This morning I want to tell you a story. It’s short, but for me it went right to the heart.
Back in the early ‘60s (I think; someone may need to correct me on the exact time), there was a missionary family from America who went to Thailand. They served a couple of terms, had some kids, and were relatively successful in the eyes of their mission.
One day they were traveling by public van from a meeting in the country back to their home in Bangkok. There was an accident (very common, even now) and all SIX family members were instantly killed.
End of story. Or was it? Their deaths were wasted …or were they?
I know when I heard it, my heart cried out for the relatives, the living, who had had their entire family taken away in the blink of an eye. Was that it? But then I thought of WHAT this ‘tragedy’ may have started. For one thing, the story of their deaths reached all the way into the depths of my heart ….. even as I was hearing about it half a century later. I wonder what other effects were wrought by their deaths?
Christianity in Thailand is much more ‘popular’ than say …….. in Japan. Many people today know of this tragic accident and have had a chance to think long and hard about WHY people from Christian worlds come to theirs. You might see a ‘missionary’ or two of some weird cult or another religion, but generally, “missionaries” are part of that long and honored tradition of Christians who leave their homes to carry the Greatest Story Ever Told. Why is that? Christians want to SHARE the gospel, even if it costs them their lives to do so. I’m sure you can recall similar stories of martyrs for the Gospel, such as the sad story of Graham Steines, an Australian missionary who along with his two sons were burned to death in their car by a local crowd in India who did not know or appreciate the message they brought.
Again and again I’m drawn to the verse in the Proverbs 29:18. “Without a vision the people lose restraint”.
I wonder sometimes if I may be guilty of … well, not losing the vision so much as maybe misplacing it in the tyranny of the urgent. Lately in particular, we’ve had a lot of constraints placed on finances. Things are tough all over, as I know many of you would agree, and the work of our mission is not immune to global downturns. But rather than come back to the vision which brought Tony and I to the field 37 years ago, I find myself focusing on “reality issues” … real vision breakers, to say the least.
But look back to the martyrs: I believe that these people all died with the commitment in their hearts to share the Good News, WHATEVER IT TAKES. I doubt that their last thoughts were on the budget.
Please continue to pray for us as we ‘remember’ why we are here. We had a knee slapping good time with some old old friends who went to a forbidden country about the time we came to Japan years ago. I’m sure you can imagine where they are, and it’s tough. They were passing thru our airport so we were able to have a quick catch up. One of the recurring themes was, “Why is this being a missionary thing so HARD? Why do we sometimes want to throw in the towel and go home? After some laughter and tears, a couple of things occurred to us, one being “where IS home anyway?” and “Why is it that we just CANNOT let go of these people?”
We parted “friends forever”, knowing the answers to our questions and having a new Hope in our hearts. It IS hard, but it IS worth it. Selfishly speaking, we do not want to be martyrs, but think about it: we’re all closer to The End today than we were yesterday, regardless of how we’re spending our time. The big question would seem to be, “Just what are you giving your life for?” My prayer for each of you is that you would rejoice in the assurance that you’re right where God wants you.
Have a blessed week and don’t forget to share the Gospel wherever your mission field is!
On Wednesday of this week Tony read Oswald Chambers to me in my early morning breakfast fog.
This time, it was based on the verse in 1st Corinthians 5:7 where Paul so wisely says “We walk by faith, not by sight”.
I flashed back to a Sunday afternoon 30 years ago when I had been selected to address a large group of Japanese Baptists in Sendai as to “Why I Love Being a Missionary”. For some unknown reason, I had selected the above passage to pontificate upon for several minutes about my blessed calling. I don’t know why I thought this way; as it turned out, the speech never got delivered……
You see, a year or so before that, Tony and I felt that we had ‘graduated’ from doing student work, and now were involved in full time church planting activities. Somehow we thought it would be easier on our 30 yr old bodies to be home at night. But it wasn’t long before I found myself saying, “Give me back to the heathens; these Church People are going to be the death of me!
