Category Archives: eNewsletters

eNews – October 2017

“I have good news and…  Good News!”
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
But a good word makes him glad.
 Proverbs 12:25

There is an old and common phrase that people say; “I have some good news and some bad news”.  Well, we actually have some good news and… some good news.  The rest is just stuff that would weigh us down.

We are well aware that to maintain a good relationship with you all, as those who prayerfully support us, we need to keep in contact and, honestly, it’s hard for us because we know we don’t do as good a job at that as we should.  We offer our sincere apologies for not keeping in better contact with you.

Here is a short quick update on the ministry here in Japan.  More to follow soon!

Quick links: (“Quick links” require viewing in your browser Link: )


“いそがしですね!” 
It feels like, for us, we go from one busy season to the next with very little break in between. That’s actually good news.  We have continually seen greater and greater opportunities to share the message of the “Good News” to the people of Japan.

Coming to America
The other good news is we will be in the U.S. for a few weeks come December.  We would really love to meet with any of you who would like to hear more about what God is doing in Japan and how He is using us as part of His plan here.

It all comes down to those personal relationships
One of the realities of serving here is that we find ourselves “always in ministry mode”.  We have found the best way to get the Gospel outside the walls of the church here is to operate as it says in I Peter 3:15 (This is one of those “life verses” for me):

         …but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…


Ministry “One to another”
It is an interesting thing that I am the second oldest person here at the church.  With age, hopefully, comes some wisdom, right?  Well, God, in His Grace and Mercy, has given me the desire of my heart (that He surely placed there) to do more discipleship ministry.  Besides with meeting with the men of the church on a regular basis, God has brought several other men, who don’t regularly attend the church, with whom I have been meeting on a regular basis for fellowship, prayer, council and studying the Word.  It’s really amazing to be able to do this.  I have recently befriended a guy I met at the Costco store.  He has “issues at home”, and has really allowed me to pour the council of God into his life.  His name is Eduardo. (Yes, he’s Latino!) and he really needs prayer. God knows the details.

VBS is crazy good ministry
One highlight of the summer is the VBS we host here.  This year, as we often do, we used the Group Inc. curriculum as a foundation for our program.  It’s only a foundation though, because everything we do here at Grace Christian Fellowship has to be multilingual.  The songs they include in their program are in English, but they also provide music tracks without vocals.

This year we, again, translated all the songs into two, and in some cases, three languages.  We then used our own church members to record all the vocals.

Then I produced and remixed everything down into a version of the song the kids could download.  These songs are designed to be really “sticky earworms” , so the kids can really enjoy listening to the songs over and over throughout the year.  They stick in all our minds as well, honestly driving us a little crazy, but is all good J  Imagine listening to these easily a thousand times as a producer!  Oh my!

So to give you an idea of the work involved, a typical song can take an engineer 6 to 8 months to produce.  I did six songs in a matter of six weeks.  I virtually “lived and breathed” these songs for a couple months.  You can listen to our work by going to gcfjapan.com and at the bottom of the front page is a link to the songs for listening online or downloading.  Enjoy! But I must warn you, these will “stay with you”!  It’s all good, as they say, right?

Link to the songs!

Do you speak “Engrish”?
God also uses Belinda and I in our English classes.  Since we work for ourselves and not as part of an English teaching organization, we have a lot of freedom to make good use of those shareable moments to share the “Good News”.  We just keep our “spiritual ears” open and God is giving us more and more opportunities.

We will be visiting the U.S. again this year, and this is our opportunity to meet with you!  Please write us and let us schedule a time in advance to meet, ok?  Please don’t wait until we get there.  We always – ALWAYS – have people who want to meet with us at the end of our stay when the schedule is packed.  Please know it’s important for us to be able to meet face to face with you.  This is one of the main reasons we invest in coming to the U.S. – YOU are as important to us as the people of Japan.

Event Pictures –  VBS

 

“Matsuri” (Summer Festival)

No, we didn’t have a baby 🙂  This is one of the other missionaries first children.  Of course “Instant Grandma!” Our newest member is named “Sage Bouget”  So cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praises:

  • John has been given opportunities to minister to more men, both in a group setting as well as individually.
  • We are continuing to minister to our International school students as well as their parents.
  • God has been faithful in His provision for us to continue ministry in Japan.

Prayer Requests:

  • Always: Wisdom and discernment! –   This is an adventure of the cross-cultural kind.
  • For Eduardo’s marriage and relationship with God, and that he and even his wife will start coming to church.
  • For our English students, that God would open their hearts to hear the gospel, and that we would take as many opportunities to share as we are given.
  • For continued opportunities to minister to those God has put around us.
  • For good health as the weather turns colder.  The winters are very long here.

eNews – May 2017 – The world can be a scary place!

From John’s Desk – The world can be a scary place!

North Korea“Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”              Hab. 1:5

When I consider this passage, I think about it two different ways.

On one hand, I consider the Bible and how it prophesies of the coming end of this age. Often when I am sharing the Gospel, people will say to me that every generation has wars and world issues that seem to suggest that “this may be the end of the world”. Reactions to the political situations in the US and the saber rattling of North Korea expressed here in Japan are mixed. Certainly it is cause for pause no matter where you live.

