Last week we bought our first one-way ticket away from New Zealand. For 25 years we’ve come and gone, but always with return tickets in hand.

These days we bask in the beauty of spring as daffodils, rhododendron, and magnolias burst into bloom two blocks from our home, in 200-acre Queen’s Park. This marks our last New Zealand spring.

I realize now that I have seen many of my friends in this country for the last time. We never said goodbye because the last time I saw them, I didn’t know I’d probably never see them again, this side of eternity.

In July we celebrated our last International Day in our church. In a couple of weeks, we’ll have our last Teen Camp. Yesterday I bought the kitchen bin liners with 15 in the package instead of 50 because we should only need 15. In 15 weeks we’ll be boarding our plane for America, leaving New Zealand for possibly the last time.

Recently we had our preliminary garage sale, consulted with our real estate agent, and are tidying things up around the house. We pray for a good sale that will prepare us to buy a retirement home in Iowa, ten thousand miles or so away. But we’re not ready to say goodbye to 25 years of life in this home, in this town, serving this church. Our departure date of our tickets is 3 ½ months away and 3 ½ months is far too long to be saying goodbye.

God is good. Our church is peaking out at its highest attendance, necessitating a move from the auditorium to our small gym, to have enough room for everyone to sit. Funds have come in to help our church move from mission status to supporting its first local pastor. This month Kiwi pastor, Paul Gray, will come on paid staff, preparing to become the main pastor while we prepare to leave. The timing is perfect and we see God’s provision everywhere.

Sunday Art choked up in the pulpit and Pastor Paul had to come read Scripture for him. Not yet. Not now. I’m not ready for emotional goodbyes more than 3 months before departure. I tell our friends that, but goodbyes will come soon enough.

While flowers are in full bloom in Invercargill, New Zealand, we’ll fly back to snow-packed Iowa for Christmas. Christmas plus. This time we won’t be visiting America. We’ll be learning how to live as Americans again, with all the changes that will bring. And for the first time in this millennium, we will live close to our children and grandchildren. We’ll begin the process of retirement and enter a new season life where we will continue to minister, but not in a fulltime capacity. We’ll live closer to our siblings who are all older than us and facing some of the physical challenges of passing 70.

So much of our lives will change, but the Lord promises to go before us and prepare the way, as he has been doing for us for nearly 7 decades. Proverbs 3:5-6 is such a great reassurance at times like this. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

 I hope you know the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior. If you want to know more about what this means, go to our church website under Plan of Salvation. Or you can contact me through my website. I hope you have experienced God’s guidance throughout your life. What transitions are you facing today?

In today’s Book Blast I’m featuring best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher. Author of over 85 books, Robin is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. Robin is an eleven-time finalist and two-time winner of the prestigious RITA® Award. In addition to the RITA and many other awards, she is the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from both Romance Writers of America® and American Christian Fiction Writers. When not writing, she enjoys being with her family, spending time in the beautiful Idaho outdoors, Bible art journaling, reading books that make her cry, watching romantic movies, and decorative planning. A mother and grandmother, Robin makes her home on the outskirts of Boise, sharing it with a demanding Papillon and a persnickety tuxedo cat.

You can read Robin’s 24-page short story for free when you sign up for her newsletter. My husband grew up in Montana, and Montana has been our furlough home for 45 years. Art spent many hours picking (and eating) huckleberries growing up and he loves huckleberry pie so “The Huckleberry Patch” sounds like his kind of place.

Her life was a complete mess, but Aunt Dodie thought a morning picking huckleberries was the solution. How could that help anything? But there were lessons awaiting her in the huckleberry patch, if she just had eyes to see and the ears to hear.

If you want to know more about Robin, visit her website.

But you can also get this free story here.


Free book by T.K. Chapin!

Each month from now until March 2024, I’ll give you a link to a free book by another author. During one month of that time, my book will become free for my subscribers. Scroll down to find out more about this month’s free book.

New Pagan Influences  in a Country Once Considered Christian

In the past month, while I was teaching about Moses and Egypt in Discovery Club, I needed to deal with another pagan culture. Though I’m an American, I’ve lived in Taiwan for sixteen years and now New Zealand for 25 years. In many ways, Kiwi (New Zealander) life is much like life in America. When it is different, that difference is often because New Zealand shares many aspects of British culture. Maori culture is also a major contributor of the culture.

Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people, descended from settlers who arrived in New Zealand by canoe in the 1300’s. Europeans didn’t settle in New Zealand to any degree before the 1800’s. Today, less than 20% of the population identifies as Maori, and most of them are not pure Maori. For years, Maori culture wasn’t emphasized in New Zealand, and some aspects of it were getting lost. In recent years, however, there has been a revival in Maori culture and students study cultural aspects in school, as well as learn to speak native Te Reo words.

The Maori culture emphasizes the importance of family and loyalty. Along with these admirable qualities, however, are spiritual beliefs that are contrary to the Bible beliefs of Christians. Public school students are taught the ancestral stories in their earliest years. Matariki (Maori New Year) became a national holiday in 2022 and this June or July holiday is now being emphasized throughout New Zealand.

Christians can use the holiday to thank our God for the stars and calling them out each night. But Kiwi Christians need to be discerning, because Maori culture has many pagan and religious elements. During Matariki, people are encouraged to pray to the stars, offer food to them, and ask them for guidance. This is animism, a worship of spirits within nature. Some even offer food to their ancestors or gods. When we lived in Taiwan, we often saw our neighbors worship the spirits and the ancestors in these same ways. Some Maori mix worship to the God of the Christians with forms of worship to others gods or ancestors. Twelve times God says in the Bible, “I am God and there is no other.”* These verses show us that mixing worship of false gods with worship of the one True God is not acceptable to the God of the Bible.

This is an issue that I’ve faced in my ministry this month. Where do you see pagan elements creeping into your culture today?

For more about Maori elements taught in school in New Zealand and a Christian parent’s response see my article.

For more about ways Christians can celebrate Matariki see my article.

Today I’m featuring Author TK Chapin.

T.K. Chapin is the pen name for Ben Chapin. He uses the initials “T.K.” because he writes Christian romance which is mostly dominated by women. Ben lives with his wife and three children in Southern Idaho. In 2023, he lost his biggest fan when his father, a great man of God, suddenly passed away. Ben says, “Before this tragedy touched my life I only hoped and believed God would comfort me and hold me together. Now I know He does. He is so good even when it hurts.”

A few years ago, I really enjoyed reading Ben’s book Amongst the Flames, a love story between a firefighter and his wife in which trust has been broken.  I would describe his “faith-filled fiction” as distinctively Christian. Which I love. In this book his characters read the Bible, pray and see the need for church. He earned my respect for that. Though I expect to see some mention of these in Christian fiction, sometimes all three are missing.

T.K. is the author of 63 books, which tells you he’s been busy! At one time, he was producing a new book every couple of months. Last year, however, after eight years of writing full time, he returned to his secular job.

Get this book free for subscribing to T.K.’s newsletter.

When Broken Roads Lead Home

Discover the heartwarming story of Natalie and Jacob in “When Broken Roads Lead Home,” a clean and faith-filled Christian romance novel. Join these two characters as they navigate the challenges and joys of life while rediscovering their faith and falling in love. This inspiring story is sure to encourage your own faith and remind you of the beauty of God’s love. Download it now for free and get ready to be swept away in a gripping tale of hope, love, and redemption.

Get this book free by subscribing to T.K.’s newsletter.

 Find out more about T.K. here.   

 *You can find the basic words, “I am God and there is no other,” in these places: Deuteronomy 4:35, 4:39; 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 44:80, 45:5-6; 45:14, 45:18, 45:22, 46:9; Joel 2:27; Mark 12:32.




Free book by April Gardner!

Each month from now until March 2024, I’ll give you a link to a free book by another author. During one month of that time, my book will become free for my subscribers. Scroll down to find out more about this month’s free book.

 On July 2, our church in New Zealand celebrated our annual International Day. In the last ten years our church has begun to fill with international people who have come to New Zealand to study or to build a new life for their families. They are a vital part of our church. We use this special day to celebrate the diversity of people who call our church “home.” You can see by the flags that we have people from the UK, USA, India, Indonesia, Fiji, New Zealand, the Philippines, Korea, Ukraine, and China.

You may remember that my husband, Art, and I are Americans who have served as church-planting missionaries in Taiwan (1980-1996) and New Zealand (1998 until the present.) God has used our experiences to prepare us for the very international ministry we have today. We’ve learned about the different ways international people do dishes, dress, and interact socially. Western cultures often emphasize independence and individuality, whereas Asian people emphasize doing things in large groups. Kiwis (New Zealanders) value independence and a do-it-yourself attitude toward jobs around the house. They celebrate sports stars, push their children to achieve in sports, and often learn a trade. On the other hand, Asians tend to value education very highly. They push their children to achieve academically, so they can qualify for highly skilled jobs. Overall, Asian culture places less value on sports.

