Do All in the Name of the Lord Jesus

Tit 2:14  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

 

This has been a rather full month- full of insights, changes, and challenges. I have been reminded a lot lately of how real eternity is, and just how fleeting the “reality” around us is.

Sakura Tree starting to bloom

A few weeks ago was the extremely short time of year that Sakura trees bloom and show forth their beauty. Their flowers only last for a few days and then fade away. There is a lot of symbology in the Sakura tree to the Japanese – mostly for how long the flowers last. Though despite that even “the heavens declare his righteousness”, the Japanese can’t see the plain evidences of God. The Japanese are a people that “go through the motions” to the extreme, and don’t stop to question or consider “why”. After nearly two years, we have not found a single person who has told me why they do what they do as a Buddhist. They simply do what they’ve been told, and everyone is expected to act, talk, and work, identically; they don’t know how to become peculiar people for God. The Japanese people are quite different from people of other mission fields, and we are continually praying over new ways to reach the lost here.

 

 

First, I want to thank all those who have been praying for me and my family in my grandmother’s passing. Most of my family is not saved, and I am very grieved for them. Sinful practices grip most of our family, and we pray that each pain and loss in life may be used to bring them to the Lord. “It is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart”. (Ecc 7)

 

Learning numbers with Jesus’ disciples (New Kid’s English Ministry)

Along with the difficulty of losing my grandmother, this past week(end) has been a full one. We had the normal weekly “Pocket” ministry nearby the downtown train station on Friday, and have been building a good connection with a couple of people there lately. One person is named Mitsui. He actually has a form of Autism. We first met during the ministry and have since been meeting privately; I got to witness to him and a friend of his. Mitsui calls himself a believer though he doesn’t go to church, and what we know of his spiritual background seems uncertain. Please pray for him as we continue to interact. He shows unusually strong interest in meeting and talking about the Bible. Another man that we have been building a relationship with is named Tanabe. He is the manager of a café next to where we do the outreach. Lately, he has been making a purpose to stop working to come and talk to us. He appears quite curious, and we have been able to give him the gospel more directly than most Japanese are willing to receive. Please pray for his salvation.

 

Also regarding the Pocket ministry, there is a large uncertainty regarding the permit for that location. Up until now, Fukui City has been the one we have been working with in order to get the permit. We are the first people to ever request a permit of this style before, according to them, and have received an extraordinary amount of grace, however, management has changed, along with who we need to work with. and they can no longer guarantee much of the details for us starting next week. The change in responsibility, however, is actually going to an organization nearby that we know pretty well. They are also the ones who control the space immediately outside of the station that we have wanted access to for some time. We don’t know what the ultimate conditions of the change will bring, but it might have a big impact on the ministry. Please pray about this this week. The city officer promised to call me soon with more information.

 

Giving the gospel to visitors at the Lighthouse Cafe in Mikuni

I want to thank the Lord, as last weekend was the first time I had to preach my first full Japanese gospel messages. They weren’t more than 20 minutes, and they certainly weren’t perfect, but it seemed that they were well understood, and a lot of people were subject to the gospel. Please pray for the many who listened, for our continued learning of Japanese, and for more open doors to preach. Additionally, regarding preaching, I had a meeting with Pastor Emori a few days ago. As you may know already from our previous posts, he has been ministering for some forty years and is need of help. The details are a little sensitive, but his sons are not in a position to take over. Extremely few men in the church are experienced, and it is, regrettably, mostly women who step up to lead, which ought not to be. On top of that, the other church that we work with has been leaderless for several months, with no one to guide it. The need for experienced Christians is huge, and we think it might only be a matter of time when I might need to do something to “fill in the gap”. Please continue to pray for wisdom and understanding, both in language learning and to handle the matter after God’s will.

 

This week is Japan’s longest holiday stretch (three national holidays back to back), and, at the time of writing this post, Mia is at the end of attending a Christian retreat in Kobe (about 3 hours south of here). I am sure she will share next month about it, but it sounds like she is getting blessed for her three days there. The retreat is associated with Japan Christian teachers (the same one we went to last Autumn). This time I think Mia mostly went just to get recharged and not to serve as much, for which rest I’m thankful. Consequently, it’s just been Hannah and I for a couple of days.

 

A little downtime with the family between ministries.

 

I am extremely thankful for those of you who are being an active support to us and the ministry here. Last winter was rather tolling on us, but because of your prayer and financial support we are now able to transition out of a constantly draining situation and be able to focus more on our marriage and family, and ministry. Thank you. My work has already been reducing and will stabilize completely once we can get a secondary teacher to work with us at GRACE. Everyone has been overwhelmingly supportive not only of ministry, but also for us to get more time as a family, which we need very much. Again, thank you so much, and please continue to pray for these needs. May the Lord bless you for all you do for the lost in Japan!

 

Spring is here… finally!

“As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.: Pro. 25:13

 

It’s been so nice we needed to go visit the dinosaurs.

Well, now spring is finally coming to comfort us from a winter that seemed drawn out. It was amazing to see so much snow but it makes it not only difficult on your everyday life but even for the important things like emergency responders, hospitals, and many other things that are a necessity. The only way we have to heat our living room is with kerosene, and at some point, the gas station was out and so we had to wait. Thankfully, only had to wait for it the next day but you certainly have to watch how you use what you have left just to make it till that next time.

Also, I’ve never seen a store so bare of food and such. Veggies, dairy, bread… gone. Sadly though, people will only look at their physical needs and not much wonder about their spiritual need. It really is not much of a thought at all. There had been a good amount of people who lost their lives. People stranded on Route 8. They either froze to death or died from carbon monoxide.

When someone had finally contacted to have our road cleared by a “shovel car”, they started on the opposite end of us but then only finished half way. We really couldn’t understand why they only did that much but then we learned that he had a heart attack from lack of sleep and too much work from clearing roads.

Just typing all of that, I just want to cry because they did not die with the Hope.

