Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas here and Christmas there ... and there

We've had a quiet Christmas in Charlotte this year.                                                                                                                                                          We welcomed our daughter on Christmas Eve morning -- seven hours later than planned, after her connecting flight had been cancelled.  We were grateful that she was able to get out the same evening on a re-routed flight and even more grateful for her safety on the five hour layover in the Ticketing lobby of the Raleigh Durham airport (after the terminal was closed).  It wasn't the most comfortable location for a young single woman to spend the middle of the night.

We had a great FaceTime chat with our other daughter and her husband in the UK, between their multiple Christmas services.

Stan and I woke up at our usual time on Christmas morning, had coffee and devotions, and then waited, and waited ... and waited for the kids to get up.  Even the smell of cinnamon rolls didn't budge them. Eventually we roused them for our Christmas morning breakfast and gift giving. 

We've had a a different Christmas in Charlotte.

We are a bit overwhelmed by the space we have available here. Stan took over the decorating of our home since I have been trying to get reading done for my class in January. He's did a wonderful job of making our living room festive.  It has long been a dream of ours to have a fireplace where we can hang our stockings and decorate the mantle. We're excited that our new home will also have this.

It was good to see those decorations that hearkened back to our home in Japan (taken in 2011) where our tree was on a table and the stockings hung from hooks on the top of our dining room hutch.

We experienced Christmas worship differently this year, too.

Gone are hymnbooks and singing the songs in Japanese (though our daughter was trying hard to sing the Japanese words to Silent Night while the congregation was singing it on Christmas Eve here).  I promised her that next year we would have these songbooks unpacked and could sing them at home.

Instead we were led by worship teams and projected words. The arrangements of those songs we did know were often quite different. Not bad--but different. And at each church (we are on a 3-church circuit right now) they had songs that were either unfamiliar or not part of our usual Christmas repertoire. 

The size of our fellowship at the International Community Chapel of Saitama always gave a sense of intimacy.  Frequently Christmas season provided an excellent opportunity to share the Gospel. We would have hot chocolate and cookies after the service and it would feel like a family Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, back here in Charlotte, in two of the Christmas services we attended there were over 1,000 in the worship hall and multiple services. One church had 36 different worship services across it's multiple locations, another had 10 and the third had three. (We only attended one service on Christmas Eve--chosen because they were having communion.)  After the service, people headed out to their own families and Christmas parties. And yes, there are smaller churches in Charlotte. 

What we've missed the most about being here in Charlotte this year is having places to serve.

For the past few years, Stan had been Santa at several Christmas outreaches in the Tokyo area. While here in the States it is common to see Santa in lots of places, in Japan it is only the statues of Colonel Sanders in front of the Kentucky Fried Chicken that regularly are suited up. This was both enjoyable for him, and facilitated the sharing of the true message of Christmas and the Gift of the Son of God by a church actively working to make connections for the Gospel at a nearby kindergarten.

 Stan also loved to go Christmas Caroling in our neighborhood of the church in Japan.  Over the years this "strange custom" helped to make connections with people in the neighborhood.  Some even began to request that the carolers stop at their home the next Christmas.

What I missed the most this Christmas was being able to share the Gifts from Jesus with the women in my Bible Study and others in the Church.  I loved how God used the "randomness" of drawing a wrapped piece of paper to provide a word for the year for each lady.  I would record these, and sometimes would reference how God was using this in their lives as the year progressed.

It was always a significant gift to me, as well.  I have had a year of Giving, Wonderful Counselor (God provides that--to be clear--I'm not the wonderful counselor), Faithfulness, and the year I was introduced to this in California, it was Serving.

This Christmas in Charlotte we were observers and receivers in ministry.  I'm guessing that by next year, it will be different!

Meanwhile, we have SIM missionaries who experienced Christmas this year as evacuees from South Sudan. It made me think about how the Christmas story involves displaced people--Joseph flees Bethlehem with his family when news comes that Herod is looking to kill the baby Jesus.  We pray for peace for these people along with those whom they have lived with, loved and worked alongside who are left behind in the country.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Have you thanked those people who will bring your Christmas Eve service experience?

