Monday, October 29, 2007

This Moment

Driving my car to a meeting tonight, the thought suddenly hit me,
There is SO MUCH to do before departure! Bombarded with a bad case of the "what if's" I started to feel very overwhelmed.

That's when a new song from Steven Curtis Chapman came on the radio
- "Miracle of the Moment"


"Breath it in breath it out
Listen to your heartbeat.
There's a wonder in the here and now
It's right there in front of you.
And I don't want you to miss the miracle of the moment"

It went on to talk about the perspective of time - saying something like
"the future is history to Him"

Reminding me of HIS great soveriegnty. After a bunch of deep breaths and wide eyed prayers I went to the meeting.

And what a blessing it was! Career missionaries and prospective missionaries together in a home for a relaxed question and answer time. Questions like: What can we do to prepare to be missionaries? How did you know you were called? What challenges did you face that you didn't expect? How did you know when you needed to return to the states? How do you structure your "quiet time" with God?

When I came home I checked the mail and found an envelope containing my visa - approved for "religious activities" in Japan.

I'm learning to enjoy This Moment!

Counting Down

Hi!

Just thought I should update you on support -
Last time I wrote I needed 8% more support.
I'm still waiting for some information to come in from some churches I've visited recently.

BUT - we'll be skipping some numbers -
I have heard from a couple of churches that they are increasing their support and a handful of more individuals/families have partnered with me. Adding that to Wooddale's support, well . . .

Drum roll please . . .
I have learned that my monthly support is at 99%!!
We are down to the last 1%!
We're talking less than $75 a month needed!

Oh - and in other good news - my Visa is in Chicago being approved.

My commissioning service is scheduled for November 11 at 10:45 am at Bethany Baptist Church, Roseville, MN. I may be leaving Minnesota in time to celebrate Thanksgiving in Japan.

-----
Sorry for the lack of photos (My blogger connection is not the typical editing format - not sure why)- you'll have to imagine joyful images and a video of me dancing around the room singing praises like "You are Good" - by Israel and New Breed.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wooddale WorldWide Week

Today is the 1st day of the missions emphasis week at Wooddale, Eden Prairie, MN.

Which is particularly exciting as I just found out Thursday that Wooddale is officially partnering with me.
(More good news about updated monthly support percentage coming soon!)
I'll be at Wooddale 7 of the next 8 days. I'd love your prayers for the events, effective communication and energy through it all!

Today -
5:15 p.m. – Evening Service
Speaker – Steve Saint – “Let God Write your Story”

Sunday, October 28
9:00, 10:15 & 11:30 a.m. – Services
Speaker – Steve Saint – “Let God Write your Story”
10:15 Lori Harms in Berean Big Group
5pm – Movie Night “The End of the Spear” (Chapel)
7 pm - The Gathering Service (Great Room)
Speaker – Steve Saint – “Let God Write your Story”

Monday, October 29
8:00-9:30 a.m. – Staff/Missionary Breakfast
7pm-9pm – Missions interest group with potential and current Wooddale missionaries;

Tuesday, October 30
11:30am- 1pm – Women Near and Far Luncheon

Wednesday, October 31
6:45-8:15 p.m. – Trunk or Treat with Children’s Ministries

Friday, November 2
9:30-11:00 a.m. – Women’s Ministry Missionary Tea

Saturday, November 3
10am-12pm - Missions Brunch

5:15 p.m. – Evening Service
Speaker – Leith Anderson “ A Saint in a Secular Court”

Sunday, November 4
9:00, 10:15 & 11:30 a.m. – Services
Speaker – Leith Anderson – “A Saint in a Secular Court”
Seminar –
10:15am - Lori Harms – “Third Culture Kids” – (room 206)
7pm -The Gathering
Speaker: Leith Anderson – “A Saint in a Secular Court”
8:15pm – Post Gathering Discussions

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Out of the mouth of babes

Sunday and Monday of this week I visited dear friends in northern Minnesota.
The two hour drive was filled with fabulous fall colors. It seemed the yellow leaves were waving in the sunshine - as if God was waving hello and smiling at me.

