Monday, December 30, 2013

We are official drivers in Japan!

With smiles of appreciation --
we have our Japanese driver's licenses!
On Thursday, 26 December, we arose early in the morning to make the hour drive to Yokohama, specifically to the Futamatagawa License Examination Hall.  As we drove, we were counting to ten in Japanese, practicing our Japanese directions (left, right, stop, speed up, etc.).  We tested each other on the "pre-exam" requirements (looking under the car for objects, locking the door, adjusting the mirrors, etc.).  But, we knew that we would be returning to Yokosuka WITHOUT our license.

Everyone told us that NO ONE passes on their first attempt - especially foreigners.  This was our last step in our transition and we really wanted to be done.  

Over the past six months since our arrival in Japan, we have learned that the driver's license conversion for Americans is quite difficult.  In Germany, we were blessed to have contractor status at Ramstein.  This allowed us to get a license from the base without having to get a German driver's license.  In hind sight, we wish we would have had a German drivers license.  Germans have an agreement with the Japanese and they need to pass an eye test and written exam to receive their Japanese Driver's License.  The United States does NOT have that type of an agreement, so we needed to go through the complete process.  Neither one of us has had to take a driving test since we were 16!

The process is a three step process:  (1) formal application; (2) eye and written exams; (3) driving exam. Fortunately, the written exam is in English and is fairly easy.  The driving exam is on a specific course at the exemption hall, is administered by a police officer and is in Japanese.  We are not allowed to have a translator with us during the exam.  You may have a translator to help you with the paperwork and to get feedback after your exam, but not during the exam.

We have been driving in Japan with our International Driver's License.  We have had six months of practice to get use to driving behind the wheel which is on the right side of the car and driving on the right side of the road.  We also took a lesson which was quite expensive!  But, we had an English speaking instructor and we could drive the course that we were taking the exam on.  Keitasan was very patient and helpful, but he too prepared us for first time failure.

After a busy Christmas day, we went to bed and were ready to get up and tackle the test.  Cathy decided to check her email to see if anyone back in the States was awake yet on Christmas morn.  No stateside emails, but we received an email from our friend who was going to meet us at the examination hall to be our translator.  She notified us that she was sick and would not be able to meet us.  It was 9:45PM and we were stunned.  We had to leave at 5:30AM to go to Yokohama and we had no idea who to call to replace her.  We contacted a young man that we thought might have the day off from work to see if he could help us.  Unfortunately, he couldn't.  We checked with another few friends, but of course, at the late hour, everyone was busy.

Takako and Josh
We just stared at each other and decided we would have to change our appointment - which requires you to go in person.  We actually thought about trying to take the exam without a translator, but knew that would be difficult.  On Christmas, we had one of our sailors bring a Japanese friend to dinner.  Takako spent the day with us and I took of picture of her & Josh.  She asked me to email it to her and provided me with her email address AND cell phone.  We decided to give her a call.  We had spent about 5 hours with her, and felt bad for calling so late and asking her such a big favor, especially since we just met her….BUT we were desperate.  It was 10:45PM and Cathy called.  It went to voice mail and we left Takako a message.  At 11:00PM, we went to bed realizing we were destined to have to reschedule our driving test.   

At 11:15PM, the phone rang and it was Takako.  She apologized for calling so late and then told us she would be more than happy to help us out.  It turns out that she lived in Yokohama and knew where the examination hall was and she could meet us there! Takako was a tremendous help.  We would never have been able to complete the various paperwork that was needed nor understand the examiner without her!  The driving test and results took almost 6 hours - what a huge sacrifice of time for her!  We were so grateful!

Cathy was chosen to take the exam first.  The next person that takes the examination actually gets to ride in the backseat to watch.  So, Cathy pulls out with the examiner and a Chinese woman.  When she returned to the beginning station, the examiner told her (through Takako) the things that she had not done correctly.  The Chinese gal hops into the driver's seat and Lou now sits in the back seat.   After a few minutes, the Chinese gal is back at the starting point.  It seemed like she didn't take as long to finish the course as Cathy.  It turns out that she didn't finish the course. She failed somewhere during the test and was asked to return.  Lou had no idea what she did wrong and he automatically thought he was a "dead man".  Lou hops in the front seat and upon return he too learns what he had not done correctly.  We were convinced that we would be returning to retake the exam.

After the other people take the exam, the instructor grades the tests and calls us forward.  He is sitting behind a window and hands the paperwork to you with either a date for your retake exam or information about the next step after passing.  We get called forward as a team…Takako talks to the examiner and turns to us and says "You both passed!".  We were stunned, shocked, speechless.  Cathy said "Did you say 'we both passed'?".  Takako smiled and said "YES".  If the examiner wasn't behind the window, Cathy would have probably hugged him. We honestly were shocked.  

