Saturday, September 22, 2012

the eXcelerate Award for Partnership in Mission

Asian Access and SIM were jointly awarded the eXcelerate award for partnership in mission yesterday at the Missio Nexus meetings in Chicago.  For more on the story, go to this blog on the Asian Access site.

I have appreciated being a part of the processes involved in developing this Strategic Partnership.  Within a few weeks, we will have all of the United States' missionaries in Asian Access Japan moved into the SIM personnel system.  We are working to "connect the dots" in a variety of areas. This coming week I'll be working on merging some of our personnel assessments and reporting systems in a meeting with SIM USA staff. Next month we welcome our first new missionaries to Japan that have gone through the SIM candidate system.

We thank God for the opportunities that this partnership is opening up to extend the Gospel in Japan.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sumo -- LIVE!

Sumo has had a significant role through the many years we've lived in Japan. You see, sumo tournaments are every other month--six in one year. We have been expected to send out newsletters six times a year.  So in the early years -- the years when letters were typed, pictures were cut with scissors and pasted with, well, paste,  taken to a printer, hand signed, folded, labeled and sent to the US for bulk mailing--our reminder that we should get our letters started was the beginning of the sumo tournament.  Not only that, but our goal was to get the letters sent by the end of the two-week tournament.

In those early years, there were some amazing champions--Chiyonofuji was our absolute favorite. And we made up names for others, learned some Japanese, and followed the sport quite faithfully.  I don't remember if we stopped tracking so faithfully with the sport because Chiyonofuji retired, or because we switched to  a word processor, followed a few years later by a computer for our letters and had a mailing service print and send them.  Yet we have from time to time tuned in, and watched a progression of champions come in from other countries, with fewer and fewer Japanese taking the top positions.

Stan had never been to a sumo tournament, so a few years ago, we started talking about going to one of the three a year that are held in Tokyo.  This is the year we are doing things on our "Tokyo Bucket List" so we decided to book tickets for Monday of this week--which was our wedding anniversary. Now women, don't feel sorry for me--I did all the research and chose the tickets.

As we walked up to the hall where the tournament is held, we saw these two guys. It is possible they "lost" paper-scissors-rock and ended up having to stand outside in very warm weather to get their photos taken by tourists from all over. They were big guys.

This was the second day of the tournament and obviously not an in-demand day.  The seats we chose were the "cheap seats" third row from the top of the arena.  We were glad we weren't in the section to our left--which had a huge block of noisy junior high girls...

This was the view from our seats. So while we were up pretty high, we really could see the dohyo from where we were.   In this photo you can see the roof resembling a shinto shrine above the ring.

We are on the second level--where we get to sit in chairs.  If you really want to pay the big bucks, you get a box seat on the first floor...literally on the floor. Many years ago, I was invited by a foreign woman (who, I can't remember) to accompany her to a tournament as guests of her Japanese friend.  We were in one of those box seats, and were treated very well. But I don't do well sitting on the floor, and it was a very, very long afternoon. Each of the squares you see represents one seat. The green ones are about $190 and come with a warning that you could be injured due to the fall of wrestlers from the ring.

For the next few photos, we walked down for better viewing in the mostly empty second floor.

Before each division of wrestlers began wrestling, they would go through this introduction ceremony. By 4 p.m. the highest division (pictured here) started their bouts.

Next was  the current grand-champion performing his ring entering ceremony. Sumo is quite interspersed with Shinto ritual and connection--this  is considered a ring purification ritual.

For two hours, wrestlers faced off.  Sometimes a bout would last seconds. A few might actually go a minute. And one had to be redone because it was difficult to determine which one had gone out or touched the ground first. 

And then it was over.  Walking out, we realized that many of those attending with us were people from around the world.  Also interspersed in the crowd heading to the train were wrestlers going home. Stan asked a young one on the escalator how his day went--apparently it hadn't been a good day for him.

So we've been there, done that.  And we enjoyed it!

Hmmm... I should probably begin writing the next newsletter...

Monday, September 10, 2012

29 and counting...

We celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary yesterday.  In some circles that sounds long, in others, short.  Either way, we are very thankful for God's mercies and faithfulness to us through these years.  We increasingly realize how each year is a gift from our loving Heavenly Father.

We headed to Tokyo to have lunch at our favorite Thai restaurant.  The lunch buffet has much to choose from, though this time, they were missing the shrimp that Stan had been craving... And while I'm sure the chocolate fountain for dessert isn't very authentic Thai, it was a nice wrap up!

When we finished lunch we headed to Ryogoku to go to the second day of the 15-day Fall Sumo Tournament.  Some questioned our choice of Sumo for a wedding anniversary celebration but it was on our "Tokyo Bucket List" and we enjoyed experiencing it together. That event will get it's own blog!

The weather was hot and humid--though not quite as hot as it was on that September day in Wheaton, Illinois all those years ago!  I am eternally grateful that my bridesmaids are still my friends after I had them in long-sleeve taffeta in an non-air-conditioned sanctuary...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Happy Birthday to Stan!

