Community

Good Afternoon!

If you’re getting this email earlier than expected, it’s because in a few hours Tony and I will be on a plane leaving America and headed for Ireland. In the hope of getting this away before we leave the internet, I’m going to try and send it right away.

So Tony mentioned that last week that by talking about the “Band of Brothers” experience of spending the week with the retired ancients in our mission, I may have inadvertently left you, my loyal readers, out of the picture.

I had to agree… Now I need to talk about YOU!

Last Saturday as we were walking through North Carolina’s Ridgecrest Baptist encampment, I mentioned to one of my friends that I had to mail out the blog, because if “Texas woke up at 6AM Sunday and it wasn’t there, they’d be stressed”.

That friend was evidently one of those dear people I mentioned last week who sometime regard me with a mixture of patience and pity. I got one of her looks just then, as if to say, “Seriously, do you really think they care?”

But somehow I feel that you do.  Care, I mean.  I have no way of knowing how many of you actually read my blog, but I do get enough comments to know that some do, and based on that, I’d like to suggest a new category with just YOU in mind.

Let’s call it “Community”.  I don’t know all of you, and many of you don’t really know me, but thru Christ, we are ‘neighbors’, and much, much more.

I know that you make my life more rosy, knowing that you’re there………and that you care. Sometimes I even feel you watching over my shoulder, clicking your teeth in warning, saying. “Watch out there, you don’t want to have to have another online confession ”.

As I write this, we are finishing up the 44th Anniversary Journeymen reunion that brought us down to this part of Florida yesterday. Many of the attendees were also with us last week at Ridgecrest, having completed their Journeyman tour (two years of short term missions) and going on into career missions like we did. But about forty others in our group went on into secular careers and except for the occasional reunion we’ve had no contact with them.

It’s been a bittersweet experience, learning how their lives have turned out. Some have died, some are dying now of cancer. Some have lost husbands and wives, children and abilities. In many ways, those folks are a little like you, my precious readers. I don’t know some of them, as some of them married into the group later. Others I had no idea about, since we’ve had no regular contact over the years.

But one thing we all share together, just as I hope and pray I share with you: we’ve put our trust in the One Who made us. The kinds of things they.. and you… have experienced in a lifetime are common to anyone, anywhere. Certainly as God’s children, we have no exclusive right to the thuds and thrills that come with living. But the thing that sets us apart and makes us this “Band of Brothers” is the faith that knows that this life is not all there is.

Like the “dew on the grass” that’s gone before you know it (Isaiah 26:19), our lives are lived in joy and pain, grief and glory, but that will all soon be a thing of the past, leaving just …. us! with an eternity to experience together and a loving Father Who has been a part of it all since before we were born.

And so I thank you for listening as I often think out loud……living my life under your gaze and feeling that somehow we share our lives in the process.

As I mentioned above, if you’re reading this now, it means that the internet worked and we’re off to bonny Ireland.  A recent DNA test says I’m 27% Irish and Tony’s 7% with a twist of Olde English. Who knows? We may hop off the plane and break into a jig.

And then last Friday, just to add a sweet little topping to our week’s adventure, we popped into the museum that tells about the making of the “Jesus Film.”  Long after the crowd left the tour we were still talking to our lovely guide, who happened to be from…….you guessed it, Ireland.  Her 85-year-old father lives within a stone’s throw of our first stop on our anticipated “Woods Driving Tour”, so we promised to give him a call when we get there. She was delighted and told us that her father “loves to tell stories”…..I wonder who you’re thinking of when you read that? (Buddy?)  Do stay tuned!

And so, young reader, please look on us old folks with a measure of appreciation for what we have to offer, knowing that all too soon it will be your turn to do the offering. To those “more experienced” among us, enjoy the fellowship we have, knowing that it’s just a foretaste of what lies around the corner.

Young or old, I love you all.

Marsha

Band of Brothers

This last week I’ve experienced more emotions and learned more about myself than I ever imagined.

Tony and I both came from small families, and as we get older that’s growing even smaller as we float our way to the top of the survivors.

