Saturday, December 8, 2012

Merry Christmas!

It began with the celebration of a new baby in the CAJ community!
On November 1, the Potters (both teachers at Christian Academy in Japan) had their second baby, a sister for 2-year-old Ezra. We have enjoyed having Luna at the CAJ Daycare—the two 1-year-olds seem especially in awe that there is now someone smaller than them!

I really enjoy my work with these guys!

And it ended with a bang! On December 7 at 5:18 pm, I was teaching my last class at a local English language school. As the building began to shake, my five 8-year-old students suddenly stopped their enthusiastic rendition of the names of colors. At first it felt rather like when a large truck drives close by. But at the sensation continued and became increasingly bouncy, we realized it was yet another earthquake.

While startling (and distracting!) for us, no harm was done, and we were soon able to continue on with the lesson. However, for the people living the region of northeastern Japan who are painfully aware of the damage earthquakes can bring, this 7.3 magnitude earthquake was distressing, as were the tsunami warnings that followed. Thankfully, the largest wave was only a meter high, and all tsunami warnings were lifted by the end of the day.

To read more about this quake, click here

Meanwhile, CRASH Japan collected 500 presents for earthquake/ tsunami survivors (see photo). Soma Christ Gospel Church, a local church in northeastern Japan, will distribute these gifts to those still living in temporary housing this coming month. I'm glad gifts can be distributed to survivors because this a difficult time of year—a time that is full of memories and New Year's traditions for the Japanese people.

Rumiko spent most of her time this month organizing the gift collection

Since March, 2011, CRASH Japan has played a significant role in the relief effort in northeastern Japan. Now, 20 months later, CRASH focusing on local grassroots ministries that will continue to support relief efforts after CRASH Japan pulls out in March 2013.

With March only few months away, CRASH has begun downsizing, resulting in a decrease in work at headquarters. I talked with my supervisor, and starting this month, I will be working at CRASH on as-needed basis. I am deeply grateful for the time I was able to serve, and I hope that you will continue to pray with me that Christians will be the hands and feet of Christ as they bring the Gospel to survivors.

What else has been going on?

  • I began working at a local English language school, Kamito Academy Japan (KAJ). I will be teaching students from age 3 up to adults on Tuesdays and Fridays. 
  • Luke Nagai is currently home with his family. Recent tests have shown that the chemotherapy was unsuccessful in fighting his leukemia, and he will need to receive bone marrow transplants.
  • We are looking forward to Christmas! My parents and I decorated our tree the Sunday after American Thanksgiving and are expecting my fiance and sister next weekend!
  • CAJ, Family Life Group (FLG), Kurume Bible Fellowship (KBF), and many missionaries are preparing for Christmas events that will be held in the coming weeks. I will be helping to put on a Christmas party with FLG next Saturday and will be baking cookies for Christmas outreach events at KBF and a local coffee shop.

This month, please remember these prayer requests:

  • Pray for me as I begin my work at KAJ. All of my English language teaching experience has been one-on-one, so I am adjusting to the classroom setting. Pray that I will assist their learning of English and that my faith will be evident in my communication with my students.
  • Praise God that Luke is able to spend some time with his family at home! Pray for the Nagai family as they prepare for the ordeal of being tested for bone marrow compatibility. 
  • Praise God for the gift of His Son! Pray that God will use Christmas programs to draw non-Christian Japanese to Himself.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

On into November

Thanks for your prayers this past month! Here's what's been going on:

I had the opportunity to give a presentation on stopping human trafficking at a benefit concert put on by Believers Today, a music outreach organization that puts on charity concerts to collect donations for those affected by the earthquake/tsunami. It was exciting for Not For Sale Japan to utilize this platform to educate a broad range of people (instead of only college students) regarding stopping modern day slavery. And I am amazed at how God is helping me to overcome my fear of public speaking so that I can share this important message!

I was relieved to get through the presentation
without mishap!

CRASH Japan is using a quilt raffle to raise funds for continued outreach in northern Japan. Twenty months after the earthquake/tsunami, there are still many homes and hearts in ruins. CRASH currently operates one relief base  and has recently established two field offices in the region. From these locations, God's love and hope are being brought to earthquake/tsunami victims.

Click to see how God is using CRASH!

What else has been going on?
  • I enjoyed visiting my fiance, Thomas, in Kyoto. While on a day hike, I had a wonderful time getting to know some of the people from his church (see photo).
  • Luke Nagai (the three-year-old boy fighting leukemia and whose family is part of Family Life Group) is now allowed out of the hospital some weekends! We enjoyed having him, his mother, and 4 of his 5 sisters with us at one of our Family Life Group gatherings. Luke was a little anxious, but enjoyed watching his sisters decorate flower pots during craft time (the lesson was on the parable of the sower).

