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.

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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Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Mansell Family 1983
(Michael next to Vicki, Richard, & Alicia)

Our Dedication service
(sorry to blurry..we came in the 'dark ages'
when there were no computers)


Twenty-five years ago today we remember leaving the L.A. airport and watching the lights disappearing and knowing that we knew nothing of what the Lord had ahead for us in the coming days and months, let alone the years! How we praise God for his mercy, grace, strength, wisdom, strong arms in hard places, and so many more things that we could write of.

Would we change anything if we could?—maybe, but why dwell on that…instead we rejoice that God has and always will be faithful to us and we trust we will always be faithful to His work here in Teshio, in Hokkaido, and in Japan!!

We couldn’t have done it without our churches and our people supporting us in prayer support and financial as well. There has never been a time when we felt as though we were in the wrong place or not being helped by so many in the States. We couldn’t have come without their help and also without the emotional and spiritual support of our parents (3 of whom are in heaven with the Lord) in those beginning years and all throughout.

We also still believe that the program, if you will, that we came under where a new missionary works under a veteran missionary for a couple years to be taught, protected, guided and then encouraged to go on is still the very best way to begin a work in any country. This country especially needs that kind of help in the beginning years. We still pray the Lord would continue to allow us to give to another generation through the summer internship, helping new missionaries after they are on their own and if the Lord allows, lead someone else through those beginning two years.

At the same time if we think of 25 years as a number, that means we aren’t getting any younger!! So we still pray for young people to come to the field of Hokkaido Japan—we are here now and still ready to help! We just need the workers. Thank you for your prayers and part if you as the reader have been with us in this endeavor (whether for a while, a short time, or the whole time!) and may God be given the whole glory for what He has done here in Teshio and this area.

Over the next couple days we hope to get some picture slide shows posted of our last 25 years (in short). So come on back and see a little history.

Just A Prayer At Night

Thank you for those prayers for the unknowing thousands here in Japan.

Serving Christ Together,

Ken and Vicki