On Monday, I had the opportunity to volunteer in my goddaughter, Callie's Kindergarten class.

The classroom teacher asked Callie to introduce me to her classmates.
Her introduction went something like this . . .

"This is my Auntie Lori.
And she has heard God telling her to go to Japan to tell the people there about him.
She is going to tell them how much he loves them.
So in a couple of days that's where she is going."

As this was a public school I figured the teacher would carefully wrap up the introduction and move on to the next activity. INSTEAD - she paused what they were doing and opened up the opportunity for the students to ask me questions about Japan and what I'll be doing there. WOW!

So for 10 or 15 minutes I answered questions about Japan.

Kids: Where is Japan?
Me (with Callie's help) - We pointed it out on the globe.

Kids: Is that near Seaworld?
Me: Um, no, but it is near a sea. (more pointing on the globe)
Callie: I have another godmother, she lives by the sea too.
Me: Yes, that's right Sharon lives in Mississippi.

Kids: What do they eat in Japan?
Callie: Fish and rice. They have a fish called Puffer fish, it's poisonous but they eat it anyway because it makes their lips tingle. Any other questions?

Kids: How long does it take to get to Japan?
Callie: A really long time. You fly there but it would like take 3 days if you drive there.
Me: It does take a long time to get there, about 12 hours by plane - but you can't drive there because it is an island and surrounded by water.
The teacher: Students that means if we get on a plane right now (noon). We wouldn't arrive in Japan until Midnight.

Kids: What do you do in Japan?
Me: I'm a teacher, I teach elementary students like you guys. Kids who speak English but live in Japan.
Kids: Oh, cool.

After a few more questions we moved to our "learning stations".

What a great and unexpected opportunity to share in Callie's life and to touch the lives of a few Kindergarteners and teachers in Northern Minnesota! I told Callie later that perhaps I should bring her with me when I speak at churches - she's so good at summarizing my call to Japan and is so bold about sharing with others. She thought that would be ok but she might have to ask her mom first.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Countdown Continues

The support countdown is continuing.
The last 10% -

Wait, that was last week
9%

No - that was Friday

- we now need 8% more monthly support!

only $650 more per month
- we're so close!

Keep praying!

Visiting the Ellisons

Thinking DestinationFriday, after joyfully sending my paperwork to Chicago for my visa (1 page application, photo and passport), I traveled to St. Cloud, MN, where I spent time with the Ellison family.
Tom and Mary Lou are fellow missionaries in Japan - currently on home assignment. I've known this family for over 10 years, so it was great to talk with them about details of life in Japan: what to pack, what to leave behind, tips on thriving in the first term in Japan, etc. (Tom's is a co-treasurer on the field so I even had the joy of getting a sneak peak at the budget forms I'll be filling out.)

We enjoyed some great tonkatsu, (deep fried pork) YUMMY!
(Click here for a recipe.) Then we talked into the wee hours of the morning about life as TCKs, ministry among Japanese families, serving as a family in Ministry, and their MK's perspective on college life.
It has been fun to watch the Ellison kids grow-up over the years. The older Ellison kids have gone or are currently going to Bethel University so I get to see them more frequently. I posted a photo of me with Luke, Peter, and Ellen in May (click here). When I first met these kids in Tokyo, Grace was only 4 years - now at 14 she's getting ready to get her driver's permit. And Erick is 16 and behind the wheel any chance he can get! It was fun to ask these guys advice on making friends in Japan and how to jump into Japanese culture. In the above photo (l to r) Grace, Lori, Ellen & Erick. Below Erick was teaching me how to be cool.

It has been a while since I've been teaching in the classroom so Erick also helped me work on using my stern teacher voice. It'd be easier to keep a straight face if my "student" wasn't a foot taller than me! Another reason why I better stick to teaching elementary students!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Needing some ideas


Ok - I'm asking you - my faithful blog readers to help me come up with a list.

I have heard/read/studied a lot about healthy good-byes. Closure is good. As TCK caregiver Dave Pollock said here and here "Leaving right enhances entering right". - I get that. But I have a lot of people in my life at various relational levels and ages and I realize I can't say my "good-bye for now" to everyone in the same way. Plus, I don't have the time (or dietary discipline) to take each person/family out to eat at a 'last supper' to affirm our relationship and say farewell.

I'm working on building my "RAFT" per Dave Pollock's instructions . . .
R= Reconciliation of conflicts
A= Affirmation of important relationships
F= Farewell performed in culturally appropriate ways
T= Think Destination (realistically and positively)
Right now, I'm focusing on A & F.
I'm looking for some creative ideas and ways to affirm relationships and say "good-bye for now". Here are some I've come up with:
  • Make a CD mix of songs that have special meaning for that relationship
  • Write a letter
  • Frame a picture of me with a friend
  • Spend time together doing a favorite activity (drinking coffee)
I'm also looking for ways people in other cultures and languages say good-bye. Like bowing in Japan or "Dewa mata" - Japanese for 'See you later'. I'm interested in putting together a list - so don't be shy leave a comment in the comment section or email me - loriharms@msn.com

THANK YOU!

Photos- These photos are from a Farewell Party held the end of July. At the party we were recognizing the transition ahead as 6 people out the the 25 or so of us were heading out to 5 different countries. One activity that we did at the party was to take a map of the world and put in push-pins. Color pins= places we lived, clear or gray pins = places we had visited. This was a very well traveled bunch with lots of adult TCKs. The map idea was a fun way to learn about the travels of others, a great conversation piece, and a reminder that travel is a part of life for this group - the going and the coming back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Setting Records

.
STOP - Whatever you're doing
and START praising GOD!


In a post titled Passionately Waiting, Diligently Seeking, I explained that I needed a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to be approved by the Japanese government before I could apply for a missionary visa to Japan.

Timing on this document is tricky (a three month window is given to enter the country once it's approved) so one must be very careful as to when you submit it - realizing it usually takes two months for the approval to be granted and at times takes three months.

My Documents were sent to Japan the end of August, and submitted to the Japanese Government, September 12. I figured some date after November 12th I'd hear something.

Well, when I checked my email today I received a letter from John, my Field Coordinator in Japan:

"Just got back from shopping a postal worker on a motorcycle stopped in front of the house. I was fearing a nasty letter from the tax office or an eviction notice or something. Then I saw the envelope written in my faulty Japanese script. I knew we were entering a new phase of our mission, and especially for Lori. The Certificate of Eligibility arrived!

Come soon Lori. Congratulations. 9/12 to 10/17 this was a new record."

Next step - Submitting the COE, my passport, a photo and visa application (1 page) to the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago. (I've been told the process in Chicago may only take one day!!!)

Meanwhile - Doing happy dances and singing Praises to HIM!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blessed Assurance

Blessed Assurance –

This is my story
This is my song
Praising my savior
All the day long.
This is my story
This is my song
Praising my savior
All the day long.
Perfect submission
All is at rest
I in my savior
Am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting
Looking above
Filled with his goodness
And lost in his love.


by Fanny Crosby

As I share my story with you I'm reminded
of this song
- written by Fanny Crosby
who was a famous hymn writer
(She wrote over 8000 hymns - busy gal!).
I especially resonated with the line,
"Watching and waiting, Looking above"
Made even more meaningful
when you realize Fanny Crosby
was blind.

For me this last month, has been a time of
Watching and waiting.
Each day I get a report from the BGC
detailing any donations that come in for that day.

Today, I've just learned that my
Start-up Funds are at 100%!!! Praise GOD!


I still need paperwork (COE) for my visa and
10% more monthly support.

A bunch (5) of churches are voting
this week (Oct. 15-22)
about partnership with me.
continue to pray that the Lord's will will be done.

Monday, October 15, 2007

This is my Story

Who I was . . .

Growing up as “one of the twins” in a pastor’s family I quickly realized two things.

One, if I wanted to be known for who I was, not for who I was related to, i.e. the “pastor’s daughter” or the “other twin.” I would have to do something unique to make people remember me, for me.

