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


  1. It's fun to read your stories. Glad you all are having a good time. Sounds like an excellent place. Keep on keepin' on

    1. Thanks for reading and saying hello, Aaron! It really means a lot. Happy New Year, my friend.