Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Where the prairie meets the pines

Fosston Baptist Church - Welcome to the TEAM!



This weekend I had the joy of meeting the people of Fosston Baptist Church. Located in a town of about 1500 people, the members of this church represent 16 different zip codes.

Although the weather outside was "a bit chilly" (read: -20 F) the people inside gave a warm welcome! After meeting a few church members at a pizza dinner on Saturday night, Sunday found me sharing my vision for ministry to TCKs in Japan and making connections with lots of people. Here are some photos of my weekend:

The Worship band, made of many of the youth of the church, as well as, Pastor Rick Stapleton, and Assistant Pastor Steve Krier - Great job leading us in worship!

Pastor Rick, Marcy & their family served at Faith Academy in the Philippines for a year, and it was great to hang out with their family over lunch talking about their experience and current ministry in Fosston.
A big Thank you goes out to the women's mission's circle who gave me the gift of this quilt.


Another big THANKS goes to Neal and Jolene who hosted me this weekend. They are involved with a sister church through the Love Lift for Ukraine program. I enjoyed hearing about their ministry visits working with hundreds of Ukrainian kids in Christian day camps, aiding farmers in agricultural programs, helping pastors develop bivocational ministries, and working with a microloan program.

Through the sister church program in the Ukraine, they even knew some of my friends from Ortonville, MN (the Haukos, Giese, and Ross families!) who were a big part of my life as I grew up! - (Insert music to "Its a Small World" here)

Just one day after visiting Fosston Baptist Church, I recieved a call that they voted YES at their church annual meeting to partner with my ministry in Japan! Welcome to the TEAM! Now that I'll be an extension Fosston Baptist Church in Japan, they'll have to increase the number of zip codes to 17!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Minnesota

You might be from Minnesota if . . .

You consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping the food will swim by. (photos of ice fishing houses (and trucks) on Lake Bemidji)

You might be from Minnesota if . . .
You find -20 degrees F "a little chilly".



Minnesota: Where visitors turn blue with envy.
Minnesota: One day it's warm, the rest of the year it's cold.

Minnesota: Where many are cold, but few are frozen.
(above photo: actual thermometer reading Jan. 28, 2007, inside 68 degrees, outside -20 degrees)

Minnesota - Where one has the opportunity to see sundogs.

A "Sundog" is defined as, "common atmospheric optical phenomenon associated with the refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals." Also known as 'Ice Halos'.

I was told that Sundogs only occur when the weather is VERY cold and although they are spectacular to look at, they are difficult to capture on film. The photos I took of the sundogs I saw when traveling to Fosston, MN, don't do it justice -so I'm sharing this photo that I found online.

If you love Minnesota, raise your right ski.

Paul Bunyan & Friends

My travels to Fosston, Minnesota provided for some interesting statue sightings.

In Brainerd, MN, I was greeted by Paul Bunyan, a mythical lumberjack of huge size and strength, from tall tales.



It is said that he and his blue ox, Babe, were so large their footsteps created Minnesota's ten thousand lakes (including Lake Bemidji, which resembles Paul's giant footprint). This photo was taken on the shore of Lake Bemidji.

Across the park from Paul & Babe were the statues of two Native Americans. As I drove to the northwestern corner of Minnesota, I saw signs for various bands of Chippewa and Ojibwe tribes. In Bemidji, various souvenir shops were sighted selling jewelry, crafts and moccasins created by the Native Americans. The weather was bitterly cold so, after getting these photos, I quickly went back into my car to warm up and finish the drive to Fosston, MN.




I wonder if Paul and the Native Americans would have been friends. Paul's ignorance to the 'leave no trace' camping style was perhaps his most obvious 'relationship killer'. Although it does appear that the Brainerd Paul and the final Bemidji Native American are waving to each other.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Learning


After a week at Mt. Olivet Confernce and Retreat Center learning, reflecting, and interacting with other missionaries, I'm feeling blessed! God knew I needed not only the topics covered and skills taught but also the fellowship with other missionaries, the relaxed pace, and the encouraging atmosphere.

God was evident in many of the details -

  • the joy I experienced and learning I gained from my relationship with my roommate, a Japanese missionary to the Philippines, (see above photo)
  • the beautiful weather which allowed for hiking and cross-country skiing during free time
  • the wisdom of other missionaries who have insight and experience to share
  • the transparency in conversation and intimacy in relationships that developed quickly
  • the personal awareness gained from reflecting on the topics covered and biblical passsages

I could go on and on but, for now, my prayer is that I'll have the courage to apply what I've learned, and praise God for the experiences and relationships.

