Monday, December 31, 2012

Fix Your Eyes

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I've enjoyed celebrating the holidays in the states without the use of skype. So many little spontaneous moments with family and friends to treasure.  But I find no matter where I am, I'm homesick for the other place.  After 5 Christmas holidays in Japan I found myself missing some of those traditions, too. Such is the paradox of working cross-culturally.

Now I am finishing up my last good-byes with friends in Minnesota and focusing on packing preparations to return to Japan Jan. 2. (2 more days!)   The good-byes are emotionally exhausting but I'm anticipating, with joy, the reunions in Japan with friends, coworkers, students, neighbors and brothers & sisters in Christ.  And looking forward to the activities and adventures in this new year.

Home assignment has been a refreshing time for me. Lots of time to dig into the Word and reflect on how God has been at work over the last few years of my life - even if I couldn't see it clearly at the time. How often we fix our eyes on what is seen and we miss the opportunity to see the unseen, eternal work that God is doing amongst us.

Today when I visited the Coffee girl confessions blog sponsored by "Women of the Harvest"  I found one of my photos as the Picture praise photo of the week!  Check it out here.  WOTH is a ministry of support and encouragement for women serving cross-culturally. WOTH has a list of blogs of women serving cross-culturally so if you find yourself with some free time over the holidays - I encourage you to travel the world by reading a few from the blog list.  As for me, I'm going to get back to sorting, packing and cleaning.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Taking on a new role

I have some news to share!  After 3 years in 1st and 2nd grade the school board has allowed me permission to "skip" a few grades and move into middle school.  

This fall the principal at KCS and his wife, the middle school teacher at KCS, announced they have accepted a position in South Africa to help start up the high school phase of Batho Pele Christian School which will begin in January 2014. The Batho Pele Christian School currently enrolls 286 students from Grades 1-6. The kids come mostly out of very poor areas and quite a number is AIDS orphans. This is the only Christian School in that area, about 35 km north of the capital city of Pretoria.

The Greeff's are amazing teachers, mentors and have the gift of administration and motivation that will be necessary for moving into that task. While I can see how God's hand has prepared them for this task it will be difficult to say good-bye to these dear colleagues and friends. Bittersweet! 

Their leaving opens different needs at KCS.  I was asked if to consider how I wanted to be involved at school when I return and have decided to accept the position of middle school teacher starting in September.  I will be teaching various subjects in grades 5-8 including Math, Bible, Social Studies and Reading.  I'm excited for the challenge of the upper grade levels and thrilled to see some of my former 1st and 2nd graders returning to my classroom as middle school students. 


Looking for a few good teachers

Kansai Christian School where I teach in Japan has some teaching opportunities for the 2013-14 school year, starting in September.  


  • Elementary teacher for grades 1 and 2  
  • Principal with high school teaching responsibilities in one or more of the following fields: math, science or social studies. 
If you are interested in applying for one of these positions please go to the KCS website and find more information under "employment".  The applications can be found on this webpage. 

If you have questions about the positions you can contact the school at: office@kansaichristianschool.com


If you, are a church partner reading this post - please spread the word in your community about the need for teachers to make a difference in the lives of students overseas.  Feel free to post a comment to me if you have further questions.

Please pray that God would prompt qualified Christian teachers to apply for these positions.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wrapping it up

Blogging without photos is like baking without spices.  Just not the same without the flavors.

This weekend I visited 2 of my supporting churches. On Friday, I traveled to North Isanti Baptist Church in Cambridge, MN, to share at the Ladies' Christmas Candlelight dinner.  On Sunday, I shared at Ridgewood Church in Minnetonka, MN.   I enjoyed conversations with so many!  Today, I received an encouraging email that said. . .


I wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your presentation. You were funny and informative and inspiring all at the same time.  Nice job!


