Look out! We're coming!

Look out! We're coming!

Jo and I have been guilty of neglecting our blog for quite some time but I thought I would try and bring some content back here. In case you missed it this is the last newsletter Jo sent out regarding our trip to the US. 
     Greetings from Japan. We've bought our tickets are are getting everything together to head to Japan in one week! Eeek! We're really starting to get excited about seeing so many of you. 

Here is our tentative schedule: 
July 29th: Leave Nagoya and arrive in Chicago and head to Beloit, WI (unofficially known to our family as the longest day ever. We will "arrive" 40 minutes before we "left". Time travel, ha!)
August 1st: August 10th:  Upsala, MN
August 11th:16th: Larchwood, IA and Souix Falls, SD
August 17th: 22nd: Twin Cities, MN
August 23rd: August 31st: Upsala, MN
September 1st: 2nd: Callao, MO
September 3rd: 6th: Kansas City, MO
September 7th: 10th: Moberly, MO
September 11th:14th: Lebanon and Cape Girardeau, MO
September 14th:15th: Saint Louis, MO
September 15th: October 17th: Hallsville, MO
September 18th: October 15th: Beloit, WI
October 16th-17th:Travel back to Japan

     We would LOVE to see as many of you as possible!  As you can see, its going to be pretty crazy. My (Jo) brain's band with is pretty low right now. Please, please reach out to us if you would like to hang out. Messaging me on Facebook or simply replying to this e-mail would be ideal. If I don't respond in a few days, please do not hesitate to message me again (and again and again). Hope to see you soon! 
     Also, please give our kids extra grace in this period of travel. The constant traveling and sleeping in a multitude of different places can make for little sleep and extra grumpy kids and tantrums galore.

Please pray for us! Pray for:

- Patience with each other and especially with the kids on the flight
- That the kids would actually sleep, and sleep well, on the flight (their track record thus far isn't great)
- For all of the preparations and packing and planning and organizing and on and on. 
- For peace and to not get stressed out in this whole process  
- For as much rest as possible during our travels in the states

We love you all! Can't wait to see you and tell you about all of the awesome things God is doing in Japan. 

Support Raising Take 2

Support Raising Take 2

 If you are coming from the link in our newsletter then you already know the situation, but for those of you who don't let me catch you up.

Heart of the City

Heart of the City

A few weeks ago Jo and I had the privilege of hosting a visiting team from Heart of the City, a church in Anchorage, Alaska. While it was a bit awkward to be on camera for days and days it was a wonderful opportunity to share about the need for the Gospel in Japan. 

Hosting short term mission trips can be exhausting. We've had a couple come this year and while they've been drastically different from one another, I end up with the same exhaustion at the end of the experience. There is a lot to be said about short term missions in Japan and I think I'll be posting something about it soon. But suffice it to say, despite how exhausting it may be, this is a part of what we pray for. 

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
— Matthew 9:35-38

This Story Belongs to All of US

This Story Belongs to All of US

The other day I overheard a conversation in the coffee shop and then a few hours later I heard another very similar conversation in the grocery store; they were talking about the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It took me a moment to realize what day it was and that the anniversary of that disaster was almost here.

For those of us that were living in Japan at that time, it was a formative experience. I mean that in all the nuance of the word. I think in some fashion or another we were all formed, changed, by that day. My family noticed it first when Jo and I came back to the US afterwards. My mom said we looked like two scared cats. At every shake in the house or loud noise we both looked up, around the room, and to the exits. Our nervousness may have faded, but admittedly before I decided on the apartment we are in now I checked the distance to the ocean, the shape of the coastline, and the elevation first.

Now for what will seem like a sharp change in subject: I love stories. I think one of the most effective forms of communication is narrative. I could tell you that I felt nervous on my first date with Jo and you might understand it but it would be in your context for the word. But if I told you the ups and downs of that night you would understand it in my context.

When I have the opportunity to preach I always try to tell a story. Sometimes that’s easier than other times. The last time I spoke at Mustard Seed I preached on Isaiah 9:6, but not the whole verse, just two small words. It was enough for a sermon though. The names of Jesus: everlasting father. You might have been hard pressed to find the narrative in that sermon but as I spoke you went with me on the journey that I went on as I read the passage then researched and prayed over it, and hopefully you ended up in the same place as me with a similar understanding of the verse.

