Hawi and Preston Winowiski are two high school students living in Northern Wisconsin. They are planning on coming with Joe and I on our mission trip this year! Please check out their information on the website. You can find it in the Our Testimonies Page. Additionally, our Support Us! page has been updated.
Hello everyone!! We are back from our hiatus! The website has been given a lot of updates so make sure you go back and look it over!
And yes, we are going to Japan again! This year we will have our now 6 month old son Hezekiah in tow. And we are also adding two additional members to our team, Preston and Hawi! Their information will be put up on the website later on, that way you can get to know them and be praying for them as well.
This year our trip will be from July 29 until August 14. It's another two week trip and we will be visiting Shingu Christ Baptist Church as well as multiple churches in the Tokyo area. Finishing our trip, as usual, with the Futakotamagawa Kids Camp!
We will have support letters out soon, if you're following us and are interested but have not received a letter please e-mail Joe or myself and we will send you one as soon as we can.
As of right now we have our schedule outlined of who we will be serving and where. We are also starting to receive finer details of what we will be preaching on. This year it looks like Joe and I will get to share our marriage testimony with some of the adults in a Tokyo church! This is really exciting for Joe and I because we know that marriage and intimacy is a real struggle in Japan right now and God has really blessed us with an amazing journey that I believe could really resonate with some of the people there.
God continues to call us to serve the churches of Japan we ask that you continue to pray for the readying of their hearts and spirits as we prepare. We would also like prayer for our own spiritual journeys. May God continue to make our paths prosperous and straight.
It's hard to believe that we got back from Japan just 3 weeks ago. We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the second half of our ministry.
Our 5.5 hour train ride to Tokyo proved to be a much needed reset for Felicia and myself after the craziness which was ministry in Shingu. We used this time to finish planning our bible studies, sermons, worship, for the last half of our trip. Now getting on that train was a rather close call. Everything was going according to plan as we attempted to pick up our tickets in Shingu when we realized that Kinoshita had left his credit card at home which we used to reserve/pay for our train. We stayed at the station with our luggage as he ran home to get the card. As the train approached the terminal, so did Kinoshita who tried expedite our tickets. Meanwhile three ladies from the church who came to see us off started running with Felicia to catch the train. The separation was concerning, we still had no tickets, and the guards told me to run for the train too, which was a few flights of stairs away. Ultimately, Felicia and I had one foot on the train as Kinoshita ran us our tickets which we would need for the trip. It was a very sweaty, brief, and exhaustive goodbye. =D
And thus our Tokyo adventure began. We met Kishio Sensei at the Tokyo Station. He is the pastor of a small 3 person church in Niiza. He has done a lot of work to get a cancer ministry off the ground as well. This if for people who are recovering from cancer and it builds relationships with the community. We got to explore a bit of Tokyo with Kishio going to the top of Tokyo Tower which is similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and we also visited Odaikyu which has a giant gundam (Fighting Robot) stature which is 6 stories tall.
The next day we started our Niiza ministry with a English Bible study. The fun and terrible thing about missions work in Japan is that you have to be very focused on your target, but incredibly agile/flexible about how God leads you there. We had prepared a great bible study for English speakers with small pieces of scripture that we could talk too. Three attendees arrived: a young member of the church, an older christian from another church, and a older woman who went to a christian college but did not know Christ. All with limited English skill, and Pastor Kishio had to be at work, so we were on our own with Jesus. Thus as we moved through the bible study, we could tell translation wasn't cutting it, so we adjusted our content. Instead of describing Jesus's compassion and healing from two sentence verses, we had them read through the entire woman at the well story, the healing of Lazarus, and the woman who suffered from bleeding who reached out and touched Jesus's cloak. Overall we were really able to connect with the tree of them, and better yet they were able to connect with each other too.
Later that day we got to meet with Deura Sensei for dinner. Deura is a Japanese English professor who helped us minister to college students on behalf of Niiza church last year at a Buddhist University. While not a christian, he is very open to discussions about God and politics. He was very fascinated about the topic of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Kishio has continued to try to build positive relations with Deura because he is very influential leader of the community. Japanese culture is very hierarchical, so if he found Christ, the impact could be huge. During dinner we had many discussions about differences between Catholicism, the protestant church, Buddhism, Shintoism, Jehovah Witnesses, and Mormons. We also discussed evolution vs creationism vs gradual creationism. It ended up being a 3 hour dinner, and it built very strong connections. Its amazing how God can move through simple encounters/fellowship.
The next day we lead a bible study with Tamagawa Church with is a 20 person church lead by Fukui Sensei. this is one of the healthier churches that we get to work with, and it always exciting to equip the congregations with practical tools which they can use in their own ministries. During the bible study we met a young woman named Kai Nakagawa who is a masters student in teaching. She has really been seeking God's purpose in her life, but was not yet a christian. Fukui told us that she would be able to help us translate during the 3 days kids camp.
As some of you know many children came to know Christ and be baptized during last year's 3 day kids camp. Going into this trip Kishio let us know that there were many knew kids, and that it was unlikely that we would have the same kind of alter call response. Never the less, we continued to pray with the expectation that God would move through us in a big way.
The pastors were very strategic this year about making sure the kids were practicing English, so they actually gave each child a recorder so that they could record conversational english as well as bilingual worship music so that they could spread their ministry to the parents as well. Additionally we made curry over a campfire, dragged kids through the pool, played worship songs, preached three times, played English and bible games, and shared our personal testimony.
As Kishio began the alter call we were shocked to see two children and Kai Nakagawa commit their lives to Christ and want to be baptized. It was absolutely amazing. We have continued to stay in touch with Kai and she is really moving forward in her faith aggressively. She's experienced so much healing and purpose in her life because of Jesus. Continue to pray for here and the other children as they learn how to walk out their faith.
Over all God has done amazing things through our ministry in Japan. Pastors have been equipped, communities are connecting with the local church, and people are meeting Jesus.
God is already laying out plans for our next trip which we will share in our next blog. Thank you for your continued support of this ministry, it is definitely yielding fruit.
"For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
God has been so strategic with our ministries is in Shingu. Prior to our first trip to Japan our pastor in Urbana Illinois told us, "Do not over estimate what you can do in a short period of time, but do not under estimate what God can do over a long period of time." Our ministry in Shingu can best be described as a sprint. Every moment of every day was about being a touch point between the people of Shingu and Jesus, using the simple talents God has blessed us with.
Mornings started with KCEC (Kid's Church English Club) In which Felicia lead various English activities for 12 children ages 5-12 and their parents. This was a secular three day blitz to get parents comfortable with their children being taught by Felicia and I. We created many positive relationships with the children and their parents, which lead to eight children being enrolled in our KCEC 3 day kids camp to have fun and learn about Jesus.
We also held 6 adult English Cafes, with a total of 12 different attendees. The Holy Spirit gave us boldness during these conversations to explain why we came to Japan as missionaries, and we were able to get people plugged in with Kinoshita Sensei because of his great English skills. This is huge as it opens up future opportunities for bible studies. We also used these sessions to invite adults to our Mexican Food Cooking Class.
There are very few opportunities for the Japanese to experience authentic Mexican food, especially in rural areas such as Shingu. Thus, the concept of a Taco cooking class created a lot of positive attention in the community. We had 16 people come to this cooking class where we made tortillas, taco meat, salsa, and guacamole from scratch. This was another great way to get the community comfortable with the concept of entering a church building. It was also fantastic getting to teach the church members how to make one of our favorite meals, as they have extended us great hospitality during our time in Shingu.
Another great experience was staying at Keiko's house, and also at Masako's inlaw's home. Kinoshita's church was originally a handful of elderly woman. Now Keiko and Masako who are young women with children are serving at church and inviting many of their friends to the different events. Yet in Japan, church is consider for the elderly, weak, children, and housewives. Men do not participate. Staying with Keiko and Masako's inlaws gave us the opportunity to minister to Keiko's husband and well as Masako's husband's parents. Please pray for God to continue to do work in their lives.
