Thursday, November 10, 2011

Introductory Packet - Our Family and Calling to Japan

Recently, we put together an updated packet to introduce folks to our calling to Japan.  The goal is introduce our family and give a bird's eye view of the the need for new churches among the world's second-largest unreached people group.  If you'd like to access the full document, you can do so here.  Questions or feedback welcome!  Email us at jwsink@grace4japan.com.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our latest prayer update can be found here:  http://eepurl.com/gWM6n.  Use the link to the right to add yourself to our mailing list and begin receiving our updates via email.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finally Back Home!

Jeremy and Wayne in Ancient Ephesus

     These past two months have been a whirlwind of travel, training, and presenting (which also explains my neglecting this blog).  In September, I attended MTW's LEAD conference in Izmir, Turkey.  The conference takes place every two years and calls together MTW's team leaders from all over the world.  This year was a historical meeting, because national partners were also a part of the leadership gathering.
     What's a national partner?  Think indigenous leader.  Our goal as a mission isn't for national churches to be forever dependent upon Western missionaries to lead them.  The old adage about teaching a man to fish is a good one.  Ultimately we want to see Japanese leaders leading Japanese churches, Africans leading African churches, and Germans leading in Germany (you get the point).  Our goal is always to be working ourselves out of a job, passing the baton, and moving on to new, unreached areas.  Of course, realizing such a goal can take a long time - even generations in a country like Japan.
     This isn't a new strategy for MTW.  Missionaries have been pouring themselves into national  church leaders for decades.  But this LEAD conference was particularly exciting, because we have reached a point where missionaries and national leadership were able to work side by side at the highest levels of our organization to help define our vision for the future.  What a milestone!  For those of you who may wonder if we're making progress in the Great Commission, I'm happy to report that we are!  The Gospel is gaining strength all over the world, and the baton is being passed successfully from missionaries to national leaders.
     The highlight of the week - for me - was the time I spent with our team leader, Wayne Newsome.  Wayne and Amy have been hard at work in Nagoya for almost two decades.  During that time, their team has established a growing church, a seminary (now overseen by a separate MTW team led by Dr. Michael Oh), and a Christian Academy (which has also been successfully handed off for outside oversight).  The team's vision for the future is to establish a network of new Gospel-proclaiming churches throughout the city.  Gina and my role will involve leading one of those new church plants and helping to shepherd and develop leaders in the other new sites.  It was exciting to interact with Wayne as we looked at a map of Nagoya and talked about unchurched communities where there will soon be a Gospel witness!
     Another high point of the week was the day we spent in the ancient city of Ephesus (remember Paul's letter to the Ephesians?).  If you'd like to see some photos of the city, you can view them on my Picasa page located here.  If you just can't get enough of these, volume 2 is located here!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Prayer Update Online

We've just published a new prayer update that you can view here.  Please note that you can subscribe to future updates and newsletters by clicking the link in the right hand column on this page or using the "subscribe" link on our prayer update.  Thanks for praying for us!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Want to stay in touch with us?

Gina and I place a high value on communication with our partners, and this blog is only one piece of our overall communication strategy.  We also publish a monthly newsletter to subscribers, send out 1-3 prayer updates each month, and post regularly on Facebook and (occassionally on) Twitter.  If you'd like to receive our monthly newsletters, you can subscribe via the link in the margin to the right of this paragraph.  If you'd like to read our September 8, 2011 prayer update, you can do so here (there's a "subscribe" button in the upper left-hand corner of the page, if you'd like to join our prayer team and receive these requests in your inbox).  You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.  Our hope is to build an army of pray-ers who will lift our family and the Japanese people before the Throne on a regular basis.

Of course, the best method of communication is face-to-face.  If your family, small group, church, or club would like to know more about church planting in Japan, please contact us.  We're happy to travel almost anywhere to speak to groups of any size who are interested in taking the Gospel to the world's second-largest unreached people group.  May God shake Japan with the Gospel and flood her with Grace!

*** If you subscribe to one of our newsletters, please take the time to add jwsink@grace4japan.com to your online address book or SPAM filter.  This will help ensure that we don't get filtered out as SPAM!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reflections on CCMI

During July, our family took part in MTW's "Cross Cultural Ministry Internship" in New York City (see my 2 previous articles for related stories).  We took a lot away from our experience there, and I'll highlight a few of those things here:

Prayer IS the Work of the Ministry:  I friend of mine likes to say, "I think I remember forgetting this before!"  And that's precisely how I feel about this lesson that I've needed to learn over and over again.  At every turn, each speaker at CCMI hammered the facet that we're doing Spiritual work, and real fruit comes as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit.  In light of that, prayer isn't an optional discipline that we have the luxury of inserting if we have time.  Prayer is an expression of our real dependence upon God, and it's the real work of the ministry.

