Sunday, November 25, 2012

Give Thanks Always, For Everything

This week has been one to be thankful for. We’ve had heavy coat days, t-shirt days, sunny shine, and blankets of clouds. The fall foliage stuck with us through it all. I’d guess that the leaves around here are at their peak. There is often snow on the ridges of the mountains that we can see from our fields. Fall is here, but winter is on the way. The week has been a time to welcome our ARI family back, to be warm by the fire together, to cook a big dinner or two or three, to sing out loud, and to say thank you to everyone and everything.

Participants Return!

Jenny has been heading up the effort to prepare a surprise for the participants returning from their Western Japan Study Tour. Since the participants would be leaving before Christmas came around, we decided to celebrate with them. We found some boxes of Christmas decorations above the office. Sunday night after dinner, we put on some seasonal music and decked the dining hall out.

By Monday night, we had a welcome banner hung, light’s and tinsel twinkling, and an ARI all-star dinner on the table: pork adobo, fried noodles, fried fish, chicken ‘n’ dumplings, salad, peach cobbler, blonde brownies, and of course, rice! Jil, the training assistant who works most with the pigs, met the returning participants in the parking area leading “Joy to the World,” on his guitar. Veny, a graduate intern who is working mostly in the kitchen, had prepared a dance which we performed during dinner to the tune of Jingle Bells. Finally, Santa Claus (Jil) stopped by and passed out some small gifts (cookies and coconut chili paste) that we had prepared.
Farm Work

In the spirit of fall, the farm workers spent a couple of days raking leaves around the ARI campus. This was not for aesthetic purposes but for making hot beds in early spring. We will pile up the leaves nearly four feet deep under our green house. Their decomposition will produce enough heat to grow tomatoes and other veggies before the cold leaves.

The wheat grains we planted out in the fields are now 3-inch sprigs of green. Contradicting our nurturing instincts, we were ordered to go out and step on the young wheat sprouts. A good stomping pushes their roots deeper so they’ll grow stronger this spring. American volunteer Peter likened it to times when we are seemingly crushed by the heavy burdens that life places on us. Through these trials we become strong enough to grow through the spring and bear many fruits in summer.

I spent one afternoon butchering ducks with Ban-san, Peter, and his wife Anna. We butchered three; one was used to test the radiation in the meat, the other two were for Thanksgiving Dinner, which we were rushing to pull together.

Wednesday Night

The volunteers went out for dinner at our beloved Indian Restaurant down the road. We were saying goodbye to Anna and Peter, who had surprisingly already been here for the ten weeks that they planned to spend here. They are a young couple, both fresh out of Seminary, planning to be Lutheran pastors. Just like Jenny and I, they were married one year ago on September 24th! So back in September when they first arrived, we shared our special day with them by, you guessed it, sharing a meal at our favorite Indian Restaurant. It was neat to eat one of our last meals with them there this week.

After we returned from ARI we headed back into the kitchen to do some major prep work for the Thanksgiving feast we were planning to share with everyone on Thursday night. As most traditional American Thanksgiving dinners are, ours was a bit oven heavy. So we got some baking out of the way. Before 11:30 we had whipped out two pumpkin pies, three pumpkin bread loaves, a sweet potato pie, and an apple pie, and were well on our way to a hearty pumpkin soup.

Community Work Day in the Forest

On Thursday, the whole community woke up and headed out to the forest to work up an appetite. ARI has a share of forest land nearby which we often visit and care for. On this day, some of us cleared out underbrush while others scaled the Japanese cedars and sawed off dead limbs.

Thanksgiving Feast

When we returned from the forest, Jenny and I went straight to work on the Thanksgiving dinner. Other American volunteers were already tending diligently to our two turkeys, stirring pumpkin soup, and kneading rolls from scratch. We then started in on the mashed potatoes, the dressing, roasted roots (carrots, radish, burdock), and oven-roasted ducks.

Thankfully we had some extra help! Rachel’s parents were visiting. They helped make the pies (crust from scratch!) and carve up the birds. Also, an American family, living and teaching in Tokyo, was visiting ARI for the holiday. They brought their adorable children along. Something about kids climbing around the room, crying, and generally being cute made it feel like the holidays. Eleanor even helped me fix the dressing!

Before digging in we introduced the holiday. Peter talked about the pilgrims and the natives. Kelly led us in a small prayer service and the song, “For the Fruits of All Creation.” I explained what dressing was and the many ways to use gravy and cranberry sauce.

Everyone really enjoyed the meal. We’ve been getting compliments and thank-you’s all weekend. Fuji said that the meal made him consider applying for American citizenship.

Our ducks in a row

Not too colorful a meal, but D - lish!

Giving Thanks

Minngos Concert

Friday was a national holiday here so we all got the day off. It was nice to get an extra day of rest after all of our work in the kitchen. All Jenny and I had to do was feed the pigs right before dark. In the afternoon, the gospel choir, Minngos, performed a final concert in Koinonia. They even sang some Chirstmas songs like, “Silent Night,” and, “Ding-Dong Merrily on High,” so the Christmas decorations from Monday were still working their magic.

Wind Family Cookout

On Saturday night we grabbed our last two broiler chickens and loaded up on the bus. Gussan, the farm manager, was hosting a cookout at his farm, Wind Family Farm, to celebrate the end of farm work for the participants.

There were two grills set up. We gathered around and threw on onions, potatoes, pork, fish, and the chickens we brought and butchered. We all stayed warm by the fire eating, drinking, and singing songs into the night.

Nishinasuno Church

Pastor Joseph 
The kind folks at Nishinasuno Church hosted a final ARI Sunday for this year’s participants. Joseph Kora, from Papua New Guinea, gave the sermon. He talked about Mary who poured expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus and how she shows us we should give even what is most valuable to us. After church, we shared fellowship over a fine lunch that the congregation had prepared for us.

Last Few Moments Together

As we move on into December, the participants are counting down the days and hours they have left here at ARI. Graduation will be on December 8th. After that people will begin departing. We are all aware that our time here together is coming to a close. As this happens we become increasingly thankful that we were able to meet here and share these beautiful times together. We will pray for them as they prepare to re-enter their lives in their communities and use the gifts they have found here at ARI.

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