|April 15, 2006|
Written upon the human heart…
2Cor 3:3 "… being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."
I know I usually write some brief commentary on a verse to introduce our eNews, but this time, I would like to make my comments a bit more personal. I would like to share with you a testimony of something I witnessed just this last evening.
There is a young woman who became a Christian just about the time we arrived about 7 months ago.
I have had the honor and blessing to watch God work in her life as she has been transitioning from a more worldly life, to a life filled with the understanding and presence of God. Belinda and I have so enjoyed answering her questions, encouraging her and seeing her grow in Faith.
Last evening was our Good Friday service. It was not our typical Friday prayer meeting. We lit seven candles and then did some scripture readings, times of reflection to some simple instrumental music and prayer. As we read selections highlighting the death of Christ, we blew out each candle one by one. At the last candle we gathered our things and then filed out side. We have a big roll up door on our building. We blew out the last candle and then rolled the door closed, to signify the rolling of the stone over Christ’s tomb. We all stood outside the door and sang “Alleluia”. The church is to stay closed and locked until we celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Sunday.
As I looked around at the people, there were many solemn faces, but the one that still sticks in my mind, even now, is the face of this young woman. She just stood there crying softly to herself. I came up along side her and asked, “daijobu”? (Are you ok?) “Yes”, she said. “I’m ok”.
What God had so honored me to see in this young Christian lady was the radical, loving impact of God’s Grace in her life as she experienced the first Good Friday of her Christian life. I could see in her face how this new level of understanding had touched her heart. Both this lady, and I, will never be the same.
April is a month of reflection for me. As I think about our first year in Japan as full time missionaries, I consider;
When I think of this young lady and the events of this month – of this week, this is what we came to Japan for. To be willing to put ourselves in a place where God could do in our lives a work that He could use to reach others with the Love of Jesus Christ. This, my dear extended family, is what we are here for. This, my fellow missionaries, as senders and as sent ones, is what your Gift of Grace is about.
Belinda, Stephen and I want to thank you from the bottom of my hearts for the privilege of serving Christ here in Japan. Your prayers and support are truly impacting lives in ways that only a heart touched by the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ can comprehend.
Grace Christian Fellowship’s 5th Aniversary and the Production of Narnia
This last month has been SO FULL! With the 5th aniversary of GCF and all that has been going on, it has been a very full month indeed! Besides the goings on of celebrating such an important milestone for this little church in Ome, it seems that God wanted to do a special work in all of us. Through this event He prepared us for a wonderful evening that brought us all together in a unique presentation of the Gospel.
One of the wonderful things we did as a school was to present a condensed version of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. The characters were performed by the children of the International School and the staff of Grace. We invited the members of the fellowship and the their friends. The script was performed in English and also presented in Japanese via slides. We were so impressed at how everyone contributed their gifts with a minimum amount of direction. This was a truly spirit led and filled event.
Also in the slide show you will see included in this night of celebration, a presentation of a newly foremed Christian Rock band "Luis and the three Mikes" plus, our Pervuian guys doing some Andes style folk music. Ok, one of them isn’t really Peruvian, he’s just some guy from Santa Barbara that loves to play guitar – yours truly. Thank you Melody, our visiting Brooks student for taking all the pictures!
Seder / Foot washing
This is of course Holy Week. As part of the observances we held a Seder, followed by a foot washing and then we took communion. When you are meeting cultural and language challenges it is so powerful to have these very literal and pragmatic ways of communicating the life and Gospel of Christ. During the foot washing the Holy Spirit was clearly moving as people prayed for each other while they ministered. Following with communion, as we walked through the Gospel account, I believe, really sealed the work of God as He touched lives that evening.
Sunday is coming!
On Sunday we are planning, as weather permits, to have our Easter services outside in a local park. We are very excited to have another time to bring the church to the community. What an awesome way to celebrate the wonderful news that our Lord is alive!
Ministry – Belinda:
Discipleship is of course key to healthy Christian growth and development. The woman’s study that Belinda has been leading is going strong. It’s so hard to keep the time down to only an hour and a half. (It started as an hour!) They are hungry for God’s Word and are asking very deep questions. Belinda is so excited about how God is building the Faith and understanding found in God’s Word.
Prayer is also a big part of her ministry, with opportunities to pray for and with women everyday, and to see God’s specific answers to each one in His perfect way and in His perfect time.
Ministry – John
About every other Sunday the men are meeting for fellowship. This last time John shared his testimony and a Bible study on the Prodigal Son. Typically, Japanese men are not as involved in the church as the women. Many men at Grace are becoming more open. There have been some issues in marriages and work relationships that our adversary meant for evil, but that God is using to bring the men of the church closer in their relationship with Him. One of the comments from the last meeting was that because of John’s testimony, they can see that God works in very real and practical ways in the life of men. Amen!
Our guest – Melody:
Over the last few weeks we have had a guest in our home. Melody is a student at Brooks with a major in portraiture. She has been praying about moving here as a “tentmaker”, possibly to teach English and use her photography as well. She has made many friends here in Ome!
We have entered the Spring season here in Japan. As Spring approaches the cherry blossoms begin to bloom. This special time of year for the Japanese is called Sakura. Everyone who owns a camera, a cell phone with a camera and even many painters are all out enjoying the brief two weeks when these wonderful trees and many others as well begin to display God’s creative hand.
We are moving!
Our home-stay is soon coming to an end. April is the time of year when school begins again and many Japanese families move to be near the schools their children will attend. We are not under any pressure to move from our present place, but we felt the Lord wanted us to begin looking. We prayed that if God showed us a place that was obviously His provision we would move.
We have found a small house only 8 minutes from the church and 13 minutes walk to the train station. It’s a two story with 3 rooms, living room, kitchen and bath. The rent is very reasonable. This home is, as is usual in Japanese rentals, virtually empty. No furniture, no stove, no oven, no refrigerator, no light fixtures. But we believe God is saying, “YES”. We have seen God provide so well in all this, we believe He will provide everything we need.
Starting in May, please update our overseas mailing address:
John has officially started daily language school. He goes for 3 and a half hours every afternoon, 5 days a week. This is a professional language school in a class with several other English speakers who are learning Japanese. There are some students from Thailand, Taiwan and Brazil as well.
Japanese language training is “muzugashii” (difficult) but with God, as He calls us, He provides and makes all things possible.
We know that as you partner with us in the Gift of Grace ministry you want to share in the blessing. Communication is key. By now you should notice many changes to our website. John has updated the site in many visual ways to make your visit more enjoyable. Also, searching for keywords on all our eNews and other content is now possible. Soon, visitors will be able to sign up for our eNews right on the website. If you haven’t checked the site out lately, please stop by for a visit!
May God bless you richly!
-John, Belinda and Stephen
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