“Home” is the Journey

Well, this is the ‘run up’ to Christmas week isn’t it?
We were reminded of that fact recently as we stood in line alongside an elderly Japanese gentleman. We got to talking, mentioned that we were Christian missionaries to which he commented happily, “So this is your busiest time of year isn’t it!”
The comment impressed me, especially because it came from a man who comes from a country who for the most part, have very little understanding about what Christmas really means. Oh, they do know it’s a holiday (although not for the school children or just about any other work place in Japan).  But somehow the Christmas traditions we see mostly around here involve special fast food meals, like KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN, followed by a slice of Christmas cake, garishly decorated with a Santa or some such.
I have included in this blog a link to a new movie that’s coming out about what might be called our “Patron saint” (that is if Baptists had them). Her name is Lottie Moon and she lived in the 1800’s; a tough little single lady who left the Antebellum life of the deep south and sailed off to China.  It was a hard life, and after more than forty years the mission finally persuaded her to come home and retire at the age of 72.  Unfortunately she died aboard ship, mostly from malnutrition, as it was anchored for supplies in a Japanese harbor not far from here.
You’ll have to agree, she was quite a woman.  As you watch the movie you need NOT compare our lives with hers, except that some of the ‘challenges’ she faced remain unchanged to this day.  Missionaries still feel lonely  sometimes, simply because we usually work in places where the vast majority of people around us share neither our faith nor our culture. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed at times.  Like Lottie’s Chinese, we’re surrounded by MILLIONS of Japanese who barely know the name of Jesus and certainly wouldn’t associate the name with a real person, let alone the Son of God.  But… at this time of year at least, the Word is going out in every direction. That’s why the old gentleman was exactly right in saying this is our “busiest time of year”, as we try and take every opportunity to evangelize.
Tonight we just got home from a full day of Christmas celebrations, beginning at a small church across town. Then in the afternoon we crammed in with 25 others at the home of our short term couple, Adam and Hannah Sharick.  As uncountable kids ran around the room wreaking havoc, Adam had the chance to tell the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ in his newly acquired Japanese.  Tony came as Santa and stole the show, explaining that he was just so happy at Christmas because this is the time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
It is true that we’re far away from home this Christmas, and like Lottie Moon can’t help but feel a little lonely. But we can’t feel too sorry for ourselves when we remember that Lottie never had to chance to go back and visit family once in awhile like we can. And what would she have done with Skype?!
Tom Elliff, the president of our mission, made an interesting comment in his Christmas letter to our 5000 IMB missionaries scattered all over the world. He said,  “As you serve out there on the field far away from your family, just remember that Joseph and Mary were away from home that first Christmas too!”
Guess I’d never thought of that!  He also suggested that we think of the “journey” we’re on as home. I can think back to a lot of Christmases around the globe, some good, some just ‘interesting”, like the one in South Africa where thru a set of circumstances we found ourselves stuck with no place to stay. I was so sick I thought……..well, you know.  We contacted a ‘friend of a friend’ who was away on holidays and we were able to stay in his flat. Then Tony and his dad, by God’s richest provisions, found an Indian man who’s store was open even though it was Christmas. All he had for sale was tomato soup, but what a grand Christmas dinner it made!
It’s really true isn’t it…. If “home” is the journey we’re on, then we’re never far away. We don’t travel alone, and there’s a light in the window right around the corner.
Our prayer for you now is that you also have the best Christmas ever!
Talk to you next week, Marsha
…. and don’t forget to have a look at the link below!  If it won’t open, just type in “lottiemoonfilm.com” in your browser.
lottiemoonfilm.com

