Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stan talks about recent Joys

One of the best days of my life took place Tuesday, October 16, after 4 PM.

I was in the US on a fund raising trip to help raise awareness that we need additional support.

I had already visited with my daughter (on the left with her roommates) in Fresno, CA and found that time well worth the jet lag.

I traveled onto Long Island, where 30+ years ago I had been a youth pastor—when we all were much younger… That time was so worthwhile as I conversed with a number of my youth group ”kids” who are now pushing 50! They have kids my kid’s ages and face some of the same troubles and stresses of people in our age bracket. I learned that some are elders in their different churches, mission’s directors and very active in the development of their young people to become well-rounded Christian workers in their community. They married well, have 3-5 kids who were doing well in school, live fairly high on the hog in their settings and show that they have fared well in their own walk of Faith.

I was so pleased.
After hearing some of their parents (above) remember things I did not do and thank me for that contact and direction, I realized John’s statement in 3 John 4--
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Not only seeing them, but also hearing their hearts that were ingrained in the Word of God! To hear that and to see that—well, that was great. And then…

I left Long Island to see my Mom and brother out on Cape Cod.

I spoke to three churches that next week and totally enjoyed it! One was a Native American Church of the Wampanoag Tribe in Mashpee, Cape Cod. Four centuries before, their ancestors lived in and around Plymouth long before the Mayflower landing on their land. The current pastor’s great, great, grandfather, “One Eyed Pete” was the last believing clergyman until Curtis took over. I had spoken at the Mashpee church three years before when there were only 25 people. That Sunday, the church was filled with over 90 very ‘glad to be here—glad to be anywhere’ Native Americans. (I felt so white.) This was a good slice of the approximately 1,500 members of their Nation. Pastor Curtis told me that a revival was hitting their tribe and I could really see it.
And then…

On Tuesday of that week, after 4PM, Timber Leech (a handyman who works around the Cape until he has enough money to support himself on mission trips to Mongolia or Brazil) took me and my older brother out on his 19-foot outboard craft into the warm waters just off Wood’s Hole-between Martha’s Vineyard and the Cape and close enough to see the Atlantic. We fished for Sea Bass and big Blues. After about 20 minutes, I brought in the trophy catch of the day.
Weighting in at 20 pounds and measuring almost 39 inches, I had entered a level of joy few have ever experienced. And to think, Timber asked me if I wanted to keep it! Raw, it was good, grilled, it was excellent!

more photos available on request!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Testing your parking skills...

Often on Sundays we walk from our church, The International Community Chapel of Saitama, to a nearby restaurant for dinner after the service. One of the sites we always "check on" is this car. This week Stan had the camera with him. This is a BMW that parks in a fairly narrow lot--there is just barely room for the driver to get out. We know that the car is moved fairly often--we see the space empty once in a while. So this is a regular parking pattern for this vehicle.
But what amazes us most of all is how close he gets on the passenger side! We have yet to see any scratches or scrapes on the car.

We almost always back up to park here in Japan. It seems to work better than forward parking in the tight areas we are given, and it probably is safer when we get ready to leave again. Our new van has a camera in the back that gives us a view of how far back our car is along with lines for where you are and where you will be if you don't turn--though I (Faith) prefer lining up using my side mirrors.

As I look at this photo close up, I wonder if he has to close his mirror before he gets to the corner!

Would your parking skills get you into this spot as nicely?

Friday, October 26, 2007

The mother-son trip, and why I'm glad I got coaching before I left!

When Stan and I made plans for him to take a trip to the U.S. in October, we found ourselves between some challenges on our calendar. He waited to leave until after A had her 18th birthday, but in order to get in enough time for everything, he would be gone over the weekend of our Church Multiplication Missionaries Fall Gathering (which I attend as the coordinator of Human Resource Development/Missionary Care).

