Thursday, June 29, 2006

This is a remarkably big hermit crab that came near our tarp, just crawling along. We messed w/ him a little, but he didn't get angry or anything. Must've had a lot of self-control.
This is a picture.

Here's me blowing up our floating, um, thingy. What's that called? Body-length cushion. You know what I mean. Note the disparity between color of shoulder skin and forearm skin. But after figuring that the sun wouldn't be strong enough between 8:30 and 9:20 am to burn us, I managed to change that a little. Oops.
This is a picture.

And here's me, near the tarp but turned 180 degrees. The beach is behind me. Therefore, I am in front of the beach.
This is a picture.

Here's Aub sitting on our friendly tarp at the beach on Wed morning. This is about 8 am.
This is a picture.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

There's a new sheriff in town!

Aubrey has been feeling periodically kinda sick and dizzy sometimes at work ever since morning sickness has set in. She's mostly over it now but still sometimes experiences the dizziness and light-headedness, especially when she's in the classroom, and that's never cool. Walking up and down staircases in such a condition is even less so.
Thus, we asked her boss if I could teach her classes for the rest of the two and a half weeks to go. To our surprise, he said yes, as long as I understand that I'm not under JET insurance or anything, in case I should break my leg or whatever while teaching. So that's pretty cool. Here's hoping and praying that this time off of work will be a refreshment to both of us, but especially to Aubrey, to get some extended time w/ God, to refocus, to unwind, to relax.
I'm still teaching my regular classes too, so I'm going to be pretty busy.
We have a date for when we are leaving Kikai - 25 July. At that time, it's almost certain that Aub will fly back to the US and I will do what I'm gonna do, which is... wait for it... _________. Yes, we STILL don't know!!! YAY! Anyway, waiting is good for patience. Ah, patience.
But we do have to be out of the house by that date, for some reason. Aub's boss was not quite able to explain, but I guess it has something to do w/ the fact that if I stayed around a bit while the ALT's job is done, that's a bit shady. And I get the feeling this swapping-husband-for-wife thing is already a little on the shady side. But I'll take it.

Tomorrow the school where I was going to go, the biggest Jr. Hi here, is testing all day, so we get a day off. Hitting the beach! Catching a bus at 7:04 am. Well, it's either that or 9:30 and we have to leave on the 12:40 bus, so I guess it kinda depends on how we feel early in the morning. Mr. Caffeine and I have a date.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 7 (Final)