They were the last two churches on my schedule. So as I'm in the process of wrapping Christmas gifts for friends and family I'm wrapping up my church visits. I'm so thankful for the chance to have visited 17 of my 27 churches in the 27 weeks I've been in the states. It often meant traveling to a new church or missions conference each weekend stretching me to meet new people and step out of my comfort zone. But it was also an encouragement to learn of the prayer warriors out there, to share ministry stories and to encourage others to join us in expanding God's Kingdom. I'm thankful for the amount of time the churches gave me also.  Many offered the chance to lead Sunday school and others offered the sermon time for me to share about ministry in Japan. I also had a sweet time with the children's ministries on Wednesday nights!  I'm looking forward to visiting the remaining churches next time I'm in the states, potentially summer of 2015.

I'm so very thankful to have had beautiful weather for traveling during this last 6 months and especially this winter in Minnesota.  There were no flat tires, car problems or flight delays due to weather. The one Sunday in Minnesota that we had 11 inches of snow fall I did not have a church scheduled and was able to stay off the streets - enjoying the beauty of God's creation from the warmth of my living room.

With 16 days left in the states - now my focus has changed from visiting ministry partners, to Christmas celebrations, good-byes and packing. Thankfully my Christmas shopping is completed!  It'll be my first Christmas with family in the states in 5 years.  I'm looking forward to making memories! I'll be traveling by plane this week to visit some friends and would appreciate prayers for safe travels and joyful reunions. 

 Simultaneously, I'm thinking about my return to Japan, going to "my other home". I'm anticipating happy reunions with friends and students. Excited to visit the new Keihana Baptist Church building and  be reunited with church friends. I'm looking forward to the new challenges that 2013 will bring and the blessings that God has in store for me. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Voted

Nov. 6. The United States of America voted for national and local officials.  And in Minnesota we voted on two proposed constitutional amendments.

 In America the  campaigns can last up to two years.  There a lot more phone calls and surveys done here. So much so that many people I know refused to answer their landline phones until after Nov. 6. The time to vote is the first Tuesday of the month of November. Where you vote is determined by where you live.  My assigned location this time happened to be at a local church.  (Last time I voted in person,  in 2004, was in a local school.)  On the news I heard of places with long lines for voters. For me I was tenth in line and was in and out in less than 20 minutes. I used a paper and pen to fill out the 2 sided form.  I also saw my neighbor at the polling place with his 4 year old daughter who was learning about the voting system.   "I Voted" stickers are worn proudly after participating in the process.

I found it interesting that in Japan election campaigns are held 1 month before the election and the place and time to vote is on a Sunday at school.  Campaigns can included posters, loud speaker vans broadcasting messages, candidates with megaphones at train stations, and fliers in your mailbox.

Oh, and in Japan, you don't vote directly for the prime minister - you vote for the representatives and the party with the most representatives appoints the prime minister.  If the Prime Minister resigns the party appoints a new one (without needing a vote from the public.)  Since 2007 there have been 5 Prime Ministers in 5 years!  It was just announced that Prime Minister Noda is dissolving the diet (the legislative assembly), forcing an election Dec. 16.  And now reports (see here and here) are that a new party may gain leadership and Japan will have a new prime minister.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I got the Green Light!

Exciting news!
Which starts with a huge THANK YOU!

Thank you, God, for such amazing prayer partners!
Thank you, God, for such generous partners!
Thank you, God, for a meaningful ministry that uses my gifts and talents among the needs of Third Culture Kids in Japan!
Thank you, God, for an encouraging Home Assignment!

Thanks to God's provision, the faithful prayers and generous giving of so many ministry partners I now have received a green light from Converge Worldwide to head back to Japan.  I am excited to report that I am fully supported and can return to Japan as scheduled departing January 2, arriving January 4 in Osaka!

That means - 7 weeks until departure!

How am I keeping busy? 
I'm finishing up my doctor visits: eye exam, physical exam, dental work, and psychological exam. I'm finishing 2 Japanese classes, and saying good-bye to my Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) group.  I'm trying to spend time with as many friends and ministry partners as possible before I leave.  Celebrating birthdays with family members.  And a few last visits with partnering churches.

Coming events:
Nov. 18       Sharing in 2 services at Maple Ridge Church, Maple Grove, MN
Nov. 20-25 Thanksgiving in Kansas with extended family
Dec. 1-2      Sharing during Sunday School at First Baptist Church, Darlington, WI
Dec. 6        Missionary Fellowship with other Converge Worldwide missionaries on home assignment
Dec. 8        Christmas celebration with College MuKappa friends
Dec. 14     Sharing at the Ladies' Christmas Candle Light Supper, North Isanti Baptist Church, MN
Dec. 15     Sharing at Ridgewood Church, Minnetonka, MN
Dec. 19-21   Mystery trip to visit ministry partners
Dec. 23-25  Christmas in Minnesota with family

Packing. Sorting. Cleaning. Happy New Year!
 Good-byes and then Hello's!

Prayer:
1. Praise God for healthcare professionals who speak my language! Pray especially for healing dental work.
2. Thank God for the relationships that have been built and connections made over the last 5 months. Pray for healthy good-byes and precious memories to be made.
3. For the transition ahead - there will be some new responsibilities in the next year. - (Can't wait to share the exciting news!) Pray for the adjustment to new roles.
4. Pray for Kansai Christian School - for the students & families to grow in God's love for them and for the community to embrace the gospel.
5. Pray for more teachers, missionaries, short-term teams - workers to come work in the field of Japan.


Monday, October 22, 2012

When it Rains it Pours

Before coming to Seattle I attempted to get in touch with friends in the Seattle area but gave up when I learned that her family was out of town. 

I spoke at North Kitsap Baptist Church Sunday morning (Oct. 14), and after more than a week of travel to 3 church in 3 timezones my energy tank was close to empty.  I had a meeting scheduled in Seattle for Monday with friends - but the introvert in me was looking forward to a quiet evening.


The Call
 As I was leaving NKBC church and riding the ferry toward Seattle I got a phone call at 4pm from Pastor Derek inviting me to the evening service at 6pm at Philadelphia Church, Ballard, Washington. (Derek's mother was the friend I was trying to get in touch with. I’d heard a lot about the church from her and was eager to make the connection.) I hadn't yet gotten to my hotel and realized the hotel was 30 minutes away from the church. 

I said I'd love to go but didn't have a car, if I had a ride I'd go.
He said he'd ask someone to pick me up. And then added- "maybe we'll put you on the missionary panel discussion if you're able to come." 

 At this point I was so amazed it may work out that I said, “Sure - why not.”
  (I am strongest when I am weakest. - 2 Cor. 12:10)

The Text
I just finished speaking in 2 church services, leading 2 sunday school classes and had lunch with a missions team.So from the ferry I sent out a quick text message to Minnesota. Explaining the situation and saying. "Wanna go but I'm exhausted. I'm just hoping I can speak in complete sentences. Please pray."   

The Conversation
So I got to the hotel at 4:45.  Roger and his friend Lois,  picked me up at 5:15.  We arrived at church at about 5:50 where I met Pastor Derek. I was told YES - we really want you on the panel. 
 Me: OK then, any idea what the questions will be? 
Them: Nope. 
Me: Anything I should know before we start?
Them: Oh, yeah - if you go over 2 minutes to answer a question Roger will get out the samurai sword.  (I'm not making this up they had an actual samurai sword as the warning you've gone over time!!) 

Pastor Derek making announcements
The evening turned out to be great. God gave me more extroverted energies than I naturally hold. I was able to speak (in complete sentences) on the panel representing teachers and Japan. And they graciously didn't use the sword.

The questions asked . . . and a summary of my answers.

When did you feel called to missions? 

  First overseas trip to visit missionaries: Age 10
First short term missions trip: age 15
First realized perhaps God could use me overseas long term: age 20
How is technology used on your field? (
Others on the panel answered this one but my answer is below.)

We use email, Facebook, blogs, Skype and cellphones to communicate. Japan is often ahead of the US in terms of technology. Working with students, Facebook is very helpful to create groups, events and stay connected with students who’ve moved away or graduated. 

