December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve 2007 Thanksgiving

Photo: Aiko lights her New Year Candle (Fukuoka, Japan 2004)

(New Year Candlelight Ceremony- part 2 of 3)

Before the New Year, here's a recounting of what I'm thankful to have done or learned in the year since arriving in the beautiful mountainous central prefecture of Nagano. The links are to posts from the past eight months.

Communicating with you...

Over the years I published at least a hundred newsletters about my adventures and ministries-- in Mexico, five years in India, and then the U.S. where, eleven years ago, I started emailing newsletters, as we headed first to China, and then Japan.

With my ever expanding band of children and grandchildren and friends now on five continents -- all with varying degrees and angles of interest-- I've found it difficult to say all I wanted to some, without boring the rest.

Blogging has helped. I can now post whatever happens, interests me or I care to share for the interest or benefit of friends or family-- and they can view or read what interests them. Now I spend less time agonizing over what to leave out-- leaving more time to—communicate!

And I've really enjoyed the increased personal e-mails, photos, calls and web-cam meetings we've had this year- quality person to person communication-- Thanks for calling and writing!

...and Fun with Friends

This year, usually with Andrew-- and often his friend Leina, who is also ten years-old-- I've found time to enjoy mountain-climbing, hiking, bike rides in the countryside, my first trip to Tokyo, and taking many photos. And, since we missed our (sniff) Fukuoka friends from the southern island of Kyushu-- Andrew and I hitchhiked to visit them in August.

Simplifying...

I've made progress this year in learning to focus on priorities – meaning not just being lead by what I find in front of my nose each morning-- like this quotation that I adapted and adopted for myself:

'Get up each morning and set your heart-- not on what you have to accomplish in your own energies-- but set your heart on eternity, and nothing else will matter-- and nothing will be able to defeat you.'
...and Prayer

When I think of all I want to do myself and see done for others-- and remember to measure the task and my own strength against the power of heaven-- then I think of prayer.

I've found a new, distinct focus for prayer in my life. Rather than an 'add-on' to my others activities, it's becoming a major part of my life in its own right-- and the more I pray, the more I want to pray.

And there is so my to pray for-- from my newest grandchildren-- Izumi in Hungary and Kevin in California-- to the 'gettin' grow'd up' ones in Texas and Zambia. For my mom and dad, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews-- and you!

It's no wonder grandparents are often known for their prayers-- they finally realize the limits of their human resources and begin to lean on the divine.

December 22, 2007

Lumangwe Falls in Zambia

My daughter, Amy-- in Zambia with her husband and six children-- sent me this note. They live in in a remote-- and beautiful-- area and she had an opportunity to enjoy it that I want to pass on to you.

(from Amy) I wasn't looking forward to my birthday at first, but then I was invited to go with some friends-- who are in Zambia as volunteers-- to see two of the amazing waterfalls in our area.

The following day two of the same girls came over and cooked me an Indian dinner while my kids baked me a chocolate cake with orange butter frosting.

The waterfalls are about 2 1/2 hours away from us-- the last hour is a dirt road. At one point we hit some wet mud and slid out of control for a bit before the driver was able to pull us out of it. Very scary! We also hit some large potholes and, since I was in the back of the four-wheel drive, I hit the roof a of couple times. Definitely a new experience-- since I am so short, my head rarely hits anything.

(If you want to see a photo and read the details of where she is about to tell us about, you can look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumangwe_Falls)

The falls were absolutely breathtaking. It really puts life and its problems in perspective. Like I said, I hadn't been looking forward to this birthday, not because of a number or anything-- I think it was more that I was just worn out and needed some time to myself and my brain latched on my birthday.

When I thought there was nothing to do for my birthday, I got a bit depressed-- but then the falls trip opened up. Standing there looking at the vastness of the waterfall, being drenched by the mist, it was all so awe-inspiring and reminded me that the same One who made these incredible sights was the One who was looking after every detail of my life. Who was I to grumble, worry, or get worked up?

I am amazed that more people don't visit the falls up here but the roads aren't paved for the last hour and there really aren't facilities around it to make staying here a possibility. Such a shame. On the other hand, it was so nice looking at a marvel of nature not surrounded by tourists and signs absolving whomever of any liability-- no gift shops, etc. I wish the whole world knew about these falls and, at the same time, I wish I could keep them all to myself.

There are two falls close to each other. We went to the first one and after looking at it from the top we climbed down the gully to the bottom of the falls so we could swim. I hadn't brought a swimming suit since I rarely go swimming-- preferring to read at the water's edge. But since this was a big day for me I decided to go for it all the way and swam in some of my clothes.

My kids were horrified when I got home. First of all, they were disappointed that they missed out on seeing me in the water because they are always begging me to swim and second, because they couldn't believe I swam in anything but a regulation swim suit.

After swimming for a few minutes we drove down to the second waterfall. In order to see this one we had to follow an overgrown path. I use the word 'path' in the loosest of terms-- We had to push our way between tall grass and thorny vines, climb over and under fallen tree trunks, and navigate slippery slopes. A couple of times we couldn't tell where the path was and had to guess.

Then, all of a sudden the path opened up and we were standing on this bluff looking at this amazing waterfall. The mist was blowing over us and the water was rushing down. It felt like perhaps we were the first ones ever to see this sight.

I got quite the workout that day-- climbing down and back up the first gully and then navigating the second path. As I was working my way back to the vehicle I was thinking how the memories of this day would last me a lifetime and my muscles would remember it for at least a week.

Thank you for the birthday greetings! It made me feel so loved to open my e-mail and see them there.