However this last week, we’ve been with 1200 RETIRED Missionaries, all from the International Mission Board.  We ourselves were totally supported by them for almost 40 years.  Gathered together were the young folks like us (late 60’s) all the way up to the wheelchair ridden hunched over ones who are near 100, all having served the same mission board, put up with the same authorities, (and loving most of them), learning the same acronyms like CPM and PBD and of course the OOBs……and all the rest……..

I think my point is, that by nature of the job, we’ve spent more time and association with these folks than we ever did with our families or even our country.  It was said many times that with most of us having logged in 30 – 40 year careers, the aggregation of the 1200 of us represents nearly 27000 years of service.

And then I realized something else, possibly a bit of a shock.  For most of our lives, we’ve either been a bit reviled or a bit ‘pedestalled’  (is that even a word? Let me explain, we were often put on a pedestal, even though we seldom deserved it).  Most of the ‘reviling’ came from people who either don’t share our religious beliefs or don’t ‘get’ our foreignness. Some of you, especially those who read our blog but don’t know us, sometimes tend to over-esteem us.  Others, and they are many, roll their eyes in patient disgust and quietly put up with our idiosyncrasies. You know which of these people you are.

But I think, last week in that meeting, that I finally understood that with all of our escapades and adventures sharing God’s story throughout the world, THIS “Band of Brothers’ are the only people who can really understand us up close and personal!  Sure, we’ve had our ups and downs with each other, but because of our shared history, or maybe our shared weirdness along with the shared dedication to the same cause, we really are “US”.  We can be ourselves and no one thinks we’re strange, because in large part, they are strange as well.  This must be how old soldiers feel; like family, but family that’s shared more than most families.

And so it’s with renewed support, finally knowing who we really are, we carry on to our next reunion: the Missionary Journeyman class of 1973-75. One hundred of us went out to the four corners of the earth to serve for only 2 years.  In our case it was in Zambia, Africa. That experience set us on the path of career missions.

Many of the same folks were at last week’s big reunion, but we’ll see most of the rest of the Journeymen next week, so that’ll be a lot of fun. We drove the 8 hours down to Florida with our good friends, talking and laughing the whole way and even missing an intrepid Alligator trying to cross the freeway.

And then next Sunday afternoon we’re heading off to balmy Ireland (or more likely ‘chilly’ Ireland), perhaps on another search of where we really came from! hahaha

Wish us luck!  Marsha

Bugged

Lately, as you’ve surmised, we’ve been in the States on a crosscountry tour renewing old family ties, awestruck by the way God has been working in and through all of our lives to weave the tapestry that is us.

It’s been a good trip so far, lots of fun, laughter and good visits.  Time and again, in our visits, we could point to significant moments in our histories… some good, some not so good. But put those moments all together and it’s easy to see the Hand of God in our lives, and that’s always encouraging.

So…….my mother died when I was 14.  Most of you know that.  It probably helped shaped who I am.  I can’t remember a lot of the things she taught me, at least not specifically, other than a lot of what I learned more through experience than words.  Love, the power and Presence of God, how to wash behind my ears, stuff like that.  I remember some of the lessons about responsibility, enforced by daily chores, like carrying the family “night potty” down the hill to the outhouse without slopping it…..an experience for a six year old that only lasted about a year or so till we got indoor plumbing.

Some of my mother’s most passionate lessons that I remember involved the topic of cleanliness. According to her, if you had the misfortune of having cockroaches, you probably weren’t going to heaven.  God didn’t allow slobs in heaven.  I got that. We lived in dry cold Colorado, where they could hardly survive, so we felt secure.

After she died, two things happened that made me question these lessons. The first was my becoming an adult, with all the “real life” experiences that tend to make me more tolerant. The other was moving to the mission field, where the concept of cleanliness is sometimes defined in different terms.

One of my first “unclean” encounters was with fleas. They were fairly common in Japan, even in homes that were spotless. I nearly killed our cat with flea powder until I realized that our Japanese visitors weren’t as horrified about the pests as we were.

