Monday, May 28, 2007

Some end-of-school-year kid pics

A few weeks ago I noticed an announcement that a group of young musicians from the Russian republic of Tatarstan would perform at our city auditorium. Since we have a couple of young men that originate from Tatarstan, we thought they might enjoy going...but only one agreed to go. Joseph looks particularly Russian after the evening of traditional Russian music, not only from Tatarstan but from many other areas in Russia. He hasn't said to much about it--but I think he enjoyed seeing the group perform. One of Joseph's most treasured possessions is a pocket-sized Russian/English dictionary.

Last week Anna had her voice recital at the Christian Academy in Japan. She performed a comedic piece by Victor Herbert, Art is Calling for Me with the chorus "I want to be a Prima Donna..."
The shoes were a bit too painful to wear except for actually going on stage ... We look forward to more great music from her next school year. She has a lovely soprano voice, and delightful personality to go with it!

On Friday John (on the right) got up at 4:15 am and took one of the first trains out of our station to join up with classmates at the Tsukiji fish market.
This is a tuna. John came home describing how they chopped up fish and that there was all kinds of blood, everywhere...the kind of thing a 12 year old boy would get excited about. After they watched the fish auction and all the blood and gore that went along with other activities at the market, they went out for sushi for breakfast.

I'm kind of relieved I wasn't asked to join them...


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bringing Hope in a Wheelchair

Stan has been a volunteer with Wheelchairs of Hope (a soon to be "NPO") for over a year and a half . Wheelchairs are donated by various individuals, hospitals and wheelchair companies who would otherwise destroy the used chairs. Most of them are in very good condition, but Japanese health insurance provides new chairs every few years and so these used chairs are often discarded. As children grow, their chairs also are discarded, even though they are made to order. Many are standard wheelchairs, but there are specialty chairs for various disabilities.

Japanese churches help with any repairs that are necessary, and help clean the chairs. The goal is to distribute the chairs to national churches throughout Asia as a way of sharing the love of Christ to needy people in their communities. In the past, chairs have been taken as baggage allowance to various countries in South Asia at the rate of two to six at a time.

In early March, Wheelchairs of Hope sent a container of 113 wheelchairs to Mongolia. This was the first time to send a container. They included specialty chairs, hand pumps for many chairs, and a few highly specialized items like a "body lift" to help move someone who is immobile. Friends of our organization who are medical personnel in Mongolia said there is a desperate need for wheelchairs--people are carried to and from surgery because there are not enough wheelchairs in the hospitals! The chairs were sent to the Joint Christian Services (JCS) ministry in Ulan Batar. The following is from their report back to Wheelchairs of Hope:

According to the data from the Mongolian Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare 4.8% or about 120,000 people have disabilities. More than 30% of these people have impaired movement and 12,000 have multiple disabilities. The statistics are from 2002. These numbers have been increasing in these last years, largely due to individual mining accidents and the unsafe work conditions in the contractor sector of Mongolia. Up to 90% of people with disabilities live below the poverty line and 60% of them are women.

According to the Social Welfare Law of Mongolia disabled people can receive the prosthetic-orthopedic aid free of charge once during their lifetime. Because of a lack of finance in the Government this law doesn't work for disabled poor people. One worker in our JCS Kitchen Garden project in a rural community paid 450 000 tugrug ($400) for one artificial left leg . This is way beyond the reach of most disabled people.

We received 113 wheelchairs, 8 canes, 3 walkers and 83 wheelchair tire pumps. All of donated goods were exempted from both VAT and Custom taxes. JCS tried to reach disabled people which live in deep rural areas. The longest distance was about 1000 km ( Zavkhan Province) from the Capital. Social care centers in 3 provinces picked up wheelchairs up by themselves.

After sending the chairs in March, Stan and the others waited for news of their arrival. We heard about 6 weeks later that they had made it, but photos just became available this past week. We've chosen a few out of the 80+ photos that were sent!

Children at the Christian Academy in Japan gathered sponsors for a Walk-a-thon where they raised a significant amount of the cost of shipping the chairs to Mongolia. The JCS prepared these Thank you Cards to go with the photos of people in the chairs.

