31 March, 2015

Easter holidays

 My birthday is on Good Friday. There's been various plans made for that day over the last three months. Finally something is sorted. 

But when I was told someone about what we'd be doing the days after Friday, they recoiled a little. I honestly didn't think it was that bad, but compared to a family who only goes away once or twice a year and has never moved overseas, I guess it might look horrendous. That hasn't been the only person who's commented, so I've rethought. Perhaps we have planned quite a lot for our Easter holidays! 

This is where we're going camping, near Cania Dam.
 We camped there in September last year too. Very much
looking forward to spending time here again.
But again, our context is that we've only got 12 months to spend time with people, especially family. We need to push ourselves a little beyond what is comfortable in order to manage it all, especially given our families are spread out across the state, so that it would take 10 hrs constant driving to visit them all.

8.30 church
Family fun at a lake about an hour from here with other families from church.
Drive to Toowoomba (another 1h 45 minutes) to stay with my parents.

Saturday to Monday
Catching up with a few friends.
Our eldest will go to Easterfest on Saturday with friends.

Drive four hours north to go camping till Friday with some of David's family. We probably won't see most of them again for three years.

Drive three hours out to the coast to stay with friends and supporters over night.

Drive three hours south, stopping for the night with supporters.

Drive an hour to speak at a church on Bribie Is. followed by lunch with an OMF Prayer group.
Drive three hours home.

Monday to Thursday
Hang out at home (David has to work Tue-Thu).

Friday to Sunday
We split up. David and Callum go to Canberra for National Titles in wrestling and Wendy stays home with the other two.

Here ends our 17 day school holidays. Back to school for all.

Yes, perhaps a little crazy, but not too bad.

I'm so thankful, though, that we have the opportunity to be at home this year, even though it has been busy. Many of our friends in Japan don't get that chance.

27 March, 2015

Un-enrol and re-enrol!

This week we did some more school paperwork.

1. Notice of withdrawal: we told the school we'd be leaving at the end of next term. A little sad, but planned.

2. Re-enrol: they suggested that we start the re-enrolment process for 2018 now.


To fill out forms to enrol our youngest two sons in grades 8 and 10 is a little shocking.

Alas, it is another feature of our on the edge of ordinary lives—planning ahead several years. Or trying to.

The school said to get back in touch in 2017 to let them know if our plans have changed. We'll see I guess. 

26 March, 2015

A bad day at church

This is the car we drove around in when we were in Canberra.
I can tell you we had a few "issues" in such close personal
contact there. One big reason that we drive a large van
(old 8-seater Tarago) in Queensland is to help with "issues".
We had a bad start to church yesterday morning. Thankfully we were at our home church. Two of our boys set down criteria about who and where they'd sit or not sit. One of them's been doing it for months, and that has been workable, but when his brother hit back with his own requirement it became undoable. And no one would back down. They wouldn't stop whinging about it and snipping across our row, either.  

So after 15 minutes of this (thankfully we were 15 minutes early), I took one outside to have it out with me. I told him he had not allowed me to get my heart ready for worship. But he wouldn't back down. He just wanted to keep arguing. So I left him outside. He eventually came back in, but didn't sit with us until later in the service after his brother had left for kids church.

I tell you I was ever so close to shouting at the two of them in church. It was awful.

An elder's wife said to David afterwards, "It's nice to see your boys have issues sometimes too." He was quick to reassure her that they often have "issues". Though usually these happen privately.

I always endeavour to be honest, but I guess people tend to think that the kids of people in public positions like ours are better than the average child. Not true! They are sinners, just like we are. And though we might hide it better than some, we all have issues!

On this same line of thinking, I found some interesting thoughts here about being open and honest with our supporters. Here's a quote:
I think it’s time we disassembled our defensive fronts of perfection. I think it’s time we opened up about our struggles. I think it’s time we let our senders know that we, too, are working out our Faith.
It’s time we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. It’s time we gave ourselves permission to mess up. It’s time we quit trying to have all the answers.
Of course as soon as we go down this route we risk being misunderstood, criticised or hurt. But somehow, somewhere, with some supporters, we need to take that step of being real.

Clash of parenting expectations

Something's gotten under my skin and I'm having trouble letting it go, so I'm going to write about it.
Our boys have met a lot of people over the
year. They've done really well.

