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.
Baptisms in the Kiddy Pool
D-san has a mother with a business as a Buddhist guide. His father abandoned them. His grandfather that lives with them has a severe drug habit. Not surprisingly, D-san himself has battled depression. But since coming to church for the first time last fall, he has been steadily growing, changing, and healing. He accepted Christ last December, and is looking forward to be baptized this Sunday at 31 years of age.
H-san took a bit longer to come to faith in Christ. She is a middle-aged housewife who visited our home 7 years ago when we first began church planting work in Kawasaki. A pet lover, she was very interested in meeting our "joyful princess" Keekee. But she was some time away from a decision for Christ. During those seven years she maintained a close relationship with a core church member as God led her through some difficult times. This spring she was back in church again, and this time she was very open to the Gospel. She is growing in Christ and already a tremendous asset and encouragement our the church family.
Praise God for these baptism candidates! Would you pray for their continued spiritual growth and witness to their families? And thank God for good rare sunny weather on Sunday. An issue for us as the rainy season continues here and the pool is outdoors.
Laverman Atlantic Adventure
In some ways we were foreigners to a new land, definitely out of place with our lawn chairs and "beach umbrella" (a large doorman's umbrella), and pretty clueless in a lot of other ways. We saw no point to investing in those things for a single visit to the beach. We did, however, get a boogie board for Justen (Hey, it was his 12th birthday!) Kevin managed to monopolize the time on it.
Another use for the beach, we discovered, was as a great big baptismal for new Christians. One of the churches we visited on a Wednesday night along the shore line, baptized a couple families in the ocean! An approaching storm made for some cold temperatures and big waves. Planting a Baptist church in Japan, we've had our own unique baptism sites, but ironically the ocean is one place we have yet to visit. A new one for my idea list.
Bath or Baptism? (Part 2)
Baptisms in Japan, let alone decisions for Christ, are still too few and far between. The challenge of reaching even a small percentage of this country for Christ has been one that deeply discourages many a missionary. Recently I read that 99% of the missionary force serves in countries where at a majority of the population are believers. With Japan's 0.5%, I'm not sure whether that would make us the bottom (or top?) 1%, but it is a challenging field and a challenging work. So, today was a great day of victory.
During the baptism celebration lunch, our "international division" at church sang choruses of a song in Hindi, English, Indonesian, French and Japanese as a reminder that we are different people (and nations) in one body under Christ. It was a taste of heaven, where peoples of all nations will surround the throne of our God and Savior with collective praise. Keeping that image alive in our minds is an inspiration in the challenging field. Click the image (above) to see the whole baptism celebration group.
Bath or Baptism?
Then the thought occurred..."What if we were able to use the local public bathhouse?" Public bathhouses in Japan are still quite common, as many small urban apartments do not have space for a bath tub or shower. Typically a male or female only bathhouse can handle 20 - 30 bathers at a time with individual faucets for each, and a collective tub for everyone (okay, you'll have to see one to understand the idea).
It would be extremely unlikely the owner would agree to something like that. They've no understanding of Christianity, let alone what a baptism is. It would come across as an odd religious thing. With the many radical new religious groups in Japan, Japanese have a heightened adversion to getting involved with religious things period.
Well, God goes ahead and opens impossible doors for us when we knock on them in faith. Amazingly, the owner of our local bathhouse agreed to let us use the facility exclusively on a Sunday morning for a baptism. Of course, he expects to collect 400 yen a head.
Clearly there was some initial confusion about what a baptism was on his part. He wanted to know, "So, will all the people from your church being getting into the bath together?" "No," we assured him. "Just one. And even he will be wearing clothes." "Oh." he replied, "but if you're paying you should take a bath together anyway." Well, that would be a level of Christian fellowship we're not really ready for.