Finding a place for J-ph and J-n to stay for that time was a bit challenging, so I decided I would take both boys with me. J-n objected because he would miss soccer and school--and J-ph took the chance to go with me alone . God provided a place for J-n with a church family.

I had great dreams for this cultural plunge with J-ph. We were going to Hiroshima--definitely a place to encounter the convergence of American and Japanese history. I hoped that going through the Peace Park Museum would help to enlighten him and develop some compassion for Japanese.

Gratefully, when I used this topic in a coaching workshop in early October, my coach asked "what is the minimum that it would take for you to feel satisfied"? and I started whittling down my dreams to something a bit closer to probable reality.

We chose to go by Shinkansen--the Bullet Train--because J-ph had never ridden one before. Of course the day we left, wanting to see Mt. Fuji as we sped by, it was raining heavily and the mountain was totally missing!

From the Hiroshima station, we took a street car to the Hiroshima port.

We got on a car ferry to go to Etajima--the island where the Youth Center is located. From the port on the other side, we called for a ride. This photo was taken on our way back Monday afternoon. J-ph is pulling the suitcase onto the ferry.
While the adults sat around a couple of tables in the center of the ferry lounge, the kids sat on a play area entertaining themselves for the 30 minute ride.
Once back on land, we got on the street car again, and headed back to Hiroshima Station, where we put our suitcase in a locker for our excursion to the Peace Park.
This street car was about 50 years old. It still had the wooden floor, and rattled and clanked as it went on its way.

When we got to the station, we opted to take a taxi to the Peace Park. As we got out, J-ph balked at going to the museum. As a matter of fact, he wasn't happy to be there at all. He wanted to get in the taxi and head back. I was willing to give up the museum, but I wanted us to walk through the park. After a little stand-off at a park bench, we started moving.

J-ph's primary concern seemed to be that people would be angry with us because we are Americans. On the contrary, I had a group of school children surround me, introduce themselves in English, and ask if we could have a picture taken together. (A said she felt like a star at the Nagasaki Peace Park because of these kinds of groups.) J-ph stood far away, hoping that no one would link him with me!

Through this arch you can see the dome standing--which actually was the epicenter of the atomic bomb blast. This arch-way commemorates those who died as a result of the bomb. We see it on TV every August as the place where special services are held.

We walked through the park--J-ph avoiding every possible group that he saw--and made it to the Peace Memorial Dome--where the camera batteries ran out and we had to rely on my phone camera instead. We walked around it. There were people from everywhere--Europeans, middle easterners, and a large group of retired Japanese Americans in a tour group.

This is the closest to a picture of J-ph in front of the building...his back to me, walking away.

We left here, hopped on another street car, and headed back to the station (where we ran into several groups of Asian Access missionaries heading various directions). We got lunch, and then made our way to the ticket office, where I was able to exchange our reserved tickets for a train leaving an hour earlier.

Was I satisfied with this time? Well, it didn't quite measure up to my revised hopes...but I fully expect that in five years, as he is getting ready to graduate from High School, I will hear about this great trip that J-ph took with me to Hiroshima...

The CM Teams 2007 Fall Gathering Family Photo

Here we are all together for the Commemorative photo.
I (Faith) am almost in the center in a pink shirt, black jacket and white hair. Joseph is on my left--to the right in this photo in the row in front of me in a black jacket with a white stripe down the sleeve.

