Thursday, December 31, 2009

Joy, Rejoicing and Satisfaction!

We have been wondering about Christmas at ICCS--this is always such a big focus of our Holiday season, and it has been strange to not be responsible or involved in coordinating any of the events. Some of the people who were originally planning on being involved ended up with medical matters that kept them from being able to do what they had expected. But we have heard, in the past few days, from several people and found a photo album on one friend's facebook account. We are filled with JOY as we look through these!

Once again we had a team come from Singapore to be involved with evangelistic outreaches in our area--and they put on a children's Christmas party with help from folks from ICCS.

We see children from ICCS, as well as others.

This would give the church families a place to invite their children's friends to hear the Christmas story.

This year the folks at ICCS scheduled the Candlelight service on December 23. This is a national holiday because it happens to be the Emperor's birthday. Since many people have the day off, it is easier for them to come to church activities. We have always held the Candlelight service on the 24th, but it makes it hard for people to come from work to the service, then have to prepare for work on the 25th again. (Christmas is NOT a holiday in Japan).

Looking at the photos we can see they had an excellent turn-out for the service. One of our co-workers wrote that our intern, Ken, "gave an evangelistic message, telling the story of his dramatic conversion five years ago and of the power of Jesus to save. In response to an invitation to receive Jesus as Savior, five people including four men raised their hands." What REJOICING in heaven--and on earth--there is for these decisions! Pray for the follow up on these!

Following the Candlelight service, people dressed up in costume -- some added to the Dickens theme of previous years with other outfits -- and went caroling around the neighborhood. In the past year, Bonnie, in the green coat, has been teaching an English class with several from the neighborhood. Most are older retirees, and there are a few in poor health. She mentioned when I was in Japan in November that these folks were already asking if our church group would carol at their homes!

Our coworker, Dee, in the white scarf, usually is in the States at Christmas time, but had to make changes in her schedule this year. She was able to be a part of caroling around the neighborhood and is joined by T-san in the black jacket. He made a profession of faith years ago, and was baptized, but stopped attending church when he was married. A couple of years ago, he started coming to ICCS, and has been worshiping regularly when his health allows. This group is outside the home of one of the neighborhood association members.

After caroling, the group always returns to the worship hall for warm drinks and something to eat. This year I think the menu included Singaporean dishes!

Once we ran across these photos, and a YouTube video of the caroling, we found ourselves filled with SATISFACTION that the work of sharing the Gospel continues and is spreading even in our absence. We encouraged people to use the gifts God has given them, and we see them doing so through the photos, emails and even a personal visit of one church friend last week!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Love, Giving and Taxes

I started blogging about four years ago, sharing observations of our lives as a North American missionaries living in Japan. I began by including photos and the layout of the apartment God provided to Stan and me when we returned to Japan in 2005. I've shared various and sometimes too intimate details of our family life. Occasionally I've included glimpses of specific ministry events and even focused on some special people in our ministry sphere. Together we've celebrated joys (like our daughter's graduation) and sorrows (like Stan's mother's death) across the ocean.

I've written a bit less since returning to the States for our one-year home assignment, but am always on the lookout for something to tell you, my faithful readers! I know that about 90 people a week look at this blog, and once in a while someone who found us via a google search on their way to another place will drop us a note to let us know they enjoyed reading it.

As we move past Christmas 2009, our family is thinking about Japan. We have enjoyed being in America for this Christmas, but we miss our church fellowship in Japan. We miss having the significant opportunities that are available in Japan to share the "reason for the season", the love God showed to us in sending His Son so that we could have eternal life. So it was very encouraging to hear from church folks in Japan that our church members again dressed up for caroling and shared the joy of Christmas in their Japanese neighborhood, even though we weren't there.

We serve with Asian Access in Japan as faith missionaries--we are responsible to raise 100% of our financial support through the generous giving of individuals and churches. We estimate that in our 26 years of marriage, all of them spent as part of this mission endeavour, our financial budget with the mission has more than tripled. It is an incredible experience to continually see God motivate people to participate in this ministry through their financial resources.

