This past Tuesday, September 10, marked the halfway point of this trip. Over the past five weeks, we have worshiped with six congregations from as far north as Hachinohe, Aomori, and as far southwest as Kojima, Okayama. Most of the time in between has been dedicated to studying and lesson preparation. We were asked to cover three Sundays at Tachikawa at the end of the trip so our usual schedule of travel was moved to the first part of the trip.
Our first Sunday we worshiped with the Yokota military congregation in the morning and the Yokota Japanese congregation in the afternoon. Both congregations use the same building.
The following Sunday we traveled to Shirosato, Ibaraki, to worship with the congregation which meets there. Jim and Noriko Holmes started the congregation in this area. Sixteen gathered to worship. One member was overcome by the heat during worship which disrupted things a bit. This congregation usually has a question and answer time following the sermon. We shared a meal together with good fellowship.
The Ochanomizu church’s Hakone Bible Camp is always a great opportunity to get out of Tokyo. The theme this year was “The Lord’s Challenge” centering on 2 Corinthians 4:16. This congregation is in the midst of reaffirming and appointing elders. I spoke on terms used in the New Testament for elders and the work of elders implied by those terms. There was another lesson on the church’s response to the elderly and a lesson on the history of two missionary women. There were good times for fellowship and discussion.
On the last day of camp, we worshiped with the Numazu church. This has become a tradition at the end of camp. It is a great time to encourage that congregation and to renew friendships. Following worship brother and sister Takahashi took us to see the gravesite of Sarah Andrews. She worked as a missionary in Japan from 1916 to 1961. The gravesite has deteriorated over the past 70 years. I was investigating for her nephew who wanted to help restore the site.
On our rail pass, we went to worship with the Kojima church in Okayama Prefecture. This is a church plant by Brent and Sandy Rogers. Brent died two years ago and Sandy has continued to minister in the area. They have run an English school there for over twenty-five years and endeavored to plant a church there. Twelve attended the worship assembly. I spoke from Exodus 34:6-7.
On the second Sunday on our rail pass, we went to Hachinohe in Aomori Prefecture. We have made it a point to visit the congregation each year since we were invited to speak on one of their retreats many years ago. This is a “remote outpost” because it is some distance from where churches of Christ are concentrated further south around Tokyo and Ibaraki.
In between these times, we have been preparing for future lessons. Josephine has worked on the lesson she will give at Ochanomizu, the ladies’ day in Ibaraki, and Tachikawa. I’ve worked on lessons from Galatians as well as lessons on elders. These are days glued to a chair reading, writing, praying, and thinking about ways to share Christ. The last five weeks of the trip will be filled with Thursday classes, Wednesday classes, a house church meeting, worship with the Tomobe church, the thirtieth anniversary Japan School of Evangelism lectureship, JSE teachers’ meeting, Sundays with the Tachikawa church, and a Shizuoka area church retreat. We are scheduled to return to Memphis on October 16.
Thanks to everyone for your words of encouragement and for the opportunity given to us to minister in this way.