Friday, August 29, 2014

Concert Announcement

This is a little late, but I'm playing a concert next week in Nayoro, which is 4 or so hours north of Sapporo. The poster is below. For those of you who don't read Japanese, here are the details:

Chapel Concert
Saturday, September 6, 6:30 p.m.
Nayoro Grace Church, Nayoro-shi nishi 9 jo kita 9 chome 21-67
Tel. (01654) 8-7742

I will be playing with pianist, Shino Inoue. Among other things, we will play Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata and Brahms' e minor cello sonata. I'm going to be working really hard this week... :)

Prayer and baby steps

 (I actually wrote this post last week, intending to post it right after Ultraman's post. But life happened, so I didn't. So, please enjoy this post a week late...)

Today’s coffee: Peru. But it’s late in the day. Will I sleep tonight?

Last week I described my freak-out moment on the blog. Today I described it in front of a room full of pastors. That was somewhat intimidating. And yet somehow it was good to share my struggles with them.

I also had a striking realization this morning: although I have been told since I was small that I need to “bring friends to church” and “tell friends about Jesus,” that was the extent of my evangelism training. (And, I basically gave up after my beloved grandmother got angry when I tried to tell her about Jesus.) Even at Regent College, I had no intention of becoming a missionary or a pastor, so I didn’t bother taking any classes geared in that direction. I think part of the problem was that in my concept of evangelism, the bar was way too high. What about the people who don’t care, don’t want to hear, and have a complicated history with Christians and organized religion? How do I relate to such people, and how do I deal with rejection? Because, as I sometimes have to remind myself, I really do believe that what I’m offering has great value—it’s worth risking everything for.

As a follow up to last week, I’ll briefly mention what I’ve learned and tried as a result of the first chapter of I Once Was Lost. To summarize, I learned (although I think I already knew this to be true) that most people start their journey of faith by forming a trust relationship with a Christian. If I don’t have a trust relationship with my neighbors, they’re not going to care what I have to say about matters of faith, and they’re certainly not going to want to come to church with me.

So, I decided to pray for the people in my neighborhood (and spend more time outside in the yard). This does not mean the “God, please give me an opportunity” sorts of prayers. I discovered that for me, those sorts of prayers are self-centered, and I need to take a break from them for a while. I started praying for each person’s well-being and salvation… and guess what? Immediately, something about our relationship with our neighbors changed. The man next door, with whom we’ve never actually talked, brought us a whole bunch of potatoes and a squash. Another time, he came and talked to me when I was working in the garden. Then, Keith rode the same bus home from choir practice with the man from the house on the other side; we had once had a very awkward conversation with him, but this time he chatted with Keith about his family.

We’re now into our fourth year; less than one year left until home assignment. I can’t help but think that there’s not enough time left, but God is capable of working far beyond our expectations.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ultraman's Photo Diary

There's this funny thing we do at church. It sort of started naturally. There's an Ultraman action figure, which probably came from the toy box upstairs. (Ultraman is a superhero character whom Takahashi-sensei fondly remembers from his childhood.) Somehow, Ultraman started showing up around the church in funny places and in funny poses. I'm actually not sure who started it, and I'm not sure who all is participating... but I started taking pictures. So... Wakaba Church proudly presents "Ultraman's Photo Diary."

Flying above the clock:

Keeping the coat-tree company in the summer months:

Trying on Takahashi-sensei's shoes:

...and as a response perhaps, he was found napping in Keith's shoe later the same day:

Trying to blend in with the office supplies:

Hanging out by the mailboxes:

Climbing the wall:

Riding an interesting vehicle:

Relaxing on the bookshelf with a Bible and a bunch of bananas:

Protecting the sanctuary from bad guys:

"Takeishi-san, don't forget your CD!"

In the genkan (entryway): "Welcome to Wakaba!"

To be continued...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Unspoken expectations and freak-out moments

Today’s coffee: Kenya

Today is refreshingly cool. Perhaps it’s a good day to get some work done at the farm. It looks like a jungle with all the weeds, not to mention kabocha-out-of-control. I’m very thankful for cool weather, since last week we had natsubate. That’s a very useful Japanese word which means “feeling tired and gross due to hot, humid weather” or something like that.

In the middle of tired-hot-cranky, and following a conversation last week with our pastor about our future (in which he was very affirming and positive), we went home and had a freak out moment. (No, it's not Takahashi-sensei's fault.) That’s the sort of moment where we wonder if we are really fit to be missionaries. Well, mostly I had the freak-out moment, but Keith sort of did too.

Although Takahashi-sensei praised us for our ability to build relationships with people and encouraged us to “level up” in that area, I felt very strongly that I had failed in the unspoken expectation all missionaries face: you must bring new people into the church. This church. In our year and a half at Wakaba, I brought 2 friends once. They were musicians, and they played with me in our Christmas concert. Honestly, if they were seriously interested, I would want to send them to a church closer to where they live. But as for making friends in the neighborhood and bringing them along to events and such: zero.

I confess that the freak-out moment was not so much caused by my concern for the well-being of people in the neighborhood as for the pain of my own failure to meet others’ expectations, even if they are unspoken, and I had to repent of that. After all, “success” is walking with God. That comes first, even before evangelism. (Please don’t shoot me for saying that… it’s like “putting on your own oxygen mask first before assisting the person next to you.”)

After I had my head on straight again, I picked up a book which had been lurking on the shelf for a number of years. It was a gift from someone; I can’t remember who. (If it was you, let us know, and thanks!) The book is I Once Was Lost by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp, subtitled “What postmodern skeptics taught us about their path to Jesus.” Although the authors’ context is very different from mine (IVCF university ministry in the US), I have found a lot of what I have read so far resonates with things I have learned and observed in Japan. I’ll write more about this book after I’ve finished it, but for now, I’ll just say that I’ve been encouraged to be patient, pray consistently for the people God has put in my life, walk together with those who are on a journey to faith, and trust that God is working in their hearts. But seriously—this book has been super helpful so far!

It seems like we weren’t the only ones to be tired, hot, and cranky—I heard from a number of colleagues about their freak-out moments in the last few weeks. (Please pray for us not to be discouraged or distracted!) Still, I hope other peoples’ freak-out moments have turned out as fruitful as mine did!

p.s. My computer came home. Yay!

Friday, August 08, 2014

Watermelon Pickles

Yes, really. Pickled watermelon rind is my new favorite. Since fruit is so expensive in Japan, I don't want to let any of it go to waste! 

This is a simple, summery Japanese recipe which I found in きょうの料理 (kyou no ryouri, meaning "today's cooking"), my favorite cooking magazine. I wanted to share it in English. They're a little sweet, a little salty, very refreshing... and pretty, too! Not to mention, the ingredients can be found anywhere.

Watermelon rind
Salt: 2% of the weight of the watermelon rind

1. Cut the rind off the watermelon, leaving a bit of the red part. Using a knife or vegetable peeler, peel off the tough outer (dark green) skin.
2. Cut the watermelon rind into small pieces, about an inch long and 1/4 inch wide.
3. Put the watermelon rind and salt in a ziplock bag, and mix it around a bit by squishing the bag with your hands.
4. Wait at least 30 minutes, then enjoy!

These pickles are a great snack on their own, or a side dish for a meal. However, the magazine includes a recipe for marinated watermelon rind pickles and a soup with pork and pickles. I'll probably try those too!

(Sorry for the lack of posts lately; my computer is in the shop, and I'm typing with my thumb on my iPod...)