There are many other elements of the book I could address, but I think our time is best served by concentrating on Ferreira, the chief of the Jesuit mission whose apostasy stimulated the sending of Rodrigues and his companion Garrpe to Japan. Given Endo’s stated motives in writing – to tell the story of the apostates and the weak and to re-tailor Christianity to fit a more “maternal” image so that it will not be so harsh and so like a typical Japanese father so as to endear it more to Japanese people – Ferreira is an interesting mishmash of ideas which seem to be Endo’s own and other elements which he seems merely to put forward as suggestions for discussion. There is no doubt that Ferreira’s statement that “surely Christ would have apostatised for” the suffering peasants is Endo speaking. Perhaps another of Endo’s proxy opinions is seen in Ferreira’s discussion with Rodrigues over just why Ferreira apostatised. Interestingly, Rodrigues spends most of the book under the impression that Ferreira apostatised because he endured personal torture, yet that is not the case at all. Just before convincing Rodrigues to trample the fumie, Ferreira reveals that other people had been hung in the pit instead of him, and he was told that the officials would let them go if he trampled, which ends up being the same temptation that conquers Rodrigues. Amazingly, Ferreira characterises the trampling of the fumie as “the most painful act of love” that Rodrigues will have ever performed, and Endo’s Jesus agrees.
With these main ideas presented, other elements of the description of Ferreira’s character seem to be point to Endo’s distancing himself a bit from Ferreira. An example is the Dutch secretary of Chapter 10 who is sympathetic to mission work yet frustrated by Ferreira’s often effective opposition, calls Ferreira “blackhearted”. A quote from Ferreira: “prayer does nothing to alleviate suffering” (can be taken several ways). In the same conversation, Ferreira reveals that he was “no longer able to give praise to God” because of the suffering of those hung in the pit. Finally, Ferreira also informs Rodrigues that he should not let heavenly long-term concerns get in the way of pragmatic short-term ones (my paraphrase).
I will make a final comment on Rodrigues’ apostasy. Both Ferreira and Rodrigues pray that God will do something to relieve them of the awful choice (and it is certainly awful) of choosing not to apostatise versus doing so to set the pit-hung prisoners free, and understandably so. Rodrigues even tearfully accuses Ferreira of not praying during his own night of trial, and Ferreira responds that of course he did, and God did nothing. God was silent. A cutting accusation against God, and yet do not Ferreira, Rodrigues, and indeed Endo himself realise that people are suffering all over the world every day? Do they believe that somehow these persecutions in Japan are worse than any other that will ever have been endured by the martyrs of the church of Jesus Christ? Shall we deny God because He has decreed that times of suffering come upon His Bride in order to purify her? Shall we challenge God’s infinite knowledge and His judgment to know better? Arrogance in the face of an infinite God is never advisable.
All this talk of “changing the face of Christianity for Japan” and “a more maternal Jesus for the losers and dirty in society” sounds noble until we examine the outcomes in the lives of Rodrigues and Ferreira in the last chapters of the book itself. Is it noble to work actively against the dissemination of the very words of life to the people of Japan, the people for whom they (and Endo) claim to care so much? Is it noble to put into writing a formal denunciation of the faith of Jesus Christ so that more people in society can read and be driven further from the only remedy for their sins? Is it beautiful to live one’s life with no other purpose than to strive to be “useful to society” in some vague sense? Is it laudable to participate with the enemies of the faith, those who killed so many faithful believers, to condemn others, to prevent the conversion of others, and to drive those believers who remain further into isolation, into the continuation of syncretistic, heretical practices and the continuation of their development into heresy? Clearly Endo would have us think his vision a commendable one and offers this novel as a call to change. The book’s self-importance is overshadowed by its misplaced faith in a product of the very syncretism that it calls out as the reason why Christianity cannot survive in Japan.
The reader may come to the conclusion that the many questions I have posed in this review are nothing more than rhetorical, yet I am not so sure that Endo himself would not answer many of them in a way that we would (probably rightly) identify as blasphemous, heretical, or simply wrong-headed. Allowing a bit for my personal penchant for painting things on the extreme side, I believe that a reading of this book and a perusal of Endo interviews and history will at least mostly justify what I have presented here. I thank both of my readers for their patience.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

More on our house, etc

Couldn't fit this pic into the last post. It's Aubrey, absorbing sunlight into her skin and enjoying her 4th snow-cone.
Anyway, now that the rainy season pretty much seems to be over (today was the 6th consecutive sunny day), it's once again time to start thinking consistently about keeping my pasty white skin from turning redder than North Korea. Also, it's pretty hot inside our house except for the bedroom, where there is a Japanese wall unit to keep it cool. In the old house, the cooler could keep the living area and bedroom cool, but this place is different and to try to keep the living room cool would require also cooling the kitchen and restricting air movement and all sorts of other unpleasantness (read: much higher elec bills). So it's just the bedroom. And I'm thinking that I'll start hanging out in there more often during the days in order to study and such - hanging out in the living room just feeling the sweat beading ain't no fun.
Did I mention that we're dealing w/ big cockroaches appearing in our kitchen overnight? We got some Kikai-made bait and put them around the kitchen, and it's taken care of some of them, while others have met a slightly more, ahem, *blunt and traumatic* end. Yes, my spine spasms every time I deal out the deathblow, but I'm trying to be strong. I need encouragement, not mockery!!!! But the bait is cool - it's apparently made locally; it's these little 1-inch-in-diameter cakes made of onion, flour, milk, and boric acid. So the roaches partake of these little cakes and the boric acid dries them up. So they die of thirst. Cool, huh? That's great - way too good a fate for the cockroaches of unusual size that live in Kikai.

