Pass the Dashi

Good morning all,

Excuse me while I drag out my soapbox…….

I heard a ‘story’ once about 4 PHD candidates who were out partying late one weekend and found that, because of the distance they’d wandered and the inability to wake up early, they’d be missing a crucial exam on Monday morning.  When they finally slid into class, they had their story prepared.  They all said in unison, “So sorry! Please forgive us but we had a flat tire on the way to class.”

The professor nodded and asked one of them into his inner sanctuary.  He explained that it was totally acceptable missing an exam because of a flat tire.  Then he continued, “I just need to know…..which tire?”

Oh the webs we weave.

If you’ve been watching the Olympic news you’ll know about the three American swimmers who had a late night out, and decided to fabricate a story about being robbed.  Now this morning at church I heard that some Australian athletes pulled a similar prank as well, claiming the all-too believable story of being robbed.  Unfortunately for them, we live in an age of CCT cameras and date and time stamps that quickly revealed they’d all lied.

When we lived in Japan we were all too familiar with a ‘custom’ that the Japanese called, “Use a noun and couple it with the word dashi”  For example, “Child Dashi” or “Business dashi,” etc. The word ‘Dashi” means simply  “to put forward”, and so we have, “Kodomo-dashi” which means “Child put forward” or……….. well, you get my drift.

I think in English we say, “Excuses”.

Lately I’ve observed a lot of ‘dashis’ in our church fellowship. Someone is moving, so they’re ‘taking a few weeks off church’. Another couple is going thru a particularly rough patch, so they’re saying that because of that, they won’t be coming to church.

It’s almost as if, at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, they’re abandoning the one thing (group) they need the most.

My children have occasionally said, “Oh, Mom, your rule is that you have to go to church unless you’re on fire”……….which I guess I may have communicated a little too harshly, but still………the Church is there for us, in the good times and in the bad, so what’s with all the excuses for not going?

I can’t help but think of that verse in Hebrews 10 about “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (verse 25). It doesn’t get much plainer than that, right? When things get busy, or tough, THEN of all times is not the time to step away from those who stand ready and willing to reach out with a word of encouragement or perhaps even a helping hand.

Now, if it’s a case of there not being that kind of support at church, then hold on a minute while I drag my other soap box out. But maybe I should hear from you first. Am I way out of line here? Is the Church still relevant to society, and if it is, then why do people avoid it at their times of greatest need?

Have a great week, and have a think about all those “dashis” we use or hear all around us.

Love ya, no excuses,

Marsha

Drop Your Dust

Drop Dust

Good Morning Happy Campers!

Well, it’s been another busy week. Our little homestay girls returned to Japan and we all cried…..

Life goes on.  I sure love a Gold Coast winter where it’s hard to get out of bed because it’s so cold, but then you have the windows and doors open by noon!

Today I want to share with you a sign that we noticed in more than one outback town during our recent trip up north.

It is truly one of those pictures that’s worth a 1000 words.  In fact, I probably don’t even need to comment.

Drop your dust before you go into…..’town’.  Very few people want to be covered in all of your issues.  (I’m preaching to myself here). Sure, life is hard and you’ve picked up a lot of ‘stuff’ along the way. But remember there’s a time for sharing the dirt, and a time for, well, for leaving it beside the road. Many times all it takes is a quick stop in your busy life. Take a breath, look to Jesus, and then look to the “town folk” around you. You may be surprised to find a lot of that road dust has fallen off, no longer an irritation to yourself, and to others.

What’s that Jesus said in Matthew 5:23 and 24? If you’re coming into town (specifically to bring an offering, He said), and you remember that someone has something against you (take note: that’s not the other way around), then stop, take care of things, THEN get on with the business of worship.

Hey, this may be the making of a great country western song!

“Don’t take your dust to town”…….

Love ya,

Marsha

Celebration of a Kind

This last week we got a newsletter from some dear friends from our Africa days.  They are ‘celebrating’ 20 years of her being a paraplegic.

But I’m getting ahead of myself……let me explain. We first worked with this couple when we were volunteers in Liberia for a year back in 1977.  It was there that I almost died in a miscarriage gone bad and my friend Ruth, who is a nurse, along with her husband Brian were there for us in some of our darkest hours.

