Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gifts from Jesus

Today we had our "Gifts from Jesus" Christmas Bible study with the Ladies of ICCS.  A couple of years ago I was introduced to this when on home assignment in California, and found it very intriguing.  Friends sent the word document to me last year, and we had the gifts printed out, folded and put into a box.  

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This year, I decided I wanted to go a little more "gift-looking" in how we distributed them, so last night I took the gift cards (which I had reformatted to work better for my little scheme) and individually wrapped them.


The gift was wrapped in paper just a little bit larger than the card, so that it was framed on the written side.


I then rolled them up into small tubes, taped them and tied them up with ribbon.


When I got to the church this morning, I put the tubes into my pretty box, and placed it in front of the tree.


This is how the gifts looked when the box was opened. It made this so much more inviting than just pulling a paper out of the box--and increased the sense of receiving something of value. There are 30 unique gifts.



We started with a little food and coffee, and visiting around the tables. We had five members of a Campus Crusade team from Singapore join us--they are here to serve through Christmas. Here's a look at our three tables:






Once we had finished eating, we sang a few carols, I gave a short devotional from Philippians 2, and then I opened the box and let each person choose their gift.  We then went around the room sharing what gifts we had received.  It was interesting to hear each woman reflect on how they anticipated their gift to be used in their life. Some of them included: 
  • A woman who will be relocating to her home country  in the next year talked about how it will take COURAGE to leave her work in Japan, find a job at home, and live with her parents again. 
  • Another who works with children talked about how PATIENCE will help her in those endeavors. 
  • A woman with her own business said that she needed FORGIVENESS to develop on her interactions with her students and her family when she begins to resent them. 
  • The mother of two teenage girls realized how much they needed ENCOURAGEMENT from her at this stage in life.  
  • The woman who received UNCONDITIONAL LOVE became fairly transparent as she shared that she needed this in her marriage right now. 
  • One of the Singaporean team shared how she was filled with GRATITUDE for many things, including that her elderly mother recently made a profession of faith and was baptized while in the hospital.



Nine of us are from the Bible Study and five are from the Singaporean group.

As I was wrapping the gifts last night, I wondered which one I would get.  To be sure there were some that excited me more than others, but I decided that I would receive whatever came my way. (The first year I got this my gift was SERVICE--and that created a little struggle in my heart because "I'm a leader!"--Good sign I needed that gift!)  This year I was given the gift of the WONDERFUL COUNSELOR! Of course, Jesus IS the Wonderful Counselor, and he's given us his Spirit to guide us the way we should go.  I am certain that in this coming years there will be many times when I will be calling on this Wonderful Counselor.  And I pray that I can internalize attributes of that Wonderful Counselor so that in my interactions with others they can also be encouraged in their life of faith.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Photos From Ishinomaki

Our friends Dean and Linda, who were on the receiving end of our box of cookies last week, have sent photos from Ishinomaki. I'm including their comments on each photo.


Gift bags (cookies, a Christmas CD, tea) and misc items ready to go to Ishinomaki. 
 Others have donated different things, all meant to share the love of Christ with these people who have gone through so much. Along with our home made cookies were baskets of other items, including home made neck warmers, scarves and mittens. Things by themselves may seem insignificant, but look at what they do when included with a warm visit by Linda and Dean, who have poured their lives into this community:


Mrs. T choosing something out of the basket of knitted goods.
 There are neck warmers, scarves, socks and mittens - all very warm and BEAUTIFULLY made.


Gramma was excited to get a neck warmer, as they are really in style here this year.
As you can see in the background, her house is still in the midst of construction.
Today she told us she can't sleep at nite because she's having flashbacks
 of hearing people scream for help when the tsunami came.
 Its been 9 months since the tsunami came pouring through this neighborhood. Please pray for these people who are haunted by the memories of those events. Thank God for those who are able to be there to encourage them.


Gramma will enjoy the cookies a lot :)
I love her smile--and I love Linda's apron!


Dean found Mr. S just as he was leaving his house.
He and his family will enjoy the homemade cookies made by our friends at ICCS
 Church in Saitama.


Today's Christmas celebration was held at a community center type building
 in the Watanoha neighborhood of Ishinomaki. 
As you can see,
the place was packed out...Including volunteers and sponsors, there are around 200 people.
I wonder how many were at a Christmas celebration for the first time in their lives!


