10 May 2013, Friday
Recently I was introduced to a fellow mother of Ezra’s school, through a mutual friend. She had requested to meet me as her husband is being transferred to Singapore for work and she wanted to know more about Singapore. Together with the mutual friend, we went for lunch together.
I was excited to meet her and glad to share about something so familiar to me. She explained that her husband’s company will send him to Singapore for a year and they planned to leave this September. She had thought that it was the beginning of the school term (as in Japan) and it would be ideal for her 5-year-old daughter, who has Down Syndrome. On learning that this was not the case in Singapore, she became more concerned. There were many questions she had about Singapore, ranging from the education system to the healthcare system, the living standards and possible residential locations. I shared with her all the information I knew.
As we went deeper into the conversation, we shared about our experiences with our children. She shared that after giving birth to her daughter and learning that she was Down Syndrome, she could not accept it. For quite a long time, she could not do anything much and until today (5 years later) she still feel that it was her fault that her daughter is much slower than her peers.
Since young, we have heard from our elders that whenever we do something naughty or make mistakes in our lives, it is our parents’ fault for not bringing us up properly. Parents feel fully responsible for the way their child is born, how he or she looks, how he or she behaves and how he or she turns out in life.
This is something which I have also grappled with. Is it our fault that our child was born thus? I would like to encourage her and fellow mothers today with these verses from John 9: 1-3 – “As he (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
These verses were shared by a Japanese pastor recently when he was giving his testimony. His mother had had some abortions before his brother and himself were born. His brother was academically outstanding and on his way to become a doctor when he committed suicide one day. The whole family was shocked and went downhill after that. His mother went into depression and had to take 70 kinds of medication daily. She sought help and was told that the death of her son was her retribution due to her past abortions. She went into deeper depression. It was only when she came across the Bible one day, started reading and came across these verses.
The verse “Neither this man nor his parents sinned” delivered the pastor’s mother. She slowly came out of her depression and today is living happily without medication and free from guilt.
We need to constantly believe what Jesus said, “…but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Today, let us lay down the guilt and be truly free.
Happy Mother’s Day.
6 March 2013, Wednesday
These days I feel more tired physically after a day of school with Ezra. I’m not sure if it’s because of aging or he has become more demanding as he grows older (although I’d like to think it is the latter.) Since he turned 3, even though he is getting cuter in his behaviour, there is a lot more crying and screaming from him than in the past (thought they said it was terrible 2, surely not carrying through to the 3s?)
A day of school starts with him running around the house (with me running after him) to change his clothes to get ready for school. He would be giggling away. After pinning him down finally, half the battle would be won. Next would be getting him to wear his shoes, which meant sitting down. He would already be playing with the mirror and taking out the umbrellas at the umbrella stand at this time. Getting him to sit down at this time sometimes would mean another floor tantrum.
After we arrive at his school, he needs to be ‘guided’ to the school door. As the school is housed inside a building with other facilities, there is a reception area at the entrance. He likes to detour to the reception area and play with the vending machines, opening and closing the dispensing shutter. Repeated pleas to him sometimes does not work, meaning he has to be carried literally into the school, with 2 bags in tow.
Once he has taken off his socks and shoes, he might or might not put them into the designated compartment with his name on it (even though he knows where it is). Then he wanders off to the other rooms instead of walking to the washing basin where the children are required to wash their hands and gargle their mouths before entering the classrooms. After catching him back to the washing basin, we would remove his winter jacket and roll up his sleeves to wash his hands. He would be thrilled just turning on the tap at full blast and washing his hands, splashing his top wet. To this day, I envy the children (and mothers) who can gargle ever so nicely. Ezra does not understand the gargling process, and when told to gargle, he would mischievously take the disposable cup with water and pretend to ‘gargle’ and pour the water on the floor. And this happens on a daily basis!
As mentioned earlier, the remaining half of the battle is when he steps into the classroom. The children are required to change into their play clothes. This meant taking off his clothes (again), putting on play clothes, folding the clothes that have been removed and putting them into a bag. It is to help train their motor skills. He is usually distracted when he is surrounded by many children, and would be running around the classroom. Effort to sit him down and perform the tasks required is a big challenge. This is usually done with the help of a teacher. Once the big challenge is done, he is required to take out his note book and put a sticker on the date. This he would do with minimal instructions as he likes the task.