Amy

You can see more of Amy's family's work or write her at these addresses:

http://www.missionaryfamily.com/

missionaryfamily@gmail.com


December 19, 2007

One of My Last Christmases

I just received an update from friends in Fukuoka, Japan concerning a place that we visited each Christmas to share some warmth and cheer

(that's Naomi-- lower left-- and Erica-- lower right in 2005).

"Every Christmas, members of our Family International community visit a nearby retirement home. This year, after dancing and singing, we sculpted balloons to the delight of many of the residents.


One of them, a fireman who had only recently moved to the retirement home after his wife had passed away, was particularly interested in our work and projects.

“I am so happy to see you children,” he said with tears in his eyes, “because I haven’t seen my own grandchildren in a long time. You remind me of them.”

He reached out and gave each of the children a big, warm hug.

“Thank you for coming today. You have made my Christmas very happy. I’m old now, and probably won’t live much longer, but I am glad to have spent one of my last Christmases with you.”

He continued. “Please don’t stop sharing what you have with other people. People need love and warmth at Christmas, and you are providing that. I admire you so much.”

Please pray for them and for us as we visit dozens of similar centers here, sharing love and the message of Christmas. Thank you!-- and thanks, Olivia-- on the right in this photo-- for this story.

December 14, 2007

Check Out These Great Christmas Resources

Are you looking for some beautiful free Christmas MP3s? -- some stories for children? Poems? Here's a link to fun page to explore with these and more. There are dozens of free Christmas E-cards too.

http://www.thefamily.org/christmas/

If you follow the 'TRACTS' link at the top of the main page, you'll see some of the small messages that, each Christmas, I love to give out to people that I meet... you can read 'em-- print 'em out-- or pass 'em out!

I've been wearing a 'Santa' hat when traveling on the train-- brings smiles to the faces of the normally highly reserved Japanese-- making it easier to offer a meaningful Christmas tract.

December 11, 2007

Our Christmas in Japan

Our team here in Nagano-- in the Japanese Alps-- is giving at least a couple dozen Christmas shows in shopping centers, nursing homes this month-- as we do each year. We'll distribute hundreds of magazines, music CDs and tracts-- all culminating in a Christmas dinner and program for those we regularly minister to.

No, in Japan they don't have a Western-style Christmas season, but people are still aware of the season-- and many even are somewhat aware of the reason for the season-- celebrating Christ's birth-- even though the commercial 'buy, buy, buy!' spirit is what is promoted everywhere.

Part of the emphasis on shopping is because most employees in Japan get a year-end bonus in December-- Also businesses and government departments nearly all have year-end parties for their workers-- but the biggest reason Christmas has been so commercialized, sadly, is the influence of the West.

The good news is that this season is still a wonderful opportunity to share the Good News. Just as it was in India and China where I spent eight Christmas seasons. These are places where it can be sometimes difficult to approach people directly most of the year. But Christmas is a time when people will readily receive a printed or personal 'Christmas message of God's love'.

Christmas brings new hope and courage, as through the darkness, the Christmas star shines its promise of God's unfailing love.—David Brandt Berg

The Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.Luke 1:78–79

Follow this link to an article about a recent film by Christian Carion, Joyeux Noël (2005), which retells the story of a well-documented event that occurred on a battlefield in France on Christmas Eve, 1914:

http://www.activated.org/reading/thisnthat_article.php?article=183

[above photo: singing at a local center, Christmas 2006]

November 24, 2007

Things seem to have stabilized...

...an update from Amy in Zambia regarding my grandkids.

"Thank you for all the prayers and notes of encouragement. I copied them down and will share them with everyone.

Jennifer and Jasmine are doing much better. Their eyes are still sore and weak but they have regular appetites now and are getting stronger every day. We have been discharged from the hospital and are staying with friends in this town until Monday when they will repeat the blood work and chest x-ray.

Tom is at home with the the other four children who it now seems have come down with measles. We are attacking right away with antibiotics and forced eating. We won't let them get weakened the way the other girls were. Knowing what is happening is a big help. So far they are all doing okay.

Please pray for their cases to be light and that Tom will have the strength and wisdom for taking care of them. The medical care is usually my department so God is testing us all in every area. I am in regular contact with them and have been able to send boxes of food and medicine on the local buses so Tom has what he needs for the kids.

We still don't have a water pump or Internet due to the lightning strike. We don't know which piece of the Internet equipment will need to be replaced. Our water pump control box will need to be replaced (this was just installed 3 weeks ago and had a surge protector on it!).

Please pray for God's supply for this and the medical bills and other expenses related to the medical care.

God has been so faithful during all this. Please continue to pray for full recovery for the kids and for our strength. We love you all!

Amy for all the Morrows"

November 22, 2007

Some Welcome Good News From Africa


I promised to update you about my grandkids in Zambia:

...Dear friends, family, loved ones and all who have prayed:

We love you all dearly and thank you for standing by our side in the Spirit this last week. I am writing from Mansa as our Internet still has not been replaced/repaired.

The girls are doing much better! Praise God! I wanted to fill you in a little on what has been going on and what the Lord has brought us through.

A few weeks ago we had a baby brought to us that was severely malnourished. We began to integrate him into our program. The second day he came he had a fever and cough so when his guardians came we asked them to take him to the clinic and care for him before bringing him back to join the orphanage. We also told them to come each day to collect milk for him.
We didn't hear anything for some time and later found out he was diagnosed with measles. We asked them to keep the baby at home until he was fully recovered but to continue to collect formula to keep up his strength. Unfortunately, they did not do this and we heard that he continued to get weaker.