Describe a time you could sense the power of prayer.  
Last spring our teaching staff was meeting before school in prayer focused on one particular student and at the same time elsewhere in the city that student was in a motorcycle accident. As we heard details of the near fatal accident and watched his recovery, moments of God’s grace shined through the tragic accident.

What advice do you have about short-term mission trips?  
It’s not just for junior high youth groups!
I’m in the states now because a teacher took a leave of absence from her job for 1 semester to fill in at Kansai Christian School in 1st and 2nd grade.  Teachers, nurses, principals, counselors, etc. thinking creatively about how you can use your expertise to help spread the gospel overseas! 

What is the biggest challenge you face on the mission field? 
(Side note: The last question was the one I’ve been asked multiple times.  Typically I answer, “learning the Japanese language is one of the biggest challenges.”  But this time I felt an internal nudge to talk about the loss of hope in Japan among the Christians.)

  Working in Japan can be isolating with so few Christians, the process is SLOW for Japanese to turn to Christ and there is a high attrition of missionaries. Its hard to watch the field of labors shrinking (with retirements and resignations) and the task increasing. Its a challenge to focus on what God’s story is and not let our focus rest simply on the story that we see, the human side of events.  

-----------------
The Encouragement
After the panel we enjoyed desserts from various nations. I enjoyed talking with people from the Philadelphia Church.  I learned of unique connections to what I said and how God had been leading in this church. There were a handful of people at this church with ties to Japan, lived there, worked there, grew up there, did missions there, etc.

 It is so encouraging & energizing to connect with people on fire for missions. People who have a passion for the gospel to spread and with a burden for reaching Japan. I enjoyed hearing their stories and seeing their photos of missions in Japan.

God is so good to fill so many moments while I was in Seattle with great connections and conversations. Thanks especially to Pastor Derek and Krista, Roger, Raymond, Lois, and Pastor Bob and Sue!  Can’t wait to see you again - perhaps in Japan next time? 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Visiting Poulsbo, Washington

 Oct. 12-16 I was in the Seattle area.

^Thankful to be in a city with public transportation.  - No rental car this trip!


The Light Rail from the airport to the ferry.


The view of Seattle from the Bainbridge Ferry.  (Check out the new ferris wheel!)


Here's the Skyline with the Seattle Space Needle on the left.
Its been almost 6 years since I was here last.  Previous posts here,  here and here.


Saturday I attended Mission Fest Seattle with my hosts.
An informative and encouraging day filled with new connections and lots of great worship! 


^Seattle Cityscape from the ferry at night.

Sunday, Oct. 14, I enjoyed the fellowship with ministry partners at North Kitsap Baptist Church.

The morning looked like this . . .
*Shared about missions with the senior high youth group & answered lots of questions 
*Shared about my ministry with the Adult Sunday School group
*Gave a greeting in both worship services.
*Ate lunch with members of the Mission Team and Pastor Duncan's family
       Duncan's adorable kids reminded me of my nieces and nephew!
          Thanks for the amazing artwork & awesome conversation! 

We were deep in conversation inside and it was raining outside so, unfortunately, no photos at church to share.



My gracious hosts for the weekend, the Thayers.

After visiting Poulsbo the Seattle visit took a turn toward the unexpected.  Stay tuned.

Visiting Salem, South Dakota

Oct. 10, I flew from Ohio to South Dakota. 

^I had a layover in Minnesota - Land of 10,000 lakes.


^Even had a clear view of Minneapolis on take-off.


^Landscape changed as I got closer to South Dakota. 
Can you see the windmills?


^ The fields look like a patchwork quilt.

A "Welcome, Hunters!" sign greeted me as I stepped of the plane. 
Yes, pheasant hunting season has begun in South Dakota. 



^My destination for Wednesday evening:: Sun Prairie Baptist Church.


^Love this church!
It was a short visit but we packed the time with activity!

Arrived about 5pm and the evening went like this . . .
*Dinner with the church family,
*Showed a video and shared at the Adult Bible Study Group.
*Spent an hour with the Children's program Grades 1-5, 
         We had fun with chopsticks, origami, writing Japanese, and playing games!
*Shared about my ministry with the Deacon/Deaconess. 
*Talked with a young lady who is considering a future in missions.
*Hung out with Pastor Mark & Dee and their adorable yellow labrador, Rowdy.

