Members of the Tomobe church hosting a Christmas party with nursing home residents. Singing together and sharing about the birth of Christ. 友部教会メンバーで、施設を訪問しました。一緒にクリスマスの讃美歌を歌い、紙芝居を上演しました。
Members of the Tomobe church hosting a Christmas party with nursing home residents. Singing together and sharing about the birth of Christ. 友部教会メンバーで、施設を訪問しました。一緒にクリスマスの讃美歌を歌い、紙芝居を上演しました。
This year’s trip to Japan began August 7, 2018, when we arrived at Haneda Airport in southeast Tokyo. Our first goal was to set up the office and bedroom. Since we have done this so many times, we were able to do this in a few hours.
The main lessons for the Japan School of Evangelism [JSE] Summer Special Series were on Last Things. The first objective was to get these lessons translated into Japanese along with a couple of sermons and a lecture for camp. The first three or four weeks were primarily working on these lessons and working up vocabulary. The Japanese word of the topic Last Things is Shumatsuron [終末論].
In the midst of doing this, we worshiped with the Tachikawa, Omika, and Numazu churches our first three Sundays. Dwight preached by request from Lamentations at Tachikawa and preached the lesson again the following Sunday at Omika. On our return from Omika, we stopped in Tomobe to see Marlin and Jeanne Ray. They were going to leave that week for India for medical treatment. An extra surprise was the opportunity to see brother and sister Ataka who happened to stop in for a visit. Marlin later died in India October 10 waiting for a lung transplant.
JSE classes for the semester were held on Wednesdays at Tachikawa so we were able to fellowship with the students at lunch. They were finishing a semester of study on the Prison Epistles taught by Masa Nonogaki. For three Wednesday evenings, we worshiped with the Yokota military congregation. Dwight shared two lessons with them. The congregation has two families with ten children. Masa Nonogaki continues to work with them in addition to the Japanese congregation which meets in the same building.
The Ochanomizu church camp at Hakone was again a time of refreshing and fellowship. Tokyo was especially hot and the camp gave us the opportunity to get away to a cooler spot. We were unable to see Mt. Fuji the whole time due to clouds. Dwight spoke on what he saw as the future for the Ochanomizu church. They will celebrate 70 years as a congregation in 2019.
We worshiped with the Mito congregation in Ibaraki our fourth Sunday. This is the second largest congregation in our fellowship in Japan. A number of Assistant English Teachers [AETs] are part of the congregation. They are employed to teach English in a number of schools in the area. That Sunday about seventy were in attendance split about half and half, Japanese and foreigners, mainly from the U.S.
Frank Bolling, a new pulpit minister for the Park Avenue congregation since 2015, came for ten days (September 7-17) to see the work the congregation has done in Japan through us. We had worked so we could set aside time just for his visit. Sunday we worshiped with the Tomobe church. Marlin and Jeanne Ray were in India, but Yasuki Nishimura, their new minister, and others are doing a good job in their absence. Following Marlin’s death, Jeanne returned to Tomobe October 15.
In the afternoon, we took Frank to Omika to see the Ibaraki Christian University and the meeting place of the church in Omika. Jim Batten, long-time missionary and former professor and chancellor for the university, showed us around. Makoto Tateno, minister for the Omika church, is a former Park Avenue member while he studied at HST.
While Frank was with us, we tried to get him out of Tokyo and help him see some historical sites. We overnighted in Hakone which was a customs checkpoint during the 250 years of Tokugawa rule. We did not see Mt. Fuji on that trip either.
Since Dwight had an appointment to meet in Uenohara where we had worked for six years, Frank took Dwight’s place on Wednesday night and spoke to the Bible class at the Yokota congregation. Dwight and Naoyoshi Fukushima attended a special dinner meeting in Uenohara. One of the sisters of the congregation has organized these community reach out meetings.
Following the third and fourth lessons for JSE on Last Things at Tachikawa, we headed into downtown Tokyo with Frank to visit the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa and Sky Tree (a new communications tower with a new commercial community at its base). Rather than return to Tachikawa for the night and then go back to Tokyo, we decided to try out a “capsule hotel” in the area. That was a nice experience.
