Sunday, August 23, 2009

A number of years ago, we ran across the book by Allen Say, called Grandfather's Journey. The description of the book can be found here. I noticed that is was one of the materials they used at Debriefing and Renewal in Colorado last month for the younger children. The final quote in the book epitomizes the struggles that many of us who have lived cross culturally experience--

"The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other."

This week I'll be feeling homesick for Japan, because a friend of mine is having surgery there, and I wish I could be with her.

Yet I'm so grateful to be here for my daughter's sophomore year of college--we get to move her in like "normal" parents this week!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Celebrate Recovery Summit

Last week we attended the Celebrate Recovery Summit at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. This program is a Christ-centered recovery program that incorporates the 12-steps and is loaded with Scripture. We had been introduced to it through the book Life's Healing Choices by John Baker, and I (Faith) had attended a Summit held in Japan last spring.

God brought some people into our church this past term that were clearly dealing with major issues in their lives, hurts, habits--which included some addictive behaviors, and hang-ups. We loved seeing God touch their hearts and transform their lives as they grew in their relationship with Him. When we heard about Celebrate Recovery we wondered if this might not be a tool that God would use for ICCS.

Approximately 3, 600 people attended from all over the country. I think they said that about 600 pastors were in attendance, and many of the others were leaders in their "CR" groups--most who have been brought up in leadership through the program.

Groups came dressed in their Celebrate Recovery shirts. One of my friends who has been in a 12-step program mentioned to me that she's been surprised to see how people in CR are so open about their recovery--and these people truly don't hide it! We saw how thankful people were that God had redeemed them from their past, and forgiven their sins. Worship with them was so uplifting and refreshing.

Saddleback is going to begin a series this fall called Life's Healing Choices. With the economic recession and the challenges that people are facing, they believe that people will be hitting "bottom" a lot sooner. This 8-week series is based on principles from the Beatitudes, and is intended to minister to people who are facing life's difficulties, and to equip others to help. CR is expecting that some of these people will end up in Celebrate Recovery groups, and so this Summit was preparing people to start groups and grow the groups they already have. If you have some time, I would encourage you to look at the website.

On the last day of the Summit, we had the privilege of seeing the ordination of the founder of Celebrate Recovery, John Baker. While he's been licensed and on the staff of Saddleback for a number of years, he hadn't yet been ordained. It was interesting to see Rick Warren "in person" as he spoke on the first day (went way overtime!) and then led the ordination.

The final meeting included a time of nailing a paper with whatever we were led to give to the Lord at this time--regrets for the past, denials of current issues, or fears for the future. There were four crosses that were layered with papers. This was followed by communion. One of the memorable comments as the leader came to the cup was

I used to drink to forget. Now I drink to remember.

We had lunches with the International contingent--there were people from Norway, Brazil, Australia, the UK, Romania, and lots of Canadians. It was good to get to know the CR International representatives a little more, too.

When we had a little free time, we explored the Saddleback campus. It is quite a facility--not pretentious, but well planned.

Their latest building is called "The Refinery." Its the High School building, and has several auditoriums, meeting rooms, a cafe and outside it had a variety of sports venues--here you see the skateboard park.

Inside it looks "industrial." This information booth looks like a little food "shack" you would find near the beach.

And speaking of the beach--they had one--a little beach with gas fire pit and a fountain that spurt water every once in a while. We kind of think they had the Disney rock-makers, build the set.

I love California!

Attending the Summit was a great time of personal worship and encouragement. We know that we are pretty depleted as we come back to the states this home assignment. Being able to soak in reminders of the love of God, the power of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit was really good for us.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Five years ago we spent our Home Assignment year in California and attended the Cornerstone Bible Church in Glendora. During the last half of that year, we were asked to help get a Sunday School class started for a group of people who had been in the church for about a year but hadn't gotten plugged into a class yet.

Our first week we had about 30 attend, the next week it "grew" to about 20, and it settled at between 10 to 15 for the rest of the year. It was a great group of people, and we enjoyed seeing them growing in their affections toward one another and the Word. When we left to return to Japan, we left the class jointly in the hands of two men--one who was raising funds to go to Germany as a missionary, and the other who was a reluctant leader.

Coming back this summer, we have been blessed to see how the class has matured and attracted new people. Its over 30 again, and they've had at least one other couple begin the process of missionary support development.

Two Sundays ago, they had a brunch during the Sunday School time. They also honored Stan and me with some helpful household gifts and gift cards. Even that day there were two new couples, having been at the church for about a year, who came to visit the class looking for a place to connect.

There were so many that they had to use the next room as well. It was a very special time for us as we became acquainted with new people, caught up a little with old friends, and soaked in the love that the class demonstrates toward one another.

Dan, on the left, was the reluctant leader who has done a great job of shepherding this group.

One thing we've discovered is that this class likes to have fun. Last Sunday night we had a "Corn Toss" and dinner. Not having been introduced to what a "Corn Toss" previously, we were a little curious as to what this would entail in a Southern California setting.

When we got there, we were introduced to a game somewhat like horse shoes except that we were pitching bean bags (I mean corn bags) toward a sloped board with a hole as our target. Dan had set up a double elimination tournament and paired us with partners.

When it wasn't our turn to be up there pitching the bags back and forth, we sat along the side enjoying a BBQ ribs and chicken dinner, and chatting with various class members. There was the cheering and heckling that goes with a light-hearted competition like this, as well.

We had to make 15 points in order to win a game--I was grateful to have a very talented partner that helped us get through to the third round.

Stan and I had thrown a few horse shoes while we were in Colorado (I don't actually think I'd ever done that before), so he was ready for this. He and his partner had a good time, but I think they were eliminated at about the same time we were.

Prizes included boxes of cornflakes, and for the winners--Starbucks cards. The last few rounds were pitched at dusk, when it was much harder to see--and apparently the previous year's winners were a pair that included one of the "new" guys in the class.

The class decided five years ago they needed a name, and the only one that they could come up with was Koinonia. Several of us admitted last weekend that at the time we actually thought it was kind of a "lame" name for the class...but in fact, that is what we see happening there.

There are many capable teachers in the class now--Stan may do a special teaching once or twice, but they are equipped and we will see if God has another place for us to plug in as the year goes on. In the meantime, we are enjoying the koinonia in the Koinonia class.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Asian Access Barbeque -- an unusual gathering in Southern California

This summer we had an unusual occurance in the Asian Access extended family. We actually have more missionary staff out of Japan than in Japan at the moment! There are several of us who have returned on home assignment--for the summer or for a year. A few others have been traveling through on vacations. And we have several who are in the process of raising funds to go to Japan for the first time. A number of us are in the Southern California area--which is also where our home office is located--so we got together last weekend for an Asian Access Barbeque.

In addition to Asian Access personnel, we had some long time alumni and friends, and we included the psychologist who visits the field twice a year.

Here I am with Nozomi, who had a layover in the LA area on her way to a friend's wedding. She serves as a Church Planting Associate. We are with Scott, who is on assignment in the US right now, though he returns to Japan several times a year for a Strategy Forum he facilitates with leaders from various missions.

And Angela is an alumni, having served as a Church Planting Associate for three years. She lives not too far from us, so we'll have to get together some this year.

We met at a park somewhat centrally located to most of us. One of our daughters is on the right--we actually had all four of our kids join us for the BBQ!

And where there's a grill, you'll find Stan with the spatula.

The food was great, the fellowship was fun, and we were all a little disoriented seeing one another in a park in Diamond Bar, CA instead of in Okinawa, the Osaka area, or Tokyo...