A Really Long Reach

Hello all,

While I want to continue with my telling of the story of God’s faithfulness in Japan over the last century, I’d like to take you ‘walkabout’ on a little surprise adventure we’ve stumbled onto this weekend.

As you may know, I turned 68 last Wednesday.  That’s no big deal really. Sort of one of those ‘yawn’ birthdays.  We had a lovely lunch on the beach with both kids and their spouses. We love the grand boys to death, but having this time just with our grown up kids, where we could actually finish sentences, was precious. I felt very blessed to have such a great family.

But the real surprise was that Tony and daughter Nicki secretly arranged a trip to the far northwest of Queensland, to the town of Longreach.

Since Nicki’s a ‘hostie’ as stewardesses are casually referred to, she was able to conjure up some cheap tickets and so we packed some favorite nibbly food, winter clothes and our laptops and were on our way!  The dream was to write a lot, enjoy the ‘town’ on foot and take in the Qantas Museum.

We did exactly that.  The tour of the birthplace of Qantas was inspiring. Two World War I aces started with a dream to help connect the folks isolated in the outback with an air service. The rest is history.  Queensland And Northern Territories Aerial Service……. or  “QANTAS” was born.

To better understand the scope of things, we are located here in Longreach now, 1200 kms from home, or a 19-hour drive on a two-lane road.  Then, from here, it’s another 2200 km to Darwin (where our missionary died last week). That jaunt, which he haven’t taken yet, is only 24 hours of non-stop driving, dodging kangaroos and road trains on a two, or sometimes one lane ’strip’ road. And keeping in mind that this is an unsealed road, a good part of it is closed completely in the wet season.

And so now, 98 years after the airline was launched, there are 2900 souls living here, and a daily air service (on Qantas of course) for people needing to go to Brisbane for everything from re-outfitting to Doctor’s appointments.

To add some sparkle to the 3-hour flight, Nicki was able to arrange her roster and she was our very own stewardess. Well, almost. So fun!!

And then this morning we thought we’d join the service at the “Longreach Baptist Church”. It’s always interesting to us to visit churches when we travel, maybe just to add to our perspective about how others do worship. We were not disappointed. After a bit of a walk, because we got lost, we arrived to find the church packed out.  It’s becoming a theory I have that the smaller the town the bigger the turnout!  Anyway, we met a bunch of very interesting folks, heard a great testimony, had Lords Supper and also a good sermon.  Afterward we made friends with a couple who live “just down the road” (turned out that meant 65 kilometers). They own a “modest” (in his words) property of 18,000 acres where they raise beef cattle, a few vegetables, five boys and one girl. When I invited them to come to the Gold Coast and see us sometime, he gave a shudder and said, thanks, but it’s waaay too crazy down there!”

Another lady took pity on us and drove us back to the museum where we enjoyed a delicious $15 Roast Lamb Dinner on specially created “Qantas” (who else in this town?) Noritake china.  We’ve had a good weekend.

But back to Japan.  I’ve been getting a few stories from missionaries and they’re quite interesting.  I’m excited to be sharing them.  We’ve also got some funny ones too.  Here’s something written by a missionary by the name of Mike Simoneaux.  He was one of our peers, but lived pretty far south so we didn’t get to see them much. And then unfortunately, they had to return to the states because of a child’s health.  Here’s what he wrote:

(Oh by the way, his name in Japanese would be “Shimono Sensei”.  The Amagi Sanso that he refers to is the Baptist Conference center that we frequented a lot over the years.)
“I was asked to do a communion service for one of the churches I worked with in Osaka. The pastor and I spoke and I explained to him that I had attended a communion service where they used French bread instead of normal bread. He thought that sounded interesting, and agreed to give it a try. I arrived at the church just in time for the service and he told me that the French bread was under the linen cloth on the pulpit. I stood up to read the appropriate scripture… “This is my body that was broken for you”…

I lifted the cloth and saw that the bread was still wrapped up in cellophane. I unwrapped it, repeated the scripture, and held the bread up to break it. It bent. I tried to break it again and must have used too much strength because it broke into three pieces, the middle part flying through the air and into the congregation. A church member “fielded” the piece, bowed deeply and brought it back to the communion table. No one said a word, except my son Stephen, age 10, who was almost on the floor laughing. We finished the service as low key as possible…no one said a thing about the incident including the pastor. Years later, I was at Amagi Sanso for a meeting, and happened to meet a pastor I did not know. We introduced ourselves, he paused, then said almost to himself, “Shimono Sensei…. Are, are you the French bread Shimono?” Apparently, I had become famous.”

As I mentioned last week, the Japanese may not be an expressive people, but they never forget…..