For the positive, a LOT of people would get stuck on the roads in the rural areas so you’d see neighbors, people coming home or businesses going out and helping get a car out. It was pretty awesome to watch considering the Japanese people always seem so engrained in what they are doing but not really paying attention to others and their needs. Just the past few days, we have noticed people so engrossed with their phones that they are not even aware of what is right in front of them, like a 2 year old trying to hand them a piece of paper. Today, on my bike, I rode past a girl who was on her phone and didn’t take her eyes off it and crossed the road without even looking. Truly, we are amazed (and not in a good way).

Pumpkin bread

Sorry, back to the positive. One of the things that we were able to get before the storm started was a bread maker. Thank you to those who gave towards getting it. We greatly appreciate that along with Hannah’s car seat. Praise the Lord! It is just a simple act to give someone a warm piece with a drink while in such cold conditions. People were surprised to receive it. One little fruit that showed up to us was from a lady that Brian helped. She brought us a note, her business card (business cards are a big deal in Japan), a flyer to the business she works at on our block, and a gift for Hannah. It was girl’s day on March 3rd so she got Hannah a gift for that. It was all very sweet. Now, our responsibility is to keep in contact with her and have a genuine relationship with her. Then may she show some kind of curiosity to our faith, to our hope. It may take years but as long as we are faithful to God and to the people, it will happen.

 

But one of the things that I’d like to state is that there are very few people to reach the Japanese. Very few. I’m sure we’ve said this before but we’ll say it again. Japan needs more missionaries. We need missionaries that really have a heart first for God, then that have a heart for the lost at whatever cost that may be. But we certainly (the Christian community) feel so small. There is a need.

 

Another great need from a missionary standpoint is that we need people who will either be pastor or some type of leadership in the church. When I’m having Japanese lessons with our Pastor’s wife, Brian is keeping Pastor company and just being support to him which has been wonderful. But one of the recent things that was said was at a meeting (I think of some churches in the area) is that our church and a friend church has no one next to take care of the church. The friend church has a leadership group but has no pastor. Our church has Pastor Emori but he is very old and when he dies, we have no one to take responsibility. Right now, Brian does not feel like he is being called to be a pastor but he is ready and willing to take whatever responsibility that is required of him. I think one of the hardest things that is on our mind is that churches and ministries our dying because there aren’t enough “labourers”. Most of those labourers that started the churches over here are gone and the very last of them is actually going back home to Norway. People either aren’t being properly trained to understand to think for themselves (whether just personally or spiritually) or they aren’t being trained to be in leadership roles. Oh, please God, help us.

 

One more need that is looking to be fulfilled is that our boss, Hiroko is looking for a part-time, Christian, single lady teacher.

So if you know of anyone or you yourself are interested first reach out to God and seek His wisdom and if He gives you the green light, reach out to us and we’ll get you connected with Hiroko.

 

I believe one more thing I’d like to update everyone on is the ministries that are either starting up again or just started.

Hannah’s favorite thing to do during Pocket Ministry is pass the flyers out.

We just started the Pocket Ministry this past Friday (3/23). It felt a bit slow as no one came and participated. But it also wasn’t the nicest weather. It was just kind of a dreary day. But Hannah had so much fun passing out the flyers to people. If you would pray for God’s presence in that ministry. God’s presence may look different than we think but please pray for that. Pocket Ministry is every Friday at 5pm to 7pm. Also, please pray that a girl named Asuka will come. She is a girl that was at the orphanage that we visit once a month. She has become the age that they don’t keep them at the orphanage anymore. We don’t know details of where she is or anything but the staff told us that she really enjoys the Pocket Ministry. We so very much want to see her and help her in whatever way we can.

Another ministry that is starting is a little English school that we will teach at every other Saturday. The off Saturdays will still be Mama Mia (child and mommy ministry). So for the English school, it of course consists of teaching English but the main reason for it is to use the Bible. To teach about God and Jesus. So we and our friend (who is starting this) are very excited in this school coming together. So far, God is helping us see what the gifts He gives us can be used for. It is truly a blessing!

 

 

We want to thank everyone who has been a part of this life that we live. It’s by your support through prayers and other means of help makes this happen. We are very grateful for all those things. Also, thank you to those who have given your time when we were home. I know that while I felt like I was going everywhere (being busy) but I didn’t feel like it was busy-ness. It was extremely relaxing and helped energize me. There were a lot of things that we could accomplish and then there were some things that didn’t get done and of course, there were many more people that we wanted to spend time with and just couldn’t but that’s ok. I’m sure we’ll get another chance.

But until then, keep up serving God in the way that He calls you. If you feel like you are missing something, seek Him and He will provide. Oooo, that word “will” sounds so invigorating! Praise the Lord for His goodness, mercies, grace and many more. We are so undeserving. But because He gives us those things, may we take that advantage and love on Him and fellowship with Him.

Return to a White Harvest

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing… -Ecc 3: 3 & 5

First, I want to apologize for such a long wait for this post; the blog host had some technical difficulties and it took some time to regain access… it seems that our time of both pre and post trip, has been a “time to refrain from embracing”… the blog, at least. Anyway, we had such an amazing return for Christmas and New Years (with a little unexpected extension)! We had a planned nine day trip back to the States, with a lot of objectives within that short time period. Thankfully, we were able to accomplish a majority of the major things. We were able to see Mia’s family, our church family, sort through a lot of our old things, handle our dog’s affairs, and talk about the missions work in Japan. We even got to just relax! The one major disappointment was not being able to see my mother. With several factors being involved, she was not able to fly out to meet us, and we couldn’t do the opposite in short notice. I appreciate your prayers for my mother, as I hope to have the chance to see her at least one more time.

 

Hannah opening a new sticker book with Mammi for Christmas!

