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!