The “Streams in the Desert” project of JCS International recently has been taking care of this girl. After her parents divorced she lived with her father and step mother. Because of bad domestic violence which she doesn't want to talk about, she shot herself. The bullet paralyzed her from the waist down, and as she didn't get medical service in time she has been suffering from infection and abscesses for 2 months. Now her doctors are doing all they can, but they are recommending that she have both legs amputated as soon as possible. She is very young and this is a very difficult time for her. May God bless her!

A few months ago JCS Finance officer Enkhsaruul noticed one old lady who lives very close to her home, who was often in a hurry and looked unhappy. She talked to the old lady and found out that her granddaughter was born with central cerebral paralysis. This girl, Enkhtuul, couldn't look after herself. Her parents own a small trade business importing goods from China and selling them at the local market. Most of money is used for medicine which is necessary for the girl. Enkhtuul's grandmother stays at home with her. Her family didn't want to show other people that they had a disabled girl. This is a common attitude in Mongolia.

When Enkhtuul came with her grandmother to receive a wheelchair, we talked to her grandmother and finally she understood that there is no reason to hide her granddaughter at home. It is not their fault and the girl needs fresh air and special massage and exercises. We have heard that now they have a special wheelchair for Enkhtuul, her grandmother takes her out every day for fresh air and Enkhtuul feels much happier!

Stan asked me a few weeks ago what I thought his passions were. This is definitely one of the top of his list. As he has said, you can give someone a cup of water in Jesus name, and they will be thirsty again. Give him a wheelchair, and you change his life!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

We even did it without Muffins from Starbucks!

On Sunday afternoon I flew to Okinawa to meet up with two other missionaries for two days of working on a project. Most of our interaction as Japan field leadership is through conference calls, but sometimes we get to a point where face-to-face is the only way to accomplish what we need to do.

With this project we are compiling the segments for a training program we want to develop that will help us to move missionaries toward Core Competencies. We had put together a list of Core Competencies, and had started some preliminary write ups for various modules, but we realized that we needed to tighten things up and the only way to do it was to meet in person.

One of those involved in this project lives in Okinawa, the other lives near Kobe and I am in the Tokyo area. Choosing a place to meet meant that at least two of us would have to fly. We decided to fly to Okinawa, where we stayed at a nice "pension" -- a small hotel. We had a unit with two bedrooms and a living room, a veranda and "Japanese breakfast" for less than $35 per night per person with the "local discount."

First we took the Competencies we had already identified and placed them on a grid with the areas of competency on the left and the Core Elements of "Being", "Doing", and "Knowing" across the top. Then we took suggestions we had received since the original list was developed and chose the ones we felt we needed to add. This took us through Sunday evening and a little of Monday morning.

When we were comfortable that we had identified the Core Competencies, we moved them to another grid--one that showed when in a missionary's term they should be offered. My coworkers, Sue and Mary Jo, are both very experienced in training and church planting. It was great to have their input. I feel like I learned much from interacting with them.

Once we got things placed on the schedule, we then identified how long a module we were conceptualizing, wrote down any other notes that reflected our thinking, and then "assigned" various people to be responsible for developing the modules. We have very capable missionaries, both career and associates, who already do many of these things, so we looked for topics that were in people's areas of interest or gifting.

As we were coming to the end, we decided to move it all outside. It was good to see it all laid out on one sheet in a sensible fashion. We had a few more minutes to sit back, and then it was time for Mary Jo to take Sue back to the airport.

I had opted to stay one more night in Okinawa so I could visit with our missionaries who serve there. I was able to remain in the same room at the pension, and enjoyed a few hours of personal quiet!

I set to work right away transferring our chart onto an excel spreadsheet so we can distribute it to those who need to review it by the end of this week. I was almost finished by dinner time--I went downstairs to the restaurant and had shogayaki "ginger pork" then took a walk around the building and across the street. By the time I got back to the pension the sun was beginning to set.