That particular morning, after the service, we were going over the worship schedule for the next Sunday. Lady ‘A’ jumped up and announced that she was going to sing a solo from the hymnal. Lady ‘B’ looked startled and said softly that she had been practicing that SAME song, but naturally would not think of singing it now.
Now if you were in America, you can imagine the fight that would ensue if this happened. (I use italics because we ALL know no one actually fights in church, right?) Anyway, in our culture we would expect the fight to be about WHO GETS TO SING THE SONG.
I’ve often thought that Japan likes to do things backwards (did you know that to use a handsaw here, you PULL instead of push? Most Japanese books start at what we would call the BACK, and don’t even talk about which side of the road we drive on …. but I digress)
The ensuing fight that day reached screaming levels about who would NOT be singing the song. “No, I WON’T sing because you prepared!” “No I WON’T sing because you’re so much better than me”.
We walked out the door for our afternoon gig (“Why I Love Being a Missionary”, remember?) with both of them still screaming.
Needless to say, I was a bit rattled when I stood up to talk, and when I read the passage, “We walk by faith, not by sight” I exploded into tears. Now we know no one likes crying, especially Japanese, and I was ushered unceremoniously off stage and someone else filled in……..
Now it’s now, and as Tony began to read, those words of Oswald pierced my heart once again. How this man wrote these devotionals a hundred years ago that can so appropriately touch us is a mystery.
Here are a few of the excerpts from the readings for May 1:
“Some of us always want to be brightly illuminated saints with the glow of inspiration and to have other saints of God dealing with us all the time. A self-assured saint is of no value to God.”
And then he goes on to the sucker punch with the following:
“But what God wants from us is to ‘walk by faith’. How many of us have set ourselves aside as if to say, I cannot do anything else until God appears to me? He will never do it. We will have to get up on our own, without inspiration and without any sudden touch from God, Then comes our surprise and we find ourselves exclaiming, ‘Why, He was here all the time’.”
Many of you have sensed our discouragement in the last several weeks. We want God to appear and get us going at the pace we were at once before, but we seem to be continually………well, catch this last thing Oswald says:
“We must never consider our moments of inspiration as the standard way of life—our work is our standard.”
Tony and I pray that you have a blessed week, working at your job/life, all the while remembering to “Walk By Faith”.
And just as a little encouragement, this afternoon we had a good meeting with 11 believers who came all the way across town to pray with us about our ‘step of faith’ in trying to start a church in this neighborhood. Then as soon as we got them out the door and cleaned up the cups and plates, another couple (He’s a Christian, she is not) dropped in, asking if we could include them in a Bible study! God is faithful!
And finally, for our shameless advertisement, by popular demand, our latest book, “Sacrificed” is now available on Kindle! Check it out here http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=node%3D1286228011&field-keywords=sacrificed&rh=n%3A1286228011%2Ck%3Asacrificed , or go to www.amazon.com and search for “Sacrificed, Woods”. It’s cheaper too!
Before I begin this week’s blog, let me apologize to the many we’ve discovered aren’t getting our emails. Something always gets ‘glitched’ when we move around and somewhere along with that ‘doowhichit’ and my ‘thingamagig’, some of you also got left behind somehow. Hopefully you’re back on the list and all is well. I guess I could say, “If you don’t get this, let me know”………but I hope you’re getting it. If you haven’t heard from me in awhile, I’d urge you to go to www.mywoods.net and bring up the archives to see what you missed. We depend on your comments to keep us going.
So…….. last time I wrote that we had had a tough week. What I didn’t mention in the letter was the half sick nausea I was feeling; maybe food poisoning or maybe that trip to the temple. We’re constantly reminded of the spiritual oppression rampant in this country. We know as Christians we’re bullet-proof, but sometimes that doesn’t keep a little “needling” away, especially when we spend a lot of time in those places the enemy likes to think is his turf. (On a positive note, the two following trips with some visiting seminary students to that particular temple presented no ‘humbug’, possibly because Tony had them ‘pray up’ before entering.) Those of you living in Western countries don’t often get to feel Satan in such up close and personal ways, but don’t let that underestimate his power. Someone once described Satan as “a bad dog on a short leash.”
