Good things are happening!

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Check out our new apartment!

Good things have been been happening since we arrived at KIUA on March 16!

  • We’ve set up and moved into our apartment.
  • We’ve met some KIUA staff.
  • We’ve started preparing for the upcoming school year which begins on April 9.

What’s it like being back in Japan?

  • It’s quiet, as Japanese are practicing social distancing.
  • Grocery shopping seems easier. The stores are smaller, and milk is sold in familiar size—by the liter.
  • Cars drive on the left side of the road.
  • We’re excited about using Christian education to reach Japan for Jesus as we serve at KIUA!
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We’re excited about serving at KIUA!

Thanks for praying for God’s work in Japan:

  • Praise God for providing the health and energy we need to make a good transition to KIUA. We didn’t experience jet lag, our health is good, and we were able to outfit our apartment.
  • Praise God for the warm welcome we received from KIUA staff.
  • Ask God for a good start to the school year. Faculty work days start on April 6, classes begin on April 9, and these start dates may be affected by the coronavirus.

Thanks for being involved in God’s work in Japan!

Michael & Kim

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P.S. The cherry trees are starting to bloom!


How can you increase staff engagement?


How do you feel about increasing employee engagement?

As a leader, you recognize that you need to increase staff engagement. But how? There’s good news! Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job describes doable action steps, including:

  • Admit mistakes: “Talk about issues and problems right away. Make sure the leader begins the debrief by saying what he or she did wrong or might have done better” (p. 228).
  • Keep teams small: “Remember that the best teams rarely contain more than eight or nine people” (p. 234).
  • Refrain from using phones during meetings: “Turn meetings into genuine face-to-face interactions. Discourage distractions, such as phones. They interfere with our powers of concentration, and they reduce trust within teams” (page 256).
  • Relax: “Remember that laughter creates the conditions for positive affect and psychological safety” (p. 278).

What about you? How do you feel about increasing staff engagement? How can you increase staff engagement? What will you do?


What are you reading?

What I’m learning:

  • Defining Strengths: “A strength is an activity that strengthens you. It draws you in, it makes time fly by while you’re doing it, and it makes you feel strong. And if you define a strength that way then the person best qualified to determine your strengths is you. You are the authority on which activities you lean into. You are the authority on which activities make you feel energized. Somebody else can judge your performance, or the quality and quantity of your work – but you, and you alone, can recognize your strengths.”
  • John Maxwell Leadership Podcast: Don’t Just Communicate, Connect (Part 1): Leadership is influence…. Connecting increases your influence in every situation.
  • Want A Better Answer? Ask A Better Question!”: “If you want better answers, you’ve got to ask better questions!”


How do you respond during a crisis?


How are you responding to the coronavirus?

Coronavirus crisis—it’s more than a lot to take in: the rising number of cases, the WHO declaring a pandemic, governments declaring states of emergency, concern to not overwhelm hospitals, travel restrictions, schools moving to online education, churches cancelling worship services, suspended or cancelled sport seasons. 


How can you model hope during this crisis?

How are you responding to the coronavirus? Like you, I’ve been responding by checking news sources, washing my hands, and practicing social distancing. And I’ve been asking myself, “What type of person do I want to be during this crisis? I’m thinking that I want to be…

  • Hopeful—so I’ll model hope.
  • God-centered—so I’ll praise God for who He is and for answering prayer.
  • Skillful—so I’ll leverage available expertise.
  • Calm—so I’ll regularly reflect on and reinforce the big picture.
  • Helpful—so I’ll recognize and address my inappropriate coping strategies when under stress.
  • Loving—so I’ll focus on others.

What about you? How do you respond during a crisis? What type of person do you want to be during this crisis?


What are you learning?

What I’m learning:



What helps you learn?


How do you feel about learning?

I really like learning. As my wife will confirm, I’m constantly (perhaps incessantly) looking for new ideas and more effective ways to do things. One thing that helps me learn is reflecting on quotations. Here are 3 from my reading:

Just wondering—where’s the coffee machine at your place of work? How important do you think meetings are? How would you define strengths and weaknesses? What helps you learn?


What helps you focus on learning?

And what helps you focus on learning? Responses are sure to be idiosyncratic, as we are all different and have different learning needs. I, for example, need background noise that does not include talking. Three types of background noise that I find especially helpful are the sound Japanese trains make as they go down the tracks, the sound of rain on a tin roof, and the sound of ocean waves. (When I go to coffee shops to work, I usually turn on a Youtube video of ocean waves and then put my headphones on.)

Another thing that helps me is having a clear idea of what I’m learning and how it’s related to my key goal of thriving. I select appropriate learning resources (books, newsletters, podcasts, articles), and as I interact with those resources, I think about how I can use what I’m learning to thrive and to help others thrive.


What routines help you learn?

