Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review

I'm back on mainland Japan after a fabulous Christmas vacation spent with friends in Okinawa (southern island of Japan). As you might imagine there are tons of photos to share - but that will come later.


While my neighbors have been finishing their end of year cleaning and grocery shopping, I've been spending the last day of December reflecting on 2009. After reading all of my blog posts for 2009 and reviewing my journals I thought I'd steal an idea from a friend and do a review of the year.



Q: What is the best thing you did this year?

A: Spend time with friends . . .


Q: Best meal you had?

A: Belgium Waffles with lots of toppings eaten with the Ibaraki family & Lisa



Q: Who did you meet this year? Any new friends?

A: I met a lot of people in my move to Nara and through working at Kansai Christian School. Many relationships are growing. New friend - Keiko, I met her in Tokyo and have enjoyed watching her grow in her relationship with God.



Q: Who did you say good-bye to this year?

A: Moving from Tokyo meant a lot of good-byes with friends in Tokyo at language school and Yurigaoka church.



Q: What did you learn this past year?

A: There is no such thing as a wasted experience. Teaching at a small international school and living cross-culturally provides multiple opportunities to step out of your comfort zone and develop new skills. I've found myself teaching music, playing volleyball, singing in a Japanese ensemble, preparing to direct a musical and assisting a high school basketball team - all areas which relate in someway to experiences I had in my childhood.



Q: What was the scariest thing that happened in 2009?

A: Taking the Japanese Drivers Test 4 times!



Q: What did you do in 2009 that you want to do next year?

A: Go to my Japanese host family's mountain home.



Q: Anything you did that you DO NOT want to do next year?
A: Go through the chaos of a move! I did it 4 times in 15 months and then moved my classroom from one building to another. I know it'll happen again - but would like a year without moving!



Q: How did you grow closer to God this past year?

A: Started daily readings in the One Year Chronological Bible, learned to rely, trust and love Him in new ways through the transitions this year.

Q: Give me 5 words that describe you.
A: hopeful, learner, explorer, teacher & listener

Q: Did your wish for 2009 come true?

A: Yes, I started teaching 1st and 2nd grade at Kansai Christian School - and I LOVE my job!



Q: What is your #1 wish for 2010?

A: That my non-Christian friends and students would better understand the intimate and unconditional love God has for them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sing, sing a song



Here are a few photos from the weekend full of singing.
Top photo is the group "Flower Basket" on Saturday. In this photo we were singing Joy to the World. (I'm second from the left)

This photo is all of the singers from the Itami Hall concert. The ladies sitting in the front row sang songs from various operas they had amazing voices! The woman holding the large boquet of flowers was the person who organized the concert. (I'm third from the left in the second row.)

After the concert all of the participants went to a restaurant for a "Viking Dinner" which is what they call a an all you can eat buffet dinner. They served everything from sushi to crab and roast beef.

The concert on Sunday went well. It was in a bigger hall and so pictures didn't turn out so great. Between practice and performance our singing group had our "end of year/Christmas dinner" where we at pizza and pasta at a restaurant in the same building as the concert hall. I enjoyed going out for coffee with two of the members of the group after the concert.

Friday, December 18, 2009

So You Think You Can Sing . . .

Recently I've been watching "So You Think You Can Dance . . ." (Season 4 is playing in Japan now and I have friends who record it for me. Season 6 is currently finishing up in the states.) It's the only TV I take the time to watch. It's a reality show where dancers compete for the title of America's Favorite Dancer. What I enjoy most about the show is watching how the contestants show improvement from the tryouts to the finale.

Here in Japan I've been realizing how many of the things I do involve music - specifically singing. I teach 1-4 grade KCS music class, help with the KCS High School Worship team, select music for things like the school Christmas program and participate in a community singing ensemble, called the Flower Baskets. In January I'll begin directing an elementary Musical scheduled to perform in April).

I wouldn't consider myself a good singer - I am not soloist material but enjoy singing with groups of people. If there was a contest called "So You Think You Can Sing" - I'd play the role of the person who messes up big time at try outs. And wouldn't even make the it to Vegas week let alone the top 20. The "resident expert" judges would say something like, "Honey, I sure hope you like plan B. Cuz this just isn't going to work out for you. No, it isn't." Thankfully I have my teaching job as my main thing.

But no matter the level of skill, singing is something I can do to honor God. It is a way I can build relationships with other Japanese women, and mentor third culture kid students. So if you want to see me and my groups in action here's the concert schedule for this week . . .

