Friday, November 30, 2007

We've got two new teenagers in our house

Joseph and John turned 13 years old today !

The boys' 7th grade class went to a performance of "The Lion King"musical in Tokyo today, so they didn't get home until about 6:30 pm. We headed over to a favorite "yaki niku" (Korean BBQ) restaurant for dinner, then had chocolate cake at home. We gave them gifts afterwards.

This year promises to be a bit challenging--it already is! But we pray (and we'd love your prayers, too!) that they allow God to rule in their hearts more and more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

International COMMUNITY Chapel says "Thank You!"

A few months ago members of the neighborhood in which our church is located began using our main hall for regular meetings. There is no community center in our district, and while it took a while for people to be willing to use a "church" the resistance finally was overcome.

One of the things that some of the neighbors noticed was how stained our chairs were. Looking for some way of compensating the church for opening our doors, they volunteered to make chair covers. Today was the first day we "debuted" the covers. Our chairs were original with this building--built by LIFE Ministries (now Asian Access) in 1987. They have seen lots of wear, so they were definitely due a refurbishing!

With the debut of the chair covers, we arranged to have the three individuals who made the covers come at the end of the service today to receive our thanks and bouquets of flowers. The man is the head of the neighborhood association.

The woman on the right, Mrs. S, is one of our long time members, who joined the neighborhood association and has been working to establish these connections for the sake of the Kingdom. She is holding the flowers for one of the seamstresses who was unable to come because her husband is very ill with cancer. Mrs. S delivered the flowers to her after the service.

As we head into the Christmas season, we hope that we can continue to add to the bridges that are being built. Already we have made arrangements to go caroling to several of these homes on Christmas Eve.

There are some in the neighborhood association that are very afraid of any religious connection--but there are others, like the man above, who have early experiences with Christianity.

Belonging Before Believing...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thankful and Surprised

When we planned Thanksgiving*** earlier this year, we were not going to be here in our apartment--but after making a very good decision to stay home and warm, we needed to extend our table to more than just the five of us. We invited Norwegian friends (the family that John stayed with last month) to join us.

We had the traditional thanksgiving turkey (we bought a 13.5 pound Butterball at the kids school for $37.00--I figured that was 5 to 6 times what we would have paid for it in the US.) Stan made a trek to a nearby city where we were told we could find cranberry sauce and bought three cans. Japanese sweet potatoes aren't quite the same as those from "home" but we still had a marshmallow covered sweet potato casserole. AND I discovered you can cook potatoes in the slow cooker for mashing, which comes in handy when there are only two burners on our stove top and not much room in the kitchen for finishing up the meal. We wrapped up the meal with a rich pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

It was a treat to spend the time with Harold and Lisbeth. They have been a part of our church for a while, but we don't often get to just sit and chat. Lisbeth is holding the apartment ALPHA course this fall. Harold works at the nearby Bible printing press.

Last Sunday was our usual "Covered Dish Lunch" after the service. (Third Sunday of every month--if you're in town, drop in!) We had a smaller group out for morning worship, and an even smaller one for lunch. Just before Stan started to pray, he got a tap on the shoulder, and looked up to see a man who has been away from church for many years.

Mr. U is at the end of the table--he stayed for a good part of the dinner, while Stan and a couple of others reminisced about the days when he attended the church. Most of the people who were here when he was are gone, but there are still a couple who remembered when he came. He was even Stan's translator for a while. He made a profession of faith in college, but wandered away into dark things. Once in a very long while he shows up again. Pray that God will continue to draw Mr. U out of the darkness and remind him of the true Light.

***It just occurred to me that maybe we should plan on celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving next year if we want to get to the cabin! October is usually quite comfortable up there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nathans--not quite a consolation prize, but...

Ever since we left our summer cabin at "Tak" in August, we have been dreaming about returning there for Thanksgiving. We've talked about it for years, but always had something come up in our schedules. This year we have kept the calendar clear...

But, as we watched the weather report for this week the forecast for the cabin location was for highs in the high 30's and lows around the freezing point for Wednesday and Thursday. Our cabin is a SUMMER cabin--somewhat on the order of camping in a wooden tent. We have three kerosene heaters already at the cabin, and had a fourth one ready to take up. We have a full tank of kerosene up there waiting for us. We had the sleeping bags ready. We had two door quilts ready to go. I had purchased and stored cans of cranberry sauce and pumpkin filling up there. But those temperatures were just way too cold. (Last March I stopped at the cabin for three hours after a meeting, and while I had two kerosene heaters running, the temperature went from 53F to 50F as the sun set.) So after discussion yesterday, we decided to stay in Tokyo.

Stan is VERY DISAPPOINTED!!! I am too, but I have arthritic-type pain when I get too cold, and the thought of a damp, chilly weekend helps me to balance that disappointment.

So, today we decided to go find the Nathan's hot dog stand we had heard about at Kichijoji, a city in Tokyo.

It was actually kind of chilly here, too, but at Nathan's Stan had a chili cheese dog--and another hot dog he smothered with sauerkraut and other stuff. We went from Nathan's to the Starbucks next door for coffee afterward.