There are some challenges that we face currently as we aim for being fully supported.
  • When we began fundraising in the early '80's many of our givers were in their 40's and 50's. A significant number of those people are either retired or have died.
  • Some of those who have come along to take their places are unable to continue giving due to job challenges.
  • Due to the devaluation of the dollar over the past few years, our budget figure becomes a moving target! When the value of the dollar drops, our budget goal increases.

So we are looking for some new givers--people who believe that God loves the Japanese, and the foreigners living in Japan, too. People who desire to be a part of the work God has called us to do in Japan, and can participate by prayer and giving. People who are committed to joining us for the next stretch of ministry as the Lord allows.

We're also praying for some significant financial gifts between now and the end of the year. We hope for at least $20,000 from new sources to help us complete the year on budget. To us that sounds like a lot of money. Yet we have seen God provide through the generosity of many individuals in the past, and we know that nothing is impossible with Him.

If you are one of those people who find joy in giving financially, and God is urging you to participate in this way, here are some instructions for giving--

  • US Dollar Support gifts can be sent to Asian Access, P. O. Box 200, San Dimas, CA 91773. Please include a separate note that this is for the De La Cour Ministry Account. If you are interested in giving electronically please check out Options for Giving
  • Japanese Yen Support gifts can be sent via Postal Furikae to Postal Bank Account # 001004-463960 , Account Name アジアンアクセス Please contact us if you choose to do this, so we can notify our Japan office to be designating the support gift to our ministry account.

We hope that our givers are motivated from hearts that are open to God's direction. And we know that for some, God may lead through the fact that US dollar gifts to Asian Access are tax deductible.

Whether or not this is something you can particpate in financially, please pray with us for God's provisions! Thank you!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sisters at Christmas

We are scouring the facebook pages and e-mails of people from our church in Japan, looking for photos from their Christmas gatherings. There is a team from Singapore who have returned for a second year in a row to do ministry outreach at ICCS.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with my sister this year. Joyce lives about 30 minutes away from here, and we have appreciated being able to touch base in person over the past six months. She came up to our place last night for Christmas Eve Service, dinner and a few gifts. She then came back this morning for Christmas morning breakfast, stockings and other gifts.

While we see weather reports around the country that show lots of snow and cold weather, we are enjoying the high 60's temperatures of a Southern California Christmas.

This year has brought lots of change in both our lives--some unexpected, some planned for. We are so thankful for the presence of the Lord to guide and carry us through. As we look to the next year, there are sure to be some major changes coming our way--and we continue to look to our Heavenly Father to carry us through them.

We are rejoicing that our Dad is regaining his strength through the treatment of his Multiple Myeloma. Our brother and some of his family are celebrating Christmas with Dad this week.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another Disneyland Birthday

Disneyland had a special in 2009 for Southern California Residents--you could go for free on your birthday. We did this in September for Stan's birthday, and thanks to several complementary tickets and one daughter's annual pass, we were able to get the whole family there. My birthday was on Sunday, which is a "block out day" for the annual pass, for the complementary tickets..and our boys really didn't want to go, so Stan and I took it as a birthday-date.

We decided to spend the day at the California Adventure theme park right across from the traditional Disneyland. Several friends, and the daughter who knows the parks backwards and forwards, gave us lists of places to go.

We took the ferris wheel and got a great view of the park, including a bank of platforms in a pool that is being created into a major light/water show to be opened in 2010.

A French mom and her two sweet children rode in the gondola with us, and snapped our picture.

Later we went to the Toy Story Midway Mania--a 3-D shooting gallery that was lots of fun. Standing in line we were in front of a family of Japanese. When we went to ask for this photo to be taken, Stan spoke to them in Japanese...surprised them! They've been in Michigan for five years, and are moving to Saitama prefecture--same one we call home!

Then we tried our hand at self arms aren't that long, but we came out looking okay anyway.

Stopping for coffee after our exiting round of 3-D shooting. We had a great time together--even got to take in the Aladdin show--something that would have never happened if we had two teenage boys with us... And Soarin California was wonderful--aerial views of this beautiful state! We kept seeing places we'd like to visit. Maybe someday...we have other places and people to see this coming year.

