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!