Our theme verses were Colossians 3:12-14, which I challenge you to memorize! I did and I think it will come in handy in those times when I need to be reminded of my identity and the actions which should flow from that identity.



Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ornithology



or·ni·thol·o·gy (ôr'nə-thŏl'ə-jē) n.
The branch of zoology that deals with the study of birds.
I don't know much about birds - but its fascinating to watch the cardinals and woodpeckers around here. They have a microphone on the bird feeder, with the speaker in the cafeteria so we get to hear them as well.



Male cardinals are bright red, while the females are a bit more hidden in the tree with their brown plumage.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Getting Sharpened

As a missionary appointee, I often have the priviledge of attending various seminars, conferences and workshops to prepare me for what I'll encounter on the mission field. I find that no matter how many conferences I go to - there is always more to learn. Next month I'll be in Seattle at a conference about Reaching Japanese for Christ, this spring I'll be studying cross-cultural training and language acquistion, this summer the topic will be church planting.

This week, I'm in Farmington, MN at a Christian retreat center with other BGC missionaries who are on home assignment (they are in the states visiting their supporting churches and plan to return to their mission field soon - This is not a sabbatical for them!).

The title of our training is "Sharpening your Interpersonal Skills". After arriving and checking into our rooms, we dove right into the introductions and learning. "Relationship Killers" our first session - was a 'fun' topic to start the training! "Loving Listening" and "Problem solving" followed. Tomorrow we're starting off with "Confronting". I haven't figured out if these people are morning people and put the tough stuff first or just want to wake up all the night owls?

I've really enjoyed the interactive and discussion based format. I 'am loving' the discussions that flow into meals, breaks and other free time. And I've had multiple conversations (in class and out) with other missionaries on the topic of Third Culture Kids (TCKs), TCK parenting, TCK education, TCKs in college, TCKs as 2nd generation missionaries, EVEN how TCK's were instrumental in leading one of the missionaries to Christ as a child. Are you sensing a theme here? I'm practicing the "Loving Listening" skills I sharpened today - I bring up the topic of TCKs, sit on the edge of my seat and listen.

My roommate is a Japanese woman serving in the Philippines. May be a good opportunity for langauge study on top of the other learning going on!

Well, this is more training than retreat - so I should log off and finish my homework for tomorrow. Another day I'll try to get my camera out and post photos of this beautiful area. (Besides the convenient wireless access - This place offers a breathtaking space with oversized windows that give a spectacular view of snow covered rolling prairie and frozen Chub Lake. The fresh snow and the occasional red cardinal in the trees are quite a sight!)

From Mauston to Fosston

Thanking God for new friends in Mauston, Wisconsin!
Signs like this are a great help in locating the right church!


Deb, Nora, & Tim, my fabulous hosts!

(Ryan, didn't stand still long enough to be photographed - such is the life of a high school senior! But thank you for shoveling, Ryan!)


Despite the cold January weather, I had another warm welcome by a church ministry partner!

Saturday, I met with the Mission's team and had a great dinner at Beyond the Daily Grind Cafe. Sunday, we woke up to 5 inches of new snow on the ground. We made the drive to church, where I met the rest of the congregation, shared in the service and taught Sunday school. The potluck allowed for more time together and by the time we got to dessert the snow had stopped falling outside. (Tempting foods like this makes it difficult for one to keep one's girlish figure!")


Sunday afternoon, can simply be described as "bonding with new friends". I'm thankful that Nora's hockey game got cancelled - allowing us to chat longer. I look forward continuing our relationship!

Next Church: Fosston, MN

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Desined by Giichi

Look at the nations
and watch
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe
even if you were told.
- Habakkuk 1:5
I was blown away by a post card I received today!




First, some background:

New Year's Post Cards
In Japan, one New Year's tradition is to send post cards to celebrate the new year. It is the Year of the Boar, so typically the post cards will reflect that, or, similar to Christmas cards in the states, families will send photo cards. Today I received my New Year's post card from the Kimura's, my Japanese host family.

Kimura family

(pictured above: l to R: Me, Host Mom, Host brother, his wife and daughter, Host father, Host brother and his wife, (Host sister not pictured).
I lived with the Kimuras near Tokyo, during the summers of 95 and 96, and spent many weekends with them during my 2 years teaching in Japan (98-00). I was excited to tell them I'm coming back to Japan in 2007! My host mother is an amazing woman of faith, and the only Christian in the family. My host father, is not a Christian (yet). He works as an architectural professor at a major university in Japan. The only times I remember him attending church were for my farewell service and when there was a baptism. (He seemed more interested in how he'd teach his students to design a "tub" in a church building rather than the spiritual meaning of baptism)

Yurigaoka Baptist Church

I attended Yurigaoka Baptist Church when I was in Japan and consider it my Japanese home church. There were about 30 members and about 20 people in attendance on typical a Sunday morning.