About a week later Jennifer came down with a fever and two days later Jasmine also fell ill. When the telltale symptoms of measles showed up and the girls were not able to eat we decided to take them to a local hospital for monitoring and treatment.

Jennifer responded well to treatment but Jasmine got worse. The crux came when she was given a different IV fluid and began having facial seizures which caused her tongue to curl up and she could not swallow. Her condition was first diagnosed as hypoglycemia since she had not eaten for 5 days and the new IV did not contain sugars.

Thankfully she continued to be able to breathe, her pulse remained strong and she had all her mental faculties. When she didn't get completely better and her legs and arms began to have muscle problems and her jaw was clenching tightly shut the doctor was concerned that it could be meningitis or cerebral malaria. He told me that if it was his child he would pray and that she may have only until the next morning. As you can imagine this was scary to hear when we are 12 hours away from the best hospitals and things move so slowly here.

We decided to take Jasmine to the nearest large city (usually 4 hours away--although this time only took 3) and contacted a doctor to meet us there. A friend from the city where we first took the girls offered to drive us to Mansa and he has stayed with the girls and me the whole time-- being such a help-- another blessing since Tom had to remain with the work and the other kids.

After desperate prayer we got on the road and, miraculously, after the first few minutes, Jasmine-- who still had trouble with her jaw clamping shut involuntarily-- fell into a peaceful sleep for most of the drive.

Upon arrival at the next clinic both girls were put on two antibiotics and blood work and other tests were done.

The doctor diagnosed Jasmine as having encephalitis (a complication of measles) and said the antibiotics should fix the problem. Jennifer's x-ray the next day also showed traces of bronco-pneumonia. Both girls have severely low white blood counts.

Since arriving here though both girls have made steady progress. They are still quite weak but are getting better day by day. We know this is testament to the many, many prayers that have been offered up on their behalf.

Working within the local hospital system here has been very challenging and frustrating at times but God has been so faithful. Someone asked me at one point if I trusted the doctor and I said no, I trust God. That is what it has come down to. Our lives are in God's hands and His are the best there is!

The girls should be able to go home by Friday or Saturday, God willing.

Continued prayer requests:

  • For the girls complete recovery--especially that their white count can come up to normal-- and that none of the other children contract measles

  • That our water and Internet problems will be sorted out--It looks like we may have to buy the equipment again.

  • For our encouragement, as the little baby that originally had the measles passed away yesterday. This is very hard for us as we already fell in love with him. We feel discouraged that his family didn't take better care of him despite our best efforts.

  • For the work here to continue to grow.

Thank you so much for all your prayers. They saved us! Praise be to God!

Amy and all the family...


November 20, 2007

Urgent Prayer Request For My Granddaughter In Africa

I was in the midst of planning a post to introduce my daughter, Amy Morrow, and her family's work in Zambia, Africa-- where she, her husband, Tom and their six children recently begun receiving orphans into an orphanage they are building-- however, circumstances brought my plans forward...

(Written from a message sent by JoAnne Leppo --Tom's Mother:)

...I just received a call from Tom in Zambia. Two of their daughters were very sick from measles that they contracted from one of the orphans last week when, yesterday, 12 year-old Jasmine's fever got so high that Amy took both girls to the local clinic.

They were tested for malaria and it seems that Jasmine possibly has cerebral malaria-- which can be fatal. She hadn't eaten for five days and reacted badly to the medicine the doctor gave to stop the vomiting.

Both girls are now on IVs; Jennifer's fever has subsided-- but Jasmine is still serious.

The clinic doesn't have facilities for further testing, and she couldn't survive the 12-hour ride to the capital's hospital-- so they are taking her to a hospital two hours away, where a Russian doctor is going to meet them. If they can't help her, they will possibly life-flight her to Lusaka or South Africa.

So please desperately pray for Jasmine's life and health-- and Amy as she makes many needed decisions.

Tom is at the mission with the other children. He just returned from a trip in the bush trip-- three days of Bible classes and ministering to tribes. As soon as he got back, lightening struck-- damaging their Internet system and the control box for their water-pump. They are also in the midst of the longest power-outage they've ever had.

So, on top of the children's sicknesses, they also have no Internet, no running water-- and only emergency battery lights.

They are, as you know, quite isolated, so please pray for their encouragement, strength and against any further problems...

I'll write more as soon as I receive news. I don't think there will be any updates on their site for a while-- due to the lightening strike mentioned above-- but you can learn about the Morrows and their work here:

http://www.missionaryfamily.com/


November 13, 2007

So Far, So Good

I recently updated my 'gateway' website at www.tipserve.com as it was pointing to an 'experimental' blog at Wordpress, rather than this one-- sorry. It will eventually be a digital hallway with doors to lots of interesting things, but for now, just one door that will take you here...

Websites and blogs have been a learning process-- see my: 'Blogging 101'. Most recently I've been researching which online resources have the most, while requiring the least from me-- Yes, you can read that as, 'finding sites that offer a lot for free.'

Right now my focus is to find a home for my photos. Over the past few months, I've edited and posted hundreds of photos on several sites. I have hundreds more chronicling decades of adventure in China, Japan, India, the U.S., Canada and Mexico. I'll soon be posting the stories to match these photos.

So far: Picasa was the easier to get started; Flickr proved to be the most resource-rich-- including 'tagging' which pushed some of my photos near the top of certain searches. I've also just tried Photobucket, and really like it, but it's too soon to draw a conclusion-- although they have also just added 'tags' for their photos.

