Saturday, November 14, 2015

Watch the wedding live!

Hellooo from Kansas City!
Our long-awaited wedding is only 6 days away and thanks to our good friend Ken, we now have a link to the wedding livestream!  Save this link and view the ceremony online live Saturday, November 21st @ 1:00PM, Central Standard Time.

(For you Kiwis, that's 8:00AM Sunday morning, November 22nd for you!)
If you are "attending" the wedding via internet, we would love to see you!  Would you mind taking a group photo or selfie to e-mail to us, so that we may add it to our wedding photo album?

We are so thrilled that you can celebrate such a sacred occasion with us!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

It's a Family Affair

75.  47. 1.

75 days ago I landed back on American soil.

47 days from now I will become Mrs. Alison Johnson.

1 day at a time is how I choose to live.

Ever since my arrival in Kansas City, my feet have not stopped running.  Working two jobs, preparing for the wedding, ministering at church, and navigating life's surprises has at times left me feeling as though I have not yet landed. Hovering seems to be a skill I have unintentionally perfected.

The sudden death of my aunt just weeks ago left us all quite baffled and sad, scrambling to bring the family together from all corners of the country for a meaningful memorial service. Only days later, my dad spent a 3 day vacation in the hospital to get his heart condition under control. (Not the kind of vacation most of us envision.)  The ongoing trials of teenage family members and friends make my heart heavy.

Daily I ache for the Pacific. I dream of familiar faces and special places.  New Zealand is never far from my consciousness and vivid images of Whangarei linger in the periphery.  Today I was saddened by the news of the passing of three young children with whom I had the privilege of working in Tonga at the Mango Tree Centre.  Updates from friends in Papua New Guinea bring to mind fond memories from the past.

All of these things affect me.  Why? Why do I care about people 10,000 miles away?  Why do I care  about people in my own household?  For that matter, why should any of us care about anyone else besides ourselves?

Because it's a family affair.

Flesh and blood do not make a family; well, not human blood anyway.  The blood of Christ Jesus however, does.  The love of Christ caused him to spill his lifeblood to pay for all that separates us from the Father, so that kinship with Him could be ours. That love unites us.  That love makes us family. That love makes us care.

This love is what brings Chad and my four beautiful future step-children together.  By the grace of God, we are learning to carry one another's burdens, to laugh together, to cry together, to pray together and to sacrifice for one another.

It's a family affair.

This weekend we formed some new family traditions, one of which was running in the Jared Coones Memorial Fun Run 5K.  "Team Chalison" made their debut and pounded the pavement in the cool morning hours to raise funds for cancer research, in honour of our dear friend Ron.  We then ventured to the Louisburg Cider Fest for a taste of their signature apple cider donuts, an annual must-do for any families in the Kansas City area.

As I find my unique place among my newly forming family, I begin to land. The skill of hovering
is no longer needed, because the love I experience guides me like headlights lining the runway, showing me that I have indeed found a safe place to land.

You see, it's a family affair.  Thank you, Lord, for my family.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Parking for the Pantry- Old Settlers 2015

Over $800 in cash and four boxes of food have been donated to our Faith Journey Food Pantry!


"Parking for the Pantry" took place this weekend during Olathe's "Old Settler Days".  Old Settlers is an annual 3-day event hosted by our city, including Kansas' largest parade, carnival rides, crafts stalls, games, fair food, live entertainment, and free stuff.  It's like a good old-fashioned American county fair.

Our church currently owns an empty plot of land in downtown Olathe where our future ministry center will be built and it couldn't be a better location for ministering to eager festival-goers!  Because parking  during the festival is at an absolute premium, we offered free parking while accepting food and cash donations for our food pantry,  turning a rather unassuming empty field into a sacred space.

  The event was a huge success and we praise the Lord for this great opportunity to meet folks from all around our city, giving them an opportunity to be generous and help us help families in need.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Windshield Wipers

The car is going at full speed, but I notice that my destination is fast approaching, so what do I do?  I press the brakes and turn on the windshield wipers, of course!

 Wait . . . Ugh.  I've done it again!

Intending to indicate a left turn with my blinker; I click the wipers instead, something I've done dozens of times since my arrival back in the USA.