Then, about 20 years later, we went to help them and the SIM mission in a Sudanese refugee camp in Ethiopia. Sometimes I wonder who helped whom, but I digress.

While at the camp, Tony taught the entire Old Testament to the refugee men who had no written copy in their language. And as you know from my blogs, the experience greatly impacted our lives as a family.

We went everywhere in an old Land Rover that was assigned to the camp station. It was sturdy enough, and could get us where we were going.   Finally, when our time of volunteering was over, we drove it for almost 3 days back up to Addis Ababa, and apart from THREE flat tires with two spares, (giving us a rather hilarious story involving a thatch-hut bar in the middle of nowhere and several half drunk spear wielding warriors trying to ‘help’ us), we arrived safe and sound……and sore.   From there we left for home and back to other work.  The only problem with the Land Rover was that the middle of the back seat had no seatbelt and a clear passageway thru the front seats into the windshield .  I decided to ride there as we made our way over the treacherous and muddy roads because I preferred my children be belted in and there were other ‘more important’ missionaries with us as well.

Barely two weeks after we left, the following drama unfolded……..Ruth was sitting in that unbelted middle seat. Our hearts were broken when we heard the news.  How many times have I asked God, “Why Ruth and not me?  I, who was so much less important to the Ethiopian work?”  I’ve never been given an answer, and don’t look for one till heaven…

Rather than re-tell the story, I’ll just insert a part of their newsletter here:

It was a dark rainy day in Ethiopia, when the SIM vehicle that Ruth and 5 others were traveling in was hit head-on by a truck carrying several tons of coffee beans. While they waited for help to arrive, the verse, “I will not die, but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17) was read to Ruth by a teammate as she lay injured on the back seat of the damaged vehicle.

July 23rd was the 20th anniversary of the accident that left Ruth paraplegic. It was a long road to recovery, but the message of the verse was true, and we praise God for what He has done! Having the privilege of representing the Lord from her wheelchair is an amazing journey. Seeing God at work in individuals’ lives as she encourages and cares for long-term missionaries, helps interview applicants at SIMStart, or assists in preparing appointees at SIMGo is a huge blessing!

It’s not always easy to see the blessings that come from adversity, but it seems to me that Brian and Ruth have able to find some redemption in the suffering. My prayer today goes out to those who are hurting…….the family and friends of the entire family that was killed last week in a car accident on their way to the mission field……so gut wrenching, and yet I believe that God was and is there.  We have a family in our church with a 4 yr old who has just been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, again….again we ask, WHY?

But can we look at our circumstances and see the good that’s been promised in and through them?  I hope so. (Romans 8:28).

Reading prayer letters and prayer chains that we get every day from many of you around the world, we can see that each and every one of us experiences life in its fullest, complete with the hurt that often goes with it. Be assured of our prayers for you, even as we covet your prayers for us. We are family, after all, lifting each other up to the Father is a real blessing and a privilege. Let’s celebrate!

On a happier note, our two homestay girls have had a great week, heard the gospel explained several times and in different ways. They announced on the way home that the highlight of today was attending their first Japanese service in their lives where Tony preached.  Join us in praying for their futures when they return home next week.  Especially pray that the Spirit will give them the desire and courage to seek Him out in the chaos of returning to normal.

Have a great day in the Lord!  Marsha

Keep on Truckin

Road Train

Dear Friends,

As you know if you’ve been reading our Facebook posts and such these past 2 weeks, Tony and I made a very long trip up to the top of Australia, carrying a bunch of stuff to an indigenous church of maybe 60 souls that sisters with our church here on the Gold Coast. It was a great time we’ll not soon forget.

If you followed us, you’ll have noted that our biggest ‘bugaboo’ driving on this journey were the “road trains”.  There were 13 of us in 7 vehicles,(hauling tons of stuff for the church’s outreach and little shop).   Fortunately we had some 2 way radios (obviously no telephone signals)  so that the lead vehicle could caution us all along the way.

If you got the picture with this, you’ll see a big truck pulling three trailers. In some places they pulled four and even five; thus the name “road train”. These big babies get going about 80 MPH and don’t like to stop for anyone or anything (especially the kangaroos, as evidenced by the 10+ dead ones we counted for every mile….hey, maybe we got a little bored).

