Monday, February 24, 2020

Asia-Pacific Region Conference

This past week we were privileged to attend a large gathering of TEAM missionaries from all over Asia!  It was a great blessing to be able to attend.

TEAM chose a large hotel in Pattaya, Thailand to host this inaugural event with hopes of continuing the event every 3 years.  The 3 ½ days were filled with worship, messages, discussion groups, workshops, and more.

The worship team leader grew up as an MK and had us singing powerful songs about God's work and His power working in us and through us and even singing in different languages.  A glimpse of heaven where every tongue and nation will worship our Lord Jesus Christ.  Some of my favorite songs were "I will Build My Life Upon Your Love", "Way Maker" and "Make me a Channel of Your Peace".

Seminars and workshops focused on ministry in Asia so we found them very timely and helpful.

Networking was a big part of the conference.  I (Kathy) actually went three days early for two reasons.  One reason was for Member Care training.  It was excellent training, helping us learn how to encourage our fellow missionaries, especially when they are in crisis.  With my new role in MK Care, I learned so much about helping missionary families with stress, etc as they navigate living and working in a cross-cultural setting.
Secondly, I arrived early to help prepare for the children's program that would take place during the conference.  We were blessed to have numerous volunteers who helped care for children both during the pre-conference seminars and the conference itself.  As liaison between the volunteers and the planning committee, I was able to help take some of the responsibilities away from the shoulders of those who had the greater responsibility of running the whole conference.  The kids (50 younger ones and 20 or so teens) had a wonderful DVBS program and had a chance to connect with other English speaking MKs living in different countries.  So many did not want to leave at the end.  Also, four of the children prayed to receive Christ on the last day!

It was also exciting for us to have our son, Caleb and his family there as well.  We shared some meals together and also did some babysitting so that they could visit and connect with others.  

This was the first time that TEAM has tried this.  Missionaries in attendance came away refreshed, encouraged, and with a new zeal to be better equipped and more effective in the ministry to which God has called each of us.   Here are a few more pictures from our time there.  

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Home Assignment is coming!

We are excited about the possibility of seeing so many of you, our friends, family, and supporters, in the next year or so.  We are working on a plan that would have us leaving Japan in mid-April, 2020 and being in the USA until sometime in early 2021.  With God providing needed leadership for the Agape believers, we plan to use the next few months for seeking the Lord's will for our future ministry and preparing for Home Assignment.  As you can imagine, there will be a lot of correspondence in our near future as we begin to schedule dates and places to visit during our Home Assignment.  Please join us in prayer for this time of planning!    

MK Education Advisor

As of August, 2019,  I, Kathy, have added a new role in the mission community.  I am in training as an education advisor for missionary kids and their families.  This is a role in what is called member care as we as missionaries seek to encourage and support our fellow missionaries.  Many missionary families struggle with how best to educate their children while serving in a foreign country.  There are quite a few options for missionaries in Japan, and I have experience with nearly all of them.  These include things like home schooling, Japanese local schools with part-time English home schooling, one room schools, secular international schools and the Christian international school for missionary kids.  Touching base several times a year with our families to see how things are going is just one aspect of my new role.  Most recently we are going through our first time to help a new family who has just arrived in Japan.  They are trying to decide what's best for their 5 year old twins and 3 year old child.  Kathy is excited that she has a co-advisor in this role, someone who is currently home schooling her two children full time.

Last September, our mission made it possible for my co-advisor and me to make a trip to Pennsylvania for a conference called MK Synergy.  Gathered there were over 150 people who serve in roles to care for missionary kids and their families all over the world.  The first two days were for newbies like us with special introductory sessions.  It was so helpful.  The final three days were filled with speakers and seminars all focusing on the uniqueness of MKs and ways to support and encourage them. Truthfully, it was quite overwhelming.   But, it was great to have a chance to meet so many people who are doing similar things for MKs.  In October I went to Tokyo for the first meeting of a new Member Care Focus Group.  Accepting this role has put me in the Member Care Focus Group for TEAM Japan as a whole.  Our first task was to work on developing a purpose statement.  We have a Member Care coordinator but the needs have become too great for just one person.  So TEAM Japan is looking to broaden its thinking and add people to a group that will focus on member care.  Our worldwide Member Care coordinator based in the USA will be offering several days of training next February in Thailand just prior to an all-region conference for TEAM missionaries who are serving throughout Asia. Networking has become so important in this day and age that traveling to participate in various conferences in order to learn from one another is becoming more highly prioritized.

