29 June, 2015

Hi from Tokyo

We arrived last night at our mission's guest home 16 hours after leaving our holiday apartment on the Gold Coast. That included a five minute taxi ride, one eight and a half hour plane ride, and over an hour on two trains. And, obviously, several hours at both the Gold Coast and Narita (Tokyo International) airports.
The sky as we flew into Japan last night. Photo
taken by our 10 y.o. from his seat.

I'm happy to report that we had a fairly smooth journey. We weren't overweight in our luggage. And we were barely looked at by customs as we came into Japan (they are two of our big concerns as we travel between countries).

This morning after breakfast we went for a wander to the shops to pick up some important or not so important bits and pieces. We also enjoyed some day-to-day Japanese food/experiences we've missed. The boys particularly had many moments of recognition of things that they'd forgotten, and enjoyed re-experiencing.

Tomorrow we head off on some more travel (work-related), so I'll be off the radar for about a week. But next Tuesday is the red-letter day as we'll be headed "home" early in the morning.

"Home" meaning the same home we lived in Tokyo from July 2010 to June last year. Yes, it still has all our stuff in it and we'll enjoy reacquainting ourselves with life there. 

School doesn't start until August 25th, so we're at the start of our long summer holidays.

I'd like to say that hopefully things will start to settle down a bit from next Tuesday when we're "home", but July still holds even more travel: but this time for holidays and camping. So realistically "settling down" to a more usual home-based routine,and that includes blogging, won't be happening for another four weeks. But it is something to look forward to.

27 June, 2015

Airlock time

I'm writing from a small apartment on the Gold Coast. I can see the Pacific ocean and the beach as I type. In 25 hours we'll be settling into our seats on the aeroplane that will take us away from Australia and into Asia. 

We'll miss Australia, our friends, and family. The food, language, space, climate, and relaxed attitudes. 

We're tired, though. Leaving has been like a marathon of goodbyes and endless lists of things to do. It will be good to walk away from all that.

We are treasuring these two nights on the Coast. They are like an airlock between countries. Here we don't know anyone (or if we do, we haven't told them where we are). We're geographically separated from where we were living, so we weren't tempted to leave things to the last minute. We're doing a little bit of admin (like last-minute email checking, activating our travel-SIM card, sorting out what Australian cash we have, repacking our bags (for the umpteenth time) and finally, handing back our car to the people who bought it for us last year. Before we get back to Japan where we'll have to work to do in settling back in to the country.

But July holds a variety of other things, including a conference, holidays with my parents, and a camping trip. So some more down-time, before we jump back into our roles in August.

Therefore, bye for now. See you from the other side, maybe even on Monday.

25 June, 2015

No second class missionaries

We are, in three days, returning to Japan and ministries that are classed as "support ministries". We aren't "front-line" missionaries. It is a division that doesn't actually officially exist in our mission. But is often referred to informally by churches or individuals. 
My husband, doing his job as a teacher of kids,
40% of who are missionary kids.

Put simply:

  • "Front-line" missionaries are those doing church planting or evangelism.
  • "Support" missionaries are those supporting other missionaries. Like accountants, IT experts, medical advisers, teachers of missionary children, admin staff, publishers, guest home mangers, pastoral care etc.
  • Others doing work like medical, relief, community development fit somewhere in-between the two above.

The other day I read a superb blog post about support ministries and how they are not second-class: http://gilandamy.blogspot.com.au/2015/06/in-defense-of-second-class-missionaries.html

Even if you don't think that support ministries are second class, I recommend reading this article. It gives a very good argument as to why supporting those who aren't "front-line" is actually strategic. And shows up how many churches have a different standard for missions than they do for their own staff. (Though as an Aussie I do have to tell you that this is American-centric article, in that most of the church examples aren't replicated in Australia, most of our churches simply aren't big enough or wealthy enough).