The next morning, we toured the Tokyo-Edo Museum which gives a good history of Tokyo during the Edo Period and on into the modern era. It is always a good place for people to get an overview of the history of the city and of Japan. In the afternoon, we met Tadayoshi Aikawa, an Ochanomizu minister and historian, at the Zoshigaya Missionary Museum. J. M. McCaleb moved to this area in 1907. He built a dorm for students, his house, and a church building. The house is all that remains, but the local government has preserved it for displaying the history of the area including McCaleb’s work.
On Frank’s second Sunday in Japan, we worshiped with the Ochanomizu church. This is the largest congregation in our fellowship with about 120 on Sunday morning. They have four elders who oversee and pastor the church. Dwight spoke bi-lingually to a combined worship assembly. Following that, we had a time of table fellowship.
That afternoon Josephine shared the lesson she had for the ladies – Hannah’s Face Changed. A written transcript of the lesson was provided for each person and then there was a time for discussion. It is always a lively time for the ladies. There were twenty-five present.
While Josephine was in class, Frank and Dwight made a quick visit to the Meiji Shrine where Emperor Meiji is worshiped. He was the emperor who opened Japan to the west about the time of the U.S. Civil War.
We put Frank on a bus Monday morning, September 17, for him to return to Memphis. We returned to the church building and awaited the JSE Founding Day’s Lectureship. The school will celebrate thirty years next year. This year a former dean and former minister for the Ochanomizu congregation, Shiro Obata, spoke in the morning and then again in the afternoon. A special treat this year was the attendance of the Young Adult Retreat group. It was very encouraging to see these faithful young men and women who are followers of Christ.
Following the lectureship, several of the teachers met to discuss the thirtieth anniversary of the school next year as well as class schedules and topics. Josephine and I find this encouraging. It is always good to see the interaction and dedication of these brothers.
Dwight shared lessons on three Wednesday nights with the Ochanomizu congregation. About eighteen to twenty met for each class. He used lessons on the Last Things for these classes.
September 21-22 we were invited by brother Obata to visit the Minami Sanriku area. This is the area which was struck by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Much work was being done to roads, bridges, barriers, and buildings. But there is still so much to do. Japan has had several disasters while we have been here. Several typhoons passed through parts of the country. One flooded the Kansai International Airport shutting it down for almost a week. Hokkaido, the northernmost big island, had a massive earthquake which triggered landslides in the area killing several. It has been a tough year for Japan in respect to these natural disasters.
Our seventh Sunday was spent with the Tachikawa church. Dwight spoke in Japanese for the morning assembly and then used the same sermon in English translated to Chinese for the afternoon assembly. The Tachikawa and Yokota congregations have a few Chinese who regularly attend. They have friends who are new to Japan and wanted a service in Chinese. Once a month one of the Tachikawa members translates the sermon into Chinese and arranges things. This seems to be a great encouragement to the Chinese who come.
One thing we learned from the service is how far we have come in the Japanese language. That may seem strange, but we did not understand anything during the Chinese service except what little was done in English. That was the way it was when we were first in Japan in 1969 and when arrived as a family in 1977.
During the luncheon fellowship at the JSE lectureship, Dwight met a brother who had worked with the missionary in charge of the language school he attended. That was a wonderful remembrance of those who provided that school and how language brings people together. We have many friends because we know the language, however poorly we speak and understand it.
Our eighth weekend, Saturday and Sunday, was spent with the Hachinohe congregation in the northernmost prefecture on the main island. This is a small congregation which meets each Sunday to gather around the Lord’s Table and to praise the Lord. They are a close-knit group who loves to be together.
Dwight spoke in chapel for the Ibaraki Christian University. There were seventy in attendance. Yoshiya Noguchi, a former Park Avenue member, serves as chaplain for the various schools in the ICU system. The Omika church provides curry rice for lunch following chapel. During the week various ministers and missionaries are on campus at the religious center to speak with students. It is a good outreach.