On the other hand, without diminishing the fact that I do believe we are in the “End Times” the Bible talks about, I think there is something we should consider about mankind that I often hear while sharing the Gospel. Yes, mankind has, throughout history, always been plagued by sin. We have always done terrible things to each other, and that should give us pause.

The Truth that matters, though, is that none of these events, or our human condition, catches God by surprise. From before the foundation of the world He has had a plan. We need to keep looking to God for the Hope we have; that He is doing a redemptive work that is beyond the belief of the man who does not know the Grace of God.

The short version:

  • Gallery: They say a picture is worth a thousand words and many have written us saying they love the photos we share.  There are many photos throughout this newsletter.  Take a look and see what life and ministry are like in Japan. (This month’s gallery is at the bottom of this post)
  • Ministry at home: This year started off with many family ministry needs with the passing away of John’s stepfather and then his mother.
  • Ministry in Japan continues: Serving in Japan 12 years now! Belinda continues to minister at the GCIS school.  John continues with things Web, IT and the Worship ministry.  VBS and recording is coming soon.
  • Mother’s Day: We “adopt two wonderful mom’s for brunch.
  • Ministry inside the church: Worship ministry is more than Sunday mornings.  It’s discipleship throughout the week.
  • Ministry outside the church: English teaching is tent making. Japanese culture and the invitation process.
  • Here comes summer!: VBS reaches more than children. It reaches whole families.
  • You can be involved too:  There are many ministry opportunities here both short and longer term.
  • Prayers: List of things you can pray for concerning the ministry here.
  • How to support: Some slight changes in how to support us and the ministry here.

John – Ministry at home:

One of the really huge challenges for us is that we still have family in California.  After serving here in Japan almost 12 years this summer, our family has truly been great with their acceptance and support of our call to the mission field.  That being said, they still look to us for support and understanding for them as well.

Mama and FrankSince the beginning of this year, our focus has had to not only be on the work that God has us doing in lives here in Japan, but also on those at home.  Both my mom and her husband, Frank, were hospitalized last December, and were then admitted to an extended care facility. This was the beginning of a series of events that required our attention and also brought many ministry opportunities at home.

In February, Frank passed away.  Last month, my mom, 92, passed away.  I knew this was coming, as her health had been declining over the months. My mom and I were very – very close. I had prayed many times to God with a deep feeling of sadness that I would not be able to be there for her on the horizon of her passing away, since I was serving so far away in Japan.
Mama and baby Haley
Well as it turns out, although I was farthest away, I was the only one who was actually able to be at her bedside before she passed. I had been notified about her health becoming critical on a Friday. I first considered leaving on the following Tuesday, but I felt a strong prompting to fly out Monday instead.  Because of that, I was able to spend a wonderful day with her on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday morning. She passed away on Wednesday while I was at her side.  God heard my prayer and allowed me the privilege of being with her.

Throughout the process of making arrangements for the memorial service and taking care of all that comes with a death in the family, we had countless ministry opportunities.  Everyone in the family had a part in the service, and I had the privilege of sharing the Gospel in a message.

With all that going on in my family, Belinda also had her heart turned towards home as her father underwent surgery for colon cancer.  They caught it early and the surgery was completely successful with no need of radiation or other treatment.  We were able to visit them while we were in the U.S. and he is doing very well.

Ministry in Japan continues:
Belinda school admin
As most of you know by now, Belinda is the administrator of the small international school here at Grace Christian Fellowship.  The year is always filled with events, but it feels like they increase as the year comes to a close.

One of our students, a high school senior missed almost half of her first semester this year because of deep depression. Through much diligence and prayer support, she was able to return to school and will be graduating this June as planned.  She has been one of those special relationships God brought to us to minister to here.

Mother’s Day:

Another blessing of ministering through relationships happened on Mother’s Day. Two of the moms in Minori and friendour church, one divorced and the other with a husband who was relocated to the northern part of Japan almost 10 years ago by his employer, were left on their own on Mother’s Day.  Their children were all off doing other things, so Belinda and I “adopted” them and took them out to lunch.  We shared a wonderful time together in fellowship and getting to know each other more.  Sometimes Jesus calls us just to be there for others and to love on them!
Ministry inside the church:

Easter in the parkBesides the school, the worship ministry here is far more than just playing songs and leading the congregation in praise.  Every member of the worship team is someone to disciple. Roles change and members come and go.

For example, one of our primary worship team members is pregnant with her first child, so she will be focusing on being a mom soon.  Belinda has been able to step away from the sound and media ministry, for the most part, and is now looking to focus on women’s ministry.  We have a new sound person whom I have been training, and we have a new media person with whom Belinda and I both are working.  I am also training up a new vocalist. Her husband plays guitar a bit.  He’s next *grin*.

Some of the ways we are able to reach out to people are: Teaching English classes, maintaining a church website, handing out gospel booklets, and a yearly Vacation Bible School, as well as through the divine appoints God sends our way.
Ministry outside the church:
Belinda Ogikubo Class
Besides what goes on at Grace Christian Fellowship, Belinda and I both continue to teach English part time.  It not only helps pay the rent, but I love how it blesses us with interaction in the community God has placed us in.  Belinda and I have both been able to invite people from our classes to visit GCF for Sunday services or special events.

In the Japanese culture, people will not come to church unless they are personally invited.  John works hard at keeping our Web presence up and current, and that has been bringing some in the door – most often people from the nearby Yakota Airforce base, but there are other people in the community looking for a church as well.  We have also been, as a church, going door to door in the surrounding neighborhoods with gospel booklets, handing them out to each neighbor or leaving it in the mailbox.  Still, a personal invitation is key.

Here comes summer!

MochiAs the school year winds down, we will shift into summer mode.  With that comes short- term mission trips; sometimes groups visiting from abroad and, one of the really extraordinarily fruitful events, VBS.

Each year we either create our own curriculum, including all the media and music, or purchase a pre-made VBS program.  Either way, the songs must be recorded in both English and Japanese, which John has been doing every year.

It’s always a huge undertaking, but worth the effort.  Ministry happens with those doing the work of preparation, as well as those who come to the VBS event.

In Japan, as elsewhere, it seems the most reachable are the young people.  These precious kids come to VBS and, of course, their parents come with them.  Many of our members began coming to the church because they had brought their children to the summer VBS event.

You can be involved too!

There are many opportunities (the harvest is great) and few workers.  This is true throughout the world, and Japan is no exception.
Here are some of the ways you can be involved:

  • Pray! – and pray some more.  When you have a prayer investment in others, you receive a reward also.  God will bless you and He will show you ways to support the work you hadn’t thought of before.
  • Come and serve short term this summer.  All the things that you do in church in the U.S. are pretty much things you can do here too.  All the things we do in short term missions we also do some form of at home; building teams, ministering and encouraging one another, stepping out in Faith, sharing the Gospel and encouraging new friends.  It’s the whole package that you can bring home in your heart.
  • Belinda and I started with short-term missions and God continued to move our hearts abroad.  But even if you don’t become a full time missionary, serving on a short-term mission trip is a valuable experience.
  • Invest in the kingdom financially. I heard a statistic yesterday that if you totaled up all the support that the government provides for peoples’ needs through entitlements and other private programs, the private sector portion is more than 60% of the total aid to people in the US. Here is the difference though; with your focused support, you know where your money is going – for the work of God’s desire that all would hear and believe in His son.  In that effort, all kinds of needs are being met throughout the world.  That’s awesome!

Blessings:

Belinda and I want you to know that over the last 12 years you have been praying, encouraging and supporting us, and it does make all the difference in the world.  Not just in this world that is falling away, but in the one that is to come.

We are honored and blessed to be some of your “hands and feet” here in Japan!

Prayers:

  • A fresh vision for God’s work here.
  • More opportunities to share the gospel in our English classes
  • Belinda plans to lead a 6 week women’s Bible study this summer; pray for women to be committed to come each week.
  • That our personal relationship and daily walk with God would continue to grow and that we would remain focused on the daily tasks God puts in front of us without growing weary or discouraged.
  • Belinda’s strength and health as the school year comes to a close and the work load increases.
  • John as he prepares for the long process of recording songs for VBS
  • Continued language learning progress for both of us.

How to support:

Again, we want to thank each of you for all of your prayers and support over the years.  Our financial support process has changed slightly, so if you would like to give, please click on the support link to find out how.

 

 

eNews – August 2014

usual_route_300Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Th 5:11

Could you use a little encouragement?

Working away, as diligent servants.  Your face to the work and your heart filled with the desire to see God’s work prosper.  Sometimes we are trying so hard we can even get myopic about what we are doing and what we see.

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Merry Christmas – 2013

Grace_SignMerry Christmas!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.   – Isaiah 7:14  

Our hope an prayer for you this Christmas, is that God would suppress you with blessings beyond expected and His Joy beyond your ability to contain.  We pray your heart will be filled with the promise of His presence “Immanuel”. Continue reading

eNews – November 2013

aloe-cactus-1For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
                                                                   Jeremiah 29:11–13
You may be asking; “What’s with the picture of the Aloe Cactus?”I was talking with Pastor Troy the other day, about our time here in Japan, and how this year, more than ever, feels like we hit the ground running right after the missions conference, only to look at the calendar and think; “Oh my! It’s November…”.
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eNews – October-2-2012

IMG 1447“For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”    2 Cor. 2:15

Japan is very different from the US, especially California in many ways, but one of the most pronounced in my mind, is that we have real seasons. Everything follows the changes in weather. There are different foods, social gatherings, manners of dress, sounds and smells. Because of the hot humid weather in summer, there are many different insects and especially mosquitoes. Japanese use special insect repelling incense to repel these pests, its smell wafting through the streets and byways.
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eNews – May 2, 2012

IMG 0739And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.
Luke 21:11

From Belind’s Desk: Last summer, just after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, I was able to participate in several Operation Safe children’s trauma training seminars.  Last month, during our spring break I had the opportunity to go up to Ishinomaki and actually participate in the program itself.
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