And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
"We grow where we are planted and minister wherever God places us"
A couple of weeks ago we were eating dinner at our favorite ramen shop. We have been visiting there from time to time for over 12 years now. How time flies. It was near to closing time so there was only one other customer. As we rose to leave, both the shop owner and his wife came out from the kitchen with something very important to tell us. With a huge grin on his face, he told us that he now had Jesus living in his heart; that he and his wife had both received Christ as their savior that very week.
We were so excited and happy for them and, in our limited Japanese, tried to convey our joy at their news! Even though we were not the ones to directly lead them in prayer for salvation, they were eager to share this with us, knowing that we were Christians and had through various means tried to be a good witness to them. They were also quick to share that they would soon be closing the shop on Sundays, so they could begin attending church.
The following week, we brought some friends with us to the ramen shop. Chika, a young Japanese woman and part of the church here, asked the shop owner for his testimony. He shared that he had been extremely depressed and didn't want to live anymore. As he thought about this, he picked up his son's children's bible book and saw the cross of Jesus. He called a nearby church and the pastor met with him and his wife, and there they both received the gift of salvation.
Please pray for this couple as they begin their new life in Christ, and pray for their children also, that they would see God's work in their parents and would desire to know Jesus also. They do not yet attend any church but will be visiting our fellowship sometime this month.
John and I both teach English classes during the week. This not only helps with our financial needs but is a great opportunity for us to work directly with unchurched people in several different communities. Teaching English has given us many opportunities to invite people to visit the church for services and special events. In this culture most Japanese will not visit your church unless they are "invited". We never "push" but we always make sure people know they are welcome.
It's funny, sometimes people talking with us about the ministry in Japan ask, what is to us, a very odd question; "Yes you are missionaries there but what do you do there?"
We are all for missions that may include some response to a disaster, physical and other needs. In many places that might be the way the door gets opened, but at the end of the day, it's all about bringing people to Jesus without "strings attached".
We never want anyone of the people we minister to here to feel they "owe us something".
Sometimes the best ministry is simply being there for the long haul. To be there long enough to earn trust. To be there through good and bad times. To be examples of people who know Christ in such a way that they can know him too. We have known the owners of the ramen shop since we moved here. We have exchanged gifts sometimes and we have not been secretive about why we live here. We are "senkiyoshi" "missionaries". And then just be there to love on them and be part of the community.
When you look at how God indwells the believer and how He just wants us to be ambassadors in all the earth, it makes since that sometimes the very best, but by no means, the very least we can do to share the Love of God with others is to "show up".
I guess I am going to be in some kind of local news. I am not sure of all the details but two different classes I teach both informed me that some new people were going to audit my English class. Today, one of the classes included these special guests. It was really fun having them be part of the class and experience first-hand the great fun we have in our classes. The other class, my more advanced "business level" group will be filmed in April.
Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers.
2 Timothy 4:21
I'm headed "down under" to New Zealand for one week in June. I was invited to come to a very special men's retreat called "Come Before Winter" – a "ministry to missionaries".
Belinda attended the women's version this a couple years ago and it was really an uplifting experience for her. She and I are actively praying and seeking God for "what's next" in terms of ministry here in Japan.
This retreat is designed as an in-depth process of renewal and renewed vision. It's not a typical retreat but is designed for people who have been in the ministry for a while and are seeking an intimate time of teaching, prayer and, fellowship in with a goal getting away from the "storm" and seeking God.
The hosts only accept 48 attendees and only after a very in-depth application process. The retreat is paid for by the ministry. I am responsible for my transportation there and back. Everything else is provided. Belinda and I, after praying, believed that this is a spiritually healthy investment and we are trusting God to provide for the plane fare.
Staying in touch. We have planned to send out a newsletter just about monthly. So far, we have mostly made that work. A little late this month with the usually busy schedule but we really want to be better at this. Communication is a two-way process though. It really blesses us when we hear from you. Tell what's going on in your life. How can we pray for YOU?
Here are our Praise and Prayers:
- For the Ramen shop owner and his wife's salvation
- For remaining healthy while everyone else around us was down with influenza and colds
- A ladies weekly gathering to pray for our prodigal children and unsaved family members
- For the healthy birth of a daughter to one of our missionary couples in February
- Out assistant pastor is getting married this weekend
- The investment in the people here is showing so much fruit - especially in the community outside the "four walls" of the church
- Continue to pray for Eduardo as John meets with him each week for discipleship
- Pray for the Ramen shop owner and his wife (sorry, we aren't sure of their names yet), to start coming to church and to grow in their faith
- Pray for opportunities and boldness share the gospel with our English class students
- Pray for Belinda's Japanese teacher, Fukushima-san, and her husband to receive Christ as their savior
- Pray for Belinda to have wisdom and good communications with students, parents and, teachers as she continues overseeing the school
- For John as he is the photographer for our assistant pastor's wedding this weekend
- For John's travel - God's provision
- Pray for John to lead the worship services and worship team members with wisdom and grace
- For men's ministries and John continues to lead and disciple