To get everyone safely around something like this would take us up to an hour, with a few hair raising leaps back and forth into the oncoming lanes until we succeeded. Then, when we’d make a brief stop to stretch, we’d be fine till someone whispered, “road train” and we’d run screaming to our cars and tear out, throwing gravel, and scrambling for seat belts, not wanting to get behind them again!

The reason for road trains?  Australia is BIG and for the most part very empty. As the total population of the continent is only around 22 million (with five million of those living in Sydney), it averages out to only about ONE person per 6 square miles overall. It stands to reason then, that there’s not much infrastructure to support everyone, especially those in the country. I remember once when a politician made the promise, “Every Australian deserves internet and phone service.” Then when he was elected and told to make good on his promise, he replied, “Hey! I said you DESERVE it; not that you’re going to get it anytime soon.”

Anyway, if folks in places like Normanton need “stuff”, then the most economical way to get it is through road trains. And that’s what our church with our motley crew of trailers, caravans, motor homes, etc. provided, Well, we weren’t exactly connected to each other except by radio, but it was a sight to see.

And so last Sunday we got finished with this adventure and started another one on Monday.  We actually sold our car to the pastor and crawled into a twin engine Regional Airline for an hour+ hop over to the bustling town of “Cairns, Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef”.  We have our 47th anniversary around the corner and thought we’d take some time to relish in the sunshine.

While we had a fun filled week, it wasn’t quite like we’d anticipated, since the whole north of Australia has been caught in a wet and cold snap.  Even though it’s winter here, no one expected temperatures as low as the 40’s and 50’s and we all shivered together. Going to the reef seemed out of the question as the waters were just too cold, so we were happy to walk around town huddled (romantically?) under the one cheap umbrella that we picked up.

As we wandered around, I remembered something that happened a long time ago and I thought it might be appropriate to share it with you today, since we’re talking about ‘baggage’.

We first came to Cairns about 3 weeks after our oldest son Trevor had died of leukemia.  When he died, we just wanted to get away, rest and think, but having a 10 yr old son as well sort of ruled out laying on the beach or some solitary activity, so we flew a slight detour on our way back from the USA to our ministry in Japan and landed in Australia.

When we got into the Brisbane airport, we prayed that God would lead us to the ‘thing’ we needed and pointed the rental car north.  Several days later we got to Cairns, signed up on a little boat for a day excursion to the reef, about 3 hours away, and took off.  Ironically those little ‘cheap’ boats no longer operate after one of them left a couple of people out there in the water by mistake.  Now the boats are huge, with ever vigilant staff and head counts before, and then again two or three times before you leave the reef.

Anyway, on that particular occasion, we had as much fun as amateurs can, me hanging on a buoy rope and looking down into the water and being amazed, and then the three of us practically walking on water when a jellyfish wandered by.  All the others had jumped in and disappeared diving, leaving us to our own uninformed entertainment. (when they returned they chided us that the deadly jellyfish are all near the estuaries, not out at sea……who knew?)

But I’ll never forget the trip home that day.  I had crawled out onto the front of the boat and was leaning up against the windshield, drying off.  A young Chinese guy came out and sat beside me and we started chatting.

Gradually it came to light that he was a Christian.  His English was crisp and fluent and I had to assume he was from somewhere English speaking, but I don’t remember asking.

Within minutes he knew my story……about Trevor.  Then somehow, (and WHERE were Nathan and Tony all this time I have no idea) I got to talking….. if you can imagine that, and before I knew it, THREE hours had passed.  I think I told this guy about everything I had on my heart.  My hurt, my sorrow, my anger, my confusion.

I don’t think he said a single thing to me, unless it was an ‘uh’, or a ‘oh’…….but just like those road trains, he got a LOT OF STUFF to haul from and for me.

When we arrived at the dock and said goodbye to the crew, I turned to the boy, thanked him and said, “Oh, I didn’t get your name”

He smiled and said (remember he’s in a Chinese body), “Johann” and slipped into the crowd.

Trevor’s middle name was “Johann”

I’ll never know till heaven, was he an Angel?………or was he a believer who knew that sometimes the best thing you can do is let people ‘unpack the load’ and work out their grief so they can move on.

