Sunday, December 30, 2007

Getting Together with Mission Family

We had an "after Christmas" party with Asian Access family in the Tokyo area on Friday, the 28th. We decided to celebrate with what is considered in Japan to be the traditional American Christmas dinner--Kentucky Fried Chicken. We also had a "White Elephant Gift" exchange and a rousing game of "Catch Phrase." We have enjoyed our gatherings this past year--the next time we'll be together is in early March when we join the rest of the Asian Access/Japan missionaries for our annual retreat in the mountains of Nagano prefecture.

A very special Christmas Eve

This year's Christmas Eve was a very special one. Christmas Eve and Day are not holidays in Japan, so we usually have a small turn out on Christmas Eve for the candlelight service. However, the current Emperor's birthday is December 23, and since it fell on a Sunday this year, they made Monday the 24th a national holiday. This opened our schedule to be able to have a larger Christmas Eve celebration.

We started with a soup and sandwich supper, with three different soups originating from three different countries. A number of church members contributed sandwiches, finger foods and sushi. We served around 50 people!

Following supper, we had a time of family talent--and Benjamin played his saxophone for us. We really appreciated this family sharing in the Christmas Eve celebration--they are from Norway, and typically have their family Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, but they arranged their schedule to spend a good block of their evening with us.

After singing carols in English and Japanese, we had a message given by Ken N., a young man from our congregation who is attending Bible College. He gave a clear salvation message in Japanese. His mother, a brother and the brother's girlfriend all came to hear him. Ken's mother has been moved by the changes in his life, and told a couple of the women at the Christmas Eve service that she wants to begin coming to church on the Sundays she isn't working.

We followed with Candlelight and the singing of Silent night.

Once the service was over, it was time to put on bonnets and hats from the "Dickens Carolers" and go caroling in the neighborhood. In the past we have gone to local restaurants and a shop down the street, but this year we did something different.

One of our church ladies, Mrs. S (center in the photo above) had gotten involved in the neighborhood community organization. Through her urging, we were able to offer the use of our worship hall for their monthly meetings. A few members of that organizational committee were the ones who made covers for our chairs. Mrs. S., along with Dee Wirz, a fellow missionary with Asian Access, have made concerted efforts to befriend the people in the neighborhood. So this year, we went caroling at 10 homes of people on the neighborhood committee.

A few of the folks have a house decorating contest going on. This is called "illumination" in Japan. We had people out there from America, Singapore, England, Japan, Nigeria and Uganda. For many of those singing this was the first time to go caroling.

The older man and woman in the center, are one of the neighbor committee members. They both attended the Christmas Eve service, went caroling to their neighbors, and they stopped and received the carolers at their home! Mr. E is not well, and yet he did the whole walk around the neighborhood.

We had multiple generations out there singing.

We have received comments of appreciation from several of those who were on the receiving end of the caroling. One family sent cookies to share with the congregation as a thank you gift. Our hope and prayer is that this will continue to reap fruit as we seek to strengthen our ties with those who live in the area of the church.

When the carolers returned to church, there were lots and lots of cookies, hot chocolate and spiced tea waiting for them.

It was fun to see Ken talking with a man who hasn't made a decision to follow Christ yet, but who has been coming regularly with his wife for over a year. Her life has been changed so much in the past two and a half years, and he sees that.

This family had somethings to be grateful for this Christmas Eve. The husband was hospitalized a few weeks ago with a stress-related illness. He had been released just a few days earlier. We were surprised that he, too, walked the whole caroling route. He hasn't come to a personal relationship with Jesus, though his daughter and son have. (The boy with his eyes closed is the son of the couple in the previous photo.)

As the evening went on, we had more and more fun talking with one another. The time together was very special. We ARE family to one another here, and we rejoiced in being able to celebrate this evening in such a warm way.

