How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
The first half of our trip has been incredible. God has consistently moved throughout our trip, and I (Joe) will attempt to summarize the craziness that has been Japan 4.0. Also a quick note, we have been without internet during our entire Tokyo ministry, so this "catch up" blog will be a little dense. Thus I have added a couple pictures too keep you engaged. =D
Getting to Japan - Days 1 & 2
Another blessing of this flight arrangement, was that 1/3 of the passengers changed their flight arrangements. This allowed Hezekiah to have his own seat for the 12 hour flight, and he slept about 9 hours on the flight. It was a huge blessing for us, and an unexpected answer to prayers.
Finally, Hezekiah ended up loving his "pack" pictured above. He has toured all of Tokyo in it, and has taken many a naps in it. =D
We also had the blessing of staying together as one big family in a traditional Japanese home.
The Power of Testimonies - Days 3 & 10
Its amazing how people can experience God's love, through a testimony. Many women approached Lily and thanked her for sharing her bold testimony. Additionally Brandon's testimony really resonated with a teenager at Niiza church, who was encouraged that Brandon was able to find Christ while following in the footsteps of his Christian mother.
My favorite part of this fellowship, was being able to invest in Tamagawa's worship team. It has taken four years to build this team, and God is giving this team a passion for intimate worship. We learned "Jesus Paid it All" by Kristin Stanfill, and I taught them many more songs. Please pray for this young worship team, as I try to mentor them throughout the year via Facebook.
Meeting Tangible Needs in the Community - Days 4 & 6
At Niiza we broke into two groups. Preston, Lily, and Brandon led English activities with two high school students, while Felicia and I led an English Cafe with three adults. Niiza is still building its reputation in the local community, so this was a huge victory for the kingdom. Additionally Deura Sensei, who is a Japanese English professor visited our ministry as well. We have been ministering to him for 4 years now, and we hope that he will be able to find Christ. He is a key influencer in the local community.
At Machida, we shared our testimonies with their congregation (5 elderly members). We also learned that Mr. Suzuki decided to accept Christ (a week prior to our arrival). Mr. suzuki has helped us with our Machida ministries over the past four years, but only his wife was a christian. Four over 19 years she has been ministering to him, so there is incredible joy in their church that he has crossed the line. Together we supported budonokodomo (which literally translates to "grape children" or children of the vine (vine being Jesus)"). Lily, Preston, and Brandon ran a mini bible game, and shared a short message with the kids. Meanwhile Felicia and I ministered to the elderly congregation. It was such a privelege to serve such a small (yet devoted) family of Christians. So humbling.
Experiencing Japanese Culture - Days 5, 10, and 12
My favorite part of exploring all these places, was that we were able to also minister to various members of the church while we were traveling. For instants, Toma (a member of Tamagawa church) explained how difficult it was to navigate the Buddhist and Shinto traditions woven into his schooling when he was a young Christian. He accepted Christ at an early age, and now in his late 20's he's still going strong. Many of the Christians we interact with feel vary isolated in their faith, and the fact that we are willing to go and minister to Japan, speaks volumes of God's love and faithfulness to them.
TamaYuriShiki Camp - Days 7, 8, and 9
God moved in a mighty way during this camp. Four students decided to take the next step in their spiritual journey: believing in God for the first time, accepting Jesus, and/or committing to water baptism. This was such a blessed camp, and pastor Fukui told us that attendance has doubled over the past four years of our ministry here. More children and parents are connecting with the church for the first time due to the practical English that is taught at this camp, as well as the opportunity of speaking with native English speakers from America.
Shingu Outreach - Days 12 and 13
Our first outreach was supporting an English lesson with games at Ido Nursery about an hour from Shingu. Pastor Kinoshita teaches English to 5 year olds at this daycare once a month. Our team helped the kids remember different animal names through a charades kind of game. See the pictures of kids pretending to be dinosaurs, snakes, cows, and more. =D
For our second day of outreach our team split into two groups. Felicia facilitated a mom's small group, while Lily planned for Shingu camp and watched Hezekiah. Brandon, Preston, and I attended a middle school basketball team's practice. God is so funny. Brandon, Preston, and myself have no natural talent at basketball, and yet God calls us to lead a basketball ministry. They did a great job adapting to the challenge. We broke into three English circles and practiced conversational English with the kids.
We finished with the greatest game of "steal the bacon" that has ever been played. We formed two teams, lined them up at the ends of each court, and numbered them 1-12. We placed the bacon (a basketball) between the two lines. When we called a number (in English), two kids would race to the ball and it became a 1 Vs 1 game until someone made a shot. For being out of our element, God knew exactly what English Basketball game would be a blessing to those kids and their coach. It was an amazing way to finish our outreach at Shingu.
More to Come - Days 14 through 18
Please pray for hearts to continue to be receptive to the gospel during our last five days in Japan. We are about to start our largest ministry in Shingu, a 4 day kids camp. Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead each member of our team, so that we can effectively minister to the Japanese. We will also be visiting our friend from college named Koki. Please pray that he will also have an open heart to the gospel during our time with him.
Thank you for all your prayers and financial support. You are a vital part of our ministries. If we didn't have friends and family holding the rope (state-side), we wouldn't be able to go into the pit (minister to Japan). I pray that Roman's 10:13-15 is an encouragement to you. If you have supported us, you have sent us to effectively share the gospel, and your prayers are softening hearts and lighting our path. Thank you for ministering with us.
More good news to come!