23 June, 2015

Dealing with transition, from the trenches

All the double adaptors are packed, so the computer is
plugged in across the doorway.
I'm writing this from an almost empty house. I still have internet and electricity. I even have a microwave to heat the leftovers I brought for lunch from the family we're staying with. 

David left an hour ago with our pastor and his wife and the last of the 50 boxes we're storing in Australia. They're taking them to our storage container, which is an hour from here. Meanwhile I'm waiting for someone to come and collect the fridge and freezer which we've sold them.

The last load of our boxes going into storage.
There is nothing in the cupboards or on shelves or in drawers. Just furniture that we're giving away (and will be collected in the next few days) and a few odds and ends that we're  donating to the school's garage sale.

The boys are at school, their second last day.

It is an odd place to be. An oddly peaceful place to be.

I'm grateful for it. Grateful we've left enough time for this transition so that it isn't frantic.

It's complicated
Because our move, as you probably know, is complicated. Yesterday we had helpers pack our kitchen and not even that was simple. I found myself faced with questions from them like:

"Do you really want to keep these large ice-cream containers?" (We did.)

"What do you want to do with these unused mosquito coils?" (This one nearly undid me, I still don't know what happened with them.)

Boys' grief
Then I picked up our boys from school. One had just completed his school track and field competition and collected a bunch of firsts, plus age champion. So happy for him. But sad too, because he can't go on to represent the school next term in the inter school competitions. 

I held him on Sunday as he grieved the losses, the sports he's excelled at here (AFL, ARL, cricket) that he can't continue in Japan. And the unthinking comments he's overheard other children say, like, "Oh, I'll be first in that after you're gone." Or even talking in his presence like he's already gone.

I quelled the impulse to squash his sadness. It is sad. It is okay to feel that sadness. But after feeling it, it is right to think ahead and count the blessings that we know are coming his way.

More than just moving stuff
Dealing with transition is more than just moving stuff. It involves saying goodbyes (to people, as well as things and places), grieving losses, and thinking ahead.

Here are a couple of articles that flesh that out more fully:

Building a RAFT while transitioning: http://chinahopelive.net/2013/03/18/how-to-do-cross-cultural-transitions-right-build-a-raft

Dealing with the grief the boys are experiencing (me too): http://mmuser.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/depression-and-missionary-kids.html

19 June, 2015

One piece of proactive parenting

Today I've been to my final Friday morning ladies Bible study at church, followed by going out to lunch together. Thankfully there were no painful goodbye speeches or presentations like there might be at a Japanese farewell.

Tonight I'm going with the youth group for the final event of the term. They're rock climbing.

Tomorrow we're holding an open event in the park for anyone who wants to come and say hi.

Sunday we stop sleeping here, moving out so that we can finish packing up and cleaning the house (you can't pack fully when you are still using things like sheets, towel, and kitchen stuff).

And on the list goes.

I got tired yesterday of telling the boys about all the events coming up in our lives over the next weeks. So I made a calendar detailing all that we know about the next three months, especially big things, like changes of residence and when planes leave etc.

Today I was talking with a friend who still has little ones, explaining how our stage of parenting has its own challenges when you're undergoing big transitions. In particular you need to try to get the kids on-board for various family events that impact them. In the changes coming up, many of the decisions we've made without their input and have a dramatic consequences for them. They can feel very disempowered and therefore very resistant. At least this is my family. My boys like to know what's coming up. Surprises, especially for one of them, aren't appreciated.

Last night the calendar I'd created made for interesting reading for them all. I hope that it will continue to help them anticipate changes and make our journey as a family smoother, with less complaints.

18 June, 2015

More good questions about our support base

I have some fantastic friends. They are of varying nationalities, but I think one of the most outstanding characteristics of my closest friends are that they are good at asking questions. Superb at asking excellent questions.

