Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Kanto Area A2 Family Gathering

Because we live far from one another, our mission family doesn't often get to enjoy time together, but tonight we had a gathering for the missionaries and staff in the Kanto (greater Tokyo) area.

We met to say farewell to one family that is going on a one-year home assignment, then relocating to another Asian country. We welcomed a couple that just arrived a few weeks ago--and who are living in Nagoya (quite a distance from us) but arranged their travel schedule to be with us for the gathering. We also introduced the family of our new Japanese business manager-in-training to the group.

We will probably meet two more times this year--one in October for a Prayer Day, and another informal gathering between Christmas and New Years' Day. By that time we should have one more family coming from the States to join us.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Sora gets baptized~a link in the ministry chain from 1979

When Stan first came to Japan in 1979, he worked in a church in Tokyo as an English teacher. He lived in the home/church of Pastor and Mrs. K, and had a great year of teaching English and sharing Christ with over 60 children and others that came through Unoki Church.

Several years ago when we visited with Pastor and Mrs. K, they told of a couple that wanted to have their child attend the Christian Academy in Japan. While this couple's son was still much too young to apply to the school, they came and visited one Christmas concert. A year or so later, Mrs. K called because the couple was getting divorced, and she was concerned that this would affect the application process for the young boy.

Sora and his mother moved up near the school when he was accepted to start Kindergarten. Pastor and Mrs. K assigned her to attend our church on most weeks (once a month they return to Unoki Church to worship there). Sora has grown and flourished at CAJ. He is an accomplished violinist. This spring he asked if he could be baptized.

Last Sunday we baptized Sora. He is shown here with is mother in a photo we took to send to Pastor and Mrs. K.

Sora read his testimony in front of the church. It was very encouraging to hear this young man talk about his love for Jesus and his desire to follow Christ in obedience.

Following the testimonies, Stan baptized Sora and another young woman from Taiwan. This week they are going to go to Unoki Church to "report his baptism" to Pastor K. We feel honored that the relationship with the K's, begun nearly 28 years ago, is bringing fruit in this young man.

The tank we are using is actually a small bath tub that we borrow from another mission organization. One of our desires is to get a portable tank made for our church--one that fits through the doors, and can comfortably accommodate an adult. We hope to have another baptism in a few weeks.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The fine line between courage and foolishness~ How to ruin a beautiful day on the beach

Tuesday was an absolutely beautiful day at Takayama, the "missionary resort" where we have our summer cabin. Since we have been accused of all work and no play when we're up there, Stan and I decided we'd head down to the beach after lunch. It was SO wonderful! He took a kite down and walked back and forth on the beach with it. The kids took turns flying it--the first time for most of them.

After a while the boys headed to the rocks to find crabs---a usual beach activity for them. A went to join them and then scoured among the garbage near the cliffs for a container. She came up with a frying pan with a glass lid, and took it over to the boys.

A short while later I heard a terrible scream and saw A running toward us. Sound doesn't travel well with the waves and the wind, and I wasn't quite sure whether she was just hailing us in a friendly way, or what--but she collapsed in the middle of the beach while we headed toward her. Getting closer she cried "the boys have captured a mamushi--I'm so scared for them!"

Not far behind her came two triumphant boys with a poisonous snake in their frying pan under the glass lid. They had come upon the snake in the rocks while they were looking for crabs, managed to catch it with the fishing net they had and drop it into the pan and get the lid on without it striking them. But looking at him through glass, I could see he wasn't a happy snake. (The photo is taken with my cell phone camera, and slightly enhanced, but I didn't want to get any closer!)

We had strong words with them--and they insisted that they knew how to handle poisonous snakes from the men on the Discovery channel programs that deal with deadly snakes. They were convinced they were being courageous and we insisted they were doing a stupid thing. All the while we're skirting around this frying pan not quite sure what to do but very unhappy about what they've done.

