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.