Christmas Letter 2017
Dear Family and Friends,
Never Forget: Always Remembering Something So Significant
This June marked the 75th anniversary of the internment of over 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, a date that was commemorated by the Spokesman-Review, my hometown newspaper, in a front-page interview of several internees including my mom who recounted the day that the police took her father away without explanation.“No, America doesn’t do things like that,” my mom remembers saying when she found her mother sobbing on the floor, afraid that they were all going to be taken away and shot. For the rest of the war her father would be separated from his family who was forced to live in “Camp Harmony,” a euphemistic name for the Puyallup fairgrounds which were hastily converted into makeshift housing when President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the eviction of Japanese American citizens and immigrants from the West Cost and designated military zones. Over 7,600 people of Japanese descent were forced to live at the fairgrounds in April 1942 under dehumanizing conditions. Even the horse stalls under the grandstands were converted
into makeshift housing for families. I remember my mom telling us that her mattress was stuffed with straw. Since the internees could only pack 60 pounds of personal belongings, my grandmother brought one pot so she’d at least be able to cook rice wherever she went. No one came to say goodbye except for my mom’s art teacher.
“I appreciated so much that she had the courage to come,” my mom said. The Spokesman-Review related that my mom’s family “was moved to the Tule Lake camp in California in fall 1942. Once again, the internees weren’t told where they were going – they were simply ordered to get on a train. The camp housed about 18,000 people on 26,000 acres. Newspapers were banned, and armed guards said anyone who left without authorization would be shot.” There were minimal shower and laundry facilities, limited power and water, and outhouses without privacy. A typical barrack for a family of four to six people had nothing more than a potbelly stove, a single bare lightbulb, and metal military surplus cots from World War I.
But their troubles weren’t over. In 1943, people of Japanese descent faced a “loyalty questionnaire.” My mom was flagged as “disloyal” because of her answers to this questionnaire. “Question 27 asked if the respondent would be willing to serve in the U.S. military,” explains the Spokesman-Review. “Many Japanese-Americans did, even while their families were locked in camps, but [my mom] said no, she didn’t want to serve unless she was released. Question 28 asked if the respondent would forswear loyalty to the Japanese emperor and swear allegiance only to the United States. [My mom] reasoned that she’d been born an American citizen and had never sworn allegiance to the emperor or Japan in the first place, so she had nothing to forswear.” Her answers put her in a group called the “no-nos,” people of Japanese descent who were branded “disloyal.” All those who answered “no-no” were kept at or sent to a camp in northern California called “Tule Lake.” That is where my Mom and her parents and siblings were being held. I did find a letter my mom wrote to the National Commission on April 13, 1981: “I did (renounce my citizenship) because primarily I didn’t want to be separated from my family. So my assurance of staying together was to renounce.
I had nowhere to place my hopes or security, and my refuge was my family. It is my feeling that many were in the same situation as I found myself. When your own country is against you and you no longer have a home to go back to, you tend to feel a need to close rank within the family. “I wish I can somehow deliver this message of pain I still suffer because of the division among Japanese Americans stemming from our wartime experience in Concentration Camps. I feel that whatever mistakes I made under those stressful situation are not as serious as the actions of a government that deprives us of our citizenship just because we had Japanese faces. However, I feel our government has pardoned me as a renunciant and I am most willing to pardon her for her offences. I hope the Commission will embrace the erstwhile renunciants as part of the total picture of what happened.”
