Saturday, December 22, 2007

Too Many Thoughts to Give This a Title

My heart is full of love. We are home from Japan for three months and we are taking this time to freely travel and visit many friends and family who are spread out over the mid-west. This has been a time of rest and deep appreciation. I am so grateful for this time the Lord has given us with our community. It has been a type of sabbatical for my heart.

We have only been back for a few weeks and already I feel so refreshed and renewed. I am quite suprised that we have had this opportunity, actually. I wouldn't have considered us "burnt out" or "worn out" so the notion of a "sabbatical" almost seems undeserved. In my mind only life-long "missionaries" or pastors get this much time off. But....maybe that is what we are. Maybe we are all just that...missionaries or pastors. Not that you or I may necessarily be under these titles in the worlds eyes but I think we are in His eyes. He asks that all of us see our path with the purpose of making Him known. A pastor is no more "closer" to God than a plumber if they are both being obedient to the Lord's calling on their life.

It's funny to me how we lift pastors and missionaries above all other "ministries"(jobs). Yes, these people are incredible and amazing but they are just the same as accountants or teachers who love the Lord....they are people seeking Him. I write this because we are asked a lot if what we are doing is "mission work". I always reply yes, even though it may not be "officially" (by the world's standards) titled that. Jason and I are following the Lord's calling. We are seeking to make Him known in every aspect of this journey on which He has walked with us. I am sad for those who think they are some how less holy or righteous because they aren't in "ministry". Where ever the Lord has you....that is your ministry. Being in ministry is a wonderful thing...and I challenge you to think about the definition of ministry.

The world is large and lost. There is pain EVERYWHERE. There is sadness and tears in many a crevice of the world's heart. The world needs the Body of Christ to love it. It is not the job of just missionaries or pastors. It is the calling of all of those who love Him. There is an aching world and I look upon it and many times, feel defeat. I want to love others as deeply as Christ has loved me but I get stuck in my own agenda, judgement, and sin; and it cripples me. I doubt. I judge in my heart. I analyze with my own wisdom which, according to 1 Corinthians, isn't much and I would have to agree. So....that is when He shows me that I have tried to love on my own. That is when He shows me I have stepped out from under the shadow of His wings. That is when He shows me that I can only love through His power, through the Holy Spirit...through Him. I am learning. I must remember not to get frustrated with the process. I desire to have the patience of Moses, who waited 80 years before stepping into his purpose. I desire to wait on the Lord and be trained by Him until He says I am ready. Ready for what? I'm not sure but I will wait when He tells me to wait and I will go when He tells me to go.

So....where do I start....where do you start....where do we start. We pray. It's the only thing we can do when we are unsure of where to go. The only thing when we doubt and have nothing left to give. However, just as much as we talk....we must listen. And He is speaking. You hear Him. Remember who HE, HIM, I AM has made you. He wants to talk with you about that. We want instant results from the Lord....well, at least I do. But I have to remember what He says about His timing....."The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness." 2 Pet. 3:9 So, I will pray that you would please pray with me for the movement of His Holy Spirit across His lands. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your prayers and direct your heart and please pray for me that I may also pray with you and that the Holy Spririt would guide my prayers and heart.

My heart is full.

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each another and forgive whatever grievances you may have with one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity. " -Colossians 3:12-14 (the verses after that are really great too :) )

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

the Lord's timing is perfect

So, first let me say….What!? Jason and I were prepared to head back to the states thinking our opportunities in Japan were finished and over but on the day that we went to book our plane tickets we got a phone call from our friends, the Barton’s (they have been missionaries to Japan for about 29 years), asking us if we had already booked our ticket. “Well, no not yet but we were about to.” We answered. “Well don’t! Wait, because we may have a job opportunity for you.” replied Cheryl. You see, Bernie is a principal at an all girls Christian Japanese Jr. and Sr. High School and there was a sudden, unexpected opening at his school for two teachers to teach conversational English. We couldn’t believe it. We met with the Barton’s for dinner to discuss the details of the position and we couldn’t believe what we were hearing….everything sounded great. So, we went home and began to pray about what the Lord wanted us to do. After much prayer and thought we have decided to take the positions. We are so excited and we can’t believe how the Lord worked it all out! He is so good! We will go home for three months and we will return in mid-March because Japan’s spring semester begins in April. So, we get to go home for the holidays, spend some more quality time with friends and family and then move back to Japan. We will be moving into a much healthier situation and we are excited to see what the Lord is going to do in the next year in Japan! Please continue to pray for us as we will need to change our VISAs over to the school and cancel our current ones. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem but please pray that all goes smoothly. Also, please pray for us as we prepare to go back. We will be studying the language more intensely when we come back to the states so as to communicate more clearly with these girls about Jesus and who He is and His Kingdom.

God’s timing is so perfect and although periods of waiting were so hard I am so glad that we did wait on Him. He is faithful to always provide in whatever circumstance.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

relaxing in Kobe (south-central japan)

We have come to Kobe for the weekend with our friends, the Barton's. The Barton's have been missionaries to Japan for 29 years. This is a very impressive factor to me. I don't know if I could live in another country for that long. Their story is amazing to me. They were pastors of a church in Kobe for a long time (somewhere around 23 years or so) and then they were called to move away to Tokyo where Mr. Barton became a principal of a Christian school. When they left Kobe they had some replacement pastors but they came and left very quickly and since that time there has been one other pastor but hasn't stayed long. So, this church that they have pastored for so long is without a pastor now and the Bartons visit about once a month to this church to encourage the believers.

On this particular visit they invited us to come along to see Kobe and to experience another part of Japan. We were so thankful for this opportunity but we were unsure of what exactly to do because on the day the Bartons were leaving there was an information session in regards to the new company. The pull to want to have information and some sort of understanding was pulling at our decision to stay in Tokyo and forego the trip this time in hope that we might still be in Japan the next time they came for a visit. However, after much thinking and praying we decided to go on the trip. Although it would seem to make sense to go get some information we had been waiting for, we just didn't have a peace about staying. Thankfully, after a converstation with a co-worker who attended the meeting and after reading some news articles, we discovered we had made the best decision. Any of the information we needed we could get from the internet and from the Nova office at a later date. So, we got the information we needed and some relaxing time in Kobe.

We have felt more at peace here than we have in Japan in a long time. ummm, maybe not more at peace just more at home, more still. We attended our first church service here in Japan and although it was all in Japanese it was such a blessing. We visited Kyoto, which we have been wanting to do and this was a great time and opportunity.

I write all this to say that in this time of waiting and chaos the Lord has been so good to give us some peace and beautiful moments to see and experience him. He is so faithful and so loving and so good. In all of this he has walked with us through these days of directional blindness. He is guiding us. to Him be all praise and glory! Amen!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

NOVA update

so here's the 411 on what is going on so far with our jobs....NOVA closed on Oct. 26th, filed for court protection from creditors, and fired President Nozumo Sahashi all in the same day. We have not been to work since that time. the court appointed two lawyers to find sponsors to take over the company and if they did not find a sponsor by Nov. 5th the lawyers would begin bankruptcy procedures for Nova. Well, a sponsor has been found and will take over nova. However, the new company will only open 30 of the near 700 schools initially with a goal to open nearly 200 schools in the future. the company said they would employee any nova teachers who wished to work for them but have yet to explain how they plan to employ over 4,000 instructors in only 30 schools during the first phase of restructuring. Also, we might have to reapply for our jobs but that might just be a rumor. Updates and information come very slowly. So, we are waiting to hear more. In regards to our unpaid wages for the months of September and October, we are in the dark about this as well. However, in the midst of all of these unknowns God has been so faithful to provide for us. We have a place to sleep and enough food for a day whereas many nova teachers have been evicted from their apartment and are living on just one meal a day. the Lord has given us all we need for today and He will give us all that we need for tomorrow. We praise Him for all He has done for us. Words can't express how thankful we are that He continues to provide peace in our hearts and minds and for our physical needs. He is so Good! Please continue to pray for us if you think about us. We love you and miss you all!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

the Goodness of God

When we experience Jesus, when we experience his holy spirit, no words can quite explain the inward, personal journey that we have been traveling nor can we accurately describe all the small details and wonders that one encounters. Were we ever really meant to explain it with in such a way so that those listening or reading will fully understand? I think maybe not because if we could do that…if we could experience things through someone’s words what would be the point of the Holy Spirit? Only He can speak to those places in our heart where we need His light and truth…nothing/no one else can do that.

I have been on a difficult but beautifully sweet journey with the Lord over the past months while here in Japan. Words can not do it justice and it will sound like something you may have already heard once in a sermon somewhere or from some book you may have read or from another friends personal story but to me it (the lessons I am learning) are far more real than I have ever known them to be. Where the Lord has me walking is like a journey through the highest mountains. It is on the highest mountain peaks that you can catch a view with our eyes but never with a camera…it is impossible to capture the beauty and splendor, you need to be on that peak yourself to really understand what you have seen in pictures or heard described. The climb to the highest peaks is steep and can make the muscles and joints in your body ache and groan with ever step but the experience of the journey is one that you will not soon forget. This is where Jesus and I are…we are climbing the mountain together and I am learning some hard and wonderful lessons. These are not lessons of knowledge from books or just understanding scripture from my own reading but these are lessons that only come from the revelation and the breath of the Holy Spirit. I am learning that chaos is all around me and in me but He is always constant. I am beginning to understand the importance of waiting on him past my normal threshold of waiting time. I am learning just how faithful of a provider He is. I am learning to trust Him more deeply than I did three months ago. I am learning surrender. I am recognizing where I like to live by my own agenda because that feels safe when really what He has in store for me is a lot more fun. Who knew I had to come to Japan to learn all these things?

God is so good. Although we don’t know for sure if we still have jobs we are being provided for in every way. We have food for today and a place to sleep which is amazing because our landlord has let us continue to live here in spite of the rent not being paid for three months. This is Jesus. We have not lacked or had a want for anything in these chaotic days. He has given us peace. We have not worried and have not been afraid….we have been impatient and eager for answers but the Holy Spirit quickly reminds us to wait. So we remain in waiting, eager and ready for what the Lord desires and wants. We are eager but not impatient and the two are very different. Thank you to the body and to all the saints who have been praying for us and with us. You are an encouragement to us and a huge support system whom without this time would be much harder. Thank you for being saints, a royal priesthood and such a great cloud of witnesses.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

your prayers are needed

i am writing this quick blog to let our loved ones know some more information about our work situation. we were called this morning and told not to go into work today because the president of NOVA has stepped down as well as many other upper management folks. NOVA will be closed for 10 days and a group of lawyers have decided to take on the NOVA case and try to find a sponsor for NOVA to try to rehabilitate the company. However, if the lawyers fail to do so NOVA will be forced to officially declare bankruptcy. we will be able to receive up to 80% of the money we are owed. so, we will have to wait for 10 days to hear any news.

so wha will we do next if nova fails? we are wondering what the answer to that question is also. we would like to stay in japan but maybe that is not what the Lord has in mind. We are just praying for his guidance and protection in the midst of so many questions. We know he has a plan and we will trust him. We have a lot of peace right now and we are not afraid. this has to be jesus! i am thankful that He is protecting us and for his daily provisions. Please pray for us whenver you think about it.

We will update more whenever we have more news. Until then we will enjoy our time off :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

tribute to the trains

Although circumstances with our jobs are still difficult, we are still loving the time we are having together here in japan. We have had some wonderful food and seen some wonderful things. We have figured out the train system which is a huge feat for any foreigner traveling these parts. We stare at the board that shows the route of the train hoping some how all those Japanese characters will begin to make sense but, as you can probably imagine….they never do and so we hope for the best when we hop on a train. So, considering all of the time and effort and hard earned cash we have used on these trains we would like to give a tribute to the Japan Railways.

Jason took this pic while we were doing what we do on a daily basis….waiting for a train.

We take this train ever day for work and to go into tokyo....

there are few benches and chairs at the station and we walk a lot so any time we get a chance to rest our legs we take it. We often have to stand on the trains because they are so crowded.


a lot of people sleep on the trains and sometimes these sleepers are so out of it that they sleep on you....check out the video below. jason caught it in action.

video

inside the rain and a cute little girl with bunny ears on



here's the train map posted above the ticket machines


a cute little fella waiting for the train and one is never too young to start text messaging which is a very popular past time while riding the trains in japan.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

turning Japanese


It has taken me much longer than is acceptable to write this blog entry. We spilled water on a table which our computer was sitting on and now we have a keyboard with a few of the keys not working. Two of which are the “t” key and the “y” key. So, we have to copy and paste ever t and y that goes into any sort of letter so…writing any sort of response or email takes quite some time. We are trying to decide on the best course of action to repair our sick keyboard.

Well, we have been in Japan now for about two months and we are getting more acquainted with the new culture with each passing day. At first, it was very difficult to be here. We experienced some culture shock for about two weeks after our arrival and we were quite surprised with all the emotion that living in a new culture can bring. Everything was so new. We were far away from anything that was familiar.

We started our new jobs as English Instructors about five days after we got in japan. Training was intense. We got a lot of information all at once but now we are much more comfortable in our jobs and we are starting to get to know some of the students a lot better. Although we are feeling more and more comfortable in our job, things with the company we work for are not looking so great. There is a lot of talk about bankruptcy and we just received a fax today from the president stating that we aren’t getting paid when we are supposed to because there are not enough funds to do so. Jason and I have been praying about what to do in the next few days. This whole situation has become much more serious since we got here. NOVA has taken a nose dive in the public’s eye and financially. NOVA was caught in an advertising scandal back in June and the punishment handed out was that NOVA wasn't allowed to enroll any new students and some students were upset about the situation so they asked for refunds of their already prepaid contracts. so, what is happening to NOVA is what happened with some of the banks during the great depression. NOVA customers deposited their money and then a mad rush came to withdraw it all back out again. Leaving NOVA with only output and no means of input since they were not allowed to enroll new students for 6 months. so, Please pray for us as we seek the Lord about what we should do in regards to this situation. We don’t want to leave japan yet but we need jobs so….we are looking and trusting that the Lord knows what is going on and that He will provide for us.

Being in Japan has really helped me to slow down. I realize since being here that m life in the states was too busy. Too full of activity…..although all that I did I loved, I just did too much. I am much more still in Japan even though our future here is much more shaky. The Lord is teaching me a lot about surrender and more about his character and His deep love for all of his children. I am very content here and this has only come within the last few weeks which is quite ironic since the current situation, under any other circumstances, would make me nervous and anxious.

We have also seen some great parts of traditional Japanese culture. We went to a sumo tournament, walked around the beautiful East Garden of the Imperial Palace, have had an overpriced, but delicious sushi meal, and we are learning how to read and write in Japanese.We are planning some trips in the near future to some great countryside in a couple of weeks as well as a trip to the southern part of japan sometime in November with Jason’s cousin, Ryan who is also a teacher in the same company.

We are excited to see what all the Lord has to show us. Please pray for us when you think of us as we seek what the Lord would want us to do next if the company we work for fails to survive. Also, please pray for our living situation as we live in a NOVA accommodation and if NOVA fails we will not have a place to live. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and I will try to write more than just an update very soon.

video

1st picture: taken from the east garden of the imperial palace....its a wonderful retreat from the very loud and very busy city life

2nd picture: our expensive sushi (we were a bit shocked when we walked into the restaurant) but a wonderful presentation! also, it was delicious!

video: taken while we were at our first sumo match.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Closer and Closer

It's hard to believe that the day for us to leave for Japan is getting closer. We are at 16 days and counting down. We will fly out on the 6th of August for Seattle where we will spend a couple of days with Jason's sister and some of Jason's college friends. We are really excited about this time to relax in our favorite part of America...the west coast.

After seeing friends and family we will fly out from Seattle on August the 14th for the Tokyo/Narita Airport. We will be living in Sagamihara-Shi (city) in the Kanagawa(State) Prefecture. To most, this may mean absolutely nothing so in effort to try to clarify our where abouts go to the link below to gain a visual of our location.
http://web-japan.org/region/index.html
Directions for link:
1. Under "Search By Words" click on the letter "K"
2. Under "List of Prefectures" click on "Kanagawa"
3. At this point, a map of the Kanagawa Prefecture should pop up and the city where we will be living is "Sagamihara
4. You can scroll down to the bottom of the new page that should have popped up and under "Other Local Information of Kanagawa Prefecture" you can browse around and find some beautiful pictures of the region we will be staying in.

Also, to learn more about the teaching we will be doing you can go to the website, www.teachinjapan.com.

We will be writing more soon and if you want to know our physical address you can email me at absttu10@yahoo.com.

Love, Grace, and peace to you all!
The Kuipers

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My Intro

So....I have a blog and seeing as how this is my first post I will make a few disclaimers and maybe a stab at my reasoning for writing this blog.

First of all....I'm not a very good writer and I always lost during the first round of my 3rd grade class room spelling bee's so please understand my frequent misspelled words, so please don't expect perfection or deep, profound thoughts.

Second, I am about to move to Japan with my husband and this blog is a way to update all of our dear friends and family about our adventure in a new culture, a new land, and new jobs. We will be teaching english to the Japanese citizens. We are very excited and don't quite know what to expect. I have done a lot of reading but I need to experience things to really know what all is going on. Please pray for us when you think about it.

Third, to all of our beloved friends and family who take time out of your busy day to read my thoughts and to read about what is going on in our lives....I am humbled that you would do so.

We are going to miss you all....my heart groans and aches.....We love you!