Monday, July 23, 2007

An Intermission

We are leaving in a few hours to go back up to our cabin. Stan will drive us up, cut the grass, get a couple good nights of sleep, and head back to Tokyo while the kids and I will stay up there.

I have less than affectionately called our apartment a "submarine" this summer. The kids haven't gotten out much, and Stan and I have been trying to tag team parenting oversight and working.

We have a suitcase of books, a bunch of Lego's and a sewing machine going with us. Plus a great place to get out and run, play, body board, and visit with friends. I also have a couple of Asian Access Human Resource Development projects to work on.

We are also hoping to get some rest, physically, spiritually, emotionally. We are so weary right now. If you pray, please pray with us for a time of renewal.

Stan will be back up at the end of the month. He probably will be back in Tokyo several times to cover Sunday services. He's trying a highway bus for the first time on Thursday...could be an interesting story! It's about 35% the price of the bullet train.

We had hoped to have Internet access at the community gathering place, but installation has been delayed so I am going to take an intermission from Blogging. Thanks for following along!

I'll be back later in August--hopefully with no new snake stories...


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Earthquake Reports

We live quite a distance from the Niigata earthquake zone, though Anna felt it (she sleeps on a loft bed and is much more vulnerable to the movements). We have noticed some aftershocks here, and felt the quake that centered off the coast of Hokkaido.

Our family has vacationed in Kashiwazaki over the years, staying at the Niigata Bible Institute and Campground, which has apparently sustained some damage. We've also played at parks that are on the other side of the nuclear plant that is the source of so much concern.

There is a ministry that has focused on coordinating Christian volunteers to help in various relief situations here in Japan: CRASH (Christian Relief Assistance Support and Hope) that is sending out updates in blog format. You can link on their name and see photos of the church that has been damaged as well as follow other updates.

Please pray for the relief efforts and that the believers in the area will be strengthened in their faith and enabled to care for themselves, their families and their community members.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Just in time!

For the last two years we have been functioning without a clothes dryer. We have been hanging our clothes to dry on laundry poles and special racks on our south-facing balcony. This has worked, but there are seasons when the rain and humidity keep our clothes from drying for days on end.

Its not that we didn't want a dryer! We actually brought our old dryer to the apartment when we moved in--it worked for a couple of times, and then quit. It wasn't worth it for us to have repairman in to fix it--we had already gotten many years of use out of it. So we paid a junk man to take it away...

We decided to wait and see if we moved to a house with a gas connection in the wash area, because the gas dryers are so efficient. But when we weren't finding any house to move into, we decided to start looking for a dryer in the store.

That proved to be a problem, though, because the latest trend in Japan is the "all in one" machine that washes and dries clothes. And dryers literally disappeared from the electric appliance stores in the Tokyo area. It seemed we could order one, but we never quite got around to doing that.

A few weeks ago we got a flier from a missionary family advertising things they were selling in preparation for a move back to the States. We saw a late model electric dryer--a big one by Japanese standards--and got our name on the list as soon as we could. Stan and I drove to their place on Thursday and picked up this nice new Toshiba dryer, with a stand that fits over our washer.

We are so happy for this! It has arrived just in time--there is a monster typhoon coming up the Japan archipelago, dumping lots of rain.

We can have warm, dry clothes! Ahhhh.....

Monday, July 09, 2007

We say good-bye to Arden

They come and they go.

For almost 18 years, people at ICCS have been doing that very thing. From time to time, even the pastor leaves for a time (Home assignment). When someone who has been part of our fellowship like Arden, (picture below) for the last nine years, it is always a hard thing to do. We would rather say "See you again!" than "good-bye." And in truth, this might be the case with Arden.

Arden came to ICCS by invitation from one of our young women from the Philippines. She had been in country for a good many years and was feeling very alone. The fellowship of nationals was strong but she was hoping and praying for a husband. Her friend knew 'this guy' who was also looking for a wife. They met and soon they found that the Lord's Hand was in it. I was asked to give them premarital counselling. After a few weeks over coffee at Denny's and a lot of talking, they decided to ask their parents for their input. A letter came back to me that stated they were in favor of the marriage and asked me if I would do the honor of performing the wedding in Japan. Their family had a ceremony in the Philippines where promises were made in front of their pastor and they signed papers and sent me the copy. Arden and Grace then made promises that they were going to wait for our church wedding before they would consider themselves married. The wedding was planned and on one afternoon, a few weeks later, Grace and Arden were married.

Since they were both in this country well beyond their official visa, they knew that she would need to return to the Philippines before the birth of their first baby. About ten months later, she left for home and they said goodbye. That was five years ago!

Alessi was born in Manila and is now almost five years old. Arden has not seen her except for photos and talked by phone weekly with her as well as his wife. Because of the work problems in his country, he needed to stay here in Japan and work for his family back home. In fact, he has a brother in OR and a sister working for an airline now based in London.

Now, for the sad part. Yesterday, I had lunch with Arden as he is leaving Japan this week. He told me that his wife was flying into Narita at 10:00 that morning on her way to Canada for a new job! He would not be able to see her before she flies on to Ontario, Canada. He leaves in two days to take responsibility for his young daughter he has never held. She is really looking to the day she can hold her Daddy, too.