My good friend, Flossie, who has been serving in this role for a long time will be retiring and returning to the USA next April so I am eager to learn all I can from her.  We are currently having meetings monthly via Skype.  Most of the work of the Member Care Focus Group will also take place online.

Next April, there is going to be another conference on member care for MKs near Dallas, TX.  If we make it to the USA for our home assignment in time, I am really hoping to attend.  I just learned that a good friend of mine, Gary Roe, is going to be the speaker.  While Gary is a hospice counselor and prolific writer of helpful materials for people who are grieving, he also has experience with international adoption.  He was a missionary in Japan for a period of time as well.  Many people do not realize how much loss and grief missionaries and their children experience.  Gary also has a real heart for kids, with seven kids of his own.  I think he's going to be a great speaker.


After the retreat, I had to return home via Tokyo.  It worked out well for me to stop and pay a visit to our son, Caleb, his wife, Beth Anne and our two granddaughters, Emma, 7 and Mia, 4.  It was at the end of October so one of our activities was carving a pumpkin.  Orange pumpkins are actually very hard to find in Japan so I was impressed that Beth Anne had found one.

getting started
cleaning out the pumpkin


And the candle!

Doing English studies after a busy day using Japanese can be very challenging for missionary kids.  Here are Emma and Mia working on their English schoolwork.  (Mia is only doing preschool, but they are trying to create a daily routine.

We do get to see Leo and Louie (Josiah and Manaka's boys) a little more often as they live here in Kobe.  Leo is also trying to learn English as well as Japanese.  

Grandpa loves reading books to Louie (almost two)

Andrew and Annie live far away in Milwaukee, USA.  Their boys are growing up so fast.

Julian age 4 loves minicar especially ones made in Japan

Sebastian age 1 1/2
son Andrew with Sebastian
Mikaela also lives far away in the USA.  We miss them so much.   Her daughter, Lilli, is 2 ½ and loves playing outside, especially in puddles.  

rainy days? no problem

enjoying the sunshine

locked out

When I wanted to make a new post awhile back, I discovered that I had been locked out of this account and ever since then I have not been able to access this account to post anything.  Finally, today, I hit upon the right combination of things and was able to get in.

I enjoyed a trip to Karuizawa a few weeks ago for a 2 day retreat with my TEAM Japan sisters.  It was beautiful weather and the leaves were changing colors.  We were a smaller group this year because a number were on Home Assignment or couldn't attend for some reason.  But, as we met together, it was a very cosy time as we listened, relaxed, shared and prayed together.

Here is a beautiful painting (painted for my retiring friend, Flossie, on the right by the woman on the left) that shows one of the loveliest spots in Karuizawa.  It's definitely a place for renewal of heart and spirit!

Pray for the women below who are all missionaries in Japan (and the speaker, a missionary in the Philippines)
women who attended the 2019 retreat

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

visit to Takamatsu

 Mike and Barbara Gray and family
 Birthday celebrations

Since we share a birthday, every year we try to do something special to celebrate. This year we decided to spend the weekend in Takamatsu with missionary friends.  Thirty-One years ago, Mike and Barbara were our neighbors in Nagano Ken as we all were working on Japanese language study.

Mike and Barbara are getting ready to retire and their son had been in the hospital with cancer for quite some time.  We wanted to try and be a help and encouragement to them.  We were able to help in a number of ways as well as attend a combined worship service with several churches represented on Sunday.  We were blessed to see Isaac, their son, begin eating and drinking again after chemotherapy.  We praise God for healing him and that he was able to be dismissed from the hospital soon after our visit.  We met lots of special people including both Japanese and Filipino believers.  

This past week Kathy was able to take a bus and go back to Takamatsu to help with a concert that Mike and Barbara did for some of their contacts from over the years.  The concert was held at The Way Cafe, a new cafe run by a wonderful Christian couple.  

Chris and Noriko

It was so exciting to see how God is at work at another location in Japan.  We are so thankful to have had this opportunity.  

If you click the above link and then scroll down the page, you'll be able to see a live version of the concert.  

Mr. Kato is a friend from Kobe working in the Takamatsu area.

This area of Japan is known for its special noodles called udon.  So, of course, we had to be sure and eat some while we were there.  

