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.