What is up with…

So, when you go to a new country, you expect new things.  Right?  Common sense.  When you do new things in new countries, you expect new things as well.  But sometimes, you’re just taken by surprise.

Monday I got my hair cut.  It was an impulsive decision that I’d been considering for a future cut (maybe after the summer).  I also didn’t have the guts to go all out as it’s a major hairstyle change.  Previously, when I lived here, my friend’s friend was gracious enough to cut my hair and all I had to do was buy her lunch.  Score for me.  She even came to my house!

I was surprised when she spent about 30-45 minutes just cutting my hair.  Cutting!  She’d cut itsy-bitsy tiny little microscopic pieces so it looked like piles of fluff on the floor.  It was quite impressive.  But my cuts were stellar.

So, I understand friend-of-a-friend has been super busy lately, and it worked out that Vicente took care of Rosalyn and I went for a cut.  I showed up at the shop where original friend now gets her hair cut too (or at least she goes to that chain).  After some Japanese blunders (not a good omen in my opinion, but luckily I’m not superstitious), I was introduced to the person whose hands I was putting my new look in.

The big surprise of the story (besides the roller-coaster ride of my emotions as I decided that I hated, then I loved, then I hated but now I love my haircut) is that when you sit down to get your hair washed prior to the cut, they lay a blanket over your legs.  Then they lean you back and check to make sure you’re comfortable in every possible way (because they’re super conscientious Japanese), and then… they put a light, breathable paper-material thing over your face.

That’s right. You are officially masked while getting your hair washed.  I was so distracted by it that I couldn’t even enjoy the wash!  However, I was better prepared for it the SECOND time they wash your hair, after the cut.  Yup.  Two washes.  Also, they have sleeves in the cover that they wrap around your neck to protect you from the hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces of razor-itchy hair that will be building up around you shortly.  This was a pleasant surprise- sleeves, so you can read.  I think now that I should have taken the hint when she told me the purpose and read a bit, but I chose to be chatty with my stylist.

So, things over your face.  They also do this at the dentist.  Yeah, imagine that.  You are already as uncomfortable as can be with the sound of a drill coming toward you when a towel is wrapped in a circle under your chin and over your eyes.

I have to admit I was pretty terrified the first time.  You should have seen my expression of my eyes under the towel.  Both times!  Of course, they might have had a clue from the various expressions of my eyebrows.

There are other visits to various places that I refuse to recount online.  Let’s just say that this is the milder side of my accounts. Let your imagination run wild, trust me, you have no idea.

My theory on this is that, per Japanese conscientiousness and care, they want to protect you from flying splashes of water or bits of tooth or silver, I suppose, as happened to be [one of] my case[s].  Give me the water and tooth and silver, I want to see!!! But I get it. They’re used to it and prefer things that way.  But still.  Sometimes you’re just taken by surprise.

Building Blocks

A couple of weeks ago, on a busy Saturday, I got a message from my study partner saying that she was going to have to miss our Japanese lesson that day with our teacher.  It’s ok, she’s prego and I TOTALLY get it.  Sleep, enjoy it.  Savor it.  These are your last months together, indulge in some extra sleep!

Back to the story. Sorry, I got a bit distracted there, like a hungry person outside a bakery, rubbing their hands together with glazed eyes.  Sleep, sleep, I miss you!

Ok, I’m back. So, I sent her off to rest while trying to come up with a Plan B for a 2 hour lesson.  On the spur of the moment, I decided I wanted to translate my testimony so as to be able to share it at cell group or even one on one. Not only that but it would be a great opportunity to plant more seeds for this young woman who we spend a couple of hours with every week. Already one week I had a chance to share some testimonies about God demonstrating that A: He’s real and B: He’s powerful in India and things that I saw Him do.  She was really impressed and affected even by some of the stories of the miracles.

I wrote out my testimony and realized that I made logical jumps that within a church or even an American context is understandable due to the familiarity with Christ and Christianity. So, I carefully constructed what the message was that I heard that caused me to turn to Christ. I totally feel like it was the Lord leading and crafting His message to her, just within my story.

Lesson time came and as we were working through the story, she was moved. At the beginning, she said she wanted to cry. Obviously, I know the ending of my story and so I was like, don’t worry! It gets better! As we came to the story of Jesus and why He had to die for our sins, the expression on her face was incredible! She leaned back on the couch and looked up in a face of wonder and amazement– OHHHHHH! NOW I understand! I never knew this before!

It still surprises me when I meet someone who’s never heard.

She had seen pictures in old churches (I think when travelling) and saw the story line in painted glass windows but she didn’t know what it was about. She became more and more animated as we translated and later as she heard the ending, she was literally amazed what God had done in our family.  Of course, when I was writing the testimony, I was careful to include that I realized I needed to make a decision about what I’d heard– if God was real, and if He’d done this, then it required a response.

