Sunday, August 29, 2010

in everything give thanks...

On Tuesday morning I got a call from our Japanese business manager who turned the phone over to our senior missionary, Dee. She told me she had fallen the night before, broken her hip and was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Stan and I headed over there that afternoon and stood in for "family" as the doctor explained the upcoming surgery to repair the break. On Wednesday I sat with Dee before and after surgery, and then spent time with her on Friday, and again today (Sunday).

Dee is in a very progressive hospital by Japanese standards, and we believe she is getting excellent care. She begins rehabilitation on Monday in a quest to regain the ability to walk, climb stairs and ultimately ride her bike again. The Japan Health system is very conservative in recovery. Dee will spend two weeks in the hospital before being moved to a rehabilitation facility for several months.

When Nozomi, her husband, Jeff (our photographer) and I talked with Dee this afternoon she shared some things for which she is thankful. To begin with, she was grateful to be able to have surgery so quickly by Japanese standards. She appreciates that the nursing staff at this hospital has time to focus on individual patients. She also said she was so thankful that she wasn't being pushed out of the hospital quickly--realizing how she doesn't really feel that good yet, it is nice to be able to be cared for by qualified staff.

Dee has a number of Japanese women who love her dearly. Two are regularly visiting her and taking care of personal needs. In the next week we expect more will be "released" to visit her--we've kept her location quiet through this surgery and recovery week--and I expect she will meet with many around the tables in this lounge.

I am thankful that Dee is so able to communicate in Japanese. As I sat with her and listened to her interact with the hospital staff, even when she was in great pain, she could communicate well. I was thinking of how taxing it would be for me linguistically to be in the same spot!

We pray that Dee will not only regain her mobility, but will also see spiritual fruit in this season of "hospital ministry."

cold, sweet temptation

The other day I took the train from where we are staying to meet with a friend. It was another hot day, and as I stood on the platform waiting for my train, I was sorely tempted...

Right next to me was this wonderful ice cream vending machine. For 130 yen ($1.50) per choice... I got to thinking about how much electricity it must take to keep the freezer element running on a hot day. But beyond that, I started thinking about which one I would like to buy...

I decided I would like the chocolate ice cream bar, with the nutty hard chocolate coating. But I held off... Considering how hot it was outside, I knew I would end up wearing more of the ice cream bar than I would have been able to eat. Sigh...

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Monday (8/23) we move to our next temporary housing situation. We will be at a mission guest apartment until we can move into our new rental house.

Wednesday (8/25)the boys start school--their sophomore year.

Friday (8/27) the contract for the rental house gets finalized.

The following Wednesday (9/1) is the day we take possession of the house.

Thursday (9/2) our belongings are moved from storage into the house.

Sunday (9/5) is Stan's birthday.

Friday (9/10) is our 27th Wedding Anniversary.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The major topic of any conversation these days--the heat.

I feel like much of what we've done since being back in Japan is to try to avoid going anywhere because of the heat. With temperatures in the 90's, and humidity not too far behind, it has been pretty unbearable...

Since we don't live with central air conditioning, it means turning on room air conditioners in a planned and concerted way (putting all of them on at once would overload the circuits). We go from a fairly cool living room to a hot, sticky hallway on our way to a stuffy toilet, or a baking third floor room to get the laundry that is hanging on poles on the veranda. "Do you have it on in the room downstairs? Well then, we can't turn it on in the bedroom..." etc.

Not only do we experience this "cabin fever" room to room, we also are avoiding going outside. The home we are staying at is a 20 minute walk to the nearest train station. No way we're doing that during the day. There aren't even well-placed convenience stores where we can stop in to cool off or buy a bottle of water. No tree-lined sidewalks to provide shade. Even the evenings are still sweltering, so if we're not driving to our destination, we're not going.

So the discussion becomes about the weather. All Japan is feeling this way. As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago it was hotter in the northern island of Hokkaido than in the southern tropical island of Okinawa. One lady was posting the temperature in her area every two hours on facebook...and people frequently talk about how hot it was in the evening or in their bedroom (we're talking weather, here). While we sleep with the AC on, many do not.