All the above looks like a laundry list that seem to take forever, but it is an hour’s work. We have not even mentioned lunch time. Nowadays, he seems to be in a “meal times are tantrum-throwing times” phase, regardless whether it is lunch or dinner, at home or outside. That is another challenge by itself. The rest of the day is spent running after him to sit him down or to perform the tasks while class activities are going on.
Many a times, there are questions in my mind why he cannot simply follow the teacher’s instructions or follow what his classmates or their mothers are doing. If he obeys, he would learn something new. When he plays something or climbs somewhere dangerous, I could foresee the potential danger and would make him come down or stop (most of the time by force), he would refuse and start crying. And when he really falls down, he would be crying too. Why can’t he learn? Why can’t he simply Obey? If only he would listen.
But I’ve come to realize that as adults, we are like him. Obedience is no respecter of persons. As children of God, we do behave somewhat similar to Ezra. We would waywardly do the things that we feel like doing, despite being warned, reminded, or even disciplined and eventually fall hard. Hopefully not.
9 January 2013, Wednesday
We have gone through our first celebration of the new year in Japan. We had a little get-together amongst ourselves (the volunteers and members) at home on the last day of 2012. Nowadays, we prefer to cook at home instead of eating out if possible due to the cold weather (for evenings, it can be 4 degree celsius at 5pm!)
Before the new year, there was much hustle and bustle among the Japanese people. It is quite similar to what we have in Singapore – shopping for new year goodies, spring cleaning, preparing feasts for their families and shopping in general. The additional differences, which we observed, are making mochi and visiting the shrines. Other than that, the actual new year’s day was quiet, and even the subsequent days which most Japanese were not working. We do not see much visitations from friends of the neighbours or laughter from any nearby houses.
Celebrating the new year in Japan also means paying special attention to the first time something is done in the new year. The Japanese like the ‘firsts’ of the year.
For us, we also had some ‘firsts’ of the year. Ezra had a new haircut, which I almost could not recognize (my son) when I returned home one day.
Some 6 months ago, I posted a picture of the bag which Ezra’s school required of the parents. It seemed impossible at that time. However, both myself and one of our volunteers (Kanako) happened to chance upon a handicraft shop recently. Kanako shared that her mom was really good at sewing bags and stuff and she showed me some of the handmade bags done by her mom. Inspired by her, and reminded of the looming task, I decided to get the materials to make the bag. But it was not until Ezra’s 2-week school break in December that I had the time to sit down and think. Honestly, it was not an easy task for me as I did not know where to start. The materials came with just a piece of paper which was in Japanese. But the thought of him not having the bag when school re-opens bothered me. So I went ahead and started the ‘project’. It took me quite a few nights (and wee hour mornings) and quite a few internet searches for each stage of the bag. After some time, the sewing became slightly addictive, despite the back and neck aches, I carried on sewing. The main focus was to get the bag done correctly and functional. It did not matter that it was handsewn and not as neat as one done with a sewing machine. Each measurement and stitch was done with care (and sometimes prickly pain) and a little person in mind. Finally, the finished product. It is Ezra’s first handmade bag, just like how Kanako’s mom sewed hers for Kanako and I believe the other children she had.
It also taught me that what you can visualize, you will see it come to pass. You just need to get started on it.
Wednesday, 5 December 2012
We had just finished dinner across the road from our house and had resumed our work at home when the doorbell rang. We were suspicious as it was 9.30pm and unlikely to be the postman or some delivery person. When we pressed the intercom, a familiar face came to the picture at the other end. It was a fellow Singaporean (and Evangelite) who is living in the US. What a pleasant surprise!
He still looked the same, albeit slimmer. He looked as cool as ever, in a red leather jacket that seems insufficient for the weather outside. (Japan is now so cold that even the Japanese themselves are saying that it is the coldest autumn they have ever experienced. Tokyo is on average at 9 Degree Celsius whereas some other areas are even snowing. Some Japanese have mentioned to us that as summer was unusually hot this year, the coming winter will be colder than usual. When you walk on the streets of Tokyo, it seems to be winter already as almost everyone is wearing winter wear, complete with winter boots, ear muffs, mufflers and masks. Our friendly neighbours, the Japanese couple who owns the chinese eatery across the road even showed us that they were wearing 3 to 4 layers even inside their eatery.
Back to our friend. He is here in Japan to attend a good friend’s wedding and popped by to say hi. To our surprise, he had walked (yes, in this weather) from Yoyogi to our place. We were both impressed with his ability to take the cold as well as his good sense of direction. (Not many people can find addresses in Japan successfully as the houses do not have the addresses written so blatantly, most houses just have the family names written, and many even locals have gotten lost.) He explained that he had dropped by earlier at 5pm but could not find the correct place due to the lack of clear signages and he had missed the lane our house was located at.
We talked about the times when we were in Singapore and also about the life here in Japan. As Japan is having an upcoming election, he was holding a big pamphlet of a potential Cabinet member. We joked that he looked like the typical Japanese walking on the streets with his sense of dressing and hairdo, that’s why they handed him the pamphlet thinking he was a potential voter. In all seriousness, he said that he wanted to read up on the happenings in Japan as he wanted to brush up his Japanese.
It was great catching up with him as we had not seen him for a while, when we left for Japan and he left for the States. He had lived in Japan for a year before and have a fondness for Japan and would always come back whenever he needed or wanted to. I guess this time, he did return to Japan for both reasons. So we are quite certain we will not be meeting for the last time.
Sunday, 4 November 2012
Remember our Japanese friend who came to join us two months ago? After our English class today, as I was walking her to the train station, she shared to me that she would like to become a Christian and asked me how to become one.
I was pleasantly surprised and shared with her the sinner’s prayer to salvation. She has been joining us for some time, but we believe that we should not rush her and allow God to do the work. Only when she’s ready would we lead her in the sinner’s prayer.
We are thankful that our friendship with her has been genuine and wonderful, we count her as one of the closer friends we have in Japan. To see her moving along this journey of faith is really amazing. There is no other but the divine leading her in this exciting journey.
She is young but she is a smart and hardworking lady. Even though she is working 6 days a week, and many a times, she works overtime due to work demands but she finds time to learn other languages. Her current interests are English and Mandarin. Although we have English lessons almost every Sunday, she would always have questions on how certain Chinese words are used or their meanings. The lessons have become English/Mandarin lessons.
Today, she asked me a very good question but which I unfortunately do not have the answer to. She was asking the word “things” in Chinese is translated as “东西”, but it is neither “east” nor “west” which the two Chinese words literally mean. (I did not have the answer for this question but it is indeed a valid and good question and I promised her I’ll find out. So if any of you reading this post knows the answer, kindly help by replying me with a comment. It will be very much appreciated.)
Back to the story, we have shared with her our own story and have been very open about Ezra. She in return has also been very open to us about her concerns in life. They are genuine concerns but ones which only God has the answers. We have pointed her to Jesus and hopefully, she will have the answers to these cares in her life very soon.
Tuesday, 30 October 2012
They came, they walked, they saw, they worked, they cooked and they played – hard. This best described what the team of 10 Singaporeans who came to Japan on 22nd October did for the 9 days that they were here and are on their way back to Singapore tonight.
From the first day they set foot in Tokyo, they walked and walked around this huge city, carrying heavy backpacks and boxes containing food and heat packs to be delivered to two places, in heavy downpour. The admirable part of all was, most of them are above 40 years of age, with the remaining few who are in their 20s and 30s.
This was to continue for the second day, where they travelled to Yokohama to minister to the homeless community through their singing of Japanese songs. The next day, they had to wake up very early to travel to Sendai where they spent the next 2 days (together with the team in Tokyo) preparing for the Red Dot Party for the people at Sendai. They prepared Singapore-styled Kaya Toast and half-boiled eggs, complete with hot coffee and milo. The kaya toast was so well-received by the elderly people in Sendai that they were asking if it was available for sale in Japan! There were also special numbers as well as art (a white stone engraved with Love and a cross) and craft (origami of a flower) segments in the programme.
In the evening of their return to Tokyo, they had to prepare for the Little Red Dot Party which was to be held in Ikenoue. The women cut, cooked and while waiting for the dish to be ready, they danced! After trying to connect with Ezra through playing some music from the Ipad, they realized that he responded to the Korean songs (think it’s because of the techno beat). Much to the delight and request of the 2-year-old boy for more, they held each other shoulder-to-shoulder and danced to the beat of the Gangnam Style song. It was entertaining and at the same time, something which revealed their outlook of life. They may not be young, but they are full of life (their dance would put many young ones to shame).
The very next morning, they were back again at 7am, this time to cook Singapore-styled Chicken Rice for the Little Red Dot Party which was to happen in 3 hours’ time. Everyone pitched in to help, whether it was to cut (endless garlic, ginger, tomatoes, cucumbers), cook, clean or wash. After cooking, everyone helped to carry the food and other items to the party venue to set up. Despite the diversity in age and backgrounds, they worked hard together as a team and it was amazing how we pulled it off.
Despite the heavy downpour, the turnout for the party was good, with 28 of us in total. The food was well-received by our Japanese guests, especially the chicken rice, bak kut teh and kaya toast.
The peacemakers will be remembered for their hard work and personalities. Each of them are unique and special. They will be dearly missed.
9 October 2012, Tuesday
The weather is turning cold. From the sizzling heat of summer, the autumn weather has subtlely become cold quickly over a matter of days. Everywhere, shops are stocking dark-coloured thick warm clothing for autumn and accessories, gone are the bright-coloured T-shirts, bermudas and sandals.
We had an awesome turnout at our very first BBQ last Saturday. The volunteers have worked hard at trying out the BBQ at their place. Friday was spent setting up the pit, stocking up BBQ-suitable food and clearing their place up. Two weeks ago, the invites have gone out and a beautiful postcard was designed by Calvin and Kanako.
Our Japanese friends were punctual. The invite was at 3pm and already 3 friends were already here. We invited 2 of Ezra’s classmates’ mothers and all the Japanese friends we have come to know these few months. There was a room just for the kids to play and have fun, while the adults would hang out in the living area and the BBQ area just outside the house. By 4pm, the entire house was too crowded as there were more people than we expected. Some friends have brought their husbands and other friends. But this is a good problem.
The food were entirely prepared by the volunteers. Calvin was the main chef, he prepared the marinated meats, cooked the fried rice and vegetables. Kanako prepared the garlic bread and potato salad. Sing Tee prepared the fresh fruit salad. Beng Tian and Calvin started the fire in advance before the start of the BBQ and did all the BBQing for the night. We received very good comments about all the food as our guests finished all the fried rice and most of the meats quickly.
To our surprise, our guests mingled very well with each other even though most were meeting each other for the first time. By 5pm, hearty laughter could be heard from outside the house, as the guests were enjoying themselves. Even though the BBQ was supposed to end by 7pm, nobody left. Everyone stayed on until at least 9pm as they were enjoying themselves so much, even the kids were having fun. We also see them exchanging contact details with each other. I must say that we were all very glad to see our guests enjoying themselves.
Even though it was hard work, but it was well worth it. There were at least 21 people who came to the BBQ, and we invited them again for the next event in 2 weeks’ time, which is the Little Red Dot Party (a Singapore-based party organized jointly by Evangel Family Church Singapore and Evangel Tokyo), where there will be Singapore food prepared by the Singapore delegation coming to Tokyo. We are looking forward to a great turnout again on that day!
23 September 2012, Sunday
The September events have been enjoyable. We enjoyed ministering to the homeless community at Minato Mirai. We must always remember that even though they may be forgotten by loved ones or society, but God still loves and remembers each one of them by name.
The food distribution at Shinjuku was carried out a bit differently this time. In the past, we would cycle with loads of bread and banana on our bicycles to the park as all of us could cycle. This time round, we had a team member who prefers walking (than cycling) as her mode of transport. Thus, an idea was birthed to use the suitcase as the vehicle carrying the bread, to free the cyclists of the weight. It was not a bad idea actually. We (four of us on bicycles, including Ezra that would be 5) arrived first at the park and waited at the bridge. The lady with her suitcase came and waited under the bridge (some 50 metres away) waiting for our ‘signal’. We nodded and she came up with the suitcase. It actually reminds me of some espionage activity going on : )
Unlike the last time where there was heavy rain and we could not see the homeless around, this time, we did manage to see quite a few during the daytime. We not only fed the homeless, we also fed the mosquitoes while we were there. All of us had at least a few bites while we were at the park which was a huge feeding ground for mosquitoes. The more humorous amongst us joked that it was blood donation time too. But overall, it was a very fulfilling trip.
