Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The latest from Japan

Things are getting worse in the Fukushima/Miyagi area. Please continue praying for those without shelter and those who are migrating. Rob and I live more than 900 miles (by car) from the disaster area and are on a completely different island. People who have family, friends or the means to do so are migrating here for safety.
We're still planning to leave Kumamoto on schedule, but are looking into changing are departure location from Tokyo to another airport even though we aren't scheduled to leave Japan for another two weeks (a week after we intend to leave Kumamoto). Please pray for wisdom for us as we are making these decisions and pray for things to make a turn for the better in the northern part of the country. Thanks.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I'm okay. The tidal wave didn't hit kumamoto nor did the earthquake. Will post a longer update later. thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

4 months to go...

Breakfast in Sapporo with Hokkaido shaped eggs.




Well my time in Japan is winding down. It's hard to believe it's only been two years when it seems like I've been here forever. For that same reason it's difficult imagining what life will be like when I no longer live here. While I'm excited to see family, friends, and excited about planning the next stage of my life with Rob I'm also very intent on enjoying my last few months with students, teachers and church folk.






I'll begin the update with a bit of really sad news. Our soccer team which was one of the top 8 high school teams in the nation last year lost a qualifying game a couple of weeks ago. The wound is still fresh for me and it's difficult for me to even write about it without wanting to cry. I really hoped we'd go all the way this year, but this is the way of high school teams. The news came while I was attending our high school's music concert. I struggled to give my full attention to students who played, sang and generally performed like professionals. Eventually the sting of the loss wore off and I was able to listen with joy and pride for my students (while wishing I was up on that stage performing with them)






I'm not sure if I mentioned in my summer post that Rob and I would be traveling during the month of August. We went to Tokyo and Sapporo. In Tokyo we met up with friends including my former Japanese teacher and visited my former church in Ichigaya. Going to Ichigaya was probably the most fulfilling event of the summer. After being away for a year and a half they were impressed with how much my Japanese had improved and greeted me with warm smiles and hugs--they all still remembered me. I was a little sad that we could not spend more time with them, but we had a date with a volcano.






We rose early on Monday, August 9 to climb Mount Fuji--Japan's highest peak. We'd planned to take the first bus out because we were going to try to complete the 8 hour climb and 4 hour descent in one day. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the bus station the first two buses--leaving only once an hour--were canceled. So we waited nearly two hours and arrived at the mountain at noon. When we got there it was raining. We new it could rain during our climb so we packed rain gear. After eating a tasteless lunch we put on our rain gear and set off. 6 hours later we began our descent soaking wet, cold and exhausted. I was so exhausted I cried as I took a hot bath that night. Thankfully the hard part of our vacation was over. We spent the next five days relaxing in Sapporo--on the northernmost island of Japan.




Sapporo was great in every way, but I was especially happy about two things. First, the weather in the northern part of Japan is cooler than in Kumamoto. This summer was the hottest summer in all of Japan with temperatures as high as 98.6 degrees and 80+ percent humidity it often felt like we were living in a 113 degree sauna. In Sapporo however, our hottest day was 84.2 degrees with not much more than 50% humidity (if that). Needless to say it was a welcome change in temperature. The second reason Sapporo was great is that I got to see some friends from college that I had not seen in about 7 years. Seeing these friends has been my greatest desire since coming to Japan. Now, I feel like I can go home without regret.




But first...




I do have 4 months left in Japan. I am happy to say that after returning from summer vacation my overall motivation and enjoyment of work has increased. Unfortunately, now that winter break is approaching I am beginning to feel exhausted again. Please pray for me in these next four months. Pray that God would increase my motivation and enjoyment of work. Pray that I would also continue to enjoy building relationships with co-workers, students and church members. Pray especially for my work at church that I would give all that I can without overwhelming myself and in the end feel good about the work I have done there. Finally, pray that God would increase my love for Japan and Japanese culture even in these last few months. This request is especially important as I sometimes get frustrated with the culture and this frustration causes me to withdraw from church activities. Feel free, of course to pray for Rob and I as we prepare for and make decisions concerning our future.




In peace.

Friday, July 16, 2010

School's Out for Summer?



がんばる (gambaru): v. hold out, work hard; (popular translation) fight (to win).




Luther High School and Junior High have been officially on summer vacation for one week now. However, most students have not had a break from school and many will not stop taking classes this summer. No, our honors/ college-prep students will take 5, 80 minute classes 4-6 days each week for the duration of the summer. For people in the States this might sound crazy, but the extra classes do help these students get into top universities.




がんばれ (gambare/gambale): what one says when one is cheering for others who are working hard; this form of gambaru is more of a plea for another person/team to hold out or keep going.




Our college-minded students are not the only ones working hard this summer. For our athletes, summer means game time. Our high school swim, baseball, what we translate as "Soft-baseball"--different from softball, and soccer teams all start tournaments this summer in hopes of winning the prefectural title (like state championship) and moving on to the national competition in their respective sport. For these students summer is an exciting time. Our baseball team has already advanced to the second round in their tournament of six rounds.




がんばってください (gambatte kudasai): used for encouraging others to do their best--work hard please; do your best; fight!