A warm sunny town festival

Chillin' in a pretty warm house tonight. This week has flown by, partly due to Aubrey's cold keeping her home on Thurs and Fri. We did go out to lunch (mostly at my request) and then to dip our feet in the ocean for Thurs lunch just b/c she needed to get out of the house and I was badly craving a particular restau's fried rice plate. Yum. The sun was so bright; we were only out there for about 40 minutes but my arms got well-toasted. Not burned, mind you.
So this morning we went to a town festival, called a Matsuri. I went out there w/ a friend and her 5-year-old son, both of whom are my English students. It was kind of like a fair in OKC or Tulsa or whatever, but:
-replace the vendors w/ lower-tech vendors and random people selling stuff that's one level up from garage-sale items;
-replace the myriad show animals w/ only one kind of show animal - piglets;
-replace the very numerous freaky and bizarre people w/ just normal Kikai people; and
-replace the rides and fun attractions at the Midway w/ a giveaway of balloon yo-yo things and a presentation from the Magi-Rangers (a knock-off of Power Rangers) on the wonders of the Kikai irrigation system.But it was a beautiful sunny day, pretty hot out in the sun and cool enough in the shade, w/ a slight breeze to keep us honest. Basically, we watched the Magi-Rangers do their pointless (dude, seriously) presentation and then either wandered to check out the stuff or sat in the shade and chatted. Aubrey came around lunchtime and we had some grilled meat called yakitori, which is killer tasty, and some French fries. Aub's snow-cone count by the end of the day was 4, while mine held steady at 1 normal one and 1 big one. I'd say I was there for about 4-4.5 hours and Aub for about 2.5 hours. The only part o' me that's redder than it was before is the tip of my nose (oops) but Aub didn't wear any sunscreen, citing a desire to get some color in her skin. Worked. Fortunately, she's not lobster-fied.
The highlight of my day was watching some kids play a piglet race. Each kid got a numbered piglet assigned to him or her and then tried to get the piglet to complete two laps around the pen by banging a metal pot w/ a wooden spoon behind it. It was pretty entertaining, I have to admit, especially since the piglets were numbered w/ spray paint on their backs. I don't know, man - to a city boy like me, that's some funny stuff. Spray-painted piglets. Anyway, afterwards, Aub and I went back home but I took a brief detour to visit our favorite Kikai Kitties to cause a bit of purring. Cats like scratches under the chin. It's a valuable life lesson.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Here's the last pic for this visit. Baby is about 6.4 cm from head to hip, and at this point he's in the middle of a kick. Speaking of which, this ultrasound machine was showing Baby moving around in realtime (obviously). And this is a cheap machine in a junky hospital. I can't imagine the cool gizmos they must have in major US cities. To watch Baby kicking around like he is doing is to marvel at the willful moral blindness of those who would consider a baby this old a prime candidate for dismemberment in an abortuary.
This is a picture.

This pic is utter craziness. Baby's head isn't quite so visible but you can see his legs and his spinal cord. Dude, it's his spinal cord. That's just weird. But cool. And no, we don't know the gender. You have to wait another 2 months like the rest of us.
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Went to the baby Dr. again today. Looked at him again thru ultrasound, and dang if he wasn't going kuh-RAYS-ee. Just kicking and wiggling and swimming around. The Dr. kept saying "Whoa! Genki!" (Genki is loosely translated as "lively" or "healthy".) Genki baby, man. Here he is sucking his thumb. You can see his head and hand really clearly in this one, and I think it's the best pic of the 4 we got.
This is a picture.

