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Far From Home Blog

Birthdays, Piper, Community, and More…

It’s been two months since our last update here… A lot has happened since our last update, so here are some pictures of events from the last couple of months!

SONY DSCTamia’s yochien (kindergarten) Sports Day. So proud of her!

SONY DSCWe had a couple of birthdays in September. J turned 9 (Wow, is he really 9???). Party at a local park with friends.

IMG_3510Tamia turned 5!

And in case you have forgotten what our kids look like, here are some recent shots:

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SONY DSCKaiya (7)

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IMG_3362I got to spend a few days with one of my heroes of faith, John Piper, traveling to different cities in Japan together and serving as his translator at Love Japan conference.

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IMG_9331A joint worship service with Grace City Church.

IMG_3507Emma’s good friend, Alyssa, came to visit us in Tokyo and got to meet some of our friends from Toyosu. Thanks for coming Alyssa!

IMG_9809Emma teaching Sunday kids’ program. Exciting to think our Japanese friends’ kids are learning about Jesus!

IMG_3506A typical Sunday afternoon. Picnic lunch with our friends in Toyosu.

IMG_3484A view of Tokyo from the top of our friends’ apartment building. The red arrow is pointing to our apartment. Praying that the Lord will bring the millions in this city to the saving knowledge of Jesus!

 

 

 

September Photo Update

It’s hard to believe it’s already been six months since we moved to Japan and a full month since the last photo update… Time flies!

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I was invited to go to a conference in Cambodia for missionaries, and I had the opportunity to spend time with some of the Japanese pastors/ministry workers who are laboring in Japan. I came home greatly encouraged by our time together and I look forward to partnering in the gospel with them.

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Angkor Wat ruins.

 

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Tamia receiving a present from the principle at her kindergarten during a birthday celebration for September birthdays.

photo 2At the Ueno Zoo.

IMG_3248Another rainy(?) day in Tokyo.

photo 5School sports day at our kids’ school. A great event that brings the community together. Tons of parents. I got to speak to a guy who lives a few floors down from us. Praying for open doors.

August Photo Update

The sweltering heat of our first summer in Tokyo is starting to die down, and our kids started school again this week after a 5-week break. A lot has happened in a month. Very short but full summer… Here are some pictures from August:

 

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I play on a PTA softball team with other parents who have kids in our local elementary school. I’m getting to know one of them in particular, who lost his wife a couple of years ago. He has a daughter, and he wants her to learn English. They live in our apartment complex, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better.

 

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We hosted an event called Kids English Week (a little bit like VBS in America), and close to 100 kids in two different age groups attended. A short-term team from Covenant Life Church (Gaithersburg, MD) came to help us with the event. We were able to serve and bless these kids and their families, and to connect with some of the parents through this event.

 

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Kids English Week: Craft time

 

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Kids English Week: One of the hidden talents of our fellow missionary, Bob Drews, that we discovered through this event was being a pirate. He played the part so well!

 

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Kids English Week: Older kids group picture

 

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Thank you dinner for the CLC team at our apartment with Grace Harbor Team families.

 

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Grace Harbor Church Staff Team: Back row (L to R) – Lisa & Sean Radke, Bob Drews (missing his wife Sharon!), Seima Aoyagi, Atsushi Kabeya; Front row (L to R) – Jon & Sarah Pfeil, Naoko Aoyagi, Emma & yours truly.

 

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After being here for a few months getting settled in and adjusting to our new life here, we got to take a little breather as we drove for 4 hours up to a village called Tanne, where my mom’s family is from. I spent my summer and winter breaks there as a child. Mountains, rivers, ocean, fish, bugs, and fresh fruits and vegetables, many fond memories of this place. It’s been more than 10 years since I last visited the village. Not much has changed except for more empty houses as young people move to the cities and old people pass away. The elementary school in the village has been transformed into a nursing home. A sign of aging and childless Japan. There are many villages like this all over Japan. A sad reality. Looking forward to the city that is to come!

 

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My grandparents’ house. Since both of them have passed away, it sits there empty most of the time. My uncle owns and maintains it. Grateful to him for letting us use it!

 

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Kids caught rainbow trout at a nearby trout farm. They were delicious!

 

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Trying to recreate a similar picture from when I was Peter’s age…

 

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The ocean was 10 minutes away, so we got to go to the nearby beaches a couple of times.

 

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One of my favorite memories of summer from my childhood is fireworks. Glad we were able to enjoy it before the summer’s end…

 

We’re grateful to God for the summer full of events and new encounters and fun memories as a family!

July Photo Update

Summer is here (it’s very hot and humid…90F+!), and we’ve had a number of events in the last month or so. Here are some pictures from the recent events. Enjoy!

 

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Redeemer City to City held a church planting intensive in Tokyo for future church planters. It was so encouraging to see many gospel workers from different countries in Asia gather in Tokyo, and Seima got to share the vision of Grace Harbor Church with them. I was able to attend a couple of sessions as an observer and was grateful for the opportunity to meet these brothers and sisters who will go into the Lord’s harvest fields in different countries.

 

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Grace Harbor Art & Music Party at a local restaurant, Cafe Haus. About a hundred kids & adults attended this event. Kids’ origami creation!

 

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“Frozen” (Disney movie that every kid in Japan seems to know) Concert that attracted many families in the area. Our friend Roger Lowther helped people connect the themes from movie to the message of Jesus.

 

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English Play Day put on by a short-term mission team from CA. Attended by local parents and kids, learning some dance moves!

