Update 06/16/08

  On Saturday, it was my birthday, and I turned 24.  I am so excited that God gave me the opportunity to have my birthday outside of the States!  It has provided a really neat way to learn more about the culture.  Also, I’ve been able to find out who has become the most sensitive to the Gospel because of their response to my birthday.  I would never have thought of my birthday as being a tool, but it’s surprising what God can use.  Now, I feel like I can focus more energy on a few people rather than spreading myself out so thin. 

  I also share my birthday with the pastor’s son, Titus, who turned 16 this year.  So, the whole family invited me and Samantha out to celebrate in Fukuoka.  We got to the Haug’s house at 8am to start it off, and then we all drove down to Fukuoka (it’s on the other island, Kyushu, and is the city I flew in to when I arrived).  The first event was to go see Indiana Jones: Crystal Skull.  After that, we took off for a reservation at Hard Rock Cafe!  Yes, I bought a t-shirt with the logo and Fukuoka underneath! πŸ™‚  They really made a big deal out of Titus and my birthday, even took our pictures and put them on keychains for us.  Oh, and when you go through my pictures, you will see a picture of me and a really, really tall guy (well, of course he’s tall, b/c I’m so short), but I’m pretty jazzed about the picture, so check it out! πŸ™‚  After lunch, we went to the all-exciting COSTCO!  Yes, we have a Costco within an hour and a half of where I live.  We stocked up on some things until someone has a chance to go back.  I guess, too, that you can order off a website and have things delivered to your house, so that’s nice to know.  I just browsed around until I saw it: a whole 24 pack of Dr. Pepper.  Naturally, I bought it…my birthday present to myself…the gift that keeps on giving.  πŸ™‚  I’ve only had one so far…I’m savoring them.  After that we checked out a couple music stores…both Titus and I are music geeks (he plays guitar and me, well, y’all know what I do, so I won’t mention it). 

  Yesterday (Sunday), was the Shimonoseki Wind Ensemble Pick-Up concert!  Nakayama-san and Samantha went with me, and I’m so glad that we went.  Not only was it great music, but Mitsui-san, Satsuki-san, and Shirayama-san were so happy that we went.  There were two flute soloists and two clarinet soloists (one being Shirayama-san).  Then, the last bit was a quartet of saxophones: tenor, baritone, alto, and Shirayama-san’s sister switched between the alto and soprano saxophone.  It was really great.  I can’t wait for the next concert, which will have all instruments present, in August! 

  These are great people and I’m so excited to get to know them.  Frequently, our conversations turn to God and such related things.  I had told them previously that my uncle was suffering with cancer, and when he passed away on Monday, I told them about it.  I was able to share the joy and hope I have at being able to see him again soon someday in heaven.  Mitsui-san was particularly vocal on his hope that I would see Uncle Tom again.  He said to me, “Ganbate!  Ganbate!”, which I didn’t know the meaning until I got back to the Center.  Taka says that it means, “Keep going”  or “keep trying” or “work hard for it”.  I wish I had a better understanding of Japanese that I could have used that opportunity to tell them the Truth, that heaven is not something we earn as humans because of our actions, but that it is only the work of Jesus, who lived the perfect life and died in our place.  I want them so much to know Jesus as their Lord, keep them in your prayers.  They are open and so enthusiastic about meeting with me and the others from the Center.  Satsuki-san said repeatedly to me, “Anatao dai suki” which means, “I really, really like you.”  And Mitsui-san said something to me about Taka, and when he put it into broken English for me, he said, “I want to eat Asada-san.”  Prepositions are not very easy to translate from Japanese-English.  Hehe.  I told Taka and he was a little wary, but I think he will still go visit the restaurant.  πŸ™‚

  Thank you for all the birthday wishes!  I had kind of a rough week last week, with Uncle Tom going to be with Jesus, and then also celebrating my birthday so far from all the people I love so much.  But God is good, and He gives grace where and when it is needed, and your messages were just that.  Keep me posted on happenings back home.  I want to pray for you as much as you are praying for me.

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