The climax of our time in Shingu was the KCEC 3 day kids camp. We continued to build upon our English activities by pretending that the children were visiting Felicia and I in America. Kinoshita scripted out English for: boarding an airplane, US customs, shopping at a mall, shopping at a grocery store, attending worship at a US church, and then flying back to Japan. The kids loved it! We also went to the pool, did fireworks, and played with balloons of course.
The theme of our bible games and sermons that Felicia mainly put together was "you are special to God". We began by establishing that the creator God, is above all other gods, and cares deeply for you. We then discussed how sin has divided us from a perfect God, but because of his love for us he sent his son to die on a cross to bring us back into his presence. We finished by explaining the five steps to becoming more like Jesus:
God continues to show us his heart for remote people groups such as the Japanese. Kinoshita sensei sold us that to many Japan is a "missionary's graveyard". That since WWII many have tried and "failed" to plant thriving churches. This culture is so closed off to Jesus, and yet we've continued to see his love break through little by little. Felicia and I brought the little we had: speaking English, cooking food, and throwing kids in a pool, and yet Jesus multiplies these humble offerings. He is building his kingdom in Japan and it is an absolute honor to lay down bricks in Japan one interaction at a time.
Tomorrow we head to Tokyo for another week long sprint of ministry. We will be leading an English bible study at Niiza and Tamagawa church, and then its off to Tamagawa's three day kid's camp where we are the keynote speakers.
Thank you for being a vital part of ministry through your prayer and support!
Joe and Felicia
While it was a rough ride to find our hotel in Osaka, we had an amazing first night in Japan. I did wake up at 2:30 am, 3:15 am, 4:00 am, and finally got out of bed at 5:00 am because of Jet Lag. Felicia elected to sleep in until 6:00am. We had a very busy day in Osaka planned as this was our only "vacation" day in Japan this time along.
After of 36 hours of travel we have been blow away by God's faithfulness concerning this trip! Here's a quick summary of our travels thus far.
First off we were able to able to raise $1520 out of our goal of $5200 which has been a great start. God blessed us with just enough cash to convert into yen for food and ground travel while we're here. Then we'll start paying off the airfare of $3500 when we return from the trip with additional funds.
Our first flight from Cincinnati CVG to Washington was delayed because the temperature inside the cabin rose to an unbearable temperature. The captain told us the flight crew was very understaffed and he wasn't sure when we would take off. We only had a 1 hr 6 min layover in Washington before our flight to Tokyo "Narita" so naturally we were a bit concerned. We immediately turned to prayer and had peace that things would work out whether the repairs took 3 hours or 5 minutes. Almost immediately a very intense maintenance member arrived, who sprinted from the engine to the cockpit about 3 times and fixed the problem in about 25 minutes.
Upon landing in Washington Felicia and I had 20 minutes to run from one terminal to a shuttle bus to run to the other side of another terminal. Felicia and I were literately sprinting up and down stairs with luggage for 18 minutes across the whole airport. We were one of the last people to make our plane, but God didn't let us miss the 13 hour flight to Narita. Once our plane was on the runway our pilot told us that we were over loaded and that we had to return to the terminal to drop 5000lbs of cargo. Fear loves to manifest itself in uncertainty and the though of going the whole trip without our checked bag containing all our clothes, as well as my checked ovation acoustic guitar was quite concerning. So again we prayed. We knew that without God at the center of this trip nothing would work, with or without a guitar. After dropping the cargo we embarked on a 13 hour flight and trusted that we would have everything we need in Japan. This was so fitting, as we began our sermon preparations about God calling and providing for Abram. It takes faith to hold onto God's promises.
God provided for the baby and Felicia during the flight as well. Prior to the trip Felicia was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and she was also examined for blood clots in her legs. She wore compression socks and walked around every hour and she actually had a pain free flight.
Upon landing in Narita we were greeted by our luggage and guitar, which we then checked onto our final 1 hr 15 min flight from Narita to Osaka. Besides being ridiculously tired and hungry, we were able to arrive in Osaka around 7pm on Saturday. We then traveled by 3 different trains to reach Morinomiya station which is near a castle.