Learning to Listen

As most of you know, we’ve been traveling these last two weeks, but are happy to report that we have safely returned home to Japan. Imagine my surprise when we got home to discover that a pack of rats had moved into our attic!
Well, I may need remind you that yes, while we are missionaries, and as such have had our share of rats, spiders and snakes in our room, those days are hopefully over.  Now we live in downtown Tokyo on a 6th floor (out of 13)  apartment.  There ARE no rats……..it just sounds that way.  Actually I believe the problem is some sort of lead-footed family of small children who have moved in above us while we were gone.  I’m thanking my lucky stars that none of them play the tuba!
You may laugh at my angst of having a new constant noise invade my life, but it’s real.  For almost a year we’ve enjoyed life with NO UPSTAIRS neighbors ……….. now it’s a constant din punctuated by dropped objects and occasional squeals of delight.
This seemingly ‘unfair invasion of my space’ got me to thinking.  It’s the ‘little things’ of life that may be what you hear the most, isn’t it?  My son just sent us a blank dark video recording of the night sounds emanating from his front yard in Australia.  Tony texted back that depending on your perspective, they could be either beautiful or rather frightening.
“…….depending on your perspective”.  What do you hear?  Is it the happy pitter patter of little feet, or the invading doom of uncertainty?  Some of you folks our age can probably relate to the gentle (mostly) reminders of our coming mortality, in the form of aches, pains, and that occasional feeling that you find yourself too shy or too busy to see the doctor about. And perhaps the most irritating thing about this is that intrinsically I know I should follow up on these things, especially in light of the fact that so many of my friends seem to be falling ill these days
But even more important are those gentle (mostly) whispers we hear chiding me to reach out and act even when I don’t particularly feel like it. Things like being more patient when things press in. Or how about that nagging thought that I should be taking a fruitcake to that particularly irritable neighbor? I need to remember to listen to what may well be the still small Voice of the Holy Spirit directing me to new places.
As we pick up speed for the Christmas season, may we all learn to listen with His ears and see through His eyes.
We have some exciting days coming up, marked with a nearly constant series of parties, outreach events, music and games. Japanese don’t really celebrate Christmas, and it’s not a holiday, but they do understand that ‘Santa Claus is coming to town”, at least materialistically.  Unfortunately very few know even what the holiday really celebrates.  Pray for us as we continue to be ’salt and light’ in our world over here.
Here’s a little sample: The picture below is being made into 1000 cards which we’re going to distribute all over the neighborhood next week. It’s an invitation to meet at a nearby park on Christmas Eve, sing carols, then come back to our place for hot chocolate. The church member who put it together thought it would be a nice touch to put Tony in a Santa suit! Please pray that those shy Japanese who find the courage to accept our invitation will find something even better than Santa, as we share with them the REAL STORY OF CHRISTMAS!
Stay tuned and don’t forget to stir the hot chocolate………and pay attention to the little pitter patter sounds that push into your lives!
Marsha

Christmas Card

Happy Trails

As I’m writing this, I’m laying in bed awake because face it, we’re just EXCITED!

We’re EXCITED and refreshed. It’s been an unforgettable family reunion with most of our combined family.   I just can’t tell you what this ol’ Mom feels.  Having my daughter, her husband and his family together with my Sister and several internet visits with my son and his family, was just……..Heaven.

Of course as I lay here awake, I’m also ‘concerned’ for Chris and Nicki since I don’t know if they’ll be able to get to ice bound Dallas in time tonight to hop on the plane back to Australia!.  We left them at the airport with a hug and a prayer and came back to try to catch some winks before we take off in the wee hours to land in Chicago and then on to Japan about the time you’re getting up to read this.  We were laughing with them as they thought with wide eyes about the adventure that lay before them.  Only God can control the weather and sometimes it just doesn’t cooperate with our schedules! We’re impressed with how they’ve grown together and with the Lord so I’m sure they’ll be fine.  I did see Dad slipping them some bills in case they have to find a motel….these days airlines seem to look the other way when they abandon you.

Anyway, back to speaking of Heaven,  we look forward to what we’re going back to.  Yes, it was a great 2 weeks; relaxation, long stimulating conversations in English with friends and more food than you can imagine, but it’ll be good to get back to my other Japanese family.

I was surprised to read the other day that Japan has been listed as the 4th most dangerous country in the world.  That’s PHYSICALLY dangerous.  We don’t have to watch our backs because of terrorism, unstable governments or economy.  It’s just that we have 110 ACTIVE volcanoes in Japan and at least 20% of the entire earth’s recorded earthquakes……….and then there’s the nuclear question……

We were asked more than once why we do it, live in Japan, and we were happy to answer that we just KNOW that that’s where we’re supposed to be at this time in our lives.  Rationally, there is no rationality, but we know that’s where we’re supposed to be for the next couple of years and we have a peace and an excitement for what lies ahead.

