That’s IT?

Hello Friends, Before you pinch yourself and think it’s Sunday, be assured it’s only Saturday.  You’re receiving this blog a DAY early because this morning we’re headed off for a church many hours north and won’t have internet for a few days.

First we’re going to Baring, Maine, which, if you look at the map,  you’ll see that it’s very near the town of Lubec, which is the most easterly spot in the USA.  We’ve been promised a night in a Baptist camp, which the proprietor tells us is ‘like a tent’.  On Sunday Tony’s preaching in a little church in Baring and then we’re going on into Canada (we hope, with our rental car) to see Anne of Green Gables land for a couple of days. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book, then you can imagine our anticipation at seeing this beautiful place. I remember as a child dreaming blissfully about life on Prince Edward Island, although I don’t remember reading the book.  I think I was too busy looking for arrowheads and imagining I was Davy Crockett’s sidekick.  At any rate, I’m  looking forward to some great scenery.

I have to say, our sojourn here in Maine has been a real blessing.  It’s so rewarding to come across fine rock-solid Christians eking out a good and strong witness up here so far north.  Tony delights in asking the locals, “Does it ever snow here?” then watching the hollow-eyed stare that comes over their faces.  Last night a ‘Maine-er’ (as they call themselves) said, “We have 4 seasons; summer, almost winter, winter and still winter”.  We have greatly enjoyed this summer and are glad that the Mainers are sharing it with us.

The other day we thought maybe we’d take a day trip down south to see the famous “Plymouth Rock”.  After all, as Americans we must have had a relative out there somewhere who purportedly put his foot on this rock when he disembarked from the Mayflower back in 1620.

But after googling the map and then looking at the web site, we abandoned the plan.  Apparently we’re living 4 hours NORTH, which would make for an 8 hour round trip in the car.  That’s not un-thinkable for us, as I’m sure you know, but we read online that the most common remark  visitors seem to make is, “That’s IT???”……….hummm.  Looking at some of the pictures, we see it’s apparently only a few feet across, and has been moved and broken a few times. And actually, no one is really sure that anyone in history ever actually stepped onto it. We’ll pass.

On a another personal note, we had a (self imposed) gut-wrenching week, waiting on the FINAL decision from the Australian Town Council on this kafluffle with our property.  Most of you have heard me ballyhooing about it.  Long story short, building a required retaining wall could end up costing us more than our wildest fears and could have a serious impact on our retirement plans. We’re holding onto that promised peace of God, but it keeps slipping out of our hands.

The other big ‘if’ was my medical report.  WHAT virus hit me so hard three months ago that the effects are still lingering? More blood tests are due in any day now, which hopefully will confirm that Chikungunya has run rampant and has now run out. (they do agree that I’m on the mend!). But then the doctors always want to leave the back door open for other nefarious problems…  Tony tried to educate himself online, but concluded that the internet is NOT your friend when it comes to self-diagnosis.

As I try to be brave, I can’t help but think of Amanda Cook’s beautiful song and the lyrics that go straight to my heart:


I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let You draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace

You make me brave

You make me brave…

No fear can hinder now the love that made a way

So like Plymouth Rock, God must look at me and all my worries and say to Himself, “That’s it?”.  Yes, I’m confident today that the issues that surround us today will be tomorrow’s reasons to praise God, and ask forgiveness for ever taking it out of His hands.  He continues to be so good to us, and we can thank Him for the reality of  ‘non-eventful’ weeks, wasted in part by way too much time worrying about what might have been.

God bless and remember to hang loose!  Marsha

The Bonded Word

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It’s been a quiet week here in Maine. Tony’s had his head down doing doctorate work and I’ve just putzed around, doing some fiddly office stuff like figuring out our schedule for the last weeks of our time in the USA.

It’s actually quite warm……..we were told that a Maine summer was only on the 4th of July, but we’ve done better.  It actually got up to 90 degrees last Sunday and with the humidity we were thankful for the window A/C that had been given us a few weeks ago. I’ll have to admit that when we got it, I couldn’t imagine being that warm, but it’s really helped, especially at night.

Anyway, this week we were talking with our Aussie friends and mentioned that we’d been to see the LL Bean Store.  Of course to call it a store is sorta a misnomer.  I guess I should have called it a ‘town’. Our friends had never heard of LL Bean, and knew nothing of it’s history.

Until our visit to Freeport Maine, where the whole thing is, my association with LL Bean had been to order one rain coat from their store when we lived in Japan (where they have 19 stores, as well as 53 in China……..However all their merchandise is made in the USA).