I’m still waiting for the right time to probe about her response.  We were both worn out at the end of translating (she even stayed a bit longer to help). I’ve since gone over it again with her to make edits and practice reading it smoothly.

But what I take away is this:

-As Christians, we have to be careful not to assume that people make the logical jumps with us. Especially here in an unreached country, the ground has to be prepared extensively to even lay the foundation. We start from scratch here.  No, people aren’t familiar with the stories of the Bible. No, they don’t know why Jesus had to die. No, they don’t usually even know who He is! What does the Resurrection mean anyway? Why is that important? Perhaps practice sharing your own story along these lines.

-Use every opportunity.  It could have been a regular study session.  I could have cancelled class.  But this was a moment God was setting up.

I’m excited to have had such an opportunity. And prayerful and patient now as I wait for God’s work to be done in the heart .

Besides, what’s a testimony really but God’s message to you through what He’s done in me? And what’s better than a testimony producing another testimony?  Perhaps that should always be the aim

An Arm and A Leg and a Baby

Hello hello! Yeah, I’m behind.  This post was intended for last week, but you know how things go.  Part of it was that I wanted to get a few extra pictures for this post.  The other part was that I have another major task going on that has put everything else on hold.  But it’ll be done soon.

So, this week’s new adventure: learning how to ride a bike with a baby strapped to me.

Yeah.

But it wasn’t too bad.  I’ll admit, I was a bit wobbly at first, which is probably more from the fact that it’s been a long time since I’ve ridden.  BUT, goodness gracious, what a time saver!! In a land where a 30 second shortcut makes a difference, this is like a gold mine.  What?? A trip to the grocery store only takes 20-30 minutes?  Before, 20 minutes at least was just walking time, plus carrying all the stuff home!  Which, when you consider that you only buy what you can carry, means frequent trips to the store.

Happy day!  Besides the time factor, having a basket on the bike means that it takes a literal burden off my back.  Carrying an 18lb baby, plus my purse and sometimes her diaper bag and then another 20 lbs of milk, meat, and all that heavy stuff…  I think you get the picture.

Well, for this week’s non-serious post, I thought I’d take you along with me to the grocery store to kinda get a feel for what prices are like.  I get questions about prices all the time.  So, for all you who have asked, this one’s for you.

(So, after adding in all these pictures, it occurred to me that there are other things I could have posted the prices of, like fish, rice, etc. Maybe I’ll save that for next week.  Besides, I kinda looked weird snapping photos in the grocery store anyway. Also, I used today’s exchange rate for the price comparisons.)

 

6 slices of bread. Now, they are a bit thick; you can also get it cut in 8 slices for the same price.  At the current exchange rate, it's about $1.16

6 slices of bread. Now, they are a bit thick; you can also get it cut in 8 slices for the same price. At the current exchange rate, it’s about $1.16

1 Liter (Roughly 1 Quart or 1/4 Gallon) of milk.  $1.41 (or $5.64 per gallon) Also, I have no clue if this is 1% or 2% or whole milk. I know it's not soy by the kanji. But I'm still investigating for Rosalyn's sake when it comes time to give her milk (goodbye formula!!).

1 Liter (Roughly 1 Quart or 1/4 Gallon) of milk. $1.41 (or $5.64 per gallon) Also, I have no clue if this is 1% or 2% or whole milk. I know it’s not soy by the kanji. But I’m still investigating for Rosalyn’s sake when it comes time to give her milk (goodbye formula!!).

Butter (... or margarine?) It's like a butter spread. Right now there is a butter shortage in Japan (you can only buy one at a time), and the price makes me think this isn't the real thing. 2/3 pound = $1.73

Butter (… or margarine?) It’s like a butter spread. Right now there is a butter shortage in Japan (you can only buy one at a time), and the price makes me think this isn’t the real thing. 2/3 pound = $1.73

A Mango. Now, typically I don't buy these, but I wanted to give Rosalyn a break from the limited variety of apples, bananas and pineapple that's available right now. It was a special buy for us. 358 yen= $2.98 Now, for an average size apple here, it's not uncommon to pay about 82cents per apple.

A Mango. Now, typically I don’t buy these, but I wanted to give Rosalyn a break from the limited variety of apples, bananas and pineapple that’s available right now. It was a special buy for us. 358 yen= $2.98 Yup. For one mango. Now, for an average size apple here, it’s not uncommon to pay about 82cents per apple.

4 pieces of asparagus. I believe I paid about 82 cents for this.

4 pieces of asparagus. I believe I paid about 82 cents for this.

Garbanzo beans.  LOOK! English!  I spent a while searching for these. $2.37 a can.

