Giving you a little view of Japan without leaving your home!

Prayer letters, curious subjects, events, people, customs, and more for you to enjoy and learn.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

May the Lord Bless you with Wonderful Memories & a New Year filled with the Hope of His Return!

A dear friend in Montana wrote a poem and it expresses our hearts' desires, too, during this special Season of remembering our Dear Savior's birth:

The Best Gift at Christmas

There is no gift that I can bring.
No package wrapped with colored string
To give you lasting happiness,
To offer life and peace and rest.
So on this Christmas Day I wish
To send you news of God's great Gift;
The Christ He sent so long ago
To wash our sin as white as snow.
This gift God gave for you and me
is like the gifts beneath the tree
That gaily wait the time when they
Will be unwrapped this Christmas Day.
So, too, God waits for you to lift
The ribbons off His 'new life' gift.
O please, don't leave Christ waiting there,
Store Him away again this year!
Unwrap God's gift of life today
Invite Him into your life to stay!
God meant for Christ to be your own,
To walk with you from this day on.
Of all the presents wrapped so gay,
Not one around the world today
Is equal to God's precious gift!
A life with Him should not be missed!
(Anita Pigg, Sidney, MT)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Program Report

With praise and thanksgiving we rejoice at the attendance
and attentiveness of those that came to our Christmas
Program. May God's Word continue to work in their hearts!

Our guests-uniformed girls are from the junior high; next to them is the former mayor and his wife-Mr. & Mrs. Honda
Behind them (to the left) is Mayor Asada and to his left is the deputy mayor, Mr. Tamura.

Guests on other side.

Mrs. Sonoda as narrator

Ken's solo

Vicki playing Japanese taishogoto

Sermon illustration of what a present is and how to 'receive' it. The wrapped gift to the left of Ken was given to the little girl who had a birthday on the 7th!

Tea time after program

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day 10--God working so we can stay in Teshio!

Never have we seen a month go by so fast as this November has and we apologize for not continuing our history review for this whole month. But you honestly weren't left wondering, were you!! God moved in the elderly gentleman's heart to allow us a two year grace period. We had to pay for two year's worth of rent (at that time around $2000) and then at the end of two years we either paid him the asking price for the building or get out! In two week's time we had to come up with the $2000 and Praise God we had a CD that matured right at that time and it was just the amount we needed!!
Our notes also have that we were running a "Kayo-gakko" (Tuesday School) in our home during this time of transition period. We would run it like a neighborhood Bible time and also use it as a time to invite these children to S.S. This was another point of advancement in our language ability and kept Ken busy in preparation for that as well as his once a month preaching and regularly weekly S.S. lesson. Each was a step in our working completely on our own.
This short time period was also a very hectic time period for us as we lived in two places and Ken was 'working' in three of them! Oh, that doesn't add up you say?? Well we were covering bases for a short time in a small northern town called Hamatonbetsu while the missionary was in the States getting married to the veteran missionary's daughter and finishing some schooling, doing a little extra deputation before returning to Japan. A couple days of the week Ken would also travel to Teshio to continue the renovation of the building in order to move. The rest of the week we would be in Wakkanai. Can't imagine trying to keep that kind of pace now...guess that's why it's better to have those type of schedules when you are younger!

Entry way (Before)
Entry way (After)

Original rooms which would have been a living room, multi-purpose room area.

same room with divider taken out and whole area made into a 'meeting room'.

a Note of Thanksgiving!--Praising God...

...not only for the past but for the present: for YOU, for all who care about God's work here in Teshio and for us. For God's Goodness in ALL things and in EVERY way!
We were blessed to hold the annual thanksgiving fellowship here and we were able to welcome the newest family to the northern area of Japan, the Wilhites to our rambunctious crowd!! We are able to special order turkeys so this is the one time of year that we splurge on this wonderful 'treat', then the ladies divide up the fixin's. (how much does a turkey cost here you ask??...are you ready for this?? AT today's rate for a 22 lb turkey it was $96!!) Now you know why we use everything clear down to scraps for the dog's thanksgiving and the carcus for soup and appreciate being able to take some leftovers home from the day!).
So enjoy a little of our day with us in pictures. We only fully get together 3 times of the year: around the 4th or so of July, in late November (hit it right on Thanksgiving this year) for Thanksgiving and sometime in late December or early January for a winter get together. These times are precious to us because these folk have become our 'family' and the gatherings provide some opportunity to hear someone else's conversation besides our spouse or children's voices ;-) and relax with converation, good food and some games and music.
We trust your day with your family members (few or many) was just as special and you had safe traveling as well.

(top picture-Kristen Smith (stick in hand) made the turkey pinata full of popcorn for the youngest children to have fun with! It was one 'tough turkey' and with held many a swat being torn apart!
Counting the 3 babies, there were 33 of us gathered! One BIG happy Family!

Happy Thanksgiving To You All!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Day 9 Move to Teshio or Toyotomi?