Then my children, being the loving things they are, gave ME lice….brought home from kindergarten.  I still remember the night when I woke up Tony and asked him to look at a particular place on my head and he said, “It’s moving”.  Tears in the bathtub as I scrubbed my hair over and over, followed by months and months of self-examination both outwardly and inwardly, wondering what sort of ’degenerate’ I was to host such things.

And the lessons continued over the years. I got Scabies in Africa, Ringworm in Japan, and don’t forget the cockroaches!  Living occasionally in the tropics, we’d have rat-sized ones that would come up the drains into the house and wake you up in the night scurrying across your face.

I only mention these things because last night we settled into a nice enough little hotel on our way to Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

The point of this whole trip across America is to attend four glorious days of celebrating with fellow IMB missionaries who have retired and joined the ranks of “Emeritus”. Our mission board puts this event on every 5 years for anyone who qualifies and can still put one foot in front of the other.  We’re excited!

But in this humble (yet somehow expensive) hotel, we had another ‘first’ experience.  I’d like to say that, after 40 years on the mission field, I would be able to face BEDBUGS with some degree of aplomb and say,  “Hah! I’ve seen worse. Bring it on!”

I’d like to say that, but I’m afraid my response was more like, “Don’t touch anything!!  Grab the bags, we’re outta here…take a look at the top of my head”… Fortunately the hotel was sympathetic to our plight and they agreed we’d have a full refund and we agreed we wouldn’t post the name of the place online.

Yes, the lessons still continue, even at this stage of my life. I gave this great consideration in our new (Motel 6) place as I scrubbed every inch of myself raw wondering, really, am I learning anything thru these experiences?

I think I can say I’ve learned to temper some of my Mother’s passion, admitting that uncleanliness and immorality don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I’ve learned that in some environments the presence of a rat or a cockroach are not a call to arms but rather an invitation to reach out to those who live daily in such conditions. I’ve heard that with the cessation of the use of DDT, bedbugs and other vermin are coming back into our lives, even in nice hotels.

And I remind myself that people’s souls are worth far more than the things that surround them, after all.

But I’ll have to say that there are some pests who will NEVER make my “okay” list. I will never accept rats in my pantry, cockroaches in my cereal or bedbugs in my sheets!

I hope you have a pest free week. But more than that, I hope you have a chance to be salt and light in whatever circumstance you find yourself.

One hand on the Bible, one hand on the bug spray. I don’t know…maybe there’s a sermon in there somewhere.

Have a good week!

Marsha

Integrity

Good morning,

Last week we talked about ‘integrity’, that is, doing what is right regardless of the circumstance and standing up for Christian values no matter what the world says.

This blog won’t be long because I realize half of my readers are on “Labor day weekend” as are we.

But I want to tell you about an amazing thing that has happened in Tony’s family over the past few years and how it all started with one man’s integrity.

Years and years ago, his cousin was invited to an evening rally of some kind with his boss.  Apparently it was especially for men and according to his boss, would be ‘interesting’. Ordinarily, the cousin would have politely refused, but instead agreed to go. And the reason? This boss had always impressed him because he had displayed more integrity in the time he had worked for him than he had witnessed in his whole life. That alone was enough to convince the cousin to sit up and take notice when his boss said “it might be interesting.”

The cousin had no idea his boss was a Christian.  When he got to the event, he realized that the meeting was a Christian event, complete with a down-to-earth explanation about what a life of faith was all about.  As he listened, the penny began to drop.  So THIS was why his boss was known for his integrity. It was part and parcel with living as a Christian.

As the evening continued, he found that this new life they were talking about was all he’d ever wanted; he just hadn’t realized it till that night.

There are other little ‘mini miracles’ of this sort in the family, but let it suffice to say that a WHOLE family became believers in the One who made them who they are today.  All committed Christians, some in ministry, others in ministry where they serve……..

All because of a random man who had “Integrity” as his aura.

And just to top it off, today yet another cousin in this awesome family has decided to follow the Lord in baptism this weekend!

