Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Counting the cost...

Fifty five years ago, my parents headed to Brazil to serve as missionaries. That's where I was born. They relocated to the States just before I turned 5 and continued in ministry in their mission's home office until the Lord led them to serve Him in academia.

I just got back from a visit with my dad in Tennessee, and while there, went through a few photo albums. The one above was taken on the veranda of the mission home in Fortaleza, Ceara. That blonde in Carolyn's arms is me... My folks were in their early 20's!

I have been grateful for Mom and Dad's commitment to missions. When Stan and I were married, they were very supportive of our move to Japan, even though it meant long separations, and not having "the grand kids nearby." We have special memories of my parent's visit to Japan in 1997 where they spent time with us, as well as my brother and family who were stationed at a navy base nearby. It was also during that trip that my mom noticed pains that were later diagnosed as the metastasized breast cancer that took her life the following year.

Last summer my dad began having medical issues, that resulted in the discovery that he has Multiple Myeloma. We are thankful that he has been responding well to treatment. It has been hard for us kids--none of us live nearby. Yet God has blessed us with cousins who live a few blocks away from Dad, and who have taken very good care of Dad for us all.

But last week I took my second daughter to Tennessee on her college spring break to visit Dad. The cousin and his wife who are in place, caring so sweetly for him are in the center of this photo. I also was able to see another cousin and wife who were visiting from Pennsylvania.

This was a very tender visit for the three of us. Our kids haven't been able to frequently connect with grandparents (and other extended family) because of our distances--and now my dad is the only grandparent left. He again affirmed that when he gave us to God, he had to be willing to let God send us wherever. Following Christ costs. But we have the assurance that God knows what its like to be separated from a dear child. And we pray for the joy of seeing many others in His kingdom because we serve Him in another land...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Betcha didn't know that!

I just got back from a women's retreat, held at Forest Home's Lakeview campus in Forest Falls, CA. There were a group of over 50 ladies from Cornerstone Bible Church who joined two other church groups for two nights in this lovely valley. Forest Home does all the logistics work for these retreats, provides the speaker and music leader, and the church groups get to come and enjoy the time together without a lot of extra work.

The general philosophy of their women's retreats is a place to provide sanctuary and solitude. It was the most relaxed pace retreat I've ever attended--later starts, time between meals and meetings, and an hour designated for silence on Saturday morning.

During that hour, sitting out on the porch of the Lodge, overlooking the river bed and facing the mountains across the way, I was reviewing some things the Lord is reminding me about trusting, being steadfast, waiting. Realizing that there was a lot of internal "talking" on my part, I prayed that the Lord would speak to me.

Suddenly on a megaphone, down in the valley, I heard "Betcha didn't know that!"

A junior high camp was being led across the river on a suspension bridge and on a mountain walk by a leader that was spouting off all kinds of interesting pieces of trivia. Each fascinating fact was ended with "Betcha didn't know that!"

I had to laugh. I wondered how many times I've missed out on God's amazing work in my life, and when He's finally gotten my attention, He has punctuated it with "Betcha didn't know that!" I also thought of the passages beginning in Job 38 when God answers Job with a series of questions. I can almost visualize the question marks in that passage being "Betcha didn't know that!"

Saturday, March 06, 2010

What we do to meet people!

In order to get families with children involved in the missions conference at College Church in Wheaton, we were asked to participate in a "Where's Waldo" event. Each missionary unit was "hidden" in a room in the church complex. Teams of families were supposed to find all the missionaries, and then get clues to find the "real" Waldo. The event ended with desserts and awards.

Not only were we supposed to hide, but we were given a Waldo hat and glasses. As teams came into our room, they had four questions they had to ask, in order to complete the requirements to move on. As much as we would have liked to had them stay and chat, it WAS a timed event, and the teams were intent on winning.

It was interesting to see parents and children--some of whom remembered us from years ago. Either the parents were youth when Stan helped with a high school retreat 28 years ago... or they were young adults when we were in Wheaton for our home assignment 10 years ago. And some folks just plain looked a lot older! :)

Not us--we just looked a little strange with coke-bottled glasses...

Sometimes God gives us a glimpse...

A month or so ago we heard from friends who attend church in Naperville that they had run across a young man from Sweden named Ulf, who over the course of their conversation identified that he had attended our church in Japan. We were elated.