Concert Schedule :Place and Group
Dec. 19, 2 P.M. Itami Hall - Flower Baskets
Dec. 20, 4 P.M. - Akishino Hall - Saidaiji - Flower Baskets
Dec. 21, 10 A.M - Heguri - "mainstreet" Christmas Caroling with 1-4 grade
Dec. 22, 6 P.M. Heguri @ KCS Christmas Program
- directing 1-4 grade choir and overseeing the H.S. Worship team.

Who knew singing in children's musicals as a kid, the school choir and ensemble in high school and church choir would lead to ministry overseas? Let's pray the God who never wastes an experience can make something out of these opportunities for relational growth as well as skill improvement. I'm learning so much from my singing group and students!

Flower Basket
We'll only sing for 10 minutes of the 2 hour concerts
Song List:
I Could Have Danced All Nightfrom my Fair Lady (in English)
Tegami (Letter) - by Angela Aki (in Japanese)
Joy to the World! (both English and Japanese)
Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (Japanese)

Children:
Song list:
Frosty the Snowman
Away in the Manger
Silent Night (last two songs with sign language)
---------------------------------
Karaoke anyone?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fast Food & Lunch Orders


Recently I stopped at a local fast food place called Honke Kamadoya. I ordered the "tori no amazu ankake obento" for 490 yen. It tasted like sweet and sour chicken (without the sour) served on noodles. It was delicious! On the side is a cabbage salad, potato salad and pickled daikon. In the center of the rice is umeboshi or pickled plum - which I found too sour. It came with wooden chopsticks and some miso paste attached to an empty cup. To make miso soup just add water.

Three days a week at school students can order lunch. Wednesday it is McDonald's, Tuesday is Gusto (a local family restarant), and Friday is Kamadoya. There are about 4-7 meals per restaurant that they can choose from for the weekly meal order. Students who don't order meals bring their own lunch or obento. We don't have a cafeteria so the students use microwaves or toasters to heat their obentos or use the hot pot to add water to their cup of noodle.

Blessing of the Children


Sunday there was a special time of blessing for the children. There are 4 children at the church. The family on the left is Arakawa-sensei's, (the interim pastor) family with 2 kids, and on the right are the Ibaraki's.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Need some energy?

Thanks to the services of Foreign Buyers Club and Costco I have an abundance of Grape Nuts Cereal and oatmeal. What I don't have in abundance is time or energy, so I pulled out my go-to recipe for energy bars and thought I'd share it with you. Because really - who doesn't need some energy? (OK, I can think of a few children who have more than enough energy! So this is for all you adults out there who need to keep up with those kiddos!)


Energy Bars / Granola Bars

1 c. quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. grape nuts cereal
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 beaten egg
1/3 c. applesauce
1/4 c. honey
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2T. cooking oil
1 - 16 oz. package of mixed dried fruit bits
1/4 c. sunflower nuts (optional)
1/4 c. chopped walnuts



1.Preheat oven to 325* Line an 8x8x2 in. baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray coating (or grease). Set pan aside.

2. In a large bowl combine oats, flour, Grape Nuts cereal, and ginger.

3. Add egg, applesauce, honey, brown sugar, and oil and mix well.

4. Stir in fruit bits, sunflower nuts, and walnuts.

5. Spread mixture evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.
Cool on a wire rack. Use edges of foil to lift from pan.

Cut into 24 bars;

100 calories, 3 g. total fat per bar


The recipe is flexible and you can add or subtract things like sunflower nuts without major problems. I never have sunflower nuts on hand and just add a few more walnuts. I used 200g of fruit this time but 16 ounces is closer to 450grams.



*Tip - After I make and cut the bars I put them into zip lock bags (2 per bag). Then I throw them in the freezer. They last longer and are just the right combination of chewy crunchiness, when I need to grab a snack or breakfast on the run.

Daikon



I received a daikon from a friend last week.
She wrapped it in newspaper after pulling it from her garden.


I had no idea what to do with it but recieved several recommendations - like make Oden, miso soup or a salad.

Weekend Favorites

During the week teaching 1-2 grade and participating in other activities (worship team, basketball, tutoring, staff meetings, etc.) I often find I have to be purposeful if I want a little time for hobbies or fun activities. Weekends are a time to unwind and get a little rest before the next week starts. Assuming I'm not traveling with the basketball team, visiting Tokyo, or singing in a concert, here are some of the things I enjoy doing on the weekends . . .

*Sleeping past 7am!

*checking things off my "with-in walking distance" to do list - like visiting the bank, paying bills (at the 7-11) grabbing some goodies at the local bakery, and filling my bag with Fruit & vegetables at a new shop down the road.

* Baking a recipe like this eggplant casserole that will be divided into Tupperware for lunches the following week, while listening to a podcast like Mosaic. or Mars Hill

* Doing dishes while catching up on my current events listening to this.

