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, 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