Grace and peace to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! And as always, thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter. The summer months have really come in with a bang here, and we’re excited to share about how God is working around us!
Some of the ministers gathered on the last day of the meeting.
Each year in June, the ministers across Japan meet for a preachers’ retreat. For several years, these retreats were held at a Christian camp in Nagano Prefecture. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this gathering has been held through Zoom for the past 3 years. It is possible that next year we may be able to do it again in person in Nagano, but we leave that in the hands of the Lord. Incidentally, the topic for this year was about what the church looks like in a post-corona world, and there was a lot of good discussions. Leslie was also invited to offer the closing message this year. He spoke on the life of the minister out of Paul’s departing address to the elders at Ephesus in Acts 20. Although we look forward to this retreat being held in person again, we’re grateful for the ability to gather with ministers across the country digitally.
Another big event for us here was the arrival of our sister Liucija from Lithuania. Liucija (pronounced Lu-tsi-ah) is the girlfriend of our new brother Matthieu. We were grateful to be able to pick her and Matthieu up at the airport when she arrived this month.
Liucija was raised with a solid Catholic background, but began seeking to know more for herself and ultimately was baptized at a Church of Christ in Lithuania about a year or so ago. In fact, that is the reason that Matthieu ended up showing up at the Matsudo church this past December! They met prior to the pandemic, and have been maintaining a long-distance relationship since they have been unable to visit each other, and she encouraged Matthieu to visit our church, which she found online. Isn’t that how discipleship works? Disciples point other people to Jesus! It’s really that simple, and it’s amazing to see how God is working all across the world at any given moment. These kinds of actions are direct answers to prayers that we as a family and as a church have been praying for. We’re so grateful to have a front-row seat to see the work the Lord is doing as he draws people to himself.
The arrival of Liucija has been exciting for several reasons. First of all, of course, we’re happy for her and Matthieu, as we know they are excited to be together again after so long. We’re excited to watch their relationship blossom further and ask for your prayers for them as they move forward. However, we’re also excited because we believe the Lord has brought her here for spiritual fruit.
Materials we use for our home DBS with Liucija. These materials come from the North Boulevard Church of Christ in Tennessee.
After she got settled in, we invited Liucija to come over to our house to do Discovery Bible Studies together. We may have mentioned this before, but Discovery Bible Study (DBS) is a simple and reproducible way of studying the Bible with people. DBS is prepared for Christians at almost any level to facilitate and is built around the express idea of making disciples. These studies are built more for small gatherings at home or in other more intimate settings. During these studies, we share our lives together from a spiritual perspective, and then discuss a simple passage together, emphasizing how the passage should change our lives and could impact others around us. The point of these studies is to discover God’s word and will for our lives, and then to put that knowledge into genuine practice, and share it with others. Because it’s so simple and personal, it provides a more comfortable environment in which to bring non-Christian friends.
We’re really excited to start these studies with Liucija, and so grateful for and impressed with her willingness to embrace a life of discipleship. Liucija is about 10-15 years younger than us, and that means she will have doors open to her that we won’t have. Please pray for Liucija as she adapts to life here in Japan, and please pray for these studies, that they will prove fruitful and give us opportunities to help others discover the joy of following Jesus together.
The first gathering of the English worship service at the Matsudo church. Small, but blessed with the Lord’s presence!
Another blessing with her arrival is the opportunity to start our English worship at Matsudo. This is something we have really wanted to do, but without more English speakers it wasn’t clear if it would be worth it. With Matthieu and Liucija now attending, we have decided to hold English worship services every 2nd and 4th Sunday. We are praying that this will be an opportunity to reach out to the foreign contingent of Matsudo and the surrounding cities. Our first service was greatly blessed. We were grateful to have some friends who normally attend the Ochanomizu church visit with us that day, so it was a wonderful start to this new ministry. Please be praying for us as we continue this service. We’d ask prayers that we’ll be able to get the word out to those who are searching and that this will ultimately be a tool to make more disciples of Jesus, and show those around us the unity possible in God’s kingdom.
As you can see, it’s been a busy month of June! But we are so thankful to see ministries shaping up and opportunities to make disciples being created. God is good!
To quote the infomercials – “but that’s not all!”
Click on the image to listen to episodes online.
First, we’d like to let you know about a new podcast Leslie is doing. We wanted to keep up our Taylors In Japan podcast, but it’s been a challenge for Leslie and Sara to sit down and make these happen together for various reasons. So, Leslie is going to be doing a separate podcast called “Notes From The Field.” The name really explains what it is about – in this podcast, Leslie will share various thoughts from the mission field here in Japan. Many of the topics will be related to working as a missionary here, but there may be other discussions along the way as well. You can listen using the links below:
As many of you know, our family has been part of a tennis school here in Matsudo very near the church building and not far from home either. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to stay active and healthy, and great to have something we all enjoy as a family. But, that’s not the only reason we joined – a big reason was to find opportunities to connect with people in the community in a natural setting. It’s taken some time, but we’ve begun to see some fruit from that investment.
Just this past week, a classmate/fellow player at the school invited Leslie to come to play doubles with him and some other people on Monday afternoon. Usually, Mondays are taken up by sermon preparation, but knowing this was a huge opportunity to build relationships, Leslie gladly accepted, and it looks like this is something he will continue to be able to participate in for the foreseeable future. In addition to that, just that week Leslie randomly came into connection with another foreigner who plays tennis in Kashiwa, the next town up from Matsudo and also where one of the Matsudo church members lives. These are exactly the kinds of things we have been praying for, and to have others reach out on their own is such a joy! God hears our prayers as we seek to be fruitful! We’re excited to see if God will bless some of these connections. Please be praying that he will. We truly want all of our lives to bring glory to God and to be used to make disciples. Please pray for Leslie to have opportunities to do just that.
A Note From Sara
Before we close out, we wanted to share with you about the work Sara has been doing with the Sunday morning English Bible class for children. This has been a great opportunity, and we’re excited to share about how God has been working through this.
Corrie ten Boom told a story from her childhood about being afraid that she wouldn’t be strong enough to bear it when her father would someday die. She recollected: “Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently, ‘when you and I go to Amsterdam—when do I give you your ticket?’ I sniffed a few times, considering this. ‘Why, just before we get on the train.’ ‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.’
I am not a teacher. I’m not even a natural kid person. When I was in college, I had the grand idea to follow in my mother and grandmother’s footsteps and become a teacher, primarily because I couldn’t bear the idea of life without summer vacations. I lasted one semester in the education program before I changed majors. I am paralyzingly self-conscious and have a major case of impostor syndrome in everything that I do.
So it wasn’t a big surprise to me when I burst into spontaneous tears no fewer than five times in the days leading up to my inaugural Kids’ Bible Class, or when I couldn’t hold back a quick-but-frantic cry in the bathroom thirty minutes before people were supposed to arrive.
“Sara,” you might be thinking, “why in the world did you decide to lead a Bible class?” It’s a good question. You could ask the same why our family decided to move to Japan, and the answer would be the same: Because we believe that it is what God wants us to do. (And if we’re not doing what He wants us to do, what are we even doing?)
Over the past seven months of our Kids’ Bible Class, that story from Corrie has been ringing in my ears. “Our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. … When the time comes… you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”
This is what I’ve witnessed Him doing within me in this Bible class. Ellie Holcomb put it well when she sang, “where He leads us to go, there’s a Red Sea Road.” I am a spiritual Israelite, following God but so easily distracted by fears and worry and a desire for comfort, and He proves over and over that He will provide what I need when I need it as I follow Him in faith.
I survived that first class. And God gave me the ability to teach, the ability to connect with children and their families, the ability to be creative. And I cried again, because the entire time we were here on the field last time, I felt like an impostor, focusing all of my time on raising my own small children and barely passing as a missionary, but now, on this side of things, I see how God has been asking me to be patient for the past thirteen years and to trust Him, and how that time has been spent preparing me for when He would ultimately give me more to carry.
He has brought people to us. We prayed, and you prayed, that He would send people who are seeking Him, even if they don’t realize that they are. Right now, we have four families who attend nearly every week. Two dads who come at least half of the time and joyfully participate. Moms who are interested to know the stories that I share. A couple of weeks ago, they all had other plans and couldn’t make it, and were adamant about telling me that they love the class and didn’t want me to doubt that because they couldn’t come for one week. Earlier this month, one of the families came over for dinner with our family. I am so thankful.
Counting these precious “sheep.”
Over the last month, I have been teaching the kids the parable of the lost sheep. For some reason, it has been heavy on my heart to emphasize this parable to them, so we’ve done stories, we’ve done pictures, we’ve done scavenger hunts for lost sheep, and we’ve done a live-action play of it. It has moved me so much to plant this story in the kids’ hearts. I don’t know why I feel so strongly about it, but I do know that life as an adult in Japan can feel very isolated sometimes, and so I wonder if one of these kids will someday come to need this story that was planted in their heart at age five, or if one of their parents needs it now. As Aslan says in C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.” But just today, a friend from high school, who my family used to bring to church, told me that—twenty years later—she still sings church songs when she’s looking for something to sing. My prayer is that the stories I’m telling these kids now will stay in their hearts, so that when they someday feel lonely or desperate or lost or unloved, they will know that there is One who knows them, cares for them, sees them, and loves them.
Thank you all for your continued support of this class. If you would ever like to know more about it, I would love to tell you more. There are details and names that I would love to share personally but don’t feel right sharing through our newsletter, so please don’t hesitate to ask about it.
As you remember our work in prayer as we head into the summer, here are some things we would love for you to remember:
- Cambria and Madeleine, as they continue to grow as disciples of Jesus
- Liucija, as she continues to adapt to life in Japan, and for her and Matthieu both as they continue their relationship in person
- Our DBS study, that we will find others who will join us in discovering God’s word and the life of Jesus discipleship
- The English worship service to bless the English-speaking community, and to grow so as to be more fruitful
- Sara, as she continues to engage with people in our community
- Gratitude for opportunities for Leslie, and for him as he engages in these, that they might be fruitful
- Continued success and fruitfulness with the Kids’ English Bible Class
- That the COVID situation in Japan will continue to improve and we will be able to extend our work further at Matsudo
- Some specific names you can pray for: Matthieu, Liucija, Tomoko, Kawakami family, Kobayashi family, Mr. Gotou, Fujita family, Ebata family, Toyoda family, Shirouzu family, friends of our children, coaches and staff at tennis
Miscellaneous images from June:
Looking out over downtown Matsudo in the vening. This image represents probably at least 10,000 peopl, and possibly closer to 20-30,00. This area is only about 10 minutes by bike and 20 minutes walking from the church building.
A Fathers’ Day photo of Leslie and the kids.