*catching up on the blogs I follow

*walking or taking the train wherever I need to go (Unlike bitter cold Minnesota - The temps have been in the 40's or 50's recently with some rain.)

*getting to know the people at church

* Skyping with family & friends from the states and seeing these smiley faces.

taken at a Thanksgiving celebration - with my grandma, cousins and nieces

chatting with nephew Brendan while my nieces were at a tea party

* updating the blog =0)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3



There is a term in Japanese called "Shakken"* which basically refers to the car inspection. I've read that the inspection system is in place to ensure cars on Japanese roads are properly maintained and are safe to be on the road. (*see below for background or click here to see what they test) This is a requirement for all vehicles and if cars do not have up todate inspections they can be fined by the police.

The Shakken for my car had come and due to a busy work schedule and a few poor choices on my part (err, procrastination rears its ugly head) I waited until Saturday to renew it. It was closed so I returned again on Monday after school to a local car repair shop, as was recommended by friends. There I took a little lesson in Shakken 101.
I was prepared to encounter:
1. lots of unknown terms related to the car and test.
2. annoyed and grumpy service men
3. A long wait for the test to be done (had my reading material with me)
4. a large fee of perhaps 100,000 yen or more than $1000.


I learned a few things along the way:

1. The shop is closed on Saturdays - but available without an appointment on weekdays.
2. It can take 2 to three days depending on the shop. (even with a few complications, mine took 48 hours later)
3. They will provide a loaner car while your car is in the shop. (assuming you know how to ask for it - I didn't ask for it but took the train to school instead.)
4. My Japanese vocabulary related to cars is lower than I anticipated. Is there such a thing as less than nothing?
5. Some service men are very polite, patient with foreigners who don't know who to talk about cars in Japanese, and even friendly - one of them works at Saidaiji Motors. They served coffee to me while they processed paperwork and even chatted with me about the missionaries (now retired) who recommended this shop to me.

6. You need to have proof of tax payment before the test can begin. I didn't have this one piece of paper and as a result they said they couldn't move forward with the inspections. I went on a search to find who might have this form. It turned up in Tokyo and was mailed to me. In the meantime, the shop had realized another way to confirm it had been paid and proceeded with the inspection.

Today I returned from school and recieved a phone call that the car was ready to be picked up. I walked to the station - learned what repairs had been done - paid the bill (more than I anticipated) and drove to a 6pm appointment where I received a massage and haircut (the massage is a free service - which I thoroughly enjoyed today!)



Japanese 'SHAKKEN'

*'Shakken' is Japanese for Inspection, it is the most dreaded word for vehicle owners in Japan. All cars need Shakken. The Shakken is a strict car registration scheme which operates in Japan. It consists of a series of safety inspections combined with compulsory insurance, weight and vehicle tax. New cars come with 3 years'Shakken'. After this has expired the Shakken must be renewed every 2 years throughout the ownership of the vehicle. Therefore the Japanese generally sell or part-exchange their car as a period of Shakken expires. The cost of renewing the Shakken is relatively high as the Japanese Government's policy is to reduce car ownership due to the limited space available.

Most Japanese people would rather sell their vehicles and buy new ones than renew the shakken on their old vehicle.The older the vehicle, the more expensive it is to renew the shakken, and depending on the condition of the vehicle, the more repairs you may need to do to pass the shakken. This is why Japanese vehicles tend to be in better condition than UK ones (or USA) as they look after them to keep the cost of the shakken down.


http://www.jrhimports.com/10103/info.php?p=15&pno=0

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Life, Let the Praises Ring



Keiko and I in Tokyo during my visit in October.



Today was a unique day. I went to church in the Tokyo area without even leaving my home in Nara. Because of a web camera, the Internet and a dedicated tech crew I was able to sit in my living room and see my friend's baptism at Yurigaoka church hundreds of kilometers away.

Keiko went to Yurigaoka church on Christmas Eve 2008, searching for meaning in life. It was an especially challenging/painful time in her life and Buddhism wasn't providing answers. Her experience studying in the States and attending a catholic school provided exposure to English as well as an introduction to Christianity. Since then God has used many people around the globe and circumstances both good and bad in her life, to draw her to Him.

I met Keiko during her first Sunday worship service at Yurigaoka. The pastor said - "Lori, we have a visitor today. She speaks English really well and has lots of questions about God and the church. Will you talk with her?" Our 45 minutes talk that day was the start of a fun friendship. Her questions ranged from "What are the difference between Baptist churches and Catholic churches" to "How do you know God is with you and loves you?"

Her life of earnestly seeking God has been such an encouragement to me. Her honest questions, teachable spirit, and desire to understand who Jesus is, what the Bible says and what that might mean for her life came at a time in my life when I was in language school and feeling discouraged about my communication abilities and inability to share the gospel in Japanese.

