“For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him”. -I Cor 8
December has once again sprung upon us. Whether in America or Japan, Christmas songs abound and lights can be seen all around. Despite not knowing about Christ, the songs they hear here, or the images they see, the Japanese do get into a festive-like spirit, and very much welcome Christmas. Experiencing different cultures, without a doubt, can be a great spiritual experience. It challenges many of your core beliefs and opinions, forces you to examine yourself and, if done in light of the Word of God, to your betterment. This is our third Christmas here, and we have seen how the holiday season is such an effective tool to reach the Japanese. New Years, or Oshogatsu (お正月), is one of the two biggest times of year for the Japanese – as it highly symbolizes a new chance – a chance to be “clean”, of which they esteem very very much. Again this year, we have been able to utilize this time to introduce true, eternal cleansing through Christ.
We recently took the time to examine some more of the history of Christmas tradition, the related scriptural references, and where we stood on it – because whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom 14:23), and if we are going to take-part in something, we need to make sure we completely believe in what we are doing. It was interesting to read about the apparent introduction that Martin Luther had with the Christmas tree, and the several conflicts that the puritans had over Christmas traditions, both good and bad. Many do not know about the pagan origins of Christmas, and we reached a point where we personally needed to determine if and how such were going to affect both our celebration and ministries here. Jeremiah warns of learning of the vain traditions of cutting down trees and decking them with ornaments as idol worship. Jesus also said that we can make even the Word of God vain in our lives with traditions. We compared that to the principal of God using things that had evil origins, and turned them around and utilized them for good in stead. We see this done throughout the Bible as well as history. If we decided not to use something on the basis that because unbelievers “got to it first”, there would scarcely be a thing that we could actually use in life. We need to do “all to the glory of God” (I Cor 10), and we have decided to utilize Christmas, though not perfect, for the glory of God. Whatever your understanding of the year-end holidays, we hope that you too may take some time to learn about how it began, and determine for yourself, the good and the bad.
Hoping that I haven’t offended many, moving on to what has occurred during the holiday ministries. We had the final “Kids’ English” class for this year. We had several of the kids’ parents and friends come for the final class, and also had several church members join us to bring together a Christmas message (In case that you don’t know the details, this is an English ministry for non-christian children).
After the ministry, the church members prepared some food and drinks. One of the children came up to me to ask me if I was drinking beer. I asked why she thought so, and she said that “Because you’re a man, so that’s why you drink”; this little girl is only four years old. During the ministry time, this same girl, without ever spending time with me before, ran up to me just for me to hug and hold her and didn’t want me to let her go for quite a while.
A sad majority of Japanese children grow up in an environment with very little of their fathers in their lives, either because their dad works endless hours, or because the children themselves are expected to follow the example, and be at school for sometimes around 60 hours a week. Alcohol is not condemned at all in Japan, and on the contrary, most workers rely on it to make it through the week. On the inside, the Japanese are very much dead people, though a great harvest field for God’s Seeds. At the same time, the adversary has a very strong hold on this country, and we cannot help them without your prayers to breakthrough.
Along with the church, there were a whole lot of Christmas “meets” for preaching the gospel, including at nursing homes, the church, and for children – so many that we couldn’t help at all of them. Mia and I shared the gospel story to more children at the church last week using “Kami-shibai” (紙芝居), like picture stories, at Kid’s English, and even during a private meeting. Our friend Anastasia Merritt continues to help a lot with using her gifts of art by supplying continual drawings to help minister. We were able to use her artwork several times to introduce what Jesus was/is really like, and why he actually came to earth.
We also had the annual Christmas gathering for the school and gave a presentation with the gospel. Along with Easter, this time of year is also a time where I can easily share the gospel with my classes, and give lessons around Christ. Please pray for a lady named Yumi. She has had several interactions with Mia over the year and we were able to spend some time with her and her daughter this week. We got to share the Christmas message and the gospel some with them personally, and we are praying for her to know the Lord. Please also continue to pray for the Nishimoto family. On Christmas day I had a Christmas-themed lesson at their home and their son, Takumi, joined. Takumi is now actually attending a Christian mission college in Kyoto, about 3-4 hours from here, but his parents are not saved. They came to the school Christmas meet and are continually exposed to the gospel during our classes. Please pray for their salvation!
There is more I could share but I think I will stop here for now. I want to say thank you so much for your support and prayers, and on behalf of the Spratt family, Merry Christmas.