We're NOT too old to Learn Japanese:  OK, so that's a bit of an overstatement, but next to Japan's high cost of living, we've been most worried about our ability to learn the language.  CCMI  didn't leave us with the illusion that language study was going to be easy - Japanese is going to be a difficult language to master, and it'll require a lot of hard work.  However, we left CCMI with some new tools for language learning that'll serve us well as we begin to study Japanese.  We also realize that learning a language while immersed in a foreign country is much different from our past attempts to learn languages in classroom setting in the U.S. (think high school French or Spanish).

The Experience helped us as a Family:  I could share a lot more about the specifics of our classroom time since we spent several hours each day in that setting.  But the most beneficial part of our experience at CCMI wasn't tied to the classroom or even the cross-cultural ministry experiences the staff put together for us.  The most beneficial part of CCMI - for our family - was the fact that we were moved out of our own routines and spent a month living together in vastly different surroundings than we've been accustomed to.  Granted, Nagoya will be much different than New York.  However, living in an apartment in Manhattan and riding the subway to Queens every day is a lot different from day-to-day life in Asheboro, NC.  We struggled with some of those differences and embraced some of them readily - but we did all of it as a family.  I was so proud of how quickly our boys adjusted to their new surroundings.  Given another month, I think we'd have felt comfortable letting Joshua ride the subways alone.  Josiah also became very adept at navigating the city and would be happy to serve as your tour guide if you ever want to take a trip to NY!  On our first subway rides, our boys wouldn't take a seat beside of a stranger, but clung to us for security.  By the end of the month, they were pros, and it was fun to watch them squeeze into seats between total strangers - and even talk to them while riding to our next stop.

CCMI was a rich month for us as a family:  Full of great memories, helpful training, and rich conversations with our boys.  Gina and I feel like we're all coming home better prepared and much more "together" in our calling to church planting in Nagoya.  We're so happy to be working with a missions agency that is committed to our whole family's preparation for the field.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Learning to Follow a Third Culture Kid

Grand Central Station

The following is an article I wrote for this week's CCMI Newsletter. It's just another glimpse into the life of our family as we prepare for life overseas.  If you'd like to read the other newsletter content from this week, you can do so here.




"On Wednesday evening, after our second session with Jeff Marlowe, our oldest son came bouncing down from the youth group sweaty, red-faced, and grinning from ear to ear. He asked, “Dad, can I choose where we eat dinner tonight?” When I asked him what he had in mind, he was very secretive and assured me that he knew the spot and how to get there. He had obviously given it a lot of thought.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first, but it’d been a good day – and the family seemed up for the adventure with Joshua as our guide. He walked a few paces in front of us to the Queensboro Plaza station, where we boarded the 7 train toward Manhattan. We’ve been using the N train between Times Square and Queensboro, so this was a different route from the one we’d been taking.

Joshua looked up and grinned as we pulled into Grand Central Station. He said, “This is where we get off. You guys are going to love this!” He led us all over the station – recreating the tour that Ruthanne Burch had obviously given him earlier in the day. He showed us the main terminal, the room where you can whisper to one another across diagonal corners, and the big food court. As we walked, I pointed out that he’d seen parts of NYC that we hadn’t seen yet. I also complimented his good sense of direction and navigation skills. I was more than a little bit proud of him – and told him so. He puffed up a bit and rolled his eyes.

You should know that Joshua has really struggled with our decision to move to Japan. He’s 13 years old, which is hard in itself. He’s old enough to have a good sense of the things he’s giving up in this move, and he’s grieving that. Sometimes he grieves in a way that’s seasoned with faith, and sometimes (like me) he’s overtaken by fear and unbelief. It’s been hard and messy. We wish we could spare him this particular struggle, but we can’t. It’s part of the story that God has written for him. So we (like you) are moving forward and resting all of our weight in the covenant promises of God for us and our children – Joshua included.

Last Wednesday, God gave us a special moment as a family as he also taught Gina and me another lesson about parenting. I’m so glad we entrusted Joshua with the lead that night. Twelve dollar cheesburgers at rush hour in Grand Central Station wasn’t really what I’d have chosen for our dinner menu, but it was one of the best evenings we’ve had as a family since we’ve been in NYC. May God give us wisdom and grace as we continue to lead our kids toward our respective fields!"

Jeremy

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our first two days in NY

Those of you who receive our monthly newsletters already know that we're in New York City for CCMI during the month of July.  During the month, I'll be posting updates here, so you might like to check back from time to time.

Just to bring you up to speed, we flew out of Raleigh, NC bright and early on Friday morning.  By 10am, we were in our apartment, unpacked, and strolling down Broadway in search of our second breakfast since waking up at 3:45am.

After talking over sausage biscuits at McDonald's, we decided to go ahead and ride the subway to the central park zoo, which was high on Josiah's list of things to do.  It was a good first day, and all of us were ready for an early bedtime that night.