Stay tuned next week and we’ll tell you how we fared as we all traveled to our various homes!

Happy trails……..

Marsha

Happy Thnksgiving

As I’m writing this, my heart is full……..so’s my stomach.

As you know, we’re in the States to attend a family reunion. Almost all of our remaining thread of relatives, along with a generous lashing of our new Aussie ‘relies’ by marriage (Nicki) gathered together like the pilgrims of old on a ranch north of Denton, Texas for a hooten  hollering, boot stompin’ real hidey ho. My only surviving relative dropped by after a grueling airplane marathon to spend 24 hours with us. What a great time!

But back to Texas, Perhaps because of the Aussies, this was a real “pull out the stops” gathering, starting around a 5:00 am campfire and a Texas-style homemade BBQ/smoker, preheating for the big cookout to come. Beautiful stars followed by an awesome sunrise.  We continued all day with a full range of shooting (shotguns, rifles, handguns and even something that looked at lot like C4 explosive), quite impressive for our non-gun country Aussies). Then of course all the traditional Thanksgiving festivities such as cooking turkeys, pheasants, beef and pork, horseback riding, more shooting, a football game and an impromptu skunk hunt. As darkness settled in, the activities moved indoors with card games, story-telling and some most excellent fiddle playing by a cousin. This naturally prompted something that looked like line dancing led by the children. I hope your day was as full as ours.

Late in the evening, Tony had already crashed in a combination of jet lag and introversion, I, ever the extravert, had an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness, both for the ‘dream day’ of my personal favorite of non stop eating as well as remembering, laughing, crying……….well, you know, when your heart is really ‘at home’.

Some of you may not know me, but I’m really a shy person……who’s an extrovert.  I can’t figure out it either.  I shudder at meeting new people, getting catatonic if I have to raise my voice in front of more than 10 people. Now if the group is small enough, and I’ve got your ear (thus feeling safe and secure), look out!

I came to realize in my late night insomnia, how really LONELY I’ve been lately.  You, the reader, may have picked up on it yourselves, but I’ve been struggling with isolation in Japan.  As I was telling someone, in Japan, every conversation, every deep and meaningful that I have, has to be, because of the nature of my calling, grounded in “HOW I can evangelize this person”.  While I’m ’sharing’ myself in friendship, the thought continually dogs me, “How can I show this person to the Savior?  What do I need to be to this person to make them realize their lostness and need for Jesus”? In our 20 years in the north of the Japan, I can say I had ‘real’ friends, who ‘got’ me……but in downtown Tokyo, after just 3 years, I don’t have a real friend in the form of a Japanese person.  That for me, is withering my soul.

While I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that SOMETIMES it’s good to relax and be real with a friend.

God, in his mercy, ’set this up’ for us about 15 years ago when the Cannon-Clarke family (Tony’s mother’s side) had a spontaneous invasion of the Holy Spirit and they all became born again Christians.  Can you IMAGINE the difference? All this Texas culture bathed in a real purpose in life?

Our visit has been like drinking out of the fire hydrant of God’s love and provision.  We are daily overwhelmed with the depth of these guys’ faith and courage……..we have shared our burdens and felt them lifted, and not only that but have come away with not only 10 extra pounds, but some real strategies for diving back in to the urban survival and challenges that we find in the reaching of the lost in Japan.

This morning’s agenda is Pumpkin Pie breakfast and then a foray into town to showcase some Texas History to the ‘relies’.

Ya’ll come back now, heah?

Marsha

Bread of Life

This morning as you are reading this, we should be in Holly Lake Texas!  As I told you last week, we’ve taken a bit of vacation to come to the States, see family and enjoy showing our daughter’s husband’s Australian family around a bit.  Tony will be preaching there this morning, so he’s beyond excited.