And two, growing up as the pastor’s daughter it seemed we were always at church so I might as well enjoy being there. Even before I accepted Christ as my Savior I remember church being a place for friendship, games, and learning.

How I met Jesus . . .

At age 9, after a conversation with my mom, I took what seemed like the obvious next step of faith and accepted Jesus as Lord of my life. While I don’t remember much about the sermons that my dad preached, (Sorry, Dad!) I do remember snippets of the lessons I learned from my Sunday school teachers, youth group leaders and the faithfulness of the elderly prayer warriors of our church.

Life in a small town as the pastor’s daughter often felt like living in a fish bowl, with our lives open for view to anyone who wanted a look. While I understood that God had saved me, I still felt like I would get extra points by being especially good. I focused on doing what people expected of me and took pride in being a “good girl”.

My family was always supportive of me in trying new things and taught me to accept people with different backgrounds. In fifth grade my eyes were open to the life of missionaries and their children as our family visited Baptist General Conference missionaries in Mexico City. During my high school years our family hosted three international exchange students, which increased my curiosity for understanding other cultures.
I was blessed to be part of an active church youth group and was introduced to Short-term missions in Junior high school when we participated in missions trips to Brazil and Mexico. My understanding of the magnitude of God increased because of these 10-day trips. My stereotypical view of missionaries as super spiritual (married) people with super serious lives was replaced with a view of (single and married) missionaries in blue jeans having a lot of fun doing what God had given them a passion for and a planned for them to do.

A Time of Challenge

Jeremiah 29:11
11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

But what had God planned for me to do? I knew I enjoyed teaching and I had a deep interest in special needs children. Therefore I decided to go to college to pursue a teaching degree so that I could teach children who were deaf and hearing impaired. Along with my freshman level classes, I took a few classes in American Sign Language and enjoyed learning this new language. But my focus changed after the summer of my freshman year of college, when I participated in BGC’s short term missions program in Japan teaching English as a means of outreach and evangelism in Japanese Churches.

Two months in a new land, surrounded by a new language, and developing friendships with Japanese people stretched me beyond what I had ever experienced in my 19 years of life. For the first time I was questioning why I was a Christian. Was it because I really believed all of these things I was teaching my students or was it because, unlike my Buddhist students, I grew up in a Christian home? Throughout the summer I continued to take steps outside of my comfort zone, and I was forever changed.

The following year I dug into the Word searching for answers. I was beginning to learn that God wanted me to know Him and be real with Him. That with Him I didn’t need to distinguish myself from my others – he knew me inside and out (the good & the bad) - and loved me. I still needed to be diligent in doing what God desired me to do but it was no longer about me but about Jesus doing through me. I also learned that He didn’t want me to see the church as a building I should enter every time the doors opened, but a living community of people that stretches across the world. I realized that God had allowed my eyes to be opened to the need in Japan - for teachers ministering to third culture kids and that this was just as important as ministry to nationals.

Who I am Now . .

After returning from that summer missions experience in Japan I was asked by a friend,

“If you could do anything in the world and time, money, and education were not an issue what would you do?”

My answer twelve years ago is the same as it is today “Go to Japan.” I’ve had the blessing of going to Japan many times since then, twice as an English Bible teacher, once for a semester as a college student, and for 2 years as a teacher to missionary children in a one room school house. My passion for ministry with third culture children has not diminished although the distance and time away from Japan has increased.

It has been 7 years since I lived in Japan. And I have run into the reality that time, money, and education are valid issues. Feeling called to return to Japan as a missionary teacher, I decided I needed experience in a large classroom setting before returning. I worked as a third grade teacher for two years and then realized that I was not satisfied working in a monocultural setting and that I personally needed more understanding of world religions, the Bible and missions history to be effective in ministry. So I quit my job as a teacher and began my Master’s degree in Inter-cultural Studies by distance education. To pay for rent and school I took a part-time job caring for people with physical and developmental disabilities.

Gradually a position opened at Bethel University where I used my cross-cultural skills advising students who participate in study abroad programs. In a roundabout way only God could have directed I have been involved in various jobs, and studies that have helped me prepare for returning to Japan. I believe the skills and knowledge gained in all of these areas will be valuable to me in my future ministry but even more significant will be the spiritual growth and lessons learned.

After almost four years working at Bethel University in Minnesota, and completing my master's degree from Hope International University, in California, I began a journey of developing ministry partners full-time. Visiting various churches and individuals God has taught me more about the interdependence of the Christian community, the unfailing love of God and intimate plans for each individual he has created.

I am excited about returning to Japan soon - to pour my life into the lives of TCK's through teaching and discipleship. I'm anxious to learn more Japanese so that I can actually communicate in the heart language of the people among whom I'll be living. I'm learning more and more about God's amazing love for me and can't wait to share about His love with the children and adults I'll meet in Japan.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Faith Stories

Recently, I attended "The Gathering" an alternative worship service on Sunday evenings (at 7pm) at Wooddale Church. While the message is the same one that Pastor Leith Anderson gives at the contemporary and traditional services, I've found many 'little things' that make this service "alternative". Like the occasional addition of a turntablist or DJ that mixes the music along with a praise team during the singing, candlelit areas around the room for further prayer/meditation, and instructions to submit questions for the Q & A session via text message. The worship engages the arts and technology to lead the churchgoers deeper into worship. It's been a blessing to attend.

Last week the message was titled "The Power of a Man's Faith Story" based on Acts 21:37-22:21. (click on the title for the message outline) Pastor Leith talked about Paul's faith story and how each of our faith stories "connects an individual’s autobiography to the transforming power of Jesus". And that we (as Christians) should be ready to give our faith stories on a moments notice.

After listening to Pastor Leith's engaging telling of Paul's faith story we heard Pastor Leith's faith story in the Q&A time. Since then I've been reflecting on my faith story. I realize I have been blogging about various topics but don't think I've shared my story. In my story there is not a spectacular "Damascus Road" type conversion. I began my relationship with Jesus at a young age so there is no terrible drug addiction I overcame in my preschool years. My story may not be "made for a movie material" but I do have a story - MY story.

So I'm writing this to give you a chance to think about your faith story and how it connects to the gospel story. Hopefully, my next post will give you a chance to read MY story.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fall Colors


Enjoying the fall colors . . .
my mom, my grandma and I took a drive
to enjoy the fall leaves and visit a pumpkin patch &
apple orchard near Rochester, MN.Apparently, when I was a little kid we used to come here with Grandma
to pick out pumpkins to carve or paint.
This time I was too big to enjoy the maze of hay bales.
But I did enjoy a lovely day with my Grandma Alice!

In the last week my dad, my brother-in-law,
and 3 friends (Tiffanie, Rebecca, & Mutsumi) have had birthdays!
So I'm sending ya'll one big
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Glowing in Minnesota

Often in missions we talk about unreached people groups - According to the "Joshua Project" the definition it is . . .
A people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group. The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian adherents
Japan is one of the Largest - unreached people groups and it's thrilling to know I will be involved in influencing the lives of youth in this country. The Joshua Project states that 1.5% Japanese claim to follow a Christian religion of which only .4% Japanese claim to be Evangelical Christians.

But today my focus switched from unreached people in Japan to unreached people in America. It's Wednesday - and that means - I get to hang out with the youth group at my local church. With so many teens in one room sometimes it's a bit chaotic but I enjoy their energy and honesty.

America does not qualify as one of the "unreached people groups". The Joshua project states that 71% of US Americans claim to follow a Christian Religion, only 35% of US Americans claim to be Evangelical Christians.

Yet, tonight, I worked with some US teenagers who have very little Bible knowledge and are perhaps - "unreached" when it comes to knowing Jesus.

During our worship time we sang the song "Pharoh, Pharoh". To some of the students it was a familiar song they'd sung 100's of times, but for others this was just a silly song they'd never heard before.

