Monday, June 24, 2019

Beautiful Harmony

Have you heard about Japan's BIG CHANGE? It's a new era! Emperor Akihito has abdicated. His son, Naruhito, succeeded him to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1st. Along with this imperial change, the Japanese calendar is reset to Year 1, Day 1. Heisei Era gives way to the
"Reiwa" Era. "Reiwa" means "beautiful harmony." The Japanese have decided that beauty and harmony should define this new era.

Meanwhile, we Lavermans are moving into a new era of church planting, an era with a growing new team of young workers, and new facilities to work out of in Mizonokuchi and soon Musashi Kosugi (MuKo). Praise God! Yet the truth is that the process of discussing, organizing and moving through these changes is a bit more like random chaos at times than beautiful harmony. We hope in the promises of God who makes "all things beautiful in its time." Here are a few recent highlights...

Welcome Robison Family!

We're so glad to have this new family join our Cross Project team this April. Jon and Maki, and their four kids (upper right), have moved into the upper residence at Mizonokuchi Grace House (see below). They come with a decade of missions experience in Japan, language skills and servant hearts. They will be of great help in our church planting work together here in Kawasaki/ Yokohama. They join ourselves, the Mitchells and Changs (lower right).

I believe we can reach more Japanese for Christ and plant new churches better together. So we're forming a team of missionaries and Japanese focused on new church work in southwest Greater Tokyo.

We are learning much about each other as a new team. But we've already discovered one very important thing: we are all very good at devouring pizza together! Pray for The Cross Project team.

Mizonokuchi Grace House Opens

Construction began in February, and was finished just 6 weeks later. It was made in modules at the factory, and assembled onsite in a single day on a plot of land here Denen Grace Chapel purchased last fall. There's still a lot of DIY projects on the inside, but bit by bit we are getting set up.

The dedication service was held (lower right). And the sign is now on the wall. Denen Grace Chapel now has a building to use for daily outreach, groups, meetings, and office space. This has been a long journey of much discussion, more prayer, and a lot of generous giving as a church. We're calling this building "Mizonokuchi Grace House." It will be of incredible help to our work of ongoing church planting in Mizonokuchi. It gives us space to do things we've dreamed of for this neighborhood for a long time. All glory to God!

What about that other place we rent on Sundays (burgundy photos below)? That's called Cozy Hall. We've used it for the last 15 years. It's perfect for larger groups and music events. We'll continue to rent Cozy Hall in Mizonokuchi for Sunday morning worship. While Grace House will be great for any group under 25 persons. Grace House and Cozy Hall are just a few minutes apart.

Get ready, people of Mizonokuchi, the gospel train's a'comin! It's making stops in Azamino and MuKo, too. No ticket needed, just get on board.

MuKo Chapel Construction Set to Begin

Meanwhile, the planning for our next church plant in MuKo reaches a big step. Our conviction that the 120,000+ of Musashi Kosugi (MuKo) need a church grew into a burden and vision, and moved us to action. You've been following along with us through the provision and purchase of property, and the raising of building funds for the chapel + living space above for us.

We reached our goal for needed Phase 1 construction costs in early April through the generous support of many of you in the States who share this vision. THANK YOU! Phase 2, for equipment and furnishing costs, will begin this summer.

Our final meeting with the architect is this Friday. Construction will then begin later this month. We'll be sending out an update soon with the design and blueprints so you can get an idea of what's ahead. We're excited to finally schedule this next major step in our mission to Muko. Stay tuned!

Kevin's Parents Come. Japan Blessed.

Kevin's parents have always been prayer warriors for missions. They prayed for laborers for the harvest fields of Asia. And God answered by calling and sending their own son to Japan. This was bad enough. But taking the daughter-in-law, and little grandson with in 1999 (when our family moved to Japan) was even worse. Now, 20 years later, in the fullness of time, God allowed them to come and see some of the people and places that have been impacted for eternity by this family sacrifice.

Kevin's parents spent two weeks with us in late May~June. They saw the culture and challenges, and the many, MANY people. They gazed over the vision from the 54th floor in MuKo (lower right, with Justen). They fixed our fence (upper right) and church screen box (dad), and enjoyed tea and chats with the church ladies (mom + Kaori, the interpreter).

The local hotel has improved their English immensely. And the local hardware store has gotten some international business. They added to the trade imbalance when they left with suitcases full of presents received, but Japan (and we) rejoiced by their visit here.

Gospel Music Bridges Cultures

Of all the things we have done over the years, the one outreach that continues to amaze us is gospel music. Japanese non-Christians are drawn to it. And it has continued to grow in popularity even after many years. Gospel music really is a "beautiful harmony" to the melody of the gospel message, and one that bridges cultures and languages effortlessly.

