I Survived Japanese Kindergarten Snow Camp

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You know those moments in life where you find yourself thinking, “How in the world did I get here?” Well, I had one over the weekend. Picture this. It’s 7:30 in the morning, and I’m kneeling under a tree, next to a very grumpy, tired and hungry Heidi, digging mandarines out of the snow to see if they had frozen overnight. Yep.

It all began a few months ago when we signed Heidi up for some outdoor activities with her Kindergarten. Things like ‘River Play’ and ‘Beach Trip’ were included, as was ‘Snow Adventure’. So when we got another form from the Kindergarten about some kind of snow activity let’s just say that I thought we had already signed up for it, so I sent the form back saying “Yes, we will attend, and here is our money.” Only thing was, it was a different thing. It wasn’t the day trip to the snow for the kids. It was the overnight kindergarten snow camp – with parents as well.

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I really tried to think of reasons not to go, but having already paid, committed and most of all – mentioned it to Heidi – I couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse not to go. Except, that is, for the very mature and responsible, “I don’t wanna go!”

It’s not that I don’t like snow, or camps, or kindergarten kids or parents. I like all of those things. But the thought of going on this camp, with literally bus-loads of people I didn’t know, all speaking Japanese, not knowing the ins-and-outs of shoes, sleeping arrangements, bath time, what the heck would the Parents Party  (大人お楽しみ会) be like, food, and just everything – it felt like a bit too much. And yet, it was, as they say, set in stone.

It’s the constant state of uncertainty in a culture that is not your own.

  • It’s not knowing that everyone buys small, packaged snacks because everyone gives snacks to each other, and doesn’t just eat them themselves.
  • It’s being the only one wearing slippers instead of actual indoor shoes (上靴).
  • It’s the shock that parents would leave all the kids sleeping in the rooms by
    themselves while they had their party, (大人お楽しみ会) including alcohol, on the kindergarten camp.
  • It’s desperately copying the 4-year-olds during the morning assembly stretching and exercises because you have no idea and they already know it better than you do.
  • It’s trying to convince your five-year-old to put her snowsuit on and go outside before breakfast with her friends to find the mandarines that you buried last night at the insistence of the other parents, despite the fact that she is tired, cold and hungry.

It’s hard, exhausting and discouraging to be the only one who has no idea – ALL the time.

And yet I’m so glad I went.

Yes, I had no idea what was going on. But it didn’t matter. We had a great time.

I got to know a couple of the Mum’s well, and they were so kind, welcoming, thoughtful and helpful to me. Sometimes it’s our own vulnerability that gives others an opportunity to care for us. People were kind with their Japanese, encouraged me with mine, explained details that I had missed (which happens a lot!), included me in the activities and told me what was going on when I didn’t know. These things, which of themselves are small, made such a difference to me. Instead of feeling unsure and confused, wondering whether I was doing the right thing or not the whole time, I could relax and trust that there were a couple of people there who had my back. And at the end of the day, I made some new friends and enjoyed myself too.

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And besides, this camp was all about attempting to create precious mother-daughter time and that is what Heidi and I did. We got to travel together on the bus, we slept snuggled up next to each other, we played with paint in the snow, went on a hike in the snow and slid down a mountain on our bottoms and we swung on ropes together. It wasn’t Pinterest-perfect. There were moments of grumpiness, tiredness and everything else in between.

But that’s parenting and that’s life. Pushing through the challenges while hoping to catch a glimmer of reward on the other side is just another day of being a parent who is trying their best. And it is worth it.

So next time I’m faced with the option of doing something hard, uncomfortable and a little scary, I’m going to try and remember the Kindergarten Snow Camp and how it turned out pretty well.

Even if I had to dig mandarines out of the snow on my knees at 7:30 in the morning.

That’s what being a missionary looks like sometimes.

It’s what being a parent looks like sometimes too.

And that’s more than OK with me.

Have you ever had any “What am I doing here?” moments? What were they? And how did you manage? I would love to hear some of your stories so it would be great if you could share them in the comments below.

 

 

Snowflake Photos Spur Me On

Snow. White, fluffy, beautiful snow. Brown, slushy, slippery snow. Black, icy, hard snow. I never knew there could be so many different kinds of snow and that the beautiful verse from the famous hymn about being washed as white as snow really only applies to a certain kind of snow.