^This is Mildred, a kindred spirit who has prayed for me faithfully over the last 6 years!


Pastor Mark & Dee Dickson, my wonderful hosts for the 15 hour visit.


Wide open spaces driving back to the airport Oct. 11.


^Even saw Buffalo on the range! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Visiting Columbus, Ohio

Q: What do Leather Lips, Giant Corn and Dancing Rabbits have in common? 



Falls near Scioto River

A: They're all in Ohio! 

Oct. 5-6 I flew to Ohio and started my time there with Bob and Nancy Sorley. Dear friends and retired Converge Worldwide Japan missionaries.  They lived and worked in Saidaiji, Japan. In fact they even lived in the mission home where I now call home in Japan. They served in Japan planting churches, including the I attend in Japan. What a delight to look at photos, share stories and enjoy fellowship.  We also went sightseeing around Columbus. 







Loved the fall colors in Ohio





Dancing Rabbits - Random objects (camera, clothes pin, hose, etc.) where placed in the sculpture and created a hide & seek game like feel as we discovered them.  




Leather Lips Sculpture -Chief Leather Lips was a friend to both Native Americans and white settlers. He was a member of the Wyandot tribe. He was given the name "Leather Lips" by the white settlers because he never broke a promise that he made to anyone.


Field of Giant Corn Ears  -  "Maybe it's supposed to be ironic, this former corn field, sprouting 109 people-sized ears of concrete corn in a large oddball art display. But it's also a salute to Sam Frantz, an inventor of hybrid corns, and a very weird sight along the highway." 

Oh- And Nebraska Cornhuskers were in Ohio this weekend to play Ohio State Buckeyes.




First Responder's Park - A Memorial which includes three granite walls inscribed with the names of all those who lost their lives on 9/11, and steel pieces from the Twin Towers that were transported to the Park by an escort of police officers and firefighters.


Thanks for the hospitality, Bob & Nancy!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Aim Lower, Think Smaller

While working in children's ministry I've heard people say to me,

"If you teach kids overseas when do you have time for real mission work?"

or

"Shouldn't you be focusing more of your energy and time reaching the adults in Japan?"

This weekend I watched a video that spoke to these questions.

So to those asking questions about the importance of children's ministry I say . .

If you don't want to mess up the great commission too much . . .

video
Watch this video and see what its all about.
Video available for free download here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Visiting Mansfield, Ohio






 "Sorry about the license plates, Mam." That's what the rental car guy said when I got the car - I had no idea what he meant. No dents, looked fine.


The rental car had Michigan plates, which I later learned is one of the biggest rival states for Ohio.
Thankfully the Ohio church members didn't hold it against me.




Trees are everywhere in Ohio and they were at their peak color - it was a great time to visit this state!


I had the blessing of staying with Pastor Bill Heaton and his wife Julie while in Mansfield.  I also got to practice my Japanese with Ryohei and Kazu, Japanese exchange students studying in Ohio. 







Berean Baptist Church in Mansfield, Ohio.
It was a blessing to share in a Sunday school class, be interviewed in 2 services, and speak with the 1-5 grade children (seen in the photo below). 


On Tuesday, I was able to meet with the staff of Berean Baptist, and the Mission Board.
 I also had the chance to visit "Kid Zone" which is an after school tutoring program that Berean is involved with downtown Mansfield.  



While we were downtown I got glance at "Richland Carrousel Park"  A wooden carrousel that was created in Mansfield.  Looked like it'd be a fun place! 

And a mural showing the Johnny Appleseed's influence in Ohio was also evident in Mansfield. (I learned he did more than just plant trees. Read more here)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Prayer Update October

Prayer Requests:
1. Pray that God will show Japanese people that he is real and that he created them to love and worship him.

2. Pray for God to work in the lives of students & staff at Kansai Christian School as they enjoy Spirit Week (Oct. 8-12), Sports Day (Oct 12), and All school Camp Out (Oct. 28-29).

