We leave Japan, but our hearts remain

July 30, 2009 - Leave a Response

So, tonight we pack and prepare to leave in the morning.  Goodbyes are never easy, and this is no exception.  So much has happened in the short time we have been here.  God has blessed us and broken our hearts, often simultaneously.  So little has made it into the blog, but we hope to post pictures and many more stories once we return.  So this is not the end of these blog posts, any more than it is truly and end of our trip to Japan.  We will be bringing our love for this country with us, so that we might share it with you.  It is our hope that you will join with us in this ministry.

Well, I have to go now, I just started talking to a guy named Johan from Finland.  The opportunities God presents us with are often unexpected.

The Money Belt Incident

July 29, 2009 - 2 Responses

Nathan here:

There is so much to talk about, but I will start with something that happened during our second day of work here.

As travel expert Rick Steves explains, on a trip it is often safest to keep your money and similar things in a money belt.  This is a belt that goes under your clothing and has zippered pockets for important things.  It is closer to you and safe from pickpocketing and stolen bags.

Safe until you leave it in a bathroom, that is.

My stomach was not doing well the second evening on the way to the festival.  I easily get sick in the heat, and I wasn’t drinking enough fluids.  This made it necessary for me to stop at a restroom right after we got off the train.  It was a coed bathroom, and so there was a long line.  Us men are not used to waiting in these long lines with the women.  Once I finally got in, I was presented with a Japanese style toilet (AKA the Squatty Potty).  They really aren’t that bad to use, you just have to get used to it.  My money belt clip had come undone at some point, and so I set my money belt on the toilet paper dispenser to the side to keep it out of the way, as I obviously didn’t want to set it on the ground.

Many hours of work later, tired and thirsty, I went to purchase a drink from a vendor.  I didn’t have enough cash in my wallet in my pocket (where I keep a small amount of money for easy access), so I went for the money belt.

My heart stopped.  I was not wearing a money belt.

I furiously checked all my pockets (including ones I had never used).  I moved to the side and emptied the contents of my backpack.

No money belt.

I was now feeling less well than I had been earlier.

As I worried, others made a plan.  I would go with Moe (Mo-ay) to the train station to see if we could find it.  Barb reassured me that if there was anywhere in the world to lose money, it would be Japan.  I tried to be reassured by that, but it did not seem to help too much.  So after a little while of figuring out details and scheduling, Nick and I went with Moe and Barb back to the train station.  There was a long line at the bathroom, so checking there first did not seem practical.  Instead we made our way up to the information/security desk.  Since Moe speaks fluent Japanese and Barb speaks quite a bit, they started talking to the man at the desk as we stayed back.  A minute or so later they motioned for me to come up, and together we tried to describe the money belt.  The man just seemed confused.  Then he asked me for my name, so he could check.  To avoid further confusion I just handed him my drivers license.  He then headed into the back, still seeming confused, and the situation did not seem promising.

A minute or so later he returned with my license… and my money belt!

I had left a belt with hundreds of dollars worth of yen and a couple credit cards, and through the grace of God and the honesty of the people here, it had merely been taken to the information desk.  Nothing was damaged. Nothing was missing.

Praise God!

Needless to say I was breathing easier for the rest of the night.

I’ve Always Heard that Music is Universal

July 29, 2009 - One Response

We set up on a bridge outside Osaka station and began doing some of the things we’ve already done several times this week. Five minute english and passing out information to interested folks. Charlie Seelen brought his guitar so we could see if people might be drawn to the music and give us a chance to talk.

I was a little hesitant to play and sing because we had tried it last night at America Mura and had little success, but tonight it was different. We did have several people who stopped by to talk with us, but something else has me fired up; I wasn’t the only musician on the bridge. As a matter of fact, as the evening wore on, several came, stationed themselves around and began to play and sing.

We weren’t in competition with each other, but when one of us would stop after a song, the other would play. Me in english, them in Japanese. Every once in a while, I would catch them glancing over my way. They were really quite good.

When it was time for us to leave, I went over to one of the other musicians and gave them several guitar picks with American symbols on them. They in turn gave me their contact information and urged me to get in touch with them when we get back to America. As I waked back over the bridge, I passed other musicians playing a recognized that many of them had come over and listened to us play and sing. They smiled and nodded hello to me. One said “good songs”.

That’s when it occurred to me. If we can get a group of musicians over here it would be powerful. This happens regularly at Osaka station and perhaps in other areas around the city. Music speaks even when the language is different and the Japanese people love music! (Ever hear of Kareoke? They take it to another level entirely here!)