Later, I asked the 16 students in the Jr. High group about the "Pharoh, Pharoh" song,

Me: Can anyone tell me who Pharoh is?
Student: Isn't he like a king in Egypt?
Me:
Yes, Can you tell me about a Pharoh in the Bible? How about Moses?
Students: Umm. . . (silence)

Yeah - so only about 4 kids could answer that question. And it hit me - Wow! What an amazing opportunity we have with these kids! We did a very brief overview of the relationship between Pharoh & Moses and the Israelites using the verses of the song.

Student: Oh, yeah, wasn't that a Disney movie or something? =0)

Recently I've been so focused on "getting to Japan" I haven't fully been in Minnesota. Tonight was a great reminder that no matter where the Lord has you - he wants you to be influencing people for his kingdom right there. Whether that's shining His light in a city in Japan, or a city in Minnesota - Glow for Him!

BTW - If you want to brush up on your understanding of Moses, Pharoh, amazing miracles and the origin of Passover Read Exodus 2-15

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Start the Count Down - 10


So what is the good news - you've been waiting for?
Are you sitting down?

In the last three weeks since a letter from the BGC went out and I have sent my newsletter there has been a tremendous response from churches and individuals. One-time gifts ranging from $15 to $15,000 have been given!

No, that’s not a typo- There was a gift of $15,000! As amazing as that is - I know that everyone who is donating is making a financial sacrifice and are giving until it hurts, some taking extra shifts at work to donate more.

Some churches have taken special offerings and I’ve heard news of other church partners increasing their monthly giving. I'm getting updates on daily basis - today's update stated that today's - one day total $2800 had been sent in from individual donors towards start-up funds!

So where do we stand percentage wise? What's the bottom line?

Well – I’m still waiting on the official September report to come in from the BGC but it looks like I’m just over 90% monthly support (needing $800 more per month) and Start-up funds need only $8,000 (considering I needed $35,000 just three weeks ago, I’m simply amazed!)

Looks like the count down of the last 10% can now begin! Stay tuned and keep praying and praising GOD! Things are moving quickly!

The Sound of Silence

Getting to Phillips, Wisconsin was - more challenging than I expected. I had given myself a cushion of time to get to the church but the 3 + hour drive turned into 4++ hour drive. With thunderstorms as I left St. Paul, road construction delays as I entered Wisconsin, then there was fog which made visibility difficult. On top of that I had bad driving directions (no thanks to a certain website) and bad cellphone service. I learned a few things along the way . . .

1. Always ask a local for directions - and don't rely on websites to know the best route.
2. Cell phones are great for communication and calming one's nerves- but not so great in areas where you don't get reception.
3. The First Baptist Church of Phillips, WI, is a very forgiving church - pardoning my late arrival and graciously welcoming me although I missed the potluck dinner.
4. Prayer is so important when traveling. I prayed that I would get there safely (and miraculously did!) They prayed during my travels that I would not meet any deer on the road. (I did see deer but they were all road kill before I saw them - not sure about the theology of it all.)

When I finally arrived, I was a bit discombobulated as I quickly switched gears from road weary traveler to - missionary speaker and gave a "low tech" version of my presentation. They were a great audience and asked fabulous questions. Their Deacon board will vote Oct. 16 about partnering with my ministry.
( A Big thanks goes to Hunter and Jessica for helping me with my Culture experiment!)

I stayed at Joyce and Dwayne's home for the evening. And enjoyed getting to know them. I woke up Monday morning confused. So this is the sound of silence - I thought. A dairy farm without cows is quite a contrast to my home in St. Paul - with sirens, fast cars and noisy neighbors. I enjoyed the peacefulness of it all.

My drive home was much more relaxing and I couldn't resist taking photos of cows in Wisconsin. I took a route home that led me through Taylor's Falls, MN, to take in some of the fabulous change going on in nature. - Enjoying a bit more the sound of silence. And reflecting on the changes in my life and the peacefulness that only God's presence can bring among the storms, low visibility, silence and chaos.

Ps. It was a great day to be in Wisconsin - as the Packers beat the Vikings!