Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A look back - 2014

It has been an honor to have been a part of God’s work in the world this year through our service at SIM USA here in Charlotte.


With two missionary couples heading
to Japan.
Stan has been coaching several missionary appointees through the fund-raising process. The first family he coached arrived in Japan in September, fully supported!

Stan has been meeting with pastors to build relationships in an effort to develop partnerships with local churches who have missionaries going out with SIM. He is planning a February conference here for mission’s pastors from around the country. 


Stan praying for the Gospel Music
Team heading to Japan
Stan joined with mostly African-American staff from SIM in logistical support at the National African American Missions Conference in Virginia. While there, he also spent time training a Black Gospel Music ministry team which later went to Japan to share the Gospel.


A portion of the Member Care Team
Faith has been overseeing a sizable increase in the number of staff the SIM USA Member Care Department. In September they moved into a newly remodeled suite of offices created to be the Member Care Center. 

Both of us have participated in the screening of missionary candidates at 3 SIMStart retreats. Faith has taught the basics of Member Care and introduced the concept of Resilience to missionary appointees at 3 SIMGo training programs.

Missionaries who are experiencing challenges that require the support of specialists fall under Faith and her team’s responsibility. Some are restored to field ministry while others need to delay their return or end their overseas service.  Each one has a unique and confidential story with its share of joys and heartaches. 


Meeting the plane carrying two SIM
doctors and David Writebol
In August and September, Faith was a key member of the crisis team caring for the needs of our missionaries who were evacuated from Liberia due to Ebola. We both met two groups of evacuees at the airport and escorted them to the SIM campus where they were able to debrief, receive tender care and be kept out of the press limelight. 


One of our Asian Access
families at our Charlotte home.


Throughout the year we have enjoyed hosting ten Asian Access Japan missionaries and their nine children as they've come to Charlotte for debriefings and meetings. We are blessed to have an ongoing connection with our historical ministry family through the Strategic Partnership between Asian Access and SIM.




This year we have also been blessed to add the titles of Grandma and Grandpa to our names—we were able to see the little man in November when we were in the UK  for Faith to attend an SIM International Personnel Workshop.



As we have embraced these new opportunities—some planned and some not—we have found the Lord to be our strength and our shield. He has directed our paths as we trust in Him. We have experienced joy in our service.

Thank you for walking with us!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Say "thank you" tonight at your Christmas Eve service!

Having been a pastor's wife for many years, I am particularly sensitive to the people and their families who give up a "traditional" Christmas so you can have one.

Below are some schedule examples from churches we have connections. Picture yourselves serving in most or all of the services and the affect it might have on you and your family.

Church 1
CHRISTMAS EVE
3:00 - All Age Christingle Service
4:30 - All Age Christingle Service
6:30 - Carols by Candlelight
11:15 - Midnight Communion
CHRISTMAS DAY
9:00 - Holy Communion
10:30 - All Age Christmas Celebration (with Holy Communion afterwards)

Church 2
Christmas Eve Services:
Family service at 4 p.m.
Candlelight service at 8 and 11 p.m

Church 3
Christmas Eve Candlelight Celebrations:
5:00 pm 6:30 pm 8:00 pm

While for many, it is a service that comes from a grateful heart, for others it is difficult. It becomes a demand that competes with that "ideal" family Christmas. There will be some in their families 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?

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 and joy for 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?

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.… Luke 2:10, 11


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I'd love to tell the story...


In November I attended the SIM International Personnel Workshop in the UK. Member Care is organizational separate from Personnel in the US office, but often integrated in other offices. This workshop gave me an opportunity to meet people from both sending and receiving offices of SIM around the world. It has expanded my understanding of how we interface with other parts of our multinational organization.

I was asked to present the session on Resilience at the Personnel Workshop (pictured above) and appreciated being able to facilitate conversations on this subject.


One of the challenges of having a ministry that is focused on caring for missionaries through the storms of life is that I cannot fully tell you the story of what I've been doing...

Now that I'm near the end of my first year as the Director of Member Care for our mission, I've been reviewing the variety of situations that have come my way. To have a colleague say that I have had some of the most difficult cases he's ever seen, makes me realize that there is a reason why I feel a bit run down right now.

I need to be reminded that most of the missionaries we have serving overseas are well-adjusted and serving from a heart committed to love and obedience to Christ.

I also come to the end of this year grateful for God's amazing gift of staff to round out the care that we can provide our missionaries.  I cannot express how thankful I am to have a team where people are working in their strengths and passions, and we value each one's contributions. We have plenty of room to grow as a team, and life promises to never be predictable!

