Burying and Rebuilding

This weekend, my daughter Annie and I did a first…. we helped officiate the funeral of a hamster… of our friends!  It was her good friend H.’s hamster.  H.’s mom works with me at the Nozomi Project.  It was a really awesome thing to be invited into this family event.

What made this ritual extra special was that they were burying their beloved pet at their new home that is being built.  It was our first time to see the construction site and the house being built.


Annie, H, and H’s sister gave Nana the Hamster a proper burial!




At the end of the burial, we gathered and I said a prayer.  (How does one pray for a dead hamster?  I wasn’t sure.  I thanked God for being the Creator of such amazing things as hamsters;  and thanked him for good memories;  and asked God’s blessing on this new home being built….?)

While we were completing our time, the girls found some beautiful broken pottery scattered near the back of the house. We brought it back to the Nozomi Project to be made into something beautiful…


I asked H’s mom about this property where they were building their new home.  It’s just about a five-minute walk from our home.  From the shards around, I knew it was an area that had been hit hard by the tsunami.  She explained that her parents had lived on this land- she had grown up there.  The tsunami had washed away her family home.

I asked if her parents had come back after the tsunami and looked for their things… if any of these broken pieces could have been from her parents’ home.  She said they didn’t have the heart to come back and see the land.  Not even once.

But on that same piece of land that had seen terrible devastation… and now was receiving the body of little Nana the hamster, a new home is being built.  My daughter Annie will probably spend many happy days playing inside these walls with her friend.  We are thankful to be invited into the lives of the friends in our community;  and so thankful for the new beginnings that we see around us of rebuilding and restoration.



Getting Down to Business

The past two weeks we have witnessed the Nozomi Project leap ahead into a new unfamiliar world of becoming a real day-to-day operation.  It is amazing to see this -and sometimes scares me to death!  –But mostly amazing.  Tuesday through Friday eleven ladies are gathering in our Be One guest house, which for now has become the workshop for making jewelry out of shards of broken pottery.  I love to watch these ladies at work!  One of the women, Tomoko, said yesterday, “I used to hate waking up in the morning and thinking about my life.  Now I wake up and think, ‘I can’t wait to see what necklaces I get to make today!'”  I feel the same way — at the end of the day, I can’t wait to see the combinations of necklace styles, beads, leather, and — pieces of broken pottery that have become beautiful.

On Tuesday morning we had our first business meeting.  I’ve never led a business meeting before in my life — in English — let alone for a new organization in Japanese!  Lots of firsts for me.  We prayed a lot, and God so faithfully met us there.  We passed out a two page summary (in Japanese, thanks to the translation of Yumiko Chapin!!) – of our guiding principles and our business practices.  I asked each lady to sign it if they agreed.  The pdf file below has a whole overview of the Nozomi project, but here are a few of the guiding principles:

  • We are committed to excellence in our work and our transactions.
  • Developing a sense of trust, openness, and honesty is integral to finding wholeness in our work community.  We are committed to confidentiality, restricting gossip, and working with an attitude of encouragement and respect for one another. 
  • There must be transparency in all of our activities, behavior, and finances.
  • We don’t mind making mistakes; we are committed to an environment of learning, laughing, crying and growing together.
  • We are a group formed around the idea of hope; it is something God is giving us here and we believe God will use Nozomi Project to spread hope to many others.

And a few of the business practices:

  • We believe God wants to use the Nozomi Project for more than just a business; also to create a community for making friendships, encouragement, learning together, and healing.  During our time of working together, let’s listen to each other with respect, allow each other privacy when it is needed, and not share what we hear with others (i.e. not gossip). We want this to be a “safe” place to be. Let’s practice the Golden Rule from Jesus, “Do to others what you would want them to do to you.”
  • We want to accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses and be open to accepting new people who might come in so that we can carry hope to others as well.
  • Because we want to understand and depend upon God, each day we will have a short time to read a part of the Bible and pray together. We have seen how God has already answered many prayers in our lives and in the Nozomi project; we are excited to see Him answer many more prayers.

Nozomi’s Overview-short

One of the amazing things that God has brought to us is a manager.  My friend Yuko has taken on this job as though she was made for it.  She practiced with us for two months, then trained intensively with Lisa and Rebecca, learning how to make each accessory item. Now she is patiently teaching all of this daily to eleven women who come at different times with different abilities and skills.  We have all been amazed — maybe even stunned — to see her abilities shine so beautifully.

On the day that I shared our business plan, I began by sharing with them an important story about me — that of my mom’s death twenty-three years ago. Near the end I shared that there are still times when I wish I could call my mom and ask her advice on raising kids;  or if when I was little I ever did such and such….  (This is the part when I started to cry).

And I told them about a time several months after her death when the shock and numbness had begun to wear off and I could no longer pray.  It worried me a lot.  I had lunch with my friend Karen Longman, and I always remember her calm assurance as she recounted to me the story of the paralytic man who couldn’t get to Jesus on his own, so his four friends made a cot, put a hole in the roof, and carried him to Jesus.  She said that there are times when we ourselves maybe can’t get to Jesus for different reasons, and that’s when our friends need to carry us there.

I shared with my Nozomi friends that there will be times in all of our lives when it might seem hard to pray;  perhaps impossible to come to Jesus.  But we are a community, and so at those hard times we come together and bring the weak or the grieving or the paralyzed to Jesus.  That’s what community does for each other.  And then my friend Y. started crying, and sharing how hard it is without her mom.  We prayed for her, and prayed as we start this new thing.

Then we had birthday cake for Yuri, and gave her flowers and a card.  She was so happy.

There was a sense of something special.  We were all so glad to be a part of it.

That night I received a text message from Yuri.  She wrote (this is translated):  “Ever since Kousei was washed away [her three year old son], I couldn’t believe in God or Buddha.  But after today, I could feel myself beginning to believe…”

The Lord is good.

I love sharing the artwork of the Nozomi ladies!  here are two sneak peeks –  some accessories and necklaces we are working on.  And I kind of wonder if God likes to give us sneak peaks as well to what He is up to –like the text message above, for example…


About a year ago, I was having dinner with my friend Aya in Osaka and she prayed for me.  At that time, Eric and I were unsure what God was saying about our future.  We sensed change coming but had no idea what, when, or where.  Nothing was really making sense. As we prayed together, she sensed that we were on a ship, and that God wanted us to trust Him even if we couldn’t see what was up around the bend.   She sensed that God’s movement would be like  that of a strong wind when it gets ahold of the sail and just moves the boat along – that  God was going to take us to places we never imagined without tremendous effort on our part.

As this jewelry business has moved forward, we have had the sense over and over again of God’s blowing life into it, and moving us in directions we would have never imagined and that only He can do.  Here are a few ways that we have seen God’s work in the past few months:

–We had two jewelry days here in Ishinomaki the week before our family left for the US.  (see previous entries and photos).  On the second day, we had a group come to visit Be One from a large church in southern California.  We thought only two members of Asian Access were coming, so we were surprised when this large team showed up and came in to see what was happening in the jewelry business.  Through their connections, they really wanted me to meet with a church member named Lisa who is making jewelry- they (rightly) predicted that I would love her and that she would be interested in what we are doing.  The next week, after arriving in LA, we were in touch and our families had a chance to meet.  We talked non-stop for several hours, and through God’s leading both she and her jewelry-mentor friend Becca are both coming here to train the ladies in jewelry making on September 20th for ten days.  Amazing, amazing.

-They are bringing with them the supplies for us to make one thousand necklaces!  It has taken a lot of faith to put out the money to order these supplies, but we see God moving this forward and can’t wait to begin producing. And, they have some AMAZING designs that they will be teaching the ladies.  (Sorry- you have to wait!)

–While we were in the US, some of the ladies were faithfully meeting every week to work on techniques, design ideas, etc.  This week we are starting some training and looking forward to getting back together again.

–Last week I was at a Samaritan’s Purse dinner for some of the carpenters who have been serving up here.  I was introduced to a New Zealand volunteer named Asher…A professional jeweler!  He is here until Sept 13th, and is thrilled to help in the shaping and training of the project.  The timing of God bringing this amazing jewelry to Ishinomaki at just this time floors me still.

A friend in San Jose has taken an interest in the jewelry business and has been great at doing a lot of the research in the business aspects of this that Eric and I are not good at.  He has recommended that we make the company an LCC, and we are moving in that direction.

Several friends who are graphic designers/PR types have been helping shape the direction we go in terms of name, website, etc.  We still have inquiries out to a few people about doing the actual website.  A number of friends from across the US have offered to be area reps for us when we get things started.  (Let us know if you are interested as well!)

–Be One was given a grant that included a generous gift for the jewelry business.  This and a previous grant are allowing us to purchase the tools, supplies, and jewelry pieces to make a really good start.

In addition to the “Shards of Hope” jewelry, there are several possible projects that we are looking at taking on as well – one is some kimono-fabric jewelry, and the other is some local postcards that we would print as note cards.  Based on the recommendation of a number of people, and in order not to limit what God might do, we are calling the whole project “Nozomi”, and the pottery-line of jewelry will be Shards of Hope.  Nozomi means hope, and is a female name in Japan, so it really works well for what we are about.

Last Sunday, we had a team of fifteen from a military base near Tokyo come and serve for a few days.  We all went down below our time to the Valley of Life (note that I’ve changed what I call it!) and spent an hour picking up broken pottery that is all over.  We got a great haul;  then some of the team spent the afternoon washing the pieces so they are ready to go.  We are hoping many of the volunteers who come through will spend an hour or so of their time doing this so we get quite a good collection.

We are praying about a possible home we went to see that we could use for the business.  It is currently standing empty (just a block from the sea -but in good condition) – the owners were planning to tear it down but we are hoping they will rent it or we could buy it would another business and split the use of the house.  Please pray with us for God to open this door!  It would be really great if we could have a place dedicated to this.

There are so many details in all of this that overwhelm me at times.  Last week, I was reading several books on social enterprise, and I read wonderful advice:  “Do the next right thing.”  I have been using that as my mantra in what I am doing each day, praying that God will show me step by step the right next thing.  And all along I have had the sense of being carried by the winds of His Spirit to a place I couldn’t ever have imagined a year ago, working with people from across the globe and some amazing ladies in my city who blow me away.