Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wait for It

Wait for it . . . Just like the millions of people in Japan are waiting for the peak of cherry blossoms . . .From the Japan Times article . . .

"Nothing excites Japanese people the way cherry blossoms do. Cherry blossoms are something the Japanese are so proud of, they can't help but smile when someone mentions the magic word: o-hanami.

Although o-hanami sounds more like the lyrics to a Christmas carol (Oh, hanami, Oh, hanami, with faithful leaves unchanging. . .), the translation is actually closer to "Oh, flower-watching." It's the time of year when all Japanese find time to go and have a picnic under the cherry trees while the pink cherry blossoms are in full bloom. . . .The Meteorological Agency follows the blossoms' movements as if they were a major weather system."

Seriously! We watch the weather report to see when peak viewing time will be!
I'm heading out on Monday - March 31 with classmates and Japanese teachers for o-hanami.

Wait For it . . . In the meantime - I won't be posting for a few days, maybe more than a few - I'm packing, and moving to a new place (2 hours away) and unpacking, and it may take a while to get an internet connection. March 28 is Moving day - Just one day in "operation relocation". So while I'm adjusting to life in a much bigger living space with a lot fewer people (just me) under the one roof - trying to find a new "normal" - You'll be waiting . . . When you visit this blog and notice it hasn't been updated - let that be a prayer prompt -
  • Pray for transition to a new house in NW Tokyo

  • Building new relationships (with limited Japanese abilities)

  • Progress in language acquisition
    April 3 - End of semester April 14 - Beginning of new semester

  • March 30 Giving my testimony at Crossroads Baptist Church

  • April 20 – Giving my testimony at Nerima Baptist church

While you Wait . . .

Here are some links that may interest you while I'm away.

BGC website for my latest prayer letter and Kansai Christian School's letter

Here and there Japan - Snapshots of life in Japan especially for kids

Photos of Japan - by Andrew Gray

Other Missionary Blogs from Japan

Andrea's blog -

Shan's blog

John & Elaine's blog

For a bit of contrast - travel around the world through blogs my friends write:
Matt in Sudan, Mary in Nigeria, Amanda in Kenya, Millers and Davis' in Uganda, Flammers and Hutchisons in New Zealand, Joanna in Hungary, Bethany in Germany, Kristina in Romania, Stires in Albania, Hunters in Austria, and Livesays in Haiti

Any other blogs you'd recommend? - send a suggestion in the comments. =0)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Field Council

March 4-7 The Japan BGC missionaries had our annual field council. I guess its time I post the photos.

The Weather . . .
This was the view from my window in the lodge - yep we had snow - and didn't see Mt. Fuji until the third day.

The Location . . .
This year Field Council was at Torchbearers at Yamanaka-ko near Mt. Fuji. Notice the caravan of mission vans.

The People . . .
In addition to the 10 missionaries on the field, we had 3 denominational leaders from the states, one associate missionary in Japan from the Philippines, 2 visitors from Japan, and 2 kids.
The Welcome . . .
At the beginning of the meetings John (our very tall field coordinator) gave me (the newest and shortest missionary on the field) a covenant - signed by the Japan Mission Team. It was a wonderful surprise to receive - And very meaningful so I want to share it with you.
"Our Covenant with Lori
We value you greatly and we receive you joyfully into our Japan mission family. In order that God may be glorified and Christ's Kingdom may advance in Japan and in the world, we personally affirm this covenant with you:
  • We will celebrate your calling by God and your giftedness
  • We will challenge you to be all that God has made you to be.
  • We will serve you that you may relish God's grace in all its promises.
  • we will encourage you to faithfully fulfill God's ministry in your life.
  • We will stand by you in times of smiles and times of tears.
  • We will speak the truth in love that you may love God and others more completely.
  • We will pray for you that Christ's joy may always be yours."
Doesn't that just make you want to join the team too? - There is work here for you, if your interested!

The Meetings . . .