I left that experience, much like we left the little church last week, about 1000 lbs lighter with a happy heart and looking forward to what God has in store for us now.

What’s that verse? “Give your burdens to the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Psalms 55:22)

That’s right: God is the best listener and comforter, and sometimes He does His work through something or someone in skin.

Oh, and I’ll never forget the sunburn I got that day………further proving that God lets most of His world run according to it’s nature…….and white folks tend to fry!

Marsha

To the Outback, and Back

What a week!

As most of you know, we’ve been 7 days on the road……….traveling with 11 others in 7 vehicles, two caravans, a trailer and a motor home on a mission trip from our sunny Gold Coast to the tiny town of Normanton in Far North Queensland , a trip of 2200 kilometers (1400 miles). Not too grueling as most of the roads were sealed and we didn’t have too much rain.  Road trains (trucks with 3 to 4 trailers often reaching over 175 feet long) were our worst ‘drama’, a real hair raiser to pass on a two lane (or sometimes only a one lane ‘strip’ road).

Some church member friends moved up here about 2 years ago, and somehow, even though they’re teachers by trade, he is now the only pastor in this town of 1100. Church attendance is around 60, which when you think about it, is about 5% of the population!

We arrived with about 2 tons of clothes, bedding, beds, crockery and who knows what else.  There is a church “Op shop” (Aussie for “Opportunity shop” or what we’d call a Goodwill).  In addition there is hope in the near future of getting enough funds to build a home for abused women.

On the way up, we were treated to all kinds of beautiful wildlife; thousands of kangaroos of course, as well as emus, and even Brolgas,(nicknamed the Australian Crane) often doing their signature mating dance.

And, of course there were some not so beautiful critters like the cute little Green Frog that shared a “toilet experience’” with me (I posted it on Facebook”). Then there was the shocker this morning as I finally piled out from under my warm covers to meet a little gecko jumping out from under my pillow! I guess he was cold too, but we both warmed up pretty well in our hurry to get away from each other

One of the things that really touched me on this trip is the echo of history that reflects the stubborn resilience of these people. Australians often refer to the Outback as a ‘sunburnt land’ and that’s an apt description.  It’s TOUGH out here, especially during the cyclical droughts that plague the continent.

We stopped in a museum in one tiny town and marveled at the sheer grit of two WWI veterans who came home and thought, “ I bet we could start an airline to link this huge nation together”. Rigging up a Model T with provisions, they set out for a 1500 mile trek all the way to Darwin (traveling over much of the same trail we’ve been covering). There, they picked up a rusty crop-duster, and after a little spit and polish along with ample amounts of baling wire, they put together the “Queensland and Northern Territories Aerial Service” or QANTAS for short…….and the rest is history.

Another place we visited was where the famous Burke and Wills expedition declared ‘good enough’, stopped (and died) about 40 miles short of the top end of Australia.

And so as Tony shared in worship this morning to a room full of people……I had to stop and realize that we have NO IDEA what they’ve been through. Aborigines were officially recognized as ‘human’ and not ‘flora and fauna” in 1964.  That’s not a typo, I said 1964……101 years after the US had abolished slavery!

After returning for the service tonight, my heart was filled with the love and courage these folks have shown us. So many interesting stories, such as the nurse from Zimbabwe who’s living way out here, separated her family in order to gain permanent residence status so that they can join her.  There was another couple who are also nurses and just fly around with the Royal Flying Doctors to Outback stations dispensing medicine and God’s love.

Tony shared with the group about the brotherhood of Christianity and they sang and gave testimonies about the faithfulness of God.  Very moving service.

And now as our friends find their separate ways home, hearts full and wagons empty, we’re going to hop on a ‘regional air’ plane, hopefully not too reminiscent of those first QANTAS ones and head for the east coast town of Cairns, a favorite spot of ours.  We haven’t been there in 13 years and think it’s time for a drop in on a church where we once had a Japanese ministry.  We’ll take some time (hopefully) to get some sun and warm up before heading home by next week’s blog.  I hope we don’t have much to report.

Y’all take care now!

Marsha

PS If you’re interested in pictures, look at “Normanton Qld Road Trip” in the search box on Facebook.

Hanging Chards

As I sit here this evening writing this blog, I feel like I did earlier in the week as I stooped over with the brush and dustpan sweeping up the last handful of dirt from our first set of home renovations. There was a screw, some sawdust and a lot of chipped paint and broken tiles…….sorta like my mind lately, ‘variegated’.  I even coined a new word in my confusion: “Mislocated”!  It wasn’t until someone commented on Facebook that I realized that that’s how I’ve been for the last 7 months!  I’m hoping this whole experience will fade behind me like childbirth and I’ll be geared up for the ‘BIG RENO” later this year!

So I promised to tell you about our 4th of July.

Yeah…….

That was about it.  I remember my sister commenting years ago, “You missionaries have the luxury to be able to STOP and celebrate holidays whereas us normal people have to use the holiday to fix the barn or catch up on some paperwork or any of the other myriad things that having a LIFE incurs.

Our kids were working or otherwise busy, we don’t know any other Americans, so our “4th of July” celebration’s highlight was dashing to Subway in paint covered clothes and sitting elbow to elbow with all the rest of humanity on the Gold Coast. It’s winter break from school and the mall is about the warmest place around!  We shared a foot long and sent up a big thank you to the good ol’ USA, land of our birth and always in our hearts.

But our hearts break for the USA as we read about the terrible tragedy in Dallas.  The USA, where we fear the upcoming elections and just wonder if our sole source of income at the moment (Social Security) will disappear at the hands of someone we don’t understand…….

But then as I’m thinking that America has it’s problems, our lovely adopted country of Australia had an election on July 2nd, and you may recall that voting is REQUIRED by law. And despite 100% turnout at the polls, we still don’t know who will be our next prime minister! (not torn chards but just too close to call……so we wait, and wonder

Speaking of waiting and police brutality…Facebook, in response to the Dallas tragedy is full of accounts of kind and reasonable people who serve as our policemen.  My son is one of those, but the other night he pulled someone over for speeding.  According to the story, the offender verbally abused Nathan for several minutes, just because he was a cop. Nathan waited patiently while the man had his tirade, then politely asked him to wait while he went back to his warm patrol car and filled out requisite forms. They were complicated, and it took him nearly an hour to finish them….. According to Nathan, we all need a “time out” once in awhile, and in this case, it was good for both of them!

But now this epistle is starting to look like that dustpan full of  ‘stuff’.  A little of this and a little of that.

On Thursday night we ‘celebrated’ but not America’s independence.

Instead of fireworks, we had communion (and dinner) with our friends from our home group.  Remember that old chorus? “There’s a sweet sweet spirit in this place, and I know that it’s the spirit of the Lord”. And it was so true.  I was so HAPPY to finally be settled enough to host a meal where I had a serving spoon, or a plate or whatever was needed (and I knew where to find it).  For those of you who’ve been or are in transition, you know what I mean.

It’s so nice to be CALM.  To be CONTENT, to be HOME.

And so to honor that, we’re leaving tomorrow at 6AM for a 5-day drive north to Normanton, in Far North Queensland,  Population 600.  There are 13 of us in 4 cars and 3 or 4 caravan ‘rigs’ going over the dusty and lonely roads north. (2200kms). I mentioned earlier in another blog about the famous Leichhardt expedition of 150 years ago disappeared into thin air somewhere along our route.  We won’t be doing that, if for no other reason than the sheer bulk of ‘stuff’ we’re taking, from beds to Bibles, to help a small Aboriginal church up there.  Tony will be preaching so prayers appreciated.

I’ll try to send up a smoke signal next Sunday, so keep your eyes peeled!  (and thanks for your patience in my ramblings) If for some reason we can’t find an internet signal, just hang tight a few days and I’ll get back to you.

Wagons HO!!!

Marsha

Don’t Chicken Out

For the last several weeks we’ve enjoyed calling on the expertise of a retired builder, retired electrician and (of course) a retired appliance repairman.  These are all Aussie mates about our age, and happy to use their skills at no (or almost no) charge for their services. Tony was commenting to them the other day that it’s interesting that even though they’re ‘retired’ they’re still much in demand for the work it took them a career to learn.

