Friday, December 29, 2006

The Annual Family Photo

We have tried to take a family photo every year since we were married. Some have been professionally done, but most have been done with that wonderful feature on cameras--a timer. This year was no exception. Since our oldest daughter was in Japan for a few days at Christmas time we wanted to get that "family photo."
We ended up with a couple of photos we can use. This one I've entitled "Family Fun." It isn't good enough to go on a published card. It DOES show that next year I'll be the shortest one in the picture!

The first photo is always a challenge. Trying to get everyone placed and running to squeeze into place before the red light goes off.

A few photos later, composition is better, but one member of our family moves away from the pack. Can you tell she's been doing work in front of a camera lately?

After staring into the sun, we move to a big brick wall as the backdrop--only to be left with this glow on the tops of our heads.

We did get a good photo--and have already sent it to the printers to be made into a post card. We survived another year of photo shoots. We did it with relatively little stress this year--is it because the kids are growing up, or because I begged them to do it as a gift to me? I don't know. But I'm glad we have this record of Christmas, 2006

The After-Christmas Gathering.

The Asian Access Family in the greater Tokyo area got together on Wednesday, the 27th, for an after Christmas gathering. Three families and two individuals were unable to join us due to travel plans, and we have A2 family in other parts of the country, but it was fun to gather together at the Japan office for a time of games, and reconnecting.

For most of us, the schedules have been hectic up through Christmas, so we gave ourselves a break and ordered boxed lunches for our main meal. The main point was to be together, not to impress one another with our culinary skills!

We made up new words to the "12 Days of Christmas"--some were tongue twisters, others were more contextual to our culture here in Japan. One of the younger girls told me afterwards "Our song made much more sense." I have to agree!

The next time we'll all be together is at our mission's 40th Anniversary Gathering in Malaysia. Its getting colder here--so the tropical weather will be VERY welcome by the end of March.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Guess Who Came Knocking On Our Door?

When it gets to be 8:30 PM around here, and the door bell goes off, one of us usually opens the door to find a newspaper salesman trying to sell us a Japanese newspaper. The fact that our face is non-Japanese sometimes gives the man a difficult response. My best response is NOT to speak Japanese but to give him a flurry of English sentences in rapid fire...just to see him look at me in horror and walk away...

Well, the other night when the bell rang, I went loaded for bear. To my surprise, when I opened the door...there stood a Japanese Santa! He was a little shorter than myself. His red suit was new and his white beard was not the best I have ever seen but he was enthusiastic!

"MERRY KURISUMASU!" I responded: "MERRY KURISUMASU, SANTA!" His helper--a little big for an elf, was reaching into a while plastic bag and brought out a large gift--all well wrapped and holding a camera in the other hand. She kept looking at our name plate and smiling a nervous smile. I thought: "Do I know these people?" His eyes were the only thing that I could really see and yet he sure did not look like someone I knew. Maybe his wife was someone we met last year from another church, but no, she was not someone I knew either.

Then the lady-elf said: "Mina-can wa?" (Meaning: "Is Miss Mina here...?")

They were on the wrong floor!

That was the best wrong number I have ever had!

And they didn't leave the gift!
But I was a good boy! I was! Really...
Merry Christmas--a few days later.

God Gives Us Family

Mark 10:28-31

Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

We spent Christmas Day evening with the family who has become family for us. We have know the Woons since our two oldest daughters went to first grade on the train together. As our ministry schedules allow, we get together on special holidays.

When we first came to Japan, we downplayed the "cost" of serving as a missionary. The longer we've been here, the more we've come to realize that there is a cost. We have lost parents, missed out on watching our nieces and nephews grow up, and feel sad that our kids didn't know their grandparents well. And now we have a child living on the other side of the ocean. The cost increases and increases...

But God does meet us in those places, and we rejoice in the Japan family we have been given.

Christmas Eve Sunday for the De La Cour Family

Sunday morning we had a wonderful service at ICCS. After the service we always have coffee--and people stay around. It was enjoyable to have several "alumni" there--and for us one of those alumni was our daughter.

We have several Filipino who are in Japan for work--and have left family back in their own country. Some of the Japanese in our congregation have been mothers to them--and Christmas was no exception.

A chatted with Dan and Stefanie, who have been a part of our chapel for several years. Stan performed their wedding in 2004. They are being transferred soon.