Next we staged a solo performance at Yoyogi Park, one of the most popular parks in Tokyo on a weekday afternoon. Our musician and soloist, Sing Tee, played on the keyboard and sang to passer-bys and temporal audience for 3 hours, taking short breaks in between. There were old-time and new favourites, Christian worship songs and many more. The passer-bys were curious as they made their way into the park (yes, we chose a prime spot just next to the park entrance) and as they walk, they would slow down their steps or take a seat opposite our soloist to enjoy the music. The weather was nice and breezy, although we were not spared from the mosquitoes. It was a good first attempt for Sing Tee who has never tried ‘busking’ but is very gung-ho about it. Kudos to Sing Tee!
18 September 2012, Tuesday
Today I learnt of something that broke my heart. After Ezra’s school, one of Ezra’s classmate’s mother asked if we could hang out together. We settled down at a coffee place and were talking about the mothers that bring their child to school on different days. (You see, the school does not require daily attendance. On the first week of school, Ezra’s teacher told me that I do not need to bring Ezra to school everyday, and that not many mothers bring their child to school everyday as it could be too tiring for them. This was new to me, and definitely something I appreciated along the way.)
I was sharing to her over coffee that one of the mothers we both know was pregnant, and she told me that this mother had a stillborn child last year. (Her eldest son is Down Syndrome). So she had a double blow within 3 years. But from her countenance, you can never tell. She is one of the most cheerful mothers in the school and she approached and introduced herself to me when we first joined the school. She has also shared with me personally that her son has gone through 7 heart operations (and he is only 2 years old).
After joining the school for about 5 months now, I have learnt so much from these mothers. They are strong and positive. Most of the kids at school have had heart operations when they were born, and most still have scars or protruding bones on their chests to show for it. Many of them are older than Ezra but still could not walk. There is one mother I know who lives more than an hour (by train) from the school and her child is 7 years old. She does not use the pram (as her daughter does not like the pram) but carries her child on her shoulders when her child does not want to walk to take the trains. In order to get home, she needs to walk to the train station, up to the platform, wait for the train, change the train at Shinjuku station and walk home.
Every other day, there will be a child who is hospitalized due to a middle-ear infection, heart condition or some corrective surgery to some part of the body. But these mothers take it in their stride. Instead of criticizing their child for not being able to perform well in school, they beam with joy when their child could stand and walk up to the teacher (sensei) to collect his/her notebook when it’s time to go home.
Many parents are always comparing their children with their peers, criticizing their weaknesses instead of looking at some of their strengths. Maybe we should reflect on this and be thankful for our children (full stop). Accept them as a person for what he or she is, both the strengths and the weaknesses. Be thankful that at least they are healthy normal children, sure they have their peculiarities, but everyone of us are unique. I have also learnt to look at Ezra in a different light, to see him for who he is and to appreciate what he can do and do my best to teach him what he has yet to learn.
11 September 2012, Tuesday
Things are getting exciting around here. Everyone here is gearing up for the week. The weather is still hot, however we are not too bothered by it. Our minds are pre-occupied with upcoming events and activities in the pipeline.
Last Sunday, we had our first Japanese visitor. It meant a lot to us as this is the reason why we plucked ourselves from our homeland to come to the Land of the Rising Sun. It has not been easy but we must say that all glory goes to God. We genuinely offered our friendship and have not poached the subject at all. For those of you who read the previous post would know that our friend initiated the conversation about God and the rest was history.
To cut the long story short, she was ‘very impressed’ (in her own words) with our get-together and would like to join us every Sunday. (This was an affirmation that we were doing things right.) She shared that she wants to know more about God and would be talking to her Christian friend about it.
The amazing thing about this story is that she is the sister of our Japanese friend based in Singapore right now. Last Saturday, we were also introduced to her brother and sister-in-law. Like how my hubby put it, God started writing the salvation story for this family in Singapore many months back.
For the rest of this week, it will be preparing to go to Yokohama as well as Shinjuku to distribute food and to minister to the homeless community. We are also planning to cook for our friends this coming Sunday and are busy finalizing the lunch menu, lol. There is also a BBQ planned for our Japanese friends in the coming weeks. We will also be staging a performance (solo) in a well-known park in Tokyo. The volunteers are excited as they journey with us in these upcoming events.