Monday, September 2, 2013

New Adventures in Teaching

New adventures this year, teaching five new subjects, at a new grade level, with new extra curricular activities, and new leadership responsibilities. We have some new staff members at school and I have a new housemate! My life is crowded with expected and unexpected joys!

This year I'm teaching middle school grades 5-8.  
7&8 : Bible, World Cultures, Pre-Alebra & Math
5&6: Reading, 5 grade Math and 6 grade Math

New extra curricular activities: managing the Library, and responsible for garbage and recycling. (no custodian at our school students do the cleaning) Yeah, just call me the "Garbage Queen."

Our new principal's arrival to Japan has been delayed due to paperwork issues for his visa, we're praying that he'll have the papers and financial support needed to arrive in early October. In the meantime the school board has asked me to take on some new leadership responsibilities at school.  This means leading things like staff orientation, meeting with parents, and handling school discipline issues. Thankfully I have the support of the school board behind me to help with other challenging decisions and an executive assistant with many years experience in administration to help me.

Today was New Teacher Orientation - I led 3 new teachers through a checklist of information to help them transition to KCS. I am excited for the quality staff members he has brought to our team. These 3 teachers have taught on 3 different continents and are now adding a new continent to their list! 

Wednesday is All Staff Orientation where we get our class lists, schedules and have our whole KCS staff team (minus the principal) together in one room for the first time. I anticipate lots of learning to take place and lots of fun conversations ahead. 

Thursday is family school clean-up day.  Fun reunions with students and their parents anticipated as we work together to prepare the school for a new year.

Friday is our first day of school with all the students. We'll start with a "Welcome to School" and then introduce the students to their new teachers, classrooms and textbooks.  

Thank you for praying for the year to get off to a great start!

Praise God with me . . .
*for the staff that is on the team this year.
*for the students that have enrolled this year.
*for a new year to serve God teaching from a Christian worldview in a country with less than 1% Christian.

Please Pray 
*for relationship building and team unity
*for teachers in new roles to quickly grasp their curriculum and responsibilities
*for me as the "Lead Teacher" to have wisdom to know how to lead well, organization to keep track of all the details, and grace to balance all the new things going on the next few weeks.
*for the relationship with my housemate, Emily, to continue to grow (She moved in Saturday. She's lived in Romania but she's from Minnesota too!) 
*that I would allow God to build into me and stretch me during this time. . . that it will shape me and refine me as an educator, and deepen my relationship with Him. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Praise & Prayer

  •   For the opportunity to study Japanese full-time
  •   Blessings of new friendships during the last 7 months
  •   For boldness to use language abilities for His glory
  •   Diligence to continue studying Japanese as I return to teaching ministry
  •   Growth in my Japanese ability to pray and discuss matters of faith
  •   For preparations in my new role as middle school teacher at KCS - school starts the first week of September

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Highlights from Language School

Osaka, Arc Academy, January-June 2013

  • Building relationships with people from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy, Spain, France, Sweden, Australia, and U.K.
  • Discovering one classmate from Hong Kong is Christian and introducing her to and international church near her apartment
  • Answering the question, “Who do you pray to?” from a Buddhist/Catholic classmate
  • Exploring Osaka with a Muslim classmate
  • Receiving first place in a speech competition - talking about umbrellas
  • Excursions to a Ninja Museum and Mt. Wakakusa

Sapporo, OMF Japanese Language Center, July-August 2013

  • Spending a month in cool Hokkaido (northern Japanese island), escaping the summer heat of Nara
  • Taking 1-on-1 courses with a Christian teacher at a Christian school discussing the Bible
  • Learning to pray in Japanese
  • Fellowship with missionaries from around the world
  • Connecting with other TCK caregivers
  • Excursions to field of Lavender and a pro baseball game

Are you Fluent Yet?

*****This is something I wrote for my recent prayer letter.
For those of you who are not subscribed to my prayer letter - but would like to be . . go to the upper right corner of my blog and see "Sign-up for Updates" enter your email and you'll be on the list to receive the next one. ******

With 15 months of language study my first missionary term and now a “refresher” course of 7 months, it feels awkward to say - No, I’m not fluent. In the 8 years that I have lived in Japan I have come to realize there will always be more vocabulary to learn, more grammar forms to master, more kanji to study, more mistakes from which to grow. 