Thanks for praying for me, for us, even when we can't be specific.




Monday, November 24, 2014

Our final day in the UK

We have enjoyed our trip to the UK. All last week I was at a SIM International Personnel Workshop, but we have loved being able to visit our family here in the London area. Tomorrow we fly out, and so today we headed to Oxford for a sight-seeing trip.  Our son-in-law attended the Wycliffe College at Oxford and so was able to give us a first-hand tour of the area.


We stopped for lunch at the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inkling writers group met regularly.  We walked around a bit and then climbed the bell tower at the University Church where we could get a panorama of the area.






While up there we were able to get a great photo of the three of us above Oxford.


We were able to stop for coffee and get this little guy out of his pram for a while after our walk around.



Finally, we took off back to the car--our kids walking hand in hand, and us strolling the grandson. What a time of grace it has been for us to visit with these three. We will miss them, but are sure that this little man will now recognize us when we talk to him via Facetime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Love this grandparenting-in-person time!

We have had a wonderful time with our UK family the past week. We came here because I (Faith) have an International Personnel Conference with SIM staff from around the world at the SIM UK office. But since I was going to be in the neighborhood... I couldn't come without bringing the grandpa and staying some extra days.


Sunday was the day our grandson was dedicated to the Lord in the Anglican church where his daddy serves as assistant vicar. At the end of the morning, he was a little overwhelmed by people, but we were glad to get photos with him.


Later in the afternoon, after a nap, he was all smiles at a party held in his honor.  Its been great to see our daughter with her son. She is a wonderful mom.


Before the day was over, we made sure to get together with the other grandparents for a commemorative photograph.  What a delight to be able to have shared in this time in-person!


Sunday, November 09, 2014

One way to mark the partnership between Asian Access and SIM USA

In the courtyard between the Worship and Training Center and the building where my office has moved are six posts with signs pointing to the various countries where SIM USA missionaries are serving.  Not all countries have a sign, but many of them do. New missionaries like to get their photo taken next to the sign of the country where they anticipate moving. Those of us working here are reminded of how God has called our people to serve in many countries (now about 60) around the world.

Front Row:  Mary Jo Wilson, Asian Access (A2) VP for Japan, Stan & Faith (A2 for 30+years, now with SIM USA), Dorrie Takazawa, A2 Director of Training, Bob Hay, SIM USA Recruitment Coordinator, Life Coach and former missionary to Japan.      Back: Eric Ernst, SIM USA' s Personnel Director

The strategic partnership between Asian Access and SIM USA was initiated nearly three years ago, the missionaries serving in Japan shifted to being SIM USA missionaries on the personnel rolls, and little by little these folks are coming through Charlotte to meet their new family. Several times people have asked us where the Japan sign was.  Mary Jo Wilson, the Asian Access VP for Japan, came to Charlotte for meetings here in October.  Also in Charlotte at the same time was Dorrie Takazawa, who is serving as the Asian Access Director of Training. Anticipating their visit, we arranged for the sign to be made and presented to them in person.


Mary Jo was then able to actually attach it to the sign post.  She mentioned when she saw the number of miles from Charlotte to Japan (thanks to google, of course) that it is also nearly the same number of churches currently in Japan.  We hope to see many, many new missionaries get their photos next to the Japan sign in the years to come. Please pray with us that God will raise up more people to serve Him in that country!



Saturday, November 08, 2014

A Place Set Apart

The SIM Member Care department is enjoying our new office suite. We took over some offices in what used to be living rooms in the "Lodge." The space was remodeled extensively and designed to give our missionaries a place of peace as they come to meet with our staff.

We moved into this new set of offices in early September, and are gradually feeling settled here.  A few weeks ago the door was repainted and recently the sign was put up.

As you can see in the reflection in the windows, the south-facing debriefing rooms have a lovely view of major green space on our Charlotte campus.  While my office doesn't face this, my view will be cherry blossoms in April!

Saturday, November 01, 2014

You're Worthy of our Praise


Our SIM byline is "By Prayer" and we open each work day with a time of worship and prayer.  We cover prayer for our missionaries, our donors,  the countries that SIM missionaries are sent from and the countries where SIM missionaries are serving. 

Once in a while Stan gets to lead this at our Charlotte office.  If you know him, you are aware of how much he enjoys this.  This week he led Tuesday and Wednesday.  It was delightful to walk into chapel and hear this ensemble of musicians leading us in "You're Worthy of our Praise."

Are you interested in joining us in prayer?  Please click this link to go to SIM's prayer reminders.