I kind of felt that we were back for Thanksgiving, not over New Year’s, just because of the kind of time it ended-up being. One thing I am very appreciative for is the time we got to spend with our pastor and his wife. Lonnie and Delilah were incredible hosts. From meals we’ve missed, (unknowingly) looking into meeting some of our most minor “needs”, and supporting us as a family and during our struggles getting on our return flights. They made the trip a very special one. I am glad to have gotten to grow closer with them – and especially for Hannah! It was certainly “a time to build up” for us. And speaking of thanksgiving; on behalf of all of us, we want to say thank you!!!!!!! for all that everyone has done to be a support and blessing. From the too many gifts to pack (sorry Lonnie and Deliliah!), the financial gifts for Hannah, our family, and the ministry, as well as precious time we got to spend with many of you, we were truly blessed so much. I’ve been told that I’ve “thanked everyone sufficiently”, but just one more time, thank you.

 

So being affectionately desirous of you, 「you」 were willing to have imparted unto 「us」, not the gospel of God only, but also [your」 own souls, because ye were dear unto us.  (I Thes 2:9)

Having fun with her new barn animals!

Some of the children and staff we were able to teach.

It was also a good time for us to be able to personally share some of the needs here in Japan. We are extremely excited in looking forward to having more time available for family and ministry. We know that many of you have expressed interest in helping to make that a reality, and we are in the process setting-up financial accounts to keep everything contributed as accountable as possible. As we make preparations on our end, we are open to any feedback, concerns, or other input, to do everything “decently and in order”. One of the Japanese party’s in Mikuni has invited us to meeting on the 7th to discuss a new ministry that we are to work with them with. We will plan to give details after the meeting. We are back to the usual here, and in addition to the normal ministries, we had a new opportunity to give the gospel at a nearby school! While the details are in the works, it is wonderful to now be able to say “yes”, instead of “no” to some of ministry opportunities before us. I am also really looking forward to being able to say “yes” to more husband/father responsibilities. It is an area that I have been falling behind in, and I am eager to get to work in this very necessary ministry to my family.

 

“Better is an handful with quietness, than two handfuls with labor and vexation of spirit”. -Ecc 4:6

 

Some of you know some of the story regarding what became of our flight situation. It seemed like a large valley of a challenge right at the end of the mountain top. The details would literally consume all of this blog post, but here is the summary. We flew on ANA and United Airlines, both there and back. However, United made several large mistakes with both our itinerary and our dog, Pippy’s. We had to rebook our flights several different times, fly on different days, and send our dog off for a few days without us to an airport that we wouldn’t even go to. Our pastor Nate and his family took very hard and good care of Pippy for a year and a half from a sudden need, of which we are extremely grateful for their sacrifice. That work also entailed them needing to take care of

 

Pippy’s preparations to go to Japan: a nine month process. Paperwork work, vet visits, and other things, all to make sure there is no problem getting Pippy into Japan. And after all of that, the airline lost the paperwork, and said that they would “kill the dog” if they couldn’t find it! Japan ended-up impounding our dog. Thankfully, the USDA was able to work with us to get Pippy released, and after three attempts to fly back down to Tokyo to get her, Mia was finally able to get Pippy home with us! The journey felt so so long, but we are very thankful to have her with us; her and Hannah apparently have a lot to catch up on!

 

Tug of war!

 

So many of you (sorry to say “so” so many times!) have been, and are a part to help make everything work in order to spread the gospel here. I’m learning that there is a lot more involved in missions work than just preaching and praying. It’s giving. It’s reaching out. It’s supporting my family. It’s loving. And it’s ministering in ways I never thought of before. Thank you for being your part, and we look forward to pressing on for the Lord this year with renewed vision and strength.

Sayonara Japan

2 Corinthians 13:11 – Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

Hello to all of you as I prepare to say goodbye to Japan and the wonderful hosts I’ve had here. I am leaving early tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, so this will be my final blog post. I’m still trying to figure out how this time went by so fast. I’m certainly going to miss being here!

The past three weeks have remained busy with the weekly Pocket Ministry as well as several other ministry opportunities. I would like to request prayer for one specific individual who we got a chance to witness to this past Friday during the Pocket Ministry. His name is Carlos, a Brazilian who has been living in Japan for 10 years. We had a conversation with him for over half an hour. Please pray that he would accept Jesus’ wonderful gift of salvation.

The children during their lesson at Mamma Mia

A ministry we helped with last Saturday was Mamma Mia. This is a place where mothers can bring their children for several hours. We sang a few English children’s songs with them, we taught them some animal names in English, one of the Japanese ladies taught them a lesson about Jesus, and lastly everyone had lunch together. This is a great opportunity to teach the children about Jesus while they’re still young!

Hannah with her new friend Airi from the orphanage

This past Sunday, we had another opportunity to go to the orphanage that I mentioned in my last blog post. The kids helped carve out pumpkins, and they also made little bags for candy that we later passed out. Something that blessed me was the fact that I had 2 little boys come sit on my lap for a while, and I couldn’t talk to either of them in their language. That reminded me that these children just want to be loved. They might not have even known that I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but that didn’t stop them from smiling and having fun!

Eiheiji Temple

Several weeks ago, we got to visit the Eiheiji Temple, a Buddhist temple here in Fukui Prefecture. It was quite fascinating to see the monks there going about their duties. Another interesting thing to watch was the people giving their offerings, burning incense, and praying either to the gods or their deceased family members. It is important that we keep these Japanese people in our prayers. We can pray that their eyes would be opened and that they would see and know the One True God.

Earlier this month, we were invited to represent the United States at what’s called a “Global Festival”, which was held outside the Fukui train station. This was an event put on by the city of Fukui. It featured people from many different countries showcasing the different cultures from throughout the world. At our table, we set up an English Bible verse that we use for the Pocket Ministry, and many people were able to read it and ask any questions they had. This opened up opportunities to talk to many people about the Bible. Brian and Mia have been invited to join them at another event in a few months.  We are praising God for this open door with the city! Please pray for continued opportunities with the city in the future.

I want to give a special thanks to Brian and Mia (and Hannah, too, of course!) for their incredible hospitality during my time here. I have grown spiritually and have been encouraged tremendously! I pray that God has worked through me to make an impact in the lives of the people here and, most importantly, that all the glory has been given to Him.

Thanks for all of your support! May God bless you all!

