What is your most important item these days? Yes!!! Masks! I hope you have a mask to wear when you go outside.
Today, I received a kind letter from a seven year old student, Ryu at Uminoko-gakuen in Osaka, Japan.  Uminoko-gakuen is an orphanage, school, and rehab center where around 100 children between the ages of 2 and 18 live. Originally, the facility was created and built by the city of Osaka, but now it is run as a private non-profit organization. One of my good friends is the Rev. Jun Nakaie, the head minister of the biggest Christian church in Osaka, Osaka-nishi Presbyterian Church . As a part of their church’s ministry he and his wife Yuu do a lot of important work in the city, including involvement with Uminoko-gakuen.
In Japan, we do not have good foster and adoption systems like in the U.S., and adoption through international agencies to outside countries is not allowed. Things are changing slowly, but right now only a small number of children end up being adopted by a family in Japan. Basically, the majority of children without parents are raised in facilities like Uminoko-gakuen. Orphanages like Umino-gakuen offer children a safe and peaceful place to live, but they can always use help from the outside. So Jon and I decided to be an aunt and uncle in U.S. for the students there. We write cards and send fun candy bars sometimes. They write us, we write them. We have become good friends. We are hoping we can somehow help them to understand through our friend-ship just how big the planet is and we are all connected. When the days of COVID-19 distancing are over, and gatherings can safely resume, Jun and Yuu (and we) are hop-ing to do some fundraising concerts and events at the Osaka-Nishi Church someday for Uminoko-gakuen. We are hoping to be a part of their journey.
But the needs of the school are not waiting for the pandemic to end. And so, earlier this summer, Yuu shared with me the school’s need for more masks for kids. Like in the U.S. most goods are manufactured outside of Japan, and with the sudden and overwhelming demand for masks in the spring, there were not enough masks in the country. Without hesitation I offered to make 100 masks for the children at Umino-gakuen!
But with only a few masks produced, my sewing machine broke. This was at the point earlier this year when inexpensive sewing machines were sold-out everywhere! And there was no way that I could afford a fancy machine…. Then God’s work started in earnest. Marian Warren kindly gave me her sewing machine (a very fancy one) even though I only use the straight line function! So I was back in business! But 100 is a lot. I was working hard, but I was so slow at first and since I wanted to make all kinds of kid sizes, it was not a simple task. I asked for help!!!! By then, many people were tired of making masks here, but two mask making saints appeared!!! Mary Boyce at St. Andrew’s and Karen Perrine from Trinity Lutheran Church. Because of their help, in less than three weeks I was able to send 100 masks to Japan!!!! Now the kids of Uminoko-gakuen wear them when they go outside and when they are in class. The principal wrote to tell me that the kids think their new masks are the coolest. Not only are they handmade, but their aunties in America made them for them! (And came with American candies)

Ryu’s Letter reads:
Dear Auntie Karen, Auntie Mary and Naomi-san,
Thank you for your gift of cool masks and chocolates.
I like art class. Art is my favorite. All my aunties, please take care. 


St. Andrew’s masking ministry goes international by Naomi Shiga