How Great is our God!!

Positive Power

These next couple of weeks I want to talk about ‘reputation’ and ‘integrity’.

The reason is because I’ve come across some living examples of that lately.

Today I want to tell you about one of the men whose job was to translate for the Texas team while they were in Tokyo. I only met him the first day we arrived but immediately I felt like I’d known him all my life. Here’s what he told us about himself:

His name is Tetsui san, but when he’s in English speaking company, everyone calls him Mike. He was born and raised in Japan, and taught all the values that Japanese hold near and dear, such as unswerving loyalty, perseverance, and most of all, success accompanied by making a lot of money

He graduated from one of the best universities in Japan, then went to work almost immediately for the well-known Canon Corporation (we know of their cameras but there’s a lot more to the company).

He climbed up the corporate ladder, with one promotion following another. Then he was transferred to Dallas, Texas.

There he made friends with an American colleague who was going through a bitter divorce as well as, or perhaps because of, some serious health issues.

Tetsui (or Mike) felt real pity for the man so he went to a bookstore and browsed thru the ’self help section’, using what he could in his limited English to find a book for his friend.

He came across the “Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale.

Now, say what you will about Mr. Peale, God used the book to speak straight to the heart of Tetsui. As he read, he began to think about all the references to the Bible. Could this be something for me? Finally, after much thought, he bought a Bible

Things went along, Tetsui found that he was reading the Bible more than he was reading Mr. Peale. What was intended as a way to help his friend became more of an “answer book” for his own needs.

Soon, he found a Japanese church in Dallas and started attending. The more he learned the more he realized that he’d been looking for God all his life, but wasn’t aware of it. He became a Christian and was baptized there at the Japanese church..

Then, as he continued to grow, Tetsui became convicted that he had not told anyone at work about his decision. This struck him with terror because in a Japanese company “being different” is NOT something you want to be known for. More often than not, standing up for Christ can be professional suicide.

But finally Tetsui could bear it no longer and he humbly shared with his boss about his newfound faith.  He waited for the consequences and almost immediately they came.  He was passed over for his next promotion, and the next and the next.

But rather than become bitter, Tetsui just lived the Gospel, letting anyone and everyone see the love in his life. For three years, he continued to be faithful to his work, and faithful to his God.

Then one day the boss called him into his office. “Well, there goes my job”, he thought as the elevator went to the top floor.

But instead he was ushered in and offered a cup of tea.  Then the boss said, “I’ve been watching you and I think even though you’re a bit strange, you’re a real asset to our company.”

And what do you know, he was leap-frogged to an even a higher position than he would have had in the natural order of things. His faith grew as did the company in his competent hands.

Finally at they young age of 50, as an executive, he was pretty much set for life, so Mike retired and came back to Japan as Tetsui san, enrolled in Bible school and graduated as “Tetsui Sensei”.

He started a small urban church where he has been a pastor for over a decade, making a real difference in a lost world.

He was such a blessing to us and to all on our team.  Please pray for more people to ‘do the right thing’ even when you might be scared.

Love ya. Marsha

What a Little Compassion Can Do

Good morning all,

Today I want to tell you about a lady who recently was with us on the mission team when we were in Japan a few weeks ago.

Her name is Eva (Pronounced ‘Evah’) and she’s from the Philippines. She’s married to a sweet ol’ southern boy from Mississippi.  They married just 6 years ago after a 20+ year courtship.  They met when he had come to the Philippines as a young seminary student to preach a revival and she had been his interpreter. She had a busy life, as did he, but they kept a writing correspondence going until one day the shy bachelor finally popped the question.  They were inseparable as we went from activity to activity on our trip, usually holding hands and smiling at each other.

One day we were all riding somewhere on a train and I mentioned teasingly something about her waiting 20 years to marry Bill.  She asked me if I knew her story and when I shook my head “no” she continued.

“You know I”m a Compassion child,” she said as she looked into my eyes seemingly searching for a response.  I jumped back and she said, “Yeah, I know, you must think I’m pretty awful”.

