Rambling Notes from Japan
Here are some blog posts that we hope will make you feel a part of things, and help you understand how to pray better for us and Japan. Please see our external blog in Blogger, if this page does not display correctly.
Bridging the Gospel Gap
Over the years of our Kawasaki church plant, this fumbling missionary (and very competent wife) have been able to share the gospel with many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unbelievers in our outreach activities. Some are just looking. Some will return and connect with the church. Some will soon be interested in a a Christianity for Beginners study. Still others we will never see again. Yet, God ordained that now, in this place, their lives intersect with the gospel and ourselves. The gap of those 99% still needing Christ is bridged just a little bit more.
This situation is repeated across Japan. There are sprawling communities without a church witness. There are countless churches without pastors (nearly a third). There are hundreds of tiny churches struggling to make an impact in their neighborhoods. There are many elderly pastors (like 84-year-old Pastor N. at right) looking for a replacement before they can retire.
Coming from a country of abundant Christian resources (USA), this disparity of the gospel in Japan is troubling to me.
It compels me to share this appeal:
1) Japan remains a mission field where the disparity of the gospel, and the spiritual opportunity, is as great as ever.
2) Our great God has called upon us, his church, to bridge the gospel gap.
Might you also help bridge the gap in Japan? Thanks for your partnership!
Even with limited resources and difficult circumstances (including post- disaster areas like Fukushima & Kumamoto), our Japanese colleagues work tirelessly and passionately for the cause of Christ. Praise God for faithful workers in his harvest fields!
The 50th-Year Jubilee
Fukushima is hardly a place to celebrate. It’s ground zero for the 311 nuclear disaster. Radiation fears sparked a mass evacuation. Ghost towns abound. But on September 14th, the city became a festive place once again. The body of Christ gathered here for a special reason: our association of Baptist churches turned 50 years old, now with over 3800 members in 54 churches from Tohoku to Tokyo. It’s our year of jubilee! [Photo: our group from Denen Grace]
It was humbling to learn that many of our churches trace their roots back to American missionaries who came and planted seeds. Setbacks, language bloopers and cultural missteps? Yes! Plenty! “But God made it grow” (1 Cor 3:6). This group of 500 believers gathered in Fukushima are a testimony to God’s harvest work!
Volunteering Once More in Miyako
Clear blue ocean water laps gently ashore. Sun glints off gorgeous white rock formations and cliffs that enclose the bay. Sightseers laugh aboard the many boats exploring caves and shoreline. This scenic sanctuary is panoramic eye candy. You can easily see why it is the pride of Miyako. In spite of its remote location, the beach attracts many people to an area that is otherwise just another set of fishing towns along the Iwate coastline.
Our volunteer team of 7 from Denen Grace Chapel once again had the joy of spending time among these survivors in the temporary housing areas around Miyako. More than two and a half years later, smiles come more easily and hearts are just a little more open. In two different locations, we first went door to door with a small gift (bookmark with Bible verse, rice cracker and candy) and invited residents to our cafe in the central meeting room. Here we offered a program of food (we made lots of sandwiches), coffee/tea, special music and karaoke, and bingo. I learned that the game of bingo is a serious matter among residents when prizes (daily consumables) are involved.
A time of singing with residents included familiar folk songs and hymns, and -- in an experiment -- Christian lyrics set to well-known Japanese tunes. Residents sang them eagerly. I think we may have created a new stream of contextualized Christian music. <View Photo Gallery>
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Our team also performed special music on stage for an outdoor community festival in Miyako under threatening skies. Pastor Iwatsuka said that up until a few years ago the church was not allowed to participate in the community festival. But now, after seeing the faithful work of volunteers since 311, the organizers urged the church to contribute to the outdoor program. What a turnaround!
It was a long road trip to Miyako. Ironically, it takes less time to go to Chicago from Kawasaki than it does to go to the temporary housing areas of Iwate. But we'd go back in a heartbeat. God has not left these people alone. He is reaching out to them through the hands and feet of his church volunteering there. And we sensed His love and renewing work in the hearts of people all around us. <View Photo Gallery>
Our family leaves for the States in just a few weeks. But after our return from the States in 2014, we look forward to visiting again. I can't wait to see what things of beauty God will do next in this place of past tragedy! See you again soon, Miyako!
Give Me this Mountain
Bowling Japan Style
We discovered that none of us has much of a latent talent in this sport. Breaking 100 was a big deal. But it is refreshing when Japanese get together like this and clap and cheer each other on even when the person has thrown a dozen straight gutters. There is something that Japanese do better in the area of togetherness and community that I have learned much from. The competitiveness is still a part of things, but the emphasis on teamwork is so much greater in just about any Japanese sport.
When asked what fun sport we can do as a church next, someone in our group suggested a marathon run. Hmmm. Not quite sure on that, but I am sure it would be done in a group-oriented Japanese way.