We’ll be back in civilization next week!! (or as the rancher referred to it, “The Crazy Place”)


Sacrifices Remembered

Last year we were sitting in the lobby of a Japanese inn, waiting to take a train that would go under the ocean and onto the island of Hokkaido.  We’d stopped over there the night before, and were to continue another 5 hours north to be able to see one of our ‘boys’ and his family who live in Sapporo.  He’s the one I mentioned before who does church music throughout the island.

Behind us a large family was gathering to wait for the shuttle bus with us.  The older gentleman was talking,

“You know,” he said to his family that included several young people,  ”this morning we will be crossing the Tsugaru Straits to Hokkaido.  It will take us only 20 minutes by Bullet Train, but until several years ago, the only way to cross was by 4 or 5 hours on a ferry.  About 60 years ago, a ferry sank in a storm and about 1200 people were drowned.”

The family murmured in dismay, possibly saying something like “Why would Grandpa want to choose this moment to share this with us?”  I’m good at eavesdropping but sometimes I miss the finer details when it’s in Japanese.

Then he sucked in his breath and continued.  “But it was the two Christian missionaries who were aboard that we’ll never forget. You see, they, in true Japanese ‘Bushido’ honor, took off their lifejackets and gave them to some younger students”.

What he didn’t mention was that several surviving witnesses reported that the men shouted, “Live for Jesus!” as they sunk into the waves, never to be found again.

As I researched this story, I heard from a missionary who has lived her whole life in Japan. She was only 4 at the time, but according to her memory, four missionaries sat in her living room one night. She remembered that two of the men were needing to get back to the mainland. One of them had just deemed it ‘safe enough’ to bring his family back to Japan after the war, and the other one had an important church meeting.  They swapped tickets with the other two, who decided that could wait another day.  The men who left on the first ferry were Alfred Stone and Dean Leeper.

We will never know why this happened, but God does. The ferry was not supposed to sail at all because of the storm…. but it did. God knows what happened there as well.

As we worked in the tsunami disaster the last few years of our career, from 2011 till 2015, we found ourselves at times discouraged with the ‘response’ of the Japanese to the Gospel. One would think that after such a major trauma people would rush to the Savior, and many of them did, but it also seemed that many others hardened up and returned to their immutable stoic ways before we knew it.

Then a wise Japanese pastor observed,  “Yes, the Japanese seem hard. But they NEVER forget either. Satan has a hold on them, but he can’t reach their hearts.”

An unprecedented number of people DID accept Christ in the time following the tsunami but a great number of them just watched and filed it all away in their hearts as the Christians rushed to help them.  But when they remember the kindness and hope of missionaries like those two men in Hokkaido, they’ll remember every ‘Christian’ act thru the centuries.  Their hearts are being changed toward God every day, and we would do well to remember to pray constantly for their revival.

There is an interesting video that we’ve gotten a lot of encouragement from.  If you have a few minutes, you might want to watch it! Be sure to watch both parts 1 and 2. Here’s a couple of links that will take you to them:



There is HOPE for Japan! I have to believe that.

Have a great week,


PS….. On a personal note, one of our better missionaries here in Australia, John Baynes, has just died after a very short bout with cancer.  He and his wife worked tirelessly with the Aboriginals in Northern Australia.  They were pure and simple people who hardly ever came out of the great Outback where they were at home with their ‘people group’. He will be missed.

Lives Poured Out

A couple of years ago I told you about our Japanese pastor, Noguchi Sensei

The post was December 6th 2010, I think. That seems like ages ago, but here’s how it went:

I was a young missionary in Japan, there to save the world, and okay… maybe just a tad filled with myself. One night I went alone to the evening service at church. Tony must have had a meeting somewhere, I don’t remember.

I sat there, the only foreigner in the service. The text for the message was from Matthew 26, where the woman is pouring perfume on the Master’s feet. Pastor Noguchi read the passage and then talked a few minutes about the woman, the cost of the perfume, etc.

Then he took an interesting turn when he said, “Look at our missionaries”.

I was glad I’d been paying attention as all eyes were suddenly focused on me.

He went on, “I know they all must have been leaders back home where they come from. They are talented and intelligent. They would have to have drive and ambition or they wouldn’t have made it this far.”  I sat up a little and beamed, basking in the praise.  Then Noguchi threw me a curve…

“And they get here, and what? They study the language for a very long time, and they still talk like 6 yr olds. They never really understand us, and they bumble around lost and confused most of the time.” (I shrank in my seat, even though all eyes were now politely turned aside. I knew he was right.).

