Saturday, June 21, 2014

Photos from Recent Hike

In our June 2014 newsletter, we made reference to a recent hiking trip with teammate, Tom Wilson.  Unfortunately, I wasn't comfortable carrying our nice camera on a backpacking expedition, so the pictures aren't great.  However, we wanted to share some them to give you a better idea of the incredible beauty that exists only a few hours from our home in Nagoya.  To view the photos, please click here.

Why Japan? YWAM Video


Why Japan from Oliver Banyard on Vimeo.
YWAM Tokyo
presents
"WHY JAPAN"

Directed / Produced by David McDaniel
Footage by Bjarte Haugen, Connor Caughlan and Oliver Banyard
Music by David McDaniel

Friday, December 27, 2013

Some Recent Photos...




In October, we took a Saturday and spent a day in the mountains.  The trees had just began changing colors.  We hiked, enjoyed God's creation, and just spent some quality time together.


Japan's maple trees are beautiful in the autumn.  We can't believe we've now been here for TWO seasons without seeing them at their peak.  Time is stretched thin and our schedules just aren't very flexible right now.  That said, we were happy to see some red on a few trees.  Maybe next year, we'll see them at their peak!








I've never been one to get excited about putting up Christmas decorations, but this year simple things like setting up a Christmas tree took on special meaning.  No one complained (including me).  Everyone took part and had a good time.










The day after Christmas, Gina and I delivered a small gift to four of our neighbors.  They were all surprised.  When we asked if they had done anything special to celebrate Christmas, they all answered, "No".  For the most part, Christmas is a normal day in Japan.  People go to work.  Some families celebrate with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a special "Christmas Cake."






On December 17th (Josiah's Birthday), Gina's parents landed in Nagoya.  It was a great reunion.  They'll be with us through the middle of January.










Waiting for Grandparents at the airport.  The boys stood in this spot for almost an hour...watching the door their grandparents would eventually walk through.  They were a little excited to see them!









 Gina and her parents at Nisshin Christ Church's "Christmas Dinner."  The event was an opportunity for church members to invite friends and family to a church event where the Gospel would be presented.  Many of those in attendance had never been in a church building before!









Kaji Uechi is Nisshin Church's college minister.  He gave a wonderful talk about the meaning of Christmas to a room where many people had never been exposed to Christianity.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to use this time to save many of those in attendance!




Are you interested in seeing more photos from our day-to-day life in Japan?  Look for us on FLICKR.  You should be able to find us through Jeremy's email address (jwsink@gmail.com).  We regularly upload new photos there!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Photos of our New Neighborhood

In July, our family moved into a new (rental) home that's about 15 minutes from where we've lived since arriving in Japan.  If you're interested in seeing our new location on a map, you can search for "Kaguyama Japan" in the search box in Google Maps.  If you'd like to see some pictures of our neighborhood, we've uploaded some of them here.  Please note, I've tried to include some interesting comments about the various pictures.  So, look for that those as you view the photos!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Photos from our Trip to Mt. Fuji...


Over Spring Break, we spent a few days at a retreat center near Mt. Fuji.  The first few days were rainy, but the sky cleared on the last day of the trip.  The views were stunning.  To see some photos, CLICK HERE..

Friday, February 22, 2013

2012 - The Year in Review

The following video was put together by one of our teammates (Jake Gee) and shown at Nisshin Christ Church's annual congregational meeting last month.  The video features a message to the church by Pastor Wayne Newsome (also, our team leader).  Even though the message is in Japanese, the video serves as a great visual summary of the church's ministry over the past year.  If you look closely, you may even see a few folks you recognize!

2013 Sokai Video - Nisshin Christ Center from Hey, Brother Brother on Vimeo.

Pastor Wayne Newsome's brief message to the members of Nisshin Christ Center for the 2013 Sokai.

Song: Doxology
Artist: Page CXVI

*Music rights belong solely to Page CXVI.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Contributions, Pledges, and Financial Partnership

This is an update to a previous post answering questions about pledging and giving.  Since some of that information has changed (now that we're on the field in Nagoya), we thought it important to post this update...