In case you weren't aware, we drive on the left side of the road in New Zealand.  This means that the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, as are the blinkers, and the gear shifter is on the left.   (And for you curious types, you cannot turn right on red, but you can legally go 100 down the highway - 100 kilometres that is!  :-) 

 I've been here in America four weeks and still experience the occasional brain fart, defaulting to my habits as a Kiwi.  In fact, just the other day, intending to drive myself home from the supermarket, I entered in the right side of the car, then sat down and put on my seat belt before I realized that there was no steering wheel in front of me!  Sheepishly I exited the car, scoured my surroundings for any perplexed observers, and then walked around to the driver's side.

My embarrassment, however, soon turned to pride.  The sharp awareness that New Zealand was still affecting me, still shaping my behaviours and still my default mode made me secretly happy. Somehow it brought me comfort to realize that Aotearoa was still running through my veins and that without even knowing it, I was acting like a Kiwi.  I confess that I am proud to be Kiwi-ized, and admit that much of me rebels against the American status quo. You can take the girl out of New Zealand, but you can't take New Zealand out of the girl.

In my rebellion, I'd rather eat tomato sauce, not ketchup, and munch on biscuits, not cookies. Taking out the rubbish sounds a bit more posh than taking out the trash. I'd prefer to push a trolley through Wal-Mart, instead of a cart, and pack my groceries in the boot, not the trunk. I will continue to pronounce some words with a New Zealand accent and use the British spelling for everything from colour to kilometre (at least until spell check gets the best of me!).

Why such stubbornness? Why the refusal to adapt?

Is this behaviour a natural result of adjusting to a new country, new culture, new way of doing life?  Yes.

Is this expected for those grieving a move away from loved ones and loved surroundings?

Is this an attempt at justifying arrogance and an unwillingness to adapt?
Ugh . .. I've done it again.

Its true. I take pride in being different. The irony is that the desire to be perceived as unique and special is common among mankind.  The inability to be "figured out" too easily allows you to remain a bit mysterious and unlabeled, which can be quite attractive, especially to the human ego.
We all want to be different. .. just like everyone else.

I enthusiastically invested time and energy into adapting to life in New Zealand, eagerly shedding my "American-ness" and embracing life as a Kiwi, so that I might like the Apostle Paul "become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22)
That worked well for me in New Zealand . . .but I'm not in New Zealand anymore.

 For most people enduring daily grind in Kansas City, discussing the potential flag change, sky high youth suicide rate in the Northland, Christchurch earthquake recovery, or any other New Zealand issue is basically irrelevant.  Bragging about New Zealand's  breathtaking scenery or the high quality of dairy doesn't really matter to someone who is just scraping by, trying pay the bills and make sense of life here. The humbling reality is that just as I embraced God's call to serve across the seas and learn to do life there, so must I adapt to life here.

I will heed Pauls' words in Romans 12:2 and "not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [my] mind, so that [I] can test and approve what God's will is, His good pleasing and perfect will."

I will not conform to the pattern of New Zealand, nor the USA.  Vices and virtues exist within all cultures and not one is superior to the other.  Thus, I will embrace the culture of the Kingdom of God and embrace life wherever I am planted in my Father's world.

Next time the windshield wipers make an unwanted appearance when I'm trying to turn a corner, I will thank God for the remarkable years in Aotearoa , then self correct and click the blinker to indicate that I am not only turning the vehicle, but turning my attention to loving God and loving people right here in Kansas city. 

* Forgive me, but I just had to include a few more of my favourite photos from my old neck of the woods!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

God of the Underdogs

Ahhh.  Just like old times.  Sweating buckets, spending energy, being silly, hauling equipment, setting up, tearing down, giggling, laughing- you name it.  These are the makings of a great Vacation Bible School!

This week Faith Journey Church of the Nazarene has been hosting "God of the Underdogs" Vacation Bible School, and in true Faith Journey fashion, we don't wait for people to come to church (as if it were a destination),  we bring Church to the people (because that was God's design in the first place.) Remember, the Church doesn't have a mission.  God's mission has a Church.

We've been hosting the VBS outside at a local park, nestled amongst town homes and apartments, proclaiming the love and power of our God to dozens of children and parents.  It couldn't be a better venue!  When the neighbourhood kids see the tents going up and hear the music playing, they come running!
It is a great joy to partner with people to whom the mission of God is more important than convenience and more valuable than their pocketbooks; it is something decidedly worthy of their time and devotion.

We've had 45-50 children each night and the week isn't over yet!  Thank you, Father, for the rain-less skies, humble servants, and your love that compels us to spend energy on behalf of our young people.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Thank You Plymouth Heights!

Who doesn't love a handmade quilt?

