Wednesday, February 03, 2016

And... it's 2016!!!

So the last time we posted a blog was in May... of 2015. And that was quite a while ago.  Needless to say, this last year flew by, and it's already February! I try to update our facebook every now and then with things that are happening and prayer praises and concerns, but I think it's still good for me to look back at life since last May and just share what God has been doing in us and around us... so here we go. :)
at Mark's graduation
Brian and Mark in Kyoto
Last summer we were blessed with opportunities to get out of our daily routine and spend time with friends and family... and it was wonderful. :) Brian actually took two different trips to mainland Japan.  Our dear friend Mark graduated from high school, so he and Brian explored Kyoto for a few days before Mark left for college.

Brian and Junichi - prayer retreat

Then a few weeks later, Brian met our friend from seminary, Junichi, at a friends' cabin and they spent time together praying for each other and what God is doing in the different ministries he has called our families to in Japan. Brian immensely enjoyed both trips and the time in mainland.  While we LOVE Okinawa, it's always fun to explore other parts of Japan, and it's always so good to have time with very special friends.

eating our favorite ice cream in Okinawa
We also got to receive some special visitors at home in Okinawa.  Our friends, the Tsutada family, whom we visited in Tokyo in March, came to Okinawa for the first time!  Mami had just graduated from university (Yay, Mami!), and we had so much fun showing them our favorite parts of Okinawa and talking and laughing together... a lot. :)

having fun at the aquarium
ready to fly across the ocean!
Then in July, we went on a family vacation to Texas! This was not normal for us... we usually go to the states for work responsibilities, but God blessed us with good ticket prices, and we were able to just relax with family for 2 weeks... and it was wonderful. :) Brian's parents came from Florida, and Julie's sister and brother-in-law came from Colorado.  It was so great to just relax together... we will be back in 2016 for our home assignment, but since we are traveling and speaking most of the time, we decided to take advantage of this opportunity to simply have vacation with family.
with Aunt Jessie and Uncle Andy
with all the grandparents at the Farmer's Market

first day of school

This has been a big year for Noah because he started school at OCSI!  He was very ready to join his brother every day, and Justin was excited to have him there.  The boys continue to grow in so many ways - academically, spiritually, and physically.  They both have a huge love for each other, school, teachers, friends, family time, and Jesus - we are all very blessed. :) 
performing in the school Christmas play together

Brian and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary in October.  It is always so fun to look back and see the amazing adventures God has taken us on in our marriage.  I can't believe we have been overseas almost that whole time... we are so blessed and can't wait to see what happens next. :)

We also got to take another trip in October! Our region held an event for cross-cultural ministry workers, and it was such a huge blessing that our whole family got to go together.  We reconnected with many friends (who got to spend time with the boys for the first time), met many new friends, and enjoyed some time with God, away from normal routine.  Again, simply wonderful. :)
 So, what's been happening in our normal routine that we've been taking vacations from? ;) Well, like I said, both boys are in school full time now, so that was a big adjustment for our whole family... but it was a good adjustment. :)  We all have continued in our Japanese language study (even Justin and Noah!), and things at our church are going well.  It's hard to believe we've been in Okinawa 6 years!  One of the hardest parts about our current ministry assignment is how often we have to say goodbye to people.  Since a lot of the families in our church are in the military, we are rarely together for more than 3 years at a time.  While it's hard to say goodbye, God is so faithful in always bringing new people. Even though things are constantly changing (and I do mean constantly), God continues to give us his vision for our church and how we can show God's love to the people of Okinawa, no matter how long (or short) we have time together. :)
annual Trunk or Treat on Halloween

annual women's Christmas progressive dinner

Father/child park day
Our church also did something new at Thanksgiving this year.  Many Japanese people are very curious about Thanksgiving, so we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for our Japanese friends.  It was a wonderful time of fellowship and an opportunity to share interesting parts of American culture and the hope and life we have in Jesus.
LOTS of great food!

fun conversations in English and Japanese

God also continues to provide opportunities for relationships outside of our church activities.  For the last few years, Brian has attended the OCSI high school camp as a sponsor, and he loves the chance to interact with the students and teachers.

I was also able to teach another Motheread class to parents at OCSI this last fall.  We had a wonderful time building relationships, working on English skills, and just sharing life together.

We have also started to have monthly gatherings at our house for young adults from our church and the other Nazarene churches on Okinawa.  We have prayer and Bible study (sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English, and sometimes in both languages) and eat and play games together.  It's a great chance for us to support and encourage our Japanese Christian friends, and it's a good venue for them to invite other friends to who want to practice English. :)

Well, even though this is insanely long, this was actually just a brief recap. :)  I'll try to be better this year about posting more regular updates.  But we are very thankful for the amazing and abundant life God continues to give our family. While things are busy and we are always learning, God reminds us of his love in so many ways... thank you for all of you who pray for us!  You are a BIG part of what God is doing in Japan... we're just privileged to be along for the ride. :)