Last year as we approached winter I really psychological pumped myself up for it. I wanted to not be negative about weather – it’s just one aspect of life and why should I complain? There are plenty of good things about the cold and snow. In the end it was a really mild winter, so the snow came late and by that time I was actively wanting it to snow. So the winter came and went and I remained pretty positive.

This winter has had a LOT of snow. And we still have a couple of months to go. I actually really like the snow. It really can be so beautiful. If I am out walking in the snow at night the clouds are like a roof, the light glows clearly through the air, the snow underfoot crunches and I feel like I’m in some kind of insulated marshmallowy snowglobe. If it snows I still say, “Look it’s snowing” to everyone at home.

But it can be practically difficult to live your normal life in a snowy climate. Honestly, it just takes so long to get the kids ready if we want to go outside for a play. So long in fact that we haven’t spent that much time outdoors this winter. It’s not just snowsuits but it’s getting fingers into gloves, boots tucked into pants and pants tucked into boot covers and so on.  Multiply that by 3 and it can be exhausting. And the longest they can play outside is about an hour before they really are too cold and it’s straight into the shower with a trail of wet clothes behind them.

There’s snow shovelling. We live in an apartment so just need to clear the carpark, but we also need to do it at school too. I don’t mind it, in fact it’s good to do something physical but it can take up a lot of time.

There’s slipping. I have fallen over more this winter than the past 2. Most of the time I’m carrying Annie on my hip so I think that has put my balance out. So far no serious injuries, but it is always a risk.

Because of the struggles of life in a snowy place I was so encouraged to find some amazing photos of snowflakes today. Russian photographer Alex Filatov used his own home-made set up and took these photos as snowflakes landed on some carpet. I doubted at first if these images were real because they just seemed so fake. But it seems that they are very much real. Take a look and be amazed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which one is your favourite? I like the last one the most I think. Just beautiful. What an amazing Creator God we have. I really can’t believe how well this snow is  formed and designed. Wow.

 

 

Kindergarten in Japan

The foyer area at our Kindergarten. Each student has a shoe box as they change into their indoor shoes when they arrive.

The schooling year here in Hokkaido runs slightly differently to the rest of Japan, and considerably differently to Australia. It has taken me a while to get used to the natural flow of things and they way that Kindergarten is done in Japan.

The school year begins in April.
Although New Years is celebrated in Japan in January (unlike some other Asian countries), the school and working year start traditionally from the 1st of April. It is such a strange thing, growing up in Australia and the Australian school system. Because of the seasons and the patterns of the year, it just flows so well. Start at some point near the beginning of the year – end of Jan, early Feb maybe. Have two weeks holidays roughly every 10 weeks of school, and a nice big chunk over the Christmas, New Year and Summer holidays. Can anything be more logical and awesome than that? From a parents point of view too, while the Summer holidays are long, at least it’s broken up by Christmas, New Years and warm summer days.

The school year is broken down into 3 terms (semesters?)
April – July
September – December
January – March

One month holidays for both summer AND winter. At first glance, this might seem like a pretty good deal but think again. Imagine living in Hokkaido, piles of snow surrounding you, and now imagine how your holiday might go living in a small apartment with three young children. Yep. Despite my very best intentions to get out in the snow and enjoy it (I really do like it), when the littlest one cries on a sled and gets cold easily, it gets pretty hard. I imagine this might be slightly more enjoyable as the kids get older and we can enjoy outdoor activities like skiing a bit more, but for an Australian not quite accustomed a snow lifestyle, it is taking some adjusting. This does vary to the rest of Japan though, where they don’t often have quite as long of a winter holiday.

There is no flexibility in which year the children begin school.
I know for many Australian families that the discussion of when to enroll their children in Prep can be an ongoing and lengthy one. I observed that many people were enrolling their children at a slightly later stage, closer to 6 years old rather than 5. In Japan, school begins at the age of 6, and the age of the child as of the 1st of April determines when they begin school. So for example; Heidi’s birthday is at the end of March and so she is the very youngest in her class. Some of her classmates might turn 7 in April, and so most parents talk about kids who are born between January and March as 早生まれ (hayaumare), literally translated as ‘earlyborn’, or as an Australian might say, “one of the younger ones”.

