A Memorable 4th

Beginning of the year 1976, there was a build-up to a celebration of the 4th of July. It was the bicentennial of our nation. I was so excited for this celebration and imagined where we would spend the day, knowing that the fireworks would be special and the day would be incredible.

Also, at the beginning of the year of 1976, we knew we were due for orders. This would involve a move, most likely overseas. I hoped that we would somehow still be in the states for the fourth. As the time drew nearer for orders, places like Rota, Spain; Cuba; Scotland; Iceland; were all mentioned. Some of the places I could readily picture myself, others I couldn’t. Our orders came in and they were for Yokosuka, Japan. I never ever thought of going to Japan. I showed Dale my support, but inside I was questioning such a move. My thoughts of celebrating the bi-centennial in the states were dashed.

We arrived in Japan in early June. We were settled in our little Japanese apartment by the first of July. We experienced our first typhoon July 2nd through the 6th. A typhoon was lingering off the coast of Japan, dumping rain, wind and lots of water on Yokosuka and the immediate area.

On the fourth, we headed onto the base. We waded through ankle deep water to get to our car, and then we half floated/half drove to the base where there was going to be a parade.

That soggy fourth of July will always live in my memories as one of the very best celebrations I have experienced. Passing through the main gate of the base, we were home on the 4th of July. America was present on foreign soil. The spirit of our country paraded itself with the sailors and marines stationed on the base. The host country graciously honored this celebration. I stood in deep water that fourth of July, 1976, with a winter coat on while a parade passed in front of us. The base was alive with the indomitable spirit of America.

Through the rain the 6th Fleet Navy band led the parade carrying our flag, the host country flag and the military flags.

Although the rain and time has produced fuzzy photos, the memories are crisp in my mind. I stood in a country, once at war with my homeland, and together we celebrated the bi-centennial. The celebration I had envisioned at the beginning of the year was far different than the incredible time I had that day while standing in water and straining to remain upright in the heavy wind.

We once were told that our love for America would grow living overseas.  I did not think that possible, but it was.  The pride and honor I felt that day in 1976 has only grown for this country that has been my homeland.  My heart beats red, white and blue.  I am a patriot.  I stand with tears in my eyes for our flag. 

As much as I love this country, my heart yearns for more.  Hebrews 11:16 says, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (NKJV)   I cannot wait to be in my forever home, standing with my Creator.

Pam’s Spaghetti

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25 (NLT)

We attended a group while in Japan. We were the Friday Night Fellowship and we met in the chapel of the base hospital. We were all young and enthusiastic about our love of Jesus. Yes, we were a bunch of Jesus freaks, after all, it was the 70’s. It seemed that everyone was freakish about something in the mid 70’s.

Our little fellowship tried once a month to meet in homes and we shared a community meal. We all took turns doing this. Those of us who didn’t live in government quarters squeezed everyone into the small Japanese apartments.

One Saturday we went to the home of friends. It was a small apartment and somehow about 20 of us fit into the place with spillover onto their little patio. Pam made spaghetti. Her sauce smelled wonderful and being young adults, we all arrived starving.

I remember making my way to the kitchen to see if I could help. What greeted me was a very frustrated Pam. Her blonde hair starting to curl because of the steam coming off the pans of boiling spaghetti. Her eyes told the story of her frustration. I went to her and looked into the pan of scalding water. There in the center of the pan was a big ball of spaghetti. No strands, just one big ball. The other pan held the same. Our eyes met and I half-believing said, “We can fix this”. Ahh! youth and inexperience.

We grabbed forks and for the next few minutes we separated the strands of pasta. Of course, the pans were much too small for the amount of pasta that was put in. That was one of the lessons learned that afternoon. But eventually we got enough strands to feed the crowd. Pam and I each had the remaining ball of pasta to cut our way through as we ate.

No one was the wiser of what our kitchen drama had been. They ate and were filled and happy. Lesson two of that day was, if no one is aware of the drama, they don’t think about it.

I confess that I have never made spaghetti since without thinking of that day. I don’t think I have had a ‘ball’ of spaghetti, but I have had strands stick together. I often ask the Lord what the parable of the ball was. What was the analogy?

I have had several thoughts about that ball of food. We can hold tightly to one another, keeping a hedge of protection around us. We can join forces to be a stronghold where we are a force to be reckoned with. We sometimes intertwine ourselves with others and we miss what the Lord has for us. We need a support system to keep us propped up.

There are several lessons we could learn from a ball of spaghetti. When I remember it, I think of the laughter from this woman. I think of the times we spent together, in Japan and in San Diego. We encouraged one another, we taught one another, we prayed for each other. We were bound like that ball of soaking pasta.

Ecclesiastes 4:12, “ A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (NLT)

Resident Aliens

“We are strangers, we are aliens, we are not of this world” Petra

In early June of 1976 we boarded a plane at San Francisco International airport. We were heading to Japan. I had never taken an international trip before and had no idea what was in store for me. I was scared and apprehensive of what the next three years held for me. I was also excited for a new adventure with my husband of of 17 months. Together we found our seats, and buckled up for our trip.

Several hours later I looked out to see brilliant blue waters below me. We were descending to land. I looked over to Dale (my husband) and asked if we were there already. He smiled and said, “No dear, we are in Honolulu” . I had no idea that the flight would be so long. We had a 45 minute layover there and I said I wanted to breathe Hawaiian air. At that time we could get off the plane and go outside, no security checks, no TSA, just a terminal with doors to go through. We walked outside and smelled the fresh Hawaiian air. Something I thought I would never do. We came back inside and bought an ice cream bar from a vending machine. Vending machines were the only thing that was available, no restaurants like we have now. We got back to our seats ready for the next leg of our journey. That has been my only Hawaiian adventure.

The plane itself was filled mostly with military folks going to a new duty station. We were all young, early twenties and some ‘older folks’ who were in their thirties. There was a party atmosphere on the plane as one of the wineries in California had provided wine for the second leg of the trip. As we drew near to Japan airspace the crowd in the plane was in full tilt party mode. We had all had wine, we had a buffet, we were becoming friends.

It was a rainy evening when we touched down at Haneda airport in Tokyo. We taxied to a stop and the plane grew silent. We had landed and reality hit us all. We had filled out the forms for what we were bringing into the country, and we were ready to head to customs. At the door of the plane, I hesitated, afraid of the next step. Dale gave me a gentle nudge and I started down the stairs. We stood on the tarmac and looked at the signs. Both were in Kanji with English translation below. The first sign said ‘residents’ the second ‘aliens’. Everyone hesitated. Here we were aliens. We did not belong to this country. This was not our home. I will never forget that feeling. I knew I would be there for three years. The bottom line was I wanted to go home. I wanted to see my sisters. I needed to see them. I needed reassurance and hugs. Instead, my husband held out his hand and guided me into the terminal. The first step, done.

Obviously, we made it through customs and met our sponsor from the base who greeted us and got us to our final destination, Yokosuka. Our sponsor became a dear friend who got us settled and ready for what would become one of the greatest adventure of my life.

It was in Japan that I would become a born-again Christian. It was there that I began to realize that we are all aliens on this earth. Our true home for those of us who trust our Lord with our lives, is in Heaven. We are just passing through. We are resident aliens.

II Corinthians 5:1-5 says, “For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” (the Message)