29 April, 2016

Ordinary grocery shopping

Today's ordinary involved a shopping trip. A pretty average shopping trip, except that I went to two shops instead of my usual Friday-one.

After the checkout lady had totalled up my groceries at the first store I looked at what she'd done with my groceries and was amazed at the beauty. So many lovely patterns here. 

The process in this store is that you push your small (actually tiny, compared to Australia) trolley around and select your goods. These are 1L milk bottles sitting on the bottom of the trolley, so the trolley isn't deep. For you Aussies, I can usually pile up about three green-bags worth of goods in this trolley, I often end up putting things in the child seat.

When you're done, they transfer your goods directly from your trolley into another empty one while recording the price, no bench is involved. I'm amazed at how much time they spend arranging it "right" in the new trolley., especially considering it will only be in that trolley a couple of minutes before I put it into bags. Our family presents a not-so-usual challenge to the cashiers. Usual Japanese shoppers don't fill their trolleys so full because they shop daily or almost daily. I prefer to only shop twice a week, but that means my trolley gets pretty full by their standards and repacking it presents a challenge.

The next step is the shopper's. You then pack your goods into whatever receptacle you need to get it home. One reason I think that they don't pack into bags in Japan is that people get their groceries home in different ways. Some walk, some ride, some carry them, some even come by car. My first winter in Japan I dragged my groceries home over snow on a plastic sled with the rest in my backpack.

I can fit about three of these "green" bags on my bike. That's about half a week of groceries. If I'm buying tissues or toilet paper as well it usually gets hung off the handle of my bike.

It does seem a little redundant: me putting it in the trolley, the checkout lady packing it into the trolley, me packing it into bags, then packing it onto my bike. But I guess it works.

Here's my bike loaded after the first shop. The front basket is usually fuller than this, but due having to do some unusual shopping for my husband's work yesterday I did some shopping yesterday too.

Do you remember I wrote about trying to find a new handbag a few weeks ago? Well, last Friday I had the surreal experience of buying a shoulder bag via FB Messenger! A local friend happened upon a 50% off sale of Kipling bags and we spent half an hour via Messenger deciding on a bag that she then bought for me.

The bag and I are still getting acquainted. It has a couple of things that are in different places to my previous couple of bags, in addition to zips that go the opposite direction. But I'm figuring it out. It does have a nice number of pockets, though!

You can see here that it fits nicely in my basket.

I'm growing fond of this gorilla key ring that came attached to the bag. He's very cute and nice to fiddle with (anyone else have a fiddle-habit?).

Because I had some spare bike basket space and also freezer space, I rode a bit further to a shop where you can buy larger portions of meat (larger than 300g) for pretty reasonable prices. Here's my bike loaded up after shopping there. It was very much the case that I looked at how much space I had left and only bought that much.

No room for my shoulder bag now. Thankfully it has a long strap that goes cross-ways over my chest and therefore isn't hard to ride wearing it. 

See the Koala? It's a cute biscuit filled with soft chocolate that only seems available in Asia, not Australia (except in Asian stores there). That's a portable treat for the Track and Field meet we're going to tomorrow.

And finally home. Here is what I unloaded off my bike in our entry.

It's all a part of my ordinary day, but just a bit different to how I do groceries when I'm in Australia.

28 April, 2016

Wrong name for short cross-cultural ministry trips?

Last night I read an article about short-term missions and the need for a name change. I'm extra tired at the moment and probably shouldn't have read it so late, but I did and here's where it's taken me. (Perhaps not too coherently: it's been hard to write this so obviously I am tired and a bit stressed and should stay away from longer blog posts at the moment.)

I work with short-term coordinators in our mission because I am the portal for enquiries via the OMF Japan website. I'm often sending enquiries off to those who deal with this specialised ministry. And from what I've seen, there are many enquiries and those dealing with them are stressed, overloaded. I think it is good that we're getting more and more of these, but maybe it isn't. 

It's good because it means that lots of people want to come and work in Japan for a short while, often because they feel a tug towards serving overseas or simply that they've got some free time and want to use it for something meaningful.

It's not good because it can mean that people feel once they've been on a trip like that, that they've "ticked the box" on their missions urge and then move on in their lives. It means that they can ignore the fact that people coming for just a short time to Japan isn't going to change the situation in Japan (substitute any country you like in there). In the end a trip to a mission field for a short time is generally more about the person who did it than about the people to whom they've gone. Although I do admit that it a trip like this can be a catalyst to changing to a long-term cross-cultural vocation.

I also wonder if it also diverts funds away from people who are willing to live their lives long-term. After all it is easier for people who want to support mission to give a once-off donation than to give every month for many years. 

There are lots of articles out there about the down-side of these short trips. It's not a new discussion. For example: The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, and Center for Student Missions in the US. Short-term missions has been called "Christian Tourism" and a "Waste of Money". What's the truth?

Here is the article I read last night.

The author makes the point that we don't have short-term dentists or social workers, short-term youth workers. Why do we call the trips people do to places like Japan to help cross-cultural workers who live there, "short term"? He's also taken exception to the use of "long-term missions" as it tends to single out those of us doing it as different to anyone else's vocation.

Truly, it is a convenient word "missionary" but I'm beginning to wonder if it's coming to the end of its use. It really has so many misconceptions associated with it that I think in many situations it is more unhelpful than helpful.

Then we go pairing "short term" with it and it becomes even more unhelpful.

In traditional language "I did a short-term trip" to Indonesia in 1993. In actual fact it was called a "Study Tour" and that is what I generally call it. It was clear that we were there learning about missions, we weren't "doing missions". 

The article I read last night suggests several other useful titles like learning exchanges, discernment retreats, and exposure or vision trips. The last one is a term I'm hearing more and more recently. These terms are descriptive, they openly describe the goal of the trip. I like this idea.

What are your thoughts?

27 April, 2016

A mobilising table

This is one aspect of mobilisation that
I've already been involved in producing.
I've recently been tasked (actually I halfway volunteered) to oversee a mobilisation table at our upcoming mission conference.

What's mobilisation? 
Mobilizers stir other Christians to active concern for reaching the world. 
Phil Parshall
This is an excellent video by OMF which explains six ways that Christians can be a part of reaching God's world, five out of the six don't require you to move countries! I recommend every Christian watch it. If you aren't a Christian I recommend watching at least the first 38 seconds, because it explains why we do what we do.

This is a good article about mobilisation at varying levels of involvement and locality. However, our mission doesn't quite agree with what he writes about missionaries and mobilisation. 

Our mission expects that all missionaries on the field are also mobilisers. Admittedly we do more of that when we're assigned to our home countries (i.e. home assignment) for short periods of time, but just us being here and being supported by people in other places is an awareness raising thing, in other words, mobilisation. 

Our prayer letters and other communications are mobilising others, be it for prayer, or support, or even going. This blog is part of what I do in the area of mobilisation.

So back to this table for our conference in June, I have to spend some time thinking about what we're going to with with it to help equip our 120 missionaries to be better mobilisers. We have some ideas, but I'm wondering do you have any ideas?

26 April, 2016

Today's ride

It's been more than a month since I last took a long ride. Too long! This month has been full of sickness and Thrift Shop, but finally me, my schedule, and the weather managed to work together to enable me to ride to the park today. It was a gorgeous 25 degrees today and sunny (the rest of the week is cooler and rain is predicted too).

The wisteria is out and the bees know it! As I stood and took some photos there were some alarmingly large bees buzzing around.

I sat on one of these benches for over an hour, working. I just love the early green leaves on the trees, they're almost fluorescent. The dappled shade was perfect.

It's amazing to be out and about in ¾ pants and a t-shirt. I did have a light jacket with me that I wore at the start of my ride, but soon got too sweaty with it on. After sitting a while I needed it again.
View from my possie on the bench.

Yes, I was working. Trying to figure out who to assign which articles to for the editing of the summer issue of Japan Harvest. I don't normally take any or much work with me to the park, but having not been at my desk much for a week, I felt I needed to do some. It was a gorgeous place to work. 
Later I regretted hauling my computer out, because I had to keep it with me every shop I went into. I had some shopping goals as well, the most urgent being dark brown sugar for our middle son's science expo stand on Thursday. Unfortunately five grocery stores later and I still don't have any. We mistakenly used what we had, thinking that it would be easy to buy another packet. We were wrong!

The azaleas were out everywhere. Many larger streets have them as hedges along the side of the road in our area. They're just amazing at the moment.

And I rode more than 20km today!

25 April, 2016

Step by step recovery

It's easy to be swayed by the tight news cycle these days. We're concerned about the disaster in Kyushu, to the south-west of us. It is terrible, horrible, and many other extreme adjectives you can think of. 

However today I want to draw your attention to the ministry that's still going on in the area where Japan experience a triple disaster just five years ago where there are still more than 170,000 people still living in temporary accommodation. OMF has had workers in this area for many decades now and continues to work there. 

Below is a copy of the recent newsletter that came from the work OMFers and Japanese workers are doing north of Sendai. Please read and pray. There are big changes happening, including changes in staffing and a location change. The newsletter has some good personal stories to fuel your prayers.

Ippo Ippo means step-by-step and is the name the ministry's had since early on, though the ministry itself has fluxed and changed as needs changed.

24 April, 2016

Birdhouse fun

Our eldest son made a birdhouse in industrial arts in 8th grade. It was more than just woodwork, they had to research birdhouses and birds and design one to fit a specific bird, writing a short report on the process. That was about three years ago. He brought the birdhouse home afterwards and we hung it in the main tree in our backyard, the only one we can easily see from our dining room.

He warned us that no birds would touch it for quite a while because it smelled like people (and varnish). So we've pretty much ignored it. It remained there during our year in Australia and we continued to ignore it when we came back. 

But in recent weeks we've seen action. Lots of action! We have residents. A pair of Parus Minors or Japanese Great Tits who appear to have chicks that have hatched inside. We don't know how many, but mum and dad are very busy. It's lovely to watch them darting in and out, especially during breakfast. They've very acrobatic, fast and hyper alert. That is, hard to take photos of!

Here's the best one I've managed.

Someone else with a high quality video camera (and probably more patience than I) took this short video:

Living in the supercity of Tokyo we aren't completely without wildlife, but there isn't too much that we see in our daily lives. Crows and pigeons are probably the most common birds. Cats and dogs. Cockroaches, mosquitoes, caterpillars, butterflies, ants, and cicadas are probably the most commonly seen. The latter being very noisy in later summer. Mosquitoes are very bothersome when it gets warmer, and not just at dusk, all day long.

So it's fantastic to have our own little nature show right outside our dining room window at the moment. I can't wait until we see some of the chicks start to emerge.

23 April, 2016

Thrift Shop Spoils

So back by popular demand. Here are some/most of our acquisitions from this week's Thrift Shop. 

A comfy cotton skirt that doesn't need ironing, in some of my favourite colours. 

Our shopping-savvy youngest found these track suit pants and ended up getting them for free because they have a bit of wear and tear on one knee. 

A set of single flannelette sheets! Such a boy-colour!

A small wheely port to add to the four we already have. Very useful for airport travel. 

Some fun earrings for ¥50 (~AU$0.60). 

A snow suit for one boy. 

T-shirt for another boy. 

Next week the school's middle school is holding a science fair. Our middle schooler has to "dress up" while he stands with his experiment display. He has nothing in this line of clothing. The challenge of a non-uniform school. Thankfully we managed to meet that need with cheap clothing (though he has yet to try them on yet, we're hoping they fit well enough!). 

Our eldest typically got a lot of books. 

This brand new rug was unexpected. We have no carpet in our bedrooms and even my boys struggle with that in the cold winter months when something warm to stand on is helpful. This rug (and a second for the other boy-bedroom) have solved that. It also makes their rooms look more cosy. We'll probably put them away in the steamy months. 

And we found some great DVDs. This whole MONK season for less that AU$4. 

Then we get into the free stuff. As an incentive for volunteers to help with cleanup (and to reduce the amount of rubbish the PTA has to pay to throw away), there is a 40 min free shopping time after the shop shuts at 1pm on Saturdays. It is amazing what one can find in this time (especially considering I'm usually pretty exhausted by then). 

Two shirts for me in great condition. 

A bunch of other things, including my biggest find: ugg-type slippers to replace my current ones which are falling apart. 

The next four photos are finds by our youngest son. He loves the free shopping time. 

And yes, the fleecy duckling skirt was still there, so I snaffled it up. My plan is for it to go over whatever I'm wearing while working at my computer in the winter. It'll be like a wearable blanket. Perfect fit!

Mid-morning it was hard to move in the gym, it was so packed with shoppers. We had lines at the registers six or more deep for about three hours continuously. 

But what makes it fun is friends. Getting to know new people and deepening relationships with others. This is what makes Thrift Shop really worthwhile, not the purchases.