What year did you graduate from NTS? What program(s)?
Jaron graduated with a Master of Divinity in 2008 and a Doctor of Ministry in 2017.
Elizabeth holds a Master of Arts in Education from Baker University as well as a Master of Ministry Degree from Point Loma Nazarene University.
Tell us about yourselves/your family.
We are Jaron, Elizabeth, and Quentin Graham (6 ½). We live in Hamilton, New Zealand. As a family, we love reading, going on long bike rides, traveling, and hiking in the native bush.
Quentin is getting ready to start year 2 (1st grade) at our local primary school. In his spare time, he’s learning to ride horses like an English rider, takes swimming lessons, plays cricket, and fine tunes his paper airplane-making skills.
Where do you currently serve?
For the past three years we have served as missionaries with the Church of the Nazarene in New Zealand. We serve as co-pastors of Crossroads Church of the Nazarene in Hamilton, New Zealand. We also developed and give leadership to Nazarene Theological College Auckland (NTC-AKL), an extension site of Nazarene Theological College (NTC) located in Brisbane, Australia. NTC-AKL offers education at bachelors, masters, and course of study level. Jaron serves as the New Zealand Coordinator, while Elizabeth serves as Dean of Students. Jaron also serves as the North-South network leader for the New Zealand District, giving leadership to six churches from across New Zealand. Elizabeth is the SDMI chairperson on the New Zealand district and works to develop young leaders.
How did you come to embrace a call to vocational ministry?
Jaron: I first felt called to ministry as a 5th grader while in Children’s Church at Lovington First Church of the Nazarene in Lovington, NM. I remember Karen Fisher teaching a lesson about missionaries and talking about how God sometimes calls people into full time ministry as pastors or missionaries. In that moment God planted a call to ministry in my heart. I felt drawn to publicly voice that call for the first time after youth camp between my junior and senior year of high school.
Elizabeth: As a high schooler, I distinctly remember feeling called to be a teacher. After graduating from MidAmerica Nazarene University with an elementary education degree, I certainly felt like my classroom was a place of ministry. I loved connecting with my students and their families. Yet, while we were serving in Lovington, NM, I sensed God asking me to give up teaching. Over the course of that next year, I began to sense a call to vocational ministry.
What makes your current assignment unique?
New Zealand is often called a post-Christian culture, but it also has a wide representation of world religions represented in the minority populations. 70% of the population is of white European decent. The remaining 30% of the population is made up of Maori, the indigenous people group of NZ, Pacific Islanders, Indian, and a variety of Asian cultures. The church of the Nazarene in New Zealand is 90% non-European.
We love the diversity of the church in New Zealand. It has been a real joy to share life and culture together. We have district leaders from India, Samoa, Tanzania, Singapore, Indonesia, and more. Kiwis have a reputation for being kind and welcoming, and they really are! We also love the beauty of the landscape. It really is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Every bit of scenery you’ve ever seen in Lord of the Rings exists in real life!
What are some of the unique blessings/challenges in your context?
Ministry in New Zealand really takes time. It’s marked by one intentional relationship at a time. We’re reaping fruit of seeds that pastors began planting in the lives of people more than 10 years ago. We love sharing those stories with pastors who have gone before us. And, we know we may not be the ones who harvest the seeds that we’re planting now.
Are there ways NTS especially helped prepare you for faithful and effective ministry?
My time at NTS was very formational for me. During my MDiv studies NTS provided a place to learn from professors who were knowledgeable, faithful and passionate. I also built lasting relationships with my fellow students that I still enjoy today. On many occasions over the past 10 years I have found myself thankful for my time at NTS. My experiences there continue to shape my ministry in significant ways.
My DMin studies were also formational in that they gave me an avenue by which to dive deeper into what it means to be a leader in the local and global church. The DMin project provided a good avenue for the development of NTC-AKL which continues to have a significant positive impact on our district and field.
We believe that theological education is critically important to the church moving forward. We are grateful for our own experiences in theological education and we are thankful that NTS continues to faithfully prepare women and men for ministry in this ever-changing world.
Learn more about the Graham’s ministry and follow their ministry here.