After the service, our family went to a Yaki Niku restaurant for lunch. We sat around the table roasting our meat and exchanging stories. J-ph got going on a story that he made up featuring B , Stan and Dan (see above). It got to be quite a screen play, with J-ph integrating all kinds of factual details and items from the news, with a very interesting story line.

Sunday Evening was the Christmas Eve Service. We had 45 people attend,mostly Japanese, but discovered that we were down to 11 bilingual song books too late to make copies...we know we had more before! Nevertheless, we had an opportunity to sing carols and hear scripture read, as well as to watch a short video clip from the Jesus video. Following the candle lighting service, people got dressed up in some costumes, and a huge group of carolers went to sing at the restaurant many frequent on Sundays after church, and the grocery store near ICCS.

There are a group of ladies who make an after-caroling snack each year. Our carolers all return to hot cocoa and the various finger foods.

Once again people had a chance to spend time visiting. For many people in our congregation, we are their family. Christmas eve was a time for them to spend with their church family.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Renewing my Drivers License

Today I had to renew my Japanese drivers' license. I have always dreaded going to do this--mainly because the waiting room is so full and smoky. However, I had a surprise this afternoon when I arrived at our local police station...There was no one in the waiting room--and not only that, smoking is now only permitted outside the building! Wow have things changed in Japan during the years we've been here!

I was processed quickly--paid my fee, got my photo taken, and then was ushered downstairs where the required "30 minute training" was already underway. We sat through a video of cars, motor bikes, bicycles and pedestrians running into one another. Thanks to computer automation, no longer are any people harmed to produce these training materials.

After the video was finished, the instructor got up in front and took us through the statistics of the number of accidents in our prefecture and our city this calendar year. In an incredibly "sing-song" voice with crescendos at odd places, she powerfully impressed on us how life is important and no money can bring people back, so be careful! I was convinced--and have driven very carefully all the way home. I couldn't help wondering how a room full of Americans would respond to teaching done in this manner. There was nothing wrong with what we were being warned of--just a major cultural difference in the way we would present this information. When she finished her talk, she called each of us by name and gave us our little receipts to take back up to pick up our licenses.

This is one of my most valuable possessions. When we first came to Japan, all we needed to get a Japanese license was a translation of our US license and an eye exam. In the past 10-12 years international licenses (except from a few countries like Canada who have an agreement with Japan) have required that translation, a written exam and a driving exam. We have friends who have taken that driving exam multiple times before passing.

So, I have a new license good for five years and one month. Can you tell how old I am from this license?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Stan's Christmas Impressions

While Christmas is only a few days away, I'd like to express my two cents worth to my impressions of this time of year...

...The "Look" of Christmas started here around November 18. Business is good with all the colors...

...So many times, as we walk around the area, we can hear wonderful Christian music. Handel would be proud!
A preschool choir sings carols in the plaza of our local department store.
Amazing Grace has always been a favorite song to sell anything from diamonds, ham, cars, or even a Judy Collins CD! The "Sounds of Christmas" will end at noon on the 25th...

...Shopping here is not so hard. It still cost money!...

...Trying to get something new out of the Christmas story each year is a lot of work. This year, I will return to the facts...just the facts. Plain is good...

...there is no way to lose weight in December... . looks better and smells better the colder the temps are...

...I really miss LA weather!!!

Under His Grace

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Tea 2006 at ICCS

Yesterday we had a Christmas Tea at ICCS--with over 60 in attendance. Christmas is such a good time to share the gospel in Japan--and we are grateful for these chances to invite friends to special holiday gatherings.Our friend, Janet, brought three ladies from her neighborhood English class to the Tea. Janet and her family will be returning to the US for their home assignment this summer, and so this gave her an opportunity to begin building bridges between these ladies for future ministry outreaches.Our co-worker, Dee, taught about one of her favorite seasons--Advent--and showed various advent calendars. Dee is an animated teacher, and a number of the women who attended have been in various English Bible Classes that she has taught over the years. Dee has written a number of English Bible textbooks which are widely used in Japan.

Part of what Dee does is to help reinforce concepts with motions--she taught people about the Spirit of Christmas being hope, faith, joy, love and peace. Here she is illustrating "hope." She had everyone participate in this exercise.
A highlight for us at ICCS was having the head of the neighborhood organization and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. T, come and join us. We recently made contact with them through our church member, Mrs. S (on the left) who is part of the neighborhood organizing committee. We hope to build more and more bridges with this family and with others in the neighborhood.