Monday, June 19, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 6

Set deeply in the midst of these thoughts of and temptations towards apostasy, we find Endo’s reactions to what he seems to deem a mean and nasty doctrine, too rigid to follow for caring people, and to the view of history that calls us to pay careful attention to those who were not, indeed, ashamed of the Gospel. On page 77, Rodrigues reflects that many Christians would have lived blessed and faithful lives if they had never faced apostasy and persecution. Not only the people in general but the person of Kichijiro, Rodrigues’ Judas, is very often used to further this train of thought. At least four times over the course of Rodrigues’ journey, he meets up with and later is separated from Kichijiro, only to meet him again. At first, Rodrigues is suspicious of him but figures that he is his best hope for a guide in Japan, later to discover that he is an apostate, only to hear his confession, only to be betrayed by him to the officials for the reward of 300 silver coins: “ten times as much” as Christ, Rodrigues reflects. Kichijiro will spend the remainder of his appearances in the novel crying out for forgiveness and protesting that God had made him weak, not strong; for that reason he was unable to resist the temptation to save his own skin by trampling on the fumie and to give into the officials’ threats to turn Rodrigues over to them. Is this claim consistent with what God has told us about the times of temptations and challenges to our faith? Let us see three relevant passages. One is Hebrews 6:17-19:
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…
Another is 1 Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Finally, Luke 12:4-12:
4"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
8"And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, 9but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."
The passage in Luke 12 is addressed to “the disciples” in a large crowd, Hebrews 6 to Jewish believers in Jesus, and 1 Corinthians 10 to the church at Corinth. Had we (or the author) the testimony of Scripture in mind when considering the difficult and bitter history of the persecutions of Japan and the Kakure apostates, we would come to different conclusions. This is not, of course, to deny that God could not use apostates to accomplish His sovereign will, nor is it an absolute judgment on anyone who actually does apostatise. It is impossible to read another’s mind, thus one could consider other possibilities, such as a scenario in which an apostate had merely a stated faith at the time of apostasy, the real faith coming only later. I feel as well that making a statement with much more detail than the straight texts I have cited may be beyond my level of knowledge at this time. Let us remember that the burden must be on those who would lighten the severity of these passages in order to “make more room in the Kingdom,” as it were. Endo has not shown any reason to in his book.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

My first Japanese cult encounter

I think I neglected to mention that some Jehovah's Witnesses had come to our house 10 days ago and I discussed a little w/ them and then invited them to come back on Friday. So they did (to my surprise). I had read 2 of the Watchtower mags that they gave me, and one was about the identity of Jesus Christ, so that was great - exactly what I wanted to get into.
Anyway, they rang the doorbell when they had said they would and so I came out to stand on the doorstep w/ my big English bible, a bilingual NT and a dictionary. Told them I'd like to discuss who Jesus is and so we turned to Psalm 102:18-28 and then to Hebrews 1:10-12 which quotes the Psalms psg and refers to "the Son" as Jehovah.
So we discussed/wrangled a bit on whether this was referring to Jesus and Jehovah, but it clearly is. Then they tried to take me to Proverbs 8 and turn Jesus into the Wisdom referred to in this psg. Interestingly, quite a few Church Fathers, even some Early ones, spoke of this psg as referring to Jesus as well. These particular JWs have no idea that that's the case, but the case that it refers to Jesus is really weak and I pointed out to them how so. And then I gently directed the discussion back to Ps 102/Heb 1 b/c we clearly see Jesus as Jehovah here.
They tried to explain that Jesus was the conduit God used to create the universe and all that, and I agreed but said we need to go further.
Anyway, the convo ended very amicably and they said they would come back next Friday b/c right now they don't have a "strong" answer for this. I told them that their theology has no answer for it at all, and welcomed them back.

