Saturday, January 29, 2011

Taking care of family business

After my week of classes, I spent a week with my sister going through our parents' house in preparation for putting it on the market. Since none of us kids live nearby, we have had to manage this process through a few intensive visits.

We will be having an estate sale company take care of most of the stuff, so our job was to go through papers, photos and other select items, collecting what we want to keep, packing it for shipping, and properly handling the rest.

Its amazing what paperwork our parents' kept. (And for some of these things, it was hard to believe they actually moved it--at least 15 moves--before they settled in this place nearly 20 years ago).

We filled a friend's vehicle three times with material to take to the recycling bin. We packed all we wanted in bankers boxes, and saved out some old confidential financial paperwork for a shredding party at the end of the week.

In all, we have just over 40 boxes of papers, photos, and special memory items we'll store until we have time (and a place) to handle them.

In the end we were left with a lovely unit, nice furniture, but nothing that left us feeling overly tied to the place. They moved to Nashville 20 years ago, and Mom has been gone for 12 years. Dad had some help redecorating some of the house after Mom died, so there were places that felt even more distant to us. Of course, if any of the grandkids had been there, it would have felt totally different--this was Grandpa and Grandma's house for most of their lives.

As we closed the door, I realized it felt like a vacation condo--nothing there was personal, but there were special memories that we carried out with us.

Sweet discoveries were the letters our mom wrote to her parents as a young (20 year old) bride of two months during their voyage on the ship to their first missionary term in Brazil. There were many illustrations of the faith of these young people as they left their North Dakota and Minnesota communities to go via the docks of New York City to serve people in North East Brazil. And then there was the journal that Dad kept in their second missionary term. They returned to the States at the ripe old ages of 26 and 27.

There were some fun things, too, like the certificates they received for crossing the equator for the first time.

We ran across family photos and ancestry research we hadn't seen before. And there were some things missing that we expected to find. We keep reminding each other that its just stuff, but things I saw in the china cabinet a few years ago, like my grandparent's 25th anniversary commemorative bowl, were gone.

And now I'm back in Japan, hoping to get back into the groove of a busy, busy winter.

God works at Christmas

Stan recently wrote the following summary of the wonderful work of God at ICCS over the Christmas season:

The young evangelist who came to Christ in my office a few years ago was finishing his Christmas message. He first asked if there were any in the group who had already believed in the Christian Message. One or two raised their hands. Then Ken-San asked if there were any who wanted to ask Jesus into their lives. He had asked the group to lower their heads and close their eyes.

I never do that! It is such a joy for me to see people raise their hands and I get to pray for the moving of the Spirit of God on many other friends in that room.

Mr. T was there along with his wife and adult daughter. Mr. T believed and was baptized during his college years. For some reason after he was married he stopped going to Church. That is, until three years ago. He was serving his Enoki-Cho neighborhood as the leader of the community group. Nearing 72, he was not in the best health. He started attending our services on the first week of August, three years ago. We had Communion that Sunday and as he walked up to take it, I said, “Mr. T, welcome home, sir.” He smiled. He has not missed many services since.

His daughter is a musician, who plays good classical guitar and flute. She has given a small concert for a church event. Her husband, the only one in his family who speaks English, recently returned to Japan after working for some time near Denver on a government project.

Mr. T’s wife told someone a few weeks before that she did not need our God as she was god of her own life. She was OK with that.

From the left: Mrs. T, their daughter and son-in law at the Christmas meeting

That was true until Ken asked that important question. I saw her shaking hand go up—in fact, her whole body was shaking! I looked around and saw her daughter’s hand had also gone up. In total, five adults from Enoki-Cho asked Christ into their lives that evening! Three others wanted more information. Japanese members from ICCS are involved in follow up of these decisions.


For three years in a row, teams of young people from Singapore have come during the week of Christmas to help our church in our outreach into our community of Enoki-cho. Two of this year’s group has been here previously. Annie and Ronny C. have a dynamic quality about them that showed the transforming Power of a Living God. They provided the ‘Auntie and Uncle’ relationship for the group. Ronny is also a very accomplished chef—and the church still has the smell of their love offerings! The key ingredient: garlic! Lots of it! A real fragrance of God’s Grace!