Now you may be asking, “Now what does this have to do with Christmas?” Please stay with me and I will try my best to bring it all together. The Japanese internment camps certainly were an injustice. Being considered guilty because of race and treated as such without even evidence or a trial is wrong and unjust. A presidential apology and monetary redress seem trifle compared to the devastating impact this had on so many Japanese families. My hope is that the Japanese community can forgive. I believe my father did since he served honorably in the 442nd, stating that he is no hero because the real heroes never came home. He loved America and volunteered to serve. The Japanese internment camps were a dark spot in US history, but in world history there was an even more grievous mark some 2,000 years ago. Jesus was the only human that never sinned. That means that He never did anything wrong. “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) And as Isaiah 53:3-10 says:
“He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”
Even though Jesus never did anything wrong, He was so mistreated. He was whipped, spat upon, kick, stripped, crowned with a crown of thorns, nailed to a cross. The Bible records it this way (Isaiah 52:14) “Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.” Our family watched a video of a once-professing atheist Lee Stobel, a journalist for the Chicago Tribune in the 1970s who set out to disprove the claims of Jesus. He traveled and interviewed leading experts on ancient Near East and experts of ancient manuscripts. As more and more evidence was accumulated, his case against the authenticity of the Bible and the claims of Jesus actually got weaker not stronger. He even interviewed a gentleman who studied the crucifixion and the mechanism of death and the possibility of surviving a crucifixion since there are those who claim that Jesus never truly died but was resuscitated, explaining away the empty tomb and eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ appearances after the crucifixion. This expert said that it would be impossible. This expert said hanging from your hands, it would make it impossible to breath normally but one would have to pull up with his hands and push with his feet for every breath, or you would literally suffocate. If somehow you survived this cruel punishment, the soldiers would come by and break your legs making it impossible to use your legs, quickening your demise. The Bible documents how the soldiers went around to make sure Jesus and the other two men were dead. Apparently the other two men were still alive, so the solder broke their legs. The Bible gives an account of this: “but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (John 19:33-34) This expert said the mixture of blood and water was from around Jesus’ heart and this occurs when one dies of suffocated by crucifixion. Lee Strobel had all of this evidence that Jesus truly lived, he was crucified on a cross and eye-witness accounts of Jesus appearing after His death. He struggled not with the evidence, but with this haunting question: “Why would Jesus ever go to the cross?” That should be our question also. Why would an innocent man die for the guilty?
Let me try to explain this as best as I can. You may say that the god I believe in is a loving god. I believe that God is the most loving being ever. God is actually the source and model of love. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 God is love. One thing that is rarely brought up is that God is
just. In fact He is perfectly just. He will punish all disobedience and reward all righteousness. In order for God to be “good” He has to be just. To help understand
this consider a judge. He would not be good if he knowingly punished the innocent and punished not the guilty. God’s standards are even higher than our court system. If we are truly honest it is easy to see that all of us have done bad things and therefore guilty. How does this affect our relationship with God? We get a glimpse of this in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, God kicked them out for good. No longer could they be close. That could have been the end of the story, but “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) That is what we celebrate at Christmas time. Jesus’ birth. God Himself became a human, like us, but unlike
us, Jesus lived the perfect life, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice, to pay for our rebellion. Jesus took the punishment that we deserve to provide a way for each of us to be made right with God. “Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:22-24) As we started, the innocent dying for the guilty.
How does one receive God’s forgiveness? Mark 1:15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Repent: “is a heartfelt sorrow for sin a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.” Believe= is more than head knowledge that Jesus is God, but that Jesus and Jesus alone is your only means of being made right with God. “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep (died) in Jesus.” (1 Thes. 4:14) Jesus is not one of many ways to be made right with God, but the only way. These are Jesus’ own words: Jesus said to him,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6) If man could save himself, then why would Jesus die one of the most cruelest deaths? Jesus even pleaded with God the Father, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” There is no other way and Jesus voluntarily went to the cross and took on the punishment meant for you and me.
This is called the Gospel or Good News. This certainly is good news.
A pastor and also many friends shared with me this Good News back in 1984 and it was then that I made the most important decision I’ll ever make — I decided to turn from my selfish ways and trust in Jesus and follow His ways. I have never regretted this decision. I admit that I don’t know about all the other religions out there, but this I know. Jesus is God, He lived and died and rose again and has provided a way to live with Him forever. One day we will all find out the truth. Where is your trust? “For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:2-3) Don’t ignore so great a salvation. If you have questions, please contact me and it would be an honor for me to spend time with you, to wrestle with this, as others helped me with these same concerns.
Now my favorite—“up close and personal." Let’s begin with the youngest first.
