Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Passionately Waiting, Diligently Seeking

I'm sitting in a coffee shop reflecting on my day
and wondering . . . about time.
Wondering when to let go of desires
and how to grasp reality.

My desire has been to depart for Japan in September. For the last 2 years September has been the "target departure month".
Well, September is 3 days away and it doesn't look like I'll be leaving in September. I'm letting go of my hope for a September departure date & realizing letting go is a process.

Before I can buy a plane ticket 2 major things need to happen.

1.) 100% of my monthly support and all of my start-up funds need to be donated.
2.) Certificate of Eligibility (COE) approved as well as a missionary visa.

All of my paperwork for my COE is in Japan waiting to be submitted to the Japanese government. Recently, I received an email from my field coordinator in Japan . . .
Now if they COE takes 2 months to process and it is valid up to three months we have a 5 month window. Is it realistic to think you will be here before the end of January? I know what hopes are but we want realism.
So, I'm trying to get a grasp on reality.
The idea of waiting until January to enter Japan nearly breaks my heart. I want to be there now. I want to start language school and get in a year of full-time Japanese study before teaching. The longer I am delayed the more complicated things get.

But how do I respond to his email? I have very little control over the support. I am so grateful for the generous support that has already come in but it is hard to predict when the last 18% will come in. I'm calling churches, meeting with people, sending out letters. Praying for swift responses but at the same time realizing that if the COE is approved and I don't have 100% support in time to enter Japan - I'd need to reapply. Causing even more delays.

Which causes me to wonder about my view of time.
To reflect on how God views time.

To question - How is time interacted by human decisions, the forces of Satan and God's sovereignty? If God is sovereign, would my departure date being pushed back really be a delay - or simply God's timing? Is there something God wants me to learn in this time of waiting?

Since I seem to be doing a bit of waiting - I figured it'd be a good idea to do a word study on "Wait" in the Bible. Today's study led me to . . .
Lamentations 3:25 (the message)
God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God. It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times.
So I'm waiting passionately for a time when I can go to Japan.
Meanwhile - I am learning to diligently seek Him.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Life after Cruising

Well - I think I've caught up on posts from on the activities during the family reunion cruise - (which, I still think was a miracle to have coordinated the schedules of 29 relatives in one place - let alone the fact that it was such a generous gift from my Aunt & Uncle!)

While I was enjoying a week of vacation - God was still at work brining in partners for this ministry. I returned home to 3 voice mails from churches inviting me to visit and emails from 4 new individual supporters!

So you're probably wondering what I've been doing this month since returning from the Caribbean (besides updating my blog). Here's a list -
  • Unpacked and went grocery shopping (Learning to cook and clean again)
  • Mowed the lawn
  • Received final paperwork for COE - Missionary Visa application
  • Mailed missionary visa paperwork to Japan
  • Received, completed, sent application to become a Wooddale Career missionary
  • Made appointments with Wooddale leaders
  • Made arrangements to speak with churches in September in Duluth, MN and in Phillips, Wisconsin
  • Spent 2 days with with friends - saw 3-week-old baby, Taite!
  • Said 'bon voyage' to a friend returning to Turkey
  • Received a formal application for Kansai Christian School (preliminary application is approved)
  • Hung out with Copelands, MK's from Eithopia, while their parents took their oldest sister to her first year of college.
  • Had dinner with Yongs, missionary friends from Cameron
  • Answered emails and returned phone calls
  • Learned that monthly support amounts are now at 82%!! and Start-up funds are down to $37,000!
This week my activities will include:
  • Meeting with my Home Encouragement and Resource Team (Tues)
  • Meeting with my Ministry Partner Discovery Coach (also my dad) (Wed)
  • Meeting with a leader from Wooddale Church (Thurs)
  • Call 20 churches
  • Complete, print, label, stuff and mail a long overdue newsletter
  • Enjoy a visit from friends who live in Moorehead, MN =0)
  • Write a few reports for the BGC
  • and take care of other details needed in preparation for life in Japan
God has been good to keep me busy with opportunities to meet people, renew relationships receive encouragement and share my vision of ministry in Japan. My prayer this week is that I will have discernment to know how to prioritize the activities and be able to do them well.