We just got an email from a friend who is at their newly built cabin at Tak--its snowing. The forecast tonight said they may have a blizzard there tomorrow.

I am sure it is lovely in the winter--but unless there is someone who wants to donate funds, materials and time to winterize the "De La Cabin" to make it a year round retreat, we will have to be satisfied with our SUMMER visits.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A and scenes from The Diary of Anne Frank

A peformed in the role of Margo Frank last weekend for the Christian Academy in Japan production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

The Frank Family poses for a photo. All four of these students are seniors. And all of them had to have their hair dyed brown!

As the older sister, Margo is bothered by the dialogue between Anne and her mother, especially as Anne refers to Margo as being "perfect".

Those staying in the Annex enjoy a visit from Miep, the woman who brings them food, library books and news of the outside world.

Hanukkah, 1942, brings great stress to the Frank and Van Daan families.

The above photos are courtesy of G. Yamato at CAJ

This may be the last production for A at CAJ. Under previous schedules this would have been a musical year, but there seems to be a lack of interested or available faculty to direct and produce one--to her GREAT disappointment.

A shared this production with her closest friends at the school--they were either on stage with her or behind the scenes. She will have good memories of this time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Missionary - Sent from ICCS to America

On Sunday evening we had a chance to visit with Mappe who was in Japan to serve as a translator for the Church Planters Institute. Mappe was Stan's right hand and coworker in the ministry at the International Community Chapel for many years.

Mappe and his family left Japan a year and a half ago and moved to America to be near his wife's family. At the time they thought it would be one year, but it seems that God has opened other doors for him to stay and serve in the States for a longer period of time. He is presently teaching part time in a public school and serving as a Worship and Small Groups Pastor at a church in Connecticut.

Sunday morning Mappe shared with our church that he had been surprised at the number of churches they visited in America where the Gospel isn't preached. (One of the men listening who isn't a believer yet went home and asked his wife "what is the Gospel?" and then "well what would they preach if not the Gospel?") Mappe went on to say that much of what he is doing at his church in America is what he learned in ministry at ICCS.

I think of myself as a missionary, sent from ICCS in Japan, to the church in America.

One of the Japanese women in our church was so encouraged by that concept. The joy of being a part of sending the Gospel back to the country whose missionaries have brought the Gospel here visibly moved her.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A beverage for mental health professionals

One afternoon while at the Church Planters Institute, I walked into the lobby of the hotel, up to the vending machine and saw the following canned coffee--

I started laughing out loud. Is this coffee for those who are depressed?

I think cans of this will be sitting on most of the counseling consultants desks as a souvenir of their trip to Japan.

The Japanese above the photo of the coffee beans says its a dark flavor...deep espresso perhaps?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A trip up the mountain--Church Planters' Institute

Last Tuesday morning I (Faith) headed to the Fuji Hakone Land Hotel to join about 400 others at the 14th Church Planters' Institute (CPI). This Conference is now held every other year and has a specific purpose of wanting to see a church multiplication movement happen in Japan. About 1/3 of those attending are Japanese pastors, the others are foreign missionaries.

We actually got glimpses of Mt. Fuji only briefly on the day we arrived. The rest of the time we had overcast skies...

My role in this conference was that of helping with the operations of a Consulting Center to provide member care services for those in attendance. We had technical consultants (web designer, computer guy) educational consultants (Japanese language acquisition, coaching, and children's education support) and mental/emotional health consultants (psychiatrist, clinical psychologists, counselors, pastoral counselors). It was an excellent combination of resources, and over the course of the conference there were a total of 91 consultations. Two of our counselors were Japanese speakers, and they were kept fairly busy. It was so good to be able to provide these resources for people in ministry--most of whom wouldn't have any other "place" to go with their questions.

The psychiatrist, in his self-introduction, expanded on Luke 10:2 ... "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Adding, that the member care mental health specialists jobs were to help keep the workers in the field.

There were large group sessions and smaller workshops. There were case studies presented that were exciting--and sometimes a bit challenging for traditional church planters to hear. We heard from Mitsuo Fukuda whose Rethinking Authentic Christianity Network has produced 100 house churches in the last five years. He has written on the work among nurses in one of the Lausanne Papers. Moving from a strong hierarchy of clergy to a more "priesthood of the believers" perspective was interesting, exciting, motivating or quite controversial depending on which table one sat at for dinner! If you're interested in reading more from him, check out the English articles on his website.

One lunch they had called for those who were interested in joining a church planting network to meet together in a separate room. There were about 90 people who came and sat at tables by regions to talk about the process. One of the coaches was Asian Access's very own Hiroshi Kawasaki, who has directed the Japan Church Growth Institute (JCGI) for a number of years.

When I attended CPI two years ago, I felt that what was being taught to those in attendance was, in essence but never expressed, most of what Asian Access believes, teaches and does. This year I sensed the same thing but with there is one key difference. Asian Access works in partnership with visionary Japanese pastors and churches to plant churches--we don't go in and start it on our own, then try to transfer it to a Japanese later.

I left grateful to have been a part of providing a safe context for harvest workers to be encouraged and equipped to go back to their places of ministry through the Consulting Center.

I also left grateful to be serving with Asian Access!