We are trying to have a good attitude! Its too hot to cook much. Its too hot to go out and walk. Its too hot to do much. I honor the mom who has taken her active boys to parks several times in the past two weeks. The forecast shows more of the same for the foreseeable future.

This reminds me of my early days as a young missionary mom. We didn't have air conditioning because it was "so expensive" according to the veteran missionaries. I had a small baby at home, but Stan was teaching at an English center in Tokorozawa, spending his days in air conditioned comfort. (That created tension in me--I am not a happy camper when I'm overheated). I was living in 90+ degree heat in a small house.

Sometimes I would put B in the car and we would drive to a local department store where I would try to find parking in the underground garage so the car wouldn't be in full sun, and we would spend several hours in air conditioning. I learned tricks like wetting a small towel, ringing it out and putting it in the freezer for a while. That would feel so good on the forehead, or the nape of the neck. We invested in a "shaved ice machine" and would have cups and cups of it. But I remember coming down from our bedroom one night at 2 a.m. or so and it was till about 89 degrees in my kitchen.

We determined after that first term that we needed to have air conditioning. I am so thankful for it! So even if I have to go from room to room to enjoy it, I am grateful! And since these few weeks have been designated as weeks of "rest" in our calendars, I will try to appreciate the fact that doing too much work becomes uncomfortable, and that I am forced to slow down.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Moving to Dodge City

We just got the call from the Realtors that this house we've been watching and praying about for the past few months can be ours! The owners met us half-way on our rent reduction request, and we'll be making the contract to begin September 1. Thank you for praying with us!

I've decided to call the house "Dodge City."

Just outside the front door is this clock--which is right twice a day. From what I can tell, the owners have an interest in American country--that is, the Japanese idea of American country.

The photos below were taken by our friends Jeff and Nozomi, who went to look at the house for us the first week of June.

The house is a three-floor house. It is 1250 square feet. Our last apartment was under 950 square feet. My first impression was that there is a lot of "air space." In saying that I mean that some of the houses we were looking at had about 2 feet between them and the neighboring house--which affects the light that comes in. The houses here are far enough away that the house gets full light. This is important, not only for our emotional health, but in the winter we rely on sun coming through those windows to help warm the house.

The general layout has two bedrooms on the third floor, the living/dining/kitchen plus toilet room on the second floor, and two bedrooms, toilet and bath on the first floor.

The yard is a bit small... Yes, this is as big as it gets. Its quite a bit more overgrown now than it was in June when the picture was taken, but it shows that a lot of care had gone into it. Its about the size we can manage right now.

Nozomi is showing off the kitchen. There is a stove top and mini grill, and a very small dishwasher. The hook up for the washing machine is in the kitchen (unusual for Japan) and the little door goes out to a balcony used primarily to store things and hang laundry. Rather than cabinets below, these are drawers that pull out.

From the far side of the living room you can see into the kitchen--I like that I can be working in the kitchen and watching what is going on... Our business manager, Mr. Kiguchi, is talking with the Realtor at the counter in the section designated as the dining room. To the left you can see the balcony outside. We love the recessed lighting--definitely the sign of a newer house.

The first floor has one Japanese style room. We are planning on this being our guest room, so come on and visit us! The rest of the house is like the flooring you see in the living room pictures.

One nice feature of the place is all the storage. This is the "shoe closet." Normally these are only about three or four shelves high and two sections wide. I doubt the four of us will fill it with shoes... This is called the genkan--our entry way. Leave your shoes on the tile and step up into the home...

The third floor "master bedroom" has a walk in closet. After years of squeezing clothes in odd closets, we're pretty excited about it.

So we are rejoicing at God's provision. This has been on our hearts since we first saw it posted online. In May and June, we couldn't imagine that it would still be available when we returned to Japan, but we didn't feel we could move on renting it before we got back. The rent now is $175 less than when we first started watching it. With the dollar at a 15 year low, every little bit helps!