Our ninth Sunday was spent with the Haruna congregation. This group was started by brother and sister Obata following his retirement from the Ochanomizu church fifteen years ago.
The last few days on our Japan Railways Pass were spent traveling to visit former members and students around Japan. These are times to connect with people and encourage them.
We were able to participate in a bus tour organized by the Ochanomizu church of works associated with O. D. Bixler and pre-WWII evangelism in the Ibaraki Prefecture. It was an encouragement to see the work done in this area. We were able to meet several friends.
On our last Sunday, we worshiped with the Shirosato congregation. This is a small congregation in Ibaraki. Following the sermon, they open things up for questions and comments concerning the sermon.
This was our twenty-second consecutive year to work in Japan. Since returning to the U.S. in 1986, we have made twenty-seven trips to continue our ministry to Japan. This is possible because of the support and encouragement of the Park Avenue church who has been involved in the Japan work since sending us in 1977. Countless times we hear words of thanks from the Japanese Christians for the congregations and individuals in the U.S. who continue to support and encourage our Japanese brothers and sisters. We thank you for your continued support and encouragement. We would not be able to do this without it.
Marlin Ray was called home to Heaven on October 9, while in India awaiting a lung transplant. Celebrations of his life were held at the meeting places of the Omika and Tomobe churches. Marlin and Jean worked with these congregations through their years in Japan.
Saturday, November 3, a group of 106 met together in Omika to celebrate the life of Marlin Ray. Then the next day, Sunday, November 4, a group of 134 met in Tomobe. Many had to stand outside the building for the service.
Marlin and Jean left for Chennai, India August 22 for a lung transplant. The local church was a great encouragement. Marlin and Jean attended worship with them the Sunday before his death.
Marlin became interested in Japan while in the military. After graduation from Pepperdine University and marriage to Jean, they moved to Japan. Initially, they worked with Ibaraki Christian University. About thirty-five years ago, they were approached by the Mito church to consider re-planting a church in Tomobe. Worship began in the city followed by the building of a small meeting place. Through the years, Marlin added on to the building and began English classes to help with support.
Marlin and Jean were also instrumental in promoting the Hitachi Christian Camp. Through the years the camp has been important in touching lives. Many have been baptized in the spring which runs through the camp. Marlin’s handiwork can be seen in the cabins and dining hall.
Marlin will be greatly missed.
Here is a testimony from one person who was impacted by the lives of Marlin and Jean.
Marlin was a faithful servant for over 40 years in Japan as a missionary. He and Jeanne mentored me during several summers while I was in college, allowing me to participate in a wonderful Hitachi Christian Camp. This year, my boys were invited to attend their spring camp at Hitachi Christian Camp with Marlin and Jeanne. Kids were deeply impacted by the experience, as I was. It was also a gift for me to be able to visit with him this summer for a few hours at the Tomobe church, the church he loved so much.
This is the twenty-first consecutive year we’ve ministered in Japan. This year was special in that we made two trips (April 24–June 23; August 14-October 11). The purpose of these trips is to share lessons to help build up the church and to encourage Christians and churches.
One of the first things we do upon arriving in Japan is to set up housekeeping and an office. We are taken to Costco to get some food for the time here. This is much less expensive than purchasing smaller quantities at the local grocery store. This is also a time to get back into the Japanese language.
Three days after arriving we participated in the Ochanomizu Bible Camp which is a tradition. This year their theme had to do with preparation for their seventieth anniversary next year. They wanted to reaffirm their vision as a congregation. I shared a lesson on encouragement from Hebrews 10:24-25. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Vision must be purposeful and deliberate. We encourage each other to fulfill the vision.
For Sunday sermons, I shared the story of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet and the parable of the two debtors Jesus used to confront Simon (Luke 7:36-50). It is hard to see our true sinfulness which makes it hard to see the vastness of God’s love and forgiveness. The Japanese Interconfessional Translation puts it pretty plainly: “You can tell how much she loves by her actions.” Our appreciation of God’s love is proportional to our understanding of how much we have been forgiven. Paul’s prayer for better understanding of God’s love in Ephesians 3:14-21 is worthy of repeating.