Mari didn't quite stay awake to the end of the evening! I kind of felt like this too, but unlike other years where we were the only ones closing and cleaning--we had lots of help, which made the load light and enjoyable.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Together at Christmas

Stan, J , J, B, A & Faith
Christmas, 2007
Tokorozawa, Japan

We are grateful that we found a last minute ticket using miles for B to come to Japan for Christmas! We had a good 9-day visit with her, and now have sent her back to the U.S. Next year we'll have to try to figure out how to bring two girls back!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

On Finding B ...

For the entire month of September, 2006, B joined about 600 other background actors and actresses to populate the "Banks Casino" in the filming of Oceans Thirteen. Her daily stories about what happened on the set, interacting with various actors, making friends with one of the blackjack dealers and some of the "AD's" (assistant directors) were fascinating. One of the still photographers on the set even took a few photos of her one day, and slipped them to her the next day.

When the movie came out in August here in Japan, we eagerly went to look for B. If you've seen the movie, you'll realize that it is very visually "busy". Add to that the fact we've come to accept, that background actors are never in focus, because they (obviously) are not the focus of the shot. But we all saw her as she ran up the stairs in the scene that showed the evacuation of the Casino.

B is back for Christmas, and brought with her the newly released Oceans Thirteen DVD. Last night we watched it with her, and she pointed out a few more scenes where she can be spotted.

For those of you who have asked...

at (1hr-11min-08sec) she is on the left as the stars move from the cars into the casino--she is near the door in a burgundy v-neck dress.

at (1-13-55) she is in a group of three standing right behind Clooney and the Asians as they walk into the Grand Opening--you'll see her in this gold dress.

at (1-21-26) she has her back to the camera at the blackjack table right behind the main characters working on the shuffle machine.

from (1-22-14) to (1-23-22 ) we begin with her elbow on the left screen as the FBI arrests one of the conspirators--her face can be seen at the very end of that segment.

beginning at (1-42-44) B is running left to right up the stairs evacuating the casino (this is the scene we spotted in the theater).

There is one more spot where she recognized herself in the crowd, but it is a busy scene (tables with the digital numbers of winnings floating through) and I can't find it now.

We hope you have find finding B!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Word of the Year

I was recently challenged to choose a word that describes a character trait I would want to develop in the next year. I am mulling over what that word should be for me for 2008.

In the mean time, we heard the following on the news the other day.
Every year a single kanji character is designated by the Kanji Examination Association which represents the events of that year, and this year the character is...itsuwari, which translates as falsity, lies or deceit.

It was a big year for being lied to in Japan, with many scandals in the headlines.

First, the problems with missing Social Security payments, which meant that thousands of workers wouldn't get credit for money they paid into the system decades ago.

Learning that the freshness date on the food they order may not be accurate also shook the trust of consumers in Japan -- even McDonald's got caught changing the dates on salads so leftovers could be sold the following day, and they'd been doing it for years. This coupled with false labeling on the source of meats and other products has filled the news daily over this year. I don't think a day goes by where we aren't hearing about another product that has been discovered to be falsely labeled in one way or another.

The scandal at the Ministry of Defense, in which Deputy Defense Minister Yoko Yamada demanded various perks in exchange for the awarding of lucrative contracts, resulted in a raid on the Japanese version of the Pentagon by prosecutors. About 15% of nightly news in the last month has focused on this scandal.

On December 13 there was an official ceremony at the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto in which a famous Buddhist priest wrote the character with a large calligraphy brush while hundreds looked on.

The kanji for previous years have included inochi (life) in 2006, during which so many young people committed suicide; ai (love), after the birth of Princess Masako's daughter Ai in 2005; sai (disaster), in tragedy-laden 2004; and tora (tiger), celebrating the Hanshin Tigers victory in the Japan Series in 2003.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Decorations

Sunday as I was sitting at a table across from the drink bar at the local family restaurant, my eyes noticed the jell-stick-on decorations on the mirror.

Whether because of spacing issues, or that someone actually knows the true reason for Christmas, it was delightful to see that they are wishing us Merry Christ-mas.

Another December Birthday...

Can you guess how old I turned on the 13th?

We had a little family gathering on Thursday evening to celebrate the occasion.