One of my friends asked me these the other day:
"How do you get these churches to invite you? Why these particular churches? What about all these people you've been meeting individually, who are they?"
One of the churches we visited, a group praying for Japan.
How this journey all started
To answer this I really need to go back to when we started out on this missionary journey. Back in October 1998 while we waited for OMF to process our application to join them, we started to write a prayer/newsletter that we distributed to people we knew, asking them to pray. 

That really was the key, the people we knew. From there we asked people if we could visit the churches they were associated with. But some people also approached us. We also asked churches within our denomination if we could visit them. The most notable of these were the churches in Western Australia, with whom we had no personal connection but who welcomed us in 2000 for a visit. By the way, none of this involved asking for money. OMF does not allow solicitation of money. We were merely talking about Japan (a place we'd never been to) and what we were hoping to do there.

It took until October 2000 for us to get clearance to leave (that included medical, psychological, and financial clearance). It was the financial clearance that was the hardest, because of exchange rates and the different costs of living between the two countries at the time. 

At the end of 1999 David quit his teaching job so that we could focus on deputation (and staying sane, full-time work plus deputation was a huge stretch). That was a giant decision for us financially because I wasn't working either (our eldest was 6 months old).

During that 18 months to 2 years of deputation we developed a lot of new relationships and networks, and strengthened old relationships. Since then, every time we come back, we revisit many of those people and churches (at their invitation). We have found a laid-back response works best: we make sure people know that we're available, but we tend not to aggressively pursue getting together with people or seeking church invites.

Churches we've visited?
So the churches who invite us have usually seen us before or there are people in the church who know us and have advocated on our behalf for us to visit. Only four out of the 20 churches we visited this time we'd never been to before, those visits came from the advocacy of contacts or friends.

All the people we've met? 
Many are friends from the first 27 years of our lives. People we'd met in the course of life, in various churches we've been involved in, uni, family friends, former colleagues, and even someone I learnt piano with. Others are people we've met along the way, like our youngest's Prep teacher who has prayed for us ever since we left five years ago. And then there's the OMF network. People who have themselves had involvement with OMF, former missionaries especially. This time we've also met a few people we know from Japan, not Australia, but for varying reasons we've ended up in the same cities, so we've caught up. In Perth we also stayed with a family who'd visited us in Japan.

Then there's new friends. I feel a little like a snowball. Every time we come back we make new relationships. This time it's primarily been at our new home church. But I also met a new Japanese friend and a friend who I'd met online via my blog and Facebook.

One of the strange aspects of a missionary's life is that part of our job is to stay connected to people and groups of people we don't often see. I'm pretty sure we have a wider network of friends and people than many Australians. 

But what a blessing. Our prayer letter goes out to more than 200 units (Ed. I orginally published this as 300, but I should have fact checked and not relied on my memory) every month. I don't know how many pray, but I know that a lot do. That's a big support base. I'm scared to think of what life might be like without that. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't still be in Japan if we didn't have such a group of people behind us. 

So that's what we've been doing in Australia. We've been reconnecting with all these networks and relationships that we've built over the last 40+ years and cultivated over the last 17 years.

17 June, 2015

Keeping the emotional space I need

I'm glad that packing isn't the biggest thing that's happening for us right now. Because we need emotional space. Individually, and as parents we need that space to help us help our
The other thing that is helping me stay
sane at this point is reading. I'm reading
more than I usually do (we're ahead on
packing). It is the best way I relax and
This book I read a few weeks
ago, the most decrepit book I've ever read,
it was falling apart in my hands. But if you
ever get a chance, The Kon-Tiki Expedition
is a brilliant true adventure story that is
 great reading.
boys with their struggles. Yes, they're mostly happy about returning to Japan, but even a good change is challenging, merely because it is a change and things get messy. Plus they are old enough to know that there are good things about both places they've called home and that there are unknowns about what we face when we go back (like, "Will my friends still like me?")

I realised this morning how, though I'm not seriously busy, I've moved into a space where I'm very focused on the work of saying goodbyes, finishing up all the loose ends, and helping the boys cope.

I realised this when two different people made reasonable requests of us. Reasonable, except that their timing was bad. One was a simple networking request, one I'd usually love to be involved in. The other was responding to an article of mine that was published last month in an international ezine for Global women. I normally love it when people interact with my writing, but this one was asking too much of me, especially at this point in our transition.

Life's been a bit rocky on the parenting front this week as we've dealt with meltdowns/tantrums from all three boys on various occasions. To deal with that, and all the peripheral damage that goes with it, needs me to be focused, not distracted. So no apologies for being quite focused on us and those precious to us at this point. It's important for our sanity.

16 June, 2015

What we did

I'm cleaning off my desk and I found some photos from two of our days visiting churches this year. A supporter posted these to us and I thought it was worth putting them up here because they show a little of what we've done this year.
Here we are, showing off some of the things we
had for sale on our display. I'm holding the
magazine I edit and another publication I
produced with OMF Japan.

This is our display. We put this up more than 20 times in the last 12 months. It is very portable. The board itself was made by the father of a good friend, way back in 2000 when we first started doing this. It's covered in carpet, so velcro works very well and the board is easily transformed, though we generally set it up at the start of our home assignment and leave it that way all the way through. It folds in three and our friend made a case to go with it, that is easy to carry. 

The rest is carried around in small boxes that are also easily transported. The most challenging thing about the display is that we're usually setting it up and taking it down at the same time as talking to people. That can be tricky! 
Our boys found a nook this day and kept themselves entertained
by folding origami creations. Often other children would 
join them, but unfortunately there was only one child at this church
that Sunday.
Here are three people we met that day. Relatives of a couple I knew during
my uni days, but haven't seen since. This couple are now missionaries in Europe.
On one of those days we had lunch with friends 
after church. and this photo was taken at the front 
door. Actually a number of local supporters/friends
came for lunch that day. We're so thankful for the 
many instances of hospitality that we've received
this year in Australia.

We go back to Japan with many memories of warm welcomes, of many meals around ordinary tables, as well as time spent at coffee shops and restaurants. Those are memories to cherish. These are people to remember whenever we're wondering if people in Australia remember us. This is the team that has helped us refuel spiritually, emotionally, and socially while we've been in Australia. If you've been a part of that. Thank you!

15 June, 2015

How's it going?

With less than two weeks left before we move back to Japan people are asking us how it's all going. Here's a summary:
This board is our transition board. 11 months
ago it had lists and timetables as we did the
work of setting into Australia and figuring out
new schedules. Now it has lists of stuff to be
done. The brilliance of the whiteboard is that
many things have been written here and removed
as they were done or resolved. Now it's getting
to the point where most of it is done. That's
great! Especially as David's students do their
final exams tomorrow and he'll be up to his
armpits in marking for a few days.

We're gradually packing our personal stuff up. On Saturday we took seven plastic boxes and two other boxes to friends who will store them. These boxes have more precious things like photos that we don't want to put into a storage container.

By next Sunday we want to be living out of suitcases, so this week will be one of gradually moving towards that goal, including trying to eat our pantry, fridge, and freezer bare.

Next week we'll be living with a family from church and finishing up at the house. Final packing for the things we're storing and cleaning too. A cleaning-packing party is starting to form for next Monday (anyone welcome to join in...).

We're continuing to say goodbyes. They're getting harder. I'm having coffee with a couple of good friends this week to say goodbye. There'll be tears. 

And then there's the "lasts". Our boys have had their last wrestling training. Friday is my last day at our church's ladies' Bible study, followed by a farewell lunch.

Yesterday we officially said thank you and goodbye to our church, even though we're still around next Sunday yesterday was our recommissioning service. It is hard to say goodbye to these people who've become precious to us, but I'd rather that than the opposite: indifference. They care that we're leaving and that is a special thing to take with us. We also know that we'll be welcomed back "home" when we return in a few years.

Saturday we're having an open day in the park where we've invited anyone who wants to come and see us one last time can meet us. We'll be there for four hours doing that.

