Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Precious in the sight of the LORD...

is the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15

Ann De La Cour went to be with the Lord on Monday, March 30. She was 90 years old. She joined her husband, Ed, who preceded her in death by 10 years and 4 months.

Stan was able to talk to her at the hospital twice in her last two days, and he shared how her faithful prayers on behalf of the people he was ministering to had meant so very much.

I ran across this photo of Mom and Dad De La Cour last week when I was sorting our photos in anticipation of moving in a few months. It was too good to pass up! I'm not sure when it was taken, but I think it must have been in the late 70's or early '80s.

Stan will fly to the east coast to be with his brother and family for the funeral on Satuday April 4.

Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you! Psalm 116:7

Monday, March 30, 2009

Looking for that new heaven and new earth...

We are waiting for "that call" from the east coast. The one that will tell us that Mom De La Cour has gone to be with Jesus. She was hospitalized again last week, and her condition has continued to deteriorate. We were told that it could be anytime now.

When we first came to Japan as missionaries, we downplayed the "cost" of being missionaries. Maybe it was because of being young, or because it was easier not to think too deeply about it, but we didn't like to acknowledge that it would be hard to be far away from our families and that our lives would be radically and forever altered because of the choice we had made. Over the past 25-30 years, though, we have experienced our share of losses and hardships, and they seem to be more and more "costly" as time goes on.

I don't think we would have made a different choice if we had contemplated this early on. We both believe God has called us here to see Japanese and non-Japanese come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and to equip His people to entrust this message to others. We have experienced much joy in watching God develop and mature those in our sphere of service.

But, still we need to remind ourselves that we are here so that along with these wonderful people, and our families back home, we can hear that loud voice from the throne say,
"Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21: 3,4

If you pray, please pray for God's comfort on our family, especially Stan and his brother Ed. Pray also for God's merciful release for their Mom.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The week was full--but so good!

A week ago, Stan and I took advantage of our son's overnight school trip to Kyoto to book a hotel for a couple get-away.

We got a good deal on a hotel in Odaiba--an area of reclaimed land in the Tokyo Bay with upscale hotels, lots of shopping and eating places, and for some reason, a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty. It was good to be together, walking, talking and doing some home assignment planning. We made it back home a just a couple of hours before our boys.

Sunday was another covered dish Sunday--this week with about 10 Brazilians from the congregation that uses our facility on Saturday night. It was fun to talk with those who spoke English or Japanese. The pastor's wife worked hard at resurrecting some of my Portuguese (I spoke it better than English when I was about 3 or 4) but all that came out in response was Japanese! We also watched God at work in the ministry of two of our men with a Japanese man who came in with some big personal and spiritual needs. Later that afternoon, Stan and our intern, Ken, went to a commissioning of a young Japanese man who is going to Thailand as a missionary with Ambassadors in Sports.

Monday was spent trying to clean my desk and answer questions at the Asian Access office, and Tuesday I prepared for Wednesday's Bible Study.

Wednesday, there were 11 women who came to study Psalm 73 with me. This is the largest this group has been. It was a good study time, and there seems to be a real hunger to apply what we're learning within the group. This is a great mixture of people--one lady who came for the first time hasn't studied the Bible in years, though at one time she was involved with missionaries quite a lot. We have a few who are not believers yet, and one or two who are still a mystery to me. We meet again on April 1 to study Psalm 84.

Thursday I had an unusual opportunity here in Japan--lunch with a cousin! Leah is actually my second cousin, studying for a few months at a University in the Osaka area, but up in Tokyo for a week-long holiday. We had a great time talking together over lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant and coffee at Starbucks. We also watched part of the World Baseball Classic where Japan defeated Cuba. Leah's parents live very close to my Dad, and when I go to Nashville, I usually am visiting with them, not with her--so it was fun to talk with her "adult" to "adult!"

While I was visiting with Leah, Stan was at a gathering of people who minister to Japanese who have come to faith overseas and are returnees to Japan. Friday and Saturday, about 400 of these Returnees are meeting outside Tokyo for a big gathering. Usually these people have a hard time assimilating into a Japanese church, and so these leaders did some brainstorming together about how to bridge the gap between their overseas experience and finding a way to move into a Japanese church and fellowship environment when they get back here. It was obvious that this gathering was going to meet a felt-need.

For a change of pace on Friday, I went to the "2009 Celebrate Recovery Festa" at a church in the area that has sponsored a few Celebrate Recovery CR) groups in the Tokyo area for Japanese.

I was accompanied by a friend who has been in a 12-step program for a while, and is growing in her faith and walk with God. We have talked about the potential of beginning a CR group at ICCS--maybe not this coming year, but it is obvious that there is a need. There were lots of testimonies given--both by CR staff from the US and by Japanese who are in recovery groups here. And judging by the number of people who came, there is a growing interest in developing this in other churches.

So we come to the end of this week and next week is our boys' spring break. The cherry blossoms are poised to open early. Maybe we can talk them into a picnic (with Kentucky Fried Chicken--their choice) at the large KokuKoen park nearby. We have a special place there we like to go during Cherry blossom season.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Got Milk? Or looking at the harvest fields...

Tuesday afternoon there was a gathering of neighborhood people at our church for a nutritionists talk on the benefits of milk. This was part of the program schedule of our area governing group called the chonaikai.

Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. S (on the right) who has been a part of our congregation for many years, and a member of the chonaikai for at least the last five years, they have become more comfortable in using our facility for their various meetings.