I don't honestly know if I expect them to come back - it would certainly fit w/ established JW patterns to avoid orthodox Christian believers who show themselves to be knowledgeable in the Scriptures. But I'm praying. You can pray for them too - Muramoto and Yamashita are their names.
Finally, I praise God for the way that He answered my prayers that my Jpns would flow well enough to be understood and to understand. They had to repeat a few things thrice but I always caught it the 3rd time, and the dictionary was on target when I needed it to be (about 10 times). Thanks be to God!

Badminton and church. Not at the same time.

I'm suffering from boo-boos today. Friday I went back to badminton practice for probably the 3rd time in about 5 weeks, which is way more than I want to miss, but I've been occupied a fair amount lately mostly w/ caring for my sweet but fatigued wife during her times of persistent morning (read: all-day) sickness.
Anyway, I had remembered that there was a badminton tournament in June and wanted to participate, but I discovered on Fri night that the spots were already full for the tournament taking place the next day. Oops - a little late! But one of the organisers of the tourney, who has kind of taken me under his wing, got me in anyway, so I showed up the next morning at 8:50 am to discover that my partner (this was a doubles tourney) was his wife. OK, cool - he's quite skilled so I figured his wife would be pretty good too. I was actually not disappointed - she had a good array of shots and loved the drop shot, while I favor the smash and drive shot (smash is what it sounds like; drive is a medium-range, med-speed shot that passes low over the net). We were thus a pretty good team.
Our 1st match turned out to be against the #1 high school girls doubles team, but we went for too much and played dumb so we lost. But the next match was easy so we got out of the round-robin into the quarterfinals, where we had another easy match. In the semifinals, we took on two early 40-something women and had a tough match but still won fairly comfortably 21-16.
The final match was against two other women of the same age who had won all their matches but one by the score of 21-3. Ouch. We kind of figured that they were going to be too much for us so we decided a worthy goal would be to get to 21-4. Full of confidence, right? Funny thing is, we came out flat and didn't play well in regards to their own style, so we fell behind 18-3. Our goal was looking pretty bleak by that point, I must say. But just about that time, I got into The Zone. I can't describe The Zone well, but you know when you're In It. And I was In It - we scored 10 straight points w/o dropping service. I discovered that using my relatively superior athleticism (read: RELATIVELY) to jump and smash the birdie and to be alot more aggressive would reap benefits. (Here's a pic of us after the tourney. Guess which one was sweaty and disgusting?)

Anyway, that was nice - it felt good to make some headway whereas we had been so frustrated before. W/ that, we couldn't score again, but 21-13 wasn't bad at all.
At the final line-up to say "sayonara," they were handing out the awards. I was in the B group. A group was, obviously, the most skilled players (and I would have less than no chance therein). B group was next down, and when they announced my name to get the #2 position and I walked forward, most everyone said "Oh cool!" like it was incontheivable that a gaijin (that's "gringo" in Japanese) would do so well in badminton. I was bemused, but it's a heckuvalot better than them grumbling and throwing stuff at me. Definitely.
And that's the thing about being the famous "Alan Sensei" here on Kikai - I don't mind being the center of attention most everywhere just b/c of my skin and auburn hair b/c almost all the time the attention is good-natured interest.

Anyway, what else is going on? Rainy season is letting up a LITTLE but is not done yet.
Today in church there was a guest pastor from the next island over, Amami, who knows the Irish JET ALT whom we had visited in October. His sermon was pretty long - dang near 40 minutes. I'm getting better in understanding, and it seemed a fair amount of it was devoted to talking about ministry in the Ryukyu islands, or rather church logistics and other STUFF. OK, fine, but how about talking about the Bible? He eventually did...Mrs. Tokumoto came also to church specially to hear this guest pastor speak. Don't know why she finds him any more interesting than the regular pastor, but OK, whatever. Today was the best-attended Kikai church service I've been to - there were 11 people there, including me but not Aub who wasn't feeling well. Impressive!