It was fun to watch the sun go down across the water. I find watching the ocean very relaxing. The sun was down by about 7:30, and by 8:30 I was about ready to head to bed! I called Stan and the kids and said "goodnight" to them. Then I headed to bed and got 8 hours of sleep!!! I needed that!

Tuesday morning I woke up just before my alarm, and had a leisurely time in the Word. Mary Jo stopped by to pick me up and brought along a former missionary with us--Sharon--who left Japan 18 years ago. It was fun to see her after all these years. She looks the same--except for a few strands of gray hair. I have added more than a few strands since that time...

Mary Jo and Sharon left me at our other missionary family's apartment. I had a great visit with Jeffery and Akiko and their children. It is exciting to reflect on how God has met them through easy and hard times, and how after a number of years they are seeing the fruit of faithful service.

I'm back home now, and glad to be here. I am also glad I could go. This is part of my role with Asian Access--helping with training and visiting our missionaries. It is a privilege to be a part of seeing people equipped to be entrusted with the message of the Gospel for the Japanese. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing!

****What do Muffins from Starbucks have to do with this? Absolutely nothing--except to prove a point our coworker Jeff made in an internal communications article on blogging...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

For Women Only

This week I've gone on the train during morning rush hour twice. I decided to try out one of the "women only" cars on the trains. From around 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. female commuters can get on the car at the end of the train. These cars were designed to give women a nonthreatening commute. What do I mean?
Many women have been groped on packed trains. Its a common experience. Even in groups of adult women missionary kids, I have heard stories of being fondled and groped while riding on trains. I am grateful this hasn't been my experience, and neither of our daughters have voiced that they have been victimized in this way.
As you see, trains can very packed during rush hour. It is quite impossible not to be in contact with fellow commuters...but there are those who take advantage of the close proximity for their own gratification. So instead of being squeezed into a "mixed" car like this, many women head for the "women only " cars.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday morning surprise...

It was raining this morning, and Stan hasn't been feeling well, so rather than have him ride his bike in the rain, I drove him to church. As he got out of the car, my eyes caught sight of shards of glass from the window over the the sign board or "silent preacher" outside the church. From the way the glass shattered it is obvious something was thrown at it.

When one of our Japanese believers arrived, he and Stan made a police report. They determined it happened before 3 a.m. when the rains started. The police didn't find the object that hit the window.

We have not experienced any vandalism here before, so we are learning as we go along.

On the board we have a testimony in Japanese that is changed monthly, the sign that describes our church and gives details of our services, a testimony of a Christian Japanese baseball player who plays for the Cardinals, and a sign advertising the "Power for Living" campaign featuring Trey Hillman, US coach of the 2006 Japan Series champions

We are beginning to build relationships within our community, thanks to several members who live in the area and are part of the neighborhood governing committee. We have opened up our hall to a few of the committee meetings. In addition to providing these neighbors with a local facility to meet at, we have hopes that they will feel more comfortable coming to the church for other events.

Is this random vandalism? No other buildings in our area have boards like this, and none were reported damaged last night.

Was the church purposefully a target? Possibly. But we want to have the heart of Christ if this is so. We want to represent Christ to our neighborhood, and how we respond to this will be important.

This afternoon the Elders spent time praying for whomever broke the window. Pray along with us as we move forward.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

Last Sunday we were led in worship by our friends, Vidar and Roald. They are from Norway, working here in strategic publishing --and are very musically inclined. Vidar chose "favorites from the hymn book" to lead us accompanied on guitar or banjo while Roald played the accordion. (My mother played the accordion as a missionary in Brazil--now I wish I had learned how to play it!) It was a very special Sunday morning. Its hard to explain the sense of assurance of faith that I feel when I sing some of those old hymns. Even the Japanese in our congregation enjoyed this worship time.

This song, "I have decided to follow turning back, no turning back," was a hard one for some of us to sing without tears. We had just learned of a good friend in another country who had been arrested by the authorities for his work in following and leading others to Jesus. We had also gotten word about some believers in a middle eastern country who were brutally tortured and killed for their faith the previous week.

How easy is it for you to sing that song?