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.  


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 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.