Living cross-culturally teaches you to look at life with different eyes than someone who has only lived in one culture. Ideally, it makes you look for the best in other cultures. It teaches you to communicate in a way that is easily understood in different cultures. You learn to value the strengths of different cultures and to be comfortable interacting with people who have a different background than you have.

Most of the books I’ve written, whether they are written for adults or kids and youth, deal with cross-cultural issues and come from my experience or someone close to me.

  • New Beginnings Series: Americans partner with New Zealanders in church planting ministry
  • Art Spotlight Series: an MK from Taiwan works with some Chinese characters in the US
  • Careful Enough? (written under my pen name, Dillon Forbes) features a ministry in China
  • Two Sides to Everything: an American boy goes to live with relatives in New Zealand
  • Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World: an American girl becomes an MK in Taiwan

What cross-cultural experience have you had? What did you learn from it? Feel free to reply in the comment box below.

Today I’m featuring Author April Gardner.

April spent the first two years of her life in Japan while her dad was in the military. When she was ten, she moved from America to Spain with her parents who were, by then, missionaries. At eighteen she returned to the States for college. Two years later, she married and followed her Air Force husband to Germany where they lived seven years. Next, they moved to England for four years and then back to the States where she has lived since 2009. Recently she lived short-term in Italy for a study abroad program.

I think we can safely call her a *TCK (Third Culture Kid.)

 When I heard about April’s cross-cultural experiences, I immediately had two questions and got good answers for them.

 Q1: What languages do you know and want to know?

A1: I speak English, Spanish, and I’m actively working on Italian. Not quite fluent yet with the Italian but getting there! My mid-life brain doesn’t appreciate that I’m throwing a third language at it, especially one that’s so closely related to language #2, but I’m wrangling it into submission. After Italian, I’m donzo.

 Q2: Would you like to share any amusing situations you’ve been in or cultural insights you’ve learned?

A2: During my recent stint in Italy, I learned from Italian friends that it’s not cool to drink cappuccino after 11 (ish). When I ordered one as an after-lunch coffee at a restaurant, they cringed (all but shrinking in their seats with embarrassment), then went into a playful (but totally serious) rant about all the reasons it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. Apparently, a cappuccino is a meal (breakfast.)

“Why would you order a meal after eating a meal?! This is absurd.”

When I asked how a cappuccino could be considered a meal, they answered with a question. “What do babies drink for their meals? Milk! There you go.”

This was all said with the typical animated Italian gestures, which put a beautiful bow on this enlightening conversation. It’s one of my best memories of that semester in Italy.

*In case you wondered, a TCK’s are people who were raised in a culture different from their parents’ culture or the country of their nationality, especially during a significant part of their growing-up years.

Beautiful in His Sight

It’s 1917, and Halifax is at war. Silas Quinn, street sweeper and army reject, remains on the home front, shunning God and society as religiously as they shun him. But the night he stumbles across a half-frozen prostitute, his eyes blink open, and his greater purpose is born: preserve and protect.

There’d been a day when shop girl Helen Fraser was desperate enough to believe a few nights in a brothel would cure her troubles. By some miracle, Major Jack Gordon deemed her worth saving, but Helen knows her meticulously recreated identity cannot last. What she doesn’t expect is for its destruction to come about, not by a john or one of the madam’s goons, but by a force great enough to flatten a city and bury her alive.

Set against the backdrop of the Halifax Explosion, Beautiful in His Sight is a WWI Christian historical romance that explores unequivocal grace and identity in Christ.

Get this book free for subscribing to April’s newsletter.

Find out more about April here.

Deb Brammer’s book, Short Poppies is currently featured in Sheep Gate Digital Magazine along with these Christian books: The Wedding Standoff by Evangeline Kelly, Tender Love by Juliette Duncan, Three Confess by Luana Ehrlich, and The Billionaire’s Teacher by Elizabeth Maddrey. Janet W. Fergeson is the featured author.

 You can find the  authors featured in Sheep Gate and their books here.

6 Questions to Help You Balance Your Ministry

Do you ever feel overwhelmed in ministry? Maybe you minister in a small church and there never seems to be enough people to do all the jobs that need to be done. You know you need to balance family life, ministry, and other priorities in your life, but everything you do seems important. What can you leave out?

