Friday, March 28, 2008

An ICCS Alumni visits

Mr & Mrs S, Faith, Vicki H, Stan

We had an Alumni of ICCS visit with us last weekend. Vicki H brought a group of High School students from a school in California to tour around the Tokyo area. She included Easter at ICCS as a required stop on the tour! Several ladies from the church, led by Mrs. S, set up home stays in the area and a variety of cultural experiences for the kids.

Monday evening we went to the S' home for dinner with Vicki. She brought out old photos from the early days of the church--going back 12-15 years. It was a great time of reminiscing! It was actually Vicki who brought Mrs. S, her landlady, to the church for the first time. At that time, Mrs. S wasn't a believer, though she had spent time in church as a young woman. We reminisced about the Billy Graham Crusade in 1994 where we saw Mrs. S clearly changed by the gospel.

Monday we were able to meet Mr S again. He has so far not had any interest in the gospel, and we are concerned for him. He has been through a round of treatment for cancer. Things seem to be in remission, but ...

Any ICCS Alumni who read this--we have a group set up on Facebook! Check it out.

Back by special request...

Its August, 1980. Picture 120 summer missionaries, at their final gathering after 10 weeks of ministry in Japan. The next day they'll be on the plane, heading back home. All of a sudden, the lights go low, and the opening sounds of Neil Diamond's "Coming to America" start. As the lights go up..."Neil" starts performing the song for them.

There was something electric about the timing, the sound, the song... and it went into Asian Access history annals.

So when "Neil Diamond" was the only program request from Doug Birdsall at his gathering, Stan brought him out of retirement.

While there were about six people in the room who saw the original performance, and a few more who had seen a follow up performance two years later, it was a first for the rest of the Asian Access family. Not only the Asian Access family...

A said, "First I saw the watch and thought, that's like my dad's watch...then I saw the ring and thought, that's like my dad's ring. Then I realized--THAT'S MY DAD!" Our sons watched expressionless (like cool 13 year olds would).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The A2 Family Photo

The Asian Access Japan Family, March, 2008
The De La Cours are on the right

Faith (4th in) and A (3rd in) are third row from the front
Stan (4th in) and J (3rd in) are in the fourth row from the front
The other J wasn't at the photo session

Just like old times

Stan, Faith, Harriet and Bob

When Stan first came to Japan in 1979, one of his coworkers was Harriet, from Colorado. They both worked in the mission's CORE program (Church OutReach Evangelism) and would spend weekly meetings together as part of a group of about 6-8. The summer of 1980 they were advisers for the mission's summer program, called Scrum Dendo. Bob came as a "scrummer" and it was there that he met Harriet. They fell in love, got married...

Harriet and Bob on left, Faith with B , .... Stan on the far right

And in 1984 both of us couples came to Japan as career missionaries and lived in Karuizawa for two years of language school. We both moved down to the Tokorozawa area after that and our friendship continued through that time. Stan and Bob were a great comedy team--and there are lots of stock lines and expressions that we date back to those days.

God called Bob and Harriet back to the states about 14 years ago, and for most of that time he has served at New Life Christian Church in Morton, Illinois. We have kept in touch, visited when on home assignment, and had the joy of them coming with a team to our Mission Retreat in 2006. Photos are posted on the blog from that visit.

We always enjoy these times. It seemed appropriate that they were here for the Birdsall celebration...many of the photos resurrected for that walk down memory lane included them. Many of the "inside jokes" were familiar to them.

It just seemed like old times...

Struggling to find a place

We had a great team come from New Life Christian Church in Morton, Illinois to minister to us at the recent Asian Access retreat. I am collecting the evaluations from our missionaries, and this team is coming out on top all across the board. They came with a servant's heart--everything from great kids programs to praying for us during the communion service,to clearing the tables for us while we carried on conversations with one another.

At the same time, we have two young teenage sons (bookends on the back row) who were not happy about going to this retreat. They have never felt very connected to the mission kids, because they feel particularly singled out as "twins" (I've written about their disdain for that identification), and often feel picked on because they are physically smaller than the others. In addition, they missed 2 1/2 days of school which left them with a lot of homework to make up. We keep hoping that things will be different each time we take them to mission events.

If we listen to their reports, having them go was the worst decision we ever made. They've expressed lots of anger and told us they won't be going to one of these again. Others who observed them in the group seemed to think they were having a good time. Since I've been doing lots of reading on MK issues, I wonder where this will all fall in their future development and processing!

One of the ministry team leaders sent me this photo of J-n vacuuming. Its nice to see him working! However, when I asked him about it, he told me that he was forced to clean up after the other kids accused them of making the mess. Both boys said they may have contributed to it, but they were not totally responsible. Again we wonder "what is truth?" and realize that probably it is the concept of paradox--it was the worst of times--it was the best of times.

The evening of the Birdsall Celebration, a friend captured this photo of Doug talking with J-ph. Doug was a wrestler back in his college days, and he and J-ph talked wrestling. A couple of times we saw them get up and try a few holds. This was probably the most significant investment that took place in this boy's life that week.