The coat was so ‘heavy duty’ that I could barely move my arms.  Every time I put it on I pictured myself standing on the bow of a whaler, eyes shut tight against a nor’easter!  It just wasn’t a city girl’s well…….. “slicker”. I can’t remember what happened to it, maybe it’s covering a roof somewhere.  I can guess it’s still in the same great condition though.

But let me tell you about what I learned as we wandered thru several of the stores scattered around the center of Freeport.  A visit to wikipedia gave us the missing information:

It seems that Mr. Leon Leonwood Bean, was an avid hunter and fisherman……..from Maine, you could have guessed.  He invented a great product and opened a supply store in 1912.  And as they say, ‘The rest is history’

LL Bean is now a clothing and outdoor sports store, with an annual revenue averaging 1.5 Billion dollars.  It is still completely family owned and has been (get this) open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 64 years.  I can’t imagine any Maine hunter who’d need to shop at 2:00 am but I guess if you’re off to the hunt and need shoelaces, LLBean’ll be there for you.

He’ll be there for you.  Apparently his flagship item, what got him started was the ‘Bean Boot’. Something he’d dreamed up and created with a stout laceable leather upper and an encompassing rubber sole.  All of us have seen this shoe, We called them Sorrells in Colorado……. but I guess the first rugged rubber boot was  patented as a Bean Boot.

He sold a lot, but wait……….90% of them were returned!!  It seemed they leaked. As I look over these moosey Maine marshes, I’m guessing that’d be the last thing you’d want in a boot up here!

Give up?  Curse the gods and say it’s someone else’s fault? Ask the government to bail you out?

No…….he made good on every single boot and after a trip back to the drawing board, replaced them with watertight ones……  thus earning the love of the northeast.

As I heard this remarkable story, I was reminded of the verse in scripture that says, “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).

I don’t want to complain, but it seems these days there are more answers as to why your boot leaks rather than what anyone’s going to do about it.  Recently we were told by our traveler’s insurance that the money we laid out for our Nepal trip (which obviously had to be cancelled) is not going to be reimbursed because it was an “act of God”……….seriously?  WHY do we have insurance; isn’t everything an ‘act of God” really?’.

Ah, but there I’ve got you in the wrong mood for this Sunday Morning. I’m so happy that, in the words of the ol’ Black lady of the 60’s “God don’t make no junk”….. and apparently neither does L.L. Bean!

Keep your Bean Boots Dry!

Marsha

Lost and Found

So hopefully last week you missed me. I didn’t post a blog because we were “in the thick of it” in NYC! What an amazing place …. I told Tony I could live there, but of course I’m told that when the money runs out it ain’t that much fun!

I managed to find the cheapest place to stay that had a bed and a door.  We dabbled at every cheap entertainment and food group we could find, even taking a (free) walking food tour of Brooklyn.  In the end it wasn’t so free, because the guide book ‘suggested’ that each person TIP the guide $20-25.  I remembered after I tipped the guy $40 and saw the look of incredulousness on his face, that Tony had been pre-tasked with the job of giving the tip.  Sure enough, he’d just given him $50!.  Well, we may live cheap, but we know how to tip! ha  He was a really nice family man, who gave us not only a food tour but a lot of history, so we weren’t too upset.  Maybe we gave missionaries a good name.

There were so many highlights, including an “almost daughter” whom we watched grow up in Japan! I’ll have to blog later about some of them……..but strewn in between were several inconvenient bumps as well.  We both had fiddly little health problems that found us learning to line up at “urgent care”.  Later when they asked for a survey of our experience, we wanted to quote the verse “He who is first shall be last” (Matthew 19-30)

Another small drama was that our laptop decided to break, forcing us to ‘jump a generation’ and begin to exist on our single phone for all communications  e-mail, business transactions etc.

For our last 3 days we moved on from NYC to Philadelphia and got to work seeing more of our history.  After all, we ARE Americans and this stuff is important.  We were able to get out to Gettysburg to ‘revisit’ the site, since 21 years ago, Nicki was having a bad day.  The Japanese have a saying that she had her belly button twisted, and I’d have to agree, sometimes there’s no explanation for a child’s behavior.   Well, apparently that day I was oblivious to her state, but Tony (I do remember)  ended up taking her to wait it out in the car.  Little did I know till years later that he was really INTERESTED in the museum, so this was sort of a ‘make up’ tour!  We mentioned this to Nicki (who’s 26 now and has learned how to handle her belly button days) Her kind response (she says she doesn’t remember the incident, imagine that) was “Sorry Daddy”.  Priceless.

