Monday, October 25, 2010

American Homestay...Japan style !?!

Last month (Sept.) I got a call from a friend, Becky, here in Nagano who is university English professor. She's been in Japan more than 20 years and does her best to befriend all who cross her path and goes out of her way to help out in any way she can.
One of her 4th year students, Keiko, soon to graduate, was searching for a family to do do an English homestay with. She wanted to go to the states... but time and $$$ made that impossible, so... she wondered about doing a "mini-homestay" with an American family - in Nagano City!
We talked a little and realized that in our overbooked schedules we both had time to make it happen thanks to the weekend and a calendar "red" day (Japanese holiday). So I gave Keiko a call and we scheduled her homestay with us from the 16th -21st!
Her first night with us we grilled homemade hamburgers outside :-)
*contrary to the look on John's face they were DELICIOUS!! The camera caught him as he was making some comment ...
The next day we made soft tacos for lunch and shared with the ladies that normally have Friday free-talk lunch time with John.
That evening we were going to our neighbors so John taught Keiko how to make rice krispie treats. We took some to share and the rest went to Zack the next day ;-)
We took her to watch the basketball tournament and deliver the snacks when she met Zack.
On Sunday Keiko joined us at both the morning Japanese worship service and the afternoon English service that John leads.
It was a short stay but we enjoyed it and think she did, too!
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God is in everything!

I'm very aware that there are many Christians who do their best to ignore Halloween, and I believe that is their prerogative.
I also remember what a fun time it was when I was a kid ... costumes, trick-or-treating, decorations... and safe!!
So I feel it's a personal choice for families whether or not they acknowledge October 31st as something to participate in.
I found this somewhere in the vast space that is the internet and thought it was worth sharing. I don't particularly think you need to cut the shapes they suggest but I do think the prayer is really nice for making it a positive activity.

Pumpkin Carving Prayer

This is a great way to put a little Christian in Halloween.

Dear God,

As I carve my pumpkin help me say this prayer:

Open my mind so I can learn about You;
(Cut the top of the pumpkin)

Take away all my sin and forgive me for the wrong things I do.
(Clean out the inside)

Open my eyes so Your love I will see;
(Cut the eyes out in heart shapes)

I'm so sorry for turning up my nose to all you've given me.
(Cut a nose in the shape of a cross)

Open my ears so your word I will hear.
(Cut the ears shaped like the Bible-rectangles)

Open my mouth so I can tell others You're near
(cut the mouth in the shape of a fish)

Let Your light shine in all I say and do! Amen.
(Place a candle inside and light it)

Monday, October 4, 2010

September News from Nagano

Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!

WOW! Can you believe how fast time passes? It seems like just yesterday it was so hot, and today we are already having temperatures with highs only in the low 60’s. It makes us even more aware of the urgency in doing His work of helping others to know about the wonderful gift He has for everyone. We never know when the time will come when we are called home, so it is so important to share His love with as many people as you can each and every day. In our Tuesday Bible study group we have several members that are really feeling His presence in their lives and we pray that God will break down those final barriers that keep them from turning their lives over to him. One of the most interesting members is an ex-student of John’s who started to come 3 years ago during summer vacation from his English lesson. This man is 85 years old! But is so strong and healthy! His troubles come in his long life as a Buddhist. He still is in charge of the English volunteer tour guides at our local LARGE Temple. His heart is changing each week, and he asks so many questions. We are now studying Luke-chapter 24 and the resurrection story is really starting to make sense. We ask you to please pray that he and the other non-Christian members will open up their hearts and minds to His Spirit and accept the wonderful gift that is waiting for them.