If you have any tips for me, please send 'em! Thanks!

Picasa (1) Over 100 of my most current, up-to-date photos in folders by category

Picasa (2) Again, ten categories with about 100 photos of Fukuoka, Japan

Flickr a few folders, I just started here

Photobucket Also just started here.

October 26, 2007

Poignant Performing Pointers


The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!



I've had some small opportunities to perform over the years-- a little mime, a bit-part in a movie, commercial voice-overs-- but in the last ten years, more regularly. Beginning as a balloon art performer in restaurants or parties or a clown for special events, hospitals or fund-raisers, I migrated to using mime, balloon art and banter as a street performer.

I'm not a professional by any stretch of imagination. I can't do magic, perform acrobatics or juggle. However, I've developed a routine that works for what I do-- fun, fruitful and functional. I enjoy entertaining, or just mingling and meeting folks to communicate my favorite subject-- God's love for them.

During over 2000 hours 'on stage', I think I've gained even more than I've given. In this short series of posts explains a bit about how I started and what I've learned-- costumes, performing tips and more.

You can see a narrated series of photos of my performances in Fukuoka, Japan here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/tipserve/FukuokaJapanBusking

And here is a 'balloon art' how-to' site:

Airigami, the art of folding air in specially prepared latex containers.”

read more on Larry Moss' site: http://www.balloonhq.com/


Step out today, outside the boundaries of conformity;

If it will make a way, for love to work in its enormity!


Next: Mime, Make-up and My Costume

Mime, Make-up and My Costume


The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

[Go to the first post in this series]


For my particular style, less has been more-- more fruitful. I've found that a 'full-blown' clown puts off a sizable percentage of people, especially in circumstances outside of the 'normal'-- parties, performances for audiences etc. I've found that since most of my work is on the street, dressing as a performer rather than a clown has been best for me.

The same with make-up, without either the clown make-up or the mime's white face, it is easier to be more flexible and not be stuck with having to stay 'in character'. I can more easily go from mime, to speaking-- and I don't have to use a 'clown' voice-- although I do use a bit of whistling at times-- to emphasize something or even provide my own 'back-up' music.

I started using mime years ago, first acting in skits for small audiences, and then on the street. I had found it difficult get people to take a tract or poster from me if I only offered something and said, 'Hi!', 'Excuse me' or 'This is for you.'

I found that the most effective method was to get some eye contact and firmly offer whatever I had with good timing. Then, when we added some funny antics or wild costumes, we'd have even better success.

I'd tried some 'clown' voices, but one day I tried using just mime. I would simply get eye contact and hold up my hand, signaling, 'Stop'. And it worked. They didn't just grab what I offered as they passed by, forcing me to then try to then stop them-- they stopped, wanting to know what I wanted. I then pointed out the title, for example, 'Somebody Loves You' and if they read it, I'd direct them to the prayer and, if not and they seemed ready to go, I'd show them our brochure or appeal and they'd help-- or not-- but I did my best with this method.

One girl read the tract and knelt down in the middle of the busy walking street to pray the prayer out loud, got our phone number and later came to our house-- and was surprise to find that I spoke-- ha! I eventually dropped my attempts at a 'performing' voice or at full mime. Honestly, I just wasn't that good at either.

My costume also evolved, from wild or even weird at times to quite formal-- almost like what a magician might wear. I used a tuxedo for a while, then dropped the jacket and stuck with the tuxedo pants, vest and formal shirt with a black bow-tie and black shoes-- topped, for a long time, with a red cotton fisherman's hat. I still use this hat in the summer, but now, when it's cool enough, I use a wool-- hence, the heat-- Charlie Chaplin-style bowler.


Next: How It Works-- The Act

How It Works-- The Act



The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

[Go to the first post in this series]


On the street, I'm a roving performer, often for strolling couples, but also one-on-one or for small groups. Only slightly different is when I go to parties or table-to-table in restaurants. The basic elements involve mime with some kind of story-telling or audience interaction – asking them to say or do something to participate in the act, usually with balloons as props.

With small groups or parties, I'll sometimes also teach them to make a simple balloon shape or animal. If I do anything well, it's make balloons fast. And I need to if I have a small group.

My first object is to either get them to stop, if they're moving, or to get their united attention. I use a variety of methods to do this-- and learn new ones all the time-- but normally I wait until someone shows interest, then smile or, alternately, look exaggeratedly surprised. I then motion for them to stop and hand them a balloon-- finished or not.

I utilize mime here, usually, motioning for this person to wait while I blow up and distribute a second or third balloon. I try to gauge who is most interested-- or in the case of two or three couples, I just give the first balloons to the ladies. I try to have several long balloon 'sticks' or circles already blown up and tied so I can move quickly.

Right away, I go for a reaction. If there is a couple, I'll make a heart and get them to each hold a side. Or, if it's a bunch of guys, I'll have the 'toughest' looking one blow on the incomplete tail of a balloon puppy and make a bubble pop out at that moment- the others laugh to see the biggest guy startled by a balloon-- ha!.

As soon as I get some kind of reaction, I move into high gear getting balloons into three to six pair of hands, moving quickly back and forth completing bits of each creation to keep them all interested. I use a combination of mime and a few words to help keep things moving-- more mime and less speaking if I'm not fluent in their language, of course.

I try to finish each of the 'creations'-- a heart with a puppy or lovebirds, a dog on a leash, a flower etc. around the same time. If they are couples, I'll line up the guys-- using mime to motion and demonstrate where and how to stand-- with the girls opposite-- give the guys the balloons (usually hearts or flowers).