Last week we had a picnic lunch with a missionary family. They're home, doing the same thing as us, but over a shorter period. They are also doing their first home assignment with a child. They admitted it was different. It affected how crowded they allowed their schedule to get and they've made sure they factored in family down-time. That was all new for them.

We've never done any deputation without a child (oh, a couple of low-key months before our eldest was born, before we left for Japan the first time). So we're quite aware of how to  do this type of work with children in tow. OUR children in tow. We know our boys well and make judgment calls all the time as to how much we expect of them. It is a fine balancing act, keeping our expectations within the limits of what we can all cope with as a family.

I've written a couple of times previously about the challenges of parenting during this year (for example in Perth). It's not easy.

Our family is largely made up of introverts. As a family we get overwhelmed by a lot of social time. 
Our family has active boys. As a family we struggle if they are required to sit quietly and converse or listen to conversation for long periods of time.
Our family has three intelligent boys. As a family we struggle if they find themselves bored. Polite conversation is not sufficient to engage them for long periods.

In general people have been wonderful about accommodating us. We've had someone hold an event at a venue with a pool so the boys could swim while we talked. We even had one family plan a "private movie party" for our boys while we talked with the family for a few hours, astutely discerning that our boys needed some time-out from people at that particular time.

I am frustrated when people place expectations on us that we judge to be too big or unrealistic for our family to cope with. Especially when it is implied that our kids are not "up to the standard" that people expect of their own kids. Perhaps I'm being too sensitive.

What people who have unrealistic expectations of us (and there actually haven't been too many) generally don't get is the bigger picture. We spend a lot of time socialising during this year. Yes, we speak at meetings and at churches, but the majority of our time is talking informally to people, primarily answering questions. Mostly answering the same questions.

Our weekends can be full of doing stuff that is stressful (given the above dynamics of our family). The boys have spent the year meeting people they can't remember ever meeting before. Putting up with us having myriad conversations that they aren't interested in, because they've heard most of it before. Few people try to engage our boys, they get stuck on the fringes waiting for us time and time again.

So no, I won't apologise for looking after my family's wellbeing. For having lower expectations of them in a particular situation than others might deem prudent. They've done a magnificent job coping with many different churches, lots of travel, and meeting many new people. Not to mention a move to a country they don't know a lot about, leaving behind friends and familiar places, and a change of schools and churches.

25 March, 2015

Super sized weekend

The weekend turned out to be another super duper one. I won't bore you with the details, here's a summary:
  • We went to Toowoomba, the place of my birth and where my parents and one of my sisters lives.
  • While there we saw David's sister who was showing her alpacas at the Toowoomba show.
  • My parents we on a steam-train journey for the weekend. When I dropped them off at the station on Saturday morning I got to see the train.
  • I had a morning-tea birthday party with my two sisters, one of whom had a birthday. Six of our nine children were there too. It's the first time in many years that I've been with my sister on her birthday and seen her open her gifts. Such a blessing.
    Yummy homemade ice-cream cake (I didn't make it).
  • We went to the Toowoomba show on its last afternoon. Bad decision. Many of the exhibits, especially the animals, were already packed up.
  • We were ambushed by a sizeable storm while we were at the show. Thankfully we found shelter, but when all the evening entertainment was cancelled we decided to cut our losses and go home. Walking through the rain to the car pretty much saturated us. (We had no umbrellas, who carries umbrellas in Queensland?) When we got back to mum and dad's house we found all the power points were out (rang the electrician and owner: dad, who got us fixed up super quick).
  • Sunday morning we visited another supporting church. We're getting pretty tired of doing this, but it was a good visit nonetheless. One boy asked, "How many times have you told that tsunami story?" Yep, we're getting tired of telling the same stories.
  • It didn't take us long to get home (just over an hour) and we had a quiet afternoon. I'm thankful for that after a crazy social weekend.
This was one exhibit that was still open: the model trains.
Amazing attention to detail. The club has their own building
on the show ground property.

23 March, 2015

Nostalgic Song

The song takes me straight back to this kind of scene (view of
the houses across the road from our house in Tokyo).
I just clicked on this link, ah nostalgia (or natsukashii in Japanese). 

It is the Tokyo sunset song, the song we hear played over the loudspeakers every night we're in Tokyo. From what I gather, a song is played in most towns across Japan (read the article for the dual reasons), but the song differs from place to place.

22 March, 2015

Flying and mission

We got back from a big weekend just a couple of hours ago. It's been a good weekend but I really don't have it in me to write much now. I can point you to someone else's blog post and add a little of my own, though.

10 Things Flying Taught Me About Mission
1. Pre flight inspections are a good idea
          Preparation is vital. Included in that is stuff you don't realise you'll need, like waiting and trusting God to provide while you still have your supports around you.

2. Communication matters 
          Oh yeah. We've tried to consistently communicate well with supporters. But communication on the field is probably even more important. Being a lone wolf and just doing your own thing isn't helpful, though very tempting.

3. One-uppers happen: 
          People who want to "one up" your story.

4. Landing is one of the most dangerous parts of flying.
          Landing, both in your country of service and back in your home country.

5. Landing is very different from flying over a place.
          Yes, whenever people who've had a tourist trip to Japan enthuse about the country and its people I struggle to control myself.

6. Most, but not all, the obstacles are on the map.
           There are many unexpected challenges, things you didn't realise you'd face. For example, having to learn how to say your name differently or having to talk in Japanese to a nurse over an intercom at 3am when your child's pulled out their IV in hospital.

7. Don't judge another passenger's anxiety.
           Yep, especially learned that during March 2011 when we had a nuclear incident because the tsunami flooded a nuclear power plant. Many people because very anxious, especially foreigners. It was hard not to judge.

8. Toilets are different.
            Enough said. Thankfully most Japanese toilets are different in a better way (though millions of buttons can be confusing).

9. You don't always get to choose your travel buddies.
            Certainly true of mission. And you get thrown together in way more stressful situations than in your home country. But as a result you make friendships that are so precious that you'll be forever scarred when you return home.

10. Sometimes you lose stuff
            Yes, but sometimes it's good stuff, like: ignorance, pride, self-reliance.

19 March, 2015

Learning to drive

Our eldest turns 16 in a couple of months, only weeks before we return to Japan. Our friends are beginning to moan about the 100 hrs practise required for their maturing teenagers. So periodically we're fielding questions about him getting his licence.
This is a wide road!

At this point it's all on ice. He'll have to learn sometime later when he's back in Australia.

It has been suggested that he could learn to drive in Japan, but from a little bit of research, that sounds like a little too much for us to cope with (unless we were desperate). Here are some blog posts about foreigners getting a driver's licence in Japan:

Learning to drive in Japan: http://www.alientimes.org/Main/GettingAJapaneseDriversLicenseFromScratch



Personal experience:


We're very fortunate as Australians, we didn't have to do a test to get our Japanese licences because they have a bilateral agreement with Australia and over 20 other countries. Americans, along with many others, have to do a practical test and it isn't common to pass that first time around (see here).

18 March, 2015

How do you do?

I'm have a stack of ideas . . . and none. I guess probably a little on edge because we're working tonight—we're speaking for a couple of hours. A bit of logistical juggling too, because we're leaving the boys here with a friend and I need to take care of dinner . . . that always makes me a bit tense.
On the coast near Yeppoon before Christmas with
my darling. We're still teenagers: we've only been
married 17 years.

Anyway, here's something I saw on Sarah's blog a few weeks ago that I thought might be interesting to put out there. I'd love to see your answers too.

1.  Were you named after anyone?

2.  When was the last time you cried?
While watching a youtube video this morning, does that count? Crying about something in my own life it would be March 1, when a new friend asked about how we cope with all the goodbyes.

3.  Do you like your handwriting?
No. I was once told during a student prac. placement that my handwriting was "childish". :-(

4.  What is your favourite lunch meat?
I don't think I have one. There aren't many options in Japan. Ham or ham...

5.  Do you have kids?
Yes, three, all boys.

6.  If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
Probably. I like being friends with people.

7.  Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Depends where I live. I use it more in Australia. I'm not even sure if Japanese people use sarcasm.

8.  Do you still have your tonsils?

9.  Would you bungee jump.
Ah, no.

10.  What is your favourite cereal?
Homemade unbaked muesli (US=granola). I've made my own muesli since I left uni. I eat it with fruit (usually peach or banana slices) and yoghurt.

11.  Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
Again depends on the country. Generally no in Japan and yes in Australia.

12.  Do you think you are strong?
Physically I know I'm not. Having a wrestler in the house will do that for you!
Spiritually I know that God is my strength. Without him, I can't imagine living life.

13.  What is your favourite icecream?
That's hard. Probably anything with cheesecake flavour (spoiled by Baskin and Robins).

14.  What is the first thing you notice about people?
Another hard one. Recently I've been looking at earrings. But generally speaking, I'd say an overall impression. I often come away from talking with someone with no idea of what they were wearing.

15.  Red or pink?

16.  What is the thing you least like about yourself?
My tummy.

17.  Who do you miss the most?
I try to enjoy who I have in my life at the moment, otherwise life would be too sad because I live away from a lot of people I love. Having lived in Japan 12 of the last 14 years I've developed strong ties there as well as in Australia. So now it doesn't matter where I live, I miss people.

18.  What colour pants and shoes are you wearing?
Navy tracksuit pants and bare feet.

19.  What was the last thing you ate?
Turkish delight.

20.  What are you listening to right now?
Birds singing outside.

21.  If you were a crayon, what colour would you be?
Green, or purple.

22.  Favourite smells?
Eucalyptus and onion cooking.

23.  Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
I talked to my middle son yesterday afternoon. He phoned to tell us he'd be home late because he had an inter school futsal match. That was rare communication from him, I was chuffed.

24.  Favourite sports to watch?
Cricket. I also love watching my son wrestle.

25.  Hair colour?

26.  Eye colour?

27.  Do you wear contacts?
No, although I have in the past (for sport and my wedding).

28.  Favourite food (not dessert)?
Another toughie. Roast chicken?

29.  Scary movies or happy endings?
Happy endings.

30.  Last movie you watched?
Um....Paper Planes?

31.  What colour shirt are you wearing?

32.  Summer or winter?
I hate questions like this. Seasons are so different in different places. Generally I prefer stable temps in the 20s (Celsius), whatever that may be called where you are.

33.  Hugs or kisses?

34.  Favourite dessert?

35.  What book are you reading now?
Several, as per usual. Two are about writing or design. My wind-down to sleep is currently Montebello by Robert Drewe, an unusual Australian memoir. Oh, and the Bible, as usual.

36.  What is on your mouse pad?
I have a MacBook, no mouse pad -- a touch pad.

37.  What did you watch on TV last night?
I caught the latter half of a NCIS episode.

38.  Favourite sound?
Rainforest sounds.

39.  Rolling Stones or Beatles?
Before my time! Beatles.

40.  What is the furthered you've been from home?
Northernmost tip of Japan.

41.  Do you have a special talent?
Um, I'm a bit of a jack-of-many-trades. Probably my favourite thing to do is communicate.

42.  Where were you born?

Not so many of my friends are blogging anymore, it seems. But I'd love to see your answers to these. Perhaps in comments below?

17 March, 2015

What sort of sushi is that?

I've been quite disappointed at Australian sushi rolls or makisushi. We haven't been to a sushi restaurant (we like sushi, but not those with raw fish or fish eggs etc), but there are plenty of "fast food" outlets in shopping centres selling them.

First it is hard to decide which who choose, because the fillings are unfamiliar. They're not traditional at all.
Sorry for another blurry photo, my phone doesn't take good
close-up photos.
Second, the rice to content ratio is quite wrong. Some of the rolls seem to have almost no rice at all. In Japan the contents take second place to the rice.

Third, they are expensive. Up to three times more expensive than in Japan. Some of that probably comes from the excess amount of filling.

All in all, the proprietors of these chains have done what every other country does when they export a dish, they've modified it to suit Australian tastes. Western food doesn't taste the same in Japan either, except for fast food chains, like Maccas, but even then the menu is different.

These shops are very popular, though. And I can see the appeal. The serving size is small, relatively cheap compared to other takeaway food available, and relatively healthy.

So, in Australia we've tended to "eat Australian". We have the luxury to wait till we get back to the country-of-origin before indulging in Japanese food.*

*We did find one good, budget-level Japanese restaurant, but we haven't looked hard.

16 March, 2015

So, how was your weekend?

I'm really slipping here! Daily blog writing is my goal, but with the way things are for our family right now, it isn't working out that way. Perhaps when we get back to a more normal routine in Japan in August?

Anyways, our weekend was like this:

Morning: Wrestling training for the boys. Gym work for us.
Afternoon: Cricket. Yes, finally got to see some live cricket. 
Evening: Pushing a boy through an assignment

Morning: Church, our home church.
Afternoon: Nothing! We rested, played computer games, ate. Nothing else.
Evening: David and I had an at-home date.

By last night I was feeling pretty rested. Yep, it was a good weekend. Here are some more details.