     Greetings!  Our family currently serves with Mission to the World's church planting team in Nagoya, Japan.  MTW is the global missions arm of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).  Since our denomination does not have a centralized mission budget, we rely on the Holy Spirit to lead individual families and church congregations to support us on a monthly or annual basis.  
     Before moving to Japan, MTW required us to raise 100% of our projected needs through special gifts and ongoing pledges.  Since Japan is such an expensive field, that process was daunting, but God was faithful to raise up an army of supporters who have been contributing faithfully toward our ongoing support.
     Even though we are now in Japan, it's still important for new partners join our support team.  Financial situations are always changing for us and our partners.  Our budget may increase or decrease for a variety of reasons that are beyond our control (like the changing value of the Dollar and Yen).  There are also cases where churches or families have to stop giving prematurely, so, new partners often replace those who are no longer in a position to give.  It would be impossible to plan for every contingency, but we're trusting God to continue to provide for our needs by stirring up new partners as needed. Ultimately, we're in His hands...and that's very comforting to us!
     Our hope is that financial contributors will see themselves as as more than "donors".  We want you to realize that you're partnering with us in this work.  For new churches to be planted, there must be church planters on the field and senders at home.  Without both of those groups in place, new churches won't be started.  So, we're partnering together to make that happen.  Making a pledge is a way to partner with us to plant new churches among the world's largest unreached people group.

How to Make a Pledge:
  • Our Web Site:  The easiest way to make a pledge is just to go to our online form by clicking here.
  • By Mail:  You can print a copy of our donor card by clicking here.  Simply fill in the blanks and mail it to the address indicated on the card.  
  • Credit Card:  You can set up a recurring contribution using a credit card by following the directions in the next section (below).  Setting up a recurring credit card payment automatically registers as a pledge, so there's no need to also send in a prayer card.
Options for sending in one-time or special contributions (without making a pledge):
  • Personal Check:  You can mail personal checks to:  MTW Donations, P.O. Box 116284, Atlanta, GA 30368-6284.  Always include "Sinks, acct #17143" somewhere on the check or memo line.
  • Automatic Draft:  It's easy to set up an auto draft from your checking or savings account.  Simply print out MTW's e-giving brochure by clicking here.  Fill in the blanks and send it to MTW along with a cancelled check.
  • Credit Card:  You can set up a one time or recurring contribution using your credit card by going here.

FAQ's

What if I'm unable to keep my pledge?
You can change it.  Ultimately, we'll trust God to raise up another donor to take your place.

How long will my pledge remain in effect?
Until you change it.

Now that you're on the field, do you really need new pledges?  What if I want to just send in a regular contribution.
There are many people who send regular contributions but haven't felt led to make a pledge. We're incredibly thankful for those folks, and they fill a great need every month. We never pressure anyone to pledge or give. However, making a pledge does help us plan and strengthens our sense of partnership with one another.

Will I receive a bill each month?
No, but you will receive a receipt each time you send a contribution.  That receipt also serves as a reminder to send in the next month's contribution.

Are contributions to MTW tax deductible?
Yes!  All contributions are tax deductible.  You will receive an official statement for your taxes at the end of each year.

I have another question...
Please feel free to contact us directly at grace4japan@gmail.com .  You may also visit the donor section of MTW's web page, which is located here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Do you want that TO GO?"

This is just a lighthearted story from a few weeks ago.  Maybe it'll provide a chuckle at our expense and also give you another peek into our lives here...