And speaking of building bridges--when Mr. T first came to meet Stan and Dee, he mentioned that his wife and daughter play classical guitar. His daughter was invited to give a "mini concert" at this Tea--and she brought her friend to play the flute. We enjoyed their contribution to the atmosphere and hope that this will lead to them coming again later. The daughter told me that her husband speaks English, having lived in the US for 4 years, and is concerned about forgetting it. I suggested he could come and visit the church and practice from time to time.

As the Tea came to a close, we had a gift for everyone who attended. Our friend, Ann (or Santa Ann in this photo) does tatting as a hobby, and she made 60 small felt ornaments with a tatted snowflake on the one side and the initials "ICCS" on the other. Thank you, Ann!

Personal reflections~
God has blessed us with years of service here and I was able to see some of those connections as I scanned the group. I am excited about the ladies we are working with right now but I am also energized by what God is doing in ...
  • A woman who taught me Japanese through a community class 17 years ago.
  • A woman who came up to me and reminded me that our daughters had both gone to Kohitsuji Yochien (little lamb preschool) together. She gave great detail about memories of B. She has been studying with Dee for 5 years.
  • The grandmother of one of our daughter's classmates from elementary school through high school. She has begun attending one of Dee's Bible Classes.
  • A Malaysian friend who helped with logistics at the Tea. She just recently returned to church after years of absence--God used a "chance" 2-minute meeting on the train to reconnect with her.
  • My friend, Etsuko, who attended my neighborhood Bible Study for four years. She isn't able to join us in Alpha yet, but seems to be interested at some point in the future.
  • Yumi, who played the piano for the prelude and the carols. She was our second pianist at ICCS when we first started. She wasn't a believer then--but as we prayed for her, and with her about her infertility, she saw God do great things. She moved away shortly after her son was born, but recently moved back after 14 years.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Birthday celebrations!

Yesterday was Joseph (on the left) and John's 12th birthday! It was one of the best for us.

Highlights included--
  • The stunned look on John's face when he tore the paper off Grandpa's gift -- "Grandpa gave me a mobile phone!" He soon discovered that the box and the contents were totally different!
  • Joseph's concern that shaking one of the boxes before opening it was rude.
  • Both boys being very excited to get books on models of tanks and/or planes from World War II -- having scouted out the model stored on the way home from school and noticing that the books were missing from their last visit with Dad...
  • We sensed they really appreciated their gifts--not in a greedy way as in the past.
  • Sitting around the table at the Yaki Niku (Korean Barbeque) restaurant going through questions about America from the "Brain Quest" gift John received in that "mobile phone box." All three cross-cultural kids were challenged --and learned more when it was their turn to ask the question. Their parents were challenged to remember facts that have become a bit rusty.
  • Hearing gentle sounds of harmonica from their bedroom last night...almost sounded like there should be a campfire around somewhere!

We have been praying for the boys to be more affectionate, more connected with us. We were all blessed when Joseph came looking for us to hug us goodbye on his way to school a few days ago. He even sought out his sister--almost unheard of before! John actually acknowledges her with a subtle wave at school... and sought her out for help recently. We're making progress.

Our next significant date with them will be Janury 24-- our 11th "Gotcha Day"--the celebration of when we got them from the "Baby House" in Russia.

Monday, November 27, 2006

How 'they' see us...

It was Saturday evening when I thought of the idea to give the young people at IC something to do in helping them understand the message. I went to my favorite web site for making puzzles and made a handout with 27 words and names that I would use in the sermon that covered the topic of Missionary Era. Names like CT Studd and Charles Spurgeon and words like reaffirming and restoring. The longest was von Zinzendorf! (A prize to the first to tell me who that was!)

One of the young teens finished the puzzle fast and drew me! I am glad I wore a suit on Sunday. Is this how they see me? I wonder how those outside the church see us? Here I am standing behind the Cross. Do people see Jesus?

Interesting that Stephen even drew the reflection on the floor. Another question comes to mind: Do I reflect my Savior that well?

Good job on the sketching, Stephen!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Missionary Mental Health?

When a friend heard I was attending a "Mental Health and Missions Conference" he wondered whether I was going as a patient. To be truthful, I did have a couple of very good consultations with professionals over the tables at this annual conference held at Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana--but I was there as a Missionary Care Facilitator for Asian Access/Japan.

Why would there be a "Mental Health and Missions Conference" anyway? Check out these statistics from one of the sessions:

  • 46% of missionaries suffered psychological problems at some point while on the field, or more commonly, shortly after returning home.
  • Of the cases of the disorder, 87% had a primary diagnosis of clinical depression, and a further 7% included depression along with another disorder.
  • Organizations only knew about 7.5% of cases.
  • Depression is the most common illness among missionaries.
  • Many MK's (missionary kids) also have difficulties, including depression and other disorders which may partly arise out of an attempt to deal with low mood (e.g. eating disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, deliberate self-harm.)

Missionaries experience stress

  • Overwhelming responsibility
  • Cultural difficulties and frustrations
  • Unpredictable circumstances
  • Cross cultural adjustments
  • Robbery*
  • Violent Attacks*
  • Hostage taking*
  • Witnessing deaths*
  • Constant concern about support-raising and insufficient finances **

*not often experienced within the Japan field

**not mentioned in the workshop, but one I've observed in my years on the field

The Conference was geared toward Mental Health professionals who minister to missionaries through private practice, through on-field visits, and through dedicated missionary health centers around the world. While I am not a "mental health professional" it was very helpful to learn more about what services and resources are available for missionaries.

My role with Asian Access is one of connecting our missionaries with the resources they need to better take care of themselves and so the opportunity to network with these professionals was one of the most useful outcomes to the visit.


Special Visits

I just got back from a week in the US, to attend the Mental Health and Mission's Conference in Northeastern Indiana. On my way to the conference I stopped and visited my Dad in Nashville. It has been a couple of years since I visited him at home, and it was a precious time. I also had a chance to get acquainted with his "live in companion"--a cat named Sarah. God has been gracious to Dad over the last 8 years since Mom's death, and I am so proud of how he has stepped up to the challenges involved in living alone after nearly 45 years of marriage.

This is one of the hardships we face in our calling and ministry--being away from family at significant passages in their lives. Both Stan and I are grateful that our parents have been willing to allow us to follow God's leading in our lives. We are coming to understand the cost as we now have one of our children on the other side of the ocean from us.

And, speaking of that other child...I was able to stop in and spend one night visiting with both B and my sister on my way back from Indiana. We had a nice visit at a Panera Bread store. No, my sister and I are not twins--I'm the older one, on the right side of the photo. The visit was too short--but we get to have B with us for a couple of weeks at Christmas time, so we look forward to extended conversations then.

"What makes me Relax" by John

I just got back from a one-week trip to the US. Stan told me about this paper John wrote in my absence. I confess there is truth in this... John's Mom

What Makes Me Relax

When I come home I usually know what my mom is going to say: “Hi John, what do you have for homework.” I want that to change to “Hi John, relax and go watch some TV.” I am going to talk about what makes you relax.

Here are some ways I am can be relaxed. Kick back on my bed and play on my Nintendo Game Boy SP. Another way for me to relax is to jump on the couch and turn the TV switch to cable as fast as I can so my mom won’t say “Did you do your homework?” I would flip through channels and get to find one that is interesting then they’ll forget about homework. Another way for me to relax is to say “I’ll wait after supper then I’ll do it.” Still another way for me to relax is to say “I’ll do it. I’ll do it” then she will say “When?” Another way for relaxation is for me is to forget about homework and school and do something fun like video games. Another way for me to relax is to rest or sleep on my bed.

Another relaxing thing for me is a movie and pop corn plus ice cream sometimes. What makes me relax a fluffy pillow, a cozy bed and a good night sleep. Another way for me to relax is being on a vacation.

Another way for me to relax is for me to be the only one at the house for sometime. Another way for me to relax is a whole week of no school. Another way for me to relax is no talking about homework or thing I have to do. What makes me relax is to hear from the teacher something was postponed to another day. What makes me relax is a holiday or break.

The thing that probably is the most relaxing thing I wrote about is a nice vacation in United State Territory of Guam. The second one of the things I wrote would be watch many shows on Cable TV. This shows that there are many ways for me to relax myself.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Glimpse of God at Work behind the Scenes

“To go out to dinner or to head home?”

This was the question Stan asked himself on Sunday evening as he left the English service at Shibuya Harvest where he had given the message. He decided to forego dinner with the group and headed onto the train for the hour-ride home.

