My dad

About nine months ago, I took a break from blogging.  I became too worried about what others thought, fearful of being judged for what I wrote – or didn’t write.  I still feel  uncomfortable with the desire to be real and yet knowing that anyone you have ever read could read this post…

But the recent experience of losing my dad and returning to the US for his funeral has made me want to process more, and blogging is a good outlet for me.  This is also a way to not lose some thoughts and things that are personally worth keeping. So I’m going to share some about my dad.

I wanted to share first the meditation that Eric gave at my dad’s funeral – it was perhaps the best message I have ever heard him give.  Alas, he is asleep now, victim to the wickedness of jet lag, so I will need to get his permission to do this another day.  Our two youngest woke up at ONE a.m. last night, ready to start the day!

At the end of the funeral service after maybe 12 or so friends and family shared about my dad, I closed the sharing time.  Here are the notes that I had prepared.  I deviated a bit, but this is the basic message that I had been able to write that morning.  For those of you who never met my dad, I hope this honors him and makes you feel like you knew him a little bit:

We were in Japan earlier this week when we got a call from my sisters that my dad’s health seemed to be rapidly declining. We waited a day or two for more news from the hospice care, all the way preparing our hearts and our lives to make the trip across the world. On our last morning in Ishinomaki, I skyped in with my sisters who were in the room with dad. I was in the Living room, and at one point Allison asked if I had any scripture to share with dad.

Our youngest son piped up and said, “Hey Gigi Bill, I know some verses!” And he began reciting his memory verses from the last month. He’s going to share them with you now too:

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. Isaiah 41:10

I thought of the significance of these verses alot in the next couple of days. Bill Plumb over the past 87 years has certainly seen his share of troubles.

  • He had near death experiences in the Korean war.
  • He lost all three of his siblings in the first half of his life.
  • Incredibly challenging four years in Rhodesia, in which he had malaria countless of times and disappointment after disappointment of being failed by their mission leaders and African co workers.
  • His first wife died when he was a young 58 years old.

He has seen his share of troubles. But watching him first as a child and later as an adult, I have witnessed over and over and over again, his faith was his anchor that held him tight. It wasn’t a faith that was only theology or nice feelings, but a faith that was gritty, real, and consisted of the smartest thinker I know who found the promises of Jesus real and true. God really was His refuge. God was his strength.

Our family is now living in the disaster zone in Japan where the terrible earthquake and tsunami struck five years ago. Our kids are going to the local elementary school. It is a tall building that serves as a hinanjo, or an evacuation/refuge center. It was filled to the top of the first floor with tsunami water and debris five years ago. But 700 desperate and now-homeless people lived above it for the next six months on the second and 3rd floors. The building was hit hard, but it did not move, and it became a place of refuge for many. It was later fixed up, and serves again as a school for our children and the others in our community, as well as continues to be a refuge in case of emergency.

This was the best image I could think of for my dad. And this faith lived itself out in how he attended to people. He had a way of bringing people in. As he allowed God to be HIS refuge, he became that very thing to so many others.

Bill Plumb made God his refuge as he experienced the pain and sorrow that inevitably comes into all of our lives. And as he lived out his faith, his very being became a hinanjo for so many others. This room is full of people who have experienced Bill Plumb as an unmovable refuge in the midst of our life challenges.

But I guess what’s most important is the huge and irreplaceable presence He has been in my own life. His faith has tethered my own. He was the greatest influence on all of the big decisions in my life. His encouragement and his heart for the world is the biggest reason I first went to Japan, and am still there now.

The first time I went as a young 20 year old, he wrote these Words on a card that I still have: “Take a few chances, do things that are bizarre and fun, and don’t stay on the beaten path.”

He never held us tightly, but gave each of my sisters and me permission and freedom to be ourselves… to go further and higher and deeper. He was the most vocal women’s libber that I know. There should be no ceiling for women. He released me and my sisters to be who God wanted me to be.

He had such a heart for the people of the world! The last time that I could talk with him on the phone, his first question, like usual was, “How’s the Nozomi Project? How are your ladies doing?” He was always caring, even about those across the world.

On the plane coming back I read some of his letters from Rhodesia, and was struck with the many challenges he endured there. Here is one quote:

“Sometimes I have a really strong feeling that I want to stick it out here “until the light that shined in my heart will give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”   Sometimes as I speak to the students or bend over their wounds or see them as a poor, lost people without hope in this world or the world to come, I have the peace of the Christ who directed our steps here in these trying and discouraging days. Oh, that our witness will not be completely lost just because of the color of our skins. With Him, all things are possible, even this impossible thing…”

Your witness was not lost, Dad. Your light still shines brightly as your legacy lives through the hundreds of lives you have touched so deeply.

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Help (really!) Wanted

Help Wanted!
Partner with Us in a Dynamic Work in Ishinomaki

Be One, a house church network in Ishinomaki, is currently looking to fill the following positions (please see brief descriptions that follow):

  1. Nozomi Project Bilingual Staff
  2. Children’s Educator to tutor/teach our homeschooled children (junior high/high school)
  3. Nozomi Project Intern

1. Nozomi Project Bilingual Staff 
The Nozomi Project is looking for an individual (21 years of age or older) with the passions, calling, and abilities to work in a growing social enterprise at our Ishinomaki headquarters.

Required Skills (Summary):

  • Passion to work with women in a Christian business environment.
  • Some degree of both English and Japanese language ability.
  •  Computer abilities (Word, Excel, ability to learn inventory database, etc.).
  • Willingness to raise partial support.

Length of Term:  minimum one year (starting at earliest January 2016).

Job Responsibilities Overview:

  • Participation in the day-to-day business life of the Nozomi Project.
  • Daily operation of our computer/inventory database
  • Working with staff on marketing, sales, website, inventory, supplies, etc.

Financial Terms:  Partial compensation; partial support-raising.

2. Children’s Educator
Our Be One team* in Ishinomaki, Tohoku, is looking for an experienced educator to teach our home-schooled missionary children. This would include responsibilities for teaching 4-5 children in different stages of learning, between sixth grade and high school. In particular, as our junior-high aged children transition from Japanese schooling to an all-English curriculum, we seek an experienced teacher who is able to flex with different curriculum and learning styles.
Position available:  Starting (as early as) March 2016.
Length of Term:  Minimum one-year commitment.
Financial Terms:  We are praying for an educator to join our missionary team who will raise support and is called by God to work with us as a full-time teacher.

3. Nozomi Project Intern
The Nozomi Project is looking for one or more people with the passions, calling, and abilities to work at our growing social enterprise at our Ishinomaki headquarters.
Length of Term:  3-12 months

Nozomi Project Internship Qualifications

  • 20 years of age and completed at least one year of college.
  • Willingness to raise necessary support.
  • Be a servant learner, willing to serve and learn from the local church and community.
  • Computer skills (basic word processing, internet, social media, etc.)

Job Responsibilities:

  • Participating in the day-to-day business life of the Nozomi Project.
  • Assisting with Nozomi Project English correspondence, orders and computer inputting.
  • Working with staff on marketing, sales, website, inventory, supplies, etc.

Inquiry Process:
Please email us for more information.

*More about our Be One/Tohoku team:  We are a house-church network that began in the greater Osaka area about fourteen years ago. Through God’s calling and guidance, Be One/Tohoku consists of several families (JEMA members) and several singles who have intentionally relocated to Ishinomaki following the 2011 tsunami. Our vision is to see disciples and communities of believers spread throughout Tohoku, and to see leaders emerge from the new harvest who will begin reproducing disciples. We are also committed to helping meet the practical needs of those in our community. Two of our current means of outreach are the Nozomi Project (a social enterprise making jewelry), and a sports center that serves as a gathering place for youth in this community.