All of you musicians out there, start saving your pennies, I feel another mission trip coming on next Summer! ; )

Meeting with Monchi and Maria. -Kristen ;)

July 28, 2009 - 3 Responses

Exciting News from Japan!

Today at 5 pm Nick and I have the chance to meet with two girls that we meet during 5 minute english. I am really excited to inform ya`ll that I have been emailing back and forth with Monchi since we met her. She studied in Auburn Washington or 2 years so she was thrilled when we said we were from Washington. I have given her Jeremiah 29:11 yesterday (Tuesday), which is my favorite verse and she really wants to know that kind of hope. She said that to her hope is a very big thing and she doesnt really have anything like it. I would ask for pray and coverage over our meeting time this evening. Pray for wisdom and discernmen for Nick and I. This isnt something that is in the limits of my comfort zone but she seems to understand english very well. That will help a lot. She is such a sweet lady and I cant wait to see what God has planned for tonight. She said that she has read the Bible before but she was unable to understand most of it because it was in English. Nick has a Japanese Bible and I am not sure what he will do with it but it will be an aid for us tonight. Pray for God to use us in His plan and that we would be led by the Holy Spirit not our own agendas. My heart breaks for Monchi because she really wants to be different. Thankfully the Lord has blessed s with this divine appointment. Anywho I am excited and I know that I have made one amazing friend in Japan. I miss everyone back home and I am ready to come back to the states but after this meeting. Thank you for your prayers and all that you have done for us while we have been in Japan.

In Christ,

Kristen

A New Friend

July 28, 2009 - Leave a Response

I had the privilege of being taken on a side tour yesterday. One of the M’s here named Bob showed me the area of town where Grayden and Shiona will be living and ministering to when they arrive here next year. I had been looking forward to that and it was even better than I anticipated.

First of all, I was reminded of what good care our IMB takes of our missionaries (M’s). There is nothing opulent about the apartment my children will live in but it is very nice, in a beautiful building.  I’ve got pictures!

The highlight of the morning, though, was a bible study I was able to attend with a Japanese believer, Imo san (forgive my spelling).  Bob introduced us and amost immediately I sensed the complete sincerity of this gentleman and His faith. He is limited in his english (not nearly so much as I am in my Japanese!) but his hunger to know God through His word is clearly evident.

Bob included me in the study by interpreting much of what was being said, but even when Imo san spoke words that I had no hope of understanding, somehow I got it! I think  it was the Holy Spirit gracing me through this devout, generous man.

I am grasped by this place and these people. God is at work and we must pray, and encourage and come to join him where He is working.

In the Beginning

July 27, 2009 - One Response

I’m still shaken from today.

We went to Kyoto and toured several of the Buddhist temples there. Some might ask why there is such a systemic resistance to the gospel in Japan and I think today we saw where it all began. The deception by our enemy here goes back to the early days of this country and its people.

We walked through incredible monuments to the abilities of the Japanese. Architecture so precise that even after hundreds and hundreds of years, it still stands solid and stunningly beautiful. It is so distracting that you can miss the deception…almost.

Gold covered Buddhas cannot hide the fact that these people have believed a lie for centuries that somehow this small “g” god and all of his smaller “g” gods will somehow bring them fulfillment and prosperity in their lives.   Even today, though many say that their interest in this religion is simply historical, I saw with my own eyes that this is not true.

Hundreds, if not thousands of prayer notes tied to posts so that the “gods” could come down at night to read them say differently. Incense being burned to accomodate prayers prayed by worshippers gave a different testimony. Gifts left by corporations for the “gods” (usually expensive bottles of Saki) sit untouched and indicate that even the elite of this nation aren’t so sure they ae ready to release their tradition beliefs.

The beginning of something always plays a strong role in the things that follow.  In the beginning of Japan, leaders who were heavily influenced by demonic powers installed a religious system which would dominate the collective thinking of a nation until even today.  Gold covered ears that cannot hear the cries of a desperate people are still subject to the voices of continuing generations made desperate by fear and hopelessness.

Here is our message for them, “In the beginning, God…” It’s time for a new beginning for Japan. Pray for your team to clearly point these beautiful people to the God who hears, and cares and comes to rescue them from their desperation. The One, True, God!

From Pastor Mark

July 25, 2009 - One Response

I can’t believe we are now in our third day here is Osaka. Two nights at the festival have resulted in so many thoughts that it will take a long time to unwind. Suffice it to say that the work here for our missionaries is overwhelming, yet they are some of the most faithful people I have ever met.