Ulf and his American girlfriend Kimberly lived and worked in Japan from 1999 - 2001. Friends brought them to church and they kept coming over 3 years. Neither had a faith in Christ, though Kimberly really seemed to want to. Ulf was an atheist, but was willing to come along with Kimberly. Eventually they settled in the States after getting married in Sweden. We had an e-mail contact, but that eventually bounced.

We were able to make connections with Kimberly and Ulf at the church they attend on the Saturday night of our trip. They introduced us to their delightful son, and shared about the journey that God has taken them through. They talked about how important the time at ICCS had been for them.

Kimberly was one of nearly 200 people baptized just two weeks ago. Ulf still isn't ready, but we continue to pray for the time when he will be. Both of them obviously have great love for their son and desire to see him grow up in a great environment. We had an opportunity to meet with the pastor of the church they attend, and were encouraged that he knew them by name (quite an accomplishment for a church this size!).

Many times when people leave ICCS, we wonder what becomes of them. It is so sweet when God gives us a glimpse and lets us know that He continues to work His will out in their lives.


One of the dangers of writing this blog is that people not mentioned but seen during our trip to Illinois will feel left out. We have photos of these friends that were publishable! We have sweet memories of all our visits.

We had lunch with Juanita H. and JoAnn C. on Sunday after church. My friendship with JoAnn goes back to my single days in Wheaton--she and her husband were some of my dear mentors and friends. We have kept in touch for these many years, and I appreciate her friendship. Juanita and I were co-leaders in the Women's Bible study during our 1999-2000 Home Assignment year which we spent in Wheaton. She's got a great sense of humor and left us laughing. Both these women are now alone, their life-partners have gone on to be with Jesus.

On the list of missionaries was Nancy C. who works in a missionary counseling practice in Nairobi, Kenya. I don't recall meeting her before, though I had heard of her, and had met others in her general circle of missionary care. We enjoyed getting together for coffee to talk about issues that missionaries face in our different parts of the world, and also to very briefly talk about ways God is leading us in our related ministries. I really enjoyed the time with her--wish we had longer to talk!

On Tuesday night we headed to Morton to see our friends Bob and Harriet. They were our co-workers our early years in Japan, and have been back in the States for a while serving at New Life Christian Church. These are the kind of people where we feel we can pick up our conversation from how ever many years ago and be "at home." We love it when Bob prays, and we were blessed by both of them spending time with us in prayer for our family and future. It was hard to say goodbye...how long will it be again?

We were able to stay at Joan H's house the night we were in Morton. Joan and her late husband, Bill, served a short-term in Japan. During that time, Stan was greatly blessed by Bill's input into his life. They had talked about Bill joining Stan in the International Chapel ministry when the Lord took Bill home suddenly, 19 years ago. Joan has been a prayerful supporter of our ministry. A few years ago, she shared with Stan more completely how much Bill had been interested in working with him. That was a great encouragement--somewhat bittersweet. We were blessed by an extended time of prayer with her, as well.

As hard as it is sometime logistically to take off on these trips, God uses the interaction with friends, old and new, to strengthen our faith and touch our hearts. We frequently come back energized by the Spirit through these visits.

Historic Route 66

On Wednesday, we drove from Morton to Wheaton and decided to pull off Interstate 55 to drive a section of the Historic Route 66.

We have developed an attachment to this piece of highway history, and so we took about an hour driving through a few small towns and following signs like this one!

Sometimes we actually had to choose which route 66 to follow--some were from the 20's, others from the 30's. It went through several small towns--most which looked sad. In one town, nearly every other house had a "for sale" sign--and even the parish house of the Catholic church was for sale.

We pulled off at one of the "roadside attractions."

The attraction was this barn, which advertised Meramec Caverns coming up. We didn't see any "Wall Drug" signs...

Portions of the old 66 run along a nicely paved highway. They are blocked off so cars can't go on it. We wanted to show that "we really were there!"

Seeing this reminded me of trips as a little girl from Bemidji, MN to Kenmare, ND to see my grandparents, and the repetitive "thud, thud, thud" as the tires went over the seams of the concrete. The new highway is on the left.

Street signs marked the route through towns.

We actually saw two of these old stations restored for 66 aficionados. It may be that during the summer this serves as a souvenir shop--but it was all closed up.

This is why we've got a special place in our hearts for Route 66. I took it this morning from our garage... Notice the difference in the terrain, as well! Our snow is up there on the distant peaks...