Q: It’s been awhile since your last interview - what have you been up to?
Nori: Wow, how do you sum up 7 years? We started a band in 2000 that lasted about 2 1/2 years with some very close friends. It was lots of fun doing our music with a group, It was a wonderful time in our lives. We were a band, but we also became a closely knit cell group. We had Jim Pollard on the drums and Rob Bradley on keys, with Jim's wife Pam helping out in some administrative areas. Trouble was, we couldn’t hold onto a bass player. I think we had five or six of them, starting with our close friend Rick Trussell (his wife Beckie also played drums and percussion). Session bassist Joe Breckenridge stayed the longest and ended up playing on most of the “Straight Line” CD, which we did as a band along with “Small Town Big God” (recorded with our friend and worship leader, Larry Lloyd).
We disbanded in spring 2003 and moved to Japan as a family a few months later. We helped with a church plant in Yokohama, played our music in clubs and taught English lessons. We led worship in both English and Japanese, though we couldn’t understand a lot of the Japanese we sang - we just read the words pheonetically. Of course, the translations retained the original message of the songs...
Q: What was it like living in Japan?
Barbie: I loved it! I really enjoyed meeting so many Japanese people in our apartment complex and through teaching English lessons. We made many friends that way, some came to visit our church, and some even became Christians! It’s quite a different lifestyle there. You really have to work hard every day- daily chores, walking to go shopping, hopping from one train to the next. We didn’t have a car there, and we really didn’t need one. But lugging our equipment up and down the steps at the train stations, I really don’t miss that at all! I never mastered Japanese, but spoke well enough to get by (or asked Lizzie, our daughter, to translate). I loved leading worship in Japanese. Looking back, I now see how God was preparing Nori and me for this. When Nori recorded the Japanese Vineyard Worship CD’s, we listened to the team practice, we listened to them record, and then we listened to them during the mixing of the CD’s at home. Good training, huh? I got a lot of compliments on my Japanese pronunciation. I owe it all to my friends at the Kani Vineyard!
Nori: It was an awesome experience for our whole family, with some difficulties but lots of joyful times as well. I think one of the most difficult things for me personally was missing certain American foods. There was a Navy base about a half hour away from us, and after living there for about three months, someone invited us on base as guests. Within a couple of months, we started playing at the Officer’s Club. Getting to play regularly on base was great because we had a pass, and could go there just to eat if we wanted to - and boy did I want to! I love a lot of Japanese foods, but I missed a lot of stuff as well, like Captain D’s and Cracker Barrell. Funny thing is, we haven’t eaten at those places all that much since being back...it must have just been some mental thing. We came back to the states in the summer 2005, sold our Alabama place and moved to Colorado, arriving here a year ago!
Q: How long have you been married?
Barbie: We’ve been married since August of '93. Thirteen years now. It’s gone by quickly!
Q: How did you two meet?
Barbie: That’s a long, but wonderful story. You’ll have to check that out under “Our Story,” when we have time to finish it...
Q: Tell me about your new CD.
Nori: It was recorded mostly in Japan, and features the work of some great Japanese friends, both on vocals and as translators of the songs. It’s called, “Wa,” which is the Japanese word for “harmony.”
Q: Does it resemble “Straight Line” or “Small Town Big God?”
Nori: Well, it probably resembles “Small Town Big God” more in that it’s a worship album. But these songs are probably a little more in-depth musically than “Small Town Big God” was. “Small Town” was intentionally done in a more simple way, with a live feel, although it wasn’t really a live recording.
Q: Let’s back up to that CD for a minute - you say it wasn’t a live recording? Aren’t there live audience sounds on there?
Nori: Yes, there are! But they were actually added later, something we started doing back in 1997 with our first worship project. I decided to continue that idea in Japan in ‘99 with the Vineyard CDs we’ve been doing there. Seeing as how so many so-called “live” recordings actually have tons of studio overdubs, mistake corrections and whatever, I thought it would be a good idea to try it this way, and just not call it a “live” recording - just a recording with a live feel. So what we did was record the tracks, then play them over loudspeakers while a group of people worshipped to the songs. We set up mikes and recorded them, then added that to the final mix. So I guess the worship was live, but the music wasn’t.
Q: Did you do any of that on “Wa?”
Nori: Actually, yes - but only on two songs. We had our little church fellowship in Yokohama and some other Christian friends come over after church one day, and we recorded them on “Reveal Yourself” and “So Great Is Your Kindness.” Since most of them were Japanese who spoke English, they could sing in both languages. It’s so special for us to have them on there...
Q: What kind of things have you been involved with since moving to Colorado?
Barbie: We actually moved to Colorado Springs to be involved with Mountain Springs Church. (It was a Mountain Springs church plant that we were leading worship for in Japan.) It has been a wonderful experience! When we first arrived, I was asked to help with a “Virtues Class” they were offering for girls ages 8-11. I had signed both of our girls up, seeing as how they were eight, and 11! It was a great time for the three of us, and we all made lots of new friends there. I was asked to teach a dance during one of the classes, which led to starting up some Worship Dance Classes here in the Springs. So I’ve been teaching several classes, along with teaching flute lessons. The church offers acreditted classes for future pastors, or anyone who is interested, so we signed up and attended several of those right away. They were awesome.
