As I look at our time in Japan so far, I am amazed at what God is doing. When we started out, we had what we thought was a pretty large view of what God might do here in the City of Ome, Japan. It’s so amazing how God broadens our vision and says to us, yes, that’s what I showed you first, but I knew if I showed you the whole picture, you would not have been able to believe it. Now, Let me show you even more.
As I look at the broadening scope of all that God wants to do here in Japan, as I see the events around the world, taking on the very shape prophesied in His Word, I see all the more that time is even shorter for each next event leading to Christ’s eminent return. There is so much to be done here! I know that if I were to do this in my own strength I would long ago have been at the end of myself. Praise God that He is the one who put us into the ministry and He is the one who will complete the good work He has begun in us.
Keeping the Main thing the main thing:
In the nine months we have been here, there have been some special relationships we have made. I believe God can use Spirit Breathed programs to facilitate the effectiveness of the ministry, but, at the end of the day, it’s the personal relationships that are where the impact of a personal relationship with God is made.
When I first started experiencing God’s call to come to Ome, images of the Baptisms really moved my heart. Now, after nine months of relationship building, I have had the blessing of seeing many of these dear friends take the step of obedience to be Baptized. It has been a very emotional process for me to see people I know and love draw closer to God over the few months I have had the privilege to serve here.
There is some much that goes on here in a month in ministry that we can only highlight the stories. We had better get this eNews off to you now!
Grace Christian Fellowship held its first barbeque and baptism of the new year down at the river near the church. The weather here in Ome was a still little chilly, but the pastors braved the winter run off and nine new believers were baptized.
We have included a movie of slides from the Baptism in this newsletter. It's a big download - about 40 mb but I think you will find it worthwhile. I encourage you to have some kleanex handy.
The women of Grace Christian Fellowship enjoyed their first ever Women’s Retreat. Unlike American women, Japanese women rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to attend an event like a women’s retreat. The theme was “ The Fragrance of Christ”. Rie, Pastor Jonathan’s wife, shared a beautiful teaching and each of us missionary wives shared our testimonies about why we came to be the fragrance of Christ in Japan.
The ladies all really enjoyed a precious time of building friendships, relaxing, praying, and staying up all night talking, (Yes, Japanese women love to do that, too.) Especially fun was the Pajama Fashion Show where groups of 4 ladies not only modeled their sleepwear, but came up with an entertaining (and quite humorous) way of presenting it. The women are all anxious to do it again next year.
The Men’s fellowship is going strong with several regular attendees. As the church leaders, we are taking turns leading the worship, teaching the Bible study and sharing our testimonies. The men are building strong leadership in the church.
This month, our pastor and several missionaries here taught a course in response assessments and techniques for disaster relief in Osaka. We are praying for many teams across Japan to be trained and prepared for the opportunity to share the love of Christ in this compassion ministry.
This week and next, Pastor Jonathan and Sherwood Patterson, another missionary from California, will be in Indonesia to do assessment and to minister to those affected by the latest earthquakes there.
They will be working with an organization called “Safe Harbor” based in Rancho Santa Margarita, California http://www.safeharbor.us/ Pastor Gary stepped down from the Senior Pastor position to pursue disaster relief compassion ministry full time. Pastor Gary is providing training and experience to our staff as we partner with Safe Harbor to continue the ministry of CRASH http://www.crashjapan.com in Japan. As John met with Pastor Gary, God expanded the vision for compassion ministry in Japan and throughout the world.
We are continuing to study Japanese. John is attending language school five days a week, 3 ½ hours a day. He is also studying with bi-lingual members of the church. Belinda continues to study with the books and computer resources we brought with us from the US. Japanese is very hard but we are making progress every day.
Visit from a fellow missionary:
Joshua Colp, a Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara missionary in Taiwan has come to stay with us a few days while on a short vacation. He was Stephen’s ministry leader in the states. It was fun having him, even though it rained the first two days. He made us some great desserts while he was here(recipes from Jodi Thomas’ kitchen – thanks Jodi) He and Stephen were able to spend some good fellowship time together which was an encouragement to Stephen and to us.
We have moved!
It’s official. We no longer live in Mizuho-machi. We now are living in a little house about eight minutes walk from the church. This is very convenient for us and saves on the expense of fuel driving back and forth from our previous house. We are incredibly blessed to be living here. We are getting to know our neighbors, at least a little, with our limited Japanese.
In Japan, the tradition when you move to a new neighborhood is that you go to your neighbor’s house, introduce yourself and offer them a small gift. When we saw our neighbors next door again, we got a nice "thank you for the cookies".
Morning Chapel – Teaching through Matthew 5:
Currently John teaches the school chapel time on Fridays. We are currently in Mathew Chapter 5. This chapter is exciting as it focuses on many of the foundational teachings of our relationship with Christ. This last session was really interesting as we read through a script enacting the trial of a murderer who’s punishment is taken by Jesus.
Yokota home group:
With the original hosts, Carson and Wendy Tavenner being relocated to Washington D.C., we are REALLY going to miss them, John has taken over the teaching role for the home group on base. He has been really excited about doing a walk through the book of Galatians. With new hosts, a new worship leader and a great book, we are expecting great things for this study.
Women’s Bible Study:
Belinda’s discipleship study has resumed after almost a month off due to coinciding church events. Yoshiko, for whom the study was originally formed, has not been showing up. However, this week she came just after the study ended and she had many questions about Jesus, God, Christianity, the DaVinci Code, etc. We talked for almost 2 hours, and she left encouraged to continue to grow in her faith. Please pray for Yoshiko and the other ladies attending, as they are all very young in their faith and there are many things trying to pull them away from the truth.
The worship ministry is transitioning as more Japanese are taking leadership roles in the worship teams. We have a brand new team starting this next month of all Japanese speakers. Many of our American members who are in the military are moving on to their next assignments this month. Some of them were very active in the worship ministry. As they transition forward, many new musicians are taking roles on the worship teams.
Sunday Evening Services:
Another change taking place is that on Sunday evenings the missionary men will be taking turns teaching the Word. In the “Calorie Chapel” tradition, we are now hosting a BBQ in the parking lot before the service. Last evening we had several passers by stop to see what is going on. The service was already larger than usual. We don’t think the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” really applies here, but with our missionaries giving the message, we are blessed to see that the way to a man’s heart is through God’s Word.
We have some musicians who are beginning to focus on the younger people in our body. We will be expanding the worship style from the usual morning services to reach a younger age group. We are praying that this service might be used to minister to a “Jesus is Reality” style group.
Beginning work on new GCF Website:
John has been working on updating and consolidating all the various websites here at GCF. We are looking at special software to make it possible for each of the staff and assistants to share in the management of the content of our web presence. We are using this software on our own website now.
Calvary Chapel Missions and leaders Conference Japan:
This last month there was an exciting conference of Calvary Chapel Japanese ministries that met just out side of Ome. Pastors and ministry teams came from Calvary Chapel in California to minister to the pastors, missionaries and leaders here in Japan. We all felt refreshed and filled and we they shared teachings and testimonies through God’s Word. We are excited to see the fellowship of the churches in Japan begin to work together as one body in Christ more and more.