Since there were no pictures in the list above - I thought I'd leave you with a photo of the newest Pepsi product in Japan.

Ice Cucumber anyone?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Great is His Faithfulness

Our last night on this family reunion cruise was a special evening as we knew that the next day we'd dock in Florida and then fly home. With the understanding that I will depart for Japan this fall (Lord willing) and spend my first term (4 years) there - we knew it'd be a LONG time before I saw most of these people again. For that last evening our family reserved the chapel (on the 15 floor of the ship!) and we had a unique time of sharing.
My cousin Sarah - shared about her mission's trip to Mexico, My cousin Nathan shared of his mission trip to North Africa, my Aunt Joan and Uncle Bill talked about their soon coming mission trip to Russia and then I shared about going to Japan. My family then surrounded me and prayed for the journey ahead of me.

God has been so faithful! It was awesome to see how God has used this family to serve Him in so many places. Amazing to have such strong family support sending us off to those places. And although I don't like good-byes - it was a unique and "good" good-bye. God continues to be faithful!

After dinner and our evening entertainment, a few of us went out to the helicopter pad at the front of the ship for some amazing star gazing. We even saw a glimpse of the meteor shower scheduled for that weekend. Looking up at the vast numbers of stars in the huge sky while surrounded by ocean was humbling and comforting. Looking ahead to the transition in my life (saying more good-byes, moving to Japan, developing a new support system, learning Japanese, teaching again after 5+ years out of the classroom) is often overwhelming and the future is uncertain but I take comfort in looking at the night sky - Recognizing I have a relationship with the God who created all of this! Looking up at the vast numbers of stars in the huge sky was also humbling.

Reminding me of how great our Creator is,
how small I am,
how HE is in control.
It leaves me wondering who am I that he should know my name
and have a plan for my life
a plan that fulfills me like no other path could
yet involves risks that terrify me at the very same time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Fun in the Sun at St. Maarten -

My favorite island and excursion of the cruise was St. Maarten.

Columbus is said to have landed here in 1493 and claimed the island for Spain. But today this 37 sq. mile island is divided between France and the Netherlands. With a combined population of 85,000 and over a million tourists per year. Our ship docked on the Dutch side - where we spent the morning exploring Philipsburg and our excursion took place on the French side.

The afternoon was spent near the foot of Pic du Paradis (or Paradise Peak) on a treetop adventure at Loterie Farm - which used to be a sugar cane plantation. Now a 150 acre nature reserve and a great way to experience a Caribbean rain forest, including ancient Mango trees and Guavaberry trees. I don't have photos of the adventure as cameras weren't allowed in the "Fly Zone" - so you'll just have to imagine zip lines, rope bridges and an obstacle course in the treetops of a forest. It was a thrilling adventure for my cousin Dan, Kris and their 3 kids as well as my sister, Lisa, and me. Loryn amazed us all as she, a 6 year old, kept up with all of us on this strenuous challenge and showed no fear!

Family Time

I was so blessed to have a week with family on the cruise the beginning of August.

Here we are - checking out the waves just before going to our 8pm dinner.
My mom is on the far right - my dad far left.

Our family had 4 tables in the dinning room and we enjoyed playing musical chairs - switching tables daily to get a chance to sit by everyone. The menu was an amazing assortment of gourmet foods - but all you could eat so - we often tried 2 or 3 appetizers, 2 entrees and ALWAYS more than one dessert per person!
I enjoyed having a different type of seafood each day.
And the Creme Brulee won for best dessert of the week!

We had two formal evenings. On Friday we took some family photos before dinner. I have a picture of each family - except my immediate family.