“However”, he mused, “it’s not often that anyone calls me up and says, “You’re a retired pastor; I just really need someone to come and preach at me!”

As I’m writing this, I’m so tired I can barely type.  We just got home from a 12-hour day in Brisbane, about an hour north, where we go once a month to minister to and be ministered by a group of Japanese at their monthly worship.

Today Tony was inundated with new opportunities that have him on a high.  Just to be able to ‘use his expertise’ is so rewarding, we thank God for the continued opportunities.

On that note, I just have to share with you a little blurb I read about Colonel Harlan Sanders, founder of KFC or Kentucky Fried Chicken, as it was originally known.  I’ll be bad and copy this because (as I mentioned) I’m too tired to type. But ‘have a think’ about this man and his life, will you? …….and maybe think about how it applies to our lives.  The Facebook article doesn’t mention it, but he and his family were devout Congregationalists.  He was born in 1898 and died in 1989 a billionaire.

At age 5 his Father died.

At age 16 he quit school.

At age 17 he had already lost four jobs.

At age 18 he got married.

Between 18 and 22, he worked as a railroad conductor but failed. He joined the army and washed out there. He applied for law school but was rejected. He became an insurance salesman but failed again. At age 19 he became a father. At age 20 his wife left him and took their baby daughter. He became a cook and dishwasher in a small cafe. He failed in an attempt to kidnap his own daughter, and eventually he convinced his wife to return home. At age 65 he retired. On the 1st day of retirement he received a cheque from the Government for $105, and felt that the Government was saying that he couldn’t provide for himself. He decided to commit suicide because life just wasn’t worth living anymore because he had failed so much. He sat under a tree writing his will, but instead, he wrote what he would like to have accomplished with his life. This made him realize there was much more that he hadn’t done. There was one thing he could do better than anyone he knew: he could cook.

Using his government check, he borrowed $87 against it and bought some chicken, frying it up using his own recipe. Then he went door to door selling it to his neighbors there in Kentucky. Remember at age 65, he was ready to commit suicide; but at 88 Colonel Sanders, was a billionaire.

Moral of the story: Attitude. It’s never too late to start all over. MOST IMPORTANTLY, IT’S ALL ABOUT YOUR ATTITUDE. NEVER GIVE UP NO MATTER HOW HARD IT GETS. You have what it takes to be successful. Go for it and make a difference. No guts no glory. It’s never too old to dream.

And to put a “faith spin” on it, let me close with that verse in Philippians 1:6: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”

Maybe chicken’s not what God is thinking about in our lives as we move into retirement (or maybe it is….who knows?), but we can rest assured that something has been placed deep within us. And as long as we’re still breathing, that something hasn’t been finished yet.

Got the message? Get to work!

Marsha

Lunch Guest

Good Morning All,

Hope your week has been good; ours certainly was.  Gradually we’re sorting ourselves out in our new digs.  I guess it’s appropriate that the office space we’ve set up and where I’m now typing away on this week’s blog has become known as the “Op Center”, while Tony’s claimed territory in the spare bedroom, decorated with animal skins and African spears is now officially the “Man Cave”.

Last week I mentioned what a little girl had said in a book called “Heaven in My Hands”, a precious account written by a 1930s American school teacher. ……… This week I’ll leave you with a question.

A few days ago, I was delighted to receive a carefully crafted hand made invitation from my daughter’s mother in law, who also is my friend.  They were inviting us to a Sunday afternoon dinner spread for the purpose of saying “goodbye” to their house of more than 20 years.  With your prayers, they’ll be moving locally into another place soon, now that they’re empty nesters.

We had a lovely time, enjoying all the friends who gathered after church for a lovely meal. Even though we were experiencing the second cyclone of the season, we were still able to sit outside (under cover), put a snag (sausage) on the barbie and enjoy the cool damp breezes as we ate.  Such is a Gold Coast winter!

As we chatted away happily, I thought of the little story about the kindergartners who were catching up on a Monday morning in class. They were all bubbling about who went where for dinner after the previous day’s church services. It seemed that everyone had enjoyed a great time of fun and food. Then a little boy broke in and said, “I wonder who invited Jesus home for lunch?”

Thought provoking isn’t it?

I would hope that it would have been us to have the Master home for a carefully prepared feast…… but I wonder.

