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.