Joy to the World!

A band from a church in Singapore came to visit one of the temporary housing parks that the Iwate 3.11 Network serves in. The band was called “Sparrow’s Song,” and they performed at many places along the coast including Ofunato Baptist Church earlier that day. The tour was sponsored by Trans World Radio. It’s been amazing to meet all the different and talented people that God has brought to Iwate to touch the lives of those in need with His love.

We’re raising funds for some upcoming needs, please see our year end campaign for more information!

2016 Year End Letter

Download our 2016 Year End Letter

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YEAR END NEEDS

This year we are seeking to raise an additional $6,500 in year end giving for home service expenses and budget short falls.

In 2018, Lord willing, we will begin a new phase of ministry on the coast. It is our prayer to continue partnering with MBBC and Pastor Kondo, to strengthen and plant churches in coastal cities that were effected by the Tsunami.  In order to prepare for this ministry we will be returning to the US in late 2017 to raise additional monthly support. However we will need to raise money for travel costs to the States and back. Additionally we are hoping to make up for some of the shortage of monthly giving in 2016.

If you are interested in giving towards these needs, please click here.

 

Summer Ministry June – July Update

The rainy season is just about over, schools are out for Summer vacation, and a lot of exciting things are happening at church. The most joyful news is that two college students will be baptized shortly, one this coming Sunday and the other in the fall. Both of them come from non Christian homes, and both had strong opposition from their parents when they became Christians. They are both from neighboring prefectures, and came to our city for to go to college. One of them was told by his father before he left “Don’t join a religion, or the Yakuza!” Yakuza is essentially the Japanese mafia. However after seeing his life change and hearing his testimony his parents relented and gave their blessing for him to be baptized as a Christian. Please keep both these students in prayer as they grow in their new faith.

Summer Ministries

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Felicity steals a friend’s shaved ice at our church’s kids Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival).

During the Summer while kids are on vacation our church takes the opportunity to reach out to the community. This year we hosted our seconds annual Natsu Matsuri. Matsuri means festival in Japanese, and they have many Matsuri’s throughout the year. Most of them are hosted by Shinto shrines. The picture at the top of this email is of a local highschool practicing for our city’s biggest Matsuri of the year, the Sansa Oodori, which is celebrated with a huge parade of Taiko drummers and dancers. Many children from the local elementary school who don’t normally come to church, attended our little Matsuri. We’re starting to see some of the same kids coming back to different events (two families at the Matsuri also came to an English Cafe in May). Please be praying that God will lead these kids and their families closer to Him, through the little snippets of the gospel that are shared at these events, and through a deepening relationship with our church.

We’re now in the process of preparing for kids Summer camp, which starts this Sunday after church. It’s common for many Japanese to start their day with a light aerobic style exercise, and while this is slightly out of my comfort zone, I was asked to be the morning exercise leader at the camp. Still working out my program (if anyone out there has any tips, I’m all ears.)

Preaching and Speaking

Fellowship with sister churches
Members from the five Conservative Baptist churches in our region at our annual get-together.

It’s been a real blessing not only serving at our home church but serving in a church with a good relationship with other churches in the area. There are so few churches, and many of the churches are very small, so having the support and cooperation of other similarly minded churches is an incredible blessing. I’ve been attending a monthly pastors meeting this year and been really encouraged by the other pastors serving throughout the prefecture. This past Monday I had the opportunity to share a short message and lead a discussion time about church ministry. Given that this was all in Japanese it was very difficult, yet it went really well, and led to some really good times of sharing and focus. Thank you to all who prayed for this meeting.

I am also scheduled to preach three more times over the next three months at three different churches. In August I will preach at a sister church in Kitakami, in September I’ll preach at our home church in Morioka and in October I’ll preach at an independent church. In the midst of all these opportunities I feel like we’re getting a better grasp of the issues facing the churches here in Japan, and how we can encourage them towards a greater involvement in spreading the Gospel throughout Japan. As we look out at the daunting task of reaching the other 99.8% of the population with good news of Salvation, I can’t help but feel that the Japanese church, small in numbers as it may be, will play a huge role in God’s plan for this country. It’s a privilege to serve alongside these Japanese believers and churches, partnering together with them in our common hope to see the gospel spread, and believers grow in Christian maturity.

