I grew up in a Christian home, prayed to receive Christ as my Savior at the age of 8, and was baptized when I was 13. I have always loved music and began taking piano lessons when I was in elementary school. I took voice lessons during my high school years in Portland, Oregon. During my senior year, I learned about a field called music therapy and discovered that my love for music and my compassion for people with handicaps could be connected.
Introduction to mission outreach
That same year, I was one of three students chosen by the elders of Gateway Baptist Church to be “called out” as a potential future missionary. I felt honored by this special calling, but at the time did not feel particularly led by God to pursue that direction.
I graduated from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon in 1981 with a Bachelor’s degree in Music (emphasis Music Therapy), but before beginning a six-month internship that fall to get my certification as a registered music therapist, I decided to go on a short-term mission. In the summer of 1981 I went to Japan with Asian Access to teach conversational English in a Japanese church. I fell in love with Japan and its people, and began to sense a call to go more permanently.
Marriage and music therapy
After returning to the U.S. to complete my internship, I reconnected with Gary at Kingwood Bible Church in Salem where we had first met in 1979. We were married in August 1982 and my focus began to shift. I found great satisfaction and fulfillment in developing a grant-funded music therapy program for preschoolers with physical handicaps and/or learning disabilities and became comfortable in my role as “the music minister’s wife.” But at the same time, Gary was feeling unsettled. He wanted us to experience a short-term mission together.
Transition to Japan and motherhood
In 1985 I returned to Japan, with Gary this time, in the same program that had so impressed me four years earlier. And Gary began to sense a call to this nation. After I went through much internal struggle, a year later God reconfirmed my earlier sense of call, and we were approved by Asian Access. After two years of support discovery, during which Jessica was born, our family of three arrived in Tokyo on December 28, 1988.
Although we had gone to Japan to use our training to help start the new Song-Rise music ministry, by April 1990 I was a full-time mom with two young children. Only occasionally could I be involved in the performance side of the music ministry. But raising Jessica and Josiah while watching the parenting practices of Japanese mothers established the foundation for my future ministry as God put a love in my heart for these mothers and a burden for their challenging lives.
Parenting ministry begins
By 1996, God had prepared the way for me to begin a parenting class in our apartment with six interested women. As I listened to these mothers share their joys, frustrations and challenges, I began to write and share Bible-based lessons addressing the needs I was hearing. The class grew as more and more women learned and began to share with others the practical principles I was teaching. Wanting to see this ministry expand beyond what I could do by myself, in mid-2001 I began organizing my notes and coordinating the Japanese translation with my ministry partner.
With the encouragement of Family Forum Japan (at that time called Focus on the Family Japan), in June 2002 Gary and I took a leap of faith and published 600 copies of a bilingual Japanese/English leader’s textbook we entitled Discovering the Joy of Parenting.* Over 8,000 copies of the Japanese/English edition were in print by 2016. Since the original book had been published even before the launch of Facebook in 2004, we knew we needed to update the text for a new generation of Japanese parents who had grown up with cell phones and the internet. In March of 2019 we released the fully updated text with three new lessons on managing money, time, and technology.
* From 2009 to 2012 the textbook was contextualized and translated for use in Mongolia. It was published in Mongolian in 2012.