Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maybe I'm here to pray...

Walking down the stairs of the train station toward the platform to meet my train, I saw her. A young woman--maybe mid 20's--dressed in short shorts, high heals, a T-shirt that didn't quite cover her midriff, frizzled tea colored hair, looking like she was on her way out to meet her girlfriends to go clubbing. Her voice was husky and loud. She was focusing on her cell phone--that connection to a community out there, somewhere. She was, in appearance, like so many other young women I see here.

Except, she had a baby on her back, and three little children standing around her. I am guessing they were 4, 3, 2 and then the baby... The three year old girl did something that Mom didn't like, and got smacked on the head. She cried a little, but the 4-year old brother worked to pacify her. The two year old kept holding onto Mom's pocket. Mom kept looking at her cell phone.

We don't often see young mothers. At least, we didn't used to see them. Abortion is the number one birth control method after condoms here, and Japan is concerned about the dropping birth rate. Many Japanese women have decided its just too hard to raise kids here and there is a negative population growth...

I focused on them for a while, then glanced up to realize that MANY people were watching them. Our train came, and they got on. When the Mom talked, she talked loudly. The kids were amazingly well behaved. People watched.

Then I remembered a friend's comment about a year ago--maybe we are here to pray for these people.

I looked at the mother, and prayed for her. I prayed that she would find the transforming power of the gospel. I prayed that she would find that she is truly loved by the God who created her. I looked at the children and prayed "Lord, please protect them from harm. Allow them to come to know your love and new life."

I wonder if anyone else has ever prayed for them. If you pray, would you pray for the mom and four children? We will never know, this side of eternity, how God answers these prayers, but I know that we are called to pray!

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

As I got off the train and headed up the steps, I overheard the ladies behind me talking about this young mom. Taihen they said. Its hard, sad, pitiful. Hard to be a young mom. Taihen.

I think its better to pray for her than to pity her.

A Sapporo Tourist and a Covenant

My trip to Sapporo last week was for a leadership meeting with Asian Access missionaries involved in Church Multiplication Teams. We chose this location because by God's grace Asian Access hopes to see a network of churches in this area join together to plant daughter churches beginning next spring. We were able to meet church leaders from several churches that may participate in the network. It is exciting to see the potential here!

Since this was my first trip to Sapporo, though, I felt it was a shame to just sit in meetings! So, one morning I got up and out early enough to walk around the central part of of the city.

This red brick building is the "Old Hokkaido Government Building" that was built in the late 1800's. It is in the center of a number of "newer" government office buildings. Red brick buildings are not that common here, and those that are left from this era tend to have quite a draw. There is a park-like atmosphere around the building, even though this block is entirely surrounded by silver and glass business structures.

Walking away from the red brick building, I went through a winding garden path, and thought this was such a lovely, peaceful looking view--the weeping willow and the water lilies...quiet in the midst of the hustle of others trying to get to work at that time of the morning.

I walked a few more blocks until I got to Odori Park. This is an extra large boulevard park which is the location of the large Ice Sculptures each year in February. The day I was there it was quite warm--and the fountains looked inviting! The television tower in the background marks the eastern end of this park.

I rounded a corner and ran into this old "clock tower" building. Later I came back with a few coworkers. This building was constructed in the late 1870's to be used as a drill hall and assembly hall for the Sapporo Agricultural College. It was fashioned after buildings found in the "western part of America" according to the sign board. There were a number of North Americans involved in the early days of this educational institution, and one of them had the idea of bringing in a tower clock from the US. The clock was installed in 1881. There is a letter from the clock company dated 2001 on the commemoration of 120 years of the clock--which still works and whose chimes are heard around the downtown on the hour.

More significant than that of the clock, however, was a document that we read inside.

One of the early men to come to the school, William S. Clark, was a committed believer. He spent less than two years in Hokkaido, but he gathered a group of young Japanese men together and trained them in the Gospel. The document that he wrote, and a number of these men signed is called the "Covenant of Believers in Jesus." Many of the young men who signed the covenant went on to be prominent scientists, educators and church leaders.

As we seek God's grace in establishing more churches in this area, it is encouraging to know that others have come before, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to Japanese in this area.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Encouragement in Hokkaido

I (Faith) am in Hokkaido for a few days to participate in a team leaders meeting for the Asian Access Church Multiplication missionaries. In my role of support as the Human Resource Development Coordinator, I am included in this time of praying, planning and reporting.

This time our team leader meetings are being held in Hokkaido so we can meet with some of the pastors who will be involved in the next church planting network that, Lord willing, will be started here in March of 2008. At the same time, four individuals from the US are here with Asian Access on an EnVision Tour--seeking to know whether God would have them serve in Japan and/or with Asian Access.