Today I happened to see the service schedule for the church where our son-in-law is curate, All Saint's Laleham. I've listened as this family tries to figure out when they'll get away to his parents' home for the holiday. 

One of the churches we attend here in Charlotte is a multi-site church with a total of "36 Christmas Worship experiences" across their locations. The schedule for the location we attend is below. Each year a number of people make professions of faith at this service and there has been a big push to invite family and friends.

The other two churches we frequent have the traditional 3 services on Christmas Eve...the last ones being at 7 pm (no 11 pm services like the Presbyterian church I attended in Nashville).

All of this makes me think of the people who are putting these services together, from the ministers and musicians, to the custodial staff.  Having been a pastor's wife for many years, my heart goes out to these folks who sacrifice a "traditional" Christmas so you can have one. While for many, it is a service that comes from a grateful heart, for others it is difficult. For families of these people sometimes Christmas isn't very joyful. Their parents are depleted when it is over. There will be those who resent the services, the season, and you--the folks these services are created to bring into worship and affirmation of faith.

So this Christmas, would you decide to express thankfulness to them, and to their families--BEFORE Christmas? Would you pray for those who are bringing you the Christmas Eve experience, and ask God to affirm their acts of faithfulness? Would you pray for their families, that they will capture the vision of the work God is doing in the hearts of those who may not darken the door of the church except at this time of year?

As for us, we will choose one of the services at Elevation this weekend, and then will attend the 7 pm service with communion at Forest Hill Church on Christmas Eve.  And pray for safety for our kids in the UK who drive to Plymouth either on the 25th or early on the 26th after that very busy weekend.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

That was fast!

We have mentioned over this fall that we were looking for a home to buy. The day after we sent out our most recent email prayer update we went to see two houses--one was a short sale, and the second had just been listed that morning. We "fell in love" with the second house and are actively working on the paperwork in order to close the sale on December 31.  We are eager to have a place we can call home.

How are we going to manage that?

As excited as we are to find the house, we close two days before we start full-time at SIM! Then on January 12, I (Faith) take off for a week-long class in my Masters of Member Care--and it's a class I really need to take to better function in my new role.

We will obviously have to take some time to move into the new place. We do not have to rush out of our current rental home, yet are eager to settle. We would appreciate prayer for quiet hearts and minds as well as physical and emotional stamina in the midst of a season of significant activity. 

Thank you!
Our new home as of January!

We once thought that home ownership would be out of the question for us--but the price of homes in our preferred part of Charlotte is quite reasonable. God provides!

We will be purchasing appliances for the house in the next few weeks, and are already gathering other furniture from various sources. If you are interested in donating toward the "set-up" please indicate that your gift is for our ministry account when you use the online giving portal at www.simusa/give or send a check to SIM USA, Donor Care, P. O. Box 7900, Charlotte, NC 28241

Additional giving instructions are available here.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

A look back at two Member Care conferences.

The SIM USA contingent at the
Pastors to Missionaries conference.
I attended two conferences in the past two months that addressed Member/Missionary Care from different angles. One was focused on people who provide pastoral care for missionaries, either from a sending church, a sending organization, or a ministry specifically focused on providing this care across agencies.  The second was focused on Mental Health Professionals who work with missionaries across the spectrum of their careers.

The SIM USA contingent at the
Mental Health and Missions conference.

In reflecting on both conferences, I am reminded that missionaries tend to be amazingly resilient people and at the same time very human and vulnerable. They are in need of living in the reality of the Lord's love for them which comes from the heart of God, not from their performance.

In both conferences we heard talks about the problem of evil in the world.  We explored the theology of suffering (missionaries shouldn't be surprised when they suffer--Jesus told us they would--FYI, it shouldn't surprise you when you suffer, either). In on conference we were encouraged to remember God's presence with his people through the hard times with great expositions of several Psalms. In the other there was a presentation on the doctrine of the Trinity and how God  immersed Himself in suffering to demonstrate his love. Along with this was a warning that the spiritual anemia of the normal North American person is not sufficient to handle evil when they encounter it in overseas ministry.