So I guess you could say this trip was peppered with ‘’Loss”, but the penultimate attack came when I so blithely hopped off the bus the last evening we were there.  As the bus pulled away from the curb, I realized that I didn’t have the phone.  Now, as I mentioned above, phones these days are lifelines.  In our case, our ONLY lifeline.

We sprinted after the bus about 12 blocks but to no avail.  The bus, on it’s last trip of the day was like the horse back to the proverbial barn.  After we borrowed a phone from a stranger, we called the bus line only to realize that the office staff had vacated hours earlier.  There was nothing to do but…….

So we headed for the “Down Home Diner”.  We had eaten in there the night before and it was, well, “down home”.  It also had a functioning toilet, which in a big city is a plus, so off we went, dragging our spirits behind us, self flagellating ourselves with “Stupid me, why didn’t I check my pockets, etc”  Thankfully Tony kept his thoughts to himself.

We sat down and ordered up.  I determined to punish myself by ordering Scrapple. It worked………ug (google this if you don’t know what it is). Tony rewarded himself for the 12 block jog and ordered Southern Fried Chicken, complete with mash potatoes and gravy.  That worked better, especially since he had to share it with me.

But as we sat there, I noticed someone I’d seen the night before.  She was sitting in the same booth, in the same place.  Last night I’d thought she was a homeless person but tonight I was sitting at a better vantage and could see that actually she was quite regal.  Yes, she had a rather tattered wig on, but her face, the beautiful skin, the carefully applied make up, if a little shaky, spoke of a better time.  She wore layers of stately old clothes that had obviously been expensive once, leaving me wondering about her past.

I studied her as she ate.  She was eating what looked to be a modest set meal when we arrived and was still carefully eating it when we left.  She carried herself with such dignity, taking small dainty bites and staring into the distance, but with no anticipation whatsoever in her gaze.  It was almost as if this meal was her whole day. Who was she, what was she thinking about or remembering. WHAT had she lost?

I wanted so much to approach her and ask her….well, everything……..but I had had such a defeating afternoon, I didn’t know if I could hold up with the news.  She never spoke to anyone while we were there, but was treated kindly by the staff.

As I left, I thought about LOSS.  Yes, we lost the phone, and if you tally the time we’ve been on the road these last 2 months, we’ve lost about everything from wallets, clothes and medicines as well.

But we haven’t lost our minds, our shelter, or our security in the love of God or our love for each other. Our children still feel like ‘ours’ and they outdistance our expectations of them every day.  We may have temporarily laid aside some of our health, but that’s not lost either.

This may seem like you’re bailing me out here for a job I didn’t follow thru,  but I’d like you to pray for the diner lady.  Shall we call her something grand like Althea? Maybe add a historical ‘Rockerfeller’ or such for her last name?  Only God knows her name or her story, but that’s enough.  I wish I could tell you I’d be back to ‘check’ on her, but that’s not humanly possible.  Only God can comfort, Only God can heal.

The next morning we left our room at 4AM to walk the many blocks to the downtown subway.  I was ‘armed’ with two ball point pens, one in each hand, after careful consideration deciding this was the only fierce weapon I had to be “ready” for the assault from the inner city.  Tony was carrying his knee brace (see above doctor visit) under his arm shotgun style…………Ironically, the only derelict that we encountered gave us timely directions.  I guess life isn’t that bad after all.

When we returned home to the internet, we were able to Skype the bus company and the phone is on it’s way back to us.  We will remember Philly as a nice city.

Happy trails, Marsha

As I write this, we received the news that our dear dear missionary mentor and friend Betty Faith Boatwright has gone to be with the Lord.  I can’t help but feel LOSS, even though she’s suffered for years, apparently gazing out like the lady in the diner, regal and gentle, waiting to see her Savior.  We are sad…….The Boatwrights made us what we are.

This week also marks the one year home going of another dear friend, Noguchi Sensei.  He and Betty Faith will be catching up at the feet of Jesus.

At the Feet of Jesus

Life has tended to crawl along at a snail’s pace (very restful) these last few weeks as we travel to retirement on what we’ve named the “Grand Tour”.

But the pace has radically speeded up lately, as if someone had hit the fast forward button.

First there was the reunion with my sister and then our “long lost” cousins here in Brazil.

Now it’s our last week of travel before hitting the ground running in Maine. Some of the things we did are already blurred, but I DO remember that on Thursday I found myself at the feet of Jesus!

