Friday, April 22, 2011

A special visit

Stan just got back from California, where he had a chance to spend time with our college junior daughter. The trip was scheduled before the quake, but it seemed very timely when we thought about it afterward. They had several good blocks of time together, and Stan was able to see her in her school's performance of Romeo and Juliet twice.

A. was the first one we were in contact with after the quake -- thanks to our iPhone and Facebook connection. Here is some of our first messaging back and forth on March 11. The conference center we were in sent us to the coffee shop--and I was in the older part decorated with lots of antiques --many hanging from the ceiling. A., a veteran of many conferences in that location, immediately identified with our surroundings.

March 11 at 2:35pm
A the phone svc isn't working right now. We are okay but it was a wild ride and were still feeling aftershocks. Pray for B. Last I heard she was in tok. Don't know if the train is working now.
March 11 at 2:36pm
Ok thanks, i am praying. Really hard actually. I have been trying her google phone account as well. I love you. I love dad. Are the boys with dad? or at school?
March 11 at 2:40pm
Boys are with us. Thanks for your prayers. Funny thing is that they have us waiting in the woodshed--can you imagine how it feels with each aftershock with all the stuff up above.
March 11 at 2:41pm Report
ah scary! is the moose above you, or the saw? dude, i hope B's ok...

She will finish this semester the first week of May, and is hopeful of getting a class or two at a community college in the area. Those are hard to get in to with the budget cuts in the State of California, so we pray that God will allow her to make it into something helpful for her as she heads to her final year. We expect her to spend a few weeks with us here in Japan later in the summer.

Then and Now

In many ways our life in the Tokyo area has returned to some level of "normal."

But not quite.

I still stock up on milk, whether we are down to our last liter or not. (Remember those are the size of a quart carton--not really that big for a family with two teenage boys). We filled up our gas tank today because it was nearing the half-full mark. On our last Costco trip they once again had the Kirkland brand toilet paper in stock and so we're amply supplied. We have bottled water stashed in various places just in case. And we are more aware of the need to conserve power.

So when I saw this You Tube tonight, I thought I'd share it with you. Tokyo continues to be a bustling place, in spite of the fact that over 500,000 foreigners left here in the month after the earthquake. But there are some differences--

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Musing amid the Cherry Blossoms

On the day that we crossed the "1000 earthquakes since March 11" line, my daughter and I decided to get over to our nearby park to see the Cherry Blossoms before they are all gone. The blooming season is short, and we were about a day or two late in seeing the fullness of the trees in the park, but still it was very lovely.

This weeping Cherry was lovely (sorry, I'm not an expert on names of the trees!) Many were standing around snapping photos of it.

Stan is in the States for a short time, and before he left he said he didn't have a photo of me! So here I am...

The park we went to is named "Kokukoen," the airplane park. This was the "kitty-hawk" of Japan, where 100 years ago Japan had its first airfield. There is an airplane museum, playgrounds and large sections of open expanse along with groves of trees.

It holds many memories for us.

Walking into the park yesterday from the parking lot, we went through the playground where I spent hours with each of my children. Then on past the little waterfall and stream that runs in the summer -- I remember learning to take towels and a change of clothes for our little ones.

Yesterday it was dry, but covered with a gentle layer of cherry blossom "snow."

But then the memories change to those that touch a deeper pain. Up past the knoll where we had a mission picnic on June 4, 1988 -- a blistering hot day and being 6 1/2 months pregnant with twins I was feeling especially awful. I remember yelling at Stan for the first time in our marriage that afternoon as we walked into the park.

I wasn't aware of it at the time, but I was in early stages of labor. Later that evening I gave birth to two perfectly formed little boys, who lived only a few hours. We learned after the fact that I had an "incompetent cervix," unable to hold babies full term. That whole experience is a story in itself, one that doesn't need to be told here. But following their birth, we had them cremated (the custom here in Japan), and we decided to scatter their ashes in this park.

There is a grove of trees, where we went on June 11, 1988 as a family of three -- our oldest daughter being 2 -- and we scattered the ashes after singing a few hymns. I have them marked in the index of the hymnal we used --
Fairest Lord Jesus
Jesus, I am resting , resting
Holy, Holy, Holy
O the deep, deep love of Jesus
To God be the Glory
We took a picture of the place, trees full of green, grass filled with clover, turned and walked away. We would be on a plane heading to our first home assignment within another week.

When we came back to Japan, we discovered that the grove of trees were actually cherry trees. A few years later, the park put up large lights in the spot, with a biplane structure around them.

As we walked past the place yesterday, there was a group having a hanami party (cherry blossom viewing party) in our "sacred ground." My daughter asked, "how old would they be now?"

In June, they would have been 23.

In most of our lives we have events that are "life-shaping." The pre-mature births and deaths of Andrew and Michael are a big one for me. For many, March 11, 2011 will be that. What we find when we get to those places, is that God is there. With His deep, deep love. Desiring us to rest in Him. And we pray "To God Be the Glory."