In case you don’t know what a Compassion Child is, it’s a child that’s in some way supported by Christians, usually in third world or otherwise conflicted countries.  There are several agencies out there, World Vision, Samaritans Purse, the Red Cross, etc.  Some are good, many aren’t so much, but Compassion has always stood high in the ranks for it’s spotless integrity.

We, as a family, have supported a number of children thru the years, figuring it was a good ‘exercise’ for our kids to participate in giving up close and personal. Unfortunately (I can’t tell you the name of a single child we helped……..possibly because they just didn’t seem real In my mind.

Anyway, I quickly spoke up about her rather odd response. “Oh no, you’re not awful!”, I replied,  ”it’s just that as a Westerner, this is the first time I’ve met a Compassion Child. I don’t think I or any of my friends have ever imagined that there was a real person being helped out by our giving!”

She laughed and continued.  ”When I was 9 years old, my mother died two weeks after giving birth to her 7th child.  I was the oldest, so I became the mother.  Then, after about two more weeks, my father disappeared.”

She went on to explain that there was a little shelter of sorts at her grandparents, but they were in no way able to help, physically or mentally; they being old and needing care themselves.  The seven children had to get by with what they could forage with Eva being responsible for all of their ‘mothering’, including the two week old baby.

She remembers trying to kill herself at least twice, maybe more.  She also remembers praying to a higher source (the family was NOT Catholic or any religion but she felt that there had to be a God).  She would cry out “I don’t think it’s supposed to be like this, I’m a CHILD!”

But she soldiered on, stayed in elementary school or at least somehow reaching the requirements to matriculate into Junior High school.  Then finally someone in the village suggested, “Why don’t you go to that church over there?  They have some sort of program that might be able to help you kids.”

She went and they signed the kids up.  Yes, they would be able to help. And so began her life as a ‘Compassion Child’.  The ’support’ that she got for her family was THREE DOLLARS a month!!! “How in the world could that help?” my Western mindset screamed at her.

“Oh, You’d be surprised what you can do with three dollars,” she smiled back.  “It became the difference between despair and hope”

And so she found some happiness, went thru Junior High and had high enough marks that Compassion made an exception and kept her on the roles, even though children were usually let go after reaching age 15 or so.  In the process of being loved, she became a Christian, as did her siblings.  When she graduated from High School and was just 18, her father wandered back in as if he’d just stepped out for something.

Later in the time we were together, she was sharing her testimony in a Japanese prayer meeting and this time someone was translating for her. She spoke of how she struggled and it was only God Himself that could allow her to forgive her father, particularly because he was bringing his  second family with him.

The translator was stumped. Japanese do not tend to have second families……but finally everyone understood.  He had left seven small children and went to live with another woman who then in turn gave him another double handful of kids.

Well…….Eva was able to forgive him, and not only forgive him but love him and invite the two families to be one. Gradually everyone in the now HUGE  family turned to Christ as well.

Eva went on to go to College and then Seminary, now able to support herself and her siblings with the belated help of her father.   It was there, as a full professor of evangelism, that she was translating for Bill those 26 years ago. And now they are married and happily living in his inherited home in  Mississippi (He’s an only child, by the way).

She finished up her story with a beaming smile. “We go see our Philippine family every year at Christmas. It’s so much fun to see what God has given us.”

I must say, Bill and Eva were a joy to work with, never complaining or wanting their own way, but then I guess that’s how she brought herself up! Can’t we rejoice with all the ‘orphans’ that God has loved and cared for over the years.  I’m reminded of so many verses, but here are a couple for your Sunday morning musings:

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows–this is God, whose dwelling is holy.”    (Psalms 68:5)

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”      (Philippians 1:6)

And finally,  “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”       (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Pray for all the little ‘Evas’ out there who aren’t having childhoods. Pray for God’s comforting Hand on them and pray for Christians like Compassion and others to reach out to be a part of a wonderful story.

For those of you who can see the eclipse tomorrow, have fun and remember how great our Creator is!