Jairus (11) One of my biggest responsibility as a father is to help prepare each of our children for life—their futures, marriages, careers. For sons, preparing them to be the Provider, Protector, and Priest (spiritual leader) of their homes and helping them through the many landmines of life. With each son, I try to set the bar high, wanting each to reach this goal before leaving the home. I find that the best way to prepare a son is to be a role model, take their hand and do it together. This actually has been difficult with each of my sons, but maybe the hardest with Jairus. I am way too harsh, way too impatient and way too unloving. Please pray for me. I need to change. He is our walking encyclopedia with facts that you didn’t even consider. Just ask him a difficult question or problem and he just may surprise you with the answer. This summer he built an elaborate canal system to help protect our sand creation from the incoming ocean tide. I’ll often see his inventions in the garage. Like putting brakes, derailleurs, and gear shifters from our bike graveyard on his bike. Jairus is our wood stacker and soon-to-be wood splitter. He mows the grass and does a great job! Preparing his spiritual life must always be on my radar and priority list.
Lily (13) “Youngest daughter” doesn’t mean that she is far behind the rest. She is so sincere that you can almost always count on her for whatever she puts her mind to. For example, she volunteered to make the boutonnieres for the groomsmen. These were actually made out of printed map paper. I don’t know how many steps are involved, but Lily worked diligently until each was done. I believe she said that each boutonniere took 2 hours. She always practices her violin, even on birthdays and vacation. When I was her age, I would have taken those times off. She is often up early reading her Bible. It is nice to see her love for God. Be careful if you let Lily know what you like because you just may get that for your birthday. Lily loves out of a pure heart and cost does not matter. 2 Corinthians 8:3 says, “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord.” Lily loves from her heart and is so sincere. For her birthday, she asked if I would take her fishing. “Sure, I will.” I am certain she loves the feel of a fish fighting on the end of her line, but she just wants time together. That is what I want also. Sure, it would be extra nice to catch some fish also. Well, that did not occur, but we sure had a nice time. No matter how much you make wedding plans, there is bound to have things overlooked or just not go as planned. I had several jobs, but the most important (besides walking Amy down the aisle) was to transport the keyboard there, set up, and also to get Kristi and Noelle there early to get things ready. The keyboard got set up, but I did not set up the harp, violin stands, sheet music or violins. Noelle memorized her part, but Lily had no music. Somehow, she played her part without music and without memorizing it. God must have helped her, as the music sounded wonderful and moved me to tears.
Noelle (15) Noelle is a natural artist. She does some amazing, realistic artwork, especially her pencil drawings of a glass of water, Amy and Jon, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer—each seem so real. In general, things come quickly for Noelle, but what holds her back is that she likes to do things almost to perfection. Noelle likes adventure and this summer she got to try something new, floating down the Wenatchee River. Noelle couldn’t wait and she started down the river without us. We eventually caught up. What fun! The last run of the day, we floated two miles down the river and Lori picked us up. Everyone was cold and tired. I think everyone slept well that night. This year was the long-awaited Father:Daughter date. It is a special date as we get to talk about the future, including marriage and purity. We had lunch at the Space Needle. I think we went around three times with each revolution taking 45 minutes, giving us a 360 degree view of Seattle. The highlight is the purity ring, when Noelle promises to remain pure.
Noelle is growing into a godly woman, and to continue along this path will take encouragement, foresight and, for her, a heart with a proper love and respect for God and His ways. She is taking an apologetics class so she can be better prepared to share what she believes and why she believes what she believes. This is something we all need so we are also doing this as a family. There are many topics but one is: If God is all loving then why is there evil in the world?
Aaron (17) Aaron is busy, but a good busy. Besides taking a full load of classes, he is working at Fishline a local food bank twice a week, writing his own book, mowing lawns, bicycling with friends, and doing yard work. He wanted to play on a local soccer team this year and I wanted him to take a class that our church teaches, to train up men to be spiritual leaders. This class actually involves three areas: Theology (study of God), Old Testament and Greek. I knew that he could not do both. He reluctantly but willing agreed to take the church class and forgo soccer. I know that this means a lot for him. To help soften the blow, I agreed to take him out skiing at least a couple times this winter. He has never skied before but he is good on the ripstick and most athletic endeavors. I just hope I am up to it. Better do those wall-sits and even get my cardio up and ready. Since he has an income, he is fairly generous and usually gives things that he also likes and he’ll enjoy playing with it too. Aaron and I do the wood splitting and this year I cut down several trees on our property. The difficulty is getting those log rounds up our steep hill. Both of us put our heads together and decided to use the van ropes and pulleys to help. This has worked so well that our wood shed is packed and more ready than we have ever been. Our wood shed had a makeshift roof and it needed replacing. Aaron came up with a great idea. Instead of the normal flat roof, he helped design a roof that looks like it has cedar shakes. Just need to wait for some dry weather so we can paint it. He has been a great help with the outdoor chores. I will surely miss him when he is gone and my appreciation for his help will be magnified. His future plans include getting a mechanical engineering degree. Half of the mail in our mailbox is from colleges addressed to Aaron. Trying to help him navigate these next several years will be challenging and we have been praying for God’s wisdom. He and we want him to stay strong in his faith in God during these college years, as we have seen many wander from this spiritual and moral foundation during these late teens and early twenties.
Kristi (19) Kristi chose to hike along the Clear Creek trail for one of the activities for her birthday. It’s a nature trail near our home. Family means a lot to her and spending time together is important to her. She is very special to us also. Every 4th of July our family hosts a gathering at our home. Lori used to do most of the organizing, but with the wedding in just one month, there were some doubts of us even pulling this off. Well, Kristi stepped up and did the bulk of the organizing and planning and actual keeping of everything running. She delegated responsibilities to each of us and kept us on time. Great job, Kristi! She was also quite involved with the wedding—signage, hanging flower streamers, piano music, programs, and decorations. We live in a Norwegian town called Poulsbo and the downtown is very quaint. Because we live here, we often don’t appreciate it as we should. Usually it is Kristi who recommends walking around downtown. We have to visit the center attraction, Sluy’s bakery. As we were walking downtown, we met two of Aaron’s coworkers. We got talking about God and what we believe. We had a long conversation as we had different beliefs. Kristi said, “I want to be better prepared!” I have to agree with her and not only she and I but all of us need to be better prepared to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). As a family we will discuss and find answers to difficult questions like: “If God is holy, why did He allow sin in the world?” “How can God be both merciful and just?” “Why did Jesus have to die to provide for salvation of men?” “What is the purpose of man?” Kristi, thanks for bringing that up. Early next year Kristi and I will head off to Southeast Asia to provide free medical, dental, and eye care in remote villages. There is such poverty in this country especially after the Khmer Rouge when ¼ of the population was killed or died of starvation and disease, including most of the intellectuals. There are both great physical and spiritual needs there and I count it a great privilege to serve. I receive so much more than I give and I want my children to have this opportunity also. In eight clinic days our team may see 4,000 patients and we want each to be prayed for, treated with love and dignity, and given literature about God and hopefully so much more. Kristi has a tender heart for the needy and with her skills and talents, she will be a great asset to have on our team. We hope to visit my cousins in Tokyo on the way home. Kristi, has taken Japanese. Maybe she could brush up on this before the trip. I hope to work on the Cambodian language, called Khmer. Maybe Kristi and I can work together in our free time. Kristi is done with her formal schooling, but this doesn’t mean that she just sits around all day. She is volunteering for the same food bank that Aaron does as an artist and graphic designer. She won a contest and she was allowed to paint on the back of Fishline’s delivery truck. It was one of the hottest days of the year and Kristi had to paint. It is fun to see it around town. She was also asked to help with their newsletter and she now does the layouts for the newsletter. She has read almost every graphic design book in our library and we purchased a program to help with designing. She is able to use some her artistic skills to
Bethany (21) When there are important decisions to make and no clear direction on which path to take, I am sure glad that God helps to direct these decisions when we pray for His input. I felt certain that God wanted Bethany to take an ESL class to get training on how to teach English as a second language. I knew that she has a knack for languages, a heart for missions, a heart for international students, but lacked any training to teach English. We became aware of an TESOL training about ½ an hour from our home. In fact, Amy was seriously looking into this same opportunity. This summer we signed Bethany up for a two-month TESOL class and also a two-month leadership class. None of our children have been away from home by themselves for an extended period of time. I know you may say that Bethany is an adult and since moving away for college and careers is so common what is the big deal. That is just the way we have structured our family and home. We are thankful that nothing dangerous happened and she would earn a “certificate in teaching English as a second language” as long as she completed a practicum and actually taught English in an actual classroom. Both Lori and Bethany tried and tried to get an opportunity to teach in our local community college, Olympic College. All doors kept closed. We prayed but still no answer. She needed to complete