One Month Update: Defining Goals

Konnichiwa Family & Friends in the States! Thank you for following along on our journey! Read on to hear about the Church we’ve been visiting and our Ministry Goals!


-We’ve been in Japan for a month already, though it feels like time is flying! We are grateful to be over jetlag and on a normal sleeping routine (even if that normal is our kids waking up at 5am….).

Our Home:

We’ve moved into our new house and we love it here! We’ve spent the past couple of weeks deep cleaning due to my [Kristen] allergies. Because of all the cleaning we’re not quite unpacked yet, but we are definitely feeling more settled and I’m very grateful we were able to come in June! Just getting the house in order and getting into a rhythm is taking quite a bit of time. I’m so glad Matthew is home to help with the little ones while we transition.

Japanese Church:

Twice we’ve gone to a Church about thirty minutes from us. We have really enjoyed our time there. Everyone is very kind. The Church is in Japanese and translated into English for a few of the missionary families who attend. We have not yet decided if we’ll visit other Churches or stay with Hope. But we would love your prayers on where God would have us be and where we’d be most useful to Him, not just where we’re most comfortable and we’re it’s easiest to fit in.

Mia hiding from the rain. Taken by a new friend at ホープチャペル -HopeChapel-八尾福音教会 on Sunday.

Ministry Goals:

Before arriving in Japan, Matthew and I discussed a lot of what we might do and how we’ll serve God here. A lot of prayer went into our discussions and a lot of prayer has gone into it now that we’re here. Now that we’re here it’s easier to see where the needs are. Now that we’re here we can feel God putting people on our hearts as we meet them. It’s amazing and we’re so grateful. There are many different routes we could take:

  • Fill the gap left by previous missionaries in the retired community
  • Discipleship through KCS
  • Local Mom’s Group with Japanese Mamas

As we pray over the above possibilities, Matthew and I have both felt God putting Language Learning on our hearts. To do any of those things well, we need to be able to communicate. We haven’t felt a certain direction or “do this specific thing!”. But we have both felt a need to really spend time learning the language well.

I also still have the strong conviction that I’m to live my daily life, as usual, raising my kiddos to love the Lord and investing in the people around me. No, it’s not a step-by-step Ministry Initiative. It’s not a Church Planting, Discipleship Training Program. It’s not any of those important sounding things. It’s just me, loving the Lord, loving those around me, and praying for every person brought to my mind. (Currently a lady I’ve seen twice on the train, an employee at the grocery store, and some fellow Americans who live here.)

The kids hanging in there while we try and translate just about everything in the store…

So as much as I feel like many expect a really cool sounding plan. That’s it: Love God, Love Others. We just reside in a different country, that’s all. But I’ve learned His amazing power and love works through simple obedience and faith. Isn’t that really all it takes? We so appreciate your support and I hope you know how much it means to us to be supported from the States. It helps us find our footing here. So thank you, for investing in God’s Love for the Japanese People. For investing in what He’s doing here and making an impact in Japan. -K

2-Weeks in Japan: Trapped in a Train Station and Other Misadventures!

We’re finally here! It has been an amazing two weeks getting used to a new culture, eating new foods, learning Japanese, and driving on the left side of the road! We’ve been documenting much of our new life on Facebook, (Kristen is our documentor: Kristen’s Facebook.) but I wanted to take a moment to share some stories about our adventure so far. Because, while there have been many new and amazing things, there have also been several ‘learning experiences’ where things did not entirely as planned! So here are a few of those stories:

Flying Passports

There are bound to be things that go wrong when travelling across the world with two children, right? Right. We actually managed to get along pretty well, moving 12 bags through airports and hotels, up until we got to Japan. It was the final customs line that got us. We arrived with a compliment of about 200 Chinese passengers, all standing in line together to enter the country. From my vantage point of about a foot above everyone else I could see just how long the customs line was; as a parent I ranked it in regards to our kids, somewhere between an “I have to go potty” dance and an “I’ve been on a plane for 10 hours and now have to stand in line” meltdown. Sure enough, when the time finally came to step up to our customs agent, Archer was not in a mood to move any more. Stopped in the middle of the floor, I reached out my hand to take his and usher him forward when a bag on my shoulder slipped down my arm and over the hand that was holding all our passports. The passports were launched out of my hand by the strap and four passports flew in four different directions, the farthest one reaching a whopping ten feet. What followed was a chaotic scramble of unfortunate passengers caught in the line of fire and polite Japanese Attendants rushing to help me pick up the passports. Needless to say, the Americans made quite a first impression in the customs line!

Stuck in a Train Station

There have been many adjustments for us in Japan so far, some actually have nothing to do with a foreign country, but simply not living in Florida anymore. The primary examples would be hills and mountains, and trains… Being currently without a car, we have been mostly dependent on the train system running through our town; a single line train that runs north and south between two cities. When we arrived in Japan, there were many very friendly people that reached out to us and welcomed us. One such family was kind enough to invite us over to their place so we could get to know each other; which meant we were presented with our first train adventure. It started out well, we managed to figure out how to buy our tickets, and how much they were. We even got on the correct train and made it to the correct train station. However, after exiting the station we realized a fault in our plan. We have left early in an attempt to eat lunch at a restaurant near the station. But we had not mapped our route very well (We don’t have gps yet) and turned out we could not get to the restaurant. Well our friends weren’t going to arrive for another hour, and there were no seats or shade outside the train station, so we did the only sensible thing to do and bought a cheap train ticket so we could get back in the station and sit down. After an hour of waiting, we then attempted to leave the train station, except we couldn’t. The turnstile would not accept our ticket, and there were no attendants at the small train station. We were stuck inside with a machine that beeped indignantly when we attempted to give it our train ticket that we didn’t go anywhere with. After a very embarrassing ten minutes, our new friend finally arrived and was able to use a radio to call an attendant to let us out. Another successful first impression! Complete with an old man walking up to laugh at us.

There have been a few other instances such as, Kristen trying to figure out how to pay with yen and thoroughly confusing the cashier. Kristen attempting to receive a package (evidently they’re all hand-delivered and not left on doorsteps) and confusing the delivery man. She could write a whole post on her coffee misadventures… We are grateful to have a sense of humor and that the Japanese people are gracious to foreigners. But we’re surviving and getting better every day! Thanks, for your prayers and support.

-M

1 Week to go: Questions about Support

The purpose of this post, which I’ll keep short and sweet, is to provide some clarifying information and answer some questions. As we enter the final stretch, (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT!?), many of you have been asking how you can support us and/or how you can help. We are so grateful for how our friends and family have come together to help us get to where we are in the process, we seriously could not have done it without you. Many of you have already provided logistic, emotional, spiritual, and financial support.

So, where do the Steele’s stand right now? Well physically, we are a little on the sick side, praying that goes away before the flight. (Please pray with us!) But, logistically, most everything is in place. (Other than the great packing adventure; see: “This is the story of a girl, who brought a pumpkin across the whole world”.)

Our financial support is one of the areas where we are in the most need. We have had many generous donations, and so have been able to afford the move to a whole new country. Praise God! However, we are only about 50% of the way to our monthly goal, which is where partners commit to supporting the Japan mission on a monthly basis. We are not concerned about this, we know God wants us in Japan and so He will have us there one way or another, funds or not. We are not even looking for just anyone to join as a monthly supporter. What this is, is an opportunity for anyone who has seen the plan God has for us in Japan, and seen our hearts, and feels that God is asking them to support it. If that is you, here is your opportunity. I have a link attached to the bottom of this page that will allow you to set up a monthly support to the mission. (Or the “Give”/Support tabs at the top and side.)

For those of you who already have and continue to support us in any form, we are incredibly grateful. Thanks, and stay posted for travel pics!