Throughout the year Keiko has grown spiritually. Through the ups and downs of her journey she's seen God walking with her, working in her life. It was a privilege to be able to "be there" for her baptism today, to see her give the public witness to what God has done in her life and how she's surrendered it to Him.

Keiko, I'm so thankful for you and the joy of Jesus' love that shines through your life. I pray that He will continue to help you understand how deep and how wide his unconditional love for you is. May he also use your life as a witness in your family and at work.



Keiko and Takahashi Sensei talking about the details last week. One side of the "tub" will be filled with water, the other side, where the pastor stands, will not be.



Romans 6:4 (The Message)

3-5That's what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we're going in our new grace-sovereign country.



The view from my computer of Keiko's Baptism today.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kansai Christian School Video

Awesome week, there has been a lot going on recently. (For those wondering YES, I did get turkey for Thanksgiving. Twice actually and even some eel at yet another gathering! Yummy Unagi!)

School related we had a opening ceremony celebration and school open house on Friday Nov. 27. which provided opportunity for people in the neighborhood to get a glimpse of what goes on behind the walls of that building. No, we are not a cult. No, we are not an E-kaiwa school. Yes, we are a school. Yes, we love Jesus.

The 1st-4th grade music class sang in the ceremony and the high school worship team led the music. We also heard reports from families, like the Blocksoms, who helped begin the school 40 years ago. During the open house students were able to share with the visitors how their life has been impacted by learning at a Christian school. Amazing time to say thank you to the people who made the move possible and a time for witnessing God's faithfulness and developing relationships.

Below is a video that our multi-talented, school chaplain, Michael Mason put together for the event. A fun, 4 minute look at the history and a glimpse of life in the new building in Heguri. You'll get to see my first and second grade class in various settings. Besides our class at library time, it seems he caught me singing and dancing to "Father Abraham" and "The Peanut Butter and Jelly song".



For readers out there in one of my partnering churches, if you have internet access in your church or missions team meeting this 4 minute video might be a visual way for you to share with the church team more about Kansai Christian School.

For readers out there who are looking for an English speaking international Christian school to send your kids to more information can be found at www.kansaichristianschool.com

Monday, October 26, 2009

remain awake




We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the Presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. An the incognito is not always hard to penetrate. The real labor is to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake.
- C.S. Lewis


Had a conversation with student's parent today where I was talking about tomorrow's schedule. Only I was thinking tomorrow is Thursday. Umm, yeah - tomorrow is Tuesday. I think I need to pay more attention in class when my 1st grader does "calendar time"!

God has been showing up in many of the nooks and crannies of life where I often don't notice him. It's been a growing time were in one moment I'm smiling with joy, another I'm gritting my teeth with perseverance, then come tears of pain, followed by a sense of peace at His presence and love. There really is no such thing as a wasted experience I just pray I can attend and remain awake to what He's doing here.

Due to some things I need to attend to here, offline, I'm going to step away from the computer for a little while. I look forward to seeing you all again on the other side of this break.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

to be continued . . .


Life has been a whirlwind of activity since the typhoon.
Friday
was a chapel day in school - I helped with the worship team and then led chapel for 1-4 graders

Saturday -
Volleyball practice with the Saikita -Women's volleyball team. Day was filled with many errands, some phone calls and cleaning.

Sunday -"Sports Ministry" day
I participated in a Volleyball tournament, I played right side hitter and had fun slamming the ball. My team won one match and lost one. It was a fun time hanging out all day with Japanese women who have never been to church.

Monday
Beginning of Spirit week at Kansai Christian School.
Each day of the week has a theme

Tuesday - Prom Bomb Day (Students dressed in formal attire)
Wednesday - "Who R U? Day" (students dressed as a famous person) I went as Mary Poppins. (see photo) Two mothers observed in the classroom for the morning - I enjoyed their visit!
Thursday - ZZZZ Day (students wore PJs to school)

Friday - Sports Day - we'll have a sports festival at a local park.
(I'll be helping with Chapel and sharing my testimony in 5-8 grade chapel.

Then the weekend begins-
I'm heading up to Tokyo to attend Zach and Esther's Wedding. I was in language school with Zach last year and heard the behind the scenes stories of Zach's journey to get to know Esther (a Japanese MK from Jamaica)and the proposal. They have a sweet love story! Saturday will be a fun reunion with language school friends and teachers as we celebrate with Zach and Esther.

I'll also be taking care of some business with my mission and visiting with other colleagues in Tokyo before heading back to Nara on Sunday. I'll be traveling by Shinkansen (bullet train) which from Tokyo to Kyoto takes 2 1/2 hours but traveling from home to the bullet train takes about an hour on each end making it about a 5 hour trip.