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I try not to complain too much about the weather, but today qualifies as a worthy candidate for a little complaining.
It's funny - on Wednesday we had gone about 40 hours w/o rain and I was feeling a little optimistic that the rain had stopped for a while, that maybe the rainy season was over. And I even wrote an email to Bryan including the phrase "2 days and counting w/o rain." Well done - I jinxed it! Since then it's become YET MORE STINKING HUMID than ever. I vacuumed the house very well Wednesday and by Thursday afternoon it is SO sticky and SO humid that our tatami grass mats (ie, carpet) are smelling pretty rank. And that's annoying. The Japanese say that tatami is much better suited to the Japanese climate than carpet, and they could be right. But dang, they stink when they're new and in the middle of 20 straight days of 80 degree, 80% humidity days!
Certain things have been sprouting lots of mold. Certain pairs of shoes. My toiletries bag. An insulated lunchbag. The wall. A wooden serving spoon. The tatami. So what do we do? Shoes - clean them carefully. Lunchbag and spoon - throw away. Wall - scrub w/ bleach-based "mold killer" product. Tatami - vacuum more often. Toiletries bag - clean twice and think it's probably doomed.
We finally, however, got the info that our wall A/C unit has a "dry" setting, so we got one of our friends to show us how to launch the Dry mode. Hopefully it'll actually do what it's supposed to, b/c tonight sleeping could be a tall order w/o it. It is THAT sticky. Houston's got nothing on this weather, man.
I'm slogging thru a period of not wanting to study Japanese. It's hard to overcome - I'm putting in a little time most days, but I quickly lose patience. I wonder if this funk won't last until we move out of Kikai. Thinking that's possible. Also, though I hate to admit it, my attitude could well improve when it stops raining every day.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 5

The entire book of 1 Peter is written with the sufferings of believers under persecution in mind. A representative verse from the book is 4:19: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” And 1 Peter 5:9-10:
Resist him (the devil), firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
A reading of the whole of the book informs us that persecution is to be expected by believers in Christ:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Add to this testimony the weight of other passages like Hebrews chapters 11-13, 2 Tim. 2:3-4 and 4:18, and it is an insurmountable challenge to attempt to conform the conduct of either Rodrigues or the Kakure Christians to these commands of Holy Scripture and thus to commend said conduct.
This leads us logically to a concern for the very existence of the Church of Jesus Christ in Japan. It is indisputable that the shoguns of this time period carried out perhaps the most successful repressions of the Christian faith in human history. The very idea of the Kakure Christians was to go into hiding where they would be examined less often, to keep their practices secret, to go through with external formalities of Buddhist, and thus to preserve their traditions from annihilation. What if they had not? What if, to a man, they had refused to trample the fumie and become extinct? We see a few examples in the book of a lack of trust in the providence of God, both on the part of the Kakures and of Rodrigues, such as when the Kakures say this to Rodrigues: “…if you die, the Japanese church dies with you,” and when Rodrigues, when asked what the two (unbeknownst to them) future martyrs Mokichi and Ichizo should do when they arrive as instructed at the magistrate’s office and are asked to trample on the fumie, Rodrigues responds “‘Trample! Trample!’” Let us ask ourselves for a moment what would happen if indeed almost all Christians were martyred for their faith in Japan. Can we believe that God would allow the light to be extinguished forever? Is He impatient or unable to raise up His people to go as missionaries and to rise up from among the Japanese people again at some point in the future? And if He did not, on what basis would we blame Him? Let us part ways with these humanistic ways of thinking and recall that it is our responsibility to follow God’s commands and God’s responsibility to take care of what He oversees.

Is Rome the Anti-Christ?

I know, I know - looks like the title of some paper w/ cheesy graphics that somebody left under your windshield wiper.
Anyway, I'm just linking to this article b/c it's very interesting and thought-provoking. Even throws a bone to John Wesley.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Al-Zarqawi has assumed room temperature.

Thanks be to God.