A Glimpse Into My First Month In Japan

For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Romans 12:4-5

Hello, everybody! Donovan here. It’s so hard to believe that it’s been a little over 3 weeks since I got here! Thank you to all of you who have been praying for my time here. I believe that there are many ways that God can do work through me while I’m here, and your prayers are certainly a big part of that!

Brian and Mia have made me feel so welcome, and I can’t thank them enough for that. It didn’t take long for me to feel like part of the family. For about the first week I was here, Hannah wasn’t so sure about me; but she has definitely gotten used to having me around. I have acquired the title “niichan”, which means big brother. I am loving my time of having a little sister, even if it is only for 2 months!

This is Natsuki. She is from the city hall, where we acquired the permit for this ministry. She has come to the “Pocket” all 3 weeks we have been there. She is very interested in returning for more English practice! Please pray that her eyes and heart are opened to the Lord through this ministry.

My first 2 weeks here I stayed busy with preparation for the Pocket Ministry (formerly known as the Train Ministry) that we recently started. That involved things like helping with printing out questions and answers, laminating all the questions and answers, and also organizing the different categories and levels. The Pocket Ministry is held every Friday evening from 5PM to 7PM in a passageway leading from the main street to a covered outdoor shopping plaza of sorts. The place we have a permit for to do the Pocket Ministry is called Galleria Pocket, hence the new name for the ministry. We pass out flyers to people walking by and invite them to come practice their English with us. When someone is up for the challenge, they pick a category (vocabulary, general, prepositions, etc.) and a level of difficulty, ranging from 1 to 5. They then read the question in English and try to figure out the correct answer (each question is taken from a Bible verse and has up to 4 choices for the answer). Once they are finished, we give them a gospel tract and a chocolate as a little gift. We have done the Pocket Ministry for 3 weeks now and have had a fair amount of people showing interest in taking a little bit of time to practice their English. The goal for this ministry is to get people like Natsuki (pictured on right) to come back every week so we can spend more time talking to them about Christ. Please pray that those who read the verses and gospel tracts will be able to understand them and, as a result, give their lives to Christ.

Organizing questions for the Pocket Ministry

We were able to join a group of volunteers in helping out at a local orphanage for several hours this past Sunday afternoon. We sang with the children, helped them with a craft, and also played a game with them. Going to the orphanage is a once-a-month occurrence, and this was the first time we were able to go. We hope to continue this ministry of spending time with the children and showing them that they are loved. We had such a good time with the children, even though it did get rather noisy at times. It was so heartbreaking to see their sad faces when it was time for all of us volunteers to leave. Please pray that these children can feel the presence of their Heavenly Father.

Singing at the oprhanage

One of the most difficult things for me so far has been the language barrier. It can get discouraging at times, like at the Pocket Ministry or at the orphanage when I want to be able to talk to people, but I can’t. Romans 12:4-5 has been a good reminder for me though. If you didn’t catch it at the beginning of the post, it says, “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” While I’m here in Japan, I can’t necessarily be the mouth since I have a very limited Japanese vocabulary, and I can only learn a fairly small amount of Japanese in two months. On the bright side, I can still serve as the hands or maybe the feet of the body of Christ. Whether that’s behind the scenes work for the Pocket Ministry or playing games with the children at the orphanage even though I can’t really talk to them, I can still have an impact on the ministries we are involved in as long as I do my part. If each part of the body of Christ works together, much can be accomplished. I may not be able to speak Japanese fluently, but that isn’t going to stop me from letting God work through me to have an impact while I’m here.

Suwa Yakata-ato Garden at the Asakura Family Ruins

I have been able to experience some of the Japanese culture and also some of the beautiful scenery! For example, last Saturday, we spent the day out and about. First we went a Shinto shrine that was having a matsuri festival, celebrating the Autumn Equinox. Then for the rest of the day, we visited the Asakura Family Ruins, a castle town that that was thriving way back in the 1500s. It was very fascinating to see a real-life imitation of how they lived when the town was thriving. I look forward to taking in more of the beauty God created in Japan!

Overall, I have been thoroughly enjoying my time here. I can’t wait to see, learn, and eat many more things while I’m here. I look forward to seeing what else God will do in me and also through me during the second half of my trip! Thank you all so much for praying!

All Things (Done) Work Together For Good

And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Jam 2:16

So far this has been an exceptionally busy summer for everyone. With residential updates, paperwork, taxes, paperwork, ministry, and more paperwork, we have a lot to report. First, I guess I’ll start with the things here in Japan.

With having passed the cusp of 1 year of residence, there has been a tremendous amount of things to do, change, and update. First of all was our visas themselves. Normally teachers have 3 year visas – though we were only granted 1 year ones with our school, so we had to get them renewed. Also, we are increasingly left to ourselves to handle local affairs (like this), without the help of a translator. The mandatory help that we were given was also not until one day before our visas expired – increasing the pressure significantly. After going back and forth to two towns about four times in a couple of days, we were thankfully barely able to get out visas extended on the very last day before we would have been staying illegally in the country. With the way that it was handled, we now see why Immigration apparently only gives us at our school a year at a time! – We were again only given a 1 year visa. Next time we hope to take the initiative ourselves to avoid so much of trouble. Phew.

Also because of staying here for over a year, we now are expected to pay Japanese-level residency taxes (in addition to the national insurances). What we have read is true – because of the now-severe age and work imbalance in Japan, both premiums are extremely high, making family life a financially difficult one. We are no longer exempt from this burden.

Our new bedroom. This apartment costs about the same as the old one, but with much more space

To help ease some of the expense, (again, because a year has passed) we have been able to get released from some of our contracts, though with some penalties. We changed cell phone carriers, got a credit card, and also moved to downtown Fukui from Eiheiji. In the long-term this will lower our expenses, but it has incurred a lot of upfront costs. Also, in Japan, changing residence cities is a big deal. You have to take countless steps to prove that you’re leaving in good standing with your current town, show proof of your payments/finances, etc. Then you have to cancel your insurance and registration in that town, shut-off your typical utilities, and terminate your rental agreement. After that you then have to re-register everything in your new town. The Japanese say it’s difficult – and that’s with being fluent in Japanese. This also nearly all had to be done without a translator, and we thank the Lord very much that it is all basically all done with! With that said, if you need it, please see our new address here, or you can find it on the blog menu.

