Thursday, April 26, 2007

"And lead us not into temptation..."

I was waiting in line at the check out counter at my local grocery store this afternoon when I had a strong craving for dark chocolate... I reflected that if I was standing at my Albertsons in Glendora, CA, I would be staring temptation squarely in the face.

There was, however, no chocolate anything to be found on the racks next to the check out counter. As a matter of fact, there was nothing that was remotely appetizing to me on those racks. Instead, there was this...

Baby Fish--Peanuts and Dried, Small, Whole Baby Fish (with these huge eyeballs looking out at me from the package). It says they're high in Calcium. I won't argue. But I won't eat it either.

I have children who LOVE this stuff, and friends who enjoy it. But please, don't ever open one of these packages around me. I find the smell disgusting!

As I finished at the check out counter, and went to the counter where I bag my groceries, I looked up and saw that the flavor of the month at Baskin Robbins is "Triple Chocolate Passion." OOOOH! But the line was too long (thank you, Lord!) so I took my groceries and came home.

In searching the web for the actual flavor of the month, I ran across the notice that this year's free ice cream night at 31 Favors is on May 9. We had a great time last year at this event and so I am going to get it on my calendar right away!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

How many houses can you fit on a postage stamp?

For the past five months I've been watching three houses be built on what was previously one house lot. The previous building was probably about 1200 square feet, with about two parking spaces and a little yard in front. Everything was leveled, and when they started to pour the foundations for three houses, I decided to chronicle it.

At this point it is a bit difficult to tell that there will be three buildings. We have been seeing lots transform this way for several years, however.
Eventually they put up the beams, and surrounded each house with scaffolding and tarps (to keep things from falling on neighboring lots and the street. It became obvious that in order to maximize sunlight, they were putting in sky lights, loft space or even going three stories up. Sunlight is of great importance in Japanese houses, and many try to maximize it as much as possible.
Next came the plywood walls.
The little parking area gets crowded when several work vehicles are parked there.

Eventually they got the windows and siding in, and sealed the cracks.Notice all the balconies or verandas as we call it here. Don't expect to find the neighbors sitting out there drinking ice tea or barbecuing! It is where most Japanese hang their laundry to dry.
I think the only house I would be interested in is the one on the left. The one in the middle and the one in back are squeezed in there--though they may have more square footage because they each have a third story.

Finally they got the outsides of the houses finished. They don't actually look too bad--some nice little features that may make up for not being very big. They started putting in the dividing walls and finishing the driveways.
Last Sunday they had the houses ready for the open house. There is room for one car and some bicycles in the left spot. The front door is inside that alcove. Notice the shutters on the first floor windows. Those are for privacy and protection from rains and high winds.

Each of the back houses have their own place for cars and bikes, too. See the brick walk to the door of the back house? And how about that yard! No need to worry about cutting the grass!
These houses may be 3 bedrooms each. They are probably about 950 square feet. Judging by prices of similar houses, they probably go for around $250,000 each. Great investment!?!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Directions for what?

Signs like this were in the ceiling at both of our hotels when we were in Malaysia last month. Do you know where is it is pointing?
4/24--Our friends with international travel experience guessed it...See this for the full story.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A send off for Ken

Sunday we had a prayer of send-off for Ken, who is heading to Bible School in another part of Japan.

It was almost three years ago that Ken showed up at the church saying he had been reading the Bible and knew he was a sinner. (This surprised us because few people verbalize this on their first meeting!)

Over the past three years he has grown in the Lord, and has spent time working with various ministries. Last year he was a counselor at a children's camp, and was a vital part of their evangelism team. This past year he has mentored a couple of younger teens in our church. We will miss him, but are also grateful that God is leading him to study and prepare for ministry in a formal setting.

Another City, Another Tower...

A few weeks ago I asked Anna what things she would like to do before she graduates from CAJ next year and leaves Japan. One of her "wishes" was to visit the Tokyo Tower. Stan had gone there back when he was a single missionary in '79 or '80, but none of the rest of us had been there. The kids had a half day of school last Friday, so we decided to go to the Tokyo Tower that afternoon.

The Tokyo Tower is actually a transmitting tower for a number of radio and television stations. It was modeled after the Eiffel Tower, but is a little taller. The tower is painted international orange and white for air safety regulations. Honestly, it looks better at night when the lights illuminate it.

We were afraid that when we were in Malaysia we would miss out on the cherry blossoms, but we were able to enjoy them even on this outing to the Tower.

This model shows that the observation deck is only about half-way up the tower (near Anna's elbow). We could have paid more to go to the second observation deck, but we decided that it wasn't necessary...if the day had been clearer, maybe we would have considered it. We took an elevator from the ground floor to the observation deck at 150 meters.
There are actually two floors on that observation deck. When we were at the bottom floor, we all stepped onto the "glass" floor and looked down at the ground. Each of us was a little timid about stepping out onto the glass.

We were glad to share this day with Anna. She is a delightful daughter, and we are already feeling a little sabishi (melancholy or sad) about her leaving us in a year!

After looking around the city, and sitting down for ice cream, we headed back down. Anna and I took the elevator, and Stan and the boys decided to walk down the stairs.

Believe it or not, we had to wait so long for the elevator, that they ALMOST made it to the bottom before we did!

When we left we went to the Sony Showroom in Ginza--which I had read was a great place to go. We were a bit disappointed--not that there weren't interesting things to see! The High Definition TV video cameras and screens are incredible. We drooled over digital cameras and video cameras as we had just been using our "3-year old" camera and are disappointed with some of the quality of its photos. But the boys were hoping for working game systems, and they only had non-working floor models. Okay, been there, done that.

