Although there's still much finishing work to do at Denen Grace Chapel, we've started to look toward to our next church planting work in the area. It won't be easy. But we're praying as a couple. We're communicating vision to Denen church members. We're trusting our Season Changer's guidance and provision. Would you pray with us, too, for the changes ahead?Even as seasons change for us in church work, sometimes we get a slice of several "seasons of church planting" at once (that happens in weather, too). Here's a snapshot of four seasons in the last few months.
How long and hard we've prayed and agonized over our church plant, Denen Grace Chapel! Yet Japanese Christians have prayed and agonized much longer and harder! I was reminded of this at our "Teamwork Meeting" in northern Japan. That's a gathering of our church association pastors and missionaries.
I was challenged anew by our early morning prayer time together. We prayed for Japan. I sat between a pastor weeping and another prostrate on the floor. For hundreds of years, in spite of the sweat of many workers and the blood of many marytrs, the Japanese have only responded in small numbers to the gospel. But we pray and wait. God is working under the surface.
The gospel plant grows best in native soil. So, over the years we've tried to incorporate Japanese culture into our church activities (while being careful to not compromise the gospel message). In this photo, our group of ladies are practicing the art of Japanese writing using Scripture verses. (see photos)
For many in this group, it's their first interaction with the Bible! Toward the end of class, our church member (standing in photo) shared a familiar Japanese rhyme used in writing exercises. Few Japanese know that it was created by the underground church (see website) during the martyrdom of the 17th century. The last letters of each line form the hidden acrostic: "Jesus died for me." That discovery brought some startled response from the ladies! Keep praying!
Recently while preaching at my wife's home church in Yamagata, I was struck by this photo on display there. It shows a tiny group of early church members (including my circled in-laws) surrounding the planting missionary, Joe Meeko. Fifty years later this church has multiplied many times over. It's won to Christ, discipled and sent out many, some even to foreign mission fields! And my life story intersects here, too. Without that missionary's evangelistic work, I might not be married to a Chrisitian woman named Kaori!
Mr. Meeko's faith and dedication was huge, but ultimately it was the work of God that brought my Yamagata family to Christ. I pray Denen Grace Chapel will be the same kind of dynamic, multiplying church here in Kawasaki in the years to come. If God chooses bring much fruit from this work, it won't be because of my ability. Make no mistake: "God gives the growth." (1 Cor 3:6)
Recently on Easter Sunday 2014, I did again what I sometimes do in church. I got out of my front seat and stood in the back. The view from the back is special. Seeing new Christians standing together and worshipping God draws me into deeper worship and thanks, too.
When the week of church planting has been hard, when setbacks seem to outnumber forward motion, when the cultural stress builds up, I like to remind myself of why I'm here. So I go to the back on a Sunday and take a good look. And God tells me, "Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord [Kevin], because you know that your labor is not in vain." (1 Cor 15:58)