My friends, Niumaia (member of Taga church) and Rachel (who has been staying with me), wanted to get married by the pond by my house. The State of Emergency in Tokyo (where most of her friends live!) and rain prevented that plan. Anyway five of us enjoyed the tiny wedding in my house. Her father in England performed the ceremony on Zoom. She’s still hoping to have a ceremony with guests this fall. We shall see.
The vaccination campaign is off to a very slow start. Japan didn’t get any vaccine until March. I don’t think all the medical workers have received it yet. The city government sent packets of information to the seniors with the warning not to call for an appointment until told to, at least until the end of May. I guess it’s good, in a way. They are giving the vaccine to the hardest-hit cities first, so guess we can wait a little longer. One of my supporters kindly paid for a ticket for me, but I certainly won’t be getting on a plane without my “jab” (British English). I have mixed feelings about getting it.
We had to cancel camp again. 🙁 We just had a one-day workday to keep the jungle from getting out of control. Eight came to help. One of the workers is cleaning off the roof. One job is to clear off the room of leaves and debris.
Grace and peace to each of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray that this letter finds you well and blessed, growing daily in Christ, by the power of the Spirit, through the love of the Father.
Spring is fully upon us now here in Matsudo. The barren trees have turned green, and colorful flowers are blooming all around us. Cherry blossom season was as beautiful as always, though the year had a noticeably different atmosphere due to the continuing pandemic. Normally during cherry blossom season, our family goes to a large park just across the Edo River in Tokyo for hanami (a picnic beneath the cherry blossoms). Unfortunately, this year the park was staffed with people going around asking people not to do this. This was disappointing (though understandable), but the trees were still lovely and a welcome sight after the long, dark winter months.
Although the pandemic has prevented certain kinds of outings, it hasn’t shut down our local park. The playground has been full of children playing each day, and often their parents join them, or at least their mothers do.
Before we came to Japan, we wondered how we would make connections here. We knew worship would look different and that we wouldn’t be able to hold events at the building for quite some time. In our previous time here, this was an important means of creating connections. We wondered what we would do without such a valuable tool. Furthermore, we had intended to live in the same neighborhood as the church building – an area called Minami Hanashima, which is where we lived previously. However, when borders closed in April 2020, we lost the apartment we were planning to move into just down the road from the building. We had even paid the deposit already! It seemed hard to understand at the time.
But we continued to pray for God to make us fruitful if it was still his will to send us, and we have come to see that his timing was perfect. (Should we expect anything less?) The house we now have, as we have said in the past, is absolutely perfect for our family. We have a spacious house with plenty of room for our family and plenty of room for hospitality as well. But the biggest blessing of this house is not the house itself, but the playground across the street.
This playground, this humble park tucked between houses and apartments, is where missions happens. This is our Areopagus; it is the Lord’s field, and it is here where we work towards the harvest.
This isn’t missionary rhetoric – God has provided abundantly for us here. We have met 3 families with children who speak English at this park. Three! We didn’t meet another child who spoke English even once at our playground in Minami Hanashima. And we have made other connections besides these. That isn’t intended to be a criticism of our previous location. We have tried to keep up previous relationships, and have connected with a number of previous friends as well. We are grateful for all God did before and the foundation he provided, but what we see at this playground is a testimony to the Lord’s provision for his work now as well.
Through this playground, the Lord has provided friends for our children. They have friends to play with and laugh with each day. That would be a gift in and of itself, but the Lord has gone further. Sara has been able to talk to many of the mothers at the playground while the children play (usually only the mothers join the children, though fathers occasionally come on Sunday afternoons). One mother has asked Sara questions about Christianity and what our worship is like. Another mother said she has been to a church before and would be interested in coming if we have events in the future. Leslie has even been able to meet two of the fathers, and we’ve had one of these families over to our house already for dinner. They stayed over for 4 hours and we had the opportunity to pray together before the meal – quite possibly the first prayer to the Lord they have ever heard.
All of this is God’s provision. Jesus promised it. He tells us in John 15:4-5 that only if we abide in him and him in us can we be fruitful. He tells us to ask for what we need to be fruitful for the glory of the Father. He promised to provide, and he has – abundantly.
This isn’t our doing in the least. If it had been up to us, we would be in a much smaller apartment in a likely less fruitful spot. Instead, we are here, where we can see the Lord providing each day. God provides for his work if we will simply trust him and lean into him and be faithful. That is true here, but it is also true wherever you are.
We are so grateful to everyone who prays for us regularly. Your prayers matter. The image above is proof. Of course, we can’t see the future. Everyone has a choice to make. But God knows those who are seeking, he knows those whose hearts are open, and we believe he has many in Matsudo who are his people (see Acts 18:10). It is our prayer that many of those we have met will be among them. The time is now for planting and watering, and we eagerly await the day God gives the growth.
My book review on a book about marriage – Apr 27, 2021
I recently bought a book called Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work written by John M. Gottman at a used book store. It cost only $1. Although it is by no means a Christian book, I think Christians can benefit from reading it.
Christian books about marriage are Bible-centered so they give us biblical principles for marriage. But they tend to give narrow definitions of manhood and womanhood, which may not fit everyone. Each man has different needs because he is different in character, temperament, and social background. So does each woman.
On the contrary, the author of this book has a needs-centered approach to marriage. He makes a scientific observation on hundreds of married couples in their special labs and draws seven principles for a healthy marriage. He explains why and how some married couples stay together happily while others don’t. Here is a paragraph from the first chapter.
“What can make a marriage work is surprisingly simple. Happily married couples aren’t smarter, richer, or more psychologically astute than others. But in their day-to-day lives, they have hit upon a dynamic that keeps their negative thoughts and feelings about each other … from overwhelming their positive ones. … Rather than creating a climate of disagreement and resistance, they embrace each other’s needs. When addressing a partner’s request, their motto tends to be a helpful ‘Yes, and…’ rather than ‘Yes, but…’. This positive attitude not only allows them to maintain but also to increase the sense of romance, play, fun, adventure, and learning together that are at the heart of any long-lasting love affair. They have what I call an emotionally intelligent marriage.”
To be honest, I got more from this book than the Christian books about marriage that I have read. I believe we can get some insights from non-Christian authors whatever subjects are.
The Food Bag Ministry is ongoing. We will continue to accept monetary donations. Food bags are available at the back of the education building on the Welchshire side from Noon-6:00 pm every Monday (see picture at left). If you know of a family in need, please feel free to come by and pick up a bag and deliver it.
We thought you would like to see a glimpse of the Food Bag Ministry at work. Thanks to those who volunteered to help fill bags this past Sunday (Dec 6) and to Trish Brownlee and Lindsay Lamport for their vision and work in helping all of us to reach out to our neighbors.
The Park Avenue church family provided 200 bags of school supplies which will be picked up the week of August 24 by the students os Sea Isle Elementary. Each bag had pens, pencils, notebooks, markers, etc. along with a card welcoming the students back to school. Thanks for your help with this. And thanks goes to Trish Brownlee and Lindsay Lamport for organizing this effort.
Dr. Renee Meeks, the principal, accepted the supplies with Michael Lamport.
Michael Lamport and Frank Bolling dropped off the supplies on August 17. 200 bags of various school supplies.
Each bag has a card welcoming the student to the new school year from the Park Avenue church family
We are very aware of the announcements and recommendations being made in an effort to minimize the spreading of covid-19. We are also aware that with all the attention given to this virus, our anxiety and worry increases. In light of all the increased and warranted concerns, we have implemented some changes to lessen the possibility of any of us getting sick.
Thank you to Scott Chrisman. All of our communion trays have been sanitized and will be ready for Sunday.
Communion bread will be in individual squares for the foreseeable future. This will allow us to share in communion while avoiding the passing of germs.
Gordon placed sanitizing stations at most of the doors. You are encouraged to use these and to wash your hands before and after the assembly.
Those with compromised immune systems because of age, colds, flu are encouraged to remain home. This is for your safety and for others.
If you prefer not to shake hands, that is fine. Our love for each other can be expressed through a warm smile and a friendly greeting.
Lastly, as elders we are discussing other ways to promote our health and safety. We will continue to meet together on Sunday morning each week.
As you pray for so many different things, please pray that our faith will be seen more than our fear.
Paul, Carl, Mike, Barney, Dana
We are complying with COVID-19 precautions. Please “follow” us on Facebook to stay informed of activities. Our Facebook Page
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.
This small congregation meets in an upper room of the home of one of the members. We squeeze twelve into a small room for worship. We were with them for two days and I spoke three times.
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.
Leaders Eat Last is the book I have been reading recently. Its author is Simon Sinek. Last year I read his another book, Start With Why. Leaders Eat Last is about leadership as the title indicates, but it is more like his observation on what is happening in the US in relation to leadership. It is actually a great book for me to read and helps me understand many aspects of leadership.
Japanese preachers should also read this book although the author’s stories are all American.
I try to read a book every other month. That’s only what I can afford, but it is a good investment for me.
JAN 18, 2019 – 2018 AND 2019
The year 2018 was a very exciting one for all the members of the Japanese congregation. We had an area-wide joint worship service at Yokota Church of Christ. Bro. Hara, a member of the Yokota Church spoke on how he became a Christian. As he told his stories from his childhood to the present, he was choked up a little bit. Some of the people in the audience were choked up too. It was a dramatic event for all of us. (see pictures below)
In 2019, we have a new plan. I would like us to buy a video camera. The purchase of the video camera is to record basic lessons with visual aids. In these lessons, I will speak specifically to reach out to members’ friends who would like to come to our assembly but are a little hesitant to come. Also, some of the members have to work when we have a bible study, so they cannot come to the study. They can watch the videos in the internet too.