Several people have said that we need to work at doing things together that are fun. Since I don't like movies, and we don't share a sport, its been hard to figure out what we could possibly do. We realized that Disney provides a great setting for a lot possiblities...shows, rides, walking in lovely areas, etc. Its about 25 minutes from where we live. So we also converted my free ticket and Stan's full price ticket to cover half the payment of annual passes--because one more visit to Disney would be the equivalent of the rest of the pass... This way we can take a day off from time to time, spend four hours, and get back before the guys are out of school! Or head down some evening for a stroll, a parade, a few favorite rides and the fireworks (and I plan on improving my hand at the Midway Mania--I want to beat Stan sometime this year!)

God with Us--Emmanuel

On Saturday night, December 12, the Cornerstone Bible Church drama team and choir put on a production entitled "God with Us."

Stan was cast as "George," a Christian who was working next to "Frank" in set construction and stage work for a church production.

Frank wasn't a follower of Christ. Through the course of two days, George shares with Frank, answers or acknowledges his questions but doesn't push the Gospel down Frank's throat.

Frank eventually makes the decision to pray and receive Christ.

Their dialogue was interspersed with choral and solo music, and there was even a sweet Children's Choir that performed at the beginning of the second act.

They performed it twice on Saturday--and turn out was good, though it would have been better without the heavy rain! We all know Southern California needs the rain, so we were trying to be positive about the deluge!

In keeping with his character, Stan had to add something to his "person." It will eventually wash off, but for now he looks entirely patriotic, tough, and modest compared most other men around here!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hit and Run

We got text messages and voice mail from our oldest daughter Wednesday morning about 7:20 telling us she had been in an accident on the 210 Freeway heading to work. It was stop and go traffic, and the car behind her didn't stop (she was sitting still), rammed her from behind, and pushed her car into the carpool lane where she rammed into the cement divider. Amazingly, no other cars were hit. She was pretty dazed and disoriented.

Unfortunately, the driver of the other car disappeared.

She may have been the woman who pulled up behind her, asked if she was okay, called it into the police, and then took off as soon as the first motorcycle policeman showed up. B got parts of a license plate (she hadn't been out of the car yet) though she was pretty foggy, while at the same time the policeman was trying to get her to move her car across all lanes of traffic to the off ramp. She said she realized then her motor skills weren't too good, but somehow she managed to move it over.

A second policeman came, much more helpful and caring for her. When she tried to give him the license number from the other car, she was missing one digit. AAA towed her car to a body shop here in the area, where we picked her up and took her to Foothill Presbyterian Hospital for a check up. They did a CT scan of her head, and there do not appear to be internal injuries, but she is pretty sore in her head, in the seatbelt area (the airbag did not deploy), and now all the muscles are starting to hurt...

We are very thankful that she is okay, but her car is totaled. It would cost much more than its worth to repair it, and she only had liability on it (its a '90 Camry Wagon). So once again we're looking for a car for her, this time without much cash to work with. She really needs it to get to work, and while there may be some temporary options for her to carpool with someone (who would be going WAY out of the way to pick her up) we will need to see God's next vehicle for her.

So please thank God with us for her safety and that others weren't hurt. Pray that there will be some way to figure out who the other party was (the insurance company is interested, and we wouldn't mind them helping with some of the costs--towing, medical, and if possible a car rental). Pray that another vehicle will become available soon at a price that is affordable. Pray for physical and emotional healing.

Sushi Christmas?

I've been saving this image for this season...

Last Spring, Stan and I went to a mall on a weekend away, and saw this in the window of a Sushi restaurant. Just as I saw a Christmas tree in a sushi display, so we pray that others will see Jesus when they look at us.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Fifteen Years Old!

Thirteen years ago, our sons looked like this. God brought them into our family at 14 months of age. For many people, this is what they remember when they think of our boys.

But this week, they turned 15 years old! Life is sure different at this stage with teenagers who have no choice but to share their birthday. They did have a choice of not getting their photos taken together, however.

