Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The De La Cour's at Christmas, 2010

This year there were five De La Cour's in Japan for Christmas.

We are thankful for the blessings of having A here on her winter break from University in Southern California. We were able to extend her visit with us five more days--thanks to a "no penalty for the first change" clause in her Korean Air ticket!

Our sons, Jn (left) and Jph have spent much of their time on games, though there has been wrestling practice a few days for Jph.

The sixth DLC is in England, having landed the day before the major snow that closed down Heathrow. She is enjoying a traditional English Christmas with friends there.

The week before Christmas was busy, and very fruitful--reports will be coming on the ministry of the Singaporean team at ICCS. Thank you to all who prayed for their visit.

We are enjoying a slower pace this week (except that I am reading furiously for a graduate course I'll be taking Jan 10-14 in Columbia, SC).



Thursday, December 23, 2010

Memories of Christmas Past...

Today while I was shopping at the Parco Department store, I heard the sound of children singing in the open mall between the store's two buildings. As I made my way to the second floor walkway overlooking the mall, I was able to see the children of the Kohitsuji Yochien (Little Lamb Preschool) giving their Christmas performance.


This is the preschool our oldest daughter attended. It was a "Christian" preschool, and a number of missionary children have attended through the years. While the photo above isn't very clear, it was obvious that they had provided some sort of Biblical Christmas drama as I saw some in their costumes.


A few minutes later I made my way to the ground floor, and saw the head teacher posing for photos with students. After they left, I spoke to her briefly and showed her a photo of my daughter (20 years later)... She told me to bring her to the school to visit the next time she comes back to Japan.

Listening to the kids sing, I had to take a short video clip--if you haven't heard Japanese children singing, you have missed something. I remember directors trying to get sound out of kids church choir back in the States, and thinking how different it is here!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gifts from God...

Today at our Ladies Bible study we finished our fall series looking at The Father's Love Letter. This has been an interesting, encouraging study for the 10-12 ladies who have come regularly twice a month.

In light of it being the Christmas season, we wrapped up with a "gift-receiving opportunity." From a lovely gift box we each pulled out a "Gift from God" for this coming year. The options included gifts of the Spirit, names of God, fruit of the Spirit, etc. Having done this one year ago, I knew how a "random" gift could impact the receiver--so we decided to give it a try.

I drew "Faithfulness" which gave me a chuckle. It will be interesting to see how God will use faithfulness in Faith this year.

L received "Hope." A foreigner in Japan with limited Japanese language, she has been one to share Christ with many of her Japanese friends. There are changes ahead for her family. Good reasons for hope.

Y received "Courage." She mentioned that a few years ago she experienced a physical ailment that kept her at home. She grew more and more home-bound. A year ago she met two ladies from our church who invited her to Bible Study. She has since then been involved in three different studies. It has taken courage for her to get involved, but she has really appreciated it.

K received "Wonderful Counselor" as her gift. She has been working all year with a student that has difficulties, and while she feels like a poor counselor, this student achieved her first 100% on a test this past week.

S received "Gratitude." She has returned to Japan after a failed marriage to a foreigner and is struggling with major health issues. But she has such a grateful heart and is enjoying being with us for Bible Study.

Y received "Self-Control." This was her first time to the study, and while not a believer yet, she wants to know more. She cares for elderly parents full time and said she can be messy sometimes and needs to have more of this self-control. She also said that she can't do it by herself. Yet she was listening today--and told us she learned that the Spirit gives us the power to do those things that we cannot do on our own.

KS received "Patience." She told how her sister had come to Christ this past year and been baptized. She had patiently shared and waited for this to happen. It is not hard to believe that others in her family will make that decision, too, as she testifies patiently to God's work in her own life.

A received "Thankfulness." She is a new grandmother, with that grand baby coming from Europe for Christmas, and she is thankful. There are many other situations in her life that give her reasons for thankfulness.

It will be interesting to see how God uses these in each of our lives.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joining the Go-Go Girls...

A little more than 20 years ago, a Japanese friend of mine said she had joined the "Go-Go Girls." Looking at Mrs. N, I was a little surprised...she was reasonably conservative, a mother of three young adult children, and not what I pictured as a "Go-Go Girl," that is, until she pointed out to me that go is the Japanese word for the number five...

At that time, 55 seemed a LOOOONGGGG way off.


But today, I joined the "Go-Go Girls." I'm not ready for white boots and a short skirt...and don't think I ever will be.



I am, however, proudly wearing my sweatshirt (jumper for those of you from the UK) that shows that Disneyland and I have something in common.


I am grateful to celebrate 55 today. I'm grateful for God's love and mercy for me, for allowing me to be raised in a Christian home, for giving me a precious husband and four dear children. I pray I can be around for a lot longer, but I am thankful for the 55 years I've had, and look forward to this next year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sharing the Good News of Christmas -- Black Gospel style

Our church has a small gospel choir that is part of the Hallelujah Gospel Family (HGF), a network of Gospel Choirs from churches around our area. These choirs serve as outreach ministries and attract many non-churched Japanese. Twice a year these choirs all gather together for a HGF concert, after a series of workshops leading up to the concert lead by a gospel singer from Los Angeles, Ray Sidney.


Last night was the joint concert in this area. Conveniently for us it was about a 15 minute walk from our house. There were at least 8 from our choir that participated. There were a lot more of us from ICCS who attended.


This year they had a special group -- it was parents and children from one church who sang Jesus Loves Me and a few other songs with the larger choir joining in. Some of the children had the music and movements down cold!



As I sat there, I realized that the mother, second from the left, was a former staff member of our office! Mayumi and her now 4 year old daughter were part of the group. Apparently she saw me, too, because a few minutes after they went off stage I got a tap on my shoulder, and there she was to greet me!

It has been interesting to go to these concerts over the years. This time I realized that they had taken a Japanese praise song, and arranged it in Black Gospel style. It is one song that apparently speaks to the Japanese heart very much, and I enjoyed hearing it presented in another form.

The concert ended with a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. I guess that's appropriate for the Hallelujah Gospel Family...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

a different kind of bell-ringer...

Today I had to go to the larger train station one stop from ours to renew my sons' train passes.

While the area is decorated for Christmas, I was struck by the bell ringer...


A buddhist monk was standing with his bowl in one hand, a bell in the other, in the practice of takahatsu, or begging for alms. It seemed a bit ironic to me today.

We're used to seeing the Salvation Army bell-ringers in the U.S. and sometimes even here in Japan at Christmas time.

Another glimpse into why we need to share the Good News of Jesus' love here!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hurray for Guidelines!

When we got back from our home assignment, our car navigational system no longer had the ability to show back-up guidelines. We have a camera that helps us back up (you may remember that is how we park) and the system had always given us some lines to help in the alignment process.

But they were gone. I went to the user guide to try to figure out how to get a hold of them again, and the button I was supposed to push didn't even show up on the set-up screen. I thought about stopping by the dealership to see if they could help, though I feared looking like a dumb ____ (woman/ foreigner).

I originally learned how to back into parking places without the help of guidelines and a back-up camera, and I've been complimented several times on my skill. The most recent was yesterday at the church parking lot when an older Japanese man praised me in English as soon as I stepped out of the van. I was in a little shock at his comment--here he was in traditional Japanese clothing, with the wooden sandals, a cloth around his head, and for some strange reason, a huge gold "x" earring in his right ear--but I surprised him by responding in Japanese.

A couple of weeks ago, I turned the van on briefly to close the side mirrors, and then turned it off quickly. The next time I started the car, the navigational system looked like it was going to have a break-down...before getting to the normal start screen. I went to put the car in reverse, and there--


--were my guidelines!




It has taken a lot of pressure off of backing into the parking space in our house where we have to narrowly fit in between a corner of the house and the fence. (Pictured here is our church parking space).

I'm grateful for these guidelines but I'm even more grateful for the guidelines we find in the Bible. Life without the wise instruction from God is so chaotic and random. Remember, God promises that our lives are blessed if we keep His statutes and seek Him with all our heart. (Psalm 119)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A special anniversary

I wrapped my US trip up with a visit to Nashville, where I met up with my sister and brother. It has been four months since we were together for Dad's funeral, and twelve years on Monday since Mom went to be with the Lord. We converged for a time of planning "next steps" together.


