Pacing and Praying
We returned from Karuizawa on Monday after our Annual Asian Access Japan retreat. The pace of this retreat was very welcome--the messages were on prayer, and a prayer team came from the States to minister to us through out the time. There was lots of "white space" in the schedule which was a gift to all of us who are in some way or another in need of time to catch up with ourselves.
We were honored on Saturday afternoon with a farewell celebration. Hopefully I'll get a link to the slide show and share it with you. We also were blessed to have our daughters join us through Skype--though that meant one was up past midnight and the other had just gotten out of bed in the morning. And Stan did a couple of his comedy routines at the Family Fun night on Sunday evening. (For those who have seen them, he did Betty Lou, and the Neil Diamond "America" reprise).
On Tuesday morning, Stan headed to a four-day Prayer Summit. He was at the first one in Japan 19 years ago, and has attended several through the years. This seemed like good timing for him.
I met up with some ladies from the ICCS Ladies Bible Study on Wednesday for a great lunch at a Brazilian restaurant in Tokyo. It was delightful to spend time with them around the table, and I shared my "favorite verse" with them--Proverbs 3:5 & 6. I know that each one of these women wants to follow Christ more and more in their lives, and I expect they will continue to encourage one another in the future.
Today I was at the Asian Access office going over some aspects of my role that are being picked up by others now. I am thankful for a competent and willing team and leave them to grow in their tasks. And I am at peace that they will do well.
Stan still has a few weeks of sermons ahead. Our church is joining two others in Tokorozawa on Sunday for the Global Day of Prayer, and he has been a part of that planning, and then he preaches at ICCS the 26th, June 2nd and June 9. The transition leadership team is planning on a congregational meeting on the 26th to go over details of their plans for the next phase. And they are planning a farewell for us on June 9 and all our children will be with us!
I have a calendar that I've used for the past 4 1/2 months that shows that we're nearing the 8-weeks-to-go mark. Tomorrow I have a phone call scheduled with the shipping company that we're going to use to send our household goods back to the US. We are making good progress in going through things, and throwing substantial amounts away. I am amazed at how much freedom I feel when I walk away from those garbage bags put out on the curb!
We still have some things to work through--like what to do with the things we aren't going to take..."garage sales" aren't too very common here! We also need to find a place to stay the last week and a half or so before we close up this house. We don't need it now, so I am trying not to worry about that one...
I still stay awake at night wondering how it will all get done--yet know that it is possible if I continue to pace myself well. It appears that we have raised close to 40% of the shipping cost which has to be paid at the end of June, and we trust God will provide the remainder in time.
Meanwhile, it is a matter of taking things one day at a time. Pacing ourselves as best we can. If you are a praying person, please pray that we get restful sleep. My earnest prayer is that we will make it through this moving season healthy in mind, soul and body, enjoying our final days with friends here while we wrap up all those loose ends.
Oh the changes we've seen! (And God has faithfully provided!)
We are progressing through boxes of files--some that haven't been opened in five to ten years. Today Stan took 100 kg (~220 pounds) of paper to the city refuse center. Since there was quite a bit of personal data involved, we wanted it to be delivered straight to the incinerator, rather than to be recycled.
Even though we are throwing much away, we are also discovering treasures. For instance, I discovered our first support profile requiring $2,800 per month plus $7,275 for outgoing expenses. Lets just say it's considerably more than those figures now!
The chart above illustrates how many yen you could get for $1 over the past 29 years. When we first came to Japan as a couple, the dollar would buy about 250 yen. Within that first year, the yen began to get stronger. The average over our whole career has been around 120 yen. But in the past four years, the dollar hasn't been above the 100 yen mark, and averaged around 84 yen.
I suppose another way to illustrate this is with the 100 yen bottle of Coke
When we first arrived, that 100 yen bottle of Coke was about 40 cents.
The average over our whole career has been round 85 cents.
The past four years, it has been $1.20.