To increase my learning, I use a variety of routines, including…

  • Listening to podcasts daily: Monday: Focus on This; Tuesday: Lead to Win; Wednesday: John Maxwell Leadership Podcast; Thursday: At the Table; and Friday: On Leadership.
  • Reading relevant books and articles daily: I’m part of LeaderBooks, which provides a monthly selection along with a helpful reading guide and a Facebook group. I also read books and articles mentioned in podcasts I listen to, in newsletters I receive, and in social media posts.
  • Exporting highlighted text each week from books I read on my Kindle, reading through those highlights, and then selecting some of the highlights in my blog.
  • Blogging weekly on what I’m learning. I take 1-2 hours to write, share it with my wife, and then publish it generally on Thursdays. 
  • Reflecting quarterly on progress I’ve made on my professional development goal. I work to note progress I’ve made on learning, instead of listing what learning activities I’ve completed (like reading a book).
  • Assessing annually how I’m doing in order to establ new goals. Using the LifeScore Assessment has been very helpful!

What about you? What helps you learn? What helps you concentrate? What routines help you learn? 

What I’m learning:

  • Lead to Win: 4 Ways to Make Reading Fun Again: “…you can’t be a thought leader unless you’re reading other books, because that is the raw material for thinking, and you have to acquaint yourself with, expose yourself to other people’s thoughts, other people’s frameworks, other people’s perspectives, other people’s stories.”
  • Leading with Questions: Micromanagers Tell. Leaders Ask.: “While micromanagers focus on telling people what to do, the best leaders guide and empower their people by asking questions—questions that encourage the team to design, and decide on, their own course of action.”
  • The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities (Location 1832): “…these five areas—building a leadership team, managing subordinates, having difficult conversations, running effective meetings, and constantly repeating key messages to employees—are not a list of the key responsibilities of the leader of an organization. These are simply the situations and responsibilities that leaders avoid all too often when they don’t see it as their job to do the things that no one else can.”



What’s your vision?


How well do you understand Japanese customs?

Imagine you are going to take a trip to Japan. You want to be sure to follow customs. Take this quick true/false quiz to check your understanding about customs in Japan:

  1. In Japan, you shouldn’t blow your nose in public.
  2. In Japan, you should leave a tip at restaurants.
  3. In Japan, you should pour soy sauce directly on rice.

How’d you do? Here are the answers:

  1. True: You shouldn’t blow your nose in public.
  2. False: You shouldn’t leave a tip at restaurants.
  3. False: You shouldn’t pour soy sauce directly on rice.

Customs (including not blowing your nose in public) reflect a vision for life. We’re using the above quiz as part of our church presentation. After giving the customs quiz and reviewing that there are few Christians in Japan, we share that our ministry vision is to use Christian education to reach Japan for Jesus. What’s your vision? 


What’s your vision of leadership?

And what’s your vision of leadership? I’ve been thinking about vision (especially my vision of leadership) and found the following helpful:

  • Leaders should have the right motive—to serve. Leadership is about serving, not about getting a reward. “[W]hen you have leaders that don’t have the right motive, real human beings suffer” (At the Table with Patrick Lecioni: 27. Joy is the Leading Indicator).
  • Leaders help others grow. “One of the most powerful things you can do as a leader is release the leaders you develop to reach their potential’ (The Leader’s Greatest Return, Location 2162). 
  • Leaders focus on people. “People need attention (Because we all want to be seen for who we are at our best.)” (Nine Lies About Work, Location 3396)

What helps you implement your vision of leadership?

What helps you implement your vision of leadership? What helps me includes…

What about you? What’s your vision? What’s your vision of leadership? What helps you implement your vision of leadership?

What I’m learning:

  • The Leader’s Greatest Return (Location 3429): “It’s vital to understand that it takes a leader to reproduce another leader. A nonleader cannot develop a leader. Neither can an institution. It takes a leader to know one, show one, and grow one.”
  • The Leader’s Greatest Return Workbook (Location 2972): “What kind of coaching or mentoring do you need to do to help the leaders think better, think bigger, think more creatively, and think more about people?”
  • Nine Lies About Work (Location 1900): “But the most helpful advice is not a painting. It is instead a box of paints and a set of brushes. Here, the best team leaders seem to say, take these paints, these brushes, and see what you can do with them. What do you see, from your vantage point? What picture can you paint?”



Thanks for praying!

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Thanks for praying for God’s work in Japan:

We’re excited about serving at KIUA—we arrive in 17 days! KIUA…

  1. Was started by a missionary kid who graduated from Christian Academy in Japan.
  2. Is located in central Japan (see map).
  3. Has about 200 students, most of whom come from unchurched homes and most of whom are Japanese.
  4. Provides a bilingual Christian education.
  5. Uses a Japanese school calendar (meaning, the school year begins in April).

Thanks for being involved in God’s work in Japan!

Michael & Kim
When we return to Japan in about 2 weeks, we’ll be living in Kyotanabe. Check out this short video to learn about Kyotanabe!


What are you doing for others?


What are you doing for others?

That’s a great question! That’s what I’m thinking as I listen to Tom Rath quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” (On Leadership: Life’s Great Question: Tom Rath). What am I doing for others? 