The Fun . . .
On Family Fun Night we get together for games and lots of laughter with crazy skits. I participated in "The Confessions of a Tooth Fairy" The guys did "Cinderfella", almost an annual tradition - pictured above. (L to R) Jeff = Fairy Godmother, Dave & John = Ugly stepsisters, Bob = Prince Charming, Dennis = Cinderella, Gil = Narrator). Bob did another hilarious skit, this time as "Tomato Sensei", done in Japanese and English. (photo below)

The Farewells . . .
Bob and Nancy are retiring from the Japan field. We had a really special celebration of their ministry and their friendship with us. While I'm glad I could be on the field at least part of a year as a career missionary with the Sorley's, its sad to see them go back to the states. Their testimonies are vivid examples of God's faithfulness and love. Thank you Bob and Nancy for your 30+ years of service in Japan! (Cool fact - Bob is a Adult Third Culture Kid - he grew up as an MK in Japan, and their daughter is third generation Japan missionary!)

Reading Signs

I pass this sign every day on my way to language class. It makes me smile.
There are many signs I pass everyday that I cannot read (come to Japan - feel illiterate!)
Ok - at least I cannot read them YET. So when I pass a sign with English on it I'm curious to see how things get translated or reworded in English. This one makes me wonder how many people "put gum on the carpet" before they posted this request? Like I said this one makes me smile.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Where I spend my days . . .

Just want to take a moment to brag on my language school.

I go to class 4 days a week for 3 hours a day and have an individual lesson one hour a week. For a total of 13 hours a week. (When you add the commute to class 1 hour each way, plus lunch - typically with classmates, and a bit of study time, I'm usually gone from home from 9am to 5pm) When I arrive home I get many chances to practice my Japanese as I'm living with a Japanese host family.

Monday Tuesday and Thursday - Is a basic level 1 Japanese Class. I attend with 3 other classmates and this week we added another classmate. Giving us a total of 5 students, 3 Americans, 1 Korean and 1 Indian (2 guys and 3 gals). Because of the small class size we get lots of "talk time". And since not all the students are native English speakers Japanese is our common language. Each student brings his/her own strengths and weakness to class and it makes for a great learning environment as we each support one another. I'm so thankful for the harmony and good mesh of personalities that exists.

We have 4 Japanese teachers who rotate, typically our class time is divided in half with a different teacher for each half. Our "textbook" is a blank notebook which we fill with notes, grammar points, dictation sentences, and songs. We have a list of adjectives, verbs and a set of dialogs which we memorize. We use a book (written by our teacher) to help learn 300 Kanji through stories. The learning environment is very encouraging and interactive.

Wednesday, I attend a class for missionaries. Zach and I are currently the only class members. We discuss many things (mostly in Japanese) with our teachers including: culture, church, methods of outreach, family, vocabulary used in the church, as well as learn about Japanese Christians.

The language school I attend is Tokyo Academy of Communication Or TAC. Its not a overtly 'Christian school', but 3 out of 4 of our teachers are Christian and 3 of the 5 students are Christian.

Today, being Wednesday, was our Japanese for missionaries class - The first half we talked about a range of topics from how to receive a gift - to how to grow a church in Japan - to the role(s) of a pastor in a Japanese church. The second half of class (with another teacher) we learned a Japanese worship song, learned/practiced vocabulary for praying in Japanese and then were asked to explain a Bible verse - in Japanese. WOW! What practical and amazing learning!

But it didn't end there!

Today I also had my one-on-one class. We started by talking about the wedding (kekkonshiki) that I attended last weekend. Then when my teacher asked if I had any questions - I, knowing this question was coming, asked, "How did you become a Christian?"

In February, this teacher had spent 3 weeks helping me write my testimony (akashi) in Japanese - and I've been very curious to hear her testimony ever since. Today I got my chance! She told me her testimony in Japanese and to check my understanding she had me repeat back to her what I understood.

She told me how God used many people in Japan and overseas, to plant seeds in her life and it was obvious - God was working in her life at each stage. It started with a Catholic preschool in Japan - included a Christian teacher in high school and attendance at a Christian college. Even though for many years she read the bible and found it encouraging she found it difficult to believe, especially about sin and the cross. Through happy and horrible events - only God could orchestrate - her mom and dad became a Christian and she eventually accepted Christ as her savior six years ago. By the end of her testimony - we were both in tears - with joy and wonder at how God works in amazing ways!

2 Timothy 4:2 - is a verse meaningful to her . . .

2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

I thank God for the opportunity to go to this school - learn from these teachers and fellow students! Since I'm not teaching TCKs right now, sometimes it feels like I'm not "in season" but today I was reminded that God can still work even when both the preacher and listener may be "out of season". In God's economy of time - no moment is wasted. I also resonated with the "great patience" in this verse - especially as my 70 year old host father seems no closer to the Kingdom now than he did 12 years ago. Please continue to pray for God's Word to be received by the not-yet-Christians in Japan.

