Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How to mow grass in Japan

Step 1. Start with out-of-control grass, a few wild daisies and lots of weeds.

Step 2. Gather your favorite cutting tool. 

Step 3. Hack away until you can see the stepping stones below the weeds.

Step 4. Bag up clippings and do research to figure out how to throw them away.
(They are rejected if put in burnable trash, any local Japanese friends wanna give advice?)

Step 5 Enjoy the hydrangeas and a conversation with the farmer who is flooding the rice paddy in preparation of planting rice. 

I learned he works as a Junior High English teacher in a neighboring town. Studied American Literature in University and had noticed I was talking in English to my computer on the balcony earlier that morning.  So he decided if he saw me outside he would say hi to me. 
He told me I spoke "English beautifully!" =0).  
Turns out he had seen/heard me as I was Skyping my family in Minnesota 
and I was showing them (via my laptop computer) the rice paddy. 
My 6 year old nephew had yelled out "Hi, Farmer Guy!" 
I guess you never know just how far 'Minnesota Nice' will travel! 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Camp Out

Leaving behind the assignments, tests, and lesson plans, students and teachers traveled off campus and enjoyed 2 days, one night at a camp grounds about 40 minutes away from school. 

We were blessed with clear skies on Friday. 
It has rained at almost every camp I've attended
 in the last 6 years so the sunny skies were enjoyed by all. 
The carp flags were waving at the camp site 
as decorations for Boys Day/Children's Day  in early May.
The huge field was well used by students playing team building games, catch, and Ultimate Frisbee.
Students also played tennis, explored the playground, conquered obstacle course, and went on a hike. 

I went with the group that went on the hike. 

I was with 4 middle school girls who enjoyed finding bugs, 
climbing trees, going off trail and having the freedom to use their outside voice.

Mainly the time spent on the hike was a relaxing time for conversations.

Our dinner, served in the lodge, surprised us with the fancy layout and delicious selection.
 Pork & beans, salad, potato, vegetables, soup and bread. 

Clear skies stayed allowing us to build a camp fire and worship under the stars.
It is wonderful to have 1st through 12 graders together to worship.
Our guest speaker energetically retold the story of David and Goliath. He even built a model the height of Goliath (WOW, he was tall!)
 and he encouraged us to follow David's example: trusting in God to help us face our challenges.   

One unique part of camp that many students have never experienced 
is roasting marshmallows and making s'mores. 
 I love this part of the evening, introducing an American summer tradition to the kiddos! 

The sugar high took a bit of time to wear off but we enjoyed playing some games back at the lodge until lights out. (Pit, Life, Scrabble, Rubik's Cube, Truth or Dare, Go Fish, And "who can most creatively paint your teacher's fingernails".) 

Breakfast the next morning was a bit more Asian in style. Delicious, but I must admit after we  cleaned the lodge and loaded the students on the bus for the train station, my roommate and I stopped at Starbucks for a cinnamon roll and bit more caffeine!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Local Parade

April 29, there was a local parade going down main street of Heguri, the small town here our school is located.  Heguri has an annual parade that is only one block away from our school. For one class period on a Wednesday morning we took the students to watch the parade. Besides a marching band of students dressed as penguins (not sure why) . . .

there was an elementary band (no costumes)  . . .

and a town mascot.

There was a procession of parade participants who were dressed in costumes from Japanese history.
I enjoyed the experience of watching this part of the parade as I'm teaching Japan Studies this year and we are starting our history of Japan Unit.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Dinner

Thank you to the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) for gathering teachers, and administration, parents and a one school board member (May 6).  I was thankful to have a chance to gather with people in the KCS community and not talk about work! Sometimes we get so caught up with the daily workings of the school and student related matters that we don't have a chance to have deeper conversation with those we see each day.

Thank you parents for your support of the KCS teachers! It's great to work with the parents who are so involved in this partnership of education.

For dinner we had appetizers, pasta, pizza and dessert (Mango or Strawberry Sundae's)

The appetizer plate: eggplant, omelet, vegetables, and chicken.

Here are three Japanese parents, our Executive Assistant, a school board member, and me.  
The Italian restaurant where we ate the delicious food! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Recommended reading

As I look online for resources to help navigate life overseas I've found some gems that I go back to on a regular basis. Can't keep them a secret any longer . . .

Velvet Ashes
encouragement for women serving overseas

I'm participating in their book club and HIGHLY recommend this book for other missionaries, sending organizations, and ministry partners.
Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission by Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss 

A Life Overseas: the mission conversation
by group of writers living around the globe

Ecipleship for People on Mission
by Ivan Velhuizen (Converge Worldwide missions leader)

Rocky Reentry
the realities of life after living cross-culturally
Great food for thought as I prepare for home assignment.

For teacher resources
 I'm following  a middle school teacher :
Sue Acuna's blog
I found out about her through a book that she co-authored with Cynthia Tobias called, 
"Middle School the Inside Story : What Kids tell us but won't tell you"

Another source of encouragement is: Angela Watson's
The Cornerstone
"Practical ideas that make teaching more effective, efficient and enjoyable"

What recommendations do you have for me to read?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Update for the Prayer Update

  • Praise God for a fabulous 2 weeks in Minnesota at Christmas for the holidays, and my twin sister, Lisa’s wedding.  
Update: Even the memories of the trip are AWESOME! 
  • Lisa, and I own a house together in St. Paul. We recently put it on the market for sale the 28 of January. Please pray it would sell quickly and at a good price to someone who will be a great neighbor to those who have been great neighbors to us.  UPDATE: On Feb. 7, (our birthday)  an offer was made on the house, pending inspection and other details going smoothly - closing could be March 17! 
Update for the update: The house is sold! Closing is done! Yippee! 
The sign makes it official!

  • My 82 year old Grandma, in Minnesota, has recently been placed in hospice care and her health is slowly declining.  Pray for peace for the family and comfort for her in her last days.  
Update: She maintaining her current health status, enjoying the therapy dogs which come to visit regularly. It's also been reported that she enjoyed her first Dairy Queen butterscotch dilly bar of the season. Yum!
My mom & Grandma 

  • I have decided not to renew my contract with Kansai Christian School for next year. After considering past experiences, current circumstances, and future hopes I feel God is leading me to step away from the school.  I will continue to teach at KCS until the end of the school year. I am in communication with other Converge missionaries regarding future ministry assignments in Japan.  Thank you for praying with me as I seek to finish well at KCS and honor Him as I share the decision with other staff members, students, friends & ministry partners. Pray that I would continue to seek HIS face in all of this, have the wisdom to discern his plan and have the courage to follow where he leads.  
Update: As I've expressed my decision to transition into a new ministry it has brought the paradoxical realization of how blessed I've been to work with these students and staff and also confirmed that this is the right time to step away. Thank you for your prayers for endurance, wisdom and joy in the last 7 weeks of the school year. One student moved to a new school in April and a new student (from Argentina) has joined our class. Pray for the students to have and be good friends and for overall cooperative spirits to make the last quarter the best quarter yet!

l. to r. Lori, John & Eliane Mehn, Ian Smith, MaryLou & Tom Ellison
Japan Field Council was held March 24-26 northwest of Tokyo. There, as a team, we talked, prayed and made many big decisions. My future ministry plan was discussed, which has led to more explorations of some exciting opportunities. It is such a blessing to work with this group and have them supporting me through this ministry transition. (We also ate a lot of delicious food!) 

Tom & MaryLou at Happy Pension (location of field council)
Kindred Spirits

We also celebrated the Ellison's 30 years of ministry in Japan.  Retirement parties are another paradox - wanting to keep in Japan these dear friends who have become family to me, and yet excited to see how God writes this next chapter in their story. Pray with me as they begin the transition into this next chapter.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


 my head is filled with words and
 they flow onto the page faster than I can write them.

 my job is filled with words:
       nice ones,
    funny ones,
           sideways ones,
                  regrettable ones,
    encouraging ones.

 my schoolwork is filled with words:
       learning words.

 my to do list is filled with words:
             next week,

 my ministry updates are filled with words:
          prayer requests.

  I have no words.

Perhaps, as some of my students say, "I can't talk. I've used up all my words for the day."

Until my writing voice returns, here are some words in photo form.

 Cherry Blossoms . . .