Thursday, August 31, 2006

Adult English Camp...And the ripening fruit

In late July, Stan spoke at an Adult English Camp in the mountains west of Tokyo. The camp was designed to be a place where Japanese could come and practice their English, and also where they could be exposed to the Gospel. A summer mision's team from College Church in Wheaton came and brought a large portion of the program for the camp. Fellow College Church missionaries, Jim and Alice Rew, with SEND, were the camp directors. Through formal activities and informal interaction the staff were able to build good relations with the campers.
Campers gather for prayer before the meal times.

One of the joys for Stan was working with his translator, Pastor Andrew Tahara. The Unoki church, where Stan worked in the early 80's as a short-term missionary, had shown a movie of the testimony of Andrew and his wife. As a young woman, she had tried to commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. She didn't die, but lost both legs, one arm and two fingers on the other hand. While in the hospital feeling hopeless, a young man shared Christ with her. That young man was Andrew. The story of her new life in Christ, their marriage and their subsequent ministry together was a source of spiritual transformation in the lives of people at Unoki Church. Stan said that the movie still had the same impact as it was shown at English camp this summer.

The camp directors have kept in touch with those who attended. Alice wrote the following recently. "Last week the campers received a follow up letter, thanking them for coming and encouraging them to read the Book of Hope (life of Christ) magazine that they received. The Lord is still working in hearts! Seven campers have asked for Bible studies near their homes, and two campers want to know of a nearby church they can attend. We are working on getting this information to those campers, and encouraging them to follow through and get involved in groups where they can continue to hear God's Word!"

Finally--Our New Sofa!!

You may remember the heartbreak of June when the new Ikea three-person sofa wouldn't fit through the apartment entrance. I had to run back and forth to the store for refunds. I also requested being notified when the smaller two-person sofa became available. They called me just before we left for vacation saying that the sofa had arrived. They offered to hold it in their warehouse with our name on it over the month of August.

Monday, after the kids headed off for the first day of school, Stan and I took the train back out to Ikea, had a lunch of Swedish meatballs in their cafeteria, then bought the sofa and cover. It was delivered this morning--only four days wait!

This is our first new sofa!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Missionary Vacation...The Great Crowd of Witnesses!

We just got back from nearly three weeks at Takayama By the Sea, a missionary summer "resort." This was the 118th year since the founding of Takayama, on the Pacific coast just east of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture. In the old days missionaries would take their children, their goats, and their domestic help on the train and then take carts to the resort. They would stay there for at least two months to escape the heat of the summer. There is quite a history to this location, and some of the current owners of cabins have been working to gather as much historical information as possible before links to the past are gone. We have one woman who along with her husband still comes back for vacation in their retirement. She was a baby at "Tak" in the 1920's and grew up there except for the time during World War 2 and the US occupation afterwards. She is a great source of information. I (Faith) have served on the executive committee for the past five years, primarily as the Financial Secretary.

After years of trying to figure out how to have an affordable vacation in Japan when the cost of a hotel is at least $50 per person on the low end, we rented a cabin at Tak. Its actually a miracle we went back after that first experience, but we had good friends that let us stay in their cabin above the beach the following year. Seven summers ago we decided to invest in our own cabin. The cabin we have may be one of the earliest--the Japanese caretaker estimates its around 100 years old. It is clearly an old traditional Japanese style house that has had a few updates over the years. We are one of the few cabins that still has the plaque that shows the transfer of ownership from a foreigner to a Japanese as of the day of the Pearl Harbor attack!

The cabin is a three bedroom, one-floor wooden structure. In some places the inside and outside walls are the same. While we don't have any expectations of a great financial windfall, we wish we could make some changes that would allow us to use the cabin "off season"--such as better windows and insulation in the walls. We may try to get up there for Thanksgiving--though we say that every year and haven't done it yet! This is the only place we own--and it has given our children a place to call "home." We have a beam that has the heights of the kids for the last seven years. Our oldest daughter pined all month that she wasn't able to come back to Tak this summer.

We are a short walk from a couple of beaches. There is a lovely store on the grounds of the resort that orders imported food, and the caretaker's family still grows vegetables for sale there that were very popular with those early missionaries--rhubarb, beets, and zucchini among others
We also meet on Sundays for worship services in an open air chapel. Different people take turns leading the service. Stan spoke on Sunday the 6th of August on "Forgiveness." Last year we had the basic structure of the chapel redone by the grandson of the original carpenter. Many of the "famous" missionaries of years gone by have worshipped in this chapel, and found refreshment and renewal at Takayama. There are times when I sit there and feel like we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses as we worship together with missionaries from many different organizations and nationalities.

These days missionaries get up there for two weeks--or maybe three per summer. With the ease and relative affordability of cross pacific travel people often don't stay in Japan during the summer. With air-conditioning, the heat of the cities is tolerable and while escaping it is fun, it isn't as necessary as it must have seemed even 20 years ago. Rather than bringing goats we stop at the nearby super market for milk. Rather than domestic help, we do the cleaning inside and out.

We always feel a thrill as we climb the hill from the parking lot and catch that first glimpse of our cabin. It is a place for us, a haven. I truly believe that the Lord used the cabin to help us through some very hard years last term because we had "Tak" to look forward to every summer. Now we're back in Tokorozawa, with the summer of 2006 as a memory. But next summer's coming...