Training and Fellowship near Hiroshima

From October 18 - 22, the Church Multiplication Missionaries with Asian Access met at a Japanese National Youth Center for training. They came from Hokkaido in the north, the Tokyo area, the Osaka-Kobe area, Kyushu and Okinawa. This was one of only two time a year they see one another all together. With over 27 missionaries, and an equal number of children, they studied and practiced basic Coaching skills, had Asian Access vision-focused sessions, attended a few specialized workshops. There were special fellowship evenings--one for the women and one for the men--to get together and have fun. There was the public (male separate from female) baths and we ate lots and lots of cabbage (breakfast, lunch and dinner)!
The coaching facilitator, Michael E, had once been with our mission. It was a great time of welcoming him back and reminiscing for about half of the missionaries in attendance. Michael took everyone through some basic skills in coaching, and there was lots of time for practice with one another. One of the comments we got back was that people had wanted to talk with one another, and the coaching practice sessions allowed them to interact with people they might not have had time to catch up with otherwise.
On Sunday morning we had a worship time (trying to keep it somewhat low key since we were in a public facility) that allowed us to express our love for the Lord and our commitment to follow Him. We had a time of hearing from the Word, and being challenged to continue on in hard times...because that comes with discipleship.
Missionary Tim was recently engaged to Wakako, and we were able to pray over a new "couple" as they anticipate their January wedding. This and other "family times" made this gathering very precious to each one of us who attended.d
There were lots of opportunities to exchange information and ideas--both within the coaching exercises and while talking about communicating the message of what is happening here in Japan through the ministries of Asian Access and these Church Multiplication Missionaries.
There were some cultural activities, too. Each morning we began radio taiso or radio exercises at 7:10 A.M. These recorded stretching exercises are a Japanese tradition dating back to the pre-WWII days when they were intended to promote and maintain the health of not just Japaneses Postal Life Insurance policyholders but the general public. (It kind of reminds me of the Jack La Lanne ditty that we used to go through before swimming lessons at the pool in Boulder, CO when I was in Junior High). This group of foreigners weren't very capable, but we have a few Japanese in Asian Access who served as our guides to doing it right...
Every morning and every evening we participated in the flag ceremony--helping to raise it in the morning before the radio taiso, and then lower it at 5:10 P.M. We were not the only group there--so this responsibility was spread around, but for the last few days, the other group with us was a large contingent of young Chinese who were attending a cram Japanese language class--and while very adept at greetings, had no idea what else was going on!

Monday, October 22, 2007


Friday morning at the Christian Academy in Japan, there was a time of great testing... The spaghetti bridges that had been made by each of the middle school students were tested by the "Bridge Buster". The students, and a fair number of parents with cameras, all stood around an outside basketball court to watch more than 90 spaghetti bridges get smashed. Various elementary classes came and went as they took their recess watching the event.
After the sixth grade bridges were tested, it came time for the seventh grade...and eventually our seventh graders. J-n was first. His bridge was placed on the stand. A block of wood, weighing 1.5 kg was placed on top. Above that was a jack (another 3 kg) that when pumped would exert force on a scale. Each builder had the responsibility of pumping the jack...
Eventually, the bridge would be crushed and the final force measured. J's bridge held 35.5 kg (78 pounds). The testing apparatus was released and the remains of the bridges were swept into the blue trash can on the right of the table. (There were those few exceptions--usually girls--who wanted to save portions of their bridge.)
A little while later, it was J-h's turn. He had written in a response paper that he just wanted to get this done quick and easy...and as I predicted, that pillar that was only made like the outside wall of a log home was the first part to collapse. His bridge only withstood 15.5 kg (34 pounds).
His expressions to his friends afterward summed it all up for him.

One of the things I noticed while watching nearly two full hours of bridges, was that most of them were not made according to the instructions. I had found the instructions a bit difficult to follow, and as mentioned in my previous post, the website references didn't help.

I also noticed that many of the children were not from families where they speak English at home. This is an evidence of the changing landscape at the Christian Academy in Japan. While this is a school for missionary children, there are fewer missionary children than ever in the past. An increasing part of that missionary community, however, are Korean. There are a fair number of other children from Japan and others from dual nationalities. There are business children, kids from Christian families and non-Christian families. The school is increasingly searching for ways to minister to the community, while seeking to retain its purpose--that of educating missionary children.

In case you are curious, there were three or four bridges that absorbed 150 kg (330 pounds) unbroken. That was the highest weight they were able to apply on the bridges. The secret--if you have kids that do this in three years, is density...just like the winning bridge in 2001.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spaghetti Bridges...what???