We had  great receptivity at the first night of the festival, but that was not the case last night. It was frustrating to watch person after person walk by us without any notice. Still, God gave me the opportunity to speak with two young men, a young couple, and an older gentleman. The last fellow was interested in the fact that we would come to Osaka to meet people like him. He asked why and I told him that we want people in Japan to know about what the bible teaches us.

His next two questions were powerful. “What does the bible teach?” My reply was that it teaches us the truth. “What is the truth?” My reply was that the Truth is a person, Jesus Christ and that he shows us how we can live a full life in a relationship with our Father, God.

He went off to think about this and later spoke to Nathan. Pray for this man. I cannot tell you his name, but his face is indelibly burned in my memory.

The team is doing such a wonderful job here. My love for them grows every day. I see a transformation happening and I’m reminded that God doesn’t just work through us, He first works in us. Thank You Lord for your faithfulness!

Off to worship at the Seelen’s house. I don”t know if I’ve said this but, I really like these guys!

Tired, But Excited

July 24, 2009 - One Response

Hello!
This is Kelly. This trip has been pretty amazing. It got interesting pretty much right when we got off the plane in Osaka and found out we couldn`t exchange our money there. But you know that we got that figured out, thank goodness.

Right when we got at the hotel and setteled in the first night, figuring out how to turn on the air conditioner, and learning how to use the toilet, (most of he directions were in kanji), I began writing in my notebook right away. One of the things I wrote was about when we were in the train station trying to get an ecoca card for the trains and subway (it`s like a pass, but you put credit on it as you use it) Charlie, one of the missionaries we`re working with, was figuring out the ecoca cards for us. As we waited, fatigued from the 3 flights and holding our luggage, an elderly Japanese man came up to us and just started talking…in japanese of course! We only undertood 2 words from him…Ichiro and Matsui! LOL! It was amazing! We couldn`t understand a word he was saying, neither did he from us. But none the less, he kept on talking. I didn`t know whether to cry or laugh. I actually did both. It was totally unexpected.

But seriously, we`re gonna be attractive to the Japanese simply because we`re caucasian. I hope that we would continue to attract them, but not because of us, but because of the light of Christ that shines through us.

Yesterday, we did 5-minute English where we were stading at a festival and asked people if they wanted to learn or practice the English they already knew. Two different people I remember. An elderly couple said they were Buddhist and had lived in California for 4 years. Another was about in his 20`s, and I asked him about his beliefs. He said that his family is Buddhist and Shinto, but he himself does not believe. Rather, he said he believes in destiny and fate. Just so you know, these conversations were not in fluent english, but still understandable. I just thought it was interesting to listen and converse with the japanese face to face.

Today we prayer walked around an area where the festival will continue with fireworks and boats. Tonight we will be witnessing to more. Please pray that we would be fruitful in our efforts and that the hearts of the Japanese people would be soft to listen and recieve His word. The Japanese are DEEPLY rooted in idol worship and this has been a spiritual stronghold since the 1600`s. They have been and are very hard to recieve the Gospel. Please keep them in your prayers.

Thank you so much for reading. I must go rest before we leave to the festival. Lots of walking you know! Talk to you later!

Day 2: July 24th, 3:40 pm JST

July 24, 2009 - 2 Responses

Just wanted to let everyone know we have successfully exchanged currency, and then had a chance to visit a Christian bookstore here.

We’re just resting now before we are prepped for outreach, and then head to the Tenjin festival tonight!

You should be able to find more information here.

Prayer requests: With a history of over a thousand years, and attendance usually being over a million, this festival will be a huge opportunity to witness.  Pray that we are bold and that people are open to what we have to say.

Day 1: July 23rd, 9:00 pm JST

July 23, 2009 - 3 Responses

This post will be very short.  We just wanted everyone to know that we are safely at our hotel in Osaka.  We’ve run into a few minor issues along the way… it seems Osaka’s airports are all domestic travel only, so they don’t do currency conversion.  But we were able to work things out, and will be converting money tomorrow morning.  We also had a nice conversation with a slightly inebriated older Japenese gentleman, who was able to find common ground by mentioning Ichiro.  Sadly, he seemed to think Ichiro played for Boston.

Well, as it is 5am on the other side of the ocean, jetlag will soon claim me as it has the rest of the group.  I managed to sleep more than most on the plane, but there is only so much you can trick your internal clock.

Prayer requests: Please pray that everything goes smoothly with the money exchange, and purchasing supplies.  And most importantly, pray for us as we start ministry tomorrow!  We appreciate the prayers so far, thank you all!

P.S. For those of you that commented before, you may have noticed that they didn’t show up.  Comments are now set to be automatically approved, so please comment away!