Monday, September 28, 2009

How do they DO that?

We have always followed the "traditional" home assignment pattern of four years in Japan, one year in the United States.
  • It has worked reasonably well for our children, who have each spent 2 full school years in in the States as a result...though each has experienced some challenges with that along the way. Since their school in Japan is accredited by a US accrediting agency, and follows a US school-year, this hasn't been too difficult academically.
  • It has worked reasonably well because we have a support base literally from coast to coast, and we have needed the time to connect with people in various regions. Once our kids were in school, especially post elementary, it became more difficult to travel together, however.
  • It has been challenging, because in Japan it has required finding someone to sublet housing or us moving because of the long-time away. If we've moved, its required packing and storing our belongings--and then reversing the process when we returned to Japan.
  • It has been challenging because we've had to find people to take responsibilities for our ministry activities for an extended period of time.It has been challenging because in the US we've had to establish a home, connect with schools, try to connect our children with peers, all with a short-term time frame.
  • It has been financially costly because it involves moving and storage upon departure from Japan, housing set-up expenses in the States, and large rental deposit expenses plus additional moving costs upon return to Japan.

Many of our younger missionary families have taken the "new" home assignment schedules, where they are in Japan for 2 to 3 years, then return to the US for 3 to 6 months.

  • It works well for them because, many of these have children in the Japanese school system, and are reluctant to pull them out for too extended a period of time due to the linguistic, relational and academic loss that would take place if they did.
  • It works well for them because many have support constituencies located in one or two regions around the country, and they can connect intensely with a group of people in a more limited time.
  • It works well for them because it is cost-effective to leave their housing "intact" (provided someone is opening windows periodically to prevent mold build-up) for that short period of time.
  • It can be challenging because it doesn't allow a lot of time for deeper connection with friends and family if the missionaries have a full and intense travel schedule during that short home-assignment.

So as we come to the end of our first three months of this one-year home assignment, one of our coworkers has just completed a three-month home assignment and is back in Japan...and I wonder how do they DO that!

We are beginning to feel a bit settled--we're in some small groups at church, the boys seem to be adjusting to school reasonably well, our oldest daughter is benefiting from a stable living situation with us, and for the first time, we've had our college daughter come "home" for the weekend.

Still, we're in the midst of physical exams for various issues with specialists who speak English (we are so thankful for our doctor in Japan, and his good care for us, but it is NICE to be able to follow up on some things with English-speaking physicians). We have some concerns for the health of my dad, and have already made one trip in support of his situation. And we still feel pretty tired from the cumulative change over the past six to eight months. We are seeking professional help as we address some issues with our sons at this stage in their lives (these produce much of the weariness!). In addition, our ministry account hasn't been sufficient to fund all the expenses that were involved in this transition.

This is the last home assignment where we will need to pay attention to a school calendar! As we contemplate the next term, and the subsequent home assignments, its nice to dream about how we'll do things different. But meanwhile, here we are, and we are watching to see what God has in store for us during this "traditional" home assignment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

So how ARE Matsui, Ichiro and Matsuzaka doing?

Over the past few years we've gotten used to getting Major League Baseball news on the Yankees, Mariners and Red Sox before any other sports news while watching Japanese television.

I realized the other day that I hadn't heard ANY news about those players since we left Japan three months ago...

Then the other day I read a news story about Ichiro donating the uniform he wore when he hit is 200th hit this season to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. (Come to think of it, I read that on a "news in Japan" website!)

The Yankees were in town this week playing the Angels.

One of our sons had mentioned that he really wanted to go to a Yankees game while he was here in the US this year.

While this wasn't quite the same as a game in Yankee stadium, Stan took him to the A's stadium to see the Yankees beat the Angels last night. And Matsui hit a home run.

Maybe, just maybe, we can try to get to Yankee stadium next summer before we leave...for that boy. But if they're playing the Red Sox, Stan may need to get a seat on the opposite side of the stadium...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stan's birthday

I headed to Tennessee before I was able to post this---better late than never!

One daughter was away at school, but we had a chance to celebrate Stan's birthday with cake, a couple of days after his actual birthday. On the REAL day, we went and picked up that daughter at college and headed to Disneyland as a family of six.

