Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Homesick? Cook up a storm!

Do you ever feel homesick or maybe, just a deep longing to be with family and friends that you dearly love?  Naturally, missionaries experience these feelings too.  Sometimes it is memories of times past that you wish you could recreate.  Sometimes you wish you were creating new memories with grown-up children or cuddling grandchildren.  All in all, it adds up to sometimes wishing we were somewhere else at holiday time.  This past week was Thanksgiving!  Well, at least in the USA, our friends and family were gathering to celebrate.  In Japan, it's not anything special.  There is a business holiday on Nov. 23rd called "Laborer's Thanksgiving" where people are thankful to have work but it isn't celebrated.  So, naturally, we were missing "home" and "family" a bit more than usual.  So, deciding to make the most of it, we organized a number of "events".

It isn't often that missionaries and pastors can coordinate their schedules to spend time together just for fun and fellowship.  So it was a treat to spend time with Pastor and Mrs. Iwagami and their family on Thursday evening!  Our main food was Indian Curry!  Mmmmmm, we are thankful for the variety of foods that the Lord created.  Desserts included pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate pie.  A rousing game of team pictionary made for a lot of laughter and fun.  Our son, Josiah, and his family are also good friends with the Iwagami family, and they were able to join us for the evening.  Good times.  

On Saturday, we had our English Cafe for November. This continues to be a very effective outreach. It turned out that MORE people were able to attend BECAUSE it was a 3-day holiday weekend.  And yes, this is when I decided to cook up a storm for our Japanese friends.  I wanted them to enjoy some of the traditional foods that often show up at our Thanksgiving table in the midwest of the USA.  I didn't bake a turkey but rather a chicken and stuffing casserole, along with corn casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, 7 layer salad, and traditional pumpkin pie for dessert.  Here are a few photos:


Mrs. Yasu, our church member, (on the right) brought her friend in the purple jacket on the left.  Her friend brought this amazing craft to show everyone.  It is designed to look like "osechi ryori", the traditional new year's foods served in Japan.  The interesting thing is that it is all made from kimono cloth.  Absolutely beautiful!  In the middle is dear Mrs. Watanabe, one of our church members.  She doesn't speak English, but she comes just to use her gift of serving, helping with setup, and cleanup, which is a big help!  

That is one giant shrimp in the middle!  

Carl, on the far left, is here for a short-term mission, helping at the church plant of a Japanese pastor.  It was our first time to meet him.  Karen, Miyu, and her mom are on the top row.  Kenta is in the middle of the front row.
It was exciting to have two university students attend for the first time.  Karen spent a year in Norway  as an exchange student and Kenta spent almost a year in New Zealand.  So they were both happy for a chance to speak in English again.  Miyu and her mom and brother were a part of Agape Church quite a number of years ago.  When Miyu was in about 3rd grade she read a book in her school library about Jesus.  She was so interested that she asked her mother if they could visit church.  Her mom found Agape on the internet.  Miyu believed and was baptized several years later.  But then school life took over and she quit attending during junior high and high school.  She is now a sophomore at a university about 3 hours away.  We were thrilled to hear that she found a church there and has been attending quite frequently.  She is studying to become a nurse.  

The older folks who attended talked about how they felt energized by having young people there who are just starting adult life and starting to follow their dreams.  It was a very congenial group and we all had a good time.  They all enjoyed tasting the various foods, many of whom had never eaten anything like it before.  This was a good chance to share with them about the months leading up to Jesus' birth from the Bible.  We learned that Kenta developed a special friendship with a man  while in New Zealand who just happened to be a Christian pastor.  So he was quite interested in learning more about Christianity.  We pray that God will lead us into friendship with other adults like these.  There are so many of them in Japan that they have become a new segment of Japanese society called, "returnees".  People who have lived abroad and then returned to Japan.  Why are they so unique?  It is because once people have experienced life in other countries, it makes it more difficult for them to fit in when they return to live in Japanese society.  This often leads to an openness in their hearts to friendships with others like themselves, or with foreigners who also don't fit in.   Returnees are often much more open to the Gospel because they have seen or experienced life with Christians in other countries.  



Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Joy of Teaching the Bible

This past year the Lord has brought some new seekers into our lives and it is such a joy to be able to teach God's Word to them.  We've had a conversational English class on Monday mornings for quite some time and there has been some turnover in the members.  When Kathy noticed that one of the ladies, in particular, was showing more interest in the Bible, a little over a year ago, she offered to do a Bible study right after the class for anyone who wanted to stay.  The numbers have varied but anywhere from 2-5 of the women have stayed almost every week.  Just a few weeks ago, four ladies stayed for the “Firm Foundations” Bible study.  It was the final lesson after nearly a year of study and included a very clear presentation of the Gospel and an opportunity to pray and receive Christ. Although none of them have taken that step yet,  it is obvious that God is working in their hearts.  After we finished that lesson, they agreed to continue to study the Bible.  So we started a study on the Gospel of Mark, focusing on the life of Christ.  This particular one is designed as an introductory study for seekers.  However, it requires much more preparation in Japanese on Kathy's part than the previous study did.  Kathy is challenged and eager to work on improving her reading ability in Japanese.  So please pray for Kathy as she prepares and teaches this study on Mondays. 
Mrs. N, Mrs. O, and Mrs. K from the Monday study group who also attended our recent English Cafe.  

"kouyo" Autumn Leaves Viewing and "tanshin funin"

One thing I greatly admire about the Japanese people is their appreciation of nature.  When they begin to understand and get acquainted with the God of the Bible, the Creator of the world and everything in it, it seems to really impact them profoundly.  Despite extremely busy schedules, the Japanese often create special time to enjoy nature time throughout the year.  In the spring, they do cherry blossom viewing with parties under the blossoming trees.  In the fall, they do special outings that allow them to view the leaves changing colors.  Many historical buildings are surrounded by cherry trees or red maples.  Some years ago we discovered a Buddhist temple high on a mountain overlooking the city of Kyoto where the autumn leaves are gorgeous.  The leaves haven't been quite as pretty this year, some say, due to the many typhoons we had in summer and early fall.  But, we decided to make an outing with some new friends, the Kato family, to go and see the leaves.  3 of their 4 kids came along and we had such a good time.  Here is a picture of the 5 of them, minus their 7th grade son.  Mr. Kato's company practices a common Japanese style of business where "tanshin funin" goes along with the job.  This is when the company transfers the employee to a branch in another location and he is expected to leave his family behind.  In his case (better than some), they provide him with an apartment, utilities, and transportation to return home to visit his family for about 5 days every month.  He also has the use of a company car when needed.  Mr. Kato is very devoted to his wife and kids and when he's home for those few days, he wants to include them in anything he does.  It has given us a great opportunity to show hospitality and love to their whole family. They've been to our house several times for dinner.  This month we were able to spend most of a day on a fun outing together.  How did we meet them?  Their 6-year-old son joined an English class at our church.  One time while home, his dad was the one to come to class with him.  He is also interested in English and visited English Cafe.  During one visit to our home, we expressed how unusual it is to find a Japanese couple who like to socialize together rather than in their separate groups (Dad with work friends, Mom with other moms).  We expressed how much we've missed not having another couple to spend time with.  It made me smile to hear Mr. K reiterate that idea when we were driving home from our outing.  After looking at our wedding photos one night, they mentioned how they've never really had pictures taken of them as a couple, not even at their wedding.  So while we were out viewing the leaves, we made sure to get lots of photos of them together.  We really enjoy spending time with their whole family.  Their 3 boys and 1 daughter bring back lots of memories of our own children when they were growing up.  Pray that we can continue to develop a wonderful friendship with the Kato family.


Mr. and Mrs. Kato
Kokoa, Daiki, and Haku
The whole gang of us (plus one man with a dog who photo bombed the photo, front and center, because his wife was taking the picture!)  Note:  Mr. Kato insisted on carrying MY prominent pink bag for ME as we climbed up and down the steep paths.  

Just the two of us
The Kato family (minus one)

Kokoa, best big sister ever!