As much as I hope that he turned to Jesus just before the bombs dropped on him, I just...somehow...can't muster any sadness at his passing. If only it had been sooner, like 10 years sooner.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"Silence" by Shusaku Endo Review, Part 4

Given Rodrigues’ instability of faith and felt purpose, it is easy to understand how he is easily turned to apostasy, which is perhaps the most apparent and long-standing idea of the book. The idea of the status of the apostate is perhaps a difficult one to analyse in the New Testament. A highly relevant passage is Mark 8:34-38:
And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."
The passage’s relevance for our discussion seems to center around the meaning of “ashamed.” A search into its other occurrences in the New Testament reveals that it is used in such contexts as Rom. 1:16, 2 Tim 1:8, 1:12, and 1:16, which discuss openness and boldness about the Gospel of Christ. The same word is used in Heb 2:11 and 11:16, with the meaning that God is not ashamed of His people. Were not the Kakure Christians faced with the difficult choice of carrying the Name of Christ in an “adulterous and sinful generation” in which they surely lived versus showing an outward disdain for Christ in exchange for their lives? Could a Kakure Christian say with the Apostle Paul, “…I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”? Did they not choose to live apart from the testimony of their Christian lives rather than refuse to bend their neck to the wicked governmental authorities?
Without piling it on too thick vis-à-vis the Kakure Christians, who had their entire lives at stake as simple people, uneducated in the Scriptures, let us turn to Rodrigues, a seminary-trained member of the Society of Jesus and a missionary dedicated to bringing Jesus to his target people group. So quickly Rodrigues succumbs to a defeatist attitude, poor methodology, and doubts about his faith, and to what direct personal suffering could he attribute these things? Certainly his overseas trip to Macao and to Japan were difficult and physically taxing, certainly he suffered from boredom and idleness while in forced isolation to avoid discovery and later after arrest in sometimes solitary confinement, yet we find his confession at the prison near Nagasaki that he feared he was growing soft from the preferential treatment he received. We must conclude that, in his own words, “he had come to realise that it was against his own faith that he had fought,” and “I wonder if all this talk about love is not, after all, just an excuse to justify my own weakness.” Endo clearly wishes for us, his readers, to consider the plight of the weak and the apostates under the watchful care of the crucified, suffering Jesus, yet in what way can we apply the lessons of the struggles to hold to the very faith itself that Rodrigues experienced to our own thinking? With humility, thanking the Lord that we have not, for the most part, undergone similar “fiery trials,” and asking the Lord to strengthen us in the event that such trials are in our future, must we not hold to the Scriptural exhortation to stand firm in the faith, to resist the devil, and to provide a good testimony to those evil persons who cause us to suffer and who serve the devil? Surely we must resist the temptation to remold Jesus or His Church in the image of the unfaithful, no matter how “merciful” it might seem to do so.

No Energy and 7 Fewer Pounds

That's what food poisoning'll getcha!

I actually fell sick on Monday morning around 12:30 am and right now it's Thurs morning at 9:30 am. Yea, it's weird to have such a limited appetite. Sometimes recently I've thought that maybe I eat too much or whatever, but my weight always stays around 162-165 lbs. Now I'm down to 158... I'm sure I'll get it back, but it wouldn't kill me not to either. Just weird is all. And seriously, I'm eating about 50-60% of what I usually do. I don't guess I expect the appetite to come fully back for another week or so.

The ultrasound machines they use here are too ghetto to give us something akin to a .jpg file of our baby, but at least they give us some printouts. I then took a close-up w/ our dig camera and am posting it here. Aubrey posted it first on her new blog but I thought I'd go ahead and do the same here. Obviously, Baby is between those two + signs, head to the right I think. After they made these printouts, he started swimming and kicking. But fast. It was crazy and awesome at the same time. And it made me wonder how ANYone could take a look at an image like that and decide to kill their child. Then again, living here for 10 months has taught me many lessons about spiritual blindness.

