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December 30, 2007
This morning at church we had a special end-of-the-year Thanksgiving Worship Service. Instead of a sermon, we had a kind of open mic time for the people to share things that they were thankful for in 2007 or things that God had done in their lives during the year. We had set aside 30 minutes with no back-up plan. If people didn’t share something, then we were going to just stare at each other for a half hour. Honestly, I was half expecting that to happen. However, we ended up going for 50 minutes with ZERO down-time in between people who wanted to share. For a group of only 25 adults, this was really good. Luke even took the opportunity to share. He talked about how he was thankful that he became a Christian after he turned 7 this summer, and that now he “feels different” inside. He also said that he was really glad that he could go to such a wonderful school where he can learn about God. It was cute. A few people even started to cry. Luke's sharing aside, it was one of the most encouring worship services we have had in many years. Thanks be to God!

kimkazuto1December 28, 2007
Taking advantage of the winter holidays, we had some freinds over for dinner and games. Two of our guests were Luke's teacher, Kim, and her "special" friend, Kazuto. We really enjoyed meeting him.

December 25, 2007
Happy Birthday Jesus!

December 24, 2007
Before opening presents on Christmas Eve, we went to the movie theater to see "The Nativity Story" (the Japanese title is "Maria," the Japanese name for Mary.) Although we knew how the story was going to end, we still enjoyed the movie. It was a good way to celebrate Christmas.

December 17, 2007

As part of the Christmas celebrations at Luke's school, his Japanese class had a gingerbread house contest. The class was divided into two teams and proceeded to decorate their houses with items they had brought from home. Luke's team is on the left and the two teams' houses are on the right. Look closely and you will see that one house has a chocolate godzilla destroying the neighborhood!

December 14, 2007
We have added Issue 50 of "A Minute with the Masons" to our newsletter page. You can read it here.

December 10, 2007
Yeah, we finally have a "real" Chrismas tree! Actually, it is still fake, but at least it is normal size. After 11 years of having an 18" tree on top of our TV, we finally have the space in our new home to put up a full-size tree. This means that we will actually be able to put presents UNDER the tree this year.

December 8, 2007
Today we had a Christmas Outeach Concert at SIBC. The church had invited a group called Duo Phila, twin sisters who play the marimba. Their music was very enjoyable and everyone seemed to have a good time. Besides the concert, we also sang Christmas songs, had a gift drawing, and Michael gave a short Christmas devotion.

November 22-24, 2007
We took advantage of a week off from preaching to take a short family vacation. We spent Thanksgiving Day exploring the Peace Park and the Atomic Museum in Hiroshima. The museum was a little too intense for Luke at times, but he was really interested in learning about the history of the atomic bomb and WWII. The next day we went to the near-by Island of Miyajima, which is well-known for it's fall colors. We just happened to go during the peak viewing time, so the maple trees were absolutly beautiful! We also rode the gondola to th top of the mountain. From there we could see the dozens of small islands scattered throughout the Inland Sea. We ended the day with a quick trip to Iwakuni, which is famous for its unique, wooden bridge. Pictures of our trip can be seen here.

mtikoma1November 5, 2007
For exercise, Michael has been climbing near-by Mt. Ikoma on his day off. It takes about 60 minutes to get from our front door to the top of the mountain, and it is hard work! The path up the mountain is almost completely vertical, straight up the mountain, with about half of the distance being an actual staircase. After all of the hard work getting to the top, Michael often takes the cable car down the hill (plus, it is easier on his knees!) The path Michael usually takes is highlighted in yellow. The picture is taken from our house.

November 3, 2007
Today we had our annual outreach BBQ & Hiking event at Mt. Makio. The weather was perfect (for early November) and everyone had a great time. After a BBQ lunch (mostly from Costco), we enjoyed games, singing and a testimony before hiking up the mountain. At the top of a mountain is a free 300 foot roller slide. FUN! This year we had about 50 people, including one of Luke's friends from school, Sophia.

October 23, 2007
We finally scanned in a picture of Luke's school. The picture below is the ENTIRE student body (1st-12th grades) as well as the teachers and staff. Obviously, it is a small school, but we are really enjoying the family atmosphere. It has definitely been worth the move to Ikoma!

October 10, 2007
This is "Spirit Week" at Luke's school. It is a week of activities and team competitions leading up to Sports Day on Friday, Oct 12th (see photos here). Tuesday was "Career Day" so Luke dressed up as an astronomer (left). Wednesday was "Different Country Day" and each student had to dress as someone from a different country. Luke went as an Auzzie (right), as you can clearly see from the boomerang, kangaroo and Australian flag.

October 4, 2007
Today Luke's class had a "Reader's Theater." The whole class dressed up and read a story to the other classes. Below is Luke's entire1st/2nd grade class. From left to right is Jiro, Lucah, Ami, Luke, Aika, Jenny, Jeong-Mu, Sophia and Erika. Luke was a bumble bee.

September 16, 2007

We had a baptism celebration at church today, the since being in our new building. Since we do the baptisms in a tank on the roof of our building, and since our new place is two stories taller than our last place, we had a pretty nice view of Sakai. The young woman was Yukako Yamasaki, a friend of someone who has been around SIBC for many years. After the ceremony on the roof, the celebration continued with a potluck lunch and a time of fellowship. It was a good day, and now we pray that Yukako will continue to grow in her new relationship with Jesus. More pictures can be see at the SIBC homepage here.