 

Stories from Ishinomaki: Lost and Found

One of the best storytellers I know, Becky Still, recently wrote a story about our work here in Ishinomaki.  T.J. Lee, one of her co-workers with connections in Japan, came and took photos, and became friends with our family in the process.   They make us look a lot cooler than we are, but here is the article that they crafted together.  I love how they highlight our friends here.  The people in this community are the ones with stories that should not be forgotten.

http://fullermag.com/every-survivor-story/

Here are a few of the other photos that T.J. took during his time visiting.  The last one is my favorite.  I love that he is holding broken tsunami pottery found in the small parking lot next to our home;  I love that he is holding his favorite “ne-ne” that has since been lost.

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Chocolate- Avocado Mousse

Last night I had the special treat of a night out with three good friends.  We all made different dishes and sat around eating, talking, and laughing for five hours.  It’s been awhile since I’ve done that – it was a great break!  We had decided to collect 100 yen from anyone who talked about Nozomi Project/our work during that time.  I think I would have lost the most money, had we really done it, but we did a pretty good job making the evening NOT about work.

I tried a new recipe that I’ve been wanting to try since i’ve seen different versions on the internet.  I looked for the most deliciousy-looking one.  I think I found it!  It contains none of the “bad” fats… and everything about it is creamy and delicious.  My friends could not guess that the secret ingredient, giving it such a creamy texture, is avocado.  I like this recipe with the coffee and coconut oil in it, as well.

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You only need a small dish to satisfy that craving!  I topped mine with crushed candied pecans;  you could also put a dollop of cream or chocolate shavings or fresh fruit… I doubled the recipe, and it would have easily made enough for 6 or more people at the portions I did above (which even for a chocolate lover was plenty). I used a double boiler as I’ve had bad luck in the past with microwaving chocolate.  I also found it tasted better, with a consistency like fudge, after being refrigerated.

Here is the link to the recipe (with more comments)… and the recipe from vegrecipesofIndia below:

TOTAL TIME
10 mins
AUTHOR: dassana
RECIPE TYPE: desserts
INGREDIENTS (measuring cup used, 1 cup = 250 ml)
  • 1 large ripe avocado
  • ⅔ cup chopped dark semi sweet chocolate
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2-3 tbsp organic cane sugar (add less or more to suit your taste)
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp vanilla powder
  • some chopped cashews, almonds and pistachios for garnish
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. in a microwave safe bowl add the chocolate, coconut oil, coffee, vanilla, and sugar.
  2. mix these.
  3. microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute till the chocolate has melted.
  4. don’t overcook the chocolate as it will harden up.
  5. just melt it and remove from the microwave.
  6. you can melt the chocolate in a double boiler too.
  7. now scoop the avocado flesh in a blender.
  8. add the melted chocolate to it and blend till smooth.
  9. scoop out the mousse in bowls or glasses and serve straightaway garnished with some chopped dry fruits.
  10. you can also chill the mousse and then serve dark chocolate avocado mousse.
NOTES
add more chocolate if desired.
you can also increase the quantity of coffee and coconut oil if preferred.
sugar can be adjusted as per your taste preferences.
this recipe serves 2 people, but you can make more servings by increasing the quantity proportionately.
this mousse can also be made with milk chocolate or sweet chocolate.

Four Years Later…

***3/10.  She sat across from me at the table.  “Tomorrow I have to go with my family to the temple.  We still don’t have a gravesite for my mom and dad, so we just go to the temple instead.” C.’s parents had both been killed in the tsunami.  She hasn’t talked about it much.  I asked why they don’t have a gravesite yet.  One of the other women sitting nearby made the money sign with her hands.  It costs too much.

I asked C. if it feels hard to be the fourth anniversary.  She said, “It’s easier than it was last year.  I’ve sort of gotten used to them not being here, and so I just sort of talk to them.  When I leave in the morning to come here, I go over to their picture and tell them I’m leaving.  When I return home, I tell them I’m back.  I like knowing that they are somehow still with me.”

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During lunch today, some of us were at our gathering place.  We had about six or eight local friends come by.  One of our dear friends, Mrs. K., told me again different parts of her tsunami story. Telling the story is still important, even four years later.  It was snowing and cold that day four years ago, a lot like today.  I am so amazed that she survived, because she had run from her home to her son and family’s home – found the door locked, and had run home and then up the mountain just as the waters started crashing in.  Her son’s home was virtually destroyed.  I’m so glad the door had been locked so she didn’t stay there.  I can’t imagine life without Mrs. K.

