As you think about today being Independence Day in America, please remember that there is something greater that the people of Japan need their Independence from…sin.
One of the families on our team are leaving tomorrow. They are going to stop in Nagoya, where they are going to work from now on, and then go home to the States. Marcy will be having their 4th child (possibly a girl…they don’t want to find out until the baby’s born) and they will be working to develop a strategic relationship between their church and the church in Nagoya. We are all really excited about their new opportunity and location, but are sad that they will be leaving us. I have really enjoyed conversations that I have had with the Cranes. They have lived in the Cincy area for several years, working with the Cincy Symphony Orchestra, so we have had tons to talk about. And they are solid Christians, the encouragement of which I have greatly needed.
I found out that the youth group here at SCBC will be going on a camping trip up north the first week of August. If you remember, I told you about the crazy experience I had before coming where I was put in touch with a guy living here in Japan, by a Sister I have never met in person. The guy, Bobby, ended up being best friends with Taka, and so it was another confirmation that this was what God wanted for me for this year. Well, Taka has been asked to come speak at Bobby’s church’s youth camp, and not only this, but the youth kids are able to go to the camp as well. Taka’s in the process of finding out if I can go as well, and it will give me a great opportunity to minister to Japanese youth and also meet other miss’naries and Japanese pastors. Please pray that everything will be sorted and that it will work out. I’m really excited to go.
We are working on getting a young adults English Bible Study going too. Mark, a college student from Australia, is studying Japanese and medicine at Shimonoseki University. He became a Christian a year and a half ago and is really spear-heading getting this started. I need it as well. We’ve invited Kazoo, one of the students at Shimotan, the community college Samantha and I are teaching at through next week. Kazoo (his nickname…emphasis on the first syllable, not the second) is from Hagi, about two hours away taking both train and car, but he studied economics in York, UK. His English is really good, as such, and he quit school at York and came to Shimonoseki to study nutrition/health. He’s pretty new to the area, about the same time as me, so he doesn’t have many friends here. We are trying to get him plugged in, but there is the prospect of Brian and Yoko leaving, so we’re hoping this Bible Study might provide a great reason for him to stick around (as well as a group of the guys from church who play basketball on Friday nights). Pray for an openness to come to this. We’re also praying about inviting Mika to join us.
One last and final thing and then I will close with some links to pictures and such. Today, I went to have lunch at Quixote restaurant. I went in with purpose today, praying before going in, and took my New Testament. I have a goal to memorize favorite Scripture in different languages, as a way to help them stick in my mind more. So far, I have John 3:16 (Spanish), John 14:6 (Greek), and Philippians 4:4 (Mandarin/Chinese). For Japanese, I’m working on Philippians 4:19…a great favorite…”And my God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches which are in Christ Jesus.” I love this verse because it says that God will provide for my needs, not based on my needs, but based on His riches…which are sooooo much greater than any of my needs could demand. But I went in to ask them to help me memorize the verse. It’s in hiragana, katakana, and kanji…but I can’t read the kanji, so I asked them to help me put all the words into hiragana for easier reading. After that, I decided to go further and shared the rest of the verses I have memorized…under the guise of showing off my amazing language skills…Satsuki-san read each and every verse out loud (so Mitsui-san heard every word). Then I would say it in whatever language I had it memorized…they were really excited.
I went in thinking that if it had an impact on them, that Satan would try to retaliate. I didn’t know when or how, but I was on the lookout, and I was ready. Almost immediately after finishing the verses, and my coffee, the too-tired(retired)-teacher-who-used-to-be-in-the-yakuza (mafia) came in and sat down at my table. We’ve spoken before, and I think he has been waiting for me to do something bold, like bring out my Bible and talk about it. He looked over my hiragana of Phil. 4:19 and said, “You wrote it well. I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God. You don’t understand it.” I told him that I did understand it, and he asked if I wanted to know why. I said, “sure.” So he explained how God didn’t make the universe, and isn’t concerned with what goes on down here. He gives thanks, but he gives thanks to the universe, to everything, because that is what gave birth to him. Again, he said, “You don’t understand me.” I assured him I did, but didn’t feel led to give a defense. The timing wasn’t right, and I could feel him just baiting me. I was not going to bite. He saw that it wasn’t going anywhere, and I glanced at Mitsui-san and Satsuki-san, who were wearing uncomfortable smiles, almost waiting for him to finish and just start eating his lunch.
He sat down to his tray of assorted Japanese yummies, and folded his hands, saying the standard “itadakimasu” which means basically, “Ok, I’m going to start eating now the food that you have given me.” I say it too, out of politeness to whoever cooked, but I pray before that and make sure they see it is a separate act. He was deliberate, and after he said it, he turned to me and said, “I thank for the food. I don’t thank God.” He went on to complain about a headache, and a felt the atmosphere changing to where I should leave. So I told him that I would pray for him, that God would heal his headache, and left them smiling.
It might seem frightening, or discouraging, to some of you. This was the first time I was blatantly confronted about my faith. Most Japanese tip-toe around the issue and won’t get into details of their beliefs. But this man came straight out at me, and it’s no coincidence that it happened right after I shared the verses with Satsuki and Mitsui…John 14:6 states: “Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father except by me.” I am very encouraged by it because it means that Satan feels threatened. And that is a wonderful thing. Continue to pray for these people!!! God is working on their hearts and Satan is trembling at the thought of two people coming to know and worship God. The battle is on, the line is drawn, and I’m not backing down. Neither is God. He doesn’t back down for you, He won’t back down for these people either.
Thanks for your perseverance in getting to the end of this. I hope it was worth it to you. I’m thinking about you all and pray for you!
Nana Gatsu (July)