There was some murmuring and nodding in agreement as Noguchi went on,  “Sometimes we might be tempted to just say thank you to these folks, and kindly suggest that they go back home where they can do some real work; where they will be comfortable and can actually use their skills.”

After a brief pause, but before everyone started voting us off the island, he picked up his Bible and read the words of Jesus, this time in ENGLISH, perhaps wanting to add a little flair, or for my sake so that I’d be sure to understand;  “Forbid her not, for what she does is a fine and beautiful thing”.

“Don’t you see?” he said to the congregation. “Missionaries all over the world are pouring out their LIVES at the feet of Jesus… for whatever it’s worth, what they are doing is a Fine and Beautiful thing!”

That was a turning point in my life when I realized, I’ll never be Japanese (or Thai, or even possibly Aussie). I will never speak any language like a native, including American English, which seems like such a long time ago, nor will I ever learn Australian, which my Aussie brothers and sisters insist IS English. But like it or not, my life IS being poured out, as the wrinkles on my face confirm.

But what a comfort to think that Jesus might someday give me a squeeze and say, “Good on ya, Marsha!” In all truth, it’s not much of a sacrifice to love these people, and if that’s part of what “pouring out” means, then I can’t complain. I guess the bottom line is simply this: our lives are running out, at least the part associated with our mortal bodies. The question is not, “How can I plug the leak?” but, “How can my pouring out make a difference to the Kingdom?”

May your pouring be a good one, and may it be said that it was indeed a “fine and beautiful thing”.

And now, here we are in 2018, and as I embark on this ‘journey’ of reminiscing about God’s work in and around us, I will be talking at length about the missionaries’ influence on Japan as well as their sacrifice.  But there’s one more thing about their sacrifice that I want to mention.

You remember the story of King David, as he set out to stop a plague by building an altar and offering a sacrifice to God. He found a threshing floor, neatly leveled and ready for building. Approaching the owner, a man named Araunah, David explained his plan and offered to buy it. Araunah, while lying flat on his face in front of the king answered, “Take it Your Majesty,… I’ll give you the land, along with the oxen for the sacrifice and the equipment for the fire.”  But here’s what I find interesting, maybe because it speaks straight to my own heart:  David replied, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to          the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing. So David          bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver          for them” (2 Samuel 24:24).

Whatever we may sacrifice to the Lord, it’s not meant to be free.   For Tony and me, I can’t say that our missionary “sacrifice” has been all that costly. We didn’t suffer much, not really. But then, it wasn’t exactly free either.  Looking back now, we sometimes think of the “might have beens” and can’t help but wonder, “Was it worth it?”  Our children hardly knew their grandparents, or their aunts and uncles. As “Third Culture Kids”, they were often different from other kids their age wherever we were, and this sometimes resulted in some painful experiences. Then there was Trevor, our first-born. A lot of evidence is pointing to the fact that his type of leukemia was somehow related to our being in Zambia on a mission assignment when he was conceived. At any rate, the enemy of this world is quick to point the finger of blame at us for our children’s suffering.

But then I think, “There is so much more in all this than I’ll ever understand this side of Heaven. It might be better to reserve my own judgments for the time when I have all the facts.”

In the meantime, all of our kids, including Trevor, were blessed beyond measure, growing up in a world of assurance that they loved and were loved. They were given a sense of purpose that carried them into adulthood where they continue to make us smile at the love they have for God and all of us.

These wonderful things could have happened anywhere, I know. But the fact is, they happened while our family was being “poured out” at the Feet of Jesus. Whatever sacrifices there were are overshadowed by the blessings, heaped up and overflowing.

I hope to share with you some of those “pouring out stories” stories in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading. Please keep sharing your own journey with me and don’t forget to comment to us at marsha@mywoods.net as well!


Stand By Me

I’m guessing a lot of you caught the Royal Wedding last week.  We had company so I just turned the TV on mute to see the dress.  Then we all sorta got sucked in and then we thought, “might as well listen to the sermon for just a minute”……well, after that we were mesmerized, both by the ‘deviation from British stodgy protocol’ evident in the most unusual sermon, to the point that before we knew it we were watching a black choir sing “Stand By Me”!

Today my vignette about “God’s Faithfulness in Japan” is about that song, oddly enough.  I certainly never expected it to show up in a royal wedding!

Most of you who are reading this know that our oldest son Trevor died of leukemia when he was 16 yrs old. You may also know that he had 3 very best Japanese friends, who had virtually grown up with him, spending most weekends at our house from about 6 or 7 years old.

Trevor, Jun, Katsuya and Makoto were inseparable mates.  Although they went to different schools during the week they all came to the same church. They were in the children’s choir, went to children’s camp; all the things kids do when they’re at church together for years on end.

