Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A bright spot

Well, in light of my new resolution to be more positive, I wanted to write about one of the bright spots of my life here in Japan -- Bonnie's school.

The picture is not of Bonnie or even her school. Just something I found on the web to illustrate the blog. Will post her pix on her private blog when they are developed. Warning: They are CUTE!
  • Name: Nagao (our part of town) Sho(little) Gakko (school). In this case "sho" means little children. It's also used for a small portion of rice.
  • Teacher's name: Mrs. Tanino. She looks and acts just like you would expect from her name. Very bright, positive, loving and dedicated.
  • Number of kids in Bonnie's class: 42. Bonnie is "ichinensei" (first year), "B" gumi (class)
  • Number of teachers in B's class: 1
  • Number of first grade classes in B's school: 3. Her school is considered quite large for Japan. The class size is average! Yikes!
  • Number of pairs of shoes one kid needs for school: 3 (outside shoes, classroom shoes and gym shoes for the gym floor only). And they are a specific kind of shoes. The gym shoes have to be bought at a special store and the school shoes can only be one style, white with a yellow stripe. The principal was very specific about having a yellow stripe. NOT a red stripe. I've seen shoes with a blue stripe, too. Fortunately we bought shoes with no stripe and there are acceptable.
  • Number of cloth bags one kid needs for school: seven -- 2 for shoes, one for gym clothes, one for the mask she wears when she's serving lunch, one for her pianica (a musical instrument), one for her library books, one for her special ed class. All are to be handmade to precise measurements and should be made out of quilted material. There are special mailorder stores that make these bags. We got most of ours from friends.
  • Cost of a first grade school uniform: Too much! One pleated navy blue skirt ($40), one navy blue jacket with hideous red buttons ( $50), gym clothing ($40), gym shoes ($20), navy blue hat ($20), red/white cotton hat ($10). Then add on the school supplies (all very specific), the very expensive backpack ($100) that someone gave us, thank goodness. And you can see why I have not had much spending money since B started school in November.
  • Is school free in Japan? Yes and no. I don't pay tuition, but I have to pay $50 each month for lunch. There is no option to bring your own lunch. I also pay about $20 each month for school supplies and they charge me for everything she uses -- paper to print her homework on, her nametag, art supplies, etc. On the other hand, there are no fundraisers!
  • How the school day starts. The kids all stand and bow to the teacher. Then they sit down. The teacher calls out one kids name. He/she says, "Hi, genki desu" which means, "Here. I'm fine today" and then he/she calls out another kids' name. This continues until all 42 names are called. Not sure if this is done alphabetically or randomly. But the kids don't seem to take long to think of who to call so there must be some kind of system. Bonnie is the last one and she likes it that way.
  • Climate control. Although school is in session year round and Japan is very hot and humid in the summer (think Orlando), there is no air conditioning. There is also no central heating. On December 1st a gas "stove" is brought into each classroom. The windows and doors remain open, though. Remember, the school uniform is a skirt for girls and shorts for boys! They don't seem to care. Bonnie wears a t-shirt and sweatshirt under her jacket. She is allowed to wear jeans instead of a skirt after December 1, but not sure when she has to go back to the skirt. I'm sure her teacher will tell me, though. We are given a lot of leeway because we are not Japanese and therefore can never be "really" Japanese and there is no need to force us into the mold. Still, Bonnie doesn't want to be different than everyone else so many days she wears a skirt.

Despite the lack of heat/ac and the large number of kids in her class, I love Bonnie's school. When I bring her there in the morning, the kids are all outside sweeping or watering the flowers, calling out "good morning" to us in Japanese. You can't help but be in a good mood when you see all those happy faces. When the kids in B's class spot her, they all come running to the door to help her change her shoes and get her homework out of her backpack, etc. Sometimes this can be a bit overwhelming for her, but I told her that everyone at her school really likes her. "Mommy," she replied seriously, "sometimes there is too MUCH liking!"

Anyway, I am never worried about leaving her there, like I was when she went to KG in the U.S. For a mommy, there can never be too much liking!

Friday, December 15, 2006


Do I ever feel like scum. I got the following e-mail in my inbox today and I feel like some of that toilet overflow I wrote about earlier!

Quote:"I have been following your saga now for a few years, but I would like to say a few things to you. I hope you don't take it the wrong way but I really think for both you and Bonnie's sake some one should say it to you.
You are a very negative person and everything seems to be someone else's fault and not your own. every job you had starts out really good then you just dont' like it for one reason or another.
I really think you have to start taking responsiblity for your attitude and for how you feel.
It will affect Bonnie and it appears to already have. How you feel about others and yourself no matter what you say and do will show through. You are not satisfied with any job or place you live.
I move a lot in my job and I learned early on that if I think I don't like a place I don't if I think that I will find soemthing great about it I will. i know think of it as an adventure and really find something great about every place so when I leave we really miss that something. At one time when you were heading back to Japan you said it felt like going home, until you got there then it wasn't good enough. I see a pattern here and you really need to break it or you may break Bonnie, do you want her like you are? Go get help and don't think they can't help you or they don't know something and you don't have a problem and it is just everyone else.
You really need to take responsiblity for your actions and your FEELINGS, don't keep complaining about your boss, your work, where you live that only makes things worse. Find something positive and forget the rest.
If you move back to the States in 2 months you will be unhappy with that and complaining about no job or the job you have, no money and why not.
Remember kids are very perceptive I think Bonnie knows you are not happy with most things. Make yourself happy and if you can't find some help to help you."
End of Quote

This has weighed me down all day. Is it true? It rings true -- kind of. Did I need to be told in this way? Maybe. If you are my friend, please tell me what you think.


Friday, November 17, 2006

hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go

aka: the Japanese work ethic.

The Puritans have got nothing over the Japanese! Last week some of my adult students were discussing why they hate their jobs.

Yoshiyuki s a social worker. I'm not sure why he chose this profession because he doesn't especially like working with people. He wants to do something that allows him to work alone with details: like accounting or computer programming. But he is stuck in this profession because it is nearly impossible to change careers in Japan once you start. He works seven days a week and hasn't had a day off for months. If he reports this to the Japanese labor office, he will lose his job. The job market is tough here so he continues to work. He tells us that he comes to Agape because it is the only fun thing he does all week!

Rie is a graphic designer. She is very talented, but she has a job that doesn't allow her to do anything creative. She is looking for another job, but the market is tough . . .

Yoshie teaches English at a junior high school. She is also the volleyball coach so she works on Saturdays for practice and Sundays for meets. She hasn't had a day off since the school year started in April. There are hundreds of people waiting to take her job if she quits.

Chiharu is also an English teacher at a different junior high school. Last year she worked full time, but she asked for a part-time job this year. She still works more than 40 hours per week, but has weekends off. She has no benefits or retirement plan.

Although I work for an American company, I get no national holidays off. I get two weeks vacation per year, but not when I want to take them. If I'm sick, I have to make up the classes I missed. Yesterday I was in the hospital, hooked up to IVs with a grusome stomach virus. I couldn't sit up. Last night I fought a fever with chills and sweating all night. Today I am expected to work. If I don't, I have to make up the classes another time (when?) so I will be dragging myself in there.

The Japanese people have many material blessings, but they pay a price for them. I do not know a single Japanese person who is happy with his/her job situation, doesn't feel overworked and has more than one day off per week.

If you are female, you have one escape: get married. Many married women don't work outside the home. I have met these women, too. They are bored and unfulfilled, desperately lonely and once they have children, they live vicariously through them.

We want Agape to be a place they can come to escape from all of this, but we, too, are overworked and underappreciated. This gives me a chance to identify with my students, which is good, but it's hard to find anything to give when you are drained yourself. Still, we know God and have Him to sustain us and give us hope.

I pray that Yoshiyuki, Yoshie and Rie can find an escape and that they will see God in it. I'm so glad that Agape is the bright spot in one person's week and it inspires me to be a giving person even when I don't feel like it. Now I know why Yoshiyuki is always making jokes in the class and doesn't want to be too serious. As a "missionary" to Japan, my role is to serve the Japanese people. I"m not a very good servant, never have been, but God is so creative. He has put me in a place where I can serve by listening, by identifying with them and even by making class fun. The challenge is keeping that perspective. Pray for me!