I'm thankful for another year of life. I'm thankful for my husband. I'm thankful for my family. I'm thankful to be serving God.

I'm also thankful that our oldest daughter is coming home in a few days!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Worked to death

Increasingly we are hearing stories of people who have been worked to death here in Japan.

Last night we got a call from one of the women in our fellowship whose husband was hospitalized yesterday for a serious illness--most likely stress induced. His company has him working in Osaka during the week and when he's back home with the family on the weekends, he's often expected to show up at the office in Tokyo. Two weekends ago he went without sleep for over 48 hours, and after a few short hours of sleep was back at another extended stretch of work.

If you pray, please pray for Taka . He doesn't know Christ yet, so we pray this will also be a time of opening his heart to the Savior who loves him.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Tis the Season...

We got word a week and a half ago that my (Faith's) 95 year old grandmother had died. She was actually my step grandma--but she has been a special part of our family for around 40 years. She was a delightful woman, with a great sense of humor. She married my widowed grandfather and together they spent years fishing, picking and canning June Berries, serving in various roles at their church, and growing old together. My grandfather developed Alzheimer's, and she cared for him faithfully through all the stages. He passed away in 1995. Its been six or seven years since we saw her--she lived in Northern North Dakota, and we didn't get up there on our last home assignment.

In talking about grandma's death with my sister, we began reflecting on the timing of deaths in our extended family. Both of these grandparents died in the fall. My mother's sister died in December. Nine years ago my mother died a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Stan's dad died two days after Mom. I can't remember when my paternal grandmother actually died, but I have vivid memories of standing in a grocery store in Japan listening to Christmas music thinking of how she was slipping away back in Minnesota.

In a brief article I wrote recently on missionaries and grief I made reference to 1 Thessalonians 4:13 where we are told we are not to "grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope." Instead, let us grieve like those who DO have hope! There are many Biblical examples of godly people (including the Lord Himself) who grieved.

I don't know what its like to grieve the loss of an unbelieving family member. My heritage is rich with people who followed after God. But I see many around me who have no hope that they will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thess. 4:17)

As I go into the season of Christmas, I am praying that I will have the heart of hope--because I believe in Christ, who humbled Himself to be born as a helpless baby, to grow and know what our life and challenges are, and who became obedient to God even to die as a substitute for us so that those of us who believe in Him can KNOW we will live eternally with Him.

The message of Christmas isn't

  • the baby,
  • the pretty decorations,
  • the Kentucky Fried Chicken (thought to be THE American Christmas traditional dinner here),
  • the bells,
  • the angels
  • the presents,
  • the music,
  • that fat guy in a red suit (for some, confused with Colonel Saunders because they dress him up outside the stores and for others, thought to be Jesus' brother).

No, its found in Revelation 21:3 -7, speaking of the end of time:

Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself with be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then He said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this and I will be his God and he will be my son."

Friday, November 30, 2007

We've got two new teenagers in our house

Joseph and John turned 13 years old today !

The boys' 7th grade class went to a performance of "The Lion King"musical in Tokyo today, so they didn't get home until about 6:30 pm. We headed over to a favorite "yaki niku" (Korean BBQ) restaurant for dinner, then had chocolate cake at home. We gave them gifts afterwards.

This year promises to be a bit challenging--it already is! But we pray (and we'd love your prayers, too!) that they allow God to rule in their hearts more and more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

International COMMUNITY Chapel says "Thank You!"

A few months ago members of the neighborhood in which our church is located began using our main hall for regular meetings. There is no community center in our district, and while it took a while for people to be willing to use a "church" the resistance finally was overcome.

One of the things that some of the neighbors noticed was how stained our chairs were. Looking for some way of compensating the church for opening our doors, they volunteered to make chair covers. Today was the first day we "debuted" the covers. Our chairs were original with this building--built by LIFE Ministries (now Asian Access) in 1987. They have seen lots of wear, so they were definitely due a refurbishing!

With the debut of the chair covers, we arranged to have the three individuals who made the covers come at the end of the service today to receive our thanks and bouquets of flowers. The man is the head of the neighborhood association.

