Saturday, May 24, 2014

"Language School Days" Friends

Over the last two months we have had the joy of having friends visit Charlotte who were in language school with us in Karuizawa, Japan. There is something very special about those people with whom you share a common challenge.

We attended Karuizawa Language School, sponsored by TEAM, from the fall of 1984 to the spring of 1986. There were two other couples from our mission up there (it was a 2-3 hour drive northwest of the Tokyo area) for part of our time.

We each had to give a talk in Japanese to graduate from the program.  Stan, rather than give a sermon, put together a story in a Japanese traditional storytelling form called rakugo. I think he was the first and only person to every present a message in that tradition at KLS!

I finished a few months earlier than the rest of my class, because we added a member to our family in February of that last year. 

Here's our graduating class. In the center of this photo, next to us, are Bob and Harriet. Stan and Harriet were part of our mission's first one-year short term program, beginning in the fall of 1979. They were each at different churches, teaching English and serving as catalysts to bring people into a relationship with church people and ultimately into a relationship with Jesus.

Harriet met Bob when he came for a summer short-term program a year later. They were married after they both returned to the US and went through the process to return as long-term missionaries. Stan came back to the US and met me... Both of us couples ended back in Japan in the summer of 1984 and spent those two years in language school and many more years in the Tokorozawa area afterward as friends and mission colleagues.  As a matter of fact, they waited outside the delivery room for news of our first-born, which counts pretty close to family to me!

It has been a number of years now since the Lord led them back to the US. Bob served as a pastor at a church in Morton, IL until just a few months ago. They brought teams to Japan to serve our mission family during our Spiritual Life retreats several years. We had a chance to take them to our favorite coffee house in Karuizawa--one where Bob and Stan had "DJ'ed" for their small FM radio station during language school.

So when they were planning a trip through this area last month we were excited to be able to introduce them to SIM, North Carolina BBQ, and our home. They are in a transition time and we were grateful to pray for them. We couldn't help but suggest some ways they might be able to join in the ministry at pressure of course!

Eddie and Wendy's time at language school overlapped with us one year. They were in Japan with another mission, and served in several churches outside the Tokyo area after language study. During one of the years that Stan taught Bible at the Christian Academy in Japan their son was one of his students. They also provided our dog, Teddy, a home on one of our home-assignments.

They returned to Canada several years ago for family reasons. The Lord has opened up a pastorate for him, and has also done some marvelous work in their family situation--a wonderful testimony of the transformation that is possible through the power of God at work in a person's heart.

At each of these visits we sat around a table at Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q and shared stories of God's faithfulness during our years in Japan as well as in the transitions back to life in North America.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Saturday, May 17, 2014

We do not take this responsibility lightly...

This morning I participated in a candidate screening meeting at SIMUSA.

We have just over 30 people here in Charlotte for a weekend event we call SIMStart.  These people have already filled out applications, had references send in their comments, been through telephone interviews, had their pastors talk with the selection coordinators, filled out personal histories and taken psych tests, and passed our preliminary screening processes in order to be invited here. The program  includes an introduction to SIM; our vision, mission and values; a talk about mission finances (for some the concept of support-raising is very new); an introduction to the concept of thriving as a missionary and some question and answer sessions.  There are also several interviews--both with US office staff and one extended interview with a psychologist. They go over personalized training requirements with our training team.   The weekend wraps up with a worship service and a final meeting with their selection coordinators--who lay out the final decisions of our candidate screening team.

These decisions we do not take lightly.  We are aware that the decisions we make can affect individuals, families, extended families, family generations to come, churches, us as a sending organization, the overseas fields that receive them, and the local people with whom they will interact. Each of us in the room has served overseas, and a majority of us are adult missionary kids. Some of us have served in field leadership roles. All of us hope the people we send are spiritually, emotionally, relationally, intellectually and physically healthy.

We also know that all of us are a work in process--so there are times we have to make recommendations that people wait, or they address certain issues through counseling, or they get into accountability relationships.Occasionally the process of this application reveals areas that are of major concern. And at times, these revelations are healing in themselves as people discover vocabulary to explain things they have struggled with in their lives, thereby giving them a direction to move toward personal growth.Sometimes they need to read a few books, reflecting and applying the principles learned. Sometimes we have to say "this isn't a good fit for you." And then there are the ones who can be summed up with the phrase "good to go."

I'm grateful to be a part of this process. I'm thankful that it isn't a rigid and harsh one. In a sense its the first place in the person's relationship with the mission where they experience the "one-another" care and encouragement that hopefully carries through from this time forward in their interaction with SIM. (Ok, for my friends in mobilization at SIM who are truly the first ones to interact with a potential candidate, I know you are also one-anothering through your application coaching involvement!)  And even when the answer is "no" it is from a heart of care and concern for the people involved.

I am grateful that the whole process is under-gird in prayer. We do not take this responsibility lightly.

Friday, May 02, 2014

It feels like all we did was eat!

We have had a friend from Singapore visiting with us for the past week.  He has done an interesting job of chronicling  his visit with photos. Every evening he has sent us an email with photos from the day.  Interestingly, most of the photos take place around a table.

We started Saturday with a Cracker Barrel breakfast--and the necessary rocking chair photo.

Sunday noon we had hamburgers.

Pizza and salad was the next meal.

Stan took him for Carolina BBQ on lunch.

We had our friends Peter and Ashley who are heading to Japan in the fall over for Japanese curry and introduced them to Mugi-Cha (barley tea). 

Two nights later we were hosting Ray, a coworker from Japan for a lasagna supper.

And tonight he treated us to dinner at a local restaurant.

I think he has enjoyed the taste of America though I'm guessing he'll be glad to get back to his Singaporean diet soon.

We were able to take him to a church he follows online. In addition, he and Stan were able to meet with the Extension Pastor of this church one morning, where he shared how some of the greeting and hospitality processes work in his mega church in Singapore.  He attended our local church on Sunday morning. He has spent time sharing a wide variety of information with our son. He's spent time at SIM with us and we have enjoyed hearing about how God is preparing him to head to Australia to attend Bible School in preparation for ministry.

Its been fun. Still, I think we won't take photos of our meals next week...