Shimo Update 7/8/08

Well I am feeling much better this week after the low of last week.  Thank you for your prayers, they were felt and God has answered.  I feel a lot better, although the problems are still here, I’m able to see the hope behind them clearer than before.

  Our brother, Mark, was in an exhibition event with some other students from his university, and he invited Samantha and I to come and observe.  He learned a traditional Japanese dance, and performed it with a friend from CN, who is also an exchange student there.  We will call him To-kun.  He is here with several other ladies from CN, and I’m hoping to continu building a relationship with them.  I’ve asked you to pray for CN in the past and present, and I ask you again, DO NOT FORGET ABOUT CN!  Just because I am in Japan, my heart has not changed and it still cries out for the salvation of CN.  I have pictures from the event in the album I previously linked for you, but it’s at the bottom of this email too.

  While we were there, there were several tables set up with food from different countries, so we made the rounds and got our dinner from the samplings we had.  I rode the bus by myself over to Yamanota, which is where the university is located.  The characters for it are the kanji for “mountain”, the hiragana for “no” (which means possession), and the kanji for “rice fields.”  Literally translated it means, “The rice fields of the mountain.”  Isn’t it beautiful?  But, it is kind of confusing as the character for guchi, which means “mouth”, is very similar to the kanji for “rice fields.”  There is actually an area of Shimnoseki that is called Yamanoguchi, and it is about 4 or 5 bus stops before Yamanota.  I got confused, but Praise God, I have learned enough Japanese to ask a lady sitting next to me if that was really Yamanota or not.  I would have had to walk for a long way in a direction I didn’t know if I had gotten off the bus then. 

  When we sat down at the tables to munch on traditional Thai, Australian, Japanese, and Korean food, we were ambushed by several students wanting to practice English.  It was neat.  We became the life of the party, even though nobody but Mark, and a few of the Chinese students, knew who we were.  People were taking their pictures with us and everything.  It was fun though…a kind of celeb status at times.  🙂

  One of the guys who I started talking with is named Kazuya, and in the phonetic alphabet, he had the word “Perfection” printed on his shirt.  I told him it was funny, and that started a conversation.  He is a very humble guy, saying that he is basically perfection, but he comes from a poor town.  He is studying economics, but loves to speak English, especially since he is very good at it.  I do have to admit that he is very good at it, and we had a really great conversation.  Another guy who we talked with is named Kenjiro – his name means, “Beautiful World.”  He was wearing another interesting t-shirt…it was white with a brown Jesus fish on it, and Jesus’ name emblazoned in the center.  I told him I liked his shirt and asked if he was a Christian.

  His response made me laugh at first.  He said, “Only on some days.”  I gave him a look of confusion and he went on to explain.  “On Christmas Day, I am a Christian.  But any other day, I am not.”  At least he was honest.  But I have thought about it more and more.  At the time I answered him “Oh, I see.  I’m a Christian every day.”  We left it at that.  It made me wonder, though, about those “Christians” back home.  You know the ones.  The ones who say they are Christians, but really only go to church on Easter or Christmas…or Mother’s Day.  Isn’t it interesting that a Japanese atheist is more honest about his lukewarmness than supposed Christians back home in America?  Now you might be thinking, “How can you say I’m not a Christian if I only go to church on those days.  You don’t know my heart, don’t judge me.”  I’m not judging you.  You’re right, I don’t know your heart.  But God does.  And He knows your heart when you do eventually go to church.  He knows that the worship you give Him on those days is just a punctuation mark to your life without Him in between those days.  What I mean is, you acknowledge Him with your mouth, but your actions and heart say otherwise.  This is a tough message, and I might ruffle some feathers, but I believe it has to be done, or I am not being faithful to God.  It’s alright to pray for people in Japan, but if you yourself do not have a right heart with God, how are you knowing what to pray for?

  After this discussion, Kazuya began to ask me more probing questions.  I don’t know what his motives were for them…it might just be that I am a blonde female gaijin (foreignor) and he doesn’t usually have a chance to talk with such a person.  Or he might have genuinely been interested.  But he began to ask me if I really truly believe in religion.  I told him NO.  I do not believe in religion.  I believe in Jesus.  I was able to use this misguided question to share the whole of the Gospel with him in a few sentences:  Jesus is the Son of God.  He came to earth as a baby and grew into a man.  He lived the perfect life (like Kazuya’s shirt) and then died on a cross to save mankind from their sins.  Now, if believe in this and choose the ask Jesus for forgiveness, then He will cleanse us and when we die, we will go to heaven and be with God forever.  Just a short window, but that’s what God gives sometimes.  As I shared, it was like everyone else in the room disappeared…I don’t remember hearing anything else going on in the room.  After that, he asked about my church and what section of Christianity it was.  I told him, but I told him it shouldn’t matter…just so long as you believe in Jesus. He is really interested in International Cafe, and he said he might want to come to church sometime.  Again, I don’t know his motives, but it is encouraging.  Even if he comes to church for the wrong reasons, at least he is coming to church and will hear the Gospel.

Thanks for your prayers again and keep praying for the church here as we are stil working through many things.  A lot of people are hurting emotionally and need healing.  Pray for the leadership as they seek God’s will in leading the people out of this valley.  Praise God that it is in the valley that the most growth can/will happen.  God is good!

In Him,

Sarah ><>

Nana Gatsu

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