Last Sunday, Denen Grace Chapel hosted John Lucas, a gospel singer from Jamaica, who has lived here in Japan a number of years. John gave a mini concert during our worship service and held a special gospel workshop in the afternoon. Around 30 from the area attended, most were not Christians. Our concrete rental hall walls echoed with praise.

Japanese are very eclectic, picking out the best of other western cultures and integrating it into their own expression of being Japanese. Because western culture is rich with Christian heritage, these things become bridges for the gospel. God speaks in unique ways to the Japanese heart!
Construction details and dedications. Gospel music. Family and team building. Through all our activity -- yes, even the parts that seem like random chaos, or real differences -- God is doing a harmonious work. He's forming a new people, a new community in Japan that belong to him, that have placed their faith in his Son, Jesus, and that are working together as one family to serve him. Missionaries and nationals. Japanese, American, Taiwanese, even Jamaican, are coming together, moving each other toward the gospel, deeper in Christ, and worshipping as one...

NOW THIS is "beautiful harmony." The harmony that is a foretaste of heaven to come. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

On a Wing and a Prayer

Legend has it in Japan that a prayer can be answered when a 1000 origami paper cranes are folded and strung together.

So today, on the 8th anniversary of 311, in community centers, temporary housing and public schools throughout northern Japan, chains of a 1000 origami cranes are displayed, the tedious effort of hundreds of fingers.

Their prayer is simply this: "Recovery, restoration, and return to normal life again." The March 11, 2011 triple tragedy took so much. They want it back.

Aren't you glad to know that God hears prayer and answers us without all that needless "paperwork" ?! Would you pray Japan today?

True recovery and restoration in post-311 Japan is only possible when the 99% turn their hearts toward God and place faith in Christ.

(Video footage taken during 311 relief work in March 2011.)

Here's How to Pray for Japan on 311
1 - Pray for the many churches and volunteers continuing to minister to those in temporary housing areas and communities throughout northern Japan. Pray God's love would be displayed through them.

2 - Pray for the families of the nearly 20,000 who lost their lives. Pray as they memorialize their loved ones today that they would learn of Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life.

3 - Pray for the other 99% of Japanese to turn their hearts toward God, place their faith in Jesus, and find rest from their heartache in Him.

P.S. - Not only origami cranes, but also construction cranes used in post-311 re-construction also remind us to pray. See this quick video of the construction of our church plant's Mizonokuchi mini house/church facility, and watch the zoom in at the end.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Tiny Chapel Designs

The tiny house craze may be the new thing in the States, but it is a common thing in urban Japan. Everyone's house is already a tiny house. With MuKo, we've been reminded of this once again.

With the land purchase completed, and builder contracted, the last few months has involved us working on the design aspects of the church facility for MuKo. We've learned a bit over the last few decades in Japan, and are applying it to the function of this multipurpose house/church facility. But the process has taken more time and energy than expected.
We're getting closer! We still have 4 meetings to go with the architect. Each one is an exhaustive day of details and considerations. By evening, decision fatigue has pretty much set in and Kaori and I are ready to head home. Once home, we process the information, sleep on it, and think through the best way forward. I might draw a sketch of what we are thinking, then emails follow to the architect. And more adjustments to review.

The challenge is how to fit everything into the tiny footprint of 60sq. meters of land. After  perimeter setback, we have 430sq. feet for the building on the ground floor. Upper floors need to be even smaller. That's a good amount of space for Japan. But it's a design challenge if people need to gather in that space.

Still, we've committed to the original concept of 1st floor ministry space, and 2nd & 3rd floor living space. After many attempts and changes, and a little creativity, I am happy to say that it all fits into a cozy package!

It will be SMALL, but it will pack a BIG gospel punch in MuKo.
The unreached 120,000 of MuKo (99% without Christ) will finally have a cozy evangelical church witness in 2019.

The first floor church space will have a large open room for worship and outreach, galley kitchen, office area, shower stall, and toilet. This will serve as the new church incubation area. 25 people can easily sit for worship. When we grow beyond that (remember this is hard-to-reach Japan and it takes decades), we'll add service times to accommodate.

A staircase from the front entryway will lead up to our private living area: kitchen, bath, tiny living room and two small bedrooms. There is no sprawling basement, spare ensuite bedroom, man cave, screen porch, walk-in pantry, or two-car garage. In fact, our car will need to be parked offsite to maximize the land space for the facility. Bicycle parking only!

We're on track for late spring completion of all structure and design matters, and early summer start of construction, with completion this year. When done, we will move and begin ministry in Muko. Our vision for the MuKo church: A New Japan...Worshipping God

Our goal is to raise all funds by March 31, 2019. Then we can confidently start the April fiscal year completely funded in this project, and set an early summer date for construction to begin. For the cause of Christ in Japan, can you join with us at this time? We're getting closer!

See our website here for more information on this project, and for online or mail-in giving: