Our God, Eager to Save

Posted January 10, 2010

Tomohisa had reached a coveted status in Japan’s vertically-ordered society: medical doctor. Along with the status came wealth, which he used to buy the affection of women…and lots of booze. His selfishness blinded... [Read More]

The Humbled Tsunami

Posted December 2, 2011

When the warning sirens went off, residents in a south Sendai neighborhood fled to the local school. Together with panicked children still in class they climbed to the rooftop. Some 600 altogether... [Read More]

Japanese Get "Bach" Hope

Posted September 21, 2011

Who would have thought Bach would be involved in 21st century mission work in Japan? I have frequently read with interest of the strong connection between classical music (particularly J.S. Bach) and Japanese interest... [Read More]

Tsunami Ground Zero

Posted April 7, 2011

I still haven't returned from tsunami ground zero. That is to say, although I've been back several days already, the reality of the scene is still with me. The incredible amounts of mud in once beautiful homes... [Read More]

"Nice Try, Kevin" File

Posted February 9, 2011

This one goes into the "Nice try, Kevin" file. I just thought it was a nice-looking bunch of flowers in the storefront and, on the spur of the moment, decided Kaori deserved to enjoy them. Chrysanthemums, however, are... [Read More]

The Gulliver Complex

Posted November 9, 2007

I'm a giant again. Well, not really. But it sure feels like it again since returning from the States. The first sign was bumping my head in the shuttle bus from the airport. By habit, I normally duck my head through any... [Read More]

Foreigners Don't Get the Point

Posted January 31, 2010

I'm standing in line at a drugstore with other shoppers. The woman in front of me has just pulled out a business card file. Hurriedly she flips through at least a hundred or more cards searching for the right one. It's a... [Read More]

More Powerful than Bombs

Posted July 5, 2008

Fuchida grew up loving his native Japan and hating the United States, which treated Asian immigrants harshly in the first half of the twentieth century. Fuchida attended a military academy, joined Japan's... [Read More]

Ready?

Posted September 14, 2010

I'd been putting it off. Although I knew it was important, taking inventory of our earthquake and disaster gear just wasn't getting done. Japan rests along the "ring of fire" in the Pacific ocean, a stretch of area that is... [Read More]

150 Years Later

Posted March 17, 2009

This spring marks the 150th anniversary of Protestant Christianity in Japan. The first protestant missionaries set foot in the port of Yokohama back in 1859. Now they were real church planters -- overcoming all... [Read More]

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I for Japan. Japan for the World. The World for Christ. And All for the Glory of God.

— Kanzo Uchimura, Japanese Evangelist

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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.

The Feudal Christian "Rebel"

Juan Goto (1586?) was born Matagoro Iwabuchi, the son of the lord of Fujisawa Castle in northern Higashi-Iwai, Iwate prefecture. He lived during a time of great political instability. His own family was caught up in a power struggle when Great Lord Kasai was accused of not rallying troops for the Battle of Odawara. During this battle, Juan's older brother was killed. This loss, in addition to the political struggles about him, may have contributed to Matagoro's next actions.

Something seems to have snapped in Matagoro that caused him to want to "get away from it all." He fled across country to the far southern city of Nagasaki. This cross-country journey of some 1200 miles was a remarkable feat in itself in his day. From Nagasaki he boarded a vessel that landed him in Ukujima Island of the Goto Islands chain (map). This was as far away as he could get from his homeland and still be in Japan. It reveals, perhaps, a bit of his despair and desperation.

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Man vs. Mountain: The Fuji Climb

According to an old Japanese saying, "A man is a fool who never climbs Mt. Fuji, and he is a bigger fool for climbing it more than once." So, last week, together with missionary colleague, Greg Swenson and boys, Justen and I set out to undo our foolishness, finally getting around to a Japan "bucket-list" dream. We set out as the "Fuji Five" (a bit of that zest was lost along the way).

The weather was perfect for the climb. We started out at station 5 in early afternoon under clear blue skies and puffy white clouds, making it up to a mountain lodge at station 7 around 6pm or so in time for dinner. The view was breath-taking (and it wasn't just the thin atmosphere). Looking down through some scattered clouds, the entire Fuji five lakes area was visible, and far in the distance a glint of Pacific Ocean. During a curry rice dinner, lightning flashed down below us, though we ourselves were well above whatever was brewing below. Looking at a storm from above is a fascinating angle.


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Superstition & Mission (Part 2)

It turns out dad got it wrong. Money does "grow on trees." Just look at the photo at left as proof! Recently while hiking down a mountain past a buddhist temple, I stumbled across several of these trees with trunks stuck full of coins. I had seen this elsewhere, but not to this degree. It is the Asian equivalent, I suppose, of the "wishing well" or fountain of pennies one might come across in a Stateside mall. No harm done by these innocent superstitions, right?

For Japanese, however, such superstitions have permeated (and control) daily life. Japanese readily admit their Shinto polytheistic belief in "millions of gods" (yaoyorozu no kami) present in creation. Buddhist and Taoist gods were even brought over and absorbed into their belief structure. These gods are given to whimsy and must be sought out for blessing and good luck. Punishment and bad luck are just as likely. A whole ecosystem of superstitions are formed to guide one in how to receive or avoid such.

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Superstition & Mission (Part 1)

Put a broiled fishhead in your entryway. Pile salt just outside your front door. Avoid cutting your fingernails after dark. Paint your house neon yellow. Do not whistle at night. What do all these odd actions/non-actions have in common? They are ways to ward off bad luck in Japan.

Japan is filled with such superstitions. While some are modern urban legends, many come from the animistic roots of Japan's religious beliefs. The many (millions of) gods and evil spirits in nature are capricious and mischievous. They must be appeased or driven away lest they bring death or misfortune to oneself.

Many superstitions surround the fear of death and suffering. The numbers four and nine are unlucky because they are pronounced in the same way as death (shi) and suffering (ku). Hospitals avoid the use of these numbers for rooms and floors. You'll also never find a set of four dishes in Japan. Plateware comes in sets of three or five.

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Signs of the Times?

A drive through Japan's rural towns throughout the north might lead the casual observer to assume these places are staunchly Christian. Why else would signs everywhere proclaim such things as "The blood of Christ purifies sin," "God is watching your heart," and "The wages of sin is death"? But the truth is quite the opposite. In many of these rural areas one would be hard-pressed to find more than a solitary Christian, much less any church presence.

The signs are lettered in white and yellow calligraphy against a black background. Once they are up, they can remain for decades on end until the structure they are attached to literally begins to crumble. These signs, called "Kirisuto Kanban" (Christ signs), are the work of Christian group called the Bible Distribution Society, founded by a missionary in the 50's and now active only as a loose network of a few people.

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All the Way

Here's a poem by Agnes Ruth Nydam (1921-2012), my grandmother, who passed into the presence of her beloved Savior on May 31st. She nurtured me in my walk with the Lord and encouraged me in my passion for missions work. I was comforted to attend the funeral and conduct the committal on June 6, 2012 in Schererville, Indiana.

I last saw grandma in February 2012 when we returned to the States briefly for the extension of Kaori's permanent residence. We were invited to share concerning our work in Japan in the chapel service of her retirement home.

I will not forget the expression of pride and joy on her face as I entered the chapel. She had seated herself in the front row, center, surrounded by her friends to whom she announced proudly, "That's Kevin. That's my grandson!" Though confined to a wheelchair, she seemed to sit on the edge of her seat and crane her neck forward as I shared. Every so often she'd announce again (though there was no reason for anyone to forget), "That's my grandson!"

I felt the love of Father God expressed to me in her loving pride. The same Father God who declared to the world concerning Jesus, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Mt. 3:17) was now also speaking through my grandmother similar words of affirmation and joy. I will miss you, grandma! (Her poem is below. Keep reading!)

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No Higher Calling?

Back in my Moody Bible Institute days, the text for the freshman Introduction to Missions class was entitled "No Higher Calling." Some students thought this smacked of missionary "snobbery" and that any life calling should be considered a high calling. I, too, was one of those disgruntled students that resented the mission textbook title's premise. So God called me into missions. That settled that.

In one sense, though, there is NO "HIGHER" CALLING than one in Tokyo this May 2012. The man placing the last girder at the top of the open-air Sky Tree...now THAT is a HIGH CALLING! I really have to look up to (everyone HAS to look up to) the workers finishing the tower. At 2080ft. tall, it is the tallest tower in the world. Between the Sky Tree and the new Shinjuku tunnel, I have a great respect for the HEIGHTS and DEPTHS of Japanese engineering. It's not just about tiny electronics anymore. Japanese are really good with massive structures.

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Life Worth Little in Wealthy Japan

Sobering news out of Tokyo today. The Cabinet Office reported results of a survey that 1 out of 4 Japanese has considered suicide. Yes, 25% of Japanese think of killing themselves. For the last dozen years, Japan has trended toward a higher and higher rate of suicide, surpassing 30,000 cases every year. That's one person every 15 minutes! Many are group suicides. Japan's suicide rate is nearly triple that of the USA! Countless cases go unreported because of the family shame factor involved.

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We serve with WorldVenture, an evangelical faith mission. Our sending/home church is Cornerstone Church of Lansing, Illinois.
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