Last night, the team leaders and the EnVision participants gathered around a table to hear about the work that God is doing in a church located in a bedroom community of Sapporo. The husband and wife pastoral team shared about the journey God had taken them through in leading them to form a congregation made up of house churches or cell churches about 12 years ago. They presently have around 20 house churches that meet through out the week. The pastoral care is done in the house churches, and the house church leaders are coached by supervisors. The senior pastor is responsible for vision setting, shepherding the supervisors, and he preaches at a joint service on Sunday morning.

In a country where pastors are often very top-down and controlling, it was fascinating to hear how the Lord had been working in his heart to enable him to release his lay leaders to do the work of ministry in the church. The congregation has grown from about 50 to around 200 in the 12 years they have used this model. He has visions for it to multiply exponentially over the next few years.

After dinner, we were broken up into four groups and taken to four different house church meetings. I attended a house church of middle and high school girls (aged 12 to 16)--led by two 15-year old girls! Their supervisor was with us, and encouraged them through the evening, but the girls definitely were the ones setting the tone for the evening.

With three of us outsiders, they took time to get acquainted with us...which then cut into their time. In an effort to conserve time, they briefly went over the main points of the pastor's sermon from the previous Sunday. Then they each shared what they wanted God to do in their life at an upcoming youth camp. They prayed together that God would answer these prayers. They went back to talking a bit more about the sermon. Then the girl in the red jacket shared how she and another Christian in her school had prayed about asking several of their tennis team friends to come to the first ALPHA gathering this weekend. They had her get down on her knees and surrounded her to pray for her.

When the time was winding down, they began to talk about the growth of the whole congregation. One said they hoped that it would double in the next 20 years. Others said that wasn't enough--that it should grow much bigger than that. I sat back listening to them excitedly talk about how God would work. Watching them, seeing their commitment, and today comparing notes with the others who attended other house churches, I think they will see God do great things. They really believe He will!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gathering for Prayer

We meet together in regions throughout Japan for a Day of Prayer each Fall. Today those in the Tokyo area met together to pray for our mission's ministry both in Japan and in other parts of Asia.

Many of us who work in the Tokyo area are involved in ministries that reach beyond our mission.
  • We have one who is the editor for publications for the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA).
  • One woman has written a bilingual parenting curriculum and is training Japanese to lead parenting classes through the nation.
  • Another is teaching at the Christian Academy in Japan--our children's school.
  • One woman has written many bilingual Bible Studies.
  • We have a couple with a vision to mobilize evangelism training among the laity in Japan.
  • Of course Stan pastors an international church and
  • I am involved in missionary care both for Asian Access and as a member of a committee under JEMA.
Others here work administratively for the mission.

Together we are all part of the Asian Access family--and even more important, we all share the desire to see Japanese have a personal relationship with the God who created them, who sustains them, who sent His Son to die for them.

It was a good day.

More photos from our Anniversary Outing

When we went to Tokyo Bay on Monday it was a gray, off-and-on-rainy day. We had decided to take a water taxi to Odaiba and the rain held off enough for us to go on the top deck for some photos of the area.

Our good friends Doug and Carol have recently moved to the area above--another island of reclaimed land on the Tokyo Bay. A few Japanese Christians who live in the area asked for a Bible Study about 5 years ago. That has grown into an evangelistic outreach. Up until July they had been commuting 1 1/2 hours one way to teach English classes and Bible classes. When other commitments were over, they were freed up to "moved into the neighborhood." Carol says she loves walking through the plazas around their apartment and being greeted by students, their parents and friends.

We hadn't made it down to see them yet, so we were glad to "float by" them. On our return we went to see their new apartment.

The bridge above is the "Rainbow Bridge" illuminated at night. Odaiba is behind the bridge.

As we came in toward the water taxi terminal, we were facing the Fuji Television building--with the big round ball. We had lunch in the building that is multicolored--one of the several, large shopping complexes.

We were greeted by "Lady Liberty" off to our right as we came in. We've actually seen "Lady Liberty" a number of times here in Japan. [There used to be one at a gaming parlor on our way to the summer cabin, and the first kid to spot it would get 100 yen (roughly $1). They tore the whole complex down a few years ago.]

Here we are again with Tokyo behind us. Stan would want me to tell you that the small islands behind us are part of the cannon emplacements that were supposed to protect Tokyo from Commodor Perry's Black Ships.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Celebrating 24 Years!

We celebrated our 24th anniversary today with lunch at Odaiba, a trendy community on the shores of Tokyo Bay.

Great is His Faithfulness!

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Happy Birthday to Stan!

Tonight we celebrated Stan's birthday. We gathered around the table to share a delicious chocolate cake from the bakery in the department store nearby. Earlier today Stan spoke at the chapel at the Christian Academy in Japan--and the 200+ kids sang to him--with a cheering section of his daughter and a couple of "adopted daughters" in the back of the auditorium.

Even though he is a year "older" he still has a heart for fun, borrowing a wig A has used for various performances.

Notice who is the tallest in our family right now? She will probably be passed up by two boys in another year or two, but right now she's enjoying the "advantage." One month from today, she will be 18th!

Hmmm...I forgot Stan was 40 when she was born!