Stella Cox is an old family friend who also lives in Takamatsu.  We enjoyed seeing her again, too.  She just celebrated her 91st birthday, but is still trying to reach people for Christ in Japan.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Homesick? Cook up a storm!

Do you ever feel homesick or maybe, just a deep longing to be with family and friends that you dearly love?  Naturally, missionaries experience these feelings too.  Sometimes it is memories of times past that you wish you could recreate.  Sometimes you wish you were creating new memories with grown-up children or cuddling grandchildren.  All in all, it adds up to sometimes wishing we were somewhere else at holiday time.  This past week was Thanksgiving!  Well, at least in the USA, our friends and family were gathering to celebrate.  In Japan, it's not anything special.  There is a business holiday on Nov. 23rd called "Laborer's Thanksgiving" where people are thankful to have work but it isn't celebrated.  So, naturally, we were missing "home" and "family" a bit more than usual.  So, deciding to make the most of it, we organized a number of "events".

It isn't often that missionaries and pastors can coordinate their schedules to spend time together just for fun and fellowship.  So it was a treat to spend time with Pastor and Mrs. Iwagami and their family on Thursday evening!  Our main food was Indian Curry!  Mmmmmm, we are thankful for the variety of foods that the Lord created.  Desserts included pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate pie.  A rousing game of team pictionary made for a lot of laughter and fun.  Our son, Josiah, and his family are also good friends with the Iwagami family, and they were able to join us for the evening.  Good times.  

On Saturday, we had our English Cafe for November. This continues to be a very effective outreach. It turned out that MORE people were able to attend BECAUSE it was a 3-day holiday weekend.  And yes, this is when I decided to cook up a storm for our Japanese friends.  I wanted them to enjoy some of the traditional foods that often show up at our Thanksgiving table in the midwest of the USA.  I didn't bake a turkey but rather a chicken and stuffing casserole, along with corn casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, 7 layer salad, and traditional pumpkin pie for dessert.  Here are a few photos:

Mrs. Yasu, our church member, (on the right) brought her friend in the purple jacket on the left.  Her friend brought this amazing craft to show everyone.  It is designed to look like "osechi ryori", the traditional new year's foods served in Japan.  The interesting thing is that it is all made from kimono cloth.  Absolutely beautiful!  In the middle is dear Mrs. Watanabe, one of our church members.  She doesn't speak English, but she comes just to use her gift of serving, helping with setup, and cleanup, which is a big help!  

That is one giant shrimp in the middle!  

Carl, on the far left, is here for a short-term mission, helping at the church plant of a Japanese pastor.  It was our first time to meet him.  Karen, Miyu, and her mom are on the top row.  Kenta is in the middle of the front row.
It was exciting to have two university students attend for the first time.  Karen spent a year in Norway  as an exchange student and Kenta spent almost a year in New Zealand.  So they were both happy for a chance to speak in English again.  Miyu and her mom and brother were a part of Agape Church quite a number of years ago.  When Miyu was in about 3rd grade she read a book in her school library about Jesus.  She was so interested that she asked her mother if they could visit church.  Her mom found Agape on the internet.  Miyu believed and was baptized several years later.  But then school life took over and she quit attending during junior high and high school.  She is now a sophomore at a university about 3 hours away.  We were thrilled to hear that she found a church there and has been attending quite frequently.  She is studying to become a nurse.  

The older folks who attended talked about how they felt energized by having young people there who are just starting adult life and starting to follow their dreams.  It was a very congenial group and we all had a good time.  They all enjoyed tasting the various foods, many of whom had never eaten anything like it before.  This was a good chance to share with them about the months leading up to Jesus' birth from the Bible.  We learned that Kenta developed a special friendship with a man  while in New Zealand who just happened to be a Christian pastor.  So he was quite interested in learning more about Christianity.  We pray that God will lead us into friendship with other adults like these.  There are so many of them in Japan that they have become a new segment of Japanese society called, "returnees".  People who have lived abroad and then returned to Japan.  Why are they so unique?  It is because once people have experienced life in other countries, it makes it more difficult for them to fit in when they return to live in Japanese society.  This often leads to an openness in their hearts to friendships with others like themselves, or with foreigners who also don't fit in.   Returnees are often much more open to the Gospel because they have seen or experienced life with Christians in other countries.