Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blessings along the Way

One of the blessings on my travels has been the generous people who open up their home to me. I find the hospitality of strangers soon becomes the stuff of great friendships. Wilma and Roger Burke were my hosts Oct. 28-31. Roger is the pastor one of my partner churches, First Baptist Church in Polk, NE. (Roger has retired 3 times, is still involved in full-time ministry and helps with some local farming, his schedule wears me out!) The church visit on Sunday the 29th, was lovely and the time spent with the Burke's went by so fast! I learned a bit about rural culture - like knowing how to read a car's license plate to figure out what county the car is from, so as to determine if you should wave. (not waving to someone you should know - can be detrimental to ones ministry!) And it's not just any wave!

My Lonely Planet guide book has a segment on "HOW TO WAVE". "On two- lane roads, you'll be expected to wave to oncoming traffic. Don't go 'coastal' and extend your whole arm up. Just keep one hand (only) on the top of the steering wheel at all times, and raise your fingers up, spring-like (but not too fast) as the oncoming car (more likely a truck) approaches. They'll do the same. And harmony shall spread like wind through wheat."

This non-verbal form of communication is a great cultural bridge. In rural Minnesota, I've learned to wave with the same hand position as above but only raising one or two fingers, the full four finger wave is reserved for close friends! (Makes me wonder how many kinds of waves are out there and how many times I've miss-communicated!)

What the Lonely Planet guide book doesn't tell you is that the best place to get a hot meal in Stromsburg, NE, (outside of Wilma's house) is the Senior Citizen's Center. Reservations must be made in advance, and the menu changes daily, but it is a set menu. On Tuesday, while Roger went to help his daughter harvest corn, I was Wilma's guest at the Senior Citizen's Center. Located along southside of the village square, the meal consisted of 2 pieces of fried Chicken, garlic bread, baked potato, green beans, and milk. For dessert they served homemade apple pie, and ice cream! Yum-o! All for the great bargin of $3. It's also a great place to grasp a bit of the local news, and town history!

A big thank you goes out to the folks of Polk for your warm welcome Sunday, to Stromsburg's pleasant reception, and to the Burke's for your generous hospitality!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cambridge House Photo

Here it is - the house I lived in when I was a baby. To compare this photo to what it looked like when I was little you'll have to read my "Down Memory Lane" Oct. 26th blog.

Discovering My Birthplace

I visited Cambridge, Nebraska, yesterday. My treasure hunt to find the house I lived in from 0-2 years old was successful. (I'll try to post photos soon for you to compare the past with the present.) I was also able to visit the Cambridge Bed and Breakfast. The B & B owner gave me a tour of the house our family doctor used to live in. Crazy to think that the house I played hide-and-seek in is now listed on the national register of historic places! I didn't meet anyone in town who remembered me as a kid - but I enjoyed my time spent at Shirley K's Coffee Shop soaking up the small town atmosphere, where people "Sit long and talk much."

Friday, October 27, 2006

Roadside Marvels

I enjoy getting out of the car frequently on long drives and if I can combine the stop with something unique in the area - well - bonus! Today I saw an angel, and a spike.

The Memorial sculpture known as "The Black Angel" was made in memory of Ruth Anne Dodge. (Wife of General Grenville Dodge the guy who Lincoln appointed to be the engineer of the Union Pacific railroad) It represents a dream she had of an angel on the prow of a boat offering the water of life (She died shortly after seeing this vision.) The sculture is by Daniel Chester French - the same sculptor who created the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. .

Speaking of Lincoln - The Spike Monument (just down the road from the angel) marks the spot where Abraham Lincoln visited Council Bluffs, Iowa, Aug. 15 1859. From this site, Lincoln viewed and selected the Eastern Terminus of the first transcontinental railroad built on the United States. It is located at a scenic overlook of Council bluffs. (Sorry the photo doesn't show the view of the city below.)

Free advice for travelers - take advantage of the Visitor's Centers! The people who work/volunteer here are full ideas for interesting places to see and how to get there.

Did you know there is a Carhenge (a whimsical recreation of Stonehenge fashioned from American-made automobiles) in Nebraska? Unfortunately Alliance, Nebraska, isn't near my driving route this week - but they do have a website- www.carhenge.com

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Down Memory Lane

The Twins -
When I was little, people called my sister and I "the twins". Although we are not identical, people had a hard time putting the right name to the right person. Can you tell who is who? Any guesses?

Cambridge, NE- This picture was taken on the front steps of our house in Cambridge. My Grandma and Grandpa Harms are holding Lisa and I (6 months), and Jennifer (2.5 yrs) is showing off her amazing tricycle skills. I'm surprised Jennifer sat still long enough for someone to take a picture! The treasure hunt to find the house in the picture is one of my tasks when I visit Cambridge. No one seems to remember the address, so I have a list of landmarks to go by . . . I wonder if it has changed much in 30 years.

The Midwestern Tour

Today started my Midwestern Tour.

In the next month I will be traveling by car across Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota and Kansas with a few stops in Minnesota (mainly for doing laundry and repacking). On Sundays, I'll be speaking at churches and during the week, the plan is to visit as many churches in the area as possible.