At the first stop, he heard someone call “Stan-san!” He turned around and saw two faces—unchanged over the 15 years since we had last seen them—beaming at him. We had been their neighbors from 1986-1993. I taught their high-school-age sons in an English class (the only kids’ class I’ve ever taught). Mrs. T. was in my first “Foundations of Faith” Bible Study where I stumbled through in English and a little Japanese. We had been in their home for meals enjoying their hospitality—and their ability to speak English in those early years.

Mr. & Mrs. T. had just come from dinner with their oldest son (now 31!) and his fiancé, and somehow we were one of the topics of conversation! They had apparently shared detailed memories of times with us. So when they saw Stan on the train, it was all the more amazing.

Mrs. T. leaned over and told Stan, “I’ve become a Christian and have been baptized. I attend the Shalom Church in our city.”

Stan replied that he wasn’t surprised.

Mrs. T. asked “Why?”

“Because that’s what we prayed for you!”

“Oh!” Mrs. T. responded. She then said that her husband hasn’t become a Christian yet.

A little while later, the husband said meeting Stan Sunday night was a miracle!

When Stan got home we pulled out our old Prayer Letter file and came up with a write up on this family in February of 1992. We had great hopes for spiritual progress at that time. After we moved from that neighborhood we lost touch with them—and actually thought they had left the area. The oldest son briefly visited our church a few years later—but we had no idea how God was still at work in this family.
Thank you, God, for those glimpses into what You are doing in the lives of those with whom we’ve shared the Gospel! We don’t always get to see the fruit—but thank you for these moments where we can be reminded that Your Word does not return void!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Worship in the department store

We were walking back from the bank two blocks from our apartment, past the front entrance of the Parco Department store, when my ears heard the following familiar refrain on the loudspeakers...

"All of you is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with your love
And all I have in you is more than enough"

We moved back to the entrance and stood there, listening to the reminder of God's all-sufficiency, tears building up in both of us.

We've been under some stresses recently, and were feeling weighed down. But God was ministering to our hearts through the music feed at a department store here in Japan.


I look forward to Christmas, when I will be able to stroll through the department stores listening to some of the greatest sacred music classics celebrating Christ's birth... And I'll think of those of you forced to listen to "Happy Holidays" trash piped through musak.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Family Photos

Stan was asked to share about the ministry of ICCS at the Asian Access Board meeting in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. He flew out a few days early to visit with our daughter in Hollywood.
He had an opportunity to attend church with her at "Ecclessia" and went out to lunch with her friends afterward. Stan also spent some extended time visiting with our ministry mentors. It was a refreshing and much needed visit.

After the Board Meeting he headed off to the East Coast to visit with his mom and brother. Mom De La Cour is in good health--much better than during Stan's last visit with her. He enjoyed seeing her interact with her neighbors and was delighted to hear about the opportunities she's had to share Christ and invite people around her to attend church. Stan and his brother had a shorter time together, but they always enjoy being able to see one another face-to-face.

Stan flew home on Thursday. On Friday his computer died. On Saturday we joined the Tokyo area Asian Access missionaries in a day of prayer. We didn't get a group photo at that event (what were we thinking?) but we did get photos of the two of us. This is to show that we DO get together...even though this fall we are traveling separately several times. I am the next one to fly to the US in 2 1/2 weeks for an 11-day trip.

Renewal going on here

The International Community Chapel of Saitama uses space in the Asian Access Japan headquarters office. This building is about 20 years old, the age when things start to break down... The airconditioner/heating units have been gradually working less effectively and this past year funds became available to replace them.

All over the building we have these gaping holes where the old units once were. The walls and furniture are covered in plastic and dust covers everything. We had to move tarps around to hold Sunday School yesterday morning.

They finished installing the units in the ceiling on the first floor where we have our worship center before Sunday. We are pleased with the new units. The big test will be to see how quickly they heat the first floor. Judging by the weather outside today, we will have an opportunity to discover this soon!

The old units were larger than the new ones, so the new wallpaper they have used to patch the area reveals the need to refresh the rest of the ceiling. It reminds me of the joy and commitment of new believers in a fellowship--their faith often reveals how far we have come from our first love. Gratefully, we too can be renewed!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Asian Access Japan Church Multiplication Missionaries

I thank God for the opportunity to serve these Asian Access Church Multiplication missionaries as the Human Resource Development (HRD) Coordinator for Japan. As I (Faith) interacted with them individually and in groups over the course of the five days at our Fall Gathering, I was struck with the love and passion that each one has for Christ, for the churches they serve in, for the Japanese who haven't chosen to follow Christ yet, and for the cause of seeing churches planted with the "DNA" to reproduce themselves. Some have had disappointments this past year, others are overwhelmed with joy at what God is doing in their settings. Nearly all are overly busy with their various responsibilities. All had an attitude of care for one another. I don't remember hearing harsh words.

