We’ve been back in Japan now for almost 3 months, and by God’s grace, we feel we are all settling in well. Between the holidays and family birthdays (Sara, Madeleine, and Boston all have birthdays within the span of about 4 weeks), the turn of the year is always very busy. But we’ve now passed that period, so our family life and mission work is beginning to take shape, to the extent that it can in the midst of the pandemic.
Service Amidst The Pandemic
In early January, Japan declared another state of emergency because the virus was expanding dramatically in several key locations like Tokyo. The Matsudo church has been able to continue meeting, but things certainly look and feel different. Trying to figure out how to minister and reach out in the middle of this has been a challenge, but God has provided many seeds even now (more about that later). Thankfully, the virus situation in Japan has improved considerably since the declaration, and we are seeing hints of warmer days ahead, so we pray more opportunities will open soon.
As we’ve navigated this period, we’ve tried to turn our attention first to what we can do rather than what we cannot. We have invited people to our home as much as possible, although we know not everyone will feel comfortable with that at the moment. We are especially grateful for our sister Nao. She comes over with one or both of her children almost every Sunday after worship and usually stays for several hours. This has been a wonderful time to help disciple her as a young Christian, as she asks many thoughtful questions as we sit at our table together. Her questions are very helpful to us as well, as they reveal some of the specific challenges Japanese people face which we would not understand otherwise. Sara has also been engaging in a Bible devotional program with Nao through their phones throughout the week. We are so grateful for these opportunities and love seeing Nao grow in her faith. Please pray for her, as she navigates the difficult waters of being the only Christian in her family.
In addition to these types of activities, we have tried to use what online connections we have to plant seeds. Leslie has been sharing various devotional thoughts in Japanese online, both on Facebook and on Instagram, accompanied by a simple graphic or video. Aside from the immediate encouragement, we hope this provides, we also believe this can let more people in the community know about the church, and feel more comfortable with visiting at some point. Likewise, we are still working on the church website, which we hope will be up and running by early spring.
Speaking of online efforts, the preachers’ meetings have been online since the pandemic began, operating through Zoom. Leslie had the honor to speak at the preachers’ meeting for February, where he spoke on the subject of bearing fruit. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to speak to fellow ministers in Japanese, but the lesson seemed to be well-received and encouraging. We are so grateful for the other ministers here who work so hard and dedicate their lives to the service of the Lord. We pray we will be able to be further encouraging to them throughout the year.
Seeds For The Sower
One of the big challenges we knew we would face when we arrived was making new connections and reconnecting with old friends. The pandemic creates many barriers for both here. While some people are comfortable getting out and spending time with others, many are less so. If nothing else, the pandemic provides an excuse to indulge in avoidance. However, pandemic or not, we know that it is God who provides the seed. He knows those who are seeking, and he knows exactly which paths need to cross and when. So, we have been praying repeatedly that God provides us with connections by his power and grace. We have already seen him answering.
For starters, God has been providing the children with new friends. Cambria recently made friends with a girl her age named Rin. She has connected with her through an online app, and Rin has come to the playground many times to play together. This has given Cambria a reason to work on her Japanese, while also building a connection to the community. This, along with several younger friends at the playground, is a blessing to us all. We would love to see seeds planted through these relationships – please pray that God will provide those opportunities.
We’ve also been reconnecting with some old friends since our return. Without getting into a lot of details, we ask that you pray for Tomoko, as well as the Kawakami family. We’ve been able to reconnect with both since our return, and it would be a tremendous joy to see God’s enlivening power take root in the hearts of these friends – it is a literal daydream! Please pray that God will provide us with opportunities to share his gospel – that he will give us the words to say, the wisdom of when to speak them, and the courage to say them when the time arrives.
Life In Japan
A few other things we would like to mention here…
First, we are so grateful and excited to say that we were able to get a car this month! That is completely and totally due to your generosity, for which we are humbled and thankful. Aside from the benefits, this brings our family, we also plan to use this to visit members of the church and serve as much as possible. Thank you again for your generosity, and please pray that God provides opportunities to use this in his service. As it happens, our sister Sanpei’s husband helped us a whole lot with the car, which gave us some opportunities to connect with him. Please pray for him and for us as we continue to build that relationship. We would love to see him walk with the Lord, and we know our dear sister would rejoice as well.
Second, we had a very large earthquake about a week or so ago late at night. It was a magnitude 7.3 just off the coast of Fukushima and was officially listed as an aftershock of the 2011 disaster. Thankfully, there was no tsunami this time, though the shaking was quite strong and did cause some damage and injuries (we were fine, although Cambria did injure her toe as we headed downstairs). On the plus side, the next day was Sunday, and someone who had not visited since we returned did come to worship that morning. God is always working!
Finally, Leslie of course continues to preach each Sunday. Preparing lessons in Japanese is challenging. He writes the sermon in English first, translates it into Japanese, and then practices for several hours and makes edits on Sunday morning before worship. Despite this, there are many hurdles that make it difficult to express what he would like to during the sermon. We request your prayers that his Japanese ability will increase and become more natural so that it will not prove a barrier to teaching the gospel and the congregation’s growth.
Connect With Us!
If you don’t yet, you can follow us on Instagram, where we share daily life experiences and more from our life here.