Both of us have birthdays during times that are a little hard to schedule "events."  Stan's is right at the beginning of the US school year.  Mine is in the middle of Christmas season. Sadly, we sometimes  fall short in celebrating God's blessing of years, future and hope with one another.  

This year his birthday coincided with the start of my Ladies' Bible Study, which only meets twice a month.  The friends we would try to gather for a celebration are getting their own children settled in schools and one is out of the country. So we decided that we would go to a baseball game to celebrate.  We offered the opportunity to our sons, who chose not to go, so it was a date, too!

On my way home from Bible Study, I stopped to pick up an ice-cream cake.  This has been our "tradition" for a number of years.  [While I admire my friends who bake and decorate amazing and creative cakes, it is not my thing...and we don't need extra cake sitting around our house.] The boys and I sang to Stan, and ate about 2/3's of it before we took off for the Seibu Lion's ball park, about 20 minutes from our house by train.

It was a hot and humid night, but we had a good time.

We've been Lion's fans for the 26 years we've lived in this area.  A little over 20 years ago, we met one of the foreign players on the team and would receive complementary tickets for games.  We remember when the concessions were weird tasting hot-dogs with yakisoba on a bun.

Much has changed. The stadium now has a dome, the concessions include KFC and a variety of ethnic foods.  And we buy our tickets.

It was very nice of the Lions to win last night.  A home run in the bottom of the 9th inning wrapped it up.  Up to that point, it was a rather boring game, honestly!  The Lions are leading in their division, but not by much, so they needed that! And it was Stan's birthday, so they needed to win for that reason, too!

When going to a Japanese baseball game, what we notice are the fan-clubs.  They take an entire section of the stadium shouting or singing organized cheers that go on through out the time their team is up.  This was a mid-week game so there were fewer people and flags over there in the cheering section, but no lack of enthusiasm. This photo was taken after the game, just after the "hero" who hit the winning home-run led  them in a cheer. [I remember going to a US professional game after having been in Japan and thinking it was so quiet!]

The song played when the winning home run was hit and the game was over was the chorus of "Daydream Believer"  by the Monkees...Cheer up, Sleepy Jean...  Wonder who came up with that one!

We took the train back home, and were surprised to find that the remaining 1/3 of the cake was intact--so we split it four ways before wrapping up the birthday.

Stan had a chance to connect with both of his girls during the day. The one in California in the morning, and the one in the UK last night. He has also been blessed by many Facebook birthday greetings and even a handful of real mail birthday cards.

My prayer for Stan this year is that he will experience abundant joy and see God do amazing things.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  Ephesians 3:20, 21

Where am I now? ... or the challenge of living "connected"

I remember how I felt when our oldest daughter would do this during our last home assignment.  Of course, her life revolved around that iPhone...she was working in the entertainment industry, and if she was called about a job, not responding quickly often meant not working.  But having the iPhone at the dinner table, seemed a bit over the top.

That is, until I got one.

One of my "strengths" when we took the StrengthsFinders® inventory a few years ago, is "Input."  I love finding things out...and having an iPhone has played to that strength.  Why wonder about something when its easy to look it up?  Our boys watching a movie on TV, and the Japanese title doesn't give me a clue as to what it is in English?  Check the listing for the year it was made, decipher the leading star's name, and head to the IMDB app on my phone... I hear about possible employment for one of our children across the ocean and head to the browser to search them out. We get news that there is a tsunami alert for the Pacific coast of Japan and head to the bookmarked page for the Japan Meteorological Agency. I'm at a train station and there's an alert that the trains aren't running do to a "personal injury accident" (aka suicide) and I look up the bookmarked train status page, and possibly figure out an alternate route on a transit app.

I also love the fact that it keeps me connected to people I love (Connectedness was another strength). With the iMessage feature I can send text messages to my daughter in CA and the other in the UK for free. I can talk to them where ever we may be through Skype. I can follow what is happening in the lives of family, coworkers, friends (not to mention "Facebook friends" as in who are you and how do you know me?) through Facebook.  I can keep up with professional journals and cohorts through LinkedIn.

And then, its a whole shelf's worth of Bible translations, has my devotions on it, serves as an e-reader when I don't have my Kindle with me, is my major source of news and keeps me up on the yen/dollar rate today. I have flashcards on there with verses and some other things I need to memorize.  And the flight search apps help me with booking economical trips. I check the link to the airport bus schedule.

So, when this teaser came in a compilation of blog links,  and I happened to read it to Stan, he started asking me if I had read the whole blog...
“There was a time when I took a walk without wondering if someone in the world of Facebook had acknowledged the wit of my status update. A world where I didn't fact-check a dinner conversation every time I couldn't remember the name of a book title or an actress in a movie I watched five years ago.”

As it was, I forgot my phone when rushing out the door the prior evening... and I had a full-face experience of what it was like to not have my link to information...  Multiple times through that evening I wanted to check some details, only to be reminded that I didn't have my phone, but I would be okay. "Really?" went the inner monologue? "Well, uncomfortably okay."

I'm guessing that this speaks to many of us.

I am very thankful for my iPhone.  It is an incredible tool. But sometimes, its good to be reminded that it is a tool, it is not my life.  And I don't need to be connected all the time. Probably...