(By the way, we have a Coke bottle collection from various countries in Asia. Our movers have told us we can't ship the bottles to the US with the liquid in them. We're debating whether to have a coke-tasting party before packing the bottles, or pack them full in our checked luggage...
Now many people don't really get into the numbers, so let me tie this all together.
When God led Stan and I to come to Japan, he provided funding through generous individual givers and churches, and that $2,800 per month was met amply.
As the years moved on, that monthly support figure ballooned because of cost of living, size of family and kids' education expenses, benefit and tax costs, along with the decreasing value of the dollar versus the yen. The Lord continued to provide through generous individuals and churches.
God has been faithful and His people have been faithful. As we come to the next funding challenge (relocating to the US is going to take more than that initial outgoing expense 29 years ago!) we trust in His provision as well. And yet, there are those times when the refrain of the song 'Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus
so clearly expresses my heart...
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er.
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus
O for grace to trust Him more.
Ten weeks and counting
It seems like a long-time ago that we told you how God was leading us to relocate to Charlotte, North Carolina to serve globally from the SIM USA sending office. Last October that we shared how Faith was asked to become the SIM USA Director of Member (Missionary) Care and Stan to utilize his pastoral and people skills in a portfolio of opportunities at the mission headquarters.
Now we are 10 weeks away from our departure and we are looking at shipping estimates, trying to sell furniture on Tokyo Craigslist, and sorting through boxes that we've stashed in closets in order to downsize what we take.
Last Wednesday, Faith had her last Bible study for the ladies of ICCS. At the same time, Stan was speaking for his last time at the Chapel of the Christian Academy in Japan. This week we attend our final spring retreat as Asian Access missionaries. Faith completes her responsibilities as Member Care Coordinator for the mission at the end of that retreat. On June 9 Stan will preach his final sermon at ICCS and we will enjoy a farewell celebration that afternoon with friends and all the members of our immediate family. (If you're in the Tokorozawa area, stop on by!)
|Fall, 1984 outside our Language School|
Over the past two months we've gone through and scanned many photos covering the 34 years of ministry in Japan. It has been a great season of remembrance and thanksgiving as the photos reminded us of people we served along side, others who heard the Gospel or were strengthened in their faith through our ministry.
We are also beginning to think more about the future and looking forward to using our life and ministry experiences as we share in the SIM USA office Mandate of Connecting God's people to God's work in the world. It is exciting to consider how we will be part of the mission movement, not only in Japan, but in 65+ countries around the globe as we serve from the States.
Thank you for praying with us through this season of transition. As we get closer to departure, we treasure your continued prayer for the myriad of decisions we have to make, resources needed to relocate, and emotional and relational stamina to leave Japan well.
The End of an Era
Yesterday I led my last Bible Class at the International Community Chapel of Saitama. It was fitting that our final lesson was on the Resurrection. We started with Mark 16 but then went to the parallel accounts in the other Gospels. For many of the ladies it was the first time to cross reference the accounts. Each one has a little different perspective. We found it interesting how the women in the story are entrusted with the message, even though the disciples have trouble believing them. And we were grateful that we are a part of those called blessed, who not having seen yet have believed (John 20:29).
I have been leading Bible Studies at the church for most of the past 22 years. I clearly remember that our first study was based on the book, What Happens When Women Pray
. That year, one of the members asked us to pray that she would be able to have a child. We prayed, and a few months later she stopped coming. Eventually we received a phone call from her husband letting us know that she had been under bed rest through a difficult pregnancy! Their son is now college age.
In early 1994 we had a women's retreat. The speaker was the wife of the man in Japan coordinating the Billy Graham crusade that year. At that point we had several military wives attending, and we were able to rent space at a US military recreation facility for the retreat.
Looking at this photo, I am reminded again about a time in studying First Peter, how the lady, second from the right, top row, realized the significance of 1:18 & 19. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. Sadly, to my knowledge, she never turned from the religious system that was handed to her from her ancestors to receive the redemption of Jesus Christ.