Not literally (although you might not be surprised, since we’ve spent a lot of time whining about our mishaps, aches and pains!), but this time it was at the great stone edifice called “Christ the Redeemer”, that well-known icon that reaches out high above the city of Rio de Janeiro.

I guess for most of my life I’ve been exposed to this statue through every media angle imaginable I’m sure you have as well, and my only thought was “cool!”.  I don’t think I ever thought fate would have it that I could actually see it.

However, I found myself almost in a Catholic trance as I looked up at him.  I just never…….

Maybe it’s the pain pills, my advancing age, or just my debilitated condition, but I literally almost wept.  Not only is it beautiful, but it’s really symbolic, isn’t it?  The designer, whose name naturally I forgot, commented about his ‘art deco creation’, saying, “I want to bring Rio to the feet of Jesus”

Maybe some people are moved to tears at an art museum, (nope, not us), or if they’re Japanese, maybe a cherry blossom in spring. I find that no matter how I try, I tend to be pretty cynical and ‘above it all’.

But as I stood there looking up, I was reminded again that I am a created being helpless and small under the open arms of a loving God.  I hope I can always stand in awe at “His” feet.

As we were waiting for the elevator (yup, you don’t get up there honestly) we heard a little boy saying excitedly to his mom, “Look Mom, over here, it tells how they MADE Jesus!”

It’s my prayer that I’m never guilty of “Making” Jesus.  I know this is just a statue, some might even say a ‘graven image’, and while I didn’t worship it, I may have been so in awe that I forgot that this Jesus was ‘made’.

The rest of this next week will spin by and hopefully you’ll hear next Sunday from us at the firework ceremony at one of the birthplaces of our nation, Boston.  The next day we’re going to ‘get to the business’ of being missionaries on assignment in the States for the next 4 months.

I plan to tell you more when I have time about our wonderful catch up with cousins working here in Brazil for the last nearly 50 years, as well as other observations……..but as I speak, Tony and my sis are tapping their feet waiting to charge off to Iguassu falls. I plan to be impressed, but since it’s winter down here, I may be more interested in keeping body and soul together in the cold.

Praying that you have a wonderful week with the LIVING Savior,

Marsha

Contentment

Nesting CloseNesting

This last week we’ve been driving around in Portugal.  We rented a car, drove to a timeshare we had reserved, and prepared to set up camp there for the week. Unfortunately the ‘timeshare’ was not quite up to par with others we had visited. Instead, the byline for the week seemed to be, ‘let’s see how much we can irritate you’.  Tony became convinced that it was actually a front for Russian money laundering. Most of the staff were Russian, and every question, such as, “Is there internet?” “Can we take the towels to the beach?” “Do you ever change sheets or towels?” was met with a sneer and a heartfelt “NYET!”

On the good side, after all the physical ailments we’d been suffering, from Tony’s broken ribs to my Chikungunya virus, it was encouraging to see that we’re finally recovering enough to be offended.  Then we set about deciding what to do.  True, this place was virtually ‘free’ in the sense that timeshares are ‘free’, but after all the admin stuff, they’re not really free.  From that point of view, we were able to take a fresh look at the place, laugh at the 1950’s elevator, where you have to close the door by hand, and actually made friends with Anna, the one Russian girl who spoke some English. We chose to ‘enjoy’ the place for a few days and then hit the road.

If you’ve been on Facebook, you may have seen that after leaving the timeshare, we discovered a lovely farm stay that more than made up for the week before.  Now we’re sending this from a medieval  town called ‘Sintra’ up in the cool forests above Lisbon.  Then tomorrow we head off for the airport and the 7-hour hop over to my missionary cousin’s place in Brazil and the last few days of our trip before starting a series of church camps up in the state of Maine.

Last night we made our way to ‘The End of the World”……..or so they thought in Columbus’s day.  It’s called Cabo da Roca, and it’s located at the literal westernmost edge of Europe. People used to think that from their vantage point they could actually see the ocean falling over the edge off on the horizon. Looking at the mist over the water yesterday, I could really see where they might have thought that.

But the ‘theme’ this week for me seems to be ‘adaptation’, and it was illustrated appropriately by the many storks we’ve seen driving thru the countryside.  I’ll enclose a picture of one of the more adaptable ones (although truth be known, her selection has become the norm, we only saw about two in natural habitat, i.e.; dead trees). This adaptable girl and many others had built a huge nest right at the top of a cell phone tower at the edge of town, and seemed quite comfortable. What with all the concern expressed by the hazards of phone signals, I couldn’t help but wonder how those stork babies were dealing with the stimulus overload.  We didn’t see any on the power poles, probably by trial and error they realized that never ended well!