2Chome13-5 3rd Floor
Bunkyo, Fukui City
Fukui Prefecture, Japan 910-0017

When I said earlier that “everyone” has been busy, I don’t just mean the three of us. We certainly need to acknowledge the very very hard work of the others who have been physically laboring greatly over our affairs in the States! There has been trouble both handling and keeping a reliable tenant in our trailer, and it has been both a financial stress as well as a constant burden for those involved. Though it wasn’t an easy decision, we agreed to sell our home. We want to praise the Lord that it was sold speedily and should no longer be the continual problem that it was on everyone. The sale is also very timely as it will help offset the problems mentioned above. Thank you to all of you who had a part to help with this. By helping us be free of financial and other burdens it frees us to focus much more on doing what we need to to spread the gospel to the lost in Japan. Thank you.

Four varied drawings of a Bible scene

In regards to ministry, we have a couple of updates. We received the first clothing shipment we ordered for outreach. Mia first created these for general evangelism, though we also plan to use them in conjunction with a new train ministry that we hope we can do
very shortly. They simply invite people to converse with us in English, while using the Bible to teach them. There is also a friend in the U.S. who is currently working on artwork for the Bible train evangelism. We are really looking forward to starting these first real evangelistic projects, and we ask for your prayers for the Holy Spirit to draw men unto the Lord through them! We are also in the process of figuring out the legalities required to do this, and we appreciate your prayers for wisdom and an open door. We are also very appreciative to the family who volunteered to pay for this project. We know the Lord will bless you just as much for doing your part for the Kingdom! Some in the Body of Christ are the feet, while others are the hands.

Mia’s long sleeve version of one of the shirts

Additionally, we are very excited to have one of the young men from our church join us for a little while for a missions trip to Fukui! He has a great heart for the Lord, and we are both praying for and looking forward to what God will do through him while he is here! Please pray for him and his journey!

Mia (and Hannah??) sanding and beginning prep for the guest room.

Also as a quick update from my last post: I did have several tests performed at the hospital. It was apparently true that the American doctor performed a surgery on something I never had, and that my symptoms are the result of my muscles not properly healing from a childhood operation. There may not be a way to repair the problem, and I may just have to adapt my life so not to further injure myself. Well, at least it’s an answer. In everything we thank the Lord!

Well, this was a rather long post, but thank you for reading it. As Autumn approaches there are many “spiritual” events coming up (including Obon (See HERE for a report from last year), and we ask for your prayers for the countless here that are deceived by the devil, that their eyes may be opened to the Lord.

LASTLY – below is a copy of the video update shown in church last week, for those who were interested who didn’t get to watch it.

Blessings,

-Brian

Driver’s Licenses

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” –Matthew 6:26

When both of your international driving permits are about to expire and it looks a little tricky on how you are going to manage to get your Japanese driver’s licenses before the expiration date (which seems to be coming quickly), you wonder how it will ever work out in time. BUT, you remember that you have an AWESOME God who specializes in miracles. BUT, you also remember that you have an AWESOME God that may give you a bit of a different answer than what you were hoping for. Not because He is cruel and doesn’t want you to have the things needed but there may be some lesson in it all that you can get from the experience. Praise the Lord! So here is our experience of getting our driver’s licenses (DL).

Some of the first steps of the process is to send your U.S. DL into JAF (Japan Automobile Federation) so they can translate it. As soon as you get your translation back, you need to call in and set up an appointment to have an interview done. We ended up making the appointments first because we were told it would probably be awhile to get the interviews. So Brian went in and set up two appointments and it wasn’t looking too favorable as they only had a single opening 2 days before the expirations, and one that was open in July (1 ½ to 2 month wait time). Brian needed his license first considering he is the primary driver because of work. So he booked himself for the first one and booked me for the second option. We then sent in our U.S. DL to get translated at the beginning of May, and to our surprise, they came back about 6 days later (generally about a two week process).

Hannah got her driver’s license long before us!

Lets move on to 2 days after we received the translations. We enjoy riding bike and take the chances when we can while the weather is nice. So for some odd reason, Brian decided to take the bike to work. But there were some things wrong with him taking the bike that day (but also some things right.) 🙂

Wrong thing #1: Brian only had 35 minutes to get to work. The bike ride is around 45 minutes from our apartment. Thankfully, he pedaled fast enough and got there in 25 minutes. He also had all this equipment and materials that he needed to strap to the bike which does take time.

After teaching his morning classes, he had his usual teacher’s meeting at an “unusually early” time . During the teacher’s meeting, Brian brought up the concern to our boss (Hiroko) that because of the time that the interview is to be, it would be a problem for him to drive to his classes. Wondering what options there are to help this problem. So Hiroko just called the driving center and by the end of the phone conversation, we found out that they changed his interview to that actual day (5/12/17) not (6/12/17)… but it was in an hour!

Wrong thing #2: Brian doesn’t have the car! He has to get to the driving center but he also needs all the documents that are required for the interview (which were at home with Hannah and I). There was not enough time by bike to get every thing.

So he called me.

Right thing: The car was left with me and so were those documents! (Really not meant to be a prideful statement, promise.) He asked that I’d come pick him up with the documents and we’d go to the driving center for the interview. My problem was that Hannah was still napping and we don’t like to wake her up, if possible. But he assured me that she needed woken up. So just as soon as I hung up, Hannah woke up. I was wondering “Should I get her dressed?”, “I need a shower. Should I take a super quick one? No really, Brian needs this ASAP!”, “Should I put up my hair?”, “What if for some odd reason, they can take me with him? I better take my documents!” So here we are rushing out the door. Get to the school and… Brian isn’t there! Come to find out Hiroko took him just so he could at least be present on time. So Hannah and I made it over to the center and Brian comes out and is smiling walking over to the car. Opens Hannah’s door and I open up mine to give him the papers and he goes, “Just to make it more crazy, how about you join me for the interview.” (Glad I did decide to put on that deodorant!) Because Hiroko took Brian, she was able to talk to the people at the center to let me have the interview with him. But we were definitely NOT preparted. We thought we had all this time to prepare.