They dug a hole in the sand, and tipped the pan away from themselves and dropped the snake into the hole, smacked the glass lid on the hole, packing the edge with sand. Then they started poking holes big enough for the snake's head to come through, then pushed him back with sticks--not big enough sticks in my book. All the while we're continuing our talks, threats, commands, charges, which probably looked like a temper tantrum or some bazaar dance around this hole on the beach. In their final act of defiance, one of the boys grabbed a stick, lifted the lid off the hole and we ALL walked away--quite quickly I might add. If the beach hadn't been empty except for us, this probably wouldn't have been an acceptable solution, but it worked.

The boys, to this day, are extremely proud of their courage.

We agree they demonstrated bravery--but that it was stupid for them to have gone after the snake. True courage would have been that when they saw the snake they would walk quietly away from it.

We packed up and left the beach...not a very peaceful way to end the day.

If you pray, please pray that our sons develop discernment and that we develop wisdom in parenting them!

A day in Matsushima

We spent the last five days at our summer cabin on the Pacific coast near Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, Japan. It has been over 4 years since the six of us have been together there. After opening the cabin, cutting the grass, and spending an afternoon to remember (I'll post on that later) at the beach, we decided to take a day to go to one of the "three great views" of Japan--Matsushima.

Matsushima is actually made up of 200 small pine covered islands (matsu is pine, shima is island). This is only about 20 minutes drive from our cabin off season...I thought it was further but had only been there in August. Years ago we bought tickets for the cruise around many of the islands--this year we are working on a tight budget, but had enough to pay a toll to walk across a long bridge to one of the islands which is a nature sanctuary.

The boys were marginally interested in going, and when they got out of our van they discovered they had dressed alike (one changed his shirt quickly before leaving) that nearly destroyed the trip. They're in a stage right now where being a twin isn't a desirable status. In spite of the rough start, they did find some things on the island that interested them.

The girls enjoyed entertaining one another as they ventured from site to site. At one open air stage they practiced improv while us "girls" waited for the "boys" to come back from a beach where we had left them.

We were able to gather the whole group for a couple of photos. But we've been told by some unhappy young men that this cannot go on a card because of the shirt problem. They don't know about the blog... We're not exactly on even ground, but you may notice that I'm the short one...

After spending several hours exploring, we headed back across the bridge. On the way, Anna tried to make friends with a sea gull.

After the time on the island, we were hungry. We walked and walked until we found a place that looked appetizing to most of us. On the way back, we stopped at a kokeshi shop and the girls painted their own wooden dolls.

With dolls painted, we all piled back into the car and headed back to the cabin.

Stan and I were exhausted from all the work it took to make it an enjoyable family time! I know that the kids will tell us someday what a great memories they have from the outing.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ice What????

Our oldest daughter is back for a few weeks, and has been trying out some products that are new to her. Today we saw this in the grocery store--Ice Cucumber Pepsi!

It has a flavor of cucumber...

with the zing of pepsi...

and a hint of cinnamon...

I don't know if she would get it again, though it was "interesting."

A few hours later she had a chocolate macha (green tea) old-fashioned donut at Mr. Donut. She loved it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A "Happy-Sad" Day

Yesterday was a "happy-sad" day.

We started with an all-mission conference call where we heard the announcement that our Asian Access President Doug Birdsall, is resigning to focus his full attention to serving as the Executive International Chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelism. We encourage you to read the full text of the news release.

Doug and his wife, Jeanie, have been with A2 for 28 years--they arrived during Stan's first short-term ministry in Japan. Our lives have intersected many times over those years, and we were blessed to have them attend ICCS during their last term in Japan.

We are grateful that Asian Access has released Doug and while we will miss his leadership, we are excited to see how God will use the work of the Lausanne Movement and the Third Lausanne Congress in October, 2010.

Later in the day, we had coffee with friends who are moving to the other side of Tokyo to do ministry in a new urban high-rise residential area. We aren't sure how long a trip it will be to meet up with one another once they move over there--but the distance is certainly further. (We'll go by train--it may not be much worse than driving to their old place on a bad traffic day!) While we don't feel like we're saying "goodbye" to this family, this will change the way we spend time together.

