Grace and peace to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! As always, we thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter. We’re happy to share with you what has been going on over the last month here in Japan.
Heading into July, of course, we have the 4th of July. However, as you might imagine, Japan does not celebrate the day. Thankfully, we have a family friend who lives out in the Chiba countryside about an hour or so away who is American, so we went out and had a cookout with him and his family. No fireworks this year, but it was nice to celebrate together all the same! This friend and his family are not Christians, and unfortunately, they live far away so it’s hard to connect regularly, but we try to use what influence we can to shine the light of Jesus and plant some seeds. You never know what the Lord is doing through these interactions!
We also had another visit this month with a longtime American friend here in Japan, our sister Sandy Rogers. Some of you may remember that our family first came to Japan in 2010 and lived in the small town of Kojima in Okayama Prefecture for a year. At that time, we worked together with Sandy and her husband Brent, who had a great influence on us in showing us what it looks like to labor in this culture for the Lord. Brent has since gone to be with the Lord, but Sandy is still here working hard to water the seeds they planted together for so long. Sandy was able to stay with us for a couple of nights, and also attended Sunday worship together with us, which was a great blessing. We had some wonderful conversations together. Sandy is planning to return to the U.S. in a couple of years, so please be in prayer for her as she prepares for that major life transition.
You also likely heard about the unfortunate murder of previous prime minister Shinzo Abe. This was definitely a major shock in Japan, particularly because a gun was used. Guns are, practically speaking, banned in Japan, with only very limited kinds allowed for hunting, the permission for which requires a long and extensive process. Of course, Abe was very influential in politics for many years, and it was even possible he could become prime minister again one day. Given the potential impact on people here, we had a special service the following Sunday at Matsudo, discussing tragedy from a Christian worldview. Although no one from the community attended, we did receive a kind word from a non-Christian Japanese friend who saw that we were hosting this. She said: “You are always thinking about what you can do for the people around you. I respect you. Thank you for what you do for Japan.” This individual is one of the people regularly listed on our “names you can pray for” prayer request list at the end of our newsletter. These small statements are very meaningful to hear for us, and we pray that this little light we shine will point this friend and others to the One who cares about Japan and its people more than anyone else.
July ushers in summer vacation for the kids. Summer break for kids here is shorter than in the U.S., but there are still several weeks off from school that they can enjoy. Our kids enjoyed playing with their friends and were also able to host a short Q&A with several kids from the U.S. who asked questions about life in Japan. We’re so thankful for all the friends in the U.S. who show interest in and concern for our children. What a blessing it is!
Unfortunately, summer vacation has also brought a new wave of covid cases here in Japan. This has perhaps been the largest wave we have experienced here, and several of our closest friends have contracted covid for the first time. In fact, we had potential exposure to one case, but gratefully God protected our family, particularly since that would likely mean being stuck in the house for a full two weeks at least.
Yet, while this wave has produced large numbers (for Japan), we have noticed that the response has been much more reserved compared to previous waves. Many large events are still being held, for example, and we still see plenty of people playing at the local playground, and people walking around town without masks. Although we know of at least one church that has suspended services again, they have provisionally done so only for one week rather than indefinitely. Additionally, and importantly for us, for the first time, the borders have not been closed again. That is a very hopeful sign, we believe. Anyone who knows about life in Japan knows that change here is a slow process. That is true in all areas of life and is one of the reasons the spiritual work here can be so challenging. But it also produces a great sense of joy when the change finally comes, even if it is measured in inches instead of yards.
Despite this recent wave, God has been providing us with new connections and opportunities. Leslie has continued playing tennis several times a month with those individuals we mentioned in our previous newsletter. Sara continues to build relationships with some people in her classes. We also have made a new contact with a foreigner living nearby thanks to a mutual friend with our previous missions partner, Steve Carrell. This individual seems to be seeking something, and while we are currently only connected through Facebook, we’re hoping we’ll be able to meet him in person soon. There are others we could mention as well, but the point is that God is still working and we are very grateful for that.
We have also been continuing our English Worship services. Attendance has been somewhat sporadic so far, but we are hopeful this will continue to be a blessing to Matsudo and that God will use it to help make disciples in our community and beyond. At our last service, three Christian sisters from the Ochanomizu church visited with us. We’d like to share something one of them texted Sara later in the day: “I was thinking on my way home, no offense, who could ever imagine that we could have English service at Matsudo. That’s awesome. Of course, God is working, but also I’m very proud of you guys. The seed you planted is starting to bloom.”
Yes – God is indeed working! We are so grateful for our small part in planting seeds and allowing others to see how God does what might seem unimaginable when we trust in him.
Listen To Matsudo Church of Christ Sermons!
Speaking of our services at the Matsudo church, you can now listen to Leslie’s sermons online! This will include both Japanese and English sermons.
For now, the split will be roughly 75% Japanese and 25% English, but we hope, if the Lord blesses our English services, that we will eventually move to have that every Sunday and thus have more English lessons there. To be honest, uploading the Japanese sermons is a bit embarrassing for Leslie. Although Leslie is capable in Japanese, there are still plenty of mistakes in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.
Postwar Japan – A Christian Nation?
Leslie also has a new episode up of his new personal missions podcast. Did you know that in postwar Japan, General McArthur considered the possibility of making Christianity the official state religion of Japan? It was a real possibility! In this episode Leslie shares some of the history behind that, as well as some reflections on what that might have meant for the work here, and what it means for the church generally in modern times.
Listen through our host Acast: https://shows.acast.com/notes-from-the-field
Listen through Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/notes-from-the-field/id1630093831
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: Craig Carroll, 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