Marsha

Legacies

As we joined hands around the dinner table with our ‘almost son’ Katsuya and his family, I felt a surge of what I’d like to call “generational fulfillment’.  Maybe some psychologist’ll pick up the term….or maybe they have a special word for this feeling already….other than just ‘getting old’.

I guess it’s sorta that feeling when you realize that some of the things you’ve done and some of the sacrifices you endured have possibly made a difference.

I feel it often when I see my children loving God and each other and even more when I see the little grand boys showing those same great qualities.  (I realize they may have just clobbered each other, but that’s part of being little boys!)

But the long train trip up to Hokkaido while we were in Japan a few weeks ago was more than compensated for by our visit to Katsuya and Motoko and their two lovely little daughters. Katsuya supports the family on a ‘carer’s’ wage, that is, he works in a facility that cares for people who cannot care for themselves. It’s a perfect match for this young man; you can see it in the way he relates to his family.

We arrived at their house just as the girls were walking home from school, so it happened that we all crowded into the small entrance together.  It was an old house that they’d bought with what money they could scrape up a few years ago.  Parts of the house were already renovated in what Motoko said was “Pinterest style” from ideas she’d picked up on the internet.  The living room was small but multipurpose and had a friendly feel with lots of light.

As we were getting our shoes off and preparing to come inside, Katsuya said to the girls, ‘Okay, let make the room ‘guest style’. They needed no coaxing, giggling all the while as they pulled the couch, chairs and table into a circle, pushed the clothes drying racks, floor cushions and desks over to the walls.  There was no TV.

Many of you can relate to that feeling of knowing you’ve raised someone well.  As we sat around that evening talking and laughing about life and all it’s intricacies, I’m sure my face was beaming.

Sometimes the Apostle Paul sorta provokes me (!) with his confident statements and his strong ideas, but I have to agree with him when he often brags of his own ‘generational happiness’ in his letters to the churches; like 1st Corinthians 1:4, “I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.”

As we held hands around the dinner table to pray, I couldn’t help but remember the countless times we had done that before, when “little boy Katsuya” was having one of his weekly sleepovers at our house. What a legacy, I thought, even in such a small thing, and yet so full of love and guidance for the children who sat with us.  And what a legacy “Young man Katsuya” is now passing on to his children… and for perhaps for generations to come.

Like so many things, I simply can’t express what I’m feeling now, except like Paul …. Feeling blessed to have been a part of it all.

Have a great week!  Marsha

How Beautiful Are the Feet

In my house here in Australia I have a beautiful hand written picture from a Japanese friend.  It’s very ‘Japanesy” style and at the bottom of it, there’s a verse from Isaiah 52:7, which in the American Standard goes like this:,

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

For years I didn’t display this picture in Japan because I felt that I was the one bringing the good news and I didn’t want people thinking that I thought I had beautiful feet!  For those who know me well and have seen my rather unfortunate condition requiring surgery when I was a child realize that this description is anything but true.

But during our time in Japan I met someone who truly has beautiful feet.

For a few weeks now I’ve been giving you little teasers and some of you have been waiting for the ‘surprise’ that our friend Gabe san was going to give us when we visited.  He said in a cryptic English letter to Tony, “Need 2 hours of your time on Thursday.”

We wondered what in the world, but judging from his growing zeal for the Lord and evangelism, we knew it’d be something exciting.

If you don’t remember what I told you about Gabe san, I blogged about him last June 18th.  He’s the guy who runs a printing business in the heart of the electronics zone in downtown Tokyo.  We’ve known him for years, and during our last 5 years in Japan before retiring, Tony led a mostly men’s Bible study in his tiny office. During this trip, we were able to go back for a visit, and had such a fun time reminiscing about the years we were there and the years we were away.

But I’m sure you’re wondering what he had to ‘show us’!

After we arrived at his office early that afternoon, he finished a few things on his desk, spoke with some colleagues on the phone then grabbed his keys.  “We’re going for a ride,” he indicated as we headed out the sliding doors and climbed into his car.

WHAT a ride we had thru Tokyo!  I think he’s been spending too much time with one of the Bible study members who happens to be a Formula One race car driver for Japan.

Soon we’d left downtown and were getting on the freeway.  Then it got exciting: zipping along at alarming speeds, weaving and dodging, but before long we were very near our old neighborhood where we’d lived for the last 5 years.

Then he wound down several little alleys and suddenly pulled into a gated driveway.

There sat an enormous house, with a large concrete yard, smack in the middle of several other large houses.  He stopped the car and said, “Here is my new home!”

“Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself.  Here are two young professionals with no plans for a family that I can imagine, buying a two story many bedroomed house?

We entered the door and although (or maybe because it was empty), it did look enormous.  We took off our shoes and stepped up into the foyer and were immediately directed up to the second floor.  A couple of twists down the hallway, and we arrived, whereupon Gabe stretched out his arm and declared,  “This will be your ‘prophet’s retreat!’ Mariko and I want you to think of it as home whenever you’re in Japan. In fact, we’d like to start a church here. What do you think?”

Then the penny dropped….. of course, buy a BIG house if you’re going to start a church!  They plan to live on the ground floor and the second floor was inspired by the prophet Elijah from I Kings 17, where he was invited to stay in the upper room of a widow and her son. So, “Prophet’s Retreat” it is.

We couldn’t be happier.  We were also just a bit relieved that we don’t have to ‘receive’ anything that we’d have to turn down (The Japanese have been known to be a bit over-generous from time to time, giving lovely things that can be more of a burden than a blessing)

And what a vision for Gabe and even his wife Mariko, who has still not made a public profession of her faith, even though it is becoming more obvious every day.

Please continue to pray for Mariko’s outward acceptance of Christ, as well as the zeal that they both have for the Good news!  How beautiful are the feet………

Have a good week and God Bless!

Marsha

Lots of Prayers and a Poodle Named Tom

Good morning everyone.…….I’ve been sitting on this bit of good/amazing news for over 10 days.

Remember when I asked you to PRAY for our former neighbors, the Kawanas, in Japan?  He’s the retired scientist and she’s the housewife, etc etc.

Neither had thought about Christianity until we met up about 7 years ago. We became friends, more like ‘eating out buddies’ as we were new to the neighborhood and they’d lived there awhile. We really hit it off because they immediately ‘got us’ and didn’t spend any time pandering and trying to use our foreignness to entertain them or elevate their status. After a few visits we also discovered that both of our first born sons had died in the same year, theirs to a motorcycle and ours to leukemia.  After that we referred to ourselves as “brothers in suffering”.

Then after a few years they moved back to the ‘ol home place’ quite near the Airport.  We continued to have contact with them and once we even went to a church that we’d found in their neighborhood…… without them, as they had chickened out at the last moment.

We Westerners have no idea how hard it is for Japanese to step over the threshold into what they often consider a Western religion, Christianity. Imagine you were stepping into a Hare Krishna tent for the first time…….

You’ll remember a few weeks ago I asked you for prayer as we had only a 3 hour visit scheduled with them before we boarded our return flight.

They picked us up and after all the typical greetings related to not seeing them for the last two years, they said rather casually,

“We thought maybe you’d like to drop by our church before we go to the house.”

Sachiko laughed at my startled face and then I said, “WHAT?  Oh wait”, (thinking of our last experience with them and church) “have you actually been IN this church?”

“Well, not exactly” she admitted ………. “but we’ve taken them chocolates last Christmas and then some bread this last Easter because they like our dog!” she beamed.

They explained that Aki (the husband) and ‘Tom’, the much loved poodle, had happened onto this church during a morning walk.  Tom seemed interested and lingered long enough for the pastor (a woman) struck up a conversation, and now they were ‘inviting’ us to stop in and meet aforementioned pastor.