Some may wonder why I'm posting this. I sincerely believe that people need to know that missionaries are real people, and their kids are real people, too. We actually have a great mission organization and we truly care for one another, including one another's children. It breaks my heart that our sons have felt so disconnected. So if you pray, please pray for the inner healing that is needed for these boys to find their place of value in light of who God has made them to be.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Blessing A

This was A's last Asian Access Retreat before graduating from High School in June. The mission celebrated this milestone with an acknowledgement, gift certificate and a prayer of Blessing.

"Uncle Doug" prayed a prayer of blessing over A and the other graduating senior, Josiah B.

A hung out with some of the other MK's for the couple of days that she was able to be there.

A has a great sense of humor and always has a great eye for opportunities to "ham it up." She saw a chance here with the picture on the side of the bus that came to pick us up to go to the Birdsall Banquet.

Asian Access Retreat Snapshots

From March 6-10, the Japan-based missionaries with Asian Access gathered in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture to spend a few days learning from the Lord and enjoying the fellowship with one another. We are scattered across this country--from Okinawa in the south to Hokkaido in the north. This is the one time all year that the whole mission family is together--and it was precious.

Starting with worship several times a day, lead by a capable team from New Life Christian Church in Morton, Illinois, we had an opportunity to come to the Lord together, sing (in English!) songs of worship and praise, pray for one another and hear from the Word.

We had times when the whole family was together. One evening I was standing in front of Sue T. and I was so blessed to hear Annie singing the praise songs along with her Mom.

The music team sent by New Life was led by Harriet S. Harriet and her husband, Bob, came to Japan with us in the early 80's and served with us until the mid 90's. While they've been gone from Japan for 12 years, it felt like they "belonged" to us. Harriet plays a mean piano...and she was joined by Asian Access's Gary B., on the Sax for several numbers. It was fun!

The New Life church brought a team not only to lead worship, but also to provide a ministry program for our kids. Their service on our behalf was very heart-warming, and a great encouragement to the children. There were several people on the New Life team that had been with us two years ago--and their love for our children was evident in so many ways. On Sunday morning, the kids shared one of their songs with us in the worship service.

We had an opportunity to thank the New Life team of 12 on Sunday.

It wasn't only the New Life team that shared their lives with the Asian Access children. Missionaries were able to connect, and I enjoyed watching little boys flock around Robert A. as he managed the power point projector.

We also had an opportunity to celebrate milestones. Here we prayed for Takeshi and Dorrie T and their family, who passed the 25 year mark of service this past year. Both of them are great resources for us in our ministry as they give us all an "inside look" at Japanese culture and the gospel.

One of the tracks in our schedule was a leadership workshop, where we heard from Janet and Earl Creps. Earl has written the book "Off Road Disciplines--Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders." We enjoyed hearing from them, interacting with them, and praying for them as they head to Berkley, CA to begin church planting soon.

In addition to the Asian Access Japan Mission family, we had three members of our Board of Directors with us. It is always helpful to have Board members with us, because we see their heart for the mission, for us missionaries, and for the gospel to go forward in Japan and throughout Asia.

On Saturday evening, we had the joy as a mission, of celebrating the work of Doug and Jeanie Birdsall and their family. Doug and Jeanie have been with the mission for 28 years, and he has served as the President for the past 19 years. Doug resigned from the position of President last fall in order to devote his time to working as the Chair of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.

Doug and Jeanie's three adult children were able to come back for the celebration, and shared some stories from their recollections of life in Japan.

Both Jeanie and Doug gave us closing thoughts and blessed us with their love for Asian Access as well as their affirmation that God had called them to serve in this World-wide capacity. There was much reminiscing, and a slide show with photos including many from our early days with the mission!

This was a full and encouraging weekend. We are so thankful to be a part of Asian Access.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Scrooge's restaurant?

I had enough time at a red light to get my camera out and snap this one.

Humburg, anyone?

An unusual communication device

This morning as I was waiting to go see my doctor, I mused on the Kewpie dolls that are used for communicating with us--the patient patients. I don't remember Kewpie's being that big an item in my growing up years, though after spending time with Google just now, I've come to realize that they are quite the collectors item. If I had only known...

At the doctor's office,we go from the general waiting room to a smaller waiting room right outside the examination room. We take our shoes off there and put slippers on (you see some on the rack at the base of the picture, and the machine next to it actually sanitizes slippers). The we sit and wait some more. The Kewpie tells us what to do...

"Please wait a little longer."

After the visit is over, there are three more Kewpie's that give us instructions. One (not pictured) tells us we have to show our insurance card for the first visit of each month. This was right up next to the reception window--and I didn't want to be too weird as I snapped photos!

This one tells us "please, take care of yourself."

When we first moved to the Tokorozawa area, we had a neighbor who had lots of Kewpie dolls she let the girls play with. These dolls were dressed in Japanese Kimonos--made by her mother. The ones above are all wearing finely knitted outfits, with hats and matching shoulder bags. We've seen them dressed all different kinds of ways.

But in fact, Kewpie's come undressed. They are the symbol for a food manufacturer--Q.P. Foods. Below is what the mayonnaise packaging looks like for Kewpie mayo.

As I was sitting in the doctors office, I wondered...why?

Do you have any ideas?