Just be prepared...there are a LOT of photos there! :-)
On Saturday evening, I was the "guest speaker" at an evangelistic Bible study with Wayne Newsome (the MTW team leader here). Wayne meets with several men each week at a local Starbucks. On this particular night, there were 5 men present. Two of the men were relatively new Christians, and the other three said they were not yet Christians. I told them about some of the things I'd seen in Buddhist temples in Kyoto, and asked them to help me understand what I'd seen. I was particularly interested in a practice where worshippers were encouraged to purchase a special stick of wood to be burned in a fire by the priests. The temple priests claimed that when the wood was burned up, the worshippers sins would be cleansed. I wondered aloud how burning a stick of wood could possibly forgive a person of their sins. The question led to some wonderful conversation. We then opened our Bibles and read the account where Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God. These "seekers" were full of questions and obviously wrestling with the claims of Christ. It was a refreshing, exciting time.
On Sunday, I worshipped with the congregation here. The service style was very familiar. There were a couple of guitars and a set of Roland V-drums up front. The worship leaders were very good, and the band sounded great. They did several upbeat songs with the band as well as some hymns with just piano accompaniment. The sermon was in Japanese, but the church provided me with a transcript of the sermon in English. We closed the service with the Lord's Supper, and I was struck - once again - with the universality of that sacrament. I was able to participate with my brothers and sisters in Christ even though I didn't know the language. God is very wise in giving us visible, tanglible pictures of his grace!
On Sunday evening, I went to a dinner party at Tom and Teresa's home. I had a chance to interact with several Japanese families. All of them spoke pretty good English. Near the end of the evening we heard from several musicians in the group - one lady played the flute while Tom accompanied her on the piano. They played a beautiful version of "O Holy Night." Then, several of the Japanese sang some Christmas carols they'd been learning in a choir that Tom leads. It was a pleasant evening. As in the group that gathered at the coffee shop on Saturday night, some of those gathered at this dinner party were not Christians. They weren't ashamed of that fact, and they would tell you plainily that they weren't a Christian - and why. At the same time, I am finding a great deal of open-ness to Christianity here. The best is yet to come...the week has only gotten better and more exciting. But that will have to wait for another time since I'm terribly sleepy (it's almost 1am here).
If you're reading this, please forgive the mistakes and "rough draft feel" of all this. I'm mostly writing so that I don't forget some of these details. But I'm happy for you to follow along.