My hackles were up about the woman pastor until they said, “Her husband was the pastor and he died last year”.  Oh, ok, we can go with that, but just to be safe I reminded them, “If it’s a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness church we’re not going to be happy”

“Oh no, it’s Protestant……..we think”

We were there before we knew it, and as we stopped the car IN THE STREET (maybe for a fast getaway??) and headed in, I was searching all over for clues.

In Japanese it said, “Emmanuel”, which I considered a good omen, then two Japanese characters I only understood as ‘safe’ and ‘eat’ and then the writing continued, “Christian Church”.

Imagining some weird diet sect, I grabbed Sachiko and nervously whispered in her ear “What is the meaning of ’safe eat’?”

“Marsha! Relax!  That’s the name of this suburb!”

Whew.  And then there she was, the aging but very spry pastor.  We introduced ourselves, and they all gathered around.

Of course I had to jump in IMMEDIATELY, without finesse, no time to waste, “What ARE you?”  She didn’t understand, so I said “What denomination?”

To which she replied with a laugh,  “Oh! We’re Assembly of God”

WHEW!!!  I apologize to everyone for being so paranoid, but the Japanese are so gullible and every other sect or religion are happy to refer to themselves as “Christian”.

We all stepped into the church just as they were finishing up a children’s camp.  They had leftover cold noodles which was the ONE food item we hadn’t been served on this lovely excursion to Japan, so we sat around the table for a meal.  As we were talking and enjoying each other, I just kept wondering “What a GOD we serve” and “What a people you are that pray so effectively for us!”  and for the Kawanas….

On our happy way to the airport we decided that our Facebook conversations would go better in simple Japanese since they don’t really speak English, and this morning I got a text, which basically said, “We went to church, had a good time, lots of nice people and food”.

Now all they need is an encounter with God………or maybe they have they already had that?
…and all because of a lot of prayers and a poodle named Tom….

Seeing Where He Has Been

We’re happy to announce that we’re back in Australia, safe and sound.  Knock on wood, we didn’t even pick up an ‘airplane cold’ or anything else this time!

For the next several weeks, I’m going to tell you about our trip, but today let me just skirt around the fringes.

Initially this event was billed as an “Evangelism Trip” put together and sponsored by Dub Jackson’s ministries out of Dallas. As the trip went on, though, I began thinking of it as more of an “Ego Trip” for Tony and Marsha. Let me explain:

We got to Japan a week early, in order to visit old friends back in Sendai, as well as an extended jaunt clear up to Sapporo, Hokkaido to see Katsuya and his family. He was the best friend of our late son, Trevor as they were growing up, and we just had to check in on him, his wife and their two daughters.

That was just the beginning of the ego trip, as old friends, new friends, never-met-before-friends and a big assortment of brothers and sisters in Christ pulled out the stops to welcome us. Everywhere we turned, we were left “gobsmackered” by the generosity and kindness of everyone. Picture albums were pulled out and dusted off, stories were told and re-told that made us laugh and cry, often at the same time.

Looking back, I think the thing that really moved us the most was not necessarily the fact that these folks from as far back as 35 years ago still remembered us. Instead it was the constant affirmation that the time spent there was not in vain. Sure, streets were named (see my blog a couple of weeks ago) and tales are still told not only of the blond kid, Nathan, but also of his brother Trevor, who is buried nearby, so far the only foreigner there and the subject of many a discussion from passers by.

I’m reminded of Psalms 46:8, and the words, “Come and see what the Lord has done, see the amazing things he has done on earth!” Yep, the real miracle in Sendai has nothing to do with what we may or may not have attempted over the years, but rather what God could accomplish with what little He had to work with.
So, do stay tuned, won’t you? We’ll share more about some of the amazing things that have happened and continue to happen in this beautiful part of Japan.

Back at home, Tony preached today at the Japanese fellowship up in Brisbane, talking a little about the trip, but mostly about “seeing God in where He has been.” Check out Ezekiel 33:12-23 to get an idea.  For most of us it seems, even Ezekiel, we’re just not wired to see God face to face this side of Heaven. But take a look around, and see His footprints.

Wow.

Marsha