Here are the Sunday Stops:

Oct. 29 - First Baptist Church - Polk, Nebraska
Nov. 5 - Bethel Baptist Church - Galesburg, Illinois
Nov. 12 - Ridgewood Church (Luncheon) - Minnetonka, Minnesota
Nov. 19 - Sun Prairie Baptist Church, Salem, South Dakota
(If you live in the area of these churches - consider this your invitation to join me!)

Then I get the role of back seat driver and ride with my family to Witchita, Kansas, for Thanksgiving (Nov. 23).

One of the most intriguing parts of this jouney is a planned stop in Cambridge, Nebraska. My birthplace and home until I was 2 years old. I don't remember much about the town (actually, life before 8 years old is all kinda fuzzy - due to a bike accident) but I'm hoping to connect to people who remember me and my family. You know, all those people who had thrill of babysitting my older sister, Jennifer, my twin sister, Lisa, and I while we were all still in diapers!

Thank you to many of you who are praying for me and the connections made during this tour! I'll try to add regular updates so you can join me in this journey!

from Des Moines (meaning 'of the monks'), Iowa

Next Stops - Omaha, Lincoln, Stromsburg, Polk, and Cambridge.

Monday, October 9, 2006

What if?

What would happen if you were to leave a few teenagers in a room that contained some Japanese clothes?

They'd try them on!

October 7-8 at Bethany Baptist Church - We enjoyed the Celebration of Cultures Weekend. What a joy to see youth from Cameroon, Ghana, Liberia, US and South Korea try on various kimonos, yukattas, farming outfits, and festival wear. They continued to wear the outfits even as we went into the sanctuary for worship.

The following morning, I had the honor of facilitating a panel discussion with Third Culture Kids (TCKs) for the adult and youth Sunday School hour. There was an MK from Indonesia, MK and diplomat Kid (Dipkid) from Ethiopia, and 2 Pastor's Kids from Ghana and England. It was a blessing to have 4 TCKs share about the benefits and challenges growing up in a culture that is different from their passport culture. Katie, Peter, Percy and Kylie - Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share of your experience!

What amazed me about this morning was that there were atleast 9 other TCKs (or Adult TCKs) in the church body who also would have been wonderful for the panel. What a blessing to have so many people with a multicultural upbringing in a church whose vision is to be a cross-cultural witness of the diversity and unity in the body of Christ!

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Belly Button Theology

Each of us was created to be dependent—on God and on one another. We are wired for community. Literally. Each of us has a belly button. Some are outies, some are innies, some are pierced. But we all carry this unmistakable sign that shows we were at one time physically connected to our mothers. Life begins for every human in utter dependence on another. But as we grow, our culture slowly sucks us into believing that we will truly be liberated only when we no longer need to depend on someone else.

As I discover new ministry partners, I am discovering a new understanding of God and my relationship in community. The above excerpt is from Rick McKinley’s book, Jesus in the Margins, which introduced me to the belly button analogy and challenged me not to shy away from the ‘Messy Blessing of Community’. I’m learning that as Christ-followers, community is (or should be) essential to our how we interact with the world.

If you were to take a glimpse of my life in the past five months, you would find me making phone calls to complete strangers and introducing myself to church groups I have never met. Frequent tasks include sending emails and ministry packets to communities of believers I hope are interested in ministry in Japan. Some days are filled with joyful encounters but frequently these tasks take me out of my comfort zone.

That’s when God reminds me that I am part of the body of Christ—that He never intended me to do this alone. I am learning the meaning of authentic community, seeking accountability, counsel, mentorship, and encouragement. I’m learning that admitting my weaknesses deepens my reliance on God and others. It is often messy but this process is teaching me that as Christ-followers we are to serve one another and complement one another’s gifts for the common purpose of representing Christ to our world.

The Great Commission is a group assignment— in which we each have a role to play. My role is as a teacher of Third Culture Kids in Japan, where my task will be to educate, encourage and equip students, as we engage in community. This role supports families in ministry so that they can work among Japanese people to build growing communities of Christ-followers.

But we are not alone in our roles. As I continue to discover new ministry partners, I am blessed by the passion of people who are eager to build God’s kingdom locally and globally, through prayer, finances, time, and talents. Thank you for using your gifts to represent Christ to our world!

Monday, October 2, 2006

Termites Invade School

Recently, Barb and Jeff Chapman, fellow BGC missionaries with children at Kansai Christian School (KCS, my potential future ministry site in Japan) reported, “One of two of the KCS school buildings was condemned due to termite damage. The school board decided to move out of the building immediately into a temporary location owned by Ikoma Bible College (just across the parking lot) as the school board searches for a new place to buy or build. The entire school will have to move to a new location by the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year.”

Please pray for a new place not too distant from the present facility, and one that will meet the needs for classrooms, a library and a playground suitable for soccer and basketball.

Support Report

I have gained new support commitments bringing me to 35% of the monthly support needed, through 5 partnering churches, and 26 individuals, with 11 months until departure. Pictured is one of my partnering churches, Mapleridge in Maple Grove, Minnesota.

Did you know?

Japan is the size of California but has a population equal to the sum population of California, Texas, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois & Ohio! (127 Million!)