this by the end of the year. In October, two opportunities opened up. One in Bremerton and one in the Poulsbo campus. Bethany met the teachers and within a couple weeks she needed to prepare lesson plans and just jump right in. Her excitement and energy was palpable. This is exactly what she wanted. She is so friendly that just sitting in the cafeteria, she meets students. She just met four Japanese international students and we are in the process of inviting them to our home. I have no idea where this will lead, but as I mentioned in last year’s newsletter, I wanted our family to be involved with some type of international student ministry. Some international student have never once stepped into an American home. I am so excited to see where God will lead this. This year Bethany came with me to Cambodia. She just jumped right in. She was paired up with a translator who had distributed eyeglasses before. There were days when Bethany had to work without a translator. The translators told me that Bethany speaks just like the locals. Wow! How about me? “No Dr. Rich,” they say. I want to impress them this coming year. I watched Bethany work. She would ask a translator how to say a phrase and have them repeat it a few times. Then she would ask how to say another phrase. She would do this until she have many phrases down and then she would just go out into the crowd and between her limited vocabulary and hand signals, she would do quite well. One of the hardest parts about being in Cambodia is knowing what to do with the many beggars. There are signs giving reasons why it is not good to give to beggars. We usually end up giving some food. Bethany would probably give all she has. We had a wonderful time in Tokyo visiting relatives on our way back home. I have never seen so many people, all with straight black hair and dark clothes. I held Bethany’s hand at the world’s busiest crosswalk Shibuya so we didn’t get separated in the crowd. We got to see a bronze statue of Hachiko. You may want to read up about this dog as it is quite famous and loved by the Japanese. Last but not least, Bethany is learning to drive. Yes, she has not been out much. I am her teacher. With her teaching and my busy schedule, there really is not much time left. This is much to the chagrin on her next two younger sibling who are next in line to learn to drive. No cutting in line now.
Stefanie (23) Stefanie is our main driver. Stefanie had some pretty big shoes to fill with Amy leaving. Stefanie has done remarkable well. She and Lori are the two hit hardest with Amy’s departure. This year Stefanie began working as a CNA/NAC at at local nursing home. This is right up her alley, as she has such a tender heart for those hurting or lonely. A grandma lady at our church got ill and Stefanie on her own, went over to the hospital and played her harp. The harp is one of the most peaceful and beautiful sounding instruments around. I just love to listen to her play. After church Stefanie asked if we could visit this lady. I am so glad we did, as she went to heaven just a day or two later. Stefanie may look petite, but whatever she puts her mind to, she is like a freight train. Our garage was so full of “stuff” that we couldn’t even get one car in the two-car garage. Am I the only one with this problem? I just looked that that mess and said, “I’ll save that for another day.” I knew it was more than a one-day job. I came home from work and the garage was empty and the patio was full of everything that was in there. The garage floor was swept and bleached. She found things that are too terrible to mention in this “G”-rated letter. I helped her the next day and on the third day, Stefanie was exhausted but done. Wow, I can’t thank her enough. It still looks good and bins are all labeled and organized. Stefanie and I together used 112 bags of concrete to help reinforce the steepest sections of our road since it is a 21% grade. This should help even those most intimidated with our driveway. Some jobs just scare people away and I don’t know how Stefanie views them. Maybe like the sign in my bedroom that Kristi made: “I hear the mountains calling, and I must go!” Stefanie again volunteered to be the camp cook for a summer homeschool music camp. Menu planning, buying, staying within budget, preparing and cooking for 130 hungry campers. Cooking for an army—that is exactly what it is like and she does this so calmly! The meals are not only nutritious but delicious. The standing ovation means they want you back. Stefanie does best one on one.
I hope she can come regularly to work with me, so that we can have commute time and lunch time together. That really helps to connect.