I came home to find that a lovely package had arrived from Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Ohio, a LINKS church that has been supporting my ministry in New Zealand. 

This is what I found inside!

Even though I am currently in the USA, they found a way to get it to me before my birthday.

Thank you to the "Sewing Seeds Quilt Group"!  You know how to take good care of your missionaries!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Cure for Jet Lag

It's 4:30AM Kansas time and I've been wide awake for nearly two hours.   The culprit?  Jet Lag.  The solution?  Prayer.

  It brings me great comfort to know that God never sleeps.  Entirely unaffected by man-made time zones, cultural expectations, or re-entry shock, the Creator of the Universe need not worry about over exhaustion or identity crises.

To take both my New Zealand and American families to God's throne of grace during these midnight hours gives me great peace.  After an epic two-day journey to the centre of the earth (or at least the centre of the USA), already preceded by many days without proper sleep,   I don't know how to do much else, other than pray.   I really don't know how to "be".

Whangarei, New Zealand, has been my home for four years and quite honestly, I don't know how to "be" anywhere else.   The song of the Tui in the forest and the cool ocean breezes greeted me nearly everyday, while soft winter showers produced the most exquisite rainbows time after time after time.
I ran up hills and mountains in my spare time and visited parishioners in their homes and hospitals.  Preaching and teaching was a weekly responsibility, and bounding and twirling about with my gymnasts each day was great fun! I ate "Weet bix" and fejoas, hung my laundry outside, and drove a quirky old car on the left side of the road. New World was my local supermarket and the electric blanket was my best friend on cold nights.

Now as I write this, a good ole' Kansas summer storm is raging outside, something I have not encountered in a very long while.   Those gentle showers are replaced with fierce lightning and thunder, torrential rain and well. .. quite a show! The roads here are flat and straight, a sight basically unseen much of anywhere in  New Zealand.  I'll now be frequenting my local Hy-Vee for groceries, but will have to do without the fejoas and pavlova.  I'll be meeting new gymnasts here in Olathe next week and no longer hanging my clothes outside in the rain. A dryer will do.

Life is changing.  Some of the changes are seemingly insignificant, while others will have more impact.

The thrill of planning a wedding and expanding my family brings excitement and the undeniable sense of being alive! Reuniting with old friends and ministry partners will be enjoyable and special . . . as will eating some classic Kansas City BBQ!

 Eventually I will settle into a new normal, a new routine.  But until then, I have asked the Lord to help me know how to "be" here.

This is what he said:

 "BE STILL and know that I am God!  I will be honoured by every nation (even in America.)" Psalm 46:10.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Last Frontier

The beginning of July began the beginning of the end. The first of the lasts began last week and my last of the lasts will end next Sunday.  Did you get all that? Try that for a tongue twister!

With only eight days to go in Aotearoa, the revolving door of missionary life seems to be spinning  a bit faster.  My days have been filled with packing, farewell gatherings, cleaning, preparing for the new pastors, and saying good-bye to just about everyone and everything.  There is much to do when you are moving across the globe!
Last week was my last with session with my gymnasts, Bible in Schools students, and Rock Solid youth.  This week will mark my last sermon, my last day at the food bank, my last dip in the ocean, my last hike, and my last meat pie.

I even shared my "last supper" (holy communion) with my church family, understanding only to the smallest degree what Jesus might have felt before his final meal with his closest friends.  It was then that Jesus showed ultimate hospitality.  He served and dined with his disciples in the flesh so that soon they would be able to dine with him in Spirit.

I found myself resonating with Christ's words when he said,
  “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.  For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

(Luke 22:15-16) 
Now, I am surely not Jesus Christ, nor am I preparing to bear the sin of the world on the cross of suffering. But, I had been very eager to share that “last supper” with my church, and reality is that though Chad and I do hope to return to NZ, the timing is uncertain and we may not share this meal again until the Kingdom of Heaven.  As you can see, it was a significant milestone for me.
I mean it when I say that I have been blessed beyond measure during these last four years in New Zealand, so much so, that I find it hard to describe! So. . . instead of describe it, I will let the photos do the rest of the talking.  For the next few days I will post heaps of photos, so watch this space!


Saturday, June 27, 2015

No Ordinary Life

I have completed four cycles around the sun here in the Land of the Long White Cloud and in twenty-three days I will find myself saying good-bye.  Good-bye to Christmas at the beach.  Good-bye to meat pies and pavlova.  Good-bye to pohutukawa trees and pipis. Good-bye to fejoas and fish 'n chips. Good-bye to a small church in small town in a small country.   Good-bye to friends with big love and big hospitality, flowing from even bigger hearts.