Monday I'll be teaching again and welcoming a new student to the class.
Too bad I can't travel through the air like Mary Poppins nor can I snap my fingers to clean a room. Ahhhh, to be human without storybook powers.

Photo: from a friend.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Typhoon day is the new Snow day


Coming from Minnesota I grew up like many children wishing and dreaming for snow storms to come on school days. It always seemed like a waste of good snow if the storm came on a weekend. We always hoped they would come early enough in the morning to cause the school bus routes to be drifted over and stay long enough that school was canceled not delayed. But we also hoped that it would clear up enough mid morning that we could go out and play in the snow.

Now that I live in Japan I'm experiencing a new type of 'snow day'. It is tropical storm season in Japan and we've just been hit by Typhoon Melor which brought heavy rain and winds as fast as 198 kilometres (123 miles) an hour. Schools in Japan follow the guidance of the Japan Meteorological Agency and when they put a warning in your district the schools in that area close. This morning at 6am my area of Kinki was colored RED meaning - we had a warning. My school and any other schools in our region were canceled. Later in the morning we moved to yellow meaning weather was downgraded to advisories. Currently(Thursday 4pm) my area is one of the few green areas on the map meaning there are no advisories.

Yesterday after school the winds started to pick up and the rains increased. Before I went to bed I had shut the shutters on all the windows in my house and had cleared the yard of anything that might be blown away. Between midnight and 1 pm the storm winds sounded to be the strongest here. Cookie didn't like the sound of the winds and was whining, barking and growling at the storm. By the time I got the phone call at 6am that school was canceled, the winds had reduced significantly but it was still raining. Train lines had delays and debris was seen in the streets. Flash flood warnings were out but from what I can see my neighborhood didn't have much damage or standing water. By this afternoon the sun is shining, the birds are singing and people are out in their yards sweeping up the branches and clearing debris.

The storm has moved northwest and is causing other challenges for various parts of Japan, tornado force winds, flooding, electricity outages, etc. But overall it seems
that this storm is not as severe as was expected. Praise the Lord!

How did I spend my 'Typhoon day'?
I've spent the day catching up on sleep, trying to fight off this cold that has lingered, reading a book, cleaning the house, correcting papers and preparing for tomorrow's chapel message. I'm enjoying a slower paced day away from school but it is not quite the carefree feeling of the 'snow days' of my childhood.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Singing in the Rain?



We are at present awaiting the arrival of Melor, or as my Japanese friends call him Typhoon #18. Right now he's scheduled to visit on Wednesday (Oct. 7) but he's been hanging out over some water catching the waves and building in strength. His delay has moved him into what Americans would call a category 5 equivalent super typhoon with winds up to 205km/h.

Japanese buildings and structures are typically built to withstand the strong winds and rains. Houses have shutters built on them to cover the windows. I'm not worried about the intensity of the storm. But depending on the levels of rain there could be landslides and flash floods which can cause some major damage.

Typhoon Day
Students are wondering if there will be a "typhoon day", where the government closes schools due to the weather.

This evening, I had singing practice with the Japanese vocal ensemble group I'm part. One of the ladies in the group is a teacher and so we were discussing typhoons and school closures. For her school if they declare a "typhoon day" students do not go to school but teachers are expected to report to school.
"Why?" I asked.
"To protect the school," she answered.
"Really?!" -
"No, but we are expected to be working and take care of things if there are problems."

In my case, I'm assuming students as well as teachers stay home from school.

How does a storm get named?
We also talked about how typhoons get their names/number. So I did a little research here and learned that typhoons in Japan are referred to with a number, so I'll hear the weather report talking about typhoon #18, but in Western North Pacific tropical storms have a name. 13 countries in the pacific submit 10 names which are used alphabetically according to the English Name of the country that submitted the storm names. (Are you following this?) The name Melor was submitted by Malaysia. So when I look online to see more information about the typhoon #18 it is also called "Melor".

Do you know how hurricanes get named?
Do you know what is the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?


Learn Japanese

台風 たいふう  "taifuu" is the Japanese word which in English is pronounced typhoon.
the first kanji 台 means standing
and the next kanji 風  means wind so "standing wind"

Around here
Things are pretty normal around the house - well, except that Cookie (the dog) is behaving the same as when there is a thunderstorm - whiny and clingy. (Only right now there is no thunder or lightning). I anticipate that we will have school tomorrow and the students will request our rainy day song, a silly version of "Singing in the Rain", with actions of course! Its a great song to get the wiggles out when stuck inside for recess.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Teach Us


My class: Teaching 1st & 2nd grade
The numbers:
5 second graders
1 first grader

2 boys
4 girls

Nationalities:

Japanese, Japanese-American, Malaysian-American, and New Zealander

I also teach music for grades 1-4, for total of 12 students. Once a week after school I work with the high school worship team and am enjoying the mentorship position this allows me with the older students. When Drama club starts I will work with the 1-6 grade students one afternoon a week to put together a performance in April.