The house is on a short street. There are three other houses beyond it, and one on the corner--all are about the same age. Please be praying for us as we enter this neighborhood. Our hope is that we can begin to develop good relationships with the people around us, and in doing so, introduce them to Christ.

One other thing...we had really hoped to be able to adopt a beagle that is in need of a family, but this house doesn't allow us to have a pet. Would you pray that the beagle, Sherman, finds a family? His family has already returned to the States and he has a temporary home until the end of September.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A2 Community | Time on Japan: "A Clouded Outlook"

As we've driven around the area the past few weeks, we keep noticing stores that are closed. Some of our "landmarks" are no longer there. For example, when we left Japan 13 months ago convenience stores were popping up all over--some less than a block from the next one. Many of those now stand vacant...

It is clear that things are not well in Japan. Our colleague, Jeff Johnston, put the following blog entry together that helped "catch us up" with what is happening here. We pray that we will be faithful to recognize the opportunities to share the gospel as a result!

A2 Community | Time on Japan: "A Clouded Outlook"

Monday, August 09, 2010

Costco Food Court -- Japanese style

After spending the last year shopping at Costco in San Dimas, California, returning to the Iruma Costco was a great cultural re-entry experience today. While many things are similar, especially in appearance and systems, there are some significant differences, too. Take for example, the food court...

The menu is similar to what we saw back in the States--hot dogs with a drink, a slice of pizza, a salad, churos, an ice cream sundae, etc. The prices are great. The difference is the crowds. Perhaps during the Christmas season in California, we saw a long line waiting for that quick meal. But here, everyday, nearly all the time, there are three to five lines each with people waiting to order.

Its not just the ordering that has has to develop the skill of circling the tables looking for possible openings, soon to leave occupants, etc. Outside of the McDonalds in Moscow back in '96, I have never seen a place where it is so hard to find a place to sit and eat a cheap meal. While we were gone, they reformatted the condiment table location to improve the flow, but they didn't add any tables...

which left us with no alternative but to find an empty cart and use it as our standing food table...

One other difference I was reminded of is that those white sandwich rolls are the most popular purchase at Costco Iruma. I saw a small stand of them in San Dimas. As I stood eating my hotdog, I saw nearly every cart around me had at least one bag of rolls.

Here the two people in line each have one, maybe two bags of rolls. When we got back to the bread area, there were at least three shelves, twelve feet long, full of these bags. We've been here when people were lined up waiting for them to come from the bakery...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Pastor Stan, back in the saddle at ICCS

Stan is back preaching at the International Chapel of Saitama -- ICCS. He started the very first Sunday after we arrived.

There are a few things to adjust to--translation in the last year has been done side by side rather than simultaneously from the back. The congregation is more predominately Japanese (though this often happens in August because the international families travel during the month.) The restaurant we always went to after the service with groups from the church closed earlier this year...

Little by little we're catching up with people. There are a few who have stopped attending church--we need to do some follow up there. Others have made some great strides spiritually. We hope to see a few baptized in the next couple of months.

It is good to be back with this church family. Stan is glad to be back preaching. He's started a series on 1 Thessalonians.

Friday, August 06, 2010

To everything there is a season...death and housing

Going into this season I have been wondering how everything was going to fit together. We "Brooks kids" had a sense that Dad would probably not live through the summer. We De La Cours were having to pack up an apartment, move back to Japan, and find housing over here. While I am sure I had "fretting" moments, I wanted very much to embrace what happened as God unfolded it.

God is good. He has also shown such graciousness. When we headed to Dallas to see Dad as a family of six, we were there at just the right time. One day later and we probably wouldn't have been able to converse with him in any meaningful way. When we headed back to California, with three days less to pack and leave, God gave strength and wisdom. The folks he brought to help us move furniture out and clean were ones who have been like family to us--and in an emotionally tender time, they were the right people. The family we stayed with on our way out were fun, encouraging, and welcoming. When we arrived in Japan, friends who are out of the country offered their home to us for a homestay. The night Dad died, we were able to share the moment with my siblings via the internet. I was able to get a ticket to fly back, and a church has provided the funds to cover that expense.