I’ve been a missionary pastor’s wife for 45 years so I’ve lived through many seasons of life. Language school with small children, starting churches and raising a family in a very foreign culture, a revolving door ministry in America, ups and downs in a church which has turned very international. Now my husband and I are drawing close to retirement and working to help our church transition from missionary pastor to local pastor. With each season of life, I’ve needed to evaluate what I could contribute to ministry and what God is leading me to do. I’ve learned that I change and my energy level changes. Church needs change. My ministry needs to change as well.

A small church has many jobs that need to be done. Some may not be visible to the average church attender, but if no one does them, problems develop. Here are some of the jobs in our church:

  • watching the nursery
  • cleaning the church
  • ordering and organizing the Sunday School curriculum
  • setting up for communion
  • cleaning out the craft closet
  • deep cleaning the church kitchen
  • teaching a class
  • greeting visitors, asking them to sign the guest book, giving them church literature
  • leading games for kids’ club
  • providing transportation to church for those who need it
  • bringing refreshments for various church activities
  • mowing the lawn
  • providing music for church services
  • tending the garden, spraying weeds, and pruning trees and shrubs
  • passing out church fliers in the community
  • pushing trash cans to the curb on trash collection days
  • church maintenance
  • providing childcare for a single mom
  • picking up kids who live a long way from church
  • counseling a needy person
  • serving as a church officer
  • directing a Christmas program
  • speaking to ladies’ groups
  • talking to people before and after services

Make you tired just thinking about it?

Maybe you are doing many of these jobs and some other ones beside and you feel overloaded. You see jobs that need to be done and wonder if you should add them to your already heavy load. How do you sort through the needs and find God’s will for you? I’ve found these 6 questions help me to know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”

  1. Am I gifted in this area?

God may want you to do a particular job because you are especially gifted in that area. God equips us with gifts and skills so we can serve him in special ways. Serving God in an area that you can do well and are passionate about brings a special sense of fulfillment. Feeling fulfilled in God’s service in an amazing feeling, but it doesn’t always mean God is leading you to do a job, just because it matches your gifts and skills. On the other hand, God does give us the skills we need to do his work. When your skills match church needs, God may be nudging you to meet those needs.

  1. Could the Lord be asking me to grow in this area?

Maybe a church job is outside your comfort zone. You’re scared to do it, but it needs to be done. Maybe God wants you to step out and try this new job. If it really doesn’t work out, at least you would have tried. You would have learned to trust God more in the process. At the end of that time, you would know this isn’t a job God has for you and you could look for someone else to do it. But new things are often hard in the beginning. In the process of learning a new job, God may be growing you in a new area in which you can serve him.

  1. Is this job something that just needs to be done and I can do it?

In a small church lots of jobs need doing and there are seldom enough people to do them. You might find a certain job just needs to be done. You can do it and there is no one else who can or will do it. God needs servants who are ready to do whatever is needed. Since you see the need, maybe you need to be the one to meet that need.

  1. Is this job something that only I can do?

You might be the only person in your church that can play the piano, lead a puppet team, or decorate for a special event. If this is something that needs to be done, God may be directing you to do it because you are able. You may need to ask someone else to relieve you of another job so that you can do the thing that no one else can do. Many jobs can be done by nearly anyone, so if there is one thing that is really important, and only you can do it, that may be a clue that God is leading you to do it.

  1. What job does someone else need to be doing?

You might be gifted in a certain job so no one else is doing it. But what if you taught someone else to do it? That would double the people who could do it and provide a back-up person for when one of you is sick. Maybe another person sees you doing it and feels she can’t do it as well as you. As long as you keep doing it, probably no one else will volunteer. But God may want you to step aside so someone else can serve in this way. In the beginning, that person may not do as good a job as you could. Maybe she never will. But serving in a different way might enable her to grow in a new area. Your skill and willingness could be blocking others from learning new ways to serve the Lord.

  1. What job doesn’t need to be done at all?

As years go by, churches often keep adding programs, but never take any away. People seem to get busier every year and can resent the expectations churches have for them and their families. Maybe a certain program has worked well in the past, but you just can’t find people to run it. Maybe you’re running it, but you are running on fumes. You know that exhaustion is crouching nearby, ready to pounce on you, disabling you at a critical time in your life and ministry. Something’s got to go. That’s one time to re-evaluate the jobs and programs in your church and see if you need to drop something. Sometimes the must-have programs we try to maintain are not as necessary as we think.

Ministry is a privilege. Serving God is a blessing. But we all need to follow God’s leading for our lives and find the correct balance between ministry, family life, and other priorities. May God help you find that balance as you serve him today.


Free book by Sharon Srock!

Each month from now until March 2024, I’ll give you a link to a free book by another author. During one month of that time, my book will become free for my subscribers. Scroll down to find out more about this month’s free book.