J-n is a bit of a loner--doesn't connect with others too much, unless its over electronic games. He's adapted fairly well to school here in the States, and had an interesting report card for the first term.

J-ph likes to project an image of toughness, though he's gregarious and makes friends easily. He's got a great sense of humor, and a diligent spirit for school projects--particularly those he cares about. He's got a friend from the church who lives just a few blocks away.

The boys are standing on the identical side of this picture as they were on the top photo. Again, being cool teenagers, they can't smile. So Stan decided to join them in the "no smile" photo. Too bad, 'cause all three of these men have wonderful smiles!

And no, Stan hasn't shrunk... The guys are 5'9" and5'8" respectively. Or at least they were two weeks ago...

Prayer Quilt -- For the "Quilt Lady"

Not long after we got to the States, the news came to us from Japan that our dear friend Ann had been diagnosed with lymphoma, and would be undergoing surgery and chemo therapy beginning in September. Ann has been our "Prayer Quilt Lady" and has coordinated our efforts to pray over quilts for friends of ICCS who have had physical needs, as well as for our high school graduates to take with them as a reminder that their church in Japan is praying for them.

So, when the Quilt Lady got sick, I got a desperate e-mail from church people in Japan wondering how they could get a quilt made for Ann! It came at a very busy time for me, but I posted the need on my Facebook status, and got a sweet response from a friend of ours who lives quite close to us.

Linda looked at some of the photos of quilts that are on the blog from earlier times, and put Ann's quilt together in less than two weeks. She had even threaded the ties that are used in the process of praying -- as we pray for the needs the quilt represents, we tie the ties. I bundled it up and express mailed it to Japan. The ICCS folks were so excited about it a couple drove it to Ann's hospital to show her before it was even brought to the church to be tied!

When I scheduled my visit to ICCS on my recent trip to Japan, I was told that I would be able to present the quilt to Ann. She had been released from the hospital after a one-month stay, and would be at the service.

Ann and I are holding the back of the quilt--each one has a cross placed on the backing, to remind the recipient of Christ's work on their behalf.

It was such a joy to be able to pray for Ann in person that morning!

Seated in the front row was our friend from Norway, Vidar. The first prayer quilt we ever made was sent to Norway for a friend of his children, who had terminal cancer. Vidar was also back in Japan for that Sunday. The timing of Vidar's visit and our presentation of her quilt was not lost on Ann.

Ann's cancer seems to have responded to treatment. The last scans showed no signs of it anywhere. She has a few more months of chemo, and has already returned to some of her usual activities. She's leading the ladies' Bible Study in my absence (and doing a great job!).

And, she's working on another prayer quilt for another member of our church who is just starting treatment for colon cancer.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving thoughts

Tonight I (Faith) attended the Thanksgiving Eve Service at the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. My parents were a part of this congregation in the early 70's, before moving away for about 15 years. They moved back in the early 90's and settled back at FPC. My mother's funeral was held there 11 years ago. The church is one of our supporting churches. And tonight, I took my Dad, who has been struggling with cancer and its treatment, to the third service he's been able to attend in the past four months.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evidence to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

So the pastor began...and as we read through Psalm 100, Psalm 92, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24, and Psalm 103 we were reminded again and again that we belong to God, that we can be thankful and rejoice, that God will be faithful, that He forgives us, that His love endures forever.

The message focused on 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18...
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Pastor urged us, when we begin to "count our blessings tomorrow" to start with the difficult times, the dark times, the painful places because this was consistent with God's will for each of us. I challenge you to mull on that one!

It brought to mind a passing comment at the Mental Health and Missions Conference last week, as someone quoted a prayer by Anne Lamott that came to her mind while caught in the midst of cross fire for several days in the Ivory Coast...
Help me! Help me!Help me!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christianity isn't the only religion trying to reach the young...

I read this interesting article on the web today. "Girls clad in maids' outfits are not traditionally associated with Buddhism, but that has not stopped monks at a centuries-old temple using Japanese pop culture to woo visitors..."

I am very grateful for the innovative approaches to evangelism that we are seeing developed in Japan. One that we love to promote is the Manga Messiah series seen on this web site. Other ministries are developing more outreaches for mobile phones. (Most young people in Japan are more likely to have a mobile phone than a computer...)

