Challenging Lessons

In contrast to the  hectic December holiday season, we had a much slower pace of ministry in January. While we enjoyed the opportunity to catch our breath a bit, the month turned out to be a challenging one on multiple fronts. Despite this we are seeing God working, and learning valuable lessons about life and ministry which we trust will prove useful as God continues to prepare us for long term ministry in Japan.

As a church we have been wrestling with a difficult issue. It’s been a privilege to observe and pray along side the leadership of our church as they seek God’s wisdom and work for reconciliation to take place. This has also been a valuable lesson, as in Japan family issues are rarely talked about, and often it is not until significant problems arise that they come to light. As a church we are beginning to look to the future to see how we can better encourage and help strengthen families before such problems occur. We hope to put a greater focus on discerning the unspoken needs of church members, and helping to meet them as we move forward.

We’ve also seen God give us further direction for our future, in regards to where we will serve after my internship here in Morioka is completed. Sadly through more difficulty we’ve seen God apparently close one door of future ministry partnership while at the same time advancing and paving the way for what looks like a very promising opportunity for the gospel to be proclaimed and the church to be built up in another area we were considering. Right now there seems to be a lot in motion, much of which we’re not at liberty to share openly quite yet, so we ask that you continue to pray for God’s direction and wisdom as we begin to look more closely at this particular opportunity and speak with those involved.

I was also asked to begin preparing my first sermon in Japanese. Our pastor will be out of town one Sunday in May, so I will be filling in for him. This is a big step for me, and I’m grateful for having much advance notice to begin preparing. I have already begun writing the sermon in English, and once finished will be working with Tomo and my Japanese teacher to translate it into Japanese. After the translation is done I’ll spend a lot of time practicing it to make sure that I can deliver it in a clear and understandable way. Likely (hopefully!) this will be the most difficult sermon I will ever give. Please pray that I can prepare well and clearly explain and teach from God’s word the message that He wants the congregation to hear. As many of you know there are a shortage of preachers in Japan, and I’ve already been asked to give the sermon a second time at a different church, and will likely have opportunities to give it in other churches as well.

Winter 2016 Wallpapers

This is the first batch of wallpapers featuring photos I’ve taken here in Iwate. Our hope is that if you see one you like, you will set it to your desktop background and be reminded to pray for Japan.

Mt. Iwate – View from our neighborhood.

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Swans at Sunset

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Takamatsu Pond in Winter

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Celebrating Christ’s Birth in Iwate – December Update

It’s a few months since the start of my internship at Morioka Bible Baptist Church, and it’s quickly become apparent that ministry in Japan is fast paced, exciting and quite a bit different from being a full time language student, or working 9 – 5 as an IT professional (my previous day job). We’re still in the process of adjusting to this new pace, learning to take time to breathe when things are a little slower so that we can dive right into the long days, late nights and long hours on the road that characterize ministry in Morioka and throughout rural Iwate.

It’s been both a challenge and a blessing to be able to experience many different aspects of ministry in December. As seems to be the case in most places, Christmas is one of the busiest times at our Church.

At the beginning of the month we hosted a team of four gentlemen from Texas. For me it was my first chance being on the receiving end of a short term missions trip. With the help of the team we were able to host an English Cafe at the local community center. We also spent a day down on the coast working with Tomo’s dad to minister to survivors still living in temporary housing, as well as help with an afternoon children’s program for kids living in temporary housing. We had a wonderful time and are looking forward to hosting more teams from their church in the future. For me in particular it was a lot of fun being able to hang out with a group of guys who understood (and were quite proficient) in American sarcasm, which rarely translates well into Japanese.

English Cafe at Community Center
As we said goodbye to our new friends from Texas, a large team from Singapore arrived the same day and helped to host another English Cafe at the church before we sent them off to various locations on the coast to help with Christmas outreaches.

Tomo and I were put in charge of our church’s Christmas Service this year, where we came up with a program to explain who Christ is, by using Japanese calligraphy. I produced a series of videos of Church members writing about Jesus, while Tomo coordinated and enlisted nearly every member of the church to help with various aspects of the service, from reading scripture, to singing in the choir, to making snacks and cleaning the church. It was an exhausting ordeal but in the end everything came together, and we were encouraged to see a number of new people attend, as well as some friends and family of church members.

The Japanese calligraphy created by church members. Watch video.
The next day our family drove 2 hours down to Ofunato to spend Christmas Eve with Ofunato Church, where we celebrated Christ’s coming with one of the only two members of the church. We were pleasently surprised to see one new beleiver and two non Christians who had been ministered to by 3.11 staff members also attend the service.

Throughout December God gave us many opportunities to share about the coming of His Son, and through all these experiences we’re begining to get a better understanding of the needs here, and how God can use us to meet those needs as we look towards many years of future ministry here in Iwate. We still have much to learn, but God is faithfully teaching and preparing us to serve Him here.

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Iwate: Laborers For the Harvest – 2015

When the Tsunami hit Iwate in 2011 there were no missionaries serving anywhere within the prefecture. Now in the years since God has united international workers with local Japanese believers to partner together in a new and unprecedented effort to share the love of Christ with thousands who previously had no opportunity to know Him. The need for laborers in this place is greater than ever.