The woman on the right, Mrs. S, is one of our long time members, who joined the neighborhood association and has been working to establish these connections for the sake of the Kingdom. She is holding the flowers for one of the seamstresses who was unable to come because her husband is very ill with cancer. Mrs. S delivered the flowers to her after the service.

As we head into the Christmas season, we hope that we can continue to add to the bridges that are being built. Already we have made arrangements to go caroling to several of these homes on Christmas Eve.

There are some in the neighborhood association that are very afraid of any religious connection--but there are others, like the man above, who have early experiences with Christianity.

Belonging Before Believing...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thankful and Surprised

When we planned Thanksgiving*** earlier this year, we were not going to be here in our apartment--but after making a very good decision to stay home and warm, we needed to extend our table to more than just the five of us. We invited Norwegian friends (the family that John stayed with last month) to join us.

We had the traditional thanksgiving turkey (we bought a 13.5 pound Butterball at the kids school for $37.00--I figured that was 5 to 6 times what we would have paid for it in the US.) Stan made a trek to a nearby city where we were told we could find cranberry sauce and bought three cans. Japanese sweet potatoes aren't quite the same as those from "home" but we still had a marshmallow covered sweet potato casserole. AND I discovered you can cook potatoes in the slow cooker for mashing, which comes in handy when there are only two burners on our stove top and not much room in the kitchen for finishing up the meal. We wrapped up the meal with a rich pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

It was a treat to spend the time with Harold and Lisbeth. They have been a part of our church for a while, but we don't often get to just sit and chat. Lisbeth is holding the apartment ALPHA course this fall. Harold works at the nearby Bible printing press.

Last Sunday was our usual "Covered Dish Lunch" after the service. (Third Sunday of every month--if you're in town, drop in!) We had a smaller group out for morning worship, and an even smaller one for lunch. Just before Stan started to pray, he got a tap on the shoulder, and looked up to see a man who has been away from church for many years.

Mr. U is at the end of the table--he stayed for a good part of the dinner, while Stan and a couple of others reminisced about the days when he attended the church. Most of the people who were here when he was are gone, but there are still a couple who remembered when he came. He was even Stan's translator for a while. He made a profession of faith in college, but wandered away into dark things. Once in a very long while he shows up again. Pray that God will continue to draw Mr. U out of the darkness and remind him of the true Light.

***It just occurred to me that maybe we should plan on celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving next year if we want to get to the cabin! October is usually quite comfortable up there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nathans--not quite a consolation prize, but...

Ever since we left our summer cabin at "Tak" in August, we have been dreaming about returning there for Thanksgiving. We've talked about it for years, but always had something come up in our schedules. This year we have kept the calendar clear...

But, as we watched the weather report for this week the forecast for the cabin location was for highs in the high 30's and lows around the freezing point for Wednesday and Thursday. Our cabin is a SUMMER cabin--somewhat on the order of camping in a wooden tent. We have three kerosene heaters already at the cabin, and had a fourth one ready to take up. We have a full tank of kerosene up there waiting for us. We had the sleeping bags ready. We had two door quilts ready to go. I had purchased and stored cans of cranberry sauce and pumpkin filling up there. But those temperatures were just way too cold. (Last March I stopped at the cabin for three hours after a meeting, and while I had two kerosene heaters running, the temperature went from 53F to 50F as the sun set.) So after discussion yesterday, we decided to stay in Tokyo.

Stan is VERY DISAPPOINTED!!! I am too, but I have arthritic-type pain when I get too cold, and the thought of a damp, chilly weekend helps me to balance that disappointment.

So, today we decided to go find the Nathan's hot dog stand we had heard about at Kichijoji, a city in Tokyo.

It was actually kind of chilly here, too, but at Nathan's Stan had a chili cheese dog--and another hot dog he smothered with sauerkraut and other stuff. We went from Nathan's to the Starbucks next door for coffee afterward.