There were 15 foreigners that took the exam that day, 4 of us passed.  One was an Indian man and it was his second time taking the exam.  One was a Chinese lady and it was her third time taking the exam.  The Chinese lady that was driving with Lou failed and it was her fifth attempt.  We felt so bad for her.   It took another 2 hours to get our actual license.  But, we now can drive in Japan for as long as we stay in Japan.  

We are grateful for our driving instructor, Keitasan.  We are VERY thankful for Takako and her willingness to help us with the translation and giving up her entire day for us.  We are convinced we had a fair but kind examiner.  God is good!

Cathy sent Keitasan and Mikisan (she was the lady that provided us with the information on the driving school) an email to tell them that we passed on our first try.  Mikisan told Cathy that in the 5 years she has been helping foreigners get their license, she has never had anyone pass on their first time!  Keitasan told us that we were his first foreign students that passed on their first time. We don't share this to receive accolades on our ability; we share this so you understand truly what a miracle this is!  Stay off the streets in Japan -- Lou & Cathy are driving.  We wish you all a very Happy 2014!  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas is right around the corner!

We don't know about you….but we cannot believe Christmas is in just a few days!  We are excited to be here in Yokosuka and have the opportunity to open our home to the sailors that serve our nation.  We continue to be amazed at how much we LOVE what we do.  We enjoy being a safe place for people.  We constantly tell people that no matter where you are on your spiritual journey -- you are WELCOME in our home.  Come enjoy a home cooked meal, in an environment where you can just be yourself, have fun, ask questions and have a family when you are so far away from yours.

Paul & Natalie & Sam
A couple of our favorite sailors
As we get ready to celebrate Christmas, we have been focusing on WHY do we celebrate Christmas.  Lou has done a fabulous job unpacking who Jesus is and the significant of why we should celebrate His birth.  

The Lighthouse is a safe place for people who have no idea if God exists or why Jesus came, but are curious to find out more.  For the people, and there are many in our community, who are discouraged, lonely, feel adrift in life, they can come and learn more about the peace and comfort they can experience by beginning a relationship with Jesus.  Finally, the Lighthouse is a safe place for those who are in the midst of the joyous journey of being a Christ follower.  

No matter where you are or what's going on with you this Christmas, we love you and miss you.  We wish we could be home in Colorado to celebrate Christmas with our families.  But, we are grateful for our "home away from home" here in Japan and that we can be extended family to the folks that will come through our doors.  We wish you a joyous & holy Christmas.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Moving towards Christmas

We had a great first Thanksgiving here in Japan.  I find that after Thanksgiving weekend is over, we are thrust into the Christmas season.  We tend to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, busy calendars and being pulled in many different directions.  How many of us just try to survive the holidays?  

One thing that tends to go out the window for me is the art of slowing down and reflecting during this special season.  I tend get caught up in the activities of life and I don't take time to reflect on what God did for me as He came to Earth that first Christmas morning.  This morning as I was reading my devotional, I was reminded of this:

"Modern man has lost the perspective of eternity.  To distract himself from the gaping jaws of death, he engages in ceaseless activity and amusement.  The practice of being sill in My Presence is almost a lost art, yet it is this very stillness that enables you to experience My eternal Love."  Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

We are going to try and embrace slowing down this month.  It will be hard, but yet it is vital to our well-being.  When we slow down we can reflect on the love of God that has for us, the blessings that this year had bestowed upon us, and mourn the trials and heart ache that we have experienced.

Lou & I aren't typically very liturgical in our practices, but this year, we are going to spend some time each Sunday celebrating the Advent.  The Advent season reminds us that to "reenter" the story of the coming King….Jesus.  Today, we are going to reflect on the first week of hope.  We would encourage you to STOP for a few moments, cease activity and reflect on the hope we have.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Power of Community

Cadence has a "mission verse"...."We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."  I Thessalonians 2:8

African Children's Choir - Uganda
We housed the choir while they
traveled Japan and ministered
to the Japanese.
We love this challenge of sharing our lives with the military community. As we share our lives, we build community with one another. What does community mean to you? For us, community is family. A group of people that share their lives with one another, they share their dreams, their failures, they support one another in good times and in bad, they accept one another and love each other to grow and change in all areas of their lives. Community impacts other communities. In the short time we have been in Yokosuka and serving at the Lighthouse, we have experienced the power of community.

We have seen people sacrifice their Saturday afternoon to go help a pregnant women whose husband was at sea and she needed some yard work done. We have seen people sacrifice their time to love a group of children from Uganda. We have seen people give money to meet the needs of another community in Cambodia. We have seen people reach out to their co-workers who are going through a difficult marital situation. This is sharing your lives with one another, this is sharing the gospel. 
Our folks hanging out with some
international students from a
Tokyo university

We love being the place where people can come and experience community. We have people in our ministry that are single and married, people with kids and people with no kids, people who recently said good-bye to a college-age child, people who have recently said hello to their first child. We have people that have experienced fulfilled dreams and are dealing with the grief of broken dreams. We have the privilege to come along side them all and love this community.

Cathy and Sapphira Jean
For those of you who are on our prayer & financial team, you are extension of this community. People experience a "home away from home" because of people that sacrifice their finances so we can be a community to the military and to the Japanese.  We are so blessed to be a part of the Cadence community, the Lighthouse community and the community of believers!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Brothers/SIsters, to Parents, to Grandparents

Jay and his family
One of our first 20 something...
now all grown up!
About 15 years ago, we began doing life with 20 & 30 somethings.  We served our church by hosting a small group where we enjoyed dinner together, a time of bible study and then hang out time over dessert.  When we began we fit the role of an older brother & sister to the folks we loved.  It was fun to come alongside them as they started their "adult lives", dealing with "adult issues".  We walked through various joys and sorrows, explored what it meant to be a Christ-follower, discussed budget ideas, gave advise on dealing with difficult bosses, enjoyed hearing about first stages of romance -- this is doing life with one another.  

Celebrating seminary
graduation with Andrew Hess....
one of our favorite "goofballs"
Our philosophy hasn't changed, whether it is serving our church, working at Northrop Grumman, or serving with Cadence, we have learned that when you share a meal, you can begin to share your lives with one another.  We absolutely LOVE this age group!! We have continued to knit our hearts together with 20 & 30 somethings, but they stay 20 & 30 and we continue to get older.  We moved into the surrogate parent role a few years ago.  We have gone to more weddings, baby showers, college graduations in our 40's & 50's than when we were in our 20's & 30's.  

Greta  (on left)
Her first ballet recital
Meadow & Lou
Now as the years have progressed, many of the people that we love, now have children.  Their kiddos look to us as surrogate grandparents.  Since we have joined Cadence, we have been invited to piano recitals & ballet recitals, baseball & soccer games, spelling bees, softball tournaments and so much more.  

Our military kids want their grandparents to participate and it is too expensive and far away for most to be able to come.  So, we go, we attend, we cheer, we wave from the crowd, we hug them, we toss a ball to them, we love them.  We understand the sacrifices that our military personnel make for our country; so, it is an honor to be family to them.  No matter what role we play:  brother or sister, mom or dad, or grandpa or grandma, it is a pleasure to do life & ministry with them all!

Emily Rei Howie -- our
first Japanese "granddaughter"
Cadence has a core verse that illustrates our vision for doing life & ministry.  I Thessalonians 2:8, "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us."  Thanks for allowing us to share our lives with you.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Saying Good-bye to Yukie Ida!!

Our last night with Yukie
For those of you who are in the military, you know how hard it is to say good-bye.  It is a reality in our job....people leave our ministry regularly. We don't have to like it, but it is something we have to deal with.

This week we said good-bye to someone very dear to us, to the Lighthouse community and to the local Japanese community.  

Yukie Ida has been a part of the Yokosuka community for several years.  She came to the Lighthouse and met Jesus here.  As she grew in her faith, she was asked to join the Lighthouse team.  Yukie has served here for 6 years.  On Monday, she said good-bye to her "family".  The Lord is leading her to another ministry focus.  

Yukie and her Navy Christian Sisters
Yukie has served with four different house directors:  Paul & Stacy Cassidy, Jim & Martha Bowden, Matthew & Jill Bachali and now us. She has been a faithful servant to Jesus, Cadence and the Lighthouse.  
Yukie and her Japanese Christian Sisters

We were fortunate to have 4 weeks with sweet Yukie.  In those four weeks, we grew to love her & appreciate her deeply.  It became obvious to us that Yukie served in a sacrifical way to the Navy and to the Japanese.  She had a Japanese ladies study, where she was instrumental introducing them to Christ, where she discipled them, and helped these ladies deepen their walk with Jesus.  One sweet gal told me she will miss Yukie because "She taught me about God, she is my sister." Yukie was a blessing to her Navy family as well.  She taught them about Jesus' deep love for them and helped them navigate the Japanese culture. She has been a good friend and a great teammate!

We will miss Yukie!!  But, we know that God has a tremendous plan for her.  We are excited to watch her in this next chapter of life.  Thanks Yukie!  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Scary Dragons & Military love

We walked off the plane a little dazed & confused, but a familiar face greeted us...Matthew Bachali!  We were so glad to see him as we arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday, 12 June.  After juggling our suitcases and getting through customs, we drove to our new home.  When we arrived at the Lighthouse (the name of our ministry), we were greeted by 40+ folks to a "Welcome to Yokosuka" party.  We enjoyed a fabulous dinner and met several people that we will be doing life with here in Yokosuka. 

Our first few days with Matthew & Yukie have been fabulous!  We are so grateful for the ministry that Matthew & Jill, Carolyn & Yukie have done in this past year.  We are inheriting a very healthy ministry, a fabulous leadership team and a beautiful home.  We have been very busy with transition items:  getting alien registration cards, learning nuances with the house, transfering bank accounts, utilities, cell phones, etc.  Matthew & Yuke have pulled together a wonderful transition plan that we are marching through day-by-day.

In the midst of that, we have become settled into our apartment.  The Lighthouse is unique to Cadence. It is a ministry center, that includes 2 apartments for the Cadence team.  Yukie lives in the 4th floor apartment - a nice 2-bedroom place.  We have the the 3rd floor apartment - a lovely 3-bedroom home.  We have unpacked all of our boxes and put our pictures on the wall.  We have some final touches to truly call it home -- but we are quite settled now.  

Beth & Jennessa with the "work of art"
As we unpacked, we experienced some "love" from our Ktown family.  We would open drawers and find a picture of scary dragons and on the flip side was a note from someone in our ministry in Ktown.  It's a very long story, but these sweet ladies pulled a prank on us in Ktown with this picture.  They tried to convince us that this was a gift from an Air Force man that was part of the Ktown ministry several years ago.  The hospitality house was integral in his adjustment to Germany and he wanted to thank us by giving the house an original work of art.  The young man even showed up to our home one night to see where we had hung his masterpiece.  Beth had us going for a while...Jennessa played innocent; but the truth finally came out.  They found this "work of art" in a dumpster and as good youth workers decided to prank us.  
How fun it was to find these pictures throughout the house and receive words of love, encouragement, prayers & support from our Germany family!  Saying good-bye to to our Ktown family was so hard and we miss them very much.  God is good!  He has used our new Navy family in these first few days to make us feel welcome and He has used our Ktown family to feel loved and to remind us why we serve the military!  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One week from today......

One week from today, we are flying to Tokyo!  We cannot believe how fast our time has flown.  We have enjoyed seeing many of you and catching up on life.  

But, we are ready to go!  When we received our work VISAs a few weeks ago, we were excited.  It was the final step for our move to Japan.  We truly miss loving on our military!  We are excited to have the opportunity to learn a new military culture as we do life with the Navy.  We cannot wait to begin life and ministry with these fine folks.

As we enter this last week, we have mixed emotions as our time with our family is coming to an end.  Please keep us in your prayers as we say our good-byes and get our final hugs before we leave.  Please pray for our transition as we begin our life and our ministry in Japan.  We are so thankful for Matthew & Jill Bachali who have, along with their four kids, sacrificed this year to serve at the Yokosuka Hospitality House.  They have done an amazing job loving our sailors!  We will have big shoes to fill.  We will be in touch again soon!  Thanks again for your love, friendship & prayers.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Dad!

Dad & Mom....53 years together and going strong!
Today is my father's 75th birthday:  April 18, 1938.  We spent the weekend celebrating this milestone day.  We started on Saturday evening with a family dinner out.  I feel so fortunate that my family and I get along and enjoy each other's company so much.   I am grateful that my parent's foster that over the years.  Whenever we have had conflicts, they encouraged us to forgive and move one.  We have walked through many joys and sorrows together, but our family is united.  I love being able to call my parents and my siblings friends!!
Chuckie as a baby!  So cute!

We spent Sunday enjoying some cake & ice cream with extended family and friends.  It was a small affair -- Dad is not one for the lime light.  But, it was fun to share stories from his youth and his life.  

We won't be together today for his 75th birthday.  But, I hope my father knows how much I love & respect him.  I enjoy spending time with him, ribbing him, hanging out and loving him.  He has been instrumental in my life as a mentor for my spiritual convictions, my success in the work place and molding me as a wife and a mother.  I am forever grateful for him.  Happy Birthday Dad!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Easter 2013

Andrew and Amanda
Boulder, Colorado
"What is the hardest thing about living overseas?" is one of the most frequent questions we receive.  Without question,  it is being away from family and friends.  We loved our Germany community and they were like family to us!  But, we do miss the folks that we have done life with for so long.  It has been fun to reconnect with so many dear people and hear what has been going on in their lives.
Jack & Melissa Bruckner
Broomfield, CO

We enjoyed a beautiful, sunny Easter weekend in Colorado.  This will be our last formal holiday at home before we move to Yokosuka.  We had the opportunity to visit some friends from our Boulder community.  We went to Easter service at our old church, Flatirons Community Church.  

Chris & Nathan playing dominoes
on Easter morning

We miss celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter with family.  We love providing that home away from home to our servicemen and women; but we must admit it was a special time this year!  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It is good to be home!

We made it back to Colorado on Sunday afternoon.  We were on a 2 month road trip visiting friends, extended family, existing supporters and raising some additional support.  God was so faithful to us!  We had so much fun reconnecting with people.  We left for Germany almost 4 years ago.  In most cases, we hadn't seen these folks since we left.  We had precious times of fellowship with everyone!  We also saw some friends from Germany along the way.  We enjoyed catching up on life and hearing how their time back in the States is going.  

Alan & Robin Brunton --
friends from Fortville, Indiana
God blessed us with safe travels and great weather on drive days, except for one:  OUR VERY LAST DAY.  As we returned to Denver, we got stuck in Limon for a few hours.  [Limon is a Colorado town on the Kansas border.] A major snow storm had hit the Denver and the eastern plains of Colorado on Saturday.  The roads were in good shape as we drove on Sunday.  But, there was an accident that closed I-70 for almost 2 hours.  We enjoyed a break in a little cowboy bar in Limon.  We made it home just fine!

Aunt Cathy with her
sweet niece, Avery Palmer
We will be sending out a formal newsletter soon.  You will hear more stories from our time away from Colorado.  We are glad to be back and will be spending time with our Colorado friends & family over the next few months.  

Please continue to pray for our transition to Japan.  We are waiting for our VISAs to be approved.  We are getting more & more excited about our next assignment with Cadence.  Thank you for your faithfulness to us and our ministry.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Modern Day Idols

On 18 January, we left on a two (2) road trip.  We are visiting friends, family, and supporters.  As we planned our trip, we struggled with where to go, who to see and how long to be gone.  It was a difficult decision because we realized we will not be able to see everyone.  As we have been driving around the country, we have enjoyed some fun visits with people and it's been great to reconnect with so many people.  But when you are locked in a car, you also have a ton of time to think and pray as you are driving from Albuquerque to Dallas.

A few months ago, I (Cathy) began meditating on the first and second commandments about not having any gods before God and not worshipping idols.  Since, I've had many hours in the car, this is something that I have been rethinking.  I don't know if anyone else struggles with this, but I sometimes think that I don't have idols in my life.  I don't worship an image or bow down to a idol.  But, I'm finding there are other things that might be considered a "god".  So, I've been convicted to evaluate the idols in my life that keep me from worshipping the Lord with all my heart, soul and mind.

What are our modern day idols?  Work? Cars? Finding a mate?  Wishing for a child? Caring for loved ones? Perfectionism? Diet & exercise? Lack of Vulnerability? I'm not saying that some of these are bad desires or hobbies, some of them are; but if any of them are more important than my relationship with the Lord, they might be an idol.

For me, and I'm still trying to get my arms around this, I know that one my idols is my family.  I love my husband and cannot imagine life without him.  My relationship with my daughter is in a good place and I want it to continue to get better.  I am honored to have great parents that I respect, love dearly and can call friends.  My siblings, Rich & Jeanne, hold a very dear place in my heart - I should probably tell them that more often.  

Now, that doesn't sound too bad, what's wrong with this?  I'm starting to realize that I sometimes put pleasing them over pleasing God.  I sometimes obey them, when God is leading me to do something else.  It's easier to not have a conflict with my husband, than it is to disobey God.  

I'm just beginning to unpack this, but I am convinced that I need continue.  My heart is realizing that I have idols in my life and I really don't like it!  I want God to hold the place in my heart, the place in my worship, the place in my thought life that He deserves.  

So, as I continue over the next several weeks, I am going to be asking the Lord to reveal areas of my heart that are holding a higher place than they should.  I am asking Him to reveal to me other idols that are limiting me from truly experiencing an abundant walk with the creater of the Universe.  Will you join me?