Saturday, December 19, 2009

Leaving Karuizawa

     Alright, so here's a post that's a little more up-to-date.  Starting from where I left off with my last post:  I was able to shingle that whole side of the roof that my addition is on, and then started on the roof on the opposite side of the cabin.  I had to completely rebuild a large portion of the roof on that side, and then put a new layer of plywood over everything and then shingle away.  We've had some snow that has tried to slow me down a couple of times, but I've been able to fend it off with a broom.  I also got the windows and front door installed on my addition.

     Well, I finally got around to trying sushi the other day, obviously it hasn't been on the very top of my priority list.  Cliff took me to a revolving sushi restaurant, a very interesting and popular place.  You sit at a table and there is a conveyor belt that runs by with all different kinds of sushi on it, and you just grab whatever looks good...or interesting...or edible....   I started with some raw shrimp and raw salmon, and they were good.  Then some raw eel, which was ok.  I eventually met my match with the raw tuna and then the nato (a slimy Japanese bean paste) both of which I had a hard time getting down, and neither of which I could finish.  I think the texture gets to you more than the taste! (sorry, I forgot my camera so don't have any pictures).  Overall it was a good experience, but I don't think I'll be having any sushi cravings after I return home.

     I'm in Tokyo now for the few days before I head to Chicago and will spend a day there debriefing before I head back home to Bloomington.  It was a sad day leaving Karuizawa, but at the same time I am looking forward to getting back home.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's December!

[Can we just pretend like I posted this two weeks ago? It's a little behind.]

Well a lot has been accomplished on my cabin extension project since my last post. The subfloor is done, the walls are up and sheeted and wrapped, the new roof is up and sheeted and the old metal roof has been stripped away and is sheeted as well. I'm ready to put on some shingles to keep everythingdry now. We've had some cold days and
some warm days, some dry days and some wet days but thanks be to God for warm clothes, tarps, and skin that
can dry! The cabin is starting to take shape into a nice place to be used, whether by a Japanese pastor and family to stay at for vacation, or a missionary to live at while studying at the language school, or short-termers to stay at while they do street evangelism, or whatever else God might have in mind for it.

The Japanese love nature because they think God is in it. We Christian's love nature because we know God created it. Nevertheless, this equates to lots of hiking trails in the area to explore, which makes me happy. And so, one Saturday, Tim, a missionary studying Japanese at the school, and I who both love mountain biking, found the time to go. We started our trek up the hill first thing in the morning and made it a whole day adventure. Most of the morning we were on hiking trails, not exactly suitable for bikes, but fun to attempt none the less. On the way back home, we took an old highway that hugs the side of the mountains and is famous for its 183 curves
within just a few miles, each curve labeled with a sign. Great for a bikeride because it's downhill the whole way...well...unless you start from the we did. I don't think it's ever taken me that long to count to 183. But, a steady 3 hours later we made it. Oh the joy to see that C=183 sign! I had a lot of fun and also had my first onsen (hot spring) experience that day which I'll write about later.

Over the past couple weeks I've been spending a lot of time alone, and a lot of time in silence. And it has really created a lot of opportunity for my mind to unwind, and all the things that I usually suppress with all the distractions of TV, radio, internet, people, busy-ness and just life, come to the surface. It has really been good for me and I have learned a lot about myself and think the Holy Spirit's gentle guiding can be felt so much easier.
There are so many distractions back home, and so many things we can keep throwing into our minds, and yet rarely give our minds the chance to switch from input mode to output mode. Silence is a good thing and I encourage you to seek it out. (It'd take me several pages to really be clear about what God has been teaching me about silence, but I'm trying to keep this short so it's read-able!)

I'm going to try to make another post before I leave. So there may be another one within the next few days.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

My New Project

I mentioned in my last post that I am starting a new project now, and this one I'll be doing on my own. Well I guess not entirely on my own... I better give props to the demolition crew that went in before me:
I'll be adding a 6' by 22' addition to this cabin in order to enlarge the bedroom, bathroom, and add a proper genkan entrance. I spent this last week getting the design details ironed out, getting tools ready to go, and gathering materials. Finding materials is quite the task here. 2x4's and 2x10's are not common materials and home centers that sell lumber are few and far between. Cliff and I spent a long time driving from store to store to get all that I'll need.

But now I have most all of the materials and I've already replaced the rotten wood on the existing cabin and am almost finished with the new floor deck. So I should be ready to stand some walls soon.

I spent last weekend in Tokyo, so Saturday morning I hitched a ride to the train station here in Karuizawa and jumped on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) headed to Tokyo. I met a friend in Tokyo Station...well, after a little waiting, wandering, scanning of faces, and a couple of phone calls, I eventually met my friend in Tokyo Station. It can be hard to find someone in constant waves of hundreds of people who all know exactly where they are going.

We spent the day seeing parts of the city, using the trains and subways to get around. Luckily she had been living in Tokyo for a few months and knew her way around. Every once in a while, actually
quite often in Japan, the train car will be quite full, and so you just have to smash yourself in. It's impossible to get a photo of how this really feels, but here's what I got:
That night we went to a lively, young, contemporary church that is a part of the Hillsong family. It was good to see some Japanese youth worship with energy and passion.

On Sunday I went to church with the Scott's and spent the day relaxing and reading and writing. Then on monday I went to the main TEAM Japan office for their monthly prayer day. Many of the TEAM Japan missionaries came and we prayed together, heard about what has been happening with their ministries, and shared a meal together. There are a lot of new and creative projects underway right now to try and reach the Japanese people more effectively.

God has been teaching me many things since I've been here, but the one on my mind now is how important fellowship with other believers is. We need other believers in our lives to encourage us, challenge us, hold us accountable, worship with, study with, pray with, serve with. Having left a couple bible studies, Sunday morning worship service, and Sunday school class back home, it's hard to adjust to jumping around to a different church almost every week, most services being in Japanese, some services not translated.

Having met many missionaries here either at prayer day or passing through the camp, I realize that most of them don't have all the opportunties for fellowship that we enjoy back home. It's hard to have a good, deep bible study where everyone learns from eachother when there are no mature Christians around with a solid Bible background. It's hard to find an accountability partner to share all your problems with when you barely know their language. It's hard to raise your kids to follow God instead of the world when they are the only Christian kids at school and have very few, if any, kids their age at church. Now, all these things are more difficult to do, but thankfully God isn't limited by circumstances, and the missionaries here are making it work.

One major weakness of mine is self-motivation. I can't motivate myself to do hardly anything. I need other people in my life to challenge and push and encourage me. And so it's great back home, being involved with different bible studies and things. But, I know there will be times in my life when I am alone, times when people let me down, times when I leave the country for a few months. And I so I want to have a faith that thrives from being motivated by the body, but also thrives during periods where I may be less connected to the body. And so my prayer request right now is that God would enpower me and give me the motivation to stay in the word and to seek Him in all that I do. Always giving the glory to God.

And so, when I get back home, I resolve not to take forgranted all the different opportunities for fellowship with the body, but to take advantage of them for all they're worth. And I thank God for the blessing of growing up with so many other believers in my life. And I pray for all those who have given up that blessing in order to go to a new culture with the purpose of building up a body of believers there. I pray that God would bless them as they have made that sacrifice for his call.


While I was finishing up these last four paragraphs, just editing and cleaning them up a little bit, there was a knock on my door and Tim, a missionary here studying at the language school invited me over to dinner at their cabin with him and his wife. Fellowship. (although I have been getting plenty of fellowship over meals while I've been here, it's the deeper stuff that's been lacking) After we ate I was talking with Tim and I mentioned the desire to find a small group or bible study for while I'm here. He exclaimed "I've been wanting to start one up!"

Hm, could this be God's way of enpowering me and giving me the motivation I need, which I asked for above? Could the other missionaries who are here at the camp have the same needs I have? Now I don't know if we'll actually be successful in getting one going. BUT, God ought to be careful in answering my prayer requests so quickly or else I might not feel the need to give them out for others to pray with me! Haha, seriously though, I ask you to pray that if having a small bible study among the few men that are here at camp would be beneficial, then God would place the desire on their hearts to get involved, and that we could find an open time in everyone's busy schedule to meet.

I hope all is well back home and I am looking forward to returning, but not before my time here is up.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Quick Update

Konnichiwa. I intended to update this thing more often, but I’ve been busier at night than I thought, but here’s a quick, simple update.

All the short term volunteers are gone now besides me, the team from Oregon left last Wednesday the 28th, and the couple from Germany, Markus and Christine Vates, left two days ago. We all had a lot of fun together and got a lot accomplished together. It was sad to see them all go.

Praise God, we were able to finish 99% of the shell of the meeting room just the day before the Oregon team left. We had beautiful weather the whole 2 ½ weeks and only had to work in the rain one day.

We’re trying to finish all of the outside work projects so that in the winter, groups can finish the inside work. Markus, Randy (the camp property manager), and I added a porch roof to a cabin and are re-roofing it now, we should finish tomorrow.

With Markus now gone, and Randy leaving for vacation soon, I’ll be working on a project of my own over the next several weeks. More about that project to come…

Since I knew my nights would be a lot quieter once everyone left, I made sure to take advantage of this last week with the Vates. There was also a German missionary family, the Heisswolf’s, that live in Japan and were here at the camp for vacation all last week. So just about every night we had a game night or a cooking night or went out to dinner, and then of course hiking on the weekends. No time to update a blog as you can see.

I’ll write more soon, but that’s just a quick update on what all I’ve been busy with. Praise God I haven’t had any illness or injury and the weather has been great. Although it’s starting to get a little chilly, we had our first snow a couple of nights ago.

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Update from Japan

Sorry it has taken me so long to put my first update from Japan up here. I’ve been busy trying to get settled in and working.

I spent the first several days in Japan in Tokyo, but I’ve been here at the TEAM camp since Sunday the 11th . Camp is in Karuizawa which is in the Nagano prefecture, (similar to state), not Nagano the city. It’s a beautiful area, a lot of the rich in Tokyo have weekend homes here in the hills, and there must be a whole lot of weddings here because there are bridal shops all over the place.

The camp consists of about 20 cabins and is used to house missionaries attending the Language Learning Center just down the road, or for Japanese pastors or missionaries to come for vacation, or for other special events / retreats.

The project I’m working on right now is a brand new building that will be used as a meeting room for large groups to gather. There are 3 couples from Oregon and a couple from Germany here helping to work on it. The couples from Oregon have made several trips here in the past and are heading up the construction of this new building. They even shipped a lot of the tools and materials over from Oregon. They arrived about the same time I did and have another week and a half before they go home. I’m being spoiled right now with food because the ladies cook lunch for all of us each day, and then they usually put more food in my hands before I head back to my cabin at night for dinner.

Here’s a picture of my bachelor’s pad while I’m here. It’s a newly renovated cabin and is very nice. Don’t forget to take your shoes off in the genkan (vestibule) before coming in though.

I’ve been given a mountain bike to use to get around, so I’ve been doing a lot of biking and hiking around town and through trails in the mountains early in the morning before we start work. Illinois “mountain” biking is like going over speed bumps compared to the hills out here. I have to walk my bike up half the hills here…I’m going to be in great shape by the time I leave though.

Prayer requests that I can think of now:

-Continued health and safety provisions, safety while we work and while I go out exploring in the woods or through town

-A servant’s heart for all of us working, I know that there are a thousand ways God could accomplish what we are doing, but He has chosen to give us the opportunity to be a part of it and I pray that we would do it in all humility with a heart of worship and praise to Him. So far we are working exceptionally well as a team and I pray that continues.

-Maybe a little help picking up some of the Japanese language. English gets me nowhere near as far as I thought it would. None of the cashiers or waitresses speak English, and very few things are written in English or even with the roman alphabet. I have a “First Steps in Japanese” book that I’m starting to work through.

Well there are plenty more things I could write about, but I need to save some things for future blogs, right? I’m going to try to update again in about a week, so check back then. Hope all is well back home, don’t be afraid to email or facebook message me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

for those who don't know:

my story… This last spring, upon approaching graduation from college, God put on my heart the desire to use my construction skills to serve others overseas on a short term mission’s trip. I had no idea how, or where, or who with, or what exactly that would look like, but the desire was definitely there. So I turned to the same place everyone turns to when they have no idea where to start, Google.

I started scouring the web for different mission’s organizations, finding hundreds. I began narrowing down my options by checking the doctrinal statements, ensuring they had a need for my skill set, and that a trip a few months in duration would be possible. After much work I narrowed the hundreds down to several dozen. Now what? I was still overwhelmed by the number of options.

I went to the Lord in prayer, asking for wisdom in my choosing where I thought I should go. He immediately pressed upon my heart, “Nate, you’re trying way too hard to force this trip to happen, to make a decision using your own logic and understanding. Why not sit back, relax, and let me guide you like I have so many other times in your life.” So I ended my search, submitting myself to His will and His timing, knowing fully well He may just want me to remain in Bloomington.

After about two weeks of not pressing the mission’s trip issue but just finding contentment in where the Lord had me right then, I felt God’s guiding hand. My mom mentioned that a missionary had stopped by the church office and had mentioned a need for carpenters where he had been serving in Japan. I took that as my calling, got in touch with that missionary, and now, after several weeks of emails, filling out forms, and even a four day training session in cross-cultural missions, I’m heading to Japan. So the project described below is the one God chose for me, and I’m excited to discover why.

the details… I will be working in Nagano, Japan with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM). They have a resort/conference center there that is used to house missionaries attending language school, host TEAM conferences, and as a place of retreat for Japanese pastors. I hope to support and encourage the missionaries who use these facilities by remodeling cabins at the resort that are over 40 years old and in need of major renovations. I plan to depart on October 6th and return December 22nd, allowing me to get in almost three months of work.

I invite you to join with me in this assignment by supporting me with your prayers and encouragement.