M.S.

“This is the story of a girl, who brought a pumpkin across the whole world.”

“Really wife? You’re bringing the pumpkin?”

“How am I supposed to decorate for fall without it?” She defended, rearranging the plastic monstrosity that was taking up a sizable chunk of the suit case.

“It’s too big,” I countered.

At this point our 3-year old, Archer, walks in the room. “What do you think, Archer?” I asked him. “Should we bring the pumpkin to Japan?”

Archer looked at me and brightened. “Oh, yea,” he said. “I already packed mine.”

“You packed a pumpkin?” I asked skeptically, wondering if Kristen had bribed him somehow.

“Yea,” he said again and walked over to his wheely bag. After unzipping it he rummaged around for a moment and, sure enough, pulled out a smaller, yet just as decorative plastic pumpkin.

“You packed a pumpkin,” I repeated incredulously.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Needless to say I lost the pumpkin battle. But there have been many similar conversations in the time since we’ve started trying to fit our entire lives into six large bags. When we step back and look at it, it seems like an impossible task; reducing what was a family in a fully furnished, four bedroom house into a family moving across the world with what they can carry on their backs. How do we decide what fraction of our worldly possessions are the most important and deserve to fly over the ocean with us, and then figure out what to do with the rest?

I’ve been brushing up on my math lately, in preparation for my teaching assignment, so lets see if we can calculate it, shall we?

Each of us are allotted 2 suitcases, each a maximum of 50lbs. 1 carry on, 20lbs. and a personal item, such as a backpack, which will carry most of the products we need to survive the trip itself. So each of us gets a grand total of 120lbs of our possessions to bring with us to our new life.

50+50+20=120

Lets estimate roughly and say you can fit about 100 items in each suit case and 30 in the personal item. That give each of us approximately 230 items to bring with us, or 690 as a family unit. (Since Mia doesn’t get bags.)

100+100+30×3=690

That seems like a lot doesn’t it? We should have no problem bringing everything we want, that’s almost 700 items.

Except the average American family has about 300,000 items in their home.

So of our 300,000 items, we get 690. (And Mia, being a baby, already takes up a good deal of that.)

690/300,000=.0023 or .23%

So there you have it, our material possessions are being reduced by 99.77%.

When you look at it this way, assuming your eyes haven’t glazed over from all the numbers, it’s a pretty daunting task. So the question is; “What are the most important .23% of our possessions?”

Well, what would you pack? Currently my bag contains clothing items, a collection of tablets for use in my classroom, and several bags of board game pieces. (Which have been disassembled and the actual boxes left behind for space constraints.)

Does that say something about me? I feel like it’s one of those old idioms; “You can tell a lot about a man by what he puts in the two suitcases he’s going to start a new life with.”

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re not renouncing our materialistic ways and becoming minimalist hermits for God’s glory. It would be a noble endeavor, but I don’t think that’s what God has called us to. There is a nearly fully furnished house and working vehicle waiting for us in Japan. We will function much the same way we do here, just in a different language.

But this process has put a new light on what God has called us to do. He has asked us to show people in another world how much He loves them. And the truth is, we really don’t need a lot of possessions to do it.

M.S.

Romans & Rain

The summer rains have begun. They’ve been rolling in late afternoon just at the perfect time to grab a book and a cup of tea.

Hah! That was before children. Now we just run outside right before it starts, feel the wind on our noses and bare feet, hear the thunder, and smell the thick salty air- heavy with the coming downpour… then run back inside to watch through the window.

It’s raining now as I read Romans, and though I don’t have my afternoon tea, I do have three of my favorite people surrounding me, fast asleep. The littlest one with her little baby snores. 😍

I find myself in Romans 15 tonight. Yet another reminder to keep battling selfishness:

Each one of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.

Romans 15:2

It reminded me of Japan and why we’re going. I’ve had to remind myself more than once lately that we are going there to build His Kingdom, not our own. Matthew has been good at reminding me of that too. Before we had a family, I would have strapped on my backpack, thrown some things in a suitcase and hit the road!

But now, I often find myself torn between trusting God and providing stability for my children through (probably too extensive) preparations. It’s a fine line that I have been walking on lately. But then comes the verse that has captured my heart on this stormy night:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

And there you have it. That is my prayer. I am praying that verse guides Matthew and I so that we can be filled with all joy and peace as we believe so that we may overflow with hope. Hope for our children in this transition. And mostly hope for the Japanese people. I pray that our hope overflows and the Japanese people we meet can’t help but notice a genuine hope in the Lord. Because that is something I feel we could all use a whole lot more of- hope, joy, and peace.

Turn to the God of hope and He’ll fill you up.

Will you join me in this prayer?

Honor the Lord with your possessions: 1 month to go!

“Honor the Lord with your possessions…” Proverbs 3:9a

We’ve been sorting through our things for months now. And now that we’re one month out- we still have so much stuff. It’s overwhelming how much stuff we own.


It reminds me of the first time I returned home after a mission trip to a very poor country.
These people had nothing, they were lucky if they had a tin roof over their heads and 3 of 4 walls enclosed around them.


It was heartbreaking. It was sobering.

Yet those people were the most generous and kind people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. They had nothing and yet they offered it all to me when I came to visit. Suddenly their nothing seemed like everything and I had the hardest time accepting it, until I saw how hurt they were at my hesitation to take them up on their kindness. So I gladly received- filled up more by their excited smiles then the food offered to me.

I remember coming home to America. I opened the door to my room. And I just sat down and cried. I had so much. So much. And yet I had nothing. God worked hard in my heart that year.

So now, in the midst of packing up everything we own into 6 suitcases- I’ve come across a very timely verse:

“Honor the Lord with your possessions.” -Proverbs 3:9a

What timing. Thank You Lord! Because just trying to divide needs over wants was not working for me.


Now I can ask myself as I sort through my possessions:


Does this honor the Lord?

Can I bring Him glory through this?

Is this something that I can use with my gifts to aid the body of Christ?

Am I building His Kingdom with this, or my own?

Thanks for the listen and the prayers, friends. 1 month to go!

53 Days!

Definitely packing travel size Jif!

We’re coming down to the wire now! It’s becoming more and more real that we’re moving to Japan in a month and a half! I cannot wait to be there, but it’s very surreal to think of living somewhere other than here.

We’ve been sifting through clothes to pack this week. I never realized just how “Floridian” my wardrobe was until I took stock of how many bathing suits, flip flops, tanks tops and jean shorts I own! We found some great Clearance deals on warmer clothes as stores clear the shelves for Spring. Due to being a Florida girl and owning 2 long-sleeve shirts… this was a good thing!

It really hit me that we’ll be leaving soon when I went to Publix this afternoon. I just ran in real quick for a few things. But as I walked down the peanut butter aisle, I found myself thinking- ‘hmm, I should get the small one, I’m not sure we could finish off the big one before we move.’ Then I just stood there thinking how easy it is to just run to the store to pick up some milk. In Japan we’ll have to drive on the opposite side of the road, read foreign signs, try and figure out the food and how to cook it and count out yen to pay.

Everything will be new there. The smallest everyday things will become adventures. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be going on this adventure with Matthew and our two little ones! I pray that with every new thing we try- we share the gospel by our actions and with kindness on our lips… and of course learn to laugh at ourselves.

Thank you everyone for praying! We can feel your prayers and are so impressed with the body of Christ coming together for the Japanese people. Our hearts are full!

2 Months!

Starting to pack!

As June draws near we’re getting more and more prepared everyday. (Mostly due to having two small children- we only have time for a little each day!) But I’ll take any progress I can get. Today I set out our luggage in my old room at my mom’s house. So many memories. I remember dancing around that room as a kid (I was going to be famous you know 😉 haha). And here I’m getting reading to move to Japan with my family of four.

So basically. I just lined up the suitcases and sat there staring at them. I have lists. I have things sorted. But where to start? What’s most important? I’ve received a lot of very helpful advice from friends state side and those already in Japan- but when it came down to it- I just stared at them. Everything cherished and necessary to four people- in those six bags. More stares.

So as I prayerfully considered how to fill them and with what- I found myself feeling very blessed. I always imagined myself as an explorer when I was younger. But I never imagined God would bless me with a family too. I’m so grateful I get to go and share His love, not on my own, but in the company of some of my favorite people on earth. When I came to that realization suddenly those suitcases I’d been staring at became full of just stuff. Stuff that belongs to those I cherish most on earth- my little missionary family.

So I still don’t have a starting point per say, I’ll probably just do a little at a time as with everything else we’ve done so far. But the pressure to think of every last need and want that can fit in those bags is off. We’ll have each other and we’ll have Jesus as our guide, protector, friend, and travel companion.

And He promises that He’s got the rest covered.

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” -Matthew 6:31-32

3 More Months!

Countdown Calendar in Archer’s Room

Today marks exactly 3 months until departure! And I can already tell you it’s going to go quick! We’re almost halfway to our monthly support goal and coming up on crunch time!

Our preparations have slowed a bit as we’ve settled into life as a family of four. But with three months remaining before we embark on this adventure- we’re ready to get back to work! (More active preparations and probably less of me justifying watching Japanese Dramas as language studies….)

Thank you everyone for keeping us in your prayers! I’ve been reminded recently of the importance of prayer and how trying to accomplish anything without it is just, well, hard.

I have to be honest, my first reaction when I see that we have 3 months to raise 60% of our goal- I get a little apprehensive. But in the next instant I remember how far we’ve come and that God has called us to Japan. We’re not just going on a whim- we have a purpose there that He’s already laid out for us. I fully believe that He’ll get us there, and I’m thanking Him in advance for it!

So we’ll continue life as usual, keeping our days simple and prayerful as we look forward to what He has waiting for us. Thank you for your support, we couldn’t do this without the Body of Christ supporting us.

Soaking in the Florida Sunshine and practicing our Japanese

PS- Sorry we kind of fell off the grid these past couple of months. Having two little ones vying for my attention has been an adjustment. I want to be a present mama to them, and sometimes that means scaling back a bit and slowing down. It also means multitasking- for instance I just typed this post one-handed because Amelia is asleep in my other arm.


She’s Here!

She’s here! Amelia is here. Our sweet baby girl was born on January 25th! And what have I been doing since then? Giving her snuggles and daydreaming about Japan.

Eight months ago, when we found out we’d be moving to Japan there were so many things that needed to be in place before we could move.

Amelia’s birth was the last thing on that list! We’ve sold our home, moved into a transitional space, which has proved to be such a blessing, and now we’ve officially become a family of four!

I am longing to be in Japan, to be in our new home, and begin our lives and ministry there.

But I know God has a purpose for these next four months leading up to departure.

Just because there are no major milestones in sight and all our big items are checked off- does not mean we are prepared and ready to leave just yet.

These next 4 months are a beautiful gift of time.

Time to grow spiritually and prepare our hearts and minds for the work to be done in Japan. Time to grow together as a family of four and find our new normal before jumping into an even newer normal! Time to sit at the feet of Jesus and still our hearts for the unknowns up ahead. It is a blessing. There is so much spiritual preparation that goes into a move to the mission field. Life kind of slows down, we give ourselves time to reflect, to dig into the Word, and to be even more diligent in praying together. Yes, I am definitely grateful for this time and I can’t imagine moving overseas without Matthew, Archer, and Amelia. God knew what He was doing when He put the call on our hearts but delayed the sending until our little family was complete. His timing never ceases to amaze me.