This year Disneyland has a special where the birthday person can go for free. A friend who works there provided three complementary entrance passes, and the college daughter has an annual pass. So we only paid for one full entrance ticket...good deal!

Stan is wearing the Happy Birthday button--everywhere we went people wished him a happy birthday.

It was a fun day for the birthday man and his oldest.

The second daughter got behind the wheel at Autotopia--actually she is a great driver but this was a BORING....ride.

Not sure how many Jack Sparrows we can take in one family...gratefully we didn't bring any of these hats home.

Late in the afternoon we went on splash mountain.

These two were in the front of the ride...we all came out soaked, but it was actually welcome on a hot southern California day.

Stan enjoyed the photo op with some of the characters.

A few days after his birthday, we celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. God has been gracious to us and we've enjoyed being able to celebrate these markers in our lives.

Special days with my dad

One of the costs of being a missionary is not being able to spend extended time with our parents as they've gone through challenging times, so I was grateful to be able to get to Tennessee to spend a week with my dad recently.

My dad has been struggling with the effects of fractures in his spine, and has recently be diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He will begin treatment for both of those in the next week. He was in a lot of pain when I got there, but over the week, thanks to God's grace and the right balance of pain medicine, he was doing pretty well by the time I left.

Dad has always been very supportive of our ministry in Japan. I guess I would be surprised if he wasn't--he and my mom left for Brazil as missionaries a few months after they were married (at age 20 and 22!). One of the first things he told me after I met Stan--who was already headed to Japan with Asian Access--was that there were lots of Japanese in Brazil, too. Now that we have Brazilian Japanese worshiping in the same hall as our church in Japan it feels like that circle has closed.

If you pray, please remember to pray for my dad over the next few weeks as he begins an oral chemotherapy and has a cementing procedure in his spine. It would be very merciful if the cementing takes care of the pain in the back, and the chemo doesn't wipe him out too much. We want him to get stronger and be with us for a long time.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Some sad words

Today I found this in a banner on the Japan Times Online site...

If children's smiles
were an indicator of a nation's health,
Japan is on its death bed.

Tour guide Shinobu Nimura on Words to Live By

So where do I put the money?

Having spent nearly half my life in Japan, and now being in the States for a year, there are always little cultural jolts that come at odd times. Today, again, I found myself wondering where to put the money when I pay a clerk for anything in cash.

In Japan there are little rectangular trays near each cash register. THAT is where the money goes. No question about it. At the bank, each transaction taken to the teller gets its own tray. We would NEVER hand the cash directly to a clerk.

So when I stand at a grocery store counter, and opt to pay in cash instead of with my ATM card, WHERE do I put the money? Usually there is a register display, the little machine that you use for the ATM/Credit Card transaction, but no clear location to place the cash. Being just a little over 5 feet tall, I usually have to reach UP AND OVER something to had the cash directly to the clerk.

Oh, and cash is a lot dirtier here, too...

Friday, September 04, 2009

Home Assignment--So, what are we here for?

September 2, 1979, Stan first flew into Tokyo for his first time as a one-year missionary with Language Institute for Evangelism*. He served as an English teacher in a church that had an outreach ministry in a community in Tokyo.

He had a great time of connecting with the history and culture of Japan... I don't think having 40 elementary students in one English class that year at Unoki Church did this to him. But some of those students are now leaders in the church.

Four years later, on September 10, we were married,and the following year, in August of 1984, we were heading to Japan as a career missionary couple.

Since that time, we've had a pattern of four years of ministry in Japan followed by a one-year of Home Assignment in the States. This makes our fifth Home Assignment. We've lived in California ('88-'89, '04-'05), Rhode Island ('94-'95) and Illinois ('99-'00).

We're back in California again, and are particularly grateful to be near our young adult daughters.

In the "OLD" days, missionaries used to return to their home country on furlough...but that term implies vacation, which is clearly not an accurate definition. Our organization now calls it "Home Assignment" in contrast with "Field Assignment." We actually do have work to do!

Our responsibilities for this One-Year Home Assignment which began July 1, include—

Sharing about God’s work in Japan and ICCS with interested friends & churches. We are very excited about the work of God in our fellowship in Japan--even while we have been away--and look forward to sharing some of our stories with those who have been part of our prayer and financial support team.

