Sunday, April 03, 2016

10 years of blogging, and now is the time...

In early March of 2006, I wrote the following first entry to this blog:

Joining the 21st Century
Some days there are so many tidbits in "life in Japan" that we want to share. Letters don't quite give enough opportunities, and e-mail updates get too lengthy if we insert these thoughts. So, we are going to join the 21st Century and start blogging!

We had returned to Japan from our fourth home assignment, having left our oldest daughter back in the US following high school, and as usual for us in the real estate market in Japan, we had trouble finding a place to rent.  We ended up in an apartment--a strangely shaped apartment--that turned out to be my personal favorite place to live as I reflect on our 30 years in there. My third post was a complete floor plan  and photos.

Over the next seven years, I included sights, sounds, adventures, and stories of our life and ministry as missionaries in Japan. This is an amazing chronicle as I look back on these posts.  Some were about the practicalities of living in Japan, like Cloudy with a High Probability of Wet Clothes, and how we had to hire a crane to bring in our refrigerator to our last house, and then move it out again a few years later... I shared about playing with your food... When I search for ICCS, the International Community Chapel of Saitama, the church that we helped plant and where Stan served as pastor for most of our time in Japan, I get 103 listings. And Asian Access, our mission for the time we were in Japan, comes up in 110 posts.

There were family achievements, like tracking our second daughter's theatre performances  for both high school and college. There was the blog that gave all the time stamps for where our oldest daughter, as a background actress, was spotted in Oceans 13. And one we don't talk about with the two young men involved (and neither should you!) but memorable for the rest of us there...ruining our day at the beach. There are 10 posts that talk about airport goodbyes--THAT is a reality of missions. Before one of those goodbyes, that second daughter went on a Tokyo tour with me. We announced our oldest daughter's engagement, and shared wedding photos, and then were grateful to get our whole family together for our sons' graduation and more recently a family reunion here in Charlotte.

The amazing thing to me is that many of the most read posts were for things that really have nothing to do with our ministry.  Spaghetti Bridges and the Costco Food Court in Iruma Japan top that list.  I still marvel at how easy it is to find seating at the local Charlotte Costco Food Court after my years of that experience in Japan! Others that had a lot of traffic included those weird experiences of juxtaposition--internal angst while seeing something very unusual such as the Santa Parade. Several of our posts for the home assignment where we followed Rt 66 get high traffic as well. 

On the other hand, the second most read post is a very personal one I wrote late last spring, reflecting on the premature birth of twins at the end of our first term in Japan. And then there was the one "Confirmations" where I reflected on how God was revealing and confirming the direction He had for me in Member Care. And then there was the announcement that we were leaving Japan to transition to working at SIM USA's home office. I wrote throughout the transition process, and then on into these last few years of making Charlotte "home" for us.

I have written 656 published entries, and I am grateful for this chronicle of our lives and the opportunity to share it with many.  Yet, I have increasingly found it difficult to write.

  • My work involves the training, preparation, on-field and returning care of missionaries. There are themes to what I do that could be topics of a blog post*, but much of what I do encompasses personal and confidential information. 
  • Our family is at a stage where all the kids are young adults and I need to exercise respect for their personal lives.** 
  • Living in Charlotte has become more routine, and while there are occasionally unique experiences related to being in the US, it isn't quite the fodder for a blog that being an American in Japan was 10 year ago.

I've concluded that now is the time to stop adding to this blog.  If you've come to this page because you want to know something about us, there are links that talk about our ministry and how to be a prayer and financial partner (we still need those important people in our lives!) at the top of the page.

May this stand as a testament to the faithfulness of God through an important stage in our life and ministry. The years described here are some of the more difficult ones for missionaries--the middle years--when children begin launching, when parents are aging, when unanticipated events take place, and difficult decisions have to be made.  And hopefully you find some amusement here as well, since that is part of what helps us to be resilient in the face of ever changing circumstances.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5 & 6

 * I have a member care blog that I am planning to revitalize, which is the right place for these musings.
** I am considering a legacy blog for my family, which would not be public.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sunday, January 17, 2016

These painful, joyful days

Life often brings us joy juxtaposed with pain. Last week, Sarah Lantz, a surgeon that served at one of our hospitals in Zambia, died following a fight with cancer. Sarah was young, dynamic, very skilled and insightful. My favorite blog of hers described the challenges of being a missionary surgeon written last February.

Sarah went through her Candidate Training program the first fall we were here in Charlotte, and we got to know her a bit. When she was heading to Zambia and needed to clear out her apartment, we inherited some of her furniture.

When she returned to the US in August to find out what this lingering illness was that she was experiencing, it turned out that she had advanced breast cancer.  People around the world rallied to pray for Sarah's healing as part of Team Sarah. She started a rigorous chemo schedule, but over the months was unable to continue this.  It was just a few weeks ago when the Caring Bridge reports started to sound like Sarah wasn't going to be with us much longer.  In the months leading to her death she lived as fully as she could, and friends and colleagues from around the world stopped by to visit her at her parent's home. When we got the news last week that she had slipped into Jesus' arms it was so painful for the whole community.

And as I was responding to this, I saw that another friend's mother was declared officially in remission. Joy and pain.

Friday evening in a country across the Atlantic, terrorists attacked a hotel and killed a number of foreigners. Contacting our people in that country we learned that while our staff was not in the attack, among the dead was  a missionary who was a good friend to many of our people. Grief. Pain.

And the next day we heard that Pastor Saeed, whose release from prison in Iran has been prayed for earnestly by many over the years, was released as part of the prisoner exchange. Joy. Relief.

And with waves of these events coming through it is easy to feel like a pin ball, bouncing off the walls of the machine, with paddles propelling it to the next level.

The app I use for my prayer list closes each session with this:
Now may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
Whenever I get to that prayer, I try to soak it in. His peace helps me through these painful, joyful days.