It has been a wacky week. H1N1 virus hit our family through Annie last Tuesday– her whole school closed down for a week because so many children and staff had contracted it at the same time. We then thought that Olivia and I had it– thankfully we both tested negative, and with Annie’s quick recovery we were all able to go (one day late) to our organization’s fall conference for church planters. It was a really wonderful time of praying, thinking, learning, playing – more on that later.
But the day that Annie’s influenza hit was also the day that my sister Beth left us. I wanted to post some photos from our time with her and share (with her permission) a short talk that she gave at one of our ladies’ English classes last week.
Here are some highlights from our time together. I think what touches Eric and I each time Beth visits (this was her seventh visit to Japan over my past twenty years of ministry – isn’t that amazing?) – is how much she enters into our lives, especially the lives of our kids. They were all so sad to see her go.
It seemed like most of our days were filled with some kind of interaction with our Japanese community- Beth was a great sport!
We spent an afternoon at a friend’s home with three other moms and their kids… all the kids — and Beth– enjoyed making cotton candy, and fighting over holding baby Y..
I was also asked at the last minute to come in one day and be lunch mom at Annie’s school — Beth and I went and did it together! Don’t you love the bandanas and aprons?
We had two wonderful dinners at different neighbor friends’ homes. For one of them, we surprised Beth with a “half-year birthday party.” Since we are never around for her birthday, we decided just to do her birthday in a small way while she was here. I made her favorite cake– Red Velvet — using a special family recipe of a friend’s. It was a big hit — definitely the first time our Japanese friends have ever had red cake…
Beth- we love you so much! Thanks for sharing your life with us and so readily entering into ours. We know that is not an easy task.:)
Here is what Beth shared at the ladies’ English class that meets in our home. I had asked her to reflect on something she learned while working for a Christian foundation for a number of years and traveling to very poor places around the world. It’s a bit long but is really worth the read.
“...I remember in the early days of our organization, my boss gave a staff devotional on Psalm 2. I can’t remember all that he said, but I do remember that he talked about God wanting to give us the nations as our inheritance. But in order to be given the nations, we have to be willing to really look at the people of the nations and enter into their suffering. And I remember saying, “But if I really look at these people and they become real to me, my heart might break. I’m not sure I’m willing to go through that.”
I want to tell you just one story from some women– who are Christians who are giving their lives to help the hurting people of the world.
On one trip to India, we visited Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity. They run a home for throw-away people—those who society has put in trash cans or left by the road to die. Their property is an old warehouse that was given to them. But immediately upon entering their compound, we were drawn into a cheerful courtyard filled with flowers and plants.
The first part of the warehouse was a huge room which was full of handicapped children. The room was spotless and each child was clean. While a few of the children walked around shaking our hands, most of them were profoundly handicapped and immobile. Those who could, were seated on benches in a circle. Others without limbs were lying in cribs. Music was playing and the assistants were interacting with as many of the children as possible. Remembering the importance of touch, I put my hand on the heads of a few of them. One little one was crying, so I went over to comfort her—she couldn’t even move her body to a different position.
Another large room we went into housed the men with HIV/AIDS. A radio was playing, around which sat several men. Other men were lying on their beds. In 1 corner were 2 assistants providing medical care. One old man had a sore on his leg about 8 inches long. Around the perimeter of the sore was raw, red skin. But most of the sore consisted only of bone. We watched as 1 assistant used tweezers to pick maggots out of sore. The sister explained he had been hit by a car and then just left on his own.
The next building was for the women with HIV/AIDS. We were told most of these women were from Nepal and had been brought to India for the sex trade. Of course, now that they are infected and sick, they are no longer wanted or needed. Several of them greeted us with their eyes and showed us the handicrafts they were creating.
We were so touched by the dignity offered to each of these people that others would choose to throw away. 16 women live their lives in this compound, touching and talking and ministering to people who will never be able to thank them or reward them. Yet each one of them had a gentle, joyful spirit. Each time another broken, diseased, hopeless person is brought in, someone says, “Here comes Jesus”. They do this because Jesus loves them and fills them with joy. And they see a bit of Jesus in each of these broken people.
I’ve realized that it is not a bad thing to have my heart broken by the needs of the world. My greater fear is that my heart will stop being touched when I see the suffering and yet the hope of God’s dearly loved people around the world. I know that in the midst of the suffering, I often see God — a God who so loves even these broken people that He sends them love and help. He has promised to do that for anyone who calls out to Him.