Spiritual background:

Some students come from Christian families, some are non-Christian families but all allow their children to study about God and read the Bible every day, with Chapel once a week. I love our Bible times together, and delight in hearing students learn to pray for the first time!

I'm thoroughly enjoying my class. They make me smile and keep me on my toes. The opportunity to watch them learn and grow is huge! In fact, I'm realizing I - as the teacher- probably spend more time with the students during their waking hours than their parents do! What a privilege and responsibility.

Here is a prayer I found from another friend who is teaching overseas.


Prayer for school

God bless our little school.
Teach us first to love God and one another in word and deed.
Holy Spirit, guide both teacher and students into all truth.
Strengthen us with your grace when lessons are hard to understand.
Humble us in our successes.
Be glorified by our growth in knowledge and character.
In Jesus' name, amen.

A Right Time

Japan Team Prayer Letter




Looking at the rice fields around Japan right now you can see them beginning to yellow and bend under the weight of the grain, showing that the time for harvest is quickly approaching. Just as the rice farming has different seasons so too does our work in Japan. There are times of preparing the field, times of planting seeds, times of weeding, times of waiting, times of protecting the crop from predators, and times of harvesting. Sometimes ‘preparing the field’ seems to take all our time and energy with seemingly few opportunities to plant the seeds and a rare blessing of seeing a harvest.

Ecclesiastes 3 says there is . . .
A right time to plant and another to reap,
We are looking forward to opportunities in our ministries to plant seeds in the lives of students, friends and neighbors. We rejoice in the news of baptisms and steps of faith among our Christian brothers and sisters.

A right time to destroy and another to construct,
We saw the destruction of the Kansai Christian School building due to termite damage and rejoice as the first phase of construction of the new location in Heguri comes to completion. Doors opening to 31 students, September 24.


A right time to embrace and another to part,
This spring we embraced Chris Chapman and Erick Ellison as they completed their High school education and sent them off to begin the next chapter of life in America. Chris is at Northwestern College and Erick is at Vermillion Community College both in Minnesota.

A right time to hold on and another to let go,
This summer our teammates Gil and Norene Zinke resigned and we are praying for God’s blessings as they transition into their next ministry.

Our Japan mission has lost 13 members in the last 6 years, only 6 to retirement. The Rengo has 62 churches, over 70 pastors, 2,400 members and 1,800 attending churches. Many churches are searching for a pastor and yet the numbers of students in seminaries are very low. We have 8 people in our mission, with the prospect of new staff many years away at best. Especially during these economically challenging times, we find ourselves looking with compassion at the crowds of Japanese as they search for meaning in life and turn to false gods. We are crying out "What a huge harvest! And how few the harvest hands. So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands.”

Though the daily tasks of each of our ministries are very different, we are all working towards the vision of . . . Faithfully using our God-given gifts and opportunities, and by His power, in partnership with the Rengo and others, we will multiply, equip and enable disciples, leaders and churches, which will glorify God and contribute to His Kingdom in Japan and the world.

Please join us in praying for His Kingdom to expand in Japan and the world.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Brendan!





Happy belated 1st Birthday to my nephew!
I loved watching you dig into that chocolate birthday cake! Looks like your sisters have taught you well. I look forward to seeing you in person next summer! Perhaps by then you will be able to say "Hockey" just like your Auntie Lisa is teaching you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gingerbread - for a limited time only

This time of year - call it autumn or call it fall - there are certain flavors and sights that make me think we've entered into a new season. As a teacher, school starting is a big indicator that fall is here. But for me with an extra long summer break due to the move and construction of the school it felt like summer was really long. Now that school has started I feel like Autumn has arrived! (I'm lovin' it by the way!- the teaching, the children, the challenge, the purpose!)


In Japan foods come and go with the seasons. For a limited time certain flavors are available and if you see it on the store shelf you grab it because it may not be there next time you visit. Right now foods made with sweet potato and chestnuts or Maroon (as their called here) are in season. But I find myself craving snicker doodles and pumpkin pie (unfortunately I don't have pumpkin pie filling in the house!). BUT I just happened to have 4 containers of molasses on hand (and to think I didn't buy any of them!) So I was excited to discover a seasonal recipe using molasses in a new cookbook I received and I decided to try it! You can find the recipe online by clicking here.

