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.