3. Pray for safe travels and great relational connections with ministry partners as October is a month filled with church visits near and far. Pray for wisdom for me to know how to show and tell ministry partners stateside about how God is working in Japan.

4.  Pray that I'd keep growing in love with Jesus and His Word.  That I would enjoy and understand more each day as I study Japanese language.



Upcoming Events:
Oct. 5-9 Berean Baptist Church, Mansfield, Ohio
Oct. 10 Sun Prairie Baptist Church, Salem, South Dakota 
Oct. 13 Mission Fest, Seattle, Washington
Oct. 14 North Kitsap Baptist Church, Poulsbo, Washington
Oct. 21 First Baptist Church of Fulan, Siren, Wisconsin
Oct. 28 Becker Baptist Church, Becker, Minnesota
Oct. 27- Nov. 4 Wooddale Worldwide Week, Eden Prairie, Minnesota 

The Month that was

During September I . . .

Bonded: 3 college roommates (and their kids) happened to all be in the same country and state at the same time. Amazing memories were made. I returned at the end of the month to visit one roommate in Northern Minnesota and enjoyed deep discussions by the bonfire, the fall leaves at their peak, and playing outside with the kids.

Started: attending 2 Japanese classes as a student.  One is more review and one is more advanced level. Feel like I've found my "Japan Groupies". We all have an interest in Japan. I feel like I've found a part of myself that I've compartmentalized. Its like I put my "Japan self" in a box in June and labeled it open on return flight to Japan.

Studied: Genesis with a group of  BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) ladies in Woodbury, Thursday mornings.

Checked out: lots of books - fiction and non-fiction - from the library. I feel like I've mastered the online reservation system and streamlined the selection process. Current favorites "The Wedding Dress" by Rachel Hauck and How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Looking forward to watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi on DVD.

Visited and Shared: about ministry in Japan at:
 Wooddale, Eden Prairie, Minnesota;
Bible Baptist Church, Mauston, Wisconsin;
 Emmanuel Baptist Church, Duluth, Minnesota;
New Life community Baptist Church, Ortonville, MN;  and
Central Baptist Church, St. Paul, Minnesota

Worshiped: with the song "Mighty to Save" at almost every church and retreat event I attended this month.  I think God's trying to tell me something.

Forgot: my computer at a church I visited and went a week without access to my calendar and limited email contact.  Twas an interesting learning experience.

Cooked: Japanese curry rice for Bethany Baptist Church, Roseville, MN, Wednesday night Kids Club. I was pleasantly surprised by the young culinary risk takers willing to try a new food and blessed by those that returned for seconds.

Celebrated: my nephew's 4th Birthday. Brendan was born while I was in Japan so this was my first time to attend the party without the help of Skype.  "Computer Lori" was transformed into Auntie Lori in 3D getting to experience all the energy of 12 young children and the fun of a tree house party.





Retreated: For 2 nights at Trout Lake Camp in Northern Minnesota at a Women's Retreat sponsored by Minnesota and Iowa Baptist Conference. Was amazed at how much these women had to say about guns. (Guns are illegal in Japan.) Blessed by conversations with my former high school English teacher.  Challenged to Shine for Jesus by Pastor Steph.

Cleaned: some areas around the house with my sister. Donated unused items, took out a buckthorn tree,  put on gutter guards (I held the ladder she did the hard work),  and took a couple trips to the hardware store for more projects.

Researched: Camera options - so close to making a decision on a new one.

Rejoiced:  with friends in Japan as they dedicated their new church building "Keihana Christ Church".

Explored:  St. Paul with a friend from Jr. High school.  Ate Japanese food at Tonpopo's, and drank Hmong Bubble Tea at the Hmong Village.

Laughed & Traded Stories:  with fellow Converge Worldwide missionaries on stateside assignment in Minnesota.

Relaxed: with family at various occasions including "Girls Night" at The Cheeky Monkey.

Cheered: the WMBA Minnesota LYNX on at the Target Center with my sister. Lynx are now in round 2 of the playoffs for the championship.