“So, what have you learned?” you ask. I’ve learned lessons in perseverance, humility, purpose, and perspective.  

Perseverance: Some days just showing up to class takes all the energy you have.  I’ve heard it said, “Anyone who wants to learn a language well must have a solid theology of suffering.” Language learning requires teachers repeatedly pointing out your errors and students fully absorbing the teaching without letting it impact your sense of worth.

Humility: Admitting in front of your peers you do not understand a concept requires the courage to be vulnerable. Language learning often causes you to question your intelligence and instigates a battle with pride.  Resisting the temptation to compare abilities with peers and accepting an honest view of personal learning growth is key.

Purpose: Is my main goal to get 100% on the test and become fluent in this language? OR To glorify God through the process of language learning? How can I use the language to share His love with others? How will I respond to what He’s teaching me through the language learning process?

Perspective: I grew in appreciation for the learner’s perspective and hope that will impact my interactions with students this fall as I return to teaching at Kansai Christian School (KCS). I have seen demonstrated how the things teachers say (and don’t say) shape what students learn, and the health of the learning community. 

As a teacher in an international school where English is the language of education, I realize it is a rare gift of time to step away from my teaching responsibilities to study the local language. I thank God for the people who have donated money and time to make it possible. I am also grateful for the teachers who have invested in the process over the last 7 months. I have a better understanding of my language abilities and new ‘tool box’ for future learning.

Join with me in prayer that God will give me boldness to use the language abilities I’ve gained for his glory, strengthening relationships with Japanese neighbors, friends, and parents of my students.
With gratitude,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Graduation Celebration

Recently OMF Japan Language Center celebrated Bel's graduation.
The students led the ceremony, prayers, speeches and songs all in Japanese.
One professor gave a creative speech,
 telling a story using Japanese words with the sound 'bel' or べる, in them.
Bel had completed 2 years of studying through the curriculum 
and is preparing to transition into ministry in Yokohama.

She was a delight to get to know! Loved her positive attitude!

We also celebrated the July birthdays of teachers and students. 

Here's a photo of me with my teacher, 
Motoko Sensei,
- since classes are one teacher to one student - 
you could also call this my class photo.
Such a delight to learn from and pray with this Christian sister!
I will remember her clear explanations, 
patient correction,  great sense of humor, 
deep understanding of Buddhist and Christian faith, 
gift of hospitality and love of all things PINK!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sapporo Station

I ventured into Sapporo and took some photos of the station entrance as I was waiting to meet friends before viewing some fireworks.

This structure looks like the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Inside was an escalator with access to the station and a shopping area.

This is the cities main railway station, located downtown Sapporo. 
The JR Tower building is to the right in the above photo. 
It has the T38 Observation Deck and holds various shopping areas and restaurants.

These baby buggies each carried 4-6 young children. 
Looked like they were preschool or daycare providers out for a stroll. 
The children were excited about the pigeons in the park. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cream Tea

cream tea
n. Chiefly British
A refreshment, consisting of scones, jam, and clotted cream served with tea, usually served in the afternoon.

After a morning of language study I enjoyed lunch at my Japanese teacher's home.
We ate cold udon (thick Japanese noodles) and then prepared for an afternoon tea party.

My Japanese teacher, Motoko Sensei, is married to John, who is British.
He helped me understand more about the tradition of tea parties and instructed me in how to make scones.

I helped Motoko-sensei make sandwiches with ingredients like cucumber & salmon.

Motoko-sensei's hobby is to host people at her home. 
She has a gift of hospitality! and is an amazing chef!
She enjoys introducing the missionaries she is teaching to the Japanese Christians and not-yet-christians in her community. She invited me and another church member invited 2 ladies she knew from her "dog walking" group.  At the end of our tea party we set a time to meet again before I return to Nara.

Sometimes I forget how simple outreach can be. 
Simply opening the home, and inviting a few people who have yet to meet can set in action what
 God uses to draw together relationships that bring people into worship.  