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Mr. A held him close.  He made a funny face. Everyone laughed.  There is so much healing that comes from babies.

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Eric was at the store today buying gifts for some local friends.  He didn’t have much time.  But there were a lot of people he wanted to see.  So he prayed, “God, who is hurting the most now?  Who do you want me to visit?”  Immediately he thought of the dad of our friend Y.  He had lost his wife and oldest pregnant daughter in the tsunami.

He drove over there with sushi and grapes.  The two previous times that he has visited, he handed the food gifts, talked briefly in the genkan and left.  This time, though, Y’s dad invited Eric in.  Eric sat with him for about two hours, listening to many stories about his deceased wife, and looking at photos.  This tough dad cried. Things have not always been smooth with Y and her dad.  Eric suggested that sometime soon he sit with his daughter and together they look at one of these albums.

Tonight I got a text from Y. about how happy her dad was for the visit.  Y. was thrilled.  Her dad never shares with anyone.  This was a special gift to both her dad and to Eric.

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Tonight before our final gathering time, E. sat across from me and a friend and said, “Things are a lot harder now than they were four years ago.  The tsunami was terrible, but I’m able to see good in it because God let me meet you and the others who have moved here.  So I’m finally able to see some good. ”

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Child 1: “Mommy, why do you think God made the tsunami?”

Child 2:  “God didn’t make the tsunami!  Did He, mom?”

Wow.  I can’t answer those questions (and that’s what I told our kids.  But I am completely convinced that God wants to work through and in spite of the terrible destruction;  that God wants to walk with people through their pain and the challenges that have come over the last four years, and I see it happening.

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She said she wanted our prayers.  She didn’t have a specific area needing prayer tonight, so I suggested that we just listen and hear what God might want to share with her.  My friend V. read Psalm 23 in Japanese to her.  And as she was reading, I pictured Jesus the Shepherd scooping up E. and holding her close to his heart.  I told E about this image, and that God wanted her to just lay down all of our responsibilities and heavy burdens and just experience his love and care for her.  God was inviting her to come.  Just come. After this prayer time, E. couldn’t believe how light she felt.  It was so so good to see her letting go of some of the heaviness that she had come with.

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We had a wonderful final gathering, with 40 or 50 adults gathered together to remember, to promise again to walk together, to invite the presence of Jesus into those places in our lives.  It was such a bonding time.  At the end we gathered in small groups and some shared, some prayed, some listened.  We stood in a big circle and held hands as a symbol of our desire to walk together towards Jesus, whatever the future may bring.  No one can do it alone.

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I was thinking today about our work at the Nozomi Project.  There are five or so staff who have left for various reasons – some on good terms with other staff, and some not.  But I thought about it tonight and realized that all five of them are still connecting with our Be One team, and coming to us to help them in their various stages of life currently.  They are coming to those with Hope for continuing healing.  I am so thankful for that.

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After I got home and was trying to get all our kids into showers and then pajamas, I got a call from N.  I haven’t seen her in quite a while.  Her three year old son had been killed in the tsunami.  Today she and her family went to the area right near our home where he had died.  She said she had wanted to come by our gathering place, but it just felt too hard.  She said, “I could laugh yesterday, and I am sure that I will laugh again tomorrow, but I couldn’t laugh today.”  When I prayed for her over the phone, I prayed for her mother’s heart.  A mother can love so wide, and so deep;  but when that child is gone it means the pain is so wide, and so deep.

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I don’t have all the answers, but in the beginning and in the end, I believe in a God who hears, and a God who heals, and in a God who walks with us along the way.

We do not want you to be uniformed…

This past week has been so incredibly intense for our team!  Much has happened within our community.  I cannot write specifics because of the people involved, but we do cherish your prayers.  There has been a high schooler despairing of life; several members of the community involved in various unfortunate activities that have dire consequences, challenges on our team.  These situations have meant tons of meeting and consultation; and pretty deep weariness.  We have been carrying a lot of burdens over the last few months, and feeling pressure from many sides.