On Tuesday, after devotions, the team joined two other staff persons from Japan Campus Crusade for Christ and went into Tokyo to hand out Gospel tracts, to pray and to get a sense of the spiritual climate of Japan. Very few people accepted the handouts. The team saw the empty eyes of so many people, walking around, standing, riding the trains; empty and alone. And without the Lord who loves them.

The team had Prayer Walks,

a Children’s Christmas party,

a Singaporean cooking class and the Christmas Day Singaporean Christmas.

They also joined the traditional ICCS Christmas Caroling through our neighborhood on Christmas Eve.

When asked why they came to Japan at Christmas, many said it was because of a calling to serve Christ. We would like to see a team go from the International Community Chapel of Saitama (ICCS) and join them in their outreach to their neighbors. Please pray for willing hearts and open doors.
All to the Glory of God!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The classroom experience is over...and now the real work begins...

The past week has been a stimulating experience as I gathered with 14 other students to study Missionary Home Life Enhancement Skills led by professors at Denver Seminary and Columbia International University. My classmates include people who have served for many years throughout the globe. Two thirds of them are DMin students, the rest of us are working on Masters degrees. Half of us were from non-clinical backgrounds, the other half are licensed counselors or on their way to qualifying

We looked at missionary families from "family systems" theory--how people work in relationship to one another. I've got lots of notes, lots of power points and a few interesting video clips on my computer now. And...I've got a big assignment to complete in the next month. I am to develop a psycho-educational program to proactively enrich an area of the missionary's personal home life.

Here are a a few ideas I'm exploring:
  • One idea has to do with helping missionary families with the transition of their kids to college. If you're a missionary parent, what do you wish you'd known before your kids left home. If you're a mk/tck, what do you wish you'd known before you left. These can include skills, knowledge, experiences, relationship matters.
  • Many missionaries work out of their homes. What issues have you encountered if you have experienced this? I'm looking for impact on the family, your time as a couple, and your effectiveness in ministry...both good and challenging.
I welcome any responses to those inquiries. If you don't have my e-mail address, please include yours in a comment at the end of this, and I will write you for your comments. (I will not publish your e-mail address).

One thing we all hope to do in our assignments is to develop programs that are actually usable, not just theoretical ideas. I am praying for for insight from the Lord and His people as I think through these ideas and begin formulate approaches.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Faith is Starting School

Tomorrow I attend my first day of classes in a Masters program at Columbia International University, in Columbia, SC. I'm only here for one week. I've already read these plus one more book and written "book notes" on them. After the class I'll have a major project to complete within one month and submit online.

The course is called "Missionary Home Life Enhancement Skills" and it is a Doctorate level course that I and about 4 others are taking at a Master's level (the DMin folks have a few more books and at least one other project). The profs for the class are both former missionaries who teach in Graduate Counseling Programs. The students...well, I'll have to find out in the morning. I do know that there is one other woman like me--not a counselor but a Missionary Care Facilitator--who serves in Europe.

Other courses in Member Care will require me coming to Columbia (or Atlanta, or Northern Indiana where the course will wrap around the Mental Health and Missions Conference) from time to time. In between I am going to begin online courses to fulfill other requirements. I am excited about the opportunity to learn what I'm going to learn and to apply those things to our ministry in Japan.

I do have a few prayer requests--if you pray, please keep these in mind.
  1. Jet lag--pray that I will be able to sleep well at night and have the mental stamina needed for the days. I am pretty tired right now and feel a little like I've got a cold coming on.
  2. Insight--I want to be quick to catch what we're talking about, and I want to be strategic in applying it to my world.
  3. Weather--there is a huge winter storm that is supposed to come through tomorrow. Since we only have 5 days of classes, it would be a great loss to miss one day. And since they aren't used to ice on the roads and I have to drive about 15 miles to campus, I'm concerned about traffic conditions.
The three De La Cour men are taking care of one another while I'm here. Pray that they will have rich times together. The night before I left we had one of the best "chats" with the boys that we've experienced in a long time.

And my first stop from Japan to South Carolina was in Southern California for a "sisters-sisters" time. The oldest flew in from her Christmas holidays in the south of England a few hours after I did. We enjoyed catching up all together.