Midori (left) leads singing at
Thomas' church

This month, please keep these prayer requests in mind:
  • Praise God for the opportunities Not For Sale Japan has to spread awareness of human trafficking. Pray that we will have more opportunities and that those who hear us talk will become a positive force for decreasing human trafficking.
  • Praise God for the financial support CRASH has received.
  • Pray for Luke Nagai as he receives treatment for leukemia. Pray that Family Life Group will be a source of strength and love for the Nagai family.
  • Pray that I will be able to show God's love to those I interact with and that through the ministries I am involved with, God's kingdom will go forward in Japan.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Hello, Fall!

In Japan, fall means seeing red and gold Japanese maple and ginkgo tree leaves, eating persimmons and roasted sweet potatoes, and watching the Sports Day Festival at the public elementary school behind my house.

Sports Day is an all-day event for the whole family to enjoy together. All the students, grades 1-6, participate in various competitions, including races and human pyramids. They also perform traditional arts such as Japanese dance and koto playing (a Japanese stringed instrument). All of this takes a good deal of preparation. The school behind my house has been practicing all day every day for the past two weeks!

Sports Day at the public school behind my house.

Fall also means regular meetings for Family Life Group. Each time this house church meets, we start by sharing prayer requests, praying together, and then singing songs. Next, one of the members reads a Bible story for the kids before we head to another room for the children's time. While the adults have a Bible study and discussion, I lead the kids in a game to test their understanding of the story. Then we do a craft that reinforces the Bible story.

Preparing effective games and crafts is a challenge for me, as the children come from a wide variety of homes and there is a large range of ages. Most of the children's parents are still seeking or have recently accepted Christ as their Savior.

Last week we made lion pillows to remember Daniel's story.

What else has been going on?
  • At CRASH Japan, we have been busy preparing for transition into the next stage of relief. Starting in October, we are implementing more follow-up programs, reducing clean-up work, and decreasing staff by 50% (due in part to a decrease of financial support for CRASH Japan). I supported the transition by designing debriefings for staff that are leaving.
  • I joined the community volleyball team that my mom has been a part of for the past 15 years. It has been a wonderful way to exercise, practice my Japanese, and make friends.
  • At the Christian Academy in Japan daycare, we celebrated a birthday! The kids (and caregivers) really enjoyed the cake and other goodies we had to celebrate (see photo). It has been exciting to see the kids learn and grow—even when that involves toilet training.
We enjoyed a special birthday party this month.

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • Praise God for the opportunities I've had to share his love with the children of Family Life Group! Pray that I will be able to positively engage them, and that they will grow to know him.
  • Praise God that the transition to the next stage in relief work at CRASH has gone smoothly so far. Pray that we will continue to bring God's hope to the people of Tohoku.
  • Pray for my relationships with the women on the volleyball team, that they will see the Gospel in my life. 
  • Continue to pray for healing for Luke Nagai's leukemia and peace and strength for his family. 


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Goodbye, August.

August in Tokyo is hot--up in the 30s (mid 80s and 90s fahrenheit) most days, with 80% humidity. In accordance with energy-saving regulations, offices (including CRASH) do not turn the air conditioning up, so its not too much cooler inside than outside. And then at night, it doesn't cool off because that's when the concrete buildings and roads release all the heat they've soaked up during the day. So when Obon (a Japanese national holiday) comes around, there is a mass exodus to find somewhere--anywhere--that's a bit cooler.

My family also left Tokyo to stay at a group of cabins owned by missionaries in the north of mainland Japan. Thomas, my fiance, was able to come, too. We had a wonderful time relaxing with friends and enjoying God's creation (see photo).

Thomas and I enjoyed the beach with our friends and their children. 

What has CRASH been working on? CRASH Japan has been getting ready to train members of Kuon Church in disaster preparedness. CRASH is dedicated to preparing the Church in Japan for future disasters, as studies show there is a 75% probability that there will be a massive earthquake in Tokyo in the next 4 years. 

Says Kazu Kurihara (see photo), CRASH's director of Tokyo disaster preparedness, "If you are aware of danger, you can prepare for it, and being prepared greatly increases the probability that you will survive and be able to help others." To learn more, read Kazu's blog.

Meet Kazu Kuriara, CRASH's director of Tokyo disaster preparedness.