Because Japan is Japan and in the 80’s at least, it was perfectly safe for these kids to walk (or should I say ‘wander) the mile or so to church every Sunday morning, and then back to our house, dawdling along at their leisure.

When the boys were about 12 or 13 they discovered skateboards.  One Sunday on the way home, Trevor was showing off in the parking lot and lost his skateboard, which unfortunately rolled at a pretty good clip right into a plate glass shop window, shattering it.  When we returned from our church later in the afternoon, there sat all 4 boys in a row with very solemn faces.

They told us what had happened and Tony and Trevor immediately went back to the shop to make it right. On the drive over, all Trevor could say was “They stayed with me when I had to face the shop owner, they stayed with me!”

When Trevor died in the States at 16, he held on for days, in a coma, near death.  Finally I asked the doctor “why?” and she said, “He seems to be waiting for something.”

I knew exactly what that was, and called the boys back in Japan and arranged to call back in 30 minutes as soon as they could get together in one place.

As I held the phone to his ear, they called out to him in his coma.

“Trevor!”  They sang out in boyish Japanese, “Man, it’s been fun, we’ll miss you so much but we know we’ll see ya in Heaven!”

…….and within just a few minutes his body seemed to relax and he passed on.

As we made our way back to Japan, those boys worked non stop preparing, and at his funeral they played their guitars and sang with some degree of English, the song that summed up their existence, “Stand By Me’.

For me at least, it was the most poignant part of the service.  It reminded me of the old favorite verse in Proverbs 18:24, “A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

As we were packing up after the funeral, Makoto came up to me and said,  ”So what time do you want us next weekend?”

I disguised my shock and wondered if they’d missed the obvious, but I smiled and said,  “Oh, just whenever you get done with school.”

You see, they hadn’t missed the obvious.  They were “family” and coming to our house was just what they did.  They continued to come every weekend till they all left for college and their adult lives.

What an incredible blessing they were for us as we searched for our ‘new normal’ without Trevor.  First Nathan,who was just 11, and then we adopted Nicki, they kept appearing and together continued to be the brothers that made all of our lives richer.

Today those three boys love the Lord and are serving Him.  Makoto went on to become the pastor of the church where Trevor’s ashes are, Katsuya is a leading musician in the Baptist churches in far northern Japan and Jun, the one who never uttered a word of English, is now a PHD professor of…….English.

I was just reading today in Psalms 146:9, “The LORD protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.”  God gave these “Stand by Me” boys to help make us well again.  How can we even comprehend his faithfulness?

Hope you have a great weekend.  Marsha

And I just remembered that this is “Memorial Day” in the States. More reason to be thankful for boys who made the sacrifice, eh?

…and your household

Good Morning,

Today is May 20th and it’s the first blog of the ‘Memories of God’s Hand in Japan” that I mentioned starting last week.  I’m excited about hearing from all of you who have a story to share about when God moved among the Japanese to bring them to Him.  If you don’t send me some stuff, this may be a short campaign, but I’m confident in your abilities!

So…….today’s story is about our pastor’s wife, Kazuko.  She and her husband Naoki Noguchi (who we wrote about in Sacrificed, Given to an Empire, Saved by God ) were our pastors for many years while we lived in Sendai, Japan.  They deeply influenced us.

Have you read that Bible story about Paul in Prison? Big earthquake. Prison opened. Jailor about to kill himself. Paul stops him, he asks about salvation, to which Paul replies in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”

That’s a verse that’s raised a lot of questions with many folks wondering how it worked out that “he and his family were all saved”? Was it an instant thing, or was there some “working out” in the family that we don’t know about yet? I don’t know the answer to that one, but I have seen whole families come to the Lord through one family member, especially in Japan.

Back to Kazuko… she was a strong young girl living in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu. After the war, somehow she found Christ and the strength that had held her up until then was now directed to her new life as a child of God.

She needed it. When she made her profession of faith known to her parents, they threw her out of the house, as was common in the early 1950’s.  Having nowhere to go, she took up residence in the church that had brought her the “Good News”. Living there, she trained as a preschool teacher.  It wasn’t long before she met Naoki, also finishing his education as a pastor, and soon they were married.

After several years word came that her mother was very ill and she rushed back to the family home to help.  There was some degree of reconciliation, and in the process, Kazuko was able to share her faith with her mother so that she was able to believe in Jesus before she died.

With the death of the mother, the Dad went off the rails with grief.  He continued to berate Kazuko, even suggesting that her ‘wayward’ religion had been the reason for the mother’s death.  Kazuko left him there, moving back to her new home and husband and together they rejoiced to learn that a baby was on the way.

