Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Calm Before the Storm

It has been a quiet week at ARI. The days passed without too much excitement and here we are at the weekend once again! We have been at ARI for exactly 2 months now and we are beginning to lose track of weeks! Even though we are moving passed the so-called "honeymoon stage" of our journey here, there are still many things to get excited about each week! So first thing is first:

Jenny's Morning Gathering

For those of you keeping up with us, you know that last week, Doug lead his first morning gathering, so this week, it was my turn! I decided to share with the community about my "home." This began with a simple introduction of Arkansas, my family (mom, dad, Katie, Max [dog], Doug, and "everybody else"). I then shared a few similarities between home back in Arkansas, and home here at ARI. So three things: 

1) Serving through cooking: Back in college, Doug, Katie, and I (along with other friends) cooked a dinner once a week for college students through the college ministry program at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Conway. We would get together for about 4 hours to shop, cook, serve, and clean up after a dinner where anywhere between 40-70 college students would share in meal and fellowship together. Here at ARI, I also cook for the community. I work with 4 other women in the kitchen to cook lunch every weekday. We serve anywhere from 12-90 people. 

Olivia, Katie, Doug, Jenny

Sena, Jenny, Nishi, Veny, Megumi
2) Fellowship with God's people: Every summer, Doug and I like to work at the Robert R. Brown sessions at Camp Mitchell. This camp is specially designed for adults with mental and physical disabilities. We spend all week singing songs, playing games, dancing, and celebrating each other. The campers look forward to this week of camp all year long, as do the people who work at these camps! So Doug and I were very excited for the opportunity to share fellowship with both children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. On two occasions since we have been here in Japan, we have sang, played games, danced, and celebrated with people. 

Our friend, Brooks Cato, dancing with happy campers

Doug dancing with adults at an assisted living facility in Japan
3) Johnny Appleseed prayer: Many of us who have spent any time at Camp Mitchell know the Johnny Apple seed prayer, it goes like this:

When we arrived at ARI, we saw that this prayer is one of 10 that we use before eating here. However, the "Amen! Dig in! Yeehaw!" from Arkansas becomes a more modest and calm "Amen. Amen, Amen, Amen. AMEN" in Japan :)

I shared these similarities with the community to first explain that Doug and I feel at home in ARI, and second to show that home is where you make it (please google "home is where you make it, Joe Dirt" and watch clip, hehe). Doug read Psalm 139: 7-12 and I shared an Emily Dickinson quote: "Where Thou art, that is home." God is everywhere, in the light and in the dark, and in all and both of those places, where God is, we are home. To end my morning gathering, I shared one last quote from Billy Sunday: "Home is the place [where] we love best and grumble the most." Being here for 2 months, we have experienced and witnessed the positives and negatives of intentional community living. Emotions can run high and it's hard to be polite and pleasant all the time. But we are family here, at home, and if we can't grumble here, where can we grumble? All in all, I wanted to share that we can make home anywhere because God is in our midst, and by his grace we can love and forgive each other.

Otawara Chili Festival

On Saturday, Doug visited the Otawara Chili Pepper Festival with a few other ARI community members. Besides all the booths with chilies and sauces, there was a spicy taco eating contest to see who could eat one taco the fastest. With the offer of a free spicy taco on the table, most of the ARI attendees joined in the contest. And who won the contest, mine truly, Douglas "spicy taco eater" Knight! He won a free bottle of chili sauce. :)


On Saturday, Doug spend the afternoon with Joe, from Cameroon, learning how to make bokashi. Doug was eager to learn and Joe was eager to teach. Bokashi is an organic fertilizer that is applied to the soil. It uses micro-organisms to break down the nitrogen in chicken manure so that the plants can use it. If we applied chicken manure directly to the field, the nitrogen would be un-fixed. There are not so many micro-organisms in the field so it would take a long time for the nutrients in the chicken manure to be made usable by the plants.

So to make bokashi, we gather micro-organisms from the forest. We call this indigenous micro-organisms (IMO). To make IMO, we fill a section of bamboo with cooked rice and bury it under leaves in the forest. In two weeks the IMO should have found it and be living a life of luxury within the rice. We use this as a starter to breed a whole bag of IMO.

To start the bokashi we mix a couple handfuls of IMO in with 16 milk-crates of chicken manure, 6 crates of forest soil, two large bags of rice bran, two large bags of rice husk charcoal, and one bag of rice husk. We pile it all on a concrete floor and cover with blankets, then we leave the IMO to do their job.

This is totally different from chemical farming, which tends to burn life form the soil with chemical pesticides and herbicides. With no microbes left to fix organic nutrients in the soil, chemical fertilizers must be used. 

This method of organic fertilizer seeks to create life and leaves room for nature to do what it naturally does. The rice bran is food for the IMO that gets them started breeding. The charcoal is nice because it is porous, allowing them space to live and breed. Once the rice bran is devoured and the IMO population has exploded, they begin to feed on the chicken manure thus fixing the nutrients in it so that plants can use it. The rice husk allows for aeration of the fermenting heap. The soil acts as a medium for the whole operation. Bokashi can be stored for up to three years successfully.

This kind of fertilizer is much better than any chemical compounds: it costs only labor; it is made by using resources found here on the farm; the process does not produce dangerous bi-products; it fosters life and bio-diversity; the quality of the soil improves for the long-term.

Tochigi Community Field-Day, "Sports Festival"

Today, Sunday, we went to Nasushiobara Church (the same church that had the Yukata worship festival). And afterwards, a few of us went straight to a sports festival where members from the local community were putting on a giant field day! There were organized team games such as tug-o-war, jump-rope, ball-toss, etc., so we joined in the fun!

Tito (Malawi), Chongli (India), Doug, and Jenny!

The Calm...

So this week we have been mentally preparing ourselves for HTC and HTC preparation. Starting tomorrow (Monday), instead of our regular morning and afternoon activities, we will be working on HTC preparation. For the food group (Jenny's group), that means harvesting crops and vegetables, shopping, peeling onions, making signboards for menus, etc. And for the worship and logistics group (Doug's group), that means making signboards, handling parking, setting up tents, and planning two worship services. We are also practicing for the cultural performances we are involved in: 1) Line Dance: America, 2) Batak Dance: Indonesia, and 3) American/Japanese poetry reading.

Basically, organized chaos will ensue beginning tomorrow and come Friday night, many of us will stay up into the wee hours of the morning making sure all is well for Saturday. The weekend will be non-stop show-time and finally, come Monday afternoon, we rest (which in all likelihood means we will not post next week's blog 'til Tuesday). 

We'll see you on the other side...

Jenny and Doug


  1. Jenny,

    It sounds like you are having an amazing time. I'm a little jealous that that you get to spend this amazing year abroad with your best friend. Keep up the good work!



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  3. Thanks, Kathy! I see that you are loving teaching and the kids are loving you! Miss you, Miss Kathy!