We heard about EMOTIONS and how many missionaries live with the impression that emotions are not important or okay. The speaker reminded us of Eden where man experienced great and pure joy and Heaven where we will experience deep and pure joy. In between is our life now, where joy is fleeting and life is filled with pain. And "negative emotions are gifts from God to equip us to live in a fallen world."  She then illustrated major emotions and how they would work to alert and equip us to deal with situations, but how they could be used in ways that didn't serve their purpose.

We were introduced to tools to help break the cycle of destructive behaviors.  Addictions of many sorts are an unfortunate reality not only among the American Christian public and clergy, but also among missionary personnel.  It is one we Member Care facilitators need to be prepared to encounter and address. Along with the fallout from addictions come the affect on families, ministry teams, host country churches and more.  It's never a private sin.

My mentor in Member Care, Dr. Laura Gardner, listed the most common challenges in missionaries experience:
    Moral Failures
    Progress and Celebrations

One workshop was on adoption and attachment issues for people in missions. The presenter has counseled many mission families and shared some excellent and easy to understand information on the various aspects of insecure attachment that some of these kids have experienced.  She also talked about parenting issues and challenges. There were recommendations for organizations to provide pre-adoption assessments, adoption education and policies. I personally wish I had been exposed to some of these materials 18 years ago.

A most helpful presentation had to do with the approach to helping missionaries through a restoration and renewal process in partnership between the missionary, their agency and their sending church. This fits well with how we at SIM view the relationship between our mission and the missionary's church.

A month from now, I take up the mantle of the Director of Member Care at SIM USA.  When I begin this role, it will be hard to be too specific about "what" I am doing because of the confidentiality required by my position. But perhaps this blog gives a glimpse into some of the matters I and my staff will need to address among our missionaries.  I imagine that a fair amount of my time will be involved in dealing with "issues."  My hope is that I can also encourage our people to thrive, making choices to live healthily in their hearts, souls and minds, and to remind them that they are beloved by God. When the leave for their country of service, may they be equipped to take responsibility for self-care. When they return through the US office, may they find us to be caring, understanding and encouraging.

Why do we care about our missionaries?  Because God has called them to partner in the ministry of the Gospel and our passion is to see the body of Christ in all places, among all peoples    Rev. 7:9

Saturday, November 30, 2013

This Mom goes to the UK

Before to much more time passes, I wanted to give some highlights of a delightful one-week trip I took mid-month to the UK to visit with our oldest daughter and her husband.  They are expecting our first grandchild in March, and while we expect to get over there soon after the birth, I wanted to take a quick trip to enjoy some "in person" time mid-pregnancy.

Stan and I in Karuizawa, Japan fall of '85
Often we do things as parents in response to our own experiences when we were younger. When I was pregnant with this daughter we were in Japan.  International phone calls were incredibly expensive and "the internet" wasn't even in our vocabulary (as a matter of fact, we didn't have a computer until three years later).  I don't think it ever crossed any of our minds that my mom would venture to Japan to spend time with me.  And I feel like I missed out on some special mother-daughter time as a, 28 years later it's a different world and I can do this!

The day after I arrived, we went for a walk along the Thames river toward the downtown area where they live.  It was a bit overcast but not raining, so that helped. It was good to walk and talk and take in the sights.


On Friday, we took off London.  There was rain forecast for the afternoon, so we headed straight to the "London Eye" where we were able to see much of the city in a 30 minute trip around.  We were blessed with beautiful weather through the ride.

Another daughter-mother photo.

A look at Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Cathedral from the "Eye."

It was fun to share the time with both of them. We have a wonderful son-in-law, by the way!

Later in the afternoon, we two ladies had a High Tea to attend.  It was an experience--probably not entirely traditional, but we have some good memories.  Even though this was in November, they were featuring "Halloween" in the sweets they brought to our table.  One of the cupcakes had green glitter on it--which I ended up getting on my face and wearing for the rest of the day!