Thanksgiving Lunch with our Team
     It was the Friday night before Thanksgiving, and Gina had promised to make a green bean casserole for our team's thanksgiving lunch on Saturday afternoon.  In case you (like me) have never made a green bean casserole, you need to know that those crunchy onions on top are absolutely essential to the recipe.  This fact is important to the following story...as is the unhappy reality that the aforementioned crunchy onions are a little hard to find here in Japan.
     To put things into context, we were on our way home from a shopping trip where I'd reluctantly spent $7 each on light bulbs (yep, go back and read that again...it's not a typo).  Gina pointed out that she'd seen some fried onions on the bar at a local udon restaurant where we'd eaten lunch the day before.  She asked if I would please go inside and get an order of fried onions "to go" so she could use them on her casserole.  Probably that seems like a reasonable and simple request...but NOTHING in our lives is simple right now!  I immediately started thinking about the mental effort it'd take to communicate that I wanted those fried onions..."to go".  After having spent so much energy (and money) buying light bulbs, there was no way I was going to such trouble for a casserole.  I started shaking my head before Gina even finished her sentence.  I explained how the casserole would be just as good without the onions on top...in fact, I surmised that it might even be BETTER!
     As I walked from the car to the door of the udon shop, I opened up "Google Translate" on my smart phone and started to put a plan together.  I looked up the Japanese word for "box" (bo-ku-su) and rehearsed it a few times before walking in the door.  When the lady behind the counter looked my way, I smiled and said "konnichiwa!"  She obviously understood my greeting, and I felt a flood of confidence wash over me.  I proudly pointed to the onions, opened and closed my hands like I was holding a take-out box, and pointed from the onions to the front door, saying "bokusu, deska?"
     Yes, it's alright to laugh at me...it really did look as silly as it sounds.  The lady behind the counter was doing her best to keep a serious face and listen intently, but she didn't seem to understand.  So, I repeated myself a little slower (and probably a little louder, because that's what we Americans do when someone doesn't understand us).  She left me hanging for what seemed like an eternity...pretending not to understand.  Then, in very good English, she said, "Sir, are you saying you want the fried onions take-out???"  I smiled sheepishly and replied, "Yes...I'd like the onions take-out...thank you."  She turned around and told the man behind her to put some fried onions in a take out box.  Actually, I'm pretty sure she said a bit more than that based on how they all laughed after she finished!
     You'll be relieved to know that Gina's casserole turned out great and was a big hit at our team lunch.  In fact, the fried onions from the udon shop were even better than the canned ones she'd used in the past, and everyone wanted to know where they came from.  So, I expect this won't be my last trip to the udon shop for fried onions.  Next time, I'll just tell them I want an order of onions "take-out"!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Good Shepherd (Luke 15:1-7)

Each Sunday at Nisshin Christ Church, the sermon is translated into English in a manuscript that is available for those (of us) who don't yet speak Japanese.  A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to preach the Good News on a Sunday morning.  The manuscript for that sermon follows: 

The Good Shepherd

(Luke 15:1-7) Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Thank you again for the warm welcome you have shown our family. We also want to thank you for your patience with us as we begin to learn Japanese. Please know that we will work hard to learn to speak to you in your own language as soon as possible. We also want you to know that we feel very happy and honored that God has called us to serve with you in Nagoya, Japan. 

In the today’s passage, we see that “Tax Collectors” and “Sinners” were drawing near to Jesus, and the Jewish leaders were grumbling about it. They didn’t approve of how comfortable Jesus seemed to be with these kinds of people.

When reading the Gospels, it seems like Jesus enjoyed being with the kinds of people that most of us try to stay away from. These people liked Jesus, so they must have felt loved and accepted by him. In contrast, they were not drawn to the religious leaders of the day, because the religious people condemned them. 

Jesus told this parable along with the two which follow it, to respond to the objections of the Jewish leaders who were grumbling about the company he kept. It might be good for us to ask ourselves whether outsiders feel loved and accepted by us as they did by Jesus. However, this is not the main point that I want to make today.
This morning, I only have a little bit of time, because Takahashi san must translate for me. So, I want to point out just two things we can learn about Jesus from this parable of the lost sheep.

The first thing I want to point out from this parable is that Jesus is willing to Save His People from their Sins. 

Even though it is not obvious at first, this parable is about Jesus. He is the shepherd in this story. In John 10, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Jesus often described himself as a shepherd, because the people living in that country were very familiar with shepherds and sheep. They all knew that a good shepherd was completely committed to the welfare of the sheep under his care. 

Since there are not many sheep in the part of the world where I am from, it has helped me to read about shepherds who lived in this area during this time. I've learned that these shepherds knew each sheep in their flock very well, and they loved them very much. When a sheep went missing, the shepherd recognized it quickly.