We just got an email from a friend who is at their newly built cabin at Tak--its snowing. The forecast tonight said they may have a blizzard there tomorrow.

I am sure it is lovely in the winter--but unless there is someone who wants to donate funds, materials and time to winterize the "De La Cabin" to make it a year round retreat, we will have to be satisfied with our SUMMER visits.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A and scenes from The Diary of Anne Frank

A peformed in the role of Margo Frank last weekend for the Christian Academy in Japan production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

The Frank Family poses for a photo. All four of these students are seniors. And all of them had to have their hair dyed brown!

As the older sister, Margo is bothered by the dialogue between Anne and her mother, especially as Anne refers to Margo as being "perfect".

Those staying in the Annex enjoy a visit from Miep, the woman who brings them food, library books and news of the outside world.

Hanukkah, 1942, brings great stress to the Frank and Van Daan families.

The above photos are courtesy of G. Yamato at CAJ

This may be the last production for A at CAJ. Under previous schedules this would have been a musical year, but there seems to be a lack of interested or available faculty to direct and produce one--to her GREAT disappointment.

A shared this production with her closest friends at the school--they were either on stage with her or behind the scenes. She will have good memories of this time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Missionary - Sent from ICCS to America

On Sunday evening we had a chance to visit with Mappe who was in Japan to serve as a translator for the Church Planters Institute. Mappe was Stan's right hand and coworker in the ministry at the International Community Chapel for many years.

Mappe and his family left Japan a year and a half ago and moved to America to be near his wife's family. At the time they thought it would be one year, but it seems that God has opened other doors for him to stay and serve in the States for a longer period of time. He is presently teaching part time in a public school and serving as a Worship and Small Groups Pastor at a church in Connecticut.

Sunday morning Mappe shared with our church that he had been surprised at the number of churches they visited in America where the Gospel isn't preached. (One of the men listening who isn't a believer yet went home and asked his wife "what is the Gospel?" and then "well what would they preach if not the Gospel?") Mappe went on to say that much of what he is doing at his church in America is what he learned in ministry at ICCS.

I think of myself as a missionary, sent from ICCS in Japan, to the church in America.

One of the Japanese women in our church was so encouraged by that concept. The joy of being a part of sending the Gospel back to the country whose missionaries have brought the Gospel here visibly moved her.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A beverage for mental health professionals

One afternoon while at the Church Planters Institute, I walked into the lobby of the hotel, up to the vending machine and saw the following canned coffee--

I started laughing out loud. Is this coffee for those who are depressed?

I think cans of this will be sitting on most of the counseling consultants desks as a souvenir of their trip to Japan.

The Japanese above the photo of the coffee beans says its a dark flavor...deep espresso perhaps?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A trip up the mountain--Church Planters' Institute

Last Tuesday morning I (Faith) headed to the Fuji Hakone Land Hotel to join about 400 others at the 14th Church Planters' Institute (CPI). This Conference is now held every other year and has a specific purpose of wanting to see a church multiplication movement happen in Japan. About 1/3 of those attending are Japanese pastors, the others are foreign missionaries.

We actually got glimpses of Mt. Fuji only briefly on the day we arrived. The rest of the time we had overcast skies...

My role in this conference was that of helping with the operations of a Consulting Center to provide member care services for those in attendance. We had technical consultants (web designer, computer guy) educational consultants (Japanese language acquisition, coaching, and children's education support) and mental/emotional health consultants (psychiatrist, clinical psychologists, counselors, pastoral counselors). It was an excellent combination of resources, and over the course of the conference there were a total of 91 consultations. Two of our counselors were Japanese speakers, and they were kept fairly busy. It was so good to be able to provide these resources for people in ministry--most of whom wouldn't have any other "place" to go with their questions.

The psychiatrist, in his self-introduction, expanded on Luke 10:2 ... "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Adding, that the member care mental health specialists jobs were to help keep the workers in the field.

