The Days Feel Full & Rich

1 Comment » Written on March 22nd, 2015     
Filed under: Akagi, missions, reflections
By definition this is a slow time of the year. The snow on Mt. Akagi is melting pretty rapidly, which means winter activities are about to wind down. The new school year doesn’t begin for a few more weeks. But it’s still too early to start opening up the main buildings at camp and doing spring cleaning. Nevertheless, the last few days have been a wonderful reminder of why I love this place so much; why I love living here; and why I love doing ministry here.

Friday morning a group of friends came up for a snowshoe hike. The weather was beautiful and for most of them it was the first time to see our mountaintop scenery under a blanket of snow. They were stunned by the beauty and we had a great time together. They wanted to know more about Akagi Bible Camp, and most of all, wanted to know if they could come and stay at ABC! That’s the easiest advertising ever!

Snowshoeing with friends!

Snowshoeing with friends!

I was back at the camp before noon and started working on splitting firewood that had been buried under snow all winter. There is something deeply satisfying about hard physical labor that results in free heating for next winter! Then I decided to tackle a real headache in the main entrance to our camp building. The slope is all wrong outside the door and when the snow started melting the water ran towards the door, seeped under the door flooding the entryway and then froze solid.The door was completely blocked by the ice so I got in from another entrance and found a little skating rink. The entry way inside the building is a concrete slab that is several inches lower than the main floors. This is where we take our shoes off before going inside; standard practice in Japan. The slab is about 6 feet by 8 feet and it was under 3-4 inches of solid ice. I got my climbing ax and started chipping away. Eventually I was able to get the door open for the first time in over a month! But I just didn’t know what to do next so I wandered over to a neighbor’s place and asked for help. He’s lived up here all his life and is older than me. He came over, had a good laugh, then told me what needs to be done and even lent me an ice breaker to get the job done. Over fifteen years ago, before I’d ever met him, we “just happened” to live in the same neighborhood as his younger brother, who’s wife was dying of stomach cancer with two little kids to care for. We did what we could to share Jesus’ love with them… God’s work has a way of coming around, and around, and around.

Next I stopped by another neighbor’s place. He is in his sixties and was diagnosed with late stage lung cancer last December. They are the first couple we got to know up here and they’ve been so kind to us. Their restaurant doesn’t get much business during the winter but there is always a warm fire to sit around, good coffee to drink, and a deep sense of mountain top camaraderie. He is taking things really well, and doing lots of serious thinking about how to finish out his last few months. Is it too bold to hope that he have a life changing encounter with Christ in the time remaining?

Saturday was another full and rich day. It started out with an early morning bike ride with the racing team I’m on. We meet down in the city at the foot of the mountain several times a week for exhausting and yet exhilarating workouts. I’ve made so many great friends through this group, and a highlight last November was when close to twenty of them came to our place for their end of year party and spent the night! After getting back home Hydi and I were out working in the yard when  young woman walked by looking rather lost. (not an uncommon thing up here) I asked her if she needed directions. She timidly asked, “You speak Japanese?” in a distinctly foreign accent. Turns out she’s from China and has been here less than a year. We showed her how to get where she was headed on the other side of the lake and said goodbye.

In the afternoon good friends called to say they were dropping by, as they often do, but it had been about six months since their last visit so it was great to catch up and see how their three little kids are growing. Right after they left I got in the car to head down the mountain to run some errands. It was already about 4:30. The road down the mountain has 75 hairpin curves and is about 20 kilometers long. Under normal conditions it’s about a 30-40 minute drive. Right near the top, only about four or five curves down I was surprised to see a person walking down the hill on the shoulder. We see cars, trucks, motorcycles, even bicycles, but this isn’t a route that people walk. No stores, no place to rest, nothing! Just mountain road. I took a closer look and guess what? It was our Chinese friend from earlier in the day! I pulled over and asked her where she was headed. She pulled out the same tourist map she had used earlier and pointed to the bottom of the mountain! I explained to her that it was way, way too far to walk and offered her a ride, which she gladly accepted. She was heading back home to Tokyo so I ended up taking her all the way to the train station, which takes 45 minutes to an hour so we had plenty of time to sort of get to know each other. I got to tell her about our work here at the camp and she wants to come back! Now we’re friends on FB, probably my first Chinese friend on that site! 🙂

Today is Sunday. I got up at 4:30 and spent three hours snowshoeing the local trails and got to enjoy the sunrise from one of the peaks. It was another one of those powerful celebrations of God’s creation!

Mountain top sunrise

Mountain top sunrise

Then I headed down the hill for church. They weren’t expecting me and I hadn’t decided to attend that church until this morning. But as it turned out they were having a special offering appeal for Akagi Bible Camp today and encouraging everyone to attend the upcoming denominational family camp in May called Covenant Refreshing Camp. So they asked me for an update about things at camp! I was genuinely encouraged by their enthusiasm! On the way home I wandered a bit on the west flank of Mt. Akagi and discovered some places I’d never seen before. Then I noticed lots of little flowers blooming along the roadside so I stopped and took photos for a bit and was reminded again that everywhere else spring is already here.

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Now I’m home and there’s a fresh dusting of snow on the ground but the wood stove is keeping our place toasty warm!

Yes the days are full and rich! Thanks be to God!


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One Response to “The Days Feel Full & Rich”

Thanks so much, Jim, for writing. God desires to do so many new, wonderful and gentle things in our lives—and we certainly have seen His handprints all over our decisions of the past 18 months or so. I always appreciate your perspective and ability to see, and for the ability to hear the “still small voice”. Blessings to you both.

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