Time passed, and the father found that he couldn’t cope without anyone to boss around.  Finally he determined to himself that he was crazy, and subsequently managed to get himself admitted into an insane asylum.

But now we may have to chuckle a little when we hear ‘the rest of the story’.

You guessed it, by the time that he’d made the rounds with the schedule, the gruel, the fire hose showers and the incessant howl of the people that actually belonged there, he decided that he was indeed sane and needed to be let out!  Preferably ASAP.  He went to the warden and announced that he’d be leaving now.

Again, you guessed it.  As is true in any such facility, you don’t self admit for the weekend and then ‘decide’ you’re fine.  He was told in no uncertain terms that he would need a legal document from a relative who was prepared to take custody of him, just in case he wasn’t as fit as he thought.

The only relative left after the war was………Kazuko.  A young happy newlywed who’d found not only Christ but the love of her life.  Word came to her with the request.

She took some time to think and pray about it, looking to others and the Bible as she worked thru the hurts he’d inflicted on her, both mentally and physically.  She pondered about how this would affect her new family, having ‘crazy Grandpa’ joining them, but in her heart of hearts she knew what was the right thing to do.

Finally the day came when she was ready to go.

The asylum had a long bridge leading to it, spanning over an old unused depression of some sort that reminded one of a moat.  She checked in at the gate and they brought him out to the other side of the bridge. She called out to him and he yelled back that he was ready to leave and she better hurry up and sign whatever was needed because he needed out NOW.

Her answer, shouted back across the gap, embodied the inborn strength that she’d always had as well as the new courage she found in Christ.

“I’ll sign you out on two conditions.  First of all, where you are right now, you will apologize for all the grief you’ve given me. Then, you are going to understand that you will be in church, by my side, sitting respectfully, every Sunday for the rest of your life.”

He turned to look back at the asylum and then agreed without a second thought.  Anything was better than this.

And he kept his promise.  He soon understood the words he heard from the pulpit and gave his heart to the Lord, and in the newfound forgiveness, learned not only to love, but to be loved as well..  He lived to a ripe old age, and joined his wife in Heaven, leaving a little loving family of Kazuko, Naoki and two fine boys to mourn his passing.

God does save families. ………in his time.

Writing to Remember

Happy Mothers Day all!

I hope you all woke up to a great day wherever you are.  For us, it’s moving towards winter so it was nice to stay in bed just a few extra minutes, cherishing the warm blanket and trying not to think about the shock that was coming when our feet hit the floor. Up at at ‘em, we headed for our once-a-month service where Tony would be preaching to a group of lovely folks, mostly around our age. They still love to sing the old hymns, so worshiping with them is a real breath of fresh air.

This day was no exception, followed by a ‘surprise’ visit from my daughter Nicki. They live in Brisbane and are both working so we don’t see them as often as we’d like.   She and her husband were booked in for later tonight, as he’s working here on the coast for a couple of weeks.  Somehow, though,  she got some time off from her stewardessing around and managed to come early, leaving him behind to play the drums for the night service and join us later.  I felt very pampered with that and all the little presents and hugs from the grandboys and their mother (Nathan was working).

From Today on, maybe for quite awhile, I want to write you some stories of God’s faithfulness.  I’m thinking it’ll be largely from Japan, but who knows what will land in my inbox?

The reason for this?  A couple of reasons:  it’s been 30 or 40 years since anyone I know has written a compilation of all God has been doing in Japan, and it’s about time to update the record.

Also, Tony and I commented to each other as we were writing our story last month during our time away. We said, “With all that’s happening in the world, and especially at our age, we need to REMEMBER what God has done and IS doing.

Apparently King David felt the same way. Look what he has to say in Psalms 44: 1-8:

We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us
what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish. It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them. You are my King and my God, who decrees. Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame. In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.

And so this is what I’ll do:  Write HIS story of what He’s doing around the world. Japan will be my first focus, but I’m also looking at anywhere His work is showing itself. This may be something that you’d like to contribute to as well. Send me your stories! My email is marsha@mywoods.net .

Onward, Forward, for His Story,


PS  Happy Mother’s Day!

Home Again

Good Morning from Sunny Australia!

We are happy to write that we’re safe and sound and home from a very enjoyable and productive trip.

Except for that slight debacle of “The Train” down from Thailand (see last week’s blog), everywhere we went and everything we did seemed to fall into place almost as if it was miraculous.

We always arrived safe and often early, we managed to communicate when necessary to a world of interesting people. We didn’t get even the sniffles and our joints fell in step allowing us to get LOTS of walking in (or maybe the walking aligned our joints, who knows).

Tony’s Anagaion course was well received in 4 different locations in two countries and we’re waiting to follow up on these churches as to whether they will need more help from us physically in order to move forward or can do as the course is intended and let it be lay-led by themselves.

We met more old friends than we could have imagined and made many more new ones.

We discovered a whole ethnic subculture (and their food!) called the “Peranakans”. Reminiscent of the Old Testament days, these were Chinese and a few other races who wandered over into the Malay peninsula and intermarried, creating a new society with a strong cultural history.

Out walking, we missed every rainstorm, sometimes just by minutes. The place we stayed in Singapore was one of the cheapest in the city and the building was really in need of repairs, but it didn’t produce any bedbugs and more importantly didn’t fall down on us or give us food poisoning at the (included) breakfast. Every morning we’d scrabble, elbows eschew, for a grab at the serving table while Tony hummed the tune to the old song, “At the boarding house where I lived, things were growing very old…..old grey hairs were in the butter and the bread had turned to mold.” I’m sure you remember this if you ever went to camp.

We shared with lots and lots of folks about God: who He is and what He’s done. And in every case, the responses were just amazing. One evening, we got to chatting with some fellow Aussies about our age. They invited us to join them at a little sidewalk café, even though we’d finished our dinner a few hours earlier. They were interesting and we related at a lot of levels as we talked about our shared love of the Australian bush and the adventures it offers. Then we got to talking at a deeper level and I mentioned how God had brought us back to Japan just in time for the earthquake/tsunami and how He’d protected us. The conversation continued and as people our age often do, we got on the subject of our beautiful children who were given to us when we most needed them.

That prompted her to point to the sky and say “Somebody up there is looking after you”. High praise from an Aussie, who for the most part is ‘unchurched’. We decided to be friends, although with them living in the far remote reaches of Western Australia, more than 1000 miles away, it will probably have to remain a “virtual” friendship

And then we got home, slept well in our own bed although I had to comment that it now seems a ‘bit soft’ after the Thai versions of what they call mattresses! And then this morning what a joy it was to be back at our own church. Tony got to preach, so he was, as he put it in his message, “Happier than a gopher in dirt”.

Now we’re looking a new week coming up, and getting excited about all the things on the horizon. I hope you’re doing well as well and enjoying spring or fall wherever you are.

No more travelogues, I promise! I’ve got some interesting projects rattling around in my head that I’ll let you in on soon, so don’t give up on me!

Always, Marsha

Here I Am Lord

So what if you had this scenario happen to you. Say you decide you want to go up to New York to see your aunt. You’re in California and don’t speak much English, but you find me and say, “I’d like to go to New York City”

I sell you a ticket. Do I TELL you that this particular ticket only goes to Nevada and then you’ll have to take 3 or 4 more trains and several more days to get to NYC? One would certainly hope so.

That’s not what happened to us though. When will I learn that the smiling nod and spoken “Yes” in Asia doesn’t always mean “Yes” but often more of a “Keep talking, I’m listening even though I have no idea what you’re on about ” sort of acknowledgement.

For many years Tony and I thought it would be ‘romantic’ to ride the train down from Bangkok, Thailand to Singapore. Our friends had done it (years ago) but hey, we can do it now. Really, it’s no big deal, about 1000 miles,if memory serves me.

I checked into it and found a three day package deal on the Eastern Oriental Express. I glanced at the itinerary and it was everything you’ve ever dreamed of, and sounded very classy, so I thought ‘lets do it!” Then I checked the price, How much could it be?

Would you believe $3900 Per Person………….and it was sold out.

Off we went to the main train station where we found the token english speaker and she sold us two very nice tickets from Bangkok overnight to ‘Singapore’ or so we thought. We confirmed and reconfirmed, asked others, asked again, and it was all there, printed on our tickets and a sheet in mostly Thai, but every time we pointed and said “Singapore” we got smiles and nods.

And so on Friday afternoon, we arrived at the station, purchased a few ‘necessities’ because the dining car didn’t look that appealing (nor did the train station for that matter) and sitting in our assigned “upper and lower” pullman seats, we pushed off right on time. I was smiling like a cheshire cat, partially because the last time I rode this particular train for a short trip, the windows were too dirty to see out, but this time they were sparkling clean! That in itself had to be a particularly good omen, don’t you think? Here we were on our ‘dream trip’ and not $3900 apiece but more like $30 each!

We’re so smart we surprise ourselves.

We snacked, read our books, looked out the windows, watched the coconut palms and the water buffalo and the children fading into the sunset when finally the porter came thru and made up our beds. Mine was clearly intended for a younger person, since I had to scale a tiny ladder and vault myself onto what you might call a shelf, about as wide (and hard) as a dining room chair. Wrapping the sheet around me like a mummy, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t roll out and onto the floor, but needless to say, it was an uneasy night for me. Tony, below, slept like a baby.