Deb Brammer at home

If there’s one question adult missionary kids sometimes struggle to answer it’s this one: Where are you from? Both of my daughters have to figure out how much is appropriate to share when someone asks this. To a stranger, it might seem a bit much to say, “I was born in America but I grew up in Taiwan and spent a short time in New Zealand and now I live in Minnesota (or Iowa.) If you ask them where their home is, they have to think about that one as well.

If you ask me what my address is, I have to figure out which one you want. The address of the house I own is often different from my shipping address, and different again from my billing address. This year I’ve had to switch back and forth between our New Zealand home and a series of homes in America. Home can mean different things to me, depending what the question is.

Right now, our house in New Zealand is the closest thing this side of heaven to being my home. We’ve lived here 25 years and when we return to it from the US, we enjoy being home.  With our own bed and shower and internet connection. Where we can actually put our clothes away, not just in a suitcase. Home is where I can find the bathroom in the middle of the night. Where I can easily locate the gluten free items at a nearby Countdown supermarket. As much as anything, I enjoy coming back to my routine, where I can do things the way I’m used to doing them, at the time I’m used to doing them. After all the adventures, it’s so good to return to the familiar places of home.

Still, we are truly grateful for the many people who have shared their homes with us over the years. In the six months we were back in the US recently, we had two different mission houses that we used as a home base for about eight weeks each. To a large degree, those temporary homes became real homes to us. As people have opened their homes to us over 45 years of ministry, we feel like God if fulfilling this promise to us: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29 NKJV)

What does home mean to you? Feel free to share in the comment box below.

Deb’s book is coming out later in 2023.

In Pop In for a Cuppa, Jennifer leaves her home, family, and job to move to a different country ten thousand miles from her old home. Suddenly, she’s not a church secretary, but a missionary wife. Huge changes redefine what home means to her. I’m still working on this book, but hope to publish it later in 2023.

For now, scroll down to link to the free book you can get this month, simply by subscribing the author’s newsletter.

While women’s fiction refers to fiction which delves deeper into character and relationships that some other genres, faith-focused tells you that faith will be an important element in the book. In this case, we’re talking about the Christian faith. Some “Christian” books are little more than clean reads. I joined this group who were featuring faith-focused fiction because I like distinctively Christian fiction. While I haven’t read every book that I’ll be featuring, I sense most of these books will be more than simple clean reads.

Author Sharon Srock

Meet Sharon Srock. She writes about “ordinary women with extraordinary faith.”

When I first read Sharon Srock’s book Callie in 2016, it moved me deeply. Not just because it was a great story, but also because it featured women who ministered to others and showed love through their local church! Finally, a Christian book that focused more on ministry and serving others than it did romance or danger! Finally, a book about mature believers growing in their faith and helping others who struggle!

Normally, I use exclamation marks sparingly. The fact that I’ve just used three in a row reflects the fact that, in 2016, I’d been looking for books like this for a long time. Finally, in Sharon’s book, I found the kind of book that I want to write. Some authors were actually writing this kind of book and selling them! That helped me find the courage to write my series about Americans partnering with New Zealanders in church planting ministry.

Sharon lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three very large dogs. She started writing these books 13 years ago and now has 23 books in 3 different series of books.

  •  Women of Valley View (9 books): Callie and other women of Valley View Church in Garfield, Oklahoma reach out to hurting people in their time of need.
  • Sisters by Design (6 books): Sisters in Christ from a workout group exercise their faith as well as their bodies.
  • Crafted with Love (5 books): Brought together by a craft store, these women find ways to support others in their community.
  • Mercie (3 books): This series of novellas feature a young rape victim who sacrifices her own desires to keep her child.

Click here to get Sharon’s novella that comes free with subscription to her newsletter:

For Mercie’s Sake – Free with subscription

For Mercie’s Sake:

Scottlyn Rich never wanted the title of trauma survivor. Or teen mom. But she’s about to be both of those things. She’s also homeless. And desperate. When a teacher reaches out to her, Scottlyn grabs hold of her one chance for a better future.

Schoolteacher Diana Kensington lost everything when her husband died. She’s been grieving and shut off for so long… but when she notices a troubled teen girl in her class, Diana finds a new purpose.

Can God heal the wounds of two women’s hearts, For Mercie’s Sake?

Sound interesting? Click here to get Sharon’s novella, free with subscription to her newsletter:


Other ways to learn more about Sharon and her books:

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Please visit her AMAZON page to find current info on her books: