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.
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)
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.
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.
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!