Thursday, March 24, 2011

To say the last two years have been a stretch for our family may be a huge understatement. About two years ago I left the church I had pastored for 6 1/2 years to work with International Missions in Nashville, Tn as a program director. We pulled up our roots, packed up our belongings, put our home on the market, and made the leap to the music city.

This meant a new school for our girls, transitioning our ministry, a new teaching position for Julie, and renting a home until the Missouri house sold. As I look back, it’s so obvious how God opened doors and carried our family through those times of transition.

God provided Julie with a great teaching job in the Nashville Public School system. The girls transitioned back to Donelson Christian Academy and quickly made new friends. After living several months with family then in some friends basement we found a wonderful place to rent. We began to attend our former church The Donelson Fellowship where I served as Minister of Adults for five years. The campaign I worked with went well and after its completion I was able to transition into another position with The Hanna Project. Huge blessings.

And, the transitions continue - and yes, He is with us each step of the way.

Here we are, two years later, and we are moving again. This time its because we have found a home to purchase just south of Nashville in the town of Nolensville. As you can well imagine, we are pretty excited about unpacking our boxes, many of which have stayed packed up for the last two years. We are so thankful our home in Missouri sold and that we were able to find a new place to call home.

Karlee is graduating from High School in a couple of months and praying about which college to attend.

Kassidy and Klaire will once again be moving to a new school system next year. Not so easy for Kassidy as she will be entering her 8th grade year with all new friends.

I have to be honest and say that I’m hoping we can get moved and settled over the next few months. And yet, part of me understands that I’m learning life is full of continual transitions. God never promised things would be easy. And, as challenging as we may think our lives have been over the past couple of years - it’s nothing compared to what some people are facing today in Japan, Africa, or countless other parts of the world.

As I was praying through things this morning, God led me to a devotional written by Rick Warren. He used the following passage as his focus;

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:5 (NIV)

The title of his devotion was God Can Even Though I Can’t. Again a great lesson for me today. Here are two quotes by Rick that I liked;

“The only way you will fulfill God’s destiny for you this decade is to rely on God’s strength. And that means you have to confess ‘I can’t’ before you can agree ‘God can.”

"God wants you to start taking steps toward your destiny. Ask him to teach you to hear his voice and then believe that he will guide you through the decisions and details of your life."

Life is full of transitions and change. Each day is a gift and an incredible opportunity for us to continually learn to follow Christ and to lean upon Him for our strength.

What are some transitions you have been going through and what have you been learning as you go through them?

Amazing perspective from Japan - Shocks, Aftershocks, and Meltdowns

Friday, March 18, 2011

Please take a moment to read this amazing perspective from a missionary family serving in Japan. Then, take the time to pray and please consider giving to help their efforts.

Here's a direct link to Ruth's blog. ruthnasia

Shocks, Aftershocks, and Meltdowns

Six full days have passed since the earthquake and tsunami, and I think I've done fairly well until today. I guess a meltdown was bound to happen sooner or later.

In the past week, life as my family and I have experienced it for the past 25 years in Japan has become almost unrecognizable. We've always joked about not being "real missionaries" because of all the conveniences, electronic gadgets, and luxuries that are available to us. One of our favorite pastimes as students in language school was to try to come up with things to complain about -- it was hard!

With a suddenness that leaves us dazed, we have (like the Velveteen Rabbit) finally become real! Blackouts, aftershocks, alarms and sirens. Grocery stores with no food, gas stations with no gas, trains parked at the station. School closed until further notice because of power shortages and unreliable train service.

Our family of 4 decided to treat it like one big adventure. We got out our bicycles, candles, flashlights, and emergency backs. We cuddled around our pre-charged laptop and watched episodes of "Castle" during our scheduled blackout time. We made stupid and probably inappropriate jokes whenever possible. "All over baby, whole lot of shakin' goin' on"... "Ewww Dad!! I thought you said you didn't have any gas!"

The truth is we were trying to keep things as chill as possible for the sake of our girls. The images coming to us on the news were too horrific to comprehend. At some point we realized that watching the coverage continually couldn't be a positive thing for a 10-year-old. Unfortunately, that point was after she had seen a video clip of the entire town of Minami Sanriku being wiped out and fleeing people being swept out to sea while their neighbors watched, screaming "Run faster! Hurry! Just a little further!"

We learned that our favorite vacation spot near Sendai was destroyed by the tsunami. Our hearts bled for the people of that quaint little seaside town and the loss of the most perfect place we've ever found on earth. "That was my happy place," said one of our daughters. "That was the only thing in my life that I thought would never change!"

Did you know that after experiencing earthquakes and aftershocks every few minutes for several days, you start to imagine things? Every truck that goes by and rattles the windows, every gust of wind, every time a family member walks around upstairs, you become convinced it's another quake. As a matter of fact, when you get really still (and scared), even your own heartbeat can make you think you're having a quake!

We took time throughout the day the gather together and pray for God to pour His mercy and compassion on the thousands who were suffering and grieving. And each night, we calmed ourselves and prepared for bed by praying as a family. For two nights in a row, just as we were ready to go to sleep, strong aftershocks sent us scrambling for winter coats and emergency backpacks. So much for a calm and restful night's sleep.

The first two nights after the big quake, we all slept in the living room. It just felt better to be together. Amy, our high schooler, went to her own bed on the third night. Caroline hasn't been willing to sleep in her own room yet. Each time the ground shakes, she needs Mom or Dad to tell her "It's okay... go back to sleep."

Our neighborhood has an "early warning system" which is designed to sound an alarm to give a few critical seconds' notice of a major earthquake. Day before yesterday, we were unnerved 3 times by the alarm and an announcement on the loud speaker saying "Take cover! A big quake is imminent!" The quakes that followed almost immediately weren't really as scary as the alarm itself.

We've been learning and reading that sustained stress affects people in different ways. At times, some of us have been a little snappy. (That might be a bit of an understatement!) Not only have we all been out of our regular routines and kinda on top of each other, but we're all feeling the tension and uncertainty of our situation. One by one, we've done some really weird things to cope. Caroline didn't cry over the graphic images on TV, the scenes of utter destruction, or the deaths of thousands of people. But to hear that her Saturday outing to the amusement park was cancelled caused an emotional meltdown. (A friend shared that her 11-year-old son hadn't cried either until his Lego project fell apart.) With a hundred things needing to be done, I stopped to pick some flowers from the yard and make an arrangement for our supper table. Why? I have no idea. I just needed to make something pretty.

Meanwhile, we were receiving steady updates on the possibility of a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant.

Actually, we all handled that fairly well for the first few days. Our home in Western Tokyo is more than 150 miles away from Fukushima so we felt we had nothing to worry about. Surely they would get the situation under control soon. We prayed many times for the brave workers that remained at the plant despite great personal risk. We prayed, too, for the people who were evacuating and those sheltering in place in a 30 km. radius of the plant.

I said we were handling that fairly well, and that's true. At least until yesterday when we received this emergency alert: "Remaining workers at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant have been evacuated. All efforts to cool the reactors have been abandoned." What?!!! We could all be in serious trouble here! (They've since sent those brave workers back to their posts.)

Then came the Exodus -- no, not THAT one. I'm talking about reports we started getting of foreigners who had decided to "get out of Dodge!" Caroline cried when, one by one, her fifth grade friends emailed her that they were leaving Japan to go home. I couldn't blame them. Most of her friends are from South Korea, a short flight from Tokyo to safety. The French and German embassies moved from Tokyo to Osaka. Then came word from missionaries with other agencies that they were either leaving or had a contingency plan to leave. Around mid-day today, we were informed that the U.S. State Department was evacuating dependents and some personnel. At 4 p.m. President Obama ordered charter planes sent in to aid in the evacuation of private citizens who wanted to leave.

So... the meltdown in Fukushima caused a meltdown in me. I kinda lost it for awhile there. It was my amusement park/Lego moment. I was ready to hit the "eject" button. "Scotty, beam me up!" It wasn't pretty.

But we spent today volunteering at the command center for C.R.A.S.H. (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support, and Hope) My husband Donnie manned the phone lines, inputing data from those calling to volunteer in various parts of Japan. I was drafted for the Media and Press committee. Amy was asked to serve in the area of Emotional Support & Training. She will be able to lend a listening ear to other children and teens who are trying to cope with this crisis.

We learned that supplies are to start arriving by the container-full tomorrow. Base camps are being set up in Sendai and other places near the devastation to distribute supplies as they come in. A million dollars is needed in the next week to get these life-sustaining items to those in desperation. All of the workers are volunteers, most of them missionaries who never expected to be doing this kind of humanitarian work in Japan.

We ended our day at CRASH with a time of worship. "You're the God of this city... You're the King of these people... You're the Lord of creation, you are! Greater things are yet to come, greater things are still to be done in this city." There were many tears by many frazzled yet faith-filled people.

One of my missionary friends said, "I'm not going anywhere... I gave my life to Japan a long time ago." And I heard myself say to another friend, "We've spent 25 years trying to find the felt needs of the Japanese in order to minister to them. I would hate to have to leave now, when the need is so great."

I don't know what will happen tomorrow or how the drama at the nuclear plant will play out. I may be on a plane out of here at any time. We are very much in prayer that we will have discernment and clear guidance from the Lord. We take very seriously our responsibility to protect and care for our girls. We also take very seriously our calling to the nation of Japan. It's a complex situation we find ourselves in, fraught with layers and layers of things to consider. We will do whatever God tells us to, whether that means staying or leaving. But I don't feel like "melting down" anymore.

It was great to be reminded tonight: "No guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me. From life's first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny."

Help us help Japan

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Hanna Project is currently working with CRASH Japan to bring help, hope, and healing to those in need. Please consider how you, your family, your church, or your community can help.

Helping in Japan

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Helping in Japan
The NGO that I work for, The Hanna Project, is working directly with our field workers in Japan and with a relief organization established in Japan called CRASH. Despite the devastation, this organization is doing incredible work and they need our prayers and financial support. Please consider making a donation to help us impact lives in Japan. Donate Here.

CRASH Mobilizes Volunteers in Japan
Tokyo, Japan – March 14, 2011 – CRASH (Christian Relief, Assistance, Support, and Hope) volunteers in Tokyo are mobilizing to provide aid to victims of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck the northeastern coast of Japan on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM.
The earthquake was the largest in Japan’s recorded history, resulting in a series of tsunami that reached heights of up to 23 feet and caused widespread damage. The Tohoku region was hardest hit in the coastal cities of Sendai and Fukushima, where hundreds are confirmed dead, and thousands are still missing.

CRASH Japan, working closely with JEMA (the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Association), has a large network of experienced volunteers who know the culture and language. CRASH Japan’s 24-hour fundraising goal is $100,000. In the last few years, CRASH leaders have coordinated relief efforts in China, Haiti, Indonesia, New Zealand, and other major disaster areas.

On Monday, March 14th, CRASH sent four survey teams to the Tohoku region by train, car, and motorcycle as early as 12:00 am to assess the damage, find staging grounds, and make contact with local communities to prioritize their needs. Additional survey teams will be sent out later in the week.

Teams are facing a situation that is complex, dynamic, and challenging. Communication has been difficult. Cell phones in Tokyo are overextended, and service is unavailable in affected disaster areas. Gas and electricity are being rationed in Tokyo and are incredibly scarce in disaster areas. According to CRASH hospitality worker Bola Taylor, food provisions are also short: “There were 150 people waiting in line at the grocery store for simple ramen, rice, and toilet paper. The shelves were all empty; it was very unnerving.”

CRASH Japan is using funds to purchase vital equipment, such as satellite phones, printers, computers, and wireless routers. This equipment will be used to facilitate communication between the Tokyo command center and cities where infrastructure has been weakened or destroyed. According to Intel Coordinator David Sedlacek, satellite phones are the most crucial tool in making contact with disaster areas and isolating relief needs.

A vast majority of Japan identifies religiously as either Buddhist or Shinto, or both. Only 1.5% of Japan’s population identifies as Christian, but churches all over the country have volunteered their resources in a coordinated effort with CRASH to offer aid to those who are suffering.
According to JEMA President Dale Little, “CRASH is the second-to-none relief network in Japan. No other agency is able to assess the needs on the ground like CRASH, and then take steps toward meeting those needs. The effectiveness of CRASH includes linking closely with local churches in Japan.”

JEMA Vice-President Ken Taylor also commented, “CRASH held its first strategy meeting today (March 13). Many were in attendance from mission agencies and other interested parties. There is a spirit of cooperation and desire to assist in reaching those in need effectively, relevantly, and spiritually.”

About the disaster, CRASH Japan director Jonathan Wilson made the following statement: "Many of us are wondering how we can best respond to the news of the earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan. As the television screens pour out images, we pour out our hearts to the Creator to take care of this great nation.

CRASH Japan, a non-profit established for just a time as this, exists to help victims of disasters. We have experienced people who know the culture and language on the ground ready to assess the situation and take appropriate action. Please consider how YOU might be able to help right now by giving a donation that will “kick start” our Tokyo based disaster relief initiative."