Then we repositioned ourselves for 4 more hours, looking out at the beautiful scenery and munching on granola bars. By now I was transversing the cars across the little ‘bridge’’ where you can see down to the tracks and the train connectors, to the toilet ( if you want to call a hole onto the tracks a ’toilet’ ) with ease.

And then we arrived, as per schedule at the ‘border’.

Thats where the whole thing fell apart.

The “Border” was the Malaysian one all right,but it was the northern border,not the southern one that leads just a mile or so across the straights of Malacca into Singapore. We realized our tickets had ENDED a whole country away from the goal!

Of course NO ONE spoke even a modicum of English, but we understood that we’d have to wait several hours there to immigrate into Malaysia to then catch another train into Penang (several hours) or Kuala Lumpur (even more) and then on to Singapore, tallying up to about 2 more DAYS of train travel.

I haven’t felt this hopeless and stupid in ages. We hurriedly turned on our phone to ‘international roaming’ and called a friend we know in Penang and said, “Help us”!

And he did. About 20 texts later, we had covered every scenario with so many texts we’ll be paying the phone company for life, but none of them getting us to Singapore by Sunday morning. That would be problematic since Tony was slated to share his Anagaion program in the Japanese church and possibly another one as well.

Then we had an idea.

I texted the friend “What about Hat Yai?” It was a town, still in Thailand, that we’d passed thru about an hour earlier. Maybe they had an airport with flights to Singapore, it looked like a pretty good sized town.

“Yes”, he texted, “ There’s a plane for Singapore leaving there in about 3 hours”.

I ran into the rail office and asked about RETURNING to Thailand, and he said the train was leaving in 5 minutes.

I held up two fingers and he wrote “100” on a piece of paper. I said, “Dollars?” He shook his head. “Ringetts?” again no. Finally I said, “Baht?” and he affirmed it was 100 Baht ($3 USD) for both of us to stand for an hour on a hot train that is now leaving in about 3 minutes.

GREAT! We’d already told our friend to buy the air tickets online for us.

We started digging for money and could only find about 40 Baht. Of course there are no ATMs in places like this. I dug deeper and threw some ringetts on the table. We were still gravely short of $3 and the whistle blew. The ticket master shrugged his shoulders and pointed with his chin for us to get on anyway…….we didn’t argue.

As soon as we pulled out of the station on the race back to Hat Yai My friend texted, “Only one ticket available”. My answer was “Don’t kid me”

He wasn’t.

We texted him to book us the 7:AM flight the next day.  We’d miss the first church service, but we weren’t responsible for anything so that wouldn’t be a problem.

But as Hat Yai hadn’t really struck me as a lovely town to spend the night in, especially because we had a non-refundable booking waiting for us already in Singapore, I suggested that we just jump in a taxi after this hour long standing with the hot blast of wind in your face ordeal was over, and head for the airport.  Maybe they’d have a cancellation, or if not we could hopefully grab a place to sleep there.
We arrived and I sat down on some filthy concrete steps and spread myself out over our luggage (this town was practically at war when we lived in Bangkok in 2010, so I figured you can’t be too careful).  Tony started asking about the airport.
No one understood him.  We studied Thai for 8 months but for the life of us we couldn’t conjure up the word for Airport, so Tony resorted to swooshing around in front of the policeman making zooming sounds, arms extended, occasionally pointing skyward.  It worked and we were in a battered car and on our way.  We wondered that maybe they just wanted us out of the station, but we had an uneventful ride straight to the airport, safe and sound.
The Thai people have a way of greeting called a “Wai”.  You place your palms together, fingers pointing upwards toward your chin, and bowing slightly, you raise the hands to the level of your need to be humble.
I came into the airline office with my hands already reaching my forehead.  I would have bowed as well,  but by now my dress was so dirty and stretched out it was touching the floor and I was afraid of a faceplate if I did too much stooping..
“I conjured and pleaded our situation.  They looked at me and motioned for me to produce a ticket.  I explained (in gestures) that I didn’t have one.
Finally, our passports did the trick, and she found our reservation (that we’d never yet laid eyes on). She apologized that by changing the flight, we’d have to pay for a bag again. (about $10)
That seemed fair.  In a few minutes we were boarding a plane for Singapore.  I don’t know where they found the other seat, but I wasn’t asking questions.
Two hours later we treated ourselves to a real taxi and leaned back in the CLEAN leather seats and glided into Singapore to the smooth tones of “Hotel California” coming from the radio.
Life is good.  God is even better!
PS In case you’re still interested, the whole debacle probably cost us about $280 all up.  Anyone want to book a tour??

