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Good bye McFarlanes

posted Aug 15, 2012, 6:54 PM by Faith Academy Alumni Coordinator   [ updated Aug 20, 2012, 9:47 PM by Sites Admin ]

Familiar Faces – Graham and Karlene McFarlane                                                 by Deanna Nichols


Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Graham and Karlene McFarlane as they looked back over their 26 years of service at Faith.   I knew about how the couple’s willingness to share their lives endeared them to so many in the Faith community (students, co-workers and Filipino friends)!  I was very interested to hear about how God brought their family to the mission field and wanted to find out their secrets for lasting a quarter of a century! 


It is certainly no secret the couple is physically-fit as their habit has been a daily walk outside of the Faith gates through the Valley Golf neighborhood for exercise.   Their familiar faces bring smiles from many passers by.  Those same familiar faces will soon be missed as they plan to return to New Zealand, this June 2012.


Background.  Graham grew up in a missions-oriented church in New Zealand where there was a consistent awareness of overseas missions.  Many of the church’s missionaries regularly visited the church and shared about their ministries and God’s calling on their lives.  His family regularly hosted furloughing missionaries in their home.  As a teen, Graham felt something of an urge to look into missions but felt he was somewhat off the hook due to a diagnosis of diabetes.  Still, when Graham was a young adult in Bible College he surrendered his life to whatever and wherever God would lead him.  Within two years, God very definitely led Graham (with wife, Karlene and new baby, Tarryn) to teach Bible in two high schools in Nigeria.


Karlene accepted Christ at age 6.  She also was raised in a home where missions was talked about and lived out.  Karlene had two aunts who were overseas missionaries.  Her mother’s sister had been a missionary in Papua New Guinea for 23 years.  This particular aunt made a tremendous impact on Karlene since she spent her last years living with the family.  While attending an Open Air Campaign in Bible College, Karlene was challenged personally to reach out to others with the gospel.  She and Graham met in youth group and after five years of friendship and later engagement were married and ready to follow God’s calling on their lives. 


Initially the young missionaries intended to stay in Nigeria as long-termers but their plans were altered when Graham’s diabetic complications forced them to return to New Zealand following a brief eighteen month tour-of-duty.  In 1986, after receiving the needed medical treatment and improved health, Graham and Karlene recognized a new challenge from God to consider Faith Academy in Manila.  Their family had already grown to four with the addition of their second daughter, Kendra.  The sisters were able to settle into grades 6 and 3 upon arriving in the Philippines.  Despite some real struggles along the way, the family adjusted to missionary life in the Philippines.  Tarryn and Kendra both thrived in their classes and enjoyed the many extra-curricular activities, including sports!


Ministry Roles.  Graham and Karlene have served in a variety of roles through the years.  Graham taught eighteen years in fourth grade, joined by Karlene (in 1996) to team-teach after their daughters returned to New Zealand for university.  They have most recently worked to establish Faith’s English Language Learners program (ELL), with both handling teaching and Karlene serving as ELL Coordinator. 


Daily Schedule. Upon wrapping up their jobs at school (and their daily walk routine), the couple saunters down the steps behind the Central Office to their on-campus apartment, where they have lived for the past 15 years.  Their willingness to be on-call, all hours of the day and night has helped make campus feel like a welcoming and safe place.  Graham’s handyman skills have gone a long way helping others, while Karlene uses her gift for hospitality reaching out to friends and campus guests.


Fun.  Occasionally Graham and Karlene find time to get away and enjoy beach vacations and ministry at Boracay.  Some of their favorite activities include reading, walking, swimming and visiting their family in New Zealand.   Faith friends know a few things about the official sport of New Zealand - rugby since the school added rugby to it’s athletic program, 14 years ago.  These same friends also know that when the New Zealand All Blacks are having a winning season, the McFarlanes are among


The All Blacks biggest fans.  There are a few other families from New Zealand who help to round out the local fan base.  Last year, during the McFarlanes 25th Year Celebration (named Graham and Karlene McFarlane Day) the Faith Academy Rugby Team dressed up in black, sporting traditional Maori war paint to start the day off with the well-known Haka Chant!


Longtime friends of the couple, Steve and Rhonda Schwarze declare, “Everybody likes them!”… and it’s true.  Graham and Karlene have always taken time from their responsibilities at school to befriend and mentor others.  Robin Hardeman has this to say about Karlene, “She doesn’t want me to tell her she’s my Titus 2 woman because she doesn’t want to think she’s older than me!” They will certainly be missed after this school year.


God’s Care.  Graham likes to share how God encourages them by providing guidelines for living in His Word.  A favorite scripture is Psalm 37:3-5, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will act.”  (ESV).  He goes on to say, “These verses include amazing promises from our God who does come through with all His promises.”  They have experienced God being true to provide for their needs, time and time again.


One way God provided was by going ahead of their family, setting just the right people and circumstances in place. - Since Graham’s diabetes caused complications with his eyesight he’s been keeping a close watch on his vision with frequent eye appointments.  During the couple’s earlier years of ministry while the family was moving from one country to the next, God gave them both a keen sense of His care over them when they realized their doctor from Nigeria had previously met and trained with the specialist in New Zealand.  This relationship between the two doctors made treating Graham’s condition a formula for good long-term treatment.


Future.  Seeing God’s hand in the direction He took their daughters as they chose universities, careers (also great spouses!) continued to confirm God was providing…and so He continues to as the course of their ministry is now changing.  If you ask McFarlanes about their plans to move back to New Zealand, they will tell you they are excited for what God has in store.  Living closer to family and taking part in the lives of their daughters, son-in-laws and grandkids will definitely be a treat.  And I sure can assume they will be cheering on their beloved New Zealand All Blacks with a few more loyal fans than they could scramble up in the Philippines!  But when I go back to wondering how God kept them here all these years, I realize it was really no secret.  They were simply listening to The Good Shepherd and following Him by staying put in the work He led them to.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14).  Now that God is clearly leading them back to the pastures of New Zealand, Graham and Karlene will continue following His lead in their lives and He will continue being faithful to them.