Here is another link to a SIM USA Daily Prayer Guide

Thursday, October 16, 2014

MORE connecting the dots

You may remember that we spent quite a bit of time in late July and August involved in caring for the SIM missionaries who were evacuated from Liberia.  We are very grateful that God enabled our missionaries, Nancy Writebol and Rick Sacra, as well as our partner missionary Kent Brantly, to overcome the Ebola virus.  The Writebols are living in the Charlotte area and come into the US office frequently for interviews.  

A couple of weeks ago, they were flown to London for an interview with a Swedish news crew. (I guess that was something like almost meeting in the middle...)  This week we heard from a Norwegian friend of ours who attended the International Community Chapel of Saitama (ICCS) when he and his family served as missionaries in Japan.  He saw the interview, captured some screen shots and sent them to Stan.


Stan saw the Writbols in the office a couple of days later and showed them the photos.


Our friends told us Nancy's testimony was well presented. God has given her so many opportunities to honor God and what He has done in her life.

And once again God connects the dots in our lives!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Connecting the dots



Stan and I joined Joe Handley, President of Asian Access,  Bruce Johnson, President of SIM USA, and his lovely wife Mary for dinner a week ago. I have appreciated that even though we are no longer officially "Asian Access" missionaries, we have this ongoing connection through the Strategic Partnership between our two missions. The Johnsons also were with Asian Access before joining SIM.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Reset

In a couple of days we will have officially come to the end of the summer of 2014. I am not sure what I expected it to be like. Throughout the spring I kept hearing that summers are busy at SIM.  Now I understand.  We had many missionaries through the office for debriefings as they began home assignments. We had two screening retreats, two appointee training programs, one prayer retreat for missionaries on home assignment, and an Ebola crisis.  That last one was unanticipated.
A few months ago we made vacation plans for early September, expecting to be more than ready for it after the yet-to-have-experienced busyness of summer. Since we enjoy history, we reserved a time share in Williamsburg, VA just a short distance from Colonial Williamsburg.  The week before we were to leave, the news came that Dr. Sacra had come down with Ebola.  Gratefully, he was able to be evacuated quickly, and others were able to step in and provide the Member Care support needed for him and his family -- and Stan and I took off on this vacation.



We were blessed with a beautiful first day, and enjoyed gathering to hear various historic persons in reenactments.  Here Stan (in the straw hat) is in the back of a crowd listening to John Madison bantering with another Colonist.  From hearing the Declaration of Independence read on the steps of the courthouse, to watching canons fired, we walked through the 1770's. It rained lightly the next two days, so we enjoyed various indoor venues including a few museums.



We saw the portrait of the last queen of America, Queen Charlotte, in both the State House and the Governors Mansion. She has become a curiosity to me since I now live in the city named after her.




This trip included two significant dates. First, it started on Stan's Birthday.  A big one. And then we celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary with a visit to Historic Jamestown. We enjoyed the time together, and were grateful that we could actually get away together, alone.

There are currently archaeological excavations going on of Fort Jamestown. One of the archaeologists led a fascinating tour. And then we went on another tour with a ranger from the National Park service. The following day we drove to Yorktown. And on our way out of town we went to the "Jamestown Settlement," a recreation of the Fort--a great place for school trips.


As we drove back toward Charlotte on Friday evening, it was as if our minds had been through a "reset." I felt ready to head back to work after the week away.


It wasn't only my mind that had gone through a reset, though.  In my absence, my department was finally able to move into offices that have recently been remodeled and expanded into a Member Care Center.  While I had moved my things before I left, everything else was brought in by others the week I was gone. I'll post about this as we get more settled.  

With this new office space, we will be able to comfortably meet with our missionaries for their debriefing sessions and have our own designated space for meetings and small group training sessions. Several of my staff will finally be able to make phone calls in private without having to find an empty office like they did in our old setting.

The next reset is that I am adding staff to my department--seven over the next two months!

Monday, September 01, 2014

The second year in a row...

Last year we attended the second day of a Revolutionary War reenactment at Latta Plantation  about 25 minutes from our home. This year we went to the first day of what is an annual event commemorating the Revolutionary War Battle of Charlotte and the "Hornets Nest" battle that took place in September of 1780.


Here was our vantage point as the colonists were braced to shoot at the oncoming "red coats" -- while we were being held back behind the yellow line.


Same photo -- no crowds.  Being there for a second year in a row, we recognized some of the reenactors. The man on the left in the long brown coat has fashioned himself after Mel Gibson in the Patriot. He looked better in his long blue coat last year...


You can see the British advancing...


Getting a bit more serious...


And then the colonists ran, to fight another day...  except for the few that were "dead" on the ground.