Here I'll mime, 'stand straight' and model passionately presenting their gift to their love.

Most Japanese guys will just thrust it forward mechanically, so I quickly whistle or just shake my head and motion 'no, no, no', and give the balloons back.

I then mime, 'relax', take a big breath and show the 'passionate presentation' again before I motion for them to 'try again'. Sometimes I whip out a bandanna to wipe their brow to show how difficult it is.

The second time is usually an improvement-- but even if not, I enthusiastically applaud. The girls love it, and sometimes even the guys. Even so, the guys seem to react, 'Hey, you made a fool out of me and made my girlfriend happy-- pretty good!' And they'll sometimes offer a nice tip too!

I end by presenting each with something to read-- telling them that it is a message of love, from a God of love-- and, very often, I'm able to point out the printed prayer and pray with everyone.

What I do with couples and individuals is similar, although I can go a bit slower and be a bit less 'dramatic'. I can often be more flexible, talk more and get to know them-- sometimes developing into longer and deeper talks.

Other times I don't find out the effect until later--- as in this email:

Dear Bruce Hi! I met you at Nakasu Bridge with my boyfriend. Do you remember me? I want to say 'Thank you ' to you, because when I met to you, we were having bad feelings toward each other. After, we made up. Thank you so much. I think to meet you there was destiny. If you return e-mail, I will be happy.

I will also be very happy to hear from you with any comments, questions or just to say, 'hi!'

You can send a note to me by clicking on the little envelope at the end of this post-- or you can also use my @gmail.com address, just type bruce(dot)japan before the @mark. (written this way due to spam robots that read web pages, sorry)


Next: 'Banter' To make a routine work well, it helps to have some fun things to say.

Things I Say-- The Banter


*Banter [Good-humored, playful conversation]

The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

[Go to the first post in this series]

The street act mentioned in my last blog has been the foundation of my performing in Japan for nearly four years. However, I first used balloon art starting about 10 years ago by helping with mission project fund-raising activities and paid performances at parties and restaurants.

None of this happened in one day-- in fact, it started one day when I dropped off supplies to a volunteer clown (now a missionary in Chile) who, motioning to the long line of kids waiting, told me to inflate and tie balloons for him. Well, sounds simple, but in a short time I'd broken two of his pumps (my present identical pump has lasted two years) and I struggled with the concept of tying the knot for hours-- oh, well.

But I enjoyed the reactions of the kids-- the parents too-- so I agreed to volunteer to do the same and plugged along learning how to make the various shapes. However, to do this well, I also needed a spiel, banter or lines to keep people entertained while I made the balloons.

'What's the bravest animal in the jungle?' ('A lion?') 'No, he has big teeth; he doesn't have to be brave.' (Slight pause as I finish the animal) 'A giraffe... because he really sticks his neck out!'

I heard this and many others from other clowns or ballooners, made up my own, and some I got from the people I meet, for if you tell some people a joke, they try to top yours with another. Getting the audience involved is helpful.

"Guess what I'm making.'

--or having them count the number of bubbles as I make a lion's mane.

Some things I've tried have worked, others flopped. One story developed from making a heart-shape with two kissing birds-- Next: 'A Love Story with Balloons'.

A Love Story with Balloons



The Fun and Function of Mime and Balloon Art Performing

Costumes, Performance Tips-- and a Bit of Banter-- Enjoy!

Here is the version of a story I tell as I make a heart balloon with kissing birds for couples who speak English. It's the basis for a routine that I use in Japanese with fewer words and more mine.

I first ask if they want to hear a love story. Then, as I tie a balloon in a circle I say,

"Love, the real kind, lasts forever. It's like a circle that has no end.”

(for married couples I'd add, 'like your wedding ring')

"Sometimes, people even 'tie the knot' (get married) — to the boy: “Don't worry.”

Married couples often reply, "Oh, we've taken care of that", or something similar.

"Even the path of true love isn't always straight,” as I shape the circle into a heart.

There is sometimes a bit of friction”, as I rub the two sides to make them even.

But love always wins in the end,” as I show them the completed heart.

I then get the couple to each hold one side, pausing to say,

'Ahh' -- as in, 'Lovely'. Then I tell them,

Now, a bit of magic as I make two birds from one balloon.”

Since the completed bird's beaks are touching, I'll look, pause, and say,

Oh, they're kissing!” before I attach the birds to the heart.

I usually, have the guy present the heart to the girl-- modeling it with passion as I described in the 'How It Works-- The Act' post, earlier in this series.

I always end with an introduction to a love that will never leave them and give them something to read.

You can find my favorite, Somebody Loves You, here.

Along with a wonderful variety of other inspiring reading.

[Go to the first post in this series]

October 21, 2007

Ta-da! A new baby!



Izumi Nora

Born to Aiko and Andi Foder at 12:30 AM, October 20th in Hungary.

Izumi weighed 8 pounds and is 22 inches long.


P.S. Don't tell anyone... I'm sleeping with a grandmother tonight.

October 07, 2007

Fukuoka 2005 Earthquake Story In Photos

As I promised in an earlier post, these are newly posted photos from our time in Fukuoka, Japan.
You can see the entire story in photos and text here
'Fukuoka hasn't had an earthquake in 100 years-- nor a major one for centuries!'

they'd told me -- surprising for this earthquake-prone country-- however, this changed March 5th, 2005, when our home in western Fukuoka shimmied and shook for nearly a minute. A major earthquake had struck just off the coast.
We survived with minimal damage, checked our neighbors and called our friends. One, alone with two small kids in a badly shook up top floor apartment, was panicking with the frequent aftershocks (BTW, they continued for weeks), so a few of us went to help.
On the way met a friend gripping newspapers with graphic photos showing nearly every home on her island destroyed. She told us, 'They had to leave without even their shoes.' and asked us to help.

At the shelter with a team of 'Family International' volunteers, they nearly turned us away, saying they'd provided everything, until the island's kindergarten teacher excitedly asked if we could do something for the kids...
You can also read more details on the quake at wikipedia

October 03, 2007

New Site Features Fukuoka Scenes

I've just set up a new photo site on Picasa called 'tipserve' with over 100 photos from Fukuoka, Japan. There are 12 albums now, mostly scenery. I will add photos of our activities and people from our three years there soon, but for now, enjoy...

The reason I've chosen to make another site is that, for now, the Picasa online albums won't allow me to 'nest' the folders-- folders inside of folders-- so it's difficult to organize. For now, I'll continue post current photos on the 'bruce.japan' site and post my photos from Fukuoka on the 'tipserve' site.

September 30, 2007

Airport Open House


Mountainous Nagano's only airport had a open house today.
There had been a drawing for for rides, but we weren't selected. Nevertheless, we went to explore and, in spite of non-stop rain, we enjoyed it.


Enjoy the photos and Andrew's (10) account with the photos here: Airport Open House

September 26, 2007

Two New Photo Folders: 'Grapes' and 'Rice'

It's harvest time in our valley in the Japanese Alps. When the sun is shining on the grapevines below, the smell of ripening grapes comes even up to my third floor bedroom.

And when riding our bikes though the local fields, it's overpowering-- with the golden fields of ripening rice set against the green mountains having the same effect on our eyes.

I've captured these images all summer with my cell phone camera, fixed 'em up a bit, and posted them on Picasa where you can view them-- two albums, Grapes and Rice. I've added details about our area and how, while cycling, we've watched the cycling of the seasons. Enjoy!

September 11, 2007

Blogging 101: Chapter One-- Learning... Where It's 'Not'


I was asked by several people how I made this blog, so we travel back to when the saga began...

I started when I wanted a website to communicate with my family and friends and for our mission project. I'd made a simple website years ago and learned a bit of computer code to do it, but I'd forgotten most of it. So I prepared for what looked like a long arduous journey by amassing a slew of links in my browser on website creation, and a huge folder on my computer of articles, DIY books, and software. I read. I browsed the Web. I downloaded. I asked experts.

A mentor told me that using programs like Microsoft FrontPage would make a 'bloated, useless' site, so I started learning HTML and CSS (if you don't know, don't ask...) and how to use creation and editing and FTP programs (again, please don't ask). I installed software and started to learn to build a site 'from the ground up'-- and created several versions of my envisioned website.

It was all very good and I still want to do all that some day (don't ask when), but after some time (don't ask how long) I decided to just put something up-- anything. That's when I decided to look into those weird sounding 'blog' things.

I'd become a bit tired of slogging through HTMP, CSS and FTP terminology, so learning yet more made me hesitate, but I was surprised at how simple it was.

Next post: I finally try those 'blog' things

Blogging 101: Chapter Two-- Those Weird 'Blog' Thingies

Breakthrough-- After struggling for a long time to learn all the ins and outs of building, securing, uploading and maintaining my own site, I decided to look into blogging. I read a couple reviews and jumped in. I was surprised to have, not just one, but one blog on Blogger and one on Wordpress-- in less than an hour.

And they looked good. I realized-- duh!- blogs are just websites dedicated to automatically doing what I wanted to do-- to write on line.

I was doubtful. How could anything so easy be good?

I dove into Blogger.com first-- mainly because I'd recently begun using Gmail and liked it-- as well as Google's Picasa for editing and posting my photos on line. They are all part of Google, so I didn't even have to register-- just sign in.

I checked the list of templates, found one that I liked, previewed it and pressed 'save'-- simple, automatic. Next, I found that posting (writing an entry) was as easy as writing an email-- including adding photos and links-- it looked good. Finally I explored the tabbed 'dashboard' control center, and found it easy to understand. And for whatever I couldn't understand, I was able to locate plenty of help pages- including step-by-step tutorials.

Besides changing the template, fonts or colors, 'elements' can be added to customize the page. For example, I added a way for folks to get my updates by email (The small text link that I have on the left of my blog) and a link to allow folks to get my newest updates via a 'feed' to their, in my case, Yahoo home page or news reader (icon at left).

At last I had a fully functioning site and shared it with friends-- who promptly asked me to tell them how...

Next blog: Some Tips to get started

Blogging 101: Chapter Three-- Ready, Set, Blog

Before you go to the site you have chosen-- for example, Blogger, which I described in the previous post, I suggest that you decide on your blog's name and a short line or 'blurb', describing your blog's purpose. Perhaps you should decide and even write something for your profile-- should you want to have one-- about yourself, your family or your group.

You should also decide how much personal information you want to post, remembering that what you write could be used to find out more personal information. See
blogs and privacy.
Also, when you set it up the site, you can determine who can view it, or even password protect it.

You might want to think what digital photos you may use-- as part of your profile or your first posts-- and put them in a 'for my blog' folder. You can even add links to your online photo albums to any photo or story you post . (Like this)

Now, jump in and your blog should be ready to start filling with your news and links in minutes.

To keep people coming to your online journal-- which is the idea, right?-- post as often as possible, and keep the posts small-- bite sized-- and don't forget to spell-check-- that's built in also.