A year ago, I learned that the church building had been condemned, apparently due to the precarious position of the building on the side of the hill. They moved their worship to a local school and had to decide if they would rebuild or sell the land and disband to attend other churches, both very difficult options. For a year I hadn't heard what they had decided but knew 2 other facts - 1)they were without a pastor and 2)if they didn't rebuild by April 07-they would need to sell the land or would owe lots of money in taxes. I wondered what they would do.

- Until I got this post card. . .


Isn't God Amazing! Not only did they decide to rebuild the church - but my host dad - the architect and non-Christian, designed the building! (If you haven't already guessed the photo is of a model of the new church building "desined by Giichi".)

I love how he signed the card,

"Our new church will build at Easter!"

OUR church!

I often wonder how God will move Mr. Giichi Kimura, this man I am so fond of, to recognize the love of God. Mr. Kimura once told me that he didn't believe in life after death - but if he dies and if he finds out there is an afterlife, he would figure out what to do at that point. I pray that not only will Mr. Kimura understand more about the church as a group of people, but understand more about God through his involvement in this project.

Let's keep praying for him!

Looking expectantly to when I can write to you about the day my host father is baptized in the "tub", in OUR church, God led him to design.


Mr. Giichi Kimura - behind the camera

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A look at my HEART


My H.E.A.R.T. - Home Encouragement And Resource Team

I believe every missionary should have one.
(Especially during Ministry Partner Discovery!)

These are my go-to people.

The people I consult when I'm stumped for a newsletter idea, the people I turn to when I need some honest critique and advice on a presentation. They tell it like it is. The people who get me pumped up to serve God through calling strangers about partnering with my ministry. The people who help me confront my fears and plan the next strategy. They remind me of God's sovereignty and that I'm not alone in serving Him.

These people pray for each other and me OUT LOUD. Amazing the difference between hearing people say, "We're praying for you." - and - actually hearing people pray for you.

They are also the people who typically are the first to know when something amazing happens - the people I run to with "Guess What God did today!" statements. People who are thrilled with support report increases - even if it only goes up 1%.

I got the idea for this group from my friend Lisa, a TCK teacher in Okinawa, Japan. The people in the photo above are Jeff, Paulette, Jane and Pastor Albert. My HEART meets monthly and is always a blessing!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Way to a Missionary's Heart

Is through her stomach. . .
Homemade apple pie served New England style - topped with White Cheddar Cheese
Blueberry pancakes with Canadian Maple Syrup
mmmm... I love home cooking!
(sorry no photos - the delicious food was gone before I could take out the camera)
I have been blessed by some amazing cooking as a compliment to new found friendship in South Dakota. My visit to Lake Norden Baptist Church began with a welcome from Warren and Lee Vendt. Warren is the pastor of this small rural church with a big heart. His wife, Lee, is a woman who serves some great food along with her amazing stories!
Church members were welcoming and will be voting about a potential partnership with my ministry on January 28!
Here is a glimpse of my journey this past weekend. . .
A typical sight on the road to South Dakota, farm machinery.
I also passed a quarter horse ranch, a Tatanka ranch (bison), and lots of dairy farms.


4 miles to go - Almost there

Here is Lake Norden Baptist Church.

My hosts Warren and Lee Vendt

- arguing over who gets credit for making that amazing apple pie.


Thank you to all who have been praying for safe travel and good weather.

The roads were perfect for automobile travel - not so much fun for snowmobilers!


Snowmobile riders in St. Paul were smiling, though -

when I returned to MN on Monday, St. Paul had 5 inches of snow!



Thursday, January 11, 2007

Back On the Road again

After a busy November on the road, and a fairly quiet December at home, January and February I'm heading back on the road again. I will be visiting churches in South Dakota, Wisconsin, Northern and Southern Minnesota, and in February, fly out to Seattle, Washington.

