several churches from across the district. We joined in clapping (and trying to sing) as the small, jam-packed building shook with the sound of drums, chanting and singing. Each church represented led part of the worship. There was plenty of dancing as well. The Congolese worship God with their whole body. I was given the privilege of preaching. It was a blessing for me to me to do so, and I was humbled by the invitation. That moment reminded me of the way our God breaks down barriers. As I stood on the small concrete step and looked out over the congregation, I saw American and Congolese sitting together—one body. As I spoke and the DS interpreted, I saw the Word of God received by people of vastly different culture and experience. There was some confusion at times as we muddled through the service together, but it didn’t matter. We were bound together by the love of our Savior.
Preaching at church on Sunday.
My prayer is that this is only the beginning of our relationship. I pray that even as our family moves far away from Lovington, the partnership that has been nurtured between LovingtonNaz and LubumbashiNaz will continue to grow and flourish. I pray that we will continue to provide resources and work teams. I pray that our Congolese friends will continue to bless us with their rich expressions of genuine worship and the broader worldview that those of us who have grown up in the church in America desperately need. Who knows, maybe someday our new friends will visit us in New Mexico. It seems impossible, but we serve a God that is truly bigger than the borders that divide. Regardless, I am confident that God’s Kingdom will continue to break in as we work together to tell people in New Mexico and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that Jesus loves them.
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.
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.