A friend shared this passage, which I have always loved:

2 Corinthians 1:8-11New International Version (NIV)
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

Please pray with us that we might rely on God and not ourselves!  In two days we will commemorate the fourth anniversary of the triple disaster.  It is a very somber time for the community.  Pray that we can listen well; that we can walk with people well through this time.  Pray for decisions that me and others need to make this week based on challenges in the community. We will be praying for 24 hours through the fourth anniversary and your prayers are appreciate as well!

(If you are interested in being part of a private facebook page in which I post specific prayer requests, please send me an email with your name and how you know me 🙂 to my email at (my first initial)(husband’s first initial)my last name@gmail.com.

Thanks for standing with us!

Pointing the Way

Today has been a weepy day for me. (Note:  I started this post on Monday, February 9th.  Just finishing it now, ten days later — I couldn’t quite process it all to get this written).

We found out that a dear friend of ours from our LA days has passed away.

Last week we received an email that our friend Kathe had stage four cancer that had spread in her abdomen and brain.  I was pretty devastated.  I wrote a letter to her that next hour and mailed it off.  Then a few days later I tried to call her.  I was excited because I was hoping to visit her during an upcoming trip to the area where she was hospitalized.  But she never got my messages – she died just a few hours before I left them, I think.

As Eric and I were processing, we were so thankful for a serendipitous visit when we happened to be going through LA when she was on a business trip there (she had moved to TX quite a few years ago).  And we remembered an email that she had sent to Eric about a year ago.  What was memorable was that Kathe rarely emailed us.  So we knew this was important to her.

Hi Eric,
I was in my office last night cleaning out a few things and came across a booklet called “O Come Let Us Adore Him” that is a series of Meditations for Advent.  There’s no date on it, bus Asian Access must have sent it to me years ago.  It looks like a picture of Olivia on the back of the pamphlet.
I didn’t read it when I received it, but as I was tossing things in the trash last night, I stopped to read the meditation you wrote called “Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus”.  What a wonderful and inspiring message you gave in this writing.  It moved me greatly.  And I had to write to you and tell you how much your writing had moved me.  Thank you. (The booklet is no longer headed for the trash.)
I hope you and Sue and the family are all doing well.  I think of you and Sue often.
Love,
Kathe
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Portions of Eric’s Christmas devotional from 2010:

Day 4: Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

A crack in the sky appeared. A sliver of neon blue light poured out from it. It happened on the day of the annual sports festival at our son Owen’s school, a highly anticipated and highly attended event in our community. The action on the sports field that afternoon was already in full swing. As the colors of the celestial display slowly morphed from bright blue to pink then to orange, more and more eyes turned heavenward until eventually all sports festival related activities had ceased.

My attention was diverted away from the amazing spectacle by the reactions of my fellow bystanders. Though we were all awestruck by the event, the people whose comments I heard fell into two divergent groups. Some were delighted, “How beautiful!,” they exclaimed, while others shuddered, “I’m afraid.”

As I stood there lost in my wonderment, I could not keep my self from asking, “Is this it?” Could this really be the day of our Lord’s return as described in Matthew 24:30 and elsewhere, with Jesus appearing in the sky coming on the clouds in power and great glory. “Is this it?” Was this really it for the Japanese people? Would this be all the souls we will have to offer our Lord?

Despite the excitement and expectation of the moment I found myself hoping for more time. After ten minutes or so the light began to fade and with it the hope of flying in the air with my Lord that day. But what stuck was this renewed sense of urgency.

Just as the herald angel proclaimed it on that very first Christmas night, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” so too must we continue to point the way toward our Savior Jesus for those who are still in need of rescue.

In this season of advent, as we look forward with great anticipation to the celebration of Christ’s first coming, let it cause us to joyfully long for the imminent day of his return. And let it also serve to remind us of the grave task that remains before us all until then. For on that day there will surely be two very different groups of people: those for whom hope will be finally realized and those for whom all hope will be utterly lost.

Eric Takamoto, Missionary, Sanda, Japan

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Good words at Advent, and now as well.