I’m reminded of Paul who said so aptly of his life, “I’ve learned to be content with whatsoever state I’m in”. (Phillipians4:11)  Paul didn’t have the opportunity to stomp his foot and change lodging, which was often prison (no clean sheets and towels there!) …….so he settled in, sang songs and was ‘content’.  I would hope this could be the lifestyle for all of us.  No dead trees?  How about that MUCH HIGHER and minimalist cell tower?  Settle in and have babies!!

Til next week, from Brazil, Marsha

Lessons From Pain

Looking back, I think my mother had a tough life.  Had she have lived past my 14th birthday, she would be 100 next year, so you can imagine the times she lived in.

I believe her mother, a widow of several times, ran a boarding house on skid row in Denver during the war.  Maybe this was the beginning of Mother’s many ‘opinions’ that she was somehow able to pass on to me in my formative years.

The first one was about cockroaches.  People who had cockroaches (especially in the dry climate of Denver) were unloved by God and shouldn’t be on the planet. Mother was a clean freak, and even though our house was often messy it was never ‘dirty’.  Pulling out the refrigerator to clean was a monthly activity.

Naturally I grew up with the same attitude until I moved to Liberia, Africa……We ran a dormitory for missionary kids so that they could attend school while their parents worked out in the bush.  We had a full time houseman and believe me our house was CLEAN.  Tell that to the cockroaches that would run across your face with enough weight to wake you in the night……..It was then that I had to start thinking about the validly of Mother’s opinion.

Another category was fleas and lice.  Of course these were too horrible to discuss, but nobody in God’s grace would have them…….

In God’s grace, He gave me both.  Pets who got the whole house ‘hopping’, and loving children who brought home lice from kindergarten, and just so I got the message, sharing them with me!

Now I’ve had to face another one of those wrong ideas.

When one of my children was tested on a 5th grade IQ test, he listed ‘allergies’ as a mental illness.  Apparently that’s the going opinion with our family, sorta, “Oh goodness, this is all in your head, get over it!”

Lately a few of our acquaintances have experienced ‘neurological difficulties’ of one form or another, and secretly I have clucked my tongue and thought, “What wimps, they’re just looking for attention, there’s nothing wrong with them.”

BAM!  OK God, I get it.  Every judgment I lay down, He lets me experience! These past 10 days have been enlightening to say the least.

I can’t remember experiencing such ongoing pain as I have lately.  And yet, if I’m not moving, no one would know anything’s wrong. But wow, just watch me try to sit up, or hold a coffee cup or, well, anything that requires physical motion.

I DID get the ‘all clear’ from the blood tests, but we’re pretty sure, since I match the symptoms exactly, that I got that wonderful souvenir from the Maldives, the mosquito borne “Chikungunya” virus, made famous by Lindsay Lohan last year.  It most resembles Dengue Fever, is incurable, but once you’ve had it you’re ‘vaccinated’ for life (thank goodness). It attacks the joints and nerves and is ‘very painful’.  Recovery (after you’re clear of the virus, which apparently I am), can take anywhere from 2 weeks to several months.  I’m voting for the 2 weeks, as I’m seeing some infinitesimal improvement every day.

Tony, ever the coach, but at the same time a lovely nurse, wants me to do exercises and get better, meanwhile I’m learning to squeeze the toothpaste with my elbow against the counter…….

I DO feel better, and I’ve learned my lesson.  Don’t judge another’s situation if you haven’t been there!  If you do, you may get to experience it just so you can understand better! ha

My knees seem to be recovering first; at least I can stand up now without help, so Tony and I took a bus tour around Madrid yesterday.  We wanted to remember this lovely city for more than just the hospital.

It was a stretch for both of us but we survived and slept better than normal last night, so things are looking up.  Today we’re having a true Sabbath here in the motel room, just praising God for His Hand on us thru this drama. Next week we hope to rent a car…….that way I can ride and look out the window (eyes not being a “joint”, they’re working fine).

Expect a great update next week!  And of course thank you so so much for your prayers. Our ‘Grand tour’ Retirement trip is turning into the ‘Ibuprofen tour’ but it’s almost as nice.

Thankful to God for all his teaching, Marsha

Finding the Real Deal

Florence Church

Good morning Loyal Readers,

Today I’d like to tell you about something that happened to us in Florence this week.  No, nobody fell down or got sick, I think/hope those days are finally over.  Tony bought a new wallet and is guarding it with his life.

We were delighted to meet up with some fellow missionaries on Tuesday.  Not only was it good to see old friends and catch up on all the gossip of a group we’re no longer associated with, (add a tear here) but they were able to give us some money to get us thru to the next juncture where hopefully we’ll meet up with a replaced ATM card!

In typical fashion of those of us in missions, we hit the ground running!!  We went to our quaint little rooms and threw down our luggage and headed out.  We had no real plan except to be together, so we decided to start at the top of the hill and work down.

Tony had been in Florence when he was 18.  He remembered two things, the statue of David (being a teenage boy raised in Texas this was a special thrill if you know what I mean).  Also, he had a vague memory of a beautiful church.  According to him it was ’sorta mosaic and took his breath away”

Well, if you’ve ever been to Europe, you know that finding a ‘beautiful church’ would be pretty easy, but which one?  After our many transits thru Europe in our career, we’ve seen quite a few breathtaking churches.

We tramped the city up and down, looking at this church and that………..”no?” he’d shrug as we looked at the map and soldiered on.  Of course we had to stop for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner in the search, so we weren’t suffering that much.  The whole time jabbering like 4 lonesome people would when finding an English speaker.  At one point Bonnie and I stopped into a store and I stepped out to alert the guys.  I could see them a block down the street like two old Italians, Tony pontificating on some point while punching the air with his fist.

As the day turned to dusk we gave up on his particular church quest and headed for a market that we’d heard had some good food.  After all, it had been 2 hours so it must be time to eat.

We rounded a corner and looked up speechless!  I could hear Tony yelling from several yards away, “This is it, THIS IS IT!!”

I’ll try to attach a picture but I know it won’t do it justice. Google it if you like.  It’s called the Santa Maria Del Flore, and of course it’s one of the most important sights of Florence. How on earth did we miss it till now?

I shook my head and wondered how often we miss the obvious.  We tell each other what we’re searching for but wherever we look we just ‘don’t see it’………..until we stumble onto the Master, the Obvious One that we’ve maybe remembered from long ago but Who got lost in all the shuffle of imitation.

Here’s hoping you find the ‘Real Deal’ that’ll take your breath away this week!

Marsha

We Got Picked!

Dear Friends

If you’re reading this, consider it a bit of a miracle as weve been struggling to get internet where weve been.  Who’d think in this high tech age, you could wander off the grid, but then that’s what we like to do.  Tony commented that where we are weve seen no MacDonalds or Starbucks, and believe me, these days thats a hard place to find!  Of course the fact that this letter is a day late is testimony to the fact that Italys CinqueTerre is not on the main broadband route.

Last Sunday youll remember we were not worshipping in Church but rolling down sand dunes with some friends from Australia.  Because they live in Doha, Qatar, where worship is on Friday, we had a bit of a different weekend but found ourselves worshiping the Lord to have such good company.  It was really wonderful to catch up with such uplifting people.

We arrived in Rome to a delightful little 11th century hostel, converted from a chapel started by friars who were commemorating the 350AD deaths of 40 Roman soldiers who were executed for their strong belief in Jesus.  Except for spotty internet, the place was a dream.  We went to sleep every night looking up at the brick vaulted ceiling and being glad we werent in an earthquake zone anymore.

Then, partly to make up for the fact that we weren’t able to go to Everest this trip, we headed out on our rail passes to the furthermost northern regions of Italy and the Dolomites.  What a lovely area! We stayed in Trento and Tony was delighted to see the place where the Protestants and Catholics tried to come to terms back in the 1500’s (Council of Trent).  Like most committees, it took them 15 years to agree to disagree.

Perhaps the highlight of the area was the museum dedicated to OTSI (pronounced UUT-si).  You’ll remember he was a guy that a man and wife ‘discovered’ when they were out hiking at about 12,000 feet, just off the trail.  At first they thought it was a dead animal or perhaps some leather or such, but after realizing he was a human and reporting it, and after a LOT of who-ha, they’ve decided that he is indeed about 5000 years old.  I’ll have to say the whole thing was very interesting and well presented, although Tony chose to take offense on the museums official stance on ‘Global warming and how its ruining everything’.  He couldnt help pointing out that they wouldnt have found this great tourist draw if he hadn’t started melting out of the ice! ha

Now, as you’re reading this, we are in the world famous Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera.  I hope we don’t look too ‘UN” Riviera, in our one on, one in the pack outfits.  We just couldn’t justify dragging our metal carry-ons on a trip this variegated, so we crammed what we thought we needed into little day packs and left the rest in a locker in Rome.  I will say it may have contributed to us getting well, but after 5 days we’re ’sick’ of looking at each other and washing in the sink!

Just when we were congratulating ourselves for being such savvy travelers, Tony got his wallet lifted in the train station.  Now that its all over, the cards cancelled and the boo hoos said, we are thankful that the ‘picking’ went unnoticed, and we werent mugged or traumatized.  Of course were embarrassed to spoil our perfect record of being ‘untouchable’, and we lost a bit of cash, but wed packed well and had divested our goods here and there, so we can carry on with little or no disturbance. We’ll have to give the guy credit for getting the wallet out of a zippered back pocket without Tony knowing, and feel a little bit sorry for him that all the cards he has subsequently tried to use have been declined!  What a world we live in!

On the heels of that, we learned that a nephew of my son and daughter in law has contracted cancer.  Hes only three and in a non-Christian family, so Im sure youll want to pray with all your hearts, not only for him but his family.  His name is Jai.  Also pray for Nathan and Kylie as they minister to them. Life seems so unfair sometimes.

On Tuesday we’ll meet some friends we served with 40 years ago for a few days.  That will be a nice balm on our hurt pride and possibly they can exchange some money for us since our debit cards went with the thief.   Then were off to the Indian Ocean to see if we can enjoy some sun and water.

We think of you and try to keep up with what’s going on.  Perhaps the purpose of this trip is working because we’re smiling more and worrying less…….or maybe it’s just the high carb Italian diet, who knows?

Safe in His hands, Marsha

As near as Your Reach

We have found over the years that Arab based airlines are some of the most luxurious of the world.  Last night we flew Qatar Airlines.  (I’m beginning to ‘hear’ the pronunciation of this little country as CAT-tar, but who knows).  It was as we anticipated, two full meals with all the extras,wider seats, etc etc.

However Tony told me this morning as we were landing that the two big swarthy gentlemen, sporting the whole Jihad mojo, had during the night had called the stewardess and asked to see the cockpit. ……….I was glad he spared me this news till morning! Anyway, after a while the sweet young thing came back with the chief steward and explained sweetly that while that may have been possible a few years ago (like when they were nine) it was no longer allowed.  I guess even Arabs have to live in a fallen world now.

When our son was a little boy, and thinking he was too sick to go to school, often I’d put a “Tums” (Gaviscon) in his pocket with instructions to take it before going to see the nurse. More often than not, that was all he needed; just the assurance that help was as near as his reach.

That’s sorta been our week.  If you’re getting this email it’s because you requested it (I hope!).  You’ll remember we left the field last week, so this is coming to you from two humble lay people. Granted, we’re still “on the clock” officially, with several furlo responsibilities to see through before officially retiring in November, but already we’re feeling the separation from the daily duties among our mission family. It continually startles us that we’re traveling without permission, not filling out the weekly forms, etc etc.  Sorta like children who experience life without parents for the first time!

Our first ‘bump’ on this trip was losing Nepal.  Our tour agent there, who will have no ability to refund us because his business was destroyed, continued begging us to come ahead, saying that ‘several’ of his people were still able to function.  For once in our lives, we had the necessary reserve to know that we mustn’t go where we’d be in the way as well as testing fate by being useless foreigners.  We rerouted our frequent flyer miles to the only place they’d take us,  Hong Kong and then Bali where we waited out the time we were to be in Nepal.

No sooner that we’d arrived in Hong Kong, amidst seeing old friends and enjoying their company, Tony lost his footing on a bus when it stopped suddenly, as they’re prone to do in Hong Kong.  He fell back on his ribs, and was pretty sore for a few days.  By the time we got to Bali, he was really miserable, so we ventured out to find a doctor in a foreign land, and were delighted to find a modern hospital, very reasonable prices, and a competent Doctor.  At first there were hints that he would be banned from flying but after several tests, they decided that he should just heal up the most likely re-cracked ribs from his big fall a couple of years ago.  What better place than Bali?  We got a really humble but charming little hotel on the beach at the last minute, sandwiched between two 5 star ones, so we enjoyed rock bottom prices with great atmosphere on either side.  The beach is the beach, so that’s nice. An author I’ve been reading gave us the best description of Bali when she said, “There’s so much nothing to do that there’s no time to do it all”

After two days in Bali we got a text that said there was a medical issue with one of the kids…….something nobody ever wants to see, so we once again had to grab the Tums and pray as we had no internet or phones for about 24 hours.