Felicia had the wonderful idea to finally take a taxi to our Airbnb location. The taxi drive had a lot of difficulty taking us to the proposed location and dropped us off in roughly the right location at 10:30pm. Would we ever find somewhere to sleep, again we prayed. I walked up to the wrong building that the taxi drive pointed to and looked in the mailbox for our room key...of course no were to be found. A man living in the apartment unit came out, recognizing that we were lost.
Recognizing that he didn't speak English I said "dokonidesuka?" while pointing at the address to ask him "where is this". Making the same confused face as our taxi driver, he ran inside to get his cell phone and pulled up google maps. This was a gift from God as we found out in the airport that neither of our phones would work while in Japan. He then walked a block and a half to our actual Airbnb apartment. The kindness was utterly shocking to me.
So in conclusion, I know God is in this trip. Lives are going to be changed, and we are supposed to be here.
If you want to support us in prayer here's our schedule:
Today we'll connect with a friend from college named Koki to explore Osaka city.
Tomorrow we will take a 5 hour train to Shingu and do ministry there for a week.
Next week we will be doing ministry in Tokyo at both Niza church and Tamagawa kid's camp and then we will fly back August 7th!
A huge thank you to everyone who has been patiently waiting for an update. I know it's been too long since our last posting so thank you for waiting it out.
Joe and I have been busy bustling around to prenatal appointments, wedding festivities and various other commitments that have left us wondering where all the time has gone. Yet here we are at T-minus 14 days until we head off on our second trip to Japan!
Since we've started planning our trip and have sent out some announcements about funding we've been given about $920 dollars out of our $5200 that we need for our trip to be fully funded. Considering we got started a little late in our fundraising Joe and I take this as a major blessing. We feel incredibly grateful to those of you who have been actively supporting us through prayer or finances. We thank God for you and your continued faithfulness.
We have kept up our continued contact with a the pastors that we will be working with while in Japan. The main aspect of our ministry this time around will be leading 2 different vacation bible camps for children. As well as doing various community outreach projects like getting to know community leaders and passing out flyers that explain what Christian church is all about. We will also talk with teens and adults in various English ministries.
Please continue to pray for our finances as we get closer to Japan, being fully funded would take some serious financial strain off of Joe and I. In addition to this please pray for our health and wellness. While we haven't had any serious complications and we know that God does not have a place for worry and anxiety in His kingdom but being human and imperfect it is still hard for us at times to walk freely in His grace. Pray additionally that God will grace us with His divine presence as we sit down this week and the next to write out and plan a sermon about how Jesus is our Lord and Savior as well as some activities that relate to a camps theme of Relying fully on God,
We are also working on translating some common English expressions that teens and children say to each other in America so that the kids can practice saying them during the camp,
Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. We really appreciate the generous support that you all have given us.
Thank you to everyone who has remained supportive of our missions field in Japan. We are excited to announce that we have received a layout for our new trip. This trip will be 2 weeks long and a concentrated effort will be put on the 4 main churches that we previously visited. We will see Shingu Christ Baptist Church in Wakayama as well as Tamagawa, NiizShiki and Machida Kanai Church in Tokyo.
Our purpose for this mission trip will be very similar to our previous one. We will be leading Children's Camps, teaching English conversational classes for adults and children, as well as some worship leading and sermon preaching.
As for some life updates:
This week Joe and I are going on a family vacation to Florida for some well needed and deserved relaxation time. We will be staying for around 10 days in a friends home. Hopefully we will return feeling revived and rejuvenated.
Joe and I have some big news. We are expecting to have a baby at the end of October! I will be traveling to Japan during this pregnancy and I'm excited to share my experience with the ladies at the various churches. I know that this mission trip and the pregnancy occurred within the same timeline for a reason.
Joe has been working very hard at his job with Johnson and Johnson and is now a design engineer working on making surgical devices for robots.
Thanks again for those of you who have continued to keep track of our journey with the Japanese churches.