Calendar Details
April 3 is the last day of our semester - after a 1 week break we will start Semester 2. At field council for the BGC Japan Mission - it was reconfirmed that I will have one year of language school (maybe more). (YIPPEEEE!!! - This is what I was hoping for as I want time to focus on language learning!)

For those of you trying to read between the lines -let me spell it out - I will not be accepting a teaching position for the 08-09 school year.

Can hardly wait to see what amazing surprises God has in store during this year!

Top - The shiny window building is - Ochanomizu Christian Center OCC - where my class meets on the 5th floor, or 3rd floor, or 2nd floor depending on the day.
Classroom photos: We are role playing - pretending to be shopping at a Japanese store (The photos on the desk are of things for sale - we even had pretend Japanese money). Our teacher or Nomura - sensei is in the peach sweater. David's in the gray shirt, Mihwa is in purple and Zach is in blue.
Bottom - from further down the street looking toward the OCC building.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mutsumi's Big Day

Photos of Mutsumi's big day. Click here to see how I know Mutsumi.

It was a "western style wedding"*(see foot note). WSW is very popular in Japan! It is considered romantic, modern, cheerful and less tiring than the traditional Shinto wedding - Plus more people can attend - I think there were 70 people there today.

So much of the ceremony was familiar . . .

Such as the father of the bride walking his daughter down the aisle.
But - it was my first time to see
the pre-ceremony ritual at the back of the chapel, where the bride's mother lowers her daughter's veil.

The wedding took place in a chapel with a foreigner (American?) presiding over the ceremony, singing the most popular Japanese hymn - "What a friend we have in Jesus". " I do's" were said, parts of 1 Corinthians 13 was read (in Japanese & English), rings were exchanged and there were lots and lots of flowers.

The reception was held in the same building. Above Mr. & Mrs. Kato make their entrance. The below photo is the newly weds, plus Tomomi (Mutsumi's sister) and I.
At the reception after the cutting of the wedding cake and a few toasts, Mutsumi changed into another stunning dress and there were more toasts, and photos taken with each table. I was seated (in the very back table - a place of honor) with Mutsumi's family where we ate a several course French dinner. Below are Motoki san and Mutsumi with her grandparents (seated), her parents, sister, cousin and me.

Foot Note-

It is estimated that less than 2% of Japanese profess to be Christian, and they tend to have wedding ceremonies in their own churches.

According to the annual survey by Recruit Co., 15 percent of all new marriages in Japan in 2007 had no religious wedding ceremony, 12 percent had Shinto-style weddings (down from 80 percent in the 1960's), leaving a huge 70 percent majority who chose western style weddings. But since most of these couples and their families are presumed not to be believers, these ceremonies are not directed at a Christian congregation.

The trappings are there; the Bible reading, prayers, hymns, but it is not a time for preaching. The ceremonies are based on Christian teachings but perceived by the couple primarily as a western style, rather than a Christian style.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Going to the chapel . . .

Tomorrow - March 16th, I'm going to the Art Grace Wedding Chapel in Meguro, Tokyo, where I will have the honor of attending the wedding of Mutsumi and Motoki.
Mutsumi was a Japanese student who lived with my family for a year when I was in 10th grade.(above photo taken in MN) She had been living with another family (think of the combination of a Tokyo city gal living with a dairy farming family in rural Minnesota!) but when that didn't work out she came to live in town with us. I thank God that she did! She quickly became like a sister to me - since I already have a twin - together we were like triplets! (Can you see the family resemblance?) She also gets the credit for getting me interested in visiting Japan. ( Look where that has led - Rural MN gal living in big city Tokyo!) As my life is focused on the challenge of learning Japanese right now, I find it hard to imaging the courage and strength of character she must have had to do a one year exchange in English at the age of 15! I have renewed admiration for her!
Tomorrow, will be a day of reunions, as I haven't seen her since last time I lived in Japan (2000) and at that time her father was recovering from a horrible car accident.

It will be a time for celebration, as we celebrate this new couple - The Katos - or - Drs. Kato. (Yep, they're both medical doctors!).