Strengthening our support base so we can return to Japan fully funded for another term. Currently we are underfunded due to increased expenses, unfavorable exchange rates and the life stage of many of our long-time givers. If you pray, please ask God to direct us to those whose combined giving add up to an additional $2,000 per month to our support. In addition, we are facing an imminent need for $15,000 in special gifts to resupply our ministry account following all the transition expenses. If you are interested in giving, you'll find the mailing address and instructions at the end of this post.

Experiencing personal renewal individually and as a family following some challenging years overseas. Our time in Colorado in July for Debriefing and Renewal was the beginning of this. Between parenting young adult daughters from afar, teenage sons in the midst of challenging identity issues, having Stan's mom progressively weaken and then pass away this spring, and my Dad begin to experience some challenging health issues, we have found ourselves very emotionally depleted. We are looking forward to experiencing spiritual and emotional refreshment.

Participating in training opportunities to enhance our pastoral and missionary care skills in preparation for our return to Japan in the summer of 2010. Going to the Celebrate Recovery Summit last month was the beginning of this. We have a few other conferences penciled in on our calendars, and are taking advantage of invitations to participate in focused groups (pastors fellowships, etc.) in the area.

These four responsibilities will require this entire year. Our eager expectation and hope is that we will have accomplished what needs to be done by next summer.

We look forward to returning to Japan for at least another four year term, and Lord, willing, maybe even longer...

Donations can be sent to:
Asian Access, P. O. Box 200, San Dimas, CA 91773.
Along with a check made out to "Asian Access" please include a note indicating that your contribution is for the De La Cour ministry account

*Our mission organization has undergone two name LIFE Ministries, and now, Asian Access. Same group, different name...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Stan writes on -- When the fire comes!

Fire is seen on the top of the mountain. There is smoke everywhere. Ash covers our van, and the air outside our apartment—20 miles from the fire—is filled with uncomfortable smells and debris.

Yesterday we drove by the homes of people who are just yards away from the fire line, some of them are standing outside with water hoses. They are trying to do what they can do to keep what they have. From the TV coverage, one woman said, “They say take out what is important and move away. What? It is ALL important to me!”

In another fire in central California, a couple returned to their home--the only one left in their neighborhood. ALL the other houses on their street were in ashes. Nothing of theirs even showed smoke damage. When they saw what their neighbors had lost, they felt they could not return…not when all the rest lost so much.

What would you carry out of a house that will probably be destroyed by fire? What is important to you?

While talking with the manager of our apartment complex yesterday, he asked the same question of me. He saw us move in with eight suitcases. Friends of one of our supporting churches brought in furnishings for the apartment. Beds, dishes, linen, lamps. The manager and I agree--those are only things. There are more important things to be concerned with in life. Ready your heart for His Return. Open your heart to His love. Receive the forgiveness only He can give.

Not that those in the way of the fire were wrong, mind you. When it comes to push and shove, I’d be hard pressed to decide what to carry out. I guess my Mac Book because on it are so many photos of friends and many memories. Important documents. Contact information of friends. I would take my Bible. Maybe a shirt I just bought. I would be sure my children and my wife were safe. Then I would drive away and look back only once—not in the "wife of Lot" sort of way, but to see how close the flames were.

How about you? When the fire comes, what will you do?

We are told to look up and see Him as He really is. That should scare some! It did for John when he saw Jesus—his close friend—as he wrote the last book of the Bible (Revelation 1:17). There is a change in life we may not be ready for. I would suggest we get ready. It starts with a personal relationship with God’s Son. Read about it in John 3:16, Romans 3:10-18, Romans 4:24-25, (well, in fact, Romans 6-9.) We are asked to submit ourselves to God and allow the Maker of our souls and giver of our life to take control. Because the fires in our lives are way out of control, God is the only one who can put the fire out.

After the fire passed...the "moonscape"

Some of the firemen near this fire tell us they have seen flames over 100 feet high! Once that fire burns out, many many acres of mountain brush and pines will be no more. Some people will lose their homes. Some may lose their own lives. Two firefighters have already died.

Is it too late to make preparations for the fires of life? No.

Is there a way to keep us from being destroyed? Yes. Go to Jesus.


Under His Grace.