It's assessment season as well as Athletics Carnival season at school. Our eldest finished his last assignment last night (with a lot of scaffolding) and heads into more exams over the next four days. Our middle son also has exams Tue-Fri. Athletics carnivals this week and next too, but I don't think we'll get to see much of them.

We're trying to keep things as stable as possible while they boys finish up these things. But it's hard and emotionally we're not as stable as we'd like at times.

Between Zone
But the Between Zone is in sight (see here) and I'm looking forward to it. Next Friday we'll be finished everything (hopefully). Even all the goodbyes. And we'll retreat to accommodation at the Gold Coast for a couple of nights before slipping quietly out of the country.

13 June, 2015

Stepping into the river

Going back to Japan feels a little bit like what these guys were asked to do:

When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the Chest of God, Master of all the earth, touch the Jordan’s water, the flow of water will be stopped—the water coming from upstream will pile up in a heap.
And that’s what happened. The people left their tents to cross the Jordan, led by the priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant. When the priests got to the Jordan and their feet touched the water at the edge (the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest), the flow of water stopped. It piled up in a heap—a long way off—at Adam, which is near Zarethan. The river went dry all the way down to the Arabah Sea (the Salt Sea). And the people crossed, facing Jericho.
And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot (Joshua 3:13-17, The Message).
"Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you'" (Joshua 3:5, NIV).

Indeed, if they hadn't trusted God and refused to put their feet in the water, they never would have seen the amazing things that God had in store. And this was just the beginning, God took them into the land he'd promised and did amazing things on their behalf in defeating the residents of the area in order to give Israel their own land.

I'm led to believe that the Jordan has steep banks, so by committing to put their feet in the water they were basically throwing themselves into the whole flooded river.

You might wonder how this applies to me? Well I'm not rushing to get back to Japan. I'm happy enough when I'm there, but Australia ultimately has my affection and it's hard to leave. However, I'm doing what I'm called to do and that is hop on that aeroplane. The previous two times we've done this after a year in Australia have also been hard, but the Lord has been gracious in giving me a great emotional sense of "you're in the right place", but not until we arrive in Japan. 

So often I think we confuse good emotions with the right thing to do. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn't come with matching emotions, not until later. Sometimes it is just the hard thing to do.

I don't know if that communicates what I'm thinking or not. We have conflict with children going in the background here and I'm not 100% healthy and my brain is a little muddled, but I did want to get my thoughts out there as something that's been on my mind for a few weeks now.

12 June, 2015

Holiday plans for July

See that "pin" just south of the word Niigata, north
of Tokyo, that's where we're going. A whole new
area to explore, we've never been to this area of
Japan before. (The other pins represent other
places we've camped in the last five years.)
In the midst of this transition work, we're looking forward to holiday time we've planned in July in Japan. We're rushing back to Japan, but we don't land in the middle of work, we land in the middle of the summer holidays. 

School doesn't start till later in August and I've held off on taking back responsibilities at the magazine until then too. So we have some time to play and readjust to life in Japan! 

Good thing, because there isn't much time to relax on this side of departure. Though I am feeling a little more relaxed this week and have been able to take some reading time during the day! Or maybe that is, I'm making myself take reading time...

Anyway, here are our two planned get-aways in July.

1. My parents are visiting for 10 days soon after we get back. We're taking them to the some missionary chalets near lakes overlooking Mt Fuji. We've not been there before so it will be an adventure for us all.

2. After they leave, but before the mammoth summer crowds hit their strides in August we're headed to the west coast (only 3 hrs north-west of Tokyo) to camp in the mountains, visit the beaches and missionary friends, plus enjoy a summer fireworks display.

Though organising the above has added to the list of things we've had to do before we leave here, it's good to have something fun to look forward to. And to the boys who are complaining that they don't want to go anywhere else besides "home" in Japan, we can say, "After we finish camping we'll have four weeks to sit at home and swelter in Tokyo before school starts."

11 June, 2015

Puzzle Pieces

A few weeks ago I wrote about how transition is like a puzzle and that we had puzzle pieces that weren't yet in place. Since there more puzzle pieces have slotted into place.

The big piece that I wrote about last time was a place to stay while we finish packing up this house. We're so thankful that a couple from church has offered us accommodation for five nights at their house nearby. They are planning to cook for us too! I feel so loved.

Another small piece was getting our beautiful wooden bed to it's next abode. It is the only large piece of furniture that we are keeping, the only piece of furniture that we own that is "quality". There is some sentimental value about it as we bought it for our first bed after we got married. It was waiting for us when we returned from our honeymoon. 

It's next home is my parent's house (the bed is very familiar with that home, it's lived there for 12 out of the last 15 years). But that is more than 100km away, and we'd need a trailer and a car to pull the trailer. We had various half-formed ideas on how to manage that, but a friend who's taking his empty trailer to fetch some stuff from the town my parents live in has offered to pick the bed up and take it the day after we finish using it. Phew! Another piece of the puzzle in place, one that saves us several hours.

Cleaning isn't my favourite job. We manage to keep things fairly clean on a day-to-day basis, but deep cleaning. Nope. Several friends have offered to help with this in the last week. Grateful just seems too insignificant a word for how I feel about that.

So, the puzzle is looking more complete every day. And with only 16 full days left in Australia that's a good thing. I'm praising God for how, yet again, it is all coming together.

10 June, 2015

Sorting woes

We're packing, but more importantly we're sorting. We've received offers to help us pack, but that really isn't the major thing we're doing. And in fact, it is something that only we can do at this point.

That's because we're not just packing everything to transfer to another house, so it is complicated. We're taking some things to Japan, but not a lot (think a couple of suitcases each). The rest either gets stored, thrown, given away, or sold (not much in the later category). And this is everything in our house, right down to the extra vinegar bottle that I bought but didn't use, and the four lasagne sheets that aren't quite enough to make a whole lasagne from and will probably be given away too.

Yesterday after school we tackled the boys' rooms. It wasn't pretty. This is hard enough for an adult to do. Trying to get boys to make decisions about their own stuff was more painful than getting them to have a shower. Here's approximately the process we had to go through with them with everything in their rooms (we're not quite done, but that's okay):

This morning we had one boy upset because he'd cleared his desk off yesterday and as a result of us doing the above with his older brother's clothes, he'd ended up with another pile on his desk to sort. Yep, a process that none of us enjoy and seems to keep going and going. We'll be glad to have it finished.

09 June, 2015

Socialising, gardening, and assignments.

This weekend was less crazy than last, but still not much down-time. Someone said to me on Sunday that we need to be careful, we can't leave feeling totally exhausted. But I reassured her that we aren't jumping straight into ministry on the other side. We have holidays planned in July in Japan.
What the front yard looked like before we moved in. I
think it looks approximately like this again, though
perhaps with a few less plants (some died).

Saturday morning we took all the boys to wrestling training on Saturday morning, the last time we will do that. We'll take our eldest one more time, but the other two are pretty much done. They aren't interested in continuing just now (which frustrates us, because they are pretty good at it). 

It's been a good year being involved in this wrestling club and I'm glad we gave the younger two a chance to try out the sport. I also hope that they'll give it a go later on, when they have better training situations in Japan. Training here was challenging because we never knew who'd turn up and often there wasn't anyone else our boys size, so they had to wrestle each other, which was never ideal.

Saturday evening we had two families over for dinner. They made it easy for us, bringing all the mains. I just made dessert and we provided the venue. No problem. We've known these families for over 20 years, I met them when I was working at my first Occupational Therapy job in the country town of Kingaroy. It is such a joy to know that relationships made at that time have continued on with me/us.

Sunday morning was an ordinary one at our home church, except that we took several boxes and bags of stuff to give away. Things we don't want to store or take back with us. Some of it went, we packed it away and will bring it out again next Sunday (with a bit added to it, that we've found since).

After church we had two new family friends join us for a BBQ lunch. Low fuss hospitality, but worth it. It's been a real joy to get to know people at our home church. When we arrived 12 months ago we really only knew a handful of people and few knew who we were. Now we know many more and feel a part of the place.

The latter half of Sunday afternoon we spent "chilling". Then we got to work on our eldest's PE assignment. Or at least helped him finish it. It was a bit of a doozy that had both of us thinking, "Is this a PE assignment or a media assignment?" Enough said.

Monday was the Queens Birthday Holiday, so no school. We'd asked some friends to help us clean up our yard. We managed to cart away two well-filled trailer loads of stuff. I was sore last night! But we're happy, the place looks much better cared for now, but I wish I'd taken before and after shots (maybe I was too embarrassed by the before...).

Now we have less than three weeks left here. That sounds crazy! But it's gradually happening, step by step. We can see things gradually getting done, the pantry gradually emptying, and our minds gradually checking out. 

Yes, the mental part of transition involves disengaging from one place and reengaging in another. I can see all of us starting to disengage, which is good. It is healthy, but it is also necessary. With all that is required to do this move, we don't have the time or energy to be totally engaged here any more. A bit sad, but less traumatic if we make the change a little gradually.

07 June, 2015

Pink, Green and Japan

Here's the kids' newsletter I've written for June. If you'd like a larger copy, please email me (email address in the right-hand column).

05 June, 2015

Do you have a job in Japan?

Yes I do. Here are the major "hats" I wear in Japan:

(Well I wear these first two no matter where I am). I'm grateful that my roles are largely home-based and flexible which means I can be around before and after school and on weekends for my family.

I'm a writer. I haven't written a book, but I've had many stories, articles and devotionals published in a variety of publications and periodicals. I write non-fiction, much like this blog.

It is my writing that led me into one of my main roles as the Managing Editor of Japan Harvest, a quarterly English-language magazine for and by missionaries to Japanese people. 

As I worked with missionaries I could see that some needed help with their writing. So I developed and taught writing workshops in various places in Japan.

With some experience in publishing, I've used my skills to help OMF Japan with publishing projects like the 31 Days of Prayer for Japan.

Another small role I have is responding to people who contact OMF Japan via our website: http://omf.org/asia/japan/. This is a traffic-directing role where I point people in the right direction. It takes a little bit of the strain off our leaders. I've continued in this role while in Australia.

I've done a little volunteer Occupational Therapy work at the school where my husband teaches (and boys study).

This is one of my favourite "hats", another one I can wear because my roles are flexible and based at home. I get to be a friend to a number of people, Japanese people as well as missionaries and expats. It's been a real joy to share in other people's lives, especially when I know how easy it is to be lonely in another land.

So these are my "hats". I've taken them to many of the groups we've spoken to these last 12 months. They've been a helpful, concrete metaphor to assist in explaining what I do with myself in Japan. Not just what I've done, but what I'm going back to do when we get back to Japan.

But as we're now finished our official speaking, I've taken the signs off them and am preparing to give them away: to friends or back to second-hand stores. 

04 June, 2015

Keeping up with the Marshalls

I sent this out this morning. There is a second page, but it has photos of our boys on it, so I won't post it here. If you don't receive our newsletter, and you'd like to, please let me know (wendymarshall04 at gmail dot com).

Honour the grief

I know I've been publishing a lot of emotional stuff here recently, about saying goodbyes and transitions. It helps me process what's going on for us presently. And I keep coming across great stuff that other people have been writing about it. This article is an excellent example. I read this while sitting on a silent railway platform waiting for the next train home.  My eyes were wet.

Yesterday I had morning tea with my parents and sisters. I said goodbye to my sisters who I probably won't see again for three years. I took a moment and allowed myself to feel the grief. My eyes were wet again.
And in the midst of all of this [the busyness of transition] it’s easy to forget that grief must be honored and goodbyes must be said. 
The global transnational family has developed an amazing capacity to adapt, to move forward, but sometimes we need to just stop where we are and honor that moment. (Both quotes are from the article I've linked to above.)
Honour the grief.
Say the goodbyes.
Be still.

02 June, 2015

Called to stay

A couple of weeks ago my FB page filled up with articles about missionaries readjusting back to their passport country after serving overseas. I got so frustrated with one partiuclar group that was posting on this theme that I wrote a comment, pointing out that not
Sometimes we are called to be like moss,
present year in and year out. That can seem
less exciting than being an annual, where
change is constant. But both moss and
annuals have their place and calling.
everyone is struggling with that issue right now.

Thankfully it was a theme that passed and the next week there were a slew of articles about "staying". 

Staying is a calling
Here's one that talks especially about giving thanks for those who stay, especially the local staff. I need to remember to do that when I get back. I've got several expat friends who are not missionaries, or have long-term local jobs and aren't leaving anytime soon, yet are in the expat community where there are people coming and going all the time. I must remember to take the time to tell them how valuable their "staying" is. 
“This is your calling.” I said “You are called to be here and serve as new people come in and befriend them and help them and love them.”
Actions to help make staying a positive action
And here is another article giving some positive action to help with the staying (not so much the "returning"), but with ideas like: acknowledge the losses and invest in your home (like buy a pot plant, make it home). But especially:
Count the Cost. Again. Remind yourself of the call and purpose that first brought you here. Remember how worthy He is. Rededicate all your being to the trustworthy One who is asking you to stay.

01 June, 2015

And the weekend was . . . crazy

Another crazily busy, yet good weekend has just passed.


  • An inter-club wrestling meet all morning saw our two boys have a rare opportunity to compete against boys their size.
    Four of this class, my senior Ancient History class,
    were there on Saturday night.
  • While they set up for the above I ran a couple of errands: picking up my framed cross-stitch (see yesterday's post) and a digitalised version of some old family videos, including our wedding video.
  • After lunch we drove to my parents' house in Toowoomba and had another family birthday party (our eldest turned 16 during the week previous).
  • Dinner was held at Sizzlers with my parents and one of my sisters and her family.
  • During dinner I presented the cross-stitch to my parents.
  • The boys went home with their grandparents and David and I proceeded on to my 25th high school reunion.
  • We spoke at the church I grew up in (though it isn't recognisable as such any more: different name, location and almost no one who I knew from the 70s, 80s, or 90s).
  • Lunch was with precious friends. Our matron of honour and best man and their six kids. Energetic, yet fun. And as always, stimulating and scintillating conversation.
  • Then we came home in time for dinner, leftovers, actually.
It was all good. Tiring, but good.

I wasn't sure how the reunion would go and was nervous. However everyone was friendly and welcoming. I got lots of hugs from people I would never have hugged at high school! It was interesting to see how we've grown into (mostly) responsible adults. I had some good chats, but the most interesting thing that was said to me was that I appeared much happier and more comfortable in my skin. I guess that would probably be true for most people in the room. It gives me hope as I raise teenagers myself, actually. Those days of insecurity and uncertainty do come to an end. The night ended too quickly because we had to work the next day and needed a voice to do so (the music was loud, but it really only bothered me because it made conversation a bit difficult at times)!

Our official speaking engagements are now finished. We've packed our "travelling circus" away for another home assignment and are looking forward to retiring to a more private life in a few weeks. 

It's less than four weeks till we go now and things are gradually falling into place or, sadly, disappearing from the house into boxes. My preserved wedding bouquet has disappeared off the wall behind our bed, not to be seen for another three years. We're saying goodbyes that will last for at least three years. It's sad and every now and then I get teary.

But I'm glad for the weekend, it was the last overnighter in Toowoomba this time and it was a good way to finish.