Sunday, May 31, 2009

Home Sweet Mission Field

Romans 12:13 "Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality."The dining table was extended to seat 8! I don't often get to set the table for that many but what a fun time when I can!

About a week ago Tom, my BGC mission colleague in Tokyo, (2nd from right in photo) made the long drive to Nara to work on the annual mission audit and take over the treasure responsibilities from Barb (far left in photo). While he was in town I had the opportunity to host the Chapmans and Tom for a Mexican dinner. I really enjoy my time with my BGC Japan mission team (I should probably say Converge Worldwide, our new name). I am thankful for a time to host them after countless times they've hosted me. And enjoyed being called Lori instead of Ms. Harms by Anna, far right in photo, who is also one of my 2nd grade students.

A big THANK YOU goes out to Tom also for bringing some of the "leftover" things from my place in Tokyo that didn't fit into the moving van. (Extra chairs, plants, etc.)

This Friday I was able to open my home to friends for Missionary Fellowship. MF is a monthly gathering of some missionaries working in the Osaka/Kyoto/Nara area. We gather for fellowship, prayer and food. (After all what's a meeting without food!) In the photo with me are Sharon and Doug Woyke (standing left), Nan and Ed Jordan (Nan standing, Ed sitting far right), Shan Reed (kneeling in front), Barb and Jeff, Rachael, Caleb & Anna Chapman.

This is my 3rd MF so I guess that means I'm now starting my 3rd month in Kansai. Each time we meet it is so encouraging to hear how God is working in unique ways in each life and ministry. What a blessing to share about the struggles we're facing and have others pray for us! Great also to hear the praise reports each month of how God answered our prayers.

I took advantage of the gathering to try out a new recipe on my willing taste testers. It's called "The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever." And considering the fact that there were no leftovers by the end of the evening I think its safe to say the group liked it. Of course, one can hardly go wrong with chocolate!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The sound of music

I love listening to music. In fact there is typically some type of music playing in the background of my daily activities from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. I'd have it playing in the classroom more often if only they could stay on task. Listening in to the music I have playing in my car/home/ipod, would give you a pretty good idea what mood I'm in - upbeat, soothing, instrumental, global, classical, modern, etc.. Recently, with a 20 minute drive to school, I've been playing worship songs -a great way to start the morning. 10th Avenue North is the latest addition to my CD collection. (click here for a sample).

Through a series of misunderstandings I've come to realize that I inadvertently said I would join a singing group in my neighborhood. (I thought I was agreeing to simply have lunch with the group! Oops!) The missionary that once lived in the house I'm now living in used to be part of the group and so they seemed to be happy that I could "join". (I figured they'd at least want an audition!). The group consists of one junior high girl and about 5 women ranging from mid 20's to upper 50's. From what I understand they practice a variety of choral music a couple of times a month and perform at various community recitals throughout the year. Not only is it great practice for my limited Japanese abilities and challenging my vocal abilities, it is a fun time connecting with women who are not otherwise connected to anything church related.

Currently we're practicing a song called "Letter" or Tegami 手紙 by アンジェラ アキ (Angela Aki). It's a song of a troubled 15 year old girl who writes a letter to her future self looking for answers. You can see/listen to some of the song by clicking here to see the video Tegami by the Angela Aki. Its all in Japanese but you can a see an English translation here. I've really come to enjoy Angela Aki's music and can't wait to get my hands on one of her CDs.

Thankfully, the other song we're working on is in English "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady. So fun to sing, but if feels I've been given the job of Henry Higgins as I help them get the correct pronounciation of the English words. (smile!)

As if that wasn't enough music in my life. . .
When I started teaching 2 months ago, I was told that part of my job as 1st -2nd grade teacher is to also teach a music class once a week to 1st -4th graders - I was - excited and terrified at the same time. I'm excited to share the joy of music and introduce new styles and songs and composers and instruments to my students. But I feel WAY in over my head. I used to play piano. I used to play flute. I even sang in a choir/ensemble throughout high school but TEACHing is not the same as DOing.

I'm trying new things each week to see what they know and where to go with that. Last week they learned about singing in a round and then wrote new lyrics to Row, Row, Row your boat! (Very Creative kids!) I'm open to suggestions, tips, music ideas, books, anything really!

As it is the end of the school year (June 19 last day!) We've started to prepare for next school year. Besides our regular teaching loads the 6 full-time teachers divide up the extra curricular activities and each have 2 or more responsibilities after school. My responsibilities for the next school year fall in the music category. I'll be working on an Elementary Drama/Musical and facilitating the High School Worship team.