By the time we wrapped up the tea it was a little too late for a tour of St. Paul's Cathedral.  This is where our son-in-law was ordained into the ministry a couple of years ago and it would have been fun to see the whole thing. We did, however, make it in time for Evensong.  As we sat under the dome, I couldn't help but take a photo (I confess... shouldn't have done this).

Those of us who were there early enough were invited to sit up in-choir. It was lovely to hear the choir singing and a wonderful reminder to hear the psalms read.

As we trekked back to the station to catch the train back to Staines, I looked back across the river to take a photo of St. Pauls.  It was a lovely day. The rain had come down quite heavily while we were at tea, and not been a bother the rest of the day.  But we weren't quite finished yet.

There was a party going on at the home of one of their church members celebrating Guy Fawkes Day/Bond Fire Night/Fireworks Night.  In the backyard of their home they set off fireworks.  A most awkward question for an American who lived in Japan (greatest fireworks around) to answer--do you have fireworks in America?  I hesitated to mention that yes, we do, on the 4th of July.

The following morning my daughter (on the right second table back) and I attended a women's breakfast outreach at their church.

Later in the day we stopped by Windsor Castle. We didn't make it inside on the tour (will save that one for next time!) but enjoyed walking around the town.

And before we left, we stopped for a hot beverage and some delicious cakes.

Sunday was a special day as the church had special Remembrance Day services. The boy scouts took part in the service and there were many from the community who don't normally attend the church.

In order to engage the youth (and the rest of us, too), they had a memory challenge...

In the sermon, the congregation was called to remember what was in the quiz.

Then they were called to remember what Jesus has done for us.

After the service, the community went outside of the church to the war memorial in the intersection. Scripture was read, the anthem sung, and then boy scouts and politicians laid wreaths of poppies.

We left for dinner at a pub along the Thames and enjoyed a quiet afternoon. I stayed home that evening while they led their youth group at the church.

Monday was my last full day, and my daughter and I headed to a nearby town to go shopping.  We mostly did window shopping, but I was able to get their Christmas presents. I also found a delightful baby book that was both winsome and warm for this first grandson!

And then we needed to eat.  We went to a diner, "50's American style."  There are some items on the menu you would never have seen (vegetarian items, etc.) But the food was good and the atmosphere was right.  The waiters didn't have the attitude, though. (Which was fine!)

It was fun spending this last lunch together.  I enjoyed my week very much. It was a great blend of tourist and just being "momma" to my girl.  We had fun going through bags of baby clothes, talking about future plans, looking at some craft work, and reminiscing.

And then it was time to go. We stopped for coffee at Heathrow airport before I headed to the plane.  I know there were tears for my girl as she headed back.  It was hard for me to leave.  It will be hard to have our grandbaby across the ocean, as well.  But this is part of the sacrifice when we follow God's call... I'm just glad we live in an age with Facetime where we can freely see and talk to one another across the ocean. We've come a long way in 28 years!

Friday, November 15, 2013

From "Being in Japan" to "Sending to Japan"

When we left Japan to work out of the US office of SIM, we knew there would be opportunities to be involved in connecting potential new missionaries to serve in Japan through the SIM and Asian Access Strategic Partnership. Little did we think it would happen so quickly.  

Ashley and Peter at SIMStart, the candidate
screening retreat in September

In September we met a couple who were exploring service with SIM, but weren't sure about where God would have them go. Through several conversations during the screening retreat, it was suggested they consider Japan. We had a couple of long conversations with them at that time, as did another mission couple who had served in Japan previously with a different mission organization.

Over the next few weeks, both this couple and the Japan field agreed to move forward toward having them become missionary appointees to Japan. We are enjoying walking with them on the next steps of their journey.

Over the past two weeks appointees have come to the SIMGo (pre-departure training program) and we spent additional time with them (as we sat through sessions to get an informal training of our own).