Amazing Grace

๐ŸŽผ๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽต๐ŸŽถ๐ŸŽนThis is Kathy with a co-teacher, Mrs. Kitamoto!  A number of years ago the junior high school where we both teach a few English classes part-time wanted to try an experiment.  They called it Immersion English.  They selected music and art as two subjects that they thought the students could learn to follow the English instruction without translation.  While Kathy is not a typical music teacher, she does have some background in music, and is a very good English teacher.  On the other hand, Mrs. Kitamoto is an awesome music teacher who speaks no English.  The school paired them together for 4-5 lessons each school year for all of the junior high students.  Kathy has just completed this year's lessons.  During the lessons, Kathy teaches the correct pronunciation of the English lyrics so that the students can learn to sing a new song in English.  Later, in the school year, or even the following year, the girls will perform the song at one of their school events.  These classes have become very popular at the junior high.  Kathy's favorite part is having the opportunity to teach "Amazing Grace" to each grade at some point.  The students always perform this hymn when they go to New Zealand for homestays.  Now they also perform it every year at the oratorical contest.  Kathy gets the chance to explain the history of John Newton's conversion as well as the meaning of the lyrics as she teaches them to sing the song.  Pray that the seeds that are planted during these music classes will take root in their hearts and bear fruit in the future.  ๐Ÿ™

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Okonomiyaki Party

What in the world is okonomiyaki?  Well, it's a kind of Japanese food that our area of Japan is famous for.  It starts with a simple batter, similar to a thin pancake batter.  Then shredded cabbage is added.  Now comes the part that means (as-you-like-it).  Many different things/flavors can be added to the basic mix.  Shrimp, seafood, thinly sliced pork or beef, green onions, fish flakes. etc  The batter is spooned out onto a hot grill with your favorite toppings.  When the cakes are cooked on both sides, the cake is topped with a sweetened soy based sauce and mayo.  Sounds delicious, doesn't it?  Believe me, it is.

In early May, there are some national holidays clumped together.  They call this Golden Week.  Many people like to travel during this time. We decided to stay at home for a "stay-cation".  We got lots done around the house and yard, and enjoyed time with friends and family.

One of the days we invited the Agape people to come to our house for an okonomiyaki party!   We had such a good time.  Different people volunteered to bring different ingredients and everyone pitched in for the preparations.  We had a wonderful time of fellowship as we enjoyed delicious Japanese food.






The Ten Commandments

How many of you have watched the movie, "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Hesston?  Yes, it's a classic, isn't it?

Some weeks ago as Mrs. K, Mrs. O, and Mrs. N were leaving at the end of Bible study, Mrs. K said, " I want to hurry home.  The Ten Commandments movie is being shown on Channel ? on TV.  When I watched it before, I could hardly understand anything.  Now that I have been studying the Bible with Kathy, I want to see if I understand more."  The other ladies nodded and said, "Yes, that's a good idea!  We'll watch it too!".

The next week at Bible study, they were full of questions.  We talked and discussed and learned a lot about the differences between living under the law and living under grace.

Kathy remembered that she had a DVD of the Jesus story in the church office.  She quickly got it after class and suggested Mrs. O take it home and watch it that week.

When she came back the following week, she exclaimed, "I watched it three times!!  The first time in English with subtitles but the rest of the time in Japanese.  It was so interesting.  I am getting more and more interested in studying the Bible."   Then she said, "I want to live my life like Jesus, showing love and kindness to everyone."  

Recently we have been studying the proofs of the resurrection of Jesus.  Pray that the signs and wonders recorded in the Bible will impact these women.

 

English Cafe

English Cafe is a event that we host at Agape on the fourth Saturday of the month, about 10 months out of the year.  It is designed to be a casual atmosphere where folks of all ages who are interested in improving their English can come and practice with native speakers.  Mainly we are the English native speakers, unless we happen to have a special guest visiting.

We set up small tables to make conversation units.  People practice free conversation for the first part of the time.  We provide refreshments and drinks, often homemade things that Kathy bakes.  Sometimes we have some English games or activities during the program time.  Murray gives a short talk in English from the Bible. Mrs. O and Mrs. N from the Monday morning Bible time often attend.  This past month we took turns reading a simplified character drama of the story of Daniel and the Lions Den.  Many of the people who attend are not yet believers.  Please pray that this outreach will bear fruit.