Grace and peace to each of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We pray this letter finds you blessed and thriving by God’s grace, growing and fruitful in the Lord.
As of today (May 31) we officially mark 6 months since our return to Japan. We have seen God working since day one (actually before that!) and we are so grateful that he has allowed us to be a part of it. We are also grateful for your prayers and financial support, which has made these 6 months possible. We rejoice every time we think of all the people who are partnered with us in this work.
May has been a relatively quiet month. Towards the turn of the month, yet another state of emergency was declared and this has been repeatedly extended since that time. In fact, what was a fairly basic declaration has been expanded both in scope and reach. The regulations are stricter particularly in Tokyo and Osaka and a few other places, and the declaration has been amended to include several other prefectures as well. The numbers have declined thankfully, but with the Olympics around the corner, it seems unlikely the declaration will be lifted anytime soon.
In any event, the declaration has shut down many things that had opened in April. Several churches in the Tokyo area continue to hold online worship only. The lady who tutors our children in Japanese took about a month off because of the virus situation. We’ve seen some businesses near us close, presumably because of the financial toll. Yet we are grateful the Matsudo members are willing to continue meeting in person, and that God has sheltered our small congregation from the virus. We pray he will continue to do so.
Although May has been quiet in many ways, we have still seen the Lord at work. Over the past month, Sara has met two women in our neighborhood who we did not know before. One is a mother of some children who play at the playground regularly, and another is a neighbor who lives down the street a few houses (that’s about 50 feet away in Japan!) and also happens to speak English! In fact, one of her children currently lives in the U.S. Have we mentioned how God prepared exactly the right place for us to be? We have seen it so many times, and he continues to amaze us with his provision.
We have also had the opportunity to reconnect with a couple of relationships we had in our previous time in Matsudo. Just yesterday as of this writing, our kids played with two girls and a boy we knew previously. Although we haven’t been able to get together with their parents yet, we hope we may be able to do that again soon.
As we have seen God provide these relationships, our minds have been turning towards the future and how we can serve God faithfully through what he has provided. Although the pandemic continues to throw the brakes on various activities, the vaccination process in Japan has been ramping up recently. In fact, we are excited to say that one of our members was finally able to get her first shot just this past week. Praise God for his grace! While it’s too early to say when exactly we’ll arrive, it appears to be a light at the end of a long tunnel. Lord willing, before the end of the year we will all be able to receive the vaccine. That is our prayer. At any rate, this change has been enough to allow us, together with the members at Matsudo, to start considering the future.
This coming Sunday (June 6th), Leslie will be speaking with the congregation after worship and encouraging us to start considering the future together. We’ll spare the details for now since we haven’t talked to the Matsudo members yet, but mostly the goal is to request God’s provision and blessing as a church, and to consider how we can use the gifts he has given us to his glory. Please be praying for us as we consider these things together as a body.
In addition to this, Leslie has begun working on discipleship material to use at Matsudo. While there is an abundance of material in English, we haven’t run across much material in Japanese, and at any rate, we believe it could be helpful to have something suited to the context in Matsudo. The basic idea is to have material geared towards both seekers and new Christians, helping lead the prior to faith in Christ culminating in baptism, and the latter to a deeper understanding of the faith so they can be rooted and able to effectively show others the way. Creating this material will likely be a lengthy process and the details are still taking shape, but we pray it will prove fruitful.
Along with the various work and developments over the past month, we’ve had a few personal points of interest. We celebrated Leslie’s 38th birthday this month, and at the end of the month (just last week) we were able to take a family trip to camp in the Fuji Five Lakes area. It was wonderful to get away for a bit and refresh our minds and spirits. We are so grateful to live only 2-3 hours away from such natural beauty. Especially during this pandemic, being able to go away from everything and not have to wear a mask every time we were outside was a blessing!
As we move into the summer months, we are hopeful for what is ahead. We are hopeful not primarily because of vaccines, but because we know God is moving. We are hopeful because we know he knows who is seeking him. We are hopeful because we know his heart is for every nation on earth. Please be praying for us, that we will be useful servants along with the Matsudo church.