[note: BTW- Please point out any errors on my blog in 'comments' ; )Thanks!]

Now I want to go back to the Wordpress Blog that I started. I have another project that I think would fit better on Wordpress, as they offer website-like pages in addition to the standard blogging format. I'll tell you how it goes and give you a link when it's ready! Happy blogging!

September 05, 2007

Pressure, Boredom, Fear Prompt ‘Refusers’

“Educators are wary about acknowledging this growing phenomenon”... “When school refusers turn 15, principals normally award them graduation certificates regardless of whether they complete their studies. And once children have fallen off the traditional education path, they are left to navigate new territory in the job world”... “That's if they can work at all. Education professor Katsuyuki Hiroki said many refusers become reclusive as adults and can't leave their bedrooms. Hiroki said 1 million adults suffer from this affliction...”

Excerpts from an article By Jessi Hempel writing from Japan for the San Jose Mercury News

Japanese Refusers a Major Issue- by Bruce

A couple of months ago, unexpectedly, an office worker asked me to lunch at her cafeteria. I hardly knew this person-- a foreign national to whom I had previously only given a small pamphlet Somebody Loves You in her own language-- yet soon she was pouring out her heart about her personal life and difficulties.

She first, confidently, told of her many accomplishments at work and of her plans for the future. She then explained that some areas of her personal life had become dysfunctional-- and some of her dissatisfactions and disappointments.

Finally, her greatest frustration-- Her teenage son had become alienated at school and had refused to return. An apparently bright boy, he'd become frustrated, sullen-- hardly leaving his room and, when he did, arguing with his mother.

'What should I do? He's a good boy, smart, but he refuses to try to go back to school.'

After acknowledging how difficult it can be to communicate with teenagers, I sympathized with her son who, like many thousands of other Japanese students, have dropped out due to the school and social pressures.

I asked about her son's interests and abilities, then suggested she give him love, acceptance and encouragement to excel-- perhaps in some area in which he feels capable-- offering a way to gain confidence in himself and for his future. I encouraged her to relax more, to not try so hard-- to make him feel accepted.

Later, I visited again to take some Power Point Presentations on love, forgiveness, bitterness, life's trials and others. These were what she was most excited about on my most recent visit.

'Those pictures and words have helped me so much', she said happily, 'And my son-- I encouraged him and he's responded so much. He apologized for how he's been talking to me and things are going so much better now. May we go to your home to meet your family?'

Since this encouraging development, I feel more motivated than ever to support efforts that have been proposed in our mission community to develop and present material-- drama and songs, for example-- for the Japanese youth that will address common school problems-- like bullying-- and to develop positive attitudes like acceptance and concern for the weak and those in need-- needed counter balances in a world often focused on personal success and measured by personal power and possessions.

Naomi will be going to Tokyo again this month on just such a creative project. They will have several show and also hope to record some original song in Japanese. Please pray for this-- Thanks!


That's Naomi with our 'in-house' drummer and expectant daddy, Tomo-- well, actually it's his wife, Mandy, who is due to have their first next month

August 31, 2007

Wedding in the Park

Angela, the beautiful bride in the photo at left, asked me,

“Would you stand in for my father at my wedding?”

I was honored. I knew Bruce Storm as a friend and missionary co-worker until he passed away 12 years ago at only 42 years-old-- when cancer interrupted his preparations for a mission to Vietnam.

The bride and groom, Kebo and Angela, met in Thailand where Kebo had gone from Japan as a volunteer following the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and Angela was already serving there as a missionary.

During the ceremony, Kebo and Angela exchanged vows of love and commitment to each other-- as well as confirming their desire to continue to dedicate their lives to Jesus in service to Him and others.
The simple outdoor ceremony in a large mountaintop park included our Alps Missionary community, Kebo's Japanese family-- including his missionary parents and friends.

Congratulations!

August 21, 2007

Tokyo Trip and Record Heat

Here are some photos with detailed captions from my five-day visit to Tokyo-- just click on the photos.

We spent a lot of the time escaping the heat-- yet I chose the hottest day (40.9C/105.6F-- and humid!) -- a record for that location-- for a afternoon sight-seeing adventure with Andrew.

Naomi is staying on for a couple more weeks to do some shows and adding her vocals to some more recordings. She already recorded for an ad company, but we're most excited by a chance she may have to contribute to a CD being created with original Christian music in Japanese.

An update to the above: I've since learned that 40.9C/105.6F was not a local record , but a new national highest temperature ever-- breaking one set in 1933. Two locations share the new record-- one where we were and the other in Gifu prefecture.

I also learned that on the street-- and my feet confirmed this-- it was 43C/ 109.4F. This isn't that high where it's relatively dry, but with high humidity it was cooking!

Visit Endtime News on the Family International site for more on how current events portend the future.

August 18, 2007

Gondola to an Alpine Meadow and Hike to a Peak


We survived, as you can see, our one day camping trip. Andrew and I along with his friend Lena and her mom, Lelani, drove into the mountains, camped the night and left early (the kids made sure of that) to climb one of the- thankfully not too high-- mountains that form a chain of peaks know as Yatsugatake, with Akadake (2,899 meters above sea level) as the main peak.

Our peak, Kitayokodake, was 2,480 meters (8,136 ft). We had very good weather and the black flies from our campsite had left enough flesh on our legs to make it up and down.

The views, plants, butterflies, and mountain panoramas were beautiful! I'm posting the pictures so that, after everyone forgets how their legs felt at the bottom, we can look at them and plan another trip.