The sheep in this story is physically lost. She is out in the wilderness without food and water, and everyone listening knows that she will eventually die. The sheep in the story can’t save herself. She doesn't know the way back. Maybe she has wandered up a high mountain and doesn't know how to get back down. And it is possible that this sheep doesn't even know she’s lost. Oftentimes when an animal gets lost, it doesn't realize the danger it’s in until it’s too late. Maybe she’s been eating delicious grass and getting further and further from the care of the shepherd. And maybe there are dangerous predators and high cliffs all around. The lost sheep is in a terrible situation and in desperate need of help whether she’s aware of it or not! But there is hope for this sheep, because she belongs to a good shepherd who has noticed that she is missing. 

Again, remember that many of the people in the crowd were shepherds, so Jesus’ words were familiar to them. Look at verse 4 - “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the one that is lost until he finds is?” 

It is important to realize that the shepherd owns this particular lost sheep. This sheep is important to him. He loves her, and he is committed to recovering her. 

Our family has a little, white dog named Abby. One day, Abby wandered away from our home and was lost. We knew she was somewhere in our neighborhood, but we didn’t know where. So, each member of the family went a different way to look for Abby. And we searched until we found her because she was OUR dog and we loved her. While we were searching, I passed a sign with a picture of another lost dog. But I didn’t look for that dog, because she wasn’t my own. Our hearts broke for Abby and we were committed to finding her. 

Jesus is the good shepherd who knows each one of his sheep. They belong to him, and He is committed to finding them. The shepherd in the story represents Jesus, and the sheep represent his people.
The sheep in this story was physically lost. We are spiritually lost. The sheep in the parable was in grave danger. We are also in grave danger, because our sin is rebelling against the God who made us. And God has promised to punish sin. The sheep in this parable may not have even realized how bad her condition was. And maybe you came here today not realizing how bad your condition really is. The incredible, good news that Jesus is telling people is that even though they are lost and rebelling against God…and even if they do not realize it, yet…Christ is committed to finding them!

Maybe you aren't even sure that you are lost or that the God of the Bible even exists. It could be argued that this is a perfect definition of what it means to be lost. But there was hope for the sheep, because she had a good shepherd and so do we! God sent his only son. The true shepherd to rescue all of his lost sheep who are scattered out all over the world.

Just like the shepherd in the story was willing to leave the comfort of green pastors and go into the wilderness to rescue his lost sheep, Jesus was willing to leave his throne in Heaven and even suffer and die on a cross to rescue his people! So, one thing we see in this parable is that the Son of God is committed to saving each of his people from their sin. 

The Second thing I want to Point out from this Parable is that Heaven rejoices when the lost are found!

Please notice that the lost sheep didn't come wandering home full of shame. The shepherd didn't scold her when he found her. Instead, he celebrated! He wasn't angry with his lost sheep, he was full of joy that he had found her! The shepherd returned with his precious sheep on his shoulders, and he called his friends and neighbors and invited them to celebrate with him!

I realize that people celebrate in different ways. Some of us do so openly with singing and dancing and others are more reserved. But there is nothing reserved about the celebration that takes place in Heaven when Jesus recovers a lost person! Jesus says this: “In the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

There is so much good news in this parable! There is a God in Heaven who is willing and able to save sinners who are lost, and Heaven celebrates when that happens! At another place in the Bible, Jesus said, “I will lose none of those that the Father has given me but raise them up on the last day.” The Good Shepherd will not lose even one of his lost sheep!

This parable applies to you if you’re here this morning and you have never known Jesus. Maybe today, the good shepherd is finding you for the first time. Maybe you’re not even intellectually convinced that you are lost or that Christianity is true. Christ even comes for that kind of person, and many times he surprises them unexpectedly.

Maybe as you listen today you find yourself thinking, “I am not sure this is true, but oh how I wish it were true!” That could be the Holy Spirit working in your heart. Maybe the good Shepherd is already on his way to rescue you!

