Sunday, February 24, 2008

Running the Race

Last Sunday, Dave didn't come to church. That's because he was running in the Tokyo Marathon. Dave is a runner, but this was his first marathon and he had kept it a secret that he had applied for an entry position until the week before.

When we got home from church we tuned into the Marathon on TV. Stan started watching at the 5 hour and 8 minute mark. We found out later that Dave had crossed the finish line just one minute before! We wondered all day how Dave was doing, and when we could wait no longer, gave him a call around 8 pm. He had managed to make it back for a prayer meeting at his workplace after the run, and then had just walked into his little apartment.

This Sunday morning, Stan called Dave to the front and had him show the metal he received for running the Marathon. We all applauded him. Then Stan showed a certificate he had made for Dave, and started it around the room. We all were able to sign our names to honor this man who is an example of diligence and faithfulness.

Dave is a good example to us of someone who is running the race in life, too. He has spent nearly 30 years in Japan. A good portion of that time he has been printing Bibles. I don't know if records are kept of how many Bibles in how many languages he has run through the presses at the Christian printing company--but I think its quite safe to say he may have printed more Bibles than anyone in the world!

Way to go, Dave!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Worship Dance Team

Last Sunday's sermon was from Ezra 6, where the people of Israel celebrated the dedication of the house of God (the post-exilic temple) with joy. We were challenged to worship with joy, as well.

When the sermon was finished we had a song of response (which I can't remember). I was amused by these two young ladies, who without prompting got up and started a dance with one another.

These little ones are a bit active in church--although I would have to say the entire service last week was very ADHD. People getting up to go to the bathroom, little ones talking, these two carrying on conversations back and forth between their parents' rows, others who left early. And as Stan just kept on preaching, I thought about the little ones that were brought to Jesus, and His disciples who thought they were doing Him a favor by sending them away, being rebuked by Him.

I remembered, too, when we came back to Japan shortly after the birth of our second daughter. The Japanese church we attended welcomed us with two little, active girls. Striving to be a "practically perfect in every way" mother, I tried keeping them quiet. But I, too was rebuked by the church people who said they loved the sound of children because it meant the church was alive. They had a little corner in the back of the sanctuary for children to play during the service.

How unlike some of our steeple churches in America where we shunt the kids out of the sanctuary because we don't want to disturb the wa* of the service.

So we had this little worship dance team. In the Messianic congregation where my brother and his family worship they have a dance team. Maybe we should integrate this more formally--or maybe it IS better to let it be spontaneous and from that heart in response to the reminder that we worship the Lord with joy.

*I find a Japanese word describes this concept better--wa means peace or harmonious. Am I an old missionary, or what!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Come out with your hands up!

This morning, our oldest daughter was watching television in her apartment in central California before leaving for work when she heard loud speakers outside. Going to the door she realized that there were police outside with a bullhorn declaring they had a warrant for the arrest of a someone in a neighboring apartment building.

After an extended time of quiet, she readied herself to go to work. Picking up the bag of garbage at the door, she opened it up--and looked out on quite a scene. There was a patrol car parked on the far side of the square in front of her apartment. Police with bullet-proof vests were all over the square with guns drawn.

Walking down the stairs, she had a flashback of the work she did last year as a background actress on Numbers and CSI--where actors would stand around the set dressed in uniforms and bullet-proof vests, just like these men. She was still feeling like she was on the set when the officer, with gun drawn, standing at the base of her stairs said "have a nice day, ma'am." The only response that came from her was laughter.

Just about at that time they called out on the loud speaker again for whomever they were after to "come out with your hands up."

Getting to her car after dropping off the garbage, she had five patrol cars parked behind her. When she was able to pull out of the parking lot, there was an ambulance waiting in case they were needed.

She stopped at the Starbucks down the street, and not too long afterward saw the ambulance and several patrol cars go by with sirens blaring. She has no idea what happened, and we haven't found any direct reference to the incident on news feeds.

Life is a stage.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The beginning of a Prayer Quilt Ministry

Last summer, one of our church ladies went back to the US to spend time with her family. While visiting a church in her parent's area, she was introduced to the "Prayer Quilt" ministry. Her mind went immediately to wondering how we at ICCS could use this concept.

Prayer Quilts are simple quilts that are designated to go a person facing a great need--physical or otherwise--as a reminder that people are praying for them. Rather than being "quilted" together with little stitches, these are held together with knots. The strings are tied into knots by church members who use each act of tying as a reminder to pray for the receiver of the quilt.

The first quilt top that was made was designated to go for a need in our church--and it still remains partially tied. But we heard from of one of our ICCS "alumni" who moved back to Norway last summer about a 14-year-old friend of their daughter who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor--and our quilt lady quickly went into action. The quilt was put together and ready to go within a week. It hung in the sanctuary for two Sundays, and it was a thrill to watch people come up and tie the knots, saying a prayer for this young girl's healing and spiritual stamina. Because her condition will be changing fast, and because it had to be sent to Norway, we wanted it done and on its way quickly.

A couple weeks ago we got these photos of our quilt with this young girl who is growing strong in her faith even while the tumor grows and causes difficulty for her.

The back of each quilt will have a cross, and a small patch that gives the name of the recipient and ICCS as the giver.

As our quilt lady says--"its not the knots, its the prayers" that are the important part of this project. Watching her husband, who is not yet a believer but seems to be "catching on" go up and tie a knot that first Sunday, I was reminded again--belonging before believing.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Wrestling season comes to a great close

After Joseph's first middle school wrestling tournament, where he came back with a bronze metal, he started getting more motivated. Two weeks ago, he said --

" I'll get a silver this week, and a gold next week...or maybe not."

He did come back with a silver metal the second week wrestling in the lightest weight class, and placed with a silver again this past Saturday in a higher weight class. He has improved (I got to attend this week but I saw the film of him from the week before) and has potential to do well in the future.

Saturday was their last tournament, and the team posed for a final photo. Joseph is behind the boy in the green jacket. Way to go, son!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Brazilians are coming!

As an English-language International Chapel, we are often on the look-out for different nationalities in the area. Once in a while we come across a people-group where our common language isn't English, but Japanese. Over the past 18 years we have hosted a couple of groups in our facilities. For a time we had an Iranian Christian couple who were religious refugees living in Japan that gathered a small group of middle easterners together for a Sunday afternoon fellowship. We had a season of Filipinos--who spoke some English but were much more comfortable with Tagalog. And just last night, a group of Brazilians, some of Japanese descent, began meeting in our worship hall for a Portuguese service.

We were first introduced to this group through a contact made from the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA). Pastor Gilberto was commenting on how many Brazilians there are here planting churches (many are bi-vocational) and how little church planting material is available for them in a language they understand. He said perhaps the pastors needed to learn English. Stan began an e-mail correspondence with him on that topic. Their paths didn't cross, however, until a few weeks ago when they met on another matter.

In their face-to-face meeting, they talked about the fact that there is a congregation of Brazilians in the area, who are at present commuting quite a distance for church. Stan invited them to join us at ICCS last month for our "Covered Dish Sunday" and about 30 of them came. Again, for many our common language is Japanese.

They joined in where possible in the service, and brought some wonderful food to fill out the buffet table at the Covered Dish.

Many of these people are working and some have special visa status because of their Japanese heritage.

Our congregation enjoyed their visit, and we had to add extra tables to have room for everyone! Chairs were rounded up from the second floor Sunday School space. It was a warm family atmosphere.

Following their visit, Pastor Gilberto and the Brazilians decided to follow up on an offer to use the worship hall on Saturday evenings for service. Last night was their first night. We didn't get to sit in on the service, though Stan stopped by as the worship team was practicing. We hope this is the start of a great relationship between congregations. We are told that the Brazilian-led churches are some of the fastest growing churches in Japan right now.