Friday, March 29, 2013

a walk in the park -- another look at Good Friday

Stan and I took a walk at our nearby park to look at the cherry blossoms before they were all gone.  They started blooming while we were out of the country, and between strange weather and busy schedules since we returned, we were afraid we might miss them.  It would have been a shame to not see the cherry trees in bloom at Kokukoen one last time.

We didn't really know that these were cherry trees when we chose this park and this location as a personal memorial nearly 25 years ago following the premature birth and death of our sons, Andrew and Michael.  We chose a grove of green trees in a grassy spot with clumps of clover as a place to have a little family memorial service.  It was several years later that we realized that this was a cherry grove.

Somewhere in the years following the park put in a light pole in the shape of a biplane at the very spot. (This park has been called the "Kitty Hawk" of Japan and used to be a training airfield for the Japanese during WWII). I now think of it as a memorial of our sons...

There are many different paths going through this huge park, and a lot of people were strolling, taking photos and enjoying the day.

We stopped for shaved ice -- with a mango flavored sauce -- at a stand in the middle of the area where our children have played on many occasions in the past.  At one point we sat listening to the sounds--if we closed our eyes it sounded like a day at the beach.  Nice!

As we walked on, we went past this ocarina ensemble.  It was enjoyable to listen in on a group of friends gathering on a nice Friday afternoon to "jam" together in the park.

Today is Good Friday.  The day we remember the death of Jesus. 

Cherry blossoms...The cherry blossom tree is known for its short yet brilliant blooming season which ends with an inevitable fall to the ground. For the Japanese masses this drama staged by the natural process of the tree was reminiscent of the natural way of human life where rise and fall are the main elements in limited time.
...Next door to us they are preparing for the funeral of the husband. We smelled the incense burning as we returned home. Tomorrow evening we neighbors are supposed to go offer respect. 

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16
...Two little boys that only a few ever met, yet were well known by their Creator.

Good Friday...
 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Romans 5:17

...Thankfully remembering Jesus Christ!

Monday, March 25, 2013

A week away

Our sons left for Thailand for an 8-day senior trip on March 15. Anticipating the first time to be "just the two of us" for that extended length of time, we made plans months ago to head to Singapore. We were able to get flights using miles and found a reasonably priced (for Singapore!) hotel in a great location.

Why Singapore?  It's warm, lovely and we have lots of friends there--so while we are still in this area, it made sense to us to go there!

We arrived on Sunday afternoon, and had dinner that evening with Stu and Hilary who serve with Asian Access from Singapore.  We've known them a long time -- Stan did their pre-marital counseling...

Monday we met up with SY who took us to the Hawker stands for lunch in Chinatown, then gave us a tour of her church. SY was at ICCS for 5 years.  Her friend D joined us later in the afternoon, and we walked along Clark Quay (pronounced Key) and then down to the Merlion.

At 7 pm we met up with some of the many who had served over Christmas holidays at ICCS. We had a great dinner and then moved to another location for coffee and wicked desserts!  Most of these folks haven't seen one another much since they were in Japan at ICCS.

On Tuesday night, A and R invited us out to dinner. We enjoyed Japanese Tepanyaki (we have never been to this kind of a restaurant in Japan). It was fun to hear more of their life stories, and to see their passion for seeing others come to Christ. They minister regularly at the prison in Singapore, and she is working hard to learn Japanese because it helps her when she comes to do volunteer work here. In addition to serving at ICCS and a few other churches in Japan,  she has volunteered in Tohoku doing relief work.

On Wednesday we were able to get together with the Lo family. He was at ICCS in the early '90s  for several years. We have stayed in contact through the years and Stan visited them when they were working in the States three years ago. They've recently moved to Singapore.

Our last evening we got together with S. She had been a part of ICCS in the early 2000's. We were stunned to realize she's been gone 8 years! Where has the time flown?  It was very special to catch up and we loved being able to pray for one another over the table at the organic restaurant, "real food."
We were told that the Singaporean past-time is eating.  We certainly embraced that during those five days!  

We also had a chance to visit the SIM East Asia Office, arriving in time for morning devotions. We went out to lunch with a group of them. The man  in the middle is the one who does Pastoral Care for people in this region. If you watched the video a few entries below, you see him in one of the soundbites. It was great to make face-to face contact with some of the people we'll interface with from the Charlotte office later this year.

There were other friends we never did get to see--several from other sending agencies who had been assigned to Japan earlier and others who had been to ICCS for short-term ministries.

In addition to people, we also saw sites--

Singapore is full of new luxury buildings. The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is one of the more distinguished ones, with three towers and a deck that looks like a ship on the top.  (We didn't stay there...)

There are older ones, too. Since we were flying on Sunday morning, we stopped by St. Andrews Anglican church for their evening service before meeting our friends for dinner. This building was built in 1865.  It was literally in the next block to our hotel.

There were mosques...

And Hindu temples...

There were museums, including this recreated chapel as part of the Changi Chapel and Museum. This described the imprisonment and difficulties experienced after the Japanese occupation of Singapore, and also featured information on the role of spiritual ministry and chapels that were constructed at various detention centers. And we had one disappointing afternoon going to Ft. Canning, hoping to see another WWII site, only to find that it was closed for renovation.

And where did we stay?  Our friends had heard of the place but didn't know that it offered lodging--

We were at the Singapore Recreation Club--originally built in 1905 and rebuilt in the 70's with the addition of a Residence Inn. Trip Advisor called it the best kept secret in Singapore. I'm not sure I'd go that far...but it was a nice room at a reasonable price and the location was amazing. We were two minutes to a metro transit stop.

Off the back terrace we could see the Padang -- an open playing field right in the middle of Singapore.

Here it is at night...

We had a wonderful time and each very full day went by so fast. We landed in Japan 15 hours ahead of the boys.

And our sons? Thanks to a source with access to their friends' photos, we have a glimpse into their time.

We don't remember this one looking so relaxed.

And this one told us he had a good time playing with kids at an orphanage and in the village.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Getting the family together

Stan and I recently went to a photo exhibit at a museum that struck a cord for us.  I apologize that the description came out a little blurred.  The photographer was living in New York, separated from his family in Singapore, and wanted to get a family photo with all members of the family.  He devised a way to take a video of family in one country  using Skype, project it on the wall in another country and pose those in the second country around the projection to take that joint photo.

This was one example of how the photos came out:

There were a number of these kinds of photos, and a few videos of how it was to pose every one together.  

I was left wondering how to do this with family members in three countries!

Friday, March 15, 2013

A quick look at SIM

Here is a brief video describing the ministries of SIM. We will be serving from their USA office in Charlotte, North Carolina beginning later this year. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

After the Retreat

Last week I attended the 20th Annual Women in Ministry Retreat sponsored by the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association. The theme was "Women of Royalty" -- hence the crowns. I appreciated spending time with some very good friends that have been a part of my life here in Japan. There were a few of us who were there from the original retreat held in 1993.

For me the greatest joy was being able to lead my Resiliency workshop. There were 16 women who attended, and I think really benefited from working on some tools to put into their personal resilience plans. I love being able to lead people to apply what they've learned--not to just talk about something they should do.

It was a little strange to leave--we'll experience  more of these feelings over the next few months.

Oh, I could have skipped the crown...

Sunday, March 03, 2013

20 years...The Women in Ministry Retreat

Over 20 years ago, I was a part of the founding leadership group of Women in Ministry (WIM) who had a vision to "equip, encourage and enhance missionary women in their ministry roles."  We were under the umbrella of the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA).  The time with this group was one of the most defining seasons of my career in Japan. Each woman pictured above was from a different mission organization. Most of them had been in Japan much longer than I had. Our meetings were enjoyable, instructive and inspiring. They also went long--its what can happen when you get a group of women together!

While I didn't have the experience and maturity  of these women, I did bring strategic thinking and organizational skills to the table.  That was helpful when we went to develop our first Women in Ministry retreat.  We didn't have much of a budget, and weren't sure what the response would be, so we decided  that our "speaker" would be a video series on depression from the Minerth Meier Clinic based on the book Happiness is a Choice. I don't remember the number of women who attended that first year, but it was more than we initially expected.  I don't know if there are photos from that time or not--it was back in the pre-digital days. I do have one memorable story from that retreat, but I am not going to write it in an open blog...

I continued to be involved for the next few years. When I was on home assignment in 1994, I visited a couple of conferences and made contacts for several other speakers including Kay Arthur of Precept Ministries, Pam FarrelJan Johnson, and Barbara Hughes.

In the late '90's I had to cut back on my involvement between my mom's cancer struggle and my responsibilities as the mom of twin toddlers. When we returned from our next home assignment in 2000, I was given the responsibility for Member Care for our Asian Access missionaries in Japan, and put my energies into our own organization.

Somewhere along the way, Asian Access and WIM began jockeying for dates each March at our favorite retreat center, the Megumi Chalet in Karuizawa. The retreats ended up being on successive weekends.  It was fairly difficult for me to attend (and afford) two retreats.  I led worship at one retreat (about 8 years ago) which I enjoyed very much, and two years ago I managed to get away for one day of the WIM retreat.

This week is the 20th Annual retreat for WIM, and I get to attend!   I have been asked to lead my Resiliency workshop. I am grateful to be able to be a part of the retreat this last year that I'm in Japan.

It helps that our Asian Access retreat is in May this year...