It's the end of an era, really.
As you might imagine, I've been reflecting a fair bit on my last four years here in New Zealand.  In doing so I have come to the conclusion that, by the grace of God, what I have is no ordinary life!

The quirky characters that play leading roles in my New Zealand story are nothing short of unique and extra-ordinary, hailing from nearly every corner of the planet and representing nearly every walk of life and religious conviction.  During any given "normal" week, I love, laugh and work with friends representing a dozen different nationalities from Brazillian to Indian to English to Chinese to Dutch to South African. . . and the list goes on.

 This is no ordinary life.

Privileges are afforded to me of which I would have never dreamed!  I get to coach gymnastics, pastor a church, volunteer at the food bank, teach Bible in the public schools, get goofy with teens on Tuesdays, learn from indviduals with disabilities, travel the country, organize camps, hike mountains, swim with dolphins, kayak rivers, surf in the sea, eat fresh from gardens I didn't plant, care for a sick friend, preach the Word of God, learn hard lessons, be humbled, make mistakes, look like a fool. . . and have a blast doing it all. (Well, most of the time!)

This is no ordinary life.

What was once foreign and frightening to me is now familiar.  That which I used to despise I now prefer.  Who would have thought that I'd actually grow fond of three minute hot showers and hanging my laundry on the line in the rain?  Driving on the left-hand side of the road is natural and normal, and the high price of eating out keeps me eating more home-cooked meals.  These are all good things I have come to love and appreciate about life here in Whangarei, New Zealand.

Now, as I say good-bye to this place and these people whom God has used to challenge and shape me, I am keenly aware that by His grace, I have no ordinary life.  I sure don't deserve any of this,  but I'll do nothing but receive all of it!

This era may be ending, but a new one is beginning.  In just over four months my "mission field" will widen trememdously to include that of marriage to the godliest man I know and motherhood to four rather incredible step children! I could not be more thrilled and thankful at the Lord's kindness to me.

This is truly no ordinary life!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The "Engle" Has Landed!

The long awaited arrival of the Engle family has finally come! Auckland welcomed them with cool temps and light rain, as per usual, but that didn't dampen their spirits. 
We are blessed to have this precious family as our newest missionaries on the district, teaching in the rural NZ town of Kaeo, 1.5 hours north of Whangarei, and serving with our local fellowship on the weekends.

None could be more thrilled and relieved than Steve himself!  He arrived here in country a month ago alone, ahead of his family, due to visa and employment complications, and has eagerly anticipated reunion with them since the day he left.  The Engles have been trying to get to New Zealand for over two years now, but encountered many obstacles with immigration and the lack of available employment in the Northland . . .until now!

  In his perfect timing and foreknowledge, God provided a teaching position for Steve at a very difficult high school up north, and now has opened the door for the rest of the family to join him. 
Finally, as my district superintendent Neville says, "The Engle has landed!"

Please pray for Steve, Lori, Harrison, Hollister, Heidi, and Hadley as they acclimate to life on the other side of the planet! They hail from Tennessee, USA, and are in for a wild, yet rewarding ride!

Welcome Engles!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Support for Solo Mums Continues!

If you've followed my blog for a length of time, you might remember a post entitled, "Support for Solo Mums", celebrating the courage of one young woman who chose to respond to the needs of young teenage mothers here in Whangarei.   This amazing woman, and mother of six herself,  is the daughter of  my dear friend and has now been nominated for the"Pride of New Zealand Award"! 

At the time of the last blog post Michelle had provided assistance for seven teen mums.  One year later, she has served over 300 families in need! Way to go, Michelle!

Click here for the article published in the Northern Advocate Newspaper this week:

If you're interested in more of the back story and want to read my original post from April 4, 2014, please click here.
Support for Solo Mums:

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Wonders of the South

The South Island of New Zealand is full of wonders and World Heritage Sites. I was privileged to experience a few of them this weekend with a dear friend who "shouted" ("paid for" in Kiwi lingo) me the trip as a last hoorah before saying good-bye to this fair land we call Aotearoa.

We visited Queenstown, Fjordland National Park, and Milford Sound!  The scenery is nothing short of dramatic and impressive . . .and very cold! We even went white-water rafting in the frigid waters of the Shotover River and explored the snow-capped peaks of the Remarkables (part of the Southern Alps) via helicopter!  Enjoy the photos!