September 5th our friends from Korea came and sang at our church for the English service. We had FORTY people attend! YEAH! Please pray that God will open up the hearts of those that attended and if Christian strengthen them to share His love with others, and those non-Christian to soften theirs to open up to His wonderful LOVE! Also pray that the group will continue to have the fire burning inside their hearts to share His message throughout this world. They travel to so many different places, the group that was at our church will leave Japan and head to the Northeast part of the United States to share His love with Korean Churches in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

September is a busy month for families that have elementary school or kindergarten students. Kindergarten runs for 3 years from age 3 to 5 with elementary school starting at age 6. During September almost every school has an all day ‘Sports Festival’ or Undokai as the Japanese call it. The school is divided into 2 teams, a white team and a red team. Each child wears a hat according to his or her team. The day starts out with an opening ceremony where the children challenge each other and sing a cute fight song that ends up with both teams telling the others we are the BEST! It is always fun to watch. Each child competes in many different types of events. Depending on your class you will be running a race against 5 others. 3 from each team. The members are determined by their speed so each child has a chance to win in his heat. The length of the race depends on the age of the kids with 1st graders running about 100 yards and the 6th graders running about ½ mile. The climax of the running is a relay race with 1 child from each grade competing on 2 different teams. The fastest kids are chosen and it is a real EXCITING race. The kids practice for almost 2 months to make sure the baton handoff goes off without a drop. The total distance of the race is about 1 ½ miles so it takes about 8 minutes from start to finish.

Beside the running events each class participates in some kind of fighting game. Of course they are all fun, but to us, also so dangerous! It is hard to describe some of the games as they seem so crazy to us, but I will try. One is the bamboo pole tug. The size of a football field is used with 9 poles laid at the midfield stripe. The teams line up at opposite ends of the field, and at the whistle they rush out and try and take a pole back into their end zone. Usually half of the poles are quickly taken, but the remaining poles have 20 or more kids pushing, pulling and even hitting each other to gain control. The winning team is the one that has the most poles. Another game is using a tall pole, there is a ball at the top (about 15 feet up) that the boys have to reach. The first one to touch it is the winner! As they try to climb, the other boys fight to pull them off or fight to keep the opposite team away. Yes it seems dangerous, and YES it IS!!!! But everyone seems to enjoy it. Of course they have the normal tug of war and other games. At the end of the day the 5th and 6th graders do a big display of gymnastics that is always amazing. Every year there are many scratches, bruises and even broken bones but the kids all enjoy it so much.

What really makes this even so great is the family participation. EVERY parent attends! They come early, have lunch together and spend all day rooting and cheering for their kids teams. It is always a great and wonderful day for all people involved.

Here there aren’t the Friday night football games, or other team sports that the area gets behind, so the ‘Undokai’ is one of the best. In October most communities have a community Undokai where all the members participate. They have games for the very young to the grandparents in the community. It is a great day filled with games and friendship.

With fall season here, we are all so busy. Both of us are busy with our classes, seems like we both keep getting either new students or new classes so we are really blessed. We will be having a Halloween party on October 23rd, to help build up the trust and friendship of our students and their families. Now some of you look at Halloween as a bad holiday, we look at it as a way God helps us show His love to our students and people that we are reaching out to. They view it as Western culture that they want to enjoy. So please pray for a good turnout and that Mako and we can really shine His light throughout that day.

Next week we will be following Zack as he will play in the National Under 18 championships near Tokyo. This will be his 3rd year to be the starter for our Prefectures All-Star team. We hope that the boys can go all the way this year, so everyone is excited. We are though, one of the smallest teams in the country for this tournament, so the boys will all have to do their best.

By His grace, God continues to equip us for each individual challenge and opportunity that He presents. Your prayers and support are necessary to our being here. We ask you to pray with and for us that we always strive to walk before God, wherever that may be, and be used as instruments of His love in all we do. Should God ask any of you to partner with us in our outreach for Him, please send any love offerings to: Bethlehem United Methodist Church, for Baranski John Alan Mission Fund, c/o Becky Wack, 1003 Rowan Cove, New Albany, Ms. 38652.

We hold you each in our hearts and prayers with praise and thanksgiving.

In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch