On Monday we worked with our Sanda co-workers to put on our first (annual?) ladies Christmas tea. (Shout-out to MLEFC and HOPE Christian Fellowship for the tea inspiration!) Thanks to wonderful babysitting efforts by several of our husbands (yeah Eric!), we had thirty-two ladies and about ten children participate. There were seven last-minute cancellations mostly due to the flu that is going around, but we loved seeing this many women gathered together to enjoy Christmas. I was thinking — thirty families from across Sanda are here in this room — enjoying warm fellowship and many of them hearing about God’s wonderful love for us for the first time. What a great privilege!
We decorated each table with a different Christmas theme, and put a theme sticker on their nametag to help them find their assigned tables. It was fun to see our friends go around and take photos of each table on their cell phones…
We had a scary moment when all of our hot pots and coffee maker blew the fuse in the large room of the community center we rented… It took several of the community center staff to come and figure out the problem, ending with us putting hot pots in different rooms. A few minutes later, I saw all the front office ladies coming up the stairs, and thought “oh no! They’re going to throw us out!” Instead – the two staff had gone down and told everyone about the Christmas decorations and they had to come see for themselves. Yeah! Later, our coworker Mary took them our left-over cookies, so I am sure they were quite pleased.
In addition to coffee, tea, pastries, and homemade christmas cookies, we made a fun craft, thanks to my inspiration Martha Stewart!— button wreaths. We had to order the buttons from the U.S. because they are so expensive here (five for a dollar is the cheapest) – so it was a fun treat for the ladies to make these.. (Personally, I think theirs were cuter than Martha’s – but please don’t tell her I said so.)
Our friends from CBC in Cerritos had sent us some great Christmas items to help make this tea possible –big bags of confectioner’s sugar (very expensive here for some reason) and American-style cookie cutters which became cherished doorprizes for everyone. Yuko and Rhonda made and attached laminated sugar cookie recipes with Isaiah 43:4 written at the bottom: “Because you are precious in my sight, I have loved you…”
We wanted the ladies to know that the true theme of Christmas is about the amazing love of God. We had the ladies share at their tables about a favorite gift they have received, and then a few of us shared up front.
I shared at the end in my not-perfect Japanese the story of our infertility, and the promise God had given me the promise of Psalm 128 when we could not have children: “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house: your children will be like olive shoots around your table…” Through God’s wonderful gift of adoption, he gave us our first three children, thus leading us to the name Olivia, meaning olive, always reminding us of God’s fulfillment of his promises. Many of you know that we agreed last year to do foster care for baby Yuu for a month or so… and after three months needing to say goodbye to him so he could go to the waiting family in Okinawa. I stood in our carport as Eric and baby Yuu drove away and just sobbed and sobbed… but realized that I understood God’s love in a new way – how he gave his only son to come to earth because he loved us so much. And that is the real meaning of Christmas — God’s amazing love for us. Two weeks later, God gave baby Yuu back to us – when his Okinawa family became unexpectedly pregnant. He became Ian Yuu, and has blessed us so much, still reminding us of God’s wonderful love for us.
It was a wonderful morning. We have written in the past that the most effective way we have found to do evangelism in Japan is through the layering of relationships: Japanese are moved closer to Jesus over time through building friendships with different believers. On Monday, I loved watching all the layerings happening… our neighbors, students, mom friends mingling with other believers and thus finding the gospel authenticated in new ways.