Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Baptisms in the Kiddy Pool

Without a church building of our own, we continue to look for creative solutions for baptizing new believers. Praise the Lord that this is even an issue for us! This Sunday we baptized two new believers in the kiddy pool of a nearby kindergarten.

D-san has a mother with a business as a Buddhist guide. His father abandoned them. His grandfather that lives with them has a severe drug habit. Not surprisingly, D-san himself has battled depression. But since coming to church for the first time last fall, he has been steadily growing, changing, and healing. He accepted Christ last December, and is looking forward to be baptized this Sunday at 31 years of age.

H-san took a bit longer to come to faith in Christ. She is a middle-aged housewife who visited our home 7 years ago when we first began church planting work in Kawasaki. A pet lover, she was very interested in meeting our "joyful princess" Keekee. But she was some time away from a decision for Christ. During those seven years she maintained a close relationship with a core church member as God led her through some difficult times. This spring she was back in church again, and this time she was very open to the Gospel. She is growing in Christ and already a tremendous asset and encouragement our the church family.

Praise God for these baptism candidates! Would you pray for their continued spiritual growth and witness to their families? And thank God for good rare sunny weather on Sunday. An issue for us as the rainy season continues here and the pool is outdoors.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Flyer or Fryer?

We appreciated the effort of several young people who braved the summer heat to pass out flyers for our Kids English Outreach next week. The group came from various church backgrounds in Japan, but the leader, Satoshi, shared common CB roots with us.

The group put some 3000 flyers into mailboxes in our community. Along the way, we stopped to pray at some key locations for Japan, the outreach activity of the church, and the spiritual battle we are engaged in here.

Perhaps the greatest challenge of the day was bearing the oppressive heat and humidity of Japan this time of year. This was a FRYER of a flyer distribution! After 3 hours of walking about outdoors, we were ALL very well done! We ended the time together with a victory prayer meeting and time of worship.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I've mentioned before that I was thrilled to get the blessing of the local chounaikai (community group) to place our church flyers on their numerous bulletin boards around the neighborhood. This gives us more exposure, and perhaps a little more credibility, in the neighborhood.

There are some twenty bulletin boards in a 3 or 4 kilometer radius around our house. I make the rounds and tack up our letter-sized flyer relating to a specific event: English, Gospel, concert, Kids, etc. The church address and telephone number is always listed at the bottom.

I've been saddened, however, to find on numerous occasions that my flyers have been either obviously torn off the board, cut to shreds, or mangled in some other way. In spite of this, I continue to replace the destroyed flyers and go on.

With our Kids English outreach (7/28-8/2) just around the corner, I once again put up flyers this past week. This time at each and every location someone deliberately moved another item tacked on the board to cover mine. Here's a photo (above). I moved my flyer to a new spot, only to have it recovered. Someone is obviously not happy with my flyers.

And so the spiritual battle for the hearts of Japanese continues. It is frustrating at times to lose little fights like this along the way, but we know God will bring the ultimate victory in the war.

Monday, July 13, 2009

150 Years Later

This is cause for celebration! 150 years after isolationist Japan opens the port of Yokohama to the world and Protestant missionaries begin evangelism activities for the first time in Japan, Yokohama throws a massive celebration...for the opening of the port. Meanwhile in a footnote event known only to the Christians, the church celebrates 150 years of Protestant missions in Japan at a portside hall. This latter event is the one myself and several members of our church (photo above) chose to attend and be encouraged by.

Altogether around 14,000 believers attended the Protestant Missions 150th events and memorial over the two-day celebration in Yokohama. I wish the first missionaries could have seen the fruit of their work many years later! B&W photos of the 50th anniversary event show mostly foreigners and some Japanese believers gathered at a YMCA. Photos of the 100th anniversary event show a massive group of new post-war Japanese believers gathered in local stadium. And now the 150th events show even more growth.

Still, the fruit is hard to come by in Japan. Japanese pastors speaking at the event unanimously expressed disappointment that 150 years later, still less than 1% of Japanese are believers. They had hoped Japan would have been more responsive given so much time. One pastor mounted the platform and jokingly said "I think perhaps God must prefer kimchi to Japanese food." God has indeed poured out his Holy Spirit on Japan's neighbor of Korea and grown the church there in numbers and ways that Japanese believers could only dream of. "When will this kind of revival come to Japan? We have been waiting these 150 years. Lord, we are ready for it." cried another pastor in prayer.

In explaining the disparity of the way the church has grown in Korea and Japan, one pastor explained the difference to me this way: "Japanese care too much about what other people think. Koreans don't." I've seen this truth borne out in our church planting work. Time and again what others think makes a powerful difference in whether a curious Japanese will enter a church, or make a decision for Christ. And if they are able to overcome this and make a decision, what others think plays a role in whether they choose to be baptized. And after baptism, what others think affects how they grow in their faith. But I digress...

I was encouraged that the Japanese pastors and speakers at the event also unanimously expressed faith that God was and is carefully preparing a powerful foundation upon which he will build a great revival. "He has not discarded us!" singer and songwriter Chu Kosaka said. "He is SURELY at work in our hearts." The church in Japan received a great call and challenge for the next 50 years ahead. Let's expect that revival!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Joyful Princess 1994~2009

We knew the day was coming, but that didn't make the decision any easier. After 15 years of being a part of our family history, always being around for all the happenings, our beloved cat, Keekee, now remains only in our photographs and memories.

Keekee grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, moved to the outskirts of Tokyo, and was buried in far northern Japan. All without a passport, I might add. It was quite a life for a cat. It's hard not to be sentimental and reflective about these things. After all, this was more than just a cat. Keekee connected us all the way back to our newlywed lives in Lansing, IL prior to Japan. She was a steady source of comfort and friendship when our family needed it in our adjustments to living in Japan. She was a constant in the many changes we experienced, and a treasure to our family.

But the seizures she began experiencing in her last week were too painful to watch. Her behavior changed and we would find her sleeping in odd places out of view. I suppose pets don't want their owners to see them suffering, any more than they themselves want to suffer. The vet gave us little hope for her recovery, so we let her go to sleep.

"Keekee" means "joyful princess" in Japanese. She certainly brought our family a lot of joy. I suppose the photo in front of the asian fan above proves that she already had Japan at heart 15 years ago. Thank you, Keekee, for making the journey with us together. We will miss you!