Jonathan and Emma. New Years Eve will be their 2 year anniversary. Their wedding was such a wonderful time. I wish they lived closer. We got to see them three time this year, including at Jonathan’s graduation from Liberty Law School. It was such a nice time to be there for the graduation. That is quite an accomplishment! Jonathan couldn’t have done it without Emma. She brings out the best in him. It is always nice to see their love for each other. It was so good to know that Jonathan was there in Texas, helping where he could with the flood victims in Houston. I can’t even imagine that much water. The pictures he sent did speak a thousand words. Now there are two Jonathans in our family. Jonathan was chosen to be Jon’s best man—that says something. Being a classmate, housemate, and commute buddy with Jon probably means that , Jonathan got to know him quite well. I am proud of you.
Amy and Jon. I first met Jon at Emma & Jonathan’s wedding. I really liked him from the start. We talked some but not a whole lot. If you know me well, I usually have a Christmas letter with me and often give them out to those I especially want to keep in touch with. My email is included and I often remind them to write to me so I can have their email address too. Almost no one writes back and that is often such a disappointment to me. Well, Jon wrote me back and I wrote him back. I prayed for him regularly. March of last year he asked if I could call him. He shared with me his interest in Amy. I told him that it was my responsibility to get to know any suitor well enough so that I could offer counsel and be included in such an important decision as marriage. Jon answered many questions through email or over the phone, and I can honestly say that the more I got to know him the more impressed I became. God got a hold of him and overall directed his life. He has surrounded himself with godly mentors and also mentored other young men and has kept those relationships over the years. After five months I felt that he was the type of person that would be a good match for Amy, and Amy would a good match for him, so I gave him my blessing to contact Amy. Amy told me that she didn’t really know Jon, but since I felt that they would be good for each other, that she should at least get to know him. Through social media and a few visits, Jon and Amy moved from friends to something much more serious. Jon flew in for a surprise proposal. It was so difficult to keep the secret but it was all worth it, as a ring ended up on Amy’s finger. Wow! The wedding was emotional. So happy, but also being fully aware that my daughter living under my roof is leaving. I couldn’t be more pleased with her husband. What’s is it like to marry off your daughter? Well, let me tell you what happened at the reception. First, a little background. When Amy was growing up, Disney came out with Beauty and the Beast. We must have watched that movie 50 times when she was young. The closing scene is Belle and Beast dancing together. And without fail, Amy would grab my hand and we’d dance until the music stopped. Fast forward to the reception when they call me up for the Father:Daughter dance. I was caught off guard. As I reach the dance floor, looking at my daughter, the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack started to play. Memories, flashbacks, her looking into my eyes. None of our eyes were dry, but these were happy tears! Amy used to come to work with me on Tuesdays, which is usually my easiest day. We’d have lunch together and go for a walk. After she was married and adjusting to married life in Topeka, she and I were talking over the phone and she said that she really missed those Tuesdays. I miss those also. “Are you still available on Tuesday to talk during your lunch break?” A smile broke across my face: “Amy, Tuesdays are still open.” “Let’s call each other on Tuesdays.” They have found a good church and already serving and getting to know other people.
Lori, my bride of 29 years. This year we drove up to Vancouver, BC to celebrate our 29th anniversary. We actually went to Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver for our honeymoon. We had just a wonderful time to reflect, relax and connect. Much has happened in these 29 years. God has blessed us with 9 children, with two married and a wonderful daughter-in-law and son-in-law. Marriage is wonderful, but it is not easy. More than anything else, God has used marriage to change me to be more like Him. With God, one plus one equals one. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Matthew 2:24). This year Lori has been busy going back to school, taking online counseling classes. It is not easy but she is doing very well and she says that it is “life changing.” Lori has no set goals but is seeking God’s guidance in how she may best use these new skills. I try to spend at least ½ an hour each day to debrief about our day, catch up on business and just connect. We need this. Our church is beginning “neighborhood fellowships” in 2018 and I am hoping that we can host and I can lead this group. The vision is to join individuals and families living near each other to really get to know each other, study the Bible together, share a meal together and fellowship on a weekly basis. Lori will be a great asset and helper. We can make a great team. Lori is my best friend and there is no one I love to spend my life with more than her. May God allow us to grow old together. I am treasuring each day and hoping for many more. Lori loves to play card or board games. She likes to win, so just be ready to lose and have fun in the process. The fastest and craziest game that I am not good at is Nerts, usually played on our tall square table with 10-12 players all frantically yelling and literally throwing cards down. Don’t play if you have a heart condition, unless you suffer from low blood pressure or bradycardia (a slow heartbeat). Then this may be just what the doctor ordered.