April-May Update

First Japanese Sermon

We continue to see God working here as he allows us to be more and more involved in the work he is doing here in Iwate. It’s truly an exciting time to be serving in this area and we are incredibly blessed by the partnership of our Japanese church and our supporters back in the US.

On May first we reached another milestone, as I was able to preach an entire sermon in Japanese for the first time. I was told by a number of people afterwards that it was easy to understand. There were a few non-Christians in attendance that Sunday, and I was overjoyed to be able to preach the Gospel to them. You can watch a video clip of the sermon here.

Taking 15 visitors to a three member church.

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Since first arriving here we’ve been especially burdened to support the needs of Ofunato Bible Baptist Church, which was heavily damaged by the Tsunami, and after many difficulties has only two remaining members, and no pastor. But last Sunday I was able to visit along with two international teams, which meant the attendance that Sunday was more than quadruple it’s normal number.

The church is about 100 yards away from two newly built apartment complexes which serve as permanent housing for those who lost homes in the Tsunami. Just as God brought believers from around the world to fill that little church building to capacity last Sunday, we pray that in the near future God will fill it with new believers from the surrounding community.

Next Sunday we will visit the church as a family and I will preach the same sermon I preached at our home church.

5AM Baseball Fellowship

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You may have heard that baseball is a big deal here in Japan. While in the states Evening Softball leagues are common, here they take it a little further. In order to work around the typical busy Japanese work days, they have leagues that start at 5AM. Our Pastor has been playing for the past few years because he loves baseball and meeting new people. This year my brother and I also joined.

Pray that we would be good witnesses on the team and for opportunities to get to know our team mates, most of whom are non-Christians.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

5 Years Since

Recently it feels a little hard to process all that’s going on around us. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of opportunities to serve our church, community and prefecture. At the same time we’ve felt the burden of church ministry as our church has wrestled through difficult situations requiring more wisdom and discernment than we possess. Through it all we rely on God’s direction, confident not in our own decisions, but always confident in His power to lead. Thank you for supporting us and the ministry here through your prayers and financial partnership. Below are some of the things that happened in March!

5 Year Anniversary of the 3/11 Earthquake and Tsunami

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It’s been five years since the Tsunami devastated nearly all the coastal towns in three of Japan’s prefectures. Most of these cities still have a long way to go before their recovery is complete. If you drive a long the coast line here you will see construction happening everywhere. There are still tens of thousands of people living in “temporary” residences waiting for the chance to move into a real home.

In the midst of all this Christians continue to minister to the residents of these towns through temporary housing visits, after school programs for children, and hosting community events. Teams from Singapore, Germany, the US and Japan are a constant presence in this prefecture that previously did not have a single missionary serving within it’s borders. We continue to prepare for long term service in coastal areas, and as such I’ve been slowly increasing my trips down to the coast, while at the same time continuing my training through interning at Morioka Bible Baptist Church.

Tomo’s Many Ministries

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Tomo is a lot more useful than I am right now. As I struggle to simply comprehend the language and what is going on around me, she not only speaks Japanese but is gifted in many other areas as well. This has not gone unnoticed at church – they’ve been putting her to work!

Currently Tomo is leading a monthly pound cake making ministry, a bi-weekly young mothers outreach, and on occasion plays piano. This year she was also asked to chair the evangelism committee and quickly came up with an ambitious plan to shift the focus from hosting two or three big events a year, to encouraging and equipping everyone in the church to engage in personal, relational evangelism to their friends and family.

We’ve been especially encouraged at what God is doing through the young mother’s group. What started as an informal get together with a few of the stay at home mom’s from the church has grown to include a number non-christian friends of these mothers, who are now gathering at the church on a regular basis for fellowship.

Dave Prepping for his First Japanese Sermon

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I’ll be preaching for the first time in Japanese this coming Sunday, May 1st. However I’ve been preparing for this sermon for the last 4 months. It’s been a painstakingly slow process compared to how much easier it is prepare for a sermon in English. For my first time I’ll be relying heavily on notes, which requires that I write the sermon out in Japanese in advance. In March I finished the translation. I’ll be preaching on the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. I want to highlight how God’s great forgiveness to us both frees us and compels us to forgive those who have wronged us.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please keep us, our church and our prefecture in prayer, as we commit to building God’s Kingdom.

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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Serving in Iwate, Japan with JEMS