Sunday, December 30, 2012


Merry Christmas!

It's been a festive week here at ARI. If you'll remember, last Sunday we started our official Christmas celebration at Nishinasuno Church and the fellowship lunch at the kindergarten school across the street!

On Monday, Katie and I reminisced about our tradition of shopping with our dad every Christmas Eve for our mom's Christmas presents. Ever since we were two, dad would drive us into town, take us out to a nice lunch, and help us shop for mom's gifts. But he had to go out shopping by himself this year. This is neither good nor bad, but just a realization that things can't stay the same forever and it is good to be open to starting new traditions and remembering fondly old ones.

We wish you a Merry Christmas!
We went to church that evening and sang many traditional Christmas songs by candlelight. Afterwards, we bundled up and went caroling around to ARI staff's houses! After freezing our tootsies off and becoming very full from all the chocolate treats that were given to us, we retired to our house with another ARI volunteer, Kelly. We shared Christmas traditions and watched the 1979 stop-animated film Jack Frost and then went to bed in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Christmas Day was ever-so joyful. We "slept-in" ('til 8) and shared breakfast with the ARI community. Then we were able to skype with family and friends and share in the joy of Christmas. We tweaked the ARI Christmas Pageant and then headed to the kitchen to begin preparing the Christmas feast! We had roasted chicken with carrots and potatoes, apple-baked pork, dressing, cheesy potato soup, rolls, salad, friend noodles, and numerous pot-lucked dishes from community members. After enjoying our dinner, we all participated in the pageant (Katie was Mary!) and decorated sugar cookies. And then we commemorated the day by watching the "Christmas Lunch Incident" episode of the Vicar of Dibley!
Pageant Director Santa Doug
*First Look* (featuring Baby Santa as Baby Jesus)

Awesome sprinkles!

Wednesday was back to work. We have been really busy preparing for our ARI Holiday, making sure there is enough feed for all the livestock, cleaning their pens, etc. We continued our work Thursday and joined some fellow parishioners for dinner at one of their houses. These kinds of dinner parties always remind me of the holidays back home. Sharing meals inside a warm house when it's bitterly cold outside will probably always make me feel at home.

Friday was our last day of work before our holiday began. In the kitchen, we made sushi! Surprisingly, this was our first sushi since we have been in Japan, and it was awesome!

Since yesterday, we have been on holiday. This means there is no daily work (kitchen work for me, farm work for Doug). However, just like on weekends, there is still work to be done on the farm like tending livestock. For these purposes, we have "holiday assignment." So for each day we are present on campus, we are asked to participate in this work. Since Katie was not here when the schedule was made, she has just been helping out in my assignments. Sometimes, Katie was not very motivated to get out of bed! 

But in all honesty, she's been a real trooper these past two weeks. Our daily work is not easy, especially now that workers are few. As Doug's dad would say, "upkeep is  tuff!" But Katie has humbly allowed herself to be pooped on by chickens, caked with rice powder in the feed mixing room, and almost get frostbite sleeping in her freezer ;) I am very proud of her.

Katie even made shepherd's pie for the community last night! This is her favorite dish to eat at home, especially on cold days! Of course we had to put a little ARI spin on the recipe, but it was definitely tasty and well received by everyone!

Pork, carrots, and onions, with mashed potatoes and cheese!
Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and we are hosting a volunteer get-together at the missionary house. There is no telling whether or not we will all be able to stay up until midnight, it will definitely be the latest we've stayed up since we got here, we usually rock the 8-9pm bedtime. 

On January 2, we will begin our travels around Japan. First, we (the three of us plus Kelly!) will take the local train down to Kyoto and meet up with a fellow YASC volunteer who is currently serving in Sendai. After three days in Kyoto, we will travel back up north to Tokyo where we hope to meet up with some old college friends who happen to be traveling in Japan right now. After another three days Katie will board the plane to travel home.

We hope to be able to update the blog at our usual time, but we aren't sure what our schedule will be like, so be on the look out and be patient with us!

We want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We feel very blessed to have your support and encouragement, especially this time of year, it really means a lot to us.

See you in 2013!

