Thursday, September 30, 2010

Missions Conference, Jamestown, NC

Last Sunday, our family enjoyed worshiping with the congregation of Friendly Hills Presbyterian Church in Jamestown, NC.  I was honored to preach the morning sermon that kicked off their "2010 Missions Conference" which will continue this weekend.  If you live in the greater Triad area (of NC), you may want to consider attending some of the events scheduled at Friendly Hills this weekend.  Joe Novenson of Lookout Mountain, TN will be the keynote speaker at the conference.  Additionally, several missionaries will be speaking.  For a complete schedule of events, check out their website by clicking the link above.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Summer Oaks Presbyterian Church

Last Sunday, we had the pleasure of worshiping with our friends at Summer Oaks Presbyterian Church in Oak Ridge, NC.  Summer Oaks is a relatively new congregation that meets on the campus of Oak Ridge Military Academy.  The worship service was simple, honest, and Christ-exalting.  Our dear friend, Caleb Cross led worship, so that made things feel like home to us (Caleb has led worship at Grace Fellowship on many occasions).  After preaching the morning sermon, the adult Sunday school class invited Gina and me to share a bit more about the details of our calling to Japan.  Their questions showed a sincere interest in what God has called us to do, and that was deeply encouraging to us all.  After the service, a couple in the congregation was gracious enough to invite us into their home for lunch (it was quite a feast).  Thank you, Summer Oaks, for your warm hospitality last week!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ashe Presbyterian, Jefferson, NC

Jeremy speaking to a couple following Sunday's service
     On September 12th, our family had the joy of worshipping with the folks at Ashe Presbyterian Church in Jefferson, NC.  What a delightful group of Christians!  The church is launching a brand new missions program, and we were honored to be some of the first missionaries they've invited to meet with them.  During the Sunday School hour, I talked with the adult Sunday School class about the Gospel-needs in Nagoya and then had the privilege of preaching the morning sermon from Habakkuk 1-2.  After the service, members of the congregation took turns encouraging us in our calling.  I'm not sure who benefited the most from the morning - us or them!

   After church (and then lunch with one of the elders), we spent the afternoon hiking at Mt. Jefferson State Park.  It's a beautiful place with pristine views of the surrounding country.  Of course, our boys kept us on our toes by running right up to the edge of several "cliffs".  We capped the day off with a trip to Shatley Springs Restaurant where they serve meals "family style".  After a feast of fried chicken, country ham, and all the fixin's we set out for home.  It was a great day all the way around.

Our 3 boys on top of Mt. Jefferson
      On a different note, I recently watched a video clip by Rev. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.  In the 3-minute-clip, Keller is persuasive about the deep need for church planting in Tokyo, but all of his arguments apply just as well to church planting throughout Japan.  If you have a few minutes, I'd recommend you watch the video which can be found on MTW's Japan Partnership Website (click here).  On the same page, you'll also find a link to an insightful paper by Dan Iverson - MTW's country director in Japan.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ladies' Bible Study - Nagoya, Japan

Jeremy taught at this ladies' Bible study in Nov 2010
     One of the many surprising discoveries I made on last November's visit to Japan was the fact that many Japanese men work extremely long hours.  During my visit, I met several men who worked 18 hour days, 5-6 days each week.  Pressure at work is high, and the company often rules the family's life.

     Long work days obviously place a strain on families in general, but they also create a situation where men simply aren't available for interaction or relationships outside of the office.  As a result, evangelistic work among men is often painfully slow.  Gospel outreach to women, however, is welcome and is bearing some exciting fruit.  During my time in Nagoya last November I taught at two ladies' Bible studies associated with Nisshin Christ Church.  The photo above was taken at one of those gatherings.

     I still remember meeting this particular group of ladies.  As we introduced ourselves, I asked each lady to share a little about her family, what brought her to the church, and how long she had been a Christian.  The delightful surprise was that several ladies in the group reported that they were not yet Christians but wanted to know more about what it meant to follow Christ.  This was the case in every group I led in Nagoya, and it still excites me to think about it.  Imagine sitting down at a Bible study in America where half of the members introduced themselves like this:  "Hello, my name is Martha.  I have been attending this church for several months now.  I'm not a Christian yet, but my life is a mess, and I'm wondering if I should follow Jesus."  That was precisely my experience on several different occassions in Nagoya last year!  At first I wondered if I'd been set up...maybe I was being "punk'd!"