Stan prayed for Peter and Ashley after they shared their testimony in morning chapel at SIM.

We spent time talking with them about their presentation the day before they had to give it to a panel for evaluation. 

Ashley sharing in the actual presentation.

Peter gives more information on the partnership between Asian Access and SIM and how it will work for them.

We look forward to working with them over this next year as they go through the various stages of preparing for departure. Stan has been appointed their "coach" through this process. There is much they do not know about the future. Unlike many candidates who came directly to Asian Access in the past because of their call to Japan, the McKenzies have come open to going anywhere God leads and so there is in some ways a steeper learning curve. We are grateful to be able to walk with them.

If you clicked the link above regarding the Strategic Partnership, you will have read that we are hoping for many more Church Planting Missionaries to come out of this relationship.  While our full-time responsibilities will not be focused only on Japan, we are grateful to be here and available to encourage those who do come through SIM.

Are you interested in coming to Japan as a missionary?  Check out and then fill out an Inquiry Form at We would love to see some of you coming through Charlotte on your way to serving God in Japan!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Soul work...
The fall Home Assignment Retreat at SIM USA concluded this evening over dinner. We participated as much as we were able--both of us ended up with Dr's appointments crowding into what we had set aside for this retreat.  This was disappointing since we met each day at a lovely Bed and Breakfast about 30 minutes from Charlotte, and had to figure in quite a bit of extra time to make these appointments.Not only were we absent a little, but others also had schedule challenges that cut into the time of reflection. 

Even so, we appreciated being able to meet a few more SIM missionaries, most of whom have Africa experience along with  another couple with years of service in South America. And then there were three of us who had been in Japan ( our Asian Access colleague, Dee, joined us).  And did we have stories over meals! There is nothing quite so interesting as a group of missionaries swapping stories from different parts of the world!

Missionaries need to have a time and place to get away.  
  • Listening to the schedules many of these people have, they are on the road, speaking at multiple locations for weeks on end.  Of course they want to connect with their ministry partners and report on the work they've been a part of over the previous term--but it can be grueling. 
  • Many of them are dealing with family matters-- elderly parents, disenfranchised children, leaving children behind for college as they return to the other side of the world as empty-nesters. 
  • Future ministry assignments will bring changes, usually more and unanticipated responsibility.
  • Retirement questions come up with the awareness that they may need to locate to a place in their "home country" that won't feel very much like home, Often the missionaries question what they will do with themselves in retirement--especially when they still would love to be actively serving the Lord.
  • While at the US office, they are introduced to new computer programs and ways of doing things--that are incredibly efficient to those who promote them, and usually quite threatening to those who don't have time to implement the changes, or didn't grow up in the computer age, or who still have internet speeds in their fields of service measured in KB not MB.
More than one missionary talked about the significance of Psalm 23 in their lives.  There is great comfort in knowing that we have a Shepherd who cares for our every need--including being led beside still waters and having our souls restored. Our hope and prayer is that even though we experienced a choppy retreat schedule, that each one benefited from some soul work and restoration. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Some thoughts on this season's anchor passage, Psalm 37

If you've followed my writing for a while, you know that frequently I choose a passage of the Bible to "hang out in" during different seasons of my life. I call these my anchor passages. I grab hold of them and find stability, assurance, a place to solidly meditate while my little boat of life is tossing up and down in the open sea. I may have learned that term from my dad--I can't actually remember. I do know that at his funeral, one of his friends told me how my dad had encouraged him to find an anchor passage.

On our home assignment four years ago, I rested in Psalm 23. Two years ago, in the aftermath of the triple disaster in Japan and while tottering on burnout, I immersed myself in Isaiah 55. While moving from Japan this summer, Psalm 84 reminded me of God giving me strength to strength as he led me through the transition wilderness.

A few weeks ago, Psalm 37 caught my eye, and I've been camping there while doing the work of settling into a new place to call home and a new context in which to serve in ministry.  I have also been using the English Standard Version (ESV) this time which has made some familiar verses look a little different. 