The topic for the Japan School of Evangelism lessons was The Atonement. I had spent a considerable amount of time preparing the lessons in English before coming and then worked to get them into Japanese once here. One brother who is fluent in English has been a tremendous help in checking my Japanese and teaching me some of the nuances of the language.
The format this year’s JSE lessons was to have 6 thirty to forty-five minute lessons shared on three Thursday mornings. This format would allow congregations who do not have preachers to share them in a Sunday morning class or worship assembly. Each was recorded on DVD with PowerPoint slides and a class handout to follow the lesson. Lesson topics were: Sin and Atonement; Old Testament Sacrifices; Suffering Servant; Divine Justice; Redemption; While We Were Helpless (a review and meaning of the cross). Some of these were also shared with the Ochanomizu church on four Wednesday evenings.
On the third Sunday in September, I shared a bi-lingual sermon with the Ochanomizu church. This congregation has a joint Japanese-English worship each third Sunday followed by a fellowship meal together. That afternoon Josephine shared a lesson from Jonah about our inner spiritual struggles.
An older minister spoke for the JSE Founding Day Lectureship September 18. He gave some of the history of his work. Following the lectureship, the teachers meet for an overnight planning session. It was encouraging to hear their discussion. The school currently has three students: one is retired and “re-tooling” to work with his home congregation; one is middle aged and is preparing to do what she can in her local congregation; another is younger and soon to be married who is preparing to do what he can in his local congregation.
We’ve worshiped with congregations as far north as Aomori and as far southwest as Shizuoka. Twelve of us met for worship in Hachinohe, Aomori, filling a small room. Eight congregations in the Shizuoka area came together to worship and study on our next to the last day in Japan. Getting to both of these involved several hours of travel.
The Tomobe congregation has a coffee hour once a month. We participated in that, and I shared a devotional on giving thanks. Several non-Christians who are students on English classes the church offers attended. The Tomobe church has an intern working with them at the present who is a big encouragement. Marlin Ray recently had surgery and continues to be hospitalized as he recovers. This surgery was a follow up to a traffic accident in July 2016 when a person ran into him just before he was to share a sermon with the congregation. Jean continues to minister to Marlin and the church. Marlin had permission to leave the hospital in order to attend the worship assembly. He continues to preach once a month.
That’s a quick overview of the past eight weeks. Leaving is always bittersweet. We’re sorry to leave behind people who are being faithful to the Lord in the midst of a dark society. We’re looking forward to reuniting with family and church family. God has promised that every effort put forth to share the Good News is not in vain. Ours is to remain faithful to Him and continue to “spur each other on to love and good deeds” which is a response to the forgiveness we have received in Christ.
— Dwight & Josephine Albright
We returned last Friday night (May 5) after three days and two nights at the Hitachi Christian Camp (HCC). This was its 62nd year of operation. Marlin and Jeanne Ray along with Hideki and Nagisa Ataka have been important in keeping the camp going and making it useful to the churches in Japan.
We had a hot dog party and Sayonara party for Sean. We prayed for Marlin in hospital. Get well soon!
We have decided to go to the States for 2 months. We have not been there for 4 years. We are needing some good fellowship of family and friends and reporting to churches. We have our tickets to Los Angeles and back, but the rest of the trip will be fluid. We will leave Feb. 10 and return to Japan on April 7. We will stop in LA for about a week and a half and then to Texas. From there we will decide as we go. We will probably go to Houston after staying in Dallas area for a week. Then to Memphis and back to Dallas. If there is time, we will go to Oklahoma for a couple of days. After that back to Calif. for a couple of weeks. The schedule will be determined by where I can speak and my health. If you know of somewhere I can speak about Japan, I would appreciate you telling me. If it isn’t possible to speak to your congregation or a Bible class, maybe you could invite some interested people to your house to see and hear about the work in Japan. My email address while in the States is email@example.com
We had a very busy holiday season. About 50 came to Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone had a good time. I invited my dentist and she came with her family. Two turkeys and cornbread dressing disappeared quickly. Most Japanese have never eaten turkey or cornbread. Their “cornbread” is some corn kernels in white bread.
After Thanksgiving was Christmas. We baked more than 400 Santa face cookies and passed them out to 3 nursing homes and the School of Life parties. We also baked several hundred other cookies to eat at the parties.
Then camp! December 28-30, we held Winter camp. It was cold. We tore down one old cabin and burned it for heat. There was no snow this year. The attendance was good, about 20 members. I couldn’t do much, but I enjoyed it.
We really appreciate all you have done to keep us in Japan and all the prayers for our health. The doctors told me there is nothing more they can do for me, so I will keep working as long as I can.
We love you all and hope to get to see you while in the States.
Serving Him in Japan, Marlin and Jean Ray
I am very sorry for no newsletters for so long. As many of you know, I have been in the hospital with pneumonia. I lost 13 kilo (28.6 lbs). I needed the weight loss, but the method was not fun. After returning home, I have gained back nearly 2 kilo (about 4.4 lbs). I am just beginning to start to move about more. I still can’t walk more than a few hundred feet.
During camp in July-August, I started feeling bad and stayed home during August. In September, I went to see the doctor near my house. He told me to go to the hospital. I went and they put me in for 17 days. I have had no energy for a long time. I hope I can now regain some of my strength. I have been a very active person, but in the past few years, I have slowed down to a snail’s pace. My heart still has an irregular heartbeat. In the past 3 years, I have gone through 4 procedures and twice it was stopped and restarted. Nothing seems to have helped. I am going to just live with it and slow down some, but continue to work. If you have any questions, write and I will try to respond. I have not been on the computer much in a long time. It is hard to sit up for very long. I am getting better at that.
Last Sunday, I preached my first sermon, since August. I was getting a little tired at the end, but I enjoyed preaching. Yasuki Nishimura has been doing so much for me. Others have filled in the gaps that kept the church going. So many people have been praying for me, thank you. Sometimes, I wondered if it were the end for me. But He carried me through. Your prayers helped so much.
Camp went well, even though I just sat in a chair and directed. Again, so many people filled in for me and worked so hard. We did little carpentry work this year as I was not there much. We had two baptisms at camp. One young mother came and we taught her and she was very receptive. She came to two courses and by the end of the last course, she was baptized. The nearest church to where she lives is Tomobe! She has been coming almost every Sunday since camp and her son joined Jean’s Kindergarten class. It is a joy to see her enjoying worship.
This year was the 60th anniversary of Hitachi Christian Camp. Quite a few “old timers” came up the mountain for the ceremony. Among them was the young lady who invited us to come to camp the first time so I could baptize her. In total, more than 50 came and we all had a good time.
We had two men come to teach LST this year. There was good attendance and many are attending English classes that Jean and I teach. One of the men, Sean Cannon, plans to come again next year and stay longer to help us.
Just before camp, the Tomobe church celebrated our 30th anniversary after the restart in 1985. There were over 60 in attendance. Most were from other congregations in the area, but some came from Tokyo to Northern Ibaraki. Also, eight of the LST readers came.
Thanks again for all your prayers for me, (Marlin). I will get back to working hard and teaching more of those who don’t know God. Jean and others took over my responsibilities while I was down.. I really appreciate that. Our God is still working in Japan and doing great things.
Marlin and Jeanne Ray
This report is being written the day before we return. The past five weeks have been filled with activity giving little time for reporting.
The main event during this reporting period is the visit of a deacon and his wife, Gordon and Patricia Corder, from the Park Avenue church of Christ in Memphis. This is our overseeing congregation and has been since 1977 when we went as a family to Japan. Through this year (2015) the Park Avenue church has supported a person in Japan since 1977.
Many of the ministers and members in Japanese congregations have visited Memphis and worshiped with the Park Avenue church. Josephine and I are grateful for the church’s continued support in letting us minister in Japan for two to three months each year. This year marks the eighteenth consecutive year to do this since our family returned to Memphis in 1986.
September 6 we worshiped with the Mito congregation in Ibaraki. This is the second largest congregation with about ninety in attendance on Sundays. They are also involved in feeding the homeless in the area each month. With a number of Assistant English Teachers for the Mito school system, the church also provides English Bible study as an outreach into the community.
On our visit this time we heard a message from a minister in training with the Mito congregation. He had a good message concerning making a positive impact on the people we meet. We are to “do good” and through that show God’s love to them as expressed by Jesus Christ. It was good to hear the message and also to see a young minister in training. This was his second sermon.
Our Ochanomizu and Tachikawa classes continued. However, the Wednesday Ochanomizu class (September 9) was canceled because of a typhoon which brought heavy rain to the area and severe destruction to an area of Ibaraki. The Tachikawa class was the second in a three part series on the Trinity as we looked at trinitarian passages in the Old Testament.
September 11 Josephine and I stopped over in Ikebukuro on our way to the airport. This is the end of the line for the train line we lived on. It is a great shopping district with some big department stores. After a brief time looking around we headed on to the Tokyo-Narita Airport to greet our visitors. Gordon and Patricia Corder arrived on time and we four quickly boarded a bus to take us to the Tachikawa church third floor dorm.
That Saturday we all traveled to Tomobe for an afternoon meeting. This was an outreach to the students in the School of Life as well as visitors to assemblies. There were twenty in attendance with five non-Christians. My lesson was based upon the book by Antony Flew There Is a God which chronicles his journey from atheism to theism. The church had requested something on the Bible and science. I felt this lesson which I gave three years before might be good especially since I did not have time to work up a new lesson. Marlin Ray, missionary with the Tomobe church, was unable to attend. He was hospitalized with pneumonia. As I write this report he has been discharged and is making slow recovery. The Corders were able to visit him in the hospital.
Sunday worship at Tomobe went well. The lesson I presented was from John 8 concerning the woman caught in adultery. It is important whether we choose to leave Jesus as the Pharisees did or remain with Jesus as the woman did. Remaining with him brings forgiveness and encouragement to be faithful to his will.
Following our visit to Tomobe our guests and we went to Hakone to do a little history study about the Edo period as well as enjoyed time away from the city of Tokyo. Hakone is a former volcano and there is still volcanic activity in the area. Part of the area we normally visit was off limits due to the danger of eruption.
Wednesday of their visit was a quick tour of the city of Tokyo with a metropolitan area population of over thirty million. The Tokyo-Edo Museum is a great place to see the history of Edo/Tokyo from its early days as a castle town at the end of the Warring States Period (c. 1467-c.1603) to the present day.
That evening we worshiped with the Ochanomizu congregation. I completed the second lesson on the “Father, Son, Spirit and the Christian” showing how the Trinity is involved in the Christian’s life. Our guests shared a report on their medical mission work in Belize and Guatemala. That was an encouragement to those who were at the meeting.
Thursday our guests again presented a report on their medical mission work. There was a number of questions about their work. That time together was followed by a wonderful meal and fellowship. Friday was a rainy day which gave us time to rest a bit. Saturday we had lunch with Masa and Mari Nonogaki to hear about their work. Our guests were close to the Nonogakis when they attended the Park Avenue church while in school at Harding School of Evangelism.
That evening we had a wonderful treat. We journeyed to the home of one of the Ochanomizu elders for a home Bible study and fellowship. It was a blessed time with twenty Christians studying the Bible and worshiping together.
Sunday we worshiped with the Ochanomizu congregation. I spoke in English and Japanese as it was a joint worship with the English speakers and Japanese. That period of worship was followed by a time of table fellowship. Josephine spoke that afternoon to the ladies. Her topic was “Changing Saul to Paul” discussing Saul’s three days of blindness before his conversion.
We returned to Tachikawa that evening for our guests to do their final packing. We put them on a bus Monday morning for their return trip to Memphis.