In addition to encouraging our atheletes to do their best this summer, Luther also sent students to study abroad and to work in country. This summer one student will work in Miyazaki helping bring aid to people suffering because of a recent epidemic that has caused the government of Miyazaki prefecture (just south east of Kumamoto) to slaughter all of its cows. In August, about 23 students will spend two weeks in Australia for sightseeing and English language study. At the end of August we are sending one student to study in North Dakota for a year. We are all very proud of and excited for what these students have decided to do and the ways they will grow because of it.




がんばった (gambatta): past tense short form of gambaru (gambarimashita--obviously the long form).




The beginning part of the year has been fun, exciting, and trying all at once--but isn't that life? I have often enjoyed getting to know the students. Watching them grow and/ or be interested in English has been exciting. Yet, I have also experienced the disappointment of seeing students who started off on the right foot make drastic turns in the other direction. I have made really meaningful connections with both new students and former students. These are the connections I have to remind myself of when I feel like I am failing to connect with or gain the respect of other students.




がんばります (gambarimasu): I will fight!




Rob and I are planning to two trips away from Kumamoto this summer. Both are in country, but we are hoping that these trips will be restful and refreshing. We planned these trips to escape the 70-80% average humidity of Kumamoto. I'm excited about these times away because more and more I realize I've been feeling a bit (or more) run down. I'm heading up two curriculums this year and have already given 3 messages in Japanese at church over the past 4 months. My emotional energy is waning. Please pray for me this summer that God will use the shorter work days and times away to restore my love for this country, its people, my job, and my co-workers. I haven't yet lost all my love for the categories above, but every little bit helps! Thanks so much.




P.S. Over the past couple of weeks I've felt pleased with my improvement in Japanese...がんばります!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Midterm




*Above are pictures from our school Field Day.

Hello once again from Kumamoto, Japan. The rainy season has begun and it is HUMID here. We are in the middle of midterms here at Luther which means the pressure is high. I only gave one midterm, because most of my classes have presentations instead of midterm exams.

I teach the same curriculum I taught last year: high school 1st year general course English Communication, high school 1st year Sports course English Communication, high school 2nd year English Advanced course English Communication and junior high 1st year English Conversation. You may remember that Sports course students have a special curriculum because their focus is sports. Instead of taking lots of electives or heavy math and science classes they leave campus (most of them) early on Wednesday afternoons for practice. They also practice before school (some as early as 7am) and afterschool (usually until about 6:30/7pm) everyday. English Advanced course (or college prep) students tend to keep the same 7am-6/7pm hours as the athletes only they do not get out early on Wednesdays. Instead they spend these hours--before and after school--in extra classes (an extra hour of math each week for example).

Teaching the same curriculum means that I do not teach the same students. For my junior high classes this is a good thing. By the end of last school year my junior high students had had enough of me and I of them. I do see them from time to time and wonder how they are doing. I even talk with some, but I am glad to no longer have to teach those students. On the other hand I really miss some of my high school students from last year. The English course students are all preparing for college as this is their last year. Because these students speak the most English (or the highest level of English at Luther) it was easy for me to build relationships with them and to hold conversations with them about things other than classwork. For that reason I miss them the most. Yet my favorite class from last year was the Sports class. We had a lot of fun together even though they (as a class) may have had the lowest level of English of all my classes, except junior high. I miss them very much, so I take every opportunity I get to speak with them and go to their games.

With about 9 months left in my term as a J3 I'm nearing the end of what one might consider my own midterm. I am now looking back less at the lessons from last year and the students I love, instead I am trying to figure out what to do with the students I now have, and I'm beginning to look ahead more. Although I do not know where Rob and I will end up, it's exciting simply to explore the possibilities.

As for now, I like my current students more and more every day. I thank God for putting love in my heart for my students, because the job was pretty difficult until recently. As I said goodbye to friends and co-workers in March I started to long for home and grow tired of life in Japan. I lost motivation for learning Japanese, I stopped going to my Japanese church on a regular basis and I no longer enjoyed coming to work. Thanks to your prayers and the encouragement I received from some of you on Facebook, I've been feeling much better. Please continue to pray for me over the next nine months that I stay consistent with teaching, learning Japanese, and participating in church. It takes a lot of strength to live as a foreigner, sometimes I do not have enough. Pray especially that I would find joy in these things and outside of these things so that I will be refreshed by the Holy Spirit in all that I do here.

The Peace of Christ be with you all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Year, New Life


Well, it has been too long since my last update and for that I apologize. In this update I want to share some highlights from the end of 2009 and some hopes for this year.



2009 New Life

On his 60th birthday one member of Oe church began his life anew. By being baptized in the company of other believers this man gave his life to Christ and joined the family of faith. That day a mother and her adult daughter became members of Oe Church, it was a day of celebration for all. A few weeks later another member of the church was baptized, while across town one of Luther's graduating seniors was also baptized. The church in Japan is small, but mighty. Many of the social organizations in Japan are run by churches and many private schools (good schools) are Christian. I am proud to be a part of God's work here, but more than that I am honored to be a witness to all that God is doing in this country. Please continue to pray for the Church here in Japan.

