|There have been so many challenges to face in coming here: language, culture, finances and the huge spiritual oppression that looms over this country. In the three and a half years of serving in Japan and in a culture so different from our country of origin, our notions of what
Japan’s people are like, as well as the dynamics of ministry abroad, have been shaped and molded by God as He has worked through us and in us.While going out as missionaries, some of our vision and expectations conformed to what the Lord has prepared for us. On the other hand, some are now coming to fruition just as we imagined.
English Bible Study:
I have been teaching an English class/Bible study for one year now and God continues to bless it. There are about 15 ladies who come each month, and several of them are unbelievers. A few new ladies have joined since Christmas. We have begun a new study on the book of Ruth, which is focusing on facing difficult issues in our lives. Utako, one of the several unbelievers of the group, shared very honestly that she does not believe anything good can come out of natural disasters or personal tragedy. Hopelessness is a common theme in Japanese culture. Pray that she and the others would come to know the reality of Romans 8:28.
God put His call on my life to minister to women many, many years ago. Since we’ve come to Japan I have been wondering and praying about when He would allow me to really start ministering more personally to women. In the last year He has given me the English Bible study, and has begun to open up more and more women’s ministry opportunities, bringing them right to my own door. After discipling Megumi one-on-one for about a year, I am now preparing a new study with her and a couple of other young women in my home one Thursday a month. On another Thursday, I will be discipling two or three other young women using the book of Colossians. Besides these, God has put many other women in my path to whom I have been able to minister to in prayer and friendship. It has been so wonderful to see how God works out His plans through us.
Grace Christian International School:
I have been teaching at the school for 3 and a half years and each year is a greater joy and blessing. We have 4 new first graders: Anna, who only speaks in whispers; Tiara, very independent; Yui, a blessing of spunk; and Zion, who is constantly in fast motion. Joseph, our new high schooler, has become the “big brother” to all the little first graders, who just adore him (and tease him to no end!). The greatest reward in being a part of this school is knowing that we are making a difference in these kids’ lives and also in the lives of their parents, a lot of whom are not believers. We have been given such an opportunity to show God’s love in the way we teach and interact with them.
After 3 years, the worship ministry has now really started to model the discipleship model I was trained with and was personally discipled in over the years in the U.S. What is even more wonderful, is that the worship ministry here isn’t simply a “rubber stamp” of this training, but has distinct flavor of ministry in this Japanese culture. I am excited to see how much God’s body is growing here in the worship experience.
When we first arrived in Japan, there was a Bible Study held on the Yokota Air Force Base that we participated in. Leadership with the military is of course transient in nature with the natural sending-out and relocation of personnel. By the end of the first year, all the people involved with the study had been relocated. After praying about the study as a staff, we decided to take a temporary ‘oyasumi’ (rest) from doing the study. In my heart though, I really felt that the Yokota Study was a key factor in what God wanted to have happen here. After a few months, we started afresh and sought the Lord on where the study should focus.
“Ministry both vertical and horizontal”. I started with teaching from I John, looking at the vertical relationship between God and us as a ministering body of believers. Now we are in the book of Ephesians, using it as a platform for focusing on our horizontal ministry to each other as the Body of Christ. Most of those who attend this study are fairly young in their walk with God. We have been so blessed to see this home group grow and mature, increasing in numbers of both English and Japanese speakers.
This last Thursday our text brought us to Eph 4:7, providing a foundation for understanding how the Gifts are manifested in ministry. We ended the evening with an extensive session of intercessory prayer. It was so exciting to see younger believers step out and exercise their gifts as they ministered to one another. As we pour into each other’s lives, the fruit is eternal.
The Long Term View:
Belinda and I can see clearly how ministry, especially abroad, is a long term investment in people through an eternal perspective. We can’t speak the word “investment” lately without invoking thoughts of the world’s present economy. We have no “stimulus package”, no “bailout” for missionaries. Belinda and I must put our trust in God and the work of His Holy Spirit to stir the hearts of His people with an eternal perspective.
"Turtle Pond" - Showa Koen (Park)
God has been breaking down the walls of language and culture here in Japan.
God is providing unique and wonderful opportunities for the Japanese to know Him personally.
New and young believers are growing in Christ and stepping out in ministry.
The “Manna From Heaven” ministry is helping provide for missionaries, churches, schools and individuals giving us unique ways of reaching so many with a practical expression of God’s love.
For all those who continue to support ministries abroad as they sow in Faith.
That God would increase provision for the “Manna From Heaven” ministry. The need for food has been steadily increasing because of the economic situation.
That God would continue to provide financially for the body in the U.S. and abroad.
There is a possibility that another home group on base hosted by members of Grace may combine with our group. We seek God’s wisdom and direction for this.
For good health. Many have had colds, flu and seasonal health issues.
We want to thank you for all your prayers and support. Also, thank you for your time to write and encourage us. May God be glorified in all we do reaching from one side of His creation to the other.
-John and Belinda