The science program at the Christian Academy in Japan has a three year rotation of special projects. Last year was "Science Fair" and next year is the "Egg-Drop" contest. This year its the "Spaghetti Bridge" project.

We were first introduced to this six years ago, when A was in sixth grade.

Students are given a 500 gram package of spaghetti, and a 50 gram bottle of white glue, and are supposed to fashion a bridge following certain basic dimensions. The bridges are judged on a variety of criteria--the one above won for the strongest bridge back in 2001. (I'm so glad for this photo in my files--because it provided some inspiration for our bridges this year.)

When we did this project with A (she says she doesn't remember building it...did we do that much work for her?) the structure we came up with was pretty thin, as you can see. It did hold several sets of weights before she was left with this much.

Our boys have trouble with focusing--and now, six years later, A has been dying to help build these bridges. Hers would be as good as the one in the first picture if she was given the chance. This is definitely wasted on middle school students... The websites we were given to consult on this project are almost all for college engineering students making suspension bridges. None of the descriptions we ran across were for this type of bridge--and almost always they were produced by teams...

Of course, everything we do now, we do twice. The boys could have opted to work together on this--many nights I've wished that's what they had done. One did a pretty faithful job beginning on pillars, the other from the beginning was diligent with his road bed. Together it would have been done easily, strongly, and DAYS AGO!!!! But instead, we've had two bridges going... And Stan has been in the States during this whole process.

While this won't win any awards for style, its a good, solid bridge. I expect it will hold a fair amount of weight. I've been proud of J-n for sticking with this.

J-ph's bridge is more of a "sampler" because he got bored with doing solid dense pillars, and decided to try different things. If it makes it to school tomorrow (the various styles don't very easily attach to each other), it also won't get a "style" award, and we expect the left side to collapse fairly on in the testing process because there are no center supports in that pillar.

Whats ahead? Tomorrow we have to get these to school. Our kids take a train--I rarely drive there. We have a couple of 28 packet microwave popcorn boxes that I hope they'll be willing to carry with their bridges padded inside.

The teachers will judge/grade the bridges based on a rubric the kids were given, and then on Friday morning the bridges will be "tested" We know that we'll end up with broken bridges--the question is how much weight will they hold before they collapse.

I leave with J-ph for a mission training seminar as soon as the bridge contest is over, so I won't be able to give you the photos of their bridges being tested until later next week.

Whats ahead for me? I can vacuum the bits and pieces of spaghetti off the floor and the carpet, and wipe the glue off the table cloth.

And be so grateful we don't have to do this EVER, EVER again!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

CAJ Middle School Soccer B-Team--that's our son!!!

Saturday I finally made it to a Christian Academy in Japan middle school soccer game. John (#13) made it on the B team, and has gone to practices three nights a week, and to games every Saturday since the early part of September. We have had lots of mission activities on the weekends, so Stan's been to one game, and I had this Saturday open.* John plays fullback...but somehow almost scored this week. Their team is undefeated, and this week's score was 6-0.

I hope to get to the B-Team Festival on Saturday the 27th... I have responsibilities throughout that week, but sitting on the sidelines at the American School in Japan watching this boy play would be a nice break.

Now, when these photos were sent to me, I found it interesting that my son was wired to his friend...they were listening to his friend's ipod, apparently. Guess what is on John (and Joseph's) birthday gift wish list...


* I actually was all set to go on the 29th of September, when John came down with a stomach flu and didn't get to the game.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Visiting the Tokorozawa Matsuri (Festival)

Sunday, A and I went to the center of Tokorozawa (our city) to walk through the annual Tokorozawa Matsuri (festival). Most cities have a major festival each year, and often local shrines participate. The religious and cultural aspects of Japan are very intertwined in these festivals. We rarely attend the festivals because of the religious connections. This time, however, we decided to "check it out" and share some of our observations with you. We are on an "explore Japan" kick as she is coming to the end of her high school life in Japan.

