Taylor Report – April 29, 2022
Grace and peace to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! As we start this newsletter out, we want to begin by saying thank you. Thank you for caring about our family and the work in Japan, and for taking the time to read about it. Thank you for your support, both financially and spiritually. We are grateful to each one of you for reading this.
We pray that you all had a wonderful Easter. What a joy it is to have a risen Savior! It is through his life that we have life and hope. It is because he is alive from the dead that the church exists and that our family is in Japan doing this work. Jesus’ resurrection is the foundation of everything we are and do as Christians, and we’re so grateful for the opportunity for a special moment of remembrance that we can celebrate not just with other Christians, but even with non-Christians who may be uniquely open to listening to the Gospel message this time of year.
It still amazes us that this opportunity has reached as far as Japan. So many assumptions we make in the West don’t apply in Japan, but somehow Easter has broken through that barrier and opened a door. Perhaps it is only the commercialism surrounding days like Easter and Christmas that has opened the door, but if it requires pagan commercialism to open the door to the true life of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we praise God all the more for his grace and wisdom for making such things possible.
We are happy to report that our Easter worship at Matsudo went very well, with several visitors during worship. Two of the visitors were Mrs. Yamaya and Mrs. Aoki, who we mentioned previously, so we were very happy to have them join us once again. We ask for continued prayers for these two ladies, that the messages they have heard and fellowship they have experienced will continue to sink deep into their hearts and pull them towards the Savior. The other visitors were a connection through tennis. The mother (Kimie – Ki-mi-eh) works at the front desk at tennis and often talks to us. She, her husband, and their two young children attended. It was a bit difficult for the children (and thus for the parents), but we hope they felt the grace and love of the church even in the midst of that struggle. We are so grateful for a church that does not complain but embraces families and young children with patience and love.
In the afternoon after worship, we had our children’s Easter event, and that was very well attended! Along with a lot of children, we also had many parents, including several fathers. Sara taught the children the Easter story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and then afterward we had a fun egg hunt in the park across the street. It’s easy to overlook events like these, but we believe these are the very places where seeds are planted. Each egg is a memory for that child and the parents that shows the love of the church, with Jesus’ resurrection at the heart of it all. We pray that those seeds will bear fruit by the Lord’s power over the years to come.
Speaking of Easter, Leslie has another project in the works related to the resurrection of Jesus. We’ve mentioned before that Leslie is joining JSE (Japan School of Evangelism) as a teacher, and his first lessons have been scheduled for the first or second semester of next year. He will be assisting Brother Noguchi (one of the ministers at the Ochanomizu church) for part of his Systematic Theology class, focusing on a section on the resurrection of Jesus. Leslie has taught on the resurrection both here in Japan and in the U.S., and it has been a topic he has emphasized in his studies both during graduate school and since. Each class will require the same amount of work as nearly a month of sermons, so it’s a big undertaking just to teach 2 or 3 classes as part of a larger course. As you can imagine, Leslie is thankful to have almost a year to prepare! Placing the resurrection within the broader framework of Systematic Theology is an exciting and big task, particularly in Japanese, but that’s why JSE is such a blessing – it provides resources in Japanese that are rather scarce compared to what we have available in the U.S.
So much of the work we do here is hard to lay out in a newsletter. It’s easy to point to big events or particular projects, but there are so many encounters we have each week that are important. The vast majority of those are engaged by Sara. Because I (Leslie) am the minister at Matsudo, there’s a tendency to focus on my work in terms of the mission, but to be honest I think that is misleading. Sara and I are partners in the gospel, much like Priscilla and Aquila. Sara doesn’t just support me, she is a big part of our work on her own. A couple of recent encounters come to mind. For example, the reason our friend Kimie and her family attended our Easter worship is because of the connection with Sara. Also recently, a mother who has been struggling emotionally with life during the pandemic protocols reached out and asked Sara to meet her so she could pour out her heart to her. Then, just two days ago, another mother who we have a connection with through tennis came over because her family is moving to Kentucky soon and is very nervous about the move and everything it entails. As we have said many times, men here typically work long hours and their only days off are Sundays. For that reason, Leslie has few opportunities to build relationships. Sara is our family’s door to the community and thus to evangelism. The Easter event for children is good evidence of that. In many ways, I support Sara as much as she supports me. All that to say: please pray for Sara as she continues to engage, and remember our family in prayer as often as you can because it is in these unpredictable encounters that we believe God is most clearly working.
Speaking of the family moving to Kentucky (the Toyodas), we would also like to ask specific prayers for them and for us as we try to encourage them. If you’ve ever moved overseas, you know how overwhelming the whole process can be, especially when you have young children. It’s emotionally disruptive for everyone and can produce a lot of anxiety. But, we know a lot of Japanese Christians who became Christians during their time in the U.S. We would love to see that happen with this family, so we are doing what we can to plant seeds now. Please be praying that others will have opportunities to water when they arrive and that God will give the increase!
As the year goes on, we continue to hear good news about Japan heading into a post-corona phase. In addition to the lifting of the state of emergency, the government appears to be mulling allowing in tourists again, and even – surprisingly! – backing off the recommendation for masks in certain situations (e.g., outdoors at parks). We are grateful to hear these discussions in the air, as it gives us hope that some projects we’ve put on hold may be able to move forward soon, especially because it means we may be able to have people visit us here, as well as find it easier (or at least cheaper) to visit the States ourselves.
Regardless of what the future holds, our hope is most of all in the living Lord. Jesus is alive, and he is still working, regardless of viruses, mitigation measures, wars, or anything else. We are so grateful for his provision, and to have front row seats to the Spirit’s work here in Japan. We appreciate your prayers and support as we continue to seek to live in the Spirit’s power, by the grace of the Son, to the glory of the Father.
As you remember our work in prayer throughout 2022, here are some things we would love for you to remember:
- Prayers for interactions we will be having over the coming Japan holidays
- Prayers for Sara especially as she continues to engage with people in our community
- Prayers that God will provide Leslie with more opportunities to engage with men
- Prayers for continued success and fruitfulness with the Kids’ English Bible Class
- That God will continue to work at Matsudo regardless of the COVID situation
- That God will allow the pandemic to come to an end soon so things can open and get back to some kind of normalcy
- Some specific names you can pray for: Mrs. Aoki, Mrs. Yamaya, Matthieu, Tomoko, Kawakami family, Kobayashi family, Mr. Gotou, Fujita family, Ebata family, Toyoda family, Shirouzu family, friends of our children, coaches and staff at the tennis club