And now I am back in Japan. And its time to move on a housing opportunity. Two months ago I started watching this house on the internet, and I wrote about it here. We had friends go look at it. Photos were sent to us. It was lovely. It was also expensive. It was too soon for us to commit to a rental. Last month the rent dropped about $115/ month. And then it disappeared off the internet. I assumed it had been taken...until two weeks ago, when I found it listed on another site.

While I was in the States, Stan went with our Japanese business manager to look at it. Tomorrow, the two of us will meet with the Realtor, and submit our application to rent it. We are asking if they would drop the rent another $115. That would still make it more than what we had budgeted, but compared to what is (and isn't) available in the area, it is a wonderful home.

Please be praying for the process. We submit our application tomorrow. We hear sometime next week whether we've been accepted. Preliminary inquiries have given us the sense that we won't be turned down because we're foreigners. If accepted, we schedule a time to sign the contract the following week. We'll be meeting with movers on Monday to get their price for moving our belongings from storage to this house. Our hope is to be in the house early the week of the 22nd. (Our hosts here get back on the 23rd.)

Please be praying for the financing. It would be nice to have the rent dropped. Strangely, the current price and current exchange rate make it equal to what we paid for our apartment in California. If that were all, we might not be so overwhelmed--but we will have to pay about $11,500 in the next two weeks for deposits, gifts to Realtors, and the moving fee. We have raised that amount, but we also have major tuition costs due at the Christian Academy in Japan this month. And when its all taken out, this will leave our ministry account with less than one-month's support in reserve...

If we are accepted to rent this house, we will have about a week and a half before we move. I hope that will be a time to rest. I don't think I've had a full night of sleep in three weeks with my travels back and forth across the ocean.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Thoughts on legacy

Yesterday was the funeral for my Dad, Reuben Brooks. Over the past month we have kept a web page on the Caring Bridge web site, and people have been sharing how their contact with Dad impacted their lives. Repeatedly we were told about how my Dad had been so caring, expressing interest in and value of each person, regardless of their status in life. Dad had been a mentor, an encourager, and someone who prayed with and for people at critical times in their lives.

As we've gone through some of Dad's things, we've seen evidence of his commitment to prayer... with systematic prayer lists, folders with prayer needs for individuals, etc. One of his objectives in his life goals was to "pray without ceasing." Another was to deliberately set aside days for prayer-praise and worshipful prayer as well as intercession.

It wasn't just our Dad who considered prayer a vital part of his ministry, but our Mom did, as well. In her later years she was a family counselor, and one memory I have of her was when she visited us in Japan in 1997. I walked into the room where she was staying, and she had an agonized look. When I asked her if she was okay, she told me she had been praying for one of her clients. She had a prayer list specific for each day--family and friends were a key part of the list. Those individuals whom she was counseling got not only a listening ear and wise guidance, but they got a place on that list, as well.

As "orphans" now, we miss our parents. And one of the things we miss the most is having them pray for us. Each of us has talked about how we valued them praying for us when we talked on the phone from wherever in the world we were. I know that both of them prayed for my husband and I, and for our children. Dad shared with us a week and a half before his death what he was praying for his grandchildren.

One of the challenges we face with parents who were viewed as spiritual giants is feeling we won't measure up...(although as their children, we were well aware of their humanness!!!). But God has given each one of us our own ministries, our own calls, and we have the same Holy Spirit that was at work in Mom and Dad to guide us to respond to those in our sphere.

Yesterday as the three of us participated in the visitation times for Dad and as I watched my brother and sister share at Dad's funeral and committal, I saw that we are all expressions of our parents' legacy. I am thankful for the spiritual heritage we have, but especially for having a front row seat on seeing that God grew them into that pursuit of holiness.

We are all works in progress, so even if you don't come from a heritage like ours (and believe me, our parents weren't perfect!) God wants to be at work in you.

And this is my prayer: that your love my abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11