There were large group sessions and smaller workshops. There were case studies presented that were exciting--and sometimes a bit challenging for traditional church planters to hear. We heard from Mitsuo Fukuda whose Rethinking Authentic Christianity Network has produced 100 house churches in the last five years. He has written on the work among nurses in one of the Lausanne Papers. Moving from a strong hierarchy of clergy to a more "priesthood of the believers" perspective was interesting, exciting, motivating or quite controversial depending on which table one sat at for dinner! If you're interested in reading more from him, check out the English articles on his website.

One lunch they had called for those who were interested in joining a church planting network to meet together in a separate room. There were about 90 people who came and sat at tables by regions to talk about the process. One of the coaches was Asian Access's very own Hiroshi Kawasaki, who has directed the Japan Church Growth Institute (JCGI) for a number of years.

When I attended CPI two years ago, I felt that what was being taught to those in attendance was, in essence but never expressed, most of what Asian Access believes, teaches and does. This year I sensed the same thing but with there is one key difference. Asian Access works in partnership with visionary Japanese pastors and churches to plant churches--we don't go in and start it on our own, then try to transfer it to a Japanese later.

I left grateful to have been a part of providing a safe context for harvest workers to be encouraged and equipped to go back to their places of ministry through the Consulting Center.

I also left grateful to be serving with Asian Access!


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stan talks about recent Joys

One of the best days of my life took place Tuesday, October 16, after 4 PM.

I was in the US on a fund raising trip to help raise awareness that we need additional support.

I had already visited with my daughter (on the left with her roommates) in Fresno, CA and found that time well worth the jet lag.

I traveled onto Long Island, where 30+ years ago I had been a youth pastor—when we all were much younger… That time was so worthwhile as I conversed with a number of my youth group ”kids” who are now pushing 50! They have kids my kid’s ages and face some of the same troubles and stresses of people in our age bracket. I learned that some are elders in their different churches, mission’s directors and very active in the development of their young people to become well-rounded Christian workers in their community. They married well, have 3-5 kids who were doing well in school, live fairly high on the hog in their settings and show that they have fared well in their own walk of Faith.

I was so pleased.
After hearing some of their parents (above) remember things I did not do and thank me for that contact and direction, I realized John’s statement in 3 John 4--
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Not only seeing them, but also hearing their hearts that were ingrained in the Word of God! To hear that and to see that—well, that was great. And then…

I left Long Island to see my Mom and brother out on Cape Cod.

I spoke to three churches that next week and totally enjoyed it! One was a Native American Church of the Wampanoag Tribe in Mashpee, Cape Cod. Four centuries before, their ancestors lived in and around Plymouth long before the Mayflower landing on their land. The current pastor’s great, great, grandfather, “One Eyed Pete” was the last believing clergyman until Curtis took over. I had spoken at the Mashpee church three years before when there were only 25 people. That Sunday, the church was filled with over 90 very ‘glad to be here—glad to be anywhere’ Native Americans. (I felt so white.) This was a good slice of the approximately 1,500 members of their Nation. Pastor Curtis told me that a revival was hitting their tribe and I could really see it.
And then…

On Tuesday of that week, after 4PM, Timber Leech (a handyman who works around the Cape until he has enough money to support himself on mission trips to Mongolia or Brazil) took me and my older brother out on his 19-foot outboard craft into the warm waters just off Wood’s Hole-between Martha’s Vineyard and the Cape and close enough to see the Atlantic. We fished for Sea Bass and big Blues. After about 20 minutes, I brought in the trophy catch of the day.
Weighting in at 20 pounds and measuring almost 39 inches, I had entered a level of joy few have ever experienced. And to think, Timber asked me if I wanted to keep it! Raw, it was good, grilled, it was excellent!

more photos available on request!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Testing your parking skills...

Often on Sundays we walk from our church, The International Community Chapel of Saitama, to a nearby restaurant for dinner after the service. One of the sites we always "check on" is this car. This week Stan had the camera with him. This is a BMW that parks in a fairly narrow lot--there is just barely room for the driver to get out. We know that the car is moved fairly often--we see the space empty once in a while. So this is a regular parking pattern for this vehicle.
But what amazes us most of all is how close he gets on the passenger side! We have yet to see any scratches or scrapes on the car.