Today, in the midst of all our excitement about being in the States, I’d like to fill you in on something that’s happened in Japan recently………., a  famous Japanese cartoon author, Takashi Yanase, died at 94.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  You see, he was a CHRISTIAN!  Yes, and his ‘claim to fame’ was a character named ANPANMAN…..or loosely translated, “Sweet Bean Filled Bread Man”

If you’ve been around Japan or Japanese things, you’ll know that ANPANMAN is about as popular as……..Donald Duck or Bug’s Bunny.  Maybe part of that is because AN PAN (sweet bean paste filled bread) is showcased everywhere.  I have long known that if I’m buying something that looks like hamburger buns, I need to first hold them gently in my hand to see if they’re inordinately heavy.  I’ve scraped a good deal of sweet bean paste into the garbage as we all stand around the barbecue waiting!   Many are the times when we’ve bought what we thought was a fudge-sicle, only to be stuck with frozen bean paste!

Because a lot of Asian countries LOVE sweet beans as much as we like our chilies, you find sweet bean paste in everything, ice cream, donuts, desserts, drinks and you got it………bread!  So how can “sweet bean paste bread man” not be popular? Everywhere you look, there he is.   If I can’t manage to get a picture posted here, be sure and go to the website below to see a picture of how ‘powerful’ he looks with his little bun shaped bread head!

But the best news is that Anpanman is actually a Christ figure, cooked up by Takashi san. As a hero, he ‘gives’ his life (or rather his head) to ’save’ others.  Then somehow he rejuvenates and ‘resurrects’ back to fight another day.

I remember when our daughter was a forlorn little 3 yr old, having just arrived from Russia, with no language but Russian. And yet because she was cross-eyed, she needed to be examined by a doctor.

Anpanman to the rescue! Several clever nurses held up an Anpanman doll, moving him around adeptly so that they could chart where and what Nicki was seeing.  She’s fine now, as you all know.  Thanks to an excellent surgeon, she sees as straight as anyone!

Pray for opportunities as we look around every day to find people we can share the “real” story of Anpanman, the sweet little guys who gives his all.

Here’s a website that’s been translated into English that tells the full story.  I hope you can open it up and have a good read thru and remember to pray as Christ shows his love and salvation thru so many ways to a lost nation.

http://izumisydney.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2010/11/anpanman-and-je.html Be sure and scroll down till you see the words “Anpanman and Jesus” and read to the bottom of the page.  Fascinating.

Love ya,

Marsha

In the Slipstream

…But did you know that if you’re going 150 miles an hour only 6 inches behind another car, it can be very dangerous?
Sorry, this isn’t one of those great factoids that I gleaned from Facebook; it came out in a discussion in one of Tony’s Bible studies.  He’s helping out on Thursday nights with a group of businessmen, and for the last several weeks they’ve been going through his book, “The Road Rising”.
As many of you know, “The Road Rising” is an allegorical ‘journey’ of a guy on a backpack trip; but on a deeper level it represents his decision to follow Christ. As the story progresses, he comes up against all kinds of challenges from fire to floods and even the occasional demon. But every so often he meets up with fellow pilgrims at a place called “Rendezvous”. It’s actually a symbol for the church, but the word comes from the early American West, where the French trappers would gather in the wild to swap stories and encourage each other.
The other night the Bible study guys were trying to get their heads around this idea.  It’s not really an English word, so it wasn’t in their dictionaries. Suddenly one of the guys spoke up. He’s a Formula One race car driver  by trade. “Oh, You’re saying “Lon-daa-boou!”  A tough word for a language like Japanese, which doesn’t distinguish  R’s, L’s or V’s.  “It’s like this”, he said,  “we have a team of three cars.  Someone in that team needs to win the race.  It may not be me, but we all work together to win (maybe you can see where this is going..).”
“We have to help each other, and sometimes an appointed driver will pull in behind a team member, He gets sucked into the slipstream, and so saves gas and power. When the time is right, he pulls out and makes his move. Driving close together like that is what we call “Rendezvous””.
Wow…………can you just see the implications?  Until this time, Tony used the word ‘rendezvous” in his book as a time for refreshing, training and worshipping.  These Japanese understood it as a time for teamwork, possibly even sacrificing personal glory for the good of the ultimate goal. Keep in mind too that traveling 150 mph about six inches from the guy in front of you calls for a lot of trust! One ill-timed step on the brake or the gas could spell disaster.
Now I leave it to you to glean all the good stuff from this picture. Tony’s got at least one sermon in the mill as we speak. We really do need each other. Life can be fast and furious, and it calls for a lot of faith and trust. But when we’re on the right team, we’re going somewhere and we trust God to see to it that we all get there safely.
Speaking of nerve wracking things, we’re able to report that things are going a little better with the girl who tried to kill herself last week.  She’s still not allowed to see us, but is texting and seems a bit more ‘rational’.  Please keep praying for that situation.
Can’t wait to see you at the real Rendezvous!  Meanwhile, if you’re having trouble, come into our slipstream and by the same token, we may need to slip into yours from time to time…
Happy Trails,