We watched a couple of hours of two state teams playing one another in a first class (4 day) match. Queensland vs South Australia. It wasn't highly exciting, but unexpectedly relaxing. Great to have actually been inside a stadium while someone's playing. I loved it.

The most stressful thing was that I had a mild headache through the afternoon and then we had public transport woes on the way home. What should have taken one hour, took two and we were all a bit disgusted by that. Not entirely the fault of the public transport (they did have electricity out on our train line), in the heat of the moment we impulsively made decisions that seemed okay at the time, but turned out to be bad.

David noted as we neared home that it had been great to get out and do something just for fun. Just for us. So much of what we do socially is purposeful, it's because of our job that we're catching up with people, having them over, talking, talking, talking. Sounds a bit cold, but it's true. If we were just here long term, we'd see people, but not so many in such a short period of time. It's been intense. So going to the cricket was just for us and it was super!

Yep, still struggling with that boy (see here). The school is working with us and we've sought some professional help that hopefully will help him get some better coping strategies for the future. So I'm feeling more hopeful, but it is still hard. Great to know that lots of people are praying for us all.

Being back at our home church was great. We'd only been away one weekend, but it felt longer. We just feel comfortable and accepted there. Not as if we have a special label on our heads. We can relax.

Plus, people told us they were praying for us. That is something I struggle with in Japan sometimes, not knowing if people are praying, so it's encouraging to hear it face-to-face.

Doing Nothing
Coming home after church and eating lunch with just us. Then blobbing for the whole afternoon followed by another meal with just us. That was awesome and happens all too rarely at present.

At-home Date
Well you don't need the details of that, but, like the cricket, it was nice to just kick back and do fun stuff. Many of our evenings have been busy out (including youth group, wrestling, meetings, Bible studies etc), even the ones at home we've been helping our son with assignment work. So Sunday night was good.

I continue to be thankful for the many blessings and am trying to rely on God my Rock for strength every day.

13 March, 2015

150 birthday celebration

OMF "turns" 150 this year. 150 years ago Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission (which became Overseas Missionary Fellowship and then OMF International). If you'd like a neat summary of our organisation's development, check out this video.
OMF's been a part of our journey since 1993. That year
David and I went as singles on an OMF study tour
to Indonesia. In 2000 we left for Japan as a family of
three. It's been an exciting journey and we're excited
about celebrating this huge milestone in July.

We're having a big celebration for several days in July in Asia. Because there are so many of us (1,300 plus), we need some helpers, especially with the children. They're asking for 150 helpers! Are you interested? Maybe available?

Please contact marilyn.fuller@omfmail.com, for further information. Volunteers for the conference volunteer team should also be at least 18, they should love Jesus and have a heart to serve. Please contact Jen Oates 2015.ServeAsia@omfmail.com for further information about that.
Find the opportunities on the web at:

12 March, 2015

Our working holiday weekend

It's Thursday and I'm writing about last weekend. What? That's just how the week has rolled, I'm afraid.

Last Thursday night we flew to Canberra and stayed at a motel for the night.

Friday morning the boys were thrilled to find they could have a buffet breakfast. I tell you, we got our money's worth out of that breakfast!

Then we spent the day visiting two families in different parts of the city, breaking it up with a picnic lunch on our own and a brief visit to the Australia War Memorial. The weather was much cooler than Brisbane (we'd come from about 40 degrees C on Thursday), crisp, clear and dry, oh so dry.

It was a day of intense conversation, enjoyable, but thoroughly exhausting.

We squished into our borrowed car at about 6pm and headed south to Jindabyne (see here for more info on that township). It was odd to be driving in such a small car, but we
The car we gratefully used for the weekend. We needed
help to get all our luggage to and from the campsite.
survived fairly well for most of the journey, until our long limbed teenager began to complain. Thankfully I'm smaller than him and we switched seats for the rest of the journey. 

When we arrived people were socialising over supper in the dining room, so, to get a feel for everything I joined in (not because I was hungry). The last thing I actually felt like doing, though, was more talking! But thankfully people were friendly and it wasn't too hard.

Lake Jindabyne, part of the Snowy Mountain
Hydroelectric Scheme. This view was from the access road
to the campsite.
The next morning was the heaviest of the long-weekend. They'd scheduled a full morning of talks (basically two long sermons). The room initially looked very comfortable, with everyone seated on lounge chairs. But I found them as difficult as most lounge chairs without extra cushions: the seat base was too long, forcing me to slouch or curl up my legs.

Beautiful spot, don't you think? The accommodation was
wonderful too. If you're ever down that way, check out the
Adventist Alpine Village.
 They have self-contained chalets
as well as caravan and tenting spots. 
Lunch that day was an off-site BBQ where the many children and teens played in the park. That was a great time that marked a turning point for our boys in relating to other people. From that point on we hardly saw some of them. Thankfully we had the rest of the afternoon off for free time and then an evening of fun games.

But our main work on the weekend was talking to people. I think I was one of the last people to leave the dining room almost every meal (apart from those who were on kitchen duty). What a privilege to get to spend so much time with one supporting church. 

View from our chalet's verandah.
And wildlife. This wombat was wandering around near our
cabin one evening.
We did get a chance to talk up the front later on Sunday night for about 40 minutes. I found that time-slot a struggle, it was getting close to my Cinderella hour and most people looked a bit sleepy! But the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. My "hats" presentation continues to connect well with people.

Kangaroos everywhere, morning and evening.
After lunch on Monday we drove back to Canberra. There was much unrest in the car (we were tired and it was squishy). Thankfully I struck on the conversational strategy of hypotheticals. For example, "What sort of place (seaside, mountains, hot, cold, etc.) would you live in, if you had total freedom in that choice?" It carried us through to the end of our journey, the airport.

Another view from our verandah.
Flying domestically is such a breeze! But by the time we arrived home, at about 8.30pm, we were done-in. It was a bit of a nightmare, actually. Just getting boys to bed, let alone the other tasks of unpacking, washing clothes, preparing lunches for the next day was enough. But we had no internet. A virtual disaster when one person was looking forward to connecting with his buddies again online. It didn't end well.

The next day we were up and into things, no respite. After dropping the boys at school I had a physio appointment, got a haircut and my licence renewed and did grocery shopping, taking time for some clothes shopping as well. That afternoon I spent ages sitting outside (the only place where the internet dongle would work, our Plan B when broadband isn't working) catching up on email that had piled up over the weekend.

You can see why I'm only just starting to surface now. Oh, and that's not telling you about my personal health challenges . . . nothing big, just need to get to the doctor for some antibiotics tomorrow . . . and a certain assignment that wasn't getting done.

Nonetheless, I'm glad we made the effort to go to Canberra and this church camp. It was a worthwhile weekend. On the other hand I am thankful this coming weekend is much quieter!

11 March, 2015

Grief, yet we trust

It's been several days since I could get to writing here. It's ironic that lately it's the times that give me most to write about that keep me from writing here (eg. away at a church camp with no internet). 

The long weekend away has 
This is where we last saw our colleague, at our national
conference in Japan in 2013. I well remember talking
with his wife about their young daughter, whom they
had adopted after many years of not being able to
have children.
given me much to write about. But because I try to keep it to one main idea per post, I'm going to have to limit myself today to grief.

Last week we heard that a beloved colleague of our in Japan died from cancer, the third in about eight years we've lost. Another colleague wrote this (from here):

The OMF Japan family is grieving. The Lord called home a respected, godly, much loved co-worker in the early hours of this morning. He leaves behind his wife and 3-year-old daughter, and a legacy of faithfulness that has changed many lives. I wish you could know him. I wish I had known him longer. As believers in Jesus, we can look forward to seeing our dear brother again in glory.
Not 24 hours later we heard that David's cousin, who'd also been struggling with an aggressive cancer, had passed away. Both left behind spouses and a young child or children.

Neither were geographically close enough for us to help in any way or attend the funerals. 

So, once again we're grieving at a distance. Groaning with creation in the imperfections of this world. But at the same time looking forward to heaven where there will be no grief.
"‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”” (Revelations 21:4, 5a, NIV).
Then, today's date is also significant. It is the day that more than 18,000 people lost their lives in Japan four years ago. The day of the 9.0 earthquake, the giant tsunami, and the start of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

The wife of our colleague in Japan prayed this at the hospital last week: 
“Lord, I still have many questions. There are things that I do not understand. But I choose to trust and believe in you...”
I agree. I have questions, but I choose to trust and believe.

I believe in a God about whom this is written:
"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.  For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone" (Lamentations 3:31-33, NIV).
So, though I don't understand. I trust in the only one I know who has unfailing love. I pray that I, as well as those much closer to the ones who died, would: 
"... have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:18-19, NIV).