Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Little Drummer Boy

I've been feeling guilty about my lapse in  blog writing this year, especially since I arrived in Japan, so rather than sharing a lengthy facebook update, I thought I'd write it all down here. It has been a very busy 2nd semester in Yochien (kindergarten 3-4 yr olds). It seems like we hit the ground running on September 1st after summer break and we haven't slowed down since!

We are in the throws of our harvest/fall/pumpkins theme, as well as preparation for the school Christmas program. With that in mind, I thought I'd give you a little mental snap shot of my morning today. (sorry, no actual snap shot, I'll try to add one soon)

Scene: the first 30-45 minutes of the day is free-choice play for my students. The go-to activities are puzzles, and whatever large group oriented play can be had on the carpet. Lately, it's been floor puzzles completing for space with the interlocking train tracks & station. Since we are talking about farms and harvest (more specifically The Enormous Turnip) I switched out the trains & tracks with a big red barn that opens up, and a variety for farm animals and farmer figurines. I ask if anyone wants to listen to music on our new-to-us ipod speaker. I get one request for Christmas music and one for the "Pa rum pa pum pum song", which I am happy to oblige. After a week of practice for the Christmas program, this is the only part of the song any one readily remembers. The merry music begins to play and the noise level begins to rise and more students arrive and join in the activities. At one point the music background to a lively conversation between the plastic Jesus figure (we've been talking about the story of the Good Shepherd) and a grey-haired, farmer-ish looking fellow on the roof of the barn. I have no idea what the topic of discussion is, since everyone is speaking in Japanese... The animated conversation between plastic Jesus and Mr. Farmer continues until the song playing reaches the familiar point in the chorus, and the child sitting alone at the puzzle table begins sing along,"Pa rum pa pum...PUM!!" He exclaims at the top of his lungs with fist raised in the air. The room falls silent.

End scene.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Not Your Average Palm Sunday in Japan

It's me again! I'm still alive and quite well, just on the other side of the world these days, in Ikeda, Osaka, Japan.

Someday, I might rewind to the topic of leaving Haiti, but for now I will give you a glimpse into my new adventures. Tis the season for cherry blossoms, immaculately trimmed topiaries and trees, and a myriad of breathtakingly beautiful flowers in every shape and size on my everyday walk to school and church (same building).

Just one of the beautiful sights I pass every day
Passover & Easter season are upon us as well, but it is less obvious here, as there are no Hallmark campaigns, or sales on egg-dying kits, or marshmallow Peeps (so sad! :( ) to be seen. Less that 1% of the population in Japan are Christians. It's a REALLY big deal to make a decision to follow Christ in a culture that has been steeped in Buddhist and Shinto practices for hundreds of years. 

When I think of a typical Palm Sunday service, there are few pictures that come to mind: waving palm fronds, singing a few "Hosanna" choruses, revisiting the events of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, special music... Even in more spontaneous churches (of which I am very familiar) the look of a Palm Sunday service can be a bit "routine". 

Not so, in Japan! The "triumphal entry" at Church of Praise International on Sunday was blue tarp covering the carpet, leading to a styrofoam baptismal at the back of the sanctuary. Service started with the baptism of a new believer, who recently finished a discipleship course at the church. This was not the end of  His celebrations on this day. We'll pick up the rest of his story in a moment.

Baptism was followed by worship, then presentation of certificates for the graduates of the apostolic/prophetic training program, then communion, then sending out a family that is moving to a different prefecture (state), then sermon, and finally finished with a wedding. Yep, you read that right! Talk about a 1-stop shop! 

Back to the guy who was baptized at the beginning of service... His wife accepted Christ a few weeks before their wedding in a Shinto temple. In addition to making a public declaration of faith in Christ by being baptized, he and his bride wanted to renew their wedding vows before God in the presence of their new church family. It was such a precious sight! And what an amazing testimony they have now! It was an honor to be a part of their celebration. It became OUR celebration. 

New life, new beginnings, new journeys, new families, destiny fulfilled: it's what Palm Sunday is really all about.