This really tears me up.

We spoke of the years ahead for he and his family. We spoke of the Faithfulness of our God and how the Lord has done some pretty wonderful things in our lives. We spoke of the possibility of sending a team from ICCS to his area of the Philippines to do some short term mission work. He told me it would please him if we could.

God has a way of doing things like that! "Godbye Arden, see you again!"

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Another airport "goodbye"....

After three weeks of a delightful visit, B headed back to the US on the 3rd of July. We enjoyed having her with us and were grateful for the variety of things that we were able to do while she was here. She starts summer school on Monday, and so she's back with time to (hopefully) adjust back to California time before she hits the books.

J-n, B , A and J-ph

When we drove her to the airport last Christmas, the traffic was atrocious, and what should have been a 2 hour drive turned into 5 1/2 hours! She made it through security 15 minutes before they closed the door on the plane. BUT this time, we had a lovely drive and were able to stop at a mall a few minutes away from the airport, make it to the airport with enough time to buy her final souvenirs and sit around chatting for a little longer before we sent her through security.

Once she had gone through security, we were able to watch and wave as she headed down to immigration. One last glance...when will we see her again?

We all respond differently to those "goodbye's"--some of us are matter of fact, some of us are emotional about it. But however we respond, it is hard to go through this "hello/goodbye/don't know when we'll see you again" pattern. We used to downplay the emotional cost of being a missionary but the longer we're at it, the more we realize that it is a cost and it takes a toll. Yet, Christ is here for us--and there for her (wherever she is).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Wedding at "Tak"

Last week we were at "Tak", the missionary resort* where we spend our vacations for a wedding. The son of OMF missionaries who vacation in cabin 28 was marrying the niece of the owners of Cabin B.

The bride is the granddaughter of long-time missionaries in Japan, and her family has been in and out of the country working over her life time. She is currently a teacher at the Christian Academy. The groom is youth pastor of another international church that meets at the Christian Academy. For both of these young adults, the closest place to "home" for them was the Takayama Beach Resort and the newly restored open air chapel.

When they said they were going to get married in the open air chapel during the middle of rainy season, everyone started visualizing slogging through muddy paths. The Lord, however, blessed the couple (and the rest of us too!) with a string of five glorious, sunny days.

For anyone interested in missionary trivia, the cabin on the left in the background used to be owned by Irene Webster Smith, the subject of the book Sensei. Worshiping in the open air chapel always makes me feel like I'm surrounded by a cloud of witnesses with a history of of missionaries vacationing over the past 100 years.

One of the interesting "decorations" was the mosquito repellent rings hung from the open windows. When we are up there on vacation, we keep one burning by the front door and one burning by the back door.

The bride and groom had each of their fathers give a charge to the couple. The bride's parents are up front and the groom's parents are sitting facing them in the foreground. The attendants were nearly all family members, and only two hadn't spent their childhood years vacationing at Tak.

The quote on the board above the front is Irene Webster Smith's life verse:

"As thou goest step by step I will open up thy way before thee." Proverbs 4:12 (Syriac version)

The bride's uncle, pastor of the church where the groom serves as youth pastor, led them through their vows.

As they marched down the isle, the happy couple passed the bride's grandfather--who at 94 years old still does magic shows as a means of evangelism.

The reception was held at a community "international center" about 10 minutes away from the Takayama Resort. The city, Shichigahama (7 Beaches), is a sister city to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Outside this center is a replica of the town hall on the Plymouth Plantation.

The reception was held on the lawn of the center, with a series of pools that surrounded a stage. Various friends of the families and a cousin provided music. Our oldest daughter had the bride's bouquet hit her in the face as she jumped away from it! She's not ready for that yet!

After the cake was cut, and the bands had played, the groom went up to the front, and sang a beautiful love song to his bride.

We had a wonderful time sharing in the celebration. Stan has done premarital counseling with this couple, and it was very nice to be there to see them get married.

Missionary kids don't often have a place they call home--but many of these kids find that kind of satisfaction at Tak. This was the first time in 4 years that our oldest daughter had been back there--and she seemed to really enjoy the time relaxing and visiting with a couple of classmates.

*missionary resort--when I labeled Tak a missionary resort in a previous mailing, one of our friends who has been there wrote back amused by that title. Honestly, we've got really old cabins, that are slowly being upgraded or replaced with newer ones, but it isn't any sort of resort in the common sense of the word. To see our humble cabin, check out this story from last summer.

Mamushi Sake--a missed opportunity!

We found out last night that the mamushi snake our boys caught two weeks ago could have been sold for nearly 10,000 yen (around $80) to be put into Mamushi Sake--snake liquor. The poison seeps into the liquor and is said to act as an aphrodisiac. One site says it works like Viagra--and to only drink a thimble full. On another site, a woman said she has a small amount every day and she feels more energetic.

We aren't going to tell the boys because John is quite the money maker, and I am visualizing him turning over rocks all summer looking for another one of these vipers. No, I think we'll just count our blessings!