Anyway, Monday morning I was up and at em’, feeling great, in part because of so many of your encouraging comments.
I was doing some office work when I heard on our online Christian radio playing a simple song I’ve never heard. Catchy tune, but the words stopped me in my tracks.
‘Jesus Christ never failed me…. yet.’
I flashed to one of those edgy teenager conversations I had with my son so many years ago. I had just commented to Tony, possibly regarding some big decision we were facing, I honestly don’t remember now, “Well….God’s never let us down..YET”
From the critical attitude of the 15 yr old came the quick retort, “What do you mean YET?” That caused me to pause and consider, “Interesting observation. Do I actually, perhaps even subliminally, think He’ll eventually let me down?”
As I mentioned last week, it’s been a little tough lately. I wouldn’t say “Jesus has failed me” but I might have said, “This is not going well…..”. Fortunately for us all last Sunday, when I put my mind to writing the blog, even though I was sick and had a ‘bad’ week, I could remember that God is God and He’s still here………….
And then the very next day I heard the song, “Jesus has never failed me yet”. What a joke. Doesn’t that guy know that in thick or thin, He’ll NEVER fail you….period!
Some answers to prayer this week:
1. An overseas speaking tour we were trying to put together for Noguchi Sensei, the author of our most recent book, “Sacrificed”…….. Suddenly we found out all the details have ALREADY fallen into perfect place, and not with too much work on our part. “Failed me YET??” How do you spell “phisha”?
2. This week a couple you’ve been praying for really went to the edge of despair and looked over. They are having such a tough time with his mother who has recently developed Alzheimer’s. In Japan that diagnosis does not mean sashaying her into a pretty little facility where she’ll be safe and clean; that means moving in and taking over HER house and HER 24 hour care. As the dementia worsens, so does living for all three of them. Quite suddenly, things broke down and we had to cling to God’s promises for them as well as wrestling with ourselves about how we FELT about them…….wanting to criticize and scorn their weakness, at the same time feeling real concern and sadness for them. This couple has real potential, but honestly…..how much can any of us take? But just when it seemed the worst, once again, God is faithful (He hasn’t failed us OR them yet) and by this Friday they had found some ’sticking strength’ to carry on.
3. This morning (Sunday), we had our very first “Lets see if there’s any interest in a church plant in this neighborhood” meeting. Eleven people turned out (14, if you count the kids), which could be called a crowd in Christian work in Japan! The man mentioned above in #2, gave the most touching testimony of how he’s been a Christian for about a year, and while that’s a good thing, he feels that because of his mother and his past, his life has gone from good to pretty tough in most areas of his life. However, he continued, being a Christian has been like “holding a flashlight in the dark”, giving him hope and courage, knowing he’s safe in the Lord as he walks this difficult path. Very touching. Please continue to pray for them!
We don’t know what dramas this next week will reveal, but we can be assured that, 1, there WILL be dramas, and 2,”Jesus will NEVER fail us”……….and we will be given a flashlight when it gets dark enough.
You all have a good week in the Lord. Marsha
This week’s been a little tougher in some ways, which means I don’t have anything “earth shattering” to say. Even the constant earthquakes have settled a bit, preferring to terrorize our neighbors to the north and south rather than here in Tokyo
I remember a pastor when I was just a little girl saying something that my parents repeated from time to time. ”Lord, protect us for the “daily stuff.”……….
We’ve been back in Japan for a month now, and this week was terribly ‘daily’. On Monday, as I hung out our laundry, the new believers who we’ve been so proud of last year called to cancel a meeting with us yet again….. Tuesday, we filled out forms for the mission research and development guys…..mind numbing. Wednesday, we had a planning meeting, got the car inspected and had dinner with old friends. That may have been the highlight. Thursday, I read most of Joshua and Judges on the train crossing Tokyo and back. Filled with enthusiasm, ready to ‘take Jericho”, I sat and listened to one of our most precious converts of bygone years explain how she’d lost her marriage (that Tony had officiated), along with her joy and her faith in Christ. Please pray for her, that she can find her way back home. Very sad and discouraging.
Friday, Our friends who cancelled on Monday were able to come for a long talk and prayer. I think they’ll be okay. Also we were delighted to get this sweet word from last week’s “Mint”. I’ll paste it below:
|Marsha ????(Sensei, meaning teacher)
my old sister, she go out of the hospital already. thank you for pray for her.
Saturday, we visited a nearby temple with Japanese friends to get them to read some of the information written in the old classic style so we can guide some American seminary students thru it this next Monday. It was an interesting trip, reminding us again of the lostness and bondage of the Japanese people.
Sunday I woke up to cold rain, but happily with the calm understanding that God IS still here, I know it and you know it. For that reason, we COVET your prayers, for all the ‘daily’ stuff, but more especially for our new Christian friends, who are walking thru doubts and a lot of persecution just now, Also for Ka chan, the divorced girl; pray that she can get some encouragement and turn back to Him. In addition, we feel that we want to START several groups these next few weeks: an English Bible Study in our apartment building, and more importantly some proactive steps toward a church. We have a meeting room booked for the 28th (which is a holiday) but so far precious little contacts. You’ll have to stay tuned! Like I said, we always NEED your prayers!
All the best for a great week ahead,
Today I’d like to talk to you about two kinds of mint.
The first one is in the form of a Thai girl I met some years ago. Her nickname is “Mint”. I’m sure she has a proper name, but most Thai names are 17 letters long or more, so everyone has a nick name which they use even amongst themselves
I met her for the first time in a Japanese church service we were leading in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Her story was one of many……she had somehow managed to grow up “in the forest” of far north Thailand where a lot of the marginalized “Hill Tribes” live. (think Aboriginals and American Indians of the 1800’s and you’ve got the same situation). I think she’s from the “Akha” tribe, but I’m not sure if I remember right.
Anyway, when I met her she appeared to be bright and happy and was doing her best to learn Japanese. I would imagine she already speaks several other languages. She explained to me in her best mixed Japanese and English that when she was of high school age, she moved to a dorm nearer to town run by Christians and there she had become a Christian. She led several of her family to Christ as a result. At that first meeting she was deciding what to do with her life.
That was about 4 years ago. She is now a 3rd year seminary student, completely self-supporting (as are most) by working a couple of menial jobs in her scant free time. She told me recently she’s focusing on evangelism to Muslims! That’s such an important but difficult role as Islam spreads thru Southeast Asia.
What an amazing girl, coming from what we westerners would call a very marginal environmental situation. However, a good brain, a work ethic and the love of Christ has turned this “Mint” into something of a force for the kingdom.
This note just came in from Mint, as I write this. Would you join me in praying for Mint’s sister (older). Dengue fever is the big daddy of Malaria, very often fatal. Please pray!!
These are her words, just as they came to me:
my old Sister ,she stay at Hospital right now because Dengue
please pray for her.
Now let’s talk about the other Mint.
A couple of years ago, I was visiting my home in Australia and snipped a couple of sprigs of mint from my garden. Now I know it’s frowned upon, but since Japan makes no big hype about importing these things, I carried it in my purse to Tokyo. There I planted it on my balcony as a reminder of ”home”. Like us, it thrived.
Then my ‘home’ got moved. Tony commented when we moved back to a different apartment, only blocks away, that he’d like to go ask permission just to run up to our old place and grab some of our mint. But of course such a thing was out of the question.
As we continued to settle in, I was feeling a bit lost even though I’m in the same neighborhood…….wondering to myself what is the purpose of our being here, starting over in a new environment, new friends, etc. etc. Typical pity party hosted most likely by Satan.
Last Sunday, since there was a dangerous storm forecast to be coming thru, (it didn’t) we decided not to go across Tokyo to church but rather have some “old” friends, mostly from the old neighborhood now several blocks away, to our place for a get together.
Can you imagine my delight when one of my old friends came in carrying a bouquet, INCLUDING a sprig of my very own Australian mint! I didn’t remember, but she said I had given her a runner last year. Another guest commented that she had ‘plenty’ of my mint as well, and always thought of me when she tended it!
How precious is friendship. How special is the God of the Universe that keeps us connected in the littlest ways and then brings it to mind just when you’re feeling blue! Please pray for Mint, the girl above, and especially for her sister. Thank the Lord for her connection to us and most importantly to Christ. Also pray for the ‘fragrance of Christianity’ which is being spread one way and another to all of Japan, not just in green leaves, but in Eternal Life! How appropriate that beautiful verse from 2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”
Keep on smelling…..
Well, as you’re reading this, we have been in our new apartment for almost 5 days! Yay!! It wasn’t our old one as we had hoped, but we’re happy to say that it’s just as nice and convenient to our work. It’s bigger in some areas and smaller in others (closets, storage, etc.) I’m guessing it’s about the same size of 900 sq feet, which believe me, is BIG in Tokyo.
You can imagine we’re a big ragged……..while it’s fun to ‘move in’ it’s also draining……where to put the butter knives, or the beautiful treadle sewing machine that we inherited from a lovely Japanese grandmother…….fortunately we have wonderful friends and believers around to smooth the way. Tony even believes he got the internet hooked up all by himself online in total Japanese. If you get this, he probably succeeded.
Because we’re moving and because we’re living in Tokyo, we have travelled a lot on trains and subways lately. We’ve also done a fair bit of “window shopping” in multi-storied department stores looking for that perfect little thing to hold that other thing that has no place to rest.
Escalators. A lot of Tokyo is underground as you can imagine, including the 39+train systems that course thru the city. A Google search will tell you that over 40 million tickets are processed every day with more than 3.5 million passing thru Shinjuku station alone! You can imagine there are a LOT of escalators in the 274 stations servicing this mob.
I don’t know when it happened, but sometime in the last few years, probably why we were gone, somebody got the word out that everyone would be happier if you’d STAND to the LEFT and CLIMB or DESCEND to the right. What a brilliant idea! With all these people, nobody has time to wait for anything.
This custom presents a unique and surprising challenge to me. I have found that I just CANNOT stand to the left. I feel like life is passing me by if I take the sissy way out and stand aside. I didn’t think I was so competitive, but honestly, I just can’t ignore the ‘fast lane’.
I’m reminded of a verse Paul wrote to the Corinthians about life in the fast lane. He said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (I Cor 9:24).
I wish that in my spiritual life I would choose to get in the fast lane and ‘get it done’ more often. There are millions here right around me who need to know a Savior. Do I get out there and ‘climb’ or do I relax in the slow lane?
Of course as I go charging ahead, I need to remind myself what I have recently discovered, that getting in the fast lane has it’s disadvantages. Some escalators can be two storeys tall, about 100 steps, even if you’re moving. Half way thru, I’m winded and ready to stop, but I have committed and there will be 99 people behind me who want to reach the goal. Seldom can you just step to the left, because there will be a person standing on each step. Slowing down would admit defeat and irritate those who are hurrying behind you. That’s why you’ll occasionally see me grasping a pole and gasping for air at the top.
That’s sort of the way we left for our Stateside assignment 7 months ago. With the tsunami disaster as well as the normal work at hand, we couldn’t really ‘step aside’ and enjoy the ride. We were a bit whipped when we left, but thanks to all of you and an extra long wait due to medical issues, we now feel fit and ready to ‘take the fast lane’……just as soon as we find niches for all our household thingamajigs!