For me it will be a time for new cultural experiences as I attend the wedding and reception that will follow. I've asked my teachers and host family so many questions about wedding etiquette and vocabulary - lets hope tomorrow I don't make too big of a mistake and am actually able to communicate in Japanese.

To all you Ortonville friends who read this blog - YES - I will pass on greetings from you - and if I'm able to get a photo or two you will see them!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Spic Fan!

I returned from field council yesterday and today visited "Spic" Salon. Where my host mom had arranged a hair cut appointment for me with a lady who is one of the 12 members of the Japanese church I've been attending. I arrived with a few photo ideas of how I wanted it cut, and a few vocabulary words relevant to getting a hair cut. It was a 2 hour process that began with receiving a cup of green tea, included a hair cut, shampoo, and style, as well as a shoulder/neck/head massage. It ended with a 20% discount in price. My Japanese was very hesitant after 4 days in an English speaking environment but overall. It was a fabulous and actually relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon! Thank you Katagiri-san - I'm now a loyal fan of "Spic Salon"!

When I arrived home, Mion (age 6) was the first to notice the change and quickly informed the men of the family (who had failed to notice earlier)- to which they responded, "Ah honto da - sugoi, suteki" Roughly translated - "That's true isn't it, (the style) is great, nice ".

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Field Council

I'm traveling to Yamanakako, Japan today - where the swans roam free and the views of Mt. Fuji are AAAAmazing! (on sunny day's at least!) Here is a photo from the last time I was at field council as a short-term missionary.

This time I'll be there with 10 of my fellow BGC Japan missionaries, our regional director, the pastors to missionaries and a few special guests for our annual field council. I'm looking forward to this time of fellowship and learning.

I have no idea what type of internet access I'll have - so don't be surprised if there is a few days without any posts. But when I return I hope to post an update on my plans for language study and relocation details for you who are wondering what was decided in January.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hina Matsuri

Today is Girl's Day in Japan 3rd day of the 3rd month of the year.
Hina matsuri - Doll's festival, or Girl's Day is a day when families pray for young girls' growth and happiness. Grandparent's typically give their granddaughter's a hina ningyo (princess doll) set when the are young children. It can be small like the above photo or a large 7 step one, like the bottom photo. This photo is the special dinner my host mom made. It is sushi rice in the form of a prince and princess. The coat is of scrambled eggs, the hair is nori (seaweed), the fan is salmon sashimi (raw fish), the prince is holding an asparagus. My host mom hasn't made this since her daughter was a child. Another common food is sakura mochi, click here for more information and here for other Girl's Day treats.

Each year in February the families set out these decorations on display. They are to take down the doll set so
on after the holiday - like the very next day, if not the evening of the 3rd. There is a superstition that if the doll set is late in being taken down the girl will be late to marrying.
The very top photo in this blog post is the doll set my host family has on display. The photo above is the doll set Mrs. Wada (a former English student of mine) has in her entry way. The photo below is the 7 step display that Mrs. Wada has decorating her tatami room. Her daughter received this set when she was a child, she is now married and expecting her second child. Typically the daughter inherits the hina ningyo set when she gets married but she lives in a small apartment so doesn't have room for this set right now.For lots more photos click here.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Baby Boom

Did you know there is a baby boom going on in America?

Take a moment to count the people you know who are expecting babies in the next few months.

I just finished this exercise and came up with 16 friends expecting 17 babies in the next 7 months. (As of yet, I don't know of any babies due in July - if you know of someone let me know!)

I just heard the news -It's a boy!
March 2 - HAPPY BIRTH DAY - to William Theodore!

I'm so excited for you - You have wonderful parents! Treat them well and sleep lots tonight, your mommy is tired! (You have some awesome Grandparents too - enjoy your time with them when they come to spoil you!!) I'm so thankful for God's blessings in the form of babies! Can't wait to see you soon, if only in through internet and photos!

Feb 19 - Happy Birth-day to Cole! It was so fun to see your photos today online! So happy for your arrival! Congrats Janet and Ricci!

Perhaps I'm just at that age where it seems all my friends are having babies. Better get my crochet needles out -there are lots of blankets and booties to be created! (If you have a favorite crochet pattern for babies (in English) that you'd like to share, send it my way! SERIOUSLY - I can only get so far reading the Japanese patterns!