And as I sit here watching the rain on a cool Sunday evening, I can’t help but imagine friends and family back in America, just starting the day.

Who are you having for lunch?

Blessings, talk to you next week!

Marsha

His Sheep Am I

Tony and I usually read from a devotional book in the mornings after breakfast.  Our mainstay is Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest”, but lately it’s grown to three books, and it’s one of the better moments of our day.

I know, I can hear you suggesting that we try reading the Bible, but the perfect plan is that we’ll do that solo at some other time in the day…….no comment at this point.

Anyway, in all the sorting and unpacking, I came across a little book called, “Heaven in my Hand”.  Inside the worn cover was a handwritten letter to me from my lovely grandmother, long since departed.  She was a kindergarten teacher in her last years after being widowed and raising 4 wonderful boys singlehandedly during the Depression and WWII.  She had a lot of wisdom, and this is what she wrote to me:

“All children can be so very cantankerous at times, but many beautiful and wonderful things are there too.  You have this quality of being able to draw out the fine things and help them to grow……”

What a blessing to leave me with that ‘commission’.  I only I hope I followed it as a teacher and a mother…and now a grandmother!

The book consists of daily vignettes the author/teacher experienced with her students.  We sigh or chuckle as we read them, and I’ll probably be sharing another one or two insights with you in the future.

The one this morning was about a little girl, the cherubic kind with her hair falling in ringlets and big wondering eyes. She was new to the school and a bit shy and timid, but still doing her best to participate and fit in.

One day she was found outside the Kindergarten boundary, wandering around with a dazed look on her face .

A passing teacher saw her plight and came, knelt down and drew her into her arms.  The little girl crumpled in relief and rested her head on the teacher’s shoulder with a sigh.

“Oh you poor dear”, the teacher consoled. “Are you lost?”  A teary nod assured this.

“Can you tell me your teachers name?”  the teacher continued, surprised to see her little face crumple in angst.

“No!” she cried, “because I haven’t named her yet”!

So cute, so innocent, so much what we are feeling about retirement.

It’s been 7 months and we STILL don’t have a ‘name’ to describe how we’re doing!  What IS this thing called ‘freedom”?  Everyone says we’re going to love it, but frankly, it’s a pretty big deal.

Perhaps because we had our entire life basically under one employer…….with one calling…..one pretty well established set of mates… a pretty predictable set of things we needed to do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Maybe this is why we can’t seem to give a name to how we feel or what we plan to do.

And so we continue to walk forward. Oswald did touch on the subject this last week when he more or less said, “Stop trying to come up with a plan and start giving it over to God alone”.  Matthew 6:33 and all that.

How many times do I need to hear that?

On a ‘normal’ note, we’re happy to have had a full weekend as you across the Pond are opening this up on your Sunday morning.  This blog is going out late because we’ve been at a new Bible study where we were asked to come and talk about Japan. It was refreshing, to say the least.

The house gets more ‘settled in’ every week. The carpenter says he’ll be done with the little renovations that have been going on for two months now. (Imagine the picture: mountains of rubble inside and outside the house, and a fine coast of sheetrock dust over every thing and everybody).

Notes from last week, Nathan’s got his insurance sorted after losing his car to the floods, just in time for his lovely wife to come down with Shingles………and the land issue that we were hoping to get the council to sign off on suffered enough erosion to keep this drama in the works for another however long …….BUT…..we’re all still in Love with God and each other, so in a sense, we’re ‘living the dream’!

Here’s the words from an old hymn we sang this evening.  it touched my soul and I hope it will yours, always good to remember “His Sheep am I”.

In God’s green pastures feeding, by his cool waters lie;

Soft in the evening walk my Lord and I.

All the sheep of his pasture fare so wondrously fine,

His sheep am I.

CHORUS:

Waters cool (on the mountain),

Pastures green (in the valley),

In the evening walk my Lord and I.

Dark the night (on the mountain),

Rough the way (in the valley),

Step by step, my Lord and I.

Forever Friends

A few weeks ago I talked about a couple of missionaries who were honored at church for their 25 years of faithful service in Papua New Guinea.