Dean and Mrs. S - Dean did the house dedication service for her last weekend.
 Samaritan's Purse does this for all the people in their house rebuilding program. In Japan
 it's customary to hold a Shinto ceremony when building a new home.
 Now, it's really cool to be able to do a Christian style ceremony
and ask God to bless the family as they begin again.


I LOVE this photo...of Pastor S talking with a gramma who came to the Christmas service.
 Here they sit having a heart to heart discussion, hole in the wall behind them,
 gramma decorated with Christmas tree garland...!!! :) These are amazing days!!

These truly ARE amazing days.  We pray that the Spirit of the living God will be poured out in this city and this region.

Asian Access is preparing to send a team of missionaries to live in this area and work with visionary pastors and missionaries in early 2012. You can pray for all the preparations required over the next few months.

And we will continue to do what we can do from ICCS.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookies to go....to Ishinomaki

Today we got together at ICCS to make cookies to go to the Shintate neighborhood of Ishinomaki where our friends, Dean and Linda, are coordinating ministry to survivors of the March 11 disasters. As they hold concerts or have visits with people in the neighborhood in small groups or individually, having good food is always welcome.  And while we personally can't get up there and talk with the people right now, we can be a part of providing a special taste of Christmas for those visits.
E. is putting the chocolate kisses on "Peanut Blossom Cookies."  Her family brought the two bags of chocolate kisses with them when they came to Japan to serve with us this month.
Dan and Stan broke apart a bunch of small letters that went into a special cookie press. 
And Eri and A. rolled out sugar cookies.

With the press, we made cookies that said Love, Faith, Hope and Joy.

Bonnie has these small ginger bread boy and girl cookie cutters--
and nearly everyone took time to decorate the cookies
--each one was a unique masterpiece!


Each package was topped with cooking paper loosely folded to keep the cookies
from shifting and breaking in shipment.

The packages were taped closed and ribbon tied around them.

When we finished our project we gathered for a group photo.
We put together 66 boxes of cookies.


Tomorrow I will package all of these into one box and send it by delivery service to our friends. Perhaps by the end of the week they will have brought some LOVE, FAITH, HOPE, and JOY to people in Ishinomaki.


And for a glimpse of what God is doing there, this photo was taken at a Candlelight Service up there just a few days ago ~


The caption from our friend, Dean:
I'm overwhelmed by it.

Look at the faces...

55 people at a home concert...

that came together just three days ago...

no advertising...all by word of mouth...neighbors inviting neighbors...

the Lord is at work in people's hearts...



Sunday, December 04, 2011

Can it be they're already that age?

This past week we celebrated our sons' 17th  birthday.  So many people remember them as little boys, so I wanted to post the most recent photos we have of them.



The day of their birthday was a busy one at school, so in anticipation, we took time on the previous weekend to go out for a favorite meal of "yaki-niku" or Korean BBQ. And they aren't overly fond of cakes -- one suggested I give them the money I would have spent on an ice cream or store-bought cake...


Instead, I made the choice to cook up a pumpkin pie, and my daughter decorated it with the whipped cream.  So at nearly 10 p.m. the night of their birthday we lit the candles and celebrated them. We had a nice time and with pleasant conversation. And they seemed satisfied.



Thursday, December 01, 2011

The December, 2011 "De La Courier"



 Last week we were delayed three times in four days when traveling by train because of suicides on the line. The rate of suicide in Japan is the highest among developed countries according to the World Health Organization. It is expected to be even higher this year because of the triple disaster of March 11 (earthquake, tsunami and radiation), in addition to the  ongoing economic crisis. Over and over again, we hear people talk about their need of HOPE.

We are grateful to be able to share the Hope of the World-- our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—with the people of Japan, as well as those from other countries who are currently residing here.