One thing I did hear, though, was that we need more people to come and join in the ministry of working along side visionary pastors and churches in planting more churches. We are praying that God would double the size of this group in the next four years. Please pray along with us for this! And if God is calling you or someone you know to join us, check out the Asian Access link to the right for more information.

In addition to these missionaries, we have 10 others who are not directly involved in Church Multiplication, and were not participating in this Gathering. We will meet with those this weekend for a Day of Prayer. Stan has been in the States for the past week, but will arrive back in time to join us for the Day of Prayer.

We are Here to Study Peace

The location of our Fall Gathering was a Government-sponsored Youth Center on an Island south of Hiroshima City. The location is somewhat centrally located, and the cost of the lodging and meals is very reasonable. There are also some unique (to us) experiences that we participated in as a result of the choice of this place.

Every evening at 5 pm there was a flag-lowering ceremony. Every morning at 7:10 there was a flag-raising ceremony. The groups that were staying at the center would line up, stand respectfully, and watch a team of six from one of the visiting groups lower the Japanese flag and the center flag. Two nights we were the only group staying at the center...which meant that we had the responsibility of lowering the flags. The first time the center staff took responsibility for raising the flag the following morning, but the last day we also raised the flag.

Following the flag ceremony, each group would introduce what they were planning to do during their time at the center. We said we were here to study peace. It was true, but in many greater dimensions than peace in a non-nuclear sense...

Sometimes we were led in brief "games" following the evening ceremony. In the morning we all participated in radio taiso or Radio Exercises. These are stretching exercises that have been broadcast on the radio throughout Japan for decades. One of the college groups that was at the center said it was a long time since they had done these--and proceeded to tell us that the idea for these came from old ladies who worked for the public health insurance in an effort to cut down injury-related claims.

One of Asian Access distinctions is that we work in partnership with Japanese churches and pastors. After observing and participating in this cultural experience, I saw that our missionaries had a heart of service, even doing some things that were a bit out of our comfort zone. I am very grateful that God has placed us with this group!

The Fall Gathering

From October 12-16 the Church Multiplication Missionaries of Asian Access met at a youth center near Hiroshima for a Fall Gathering. People came from both ends of Japan--Hokkaido to Okinawa, as well as from several regions in between to spend time building relationships and renewing our vision of church planting and church multiplication. Because we live so far apart, these rare gathering times are invaluable to us!

On Friday the team leaders and some of us support staff stayed at the Center to have our monthly meeting face-to-face. It was fun to be a part of the dynamic discussion. We usually meet by conference call, which helps us get things done, but definitely is limited.

While we were meeting...the rest of our group took the ferry back to Hiroshima and visited the Peace park. This was an opportunity, not only for them to spend time together, but for them to experience something that is very important to the Japanese today.

When they finished their time at the Peace park, they went to an Okonomiyaki restaurant for lunch. Some then had to get back to the youth center to get back to their children who had been a part of the children's program. Those without children camped out at Starbucks making it back to the youth center on the last ferry.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Back from the Wilderness

Anna with her friends Laura and Melody smiled for us as we met them at the Christian Camp today. After four days of hiking around the muddied mountains between Hanno and Ome and sleeping in the rain for three nights, the four teams of high school Juniors emerged this morning for hot baths or showers, a "comfort food" lunch of curry and rice, and a time to exchange stories. Anna's group was the last one to reach camp--her team had the longest trek over those days. She was greeted to cheers of "Welcome Back" and "Happy Birthday". Laura had worked to be sure there was a birthday cake waiting for Anna as she arrived back, so everyone got to celebrate her 17th birthday with her.

This is more how the girls felt, though! We are incredibly proud of Anna for having such a good attitude through a very tough time. This wouldn't have been the week she would have chosen to be marching through the woods, and we are grateful for the kindnesses of others who encouraged her along the way when her body seemed like it would give out. She looked quite pale when we picked her up--maybe even a little anemic. She has Friday and Monday off, so I expect her to sleep most of the next few days.