Your fellow servants in Christ, 

Doug and Jenny

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rowdy Chickens and the Advent Adventures

This has been our first full week since the participants left. Two staff members have also left this week; Jil (from the Philippines) and Timo (from Ghana) have returned to their home for a few months to visit family, sort out business, and clean their houses before another term begins here at ARI. Timo pretty much runs the show as far as the chickens are concerned. They have been rumored to stop eating and stop laying so many eggs while he is away.

Jenny has been in the chicken section all month. She is keeping her eye on the birds and their caretakers. She has been reading up on poultry raising lately. After reading that a sick bird should be immediately removed from the rest, she happened to encounter a sick chick while Katie was feeding them. Luckily, she knew just what to do. She took initiative and brought the chick down to farm shop, hoping that she had removed it in time to prevent the spread of disease.

Jonathan and his wife, Satomi, also left for the United States this week. They are the couple that Jenny and I moved in with after the deconstruction of men's dorm began. They graciously showed us the ups and downs of living in a Japanese style home during the winter. There is no insulation or central heating, but the Japanese have neat little ways of heating just about everything you could want: electric rugs, electric blankets, kerosene/electric heaters, hot water kettles, hot water bottles to take to bed, and a hot Japanese style bath. The toilet seat even heats up when you sit on it!

Jenny's twin sister, Katie is also staying with us, which keeps the house as warm as we need it to be. Her presence here has been a wonderful gift. We are so thankful to be able to share this cold house, this new culture, this holiday away from home, with family. Katie could have very easily chosen to stay home, save money, and spend her time doing something else, like cleaning her apartment, de-stressing from the semester, making money, or visiting friends. But instead she chose to travel to the other side of the earth to visit us. She endured the torture of flying (y'all know it's bad). She came just to be with us, even though right now that means being very cold every day, feeding chickens, and doing dusty farm work seven days a week.

If I can be allowed a mini-sermon, I'll say that in coming here to be with us, Katie has acted in the true spirit of a missionary. Jenny and I came (or were sent) here for the same reason. Thinking of the entire human race as one big family, we all came here to work alongside our beloved relatives. We all are struggling to make this world a better place to exist. So in the spirit of Christ, we come together to join in that struggle, even though it means flying far from home, being uncomfortable, and working until no matter how hard you try, you can't scrub the dirt from your hands.

This seems to me to be the very spirit of Christmas. At this time of year we celebrate the coming of Christ into this world—God became a human just to be with us. And we all know what a messy work it is to be human. It's worse than going through customs!

Baking sugar cookies for our Christmas dinner

In a reflection of God's love, we celebrate this season by going to be with the ones we love. I'm sure many of you have braved highways, tarmacs, busses, and bikes just to go see your family and friends. Or maybe you've stayed at home and made a special effort to be present with the ones you do not usually have time for. It can be a messy business sometimes—kid's get car sick, in-law's get cranky, the turkey won't cook just right, someone has three too many—but we go there, across the divide to be with someone else, and we do so out of love.
This week we thought we would let Katie do a guest entry on our blog. Here is what she has to say about the week!

After almost 40 hours of travel total, a 13 hour flight and almost 5 hour train ride I finally arrived at ARI (greeted with hugs and hot chocolate). It was an exhausting trip to say the least, but well worth it to see ol’ Jenners and Doug. We lucked out with Jenny and Doug’s rooming assignment. With them staying in the missionary house, I was able to stay with them instead of in the women’s dormitory on the other side of the ARI campus. It was 10:30pm when I arrived at the farm so it was a pretty easy transition. Hopefully the trip back will be just as easy. As mentioned previously, Sunday was spent on the town with trips to the supermarket and the Okonomiyaki restaurant.

Foodlife work this week is taking care of the chicks with Jenny. This involves feeding, giving water, and cleaning the pens. Also, in the evenings, we clean eggs. Slowly but surely, Jenny taught me not to be afraid of the chicks. We even mustered up my courage enough to hold one! When we are finished with the chicks we are expected to help with the older pens. The older roosters are especially mean! You constantly have to be on the look out for them being aggressive to the caregivers. One drew blood the other night, so now we go in together and keep the lookout for each other. What are sisters for?

Monday was my first day of work on the farm. I have been placed into the farm workgroup which means that I spend my days with Doug doing various things around the farm and in the fields. Monday was processing chickens day. This meant that I actively participated in the slaying, plucking, and cleaning of the chickens. It was hard work but after a few hours we had worked through 75 chickens. This was a very difficult first day.

Tuesday was spent sorting soybeans. This was easier than killing chickens, but still difficult because the sorting instrument is a hand cranking wind machine. Doug was always on the ready to relieve my arms with a break when I needed it. During these breaks I cleaned taro roots.

Wednesday was spent in the fields tending to onions. The onion fields are off campus in an area that is very flat so the wind swoops down off the mountains and nearly knocks you off your feet. This made spreading rice husk charcoal on the onions extremely difficult because 1) the charcoal is going everywhere and 2) it’s extremely cold. This is also what we did on Thursday.

Friday was spent de-husking rice. Doug and I were catching the rice, bagging it up, weighing it, and sorting it to be sold.

There is a lot of work that goes into keeping the farm up and running. From feeding and cleaning up animal pens to spreading charcoal on onions or sorting soybeans, there is always work to be done. Most of the work is rather difficult, especially for a newcomer who is not familiar with equipment or tasks that need to be done. I am slowly catching on and I am confident that my week 2 work will be more productive than my week 1 work.

Sunday's Adventures

We all went to Nishinasuno Church this morning. They were having a special Christmas celebration afterward. Ban-san dressed up as Santa Clause and brought gifts to all the children. Meanwhile, Jenny, Katie, and I stuffed our faces. It was a mega-potluck.

Also, when we returned to campus Jenny, Katie, and I were signed up to take care of the chickens. We started our work as usual but then realized that there were some chickens running around outside the pens. A quick investigation revealed that one of the doors was open. We shooed a few back inside and thought we were finished. Moments later Osamu-san came over to tell us that there was a whole flock of chickens hanging out with the mother sows. So we spent the next twenty minutes snatching up nearly twenty chickens and five roosters. We were jumping over fences, dashing under nets, and dodging in between pregnant sows. Finally we had them all back in their pen. We retired to clean eggs.

Merry Christmas to everyone. Thank you for all of your support, cards, and jars of peanut butter you have sent this season.

Fellow servants in Christ,

Doug, Jenny, and Katie

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Departures and Arrivals

Dear friends,

As you may have gathered thus far, the ARI community is a very dynamic one. People are constantly coming and going and adding new life and perspectives to our ongoing conversations about life and food. But this past week tops them all.

Saying goodbye to friends is never easy, and certainly saying goodbye to friends for five days in a row does not exhaust or numb the heart to loss. Twenty-seven rural leaders have now left ARI. We, us, those who have been left behind, are grieving over the separation. It definitely puts things into perspective having left our own communities; where as, we have had to adapt to our new community, our friends and families have had to adapt to our absence. But in all of this, the thing to remember is that twenty-seven rural leaders have now returned safely to their respective, welcoming communities where they will continue their work with new energy and life. We try hard to remind each other of this when the still and quiet just seem too overwhelming.

Our once lively conversations during meal times have turned into quiet whispers only about how quiet things are now. We used to celebrate the fact that our many hands make light work, and now we are feeling the effects of very few hands.

But as we move along in the Advent Season, we can look ahead with excitement and anticipation for the arrivals on the horizon. I am first and foremost referring to the birth of Christ, but I would also like to mention the arrival of another very important person in our life, our sister Katie.

Saturday morning, I (Jenny) hopped on a train airport bound to meet my sister and bring her safely back to ARI. After almost 40 hours of travel on her part, and 10 on mine, we finally made it back to ol' ARI with warm beds and hot chocolate waiting for us.

We have wasted no time assimilating Katie into our daily life here. She began her first day at ARI doing nothing other than feeding the pigs! One of our mother sows gave birth to piglets two nights ago so she was able to coo over them as well.

After breakfast, we hopped on our bikes TRIAL bound. After picking up a few essentials, we headed for lunch to eat...can you guess? OKONOMIYAKI! This is our favorite Japanese food thus far, and we didn't waste any time introducing Katie to it.

So as a new week begins, we recognize the changes in our community and appreciate all the gifts that each person brings to share. We hope you can at least catch a glimpse of all these gifts in our blog updates, because they are truly wonderful and lovely.