Here is a picnic with another season of study. We enjoyed a picnic under the Cherry Trees.
A couple of these women are foreign wives of Japanese. For many years this has been a group of women who have been dear to my heart. The challenges of cross cultural living are made even more difficult by faith journeys that are different from their Japanese spouse. I have been honored to be able to remind them of the fundamentals of God's love for them and His goodness.
This photo is from April, 1996, when I had returned from the US with our sons. My mother had accompanied me back and we met together with the Bible study group.
I am very grateful for the opportunity to bring women to the Word these many years. I trust that God has used it in many of their lives to challenge and strengthen their faith. I hope that others will step up to fill any gaps that I leave in this aspect of ministry. Most of all, though, I hope that these women will have learned that they can read and understand the Bible for themselves, especially through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the process.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16
Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. Acts 20:32
Cherishing the Cross
Tomorrow I lead my last Bible study with the dear ladies from ICCS. We will complete a walk through the Gospel of Mark. I have found this time with these particular ladies very encouraging to my own soul this year. I haven't been using someone else's study, and I haven't done intensive inductive Bible Study (just ran across my training notebooks from the mid '90's to become a Precept Leader). Probably we've been a little closer to Jill Briscoe's style of "looking around the corner" approach as we've taken the text and I've tried to put skin on the narrative as written so as to make it more than black and red words on a white page.
When we met last time, we looked at Mark 15, the passage on the death and burial of Jesus. As we went through those very familiar passages of Jesus being tortured by the soldiers, and then the crucifixion, I saw that the ladies were beginning to connect with the story on a more personal level. They were also interested in the ladies who were at the crucifixion, and the burial.
When we finished, I pulled out the hymnals (remember those books?) We turned to the section of songs related to the cross. One of the ladies asked me to sing through them, because she wasn't sure she had heard them before. If you'll remember, while our study is in English, it is not the ladies' first language... Once they heard me sing through a verse, they would either recognize it, or not recognize it.
We came to the Old Rugged Cross. I pulled out my iPhone and played my favorite version performed by Chris Rice which they enjoyed, but it left them confused as to whether they knew the song or not. I rummaged around for a Japanese hymnal and as soon as I found it they recognized it. Another woman, originally from Korea, heard the song and it brought her back to memories of her brother as this was his favorite song. She began singing it in Korean, while another woman moved to the piano to begin to play it. I think we were singing it in three languages at the same time, and there were tears flowing.
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
George Bennard, 1913 Tomorrow we read about the Resurrection. I'm never quite sure how the study will unfold, but I'm expecting that we will be able to identify with the women who left the tomb trembling and bewildered, and we will also rejoice at the Good News, and find hope because He lives!
After the mess...
This past week has been a productive week for us -- both Stan and I worked hard taking a "first pass" through our stuff. We are thankful that we were able to accomplish a fair amount over these days. On Tuesday morning, Stan took a van-load to the garbage center. On Wednesday evening, we took a van-load to the Christian Academy in Japan "Thrift Shop" to be sold.
While driving to the school, we stopped for some Gelato as a reward for these accomplishments. I enjoyed a Belgian Chocolate and Espresso mix, Stan had a delicious strawberry milk cone. After dropping everything off, we stopped at a local steak restaurant for dinner together.
On Thursday the temperatures had risen to the mid '70's and we decided to walk over to the local park, Kokukoen, after picking up boxed lunches on the way.
We sat under an arbor of wisteria to eat our lunch. It was delightful. When we finished, we walked through more of the park.
On our way back home we also enjoyed the dogwood near our train station.
This next week we enter the next phase. We will be getting estimates for our international move from several companies. We will appreciate prayers for discernment as we make these decisions. We have a guess as to how much it will cost and hope we don't get sticker shock.
First, we make a mess...
The semi-annual "thrift shop" at the Christian Academy in Japan will be held next Friday and Saturday. Twice a year we have the opportunity to add or subtract from our belongings...