September 10, 2007

We added Issue 49 of our newsletter to the homepage. You can read it here.

September 8, 2007
Yesterday, Luke finished his first full week of school. He really seemed to enjoy it. Part of their studies this week included a unit on insects. Luke came home one day announcing that he was now an entomologist. He has been giving us various facts about insects all week (Did you know that all insects are bugs, but not all bugs are insects?) Anyway, tonight we killed a huge cockroach in our house (sorry, no picture!) and before we tossed it in the trash, Luke had to inspect it to see if it was a bug or an insect. After counting the six legs and identifying the three parts of an insect (the head, thorax and abdomen) he concluded that a cockroach is indeed an insect. Wow! He knows more than we do. All this, and he has only been in school for 5 days!

FirstDayAtKCS1September 3, 2007
Luke had his first day of school today. Here you see the picture of him as he is off to school. Kansai Christian School is too far for him to walk, so we have to bring him by either car or city bus. There are three first-graders in his class, but a fourth student is schedule to join the class at the end of the week. Actually, the first and second graders are in the same room together, so total there are 10 kids in his class. His teacher is an American woman (Ms. Ayers), who, according to the second graders (and their parents), is a great teacher. In the few times we have met her, we seem to agree. After one day, Luke's assessment of school is that it is "pretty fun."

August 31, 2007
Before the summer comes to a close, we decided to take a family outing to Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. We had a couple of things that we wanted to do, but seemed to run into roadblocks all along the way. The projector in the planetarium in Otsu City was broken, so we couldn't do that, and the gondola going to the top of the mountain was closed. Then, when we got to the observatory (which was our main objective for the trip), we discovered that we needed to make reservations in order to use the huge telescope. What a bummer! The good thing was that Luke was able to go swimming in the lake, which happens to be the largest lake in Japan.

August 15, 2007
We went to the Kinokawa Festival this evening with the Shibuya family, our friends from church. Besides the food booths and people dressed in kimonos, we knew we were in Japan when the fireworks show began. Fireworks in Japan do not even compare to firework shows I have seen in the States. On top of that, this small town of Hashimoto puts on one of the best fireworks shows ever. We have seen it a couple of times, and we are always amazed at the number and variety of the fireworks. We had a good evening (except for the traffic jam going home).

August 13, 2007
Tonight we went to Nara City to explore the park and check out the Nara Lantern Festival (Nara To-Kae). He saw posters in the train station showing thousands of lanterns all over Nara Park so we had to go see what it was all about. Actually, we had a lot of fun. Go here to see pictures of some of the things we did.

August 12, 2007
Homepage Update:
People have been asking to see pictures of our new house. Well, for all of those who are interested, a few photos can now be seen here.

August 9, 2007
Personal Update:
Another clear night means that we headed out for a night of star-gazing. Besides seeing 8 new constellations, we also were able to use our binoculars to see our first star clusters (M25 & M21, both found near Sagittarius) and our first galaxy (M31, the Andromeda Galaxy). All were very faint, but it was still a cool milestone for us. This makes us want to buy a telescope even more!

August 6-7, 2007
Personal Update:
Missionary friends Eric & Sue Takamoto invited us to join them and the Cerritos Team for a relaxing night at Kinosaki Onsen. This hot-spring resort is located near the Japan Sea, and has a very traditional Japanese "feel" to it. For us, it was a great time to get away and enjoy some wonderful English fellowship. See our media page (here) here for a few pictures.

August 4-5, 2007
Ministry Update:
This weekend a short-term mission team from Cerritos Baptist Church in Los Angeles came to serve at SIBC. On Saturday evening we held a special event called a Mid-Summer Family Night. This was a time for families to invite their friends for an evening of fun and entertainment at the church. The Cerritos Team provided much of the program which included worship hula, live music, poi balls, testimony, drama and a Rubik's Cube challenge. Some pictures of the event can be found on the SIBC homepage (here). On Sunday morning, the team ministered to us again through hula, worship and testimony. In the afternoon, a special hula and poi ball class was held. Though the number of people was small, it was a lot of fun. You can see a few photos here. A few pictures can also be found on Renee Shibuya's blog.

July 31, 2007
Personal Update:
After 10 years of sleeping on the floor "Japanese style", we finally bought a bed. Some friends of our were returning to the States so we bought their bed from them. Amber and Spencer, thank you!

July 27, 2007
Personal Update:
To assist us in our quest to explore the starry sky, we recently bought a pair of binoculars (the first step towards buying a telescope, I hope!) We were able to put them to use tonight and saw three of the moons of Jupiter. Mind you, they just looked like three faint stars, but it was still pretty cool.

July 24, 2007
Personal Update:
After almost two months in Ikoma, we finally had a clear night for star-gazing. Since we are over the mountains from Osaka (and the accompanying glare of the city), we thought that we might be able to see more stars from Ikoma. As it turns out, the view from here isn't much better. However, a 45-minute drive deeper into Nara Prefecture brought us to a much darker location with a much better view of the sky. We ended up seeing a number of stars and constellations that we had not been able to see from Sakai.

ricepaddyluke1July 12, 2007
Personal Update:
Luke finished up summer school at Kansai Christian School. Now he is off until September 3rd. He really seemed to like the kids and the staff at his new school and is looking forward to entering the first grade. To the right is a picture of the rice paddy that Luke passes every day as he walks from the bus stop to his school.

For more updates, see...
2007 Updates (January to June)
2006 Updates