With the previously mentioned countdowns already concluded, we can focus on counting down 'til Christmas. Katie brought over our advent calendars (which potentially means 16 chocolate pieces in one day!!) and we have begun decorating the campus.

Friday night we decked the halls in Koinonia!
Now we wait, we meditate, we celebrate the coming of our Lord!

Fellow servants in Christ,

Doug and Jenny (and Katie!)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Standing Together

Dream Presentations (continued)

Joelma from Brazil lives in a community of landless farmers. Her dream is that land will be redistributed. Like many countries, a small percentage of Brazilians own a large percentage of the nation's land, creating a class of landholding elites. Much land goes to waste. Joelma and her community live on this land and support their lives by farming it. Her idea is that if more people have land, more people will have food. When she returns she plans to increase the community's self-sufficiency by applying the agricultural knowledge she gained here. She will also continue to help publish a national magazine for landless farmers.

Kengo wants to form an organic farm/community center. His dream is that everyone in his community may live a humanely satisfactory life. He plans to offer English or Japanese lessons at the center, to involve youth in agriculture and growing their own food, and to organize Bible studies. It is uncertain right now exactly where Kengo will find his community. He married Veny (today!), from Indonesia, and they are just beginning to dream of their life together.

Wilson has dreams for his rural community in the Philippines. He wants to practice sustainable agriculture and bring about community happiness. He wants to begin by demonstrating organic farming on his own land. Wilson is also a pastor and plans to teach about organic farming in his church's Sunday schools. He is also excited to work with a project for his sending body on a 10 hectare piece of land.

Joseph, a pastor from Papua New Guinea, dreams for his community to become self-sufficient. He hopes to reduce poverty by teaching some of the organic agriculture practices to other pastors in his community. His hope is that by teaching the pastors, they will in turn teach their congregations.

Catherine's dream for her community in Malawi is to reduce HIV/AIDS. She also hopes to mitigate the impact of such diseases by giving care and support to those who are infected and affected by the disease. Catherine believes organic farming that relies upon local resources can help her reach this goal. The transmission of HIV/AIDS is closely linked to prostitution. Prostitution is closely linked to the poverty in her community. Catherine is thinking that if more people can produce their own food, less people will need seek money through prostitution.

Hanifa from Liberia is also planning to share her learnings about sustainable organic agriculture. She wants to start a program at a nearby school in her community in which the students will learn about agriculture. This is important to her community because she knows there is a high level of high school drop-outs and people who cannot make it to college. She wants to give them some skills that will help them support themselves in their future. She is also planning to begin a garbage sorting program in her community. This would enable the community to produce their own compost. To do the sorting she would set up a program that would allow former criminals to do the sorting and receive pay. Hanifa and her husband are already farmers, but when she returns, she is going to begin to practice what she preaches. She will discontinue their use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Lwin Lwin from Myanmar was feeling the pressure during his presentation. Two members of the organization that paid for his scholarship came to ARI to meet him and observe his plan for his dream. In his area, 70% of people are farmers. Their main crop is opium. He hopes to teach organic agriculture and start a micro-credit union so that farmers will not have to rely on selling the opium poppies.

Tito from Malawi dreams of turning his community into an exporting community where they can be proud of their products. He hopes to use the agricultural techniques he learned here at ARI, like making fertilizer and compost, to lessen the items imported so they can increase the items exported.

Niro is coming to us from the war-torn nation of Sri Lanka. One thing Niro is very concerned about is responsible use of water resources. Water in his region of Sri Lanka is very scarce. Lakes and ponds are valuable resources but recently there has been much deforestation around such reservoirs. This has caused erosion and depletion of water. He plans to continue reforestation efforts around these ponds. He also dreams of creating a demonstration farm in which youth from the opposing north and south regions come together to learn organic agriculture and also to learn about each other. In this way, he hopes to bring about some peace.

Marta from Indonesia dreams of changing her own farming methods and becoming a living example of what is taught here at ARI. She is a pastor/farmer that has also been using very expensive chemicals on her farm where she grows lots of chilies. By the time her chilies are bought by the middle man, there is little or no profit. The story is the same for many people in her community. To be a farmer is to be in debt from buying these expensive imported chemicals. Marta will begin teaching methods that do not rely on such expensive and destructive substances.