These two weeks prior to thrift shop are major for us as we try downsizing our "stuff" in anticipation of an international move. It provides us with reasons to open those closets and drawers that normally don't see the light of day. We are making progress, I think...
It's hard to tell because first, we make a mess. While not quite like the illustration, it affects my mind the same way this drawing does--I am much more comfortable in a clean, clear, orderly environment. But it is hard to do a good job of sorting things to sell, ship or throw without scattering them across the room. Gratefully, I am able to close the door on the main room we're using as base camp on this project. But a week from now, it better be "guest-room ready!"
The hardest things for both of us to dispose of are those "someday I can fix/make/use this" items. But I think there will be incredible freedom once they are gone!
As long as we don't discover after-the-fact that we need them in the next three months.
No Greater Joy!
We had the privilege of spending Sunday, the 24th of March at the church where Stan served when he first came to Japan in 1979.
Stan came as an English teacher as part of the pilot Church OutReach Evangelism (CORE) program with Language Institute for Evangelism. (We've been here long enough to have been through two name changes with the same mission organization!)
The Unoki Church is in the town of Unoki in southwestern Tokyo. While to get there one goes through very wealthy and trendy suburbs, Unoki was a poorer area. The founding pastor, Pastor K. and his family literally built the church over his father's 1-story house. He was assisted by a young man who went on to plant several other churches.
Stan lived on the third floor and was a part of the pastor's family throughout his 10 months there. He was about the 4th in a series of short term missionaries that had worked at this church, and the Lord blessed him with seeing much spiritual fruit during his time at Unoki.
Pastor K. passed a way a few years ago, and the young man who helped build the church, has come back as pastor. Mrs. K. continues to live in the church and has a wonderful ministry of prayer and encouragement.
It was very precious to spend some time with her again. Not only was she there, but all three of her daughters and some grandchildren were also at the service the Sunday we visited.
Here are a portion of those attending the church that Sunday. The pastor is to the left of Stan as you look at this photo.
Monika, the oldest K. daughter, translated for Stan -- While he lived at Unoki she didn't speak much English, and he didn't speak much Japanese, yet they both understood one another. Monika is now an excellent English speaker -- and has a home only about 1 1/2 hours away from Charlotte, NC!
One of the great joys for Stan was to have his former student, Hideo S. and his wife Yasuko, come to the service. Stan tells the story of meeting Hideo as a young man and being stunned to realize that he actually worshiped rocks and trees. Within a few months, he had come to know Christ and was baptized. Yasuko was the pianist at one of our mission's evangelistic English Centers. Hideo works for the Japanese Post Office as a branch manager. He went to a part-time Bible college and completed work for a ministry degree.
After service we had lunch together, and then we had a sharing time around the table. Left of Stan, as we look at this photo, is another former student--Yuko.
Later in the afternoon, the pastor took us over to see an 87-year-old woman who had been in Stan's housewives class. She is now unable to come to church because of injury, but the Pastor has been meeting at her house monthly for a Bible Study. She showed him her Bible--with a note that Stan had written to commemorate her baptism back in 1980.
We heard her explain how she was feeling very blue when the pamphlet advertising English classes was put in her mail box. Her then 10-year old daughter encouraged her to go. She remembers being amazed that this person would come from another country, leaving his home and family, to teach English. Through the chapel times she came to know the Lord, who called Stan to Japan for this very purpose, and was baptized that year.
As we came to the end of the day, we sat around the table on the second floor, where Stan had many meals together with the K family, and enjoyed sushi and shrimp tempura. It was delicious, and a nice way of wrapping up the visit.
|a former member of Stan's|
Children's English class,
now in ministry herself
We think of the verse in 3 John 1:4, where the apostle reflects that I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. It is heart-warming to see people who were children and teenagers, as well as adults when Stan taught them, continuing to follow Jesus.
This was a joy-filled visit!
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.
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!
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.
We were told that the Singaporean past-time is eating. We certainly embraced that during those five days!
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 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.