Garbanzo beans. LOOK! English! I spent a while searching for these. $2.37 a can.

Ok, I didn't buy this. Sour cream. $1.98 for roughly a 1/4... CUP.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

Ok, I didn’t buy this. Sour cream. $1.98 for roughly a 1/4… CUP. ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

2 Decent chicken breasts. I can't always find them like this, a lot of the time they have lots of fat. So, 1 pound 2.5 ounces = $3.39

2 Decent chicken breasts. I can’t always find them like this, a lot of the time they have lots of fat. So, 1 pound 2.5 ounces = $3.39

Pork. 1/2 pound = $3.15

Pork. 1/2 pound = $3.15

Beef slices. 11 oz = $3.85  Seriously, meat prices make me want to become a vegetarian.

Beef slices. 11 oz = $3.85 Seriously, meat prices make me want to become a vegetarian.

Lastly, Flour Tortillas.  We usually only get tortillas from Costco, but it's nice to see them in the stores and know that at least they are becoming known. Corn tortillas forget about it.  They can only be found at the foreign food stores for a ridiculous price and they're not even that good. 5 medium size tortillas = $2.21

Lastly, Flour Tortillas. We usually only get tortillas from Costco, but it’s a comfort to see them in the stores and know that at least they are becoming known. Corn tortillas forget about it. They can only be found at the foreign food stores for a ridiculous price and they’re not even that good. 5 medium size flour tortillas = $2.21

 

Remembered

This entire area used to hold homes and businesses and is not laid flat from the tsunami.

This entire area used to hold homes and businesses and is now laid flat from the tsunami.

I suppose something like the day that Kennedy was assassinated, or 9/11, I remember 3/11 very clearly.  Like the whole day.  3/11 of course, March 11, 2011.

That morning was a big morning.  I had two big things to accomplish that day.  I met a fellow missionary and a Japanese friend in Shinyurigaoka to file taxes.  It was like a mountain of a task that I was worried about completing.  I had 4 more days to file and was planning a trip to the states on March 17.  Along those lines, I had to acquire my reentry permit to Japan or else I would have to reenter on only a 90 day tourist visa upon return a month later. After countless lines and windows and papers to fill out, my passport was stamped and I was a happy camper.  I felt accomplished. Filing taxes in a language you can’t read!  Imagine that?  (then again… those US forms are kinda hard to read too…)  I still had about 2 hours to spare before a prayer meeting at 4pm.  I was going to celebrate by taking it easy and grabbing a coffee and perhaps window shopping at a nearby mall. However, I walked into the mall and took a few steps, perhaps 10 at the most and stopped. I had a peculiar feeling,

A family's entire household and family business had to be cleaned and swept out.  They weren't planning on rebuilding after the tsunami, so, everything must be sorted and memories piled up in heaps of trash to be hauled away.  Praise God, the title to his property was found amidst the rubbish and a grateful smile among the sorrow.

A family’s entire household and family business had to be cleaned and swept out. They weren’t planning on rebuilding after the tsunami, so, everything must be sorted and memories piled up in heaps of trash to be hauled away. Praise God, the title to his property was found amidst the rubbish and a grateful smile among the sorrow.

immediately thinking, no, I’m going to go to church and maybe help Christine (a co-director of the mission) make dinner for our team tonight. Out I went, got on the train and then walked to the church.  About 5 minutes after I had arrived at church, the earthquake happened. 2:46pm

It seemed to go on an on.  You could literally see the walls shaking, hear things falling off the shelves upstairs.  As the overhead lamp was swinging violently, I urged our team members to get under the table as it was getting very serious.  It must have been shaking around 2-3 minutes before we ran outside to an fairly empty parking lot.  Our ankles rolled with the ground below as if we were on a boat, though everything looked flat.

I could go on.  Our phones shut off.  The country basically shut down.  Praise the Lord He sent me to the church, else I’d have been stranded.  We watched in horror as live feeds of tsunami waves and victims floating in cars and water and from rooftops waved.   The terror felt multiple times overnight as yet another 5.0  or 6.0 aftershock would wake us up.  It was a rough night. Friends told us that those who were old enough to remember said it reminded them of Japan during the war (World War 2).  Store shelves emptied out.  Trains not running.  Rolling blackouts to conserve energy. People stranded.  Friends desperate to hear from family members in that area.  Uncertainty.  Fear of going outside, fear of nuclear rain, fear of…

As it always happens, people got used to the stories.  They got used to the situation happening up in north Japan, or happening across the world, wherever they were hearing it from. But 4 years later, rebuilding of lives is still taking place.  Closure is lacking.  Some people lost their entire families that day and are the only survivor.  Some are still rebuilding after severe financial loss.  Some are still living in temporary housing.  Many still have loved ones classified as missing, all these years later.  There are orphans.  There are grieving parents marking the day they lost their little ones. The horror of being with their loved ones in those painful last minutes… or the horror of not knowing how their loved ones spent their last minutes.