Marsha

PS: As you’re reading this, we’re packing for a little “pit stop” in the form of a whirlwind trip to Texas next week!  We can’t wait to see those of you in Holly Lake, as we tour around with daughter Nicki, Aussie husband Chris and his family.  We won’t be there long enough to see anyone much, but if we DO get to see you we’ll feel blessed!  Hopefully we’ll be back in the ‘car’ and ready to pour it on for that most important season for spreading the Gospel in Japan called….Christmas.

Snail Shells and Puppy Dog Tails

Well, this morning we experienced another nerve-wracking earthquake.  I was just stepping into the bath, so you can imagine what went thru my head! ha.  Fortunately, by the second smaller aftershock, our habitually slow phone app finally alerted us to be ready. Honestly the app would be worthless except that it does tell us where the epicenter is, how strong it is and whether or not there’s a tsunami warning.
During the shake however, I did hear a loud cracking sound, which can never be good!  I walked around (after putting some clothes on since our windows are about 50 feet from the prefectural police department) and finally found it.  It was the sea urchin shell that I had so lovingly picked up, taken a picture of, and was planning on using in a blog about ‘beautiful outcomes of the tsunami’ sometime.  Cancel that….. a picture above it fell and it’s shattered now.
I flashed back to another sea urchin shell about 40 years ago.  Tony and I were in Canada at a Young Life camp on the ocean.  Being from Colorado, everything “ocean” is fascinating to me, and we found the most pristine little sea urchin shell in a tidal pool.  We set it very carefully on the edge of the pool and then you guessed it, when we went to give a big ‘heave ho’ and haul ourselves out of the water, I (myself) crushed it with the heel of my hand.
Sometimes things we treasure because they’re so wondrously beautiful are just snatched away…..
Yesterday in Australia, after my darling 2nd grandsons’ wildly successful birthday party, we got a text message to ‘Pray for Bosco’.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the worst kind of text. Pray? WHY?  Had he run off again?  WHAT??  An hour later son Nathan called from the emergency vet (yes, Bosco is my exceptionally perfect border collie grandog)  Seems that after the party, in the excitement of things, he slipped on some stairs and instead of breaking ribs like Tony, did something horrible to his leg.
Now if you think I’m just wailing about a shell and a dog, stick with me.  After all night on the phone, consulting people, crying thru a box of tissues, and mostly just feeling very far away…… (and all this time Nathan is working the night shift as a constable in a pretty rough neighborhood) there was the forecast of a very high possibility that they were going to have to put the dog down. Something about quality of his life with no back leg, or of theirs with a bill of $7000+ to do a highly probable unsuccessful surgery.   He’s less than a year old.  While Tony was doing church this morning (I have a fever and a cold), Nathan called and between sobs (his and mine) told me that Bosco was gone.
Life is fragile. Beauty is fleeting.  Ecclesiastes talks about this a lot.  There are seasons…ones of happiness and ones of sorrow; times of holding on and times of letting go.  Daughter-in-love said something profound on one of our tearful calls: “Of all my ‘boys’,” she said referring to Nathan, (husband) Isaac and Ezekiel, (3 and 2) and Bosco,  “Bosco is the most dispensable”.  But still it hurts to see a friend with such promise go….. even if he’s just a dog, he was probably Nathan’s best ‘guy friend’.  And hey, you have to give Bosco credit for taking a non- friendly “outside only, dogs are for working” wife and making her into a sook that lets him sleep in the bedroom! ha
Please don’t get me wrong as you read this.  For many of you out there, you’ve got a LOT more on your plate to deal with than my grief over a couple of little things.  I don’t want you to think my pain is equal to yours.  It’s just a sort of “today” pain and it has been resolved: time will heal and who knows, we’ll probably love another dog and possibly find another beautiful shell.  The truths that remain, even in this ‘little pain” by comparison are these:   We have love for each other, we have the ‘beauty’ of working in the ministry and being loved by God and more importantly knowing that He’s there with us, even when we’re really sad.
We deal a lot with loss in our line of work so I guess it comes with the territory.  All we can say to anyone is what I just said above, “God cares” and so do we.  Pray for an extra tablespoon of comfort for a little family who is going to bed tonight with Daddy working and Mommie crying.
Next week we’ll have a happier blog. I can almost promise!
Marsha