We made it out to visit our parent's graves. The gentle wind blowing through the fall late afternoon was quite different from the extremely hot and humid July afternoon at our last visit.

As followers of Jesus with the assurance of our parents' faith in Christ, we realized that while it is a good place to remember them, none of us had any sense of being "closer" to them there.

Back at the house we felt a bit like archaeologists, though, as we began going through files and boxes of family memories. We discovered some that we had never seen before, such as


Our mother's baby book!


We enjoyed the photo of our grandmother (who died before our brother was born) holding her little girl in this sweet book. On the page that asked about "baby's first Christmas" we read that they stayed home from the family gathering since the North Dakota temperatures that day were -30F. We all shuddered at that one!


There were a couple of elementary school autograph books. Almost everyone wrote in rhyme. Many of them were quite darling--some were surprisingly risqué in an elementary-student innocent way for the 40's... And imagine having your mom to be the first one to write in your book!

We found a stack of post cards written to our dad as a young boy from his grandfather. Since he didn't live with a father, his grandfather was quite an important person to him.

My brother brought several of his children with him on this trip. It was a delight to spend time with nieces and a nephew that I rarely get to see.


There was a lot of fun going on!


The night before we all left, we sat around the dining room table enjoying one another, so blessed to have this time. We don't know when we'll have our next "reunion" but we know we will have to start deliberately scheduling them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

reminders and reminiscing

Today we wrapped up our second visit and had a little time to visit some friends at the Campus Crusade International Headquarters. While waiting for my friend to come get us we wandered through the Jesus film display.


Half-way down the hall was a display that caught my eye, because of the story that involved our friend Alfred who serves in Uganda. He was the driver of a vehicle, filled with a group of people who had been doing the Ateso language voice-overs for the Jesus video in 1987, that was ambushed by guerrillas. The two men who were killed in that ambush are honored on this wall.


Moses Ogiel (left) died instantly in the ambush, and John Eluru(center), the voice of Jesus, died two days later. Eight years later, Stan was visiting Alfred who was telling him the story while driving past the place they were ambushed...then pointed to the holes in the door of the vehicle where the bullets had passed...

It was a good reminder of the costs involved in sharing the Gospel.

After looking around a little more, my friend came and walked us through several areas of the Crusade campus. Since my area of work is Missionary Care, she introduced me to some of her coworkers in that area. Then she took me to another building where we connected with some Crusade staff who used to serve in Japan.


The couple in the center, Dan and Sheree, left Japan after our oldest children completed first grade (those children are now 24, so that gives some time perspective). Tom, on the right, left Japan about 8 years ago. They are all active in ministries that still impact Japan on strategic administrative levels. Dan, Sheree and I got on facebook to reminisce over photos of our kids in pre-school and first grade...



The night before my Asian Access team had dinner with Valerie, who had been with us in the late 80's and early 90's before going to serve with Co-Mission for a number of years. There were a lot of stories going around the table of days gone by and people we had worked with.

I wonder who we're going to connect with in Colorado...that's our next stop.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Photos from my trip...

I am presently on a tour in the US with three other colleagues from Asian Access. We are on a fact-finding assignment, meeting with three other mission organizations. On my way from Japan to the east coast, it only seemed right to stop in California to catch a brief visit with my daughters.


I also got to be the first mission person to see this little one--our latest addition to the Asian Access mission family. Her mom, Emi, and I are both HRD--she handles the US side and I handle the Japan side. It was fun to have my first baby with me, too!


Later that evening both my girls were able to join me at Balboa Beach for dinner at a restaurant. It was so precious to spend time with these girls. I am continually blessed by the work God is doing in each of their lives. I get to see A at Christmas, when she'll return to spend a few weeks with us. B is going to England for the holidays to spend time with a special friend and his family...

We had meetings on Thursday and Friday, so Saturday was a day off after this first visit, and we had a chance to see some places around Charlotte, NC.


First we stopped to show the camera man the way to Japan... A little east of China.

In an effort to impress my sons, we stopped for a photo op at the Nascar Hall of Fame.