I don't think that we'll see churches using girls clad in maids' outfits, however. This characterization in Japanese pop culture seems to reduce the value of a woman as an object of servitude... Many times I have grieved when I see young Japanese women allowing themselves to be used, and abused, in such ways.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Attachments...and Resiliency

I have been home for one week, tomorrow. I take off on Wednesday for another 8 day trip--this time to attend a "Mental Health and Missions" conference in North Eastern Indiana, followed by a church visit and then a drop-in pre-Thanksgiving visit with my Dad in Tennessee. By the time I return to California, it will have been almost exactly one month since I headed to Japan...

This has been a challenging time of finding "where I belong" and "who I am" as I've gone from US to Japan and back. The feeling of being home without a home when I pulled into Tokorozawa, contrasted with the feeling of having to wait to do things at our apartment in California until after I "resettle" have been a bit confusing.

In many ways this describes a Third Culture Kid (TCK) experience--where IS home, anyway? [Besides being a mother of TCK's, I also qualify as a TCK, having spent my first 5 years in Brazil...]

In one of our reading spots is a small book "You Know You're an MK When..." Compiled by Andy and Deborah Kerr. As we go through the 500 statements that complete that sentence, so many times it expresses the emotions that are hard to describe to someone who isn't an MK/TCK(Missionary Kid).

And the first entry...

1. You can't answer the question, "Where are you from?"

So, as I find myself in this odd frame of mind, I am preparing for the Mental Health and Missions Conference where the topic is "Assessing and Fostering Resilience in Missionaries."

A definition of Resilience is:

Resilience is the process of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences. Resilient people overcome adversity, bounce back from setbacks, and can thrive under extreme, ongoing pressure without acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways.

I am looking forward to this conference, and expect it to be instructive for our work in Cross-Cultural ministries (Missionary Care and International Church), and also expect it to speak into my life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Back in California

I closed my trip to Japan with a visit to our friends Carol and Doug, who are church planting in a high-rise area of Tokyo.

This couple have been friends ever since our oldest daughters started 1st grade together (the dads took turns taking the girls to school on the train). Our home assignments are always sequential, meaning that we miss seeing each other for two years in a row--so it was a special treat to get a bit of time with them before flying out.

My return flight was uneventful, and I was actually able to sleep, albeit a bit restlessly, for about 5 hours--which proved helpful because as soon as I landed, Stan took me to the Asian Access Prayer Day gathering! I managed to stay awake, even through several prayer exercises.

I am very thankful for the opportunities this trip provided to serve the missionary community, as well as to connect with our church family in Japan. And now I am thankful to be home with Stan and our children in Southern California.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Praying for Japan

One of the evenings at the Church Planter's Institute (CPI) there was a time of prayer for Japan. There were posters on the wall for each prefecture with prayer requests and basic data from the Operation Japan guidebook.

People gathered in groups to pray for the work of God's Spirit in each prefecture.

It was a reminder of how Church Planting must be bathed in prayer.

Coming "Home"

Yesterday following the Cultural Adjustment Workshop, I took the train to Tokorozawa Station, in our "home town." It felt good to be there, but strange to be at home without a home! I did my shopping at familiar stores, then headed back to the guest apartment--and met two friends on the way!

But today when I walked into the International Community Chapel of Saitama (ICCS), it felt really good to be in our home church.

I came in while the worship team was practicing. There are one or two additions, including our boys' friend, Evan, on the drums. It added a nice dimension to the music.

I got up to share about our family, and decided I had to record who was there to take back to Stan:

There were several "alumni" of ICCS who were also visiting today--it felt like a reunion weekend. I've had good talks with so many people and hope I can remember all the threads of conversation in order to share them with Stan!

Tomorrow I go back to the same building to visit the Asian Access offices, then meet a friend for coffee on my way to my final stop--an overnight with special friends who are planting a church in urban Tokyo. Tuesday afternoon I leave Japan, only to arrive in Los Angeles hours before I leave...that date line does it every time!