A Clean House

My mother had an interesting theology:  She firmly believed in the “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” Scripture, which she was certain was somewhere in the Bible.  By that assurance, she felt that if there was a cockroach in your house, then you were bound for………well.  I’m sure fleas and lice were included in this theology, but the subject never came up before she died while I was still in my early teens.

By the time I was an adult, I had moved from dry Colorado and into the more humid climates of the world. It wasn’t long before I had experienced first hand all three.  (also scabies and ringworm but that takes it to another realm).

I’ll never forget the night I woke up Tony and asked him to look at a particular spot on my head.  We were in our 30’s so he didn’t have to find his glasses and quickly affirm that I did indeed have lice!  At 2AM I was in our Japanese ofuro, scrubbing and crying……..I thought I was really an “unclean woman”.  (Here’s where I offer a loud THANKS! to my school age children who had also been infected unbeknownst to anyone and had shared the love with me……..)

That began about a 6 week struggle.  The cleaner I kept myself, the more I seemed to generate.  Then I remembered a scripture: Matthew 12:43-45. Jesus talks about a man who is freed from a demon, but then the demon goes out and finds 7 more; they return and the man is left worse off than before.

Some of you will remember about 18 months ago a young couple here accepted Christ.  He was a taxi driver and she was………well, a schizophrenic, with several related ‘issues’, but very keen and lovable.  They prayed the sinner’s prayer with us and others and we prayed a LOT with her, seeing vast improvements.  I’ll even say that after we prayed specifically for the demons that haunted her, she was remarkably better.

Then this year when we came back from 7 months in the States, we found them both on shaky ground.  Several unfortunate things had happened.  They’d suffered a miscarriage (their first pregnancy), his mother had been hit by a car and somehow it was discovered that she has Alzheimer’s and must be cared for 24/7.  AND in all this, the wife was waffling back and forth about the whole Christianity thing.

Then things got bad.  One night she ‘decided’ that her husband was trying to kill her (When questioned, she always insisted that he never laid a hand on her, but was just a case of psychosis).  She left him, moved in with a ‘friend’ and began to drink heavily.  She would call us from time to time to rail against a God who wouldn’t help her. Her husband was really low, calling us at all hours and asking questions like, “If I kill myself will I go to hell?”

Then, in the words of the poet Robert Frost, the young man chose the ‘road less traveled by’ and decided to give it all to God.  I won’t say it’s been easy for him. By his own testimony, he says that his life since becoming a Christian has been a long walk through a dark valley. But he doesn’t blame God for his circumstances. “These things would have happened anyway,” he says. “But the difference now is that I have a flashlight.” He’s embracing Christianity to the best of his ability and is reaching out to others, finding a new identity in our homeless ministry as well as being faithful to our little church plant.

Unfortunately, his wife could/would not choose that path, and instead cut off every avenue of hope:  God, us, her husband, everything.  The last communication we have had with her was about 3 weeks ago when she called Tony, who she particularly likes because he’s patient with her, and cried to him that she’s just ’so lonely’.