In November of 2005, we were asked to help another church plant out of Mountain Springs with their worship. We live about an hour from that church, so we committed to help for six months. But God was really moving, and we really fell in love with the congregation there, so we stayed an extra month. The Lord began to bring together a worship band, and we got to see two of the worship band members give their lives to the Lord during that time! When our time was coming to a close, we handed the worship over to the team, which the Lord had brought together. Nori did such a wonderful job training the team. We try to get up to visit when we can, and just weep at what the Lord is doing there.
Nori: I was invited to go back to Japan back in February with a team from Mountain Springs Church, where we did a couple of worship conferences, including one at Yamato Calvary Chapel, Japan’s largest church. I played on the worship team and did just a little worship leading, but we had several guys with us who spoke. We played on the worship team and led worship at a Japanese Pastors Conference in May at Mountain Springs, and we also had the opportunity to go to Ireland on a mission trip in May, which was a wonderful trip. We also led worship in a Japanese small group. It was good for us because were able to keep up our Japanese singing. Beginning in August, we started working with the worship team at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Canon City, CO. We’re working with them on a weekly basis, as well as playing in the worship band and doing some worship leading, too.
Q: What kinds of lessons has the Lord been teaching you?
Nori: To trust Him, no matter what. We’ve seen the Lord take us through so many hard things since 1993, and we’ve always come out on the other side. He’s taking care of us, He’s always watching over us, whether it’s trusting Him to provide for us, to lead us in the next step, to help us work through relationship challenges (with others and ourselves) - all these things have helped us pull together. We’ve learned a lot in the past 4 years about ourselves, especially relating to our marriage. I think there were some underlying issues in both of us that we’d carried around for years without realizing they were there, and they were affecting our marriage in a negative way. God did a lot of work on us in 2003 and that work still continues today. I’m not the same person I was 4 years ago, and I think I’m still changing. I think Barbie & I are closer to each other than we’ve ever been, and we’re still growing closer. I’m reading things to help me better myself as a man...I’m staying in a relationship of accountability with a close friend...I have my regular “quiet times,” spending time with God, reading the Bible and praying...
Barbie: Ya know, I think that I have been realizing that the most important witness, to non-believers and believers alike, is our marriage. I’ve been involved in a women’s group here in the Springs, and reading lots of hard, but good, books. When the Lord brought Nori and I through a really tough time in 2003, He truly deepened our relationship. I am so thankful that neither of us “threw in the towel.” So many marriages don’t last these days, and it makes me so sad because I know that going through/ getting through these difficulties only deepens our love for each other. I see so many couples in public who have very little respect for each other. What kind of witness is that? I don’t believe that is what God intends for us. The Bible tells us to love and respect each other, that our marriage is a picture of Christ and the church- how much He LOVES us. It’s our responsibility to open ourselves up to the Lord and allow Him to change our lives, and our marriages. I “made up” this quote for a bumper sticker: “THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE MARRIED”
Q: What are your plans for the future?
Nori: We plan to continue working with the worship ministry of the Vineyard in Canon City. There are all kinds of things I’d like to see happen with us in the future, and things we believe the Lord wants to do with us, but it says in Proverbs, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” My plans are to have my steps directed by the Lord, and we’re trusting that He’ll do that as He’s so faithfully done in the past. We plan to do some overseas mission trips next year, as well as some more touring, if the Lord sees fit...
Barbie:Barbie: We are planning to lead teams overseas on mission trips in 2007, Lord willing. We are excited that we will be going back to Russia for the first time in nine years! We have friends who have planted a Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Perm, Russia, who we will visit and perhaps play some outreach concerts there. We’re excited to see them- Ralph, the pastor, is the person who encouraged us to go on our first mission trip in 1995! We’re also planning to go back to Japan this summer to do the fifth Japanese Vineyard CD in Kani, Japan, and then possibly do a tour in our “old stomping grounds” in the Yokohama area. It will be great to see our friends there!
Q: You’re doing some touring again in the U.S. for the first time in five years - how is it?
Nori: Great! We saw the Lord do some cool things on the summer tour, like show up! There were actually times people told us they were hearing additional voices singing with us, or singing when no one in the band was singing. We got to go back to Alabama and visit many of our close friends, we went to a big family reunion in Ohio, as well as seeing many other dear friends across the country...it was wonderful. I hope the December tour is successful as well - we’ll be doing what we’re calling Worship Workshops in four or five places, and leading worship about seven times, I think. We plan to join up with some old friends in Alabama for the gigs there, like Rob Bradley (keyboards), Tim Rolfe (drums), Rick & Beckie Trussell (bass & percussion), and Richard Moon (sound). It can be really hard work when you’re on the road, but the rewards can far outweigh the long hours driving and being away from home. There’s less leisure time than one might think, so we don’t get to do as much in the way of sightseeing or just hanging out with friends & family, even though it would be great if we could...