Today, as is my custom, I was praying through my prayer app and one of my subscriptions is to the collect of the day from the Anglican Church. It was titled “The visit of the blessed virgin Mary to Elizabeth”, telling of the Bible story that I mentioned in my last post.
It was an amazing moment as I realized that the litugical Church calendar celebrates this day on May 31st. Mary’s birthday!! The very story that was the catalyst for us naming her “Mary Elizabeth” is celebrated all over the world on Mary’s birthday.
I did the spiritual thing and googled this to make sure it was not “fake news” and sure enough May 31st has been Mary Elizabeth’s day for a very long time.
In the Biblical narrative Mary responds with what is known as Mary’s song or the Magnificat, a part of every Sunday service that I attended while I was a choirboy at Saint Peter’s Church in Brighton.
“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
So as I think and contemplate about Mary Elizabeth Yoshiko Somers-Harris who has reached the grand old age of 23 on this auspicious occasion, I am awed as I recall how, not knowing anything yet in faith and obedience, Rhonda and I accepted this child of Joy into our family. Joy is fully a part of her Japanese name 喜子 and was at the centre of the Bible narrative that led to us calling her “Mary Elizabeth”.
However, due to her life experiences with POTS, which is an ongoing battle, Mary’s life has not been a daily experience of Joy. Somehow though in the midst of her sufferings Mary seems to be able to exude and bring Joy to almost everyone she meets. Her life experiences and hidden illness have given her a heart of deep compassion which results in unceasing efforts to reach out to and stand up for the marginalized and oppressed.
Both of these are deeply entrenched in the story of Mary and Elizabeth from the Bible narrative. In Church history it was first observed by the Franciscians from before 1263 and soon its observance spread throughout the entire Church. The Franciscian order was known for reaching out to the poor and oppressed people of the world.
Then in the song of Mary we read: “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” So Mary’s life has in many ways encompassed both the Joy and the suffering that is discovered in the full story of her birthday.
Happy Birthday, Mary Elizabrth Yoshiko.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
With all our other children, Rhonda and I had already decided on their names before their arrival. However, with Mary the decision was still out, partly because Mary was the name of her grandmother, Rhonda’s mother, and Rhonda had some hesitation about calling our little girl by that name.
It was the above story from the Bible that brought the realization that Mary was to be her name. As with all our children part of the process of choosing a name involved asking God, “What will the character of this child be?”
With David we felt “Peace”
With Jonathan “Friend”
With Sarah “Love”
For Mary it was “Joy”
The passage from the Bible above tells of the time that Mary, while pregnant with Jesus, went to visit Elizabeth and, upon entering the house, Elizabeth’s baby, who was to be John the Baptist, leaped for joy in the womb of his mother.
This story was so impactful that our baby girl was named Mary Elizabeth in English and Yoshiko in Japanese which means child of joy.
That was 23 years ago. Look for my next post for what Paul Harvey would call, “the rest of the story”.
After completing our prayer assignments, we took time to enjoy the beauty of the area.
Some very nice waterfalls. Must be time for selfies.
Got to love those glasses.
All in all the Ayashi and surrounding area is very green and beautiful. I am looking forward to returning for many pastoral visits after the team moves up to this awesome place.
I was awed by the depth of colour in this flower.
The afternoon began with the long awaited visit to the onsen. For the guys that meant Gary, David and me. It was a great time of relaxing and getting to know each other better and soaking in some kind of chemically enriched water.
While we were in the onsen, this bright young university student came in and sat next to me. We had a great conversation and I met him again in the park adjoining the onsen where he was with his mother.
I had a hard time at first believing that she was really old enough to actually be his mother. His Japanese name was Joey; this was the first time I had met a young man with that name here in Japan. Joey seemed quite interested in trying out his English so I introduced him to Mosese.
This evening we also went to a church in Sendai started by the FCBC church in Singapore. We had visited this church on one of our earlier Tohoku prayer trips so it was good to renew fellowship with them again. The pastor was very kind and very happy that a YWAM team was coming to Sendai. We discussed ways that we could work together with him and his church in the future.
Here is Gary with one of the church members whose connection to YWAM goes back to the Ome days. She remembers welcoming the McDaniel family when they first came there many years ago. Her family went to Grace community church along with Sakura and Satsuki Smith.
This is the Baptist Bible college where we have been staying every night. I think this is about the third time that I have stayed at this facility, either on a previous Tohoku vision trip or on visits to Tohoku after the tsunami.
Today Alisa, who lives in Miyagi and was a student on our second bilingual DTS, came to join us and be our tour guide for the day.
We drove to this temple which is very close to an impressive waterfall. It turned out to be a very big drop so we could not get down to the water.
Pretty flowers were everywhere. Hope you like this one.
After parking and eating lunch we again split up. This time Gary, David and I enjoyed a coffee at Starbucks, then Gary and I moved on to the 31st floor of a building at the station that had an observatory. From this vantage point one can see all the way to the coast and somewhere in there is the Rakuten stadium.
Somehow the 31st floor observatory was deemed to be a primary evacuation point in case of earthquakes and Tsunamis. I guess that at least a tsunami would never reach that high.
I ended the day with loads of pretty flowers. Meanwhile Laura is moving ahead with her video report of this trip. I am excited and looking forward to the final result.
It seems that tradition is proving to be an important part of this team. Another thing we always do when visiting Sendai is to go to the site of the castle, pray over the city and take pictures of us at the statue of the samurai who founded the city. Here I am pictured with Gary, the team leader.
It was rather hot that day; we split up into twos, spent about thirty minutes praying for the city of Sendai, and then gathered together again for our team photo.
Yet another tradition is to eat at Otoya near to Sendai station. Here is Rosa, awesome woman of God who will be a member of the pioneer team. We amazingly meet two Christian ladies at the restaurant from the church we would be attending on Saturday evening.
Oh yeah! I got to eat, too!!!
Here is my flower for the morning!
Ayashi station. From here it is a twenty minute trainride into central Sendai, the biggest city in the Tohoku area. We had a beautiful day in which to prayer walk around this city where Gary is feeling they should begin their journey in the Tohoku region. Our first impression was a fairly quiet area, very green, open people and quite peaceful.
This is Mosese, a native of Fiji who joined us on our second prayer trip to Tohoku and is back again for this our final vision trip before we send out the team to pioneer the new location. Mosese and I were paired up for prayer today.
My eyes were caught be these awesome purple flowers so I took a quick break from the prayer time to capture this picture. I love it when I can find flowers in my favourite colour.
Ayashi has many wonderful features. High up on the list however is that there is a McDonalds there. Not just an ordinary run of the mill McDonalds but a McCafe where they make a serious cappuccino. Here the nice sales lady is drawing a bunny on the protective sleeve of my drink.
On the drive up to Tohoku it has become a tradition to stop at the very first rest stop on the Tohoku expressway and take a team photo in front of the beautiful flowers laid out there especially for such occasions. A kind Japanese man took this photo for us so these are all the members of our team.
Another tradition we have always faithfully observed on these trips is to purchase a cup of coffee from the Excelsior coffee shop, especially to enable the driver to stay focused on the road. Laura and I took advantage of the extra big cups to keep us going. Laura is the official videographer for our final vision trip to Tohoku.
Of course, wherever I go I am looking for beautiful flowers. Today I found this Iris in the city of Ayashi. In Japanese Ayashi is written using two Kanjis and looks like this. 愛子 The first kanji means “Love” and the second one means “Child”