Here are the Upcoming Events:
Jan 13-14 – Lake Norden Baptist, Lake Norden, SD
Jan. 15 - Home Encouragement and Resource Team meeting, MN

Jan. 20-21 – Bible Baptist Church, Mauston, WI
Jan 22-26 – BGC Midwinter Tonic - Training retreat for missionaries, Farmington, MN
Jan. 27-28- Fosston Baptist Church, Fosston, MN

Feb. 10-18 - North Kitsap Baptist, Poulsbo, WA, and RJC conference, Seattle area

Blessings

  • I received news that one of my partnering churches will be increasing their support by $3000! (read Jan 4's blog - A Bad Case of the What If's - to learn more)
  • In addition, a family that supports me decided to increase their support by 75%
  • The blessing of an enjoyable Christmas and New Year spent with family and friends. (read Vacationing up Nort, and Party girl)
  • For a supporting family who has offered to pay for my airfare to Seattle, WA, so I can attend the Reaching Japanese for Christ Conference.
  • For new churches that have indicated an interest in partnership.
  • Monthly support amounts are at 44%.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

A Case of the What ifs?


This week, as I've been focusing on some support raising tasks, I got a bad case of the "What ifs?" I was reflecting on the past months of support raising and looking ahead to this new year and they came crashing in.


What if – I can’t come up with something new to write in the next newsletter?
What if - the churches I've attempted to contact don't call me back?
What if – the churches do call me back but they don’t want to partner with my ministry?
What if - I plateau at 40% and don't hit the halfway mark for months?
What if - I don't have 100% by September and have to reschedule my departure date?
What if . . .
What if . . .
What if . . .


One of my greatest weaknesses in support raising -is myself. The doubt that I allow to creep in. On Wednesday, a case of “What if’s” hit me hard on my way to work with my church’s youth group. As I was pulling into the parking lot a radio program grabbed my attention.


“All through the Bible, from Abraham leaving everything he knew, to Peter
stepping out of a boat to walk on water, God's plan has repeatedly required
stepping into the unknown. The Apostle Paul called it "going not knowing" (Acts
20:22). You may be at one of those "going not knowing" moments right now.

That promise is recorded in I Thessalonians 5:24, our word for
today from the Word of God. Here it is: "The One who calls you is faithful and
He will do it." That's all you need to know. God will not leave you stranded in
the middle of His will. What He calls you to do, He'll enable you to do. What He
leads you to do, He will provide for you to do. He's your security. Not a
paycheck. Not people you've depended on. Not your safe little nest. Not your
abilities. It's not the water that's going to support you, Peter, it's
Jesus!

There was a poet a long time ago who summed up how faith in
a God like ours works: "The steps of faith fall on the seeming void and find
the rock beneath."
from: A WORD WITH YOU by Ron Hutchcraft

It was as if the words of the program were speaking directly to my doubts. God used this program to refocus my thoughts on God and HIS faithfulness rather than my abilities (or lack there of), rather than my circumstances.

You would think I had learned my lesson – but no . . .

On Friday I was bombarded with the “What if’s” once again. It seemed that the tasks I hoped to accomplish just weren’t going according to plan. I was frustrated with myself and decided to run some errands trying to distract myself from the doubts.

Soon after I returned home, the phone rang. What I heard blew me away. A church that is currently partnering with my ministry has learned that some more funds in their budget have become available. This missions team has decided to increase the support that they give me by $3000 annually! I was speechless!

Her words of encouragement and belief in the need for teachers on the mission field were a huge blessing. “We praise God that the money has become available and we are thrilled about your motivation for ministry and the way you view yourself and your ministry to evangelize, befriend and take the gospel wholly to Japan.”

I think I responded with “Wow, Thank you!”

------
When people ask me, "So, how's support raising going?"


I typically answer with – “It has it's ups and downs, God is Good.”
Or “I’m learning a lot.”

Today I wanted to share with you a couple of days that held both the down and the up in the same 24 hour period hopefully giving a glimse at what I'm learning.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Vacationing Up Nort

Minnesootans say Nort - rather than North. We also say "Uff Da"!

My 27-month-old niece, Kara Grace, after seeing her first deer says:

"Daddy going to shoot him."

(Gotta love the confidence she has in her Daddy's hunting abilities!)



After figuring out that these deer are going to be fed, not shot, she helped us set out corn for the deer and then watched from our cabin as we saw them eat it up. KG: Should we get some more? . . . He's eating it all gone . . . He's dropping it on da foor.

Me: What should we get him for dessert after he finishes the corn?

KG: (Whisper) Ice cream . . . . . and Chou-co-late
Eventually the deer got tired of waiting for dessert.

Hanging out with my 9-month-old niece, Olivia.
My sister, Lisa, having a tickle fest with Kara Grace.


Taking a Hike on the High Cliffs of Gunflint trails, Jennifer, Erik, and Lisa.

Cakes, Colonels, Candles and Christ


Where will I be celebrating Christmas next year?
My hope is - in Japan.

So as I think about my future destination
and consider what it will be like I thought I'd share my findings with you.

Cakes, Colonels, Candles and Christ

I experienced the holiday season twice during my short-term experience teaching missionary Kids in Japan (1998-2000). I would say that for most Japanese – Christmas celebration is most similar to Valentine's Day in North America. It is a regular working day with commercial impact.

The commercial preparations can be seen weeks ahead of the Dec. 25. Special advertisements and Christmas carols can be heard in the stores. (I remember hearing Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant in department stores). Although Christmas is not the enormous money spinner that it is in the West, clever marketers have twisted the theme of Christmas using Kurisumasu kehki (Christmas Cake) and Kentucki Furaido Kurisumasu (Kentucky Fried Christmas).

Here is more information I gathered from a few websites I read . . .

"Japanese like their cake fluffy, creamy, and fruity. No heavy, brandy-soaked fruitcake for them; they simply take what they like, plop a Santa on top, and proclaim it festive. Another difference between western fruitcake and Japanese Christmas cake is that fruitcake lasts forever, but Kurisumasu kehki is at its best for only one night. Nobody would buy a Christmas cake after the 25th--hence the phrase "Christmas cake" to describe a woman who remains unmarried by her 25th birthday."

“The fried chicken comes courtesy of Colonel Sanders. Thirty years of intensive marketing have convinced the Japanese that chicken is the traditional Christmas food in North America. This belief is not a measure of Japanese gullibility: most Japanese have never seen or eaten turkey, and cooking and consuming a bird that large--or even having an oven big enough to roast it in--would strike most people here as being excessive and slightly deranged, like making omelettes out of ostrich eggs.”

All the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in Japan have a life-size fiberglass figure of Colonel Saunders posted outside their doors. In mid-November, the Colonel's customary white suit is swathed in red, transforming him into Colonel Santa. Once the white-trimmed red hat goes on his head, the resemblance is uncanny; just like Santa, only with beady eyes and less beard than one might hope. Then the sales pitch begins in earnest: buckets of chicken featuring the Colonel's Christmas face; boxes of chicken printed with holly designs; giant banners showing a Christmas feast of fried chicken, corn salad, hot Christmas biscuits, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Christmas cake, with a tiny log cabin and snowman planted in the creamy white topping.”

A new piece of information – I didn’t know when living in Japan is . . .

In Japan the presents are said to be brought by 'Hoteiosho' who is very similar to Santa Claus. Originally 'Hoteiosho' was a priest like St Nicholas. He is described as an old man with a big sack on his back as well. The legend says that 'Hoteiosho' has eyes in the back of his head - so he can keep a special eye on the behavior of children. It is advisable for the children to be good when 'Hoteiosho' is around.


When I was in Japan I typically spent Christmas Eve at a candle light service with my friends at Yurigaoka Baptist Church. I would then spend Christmas Day with my Japanese host family. Unlike in America, where my family typically relaxes at home, eating (every three hours), my Japanese family goes out on Christmas Day.

In 1999, I remember going sightseeing in Tokyo, touring Tokyo Bay, visiting an aquarium and seeing an amazing light display - the Tokyo Millenario. (Millinario- Italian for Millennium) – this electronic tunnel of lights display near Tokyo Station began in 1999 and has seen a different display design each year. Almost 10 million people walked through the Tokyo Millenario in the first 4 years!

Most Japanese naturally have a weak understanding of Christmas's religious roots and customs. I remember once being asked if it's Santa's birthday. Christianity is respected in Japan but hardly known at all, which is not too surprising with less than 1% being Christian. However, many Japanese are interested in American Christmas customs and some Japanese churches use this opportunity to meet new Japanese and introduce them to Christmas, Christ Jesus, and their church. For example, a missionary working with a small congregation (averaging 20 people on a Sunday morning) may have a special candle service, a couple of kids meetings, a Christmas programs, go Christmas caroling, add lots of special Christmas decorations and perhaps give out a gift packs that includes a pamphlet describing the reason for the season. Through this they may draw an extra 50-100 people to church.

One of the most touching experiences for me is to sit in a Christmas service and think of how some of those listening are hearing the Christmas story for the first time in their lives. That's a pretty special experience. In Japan, Christmas is a wonderful missionary opportunity. And that seems appropriate. After all, the first Christmas was about a missionary who came a truly long way to bring the good news.