 

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My girls wore 浴衣 (“yukata”) for their school festival.

 

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7/21 was “Sea Day” in Japan, so we went to the nearby “beach”.  Ah, we miss the OBX!!! But we had a good time, though, especially this little guy.

 

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And finally, we want to congratulate this young man for finishing his first semester of Japanese public school! He did not miss a single day of school, and despite the many challenges he’s faced, God is helping him to be resilient and is doing an amazing job adapting to his new environment.

Why Japan?

Here’s a video that I came across recently that seeks to answer the question, “Why does Japan need missionaries?” I say AMEN! to the comment starting around 3:30. God can make it happen!

 

 

 

 

World Cup Viewing

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A couple of Sundays ago, I got to preach God’s Word for the first time at Grace Harbor Church, and despite the fact that Japan was playing their first game at the World Cup during church, many people came to the worship service, including several non-Christian friends. Thanks to technology, we recorded the game and we were able to gather at our apartment and watch the game together after church. There were 43 people (counting the babies) in our small apartment! Although the result of the game was disappointing, we were very encouraged by the fact that God is blessing our church with wonderful friendships with people in our neighborhood that we are growing to love.

Lessons from Rice Planting

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A couple of weeks ago, a kind lady Emma met at our kid’s ‘yochien’ (kindergarten) invited our family to a rice planting event that her husband’s company hosted. We thought it would be a unique cultural experience for us, so we went.

 

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As you can see, the kids had a blast in the mud – for a while… The novelty of planting rice and the excitement of playing in the mud quickly dissipated within several minutes and they went off somewhere to do other, more exciting things. So the adult men (that’s right, the ladies chatted the whole time outside the field, staying clean!) had to finish planting the entire field by ourselves. As we engaged in this monotonous, back-breaking work for several hours, I started seeing many similarities between this work and the work that God has called us to do in Japan.

  • Many hands make light work. If I were doing it by myself, I probably would have quit long before the task was done. I was glad I was doing it with other people! When the work got hard towards the end and no one was talking, someone would make some funny comments, and everyone would laugh and it made the hard task seem bearable and even fun. I’m grateful to God for the team that we get to be a part of at Grace Harbor Church. Engaging in the task of planting gospel seeds in Tokyo with its population of 36 million people seems like an overwhelming task, but “striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” with brothers and sisters who are committed to the work brings encouragement and joy. We’re praying for more workers!
  • A vision of the harvest sustains you. When the task of planting rice was especially hard, I imagined the harvest time when the full grains of rice would be harvested and enjoyed. That vision of the harvest made the task of planting seem rewarding. God is “the Lord of the harvest,” and I trust He will use our efforts in planting and bring about the harvest of people bring brought into His kingdom. We did enjoy a full bowl of delicious rice for lunch  afterwards, and I look forward to the days when, by God’s grace,  we will enjoy the fruit of our labor for the gospel.
  • God is the One who makes things grow. As we were planting rice, I realized how bizarre it was that this tiny plant that looks like plain old weed would grow and produce the delicious rice that I so enjoy. God causes the sun to rise and provides the rain (By the way, here is a great little meditation on rain by John Piper) and causes things to grow. Even if we try our best to plant, the fruit is ultimately up to God to provide. A spiritual new birth is something that only God can provide, and when it happens, it is a wonder to behold. He alone has the power to do it, and with confidence in His power to make things grow and produce fruit, we want to remain faithful to plant.

Just a few thoughts after that long and fulfilling day in the mud and sunshine…

 

1 Month in Japan

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since our arrival in Japan. We had been busy looking for an apartment, taking care of things related to kids’ school, and I’ve been filling out an inordinate amount of paperwork. We finally moved into our apartment God has graciously provided for us last week. We are still waiting for furniture to arrive (we’ve been having picnic dinners on the floor this week!) and we are still setting up our apartment, but I’m able to sit down (on the floor \^0^/ – Japanese people use these a lot btw…) to write this brief update.

Here are some pictures from this past month:

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We stayed with my family while we looked for an apartment. They have been super helpful! Dinner out on the last night with them.

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Kaiya hugging a Japanese Colonel Sanders.

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Streets of Ginza, “Pedestrians’ Heaven.” No cars here on weekends for all the shoppers!

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A view of Tokyo from a friend’s apartment building.

 

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J’s first day in a Japanese school

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Kaiya’s school entrance ceremony. She had a pair of sparkling black shoes, but she had to change into her ‘inside shoes’!

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Tamia’s first day in kindergarten

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God has graciously provided an apartment for us!

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J in his classroom.

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Our first worship service at Grace Harbor Church.

 

Family Picture Update

Here’s what we’ve been up to…

 

  • Early morning goodbye from Emma’s family.

  • 11 bags on 1 cart! (The cart was huge).

  • Peter at the airport, ready to board the plane on his 2nd birthday.

  • I have found that playdough is best for airports, not your own kitchen.

  • Not sure why it looks like we have no luggage. Seita must have been carrying it all.

  • Sweet welcome from Sarah!

  • Waiting for the train and figuring out our way on google maps.

  • Welcome brunch from the Grace Harbor Team. Just missing Seima who was in the States!

  • Apartment searching…

In LA en route Tokyo

We are in LA waiting for our flight that will take us to Tokyo. We had an early start and we are pretty tired, but the kids did amazingly on the first flight from DC. I know many people are praying for us and for that, we are very grateful!

Here are some pics from our first leg:

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Photo credit: J Sakaguchi

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