Again I'm excited and terrified (and open to advice!)! I've never really been on a worship team let alone teach teenagers how to lead one. And while I have had some experience in musicals - I think I was between the ages of 5 and 12 at the time! I have fond memories of the "Music Machine" and Christmas musicals performed at church. But the only thing I remember about the "Psalty" musicals are the times I messed up my lines on stage! There's probably a lesson that can come out of my own faliure, right?

So, what new music are you listening to lately?
Any tips/hints on teaching Music or leading a worship team?

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Roughing it" at the school camp out

Spent 2 days at Shimokitayama, in Nara prefecture Japan. We stayed at a lovely place, slept in futons on tatami mat floors (well, most of the kids slept!), ate a Japanese BBQ, and went star gazing at night. We had a fun time and made some amazing discoveries as we listened to the chaplain's teaching and heard what God's been doing in the lives of students. Over an hour's worth of time of the students sharing about what God is teaching them or how their relationship with him is growing/changing. What a blessing! Thank you for your prayers!

The smelly shoes at the entrance to the meeting area.Girls from my cabin playing the "knot" game

Japanese BBQ each table had a tray of beef and a tray of vegetables & noodles.
(The grilled pumpkin and corn on the cob were the best!)
Day 1 BBQ - Here is my table - grilling on our individual grill. Edith on the left is from Canada and is the teacher's assistant in my classroom. Marilyn, on the right, is from India and teaches high school English.

Breakfast day 2 - fish, salad, eggs, pickled daikon, (rice and miso soup not pictured)
Lunch was curry rice

View looking away from the dam
View looking towards the dam from the soccer field
Soccer field
Playground - inline skate pathThe rain seemed to only fall when we were in meetings
and cleared up when it was time to hike or play outside!

I've posted more photos from camp on Facebook - feel free to take a look.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Camping Out

Tomorrow morning I'm heading south to Shimokitayama (下北山). After a 3 hour bus ride my 1st and 2nd grade students as well as the 3-12 grade students and school staff - will arrive at our camp site. (I'm told there will be 47 people on the bus) We'll be staying over night at a camp (But before you get the picture of sleeping bags, tents and outhouses - you should know its probably more like a Japanese lodge/retreat center with tatami mat rooms, futon beds and indoor plumbing). I'll be staying in a room with the eight 1st - 4th grade girls and look forward to getting to know them (as well as other students) better without the burden of my grade book. While I'm not responsible for teaching any curriculum for the next 2 days I'm keeping my eyes wide open for teachable moments. There will be various talks given by our chaplain about the difference between knowing about God and knowing God. A challenge will be given to grow closer in relationship to God. Pray with me that this will be a time of spiritual and relational growth for the students and staff.

As this is Japan's wettest regions I would appreciate your prayers that we will be able enjoy our time together no matter what the weather. Thursday's forecast shows cloudy weather - Friday as rainy.

Hopefully I'll get some photos to share with you. (Due to the fact that my students are young and the internet is - well, the internet - I'm reluctant to post photos of my students without their parents' permission - which has meant a decrease in photos on the blog. Thank you for your understanding! I'll try to be creative with the shots I take this weekend to show you some of the camp out activities without revealing the students identities.)


Over Golden Week I was feeling ill - but Cabin Fever got the best of me -and I ventured out of the house (May 6) and visited my fellow missionary friend (and Minnesotan) Andrea. She lives in Kyoto and I live in Nara so we decided to get out of the Historical capitals of Japan and head to the CITY!

I enjoyed conversing in English while eating yummy Thai food for lunch and then wandering the streets of Osaka (Minatomachi). Quite the contrast from the rural areas we live in. We stumbled across a section of restaurant supply stores and -then - Don Quijote - ドンーキ ホーテa discount chain store throughout Japan. This store has a "life-is-like-a-treasure-hunt" type feel - you never know what you're going to find in the store. "Jesus Body" diet pills were the most interesting "treasure" we located. The yellow ferris wheel in the photo is the front part of the store. You can see Andrea's blog here.

Top photo - includes "Glica Man" -the runner with his hands raised. I know it's a famous billboard in Osaka but not sure the story behind it. Feel free to leave a comment if you know more about it.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

(Cartoon from Japan Times Online)

To all the Superheroes out there THANK YOU!
Being in a room of elementary students for 35 hours a week - I have a renewed respect for parents, who are my partners in education.