And late last night we went and had prayer with the Norwegian family that leaves on Saturday.

A "happy-sad" day. We know that each of these families are following God's lead to serve in different places. We also know that there is a cost in each relationship because of their obedience (and ours!).

If you pray, could you remember to pray for us as each of these changes carries an emotional toll. Thank you!


Sunday, June 10, 2007

A time to sing, a time to say goodbye

Today was a bitter-sweet day for us at ICCS. We said goodbye to two families. It is never easy to say farewell, but we were able to be blessed in the going...

Friends from Norway are returning to their home country and will continue to participate in their ministry from that location. Their twin daughters joined their friends in singing (and playing) for our offertory. The decision to relocate has been very hard on their four children (two older ones are not pictured). They have been attending the Christian Academy in Japan--where the instruction is in English. The children will be attending Norwegian schools when they get "home." While they speak the language, it is different to switch the language of your education. Even harder, though, is saying goodbye to friends from all over the world.

Their father gave the sermon this morning from Luke 10:1-20--the passage where Jesus sends out the 72. He shared how Europe is desperately in need of Christ--how low the percentages of believers are in that continent compared to those that we traditionally have considered the "pagan." He challenged all of us to "go" and preach that the kingdom of God is at hand. We loved hearing from this dear brother. We will miss him--though his responsibilities will bring him back to Japan from time to time. He is responsible for his ministry's work in the worlds two most populous nations...a big task! He and his family have been with us for over 9 years.

Another couple leaving this week are Cindy and Jim--who have been at ICCS for 4 years while teaching at the Christian Academy. They will be going to work as staff on a ranch for troubled boys in Missouri. Jim was our boys' industrial arts teacher this past year. Cindy taught ESL. Once again, we will miss this great couple. We watched them take several lonely people under their wings and nurture them during the time they were with us.

As we were cleaning up the kitchen this afternoon, one of the other women in the church asked me if it is hard to say goodbye so often. She also is in a position in her work to be constantly saying farewell. We both agreed that it doesn't get easier, and we get to a point where we feel "numb."

In reflecting on our conversation, I think its not just getting numb. We are seeing that God moves people on--and we need to be willing to let them go. Hold people loosely. Rejoice with them when God opens a new door, or gives them an opportunity to do something they need to accomplish. There is loss, but there is hope.

We can look forward to eternity together!!!


Blessings on the Graduates at CAJ

Friday evening was the 52nd graduation at the Christian Academy in Japan. We enjoyed celebrating the completion of the class ahead of our Anna. Two of the graduates have been involved at the International Community Chapel of Saitama.

At the end of the program, eight parents stood in front and recited Numbers 6:24-26 as a Benediction to the students. These parents represented eight of the nationalities in this class, North American, Finnish, Brazilian, Japanese, Norwegian, Korean, Filipino and Chinese. Our children's' classes are as equally diverse.

"The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make His face
shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn His face
toward you and give you peace."
Numbers 6:24-26 (NIV)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Starbucks' Frappuccino of the Season...

I noticed the sign outside Starbucks the other morning as I walked to the bank. We've moved into summer, the time of year for nice cold, frothy frappuccinos.

What struck me was the flavor. Azuki are sweet red beans that are used in Japanese desserts. They are tasty, in the right context--usually as a paste inside a sweet rice ball, or in the winter as a base of a soup with small sticky rice balls floating in it. But an Azuki Frappuccino doesn't sound appealing. Are they selling this in the States? (I am guessing the answer is "no"!)

Usually at this time of year they come out with the Macha Frappuccio--a high grade green tea flavor. Since I like Macha icecream I would probably find that one okay.

But I am a coffee girl.

My Swedish heritage and memories of my grandpa saying he wanted some "cau-fee" in his sing-song Swedish accent, coupled with being born in Brazil have me totally entangled with the "real thing." Don't give me azuki, macha, caramel, hazelnut, or even chocolate (not in coffee!!!) frappuccinos--I'll take the expresso frappuchino, please! Maybe even a double shot of expresso...