Early the other morning, after a night punctuated with a particularly noticeable earthquake, we got word that she had attempted suicide.  Fortunately she was found in time to save her life and is now locked in a psychiatric hospital somewhere we don’t know.

We helped her get a ‘clean house’ but just like in Scripture, where there is cleanliness without the Spirit’s indwelling Presence, myriad more demons will come back and take up residence.

Please pray for her this next week as we try to sort out what to do.  Japan has a threat of nuclear disaster, but far more ’scary’ is that the principalities of Evil are so strong and active.  I find myself wanting to move back to the safety of the ‘Colorado’s” of the world where it’s too dry and harsh for the little creepies to grow…………

I’d especially like your prayers as apparently she can be visited this next Tuesday.  We’ll try to give you a report.

Marsha

A Bump in the Night

Dear Friends,

In Japan you know autumn is upon you when you see an ‘akatombo”.  That’s the red dragonfly, a species that only hatches out as the hot summer turns to flee into the cold harsh winter.  Japanese always look at this time of year with nostalgia, already missing the blazing heat, but knowing that relief is coming in the cool breezes.  When you see an akatombo, you comment to those around you with a sad kind of sigh……..often this sighting is a euphemism for our own fleeting mortality.

Tony felt his mortality last week when he sailed down a slick flight of stairs and landed with a thud at the bottom.  He broke 2 or maybe 3 ribs and has been creaking around like Father Time all week.

We’re happy to say that he’s definitely on the mend, perhaps accelerated by noticing that the bottom step (concrete) now has a nice crack in it! “Take That!”.

But more than all those little things this last week, Japan had an event that made the news, and several of you have been writing to ask if we’re ok.  You guessed it, ANOTHER pretty big earthquake.  I believe it was a 7.1 up in the disaster zone, followed by a tiny tsunami that didn’t find much to knock over that’s not already down.  From the reports we’ve gotten from friends in the area, we think everything and everyone’s OK, but you never really know with the Japanese media. Technically it’s only an ‘aftershock’ of the 9.1 great earthquake 2 1/2 years ago. Thanks for your ongoing prayers, as we continue to trust God and keep moving through the unknown.

Speaking of God, something rather interesting happened the night of the quake. Let me share it with you, for what it’s worth.  Tony had been awakened by a dream, reminding him to pray.  That in itself was noteworthy because he’d signed up on a church roster the week before to pray from 2AM to 3AM, but had completely forgotten (as you do).  Then in his dream he heard a voice saying quite clearly, “Are you going to get up and pray or what?”  When he looked at the clock it was 1:57!

He grunted and groaned himself out of bed and had time to sit down (again with all the broken rib associated moaning) in the living room chair whereupon he began to pray.  Casting around for where to start, he thought he’d begin with one of our pastors and his family.  He prayed for each member in succession till he got to the pastor himself.

“Dear God, you know that the pastor is praying about the possibility of going to Turkey to take part in some sort of evangelistic event. He’s asked for our prayers, so please make Your will known to him in some sort of clear way”. The words had yet to leave his mouth when the room was thrown sideways, making his chair rock (which is pretty good, since it’s not a rocking chair). He checked the app on his phone and confirmed that the epicenter was far to the north. The time was 2:10AM.

Now we don’t know what to make of that.  In spite of his concern for our friends up north, as well as the damaged nuclear plant, he had to smile and pray, “Was that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’? ” Only the pastor will know, we’re guessing.

Isn’t it fun when God uses his incredible power to show off?

We’ve had some other ‘events’ that we’ll talk about next week, along with a report about what actually happened to the pastor during that earthquake.  We’ve got a meeting with fellow missionaries at his church on Wednesday to talk about “Disaster Preparedness”.

Let’s all live this week as if we’ve seen an “Akatombo”!

Hanging in, Marsha

Hangin in There

Once when Tony was a little boy, he was left in the car while his parents did some last minute Christmas shopping in downtown Fort Worth.  Of course nowadays that would be against the law, and as we see from this story, there may be some wisdom in that.
He sat quietly for a few minutes and then decided to have a teeny little ‘peek’ into one of the larger bags of purchases.  He was just sure there was some enticing present for him in there that he could pull out and put back without anyone’s knowledge.  Unbeknownst to him, in the bag was also a brand new gadget called the “Dial-o-Matic food slicer” which had made its debut that year.  It was on everyone’s shopping list.  There it lay in wait, razor sharp blades unprotected, for some ornery little kid’s prying hands.
Sure enough that sneak peek resulted in a little finger being cut to the bone.  Tony grabbed his hand, struggled out of the car, careened across the street and ran into the huge Leonard’s department store, dripping blood as he went.  He tried not to cry because after all, he WAS 6 and big boys didn’t cry.
Alas, his parents were nowhere in sight and as he scurried along, leaving a trail of tears and blood, a kindly salesman saw his plight, stepped out from behind the counter and bent down to catch him. “Hey partner!” he said, “Looks like you’ve got a bit of a problem there!” scooping him up and heading for the employees lounge.
“Mom….Mommy!” he cried out!  “My finger!!”  Seeing the blood made him cry all the more.
“Nonsense,” said the man.  “You’re fine………..it’s just a little cut.”
“Noooo,” wailed Tony, “My finger is cut off!”
The kind gentleman set him down on a desk and pulled out a crisp white hanky.  Wrapping it around Tony’s finger, he said, “”Now look here Champ, it’s not that bad. And even if it was cut off, that’s not the end of the world.”  As he said that, the man showed Tony his own hand, which was completely missing the little finger!
He went on, “I know you think it’s terrible, but we’ll get this cleaned up, find your Mom, and you’ll be just fine.”
Somehow, the man’s words were a real comfort to the boy, so that by the time his parents arrived, he was able to put on his brave face. The scar that was left has been a great conversation starter too; even to this day you can see where the Dial-o-Matic did its work. AND he’s always been just a little more cautious about putting his hand in places where you can’t see.
How often have we’ve lost something, from fingers to relationships and quickly concluded that it’s never been worse?  It’s true: life can be a frightening experience, and it’s not likely we’ll come out of it completely unscathed.  But just remember this: it’s not the end of the world. Maybe it’s small comfort to realize that lots of people have experienced worse than you’re enduring right now, but none of that compares to the agony God suffered when He allowed His only Son to take on the sins of the world. But even that was not the end…at least for those of us who accept the forgiveness that was made possible through the ordeal. For us, it’s not the end; it’s the beginning.
I reported to last week about the whirlwind of ups and downs we experienced saying goodbye to our friends who have suddenly had to leave the field and retire early.  Next week we’ll have to say goodbye again, this time to friends who retired and then came back to work another 2 1/2 years in the disaster zone!
Yeah, sometimes it feels like we’re battered and bruised, dripping blood and crying for help. ………….and especially today when we realize there’s only ONE couple left here now that’s been here longer than us!
But as I prepared a list for one of the games we were going to play at the retirement luncheon, I realized that more than 60 other people have retired from this mission in the 35 years we’ve been here.  They’ve survived and so will we.   Oswald mentioned this morning “It’s not the PLACE, it’s the CALL!  I imagine each of these aforementioned people have never really ‘left’ Japan, nor will we.
Our prayer for you is that you all hang in there, even if you’re dripping blood!
Marsha

PS. Even as we were preparing to send this, we dashed out to take a friend who’s been visiting us this last week to the airport an hour and a half away.  It’s raining pretty hard and in his haste, Tony slipped and fell down a flight of stairs.  Fortunately he landed on his back, but it was upsetting and I didn’t want to leave him.  We wanted to panic, but we called an ambulance and our dear short-termers who live near by came running to take our friend by train to the airport (she had hurt her back and could barely move herself.)  The ambulance came in pretty good time but then we waited 20 minutes while they called around to see where they could take him as he was going into shock!  Kinda scary really, but God is good, we got to a nearby hospital, they examined him and while he has two broken ribs and will be very sore for awhile, it looks like otherwise he’s OK.  Praise the Lord again for being there, and for friends that can jump in and help………..I need to read my above blog and remember that things could be worse! ha