Friday - to prepare for this holiday, I had my students create a coupon booklet to give to their mothers. It looked something like this. Some of the coupon ideas were listed for them, other coupons were blank and required some creativity on the part of the students. I introduced the idea in the morning to give them some time to get the creative juices flowing by the time the afternoon project began.

After lunch one student announced to me that he had decided one of his Mother's Day coupons would be for "walking the dog".

As I saw the twinkle in his eye, I heard his older sister say from another part of the room, "BUT we don't even HAVE a dog!"

To which he replied, - "I know! - Isn't that great! - Mom would have to get us a dog so that I could use the coupon."
---Very creative one, that kid!

What's causing my tears

I recently listed some of the things that are making me smile in a blog post- but wanted to be realistic and let you know that while I'm feeling very blessed to be living in Japan and doing something I'm passionate about - teaching Third Culture Kids, my smiles have been mixed with tears as I face the reality of life here and now.

I don't write this to gain your sympathy or to ask you to "fix" anything. I just think too often missionaries share the triumphs and joys but don't often allow others to glimpse the challenges and pain. So as I look toward God for comfort, I thought I would also share the list of things causing my tears.

  • seeing a neighbor bowing before a small roadside shinto shrine
  • feeling inadequate in my Japanese communication skills and seeing what I've spent over a year studying slip through me grasp
  • trying to maintain communication with friends and ministry partners, who are spread across the globe
  • feeling a burden for the close friends who don't know Jesus love
  • realizing how great the need for Christian workers in Japan is and how small the number of workers
  • dropping the ball on my responsibilities
  • seeing the ways I've neglected my relationship with Jesus
  • longing for relationships in this new location to develop
  • missing "myself" - the self that once was able to listen, speak, go places and be understood
  • realizing how great the need for Christian workers in Japan is and how small the number of workers
  • missing the sense of belonging within a church body
  • the pain of being absent during major and minor life events of friends and family (graduations, dedications, military deployments, etc.)
  • waiting for answers to prayers
The response to tears? - pouring out my heart to the Lord of love. He knows, He sees, and he hears. My tears are not lost on our heavenly Father. He is the compassionate Lord who urges us to draw near to Him. “I, I am he who comforts you” he declares (Is. 51:12).

Photo: detail on a gate at Nijo Castle in Kyoto

Friday, May 8, 2009

What's making me smile

I'm still fighting a cold and it seems I have a longer "to do" list than time to do it - but I am trying to focus on the positive so I thought I'd share with you some things that are making me smile. (From this week)

  • Students starting to discover Knock, Knock jokes
  • Friday Library time! (Seeing my students read silently for 30 minutes and finding a book of my own to read - especially sweet after 16 months without access to an English library)
  • Hugs from my students
  • Skype calls with video
  • My niece singing Mary Had a Little Lamb over and over and over again on skype
  • My sister introducing my former college roommate to skype video for the first time
  • Seeing irises and daisies pop up in my garden despite my neglect
  • Sunshine on Saturday after 4 days of rain
  • Reading Scripture and hearing God speak directly to a question I have been asking
  • The gift of a cup of tea from the hand of my teaching assistant mid morning
  • Anticipating the visit of 2 friends from Tokyo
  • Hearing a 7 year old pray with bold faith
  • Connecting over lunch with a female missionary in the area
  • Digital photos sent to keep me "in the loop"
  • A student's attempt to persuade me of my "need" for a dog
  • Memories rekindled through a letter from church friends in Tokyo
  • Hearing how God is working in the life a friend who 7 months ago did not believe there was a God.
  • Receiving a phone number of a Japanese lady who in her words, "wants to be my friend"
  • feeling peace despite the surrounding chaos - knowing I'm becoming who God created me to be - -living in the place he has set out for me for this season
Photo: An Iris in my yard

Sunday, May 3, 2009

for your health. for your future

It's Golden Week in Japan - a stretch of 7 days containing 4 holidays resulting in a LONG weekend. (3: Constitution Memorial Day, 4: Greenery Day, 5: Children's Day, 6: 'Constitution Memorial Day' observed). My school has Monday -Wednesday off.

I was hoping to join my friends and go here. Enjoy some fresh air and the cycling adventure offered "for my health. for my future". (You can see a spring commercial here or longer video here describing the Cycle Sports Center with "Rickie" the mascot.)

Instead, for my health, I'm at home spending some "quality time" with the tissue box. I'm realizing that my immune system has decided to take a vacation during the holiday break. For my future - with some rest, medicine and lots of fluids, I'm hoping to stop this cold before it progresses into a sinus infection.