Food Poisoning and a Baby Sighting

Mood: Swingy

We took our last semi-major trip (at least, that we have planned) off Kikai before the end of July this past weekend. On Thurs night we boarded the ferry and arrived in Kagoshima on Fri morning. There, we enjoyed the morning and some Starbux coffee, chatted w/ (yet another) French-speaker (whom Aub had noticed was reading a French magazine at the next table over), did a little shopping for some foods not available in Kikai, and then ate lunch at a surprisingly nice, tasty, and pleasant French-style restaurant to celebrate our 5th anniversary of marital bliss.
Later, we boarded the train to Miyakonojo and were picked up by our missionary friend Tom who has lived there for at least 7 years along w/ his wife and 4 kids. They graciously let us sleep in their (Select Comfort sleep number) bed and we had some good conversations about ministry, mission work, gluten-free food (his wife is also Celiac), kids, and such. Next day was spent enjoyably, relaxing and playing w/ their kids. That night I went to the English night at the coffeehouse ministry that adjoins the church building, and we went on a scavenger hunt and then played on the big 40-foot-tall metal-pole-and-rope toy at the playground.
Sunday we had church and that's always a novelty, and it was nice to be there. Sunday night, more enlightening convo.
Then the trouble began. Dum Dum DUMMMMMMM!!!
Or MY trouble. I ate SOMEthing that not only disagreed w/ the current governing regime of my digestive system but rather intended to stage a violent overthrow of said regime. There were many casualties during the hostilities, which lasted approximately 10 hours, and biological weapons were employed. Many potshots were taken at the enemy, and additional reinforcements of water were repulsed vigorously.
Still don't know the identity of the masked assailant, but he has cast a shadow over the last 3 days. Ooof. After an uneasy truce had been established, reconstruction was still painfully slow and I had terrible headaches, backaches, general muscleaches, and otherwise total lack of energy until the next night. I just lay in bed most of the day except for breaks which amounted to 3 hours total. It was great.
Aubrey, in the meantime, went to see the English-speaking OBGYN Dr in the city, which is why we went in the 1st place. She knew it would be quite a wait, and she was right - it was about 2.5 hours. There was clearly a backlog of women waiting to see him and he did not take his time w/ Aubrey but rather rushed thru the appt, didn't give us some of the paperwork we needed, didn't run any blood test at all, and gave us some info that we thought was wrong-headed. Thanks a ton. W/ that, Aub had to leave to catch the train to catch the ferry to take her to Kikai by Tues morning, leaving me at our friends' house. Hated to be separate, but we didn't want her to arrive on the overnight ferry and have to go straight to work the next day.
As it turned out, 24 hours after the breakout of hostilities, I was able to get some sleep overnight and woke up feeling better Tues morning, though far from great. After a prayer meeting at the church and lunch there, I was on the train myself to Kagoshima, where I hung out a bit, didn't get any coffee (I was not quite in the right mood, you see), and made my way to the port area. In no rush, I enjoyed a foot onsen (natural hot spring) and then boarded the ferry, on which I slept hardly at all (well, 1 out of 3 nights ain't bad).

So yeah, here we are. I was pretty bummed when I got to Kikai this morning b/c we're tired of being here and I'm sick and we didn't get the Dr visit like we wanted, etc. But God blessed us today - all of a sudden, an OBGYN from Yakushima island is coming to Kikai every 2 weeks! So we went to him today and between us we know enough to communicate and I got to see our baby on the ultrasound! He was swimming around and flipping. I think we got a live wire on our hands! Oh man, it was so cool... I couldn't contain the smile at seeing our baby on the monitor. The Dr is coming back in 2 wks and we'll complete the tests then. Sweet!
That's really an unexpected blessing. Here we turned down Kikai for a 2nd year for a large part b/c there's no OBGYN here, and I'm sure that's what God wanted. And now, we get one anyway near the end of our stay. That's great and we're thankful.
Our baby's due date is between 23-30 December. Sorry, Baby; didn't mean to set you up for a Christmas birthday. But that's a great time for family and friends to take vacations to visit Japan...