Friday, March 23, 2007

A time to Celebrate!

We are heading off to Malaysia in a few hours to join the Asian Access family in celebrating God's faithfulness over the past 40 years. We are looking forward to being with the "extended family" as we have people coming from at least 10 countries. Our founder will be there as will other alumni and board members.

Pray for all of us as we travel, adjust to a different climate (its 90 F with around 90% humidity), and reconnect with our mission family. May Jesus Christ be Praised!

Faith and Stan

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sometimes people get stuck

I've been reading the book Changes that Heal, How to Understand your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future by Dr. Henry Cloud. It was recommended by a coworker, and since then I've seen it referred to in several other publications. Early on in the book, Dr. Cloud talks about aspects of people's personalities getting stuck in time, not having a chance to mature and integrate to "true adulthood."

For some reason, this is what came to mind tonight when I saw this man on the train...

My first thought was that he was a father--but there was no child in the vicinity.

Then I noticed that he had gloves tucked in his pockets, attached with the string that goes around his neck. Further scrutiny showed that he had purple star shaped cuff links. At one of the stops, he roused himself a little, gently rearranged the monkey more centrally on his chest and smoothed down the monkey's outfit. Then I noticed that his blazer had a Snoopy emblem on it.

Wow! I wonder what his story is to be stuck in this stage!

Faith -- the paparazzi with her cell phone camera...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Apology

Yesterday the meteorologists apologized for wrongfully predicting when the Cherry trees will blossom. In full business attire, they bowed very lowly to the Japanese public, admitting they had used some incorrect data having to do with temperatures in December, when they had predicted that the trees might blossom early. They are now predicted to open around the 25th of March here in the Tokyo area...not that much earlier than usual.

Cities that were preparing for their annual Cherry Blossom Festivals had been working extra hard to get their parks ready in time for the earlier date.

We are seeing the "early" Cherries blooming in our apartment complex. The Plum Trees are in full bloom. I love spring in Japan!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Cultural Plunge

We have a young man visiting our area who is exploring what God might have for him in ministry in Japan a few years from now. Today I took him to Tokyo for a cultural plunge...and God showed me some things along the way, too.

As I was heading toward the ticket counter at our station, I was shocked to see a young man dragging and slapping a young woman. They were with a group, primarily of young men who appeared to be barkers from the local sex clubs on the other side of our station. The girl being roughly handled, and a few others who were also there, probably work the clubs, too. Judging by the way she was moving, this young lady was either drunk or under some other influence. Whether he was hitting her around to sober her up, or to get her to fall in line, the way she carried herself left me with the distinct impression that she didn't have any self respect. I was really troubled as I walked away. I see so many young women here with such low self-esteem. They have no awareness that they are precious in God's sight, no sense of being loved unconditionally.

While I was sitting on the train later, I noticed the older women across from me. They looked so tired, so drawn. I saw several women today who looked like they had been abused physically--the blue marks under their eyes not being able to masked by foundation.

When we got to Shinjuku, we went up to the observation floor of the Metropolitan Government Building. From there we could see Tokyo--and I wish I could say I saw where we live--but we are on the horizon. It was a bit hazy, so we didn't get really good photos of Mt. Fuji--though its there in this photo! Realize that this city looks about the same for 360 degrees, and then think about the fact that less than 1 % of the population is considered Christian. There is much yet to be done here.

After going through a few electronics stores, we headed toward the station to buy our tickets--and had to wander through a group of "missionaries" with the name tags "elder" and "sister" buying their tickets. Very gregarious, friendly, and smartly dressed in their suits and ties. May God make their message garbled to those they speak to during their mission term here! And may they actually find the truth of the Gospel!

We next headed to Harajuku, and I sent our charge into the Meiji Shrine area to see one of the centers of Japanese worship and to contemplate the passage from Isaiah 44:6-23.

From the peaceful, quiet entrance of the shrine I headed off to the subway and went one stop up to walk back down toward the shrine after stopping at the Oriental Bazaar--a tourist store. As I walked in I saw the profile of a woman who used to live in Japan but has relocated to the we had a chance to catch up on one another. Our oldest daughter graduated in the same class as her daughter, so we exchanged news for them, too.

Wandering back down the street, I was struck again by the visual images . This part of town is not the model for uniformity! And then there is the Condomania store on a strategic corner...any idea what they sell there?

When I met up again with our guest, we went down a smaller shopping street, snapping photos right and left. Here are a sampling of what we saw.School girls enjoying crepes.

Youth walking along the shopping street.

A store selling costumes for Cosplay.

Of all of them, she is my favorite. She is being paid, hopefully at least minimum wage, to hold a stick with an outfit that advertises a sale at one of the stores in the area. And try as she might to be different, she is like so many young women I saw today. She, too, is precious in God's sight--though I wonder how she'll hear that.

So the day came to an end. After dropping the young man off at his host's stop, I met up with my daughter and rode the last leg of the trip home with her.

I am blessed to have been brought up in a home where I knew God loved me. I believe our children know that truth as well. I wonder, how can this message be shared with the abused bar girl, the battered wife, the school girls out for crepes or buying costumes... It was a day for thinking and praying.

How can I keep from singing!!

Sunday we were privileged to have the Christian Academy in Japan Chamber Singers with us to lead the worship. Four of our church kids are members of the group. The students audition into the group, and this year they sound exceptionally good. We have a personal interest in this-- our daughter is one of the sopranos whose voice comes through at the top of all the harmony.

One of their songs talks about what God has done--and "how can I keep from singing" as a response! It was lovely. And they surrounded us as they closed the service with a benediction encouraging the congregation to follow in the faith. We then turned to them and sang our weekly response, taken from the Numbers 6:24-26 benediction set to music by Michael Card.

This Sunday we said goodbye to another person who has been in our church for about six years. MY heads back to Singapore after serving in Japan with a campus ministry. She will go back to be renewed, refreshed, and to have some special time with aging parents. Her parents are not yet believers, so our prayer is that she will have a good time of living out Christ as she moves back with them. We will miss her!

But, another Singaporean family with the same campus ministry returned from their short home assignment this past week! We are glad to have them back. We are in a "streak" of saying "goodbye", so it was nice to say "welcome home!"

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Worship the Lord!

Yesterday we were led in worship for the first time by Mrs. S--one of our Japanese members. She was assisted by Dee, another Asian Access missionary, who has discipled Mrs. S for more than 12 years. She shared a personal testimony when introducing one of the Hymns, "He Leadeth Me" of how the words encourage her through out each day.

Mrs. S loves to speak English, though it isn't her strongest language. When she first came to the church, I tried so hard to give her the radio headset through which she could hear Japanese translation, but she refused. Yet, by God's grace and His work through Dee's faithful friendship, Mrs. S came to faith in Christ and was baptized in 1997.

Mrs. S. has become more and more involved in the support ministry of the church. She is our greeter on Sunday mornings. She has helped out with the coffee time after the service. She volunteered to work with me to clean out the church kitchen... We had a blast, throwing away all kinds of things like food with expiration dates in the 90's, dishes that were mismatched and broken, etc.

Mrs. S. is a spunky one! She DOES like English, and I had a chance to introduce the Mary Poppins line "Practically Perfect in Every Way" during our kitchen cleaning day. It is as a bit hard for her to pronounce, but its become "our line." Yesterday before worship she came into the kitchen and told me she had butterflies in her stomach. She is always looking for those idiomatic expressions.

My favorite Mrs. S. story is the one told by an American wife whose Japanese non-believing husband has started to come to church. As he was signing the register in the entry way on the second or third time he came to church, she looked at him and asked, "so are you ready to be baptized?" This is a bit direct for Japanese culture, but this man chuckled and said, "not yet." ... He still continues to come, and we believe that he WILL be baptized someday--maybe even sooner than we expect thanks to Mrs. S!


Friday, March 02, 2007

When it gets intense...

We haven't written for a while, but much has been happening here in our ministries. There is little we can share, however, because most of our work has to do with peoples' personal lives and helping them through "issues."

God is doing tremendous work and we thank Him for the transformation He is undertaking in these friends' hearts and lives. It does get intense for us, however, and we are not running on full health yet. If you pray, please pray for us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

Grabbing some family time...

Our kids have had what seems like an inordinant amount of time off of school the past few weeks. Last week they had a "winter break" with Monday and Tuesday off, and then this week they have Friday off. It makes it hard for everyone to remember what day it is -- we end up with four Saturdays in a row, etc.

These short school breaks don't always coincide with our work schedule, but last Tuesday we decided to let the kids choose an activity we could do. They chose bowling. All of us are marginal bowlers--actually, the boys are professional lobbers--but we had a good time and thanks to the gutter guards, I did pretty well! Anna had fun too, and couldn't help but ham it up a little.

It doesn't happen often, but this day all three kids talked about how much fun we had! Thank you Lord for good memories!