Checking in from the Road

I was reminded of an old slogan from the Body Shop.  They used to (and I think they still do) champion the small businessman, and they had this to say:

“If you think you’re small and insignificant, spend the night with a mosquito.”

We have been staying in a “lodge” of somewhat questionable charm for 7 whole days being small and pursuing our passion, that of writing.

The mosquitoes were equally passionate about sourcing us out and after my two year (to date) recovery of something I caught mosquito borne in 2015, I have been  a bit nervous, but so far so good.

Now thankfully, as I send this today, we’re ensconced into our Mission guest house in downtown Bangkok.  We won’t be writing any more but will be continuing to share Tony’s doctoral thesis/Bible Study, “Anagaion” with churches here and then in Singapore.

We’ve decided that we’re a bit weird, but you knew that.  We love to write.  So much so that we’ll spend our vacation from retirement, holed up in a Thai Hut, complete with thatch and beautiful birds, gardens, and (if you can garner the courage to race across the highway) delicious and cheap food.  By ‘holed’ up I mean 10-hour days, forgetting to enjoy any of the above.

I came across a “How to write” book the other day, and here’s what it says about the craft, “There is freedom in being a writer AND writing.  It is fulfilling your function.”  I used to think freedom meant doing whatever you want, But now I’ve come to discover that real freedom means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth and then simply doing it.  It is not getting sidetracked, thinking you shouldn’t write any more, when it’s your responsibility to write down a piece of history before time passes and it’s all gone.”

The reason we write, I think, is because we love to, but more importantly, we’ve noticed that with this world going down before our very eyes, somebody, generations from now (certainly not you or any of our children) needs to know of a time when God was honored and allowed to work and be appreciated.  We hope that we can ‘leave’ something that will honor not us, but Him. And because God has been so good to us, we’ve enjoyed remembering that all.

So today is Sunday and we’ve had a great and full day with Calvary Baptist here in Bangkok, explaining our (and hopefully God’s) version of what the scriptures say about the Christian life. Then we switched to Japanese for a great afternoon with the church we’d worked in years ago.

Now we get to play and visit with lots of Bangkok friends from years ago before boarding a train Friday night for Singapore.

We’ve known people who have taken this iconic journey by rail and they’ve said how beautiful it is, meandering down thru Thailand, into Malaysia and finally into Singapore.  I’ll let you know next week how we fared or if the tigers got us.  If the 14-hour trip we just took to Bangkok from Chiang Mai is any comparison, we’ll be OK.

Stay Tuned!


Re-Connecting Old Dots

Good morning all,

Okay okay, after all the talk last week about ‘sitting still’, this week we find ourselves in Thailand!

For some time now, we’ve been planning this trip.  A few churches here asked Tony to come and present his “Anagaion” course, so naturally of we were happy to comply.  The Commonwealth Games are going full swing where we live, so it was a good time to get out of town.

Of course we forgot to take into account that April is the hottest month in Thailand, no rain and every day being over 100 degrees (40 C).  Perhaps because it’s really too hot to work, everyone heads home for a few days, during which time they observe “Songkran”, which is the Thai New Year.  Traditionally, Songkran was a time of trading “solemn blessings” by pouring water over each other’s hands. Now unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), it’s broken down to a week of revelry involving huge water fights everywhere you go!  If you’re watching Facebook, you can see some pictures we posted of us getting literally drenched just trying to walk from point A to B.  Of course because it’s so hot we really don’t mind, except for our phones, watches and passports.

Today, we promised the Japanese Church here a visit. It’s been 8 years since Tony pastored their church, and we were looking forward to seeing how they were doing. They sent representatives out to our lodging to pick us up, and from there reminiscing began. So many happy memories and faithful friends to reconnect with!  We were thrilled to see them even including a Japanese kid’s song Tony had taught them years ago as a part of their worship service.

To say that our hearts are full would be an understatement. We couldn’t help but remember Paul’s joy in 1 Thessalonians 3:6,  “But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you.”

Once my Japanese friend said on Facebook  (using Japanese characters), “Mune ga ippai”, but Google Translator, being a machine after all, turned it into, “My Breasts are Full”.

I think it’s better said, my “heart” is full…..

Watch this space and we’ll tell you some stories of folks we were able to catch up with today.

On Friday we’ll catch a train for a second-class 16 hour ride down to Bangkok (We’re in Chiang Mai now).  We’ll share in English at the Calvary Baptist church and then at the Japanese church after that.

Stay tuned for lots of stories and know that we’re as happy as kids in mud with all of our old friends, delicious food and searing heat.

God bless ya all, hear?