We went in and had our interviews. We find it a bit strange though that they didn’t ask us about any accidents while in the U.S. because they were suppose to. But in a way, that made it much easier because to remember all the dates and such things aren’t that easy. (Not that we had THAT many.) So we get a call a few days later to let us know that we passed! Hurray!

We both had our written and driving test May 31st. While we both passed the written test, we failed the driving test. The test isn’t like in the States where you have to drive logically but rather, they give you a series of irregular rules that they just want you to follow. But when you have all these rules, you have difficulty with doing everything just right. But they told us what we did wrong. I won’t embarrass anyone but someone drove one-handed and drove over the speed limit as soon as they left the parking spot. The instructor instantly failed them. (We both drive one-handed a lot of times and do our best to stay under the speed limit.)

So we both took our tests again on June 14th. I passed but Brian failed. He was going to have his own personal driver for at least the next two weeks until he cou

ld take his test again and hopefully pass. But wait!

Hiroko has a way of pulling strings! She was able to get him to take his drivers test on the 16th. Such a rare exception! Only God could have worked that out! But Brian passed on June 16th. Only 15 hours of him not being able to legally drive.

While in some ways, you feel a bit defeated and can’t figure out why someone wouldn’t pass, you later realize maybe why. During the days that we failed, we got opportunities to talk to someone about Jesus and/or just give them gospel tracts. Also, a while back we met a girl, “R” (we’ll say “R” as we didn’t get permission from her to use her name), who is with one of the churches that we are in connections with and she actually helped us understand what the process wo0uld look like to getting the licenses. She works as an ALT teacher here in Japan. We don’t get to spend much time with her as she is usually very busy with work. “R” had to take her test a few times before but she was there taking her (hopefully) last test. She was very nervous, and of course just wanted to pass. Brian and “R” talked and she expressed the concerns about the testing and also the fact that she was also here for ministry purposes. So Brian prayed with her. Both took their tests. And yes, she passed as well. 🙂 Later, while we went out as a celebration, “R” said that she felt it was a time from God. We would not have had this good time to connect if it wasn’t for the two failures.

So thank you again to those who prayed for us in getting our licenses. I’m not sure if we’ve said this before but we certainly mean it when we say that we can’t do the things here if it weren’t for the prayers of you to our Father.

Again, we truly have an AWESOME God! We just want to praise Him for the things that we ourselves truly can’t do without Him. The only reason we can drive in the first place is because He gave us the bodies to move. To see. To understand. Praise the Lord!

That ye might know our affairs

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.” – Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)

 

If you read the quotes before my posts, you’ll usually find a quote from Scripture. This time, however, I’d like to look at Japan from a different perspective than from our usual viewpoint. Other quotes I could use for this post could perhaps be, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes”, or “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”. Jesus teaches us not to judge according to the outward appearance, and I want to share a little bit about our shoes/beam/thoughts here that you might not yet understand, just as there are many things that you experience that we don’t understand.

 

What I mean to say is, it’s sometimes impossible to quite understand someone else’s situation without actually going through them. That’s one good reason why a bishop has to be married and to have raised children well- he could no way understand someone who he needs to counsel, if he himself didn’t have experience! It is certainly true – you have no idea what it’s like to be married unless you are actually married, or what it’s like to raise children unless you actually have some (some of you might say amen to that one)! But likewise, the same is true about being on a mission field. Getting to the point, that is what I want to share with you this time – a little of our real struggles and obstacles.

 

One of the main reasons that we are here is also one of our bigger difficulties: there not being many Christians. Within the greater Fukui area there are only three-or-so churches that we are aware of – ours, a Catholic church, and one that has women “preachers and elders”. One of America’s christians’ weaknesses is good doctrine. Paul said to earnestly contend for the faith, and to take heed to sound doctrine. Here there is barely any doctrine to contend for in the first place. There are hardly enough people to carry a/the church, and there is rarely someone that we can go to when we need help. Going to church service here is rarely strengthening, and often times the opposite. We often find ourselves alone in our problems, which at times, is extremely difficult. Most of those that we trust, can communicate easily with, and understand us, are oceans away. This is perhaps Mia’s greatest battle here: not having someone else to console in. There is rarely a reprieve for her from this.  As we think and pray for others facing this on the mission field, this problem is certainly a realer struggle than many might realize.

 

Something else (that we’ve slightly mentioned before) is a problem specific to Japan – an extreme workaholic system. We recently shared an article on Facebook (http://www.businessinsider.com/japan-fertility-crisis-2017-4) that does a decent job at describing a little of its effect. Japan’s outlook on work not only creates several other problems, but also fuels itself. Because the majority consensus expects employees to work often without days off or sometimes even allowing time to return home for the night, people have less time (as well as interest) for getting married – much less having children.

Takashima Shrine we visited on our Kyoto trip

Japan’s work nature is also perhaps the leading reason why Japan has nearly one of the highest suicide rates in the world. These two things jointly have started putting the country in an increasing population shortage – which also means that there are less employees available, forcing current ones to work even more. This is not a problem that we ourselves have been exempt from. At the times that I am needed most for family or to be available for ministry is when I am sometimes required away for work doing extra hours. Especially in light of the previous paragraph, not having much time is one of the bigger problems that I face. Just this past weekend we got our first (and only) vacation day for the contract year, so we got to spend three days in Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. Practically the entire city is devoted to the gods (or to the aspiration of becoming one), and I expect that we’ll share more about it in the next post.