A further note on the black flies mentioned above:

I was used to 'No-see-ums' in North America, but these had a more painful bite and caused swelling and bleeding, even if we didn't scratch.

So I wasn't overly surprised to see this article in the news today:

A plague of black flies has prompted authorities in Spain to issue warnings to cover up and avoid riverside areas in the early morning and dusk. The fly is only two to three millimeters long-- much smaller and harder to spot than most mosquitoes-- but its voracious blood-sucking bite sent more than 2,000 people to hospital last year in just one area of Spain. In Switzerland an attacking swarm reportedly killed a calf.

(taken from a report by Dale Fuchs, The Guardian)

August 10, 2007

Obon? I wondered too.

Obon-- August 13th to 16th-- is when, along with New Year's Day, the extended family gathers. Obon is a kind of spiritual family reunion or memorial day in Japan.

Although not a national holiday, most employees have it off, and some people manage a week or ten days. This is also school summer holidays, so everything-- from transportation to holiday areas-- is packed.

Obon is observed somewhat differently from family to family and area to area-- fireworks, boat parades, lantern floats-- but some things are consistent. You can count on seeing at least some men and women out in yukatas (colorful cotton summer version of the kimono) who are themselves out to view fireworks, a parade or traditional drumming, to participate in traditional dancing or to visit a festivals, temple or family gravesite.


In 2004, my family was invited to a bon odori (bon dance) [photos]

It is usually held in a park or schoolyard in the evening, when it is cooler. Neighbors gather and share refreshments before the bon odori.

The neighborhood ladies practiced the dances in the weeks leading up to Obon, but they encouraged everyone to join in and follow the simple steps and motions as they moved in a wide ring to the beat of a drum and recorded odori music. Hand gestures, including a fan, show actions or forms such as harvesting rice, a river, a boat, a butterfly or a flower.

I started taking pictures with my PDA (hence the low quality-- sorry) but I was quickly herded into the circle by a couple of ladies... it was fun!

The main activity of Obon is to pay respect to your ancestors-- usually by visiting the family tomb, or at home altars or temples. The opening observances can include lighting lanterns, firecrackers or fireworks or presenting decorative offerings of food.

In Nagano, birch bark is commonly burnt-- 'Mukaebi' meaning, 'welcoming fire'. Then, at the end of Obon, when the visiting spirits return, birch bark is again burnt -- this is 'Okuribi' meaning, 'send off fire'.

Another well-known end for Obon is the placing of floating lanterns into rivers, lakes or the sea to guide the spirits back into their world.

August 05, 2007

Holiday Hitching Japanese Style


Andrew (10) and I took advantage of our being free from school for about three weeks to visit our friends in Fukuoka (see pics here). We used our (now) tried and proven method of travel- hitchhiking at toll-road service areas with signs.

The 'thumb' method isn't really understood by Japanese motorists, but by positioning ourselves near the restaurants and restrooms with signs explaining what we're doing and where we're going, we get plenty of interest -- especially as 外国人 geijin (outside country people). A few folks picked us up for free English lessons, but most seemed to be motivated by a blend of various degrees of curiosity and kindness.

We had beautiful weather nearly the entire week that we were gone-- though we had to wait out the typhoon that grazed Fukuoka the night before we left to come back. Even a late night wait on the way down meant I could put my feet up and enjoy the full moon while Andrew dozed beside me.

A big THANK YOU to all the folks we met along the way and to the families with whom we stayed and played-- the Fukuoka Firecracker Home and Crystal and family-- also Funatsu-san, Aiko, Pamela, and their families-- Claudia, Megumi, and others . We love and miss you (that's why we visited!) and will look forward to seeing you again.

July 20, 2007

Earthquake on the Sea of Japan

I know it's a bit late, but I want to assure anyone who wondered about the effects of the recent earthquake on the Sea of Japan-- we're fine. We just got a couple gentle shakes lasting a minute or so.

Of course nearer the epicenter things were more serious-- with hundreds of houses collapsing under the weight of their tile roofs. Here's a link:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/07/photogalleries/japan-earthquake/index.html

Again, we're fine. Naomi left today to stay a month in Tokyo- where they're still waiting for 'The Big One'- and will be helping record some new songs. Mom (Sharon) will be joining her next week and Andrew and I will be visiting Fukuoka the week after that.

May 16, 2007

Spring in Japan's Alps and News Update


Well, Spring may have long ago arrived where you are, but it has just decided to show up here in the Japanese Alps... and I have to admit that it was worth the wait.

First came the plum trees, and then the cherry blossoms along with daffodils and, yes, dandelions. Then, just as the cherry blossoms started to fade, the apple orchards started, and the pear and lots of others. The parks, roadways and private gardens are full of cherry trees and the mountain valleys full of orchards and vineyards-- I can safely say that I've never seen so many flowering trees.

Since trading our seaside house in Kyushu for Nagano's mountain-ringed valleys, we're really enjoying the beautiful snow and winter sports, as well as the warm fellowship and activities.

We're continuing our normal teaching and missionary outreach, but other activities have included seeing one family of five off to Africa and welcoming a missionary couple from Thailand, with their sweet baby.

One focus has been preparation for our summer witnessing music and drama programs, including upgrading our home to prepare for hosting even more missionaries. Our 17-room plus kitchen and dining room building is slowly being purged, reorganized, and renewed-- including the little music studio, which has nevertheless been actively producing original music and other needed recordings.

We're happy to be contributing to all that's happening here, excited with what the future holds and very thankful for the part you, our friends, have played in making it all possible.