Taylor Report – Jan 15, 2021

Jan 15, 2021 – Hello everyone, and Happy New Year! We hope that your holidays proved safe and uplifting, even as we all navigate this challenging time together.

For our family, this was certainly a very different holiday experience in many ways. After arriving in Japan, we had to quarantine for two weeks. While we were allowed to get groceries and other necessities, we stayed in the house the majority of the time. We did have some visitors who brought us things, including our sister Sanpei from the Matsudo church, and the Adachis, who work with the Ochanomizu congregation in central Tokyo. We were so grateful for their kindness during this time!

Our quarantine period ended on December 14th, so we were finally able to get out of the house and do more than just grab groceries. One of the first things we did was go buy a Christmas tree from IKEA, which allowed us to have at least a little taste of the holidays at home. Most of the holiday season kept us busy trying to set things up more generally – buying appliances and furniture, and then assembling those things for use. Let’s just say the delivery people know us pretty well at this point!

We’ve also been figuring out, during this time, what life is like in our new neighborhood. Among other things, one of the requirements of living where we do is that we are responsible for keeping the garbage area clean. Garbage in Japan is very complicated. You can’t just throw everything out whenever you feel like it. Burnable trash is picked up on certain days, while plastics, cardboard, and plastic bottles must be separated and are picked up on their own individuals days of the month. That is the case wherever you live, but here we have extra responsibilities. For example, each week the responsibility for making sure the area around the garbage area is clean passes to a new person on our street. Naturally, on the first week of our turn, someone who didn’t live in our area threw their trash in our garbage bin, with nothing separated (i.e., they had mixed all their garbage into one bag). One of the ladies on our street came and got Sara, opened the trash bag, and they went through and separated it all together. It was a disgusting job, but at least our neighbor helped!

Much of our Christmas season looked like this – laying on the floor and watching movies with our humble Christmas tree nearby. We are grateful for these memories!
The Adachis came to visit us during quarantine to deliver some food and welcome us back to Japan. We were so grateful for their brief, outdoor visit, and hope to get together again soon!

New Year’s is always a big holiday in Japan. Similar to Thanksgiving and Christmas for those of us from the U.S., the New Year holiday marks a time of gathering with family for traditional foods and is one of the only times of the year that almost everyone in the country is off from work. Especially after so many weeks of craziness, it was nice to have a few days to slow down and reset for the work ahead. One of the highlights of this time was having Mrs. Sanpei and her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild come visit us. Both her daughter and son-in-law are doctors at a nearby hospital. They talked to us about possibly doing some English conversation time together in the future to help them in their work. As neither are Christians, we are praying this may be an opportunity to shine the light of Christ to them, however infrequently it may be.

The kids help Sara scrub down the trash area – an important part of trash duty for the week! It may seem excessive to us, but this is part of how we shine the light of Christ in this neighborhood.

As the year began, a variety of things start to roll forward for our family and our mission here. Boston began kindergarten on January 4th, and while he struggled for the first few days, he has adjusted well and is enjoying it. We were very blessed that Mrs. Sanpei helped us get Boston into a hoikuen (as opposed to a youchien), which means that his schooling is covered by government funding. The school is also very close to where we live. It will only be for three months, but this will be an important part of Boston’s language development and ability to make friends. Please be praying for him over the next few months, and that God will work through this to help us produce fruit for his glory.

Leslie delivers his first sermon at Matsudo on December 20th. Wearing a mask while preaching in Japanese can be a bit of a challenge, but we are so glad to be serving.

In terms of our mission, we are still getting settled into life with the Matsudo church in the middle of a pandemic. Worship services are very different from what they used to be. First of all, several members are no longer here, and concerns over the pandemic have kept many past visitors away (although we have been able to gather with some non-Christian friends briefly at home). As you might expect, we are also taking many precautions to protect the members of the church. For example, everyone wears a mask during worship, including Leslie while he preaches, and we only sing one verse of each song. Although it is not what anyone would hope for, we are grateful that we can still meet. Japan declared a state of emergency that includes Chiba Prefecture (where Matsudo is located), but so far they haven’t recommended that groups of our size not meet. Please be praying that this remains the case!

This is an image one of Boston’s teachers sent to us. We are so happy to see him thriving in his new school. Praise God for his blessings!

Despite the challenges to our mission that the pandemic poses, we are certain that it is God’s power that produces fruit even in the best of times, and this gives us comfort. With that in mind, at the beginning of the year, we began a new theme for the year focused on the gospel. The first series of the year is entitled “福音って何”, or “What Is The Gospel?” We are told in scripture that the gospel is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24), and so we want to focus the Matsudo church and all of our family’s work around that power. In the first series, we will cover the basics of the gospel – that Jesus died, was buried, and rose from the dead, along with a few other central topics. This will lead to other series throughout the year that will hopefully focus our hearts and minds around the gospel and the power of God within it. Ultimately, our prayer is that this will fuel fruit production both this year and in years to come. We are still figuring out what our mission will look like in these times, so please be praying that God gives us and the Matsudo church clarity and guidance so we can be fruitful for his glory.

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