However, the summer was not without trials. In the middle of August, Luke Nagai, the two-year old son of one of the Family Life Group families, was taken to the hospital with a high fever. He was diagnosed with Leukemia. He is now 2 weeks into a 6 week session of chemotherapy, and may have to stay in the hospital for the next year. The Christian community is working together to provide meals, childcare for Luke's five older sisters, and financial assistance with medical bills.  

What else has been going on?
  • Family Life Group had a special "American BBQ" gathering. It was a wonderful time of food and fellowship. Before dinner, I enjoyed getting to know the children by playing various relay games (see photo).
  • Christian Academy in Japan (CAJ) began its new school year and is off to a great start. CAJ Day Care started up again, and I've enjoyed seeing how much the kids have grown and learned over the summer! This year there are 5 kids in the day care, ages 1-4, who I work with in the mornings.
  • Not For Sale Japan continued to work with Sophia University students to build a student abolitionist movement. 
  • CRASH Japan has been moving towards entering a new stage of relief work in October, focusing on emotional recovery and helping relief programs to become self-sufficient. I have been helping prepare financial reports to determine what types of operations CRASH will be able to continue.
A fellow missionary explains a relay game to the kids of Family Life Group.

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • Pray that that I will have energy during the continued heat.
  • Praise God for the way the Christian community has come together to support the Nagai family. Pray for healing for Luke Nagai and peace and strength for his family.
  • Praise God that I have been able to make connections with the children of Family Life Group! Ask God to use the craft time I lead to help each child come to know Him.
  • Praise God for safe travels for CAJ staff and students this summer! Pray I will be a blessing to the children in the day care, and to their parents and the work that they do.
  • Pray that CRASH will transition well into the next stage of relief work. Pray that donations will continue so that CRASH will be able to support as much relief work as possible.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July's Journey

Thank you for your prayers during July!

I became part of the team working to plant an innovative home church called Family Life Group. This group meets Saturday evenings for worship, fellowship, and dinner. It is mostly composed of young families and has created a dynamic community of support for them. I work with the children to allow the adults to give their full attention to the study of the Bible.

We made paper plate aquariums to remember
the story of Jonah and the whale.

I continue to support CRASH Japan's work to bring relief, healing, and the Gospel to those devastated by the events of March 11, 2011.  One way the organization does this is through the Disaster Response Chaplain Program. CRASH Japan partners with other Christian and disaster relief organizations to provide disaster response training to Japanese pastors and lay leaders. The first event in this program, a forum involving Christian leaders from all over Asia, was held this month in Tokyo to stimulate discussion (see video). This forum was so successful that another is planned for this coming November and the first official training seminar will be held next February.

Click to watch participants' response to the forum.

Those who participate in the training seminar will be better able to provide comfort to the many Japanese people who are anxious at the thought of a repeat of last year's disaster. Scientists predict that Japan will experience another large earthquake in the near future. To learn more, click here.

What else has been going on?
  • On July 11, Not For Sale Japan held a meeting with Sophia University students who became interested in volunteering with us through our June lecture. It's exciting to have new volunteers and new ideas!
  • I'm learning more Japanese. I enjoy meeting with my tutor, a Christian Japanese woman, and individual study (see photo).  Thanks for praying!
  • I had a safe and enjoyable visit with my sister to see Thomas in Kyoto, and was able to be a tourist for a day. Click here to see pictures and read more about our trip.
  • Currently, I am on a family vacation on the coast of Japan. Missionaries have been coming to this group of cabins for over a hundred years.  It's a great time to visit with friends, relax with family, and gear up for another year!

Studying Japanese is challenging, but rewarding.

This month, please remember these prayer requests:
  • Pray that I will be able to serve the children of Family Life Group and that this church will grow and be a blessing to those who attend.
  • Praise God for the success of the Disaster Response Chaplain Forum! Pray that Christian Japanese leaders will continue to dialogue and prepare so that the church here can be a light in future disasters. 
  • Praise God for bringing more willing volunteers to Not For Sale Japan! Pray that we will be able to work together to make a real change against human trafficking in Japan.
  • Praise God for safety in all my travels this month! Pray for continued safety and rejuvenation, both for myself and all missionaries here on vacation, and as we return to ministry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Visiting the Cultural Capital of Japan

I just got back from a wonderful long-weekend visit to Kyoto! Kyoto was the original capitol of Japan, and is rich in cultural history. This wealth is made even greater by the fact that most other major cities were severely damaged by bombings in WW2, while Kyoto escaped unscathed.

Last Saturday my sister and I headed down to see my fiance for Marine Day, a Japanese national holiday. We took an extra day to explore the beauty of Kyoto. 

Wandering the streets of Kyoto with my sister, Anneke.

The twisting streets were an intriguing mix of old and new buildings, traditional and contemporary Japanese culture.

Yasaka Jinja, a famous Shinto shrine in Kyoto.
Kyoto is also full of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.
Hot and sweaty from hiking in the shrine's gardens. 
 Exploring these was fascinating, but hot in the 37º celsius/ 99º fahrenheit weather--time for a break! 

Snack time at a Japanese tea shop. Yum!
Kyoto is famous for its matcha, or green tea, and traditional Japanese deserts. I enjoyed a green tea ice cream parfait and sweet red beans with pounded rice cakes.

Touring the grounds of the old Imperial Palace. 
After our break, we headed over to the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The original capitol of Japan was Kyoto, not Tokyo, and the Emperor and his family still maintain a palace there. While the public is not allowed inside the palace itself, we spend a lovely time admiring the grounds and gardens.

At the end of the day, it was time to catch the night bus for our 8-hour drive back to Tokyo. Thankfully I was able to sleep most of the way!


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Welcome to the rainy season!

The rain has been pouring down this month, making any and all excursions an adventure. Several times I have been unable to walk the 10 minutes from CRASH Japan headquarters to my house without getting drenched. But God's work continues!

CRASH Japan headquarters staff and volunteers (see photo) worked especially hard this past week to prepare for a three-day Survivor Care seminar in Sendai, a major city in the region affected by the triple disaster last March, to train local leaders in emotional care. We hope that these and other training sessions will assist in making recovery sustainable, so that healing can continue when organizations like CRASH Japan are no longer in the field.

Meet the staff I work with at CRASH Japan.

Thank you for your prayers for the Not for Sale (NFS) Japan presentation at Sophia University on the 19th (see photo)--it was a huge success! Over 100 students came to hear us speak on modern day slavery, especially focusing on the situation in Japan and concrete ways to be a part of the solution. The feedback was very positive, including several students eager to join the efforts of NFS Japan!

Caitlin Potter presents at Sophia University.

What else has been going on?
  • I worked to organize feedback from CRASH Japan staff and volunteers to be utilized for organizational and outreach improvement.
  • Christian Academy in Japan, where I provide daycare for staff kids, wrapped up the school year June 8. I am looking forward to resuming my work at the daycare in the fall.
  • Thomas was able to visit from Kyoto for a weekend, and my family had a good time getting to know him a little bit better.
  • I began taking Japanese lessons from a Christian Japanese woman, and am excited about the improvement I can see already!

This month, please remember these prayer requests:

  • Praise God for the emotional care training CRASH Japan was able to provide to leaders in Sendai. Pray that healing will continue and those with no hope will find the hope of the gospel.
  • Pray for safe travels for all CAJ staff and students over the summer break.
  • Praise God for the success of the NFS Japan lecture at Sophia University! Pray that we will have more volunteers to help with projects.
  • Pray that I will continue to progress in my Japanese studies.

Thank you for your support of God's work in Japan!


Thursday, May 31, 2012

It has been an exciting month!

I arrived in Japan on May 9. Two days later, I travelled north to the region devastated by last year's tsunami (see photo). It was exciting to see that farm fields I helped to clear last summer have now been planted. And it was heartbreaking to see abandoned homes. 

After returning to Tokyo, I began my work at CRASH Japan of organizing projects (see photo), including emotional care for trauma victims, Gospel concerts to show Jesus love, and training Japanese pastors in disaster response. Over the past year,  CRASH Japan has distributed food, cleaned up houses, and provided counseling. To learn more about CRASH Japan, watch this 3-minute video.

What else has been happening? 
  • I provided childcare for staff kids at Christian Academy in Japan, the missionary kid school where my parents have served for the past 25 years.
  • I have been preparing to give a presentation on June 19 at Sophia University on stopping human trafficking. This is one way I'm involved with Not For Sale Japan, a group I was involved with last summer.
  • I got engaged on May 17! My fiance, Thomas Berney (see photo), teaches English as a second language at Kyoto International University Academy, a Christian international school that educates missionary kids and the next generation of Japanese Christian leaders. We plan to get married in the summer of 2013, after which I will join him in Kyoto.

Thanks for your continued prayers:
  • Pray that the relief efforts will continue, and rebuilding will become possible.
  • Praise God that CRASH Japan has successfully transitioned to the Partnership Phase. Pray that survivors will be blessed by the ministries CRASH Japan supports, and that through them many may come to know God.
  • Pray that my anti-human trafficking presentation at Sophia University will raise awareness and motivate those attending to join the abolition movement.
  • Praise God for my engagement! Pray that wedding plans will go smoothly and that my Japanese studies will progress, in preparation for ministry in Kyoto from the fall of 2013.