Ester's dream is to teach the younger generations how to manage land sustainably. She is from Malaysia. She will start practicing organic agriculture on her own first and then use her projects as a demonstration to her community.

Nishanta is also from Sri Lanka. His dream is to build an organic institute similar to ARI. He wants to bring youth from the different ethnic groups of Sri Lanka to work together on the farm. They will learn about agriculture and also they will learn to respect each other and live together.

Abik is a Methodist pastor from Myanmar. His dream is to bring peace and happiness to his community through organic agriculture. He knows that the first step in his plan is to discuss everything he has learned with his wife. He knows that if his wife does not support him, he can do nothing. If there is no peace in the home, how can their be peace in his community?

Joe from Cameroon dreams of finding a way to sell his farmers' products at fair prices. His plan is to found a pyramid cooperative system. He will not make the co-op exclusive to organic farmers. Many of the farmers in his area currently rely upon chemicals. His plan is to organize them in the co-op first and then attempt to start a dialogue about the use of chemicals vs. organic techniques.

Dolphe wants to bring organic farming to his community in the Philippines also. He knows it will be difficult because most of the farmers around him are already relying on chemicals. He will return to his farm and begin farming the organic way. Luckily his farm is near a central road so many can see his methods and results.

Snow Viewing

Thursday was our last community event day. We piled on the busses in our warmest clothes and headed for the mountains. Any day we can see these mountains from our fields. Lately they have been topped with snow. So we drove up until the roads were closed. Then we got out of the bus and hiked up the mountain path which was covered with snow. It seemed like we were climbing up and up forever. Maybe it took so long because we kept stopping to have snow ball skirmishes. Snow is a new experience for many of the participants so excitement was high. Even for us Arkansans, only used to one or two snows a year, the day was better than an outing to Disneyland.


Friday night, after we finished Foodlife work and had showered, we felt an earthquake coming on. The walls and windows of our room started swaying like a bad-dream. We waited for one second expecting it to die down but it only grew stronger. So we jumped out the door and off the porch, not even taking time to grab a jacket. We stood in the cold under the shivering trees, waiting for it all to stop. We could hear everyone else in the campus tumbling outside laughing and yelling to each other.

As many of you may have already read in the news, this was the strongest quake in Japan since the March 11th quake. Luckily, no one was hurt and there was no damage.

40th ARI Commencement Service

Jenny and I baked all afternoon Friday to prepare pumpkin cookies and blonde brownies for the graduation and for Veny and Kengo's wedding. Saturday we removed all of the tables from Koinonia and set up the chairs to receive the seats of two-hundred visitors that would come and witness the graduation of our participants from their ARI training program.

It was a wonderful ceremony, complete with speeches from the director, visitors, and of course the participants themselves. Marta from Indonesia gave the participant's speech.

Afterward, everyone snacked on the cookies we made and took pictures of each other. This went on for about an hour. Congratulations all around!

Veny and Kengo's Wedding

We woke up knowing that today would be an incredible day. Jenny spent all morning directing the preparation of the dinning hall for Veny and Kengo's wedding. We hung bamboo decorations (made using local resources), mopped the floors, arranged the chairs, spray-painted leaves, and prepared for the reception that was to follow the wedding. That mean more cookies!

The service went off with out a hitch. Kengo's family and friends came. All the ARI community was present. Act Ka Hti sang a song from her country and the ARI community sang as a choir, “This is the Day,” and, “God Bless You.”

They were happily married! It was so inspiring to see a couple standing together before God and their community, swearing their life to each other. They are both dedicated to making this world a better place to be alive. God will bless them in the days to come as they face the world together.

Leaving. Together.

We are all going to get up at three o'clock tomorrow morning to see a handful of participants off. It is so hard to believe that they are actually going now. They will all return to their respective communities, carrying all the gifts that this incredible training has given them. Though it may feel like they are parting ways, their journey together is just beginning. The functioning ARI “theme-song” of sorts states, “together we will stand and together we will toil.” In the coming years these graduates will stand together to face the insanity of this churning world. They will stand together for the rights of rural people, for the rights of women, the right of every human to live life fully. They will toil together to empower their people and to sustain life for those coming next.

Your fellow servents in Christ,

Doug and Jenny Knight