And while Japan is known as a country that picks itself back up and moves along, I ask, where is the hope for their souls?  Where, amid the terror and the grief of that day, is their hope?  There is a Hope for them.  But who will tell them of Him?

Please pray for Japan today.  Right now even.  Please pray for those still recovering.  Please pray that the Lord will send the someone to tell them about Christ, our Hope.  Christ our Savior.  Eternal salvation.  Just a quick prayer.

For a good article, check out: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/03/11/national/survivors-mark-4-years-since-311-disasters/#.VQBE7On9nmQ

Things I Don’t Want to Spend My Saturday Doing

So, this is another practical side of living overseas edition of this blog.  I don’t know about you, but tax season is definitely NOT my favorite season in the world. I am all for paying taxes– give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, etc. etc. but I’d rather not go to all the trouble of filling out paperwork and keeping records (but I do).

Unfortunately, just because we live overseas does not mean that we get a free-pass on filing US taxes.  All US citizens are required to pay taxes no matter where they live.

But, bonus points for us: We get to fill out taxes here in Japan too!  In Japanese!!  Doesn’t that just make you excited?  Do you know where to begin?  You would probably have the same feelings I have looking at these forms, knowing that you are expected to fill them in: utter confusion, a bit of amusement, and a bit of stress.  And you get exactly one month to do your taxes in Japan– February 15-March 15.

IMG_0362 IMG_0361

FACT: When I lived here in Japan before, I only had to file my taxes once.  Suffice it to say that I was confused, the tax people were confused, I had loads of paperwork and well… we hope I did it correctly.  The day I filed my Japanese taxes: March 11, 2011.  The day of the huge earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Maybe I’ll post on that later.

Anyway, this last Saturday I had an opportunity to sit in on a tax class, which I would have loved to have been a part of those years ago.  This copy that you see above (2 sides; and yes– it’s an actual paper file… e-filing isn’t that big here it seems) is just the deduction sheet… it’s not even the paper(s) for filing. We don’t have to file Japanese taxes this year, but we will next.  I was surprised to find a lot of the female-halves of the marriages represented.  We all sat around a table, harassed the AWESOME girl who helped organize the “party” with lots of specific questions (what about…you fill in the blank).  And there was chocolate in the middle.  It was just what we all needed.

Being a missionary living overseas requires a lot of paperwork and record keeping.  Technically, we’re a self-employed people, and our expenses and records-keeping are similar to those who own their own business, so to speak.  Just tonight,  I sat down with Vicente to work through how you do this kind of record keeping with receipts in a foreign language and exchange rates and converting the TONS of receipts we have.  I’ll keep doing it, I don’t mind and it’s easier for me to figure out what the receipts are for, but we both need to know how to do it.

This is fun stuff guys.

Well, not at all.  But it’s a necessary part of life, only more complicated living overseas.

So, now you know another facet of what I spend significant time doing.

As Promised

So, a week ago, we hosted the brand new, newly-multiplied baby cell group meeting, entitled Groundbreakers (more on that in a minute).

After  loads of legit cleaning every last speck of dust, everything was perfect. Our 2 two-person sofas, 4 chairs and floor cushions positioned if necessary.  Laptop tuned into a youtube power-point for worship.

At 7:30, start-time, there are only the leaders, us and two other members.  Where are the other 7+ other people we’re expecting??  Well, the leader reminds us that it doesn’t matter, we’re going to go on just as if we had lots of visitors and it was the most exciting meeting ever, because it was going to be.

I (Janine) had the privilege to lead the discussion that evening based on the previous Sunday’s message, which happened to be joy.  It was a great discussion time, and by the end of the evening, another 4 people had showed up, one of which was a first-timer who I had met only once before.  She seemed to connect well with everyone and we hope will be able to come more in the future!  Lots was accomplished that night and we all ended the evening feeling like it was an excellent beginning.

Groundbreakers was the name chosen by Vicente before the group was even officially going to multiply.  It’s sooo appropriate and at the time, he wasn’t completely aware of all the different meanings that it can carry:

-Groundbreaking– a new and exciting advancement in a field

-To Break Ground- To start a new project, like a building

-To Break Ground- Spiritually speaking, to break up hard ground to be used to plant seeds

-Breaking on the Ground- Essentially where break dancers spend most of their time.

When he suggested it to me, I felt like it was a perfect description on so many levels.  And everyone else felt that way too.  So when it came time to choose a name for the group, it was obvious what it should be.

We are praying for a groundbreaking work to be done breaking ground in this area, using break dance as well!  If you feel inspired to pray along those lines, we would appreciate it too!