· At the International Community Chapel of Saitama (ICCS) we have taught the Word, encouraged the believers to grow in their faith, and nurtured those who are searching for God. Several of our members have been directly involved in emotional care of survivors, and we are caring for the care-givers.
· As a part of the response for the Shintate neighborhood in Ishinomaki, one of the cities devastated by the tsunami, ICCS has contributed clothing and funds and in a few weeks, Christmas cookies to be used in for a gospel concert and coffee time. Stan worked with a team from the Cornerstone Bible Church to physically “mud out” homes that are being restored to living order by Samaritan’s Purse carpenters.  People in Shintate are saying "As long as volunteers are here we have hope! Please continue to help us!"
· Asian Access is preparing to move a team of missionaries to the area around the city of Sendai, working in churches affected by or actively serving in disaster-hit areas in the next few months. Faith has been a part of the leadership overseeing this decision and will continue to work to encourage the missionaries’ transition to living and serving in this area.

We are privileged to be a part of a mission that had a vision for partnership with national churches and pastors committed to seeing the transforming power of the Gospel at work in the lives of individuals and families. There is a great need for more workers to come to Japan and share the good news of Hope in Christ.  Over the next few years Asian Access is prayerfully preparing to mobilize additional missionaries to help meet that need. We look forward to the coming year as there are some exciting developments in a strategic partnership with SIM USA which will help to propel the recruitment  of these new missionaries. (More about this in our January letter!)

As “veteran missionaries” with gifts in pastoral care and encouragement, development and connecting, we believe God has strategic ministry for us to accomplish here in Japan during this time of mission growth. We are so grateful that He has made it possible for us to be here since 1979 (Stan) and 1984 (Faith).  We could not have continued without the faithful prayers and generous financial backing of many over these years.

As we come to the close of 2011, would you prayerfully consider giving a special gift to enable us to carry on the ministries to which God has called us?  We need $25,000 to allow us to reimburse expenses related to our children’s educational needs and begin 2012 with necessary reserves. In addition, we seek additional monthly givers to fill in the gap created by some who have been unable to continue their support for reasons from job loss to death.

We are so grateful for your faithful ministry of prayer and we thank you for your part in bringing the Good News of Hope to the people of Japan.

Instructions for giving are found by 
clicking the tab at the top of the web page.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reminders...

We had an earthquake early this morning--the kind that rocked the bed, rousing me from a dream.  It went on for a while, in a gentle but unsettling way. When it quieted down, I dropped back to sleep. While we haven't had too many recently, it only serves to remind me of the realities in which we live. As one news account put it, we live on the "ring of fire" -- the region where 90% of the world's quakes occur.

Today is Thanksgiving in America.  For those who grew up with stories of pilgrims and Indians sharing that first meal together, it serves as a reminder of God's provision.  For some who haven't grown up in America, it seems presumptuous to relegate thanksgiving to one day. Living overseas for nearly half my life, I think that the American traditions have faded in significance, and I personally am thirsting for a lifestyle of thanksgiving instead.

The past month, several of my friends have been posting things they are thankful for as their facebook statuses.  A new one every day.  Reminders of the stages of family from various accounts (a new child, a son back from Afghanistan, a daughter baptized).

We are enjoying a two-week visit from our daughter's fiance and can honestly say we are deeply thankful for God leading this couple together. I'm thankful for my husband, who continues to encourage me to pursue what God has called me to do. I'm thankful for our daughters who are growing into wonderful young women.

I realize, though, that right now that some of the reasons I have to be thankful are nested in a frame of loss. We are reminded this week of the heritage that God allowed us to grow up in, as Stan and I just passed the 13th anniversary of the death of his dad and my mom, 2 days apart. I'm thankful for our sons, even though we deal daily with the difficulty of attachment disorder. While we are thankful for this future son-law, their marriage will put our daughter in another country.

Most of all, I am thankful for the Sovereign, Loving, All-Powerful God, for He is good. And I am grateful for reminders that He is God, and I'm not!

We WILL celebrate "American Thanksgiving" on Saturday, with a turkey and the trimmings, thanks to chef Stan..  We'll have five De La Cours, (born in four countries), plus our Englishman and a Canadian around the table.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

As long as volunteers are here we have hope!

From our friend, Dean, working in Shintate, Ishinomaki:

Volunteers Needed!! ...as we approach December (and into winter!) the number of families asking for help is INCREASING! At the Alfie Concert on Saturday, four more families asked for help in cleaning and restoring their homes! Pray with us for an increase in volunteers. We need volunteers to help with mudding out houses...(which means, removing sheet rock from walls, then cleaning and removing dried mud from inside the walls, followed by removing the floors and dried mud/debris from under the floors and finally washing and disinfecting...so that carpenters can rebuild...   Samaritan's Purse needs skilled carpenters who can volunteer for one month or longer! Very rewarding work!