But this parable also applies to those of us who have been Christians for a long time. Sometimes Christians can become disconnected from God and he begins to seem far away. At other times, we return to living in ways that we know are displeasing to God or even worshipping other gods alongside of the true God. That is why I say that this parable also applies to Christians. It applies to Christians because Christ is the good shepherd who comes for his lost sheep again and again. He will never lose one of his own, not even you! 
You can never stray so far that you’re beyond his reach. You can never do something so terrible that his blood cannot save you. You can never move to a land where His is not the King! His power and love are infinite. He is faithful even when we are not.

I tell you this from experience, because He has come to find me many times. One was just last week after we moved here to Nagoya. I realized that my heart was cold, and my love for Christ was very small. Maybe it will be surprising to hear this from a new missionary, but I was not praying much, and the Scriptures seemed very dry to me. I was like the lost sheep…again. I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive me, and to come warm my cold heart…and he did! And it was like I could hear the music of the celebration in Heaven all over again. He has done this many times in my life. You see, I think I’m not a very good Christian most of the time. But Christ is a mighty savior. And he is patient…even with people like me.

And so, if you are here and have never had the joy of experiencing the saving power of the Good Shepherd, you should call out to him today. And if you are here and (like me) your heart has grown cold. You should call out to Jesus today. He loves to pick up lost sheep and carry them back into the fold. And when he comes, he doesn’t shame them…instead, lifts up on his shoulders and calls for Heaven to celebrate!

Let us have a moment of silent prayer, so we can each tell him what is on our hearts. Then, Wayne will close in prayer before we continue with our service.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Humbling to be so Needy

Members of Nisshin Church at the Fall picnic last Sunday
     These past few weeks have been very humbling for Gina and me.  We've gone from living in a place where we were mostly competent and self-sufficient to one where we're functionally illiterate, unable to communicate basic ideas, and as a result very needy.
     It's been getting cold outside, and last night I decided to fire up one of the kerosene heaters we'll use to warm the house this winter.  I went to the gas station, bought some kerosene (an adventure in itself), and then topped off the tank in the heater.  The heater itself is more complex than its US counterparts with buttons and digital readouts all over the front.  Of course, each button is clearly labeled...in Japanese!  I finally did get the heater to light, and it warmed the house nicely. However, I'm not sure which combination of things actually resulted in ignition, so I'll be starting from scratch tomorrow morning!
     Everything in our lives right now is like lighting that kerosene heater.  The buttons on the microwave oven and the washing machine are all written in Japanese - as is the owner's manual for our new (to us) Toyota van and the labels on everything in the grocery store.  It seems like we need help with almost everything!  By the way, this experience has given us a different perspective on some of our Spanish-speaking neighbors back home in Asheboro, but that's a blog entry for another day.
     So, through this transition, the Holy Spirit has been giving us a better view of our weakness.  At the same time, He's been mercifully providing for our daily needs through His Church here.  Our teammates and the Japanese Christians who attend Nisshin Christ Church have been so helpful and patient with us.  I'm pretty sure that someone from our team has spent time with us EVERY DAY over the past month.  When we've thanked them and apologized for taking so much of their time, they've assured us that helping us is their joy, and they're so pleased to have us here on the field.  We feel humbled and grateful for the welcome and constant help they've been to us.
     The Japanese Christians at Nisshin Church have also received us warmly.  Within 48 hours after our arrival, one of the church ladies knocked on our door to take Gina to the grocery store and teach her how to cook a Japanese-style meal.  Another lady took us to City Hall to register our address and then helped us open bank accounts.  Someone else spent their whole Saturday translating for us at the cell phone store to get us set up with phones, and a team of 3 ladies are taking turns meeting with us each week to help with basic language acquisition.  I could go on, but you get the idea.
     The Church here is very (very) small, but God has people here who've welcomed us with lavish generosity.  They're able to do that because they've experienced the lavish, welcoming love of God through Christ Jesus.  He received them when they were aliens and strangers because of their sin, and now they're showing a similar welcome to us.  It's a marvelous picture of God's grace drawn around our new-found weakness.
     I wish I could tell you that we'll be independent again in a few weeks, but that's probably not reality.  We'll need a lot of help (and prayer!) for a long time.  And in the process, God will get glory as He continues to show Himself strong through our weakness.  Thank you for praying to that end!