After we got her home we fed her a favorite meal. She took a nice long bath and then joined us for birthday cake. We thank God for bringing her through the wilderness. Its nice to have her back!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Into the Wilderness...

The Junior class at the Christian Academy headed out on a three night four day Wilderness Camp this morning. Anna (front, second from the right) and her group are pictured above. There are four groups all together. Its rained through out the night, and was still drizzling when they took off from the gym lobby. It has cleared up a bit, but the forecast isn't promising.

They will be sleeping out in the open, with fly sheets, but no tents. They are going through a mountainous wilderness area west of Tokyo, and will "come out" at the Christian campground sometime Thursday morning. For some reason, this has the knick name of "Stress Camp".

We pray that this will be a good time of growing in her relationship with this group of students, of testing her limits, and of growing in her relationship with her Heavenly Father.

Anna will return on her 17th birthday!...Lord willing!

Sharing Christ through Manga and Comic Books

Stan recently brought home a preview copy of the new Manga Messiah --a new comic book that is being printed at the New Life League here in Japan. There are plans for it to be released in a variety of languages as a means of sharing the life of Christ. Compare the look of the Manga on the left with the New Testament Comic Book (also printed by New Life League)on the right. Our boys are enjoying both books.

The artwork in the Manga is very contemporary. On this photo you can see the calling of the disciples in both books. The one on the right reminds me of Sunday school papers of years gone by. The one on the left, with all its sound effects and bold visuals, draws the attention of many who have been caught up into the Manga "mania..."

Living in a country where one can see children and adults devouring Manga, this new book will be well received. Stan was reading the Messiah on the train the other day, and was aware of the people around him looking over his shoulder to see the story. He showed it to a couple of young Japanese adults who he meets with regularly, and they both loved it.

By the way, isn't this the way YOU pictured the Pharisees?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

What a gift!

I was sitting at the office on Friday when I heard the delivery man call our name. I came around the corner and spotted this box. The stickers on the top say that it is food, is supposed to be delivered in the morning, and shows which direction is up. The sign on the side says it is a most wonderful fruit...Nashi!

When Stan first came to Japan 27 years ago, he stayed at a church in the southern part of Tokyo. He arrived during Nashi Season and his host family saw how much he enjoyed them. We have received a case of Nashi from them every fall we've been in Japan.

Nashi are called Asian Pears, or Pear-Apples in the States. The ones pictured here are large--and most likely expensive. I would say its about the size of a softball. The ones I buy at my discount grocery store are more baseball size and still go for about $6 for 4 or 5 Nashi.

The fruit is very juicy--too watery for pies, and not usually used for baking. It is always served pealed and quartered or cut into bite-size chunks.

I got the box home in time to get some cut for hungry boys who had just finished soccer practice.

Thank you, Pastor and Mrs Kondo! oishii!! They're delicious!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A New Era in the De La Cour Household

After years of going to theater practices and performances, music concerts and voice recitals with our daughters, we have just entered the world of Soccer. John and Joseph are playing middle school soccer at the Christian Academy in Japan. John, pictured wearing the blue uniform in these first two photos, was the first to go out for sixth grade soccer.
The school has all sixth grade children on the "C" or "D" teams and rotates them through both teams so all get playing time and experience. Only one other international school in the area has "C" and "D" teams--so they will be playing the same kids every Saturday for the next two months. Notice the soccer field...It is all gravel--bounded on one side by a train line, on another side by houses, and the other two sides are school facilities. Most kids in Japan never play on grass. One of our friends children is in the US this year, and has finally gotten to play on a grass field...He is also their number one "striker" which is a great way to get to be known as a new student in a school!
Joseph was a little slower to get signed up for the team, but decided kind of last minute to join. Today was his first game. Both boys have done well, and seem to have a good sense of position and strategy. I am convinced that it all has to do with us staying up until 3 or 4 A.M. watching World Cup soccer this past June...

Another new event this week occurred when we bought the boys cell phones. They were some of the last of their class mates to get phones, and although they had pestered us regularly, were surprised when we actually picked them up. There has been a different tone in the house since they got phones--almost like they are now really convinced we consider them our children. We're still sorting some of that out--but they apparently felt like they were second class family members since they were the only ones without phones. One interesting benefit of them having phones--we can figure out where they are because their phones have a GPS feature. We've already used it once...