Many of you may not know how we ended up in Teshio so want to explain how the Lord worked to show us where to go. During our training time, the missionaries we were training with went every week on Sunday afternoons to hold one S.S. outreach. That meant that every other week it was in a place called Toyotomi and the other week in Teshio. We really felt it would be good to start a work in a town that already had an introduction to the Gospel, so we started praying about which of those two towns it would be.
Step One--"driving up and down every street in both towns looking for empty bildings that might work out as possibility for a meeting place and a home for us. One that did look fairly good had been just reented to a company after being empty for three years! God is perfect in all HIS ways!....Toyotomi has a better attendance for the afternoon S.S. than Teshio. Teshio has been the tougher area possibly because it has the largest Shinto shrine in the northern section of Hokkaido. It also has more Buddhist temples than any other northern town. It is an older town and is on the ocean with one main industry of fishing. Toyotomi is a farming town...Despite the difficulties, my (Ken was writing) leans toward Teshio. I can't explain why. It may be the Holy Spirit directing. This town definitely NEEDS a light to shine in such a dark place!...We will continue to wait on the Lord for His direction and guidance."
Step Two--Go back to Toyotomi and Teshio to see people concerning possible buildings. "All the buildings in Toyotomi were eliminated and all but two were eliminated in Teshio. " As a result of the fact that there was nothing available in Toyotomi and the burden we shared for Teshio we continued to pray about Teshio and look for a place to live and work. In the same letter we described the two buildings that could be possible candidates in Teshio. Although the first place was nicer it would not have been big enough for both living in and having services as well. The second one had many possibilities but was just going to take alot of pre-work to make liveable if the owner was agreeable.
The owner of the building, that we were interested, in lived in Tokyo and the house was watched over by a local man who thought that the owner would be willing to rent to us. (There is much 'working up to' a situation or 'need' in Japan so dealing with this situation was not a one time thing(: To make that long story, short, the caretaker of the building arranged for us to rent it and for permission to fix it up. Then eventually the missionary "..had two meetings with the owner (he had come from Tokyo to work out a deal). The owner is 81 years old. In Japanese fashion the first meeting was simple aquaintance formalities and in the second the owner gave his sales pitch for the building and finally gave the price he wanted for it. " We have to back up a step here....this activity as we mentioned, took place after making an arrangement with the man who was watching over the property for us for renting and he also gave us permission to fix up the building to our specific needs (painting, putting down wood flooring in what would eventually be the meeting room on weekends and our living area on week days, building in a small bunk bed set in an upper 'attic' room area, etc, as well as stripping the outside of the large building of its rust and old paint and repainting the whole thing. This was all done in and around regular language study and also taking care of some other responsibilities while the veteran missionary was in the States for his daughter's wedding.
This is what the building looked like on
the outside before Ken started scraping
off old paint and rust.

So the 'price' that the owner wanted was not a rental price but he said he had changed his mind and he would only sell it...."Mr. Endo, evidently because of his age and hearing that a foreigner was there, decided to sell the building rather than rent. This was made known after two months of time, materials, paint, and transportation expenses being put into the building...." In between the two meetings with the owner we were in much prayer about what to do with this situation. We knew that God had called us to Teshio by this time; we knew this was the only building in town that was available for use in the way we would use it, and we knew by the time we got word about his change of mind we had put at least $1500 plus time and energy into the building.

What did the Lord do for us?? More on the building in Teshio in our next "edition".

The front entry way before renovation.

Side stepping for a note of interest
---at this time in Japan one had to pay around $300 for the priviledge of having a phone and then about $30 for the installation and 5 cents a phone call for local 3 min. calls!! No wonder we didn't have a phone for ourselves for the first few weeks we were in our own home. During the searching time for the next step of moving to our own work though, it was worked out that we should and could have our own phone. What a blessing that was just between the missionary family and ourselves. Up to that point if we needed to confer on something we had to go over to their house or them to us to give messages. We didn't make many phone calls to the States because it cost around $5 for 3 minutes!! Needless to say phone calls for a birthday or Christmas were VERY special blessings to us. What a blessed era we live in now!! --We now can make phone calls right through our computer hook-up so basically you might consider them 'free'! What twenty-five years of 'advancements' did for us!

Second note: at the time we were doing all the work on the building, we were probably getting around 225 yen per dollar and today it is fluctuating between 94 and 97 yen per dollar!! Isn't it wonderful that God knows our needs and provides no matter what the money standards are across the world!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Day 8-Invitations and unique opportunities

As we look back on various beginnings in the ministry both during training and once on our own, we are reminded that God's timing is never "coincidence". The key is just having our spiritual eyes open to see the openings that God gives at any particular time. One example of those times came in the first year we were in our training:
Before we moved to Teshio, Ken and two others were traveling every other week to hold a S.S. hour. Ken at that time was the driver and the other two lead the service of children. He often took his 'sermon' that he was practicing on after it had been corrected in the Japanese language. He went out on the steps of the building where the S.S. was held. That day six boys came up to him and Ken told them about the S.S. going on inside and they were welcome to go inside. So he practiced his sermon outloud two times through and that way they heard the Gospel while they sat there!
It didn't stop there that day. When they got back to the church in Wakkanai, Ken was still outside when a boy started to walk by walking two dogs. The boy stopped and greeted Ken and then asked him what the building was. Ken explained that it was a church and what goes on in a church. He also invited the boy to the evening service that night.
Although we do not know what happened to that boy, he did come back that night to the service!
A man in the center of Hokkaido had an interest in flags and governments of other countries and wanted help in writing letters to particular people in England especially. To make a long story short, after we had been in Teshio about 2 years after our first furlough, he eventually came to stay with us for a short time because along with those translation letters Ken had always included tracts. Mr. Endo wanted to learn more about the Bible and Jesus Christ. In time, Ken lead him to the Lord and he was baptized. We have the joy of knowing we will see him in heaven when we join him there.

As we teach children in our home and the two other outreaches in Enbetsu and Horonobe, we include a special field day every year in the summer. We have tried a two or three day VBS type of program but it has never worked in our town. So instead this four hour games/lunch/Bible time has worked well. Again we long to see the Gospel work it's way into the hearts of the young children. Customs, parents, school teaching and so many things in this day and age work against this on a continued basis. But will continue to at least get a message of God's love for these children
Even after all these years we know that we need to always be ready to give an answer of the hope that is within us. Any situation can open doors for spiritual conversation if we will take it. Does it get any easier to try and open those doors? No, but our God is not a changing god so we have confidence in His wisdom and strength. Thank you for supporting us in this as well by your prayers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Day 7..Of Washing Machines and Canning Green Beans

First range for cooking was like this one. Still have one like it downstairs in church kitchen. The little window below the top burners is the little grill area where the Japanese cook their fish.

Twin Tub washing machine (semi-automatic)
Only one hookup available even today for most wash machines--so cold water is used.

As we have gone back through letters we realized there were some things that were firsts from a different aspect, that although aren't important, are still a look at changes that one must face when on a foreign field. Missionary families all over the world must face certain events, customs within the family, ideas that might need to be changed in order to feel at home in the new country. One of the things we used to say to each other whenever a certain 'longing' or 'craving' would crop up was "remember, leeks and garlics"! Again these might be random things and events but it might help you to remember how to pray for your missionary especially when they are in one of the 10/30 window countries or are just in their first year or first term.
Why Vicki would remember our first evening meal in Japan, we are not sure except for was a 'taste of home' so to speak because there wasn't any Japanese food on the table. Remember, we had just gotten off a plane, had several hours difference to work through in jet lag, were excited but nervous all at the same time so I think that the thoughtfulness of the missionary to fix a down home style meal was very beneficial. We were in a strange land and place BUT it would have a little "it's OK, here is just like home" type of feeling. Oh, what did we have? There were baked potatoes, meatloaf, green beans....that much she remembers! We arrived at the missionary's residence basically in time for supper. To walk in to the dining area and have the aroma of 'home' right there was one of the best ways to begin. As Vicki looks back on it now she doesn't think she realizedthen just how uncertain she was about the future. God allowed her to relax just a bit that night before the many real tests began. She will be forever grateful for that first meal in a foreign land.
Other firsts:
Our first Thanksgiving--fresh salmon from Japanese contacts! What a treat that was for us for we rarely ever ate salmon. Beings it was special we didn't quite miss the cranberry sauce and turkey although we did think about it. That was just two months after our arrival.
First time Vicki went shopping--6 months after we arrived--up until that time Ken went with the veteran missionary every week shopping (and every where else, too usually). This way he could have an understanding of the community, the stores, what was there and what wasn't. It also helped Ken know what kind of funds were needed each week to maintain the weekly food budget. Vicki didn't drive at first either so this meant she didn't have to try and get out by bus or walking long distances with large grocery bags.
First small gifts from the States that we got excited about: Kool-aid and taco seasoning! First time Alicia (age 3) talked in her sleep--it was in Japanese!
First time bought a loaf of French Bread--cut into it and it had a 'cream' on the inside!
First sewing machine and first small organ used in our services--both 'motorized' by Vicki's pumping feet!
First winter in our own home (and later in our first building in Teshio)--had to learn how to shut off, open up and drain every water pipe in the house every night and do the opposite process every morning. No heat in the house at night in those days so in order to keep the water pipes from freezing we emptied them out.
First Christmas Vicki got a rice cooker and a toaster!! Just like getting married all over again!
First year, many people wrote us; 2nd year a few less, the third year, mainly our parents and Vicki's mom never missed a week in getting a family missile off our way. In return when we wrote (at least every other week, sometimes more) Vicki's mom would retype the letter they received with carbons in between and send it on to relatives that were praying for us.!!
First two years, Vicki learned to can fruit, pressure can green beans, make and can relish and pickles, applesauce, jams, juice and pie filling. She learned to sew by taking other clothes apart and copying or just copying and adding extra for seam allowance to sew for Alicia.
First washing machine was electric but had a wash cycle side and a spin cycle side. Once spun after the wash cycle, that water was thrown out. But the rinse cycle water was put back into the wash cycle side to wash the next batch of clothes. Clothes were hung to dry in the house in the winter and outside in the summer. Wash was always on the line because we had to do it every day for the wash machine could hold one of Ken's pair of jeans and a couple shirts at a time. So loads were very small. And drying took a long time unless outside.
Differences to get used to:
1. Bowing instead of shaking hands (unless the Japanese puts out his/her hand first...sometimes we learned to do both)
2. Learned phrases that one says on greeting BESIDES hello...first time greetings; how are you type greetings; we haven't seen you in a long time greetings and the BIG one--saying thank you many times over for something received. Not just the next time you see the giver (although that is the most important one) but maybe 1 or 2 times after that too.
3. Leaving all shoes at the entry way and keeping that entry way nice and neat for it is the first thing everyone sees when they come to a home.
4.Heating only the room we are in at the time and sleeping with socks on our feet and stocking caps on our head (Ken ;-)
5. Shoveling is the woman's job in this country but Ken, bless his heart, does 95% of it. When the kids were old enough they helped and eventually did much of it.
6. Always looking down the street both directions before allowing the kids to go out the front door--no yard, no sidewalk, just straight into the street
7Learning to ignore the smells and eat a meal even if the sewage truck has just left your house after emptying out the holding tank/remembering to put in the medicine into the tank or the house will smell and still fighting the smell!
8. Eating with hashi (chopsticks) is a talent that can be learned even at age 30!
9. Never leaving hashi stuck in the bowl of rice.
10. Learning to not be 'American' in showing our feelings but keeping our faces 'straight' and being kind and soft voiced no matter what!
11. Learning when asking for assistance from someone to do it in a round about way. May take twice as long as a straight out and out question but gets far better results.
12. Heating water on a stove because there was not water heater for the kitchen faucet so just a cold water tap. The bathtub water was heated by putting water through special tubes in a heating unit.
13. If we took a bath, you washed outside the tub and just soaked for awhile in the hot water in the tub. Then the next person would clean outside the tub and soak in same water.
14. so many more but most of all...learning that although everything is different from the way we used to live and what we used to know...there is one thing that never changes whether you are American or Japanese....These People Still Need Christ and have No Idea Who Christ is. We are here to witness by Word and Deed just as if we were still in the States where we would also want to do the same!