Friday, April 08, 2011

A drive into our summer community

We found this You-Tube video of the drive into our summer community. The first part looks like a normal day, but soon into it the landscape changes and the drive ends. Another five minutes further and you would get to the "missionary resort" area.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Japan Relief: Assessment Teams and Base Camps

Peter Thomson, A2 missionary and CRASH/Japan volunteer, shares about being on one of the first assessment teams in Sendai and helping to establish a base camp in the relief zone. Part of his job is to find out the needs of people and relay that info to the local Japanese churches who are delivering aid and hope.

In this informative clip, Peter shares firsthand about the current situation on the ground, the involvement of local Japanese churches, and how you can be involved in this effort.

Monday, April 04, 2011

In praise of relief agencies...

I spent some time talking with an Asian Access missionary who has been in Sendai for the past two weeks. In his role he interfaced with Samaritan's Purse and Food for the Hungry staff and assisted in distribution of their supplies. Their experience with disaster relief has been invaluable, and their goods have been wisely chosen.

In the past two weeks since the first load from Samaritan's Purse arrived in Sendai, they have gone out of their way to obtain other things that become apparent as needs. They purchased large amounts of some goods from Costco here in Japan--is that why I can't find what I'm looking for? ;-) I'll gladly give those things up if they are being used for the relief effort in Tohoku!

Currently they recognize that people need transportation. So rather than bringing in bicycles from outside the country, they are going to the local bike shops to purchase the bikes. In doing this, they encourage the local economy and provide a basic need for people.

As my friend, Peter said:
Learned so much over the past two weeks. I love what is starting to happen. Samaritan's Purse is contracting with local businesses to supply goods that SP will give away. Instead of bringing in everything from far away, they will support local business in a time of great need. The businesses sell to SP and SP gives it to people who lost everything. Double win. Beautiful. So amazing. Needs change daily, one day they are ordering tens of thousands of pairs of underwear, the next they are buying bikes. All going free to people in great need. But the combo of buying local when possible and giving local is great to see, especially in expensive Japan.

I know that many times people want to do something tangible to help, and I am guilty of thinking that giving to a major relief agency is not that helpful. But I want to say that these agencies are doing a great job, and the financial donations people give are making a strategic difference in the lives of people.

Friday, April 01, 2011

"I'm not afraid!"

Last Sunday I was reminded of the Frog and Toad story, Dragons and Giants by Arnold Lobel . In the story, Frog and Toad set out to see if they are as brave as the heroes in their reading book who fight dragons and giants. Here's a quote:

They came to a dark cave. A big snake came out of the cave.
“Hello lunch,” said the snake when he saw Frog and Toad.
He opened his wide mouth.
Frog and Toad jumped away. Toad was shaking.
“I’m not afraid!” he cried.

As I headed to the grocery store and saw it well stocked with milk, I just had to buy two more cartons--even though we had an ample supply at home. At that point, I realized I was like Toad shaking, "I'm not afraid!" Okay, I am a little afraid...

I have yet to really go without anything. We haven't had to adapt that much to shortages, and we now have a full tank of gas. Currently there are quotas on bottle watered and the yogurt section is empty (apparently thanks to the rescue of a grandma 9 days after the quake who lived off yogurt, there was a run on yogurt afterward!). Milk is usually available, bread can be found--or baked in my bread machine--and toilet paper is on the shelves again. But I do think we're all living with a heightened sense of fear.

Certainly seeing the Fukushima #1 Reactors on the news regularly adds to that fear. I now have some websites marked on my computer to check on the radiation levels in the air and water through-out Japan. If you track my facebook you know that I've been posting every article I've found by nuclear experts who say we're going to be okay. The Embassy has offered Potassium Iodide pills to every US citizen to have on hand just in case. (I recently learned that they are required to offer it to us by law--its not a matter of overreacting on their part.) Even yesterday as we visited our local physician for refills of our usual meds, he talked about people being anxious.

And I hear Toad's voice in me going "I'm not afraid!"

I had lunch with a friend from church yesterday, and we were talking about how life has the appearance of going back to normal. Do you know that there is more radiation in Hong Kong normally than there is in Tokyo with this crisis going on? Yet we live with this shadow of fear over us.

We have had the amazing privilege of living and serving Christ in one of the safest places in the world. Rarely do we worry about crime. The Japanese have been hyper vigilant about impurities in imported foods. We have a great medical system here. There are no civil wars and terrorist groups that impact our lives. While we haven't seen as many Japanese come to Christ, we can freely share without fear of reprisal and threats of death. My friends who worked in Afghanistan have come out with incredible stress-related illnesses including cancer. Other friends have served in countries where they've experienced multiple evacuations because of threats of violence. We move freely, have top notch communication, and more 24 hour stores than any other place I've visited in the US.

And now we are in an environment where many are living with background fear. With Toad we can say "I'm not afraid!" while quaking in our shoes. But Jesus offers us more than a chance to test our bravery. He offers us His peace.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

With His peace, I can truly say "I'm not afraid."