Neighbors are telling us..."As long as volunteers are here we have hope! Please continue to help us!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Looking back at CPI

This week I have been at the 2011 National Gathering of the Japan Church Planter's Institute.  I oversaw a counseling center for missionaries and Japanese pastors and church planters.  This center is staffed with volunteers who have training relevant to the needs of the constituency at this conference. 


I've written before about staff selection this year, and how God brought three Japanese counselors to join us.  They were able to assist people from multiple countries, and two of them led a Stress Management seminar for Japanese pastors and families which was attended by nearly 20% of the Japanese in attendance at the conference.

One of the people who came was an education specialist for missionary families from all over the world.  There were several non-North American mission families who were able to talk about their special educational needs with him.  And a speech and language specialist came and offered assessments to 15 children during her visit. This is something that is rarely ever available for mission families on the field.

I led a workshop with 11 missionaries where we talked about stewardship of ourselves.  I believe God used the time of interaction to reveal some things to each person, and in a sharing setting several were able to verbalize things that they hadn't been able to do before.  A few have been very affected by the disaster of March 11.

Thank you for your prayers for God's direction and provision for the staff and the time together.


Modeling after some other major recent conferences, the leadership committee of CPI had everyone assigned to a table for the primary sessions.  There was a brief reflection on a passage of Scripture around the table, followed by a plenary talk, and then reflection questions.  I believe more people were engaged in the materials this way then before.  It also provided an interesting opportunity to find out how life has been for people from around Japan.  Since we live in the area affected in various ways by the earthquake and the radiation threats, and experienced the shortages after the quake, we have had an intense experience. There are others whose life was hardly affected by this at all.  For those of us who have been "living with it" for the past 8 months, this was a little surprising.


Music for the conference was led by a couple, Shoko and Eiji Horii. They were staff with our mission many years ago in a music ministry called "SongRise."  Their worship leadership was a tremendous blessing at CPI.


This is the view of Mt. Fuji outside my hotel window the first day.   I had hoped I could get one more photo, but the following two days it was cloudy and raining.  I got a call from my daughter this morning saying that Fuji is clearly visible today, with snow on the top...

The next conference will be held in 2013.  We are tentatively planning on being on our next home assignment on those dates.  I trust God will provide the right person to take over the organization and facilitation of the counseling center next time.

Thank you for praying for this center and for God's work through each of the staff.  We hope that those who met with our staff will continue to find His grace, strength and guidance as they move to whatever "next step" they've been encouraged to take.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The "Maiko Performance"

A few weeks ago, my daughter sent me a link to this facebook invitation.  We decided it would be fun to go spend a little while together seeing something culturally Japanese, and so we put it on our calendar for this afternoon.  Maiko are Geisha-in-training.


We didn't really know what the venue was going to be, but I looked it up on my iPhone this afternoon, and we headed out. When we got to the location, it turned out to be an upscale jewelry store in an upscale part of Tokyo. They were going to have four performances by the Maiko and we got there 10 minutes before the 4 p.m. show.  There was a rick-shaw outside where people could get photos of themselves (we didn't opt for that). There were people all dressed up as if going to some fancy party, and others (like us) in casual clothes, out for an afternoon. 

 

The two ladies dancing are Maiko. They performed a fall dance with fans (the lady sitting down was the musician).


The Maiko on the left has been studying for two years, the one in the center for five. The musician has been studying for seven.


Several of these photos are courtesy of my daughter, who was able to reach up over the crowd to take the photos.  This shop was clearly too small for the number of people who showed up.  And it was an extremely multinational group. We heard all kinds of languages, and listened to someone saying in Japanese "why are all these foreigners here?" (hint: its a cultural event...and its free...)


Not only were there lots of people like us who showed up, there were quite a number of people from the press, as well. It felt pretty crowded--not unlike what we would experience on a packed commuter train. The audience was four or five levels deep around the display cases, with not much room to move.