Back in the Race,
When I was a girl, most of the jokes that were going around in my grade school classrooms involved “Polaks”. You know the type, “How many Polaks does it take to change a light bulb”……those sorts of jokes. Somehow this was ridiculously funny to a 10 year old. I’ve found later in life this genre of jokes also masquerades as Aggie jokes, Belgium jokes and even Blonde jokes (Now as a blond, that offends me!). Pretty much anyone who is not in your circle of experience…
Imagine my jaw-dropping surprise when I met my first “Polak”…. who I have later learned are more correctly referred to as “Poles”. It was in 1980.
He came to class in the form of a handsome and composed young priest. We were newly arrived in Tokyo and Tony and I were about his age but were neither handsome nor composed as we struggled together trying to learn the Japanese language. I don’t remember his name; come to think of it, I probably never heard it, since everyone just referred to him as “Father”. I don’t know where in Poland he came from but it was apparent that he, like us, had given his life to service and ministry to the Japanese. We never really spoke, because he and the two nuns who arrived with him spoke almost no English. Believe me, in those early days, our communication in Japanese was relegated to bold sentences like “I like tulips” and “This is a pen!”.
But back to the Poles….
While I continually, from my childhood exposure, expected those three to do something completely zany and without reason (as per the jokes), I began to sense a real ‘presence’ in them. Even though most of us had no common language (the other students had come largely from Europe and South America), there was a level of communication as we sat in small classrooms day after day and struggled with what a Catholic priest back in the 1600s by the name of Francis Xavier had aptly called, “The Devil’s language!” Anyway, after all this struggle, you pretty well KNEW which of those priests and nuns had a personal relationship with OUR LORD and Savior Jesus Christ and who were just there maybe for the status or possibly the dream of a better world thru the social gospel …….
Finally it was Easter, and the Poles came through. When we arrived at school that Monday after Easter, the nuns ran to us and then after us, shaking a bottle of perfume on us and shouting gleefully “Ee’s ALIVE!!” with much shouting and ensuing hilarity! They couldn’t really ‘explain’ what they were doing, but some of the teachers commented that the Poles did this every year to celebrate the fragrance of new life in Christ through His resurrection.
Later that day, after things had settled down and we were having our morning break, the quiet handsome priest spoke a simple one line sentence. I don’t know what prompted him, but I have never forgotten it.
“All God wants from us is for us to come back to Him”.
Later I learned a Japanese word, “O- mukae”. This is the verb which most closely means the “coming/going to collect someone”. I didn’t understand it until I saw the relief and joy in my children’s faces when I came to “O-mukae” them from their day at Japanese preschool. It’s not to say they hadn’t had a great day at school but just being able to finally let go and rush into the arms of the one who loves them the most……..to be safe and secure and being going home to relax in the security of home……This is a look that says it all.
This Easter, Jesus comes down from the cross to “O-mukai” us. He’s come for us……..all we have to do is raise our little puny arms, relax and like the priest suggested, “come back to Him”
Enjoy the day,
By the time you’re reading this, many of you may have seen the interesting award winning movie “The Life of Pi”. I had read the book years ago and always thought about how interesting reality can be in the hands of the right imaginer.
Anyway, briefly, without giving away anything, it’s the recollection of one young boy about the reality that was his. It’s a fantastical and (after the first few minutes) a beautiful story about life and death and hope.
I am compelled to wonder again at this Easter season, about the ‘reality’ of the Cross and how the Jews and even His disciples must have felt during that whole fateful week. Recently I heard a preacher going over just what was acceptable in Jewish tradition.
Dying on a CROSS was reserved for the worst of the worst. In Jewish thought, and even in ours today perhaps, there was no more humiliating death possible. Your common criminal might not have been crucified, maybe only the real irreparable rascals.
And yet, in Jesus’s reality, it happened. What did his parents think, these two, who had had special visits from real live speaking Angels? They were still bewildered when they lost Him in the temple at 12 and received His cryptic remark, “Didn’t you know I’d be about my Father’s business”? And then even in the Garden of Gethsemane where He prayed, “Not my will but Thine”……..His reality was real, it couldn’t be imagined away into a technicolor award winning production.
This past year my father-in-law died. He was a great man who also carried a bit of vain concern, who didn’t want anyone to know (like so many of us) his more human foibles like hair color or dental support. He prayed that he would ‘die in the saddle’, and God was so merciful to grant him his wish. He never lost his dignity, keeping his wits and his humor till he fell asleep in Jesus. Now people remember him for the great man he was with no stories of his falling apart at the end.
Jesus might have wanted that too. After all, He IS the Savior. He performed so many miracles where people looked in awe and wondered, “Who is this man” and yet…….He chose to take the very unexpected and humiliating path of dying the most undignified death known to man, that of death on the cross.
How can we thank Him enough? How can we remember that the best death is the one that saves the sins of a whole world?
As you think of these things this ‘Holy Week” before Easter………remember what He did for us.
On a housekeeping note: we’re safe and sound in DOWNTOWN Tokyo. We haven’t secured an apartment yet, but hope to maybe this next week. Meanwhile we’re apartment sitting for some friends who are on vacation. What a wonderful thing to have a safe harbor in this little town of 39 million! So far we’ve lived out of the 7/11,where you can buy a full hot meal, and now we hope we can just remember the 9 kinds of garbage so we don’t get our friends in trouble for being too casual with the trash! ha.
Here it is Sunday and we’re checking in again. I wish we had some earth shattering stories or events to report, but we’re still sitting in the ‘waiting room’ of life……….now it’s Hawaii. Before you get all envious and think we’re living it up, let me explain that we’re staying with dear friends, who offered us a safe haven till the clearances are really clear. Everything looks good to go now, but the next step is for the mission to search the internet for the best ticket prices, then book it all. I know most folks think of Hawaii as beaches, hulas and luaus, but living like a local is more like….um, eating, sleeping, washing clothes, answering mail, you know….. the ‘normal’ stuff. We’re having some great opportunities to speak at churches and meet with some of the lovely volunteers that came to Japan and helped with the disaster stuff last year, so that’s nice. And to make things even better, they’re now planning another trip later this year!
And I’ll have to admit it’s nice to have some warm weather after a Texas winter.
Looking back over our 7 months in the States, we realize that apart from the death of my father in law, Buddy, we had a pretty normal time, as far as Stateside assignments go. We put over 10,000 miles on the car, spoke in heaps of churches here and there, visited with a lot of friends, new and old, missed seeing a whole lot of other friends but have hope for next time. We laughed a lot and cried some too; were sick and old more times than we wanted to be, but… all considered, we generally really feel satisfied that we ‘did it all’.
Now we’re ready to get back to it. Hopefully in a week or two we’ll have more concrete stuff to talk about from Japan………in the meantime we continue to wait.
We were speaking in a church last week and someone asked the question “What do you find different in America when you come home after two or three years abroad?”
Some things don’t change. We’ve enjoyed 7 months mostly in Texas. What can I say…….you gotta love Texas. Walmart culture (pajamas, motorized wheelchairs, unhealthy snacks, great prices, sales girls who don’t know where Japan is………) and then there’s the signs along the road like “Joe’s Truckstop, Hamburgers and Live Bait”…….and don’t forget you can find guns everywhere, even in church!. For you Americans reading this, you might not realize that these are some of the things you don’t get to experience overseas!
Also as we are living overseas, you don’t often get to experience real ‘cowboy ethics’ where a man’s handshake is his word, where a neighbor hauls away your fall leaves just because he’s ‘goin’ that way’, or you can talk about the Lord with your dentist because of course he’s a Baptist!…….We find some of these things a real treat in America. We went to a fish fry on a church member’s ranch last week and I’ll have to say that’s the most fun I’ve had in years, just eating everything we could think of that could be deep-fried, standing around a bonfire burning on one side and freezing on the other, laughing and talking and looking up at the beautiful stars…..that sort of thing just can’t be done in a lot of places in our world.