There’s only a small break between school years beginning and ending.
To illustrate the point – Heidi graduates from Kindergarten on the 17th of March and begins Primary School on the 6th of April. It’s not even a three-week break. It’s not a lot of time for the kids to rest and get emotionally prepared for big change. It’s also not a lot of time for the parents to run around getting the things you need together either. Which leads me to the next point.

At least for Kindergarten you need a LOT of stuff!
As I sent Heidi and Pippa back to Kinder today, here are some of the things that they needed: 2 sets of spare clothing in plastic bags, in their spare clothing bag. Their school indoor shoes, in their shoe bag. Their backpacks with their obentoo bags, with a lunch cloth, chopsticks and cutlery box, and cup. Their coloured class hats. A hand towel to hang up in class for drying their hands with. Their library bags. Their little ‘pouches’ which clip onto their shirts with tissues and bandaids (not a requirement but very popular). Their name badges. They were both wearing their normal outfits (no uniform) plus a snowsuit, beanies, gloves attached with string, snow boots and boot covers.

Kindergarten kids catch buses to Kinder
I am not sure if this is a Japan-wide thing, or just for Hokkaido, but Kindergartens provide buses for picking up and taking children home. Our Kindergarten is huge and so has three buses that take three different routes each morning and afternoon picking kids up. There are bus stops (ours is at our apartment buildings doorstep) just for the Kinder bus, and teachers who ride the bus. The bus drivers are also employed by the school and perhaps work as maintenance men or have some other roles of employment at the Kinder too.

LOTS of homework.
While Kindergarten children don’t usually do any academic-style learning and therefore don’t receive any homework that changes once they begin elementary school. There is a lot given, but especially over the school holidays! So much so that often kids prefer to be in school, because they have less work to do than compared to the holiday work they are given. And this includes in the holiday between the end of one school year and another.

I could go on, but I might have to save the other differences for another day. Interestingly though, while the differences are many (and I am realising how much so just as I write this), so far we have really had a positive experience with Kindergarten here in Japan. Heidi and Pippa attend a local Japanese kindergarten and both have friends, love their teachers, have learned Japanese and generally enjoy going.

**While you may not be able to read it, for those of you who are interested, click here to visit the website of our Kinder. It has some good photos which capture what it’s like.Or you can click here to read about the Kindergarten sports day last year.**

 

A Book Review

Today I am pleased to say that my husband Paul has kindly written a book review to share with you all. Jesus Driven Ministry written by Ajith Fernando has been an inspiring, helpful book to read, and I haven’t even finished it yet! Thankfully though, Paul has finished it, and here is what he has to say. Thanks Paul!

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Jesus Driven Ministry is a book, as the title suggests, aimed at teaching Christian leaders. In an age of mega-churches, the desire for immediate and measurable results and a face-paced society, Ajith Fernando seeks to lead leaders to the only sure guide for            life, ministry and the church – Jesus. Fernando primarily uses the Gospel of Mark, as well as the synoptics and a bit of John, to outline key principles in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus Driven Ministry is broadly chronological in how it follows Mark with each chapter consisting of a fairly self-contained topic with titles such as: ‘Empowered by the Spirit’, ‘Growing a Team’ and ‘Visiting Homes’.

The content itself is logical, practical and easy to follow. Each chapter contains numerous real-world examples to back up the principles being discussed as well as reflections on ministry practices in the church today. Clearly, Fernando is well read as he quotes from a wide variety of sources and explains the original Greek words where helpful or important.

The book draws deeply from Fernando’s personal experience in ministry – and personal experience he has! After more than 25 years serving as the Sri Lankan Director of Youth For Christ (when the book was written) the personal anecdotes and stories from his ministry give the book an authenticity and realism that often lacks in this type of ministry book.

One thing the book successfully manages to do is capture the radical nature of Jesus’ ministry and the principles for Christian community that he established. This is profoundly convicting for those who are either in Christian ministry or for those who have simply been around church long enough to observe certain unbiblical, culture-based practices that creep into church. However, because the book is so deeply steeped in biblical quotation and reflection this does not come across as judgemental or critical but simply as a natural outworking of biblical truth. The challenge to pastors and Christian leaders to throw off cultural sins or ungodly desires in ministry and genuinely pursue Christ-centred ministry is real and powerful.

A couple of examples that stood out to me, and were personally convicting, were prayer and identifying with people. As anyone in ministry will testify to identify with people is difficult and energy sapping work. People are hard to love and hard to minister to. It is easy to avoid the hard things like visiting homes, caring for the emotionally and spiritually needy and giving time to demanding people. But as Fernando points out, the life of Jesus is a stirring reminder of what it means to enter the lives of ordinary, hurting, broken people to show God’s love. Secondly, prayer. It sounds so simple, but prayer seems to forever be the neglected discipline of Christians and pastors. Fernando’s chapter on prayer is compelling and is likely, like it did to me, to leave you convicted and uncomfortable. He writes ‘there is nothing more important than the work of prayer’ and how true this is. I encourage you to read the book for more detail but one aspect of prayer Fernando explains is worth mentioning. Quality prayer prevents burnout. Daily, uninterrupted, lengthy, set apart time with the Lord provides refreshment for the soul, along with godly perspective, mental rest and peace that is indispensable for long-term pastoral ministry. There is only one source of living water for dry and thirsty Christian leaders. It is a sober reminder.

The strength of the book lies in how Fernando weaves together solid biblical teaching, ministry principles, practical ministry examples and a great passion for the gospel in an easy to read manner. Fernando builds all of his teaching and principles directly from the bible. The bible really is the foundation of the book. Indeed the book is so full of biblical references and examples from the life of Jesus that it feels more like a gospel commentary or deeply-thought-through reflection on the life of Jesus rather than a book on ministry principles. And ultimately that is what the book is. While Fernando’s passion for the gospel and years of ministry wisdom cannot help but grasp the readers’ attention, it is the person of Jesus who holds centre stage. I am certain Ajith Fernando would want it no other way and this is what, for me, makes the book not just good, but great.

I’m Dreamin’ of a Japanese Christmas

Christmas in Japan

The snow has well and truly arrived, the heater is blasting – along with the Christmas carols. The Christmas tree is decorated and presents are being bought. Sounds kind of like a Christmas anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, right? Yes, it does. But there are a few things that make Christmas a little bit of a different experience in Japan.

Christmas is not a Public Holiday

It makes sense that in the largely Buddhist and Shinto nation of Japan that Christmas, a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, would not make an official dent in the national calendar. And yet it still comes as a shock. It’s one of those things that is just so much a part of culture, of who we are as Australians, as Christians, that I always need reminding that while it may, in fact, be Christmas Day, that people go to work as usual and that school still happens (although most finish at lunchtime on the day itself). For Churches, this means that they commonly will hold a Christmas eve candlelight carols service in lieu of a Christmas Day service. This year does actually fall on a Sunday, so Japanese Christians get to enjoy celebrating as a Church family together on Christmas morning.

Christmas is not the family-gathering-together Day

Perhaps like some other Asian countries, New Years is the time to meet with family, to eat special food, and to simply be together. Many people with travel back to their ‘hometown’, or perhaps more accurately, the place where their parents live. Christmas is more to spend time with friends, to go out and do something, or in particular, go on a date (see next point).

Christmas is like a ‘Mini-Valentine’s-Day’

Many couples will go out on a date on Christmas eve. They will share a special, romantic evening together, looking at Christmas lights and eating out. While Christmas is advertised and decorated in the traditional way,  Christmas also has a Valentine’s Day-esque feel to it. There’s even a Japanese word which mixes the words “Christmas” and “all alone/by oneself” into one word, to explain the feeling of being single or alone on Christmas even – クリぼっち (kuri-bochi).

Christmas Parties are different

When I imagine Christmas parties in Australia, there are a lot of mixed Christmas-break up party type images that come to mind. Barbecues, outdoors enjoying the sun, people drinking too much, Kris Kringle, sunburn, pavlova, dancing etc. Here in Japan, it’s mostly Churches and missionaries, and some Kindergartens, that run Christmas Parties. For the most part, Churches view this time as a way to reach out to people and share the true meaning of Christmas. They might include some games, Christmas carols, Christmas crafts and inevitable snack-time. I’m just trying to think about whether Churches in Australia typically do Christmas Parties? I think maybe not? Perhaps you might have a Christmas Carols event, and a special service on Christmas Day but not parties so much. I can’t remember any Church Christmas parties anyway.

Christmas Food – KFC and Strawberry Sponge Cake

Through a very successful marketing campaign over 40 years ago, KFC has now become a crucial part of celebrating Christmas in Japan. And if not KFC then Chicken of any kind. I made the mistake last year of simply planning to go to Costco on Christmas Eve to pick up some of their Barbeque Chickens – the only place I have found them yet. Well, let’s just say it didn’t go so well. Despite arriving within 30 minutes of opening, we received a ticket for the chicken and it was going to be a 4 or 5-hour wait. So we decided to have pork instead. Apparently, you can easily wait just as long for a bucket of KFC. Christmas cake is also a big deal here, but not the heavy, fruity kind. A kind of sponge cake decorated with cream and strawberries is the Japanese version of Christmas cake. I’m not sure how that one came about, but it is pretty tasty.

The Meaning of Christmas

Most Japanese people have not heard about Jesus. Most have no Christian friends. So it is unsurprising that most do not know the real meaning of Christmas – most do not know the hope that we have because of Jesus being born so many many years ago. Please pray for Japan – that many people would hear this wonderful news over the Christmas period. Pray for us and the many other workers here trying to point people to Jesus. Pray that this year Christmas would be a time of people meeting the true Saviour, and enjoying fellowship with Him more than going on a date, more than KFC and more than strawberry cake.

Sources:
https://globalvoices.org/2014/12/06/spending-christmas-eve-alone-japanese-has-a-word-for-that/
https://www.japantoday.com/category/arts-culture/view/the-true-meaning-of-japanese-christmas
https://www.buzzfeed.com/eimiyamamitsu/did-you-know-that-kfc-is-a-huge-deal-in-japan-on-christmas?utm_term=.sgX679ovw#.em8pg1lKA
http://www.wsj.com/articles/christmas-cheer-here-requires-reservations-with-the-colonel-1450477246?utm_content=bufferda7e4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
credit: http://www.agreatchristmas.com/christmas-in-japan-traditions/
http://www.japlanning.com/blog/japlanning-101-christmas-in-japan
credit: http://www.istockphoto.com/jp/%E5%86%99%E7%9C%9F/nativity-scene?excludenudity=true&sort=best&mediatype=photography&phrase=nativity%20scene

 

MEED Course: Day Four

Paul and I have been studying Japanese full time since we arrived here in Japan over 18 months ago. I recently graduated language school but speaking, studying and practicing Japanese is a major part of life that takes up mental and emotional energy, time and resources. It can be both incredibly encouraging and exciting, and also terrifying and debilitatingly discouraging.

So I find it really interesting that, for the most part, this course has not been about how to communicate in Japanese, but simply how to communicate – the motivations, methods, reasons etc about why we communicate. It’s been a little surprising to receive training in English and to learn a new kind of communication skill in English considering the focus of our lives is so much on learning Japanese.

But I get it.

In some ways language FEELS like everything. It is consuming. So much of life is really hard when you can’t speak the local language. Try and imagine not being able to communicate with people for one day (or even just one hour!). It is huge. And yet, somewhat counterintuitively, it is not everything. Language is simply a skill. Skills are things we can learn, even if through great struggles.It’s not simple, it’s not linear, and it is entirely different for everyone, but at the very basic level, speaking a language is simply another skill.

But loving Jesus, christlike character and living for him are not things that we can simply learn. These things are not skills but go to the very core of our being. For me, this course has been a reminder of Jesus. Who he is, how much he loves us, and how very important and urgent it is that we share the good news that we know and love with others, using every opportunity we are given. For his glory alone.

 

MEED Course: Day Three

Just so you can remember that I'm in Japan I give you a token photo of sushi :)

Just so you can remember that I’m in Japan I give you a token photo of Japanese food 🙂

The sessions today were quite varied and enjoyable, but boy am I feeling tired. Here are some reflections from the day.

It was good to focus a bit more specifically on some Japanese context issues. When focusing on the issue of ‘Clear Communication’ it was really helpful to think about some theological/Christian type words, and how we can convey those concepts in Japanese. So many concepts like forgiveness, grace, sin  – things that are central to Christianity – are not really a part of the Japanese worldview and so communicating many biblical concepts is quite challenging. So it was helpful to hear ideas from others and brainstorm together.

I really enjoyed listing both the descriptions of salvation/fruit of salvation and many of the New Testament names and titles of Jesus. It was good for my soul. To reflect on all of the amazing ways that salvation works in someone’s life, the many amazing things that salvation contains. Eternal life, redemption, darkness to light, heaven, death to life, reborn, slavery to freedom are just some from the list. Lamb of God, Way, Truth, Life, Holy One, Cornerstone and so on. What a wonderful God we have! It’s like a breath of fresh, pure, oxygen to the soul to reflect on these things.

The last part of the day, and also the most challenging for me, was part of the session on ‘The Art of Meaningful Conversation’, in particular talking about how to see the world through God’s eyes. How do we use events, conversations etc to hear someone’s worldview, issues brought out by that worldview, what questions, comments, stories can I comment with, and what can I use/do to keep the conversation going if the other person is interested. It was quite difficult.

Today we learned a story from Genesis 16:2-10 and I really enjoyed learning the story, practicing with a partner, and even practicing myself a few times. I think it’s going to be another step altogether to work out how to do the stories in Japanese, but one step at a time. It’s such a good way to memorise scripture too!

Overall I’m finding it quite interesting and helpful, though it is a tiring thing, and I think with having Annie here too it just becomes that extra bit more tiring too. Annie has been amazing, and ‘Auntie’ Rowena has been looking after her during the sessions, but each time we break it means I’m not really getting a break. And evenings are hard too, as it’s not so easy for us to go out to eat with everyone, especially as Annie hasn’t been sleeping well during the day so is often exhausted by the evenings. But I am so glad that I am here, and I am so glad that Annie is here too. 🙂

Multiplying Effective Evangelists and Disciples

This picture has nothing to do with the post - but it's a nice photo, so... enjoy :)

This picture has nothing to do with the post – but it’s a nice photo, so… enjoy 🙂

It certainly has been a full two days. I didn’t get around to writing a post yesterday as little Annelise took a bit too long to get to sleep, and I was too wrecked by the time she was settled, so will catch you up now.

Day 1 of the course, officially called ‘Multiplying Effective Evangelists and Disciples’ was largely focused on setting up a foundation of understanding evangelism. I think it’s fair to say that there wasn’t anything groundbreakingly new to the material, but rather was designed to make sure that we are all coming from the same perspective and place.

The course is actually broken into two parts, the second of which will be held in May next year. For the most part, this first week is focused on evangelism and the second part on discipleship, although of course, we all know that they are interconnected and very difficult to separate.

Day 1 saw us discuss definitions of evangelism, consider different visual representations of evangelism and discipleship, take a look at worldviews and their impact, and finally we discussed ways and stages of relationships.

Most of the work has been done in small groups of 4, 5 or 6 (depending on the table that we sit at), or as a larger group altogether. I think including everyone there must be about 25 people and so the group is a pretty nice size to be able to have larger group feedback, but also to get diversity, which always makes things more interesting.

I really enjoyed discussing various definitions for evangelism and working as a group to think about how we would define evangelism. I feel like that sounds nerdy and perhaps not so interesting, but I think that it was helpful in thinking through what are the central, essential components that make up evangelism. I really liked my groups’ definition which was, “To share what we’ve seen and known about the wonderful news of Jesus in a natural and relevant way.” While I don’t think this is a perfect definition, for me it captures sharing our own testimony of Jesus, the gospel itself, sharing our lives, and doing it in a way that isn’t forced and insensitive. All pretty good things I think.

Thinking through the worldview of our target people group, and the different ‘bricks’ that make up their worldview was helpful too. I sometimes worry though, that we can forget that we too have our own worldviews that need review and consideration as well. It’s always so easy to see the issues in someone else’s worldview, to see where there are ‘bricks’ that are simply unbiblical. It is a lot more difficult to see the issues with our own ‘bricks’. And sometimes we can think that someone else’s worldview is unbiblical simply because it is different to ours. But overall it is quite a helpful exercise.