Gradually we are seeing some of the neighbor people attend special outreaches at the church, participate in an English Bible Class taught by members of our congregation, and become friendlier to us as we go through the neighborhood.

So as we look at the 40 people who came to learn about milk, what comes to our mind is the the words of Jesus in John 4:35 "...open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest."

Posted by Picasa

Random views from Karuizawa

I headed up to Karuizawa before Stan and the boys for leadership meetings.

I woke up to this the following morning. It had snowed during the night, and everything looked lovely. Gratefully, the roads were fine as people drove up the next two days.

Karuizawa is in the shadow of Mount Asama--an active volcano. It had a little blow out a few weeks before we got there, spewing ash into the air. This is a well monitored mountain--the experts knew ahead of time what kind of activity to expect and within a narrow time range of WHEN it would blow.

This is the church that housed our ICCS Olympic outreach team when they served during the Nagano Olympics. Stan drove by and snapped a photo of it.

On Sunday afternoon Stan and I took a walk around the back roads of Karuizawa heading toward the tourist shopping area. This is a walking path--lined with barbed wire...

As we walked along we saw a "grotto" of stones in one closed up house. From the outside it reminded us of the up-turned bathtubs with the statue of Mary...so we stepped into the yard and were honestly surprised to see this. It isn't a common sight!

This is the tennis club which is part of the current emperor and empress's romance story from many, many years ago. Its right across from the language school Stan and I attended for 1 1/2 - 2 years. Stan actually spoke with the then crown princess through this fence the first month we were in Karuizawa!

We went from the tennis court to the shopping street--and I couldn't help but snap strange store photos. Don't know what about this store reflects Octopus or Army, but I would hate to have met that animal when it was living...

This was a trick art store. If the person with their head in the Mona Lisa hadn't taken so long, its possible we would have had a Mona Faith photo...

I know that shopping can be a sin sometimes, but rarely is it ever so blatantly displayed...

Then for a walk down memory lane...

This was the doctor who delivered our first born daughter...

And this lovely intersection used to have a garbage pile, where Stan deposited the placenta of our first born after they gave it to him in the hospital wrapped up in newspaper... We consider it a "sacred" spot. As we understand, in this area of Japan, families would take it home and bury it near the entry way of their house in a tribute to long and healthy life.

Posted by Picasa

Retreat glimpses


One of the highlights of each Asian Access Retreat is the opportunity to worship together--primarily in English, but also in Japanese. This year we had an "in-house" worship team who did a great job of leading us to focus on the Lord as well as His work in our lives.

Usually someone in our mission family has had a baby in the year between retreats. This year we celebrated the birth of the third child of our office manager. This family has been a part of us for two years.

As Human Resource Development Coordinator for Japan, I have had the honor of participating in the team leader meetings for the church multiplication missionaries. We commissioned a couple to the team leader role. They have been a part of three church multiplication projects, and are well-equipped to take over the leadership in Okinawa beginning next month.

We like to recognize various milestones that people have experienced during the year. Here we have those who have or will be graduating from middle school--this group includes our two young men.

Some of the older MK's coreographed a dance in which the included the younger children of the mission. It was pure joy to watch how they included each little one in some "feature" of the presentation. They did a masterful job!

One highlight of this retreat was to meet our new mission president's family, as well as his Administrative Assistant, Margaret (left). The kids seemed to meld in well with our MK's. A tribute to God's leading--each one of them seemed immediately to "belong" to us as we interacted with them.

Our speaker for the week was Scott Shaum, with Barnabas, International. He lead us through some very helpful exercises and discussions of our Spiritual lives as Leaders.

Next to Scott is Emi, our HRD Director, who spent lots of time with our short-term missionaries as well as catching up with others during the retreat. She also brought along her mother-in-law who blessed the mission family with massages!

Two of our Asian Access Board members joined us over the weekend, and they took time to thank Bruce Johnson, our VP for Leadership Development, for his role as our mission's acting President for a year. We all appreciated Bruce's efforts for that season!

On Saturday we celebrated 25 years of service for two of our families. The Wilsons are leaders in Okinawa, and Elliott Snuggs works as our VP for Operations. His wife, Lori, couldn't make it to Japan this year. It is a tribute to the faithfulness of God to see so many of our staff passing these long service milestones!

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Back from the A2 Spring Retreat

We have been up in Karuizawa for our annual Asian Access Spring Retreat. This event is always something we look forward to as it is the only time in the year when our entire mission meets together face to face.

We have had times of worship and times of reflecting on our Spiritual Vitality. Our speaker has been Scott Shaum of Barnabas, International. The topics have been timely and reflective, and very Word-centered. This retreat has also been "retreat-paced" in that it hasn't been too full of extra activities.

I actually am back a little early--two boys need to get to school this week since they head on a school trip to Kyoto in a few days and have assignments that lead up to it. Stan will be bringing Scott down to Tokyo Monday after the retreat and we're looking forward to some time to talk one on one (or two on one!) with him.

Part of our retreat program is marking milestones and celebrations. We were included as having reached the 25 years married milestone mark!

Emi, who was to be our flower girl, and now works as the mission's HRD Director 25 years later, presented us with gifts. Inside the silver box is a lovely 25th anniversary photo frame...with a beautiful photo of Emi and her husband of one year, Sterling! Cute move, Emi!

I'll have more photos and random observations from Karuizawa when I get Stan's camera and the phone cameras downloaded.