That question gets me to do some reflecting. Then I read, “If you are a leader, like it or not, you will replicate yourself. Your followers will adopt your behaviors and habits” (People See, People Do). And I find myself changing King’s question to “What type of person do I want to be for others?” I’m more focused on being than doing, so I generate a list of what I strive to be:

  • Hopeful.
  • Forgiving.
  • Peaceful.
  • Listening.
  • Inquiring.
  • Focused.
  • Encouraging.

What life lessons do you want to share with others?

Then I change King’s question again to, “What life lessons do I want to share with others?” We’ve all learned lessons in life, and sharing them with others helps others grow. Again, I generate a list:

  • Focus on others. Meet them where they are, and encourage them to grow. 
  • Increase team cohesiveness.
  • Give others the benefit of the doubt.
  • Reinforce the big picture.
  • Model hope.
  • Emphasize best practice and growth.
  • Recognize and address your own inappropriate coping strategies when under stress.
  • When facing challenges, talk with someone from the heart.
  • God, though He can move His kingdom forward without us, gives us the privilege to participate in His work. Taking a Sabbath and being still (useless) before God are 2 ways to demonstrate this.
  • Praise God for answered prayer.

What about you? What are you doing for others? What type of person do you want to be for others? What life lessons do you want to share with others?


What are you learning?

What I’m learning:

  • Influence in Action (p. 34): “Self-awareness is the meta-skill of the twenty-first century. —Tasha Eurich”
  • John Maxwell Leadership Podcast: Leading Through Change Series: “Producing change is about 80% leadership (establishing direction, alignment, motivating, and developing people) and 20% management (planning, budgeting, organizing, and problem solving).”
  • Keith Webb: “Your ability to get things done, build relationships, make changes, and help other people grow depends on the quality of your conversations.”



What are you focused on?


How does sickness impact you?

Sick—most of my family are sick. The babies are vomiting, the adults are nauseous, and we all stay in bed. (I stayed in bed for about 36 hours.) Thankfully, we aren’t all sick at the same time, so when I’m not sick, I help those who are—caring for grandkids, cleaning the house, and helping with meals.

Sickness gets me focused. Since I’m unable to do much regular work, I focus on the big rocks: being healthy and helping others be healthy. As a Type A person, I’m pleasantly surprised that I’m not that concerned about all the tasks on my to-do list that are not getting done. How does sickness impact you?


What do you want to focus on?

I want to focus more on being than on doing: 

What about you? What are you focused on? How does sickness impact you? What do you want to focus on?


What are you learning?

What I’m learning:


Check out Ai’s testimony

We like hearing the testimonies of Japanese Christians. So, we thought you’d like to hear Ai’s testimony—she suffered from a hole in her lung, spent significant amounts of time in the hospital, was invited to church where she learned about God, and became a Christian!

Thanks for praying:

  • Praise God that Japanese are becoming Christians.
  • Ask God for good connections and safe travel during our trip to TN to see churches and individual ministry partners.

Thanks for being involved in God’s work in Japan!

Michael & Kim

What helps you get results?


What do you think about on a rainy day?

I’m staring out the window on a rainy day, sipping coffee, and reflecting on leadership and results. I review the list of 9 leadership behaviors for getting results that Scott Miller outlines in Management Mess to Leadership Success (a helpful book): 

  1. Create Vision
  2. Identify the Wildly Important Goals (WIGs)
  3. Align Actions with the Wildly Important Goals
  4. Ensure Your Systems Support Your Mission
  5. Deliver Results
  6. Celebrate Wins
  7. Make High-Value Decisions
  8. Lead Through Change
  9. Get Better

I find myself nodding (especially about developing vision and making sure systems support the mission). Each of these 9 behaviors are vital—after all, leaders do need to do things. And then I wonder, “What kind of person do I need to be to get results?”

That’s not the question I focused when I was younger. But maybe because I’m now a grandfather of 3 or because I’m nearing 60, it’s the question I’m focused on now.


What kind of person do you need to be to get results?

What kind of person do I need to be to get results? I need to be…

  • A person who is still (Ps. 46:10), who is resting in Jesus. Being still is a struggle for me. I like doing things. A lot of things. Quickly. But as John Ortberg so aptly puts it, “We must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives” (The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, p. 90)
  • A person who is clear, who knows what God calls him to both be and do, and who helps others increase their clarity about what God calls them to both be and do. Something that helps me get clear, as advocated by author Ryan Holiday, is walking. 
  • A person who is peaceful. As an INTJ, I’m working to be more peaceful when addressing conflict. So, I’m working to more effectively use candor and curiosity. This involves sharing my position, explaining the data and my interpretation of the data, inviting others to test my position, and inviting others to share their perspective (Conversational Capacity, location 1141).


What about you? What helps you get results? Which of Miller’s 9 leadership behaviors do you want to focus on? What kind of person do you need to be to get results?

What I’m learning: