Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Greetings Commissioners!

     A special greeting to those of you who are connecting with us at General Assembly this week! Please take the time to explore the page and get a feel for the state of the work in Nagoya, Japan. I'd especially recommend the video slideshow "Introduction to our Family and Calling" as well as some of the statistics printed below on this page.
     This is a wonderful time to be involved in missions in Nagoya. The team has been making strong progress over the past 2 decades. They have established a healthy church, a school, and seminary to train national church leaders. The team's vision for the next decade involves aggressive church planting in the region, but currently there is only one teaching elder on the team. As an ordained TE, I'll fill an important role (one of many filled by a group of unique, gifted folks) and work alongside Japanese Christians to plant a network of churches around the region.
     Japan is a very expensive field, so our family of 5 has a lot of money to raise. This is certainly an example of an undertaking that is doomed to failure unless God is in it. We're praying that he'll confirm this calling by stirring some of you to partner with us.
     If we haven't had an opportunity to meet face-to-face, please look for me at MTW's booth in the convention center. You can also reach me directly on my cell phone by using the "call me" button to the right or by email at grace4japan@gmail.com. I would love to tell you more about the ministry in Nagoya!



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Some Statistics: The Aichi Prefecture in Japan

The country of Japan is divided into 47 "prefectures" - which are larger than counties or cities but smaller than U.S. states.  Each prefecture has an elected governor and is subdivided into cities, districts, and towns.  Nagoya (where our our family is called to serve) is the capital city of the Aichi prefecture, located in central Japan (see map below).  The latitude of Nagoya is the same as that of central NC.

If you're interested in reading more about Japanese prefectures, you can do so by clicking here.  The following are some statistics published by the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association about the Aichi prefecture:

Population:                               7.027 million
Size:                                         5,152 square km
Population Density:                  1,364 people per square km
Cities:                                       31
Cities with only one church:     4 (population 39,000 and above).
Towns/Villages:                        55
     With no church                    34
     With 20,000 & no church:   11
Churches in prefecture:            315
Churches per person:              1 church per 22,310
Church Members:                    20,998
Members per church:               67
Worship Attendance:               11,767
Attendance per church:            37
Missionaries (approximate):     89
The Japan Evangelical Missionary Association publishes a prayer guide entitled "Operation Japan."  The following is my summary of their description of the Aichi prefecture:

Eastern Aichi occupies the southern tip of the Kiso Mountain Range with plains on the east and west.  The climate is mild with a lot of rain, but Winter brings much drier weather.  Aichi has the fourth largest population of all the Japanese prefectures.  The capital city of Nagoya lies midway between Tokyo and Osaka.  It has become an economic and cultural force in Japan.  Agriculture is the leading industry with a gross product that ranks sixth in the nation.

Fall colors in the mountains 
just outside Nagoya

In 1875 Eikichi Ohara from Aichi came into contact with a Southern Methodist Missionary in Yokohama, was baptized, and returned home.  The following year the missionary came to Ohara's home town to start a preaching outreach which resulted in the first church to be established in the region.

Today, there are still four cities in the prefecture with only one church each.  There are 34 towns and villages in the prefecture that have no established Christian church.  Eleven of those towns have a population of more than 20,000.

If you're interested in a copy of "Operation Japan" you can find ordering information by clicking here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Gospel: Good News for Legalists

I was reading Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians 5 this morning in preparation for Sunday's sermon. The following quote struck me again - it was already underlined and highlighted from previous readings.

“Even if the law accuses us, and sin frightens us, they cannot drive us to despair; for faith, which overcomes the world, says, “These things have nothing to do with me; Christ has set me free and delivered me from them all.” Similarly, death, which is the mightiest and most dreadful thing in the world, is utterly vanquished in the conscience by freedom of the (Holy) Spirit...If we could apprehend this with a sure and steadfast faith, then no rage or terror of the world, the law, sin, death, or the devil could be so great that it could not be swallowed up, just as a little drop of water is swallowed up in the sea...Reason cannot grasp how wonderful this is!”

The Japanese are a people enamored with rule-keeping, and as I've reflected on Galatians 5 this morning I've thought a lot about what good news the grace of God is for legalists like the Japanese. I say that with a great deal of certainty, because I'm a recovering legalist, too. I continually catch myself trying to clean up enough to satisfy God. I'm rather proud (and look down on others) when I think I'm doing that well, and I slip into a place of hopelessness when I think I'm not doing what I should (to make God happy).  Sadly, I expect many of you can relate to this.

A few paragraphs later, Luther helped me some more...

"When that great dragon - that old snake, the devil - comes and tells you that not only have you done no good, but you have also transgressed God's law, say to him, "You are troubling me with the memory of my past sins; you are also reminding me that I have done no good. But this is nothing to me, for if I either trusted in my own good deeds or feared because I have done no such deeds, Christ would in either case be of no value to me at all. I rest only in the freedom Christ has given me. I know he is of value to me, and so I will not make him of no value, which I would be doing if I either presumed to purchase favor and everlasting life for myself by my good deeds or despaired of my salvation because of my sins."

These are just some of the implications of the Gospel. Good news for legalists like the Japanese. Good news for legalists like me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Video Recommendation...

Here's an interesting video produced by MTW's Team in Nagoya. It's a "documentary" of sorts.

If you prefer to view this video on Youtube's site, you'll find a link under "More information" in the right-hand column of this page.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Our First Dinner Gathering

We had a wonderful evening with Grandma Jane's family and friends tonight at Gina's parents' home in the big town of Tyro, NC!  It was good to have a chance to connect with family members, and we were pleasantly surprised by several dear friends from Meadowview who came (Wayne, Diane, Dan, and Carol - it was so good to see you again!).

After dinner, Gina and I took turns telling the story of our calling to Japan.  There were lots of good questions, and everyone seemed engaged and very supportive (that's not surprising given the people in the room, but it was very nice all the same).  At one point, Jane spoke up to express the family's support and wanted us to tell everyone just what they could do to help.  She's been such an encouragement to us ever since we told her the news back in early April.  Josiah was the highlight of the evening.  He wanted to have a part in the talk.  Gina asked him why he's excited about moving to Japan.  He replied, "Because I want to meet new people, and so people in Japan can know the Gospel."  That's my boy!

As we drove home it hit me that we didn't take a single picture tonight!  Blogs without pictures are dull, so I think I'll make this post brief.  I'll try to do better next time!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

And We're Off!

We're Headed to Japan!

     As most of you know, Gina and I have been wrestling with a sense of calling to cross-cultural missions for some time now.  Originally, we believed that God was calling us to help the church-planting effort in Eastern Europe, but as we prayed and sought the advice of trusted Christian friends we came to realize that God was calling us elsewhere.  We’re now convinced that the Spirit is sending us to Nagoya, Japan to help the team plant a network of churches in that city where less than 2% of the massive population is Christian.
      Earlier this year, Gina and I were approved as long-term missionaries with Mission to the World.  We’re now in the early stages of raising the support necessary for us to live and minister in Japan.  We intend to publish a short newsletter each month to keep our prayer team updated about our progress.  If you're not currently on our mailing list, please leave a comment along with your email address and we'll be happy to add you to our mailing list.  You can also check back here for regular updates.

May Has Been an Encouraging Month

May has been an encouraging month for us.  Our friends at Grace Fellowship have responded to our news with a great deal of faith.  The comment that we’ve heard most often has been, “We’ve seen this coming for a long time…we knew you’d be heading to a foreign missions field at some point!”  Gina’s Grandma Jane has gotten particularly excited about the news (not that she is happy to see us go).  She’s become our self appointed “campaign manager” among her friends and relatives, and in June she’ll be hosting a cookout where we’ll be talking about our calling to Nagoya with members of the family and some close friends.  Several friends at various places around the country have offered to help us network in those areas as well (including FL, TN, NC, and IL).  We’ve also seen a strong initial response from churches in our presbytery.  One pastor called me today to let me know that his church has been interested in the MTW work in Nagoya for several months now.  They’ve been praying for the team there, and they’re excited for an opportunity to be more involved through us!  We’re grateful for the ways that God has been going before us.  We’re also very encouraged by the fact that so many of you have offered to pray for us.  Thank you for loving us so well!