July 26 was my last Sunday at Keihanna Church for a while.
I've attended this church for 6 years. Meeting in a house specially designed as a church, with about 15 to 25 people in attendance each week its easy to have an "at home" feel.
Ito-san is leading the music in this photo. She lives in England with her husband who works there and was back to Japan for about 2 weeks. This day I also had the privilege of leading 2 bilingual worship songs. The service follows a traditional format with hymns and choruses accompanied by piano and sometimes organ.
After the service the church had a potluck party for me. I'm planning to return to Japan in 6 months, but since transitioning away from teaching ministry the details of my ministry location have not been finalized. I may or may not be back to this area of Japan working with this church or neighboring churches. The uncertainty made for some fun conversations at the farewell party. "We're praying you will come work with our church so you pray the same thing too, ok!"
In fact some members didn't call it a "Sayonara party" (Good-bye Party) or
After spending weeks of sorting and preparing to pack up the mission home by myself. I realized with just a few days of having friends help that packing is a team event - not an individual one. More fun, more laughter, more decisions more quickly, more motivation and encouragement!
Lisa flew from Okinawa to Osaka to help me in the last week before I move.
In the above photo you can see the long bridge over Osaka Bay
to Kansai International Airport through the window.
As we're in the process of closing/packing my kitchen,
we enjoyed some Hawaiian Avocado Hamburgers for dinner.
The next day we were ready to clean the shed and yard.
Here Emily is helping me decide to throw away, give away, or recycle parts of my library.
What can I say I have a weakness for books!
Recycling paper products happens once a month,
so its important to get it done in time for the pick up day.
Here is the stack of recycling I put on the curb this month:
When at the beach, with camera in hand, waiting for the beach baptism celebration to begin, some of my students and friends and I decided to get creative with the cameras and do some shadow photography.
My family had a pet poodle when I was growing up. We named her Muffin.
(Not sure why we picked that name - she had black fur, so perhaps burnt muffin?)
Muffin, wasn't the most friendly of dogs and sometimes allowed people she liked to pet her but she would never have tolerated being dressed in "doggie clothes."
My friend, Ikumi, has one teenage son (see beach baptism), and 4 dogs, Milky, Chowder, Taffy and Latte. They are tiny dogs. Able to be carried in a purse individually or all together in a doggy buggy.
Ikumi, (as well as many other Japanese people) love to dress up their dogs. Many of the outfits are handmade by Ikumi and fit the specific event or holiday that they are participating in. For Umi no Hi - or Sea Day and our trip to the beach, the dogs had their bathing suit outfits on. The girls (Milky & Taffy) had pink bikinis and the boy (Chowder) had swim trunks and a shirt that made him look like he had six pack abs.
Milky in pink
Chowder wondering where they put his Surfboard.
Taffy pretending to be "Super dog"
The pattern of pampering pooches is not something that I grew up with and I think it would be very easy to tease people who spend so much time, energy, and money on their pets as Japan does.
But we may not see the whole story.
Ikumi's dogs are also trained as therapy dogs and visit nursing homes to give elderly people the joy of interacting with a pet. Ikumi has also done pet foster care. Right after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake many pets were separated from their owners. Some were never able to be reunited and some pets were staying in areas where humans were not allowed to enter - due to radiation damage. At such a time Ikumi cared for a small dog - Momo (Peach) until she could go to a more permanent placement.
BBC even did a story on Japanese dogs!
Here is a video from BBC news that talks about the declining birthrate in Japan and the increase of pets. Stating statistics like there are more pets than children under 15 in Japan. I have a friend who had a formal funeral for her dog and then taxidermy to keep the 'idea' of the pet around a bit longer. (a bit of a shock when you see it in the entryway for the first time!) I've even had a parent/teacher conference with a teacup poodle in the mother's purse for the conference! (another source of shock if an unexpected head pops out of a bag.)
On July 20, we celebrated with New Hope Church the baptism of 4 sisters and brothers in Christ.
Pastor James - (Left) was once a co-worker of mine at KCS where he taught High school Math and Science. It was wonderful to see him in this role of church planter. He and the lady next to him were leading the group in worship songs (in English and Japanese).
(Love the Hello Kitty shirt!)
We had a time of scripture reading on the beach and some sharing of testimonies.
Here are the 4 young adults in white that were testifying to their faith.
Komei, graduated from KCS class of 2015. He attended KCS from 1st grade.
I got to know him 6 years ago when we worked on the worship team together.
He became our powerpoint expert. What a blessing to have seen his faith grow and have conversations over the years about next steps of faith
and then to actually be present to see his baptism!
After the baptism
Yu and his mother Ikumi.
Ikumi is a 3rd and 4th grade teacher at KCS and great friend.
Yu is now a senior in high school. He has an amazing grasp of both English and Japanese and often can be found translating at New Hope church on Sundays. He is an talented writer and has an extensive knowledge and collection of bugs!
Representing KCS - Komei, Emily, Yu, Lori
Again with Ikumi - but with a new pose so that we could be almost the same height! =0)