I couldn't help but think -- you ran away from these old men? And three were wearing sun glasses...


And they kept chasing them across the field and down the road... Except for the one man leaning against the tree yelling that he had been shot in his "bum" -- a line he used in the other battle last year...


Last year we wandered through the British encampment. This year we spent time over in the colonists area. Stan was chatting with the cannon guys.  I wandered over to a tent of women who were doing various handcrafts and had a delightful conversation with a woman who had been doing this for 34 years, raising her family in the 6th NC Historical Reenactment Society.


As we walked away, it occurred to me that we had done something in the US we've not done since the late 80's--visited an event two years in a row.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I am ready to slow down...

On July 27 I got a call from the President of SIM USA telling me that because two missionaries affiliated with SIM, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, had just been diagnosed with Ebola, I was now on the Rapid Response Team that was interfacing with our entire missionary team in Liberia.  As the Director of Member Care, my role was to be the primary interface between the US office and most of our US staff still in Liberia.

Thus began about two weeks of nearly 24-7 work, with international phone calls, emails and texts. Liberia's 8 a.m. was my 4 a.m. and because of the urgent nature of our decisions, I was up several times between 4 and my normal wake-up time responding to messages and was frequently home from the office mid-evening, only to have to spend time on the computer.


Besides covering for me in nearly every area of keeping our home functioning, Stan helped with driving one of three vans to Atlanta to meet a plane with 8 "non-essential" but pretty special missionaries and their children. After SIM and our partner, Samaritans Purse, were able to get the two ill missionaries evacuated to Emory University Hospital, we focused on bringing our remaining staff back.

Stan and I joined a small entourage that met a charter plane with our two missionary physicians and the husband of our sick missionary. The photo to the right came from Stan's cell phone--and in the original (which I do not have tonight) one can see that David is greeting me on the tarmac.

Once we had our people back on US soil, I was able to sleep longer at night, but still spent a good portion of each day focused on directing the team that cared for these dear people.


Arrangements were made for them to stay in an RV park in an isolated area on our mission campus. A number of people on my Member Care team took part in meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our missionaries.


Photo by Bethany Fankhauser
It was with an incredible sense of gratefulness to God that we celebrated the release of Nancy Writebol and Kent Brantly last week. The photo of Nancy and her husband on the right, reunited after more than 21 days apart, captures their joy and fills me with awe for God's work in their lives--and His mercy on us all.

And soon these missionaries will all be on their way to somewhere else--its time for them to go back to see families, take much-deserved family vacations, and assess with their supporting churches and families how they can continue to serve God during this time while waiting for conditions to change so they can return to Liberia.

My work will continue with our SIM USA Liberian team, but it will be less intense and not  face-to-face once they leave Charlotte. I have been honored to serve them in this difficult time, and am going to miss my daily update meetings with them.

For a complete set of stories related to SIM and our response to this Ebola Crisis, please go to http://simusa.org/ebolacrisis. And if you wish to be a part of helping SIM continue to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, there is a link to a giving portal on that page.

Stan and I have a vacation scheduled for early September--we're especially thankful for the timing and look forward to getting away. I am definitely ready to slow down for a little while, and trust that nothing will deter us from this time. (You can pray towards that end!) We will be celebrating a big birthday for Stan and our wedding anniversary during this week away, as well.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Sending them on...


A little less than a year ago, we met the couple on the right at the SIMStart Candidate retreat. Peter and Ashley had sensed God was leading them to prepare to serve overseas, begun preparing but didn't have a location to serve. That weekend, they were introduced to the opportunities in Japan and our hearts were bonded to them.  Along the way they added a second daughter and raised their full support.  This family of six leave next month to begin their first three-year term of service at a church in the Tokyo area. It has been a delight to travel with them in this journey.

And then a few months ago, Rachel and Shelbey attended SIMStart. They thought about missions for a long time and are familiar with Japan. They grew up watching Japanese ANIME.  They  are studying Japanese from their marshal arts instructor.  Last month they were here with us for SIMGo, the appointee training program we offer for two weeks.  Now starts the process of raising support and fulfilling other requirements before they are ready to go.

Stan is serving as a coach for the appointees preparing for Japan. If you know him, you know how much he enjoys encouraging people to step out in faith as they discover those whom God has prepared to support them financially and in prayer along the way.

It has given us great joy to be able to see God lead others to head to Japan and serve through the SIM and Asian Access partnership. And having one person or family interested in Japan at each SIMStart could get habit forming!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

"oh for a thousand tongues to sing..." Try 13,000!