We almost always back up to park here in Japan. It seems to work better than forward parking in the tight areas we are given, and it probably is safer when we get ready to leave again. Our new van has a camera in the back that gives us a view of how far back our car is along with lines for where you are and where you will be if you don't turn--though I (Faith) prefer lining up using my side mirrors.

As I look at this photo close up, I wonder if he has to close his mirror before he gets to the corner!

Would your parking skills get you into this spot as nicely?

Friday, October 26, 2007

The mother-son trip, and why I'm glad I got coaching before I left!

When Stan and I made plans for him to take a trip to the U.S. in October, we found ourselves between some challenges on our calendar. He waited to leave until after A had her 18th birthday, but in order to get in enough time for everything, he would be gone over the weekend of our Church Multiplication Missionaries Fall Gathering (which I attend as the coordinator of Human Resource Development/Missionary Care).

Finding a place for J-ph and J-n to stay for that time was a bit challenging, so I decided I would take both boys with me. J-n objected because he would miss soccer and school--and J-ph took the chance to go with me alone . God provided a place for J-n with a church family.

I had great dreams for this cultural plunge with J-ph. We were going to Hiroshima--definitely a place to encounter the convergence of American and Japanese history. I hoped that going through the Peace Park Museum would help to enlighten him and develop some compassion for Japanese.

Gratefully, when I used this topic in a coaching workshop in early October, my coach asked "what is the minimum that it would take for you to feel satisfied"? and I started whittling down my dreams to something a bit closer to probable reality.

We chose to go by Shinkansen--the Bullet Train--because J-ph had never ridden one before. Of course the day we left, wanting to see Mt. Fuji as we sped by, it was raining heavily and the mountain was totally missing!

From the Hiroshima station, we took a street car to the Hiroshima port.

We got on a car ferry to go to Etajima--the island where the Youth Center is located. From the port on the other side, we called for a ride. This photo was taken on our way back Monday afternoon. J-ph is pulling the suitcase onto the ferry.
While the adults sat around a couple of tables in the center of the ferry lounge, the kids sat on a play area entertaining themselves for the 30 minute ride.
Once back on land, we got on the street car again, and headed back to Hiroshima Station, where we put our suitcase in a locker for our excursion to the Peace Park.
This street car was about 50 years old. It still had the wooden floor, and rattled and clanked as it went on its way.

When we got to the station, we opted to take a taxi to the Peace Park. As we got out, J-ph balked at going to the museum. As a matter of fact, he wasn't happy to be there at all. He wanted to get in the taxi and head back. I was willing to give up the museum, but I wanted us to walk through the park. After a little stand-off at a park bench, we started moving.

J-ph's primary concern seemed to be that people would be angry with us because we are Americans. On the contrary, I had a group of school children surround me, introduce themselves in English, and ask if we could have a picture taken together. (A said she felt like a star at the Nagasaki Peace Park because of these kinds of groups.) J-ph stood far away, hoping that no one would link him with me!

Through this arch you can see the dome standing--which actually was the epicenter of the atomic bomb blast. This arch-way commemorates those who died as a result of the bomb. We see it on TV every August as the place where special services are held.

We walked through the park--J-ph avoiding every possible group that he saw--and made it to the Peace Memorial Dome--where the camera batteries ran out and we had to rely on my phone camera instead. We walked around it. There were people from everywhere--Europeans, middle easterners, and a large group of retired Japanese Americans in a tour group.

This is the closest to a picture of J-ph in front of the building...his back to me, walking away.

We left here, hopped on another street car, and headed back to the station (where we ran into several groups of Asian Access missionaries heading various directions). We got lunch, and then made our way to the ticket office, where I was able to exchange our reserved tickets for a train leaving an hour earlier.

Was I satisfied with this time? Well, it didn't quite measure up to my revised hopes...but I fully expect that in five years, as he is getting ready to graduate from High School, I will hear about this great trip that J-ph took with me to Hiroshima...