Day 2 saw us begin the Chronological Bible Storytelling component of the course. It was great to think through what some of the advantages of storytelling are ~short, reproducible, no materials required, can be done anywhere, compelling, easy to listen to, opportunistic~ just to name a few. When Christine (one of the three main teachers) told the “Snake” story, as I listened with my eyes shut to this story that I already knew, I was again struck by the power of the common story. Much like music, a good story told well, quite simply, captures the heart. It captivates and engages. I love stories! So it’s interesting to think about how to use them to connect, share and encourage people towards knowing Jesus.

We also spoke today at length about ways to be ‘Contagious Christians’. Breaking the issue down into three sections makes it easier to remember. Christlike Character + Close Contact + Clear Communication = Contagious Christian. I’ve always loved the word ‘winsome’. I think the idea of being a contagious Christian is the same, but more modern. How are we being winsome? How are we attracting others to Christ? I think this is interesting to consider social skills, personalities, appearance, social status etc. For example: How does someone with very poor social skills, perhaps through no fault of their own, become a contagious Christian? I don’t know the answer, but I do wonder if this is perhaps harder for some than others.

I could go on and on, but this will have to do for now. What with Annie dislocating her little elbow tonight, a quick trip to a Chiropractor, and a few other bits and pieces that have been going on, it is now well and truly time to call it a night. Hope to update again tomorrow. Cheers!

~Thanks to those who encouraged me with my blogging/writing the other day. If you would like to receive my blogs in your inbox (so as not to miss any!) I would be so encouraged by that. Simply pop your name and email in the boxes to the right of the screen there under ‘Subscribe.’ Thanks everyone!~

 

Sapporo Snow and Tokyo Flights

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What a day! Today was day #2 of snow in Hokkaido this winter – and a big dump of snow. It must have been snowing most of the night, and visibility from our place this morning was super low. On any other day this would be a fun, exciting kind of day. As it was, Heidi made up songs about “Thanks for coming snow! I love the snow…” etc. BUT today was also the day that I had a flight from Sapporo to Tokyo booked!!!!

This week from Monday to Friday, OMF is running a training course called MEED – which I think stands for Making Effective Evangelists and Disciples (it could be multiplying ?). I have never really gone away from the family for this period of time (just under a week) and it was kind of a big deal to plan to come. I should add that it was always planned that Annie would join me, she’s a bit too little still to leave behind. Anyway!

The plan was to leave after church, well, to leave church slightly early to get a head start down to the airport. As I was sitting out with the kids, after I while I noticed a had 4 messages on my phone from Alaric (an OMF colleague heading down to Tokyo as well). The highway to the airport was shut, all Jetstar AM flights had been cancelled (including Alaric’s 1pm flight), and so far my flight was still scheduled.

We decided to still try and get there by car, just on the normal roads rather than the highway. After all, we had at the very most, 3 hours up our sleeve to get the 40km to the airport and surely that would be possible. Well, an hour and a half into the trip with no stops for food or toilet despite hungry kids and busting parents, with still 30km to go, we realised that perhaps it wasn’t going to happen. A few frantic phone calls later and miraculously finding the right road without meaning to, Annie and I jumped on a train and were at the airport by 3pm – 35 minutes before the flights’ initial departure time. Just before arriving at the train station I found out that my plane was delayed by an hour – I have never been happier to hear of a delayed flight in my life!! It meant I would make it in time!

So after a hectic and very stressful trip, Annie and I have arrived safely to Tokyo. Annie is asleep in the cot next to me, while I type in the semi-darkness before getting ready for bed. I will try and write a post each night during the course to share about how it is going.

~Just a note about my blog posts. It’s been a while since I have written as each time I have sat down to write one I feel like it’s not clever, good enough, up to the standards that I set myself. This time I’m just going to write, because how can I get better at writing without writing? So here’s to more unedited, quick, getting back into it blog posts~

 

Missions and being a Stay-at-home-Mum

Motherhood - it looks different for all of us.

Looking through my Facebook feed can be dangerous for my emotional health these days. Sweet photos of gorgeous children with fun loving Mama’s, in their new homes by the
sea/forest/mountains/river/amazing coffee shop, playing with their pets, while wearing their new skinny jeans/active wear/ can put a dint in my otherwise robust self esteem. Throw in a few #myamazinglife #sunshinerainbowsandunicorns #sorrynotsorry and my bottom lip begins to quiver.

Because this choice, this big YES to God and this leap into the unknown – the decision to serve Jesus overseas, it means that some things get left behind. Friends, family, the best parks in the world, delicious gluten free cafes – oh, and life as a stay-at-home-Mum.

I used to be a stay at home Mum. I did grocery shopping on Mondays, Play Group on Tuesdays, Ladies Bible Study on Wednesdays, catch up with friends on Fridays, church on Sundays, and a whole lot of other things in all of the in-between moments too. While it might sounds like it was a nice, relaxed lifestyle, let me just say that, no, it wasn’t easy. Life with kids all the time is a huge, important, endless and often exhausting life. But what a privilege to have the time and capacity to be so involved in my children’s lives, and what a joy.

Everyone loves Mama snuggles

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to idolise my children, or live in a world where they are the centre – that only turns them into the little gods that they so want to be. Even as a stay-at-home-Mum there is huge potential to invest in others lives, to serve in your church or community, to love as Christ has loved us. And despite my failures, selfishness and everything else, that is at least how I tried to live.

But the burden I had for the lost was a heavy burden, and one that was not simply going to be lightened by giving some loose change at a Missions Convention. In fact, giving every penny I had wasn’t going to lighten the burden, because the Lord was convicting me not just to give, but to go. My heart (and thankfully Paul’s too) was echoing the cry of Romans 10:14-15.  “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Life is quite different now from what it was. My time is spent between language study and the kids. We have a friend who helps us during the week. I can’t manage without her help and love her for it, but at the same time, I wish I didn’t need any extra help at all. On the other hand, Paul gets to spend more time the girls than he would have otherwise, as we split the time caring for them between both of us. He has enjoyed many special moments with them while I’ve been out studying. But it’s not how I wish it was.

This is my personal sacrifice for the gospel. I know compared to others perhaps it is a more trivial thing. We have not moved to a less developed country. We are not in any danger because of our faith. I know these things, and I am thankful for them. But for me, this is where I feel the cost of living a life for Jesus and not for myself.

I feel it when I wish we could have chosen to go to a church with an amazing kids program in our own language and culture, but instead we attend a church with only a handful of kids, no program and a foreign language.

I feel it when I wish we could have a bigger income to buy that cute little house with a nice backyard, friendly neighbours and enough space for a dog. Instead we are in a small (but cute) apartment, with a balcony we don’t let the kids go out on, and neighbours that we try desperately not to irritate with our noise levels.

I feel it when I wish that my kids didn’t have to experience the stress of adjusting to a new culture and language, to saying goodbye to so many friends and to having parents who barely know how to function in this new place.

I feel it when I wish we could just go on a nice drive to the grandparents place for the weekend, hand over the kids for a break, get fed some good food and enjoy each time with family. Instead, we have Skype and the occasional visit, only to have to say goodbye again.

And yet.

No regrets.

Because a life of obedience is worth it.

Because I am learning to entrust my children to God each day – perhaps more than I might have otherwise. And because my children are will keep learning that there is more to life than just “me”. And when I see my children speaking another language as they play together, or as they play hide and seek in Japanese with their little friends, or as I watch my daughter join in with the local dancing at her sports day, I see what the Lord is teaching them. How he is with them, shaping them and growing them.

Because we get to see God at work in a different part of the world, and can be excited and encouraged by that. Because we get to understand and appreciate another culture, (and another language!!) and how this new culture and language interacts with one another as they love each and love God. We get to experience the broader family of God, and fellowship with other local believers. We may not live close to our biological families, but we are surrounded by brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles.

Because I can draw close to Jesus as I live this uncertain life, full of new challenges, trying moments and embarrassing errors. When all else around me changes, he remains my steady rock, unmoving and unchanged. So this pain of mine, this felt cost and sacrifice of not being a stay-at-home-Mum, is actually not a loss. It may be a cost, but not a loss. For I have in fact gained through this sacrifice. I have gained more than what I could have hoped or expected – and as long as I don’t spend too much time wistfully looking at the very best moments of life displayed on social media, I think I’ll do just fine.

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