Friday, September 29, 2006

I want to ride my bicycle

Since I don't have a car, I've been rediscovering the "joys" of bike riding. I had only been here a couple of weeks when I realized I would need a kid seat for Bonnie. Only in Asia can you get something like this! Here's a picture of a bike that I found on the internet. It has a kid seat like Bonnie's. If I had a digital camera, I'd take a picture of ours, but this is close enough. The first time Bonnie rode in it she said she felt like a princess getting into a carriage. And I guess I felt like the horse!

Seriously, it's not that bad. I hardly feel her weight at all. When she's not with me, I use her little seat to carry groceries and stuff. Some people have another seat on the front of the bike that they use if they have two kids. Even though it's illegal, if you're a mom with no car, what else can you do? Most families can afford two cars, but they can't afford two parking places! So many young mothers (not as many nowadays as a few years ago) have to tote the kids on a bike with a seat on the front and on the back.

I have another bike that's parked at the other school I teach at. It belongs to the company we have a contract with and that's the bike I use to go to an English lesson at a car research and design company every Monday. (More on that another time). I love riding the bike in the middle of the afternoon to the lesson. It's a really nice break in the day and gives me time to transition from teaching the kids to teaching adults.

Riding back in the dark, though, is not so fun! The roads in the area meander around a river and there are several intersections where five or more streets meet. It's hard to know which way I should go since there is really not a "straight ahead" choice and the streets in Japan have no names. The first night Yumiko and I rode back from the school we got lost several times. At one point we were riding on a sidewalk that was overgrown with leaves from trees lining the side. I had to ride along, whipping them back with my head as I navigated in the dark (with no light on my bike). I couldn't help calling out, "abunai" (danger) as I macheeted my way though the urban jungle. At the same time, I was laughing at how silly it all would look to an American -- and probably most Japanese people, too. I have since found a better way to get back and memorized where to turn, but I'm not looking forward to this 15 minute bike ride at night in the winter. :( When I lived in Japan before, I got a car before my first winter, so I've never had a to ride a bike or even walk very far in the cold. Should be interesting.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Discovering the story within the covers

One week ago, my baby became a seven-year-old young lady. As we looked through her scrapbook together, I searched for baby Yang Yang in my daughter Bonnie. Yes, I could still hear that baby laugh when Bonnie was amused. I could see the look of innocence when she slept -- as always -- on her side with feet stretched out. And, thankfully, she still needed hugs from her mama.

When she was a baby she was like an unopened book. I could see the cover -- had some idea of the subject of her life, but the adventure began after I started reading. And I'm barely through the first chapter. What else is yet to come?

In a year she will be eight. When I was eight years old, my dad and brother died in "the" car accident. That tragedy was tatooed onto my life permanently. I'm thankful that Bonnie's "tragedy" occurred when she was a baby and when she is eight she will be covered with love, be certain that she belongs and know that even if something terrible happens, God will never leave her or forsake her.

Yes, we talk about these things. Since she has only one parent, she naturally worries about what will happen to her if I die. I did the same thing. I will not lie and tell her, "Oh, I'm not going to die." I know better. I do tell her that most parents don't die and I'm not planning on dying any time soon. But she already knows from her birth history that God has been with her from the moment she was conceived and He has taken care of her.

I have told her the story of baby Yang Yang over and over. Yes, there are some parts that are harsh for a child to hear -- but what is the point of ignoring them? Instead, I choose to put my own "spin" on them, avoiding the mistakes grown ups made in explaining my dad and brother's deaths to me (or more to the point -- avoiding the subject altogether).

Through it all, there was love.
*The love of a man and woman who wanted a family.
*The love of an expectant mother nurturing her unborn child.
*The same love that moved the mother to save her child's life by giving her up.
*The love of a heavenly Father who had chosen a mother in America for that child before she was born (I sent my papers to China 8 days before Bonnie was born).
*The love of a foster mother who took the orphan into her home and raised Yang Yang has her own, knowing she would never be called "mother."
*The love of my family and friends around the world who welcomed Bonnie with joy.

People who see Bonnie and I together often comment on how much we love each other. Because I didn't feel loved as a child, it is a priority to make sure Bonnie does. Although she was an orphan, she now has a family -- not only me, but good friends who have taken on the role of grandparents, aunts and uncles. She has proof in her life of God's love and protection through times of lonliness and abandonment.

Every novel has a theme. So far, Bonnie's story is one of love. I continue reading day by day, year after year. Can't wait to see what the next chapter will bring.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A New Friend

It's been an eventful couple of weeks. Our school has expanded so much that they brought in a second teacher around mid-August. It has been great to have a little relief and tomorrow is my first Saturday off since I got here. I will have two days off from now on. Yippee! Never thought I would be so happy about something most Americans take for granted. The Japanese basically have a six-day work week. Most kids go to school for a half day on Saturdays and most people go to work for at least half a day. I've been more or less on call from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, although I never worked that many hours. During that time I would teach about 30-35 lessons (from 40-50 minutes each lesson) but they weren't always scheduled together so I'd teach for a couple of hours, have a break for 2 hours, teach a class, another break and then teach 3 classes. Not an easy schedule because it didn't give me enough time to really do anything, include nap. And it was pretty hard to find babysitters. So now that Wayne has come, my life is getting more manageable. He is teaching all the Saturday classes and a couple of my other classes. But his main focus will be opening a new school at another location.

It's also been good to have someone to talk to in English. One of the things I've always liked about Japan is forming relationships with people you normally wouldn't hang out with at home. Wayne is 24 and just finished college. I can't in my wildest dreams imagine us being friends in the U.S. But in Japan, since we are thrown together and there aren't other people readily available, we turn to each other.

Bonnie also loves him, of course. And she is constantly telling people that I have a crush on him, which is wishful thinking on her part. He has a half-sister who is Asian and he misses her, so Bonnie is good for him. They both love to play arcade games and he sometimes takes her to one near our house and plays girlie games with her! He has also taught her how to win her Barbie game on her gameboy! She has no clue that 24-year-old guys really don't like Barbie. In her mind, Barbie is awesome-- period -- and anyone should know that! He was over here last Saturday just hanging out and it was cute to see Bonnie perfectng her flirting technique. She really knows how to wrap men around her little finger. Wayne told me she was going to break some hearts when she was older.

It's good to have a work colleague, too. The other day we were talking about reactions to the guy we work for. During this conversation, Wayne happened to say, "He doesn't want to hear any excuses; he just wants you to get it done." Quite a good insight from someone who is just starting his first "real" job. So, even though I've been working for more than 25 years and Wayne is just starting out, I can learn something from him.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

leave your shoes at the door

Entering a House in Japan

The entrance area is called a "genkan."

See the picture on the left? I wish this was our genkan, but it's not. This is a picture of a very neat genkan that I found on the web. Notice how the shoes are properly pointed to the door. I'm sure those are the guests' shoes.

Next, we have another picture of a genkan that I found on the net (don't have a digital camera so can't show you ours). This is more of what ours usually looks like. If you know us very well, you're not surprised.

Welcome to our Japanese home!

When you walk in the door you see the "genkan." It is a square area set level to the outside, maybe 2 feet square. This is where you take off your shoes. On the right is a tall, narrow closet set into the wall. When you open the door, you see row after row of shelves running from the floor almost to the ceiling. The bottom shelves show spots of bright color from Bonnie's shoes: pink flip-flops, sparkly Hello Kitty high heels, green sandals. The top rows are filled with the more subdued tones of mama's brown mules, black flats, white slip-ons. I think the genkan is a great addition to a house. I wish we had a place like this in our house back in America to put our dirty shoes when we walk inside. I have always taught Bonnie to take off her shoes when she walks into the house because "only barbarians wear shoes in the house" so we always had a mishmash of shoes piled up by our back door. I like the organization of the genkan. And another nice thing about it: people in Japan never come past the genkan when they come into your house unless they are specifically invited. So when Bonnie's friends come to drop her off, I can stand at the door and chat with them without feeling like I have to invite them in (which is avery rare thing to do in Japan anyway) and without figuring out how to get them to leave (they tend to stay for a VERY long time, very late at night when I need to eat and get to bed).

When a guest comes into the house, you're supposed to turn their shoes around so they are facing the door, thereby making it easier for them to exit your place. I never seem to remember to do this! So our guests are always backing into their shoes. I wonder what they think of us.

There's another smaller "shoes box" next to the tall one. This one is full of nothing but slippers -- for guests to put on when they come in, I guess. Bonnie has put all of her bedroom slippers in there and occasionally likes to take out the Japanese slippers and wear them around the house. I am a barefoot gal myself and prefer not to wear slippers, especialy since I don't know where they've been.

This slipper thing extends to work as well. After we climb to the third floor, we put our shoes inside the box and take out some slippers. I'm pretty squeemish about wearing slippers that have been worn by anyone, especially kids, so I bought my own pair. I thought I'd be cool and get a pair of slippers that have a million tiny rubber bumps on the insole -- reflexology slippers. But, man, do they hurt! When I tell my adult students that, they sagely nod their heads. "Ah, so desu ka," they say, "That means there is something wrong with your body." Oh really, I thought it was the millions of tiny bumps eating into my tender feet whenever I walk. "No," they insist, "if you were healthy, you wouldn't feel it." I wonder if this is really true, or another example of unquestioned acceptance of authority. If the foot reflexologist says you won't feel it, then the problem must be with my body, not the shoes. Oh well, I still feel like I'm healthier for wearing them. If they hurt, they must be good for me!

Things have been a bit brighter for us since one of our friends gave us a VCR and lent us a bunch of tapes she had. I am getting to appreciate Full House like I never did before. And now that we have a VCR, we can rent videos from the video store and all our friends at home (that means YOU) can tape some TV and send it to us! Please!

Here's our top requests:

  • Reality TV -- Survivor, the Apprentice, (someone is taping the Amazing Race for us already), America's Top Model (that is Bonnie's favorite, unfortunately) and Bonnie's favorite: Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
  • Reruns: Brady Bunch, Little House, Full House, any family oriented show you can think of
  • America's Funniest Home Videos - for Bonnie
  • Law and Order for me ( my fave is SVU)

If you taped any of these and/or your faves (I already feel out of touch with American TV programming) we would be eternally grateful and we would also send you a cool souvenir from Japan!


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Her "real" mama

Well, it's starting to feel more like home now. When I walked in the door tonight, my mind flashed back to the first time I saw that hallway and how strange it felt. Impossible to think it would ever be home. But it's becoming that way now.

Tonight Bonnie is out with her best friend, Ayano, for a sleepover. They went to a summer festival and Ayano's mom bought Bonnie a yukata -- a summer kimono. They stopped by the school before they left and I was stunned at the sight of her -- exquisite. Megumi (the mom) took pictures so I hope to post them soon. Somehow, seeing Bonnie in the yukata touches me deeply. It's so obvious that Asia is her home. It is all "right" somehow. She fits here. No matter how long we stay, I'll always be thankful that she had this experience -- this time of being in the majority, of seeing that Asian people are the power-holders in some corners of the world. But it makes me sad because now it's clear that she belongs here, in Asia (not Japan, but it's close!) and I can't conveniently overlook the fact that I took her out of her element.

Whether she knows it or not, Bonnie is responding to this environment. She can blend in to the crowd for the first time in her life and be anonymous. When someone gives her something, she bows her head and says, "arigato gozaimasu." Her favorite outfit is a skirt and top that we bought here in Japan. The kids fashions here are slightly different than in the U.S. and even the colors are different -- the brown is a different shade, more subtle. The whites have no hint of yellow since that wouldn't look good on olive skin. The pinks are not as bright.

I wasn't sure how to respond when Bonnie mentioned that she wantedto be Japanese. I quickly reminded her that she's Chinese and that being Chinese is good. "I know," she said, "but it's OK to be Japanese, too."

Where will this take Bonnie? I have no idea. I have to admit I didn't fully see this coming. I can feel a distance with her that I have not felt before. Is she pulling away or are we both just adjusting to a new culture? Today she told me that Ayano's mama is her "other real mama." I don't know what to make of this. From the beginning, I have told her about her birthmother and her foster mother. But when I ask which one is her "real" mother, she knows it is me. Now she has two mamas. Although she has been closer to some of our friends in the U.S. she has never called them "mama." I can't help but think she identifies with Megumi because they look the same. Or am I reading too much into it?

Only time will tell.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


For this week's culture lesson, let's visit the inside of an ambulance and an emergency room.

Yes, that is what I did this week! And I'm still alive to tell you about it. Apparently I have been eating a lot more eggs than I realized because on Thursday night I had a severe allergic reaction to them (anaphylactic reaction) and ended up in the hospital.

I could write the whole boring story, but who wants to read that? Instead, I'll just give you some impressions:

  1. Just like everything else in Japan, the number to call for an emergency is the opposite of what you call in the U.S. Instead of 911, here it is 119.
  2. When my face was swollen up like a huge strawberry, I met the local owner of the school who rushed to the clinic to check on me. Nice impression, I'm sure.
  3. The ambulances in Japan are free. The ER visit, complete with IV drip and meds will probably cost me less than $100 and I have no insurance!
  4. If you say anaphylactic with a Japanese accent, they will understand you.
  5. Japan has no epi pens. I told my doctor he could keep it as a souvenir.
  6. Japan doesn't have benedryl, although the doc had heard of it. He called around to several hospitals to see if anyone had some. I finally got some tablets of something, but I have no idea what they are -- except they made me sleep for about 2 days!
  7. They had to use a triple dose of steroids to get my facial swelling to go down and even then, it didn't go away for about 48 hours.
  8. In Japan, they use REAL eggs in their cakes and they brush egg whites on the top of the bread to make it shiny -- so I had been eating eggs without knowing it.
  9. There is also egg in the chocolate.
  10. And the bread.
  11. If you tell someone in a restaurant that you're allergic to eggs and does the pizza have any eggs in it, they will rush back to the kitchen and ask. :)

I have been very hungry since Thursday night since there is very little I can eat in Japan. This makes the whole transition even harder and adds more stuff to do every day. But maybe I'll lose some weight! My boss is bringing 4 epi pens later this week and until then I'm pretty afraid to eat.

God must really have a sense of humor to send me to Japan. I can't eat eggs, rice, soy or chicken -- the staples of a Japanese diet. But it is a chance for Him to show his strength through my weakness. Tonight my students asked me how I can enjoy life if I can't eat anything. "How can you have any fun?" they asked.

"I have to find other ways to enjoy life," I answered.

I am learning that you can have fun that is centered on things other than food. It is a good lesson to learn. I wish I could eat anything I want, but I simply can't. And, although my stomach is empty, I am finding more pleasure in other things.

Well, I've got to go find something I can eat now. I'm STARVING! Bonnie just got done eating a bunch of chicken on a stick and my mouth is watering. I guess I'll have peanut butter or some cheese. Maybe both! :)


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Where do you live?

This is a picture of an "old" Japanese mailbox. However, when I lived in Japan 5 years ago, I saw them all the time. In Japan, all mailboxes are "red," but it looks like orange because the paint has faded. They also used to be round, which isn't so great when you consider the shape of most mail!

I realized today that I hadn't given out my new address in Japan and as I was looking at it, I realized that even with something so small, there are major cultural differences. For example, in Japan, very few streets have names. That's why it is so hard to give and receive directions.

I don't know what people did in the days before cell phones, but in Japan, when you are trying to find someone's house, you go to a landmark and call, go to the next landmark and call, etc. When I get directions from another foreigner, it's pretty easy. All of our landmarks have English names. But, even after I had lived here for 5 years, when a Japanese person tried to give me directions, I had no idea what they were talking about! We didn't have the same landmarks!

For example, all of my foreign friends would tell me to go to the big Coke sign on top of a building downtown, but my Japanese friends would tell me to go to such and such building (which was the building under the Coke sign, but the name of the building was in Japanese and I had never read it or known what it was).

So, here's my address:

Karyn Campbell
Presso Cartier B-101
4-40 Shinkurashiki eki-mae
Kurashiki, Okayama

  1. "Presso Cartier" is the name of my apartment "complex." They always have really beautiful French or English names, but the buildings themselves are sometimes not so beautiful.
  2. "B-101" means building B, number 101
  3. "4-40" is like a street address, but there's no street, so I'm not sure what it tells the postman
  4. "Shinkurashiki" is the name of the Shinkansen (bullet train) station about 5 blocks from me.
  5. "Eki-mae" means "in front of the station", which is not all the specific, considering what's between me and the station!
  6. Kurashiki is the name of the closest town, which is maybe a mile or two from here. I actually live in a town called Tamoshima, but it is not indicated in my address.
  7. Okayama is the prefecture (like a state, about the size of Connecticut)
  8. 710-0252 is the zip code

So when you give an address, you are really giving directions to your house. The mail carriers here have to memorize where everything is since it's not very obvious from the address. However, when they see a foreign name, they know exactly where to go! It helps that foreigners have lived in this apartment for several years.

Anyway, please write to us sometime. It's fun to get real mail from the U.S. And if you want to send an e-mail you can leave a comment on the blog and it will come to me (but it will be seen on the blog, too) or you can write to me at: karynsuecampbell@yahoo.com


Saturday, June 24, 2006

Surreal Life

I can't describe how it feels to be back. Not like I expected. In some ways, better. In some ways, worse. My friends who are missionaries here say this is how they feel sometimes after coming back to Japan from a year's furlough in the U.S. I remember this feeling from before -- it's home, but it's not. Where is home anyway?
I just spent the day with several gaijin (foreigners) at my old friend's house on the other side of Okayama prefecture. I really needed this day and to forget, for a while, that I'm in Japan. It has been harder than I expected -- coming back. I often want to cry.
Who am I?
Why am I here?

Osaka, Japan

I feel like a coin -- one side American.
The other side Japanese.
Toss the coin.
See where it lands.
In America it landed too often with the Japanese side up.
In Japan, the American side -- always visable.

There is so much stuff to report. I hardly know where to begin.

  • Lining up for passport control in Osaka's Kansai airport and seeing the same guy behind the counter who had stamped my passport so many times before. His hair is gray now, but his face hasn't changed. Of course, he doesn't remember me. Thousands of gaijin pass through this gate every day. "Are you here for business or pleasure?" "How long will you stay?" Stamp. Face expressionless. Next.
  • Finding dried squid in the airport sundries shop. Gotta buy some of that. It's like sweet, fishy jerky. The flavor transports me back.
  • First morning. Bonnie wakes up at 3 a.m. I make her go back to sleep. She wakes again at 5. I let her watch a DVD. At 7 a.m. I am starving. We venture out to the awakening hotel and find a small shop open. They serve sandwiches (Sandwich Heaven, it's called). Bonnie wants a hot dog for breakfast. She never eats hot dogs at home. But she likes it-- after we remove the lettuce. I get a ham and cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee. Have to pay full price for a refill. I am shocked at the $14 bill. Bonnie is happy. She can run and play near the water fountain and I don't have to watch her. "There are not many bad strangers in Japan," I tell her.
  • We catch a shinkansen (bullet train) to the heart of Osaka. Bonnie is excited. She wants to sit by the window, but doesn't care about the scenery. She wants to play with her new game boy! In Osaka we meet my best friend, Kaori. Although I haven't talked to her for five years (barring the occasionaly clipped e-mail), we take up where we left off. "You haven't changed a bit," she lies. "Neither have you," I say truthfully. I don't want to leave her and go to Kurashiki. I have missed her so much. Bonnie takes to her naturally. I make her promise to come visit me as soon as possible.
  • Bonnie spends her allowance on her first Japanese souvenir -- a new sparkly blue purse. I teach Kaori a new phrase in English -- "bling bling."
  • On the way to Kurashiki, we pass my old train station. I can't orient myself. My last 5 years in Japan, I drove everywhere and I am not familiar with the train route. It's like waking from a dream that plays elusively on the edges of consciousness. If I could just concentrate, I could get it back. But it's gone.
  • We get to Kurashiki and Yumiko (manager of the school) meets us at the train platform. She valiantly pulls my suitcases the 5 blocks to our apartment. It is tiny. Like a dollhouse. I had forgotten how small. The whole apartment could fit into my master bedroom at home! I am hit by a tsunami wave of culture shock. How can I live in this tiny space? But I lived here before and I should know what to expect. Only I don't. I feel guilty that I am surprised. I smile and nod. "Very cute," I say. Bonnie is delighted. "It's just my size," she exclaims. Everything is her size -- like a dollhouse. The milk is in a tiny carton that she can pour herself. She can reach the back of the freezer. She doesn't need a stool for the sink. Bonnie is so happy. Why aren't I?
  • There's a 24 hour grocery store across the street. Yumiko walks there with us. I see all the food I haven't been able to eat for 5 years. I want to try it all again. Bonnie loves the fried chicken on a stick. She eats it for lunch and dinner for two days. She can have rice whenever she wants. She tells me she loves Japan. "I never want to leave here," she breathes. She refers to our apartment as "home."

So, it has been surreal.



But I'm starting to get used to it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Prayer Requests 6-13-06

Wanted to update these prayer requests. Not sure how this will publish, but bear with me as I try this out. Updated in blue on July 1, 2006

  1. We leave Charlotte, NC at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, June 19. We will have about an hour layover in Detroit and depart for Osaka at 3:40 p.m. That flight is about 14 hours. We arrive in Osaka at 6 p.m. June 20 (cross the international date line). That night we will stay in the airport hotel. The next day we will take a train to Kobe (about 90 minutes from the hotel) and meet my friend Kaori for lunch. Then we will go to Kurashiki (about 1 hour) and meet Rachel, see our apartment, etc.
  2. I am praying that we will get at least 3 seats on the plane so we can have some room to spread out. Bonnie is not a good traveler so this will be a hard trip for her. Pray that I will find creative things to do with her (I'm bringing a bunch of stuff). I found out that we can't recharge the batteries on our computer or DVD player so we will only have, at most, 3 hours of time on those. :( Because of my size, this won't be a very comfortable trip for me either. Pray that we can both get some sleep and not get on each other's nerves.

The flight was full, but uneventful. Bonnie stayed up through most of it. I lived :) but it was extremely uncomfortable. There were no extra seats, but we had a nice person in our row. Bonnie was never bored, but I was!

  1. Pray that I won't have problems at the airport with the extra luggage, the carry-ons and getting Bonnie out of the country. With so many family kidnappings, they require a notorized document from the spouse, but there is no father in our case so I have to bring her birth certificate, etc. It will be an extra hassle.

No problems anywhere!

  1. My car. I will be dropping it off at the last minute and have no idea what will happen. God knows, though. I need to trust in HIm (I have no other choice).

Continue praying. Someone in my church is selling it for me.

  1. My condo. Salvation Army is coming next Wed. to pick up some of the furniture, but they won't go up the stairs! And I will be in Japan so a friend is coming over, but she can't get it down herself. I really don't know how this will work out, so pray that someone will help us. Along those lines, I have several items of furniture that I'd like to take to a consignment store, but I have no one to help me get them there. Tomorrow (Thursday) is the last day they will take them.

They still haven't gotten me moved, but someone in my church is taking care of it, thank goodness. Pray they will get it done soon so I can get it rented (see below)

  1. Leasing the condo. I have a property management company who will handle this, but they can't do an inspection until I get moved out (which will most likely be after I leave for Japan) so pray that I can get it in reasonable shape. They will charge me for any cleaning, painting or hauling of junk. :) Pray for good tenants to move in quickly.

Continue praying (see above)

  1. Pray I will find time to get my international driver's license, all my meds and some other last-minute errands done on Friday (places won't be open over the weekend).

Somehow it all got done! Praise! Thanks Jean and Kelly!

  1. Continue praying for Bonnie as she is not happy about all of this. Pray for some of her friends here who are having a hard time with her leaving.

She was in a honemoon phase with Japan for a while, but now she is more realistic. She really needs friends. Continue praying.

  1. Pray for my relationships with people at Agape -- here and in Japan: students, colleagues, parents, etc.
  2. Pray for childcare for Bonnie

Prayer still needed for these!

  1. Jet lag (brutal, as I recall)

I survived. Thanks to Ambien. :)

  1. I am so thankul that God has found me worthy of this opportunity. I can't believe I am finally seeing my dream of foreign missions come true.

Love you all,


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

First, of course, the good!
  1. I received a very generous, anonymous donation from someone in my church which gives me enough monthly support to get Bonnie high quality daycare and meet any unexpected expenses. This came out of nowhere and was NOT sought so it has been confirmation to me that I'm doing the right thing.
  2. I have a couple of awesome friends who keep coming over to my porch and taking loads of stuff to Goodwill and bags of junk to the dumpster. One of these friends is about to leave for an arduous missions trip to Belize on Saturday and has given up her precious time to help us!
  3. We are staying with some dear friends who have Bonnie's best friend for a daughter! Bonnie gets to spend time with her every day and this is a great memory for her to have before she leaves.
  4. My best friend in Japan is going to meet us in Kobe our first full day in Japan and take us to lunch. I can't wait to see her. Her name is Kaori and I haven't seen her for five years!
  5. I find myself turning to God daily and He ALWAYS somehow makes it do-able. Psalms 91 says we will rise up with the wings of eagles and that is what I pray for. I have read the Christian cliches so many times that the words could easily spill out: God is so faithful, God meets our every need, etc. Many times when I read those things I would get angry. I didn't feel God's faithfulness, my needs weren't being met. But now I am experiencing this. I don't know if it's because I am finally doing what He has planned for me or if it's because I am turning to Him (but I've done that before, so I doubt if it's that) or if it's something else (most likely it is not something I can control). But I am thankful to be exeriencing it. I am seeing God in a way that I never have before. I can finally understand some of the words of Paul that I felt were just words before. I finally "get" it -- that God loves even me, that He not only wants good things for me but is providing them. That His ways are higher and better than my ways.