So this is how I was able to see the program. Through heads..I'm in the third "row" back . But we enjoyed going--and were glad that it didn't last too much longer than about 20 minutes. I guess if we had stayed around we could have gotten our picture taken with one of the Maiko. But Starbucks sounded more appealing at the time, so we slipped away.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

photos from a recent download

I believe that I posted this photo on a blog in August.  We were up in Shichigahama, Miyagi prefecture, on a walk in an area that had been destroyed in the tsunami, and a collection of stuffed animals had been put together on one vacant lot. There were notes on some of the animals.
In early October, Stan and I went up there again, and on our walk one afternoon we passed the same place. Notice that more animals have been added to the collection, and the big tiger on the old TV stand has acquired a hat. Not only that, but ...
The animal box has been filled with cat food,and... 
There is also a collection of individually wrapped KalKan packets.
 I think about those who have made this a shrine to the memory of children and animals lost in the tsunami.

Then there was the Karaoke music book with the trophy someone had set up along the way in the middle of what was the tsunami equivalent of a ghost town--just the cement foundations. The town has done an incredible job of clearing away  debris.
Some of those foundations seem to be suspended in air because the water swept under them washing away huge amounts of dirt.
To the left we could look across the breakwater to see the ferry  heading in toward Sendai port.
I wonder how long some of these memory markers will remain.  As we come to the 8 month mark in two weeks, and the weather is getting colder in this area, our thoughts go to the survivors who are living in temporary housing stacked right next to one another.  How weary they must be after all they've experienced since March.  Pray for their resilience, and that they would have an opportunity to be encouraged and cared for by God's people.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I am still grateful when...

We have a full tank of gas in our car.
  It means we can drive a long distance if we need to suddenly evacuate.
I can buy as much milk, bread, yogurt, rice, and toilet paper as I want to.
 It means the supply chain is working again--but I like to keep stocked up these days.
The earthquake tremors I feel are almost unnoticeable, or last just a short while.
 I think my reflexes are still on edge, but they are much better than they were.
I have my passport with me, we all have reentry permits that are active, and know where we can get a hold of them.
 It means we could more easily leave the country if we needed to.


Faith

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Focusing on November 8 - 11

Faith at the 2009 Church Planter's Institute
National Gathering near Mt Fuji.
I am facilitating a Personal Development and Discovery Center at the upcoming Japan Church Planter's Institute's 2011 National Gathering of missionaries and Japanese church planters from November 8-11.  The Center will provide opportunities for attendees to meet with counselors and coaches, as well as to elect to participate in seminars related to their well-being.

This is the third center with which I've been involved, the second I've been responsible to organize.  We have had wonderfully qualified staff each time.  This year I fully expect the center to be well utilized since most missionaries and Japanese church planters are dealing with an intensity of life following the disaster in March.

But in a year when missionaries in Japan have been so affected, and people around the world have been so much more aware of the needs of this country,why is it I have had a much more challenging time gathering the staff I had anticipated to attend? Two counseling centers that had sent multiple staff last time have opted not to come.  A few others I've contacted with the specialties I've been looking for have also not been able to commit to coming.  This doesn't mean I don't have staff, but I had anticipated the composition to look a little different.

I am expecting God to work in very precious ways with the staff I have. Three of the counselors are Japanese women who have been educated in the States, but are practicing in Japan now.  They have the benefits of being bilingual, and understanding cross cultural issues. One turns out to have particular training in trauma. Several of them have been volunteering with a relief agency for the past months, and see the needs of our constituency for rest and restoration. There is a bilingual coach with a specialty in Japanese cross cultural conflict issues. I also have a veteran mission psychologist who travels through Japan several times a year who will lend his experience and insight to the group.

The other day, when I got the news that another set of psychologists with experience in trauma couldn't make it, I believe God gave me the assurance that He is providing everything/everyone that we need.  I choose to be thankful, and look forward to watching Him work through this unique blend.

In addition to the counseling staff, we have two specialists to work with families. One is a speech and language therapist who has offered her time to come and do assessments for missionary families. These specialties are rarely available to families on the field, so this has already been well received. I am making appointments ahead of time for these.  Another is an education consultant, particularly for families that are from non-American education systems (countries of the Commonwealth, Europe, Korea, Brazil, etc.)

As you think of it over the next few weeks, please be praying for the work of this center.  Pray that those who are on the staff will have adequate rest and be prepared for their times of meeting with people.  Pray for three of us who will be leading seminars related to stress, restoration, and where we go from here in Member Care.

Thanks!
Faith