This week at school 2 teachers are celebrating birthdays. So I'm using this week's staff meeting as an opportunity to bake treats to celebrate them. I've made 2 versions of the Dark and Moist Gingerbread recipe - one is the original recipe with mild molasses. The other is a variation made with the dark molasses and added cheesecake pockets. (see below) It is an easy recipe to make (assuming you have the ingredients) -and now my kitchen smells fabulous! We'll see if the staff gives it a thumbs up at the meeting tomorrow. It will only be available for a limited time so if you're coming to the staff meeting come early!

Recipe Variation
Before starting the gingerbread, beat together 1 large egg, 4 ounces cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Set aside. Make the gingerbread batter, but pour only half into the pan. Drop spoonfuls of the cheese mixture over the batter. Then cover with the remaining gingerbread mix. Bake as directed. The cake may need another few minutes in the oven.

*Side note - if you have recipes you like that use molasses please send them my way. However, due to a traumatic experience making gingerbread men/cookies in high school I refuse to make cutout cookies with the molasses.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Explore


While I'm starting the adventure of school year with my 1st and 2nd grades . . .

Go explore the world!
What? Can't afford a round the world flight?
Ok, just make a few clicks and crisscross the globe through visiting the blogs of a few friends I follow. See how many times you can circle the globe! And if there isn't a new post up on my blog tomorrow - perhaps one of those listed blow have a new post. Fasten your seat belts!


Japan -

Shan - ministering in Osaka (currently in the states on home assignment)

Andrea - Ministering in Kyoto


Amberly - ministering in Amagasaki

Tim & Susan - Transferring from Hokkaido to Tokyo - via home assignment in USA

Austria - The Hunters


Russia - The Goldmans

Senagal - The Martins


Thailand - The Millars (Kenny was a study abroad student at Bethel when I worked there. Now he & his wife lead a study abroad program!)

Portugal - Otto & Yumi (my Japanese roommate from my study abroad days)

New Zealand - The Flammers and Hutchison. (LOVE their church marketing posters!)

Haiti - the Livesays (warning: tell it like it is style, oozing with sarcasm and stellar photos may have you addicted before you know it!)

Sudan - Matt (another warning: descriptions so gripping you may feel like you need to check for land minds next time you step out of the house)

USA - Natalie & Steve - ministering at one of my supporting churches in Northern MN

USA - Brooke - ministering through photography!

Do you have a blog? I'd love to hear more about it! Send me your link!
Do you follow a blog you'd like to recommend? Please leave a comment!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

So many boxes so little time

Construction at school is done!

Moving day was yesterday. (moved boxes from the Assembly Hall to the classrooms)

Today was a day of unpacking boxes at Kansai Christian school.

Staff was there unpacking the boxes, while the Jr. High and High school students worked with the principal to clear out the rest of the Hall (The place were the boxes and much furniture was stored). There were 16 tons of boxes/furniture when we started yesterday and by the end of the day today the Hall looked A-mazing!! The floors were sparkling! And not a box in that room! (I can't wait to show you the photos when I figure out this download issue.)

I worked steady from 9 to 5pm in my room and by 5pm it still has over 20 boxes to be unpacked. (started with well over 50!) Problem is I'm out of bookshelves and there is no closet. Tomorrow is a cleaning day so more students and parents of students will come to help with the rest of the unpacking and do cleaning.

As a teacher, I'm not used to being less than 36 hours before school starts and have nothing on the wall. I feel VERY blessed to have so many books and resources that have been left at the school through the efforts and donations of previous teachers but I'm also realizing how much I miss the "Resource closet" that was once in the room I taught in.

My room in the new site is bigger but has much less storage. I am thinking that tomorrow will be a day filled with a bit of chaos. Ok - lets talk reality - a LOT of chaos. I'm praying that God will give the students, the moms and I the grace to handle what doesn't get done. And the wisdom to know how to best spend our time and use our space tomorrow.

I have great expectations for Thursday's start of the day -I'll have 6 students this year 2 new students and 4 students who were in 1st grade last year. Plus, I am super glad that academic classes don't start until Monday - I don't think I've opened the boxes with textbooks yet! (Thursday & Friday have large group assemblies and orientation).

So while I'm jumping into the start of the new school year, I'll prepost some blog entries for you while I'm away from the computer.

Japan Congress on Evangelism


I would like you to pray for a very important event in Japan this month. The Fifth Congress on Evangelism will be held in Sapporo from September 21-24. About 2,000 leaders and workers from all over Japan (and the world) will gather to receive God’s vision, pray and coordinate efforts to see Japanese reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


We hope and pray that it will radically affect the nation and the Rengo (Japanese Baptist Church Association) for new approaches, zeal, and vision for evangelism. My co-worker, John, will be attending this congress, he trains leaders through the Church Planting Institute in Japan . Besides praying for the overall congress there are a few specific requests he had for prayer . . .