 

And, of course, to be expected is the language. For my age I have a lot of (often humorous) amount of health issues – some of which are minor and some of which are more significant. However, what things are trivial in the States is very different here, and trying to get medical treatment is not so easy (did I mention not being able to get time for things?). One thing that is nice, however, is being in a country with advanced technology, education, and standards. I have had some sort of problem in my abdomen for a couple of years now, but it has been getting worse over time. I had several examinations and an hernia surgery performed in the U.S., however it turned out that the doctor did the surgery in a completely different area than where my problem was, and did not actually operate on the correct thing. Since having moved to another country, my problem has only gotten worse and we still receive more bills to pay for the malpractice. I made one visit to a general practitioner here in Japan, had the same kind of test on the same area, and he found an abnormality that none of the doctors found in the U.S. Though we’re doing our best to communicate, it certainly is nice that the medical system is superb. I have an appointment with the surgical department of a local hospital at the end of June, and appreciate your prayers for these things as I don’t know how difficult it will be to communicate and understand.

 

Lastly, I want to mention one other burden that we face, but not actually here – the affairs in the U.S. It perhaps goes-without-saying, but I’m going to say it anyway – it would be impossible to do what we are doing if it weren’t for the many who are doing what they can back in the States! From handling our finances, property matters, and other decisions, there is a lot that goes on behind-the-scenes to help make everything happen. Just like how Mia takes the “supportive” role in the family, she is irreplaceable, and without the countless things that she does, our family would not endure. In regards to ministry, your support, without a doubt, functions the same way for us in Japan. For us, it sometimes feels like a large, looming burden that things need dealt with, not just in front of us, but also all the way in the U.S. There are current challenges that are on-going, some financial, some family related, and some managerial. Thank you so much to those of you who are physically doing what you are, and to all we ask for your continued prayers, for us, and for them as well.

 

We often lose some of the meaning of Scripture because of the time and culture that we live in. Jesus said that “the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few”, and that is a truth here. The strain and obstacles are the reason we need to serve here, and the more reason that we can’t do it without your support and prayers. The Japanese people are blinded by their ideals, religion, and even their goals. We plead for your prayers for the 128 million people here without Christ, and for us to be able to reach them, in Jesus name. Below is a song Mia and I have enjoyed over the years and we highly recommend you to listen to it. “A lifetime of labour is still worth it all if it rescues just one more soul“!

 

From the Beginning to…

He hath made every thing beautiful in his time… so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end. -Ecc 3

 

This has been a month of new things and possibilities, from the weather to classes and ministry. The refreshing Spring weather has been, well, refreshing. All of us have been going on so many outings recently – so much, in fact, that I`ve discovered yet another health problem – my knee! Several years ago I was involved in a motorcycle accident that damaged my right arm and leg. I think it may be beginning to finally catch-up with me. Hannah`s cough is also still there, but it seems to (very) gradually be getting better. Thank you to those of you who prayed for her! Mia also has the occasional health troubles, but I suppose all of this is just what age brings. We may be saved from the “law of sin”, but not yet “the law of death”, I suppose. But moving on, here are the ministry updates.

 

Also, thank you so much to all of you who recently sent both Easter items and future items to us! We are extremely appreciative of your help to spread “tidings of good news”; the things sent have already had quite an effect! Hannah has also been greatly enjoying the things many of you sent for her! We have been able to share the gospel with many people using the sweets that you sent us! The chocolate crosses, candy and plastic eggs, and other items were all used to introduce the concept of everlasting life to children and adults. One of my adult students, after hearing about how Christ died and resurrected, said that she “never heard that before”. This is a woman who is almost in her 70`s saying that she has never heard the gospel before in her life. We are frequently reminded of truly how big the void is of Christ in Japan. We are so blessed to be a part with you to reach so many that are without the Lord.

A young child reading a gospel tract at Pencil Park

As mentioned in the last post, we did put in the order for the motion gospel tracts from Moments With the Book (http://mwtb.org). We received two types, one which has three images when tilted, and tells three short messages that first, God created us, second sin separates us, and third that Jesus died for us (along with supporting graphics that change with each tilted image). The other tract is a two-image tract that changes from saying “NO JESUS NO PEACE” to “KNOW JESUS KNOW PEACE”. They are made quite well and they have been of great use already! We have gone from rarely being able to give the gospel to strangers because of the culture, to needing to restock the tracts we take out with us daily because they are such a great tool to talk about Christ! It looks like we will need another (bigger) order of them sooner than later! We are so thankful that the Lord lead us to these tracts! Above is just one picture from Mia and I getting a recent opportunity to talk to children about the Lord. They are already intrigued that we are not Japanese, on top of not expecting to talk to us in Japanese, they then are very open to see and hear what we have to say. Japanese adults also have an…. interesting fascination, I`ll call it, with English, and love to use it in small ways (even when it`s incredibly wrong)! This interest also works very well with these tracts, as we are able to explain the mean and give it to them as an “English resource” – and they are usually very eager to receive. Please keep praying for a continued open door to utter the gospel in this way and more!

The Japanese love to delve into the English language… this attempt can be found on a wall at the city shopping mall.

We recently had a meeting with our pastor here to discuss a possible church English lesson during the summer. It would involve an outreach to school students in the form of a Bible-based introductory English class. There are still details to be determined, but we will plan to give an update on this soon.

 

As you probably already know, we have been looking for a place to relocate to that would be better for several reasons. Moriai-san has been our primary helper in scouting-out places. The most recent of rental house seemed perfect – great size, good area, affordable, and pet friendly. However, someone else signed a contract before we could. Agreeing to trust the Lord for a better place, ironically, Moriai decided to move into one of the houses we looked at some time ago. Previously he rented an apartment above the school – an apartment that we actually have a lot of interest in. I spoke with the landlord (who happens to be one of my students) and we took a look at it today. It would be quite extraordinarily orchestrated from God if it turns out to be the right place to move to. We are asking for wisdom on this and will again plan to give an update in the next post.

 

Hannah got her “official” license from the JAF driving agency already!