Here are my Uncle Allan, Aunt Carolyn and cousins Adam, Nathan & Jessica.
My Uncle Bill and Aunt Joan
Cousin David, and family Carol, Sarah and Jacob
My cousin Dan, and family Kris, Bryan, Sean and Loryn

My cousin Dyanne and family Tom, Lydia, TJ, and Valerie formal pose. And being silly=0)The "girls" all dressed up for the formal dinner. From bottom left going clockwise - Valerie, Sarah, Me, Lisa, Jennifer, Jessica, Lydia and Loryn. The "guys" at the formal dinner - from oldest to youngest - and left to right - Erik, Adam, Nathan, Jake, Sean and TJ. (somehow Bryan snuck out of the photo).
After dinner our waiters would entertain us with a riddle, trick, napkin origami, or a joke. The photo below is of Erik showing off that nights trick -

The Balancing Act
- 2 forks on a toothpick balancing on top of a salt shaker and a wine glass.
Never a dull moment!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Underwater World - St. Thomas

Our second port of call for this family reunion cruise -
was Charlotte Amalie,
St. Thomas, capital of the US Virgin Islands.
The island's population is about 20,000 but they have approximately 1.5 million cruise ship passengers land here per year. Interesting fact, cars drive on the left side of the road but most cars are US made - so the steering wheel is also on the left.

During the morning we did a bit of exploring on land (aka window shopping). On the way back to lunch I saw this beautiful bush of flowers and told Lisa,

"Wait a minute I want a picture of this." Lisa asked, "Is it real?"
To which I responded - "Yeah"
"Whoa!" - She exclaimed - "He's huge!"
Just then the fence jiggled.
I jumped back as I realized Lisa wasn't focusing on the flowers -

but an Iguana on the top of the fence.
Our diving instructor later told us that Iguanas in St. Thomas are as common as squirrels in Minnesota. As proof of her statement she later helped us spot at least 8 more iguanas in the parking lot.

The afternoon was spent snorkeling and snuba diving with my cousins (Adam, Jake, Nathan, & Jessica) sisters (Lisa and Jennifer) and my brother-in-law (Erik). We fed the fish "Magic Beans" to encourage them to swim near us. (Who knew 'kibbles n' bits' could also be fish food?) We tried to get underwater photos with some disposable waterproof cameras but found the fish were often too close for a good shot! Snuba is a combination between snorkeling and scuba diving - there are 4 divers attached to the oxygen tanks floating on a raft at the surface. There is one diving instructor per group and you can dive about 20 feet from the surface. Looking at the coral and fish we were once again amazed at the creativity of God's underwater world.

Friday, August 17, 2007

CocoCay, Bahamas

CocoCay, Bahamas
Also known as Little Stirrup Cay
It is less than a mile wide (east & west) and about 200 meters

This Island is leased by the cruise line - so other than fellow passengers, the only other people we saw worked for the cruise line. The crew who live on the island are visited by a different Royal Caribbean cruise ship 6 days a week - on the 7th day they have half a day of clean up and half a day off. I think I would prefer to visit than live on this island!
There were many excursions planned for this little island.
Here are a few that I participated in.

Swimming(Sisters Lisa and Jennifer with niece Olivia)

(My Uncle Bill, on right, ready for take off.)

(Lisa and I about to see a beautiful view of the island from the air.)

Lisa & I checking out the the sea creatures
- like sting rays
and red star fish.
Thanks again to my Aunt and Uncle for making this all possible!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Life At Sea

After 7 days cruising the Eastern Caribbean on Mariner of the Seas, I thought you'd like to see where our family reunion was this year. While she (the ship) had internet access on board to enjoy full vacation mode, I opted for the low-tech cruise and stayed away from internet cafes. It was my first time on a cruise - and with 28 members of my extended family - it was a blast! What a fabulous Christmas Gift in August!

Here she is - our home for the week. (As seen from the shores of St. Maarten)

With a length of 1020 feet, and a weight of 138000 tons, this 14 floor moving hotel and entertainment center could hold 3,114 passengers (not to mention the crew!) and cruise at a speed of 22 knots.

It was relaxing but definitely not boring!
As my cousin Nathan said there is plenty to do on board - rock climbing, ice skating, ping pong, miniature golf, swimming, sleeping, eating, relaxing, sleeping, eating, relaxing, more sleeping, more eating........:).
Not to mention shuffle board, volleyball, basketball, dodge ball, dance lessons, musical performances, board games, parades and shopping!

And if that isn't enough - we stopped at 3 ports. Cococay, Bahamas, then St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I'll add photos of the excursions and the wildlife we encountered in my next posts.