This is the street from the Tokorozawa train station toward the main festival route. While it usually is fairly crowded on a weekend, it was more than usual today, with wall to wall people.

Once we made it to the main roadway, we saw several stage areas with a variety of acts. This one was traditional music with characters reinacting a folk tale. Other stages had jazz, the professional cheerleaders for the area baseball team, samba dancing (which we missed), and Japanese popular music groups.

There were also lots of booths lining the streets selling foods, including the following on a stick--

yakidango roasted rice balls

yakitori roasted chicken pieces,

roasted squid (sorry, no pictures)


There were also booths with children's games and the tubs of goldfish that kids could "fish out" --guaranteed to take at least 2 home for 400 yen... (no guarantee they'll be alive when you get home, however!)

And lots of beer.

We couldn't help but feel sorry for this dog, who had been manicured in multicolors!

The main feature of the festival are parade cars--some of which are portable shrines. There were a group of children from a preschool "pulling" one such portable shrine.

It made me think of when A was a little girl attending the local public preschool. They knew we were Christians, and didn't want her to participate in religious activities. When we came to the school's summer festival, they had made a portable shrine out of cardboard boxes...and there, affixed to the sides, were crosses. They made sure we saw that they had included us!

As we went further down "main street" we started to see the larger parade cars. They were going two directions--sometimes they had the street to themselves, sometimes they ended up facing one another. It seemed that the different cars represented different communities in Tokorozawa--perhaps a district, a business or a shrine.

Bigger parade cars were portable stages, with characters out of folk lore and representing dieties. Perhaps you'll notice the man toward the end of this clip, getting his face into the picture... he offered to have us join in pulling this... No thank you!

The drums and flutes would go on and on, and when two cars would meet, they would have the "battle of the bands" types of encounters. Once they were finished, they would separate, and head on down the road.

Aand I had enough of the high pitched flute and the drums, fought the crowd back toward the train station and headed toward home.

We commented that we didn't see anyone we knew. That was highly unusual--we've been in this city for 15 years, and in the region for longer. Usually we see SOMEONE we know when we go into the center of Tokorozawa.

I wonder, today, on the morning after, what a church could have done at the festival. What could we have offered to the tens of thousands that walked the streets yesterday...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby!!!

Our 18-year old!

Today A and six friends met in Shibuya, Tokyo to go to TGI Friday's for her birthday lunch. (These kids are all seniors, and all returned last night from a three day class trip to Nagasaki.)

A had never been to TGIF. It was fun for the kids to have "AMERICAN" sized-meals. Of course, the lunch was followed by the traditional birthday sundae and the staff singing Happy Birthday. here's the Mom in me speaking...this may be our last birthday with this young lady for a long time. Next year, where in the world will she be? It was actually hard tonight over dinner not to feel kind of sad!

ICCS celebrates two baptisms

Sunday we had two more baptisms. But first, here's a glimpse at our service.

The worship team this week had a new addition. Sora, who was baptized a few months ago, played his violin. We have enjoyed different people sharing their abilities.

Through out the service, there were a number of times when we had individual participation. A number of people read scripture portions. Others prayed. It was so encouraging to us to hear the community of believers taking part.

A glimpse of the congregation...

And from another angle...

Andrew, who was one of those baptized, gave his testimony. Having grown up in a church setting, it is only recently that he has come to realize that he needs to have God lead him. He and his family will be leaving Japan in two weeks, and since their future is uncertain, he wanted to go ahead and be baptized here.

Josephine's parents are here as missionaries. She has grown up in our church. Stan baptized her and her father prayed a prayer of blessing on her.

As the morning came to an end, Stan posed with Andrew's family. They were heading out on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Stan heads to the US for the next few weeks, so this was his farewell to this family.