Fortunately that nail biter resolved itself along with some others and we’re beginning to feel like we’re really starting off this trip properly.  We’re now in Doha, Qatar with some church friends from Australia.  He’s a Qantas pilot succonded to Qatar Airlines, and we’re off today (they have Sundays on Friday here so we missed that) to suss out some Souks and Sand dunes!

Tony wonders out loud if all these ‘troubles’ are a symptom of the grief we’re feeling at leaving our life we’ve known for so long.  I don’t know the answer to that, I’m just glad that whatever it was we’re getting on thru it.

Look for something more up beat next week, with no ’Tums’ involved……..we hope!

Sayonara, Sayonara, Sayonara

Well Folks, this will be my last blog as a ‘real’ missionary.  If you’re getting this thru a church email, they will probably stop mailing it out en masse. Unless you have requested to stay on a mailing list, we will not send you any more episodes…… although I’m guessing we’ll still see God popping up here and there on our extended trip home and will try to post something most weeks.

We actually left our home in Japan this last Friday and I’m sending this out from Hong Kong.

While the first few days this week looked a bit like “The Wreck of the Hesperus”, we had competent help and the whole mangle of our motley possessions came together and were successfully carried off to the lap of fate. We look forward to seeing it all again in 6 months, at least long enough to assign it to another 6 months of storage before we finally settle in Australia.   We have now survived three whole days living out of two carry ons, and apart from the fact we have so much stuff that we can’t find anything, and one person at church asked us if we were dressed completely in black for a reason, things are going smoothly!

We’ve been associated with International Baptist church in Hong Kong for about 20 years, first leading the Japanese church as interim pastor for a brief  3 months and then countless pop in visits.  If I had to leave the land I love, coming to Hong Kong was a soothing consolation.  We have been feted to lots of good food and laughter with old friends.  It certainly is a balm for a hurting soul and because we were not able to continue on to Nepal we’ve a few extra days to enjoy this exciting city.

Of course ‘giving up Nepal’ was heartbreaking for us, but not nearly as much as our other colleagues there who are now safely evacuated.  Please continue to pray for the situation there.

Today at church, we were again blessed, not only to hear and see God’s provisions in so many old friends but to hear another great sermon about being a branch in God’s tree, not the trunk.   I didn’t know the story behind Ravi Zacharias until today. Evidently he had tried to commit suicide at age 17 and a seemingly random missionary for Campus Crusade for Christ dropped off a Bible for his mother to read to him.  Although incoherent, something in the Scripture sparked his spirit and he woke to become what the late Charles Colson later ranked as  ”the greatest apologist of our time.”  No one said if the missionary ever knew what had become of the boy he had ministered to, but God knows all of those stories.  .  It was a great encouragement to us as we leave so many ‘unfinished stories’ in God’s care……..and to remember that our work is never ever ‘retired’.

You might like to see this little list I made as we were saying goodbye to Japan. I think in a way, it was a little form of grieving. I know there are a lot of other things we’ll miss, but have a look:

Thinks I will miss in Japan:

* 5:00 announcements that are broadcast all across the neighborhood to say that it’s time to go home

* Drink machines on literally every corner, with hot drinks as well in the winter. And oh by the way, you can pay for them with your train pass…unless like us, we had a different budget!

* If that’s not enough, you can probably see a ‘combieny’ from where you’re standing (short for “convenient”, like 7/11)

* Incredible politeness and reserve of the people, especially in public places… even if there’s an earthquake going on

* Feeling safe…anytime, anywhere (except of course for the occasional earthquake).

* The people

* Standing to one side on the escalator (on the left in all of Japan except in Osaka, where you stand on the right) so that people in a hurry, like me, can walk up the stairs.

* Heated toilet seats, everywhere

Things I WON’T miss:

* Sorting rubbish into 5-9 categories for disposal

* Incredible politeness and reserve, especially regarding showing their feelings to others, including family

* Never ever being alone……anywhere

* Heated train seats, (like sitting on a volcano)

* Feeling huge all the time

* Squatty potties (a bit of porcelain on the floor, cleaner that regular toilets but hard on these aging ole’ knees)

As an old Japanese commentator used to say on TV when his program was over, “Sayonara, Sayonara, Sayonara.”   Will miss our little chats with you all, but please keep in touch with us, marsha@mywoods.net or marshagwoods@gmail.com