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!