We went from there to the Billy Graham Library. It was a moving visit (once we got past the moo-ving part of a talking cow on the Graham dairy farm...). There were many video clips, still photos and memorabilia.



I couldn't help but have this photo taken after we had gotten through the whole exhibit!


The fall colors are out, and we got a photo of three of our group, plus long-time friend and former colleague, Bruce outside the Graham Library.

I took a little detour down to Ruth Bell Graham's grave-site. On the gravestone is the Chinese character for righteousness. At the bottom are the words "End of Construction, Thank you for your Patience." Apparently she had seen that after a wait on a highway later in her life, and had requested that be on her gravestone.

We're on to the second stop. Maybe there will more photos in a few days. Meanwhile, if you pray, please remember to pray for wisdom and discernment for the four of us meeting with people, as well as for safety and health. Lots of flights, short on sleep, and intense meetings wear down the immune system!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Reminders...

This is my 401st blog post! No, I haven't kept track of it myself, but I happened to notice the number on the listing of posts when I signed on.

Living in Japan for many years, I have gotten somewhat used to seeing shrines and statues here and there, but once in a while something happens that shocks me again into realizing we live in a land where so many are following a lie.

If you think back to our "refrigerator on a crane" story, you may remember that I was hanging out a third story window taking photos of the mover on our balcony railing directing the furniture through the door. While I was up there, I happened to notice something in our neighbor's back yard.


They have their own little Shinto shrine. This is directly against our back fence, and within feet of one of our son's bedroom. To be honest, it made me feel uneasy. We know that our God is greater than the forces of darkness represented here, and we pray for His protection over us as we live is such close proximity.

Last month I had another reminder as the local shrine parade car stopped in our neighborhood for a while the day before the Tokorozawa Matsuri (See the blog from when my daughter and I went to this Festival). I realized that we live in an older neighborhood--and there are long-time connections between some of the families nearby and some shrine in the area.


A couple of days ago, I was reading Psalm 115.
Not to us, LORD, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.

Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.

But their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.

All you Israelites, trust in the LORD—
he is their help and shield.
House of Aaron, trust in the LORD—
he is their help and shield.
You who fear him, trust in the LORD—
he is their help and shield.

The LORD remembers us and will bless us:
He will bless his people Israel,
he will bless the house of Aaron,
he will bless those who fear the LORD—
small and great alike. (115: 1-13, NIV)


I am so grateful to know the Living God who loves us and is faithful, who is our help and shield, who remembers us and blesses us, who sees us regardless of light or darkness, hears when we call to him, and speaks through his word.

If you pray, ask God to enable us to live out the life God has called us to in this neighborhood. Specifically, we need to find ways of connecting with those who live nearby -- our lives are busy and we seldom have opportunity to "hang out" trying to catch people. There are almost no "natural" ways for us to intersect with them.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Transition Team, Placement Team, Partnership Team..

I(Faith) have become a "team player" with positions on several important decision making teams for Asian Access/Japan. W.e are presently in a season of leadership change in Japan, and as of October 1, I am now a member of a Transition Leadership Team. Please pray for God's wisdom as we make decisions during these weeks or months ahead. Pray also that God clearly directs our mission's senior leadership as they look for the VP for Japan.



We anticipate several new missionaries coming to Japan in the next six months and their placements are extremely important decisions. The Placement Team has people from Hokkaido, Okinawa, the Osaka area and the US in addition to me in the Tokyo area. Thanks to the technology available through a combination of Skype and Tokbox we have been able to both talk and see one another on our conference calls over the past couple of weeks. Pray that God will clearly direct us to the most strategic placements as well as that those who are coming will be able to raise their support in time to get here around the same time next spring.



Finally, our mission is in the process of pursuing a strategic partnership with another mission organization to advance the church multiplication movement within Japan. Our mission president, Joe Handley has written extensively about this in his blog on the Asian Access website. We are at the point where some of us will be going to visit with three potential partner missions next month to see which one is the best fit. I will be flying to the US for this trip from November 9 - 23. Please pray for the Partnership Team visits during those weeks.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Celebrating God's Faithfulness over 20 years



We had a great time on Sunday celebrating the 20th anniversary of our International Church.



We enjoyed having people come back from years gone by, current congregation members and friends from the area.

