Greetings from Shizuoka, Japan!
Following the Christmas and New Year holidays, January and February are usually fairly slow months for us here in Japan; that is compared to the actions that typically serve to occupy our lives and daily schedules. While January and February were not as hectic as November and December (see Shizuoka Newsletter 18), we continued to absorb ourselves into the lives of those we are attempting to reach for our Lord. During January and February, we remained steadfast in our efforts to use new ideas that might prove beneficial in reaching those who do not know the Lord and/or modifying existing strategies we have employed with some measure of success in the past.
One of the roles we strive to play here is to encourage the Christians previously won to the Lord. We strive to keep them motivated. Chief among the interactions we have is with my fellow Japanese ministers. Those they lead who make up the lay persons that follow them (who fall in the category of “followership”) are so critical to our collective work of ministry here. Thus, we spent a good measure of our time in January and February visiting leaders and followers alike in the various congregations of the Lord’s Church here. As you can imagine, high on the list of agenda items we approached was a reminder of the charter our Lord gave each of us through His Great Commission to “go and make disciples.”
In addition to spending a lot of time encouraging leaders and the church membership at large, in January we continued our Shizuoka English Bible classes (SEBC). The fascination of what is being taught among many of our students continues to increase. We are very pleased by the questions many are asking and with the regularity in their attendance. The excitement and inquisitive nature of some is a constant reminder of still how new Christianity is to so many of the people of Japan. As I have expressed before, the concept of a loving God is difficult for most here to comprehend and the need for a Savior is almost incomprehensible. This unawareness serves as a continual reminder and source of encouragement that we have been sent here to make known the God who created the heavens and the earth and to help so many understand the need for salvation. Hearing our students read the Bible aloud and then helping them to recognize the meaning behind these life giving words is a unique blessing and a life changing opportunity!
In February in addition to our SEBC classes, we were blessed with two extracurricular events. One of these events was being able to participate in the engagement ceremony for one of our young adults at the Nakada congregation, Junji Okazoe. Brother Junji informed us in January he was planning to marry in May. On many occasions I have studied with Junji toward helping him grow as a Christian. Needless to say, we were thrilled to hear of his plans to marry; this is especially because Junji is marrying another Christian.
In Japan it is especially difficult to find a Christian wife or husband. In the past, sadly we have seen many young Christians fall away due to marrying someone outside of the Faith. In the months ahead I will be conducting marriage counseling for Junji and his future wife, Makiko.
The highlight of February came at the end of the month when we were blessed to host a coffee and snack night with a devotional at the Nakada Church of Christ. Each month most of the congregations here host a full-fledged fellowship involving a potluck meal and sometimes an accompanying program of some sort. It is similar to our fellowships in the U.S. The idea was to afford a better opportunity to interact on a more personable basis and to concentrate on responding to the interests and needs of those present on a one-on-one basis. Additionally, we wanted to provide an opportunity to focus on the needs of those present as it pertains to where they are in the progression of their Christian walk. We are hopeful this new modification will prove productive…”time will tell.” I delivered a short devotional message at the conclusion of our time together. During the event we shared coffee and snacks, played games, and sang songs. We would appreciate your prayers that our efforts will produce positive responses from this new endeavor. If we experience favorable results, we will continue this at the Nakada congregation and introduce the concept to other congregations in the area as well.
Thank you so much for your support and for continuing to remember us in your prayers. We are forever indebted to you for your love and partnership with us. May God’s blessings be upon you and those you love.
With Warm Regards and Love, Ken and Etsuko Hysten