Of course there are bad changes about America. Everyone seems to be fighting their weight…..prices are higher than I remembered, megastores are squeezing out the little guys, crime seems to be escalating and morals are plummeting. TV is bizarre. I find myself not understanding my own country. I could be depressed
But then I remember that my REAL citizenship is in Heaven. Paul mentions this in his letter to the Philippians. Chapter 2 verse 20: ” But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”
I’m comforted knowing I can get in there without medical clearance!
Stay tuned. Late breaking news is that we’ll be landing next Friday in our beloved country of Japan! Yeah!!!!
Till then, Marsha
This morning as I write this I’m happy to report that we’ve obtained our Medical clearance from our board to return to the field. As you’re reading this, we will have left Holly Lake, and be motoring to Oklahoma to deliver Buddy’s well worn van that he logged on so many miles hauling his books and his stories around. We’ve also been asked to share our ’story’ there at our friend’s church, so that should be fun. From there we’ll head towards the ‘East” (East Asia) by going west. That’s what happens when you live on a round planet!
As we have been packing up, I’ve had a lot of time to think about “Baggage”.
First we have the Baggage of all of Buddy’s life. As he was the last in his generation to die, he’d accumulated all the sludge, as well as some of the gold nuggets, of his entire family. Tony too is the last of his generation as he’s an only child. Literally piles and piles of pictures with no more explanation than a scrawled note on the back (from a deceased cousin I’m guessing) that say “scanned”. Of course my first question is ’scanned to where?”…….. Because everyone with any knowledge is gone, now so are the pictures.
Then there’s OUR own baggage to deal with… We have hundreds of pictures of our lovely trip thru Europe on our way home to the states 7 months ago. By now I’ve forgotten the details and we’ve noticed that no one else, including our own family, are really interested. What to do…….
As we said goodbye to Holly Lake yesterday, our hearts were pretty low. We had almost two decades of life and happiness associated with that house and the people in and around it……how do you let go? The fact that the house hasn’t sold (please pray) makes it a double whammy of not wanting to leave, but not being able to be free of the physical burden either!
Being raised by Depression era parents made getting rid of a lot of baggage more difficult. Packing out a house that had been ‘accumulating’ for 20 years was a real chore. What about that half bottle of vinegar…….or the unused tube of toothpaste?
But as we talk about our burdens, let’s think about the other baggage we might have trouble letting go of? How about that insult that your cousin said 14 years ago, has it been tossed or do you just relocate it to another place to dig up later and be hurt again?
As Tony and I try to pack the rest of everything, including Buddy’s memories, into 4 suitcases for Japan, we grizzle back and forth at each other. “Why is this so important, you KNOW we already have 5 of those?” He takes out my stuff, I take out his. Perhaps, if our usual style is intact, we’ll kiss and make up somewhere and vow never to have possessions again……..then we repack, sacrificing a bit on both sides and coming up with something that works. I’m reminded again how happy I am that someday we won’t have to pack for heaven!
Now that I’ve got you all sad and maudlin, let me remind you that all of the ‘baggage’ we haul around is not bad. We have so many wonderful memories that we want to treasure. How about that fourth grade teacher who saw something in us and gave us the push we needed to become who we are? How about our recent trip to see our Grandkids and those precious hugs and smiles! We don’t want to throw away the good stuff. Fortunately most of these memories are in our hearts and minds, and don’t take up much space. Maybe if we can throw out some ‘bad baggage’ we’ll have room for more good stuff!
Thanks for your continued prayers, We return to Japan with high anxiety. What has changed in 7 months? I feel like the apostle Paul who wondered as he went from city to city, “Who is still faithful or better yet, growing? Who has succumbed to the flood of sin and has fallen away?” On a more temporal level are the questions, “Where will we live, and will all of our ‘baggage’ fit in?
Stay tuned. Our ‘final clearance’ should arrive in a few days, meanwhile we wait and wonder…….