Lastly we want to ask for prayer in regards to getting driving licenses here. We currently have international permits which allow us to drive in Japan for a year, but they are expiring soon and we are starting the (complicated!!) process of “starting over again” here. America is one of the few countries that Japan does not accept a simple license transfer, so we have to take two tests, as well as perform an actual driving test all over again. Japan is also notorious for failing international drivers the first several times on purpose (for a reason we are not exactly sure). A fellow missionary here even said that she had to take the driver’s test over ten times! Please ask the Lord to allow us quick approval for this, if you would.

 

Well, there are again more things we could mention but we’ll leave for another post. Also, please also take a moment to look at our prayer list for a couple of new areas that need your prayers. Thank you for your faithful support and prayers, and if there is anything you would like to know, we’d love to hear from you!

How are the Spratts?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” Eph. 1:3

We are certainly blessed. Not just spiritually but physically, mentally, and emotionally. Even though what I may say might seem to show otherwise. Ha. But that is a part of life. While our bodies are not perfect (ask Brian!), we have a Perfect God who knows all about those things!

This post will be about us. Yikes!!! We prefer to use this blog page for updates on ministries but I’m sure there are some people out there who would like to know some of the things going on with us personally. Not personally like, “I haven’t had a shower in a week” or the popular facebook joke post, “I just went to the bathroom”. But the other type of “personally”. Our physical health. Mental, emotional. How teachings are going, etc.

It seems like the flu has been going around here and a friend church, about half of their members got it. Also, Hannah and I got it. Boy, that wasn’t fun. While Hannah had the flu, we also think that she was teething pretty hard at the same time. She ended up getting a low grade fever for just a little over a day. Maybe two days. I love that she gets clingy and wants to sleep on you during those times. Obviously, the side that I don’t like about those times is that she feels rotten. She has recovered quicker than I have. I’m now just starting to taste my food and drink again. Although, with my taste back now, still being a bit sick, I feel like I’m tasting boogers. Haven’t eaten those in years. But anyways, onto better details.

Brian has been doing well. He continues to have his “prophet” or “visionary” personality. You can read all about the 3 types of men and women from Debi Pearls “Personality Types”.http://nogreaterjoy.org/blogs/preparingtobeahelpmeet/about/personality-types/

While somedays, I think he really has some out the box ideas BUT as long as God is putting them there, I just love the fact that he will follow them. (I mean, WE’RE IN JAPAN!!!) 🙂 As far as his health… where to start? We’re pretty sure for his 30th birthday, he’ll be getting partials. He already has about 4 or 5 teeth missing. And right now, we’re just getting any cavities that we both have filled. (The dentists office in Japan seems to be better as far as the wait time is shorter and they do it in parts rather than all at once.) Another health problem is that he went in for surgery about 2 years ago to get a hernia fixed. We’re actually pretty sure that the doctor just gave him another hernia instead of fixing the original. The incision was actually at his belly button. His hernia was not close to the belly button. So it has never felt right since then. But now these hernias seems to be giving him problem; he is having more pains daily. He calls it his gremlins. They don’t like him sneezing or exercising. We still have yet to navigate the medical field, as in the hospital.

Something else health wise but not personally Brian’s health, is the health of his mother. It is a mess and it is a bigger story to explain everything but it is in the forefront of just daily life. While he is concerned about the outcome of this issue but he is also trying to neutrally help with some problems. Not an easy thing when you’re not there. Otherwise, prayer for much wisdom in all aspects of this would be much appreciated.

But on a better note, he loves teaching. He will tell you that teaching your own language makes you realize how much of your own language you don’t know because “it’s always been that way for us”. Also, he’s using the times that he can to tell his students about Christ when it’s the appropriate timing. American holidays seem to be the best.

Oh, lets see. For me, I’m still teaching a 3 year old. There are days where it can be very exciting because she seems to be understanding and paying attention. Then there are days where she just wants to look into spaces and jump around everywhere and you spend almost the entire class trying to get her attention. So the days that she focuses is extremely exciting (not kidding).

Homesickness has certainly been setting in.

Otherwise, the only other thing I can really say about myself is some emotional problems I have been having. I won’t go into the back story but the days that are hard are, well… hard. Actually, yesterday and the day before were some of those days. But what has lead to having these feelings was when Brian had to put a stop to something. So all of these feelings didn’t come till after we
moved here. One thing that has been consistent through our marriage though is that I see things more as black and white. Like that, in a situation, I feel there needs to be fault somewhere and I feel it’s usually in me. There is much more to it but I don’t care to spend much time on it.

So on to the cutest member of our family! Hannah! Oh my is she growing up fast! I feel so bad for everyone back home that can’t watch her grow up in person. But thank the Lord for technology! She gets many 可愛い (cute). She started walking just a bit before her 1st birthday. She can say some words like puppy, kitty and cheese (She says cheese when she wants the camera on my phone to take a picture). But she absolutely loves animals. Particularly dogs. If she sees one outside, she asks to stand at the windowsill to watch them. And if she gets the chance, she wants to pet them. Which all that makes it exciting that the process is starting for our doggy to come here. Truly, we are so appreciative of our friends Nate, Janae, and their children for taking care of her and for getting her ready to come here.

Hannah and I try to stay out of trouble (sometimes a success, sometimes not). She loves going for bike rides. She can point things out. And since we found a gem of a park named Green Park- we’ll certainly be taking many adventures there. The park itself is so big. Many fun things to do. But if I just want her to run around and get energy out, I can just let her run free (with supervision of course) and I know that she’ll be safe.

Also, she loves music. Almost guaranteed, if she hears music, she’s dancing. She might even sing. We are fully enjoying her. We continually thank God for such a precious gift. And we continue to pray that she will love God with all her heart. God has answered everything else with her so I can’t wait to see how He answers it for her in the future. 🙂

So overall, we’re doing well. One thing we always try to remember is that even when we are going through something hard or we had something taken away, that does NOT mean that God is any less good and we are so thankful for that. Circumstances will not always be perfect. But God will always be. And when we have days when we don’t know what to do next or we feel like we’re falling apart, we just need to keep in mind “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”Rom. 8:28 We’re in this life not to live for ourselves but to live for God. We owe all to him because “he first loved us”. 1 John 4:19