For those of you that are interested in supporting Joe and I on our journey please continue to explore our website. It has been completely updated with new information. Additionally, if you are interested in supporting financially or through prayer then click on our 'Support Us!' tab where you can get information on how to give through prayer and finances.
Thank you for your interest and I hope to be updating more often now that we have an itinerary.
As you may have guessed by the title of this new blog post, Joe and I are planning on returning to Japan! It is certainly a new chapter for us as we have now almost spent 5 months away from Japan. We have started many new adventures like getting re-established in Cincinnati, making new friends, rekindling old friendships and working a full-time job. And we took some even bigger steps as well, thanks to God's calling, we've also been approved for Safe Families.<- click for more info. And we are also starting foster care training at the start of this month.
Back to Japan, Joe and I have started to gather new information about the various needs in the Japanese churches. We are collaborating with the pastors to see what time-frames work for everyone. In addition to this we have been in contact with a few people that are interested in doing missions with us. Which means we may be taking a group of about 6 people, which is super exciting. We are so blessed that God has put the right people in our lives to make this become more than just a one-time thing AND that God has also called others to share the experience with us, hopefully, that is. :)
The website will be updated as more information is passed along, know now that it will most likely be a 1 week to 2 week trip depending on the time availability for both us, the churches and the members that decide to venture with us.
We have be in consistent contact with the churches, in fact we've received multiple Christmas cards and care packages from the different churches we were at. Which was very humbling to say the least, its so nice to know that your work is appreciated and that you've made an impact on people's lives. Additionally, we've been made aware that TWO of the children that committed to get baptized over the summer have actually done so! We even got to see a video of it!! So cool! Jesus is giving life all over the world, and it's just begun for these two young men.
And as always I will end with some pictures. I made two collages out of all the pictures I took in Japan. I also took some pictures of the tea bowls we bought while in Kyoto and of a care package that was sent to us. Enjoy!
First, the need.
So here we are. Blogging on our last official day in Japan. Tomorrow we get on a plane and arrive in America, While I have so much to say about the last few days we've had here I find myself at a loss for words. Before I talk about the amazing things that God has in our last week here in Japan I want to communicate with you some of the feelings I have developed over my eight weeks here in the missions field of Japan. First, the Japanese people are the most kind, patient and passionate people I've ever met. I consider it a true honor,privilege and blessing to be able to work along side them for these past two months. Japan is not your normal missions field. You are trying to reach a people who are already deeply spiritual. The norm in Japan is having a living wage, a good education and being aware of your social and cultural surroundings. Because of this, Japan is not a place that you originally think of when you think of countries that are in need of missionaries. But, from what I've witnessed on the trains of Tokyo and heard from pastors in the field Japan is a country in dire need of support. The kind of support that can only be given through the Creator God. The Japanese have a habit of literally working themselves to death. They relentlessly pursue perfection, and when they cannot realize it they give in to catastrophic decisions. And even though Japan a spiritually conscious culture they lack the grace and forgiveness that Jesus can give them. Japan needs missionaries that love their people and the country. They are a people desperate for the love of Jesus.
When we left Shingu in Wakayama we took off to go see our friend Koki from college. It was an incredible reunion. We had two days and three nights there. Koki met us at the train station and escorted us to our hotel. We chatted briefly and exchanged LINE accounts. We talked about some places we wanted to visit. Koki already had the whole day planed for us! Which was a blessing because Joe and I were already feeling kind of wiped out from the traveling. Koki was the best tour guide ever, he thought of everything. He made sure we were well taken care of and made sure that we could get around by ourselves once he was gone at work. In Kyoto we visited multiple temples and shrine as well as touristy shops :). The one thing that Joe and I were sure that we wanted was a tea set. for those of you that don't know we've been taking online courses while here in Japan and one was on Chado meaning 'the way of tea' in Japanese. We were trained on how to perform chado and all of the proper procedures so were really felt like we should get a set, that way we could perform chado for our friends and family. Koki made sure we went to a good reliable shop that wasn't too expensive. Kyoto was also very hot, probably the hottest place we've ever experienced. Everyone was drenched in sweat and exhausted by the end of the day! The next day Joe and I were on our own. We set out for Kinkakugi and the International Museum of Manga. We spent three hours in the museum looking at various manga.Our favorite one was called Barefoot Gen it was in a way a documentary about the A-Bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It was a heart-wrenching story and I think I'll look for the rest of the series when I'm states side.