Its been good to be here, and I am so grateful for the people I've met as well as the opportunities I've had to serve. And now I'm ready to get back to my husband, sons and daughters and our California home.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thankful for the work of the past few days

The CPI conference ended at noon today. The consulting staff met for one last debriefing over our boxed lunches for about 45 minutes. Several commented on how God had sovereignly led in the connections between the counselors and those with whom they met. They also all said they would like to be invited back for another conference. I'll be compiling their evaluations, and writing up my report for "next time" over the next few days.

But tonight...I'm enjoying a night alone at a guest apartment in Tokorozawa, our "home town." I've gotten laundry done, am cleaning out my suitcases and brief case, and grateful for a little down time before heading into Tokyo tomorrow for one last Member Care session--on How to Survive Living in Another Culture. This is so needed! I chatted with two sweet young missionary wives when I was at the conference this past week who are overwhelmed and struggling with the adjustments to life in like this workshop offers would be very helpful for them.

I'm also praying for my dad, who was admitted to a hospital again today. We're waiting for results of tests to help us understand why he's having trouble breathing. It was hard to start the day with that overseas phone call...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Church Planters in Japan Gathering for Encouragement

There are about 300 church planting missionaries and pastors here near Mt. Fuji for a biannual conference.

This morning they gathered to worship, hear testimonies and a message about the power of the Gospel at work in each of our lives. Then they met for various core training modules later in the morning.

At noon, the women all gathered for a special luncheon and a talk on "Peace." We spent time in small groups praying for one another after the talk.

In the afternoon were elective workshops, including three that came under my Member Care banner--on Drivenness in Ministry; God's Gift of Emotions; and Missionary Children and Parents.

I am now filling out the final appointments. We have two hours available tonight, and two tomorrow morning. If you pray, remember to ask God to bring those to the appointment table who need the encouragement of debriefing with someone from outside their organization.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Consulting Center Staff at the Japan Church Planting Institute Conference

I am at the bi-annual Conference of the Japan Church Planting Institute near Mount Fuji. We have over 300 people in attendance, as well as a concurrent children's program with about 85 children. People involved in church planting from all over Japan have come together for encouragement, training and networking.

Concurrently, I have worked with the leadership to set up a Personal Discovery and Consulting Center, where people are free to come, visit with counselors, take assessments that help in their self-understanding, or meet with someone for prayer.

My team met this morning before we began a day of appointments, both formal and informal. Yesterday we walked through the rooms where they will be doing counseling, and prayed for God's work in the lives of our missionaries and Japanese pastors. Today we had around 30 appointments.

My consulting staff comes from the US, Japan and Malaysia. We've got a bilingual team--four are capable of counseling in Japanese. This is great group of specialists and I am once again grateful to God for leading each of these to volunteer their time and expertise to encourage God's work in the lives of missionaries and pastors. In this way they are advancing the Kingdom of God in Japan.

If you pray, please pray for the next two days, as we have three Missionary Care electives, a meeting with mission leaders and more consulting appointments. Pray for me as I am arranging most or the appointments. Pray for discernment in knowing which consultant to assign to those who come to the table. I want to listen to the Spirit's prompting.

On Saturday, a special one-day seminar will be held in Tokyo on the challenges of living successfully in a cross cultural situation. I don't know how many will be there, but lets pray that God brings in many who can benefit from the practical training that will be given by the staff of the Minnesota Renewal Center, who have brought five professionals for this week's ministry.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sunday with the Asian Access Family

We met this morning for worship in the Karaoke room of our hotel. This has been a good time to share together--we've done more prayer and Scripture focus this weekend than we usually do, and it has been clearly the right focus for this gathering.

Peter led us to look at Psalm 121 while the kids were still with us. It was fun to watch family groupings go through the psalm looking for what God was telling each one in this psalm--and then have the children be part of the sharing with the whole group.

We also had enthusiastic percussionists for the worship time.

When afternoon came, we had free time in our schedule so several of us went to an old town about 30 minutes away to walk through old shops. It would have been more enjoyable if it wasn't raining! We wanted to get back around 4 p.m., however, because the Japan National Cheer leading group has been practicing at this hotel, and they were having an exhibition that we were welcome to come see.

The national team is sitting facing the group of cheerleaders that performed this large scale production urging the national team on. It was fun to watch such a large group work with great precision.

Then the national team got up and did some routines for the crowd. These young people are strong...we can tell you this because we've seen them up close and personal in the public baths!

We ended the evening with a Harvest Party. We were instructed to come in costume. I honestly am not a very creative person when it comes to costumes, so I was ready to come as my nerdy self--but my friend Mary Jo insisted on buying me something to wear for this--she came by our apartment with the cartoon hands the night before I flew out. On the plane over I thought about what else I could do, and thought that if I could get a red bow-tie, maybe with black I could get close to a Mickey Mouse imitation... So on my trip to the mall the first night in Japan, I picked up a red bandanna and hair elastics. I hoped to make "ears" but my hair refused to cooperate!

I'm not sure you would think I look like Mickey Mouse, but the kids figured it out as soon as I walked in the room--and three or four of them came running over for hugs from Mickey!

Tonight is my last night with this group. I have a five to six hour trip to my next location tomorrow. It has been good to be with our mission family here and to represent those who are not on the field or couldn't make it from the home office this fall.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The challenge of dieting while traveling

We've been through the usual round of medical tests since returning to the US (and a few unusual ones, too). The major recommendation so far is that we have to lose weight...which our Japanese doctor has been saying as well, but in a much kinder and less forceful way than our American doctors. So nearly two weeks ago we started on the South Beach Diet, Phase 1 (no carbs, and no sugar including fruit). We've been doing this with another couple which has made it much more of a do-able challenge.

So, now I am in Japan, and I am having a really hard time eating "legal" on the road and at the hotels where my meetings are held. My first night I picked up a salad to go for lunch on the train the second day--but it was small, and by the time of my last train transfer I was feeling shaky. The kiosks had all kinds of chocolates, cookies, crackers, etc. Nothing that fit "phase 1". I chose a meal bar that had a lower amount of calories. That worked for my hunger, and would have been considered a bit more "phase 2".

Our first meal at the hotel Friday night was ginger pork--slivers of pork grilled in a ginger sauce, and by avoiding the rice I think I stayed fairly legal. But yesterday was rough. In addition to fish for breakfast (not my favorite), we were served kara-age (a fried chicken dish) for lunch and tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) for dinner. I felt so "weighed down" afterward! Today's breakfast was a different kind of fish...

The next place I go to has a breakfast buffet, so for at least one meal I'll be able to pick and choose.

I had made some progress on that initial weight loss, so I have to say this is a little disappointing...and it means that I'll probably have to go back to phase 1 while Stan and our friends are enjoying their weight losses and added healthy carbs...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Riding the trains

Today I took the Narita Express from the airport to Shinagawa, where I picked up the shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Osaka. I left around 10:45 and got to my final destination at 4:30.

As soon as I got on the Narita Express, I had to chuckle...

It seems that whenever seats are assigned, they are next to each other. There were five of us on this car. The four seats in the middle were the ones we were put in... This happens in movie theatres, too, where you are given an assigned seat--and even though there may be only a few people at that showing, the seats are grouped near one another.

It reminded me the lunch Stan and I had at the "Historic Route 66" diner called "Legends" not too far from us. We found a nice secluded booth one day, when a group came in, cased out tables right next to us (the remainder of the hall was open) and sat down. Almost simultaneously, we looked at each other and wondered if we were back in Japan!

The sites are so familiar to me--

The tight urban areas...

The fields recently harvested...

Outskirts of cities with small farms....

And me--so far managing to survive the change in time.

Today our group gathered together for an informal connecting time. Two families are gone because of flu--the H1N1 flu has gone through the area, as well as seasonal flu. A number of our people have returned to the States this year, either at the end of their term or for home we seem like a very small gathering. But there are still enthusiastic little children, which is always a good sign.

Night 2 in another bed. Tomorrow we pack up and go to another hotel because this one had overbooked... They'll move us back on Sunday... "Be Flexible!"