I love to read stories too. I have been diving into a couple works of fiction lately and I love a story with exciting world building. There is a sadness that is hard to describe when you finish a series and must leave the rich world the author has built. There are times I wish an author would just keep writing but that doesn’t always end well; I’m looking at you Dune.

I love to tell stories. I love to share an experience or a realization with those around me. There are tiny moments in my life where I am just full of wonder at the world around me. When I tell a story, I am often trying to share that small moment of wonder. I want you to see what I saw and feel what I felt. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’ll keep trying.

Sometimes though a story doesn’t have a happy ending, or the journey that you go on isn’t a pleasant one. We tell these stories for a lot of reasons, and hardly are they ever the same. There are times that we tell them to warn people. Other times we tell them so that people will understand our own hurt. I have more than once told my own sad stories to break the hearts of those listening; to bring you to the same realization of need that I am living in.

When we tell a story, we share something intensely personal.  When I tell the story of my first date with my wife I always tell it the same way, with a moment of suspense that leaves people waiting. It’s fun, and that story belongs to Jo and me (and that cop I suppose) and no one else. We were the only ones there and it’s something we choose to share. And we can choose how we share it and with what tone. But what happens when a story, an important story, is both intensely personal but incredibly shared?

Millions of people were affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, hundreds of thousands lost these homes, tens of thousands died. It was a disaster shared to some extent or another by everyone in this country and it changed us all on an extremely personal level. But when I tell that story only part of it belongs to me. Much of it belongs to all of us who were affected on that tragic day.

We all share different parts of the same story. What you saw and felt wasn’t the same as what I saw and felt. What happened in the weeks and months that followed may share some of the same themes as what I experienced but it isn’t the same. When we tell these stories, we tell them from our own limited perspective. When we hear these stories, we hear them from our own perspectives as well.

I often find that I have to stop myself when I hear someone else telling their story of those days. I want to interject my point of view, I want to push my story into theirs. But that isn’t right. They aren’t telling my story, and what they felt and experienced doesn’t belong to me even though we share so much of it. I need to remind myself that while this story belongs to me, and it has shaped who I am today, it belongs to them as well.

I want to leave you with a thought: As you go about the coming days and you share your story I want you to remember that this story belongs to all of us. The people listening to your story were shaped by the same events; some more drastically than others. When you make declarations about that time remember that while it may have been an eye-opening experience for you it may have been the worst day of someone else’s life. Remember those who aren’t here to share this story with the us. This story belongs to all of us.

A New Look Version 2

A New Look Version 2

     Just as I was typing the title to this post I felt a sense of déjà vu. It was about two years ago that I revamped our old website as we were getting ready to begin support raising and used the same title 'A New Look". This will be version 2. Time has passed and without getting into the details I have gotten a little frustrated with our hosting service. I have had a lot of problems with their servers and have decided to jump ship and build a new site. 

      This new site has all of the same content that our old site had but in a slightly sleeker, easier to maneuver format. At the moment this is the only blog post but in the due time I will import all of the posts from our old blog. Again, without getting into too much techno babble I am moving content between two very different and not quite compatible systems so it will take a little time to iron out all of the wrinkles. 

     You may also notice that in the address bar of your browser it says willandjo.org rather than willandjo.com. While switching services I received a free domain to add to my ever growing collection. I feel myself slipping towards explaining domain services but I will hold myself back because I think most people find it really dull. Suffice it to say .com and .org will bring you to the same place. 

    We've also decided to change the format of our monthly newsletter as well. I hope to add a lot more pictures to give a better glimpse into our lives here in Japan. You may also notice that our newsletter will come from a new email address, will@willandjo.org. Don't worry though, it's the same newsletter from us. 

     Well, I guess that's about it. Not exactly exciting news for most people but it makes life a little easier for us over here and hopefully we are able to communicate more easily and effectively with all of our supporters. Thank you.