Until next time may you rejoice with what Christ has done for you! and look forward to our next visit when we will share some of the 'then' and 'now'! Even 25 years can make a difference.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Day 6 Remember -- Our First Anniversary Prayer Letter

Before we forget, we apologize there aren't very many pictures from our first couple years...we realized that they are all still in slides yet! Guess we should find a way to get them put from slides (beings we don't use them any more) to digital pictures.
Having run across our prayer letter we sent out for our first anniversary in Japan, we thought it would be good to again reflect on what God had done for us that first year as we continue to thank Him for what He HAS done in the last twenty-five.
"...It is exciting to look back and see God's faithfulness to us during these first important months. "Faithful is He that calleth you, Who also will do it." I Thess. 5:24. As God had called us out to minister His precious Word in this far away land we knew that in ourselves lay not the strength to meet the challenges God has already taken us through. Completely different language, culture, and personal relationships have been our toughest challenges. Although we have seen progress in these areas we see that full implimentation into this country will take many years. We are very thankful the God's provision of the "Paul-Timothy" type training. God never intended for His missionaries to flounder around in a strange land and culture on a trial and error method. God gives the pattern in II Timothy chapter two.
Ken completed the first of five books in the language course this last month. Here not just the steering wheels of cars are on the opposite side: the language is essencially, completely opposite to English. It takes Ken from 26-30 hours of work to compose, translate, and write hismonthly 25 minute sermon. Then after much practice he reads it on the third Sunday evening of each month. The weekly S.S. class lessons take around 6 hours to complete and recently the attendance has increased which is an extra challenge.
Vicki has been busy this summer learning canning techniques which will allow us to have fruits and vegetables this winter. Her language training is now at a much slower pace due to household duties and teaching the children in school. She will continue to concentrate on the book as much as she can. The boys' schooling has started again this year with Richard in 2nd grade and enjoying it. Michael is in 1st and must be encouraged. He loves to work with his hands rather than his brain. Alicia has probably changed the most. Her bright curly red hair and cute smile causes many to stop and talk to us.
God has been so faithful in financial matters. This training program is designed to allow a couple to work and train at a very minimal support level. This has been a blessing and has taught us an increased faith towards God for our needs. Today God's people are constantly bombarded by appeals for money from many directions. By God's grace, we do not want to be a burden to His people in this way. In our prayer letters we will strive not to mention amounts of money needed. If God puts it on your heart to ask us, we will share if there is a need. God prospered this decision this last year with the purchase of a trypewriter, that was needed without saying one word to anyone but God. He brought in special, non-regular support to provide an excellent typewriter. We are excited to see how God will lead and bless His people to meet our extra neeeds. We know that God rules in the hearts of men and does "own the cattle on a thousand hills." Ask God to make you sensitive to His guidance in these matters, also.
What does the coming year hold in store for us? Only God knows for sure. The lease on the house here in Wakkanai runs out this next summer. We will continue studying and helping in the church here until then. We will begin to look for a building in a town south of here to move into sometime in the summer or fall. Renovations usually take serveral months' work to make it useful for meetings place and home. Two probable cities already have had a once a month S.S. for three years. We trust the Lord to lead in which one to start a permanent work...."

The Lord did lead, did allow us to learn the language although there will always be more learning as long as He allows us to stay here. We just don't have to lug around large dictionaries any more but have small electronic ones! The Lord is STILL on the throne of grace and mercy to us here--provides our needs and opens and closes doors. We needed Him then and we need Him now. We needed you then and we still need you behind us. Thank you for YOUR faithfulness to us over 25 years too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day 5 Remembering--FOODS

We can't remember some of the early adjustments without talking about food! Strange food? No, just different a land of almost 100% differences we tried as a family to say that things were different not strange--for they weren't strange to those that lived here. 'UUUyuck' was never allowed to be uttered, although even we must admit there were times that our first thought as we looked at what was in front of our eyes, was almost those exact thoughts!
Here is what Vicki had written in her notes of those early times:
I still thank the Lord for the gracious people who helped me learn how to shop and cook with Japanese ingredients: from our beginning training in the missionary's home to the ladies who befriended me in our early years in Teshio. When we first moved to Teshio that was one of the main ways I could get to know ladies around me. I offered to teach them how to cook or bake something American and they would offer to help me learn a Japanese food. I love to cook and experiment so it was very interesting for me to learn these new foods--but oh the time consuming preparation and ALL those dishes!

Japanese eat with chopsticks so everything has to be prepared in such a way that there is no cutting involved after it is served. That includes the main course items even when it is meat. They usually have a soup with their meal and for many that is their liquid until they drink many cups of hot green tea after they get done eating. Many elderly Japanese eat fish, rice, and miso soup three times a day with variations through the vegetables and fruit that is also served. We had made a promise to each other that we would do our best to always at least eat a new food once, politely in a home where we might be visiting or if it was given to us. This way we would learn to enjoy the continual new tastes that were introduced along the way. Then over a period of time we also did repeats of the ones we learned to like. The only thing we never really had a desire to do, although we have done it at times, was to have the Japanese style breakfast as mentioned. Somehow our American stomachs just never thought facing rice and fish for breakfast was such a good idea. Now we eat many kinds of Japanese foods and much more rice than we do potatoes. We are also blessed by living in northern Hokkaido so the potatoes we eat are very delicious although we do miss those BIG Idaho baking potatoes every once in awhile.

Now we must admist there are some foods that once tried we hope they never have to pass our lips again if we have a polite choice!!

Although our daughter learned to like 'tobiko' the smallest raw eggs similar to caviar only smaller and red, the rest of us would rather pass on that one.

Fresh and canned sea urchin is a delicacy in this land but that's OK..we'll let them enjoy it. The first time we tried it was right on the beach; just caught, cut in half and scooped out! It had sort of a walnut taste in a clam like texture.

Natto (fermented soy beans) are also an item that even the Japanese either like or dislike...guess which one we are!! It has a slimy feel around the beans and quite a strong smell.

Japanese are very frugal in their use of fish caught to eat and would never throw away the things that Americans do when they clean the fish. We have watched with Japanese, Americans cutting up salmon and halibut in Alaska and the Japanese have called out, "Oh, don't throw that part away--that's the best part!" I must admit the first time I ate fish-head soup (I didn't know what I was eating and was afraid to ask) I was doing OK until an eyeball came to the top! OK, enough of that story! In time, we came to understand the different foods and I can clean and filet a 6 or 7 pound salmon with the best of them! That was always Michael's job after he got older because I really don't like the job. After he left I had to learn to do it or not eat salmon...if you like fresh salmon like we can get here in the fall, then you know I was willing to learn even that. OK, I'll tell my secret--I use rubber gloves and I find that I don't breathe quite as deep when I am cleaning them either.---

Needless to say after 25 years we can enjoy a good American meal or Japanese foods as well. We have our favorites that we eat alot and others less often. We enjoy introducing American foods to the Japanese at times as well and to this day, probably lasagna and pizza are two of their favorites!!

Are you hungry now? I am, so off to fix lunch!

Monday, October 13, 2008

September Prayer and Praise Letter

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

II Thessalonians 3:1

These verses make an appeal for prayer to a local church on Paul’s behalf to be intercessors in the battle of seeking souls for Christ. Like in Paul’s day, there is today a battle that you can help win on the mission field by praying for us in the same way. Every day we meet men and women that do not have faith for their eyes are darkened. Therefore, they are unreasonable to the truth of the scriptures and would rather follow superstitions and age-old customs. They are wicked in their souls and actions and turn away from the Light of the Gospel. Only the Word of God can penetrate those kinds of oppositions and your prayers are needed to do that. “Brethren pray for us.”

September seemed to slip by in a flash and we are not sure where the month went. A few extra events allowed us to be out and amongst the people for which we are always grateful. The Japanese will not come easily to your home even when invited over and over. We will always have the distinction of being ‘foreign’ and being of a different religion so they will want to keep their distance unless they get to know us well. Even then it can be hard to meet us on ‘our turf’ if you will. So as much as possible we go to them.

Two events were particular to our section of town and were gatherings for those that live in ‘2 Chome’. That is a part of our address so are welcome to attend. The first one was a BBQ –Japanese style—with fish, thin sliced beef and pork, onions, green peppers, bean sprouts, squid, and fried noodles. With various ones gather that we normally do not see on an average day it is one more opportunity to visit with people. Even there it can be challenging to get them to include us in the conversation but we will keep on keeping on.

The other opportunity that arose again had to do with the 2 Chome group but this time with just ladies. This was the first time they held something like this at a time Vicki could attend part of it at least so enjoyed lunch and a game time with the women. We can only pray that taking time to attend these events will continue to open doors in the future.

Vicki is a member, now president, of the community women’s choral group. Their director is the local high school band teacher. Beings it is a young man, he had for some time wanted to bring in a woman teacher to give the women some voice tips for singing. When the opportunity arose to have a friend of his that is a voice major come and visit Teshio and attend one practice, the women took him up on his offer. In order to save him and the group some money, we offered to have Miss Atsuko (aw-tsoo-koe), age 22, stay Sunday night and Monday night with us. We knew it would be one more opportunity to get the Gospel to someone even if for a short time. Miss Atsuko was a lively young woman and so easy to have around. The director and Miss Atsuko did not get here until around 10 p.m. that night. We invited Director Marumatsu (maw-do-maw-tsoo) in as well for a bit. He stayed about an hour. It was the first opportunity to do any real talking and witnessing to him.

As we got to know Miss Atsuko we found out she had attended an all girls’ voice major high school in Sapporo which is essentially ‘Christian’ by Japanese standards so the students are required to take a Bible class. She was not surprised by our praying before meals and was happy to join us in our morning Bible study both days!! We were able to share several things with her and she joyfully took a full packet of materials home with her that we give out here in Teshio. There is an invitation to also have a Bible study via email or snail mail as well in that packet. She said she would like to come back again and visit. Pray for Miss Atsuko and that this opportunity provided by God (we told her it was not an accident that she came to us) would eventually lead to her salvation.

Miss Atsuko and Vicki making pizza together.

Ken’s work with the two adult English Bible studies also still provides the means to get the Gospel in verse-by-verse study to several adults. Although it may at times seem like it takes forever for them to come to some understanding we know it is worth the time…for eternity is an even longer time if you are going to spend it in hell.

A family praise and prayer request—Alicia and Joshua have announced that they are expecting their 3rd child sometime next spring!! We look forward with much anticipation to our sixth grandchild and ask for prayers for health for Alicia and the baby at this time. Alicia always is affected by ‘morning sickness’ but the worst time for her is at night. Odors also affect her a great deal. We know she would appreciate your prayers that she can keep up with her family duties as well as pastor’s wife ministries as much as possible. With joy, we also announce that Joshua Appel was ordained as a Minister of God’s Word on Sunday evening, October 12. We could have waited until our October newsletter to share that but wanted to share this wonderful event. All he desires is to be used of God to minister to God’s people especially in his ministry right now as assistant pastor.


  1. Vicki’s eyes and finger: Until about two weeks ago Vicki still had her little finger bandaged at all times but finally the last of the scab and healing area was well enough to expose to every day tasks. She still favors it a bit as it is quite tender yet in the scar area. She will be getting another eye check this coming Friday but has been keeping up her medications three times a day. Until this week, she hadn’t felt as though there was much happening in the final stages of healing but is now thinking that maybe there has been some more improvement. She still has to wear two pairs of sunglasses when out driving or riding her bike because of brightness. We thank God for continued care.
  2. With Ken and Mr. Minks feeling the deadline of winter months and the snow and cold it brings, they knew they still have some outside foundation work, siding, etc. that needs to be worked on before then. Due to one holiday this week and two more days where he was not involved in teaching at the schools, Ken was able to go to Shibetsu so the two men could work on these needed repairs all week long instead of just on Thursday and Friday. Vicki is covering the home bases and other English classes for him. Appreciate your prayers for their safety and wisdom as they work this hard schedule this week. (Sept. 13th-17th) Ken’s back can seize up after awhile so pray that he would be able to pace himself and not get too done in.
  3. The grandmother of one of our ladies (Kozue --Koe-zoo-e-- Kuwata) who is a secret believer, passed away today (7/13). There will be many pressures to be involved in various idolatrous activities in memory of the dead both in the next couple of days and in the weeks following at various points in time. Pray for her to be strong in her faith and commitment to Christ and testimony. We are also praying that, as this was one of the reasons that she was not able to attend services at all, that in time, this will allow more contact with her.

Praising and Serving God together,
Ken and Vicki Mansell


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mommy's Chocolate and Daddy's Peanut Butter

From that title we are sure you get the idea--the food in Japan--the same or different you wonder! Browns that remind you of chocolate; dark creams that remind you of peanut butter; bottles that look like wine but have oil in them; vegetables that we have never seen the like before...and then there is the fish and the other things that come from fish...well maybe we won't go there for today.

We had only been in Japan for a few weeks so still didn't speak the language except a couple memorized phrases. We had been given the opportunity, though, to foray out as a family for the first time one afternoon. We headed downtown to walk around and take in the sights. As we went into one deparment store, there was a vendor out in the entryway. She was selling a Japanese 'sweet' called *taiyaki* which was a fish shaped pancake type pastry with two kinds of filling. One was a creamy yellow color and the other a deep brown. Dad held up four fingers and pointed to the creamy yellow ones and one finger to point to the dark brown 'chocolate' ones. Mom was craving chocolate and they looked like just the thing. We received our just-off-the-grill warm filled fish shaped pancakes and the family quickly said "mmm good" as they bit into the custard filled pancake. Then Mom took a bite of hers and remember, she was dreaming creamy chocolate..but quickly almost spit the bite right back out! To her chagrin, we found out afterwards Mom had picked a pancake filled with a well-loved Japanese sweet of creamed and sweetened adzuki beans. In time, she learned to like almost any Japanese style sweet, bean paste included! Meanwhile, we will never forget the time that Mommy thought it was chocolate.

The next came about about 3 years later when we were in Teshio.

Daddy's peanut butter story came about because Mommy was going to be away overnight. She is a member a ladies' chorus and they were going on a trip. That's OK, Dad can cook a little and there is always peanut butter and jelly (although we doled the peanut butter out very sparingly because is wasn't available in Japan) as well as the wonderful omelets he makes for breakfast.
Dad is also wonderful at BBQ cooking, cooking on our yearly camping trip, and sometimes for breakfast but he likes Mommy's cooking so lets that be the extent of his exploration into cuisine styles. He figured peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch were a safe choice. He searched in the refrigerator for the jam and also found a Tupperware container of 'peanut butter'. He cheerfully called the kids and presented his meal with style! After the first bite, the kids all called out, "Dad what is this?" To the answer of peanut butter and jelly, they all replied, "well then something MUST be wrong with the jelly because it just doesn't taste right." So he tasted the jelly in the, nothing wrong there. He tasted some of the sandwich and sure enough, it just wasn't good at all! Even Shiba the dog didn't like them. No one remembers what he ended up giving everyone to eat as a substitute, but they will never forget what Mom told them when the 'peanut butter' was pointed out to her when she returned home. "That isn't peanut butter, Dear, that is miso!"
Miso is a fermented salty bean paste (yes, a light brown creamy color) that is used a little at a time in a hot soup eaten daily by the Japanese. Dad learned that miso was kept in the refrigerator and peanut butter was kept on the shelf!!

Until next time, Enjoy your PBJ and chocolate where ever you are!
Ken & Vicki

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Our first home and other firsts

Beings we didn't have a car the first couple years we were in Japan it was nice that at least the church was only about a 15 min. walk away (depending on whether we were walking with our children or not). It was a quiet neighborhood but opportunities to be with neighbors especially with small children were plentiful. Vicki was helped in her language learning by a neighbor lady who loved to talk and didn't mind that she couldn't answer much in return. The children could safely play in the part right across from our house.
You noticed we didn't take a picture of the restroom in the house...probably because it was basically an indoor outhouse! Ken fixed it up really nice (just enough room to stand in there--so typical of older homes) and then you added 'medicine' to it every week or so as well as hung air fresheners to help keep the odor livable. Once a month you called the 'honey truck' to come vacuume out the holding tank....well enough of that subject! ;-)
The only sink in the house was the kitchen sink so all teeth brushing, dish washing, hand washing was done there. So many many things to get used to but over and over again Vicki especially was glad it was better than so many missionaries live in across the world!

An early challenge with the children...can you imagine how light haired and red haired children would stand out in this land of black haired people!! Our children were 6, 5, & 2 1/2 when we came. One of the early words we learned because we heard it so much was "kawai"--Cute!! Maybe said 2 or 3 times! Then people would often offer candy and other things to the children. We quickly taught the older two how to say basically 'no thank you' in Japanese so they would still have their own teeth when they get old!! Only they had to also be taught to keep saying it about 2, 3 times before people would be convinced that they really didn't want it....well couldn't take it. Eventually we compromised and made it 3 times and if the people still insisted then bring it home and we would dole it out.

First sewing machine: quote from Vicki's letter to her mom--'We just got a new sewing machine for me from our local 'garbage rack' (in those days everyone threw out things they didn't want on the block corner on a certain day of the week to be picked up by the garbage man..we often found items we could use there) is beautiful with wood cabinet, smooth running parts, back and forward stitch and built in exercise equipment! It's a National Pedal Sewing took a couple times for me to get the hang of coordinating my feet and the wheel that controls the needle but we are getting along fine now.'

First winter: "..we are snowed in royally this morning (1-16-84). Don't know how much snow we got with the storm but now it is a big ground blizzard. The snow at the front door is up to my waist (Vicki's) and it's probably higher in the backyard...(2 weeks later)-The snow here is unreal. It is light & fluffy but comes down in large quantities. We use a big wide 'scoop' shovel with large square handle that you can hold onto with both hands and you push it smoothly along the ground as you scoop up the snow. Works great and is a back saver. I (Ken) spent 2 hours the other day clearing 3 feet of snow off one side of the house so that light could come back into the windows. There is still a 3 feet by 8 foot section left along the road side."

Until tomorrow,
Ken & Vicki

Friday, October 10, 2008

Memories Day Two

Here is a portion from the letter that included the following picture. Ken started working on simple S.S. lessons about 4 months after we arrived. It took quite a lot of time as you can figure out by the following sent to Vicki's parents:

I thought you might like to see what the rough draft of my Sunday School lesson looks like. After working on the Bible passage in English and Japanese, I write down the questions and answers in English. Then with books surrounding me (English-Japanese AND Japanese-English dictionaries, English Bible, Japanese Bible, Japanese language text book, Missionary language handbook) I attempt to translate these questions and answers...In pencil, I write the translation. I then give it to Deborah (the veteran's missionary daughter, age 17, raised here) and she corrects and revises them as needed. Finally I copy the revised questions into a notebook which I use in class.

So you can see that lessons then took much time, hand writing (all letters to our parents were hand written too), and practice reading the lesson.

The veteran missionary's daughter in opening exercises for S.S. Vicki at the small organ. Ken always thought it was unfair that even though we couldn't speak a work of Japanese when we first arrived, Vicki could immediately play songs in Japanese!

And to finish today, here is another portion from my reminiscing written about 10 years ago:

After our arrival:

At first glance much of the area that we saw as we arrived in Wakkanai, the northernmost city of Japan, looks like an older area of a large city might look in America—buildings built similar, but different; roads like ours, but different; signs on the stores like ours, but different; people dressed like Westerners, but different; are you getting the picture—everything was similar but at the same time different. It was that difference that would take some getting used to. Buildings were somewhat the same but usually had a tin roof that slanted to the side or back to allow snow to fall off without endangering someone. Roads were paved in the city but much narrower and many had no sidewalks along side, so people walked on the side of the road instead. People dressed like Westerners but not so much variety: i.e. elderly women wore browns and grays; business men all wore blue or black suits with white shirts and dark ties; students, junior high and up, wore school uniforms; and the signs—well there was English on some of them but most were in wiggly lines that eventually we would come to recognize as one of three of the three forms of written Japanese. And I won't even begin to mention food right now but we were so thankful to live with the missionary family at first so could learn how to work with the ingredients available in this country as well as be able to eat American type of food sometimes while we were learning.
We arrived in the fall and within one month the first snowfall had taken place. One of the things I remember is how cold everything felt especially in the mornings. Even 20 years ago very few homes had what we would call central heating. Even now many might not but heat rooms within their homes with kerosene portable heaters or ones attached to pipe chimneys. These are only turned on if you are in the rooms and always turned off at night because of fire danger. Also depending on your situation you might have to drain all the water pipes at night and leave the water turned off so the water won't freeze. *note-we did have to do this for 3, 4 years in Teshio when we first moved here* Then you close them down and turn the water back on the next morning. We would sleep with lots of blankets, socks on our feet and for Ken because he had less hair, a stocking cap was just the thing to keep his head warm. Now I understand why people wore 'caps and kerchiefs' on their heads in the pioneer days.

Those first few days were exciting and everything was new. But there was one thing, after a couple weeks, that became frustrating. We were now 'babies' who didn't understand all the customs, the way of life, what was going on around us; but most of all we couldn't get past the 'hellos' of the particular time of day when you were greeting someone. We could greet and that was the end of our conversation without an interpreter. Ken had told the Lord early on in his search for the Lord's will for his life, that he was willing to go anywhere in the world as long as he could speak English! After allowing the Holy Spirit to work and take that stipulation out of his desires, the Lord lead us to a country with one of the most difficult languages in the world for a westerner to learn. And that learning process required three different 'alphabets'; two of which had 48 different sounds written two different ways and the third (Kanji adapted from Chinese characters) has more than 5000 with anywhere from one to three readings to each one depending on their combinations. Oh, my, would we ever become fluent? In a mixed group of people talking, women are still supposed to be the quieter one so for me those beginning days and months of not being able to communicate were frustrating but not to the point of anxiety. For my husband, on the other hand, it was restricting and humbling. He had been a youth pastor; worked in several different ministries in our local church while still in Bible school, and also had taught and preached from week to week as we traveled on deputation. Now he not only couldn't participate in active service yet, but couldn't even carry on a normal conversation with anyone outside our own family and the missionary family. He had run into a brick wall that almost seemed too tall to climb. Yet in moments of despair and frustration we could only always come back to this one thought: the Lord had called and He would do His work through us if we could only be patient and learn. That learning process is still taking process. People sometimes ask me when we are back in the States, "are you proficient in the language now?" My reply is always, "I will be learning the Japanese language until the day I die, but by God's grace and the teaching and help of the missionaries that trained us as well as many a patient Japanese willing to slow down in their conversation and take time to teach us new words, I can carry on an every day conversation." Isaiah 50, verse 4 says, "The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary…" We praise God that Ken is able to teach and preach in Japanese although the struggles with any particular unused word at any certain time still takes time to learn and use. But I still struggle with the deeper spiritual language necessary at many times to really get into deeper witnessing opportunities. I want to be able to 'speak a word in season to him that is weary" so am glad that the Word of God can be shared with anyone even when I can't say the right words.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Our first living area

Greetings again during our 25 days of 25 years of memories!
We stayed with the veteran missionary family for 7 months. (Oct. 83-Mar. 84) The lower left picture is of the kitchen we shared with them. The right hand two pictures was our (Ken and Vicki) living/sleeping/studying area upstairs in their home. The 3 children's rooms were to the right of that 'living' area. The 2 pictures on the upper left were of the small kitchen we had eventually off their living area so I could get used to cooking for our family. At that time Ken did all the shopping for us with the veteran missionary when he shopped for his family.
But let's digress for a are the thoughts that Vicki wrote about our departure and arrival in Japan:

On October 6th, 1983 we left the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport in the evening for Japan. Earlier that day my only brother, his wife and one daughter at that time had flown from the same airport for the country of Haiti. He was also called to be a church planting missionary and our commissioning services were only one week apart. As my family and friends gathered at the same airport twice in one day, a well meaning adult asked my mother "Isn't it terrible to be losing your only son and daughter and their families all in one day?" My parents replied, " Christian parents whose children are involved in drugs, rock music and other worldly practices of the day are the parents that have lost their children. Our children are serving the Lord and we couldn't ask for anything better." What a blessing to have parents who were behind us all the way. Ken's mother and father as well had been very supportive of our decision and would themselves within 4 years time give themselves to support missionary work at New Tribes Mission headquarters in Florida.
As I look back on that first long flight to Japan I only vaguely remember parts of it. It seemed all too amazing that we were actually on our way to a foreign country—a country on the other side of the world. With no experience in ever being out of our own country, this meant it was both exciting and scary all at the same time. Would I be able to do what was required? Would I continue to be the helpmeet I desired to be in order for my husband to fulfill his part of our calling? Could I even learn to eat raw fish? Lots of questions but again and again the saying on the plaque that we were taking with us came to memory. This plaque still hangs on the wall in our home: The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God cannot keep you. This and the many promises in His Word such as "I will never leave you nor forsake you" and "with God all things are possible…" would be comforting and strength providing Words in the days and months to come.
We left the United States on the 6th and arrived in Japan on the 7th losing almost a day with the 12 hour trip because of the International Date Line. That wouldn't be the only thing that we felt like we had 'lost' in the days ahead. How can one begin to describe the feelings that would surface in those first few days after arriving in Wakkanai, the northern most city of Japan? First it was exciting—like the flying—a new experience—at least for such a long period in the air. This first flight was in a couple sections and my dear husband has never let me forget that he did take me to Hawaii. Not that we touched the mainland of Hawaii but just sat in the airplane for a couple hour layover. We were traveling in the middle of the night and the Lord was gracious to us that part of the flight, because our three children, who were 6, 5 and 2 were sound asleep. Everyone was supposed to get off the plane once because the crew needed to completely clean and get it ready for the next section on to Tokyo. We hated to wake our tired children and knew with what was ahead they needed that sleep. So we kindly asked the stewardess if we couldn't just let them sleep and we would stay out of the way. They were gracious in allowing just that and I was so thankful that some rules can be broken when kindness is involved.
Our first glimpse of what it was like to be foreigners in a strange land took place at the Narita airport in Tokyo! Black haired, brown eyed people all around us speaking sounds that had no meaning! Would these people who looked all alike and sounded alike ever take on individual personalities? The funny part was that within a few months people we came to know did do just that and not only that, but eventually we would see Japanese that looked almost exactly like someone we knew back in America!
We were so glad that the veteran missionary had come clear south (a long train ride for him of a couple days) to meet us and help us get through the change over in flights in Tokyo, then in Sapporo on the northernmost island and on to our last stop of Wakkanai, the northernmost city. On those local flights we felt even more inadequate and insignificant. Was I up to this task? Could I pass the test? I knew our call was true. We were there committed to at least two years to prove that call. "Lord, please guide me and show me the way" was all I could pray. There were so many firsts that were going to pile one upon another. Our first sip of green tea on the plane made me understand that there was so much to learn to 'like' in the days and months ahead. The tea tasted bitter and I am thankful that we were constantly praying that we would fulfill our desire to never say no to anything that we should learn to like; that our taste buds would eventually get use to these new foods and drinks and that the training we had given our children would show forth in even this area for they had learned to eat whatever was put on their plate without murmuring. Now we would be put to the same test!

*Tune in Later for the next segment of 25 years in Japan*
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