2015 Year End Letter

2015 in Review

In 2015 we started our third year of ministry in Japan! It has been a year of transition for us personally, as well as for much of the ministry that is happening in our part of Japan. In answer to our prayers, this past March David graduated from language school and was invited to serve as an intern at our church in Morioka. Meanwhile throughout the prefecture, vic-tims of the 2011 Tsunami finally began moving into permanent housing, and as a result the ministry to reach out to these people is shifting. In the midst of these changes, new church-planting efforts are starting again for the first time in decades. Yet as we look forward with joy and anticipation to being involved in this ministry in the near future, we find ourselves needing additional financial support.

As 2015 draws to a close, would you consider giving a special year-end gift to help us spread the Gospel in Japan?

2015 Highlights

Doors Opening Ahead of Us

We came to Japan believing that God was working through the tragedy of the 2011 Tsunami, to reveal Himself to the people of Iwate. Our hope and prayer was to see new church-es stadrted among the coastal cities which were almost totally untouched by the gospel. By God’s grace we are now seeing this begin to happen, and have received multiple requests to help with church-planting or re-planting efforts in the coastal cities. We are prayerfully considering where God will have us serve in the future, but first we will be serving at our receiving church in Morioka for 2 years in order to gain much needed experience in working with Japanese Churches. We are incredibly excited for this opportunity, as well as for the doors God continues to open here in Iwate.

Support Needs

This year we are prayerfully seeking to raise an additional $6,500 in year end giving. Since we arrived in Japan the monthly gifts we’ve received have been below what is needed to cover all our expenses. However, each year God has graciously pro-vided through special gifts, so that we have been lacking in nothing. Without these needed year-end gifts we would eventually have to return to the US for support-raising, potentially interrupting the much needed work we in which we are engaged, here in Japan. God has faithfully provided for us since we arrived in Japan and we trust He will continue to do so according to His will. As 2015 draws to a close, perhaps He will lead you to share in what He is doing here in Japan through a special year-end gift. All gifts given to JEMS on our behalf are tax deductible.

2015 Financial Report

Monthly Giving
Avg. Monthly Gifts Received: $4,680
Monthly Goal: $5,700

Each month we’re currently receiving about $1,000 less than needed in order to remain in Japan long term.

Previous Year Giving: 10/2014 – 10/2015
Gifts Received: $68,107
Expenses*: $72,804
Reserve Funds Used $ 4,697

*Expenses include not only our salary, but also administrative fees to JEMS, employment taxes and ministry expenses. This year ministry ex-penses were significantly higher than normal due to the travel costs of returning to the US for home service.

Thank you!

Many of you have already given much towards this minis-try, not only financially, but also in the pouring out of your hearts in prayer for us and the people of Japan. We cannot thank you enough for the encouragement you have been in our lives, and for your contribution to bringing the gospel to one of the least reached prefectures in one of the least reached countries of the world. Each day we see more clearly the need for more workers here in Japan, and God has put in our hearts the desire to serve as one of those workers. We are already beginning to see Him work in new and amazing ways, and with your continuing partnership and God’s provision we hope to see even greater things done in His name in the future.

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Seeking to Build up the Church – October Update

The average person in Japan has never set foot inside a church building, and very likely has never had a conversation with a Christian. We try to help change that through various outreach events at our church. In October we hosted two English Cafes. In addition to our normally scheduled Friday evening event, we also held a Tuesday afternoon English Cafe. On Friday evenings we normally get a lot of college students attending. However at the Tuesday event we were encouraged to see a different demographic, primarily made up of retired people and young mothers.

Please be praying for those who attended, that God would speak to their hearts, and bring them back again and again so that we can build friendships and have further opportunities share Christ.

ofunatoOfunato Harbor at dawn.

I had an overnight trip to Ofunato, a coastal city that is both home to our sister church, and one of the 3.11 Network volunteer bases. There are still many people living in temporary housing, and through the 3.11 Network staff and volunteers, programs are held to encourage these residents as they slowly work towards moving into permanent housing and rebuilding a normal life. For the last three year the 3.11 Network has rented a home to house staff and teams working at the various temporary housing parks scattered throughout the city, however in October the owner of the house needed it back, so I went to help with the move.

Rina, the remaining 3.11 staff worker in Ofunato was given permission to move into one of the open units at the largest temporary housing unit. This is both a blessing and a a bit of a trial. It’s a blessing that she is now able to live right in the midst of the people the network is seeking to help, but it is a more difficult situation to live in, and the unit is very small which limits the size of teams that can be hosted. Please pray for her and the ministry to the residents of Ofunato.

cpiOver 500 people gathered for the national CPI conference.

We also had a wonderful time attending the national Japan Church Planting Institute national conference. Over 500 missionaries and pastors gathered to pray, encourage one another and learn how to multiply churches in Japan. As we are gearing up to be involved in Church Planting after my internship is complete, it was incredibly helpful to start thinking through the ways in which evangelism and discipleship drive the church planting process. Additionaly we gained a clearer sense of the things we wanted to learn during the internship phase at MBBC, and came away really praising God for that. The kids survive the long car ride, and we got to meet many missionary friends from around Japan that we rarely get to see. It was a great blessing.

Serving in Iwate, Japan with JEMS