And now the Icing...
After a short break in Kyoto we heading to Tamagawa for a Youth Camp. Our job for this camp was a combination of being a youth leader as well as being a special guest speaker. We spent three days with 28 children. The theme was coming out of your shell. We preached three times and each time we talked about different figures in the Bible and how God helped them come out of their shell. This is really a symbol for dieing to your old self and becoming someone new, and for a lot of children it meant facing fears or trying to change for the better. While at camp we were encouraged to make the children speak English with us. We were given stickers and every time a child spoke English with us we were supposed to give them a sticker. The children with the most stickers would earn a prize at the end. It was amazing to see them practice their English skills with us. One child thought it was so cool that we both didn't like tomatoes! We were basically best friends after that :) Joe was out in a small group with elementary school boys along with Pastor Kishio from Niiza church. We have some adorable photos of them hanging out together in small group. Joe was a perfect match for that group of boys. When we had swimming time we lovingly hauled all of them around on pool noodles for the whole hour and a half.
Something that was really cool for Joe and I was that we met another missionary couple (Naoko and Gary) while at the camp. They are a couple of years older than us but we really blended well. Gary is from England and Naoko is from Japan. They were actually married on the same day we were! We are hoping to maintain a connection with them as we seek future opportunities in Japan.
Our last sermon of the camp was a special one. We performed an alter call. We asked students three questions and they responded with their heads bowed, raising their hands in the air. Overall, we had 14 students respond. Nine students at the Tamagawa youth camp made the decision to accept Jesus into their heart! Five students made decisions to get baptized! This was the absolute best way to end our ministry in Japan. we got to witness the actual fruit of God. How amazing! At the end of the night we had a meeting with all the children that made these commitments. Joe and I were asked to speak after they all shared their reasoning for making their commitments. I told the children that it was customary for Americans to cheer and celebrate when people decide to make a commitment to follow Jesus. On the count of three we cheered and clapped for our new found family members. Their faces were all brightened with smiles. What an incredible experience. This is truly a yay God moment.
For those of you that don't know, less than 1 percent of Japanese people are Christians. LESS THAN ONE PERCENT! And these children are deciding to go against their culture and believe in the one true God! They have a long journey ahead of them for sure. Joe and I will continue to pray that they continue to grow in their faith and love for Jesus.
As happy as this moment was for us their is also something bittersweet about it. That night we took a picture with all the children that made various commitments but we aren't allowed to share it on the website, nor am I allowed to publish their names. This is not allowed because Christianity has a stained reputation in Japan. It is not normal to be Christian, and what it not normal is meant to be avoided. Christianity has also had its fair share of extremism in Japan, cults have formed on the basis of incredibly skewed bible passages and the work of these cults has results in recent massacres leading the Japanese people into a distrust of the religion. It is because of this that we will not be posting that special picture we took. If you are a part of Faith Church in Grayslake and attend their service there when we speak on a ministry update then you will get the opportunity to see the faces of these amazing children.
We will most likely post one or two more times after this. Joe and I are looking forward to uploading videos that we took throughout the trip and sermons that we wrote. As well as some next steps for us and future missionaries in Japan.
Lastly, Pictures of course!
1. Joe Isosaki
Our family is called to serve churches in the Tokyo, Japan and Shingu, Japan areas.
Joe will be leading contemporary worship services and Felicia will be leading and developing conversational English clubs and camps for Japanese adults and children.
Together we strive to glorify God with our gifts and talents and well as preach the good news.
This is our THIRD trip to Japan!
Meet Hawi and Preston Winowiski! This year will be their first mission trip to Japan. These two high school students are excited and eager to serve the students and children of Japan.