Sunday, October 26, 2008

Running the Race Together -- the Asian Access Church Multiplication Team Fall Gathering

We just got back from a weekend with our Asian Access Church Multiplication Missionaries at their Fall Training Conference. We met at a Christian camp north of Osaka where we enjoyed to freedom to sing praise to the Lord and spend time in worship without having to keep it "under the radar." (Last year we were at a government sponsored Youth Education Center outside Hiroshima, where the rules are quite restrictive).

Here are some photos of our missionaries from the different areas around Japan--most of them have heads down because I took the photos during prayer for their team...

Okinawa: Jeffery and Akiko, Nozomi, Elizabeth, Mike and Mary Jo.

Hokkaido: Wakako and Tim
There are opportunities in Hokkaido for more missionaries to work along side Tim and Wakako in partnership with Japanese churches who have a vision for church planting. Do you know anyone who wants to come serve as a missionary in Japan? Have them go to and check out the opportunities, ask questions and seek God's direction!

Kansai: Bobby and Claire, Reiko, Mary, Wendi and Peter, Justin

Kyushu: Robert, Erik and Rhonda

Not pictured (yet)

Tokyo: Kent and Yuko, Jeff and Nozomi, Stan and Faith

Being able to hear updates from each of these first-hand, as well as to talk with them face to face over meals was so encouraging. God is doing some pretty exciting things in this country, and He's using some very special people to communicate His love to the Japanese.

Unlike other conference centers and camps, this facility has a full kitchen but no cooking staff. We had tried to find a ministry support team to come help with the children's program and cooking, but none were available. So we broke up the responsibilities into teams--and we had lots of fun in the kitchen.

Here we have the Kyushu and Tokyo teams who were making the first night's meal of curry rice, and pointing to a bowl full of kabocha squash/pumpkin that was added to the sauce.

Stan showed Takeshi a new way of cutting cucumbers.

For two breakfasts, Stan showed his skills that were developed in graduate school working at Bell Labs' cafeteria as a short-order egg chef.

Of course, after dinner there was always the lingering conversations around the table. We have several story tellers with a lot of stories to tell. The schedule was open in the evenings, so there was no rush to clear the tables and get on to another meeting. Since we are a "distributed" organization--with teams all over the country, it was good to have casual time face-to-face to catch up with one another.

We were especially blessed to have the new president of Asian Access, Joe Handley (in green shirt) and his wife Silk (gray shirt facing us) join us for this time. Most of us had met Joe briefly in July when he took a whirlwind tour of the missionaries in Japan. It was really nice to be able to spend more time with Joe and Silk, and see how God led them to us. They fit wonderfully with the "chemistry" of who we are as the Asian Access/Japan family.

In addition to sharing with us during the devotion times, Joe and Silk served us in so many behind the scenes ways. They helped out with cooking, and Silk was always helping with the clean up.

Silk also took part in the children's ministry, and read a book to the children in our group devotions that obviously had meaning for the rest of us, too...

After dinner on Friday night the tables got cleared and the games came out--This group is playing Apples to Apples.

Our table got a game of Dutch Blitz going with an extra set of cards--there were seven playing in this "action packed" game. What stunned most of us was how our son J-ph was able to not only keep track of his cards, but of everyone else's cards, too--calling out to people across the table to play something or other (always with the purpose of setting up his next move). He won about 5 rounds in a row!

It was the first time for several to play the game, but they got the hang of it. Usually people play sitting down, but the table was too big and the game became too intense to do that!

One day I was walking past the playing field, and was pleasantly surprised--actually, really blessed, to see our son J-n (left) out there with the grade school children helping them with a sandlot baseball game. He would sit with them at the table in the dining room and play games, too. This is the child who told me last week that he doesn't like little kids...

Since we attend an International Church, we have no idea how much it means to our missionaries to have extended worship in English. The Lord has given us some gifted worship leaders and they had an opportunity to exercise those gifts as they led us each morning and other times too. They also had a good time "jamming" together late at night--quietly.

Here are our youngest missionaries. These kids are full of energy (which is why none of my photos have everyone in focus!). They also open many doors of opportunity for people to hear about Jesus' love for them. One of our missionaries put together a children's program with volunteer help from other moms and a Japanese couple that are friends of the mission.

By the way--we NEED to have an outside ministry team come to help with our larger all mission conference in March. Pray for God's provision!

Peter, who is our Director of Japan Missionary Personnel, talked about preparing to run a marathon. He was illustrating how each of these things were good things to have along--but would obviously encumber successful running. Our theme throughout the weekend was Running the Race Together. (Peter has been actually training to run a marathon the past two years. He has done two half-marathons since the spring. )

On Saturday night we were surprised when they brought out this cake and candles to honor our 25th Wedding Anniversary! We're going to keep running THIS race together for as long as the Lord enables us!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ALPHA -- Off to a great start

ALPHA has started again at the International Community Chapel of Saitama.

"Come for the meal--stay for the course" is the line Stan likes to use. He cooked the first meal, and has a friend working with him for subsequent meals. There are around 20 who are attending. We have some new people this time--and we're pretty excited about them.

Three of the new people are our boys and their friend. While they think they know it all (what preacher's kids don't?) there is a need for depth of understanding and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We are trusting God to do some good things through this time. The guys sit in on the discussion with the rest of the English-speaking group...and when called on do give limited input. If you pray, remember these three young men.

Another group of "new" people are the 12 Brazilians lead by Pastor Gilberto (in red). He listens to the videos in English and simultaneously interprets into Portuguese for his group. We are grateful to be able to work together in this outreach. They have their own discussion group after the video (and they stay after to help clean up!)

Two of the men (on the far left and far right) are coming are from the neighborhood around our church. They were introduced by various people, and both said they couldn't come...but have! Please pray for Stan and Mr. Satoh (who helps with translation in the English/Japanese discussion group). Pray that they will not only gain information about who Jesus is, but that they will allow the Spirit to draw them into Christ's kingdom!

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The Egg Drop Contest Chef

Every year at the Christian Academy in Japan, there is a special science project for the middle school. Last year our house was filled with Spaghetti as the boys made spaghetti bridges. This year, the project was to design a casing to protect an uncooked egg that was dropped from the third storey to the ground. There were size requirements along with the rule that everything had to be biodegradable (no Styrofoam!). One of our boys used sliced bread inside a liter milk carton. The other used paper from our shredder along with some biodegradable packing peanuts. Both eggs successfully survived their drop.

Six years ago, when our daughter successfully packaged her egg for the drop, we discovered that the "winners" were being cooked. Stan loves cooking eggs, and offered to take over for a staff person that was more than willing to pass the job on. He made "bulls-eyes" with a piece of toast and the egg. (Take a cookie cutter, cut out a large circle in the center of the buttered bread, break the egg into the circle and fry it up).

When we attended the back to school day last month, the volunteer sheet had a place to sign up for the egg drop cooking job--and Stan got his name in right away. He even dressed up for the occasion.

He had a great time and the kids seemed to like their bulls eyes. Even some whose eggs didn't land successfully went to the cafeteria to buy an egg so they could get one! And guess which two boys--of ALL those whose eggs had made it--didn't want their eggs...

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Teddy's in his new home

Stan picked Teddy up this evening and brought him over to our friends' home--Teddy's new home. Mr. I and his extended family had grown to love Teddy during the 2004-2005 year we were on Home Assignment. They are all eager to have him back.

The I. Family lives just around the block from the house we lived in for 10 years. Before dropping him off, Stan took him for a walk on the "old circuit." It was a good time to reminisce. And now we can go on with the rest of this busy week, knowing Teddy is in a good home.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

We know God answers prayer--even for Teddy!

Stan just got off the phone with the family that kept Teddy for us when we went on Home Assignment in 2004-2005, and they are eager to have Teddy come back and live with them! We'll pick him up tomorrow afternoon and bring him to his new home tomorrow evening.

A with her new puppy, Teddy -- Summer of 1996

As we've been praying, I was reminded of my prayer when we first got him 12 years ago. I asked God that if we took this puppy, would He please take care of finding homes for him when we would be gone. And God has answered that prayer many times over.

Even today.

When I called the family who has him now, they were overjoyed. I think we'll sleep better tonight--and I bet Stan buys treats to please his dog when he picks him up tomorrow!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Teddy needs a home...

We wrote this summer about taking our girls to say goodbye to our dear dog, Teddy, who has been living with another missionary family the past three years. Since we live in an apartment, it is impossible for us to keep him with us--and we needed to be sure we gave the girls a chance to have good closure. Teddy is 12 years old--and in spite of his "older state" still had a lot of his original spunk in him when we spent time with him.

I got this letter today from the young lady who has been caring for him:

Dear Mrs. De LaCour,

Thank-you for Teddy. He was a real joy to our family. On Monday of next week we plan to take a trip to England and as we informed you before, we feel God leading us to give up Teddy before then. We so far have not found a home for him and will be forced to put him down if we can't. We just wanted to see if you knew of anyone or could help in any way. He is up to date on his shots and would be free.

Thanks again,

PS Attached is a current photo of Teddy.

Please pray with us for a new home for Teddy. We're at a loss to know where he could go right now. If you know of someone, you can send us a note through the comment feature and we'll get back to you. We go out of town this weekend, ourselves, so we are asking God to take care of this in the next three days...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

As close as we could get...

A few weeks ago, I got a call on my phone from our second daughter. "Mom, I'm at Ruby's Diner (on the pier in Newport Beach) for birthday dinner with Aunt Joyce." Since the diner is out over the water, she said "I'm as close to you as I can get right now." We just got hold of a photo of the event.

We missed being with her for her birthday, but I'm grateful that we were able to arrange for a cake to be sent through a "floor moms" program at Vanguard. Her sister went out to dinner with her. Her sister's roommate took her out for coffee! And we talked several times over the weekend.

For the next two months, both girls will have to keep focused on school--but mid December they'll fly over that ocean for a Christmas trip back to Japan. We bought tickets for them last week.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sometimes a light surprises...

As I sit down to write this blog, the first line of the first stanza of a hymn by William Cowper (1779) comes to mind--

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

Most of us have gone through several weeks of our comforts declining as we've contemplated the world economies and questioned our future.

We have certainly wondered what this will mean for us as missionaries sponsored through the giving of many individuals and churches, primarily in the U.S. After more than 23 years of maintaining a modest positive balance in our ministry account, we have for the last two years watched it waver back and forth on either side of the "zero" line. The reasons primarily have to do with increased expenses related to medical insurance (which we pay both in the US and in Japan), taxes (which we pay in Japan, are mostly exempted from in the US, but not in the State of California), and the fluctuating dollar/yen exchange rate. And while we have "lost" several donors who had made significant pledges a few years ago, we have many very faithful and generous givers who have invested in the work of Christ through our ministry with Asian Access.

So as we watched the news of the economy, we asked ourselves...How many will not be able to continue giving in this way? What should we be preparing for? We are already tightening our belt to pay college expenses, what more can we do? We are scheduled for a one year home-assignment for the 2009-2010 school year...can we afford to relocate? Can we afford NOT to relocate? We started thinking of all kinds of options that were "outside the box"...

And then, we got three notes from three couples within two days indicating that they are going to start supporting our work financially.

Once again we're reminded not to be anxious, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, to present our requests to God. We are going to watch and wait. God will make it clear in His time as to what He wants us to do and how He will provide.

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings...It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings.

Friday, October 03, 2008

8th Grade Parents meet for Prayer

Today Stan and I went to a lunch and prayer meeting for parents of 8th Graders at the Christian Academy in Japan. Each grade has a group that meets for prayer at least once a month at the school. It is modeled after Moms in Touch.

We met at a restaurant at the same train-stop as the school, where we were able to have a private room. Stan wasn't the only dad, an Indonesian pastor was also there to join in prayer for the class of around 40 students.

There were parents from the United States, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, India, and Singapore. It is truly an international community--and we were all united in the desire to pray for our 8th graders.

It was helpful to exchange stories and information--each of us finding out our 8th grade boys are pretty similar in attitudes and interests--and where to find affordable BIG shoes in Japan for their rapidly growing feet! (There were only two parents of girls who came, and I wasn't privy to their conversations.)

And when we came to our time of prayer, we had sweet conversations with the Lord in two languages--English and Japanese. One common theme was that we want to see our children choosing for themselves to follow Christ as they head into the next phase of their lives.

You, also, can pray for these children of ours who are living amidst various cultures and learning from a Christian world view.