Here is Motoko-Sensei (red dress), John, and 3 Japanese women who were excited to get a chance to meet foreigners. It was a lovely afternoon of talking - mainly in Japanese. 

Thank you Motoko-sensei and John for teaching me something new
 and opening your home as a way to introduce new friends to one another and Japanese to Jesus.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Lavender fields

Farm Tomita near Furano, Hokkaido.
Furano (marked with a red pin on the map) 
is in the geographical center of Hokkaido - which is the main northern island of Japan. 
Sapporo (marked with a green pin) where I'm doing language study this month,
is the capital of this island. 

July is the best time to visit the Lavender fields 
for amazing views of the purple flower 
as well as various other gardens in the area.  

I joined a group of short-term missionaries from the U.K. who are in Sapporo for a month with OMF missionaries to reach out to University students. 

The group enjoyed various lavender flavored treats in the shade on this warm afternoon.

Here's a photo of me with the Tokachi Volcanic mountain range in the background.
 (Yes, this is an active volcano and we saw smoke coming out of it.)

Karin (Germany) and Alyssa (USA) are missionaries with OMF.
Alyssa is from Kansas so she was really excited to see a field of her state flower.
I enjoyed talking with them during the car 2+ hour car ride about how they were called to minister in Japan and the blessings and challenges of their ministry.
There are so many opportunities to work with university students here but there aren't enough workers.
Pray that God would bring more workers to the field of Japan. 

A group of anime characters acting out a drama in front of a crowd at the Lavender festival,
reminding us - we're still in Japan.

Monday, July 22, 2013

New Friends & Food

I'm staying at a guest house managed by the Schmidt family.

Another missionary staying at the guest house is Susan (second from the right).
She is moving to Saitama (outside of Tokyo) soon to work with a church plant. 
She is Australian and has been a delight to get to know. 

We've gone out to eat and enjoyed foods that I think of as "winter menu" items but the weather is cooler in Hokkaido so it seems there is no problems offering hot noodles in July.
 I ate the Sukiyaki Udon (with homemade noodles) So delicious!

Another dish I've eaten in Sapporo was Caprese Doria.
It had basil, fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes over a meat sauce and rice.
Hokkaido is famous for its dairy products so I wondered if the cheese was made here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

OMF Japanese Language Center

I came to Hokkaido to study at the Japanese Language Center  (JLC) 
which is operated by the OMF International mission.  

Here's a few photos of the building . . .
The first floor is OMF Hokkaido headquarters.
Second floor holds the classrooms, student lounge and teacher's offices,
Third floor is a library, chapel and apartment.

It takes about 10 minutes by bike from where I'm staying to JLC. 

The Student lounge, with a map and photos of OMF missionaries. 

Lounge and doors to classrooms. 
We have "tea time" here between classes.
It's so encouraging to get to know other missionaries
 who are studying here from Australia, UK, Switzerland, and USA!

Each classroom is painted a different vibrant color, pinks, blues, greens, purple, etc.
Most classes are one teacher per student, others are small groups.
Class periods last about 45 minutes and most students take about 2 courses a day.

Once a week we have a class for everyone which is called "Orientation" 
- where we learn about some aspect of Japanese culture or language learning. 

Once a month there is a chapel, which I understand is put together by the students and done in  Japanese to give students the chance to use their language skills to lead worship, pray, read scripture, give announcements, share a testimony and give a message.  

The library on the 3rd floor is were I like to study,
 with lots of resources about Japan, Missions and language learning.

Here is my grammar book and a text which is helping me learn the books of the Bible in Japanese.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Stopping to smell the flowers

My first full day in Sapporo I had one goal: explore my surroundings.

At the suggestion of the manager of the Mission Guest House (where I'm staying for the month)
I took a bike ride about the neighborhood and headed for the Lily Park. 
With the 75F weather on the national holiday was a beautiful day for a bike ride. 

This 'happens to be' the time for Lily's to be at their peak blossom!
What a delight!
(The lilies in my yard in Nara bloomed in early June.)

Hokkaido is also famous for fields of lavender. 
(I've even seen roads lined with Lavender).

And there were other gardens around the park such as rose gardens and rock gardens . . .

But the Lilies were at center stage  - and so beautiful!