Stan's theme for the day was on the faithfulness of God and on our need to make a commitment to follow Him.


He spoke on Joshua 24, especially verse 15 where Joshua declares that "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."


Stan had made up a covenant that he invited people to sign, declaring that as much as it depended on them, they would serve the Lord in their families.


We were surprised at how many people actually came forward to sign. Even after the service, a young son of one couple where the mother is a believer but the father is open but not yet a believer wanted to sign.


We weren't expecting it, but the congregation members gave us a gift and flowers.


They decided that the ones to present us with flowers should be Ayako, the woman who was recently baptized, along with her husband. They also asked for all who had been baptized at the church to raise their hands. It was very encouraging.


And then afterward came the food. Lots of food.


The line wrapped around the room, providing lots of time to chat with friends.

Some were able to spend time at the photo time lines and many were surprised to see who had been here a long time.


Conversation continued around the table--some were tables of long-time friends.


Others were tables of people more recently a part of ICCS. The family on the right met Ayako and another woman at the park. The wife wanted to practice English because she and her husband are being transferred to Boston next year. I don't know how much they understand of the Gospel, but its fun to be a part of them coming to know. Reiko, on the left, was baptized a year and a half ago.


We had two alumni from the late 90's/early 2000's come--Naoko and Jamie (on the left), who enjoyed catching up with long time friends Inga and Roald.


We had a table of young men. The one on the left in the middle is ours. Harold is their Sunday school teacher.


The wife of the Brazilian pastor (across from Stan) who leads a service at our church came along with a few more Brazilians. So did a young Korean girl who is the girlfriend of another Brazilian. And Yuko (on the right) came searching for some relief from the stress of care giving for her father with a weak heart and her mother who has dementia.

Finally it was all cleaned up--a community event in itself--and it was time for us to say goodbye to Jamie and Naoko. Fumi and Janie joined Stan and I at the door for this photo.


Twenty years is a long time. We didn't really think that far ahead when we signed on for this...but we praise God for the blessings we've received as we've served through at least "20 congregations in the same place." I don't think we'll be here for the 40th anniversary, though if God wills, we hope to be around for at least the 25th when we'll open the envelope with the covenant that people signed.

For years we used to hear people say "I'm going to Stan's church." We tried to retrain them, but for some reason people weren't taking personal ownership. When we looked through Reiko's photos of the anniversary on Facebook, she had one with the subtitle "This is my home church." THAT made our day.

To God be the glory!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A look back over 20 years...

The past couple of days I've been working on a photo collage for the ICCS 20th Anniversary celebration on Sunday. I had great dreams and ideas of what it would look like, and this didn't quite match...


...but considering I've had little time, that many of the photos from the first 10 years are in boxes in my guest room, and many of the photos from the last 10 years are stored electronically on my external drives and I had to make prints of them... I'm satisfied. I have a couple of photos yet to print and post from this past year (the photo printer my dad bought when Circuit City was closing down and subsequently gave to me ran out of ink after about 70 photos yesterday).

I realize that there are very few people who understand the challenge of International Church turnover. I kept looking for photos from different "congregations" over the years--and was challenged to figure out when those groups overlapped. It was interesting to see how much the congregation changed from the early 90's, where we had many foreigners and few Japanese, to now, where we can sometimes have a 50-50 representation in the congregation (and in the summers its a majority Japanese). Some things stayed the same, like the location for Son-Rise service--near our train station in front of the water clock--from Easter '92 up until 2009.


So how can we get the essence without posting all the photos? I decided to put a few themed pages up as well. Here we have retreats, Christmas, Alpha and Baptisms.


And this has Bible Studies, Easter, Prayer Quilts, Sunday School and Father's Day.

And then I ran out of steam for Mother's Day and Covered Dish Lunches... SO MANY photos are taken of people around the table at one of our monthly lunches. As several mentioned in a video we put together of alumni, those lunches were the family time, the community time, the friend-making time that provided a very special connection with other church people. And then the testimony of the one who was a young single guy at the time--who loved the abundant home-cooked food!

Its been a good exercise, and a reminder of God's faithfulness to us and through us over the past 20 years.

"Forever God is Faithful."