I was thinking about them as I opened yet another box from Japan (Yep, still moving in after a month in our new house). Right on top was a huge poster from our retirement party. I’ll try to include a picture of it, so you can see that is says, “Happy Retirement, Tony, Marsha and Shinkichi”.

How fitting that this wonderful Japanese friend retired at the same time as us and we were able to have a combined celebration! Even looking at it now, the memories keep flooding back. Let me tell you about Shinkichi:

He was born into a practicing Buddhist family in 1955, an only child

He flourished in everything he did, sports, academics and social life……until he scored low on his high school entrance exam. This eliminated him from any of the prestigious ‘public’ schools and left him only two options: a low level private school or a mission school.

Shinkichi applied and was accepted into a United Church boys school (in this case a very evangelistic institution). On the first day, he was issued a Bible, a hymnal, a chapel schedule and was ‘encouraged’ to attend a local church at least once or twice a month.

Shinkichi complied, and in the process discovered that he rather liked the music and messages he heard at church. And he REALLY liked the sweet young thing who attended from the United Church’s corresponding girls school.

Days turned into months and then years and a band of new Christians grew into good friends at Sendai Baptist Church.  Before they all knew it, Shinkichi and Kumiko were in love and graduating into college.  Five years later, Shinkichi married Kumiko.

Now enter Tony & Marsha, fresh out of language school and sent to Sendai Baptist, complete with two little boys and about a half a cup of Japanese words.

Kumiko and Shinkichi stepped alongside and made it part of their ministry to help us with ours. If it was a youth trip, they were there. English classes?  Front and center. Critiquing Tony’s Japanese sermons? Shinkichi didn’t hold back. The language barrier was there between us, but over the years we all found ways to get around, over, under and through the challenges, often with hilarious  and sometimes embarrassing results. Tony once preached a whole sermon about the Pharisees having too much tail (“shippo-sugi”) when he meant to say they were legalists (“rippo-shugi”).

Ah but then there was the time in San Francisco when they were helping us corral 17 giggly college girls to a homestay program.  Shinkichi and Kumiko ordered one of the famous crab sandwiches and got instead “club” sandwiches … and a reminder that in English knowing the difference between “L” and “R” can be very important.

Eventually Shinkichi and Kumiko contributed a couple of kids to the mix. A girl they named “Yuu” (meaning “gentle, which she is) was the first, followed by “Tsu” (short for “Tsubasa”, from the eagle’s wings in Isaiah 40:31.

They taught us to ski and we taught them to roast hotdogs in our fireplace. We talked silly stuff and church stuff.  Shinkichi flew to our side when our son Trevor was dying in the states.  Then lovely Kumiko got sick and died.  We are still crying and missing her even though it’s been 5 years.

But Shinkichi never stopped.  He still works tirelessly at the church we built together.  He is always on the road with the Japan Baptist Convention and even more now that he’s turned 60, the mandatory retirement for most companies in Japan. He says that now he’s free to do even more ministry in his spare time.

All this is to say, Shinkichi and Kumiko were God’s gift to us, helping us and guiding through the journey in ways we could never have gone on our on. I can’t even imagine how lost and lonely and ineffective we’d have been without their encouragement and at times, their intervention. Of course there were others, but none as fun and helpful as these true soul mates.   I pray daily that our new missionaries will be able to find lifelong friends like these.

Tony and I are looking forward to our own “Happy Retirement” now. As I look at this picture, taken near where we spent the last 4 years working near Sendai’s tsunami zone, I can stop and pray a prayer of thanks for co-laborers like Shinkichi and Kumiko.

On another note, as we count our blessings, the last 2 days brought a cyclone to the Gold Coast the likes of which hasn’t been seen in almost 30 years.  I’m happy to say our new house stood firm although we watched all day as the flood plain out back came closer and closer. But thankfully it stopped short of the house.

Son Nathan wasn’t as fortunate. While he worked tirelessly as a policeman last night helping people through the floods, the police station was flooded and his car took a swim. A total write off, but he’s safe, so we’re happy and grateful.

Oh, and when Nathan got home, he found that during the night as Kylie and the boys huddled together in bed, part of the ceiling in his house collapsed from water that had leaked into the attic. But again, everyone’s safe, Praise the Lord!

Love ya, remember to keep dry!

Marsha

Happy Retirement