Monday, July 14, 2008


Here I am at my favorite spot in the world--standing in from of Lake Toya. Mt. Yotei did manage to appear in the far background, but it never showed well in the pictures we took. In front of me is Mt. Usu, a very active volcano. Between the volcano and myself is part of the town that was destroyed in the 2000 eruption of Mt. Usu. I had never actually visited this part of the melted village before. Pictures of the volcano damage are above. You can walk around and see the buildings, but they and the other side of the path are roped off with large signs that say "Abunai," which is "Danger, Watch Out!" in Japanese.
My husband insisted that he saw people walking on what he thought was a path on the far side of the buildings at the base of the volcano. I said, "How can they with all these Abunai signs around?" Anyway we did notice that the path ended on one of the old bridges. From that point on, there were no signs or ropes--just a construction access road for building and maintaining the retaining walls for the volcano, which you can see in the background of the top picture. I still wasn't sure that we should be walking on this access road, but hey, there were no signs, so we started walking. The access road took a steep uphill climb on the volcano itself. We started walking it. I was pretty sure that we were not supposed to be on this! Turning around, we saw the little Japanese man, who was in his 60's and worked at the visitor's booth at the entrance to the melted village come running after us, wearing his orange jacket and frantically waving his hands. Yep, we DEFINITELY were not supposed to be here. The path that my husband thought he saw was indeed a road at one time--the road that had been destroyed in the eruption. It was off limits. And there's no way he saw people walking on it!
I told him that when we got to the gatekeeper, we would need to bow low and say "Gomenasai." (I'm sorry.) And try not to laugh.
There are a couple of parts of the volcano that you really can hike. You can see one of those in a picture of us below.

What is this thing?

This is the Asahi Beer building in Asakusa, Japan. I think the sculpture on top looks like a carrot. The Japanese people call it the "golden turd". Honestly, they do! At first the kids were calling it that, and I said, "No, it's not!" And later the adults confirmed that yes, that is what everybody thinks it is! Nobody is totally sure about what it was intended to be. You can read about it on Wikipedia. What do YOU think it looks like?

Honeymoon Pictures

Golden Temple, Kyoto

Himeji Castle

In front of Mt. Usu's smoking crater!

Jim at the big shrine gate in Kyoto

It was great to be back in Japan. I was surprised how much I had missed it. It was an incredibly busy trip, but I loved seeing my friends and colleagues and seeing how the churches have grown since I was there.

Sekiyado Chapel's church plant in Kasukabe has some new members and emerging leaders. The format is now an interactive Bible study, which is working very well.

The Mareppy Kids Club just outside of Date has around 20 kids every month--singing, playing games, and learning about God, and of course, snack time!

LIP gospel choir is going strong. I'm so excited for Nobuo Igarashi as he has just submitted one of his original pieces to the Gospel Music Workshop of America for possible publication and widespread distribution. If not this time, Nobuo, it will happen eventually! I'm looking forward to hearing the orginal LIP cd. It would be super cool to help them do a US tour. There are a couple of new families in the church in Date as well. That church just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

I had fun going to places I had never been such as Himeji Castle, and catching up with my friend Bobby Baden, a missionary with Christar, who've I've been in contact with since 2001, but met for the first time in person.

Because there was an electrician's conference in Date to prepare for the Summit, and because Nobuo had forgotten to make our reservation for us with the Kazumata's, we couldn't stay in Date. Poor us, we had to stay on the banks of Lake Toya, my favorite place in the world, in an inn that had an onsen! The church was very gracious to let us use their car!

I highly recommend the rail pass! Yes, it's a significant up front cost, but you will save big $ if you get them. We got our money's worth out of them the first few days we were in Japan. Trains are great. I sure wish they would improve the rail system in this country!

And to have good sushi again! I did miss going to my favorite ramen shop, but I did get to go to my favorite Indian restaurant. Coffee in Japan is pretty bad. The only decent coffee we had was at the Takazawa's house.

My Japanese came back nicely. I was glad that I remembered it.

About Marriage

These are my friends Tim and Wakako. They got married a week before we did. Tim was my former co-worker when I was in Japan. We were on the same team in Hokkaido.
Jim and I got to spend a day with them when we went to Japan in May for our delayed honeymoon. It was fun to trade wedding stories and talk about the worst gifts we received!
Two other colleagues of mine from Asian Access also got married this winter. Emi and her man Sterling got married the day before we did. Tim, Emi, and I all got engaged around the same time and shared with each other wedding plans and what we were learning through our respective marriage counseling sessions. It was a lot of fun.
What's also cool is that we are all older. We're all in our mid 30's or above. So if you are in that age bracket and haven't found "the one" yet, it will happen. And when it does, you will know it, and it will happen quickly! Some of us were looking, and some of us were caught by surprise by it all, but we all knew that it was right.
And I don't think you have to try everything or everybody out in order to find that right person! I certainly didn't! I'm pretty fed up with a society of high divorce rates and marital infidelity, of shacking up and playing house, having babies first and then maybe getting married, of adult privileges without adult responsibilities (and this has nothing to do with age).
My denomination just had its biennial General Assembly. One of the things that came up was an attempt by some to redefine marriage. Praise the Lord, it was soundly defeated. What meaning does marriage have if we redefine it? It will lose its sacredness. Now, I'm all for civil and human rights for everyone. I don't believed in privileged classes be they based on economics, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. But not for profaning the sacred by trying to redefine it. If marriage is simply a civil contract, then who cares? But I don't think that marriage is simply a civil contract. I believe that marriage is a spiritual covenant between a man and woman. Even friends of mine who have chosen to live together without being married recognize something different about marriage. That's part of the reason they have chosen not to get married.
And marriage is not simply a private thing. The reason to have a wedding with vows that are witnessed is so that others are aware and included in the covenant being made. God uses marriages as public examples of God's love for God's people. A marriage covenant makes the statement that yes we are two people who will have conflict and problem and hardship, but we will stick together and grow together and learn more about and from each other, God, and life. We are something together that we could not be apart.
As the last statement regarding the gift of marriage says: "Therefore, let marriage be held in honor by all."