We ended the evening at Ikebukuro, going to one of our favorite Tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) restaurants on the restaurant floor of the Seibu department store.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Asian Access Family Photo!

This is our Asian Access Family -- we are so grateful we could gather together last week for the celebration of the mission's 40th anniversary. Can you find us?

Anna is on the second row toward the left with a flower over her ear.

We are on the third row from the top over toward the left side.

The boys were at a different location...playing pool...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Celebrating God's Faithfulness

On Sunday, March 25, missionaries from Japan and country leaders from various other countries in Asia gathered together at a resort in Port Dickson, Malaysia to celebrate God's faithfulness over the past 40 years since our organization's founding. There were about 150 of us from 10 different countries. We had alumni, board members, and a team from a church in Arkansas that came to provide children's ministries and music support.

We had a phenomenal time -- many things cannot be captured in words or pictures -- but we were blessed beyond our expectations at the opportunity to gather as ONE FAMILY in ONE PLACE to Celebrate the Faithfulness of our ONE GOD. It truly was a touch of heaven!

Each day we heard from various country leaders about how God is using the ministry of Asian Access, and we had Biblical expositions as well.

We always find our president, Doug Birdsall, to be inspirational and encouraging. God has blessed him and entrusted him with many responsibilities.

A real personal blessing for us was when Anna (far right) decided to join the worship team. The team included another American MK, two people from India and one from Sri Lanka along with the Arkansas worship pastor.

One morning we were led in worship by the group from Mongolia. It was beautiful!

We also met as a Japan staff for a time of vision setting and prayer. Peter Thomson, the Director of Japan Missionary Personnel led us.

We were able to pray for one of our Church Planting Associates, Kari, who completed her three year term and is heading back for more schooling. Her ministry team lead the time of prayer for her.

After a full day of meetings, we gathered at the beach for a time of milestone celebrations with the kids. Here we celebrate a new little girl brought into this missionary family. Behind them is a banquet that was set for us at the beach.

Two of the children who were honored were our sons, who completed elementary school. Joseph is standing next to me, John is walking away after having received his gift card.

An afternoon tour to Kuala Lumpur (KL)

Tuesday afternoon we took a trip to Kuala Lumpur during our free afternoon. Three bus loads of Asian Access people converged at Chinatown for a 45 minute shopping spree. The hawkers were busy offering us perfume, watches, handbags, etc...and they expected to bargain. This is kind of traumatic for Stan and me. I was constantly doing the kid count--do I have all three with me? We left having gotten the boys mini flashlights with a laser...but the rest of us left empty handed.
The next stop was the Petronas Twin Towers. We didn't go up to the observation deck (the bridge you see between the two towers) because we were on a tight timetable.

We headed off to a shopping district for the last stop of the night. We spotted a Planet Hollywood as we drove up, and we headed straight there. The boys hadn't been eating much at the resort because the food was rather exotic in flavor, so American hamburgers and barbecue chicken were well received. We then stopped for Häagen-Dazs ice cream before we met up with our group and waited for the bus.

It was a warm, humid night. Stan waited with Dr. Ariga (one of the leading evangelists in Japan and member of the Asian Access board) and Pastor and Mrs. Kawasaki, who have been very involved in the Japan Church Growth Institute.

People ...

Lily, our tour guide.

Some of the MK's and people from the church in Arkansas who provided support for the conference. Anna is in the middle.

One of our Asian Access couples from Mongolia.

The man at the restaurant who greeted us so warmly and befriended Joseph and John.

The religious landscape in Malaysia

A little Hindu shrine (the gold box) above our bus driver's seat.
A Chinese Cemetery
A Mosque (Malaysia is an Islamic Country).

A Baptist Church in a community outside KL.

A few days in Kuala Lumpur

Thursday morning we left the Avillion Resort and headed into Kuala Lumpur for a couple of days of personal vacation. Because we are a family of five, we had to reserve a suite which ended up being on a corner...and when we walked in after dinner at the Outback Steak House with some of our Asian Access/Japan friends, we were greeted by this awesome sight. The KL Tower on the left is a communications tower--the world's fourth tallest. The Petronas Twin Towers on the right were glowing. The rest of the city filled with the night lights and color.

This is how it looked the next morning..

We went out shopping--friends had found some great discount clothing stores just a few blocks away from the hotel. It was nice to be able to get some bargains and clothes that fit (we don't fit the normal spectrum of clothing in Japan). After shopping a while, we needed to take a break, so we went to Starbucks. The boys had a chance to play chess--which was nice for us because they had been a bit impatient with us. They don't seem to enjoy shopping!!!

Friday afternoon, Anna and I headed to Chinatown and to the Central Market for some last minute gifts. Anna has become a pretty good bargainer through experiences in several trips to other Asian countries. It was fun working with her. It was a lot easier to go through Chinatown with just one person...and after we had seen all the fake handbags and watches we could stand, we headed back to the hotel.

Friday evening we were invited to join a few Asian Access/Asia friends at a birthday party for the husband of the event planner in Malaysia. We were at the restaurant floor of the KL Marriott Hotel. It was lovely, and a lot of fun for us. (Anna took the boys to see "Meet the Robinsons" at the theater in the mall adjoining the hotel so we could have an "adult" night out.)
We appreciated getting to know Jessica and Gary. They live in KL where Jessica has coordinated several Asian Access events over the past couple of years. They attend an international church and Stan had an opportunity to visit with their pastor.

We went to a Halal (Islamic equivalent of kosher) Chinese restaurant for a great dinner and really enjoyed ourselves. It was a nice way to end the week.