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Psalm 37: 3 (ESV)

Reflection 1: 
As we're making the adjustments to a new location, visiting churches, trying to change our thinking from old patterns that we've developed over the years of the 4-year-field/1-year-home assignment life to making this our home, it has been good to read consistently, dwell in the land.  God has lead us. Trusting in him, settle down, dwell, make it home.

Reflection 2:
If you've spent most of your life looking at this verse in the NIV, you will see the phrase that sticks out is befriend faithfulness. The NIV's say enjoy safe pastureThere is something about the term "befriend" that intrigues me. A sense of "hanging out" with faithfulness, actively pursuing faithfulness as you would a friend. I don't have any other great insights, but I really like the phrase.

I imagine there will be many more reflections from this passage as I go along. Already as I hear some of the painful stories of difficult situations in a few of our missionaries' lives, I am drawn to the verses that talk about the Lord dealing with the wicked and holding the hand of those who delight in the Lord, keeping them from stumbling. And of course there is the "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him" of verse 7--another command that I seem to see repeatedly.

So, how about you? How do you dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It was a different time to be a missionary, and other reflections

My parents married in June and were on a ship to Brazil in October to begin their missionary service... My mom was from a small town in North Dakota, my dad from a slightly larger one in Minnesota.  They had met in Bible School, and in the final year, when they discovered they were both called to do ministry in Brazil, decided God had called them to do it together. They left the US with little financial support and a lot of trust.

A couple of years ago, we ran across my dad's journal from those first years along with letters my mother had written to her parents.  It was an interesting testament to their faith and confidence in a God who provides.  At the same time, as a Member Care professional I read the material with awareness of what challenges were created by their choices.

These days, recently married missionaries are frequently required to be in their home country for one year before departing to the mission field. They are expected to have a level of support sufficient to settle and live prior to departure. It is best if they go with an organization that has a sound administrative structure (my grandfather handled their finances as there was no US office).

My parents returned to the States for several reasons. The one most frequently mentioned was "for my mother's health."  The one less mentioned, but probably more to the core of the matter, was that after personal study, my dad had chosen to follow a different interpretation of eschatology, which didn't go over well in their organization. One of the biggest reasons that people leave the mission field is relational conflict.  I'm wondering if that didn't play into their departure.

Once in the US, my dad helped organize the US office and raised funds for their mission organization.  So their overseas missionary service came to an end at around the 8 year mark--not that uncommon a length of term these days, but abbreviated from what they had anticipated.

Eventually dad was led to pursue academia, with the heart of a missionary to the secular campus. He had another brief foray into formal missions later, but was most at home in the classroom. He was always teaching...this summer as we visited the red rocks park outside Las Vegas both Stan and I found ourselves thinking that he would have taken great pains to explain to us how it was formed! We had the same sensation when we were at Ridgecrest, NC last week!

My mom began a long pursuit of her own. Having only her Bible school certificate, she began taking college classes when my brother was born. She graduated with a bachelor degree 16 years later, the same year my younger sister graduated with hers. Over the next few years she worked on a Masters in counseling, completing it at age 56.  It was a couple of years later that she had her first diagnosis of breast cancer. Following recovery, she started a counseling practice, focusing particularly on children. This sweet "grandma lady" was incredibly wise and perceptive.

Mom took time out of her counseling practice to accompany me back to Japan with our twin sons after they were naturalized in the US.  It was her first visit to Japan -- and it coincided with cherry blossom season. The ladies of my Bible Study welcomed her.

A year later, she returned along with my dad to visit both us and my brother and family who were stationed in Japan with the Navy. During that visit, she began having pains that turned out to be the return of her cancer, this time metastasized in her liver.

Whenever I flew back to Japan the last year of my mom's
life,we wondered if we would see one another again.
Still we managed to smile.
The next year and a half are somewhat a blur in my mind. I flew to the US a few times to be with her during the process.  I ended up having to be the one to communicate to her that she wasn't going to "win" this battle with cancer. [That same task fell to me a few years ago with my dad.] She died a little over a month after her 65th birthday.

Today I am particularly reminded of my mom as it would have been her 80th birthday. Mom continued to be a woman of great faith.  The notes in her Bible school journals weren't any more or less faith-filled than the way she lived her life out in the later years. She trusted God as a naive young, young woman from North Dakota on her way to Brazil, and as a wizened woman on her way to her eternal home.

The woman I am today would love to talk with the woman my mother was.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Friends in difficult places...

We have several friends who are in difficult places because of health issues.  Each of them are committed followers of Jesus and have served Him in full-time ministry.  Others are walking through challenging relationships.  I am reminded of a quote from one of the presentations at our recent Pastors to Missionaries Conference:

The God of light insists on traveling into dark places; 
the God of peace continuously involves Himself in the wars of men;
the God who is good engages the depth of human evil.
Let us not forget that God is on a journey that none of us can take without Him.

from Chasing Daylight: Seize the Power of Every Moment by Erwin McManus

As we spent time studying Psalm 23, our speaker reminded us that we are a shepherded people, and that our Shepherd would take us to various places:

  1) Places of soul renewal
  2) Right paths, paths of holy living
  3) The valley of the shadow of death
  4) A prepared table fit for a king in the presence of our enemies
  5) Pursued by goodness and mercy  (The conference theme was Relentlessly Pursued)
  6) The House of the Lord forever!

So as our friends find themselves led by the Shepherd through valleys, while others are at different places, the one assurance that we have is that our God will never leave us. He is with us in those places.

We pray that our friends will find that it is well with their soul.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Today I'm missing...

... My beauty shop in Higashi Kurume, with the weird and fashion-confused stylists who would murmur under their breath as they gently lifted each segment of hair to cut. The cost was about $25 with no tip and I almost always left extremely satisfied. Instead I went to a local Smart Clips shop and ended up with a "stylist" who told me how amazed she was that she cut the back of my hair so well... I don't see that she did damage, but I am going to continue the quest to find a new hair stylist.

...the irasshaimase (welcome)  and arigato gozaimasu (thank you) greetings when I enter and leave a store. Being acknowledged when I walk into a store or food establishment is nice. Today I walked in, looked around and walked out of two different stores without being acknowledged or welcomed.

...having been a part of a training session that the Asian Access missionaries had in Tokyo on ministering cross culturally, with a leader in this field. I always enjoyed being with the mission family and interacting at these events. Seeing the pictures of them on Facebook makes me miss them. fall and winter clothes. I know they are in the garage somewhere, but so far I haven't run across them.  Next week we head up towards mountains for a conference, and it would be nice to have a few of my warmer layers.

...leading my ladies Bible Study at the International Community Chapel of Saitama.  I've attended two different studies these past weeks, and being with groups of ladies reminds me of these wonderful women who meant so much to me as we studied together.  I don't know whether anyone else stepped up to lead them this year, or if they are having to find other places to fellowship.

THIS WEEK I WENT TO THE JAPANESE FOOD STORE!  I had been looking at the "Asian food" sections in the regular grocery stores, and was fairly disappointed.  I tried my hand at making my own Japanese curry without the box turned out okay except that I accidentally read tablespoon rather than teaspoon for salt...  But it also called for a sauce (Tonkatsu) that I hadn't seen in the regular grocery store. I ran out of the rice I picked up locally, and so I decided I needed to find the Japanese store.

As I walked in, it was so familiar. Literally, from the candy at the front through the entire small store, it took me back home. I picked up yakisoba (fried noodle) packages--the same brand my boys lived on whenever we were away. At first they seemed expensive (nearly $4, or twice what I paid for them at my local Seiyu) but then I remembered that this would feed one boy 3 times. I can't get American fast food for them at that price.  I also picked up Tonkatsu sauce, mirin (for much less than the regular markets here), and rice.  At the counter, I spoke one word in Japanese to initiate the transaction--and it was Japanese all the way after that. So naturally.

I left happy.