     One of the ladies pictured above is Aiko (not her real name).  I remember that there was a lot of celebration (even tears) when she arrived that day, because several of the ladies had been praying for her to know Christ.  She is a friend of Michiyo, who leads the Bible study each week.  Aiko had come for a while, but the group hadn't seen her in some time.  Michiyo had been praying earnestly that she would return on that particular day, and she did!  The group received her like a long-lost friend, and there were hugs all around - and praises to God for answered prayers.

     Aiko was not a Christian, but her eyes were brimming with tears as we looked at a passage in Luke about Jesus crossing over the sea of Galilee to save a demon-possessed man on the other side.  Unlike the idols in the Buddhist shrines, the man on the other side of the sea didn't need to clap his hands, ring bells, or burn incense in order to get God's attention.  He didn't look attractive, and he didn't have it all together.  Christ knew who and where he was and took the initiative to save him from certain destruction.  And he has done the same for us on the cross.  How shocking!  Simply unheard of among the Buddhist idols!  And such a powerful, merciful picture of grace!  At one point, I asked, "Wouldn't you like to follow such a Savior?"  Aiko replied, "I wish I could believe that he loves me like that!"  A few weeks after returning to Asheboro, I received a an exciting email from the team in Nagoya.  Aiko had surrendered her life to Christ.  She'd become a Christian!  The Spirit of God had shown her that he DOES love her like that!

     Last week, I received the following update from Amy Newsome (the American missionary sitting opposite me in the photo above):

" continuing to move forward.  Over the summer she helped with the Kid's Gospel Week, and her husband came with her for the concert and summer festival -- his first time in the door of the church!  We hope to follow up with them as a family, having them over and trying to get to know him.  She is growing and moving forward - praise God for his work in her life, and now she is praying for the salvation of her husband."

     One soul at a time.  Jesus loved Aiko enough to send missionaries across the Pacific to share the Good News with her (just like he loved that demon-possessed man enough to cross the sea for him).  He loved her enough to send His Holy Spirit to open her heart to receive that Good News as her own.  And it appears that He is now continuing that work in the life of her husband.

     The Gospel has traditionally moved forward very slowly in Japan.  Many missionaries have labored for long years and seen little fruit.  But who knows what the Spirit has in mind for the future?  Who can know the mind or timing of Almighty God?  What we do know is that we serve a mighty, merciful God who takes the initiative in the lives of individuals and even whole nations.  We also believe that this is the time to plant new churches in and around the city of Nagoya.  Please pray for the MTW team in the city as they're doing heroic work.  And pray for our family as we raise support and make the necessary preparations to go and help.

Our Story in Print...

Gina and I grew up in Lexington, NC.  We actually went to elementary, middle, and high school together - though we didn't start dating until college (at UNC-Charlotte).  Recently, the Lexington Dispatch heard about our calling to Japan and decided to write a story about us.  Since they make us sound so "good" we're happy to share it here!  You can read the story online by clicking here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A quick update...

August was a busy, productive, emotional month with very little margin for blog updates.  On August 29th, I preached my last regularly-scheduled sermon at Grace Fellowship.  Although I'll continue to pastor these dear friends for the remainder of the year, I won't see them nearly as often, and it feels sad to realize that  such a wonderful season of our lives is drawing to a close.

During August, God raised up several new financial partners who have a vision for planting churches in and around Nagoya.  Some of those new partners are church congregations, but most are individual Christians who feel led to throw in as much as they can.  A ladies' sewing group here in Asheboro asked us to come and speak early in the month, and yesterday, we learned that these ladies decided to pool their resources and have pledged to contribute $50/mo as a group!  The unexpected nature of that gift has made it of special encouragement, and we're currently very close to our $1,000 per month summer goal.

We're also grateful to be going into September with a full Sunday morning schedule through the end of October (see our itinerary to the right).  Please pray that God would give me the words to effectively communicate the Gospel need in Japan as we stand in front of churches and meet with individuals this Fall.  Pray also that the Holy Spirit will stir people up and make them outrageously generous in support of the advancement of the Gospel in this needy country.

More soon...