  • Nearly all of the Rengo pastors will be in attendance. Pray that God would give these our partners new visions and dreams for evangelism and outreach.

  • JEMA (Japan Evangelical Missionary Association) will be having a workshop on different efforts in evangelism. Several of our CPI (Church Planting Institute) colleagues will be sharing during that time. Ask God to stimulate his people with innovative ideas.

  • CPI will have part of a booth to promote our efforts in encouraging and training for church planting. We will be encouraging people to attend our national conference in November. Ask God to help us be servants for those that attend.

Here are a couple more I'd like to add.
  • Saoshiro Sensei who is a leader of another Mission group in Japan and a Japanese gentleman who I met in Seattle, WA at a Reaching Japanese for Christ (RJC) conference. He is also leading two seminars.

  • Fukui Sensei, pastor of a Tamagawa Christian Church, is leading a couple of siminars. I met him originally in Minnesota as he was working on Graduate work at Bethel Seminary. He also was an interim pastor at Yurigaoka Baptist Church near Tokyo when I attended there.

  • Andrea, a missionary in Kyoto who happens to be my friend & blogging buddy . Is also at the Conference. Pray for her and others there for an outpouring of God's spirit on those in attendance ant that it would overflow to others when they return home.


Monday, September 21, 2009

New Every Morning

God's mercies are new every morning -
But sometimes they are more recognizable in the form of . . .
  • Grace to calmly interact with a frustrating situation in a new culture
  • despite the stares of people waiting at the bus stop across the street.
  • A new friend and her husband who didn't hesitate to help answer my call for help when I had car troubles
  • at 6:40 AM
  • on a national holiday
  • even if it took 2 hours to solve the car problems
  • A baker who stepped out of his shop (apron still in place) to help jump my car.
  • A high school student who graciously postponed a 7am breakfast to the same time the next day, three days before school starts!
  • A friend in another city who replies to a text message about car trouble at 7:30am with "I'm praying!"
  • A service station that had the exact battery I needed for my car
  • for only 9,450 yen
  • and installed it in less than 15 minutes.
  • For getting to school only 45 minutes late for Move-in day, but feeling blessed regardless of the rocky start.
Photos: Cosmos, taken near Mt. Tateshina, Japan

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Princess!

Happy Birthday to my adorable niece!


Seems like just yesterday we were celebrating your birth!



Whether playing in the park or sledding in the backyard . . .
you fill each moment with joy!Hugs, kisses and tickles from your Auntie Lori!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The View from Here


In May, the view, from my living room window looking at the rice paddies, looked like these photos. A flooded field with barely any rice plants showing. The lilies were in bloom and frogs were very active then. Now (for photos see yesterdays post) in September - the rice is at least knee high, the field is much drier and the cosmos are in bloom (sorry no cosmos photo yet).

The View to Here


My house (pictured above with the futons airing out on the balcony) is surrounded by rice paddies and I am getting this crazy thrill out of watching the rice grow. Each stage is new to me provides my curiosity something ponder and question. I think harvest time is just around the corner - I hope I'm around to see it happen!




Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More than just Coffee

All summer long text messages have been going back and forth between a Japanese lady and myself. We had never met, but a mutual friend encouraged us to get together. Our schedules never quite matched up until today. Today, a day before teacher orientation starts for me, we had coffee together at her house, while her adorable 2 1/2 year old daughter ate snacks and played with blocks. But it quickly became more than just coffee.

As is typical with many first meetings, it was a bit awkward. Not only did we have the "What should we talk about?" question but we had the "What language should we use?" question. She lived in London for 2 years and has beautiful English - so we spoke in 'Japlish'. If she asked a question in Japanese I tried to answer in Japanese, if she asked in English, I responded in English. When either of us got stuck in one language we'd switch to the other.

And what a conversation! How many times do you get to answer the question - "Why did you come to Japan?", "How is Judaism and Christianity different?" and "If you talked to a Jew would you want them to change their mind [and become Christian]?" in the same conversation!

We talked about religion. She attended a Christian college, so has studied the Bible a little. She says she is happy in life and doesn't claim a religion but sometimes wonders about faith when a family member gets sick. She also says in Japan a person doesn't just have one faith - Her parent's took her to a Shinto shrine at her birth, she was married in a Church/chapel and expects her funeral to be Buddhist.

We talked about food. I like to cook and she likes to do dishes - so it looks like we may have some future fun in the kitchen!

We talked about work, hobbies, family and travels.
Then we talked about when we should meet again - We settled on Saturday for lunch - Pizza is on the menu. And her parents will also be coming. I'm looking forward to meeting again, praying that the Holy Spirit will work in her heart, and praying for wisdom to answer her many questions!