I think the first time I was ever in an arena singing praises to the Lord was at Urbana '73, the mission conference sponsored by Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. It was awesome to sing "It is well with my soul"  along with 18,000 people.  

Last night, the music was different, but the "awesomeness" was there as Stan and I went to the "Elevation Worship Live Event" at Time-Warner Arena here in Charlotte. 


Over 13,000 people joined in a live album recording of songs that are sung weekly at Elevation Church. This is a church that meets in multiple locations and has an extensive online ministry as well.

Our third Sunday in Charlotte last year, we attended an Sunday evening service there, and were moved by an awareness of the Spirit at work.  The following two Sundays we witnessed several hundred baptisms.  To weary missionaries returning from Japan where we saw 30-40 people baptized in the 23 years at our church, this was like pouring water on parched ground.  In total over all campuses those two weekend, 3,000 people made this step of faith.

While we have a local church (half-a-mile away from our home) where we attend and are beginning to get involved, we have continued to attend Elevation frequently on a Saturday evening.


I had been looking forward to attending this for months. Events that are happening in our world, however, took over my life this week and I have been in a 24-7 mode on behalf of some very special people. Two days ago, it appeared that I would need to travel elsewhere on Friday, and I was doing fine until I realized it would mean missing this concert.  Like everything else this week, things changed, and my Friday evening opened up again.

The first song was "Unstoppable God."  The words of the refrain are:

Unstoppable God
Let Your glory go on and on
Impossible things
In Your name they shall be done

This has been a week of impossible things. Being able to sing in affirmation that our God is at work in those, for His Glory and in His name was a great affirmation.

So whether a cappella in four part harmony, or following words on a screen and massive sound, I am reminded that one day we will join with thousands upon thousands of people worshiping before the throne as we see in Revelation 7:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”




Monday, July 14, 2014

I choose to "be home."

Yesterday we crossed the one year mark.  One year since we left Japan and arrived in the US. If you've been following us, you may remember that Psalm 84 was my passage for this major transition.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

While we certainly aren't finished with our pilgrimage, the Lord has blessed us in the process of following His lead to serve Him from the US.  So as we passed this one-year milestone, it seemed appropriate to finally put some pictures on the walls of our home.  


We have collected pictures we brought from Japan, stored in the US or inherited from our parents over this last year, and stashed them in corners not being ready to put them up.  A few days ago I began pulling some of those out and placing them around the house, looking for the "right" place to hang them.  Each one tells a part of our story and in hanging them last night, it was as if we were affirming where we've come from.

In the living room we're still trying to figure out what we want above the mantle, but to the left of the windows is a calligraphy drawn for and presented to my mother by one of my ladies Bible classes when she visited Japan in 1996 with me. It is the Japanese character for Love.  To the right is a block print presented to us by the Asian Access family at our farewell last spring.


We have another "Japanese" corner being developed, where we hung a block print of a Japanese lady presented to us by a Bible Study we participated in with Japanese young professionals. These couples had first encountered Christians in the US and then were brought together by US business professionals who were affiliated with the Navigators.  The block print of Mt. Fuji was one of our "treasured finds" at the semi-annual thrift shop held at our children's school -- the Christian Academy in Japan.


At the landing half way up our stairs we put a cross stitch that I worked on the fall of 1988 as an affirmation of faith in a time of great personal loss.  I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1


In the dining room (aka my "home office") we hung two tributes to my family.  The painting on the left is from Brazil--it hung above my parent's fireplace for years.  The print on the right was bought by my mother when I was back in the US on one of my personal visits while she was dying of cancer. She did several things to get the house "ready" for my Dad before she died and purchasing this picture for their dining room was one of them.


And then we hung two more memories in our foyer. To the right is a cross stitch our second daughter did as one of her senior home economics projects in high school. She started it after I brought it back from  my mother's unfinished crafts pile. Mom had stitched a 1 X 2 inch section, and then folded up and put it in her drawer. To the left, partially hidden by the light fixture, is the thumb print tree that our church, The International Community Chapel of Saitama, gave us at our farewell party a little over a year ago.

And can you detect the habit that we've carried with us since leaving Japan?  Our foyer doesn't yet have a shoe cabinet, but I think we'll need to find one...

As we continue on this pilgrimage, we are grateful for the strength that the Lord gives.  We go from strength to strength until we each appear before God. This has not been a private pilgrimage--we are extremely thankful for each one who has joined us on the pilgrimage through their prayers, encouragement, financial support and friendship.  Even as we increasingly feel more "at home" with our new location, we are still on the journey of following God's call to see people from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne of our God.  Revelation 7:9