Next up -- the (kind of) bad

  1. Bonnie still doesn't want to go, which is normal. Please pray for her -- specifically to find a best friend and good childcare.
  2. I've reached my limit as far as stress goes and am crying easily, very tired. On top of the packing (see below), I have to get prescriptions filled, take care of paperwork, get my house rented, blah, blah, blah.

And finally, the downright ugly!

  1. I am sick of packing. Although we are living with friends, every day I come over here and pack. It is very discouraging, especially since I have other things to do and I feel like I'm not making enough progress. Please pray.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Goodbye Mr. Chips

That's what it feels like today as I sit at my desk at Woodlawn School, cleared of everything but the memories of the past year. Funny how you end up doing things you always swore you wouldn't do. I was never going to be a teacher and when I got into teaching I only wanted to teach college. Then I thought, well, maybe high school would be OK. And I wind up teaching English to 14 precocious 8th graders in Davidson, NC. Today I saw them for the last time and I'm feeling all maudlin about it.

A vase of wild flowers sits on my desk. Some of the teachers got them for me with a muffin in a paper bag that says, "Good morning, Karyn." They know I'm not a morning person. :) The flowers are appropriate. Woodlawn is not your average school. Like wildflowers, it sprang up in the farmland of Davidson, next to the beautiful and sophisticated "rose" of Charlotte, NC. The classes are in small, white clapboard buildings -- two or three classrooms in each building. Outside my window is a blacktop area with a basketball hoop and several picnic tables. How many days have I sat here, working or eating my lunch, listening to the ball bouncing outside as childish voices drifted through my mind?

My students were wildflowers, too -- some rough edges, some prickly parts, but no thorns. Stick them in a vase with a little bit of water and they thrive.

I thought this place was the square hole that I would fit into -- innovative, progressive, alternative education theory. Perfect. Finally a place that appreciated someone who thinks outside the box. But it wasn't a good fit. Long story that I won't go into here.

As I carried my bag of stuff accumulated over a year out to my car, I felt the weight of goodbye fall on my shoulders. The familiar sting of tears. It's not just goodbye to Woodlawn or even to my students, it's goodbye to:

  • my dream of finding a place I would fit
  • the family I had found among the like-minded teachers here
  • the ability to be creative and innovative at work
  • a beautiful setting to come to every day
  • loving my job for the first time
  • having something important to contribute Woodlawn's Stinson Hall

    I cry also for the fact that because I lost my job here I am now going to Japan. It's HARD to make that move. I have had a crushing couple of weeks and more ahead of me. I don't feel that the people I'm going to work for appreciate me and what I'm giving up to go there. If only things had worked out here, I would not be facing this. I would finally have "my place" in the world. The long wait for a job would be over.

    But, no, it begins again. Japan is not permanent. Some day I will have to come back to the real world and find a "real job" and worry about paying for college and retirement. I am going forward with the next step, but deep inside I wonder, what is to become of me?

    So, today it is goodbye to Woodlawn and hello to -- possibilities.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

ah choo!

"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once."
~Jennifer Yane

That's what happened to me yesterday! My allergy-prone body said it had enough of all the dust mites stirred up by this craze of moving and went on overload. When I opened the window in my living room to catch a bit of the night breeze, my palms started itching. As the little bits of the pecan trees joined the dust mites in my lungs (I'm allergic to pecan trees, but not the nuts!), my head started to itch. Then my lips felt fuzzy and my eye started swelling up. Fortunately, a friend came by in the midst of this and we called my allergy doctor to see if I needed to go to the ER or stick myself with the epi pen or what. He had me take a bunch of benedryl, told me I could "never do anything like this[meaning cleaning out my attic] again," and told me to come in and get some steroid treatments (I passed on that one) the next day.

Today I was wiped out from the benedryl kickback and I guess my body is telling me enough is enough! But I'm not done yet. Still have one more day of work, have to finish packing (more dust!) and take care of my house, car, etc. here.

For those who pray, here is what you can pray for:

  1. Praise for all the people who helped with packing this weekend
  2. Praise that I didn't need to go to the hospital last night
  3. Pray for people to help me get my stuff to Goodwill and various consignment shops
  4. Getting my stuff packed by Saturday
  5. Wisdom in knowing what to take to Japan
  6. Healing for my body and strength to do what I need to do
  7. Pray for Bonnie as she is becoming more vocal about her fears and sadness. Everytime someone gives her a farewell gift, she gets angry with me. Pray for our relationship.
  8. Someone to rent my condo and the Lord's intervention with the lease on my car
  9. My trust in God to provide our financial needs (support is not what I thought it would be)

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. "

2Corinthians 4:7-9

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Where did I get all this stuff?

Yesterday was the major packing day at our house. I had 12 people from my church come over (10 at one time and two later) and we emptied out my attic and transported most of it to a friend's attic.

I've been packing non-stop for two weeks and had 12 people pack all day yesterday and I'm not done yet! Why do we have so much stuff? One of my friends who was helping me said it's good to do this once every few years. You got THAT right! You could probably house a small village on the stuff I took to Goodwill alone yesterday!

Teeny Updates
  • Our passports are here and the plane tickets bought. We leave June 19th, get to Japan on the 20th, stay in Osaka until the 21st, go to Kurashiki that day and start shadowing the person I'm replacing on the 24th. I will do that for a week and then I start working on July 1. WE'll be in a hotel for part of that time so Rachel can move out of the apartment.
  • Here in the U.S., I still have to work two days next week: All day Monday(finals) and half a day Thursday. I need to be out of the house by Saturday. WE're going to stay with a friend that last week.
  • A couple from my church who just got back from a year in Switzerland are coming to look at my condo on Tuesday. They are interested in leasing, possibly buying it! Please pray.
  • I found out that childcare will cost me$10 per hour in Japan (that's less than min. wage there!) No progress on that yet. NO time!
  • Also found out that the weight limits on luggage have changed since the last time I flew internationally. We can take 2 bags weighing no more than 50 lbs per bag for each person flying. That's 4 suitcases for a year of living in a foreign country. And I'm homeschooling so I need to bring lots of books andmaterials for Bonnie. Needless to say, I won't be able to get it in Japan!When I lived there before, I would pay $25 to get the latest paperback novel in English (something that would cost $6 here). So I wanted to take a lotof that stuff, but it weighs a lot so . . . The last time I flew, the bags could weigh 80 lbs each. :(
  • Bonnie is doing surprisingly well. She is not thrilled, as you can imagine.We pray every night that she will find a best friend in Japan. I think that would be great for her.

Now I have to get back to packing, packing, packing. I feel like there is a tenacious bacteria called "stuff" living in my house and the more I pack it up, the more it multiplies. Or the seven-headed (or however many heads it had) Hydra waving her tentacles around, waiting for me to cut one head off so three more can grow in its place! The sad thing is that when I get to Japan, I will, once again, accumulate more STUFF that I will have to deal with when we leave. OR maybe I'll break the cycle this time! Anyone want to lay odds on that one?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Life or Death

As I was packing I came across this quote and I just HAD to post it:

If you treat everything like a life or death situation, you're gonna die a lot.

Van Wilder

I'm the type of person who does this. Everything is MAJOR. Guess I'm a drama queen. And I die a lot! LOL! It's all not necessary, though. Not sure if I can change that, though. It is a part of my personality. It's part of what makes me, me. Still, I'm not ready to embrace it. I'd like to grow out of that particular trait. Any ideas how I can do that?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


And that's why I haven't written in a while. Didn't want to admit it to anyone. But it's natural I guess. If you are the praying type, please pray for us. Two words: spiritual warfare.

Here's where things stand:
  • I have almost $1500 outgoing suport :)
  • We have about $350 monthly support and my church tells me I have $500 but when I ask what that means and/or if they know something I don't know, all they do is repeat that I have $500. So I have $500
  • The leads of childcare for Bonnie have not panned out. This is weighing heavily on my mind so please pray. If you know a student who would be interested in coming to Japan for the summer (I'll pay for her ticket) in exchange for hanging out with Bonnie while I work, helping us get settled, etc., I am open to the idea. But I don't know anyone.
  • Our plane tickets have been bought. We leave June 19 from Charlotte and arrive in Osaka on June 20th (14 hour flight plus connections). I think we're going to stay at the airport hotel that night since we land at 6 p.m. Osaka time and then go to Kurashiki the next day. My best friend in Japan wants to meet us!
  • Since Rachel (current English teacher at Agape) needs to move out of the apartment, we will be staying in a hotel for a week or so. This is not ideal, but can't be helped.
  • I sent off the passport applications today -- expedited service should take 10 days.
  • Packing is going OK. I'm getting burned out with it all. Thank goodness for the friends who have taken carloads of stuff to Goodwill. I need to keep working on this, but it's hard. And the more that gets packed, the messier the house gets and the harder it is to live here.
  • Emotionally, I'm scared and excited. Kind of back and forth. In a way it is very surreal.

If you are a prayer, read between the lines. This is really too big for me to handle on my own. The good news is that I am daily seeing how BIG God is. I love that! Stepping out in faith is definately worth it. I can't do any less. I am so thankful that I get to live the life less ordinary!


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It's all good

When I left Japan to come to the United States in 2001, I was a stressed out basket case. I have often wished I had done it differently, been calmer, been more of a rock for Bonnie. That is one thing I have been praying about this time and I think it's going better. Not perfect, but God has been so good to help me with this. I am so excited about going to Japan. I'm happy getting rid of all the stuff in the house and in a way, starting over again. I have a very positive attitude and that's all good. :)

The details

  • I am going to have a local realtor/property management company handle my condo. They can lease it or sell it. Since it's not in very good condition, they will lease it for a year and if we decide to stay in Japan longer, we will put it on the market. I feel good about this because I will have someplace to come back to if I need it, but if I decide to stay I won't have to get a different realtor to handle it. They handle several condos in my complex and the amount of rent they want to charge is more than I need to cover my mortgage and homeowners, which is good.
  • Packing. I have the world's most awesome friend come over every few days and help me power pack. Of course there is a never-ending procession of stuff, but it is getting cleared out slowly. The world's second most awesome friend comes every day and takes boxes to good will or the local e-bay reseller for me. Bonnie has been a trooper carrying trash to the dumpster. :)
  • Money. We have about $250 monthly and $1000 one time. That covers Bonnie's plane ticket, but not what I need to pay for babysitters for her. It could be easy to worry, but what can I do about it? God will provide one way or the other. It is nerve wracking to see HOW He will do it, though.
  • Keep praying for Bonnie. She is ambivilent and it is hard on her. She will be fine, of course, but she's moody and not sleeping or eating well.
  • Pray for the Crafts, Bonnie's adopted grandparents. This is so very hard on them. They lost a son about a year ago and now they are losing her. There is potential for a strained relationship without the Lord's intervention.
  • Pray for my stamina. I'm still driving 2 hours every day to work, doing all the cooking and cleaning, packing, washing clothes and dishes, etc. The house is slowly turning upside down and that can add stress as well. I am also teaching until June 8th and they aren't inclined to cut me any slack.
  • Pray for childcare for Bonnie in Japan. I've checked into some possibilities, but they aren't working out too well. God must have something in mind, though. :)

Thanks for reading and praying and helping.

Karyn and Bonnie

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Prayer Requests 5-13-06

Excited and scared today. I found a bunch of boxes and have started packing, packing. Why do I have so much stuff? At least I can throw/give a lot of it away.

  1. Praise God that we are going to Japan. After so many years of waiting and longing for a job and a ministry, it is finally here.
  2. Pray that I will be wise in sorting through my stuff and the things I give away go to people who need them. That God will be glorified even in this.
  3. Friends to help me pack, find boxes and run errands these next few weeks. (I have some already, but need more)
  4. Some guys to take heavy stuff downstairs and away.
  5. The "right" realtor/management agent to handle my condo. Wisdom in knowing whether to sell, rent or combo of both.
  6. God to work in the hearts of the car dealership so I can give my car back and pay a penalty rather than voluntarily surrender it (affects credit rating almost like a repossession and not a good testimony)
  7. Calm, patience -- not two of my natural traits
  8. That I will be willing to lean on God, remember to turn to Him when I get nervous or overwhelmed
  9. Pray for Bonnie. She has a good attitude, but this is a big thing for her. She is watching her stuff go away and is losing all her friends and everything she knows. I can see God's peace settling over her. I'm so grateful for that.
  10. Pray for the Crafts, Bonnie's adopted grandparents. Many of you know them and you know what a knife this is in their hearts right now.
  11. Pray with me against the enemy who likes to remind me of all the things I didn't like about Japan and bring up seemingly insurmountable obstacles and all of my insecurities.
  12. Money, money, money. Just pray. God will move people to give. I am not being disingenuous. I am not asking YOU to give (or give more). But we need more monthly support for one year and definitely more one-time money. It doesn't even have to come from people. It could come through the sale of our stuff (I am not selling all the household goods because it's not a good use of my time, but I do have some nice items that I will consign) or other ways, but that is my biggest worry right now. I have no savings whatsoever and I do have some debt that has accumulated over the lean years.

Our God is an awesome God

He reigns from heaven above

With wisdom, power and love

Our God is an awesome God

Friday, May 12, 2006

I can't breathe

June 28th

That's the date. Had a meeting with my church and Raj this morning and we ARE going to Japan. I am going to get passports next week and put my house and car on the market. This is where the rubber hits the road.

I MUST trust that God will provide.

But I am SCARED! Good thing greater people than I have been in the same situation. Hudson Taylor the founder of China Inland Mission (now known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship, I think) said, "God's work done in God's way will never lack God's supply."

I have tried to go about this in God's way. I'm sure it is God's work. So now I look for God's supply. Wish it was a easy to do as it is to WRITE! After my first support letter, I got pledges of about $150 per month and $500 one-time with more people saying they would make decisions when I had made MY decision. My church feels this is good enough to go on. It scares me, frankly. But, you know what? Even what I have now is more than I've made here in the U.S. for quite a while! So, it's not like I'm leaving a sure thing for a risky thing. :)

My faith is very, very small -- but it maybe is the size of a mustard seed. Another quote from Hudson: "God isn't looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him." I hope that's true. I have been willing to follow Him to Asia for several years now. Heck, I was willing to follow Him the first time He asked me if I wanted to go.

I'm scared, but I'm learning to throw that stuff on God right away. I can't tell you how many times in the past few weeks I have prayed these two prayers over and over:
1. God help me!
2. Satan get away from me!

Reminds me of another quote by Taylor: "God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him." I have always been weak and feeble, but haven't been good at leaning on Him. I have resisted that and it is still my tendancy. What a strange person for God to send as a missionary. I am not one of great faith. I am not a prayer warrier. I am not one who is "in love" with God. But I am a willing follower with an unquenchable desire to do "missions" in Japan. God surely chooses stange people, doesn't He?

But one thing I do have in my favor (if there is such a thing in a situation like this!) is that I believe God is BIG. Another famous missionary, William Carey, who worked in India, said "Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God." That is a theme that has come out of my prayers the past two weeks. Either God is big or He isn't. If He is God and He is big then getting me to Japan is a small thing for Him. I want to see a big God. That is what I long for.

So I am going forward, but it is going to take a BIG God.

Please pray for the following major things right now:

  • That God would provide the monthly support and one-time finances we need. This is mostly for things to be comfortable for Bonnie the first year. I could live on very little in Japan and have done so, but it's harder with a child.
  • If there are more people I should approach for support, that God will give me wisdom about that.
  • That I can liquidate my car and condo (this seems impossible to me)
  • That I can get my house packed up (I will need help from people on this)
  • That God will continue to reassure Bonnie about the move (and me, too, for that matter)


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What motivates me

If God calls you to be a missionary, don’t stoop to be a king.
Jordan Grooms
I have but one candle of life to burn,
and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness
than in a land flooded with light
John Keith Falconer
Sympathy is no substitute for action.
David Livingstone, missionary to Africa
We talk of the Second Coming;
half the world has never heard of the first.
Oswald J. Smith
There is nothing in the world or the Church --
except the church's disobedience --
to render the evangelization of the world
in this generation an impossibility.
Robert Speer, leader in Student Volunteer Movement
When James Calvert went out as a missionary
to the cannibals of the Fiji Islands,
the ship captain tried to turn him back, saying,
"You will lose your life and the lives of those with you
if you go among such savages."
To that, Calvert replied, "We died before we came here."
Every man is a missionary,
now and forever,
for good or for evil,
whether he intends or designs it or not.
He may be a blot
radiating his dark influence outward
to the very circumference of society,
or he may be a blessing
spreading benediction
over the length and breadth of the world.
Thomas Chalmers
Lost people matter to God,
and so they must matter to us.
Keith Wright

Why we are going to Japan

I recently created a powerpoint presentation to explain why we are going to Japan as missionaries and why this trip is different from the simple pleaseure trip we took before. I have modified the power point for this blog. What are the spiritual needs of Japan? If you want to know more, read on . . .

When you think of Japan, what comes to mind?

The graceful curves of a Tori shrine?
A colorful kimono draped over a white-faced girl?
Majestic Mt. Fuji crowned in white?

When I think of Japan, I see all these things.
But I also see an extremely wealthy, consumer-driven nation where work defines the meaning of life and ancestors are gods.

In a nation teeming with 127 million people, less than 1 percent of them are Christians.
I saw this for myself when I lived in Japan from 1995-2001.
The first year I was there, I was telling the children in my classes about Christmas. “Who’s birthday is on Christmas,” I asked the group of 8-to-10-year olds. Expecting the obvious answer, I could hardly disguise my shock when I heard their answer.
“Santa Claus,” they replied confidently.
I took quick surveys in my classes and out of the 100 or more students I had contact with weekly, only a handful had ever heard of Jesus, much less knew that Christmas was the celebration of His birth.
“Yesu Kuristo” rang a bell with the few children who had gone to the local Catholic school.
Otherwise, I faced bewilderment.
“Kuristo” and “Kurisumas” I pointed out to them the similarity. Slowly the light began to dawn.
That year I found a book at the local Catholic bookstore (the only place in my small town that had anything Christian at all) that told the story of Christmas in Japanese. We got out paper and crayons and made a manger scene for the wall. I got candles and we lit them, while I got our Japanese school manager to read the story to them in Japanese. Then we sang silent night
and had Christmas cookies. One hundred more Japanese knew about Jesus that Christmas.

Japan is one of the hardest mission fields in the world today. Japanguide.com recently polled its members about their religious belifs. “Religion clearly seems to be rather unimportant in Japanese daily life,” they concluded.
When asked what religion they affiliate with, 52 percent of those surveyed said, “none.” Forty-seven percent chose Buddhism or Shintoism (or both). Although 11 percent indicated they feel closest to Christianity, that doesn’t mean they are believers since most participants who did affiliate with a religion chose more than one (which accounts for the total of more than 100 percent) and only 16 percent of those surveyed admitted to being religious at all. Half of those surveyed said religion had no importance in their daily life. In total, two thirds visit shrines, temples or churches a few times or once per year. Only about 6 percent visit religious buildings weekly or even more frequently.

Most religious rites in Japan originate from a variety of religions. People have Shinto marriages, celebrate Christmas, and hold Buddhist funerals, Japanese do not adhere to one religion. But there is a common religious base in Japan. That is the religion of "family", in other words, ancestor worship.
According to Japanguide.com, if there is any thought to life after death at all, the aim of the average Japanese person is to become an “ancestor spirit” by receiving the religious rites from his/her descendants. If there is a “religion of Japan” this is it.
But recently, due to a high rate of divorce, a decrease in the number of children, and an increase of nuclear families, the "family" system has gradually been disrupted. This means that ties to ancestors are being lost and the religious base has radically broken down. Now is a time of radical change.

Freedom of religion is allowed in the Japanese constitution, but traditional and modern culture combine to form a tremendous barrier to the gospel. Japan is one of the least evangelized countries in Asia. Japan is coping with rapid social change and insecurity. Japan prides itself on peace but shocking events like the Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe and the terrorist attack in a Tokyo subway station have rocked Japanese security. In a spiritual sense, Japan is a very needy nation.

This is where I feel God wants me and Bonnie to go and here’s why:
I lived there for six years and saw a fruitful ministry even though I wasn’t there in a ministry capacity
God has planted a love for Asian people in my heart.
About three years ago, God began calling me to take the gospel to people in Asia.
Working for God in Japan will teach Bonnie the spiritual lessons she needs to learn if she is going to do great things for His kingdom.

The power point presentation goes on about things you've heard before. I hope this explains a bit more what you are participating in by joining us in this work in The Land of the Rising Sun. IF you would like to see the powerpoint, I'd love to send it to you, just let me know. Send an e-mail to: karyn@comporium.net

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Support letter

I sent the following letter to my friends and family today and wanted to post it here as well, for the record. :) If you received it already, just delete it. Sorry for the double mailing.


Most of you are aware that Bonnie and I are seriously considering going to Japan for one to three years as English teachers/missionaries. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know a lot of details, but for those who haven’t, I have decided that we will move forward with plans to go to Japan until God closes the doors. The next step is gauging what type of support we might have since we can’t do this alone. Please look over the areas below and let me know if you feel you can support us and in what way. I do not want to put any pressure on anyone, but believe that God will move people to give out of the resources He has provided. Maybe this is His way of making sure we don’t go to Japan and try to do it all ourselves. Also, going to Japan will have more meaning for me if you share it with us – by praying, by communicating, by giving your time and even financially. Bonnie and I may be the ones going to Japan and touching the Japanese people physically, but you can be involved in God’s work in Japan, too, through us. Won’t you join us?

Come and join the reapers
All the kingdom seekers
Laying down your life to
Find it once again
Come and join the harvest
Help to light the darkness
For the Lord is calling
Faithful men
- Twila Paris

If you want to be a part of the harvest in Japan, please talk to the Lord about it and if He leads you to get involved in a specific way, would you let me know so I can make
plans to move forward? If I don’t hear from people, I will take it as a closed door. Please don’t do anything unless you believe God is leading you to do it. I know He can provide all we need, but I want it to be His way, not in my way. Just so you know, I will be endorsed by my church – either officially “sent” as a missionary or more informally “blessed” as a tentmaker. That will be determined when Raj meets with some guys in my church next week. Any money you give will be tax deductible and will be channeled either through my church or Agape English Language Institute (Raj’s school). Expenditures will be approved by someone from one of those organizations so there will be accountability.

I don’t want to offend anyone or “bug” anyone so if I don’t hear from you, I will remove you from my mailing list so make sure you respond to that question. I would like a response as soon as you can make it since my time is short (Raj wants us to leave in June!) so keep that in mind. Thanks for standing with us the past few years as I pursue my dream of missions in Asia. I hope this is “it” but if not, I will keep pursuing it!

To find out more about what we are doing visit these links:

My blog

The English School in Japan

Agape English Language Institute

Power Point presentation
I prepared a quick powerpoint presentation on the need for missions in Japan. If you would like to see it, let me know and I’ll e-mail it to you.

Will you look over the areas below and prayerfully consider what, if anything, God may be leading you to do to be a part of missions in Japan? Please hit reply and let me know what God is putting on your heart. I am thrilled to have people like you as my partners in this ministry! If you can give me an indication of your level of commitment, that would be great as well!


If you want to remain on my mailing list, please hit reply and let me know.

Will you pray for us regularly? I will continue my blog and will make sure it gets sent to you when it’s updated. If you are on the yahoogroups distribution list for the blog, let me know so I won’t send it to you twice.

Can you send us care packages from the United States (videos, music, food, English books, etc.) a few times per year?
I also need help from people in Rock Hill with
taking stuff to Goodwill and consignment shops
finding boxes
taking stuff to the post office
using your contacts to help find a buyer/renter for my condo and my car


One Time Gift
This would help with expenses in getting to Japan (shipping personal items, storage space in the U.S., packing and moving expenses.)I don’t know our total need at this time, but I’ve been unemployed or underemployed for a long time and have no savings at all (in fact, my church has been giving us money every month since December!). Agape pays for our plane tickets to Japan, which is good. But we need a return ticket before Japan will let us into the country. Also, I won’t be able to get a salary until my working visa comes in. The school will pay our room and board while we are volunteers, but there will be some other expenses for those first few months. If we somehow get more money than we need, it can be applied to our monthly support (see below) or spent on materials for the school. I would think that if we received even several thousand dollars, it could be used.

Monthly Support for One Year
The biggest need right now is monthly support for about a year. Currently the school is expanding and that is why they are adding another teacher. But the salary is based on the needs of a single person, not a mom. J I will need money to provide Bonnie adequate childcare while I’m working and to supplement the difference between a single and two people (health insurance, food, visas, transportation expenses in Japan like train tickets, etc.) As students are added, the school will be able to raise my salary until it is adequate for our needs. It’s impossible to know the future, but the plan is that I will only need this support for a year. In any case, that is all you need to commit to at this time. After a year, we will re-evaluate our needs and if we stay in Japan, we will solicit long-term support through traditional methods. It is critical that I know about how much monthly support will come in so if you are comfortable, I really need to know about how much you plan to give. I don’t know the total need yet, but we are thinking it will be about $500 per month (most missionaries in Japan need $6,000 per month or more so our needs are modest). This means that even if you can give $10 or $20, it will go a long way.

Please remember that this is all speculative at this point. I am simply trying to gauge if there is enough support to move forward. Thanks for reading this far and for your love and support for us, not only in this venture, but in our lives. We love you very much. Please pray for us.

Karyn and Bonnie

Sunday, May 07, 2006


I have been in utter turmoil for the past few days. Unable to make a decision. I would even test it out to see if I had peace. :) Iwould say, "Yes I'm going" and wait to see if I had peace. Then I would say, "No, I'm staying" and wait. Guess what? I never got peace at all!!!!!

One of the guys from my church, who has been guiding/listening to me for several months now, asked me, "What does Karyn want to do?" Last night, I wrote to them both and told them what Karyn wants and at the end I told them I was NOT going.

But after that, I saw myself in Kurashiki. I saw myself working with the students. I saw Bonnie going to school happy. I saw myself building relationships and gently showing people the God I know. What was this? Somehow, telling them I didn't want to go, freed me to go!

But this morning I still wasn't sure. Then I got this e-mail from my friend Violette (the TEAM missionary) this morning:

Violette wrote: One time I was worried about a decision I had to make. Finally I was able to commit it to God and just expect Him to answer. Then I heard His still small voice telling me what to do, when I wasn't even expecting it. It was while I was working on something. But I felt Him telling me the answer and then I could go forward in confidence.

I learned that worrying, fretting, fearing prevents/hinders you from hearing God. Believing, trusting, expecting prepares you to hear God. It seems worry and fear clutter your mind - so you can't hear! Faith and trust clears your mind - so you can hear!

I read somewhere that worry replaces God on center stage of your life.
Confess it, and put God back on center stage through faith. I like this definition of faith - faith is expecting God to work.

Well, I pray that God will give you faith that He WILL guide you! It would be fun to have you back!

That is where I’ve been for days. After getting this e-mail, I recognized myself. I threw myself on my bed, crying and said, “Daddy, tell me what to do.” And I felt a peace envelope me.

Here is what the new, confident, unafraid Karyn wants:

Karyn wants what God wants.
Karyn wants meaning and purpose in her life no matter where God sends (or keeps me)
Karyn wants what is best for Bonnie (that means eternally best, not necessarily best here on earth).

And finally, Karyn wants to make an informed decision.

So this is what I NEED to do in order to make this decision and this is what I am going to do:

Send an e-mail to my friends/family telling them about the need in Japan and our desire to work for God there and ask if they are willing to support us – with prayer, with their hands (for people in Rock Hill who can help us move) and financially. I won’t ask for a pledge or commitment, but some idea of what they feel led to give. I need to know that before I can decide to go because I simply can’t do it on my own.

Talk to Rachel (the girl currently doing the job) and get some potential childcare lined up (she gave me at least 10 definate possibilities, including a 24 hour daycare center that Agape goes to to teach English and we may be able to work out a deal with them).

Talk to the Japan education expert about what the law is in Japan regarding homeschooling, etc. so I know what I am required to do.

Talk to Raj and get something definate from him about what will happen if my car/condo doesn’t sell/rent/lease before I leave.

If I get the right answers to the above, I will go to Japan. If I don't, then it will be a closed door. Maybe God wasn't telling me what HIS WILL is because the answer was "Not yet. I gave you a mind to make an informed decision. A foolish man presumes upon God. A wise man is prudent and knows what he is getting into before rushing ahead like a fool. "

When I said I didn't want to go, it was out of fear. My dream is the same now as it has been for years -- to go overseas and serve God as a missionary. What in the world was I thinking?

This is MY DECISION. I am totally confident with it.

I am going to Japan IF

  • I get the money I need
  • I can get quality childcare for Bonnie
  • I have aPLAN for my home and car if they are not sold/leased/rented before I leave
  • People here in Rock Hill will help me pack and get it all done

    If not, that is a closed door.



Thursday, May 04, 2006

Double Minded May 4 Japan update

Have been back and forth on this, which is hard. I had a meeting with the guys in my church who are guiding me and got some very good advice: I need to make a decision and stick to it. The church is very supportive, but they first want me to get off the fence -- either side is fine. I'll have to admit that right after that meeting I didn't think I could possibly make a decision. I'm getting so much input that it's hard to sort through. And I love the input. I want it, but eventually, I have to do what I did when I went to Japan in the first place and what I did when I decided to adopt Bonnie -- choose what is right for me and go with it.

Some thoughts that have come to me since that meeting:
  • Determining GOD'S WILL can be very scary -- especially when we look at it so seriously. I'm so scared about making the wrong decision that I can't move at all. Then I remembered the first time I went to Japan. I had been given the offer and said "no" without thinking about it. Then, as I was driving in the car, God spoke to me. I had been begging Him for a chance to leave the country and teach English somewhere. I just didn't want to do it in Japan. Then He said something only God could say, "This is a gift for you," He said. You won't be out of my will if you don't go, but you will be IN my will if you DO go. It's your choice and I'm giving it to you. But, if you choose NOT to go, you will be missing a wonderful present I have for you. As I sat here today, trying to figure out GOD'S WILL (Cuz that's what Raj wants me to determine and that's what it boils down to with my church, too), He seemed to say to me, "Stop trying to figure that out. On this one, maybe I don't have A WILL ( specifically). Maybe, like the last time, either one is OK. But one is probably better. That was a huge relief to me. Even if I make a mistake, God will be with me.
  • Whether I live in Japan or in the U.S., it is going to be stressful to take care of Bonnie. I am currently working three jobs and raising her alone. AND driving 100 miles a day. The rest of my life is going to involve working full time and trying to care for Bonnie. NO matter where I live, Bonnie will have to have child care. Raj is being so flexible about things that it's hard to believe. I told him I couldn't work on weekends. Done. I told him I needed more money. Done. I told him I couldn't work both mornings and evenings. Done. I told him I wanted to bring Bonnie to some of my classes. Done. Done. Done. This is a good indication to me that he will continue to be flexible as things come up in Japan.
  • I have to determine who to listen to and remember that God is BIG. He is very BIG. It is a privelege to get the chance to see how BIG He is.
  • My friend Frank told me to chase my dreams and chase them hard. When I was growing up, my mom told me the same thing. She never pushed me toward certain activities or vocations or types of boyfriends, etc. When I got in my car and drove from northern Illinois to SC, her heart was in her throat (she told me later) but I had NO idea. She wanted me to follow my dreams. And I want that for Bonnie. It is another legacy from my mom to her. Follow your dreams. If I do go to Japan, even if I fail, Bonnie will see someone who dreams BIG and dares to believe that God will do big things; someone who is bold enough to GO FOR IT. That is the way I have always been and it is the way I can't help but be. If I do'nt follow my dreams, I will not be me. God knew what He was doing when He put Bonnie with me. We are so well suited to each other, it's amazing. He knew I was a person who had to GO, to dream big and try to make it happen. If all my dreams for Bonnie's future are to come true, she will need to be that kind of person. It's my family's legacy and Bonnie was adopted into it.

So I need to take about 24 hours and decide. But after I decide, there will be no turning back. Same as when I adopted Bonnie. I really didn't listen to anyone who thought I couldn't/shouldn't do it. When I ran into an obstacle, I refused to take no for an answer. Because I knew it was the right thing to do. Yes, I was willing all along for God to close the door, as hard as it might be, but I didn't start with that assumption. If I decide to go to Japan, that will be IT. We will go forward until God stops us. IF I decide not to go, that's IT. I will be back to the job hunt and give up the idea of missions altogether because if this isn't the right mission field for me, nothing is.

If you have any final thoughts, please let me know! I should be back this time tomorrow with a decision. One way or the other.