Rich (58) I am such a “rich” man. I have been blessed with a lovely and wonderful wife and wonderful children and daughter and son in law. This year has been very busy. We seem to say that every year. Is is true? Every year begins with a bang with a trip to Cambodia. Each trip has its unique blessings and challenges. I really enjoyed this year’s trip with Bethany. This just what she needed to grow in her trust in God and exercise her compassion and love for people and missions. This year, I had the privilege to be the team medical director. The last day, we did have an emergency, but God protected the translator and we got to show her the love and compassion of God. To keep all the dentists, doctors, translators, pastors and helpers safe and healthy, this is work of God! I am looking forward to this new trip in 2018. I really like my work in Port Orchard too. Many of my patients I have had for over 20 years. We have grown older together with many in their 80s and 90s. What other job does one get to care for someone’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs? Some of the most difficult times are those end of life challenges, and what a privilege it is to be trusted to be allowed to help them navigate through those trying moments. I try my best to finish all of my work and make it for dinner at 6:30 pm. I for the most part am successful at both of these. It is a highlight of my day to share dinner together. Following dinner we read some of the Bible and
I lead the discussion. This is such an important time. The Bible says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4) Helping each child and my wife and myself included to obey God for the rest of our lives. May God begin with me to change, confess when needed, be more loving and patient, place the cares and needs of others above my own. As I mentioned earlier, Aaron and I are getting some excellent instruction in the study of God (theology), Old Testament and Greek. It makes my brain hurt to think so hard, but it a good pain.
This year two dear families lost one of their children in tragic accidents. One child was one year old and the other was ten years old. The ten year old, Isaiah Simao, died just before Thanksgiving 2017. God was so real to this young man. Just this summer, he asked to be baptized, proclaiming to those around that he is a follower of Jesus and wanting to obey Him the rest of his life. During their family Bible study, he said out loud: “I can’t wait to die.” His family agreed and said that it was good to look forward to heaven. What he said next just shocked all of them: “I can’t wait to go to heaven. I wish I could go there soon.” Two weeks before he died, he said something similar to my eleven year old son Jairus. His memorial service is recorded and will move you to tears, joy, and worship (https://youtu.be/dHqihdow8c4) For myself, am I looking forward to heaven more than another day here on earth? Sadly I don’t think of heaven much. Maybe I should. Maybe I would live differently today. About a year ago, on my way to work a semi-truck ran a red light and nearly T-boned me as I sped up to make a left turn onto Highway 3. Close calls and funerals reminds me how fragile life is and that I should have the attitude of Paul in the Bible: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)
Now something much lighter. I may be the oldest ring bearer. Jon and Amy asked if I would be their ring bearer. They noticed that I would be the only one still sitting in the audience during their wedding and they wanted a way to get me up there. “Sure, why not.” I didn’t have to follow the flower girls as I had a more important job, escorting my daughter down the aisle. I just carried the rings attached to the Bible. I think it would have been too lonely sitting there alone. Much nicer to be up there! My goal with the family “up close and personal” is to give you, the reader, an inside glimpse into each of our lives from my perspective.
This Christmas season, just remember that this is celebrating the birth of Jesus. This great news: “, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 10-11) We all need a “Savior” for we can’t save ourselves from our sins. Jesus became like us to save us. Jesus was like in all areas except without sin:
“One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus was a perfect sacrifice. He is called the: “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) I began this letter with an account of the Japanese internment camp from my Mom’s perspective. Certainly this was an injustice. The greatest injustice was done to Jesus. The innocent dying for the guilty (you and me). We should not forget. We should tell others that they may get right with God. If you are right with God and your sins are forgiven, then you will experience true “Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!” If this in not true with you, you are not alone. We all begin apart from God. Please let me know if I can be of any help in drawing you closer to God. Please don’t put this off. My Email is below. I would love to hear from you. May God bless you this Christmas season, from my family to yours!
Rich (for Lori and family)