2010 New Year same students

The Fall section of the school year was a little difficult as student behavior worsened after summer vacation. At the beginning of the school year the students were reluctantly obedient at times and at least pretended to be interested in lessons prepared for them. During the middle of the year a couple of my classes became outright defiant. In one class students would be quiet for my Japanese partner teacher and immediately begin talking when I was giving instruction. In another students would simply say 'No' whenever I asked them to do something, or if I called upon them to pronounce a word they would speak as though their tongues had swollen making incoherent sounds. That tension that you feel in your neck and shoulders right now is what I felt every single time I stepped in front of these classes. Teachers who've been teaching at Luther longer than I have told me that the middle of the year is always the toughest for behavior management. Thankfully, one of the classes regained their manners and I have not had a problem from them since. Unfortunately, the assurance that student behavior would improve in this final stretch of the year has not proven true. One class has given up on trying to speak or understand English. Although behavior problems are disheartening I continue to pray for my students and more than that, for their teacher (myself). Please join me in praying for insight, endurance and patience for me as I face these students. Also pray for the students, they too are growing tired and seem to be burning out. Please pray that they would receive a boost of energy to press through this final stretch of the year.

2010 Hopes and Resolutions

The school year ends in just 4 weeks. It has been an exciting year and as I mentioned above a very trying year. I plan on teaching the same curriculum next year that I've been teaching this past year. My hope is that by teaching the same grade level and types of classes I will be able to build upon what I've learned this past year. I'm also hoping to love and be excited for my students next year even though I will miss many of my students from this past year. I along with another J3 teacher were in charge of the junior high English Speaking Society this past year. Unfortunately, in the end we only had one student who was interested in coming every week. So, I'm hoping to gather more student interest next year now that I know more students.

At the end of 2009 I felt convicted that I had not been praying enough for my host country, the church here or my students. So my New Year's resolution is to pray. I've been trying to set aside time, but haven't yet been as consistent as I would like to be with regular prayer times. I'm hoping that this lenten season will help me find a regular time for daily or at least weekly prayer and reflection.

Again, I apologize for taking so long to post this update. I will try to post again before the beginning of the next school year. Blessings to you this lenten season.



Friday, November 27, 2009

Come Emmanuel

The Christmas season is upon us though Thanksgiving is barely past in the States. Yet, with no Thanksgiving to celebrate, Christmas lights have been up since early November in Japan. Rob and I are doing well although I was not able to escape the cold and flu season without catching cold myself. Rob on the other hand has an immune system that is iron strong.

Well this one is for all you sports fans out there. After years of defeat our high school soccer team finally beat its rival Ozu this past week to win the prefectural title. Our principal was so excited he announced in our morning staff meeting that we had won the national title. Apparently there were no dry eyes on the Luther side of the stadium. Unfortunately, I was unable to see the game in Kumamoto, because I was in Fukuoka for Rob's first Sumo match.

Filled with the exciting news of Luther's first win against Ozu we climbed the steps of the arena to find our seats and watch some huge men wearing only a well wrapped piece of cloth around their loins push each other out of a ring made of sand. The first few matches were of lower level wrestlers, but in the evening the better stronger wrestlers competed. This was my second time watching Sumo and let me tell you it was even better the second time around. The best matches of course are the ones with the yokozuna--the champion or strongest Sumo. The current yokozuna is Asashyoryu, a Mongolian. His strongest competitor is Hakuho, also Mongolian. My favorite wrestler (or at least for the moment) is a huge Bulgarian (I think) named Baluto. Well, I was in for a treat because the final bout was between Asashyoryu and Baluto. Baluto looked to be twice the size of Asashyoryu. They pushed and held each other for a good several minutes (it seemed) until finally Asashyoryu grabbed hold of Baluto's belt and lifted him to the ground out of the ring. It was a glorious round. I don't think I calmed down for at least an hour after.

I'll end with a short message prepared for Oe church. May you experience the nearness of God in this Advent season. Please pray for all of us here that we be in good health and for safe travels for all who travel to be with family both in the missionary community here in Japan and for our students who will travel back home to be with their families over the new year holiday and also for our teachers and students who will travel to Tokyo to cheer on our soccer team as they compete in the national tournament.
The Lord be with you all

Isaiah 45: 22 "Turn to me and be saved all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other."
This week Luther Gakuin had its annual tree lighting and candle light vigil. The lights around the campus are beautiful and singing songs really led me into the Christmas spirit. It was really a holy moment standing in the cold among students and friends as the choir sang "O Come Emmanuel." Really that's what Christmas is about: all the world waiting and crying out for a savior.
As we approach Advent and begin our time of reflection, may our hearts be filled with cries of "Come Emmanuel." I pray that we will all experience God with us as we come near the celebration of Jesus' birth. May our every prayer be "Come Lord Jesus, come."
Let us pray: Holy God, in your love for us you put on human flesh. As we approach Christmas let our minds and hearts be on the miracle of that moment and not on the things we must buy. So that we will experience closeness with you this Christmas. Come Emmanuel.

Isaiah 45:”