On Saturday, we reported to Evangel Christian School in Queens for orientation where we met our staff and mentors for the month.  On weekdays, we'll be spending our mornings planning and implementing an ESL course at Astoria Community Church (also in Queens).  Each afternoon, we'll be in a classroom setting studying things like team dynamics, ethnography, basics of cross cultural servanthood, and language acquisition on the field.

I'm writing this first post on Sunday evening.  Since our team was assigned to Astoria Community Church, we'll be worshiping there on Sunday mornings.  Astoria Community Church was founded by two pastors - an American (David Ellis) and a Brazillian (Darcy Caires).  Pastor Ellis preached this morning from the book of Proverbs and reminded us that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us so much that He's even given us this book full of strong, practical wisdom for day-to-day life.  Then, Pastor Caires served the Lord's supper and invited us to commune with the one who gave us the wisdom of proverbs.  We're so glad that in God's providence, he's connected us with this particular group of believers for the month of July.  They welcomed us and fed us well this morning.  We look forward to ministering alongside of them for the next 30 days!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Need in Japan Continues to be Great

Though Japan isn't dominating the headlines, the Japanese people are still digging out.  Opportunities for the Gospel are great, and our MTW teams continue to provide both disaster relief and the bread of life in the midst of the devastation.  The following article from the NY Times provides a picture of the current situation in the town of Otsuchi - where our teammates recently ministered:  http://nyti.ms/iLJV1Z.  Continue to pray for the Japanese and our teams in the country.  Pray also about whether God is leading you to partner with us to send the Bread of Life to the Spiritually hungry people of Japan.  Our family is anxious to be on the field to help.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

40% raised!

The past two months have been very encouraging.  We've been invited to visit a different church almost every Sunday, and folks are expressing a lot of interest in our calling to Japan.  The country remains on everyone's mind following the recent string of disasters.  God is stirring Christians to reach out to the Japanese, and many of them are being led to help send missionaries in addition to contributing toward disaster relief efforts.  A perfect example of this is described in my previous post about Gnomes 4 Japan (below).

Current Events:

  • Praise God - we've broken the 40% mark in our fundraising!  
  • New partners have been coming on board every week.  Lots of momentum.
  • We're scheduled to attend pre-field training with MTW during the month of July.
  • We still have lots of speaking venues scheduled for the coming weeks between now and July.
Of course, we still have a lot of money to raise.  The high cost of living in Japan combined with a strong yen and weak dollar make for a challenging financial situation for missionaries.  We're continuing to press ahead and are in the process of reaching out to the 300+ families on our monthly mailing list to ask them to consider partnering with us financially.  If 200 donors would commit to skip a meal out each month and contribute that money to our ministry, we would jump to being 80% funded.  As you pray for us, please pray to that end...and ask God whether he may be leading you to partner with us to plant new churches in the spiritually dark land of Japan.

Please contact us if we can answer questions or be of any service!

peace.

jeremy

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gnomes 4 Japan!

Our new friend, Mary Spaar, is a 6th grade student at Redeemer School in Winston Salem. After the recent earthquake and tsunami, Mary wanted to do something to help the people of Japan. As she and her family thought and prayed together, they realized two things: (1) The spiritual need in Japan is just as great as the physical needs in the aftermath of the disasters, and (2) Although the physical needs of the people in Japan are great, there are going to be a lot of organizations like the Red Cross on the field laboring to meet those needs in the days to come. 

After talking and praying with her mom, Mary came to the conclusion that God was leading her to find a way to help support missions in Japan and heard about our family from a mutual friend.  She contacted us in March to ask if it would be alright for her to do a fundraising project to help send us to Nagoya to share the Gospel with Japanese people in the wake of the tsunami.  We were blown away by Mary's heart for the Japanese to hear the Good News of Jesus, and humbly accepted her gracious offer.

Over the next month and a half, Mary and three of her good friends (Meredith, Sophie, and Ellie) took orders for handmade gnomes like the ones pictured here. Her plan was to sell her creations for $3 each and donate the proceeds to our support account.

As we corresponded with Mary and her mom over the weeks that followed our initial conversation, it was apparent that Mary had received more orders than she'd originally dreamed possible.  Her mom told us that her original goal was around 30 gnomes, which would've raised around $100 for her to contribute to our account.  However, orders soared and when all was said and done, Mary had filled orders for more than 125 of these wonderful little gnomes!  Each gnome was made to order and customized according to the wishes of each individual.  There were gnomes with beards, buttons, and stars...and even "army gnomes" sporting machine guns for Mary's boy-customers!

Gina and I continue to be amazed at the ways God is providing for this calling.  This time, he's chosen to use the artistic talents of 12-year-old Mary Spaar.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Update from Asian Access Missionary

Over the past week, I've been using this blog as a place to gather letters and stories from missionaries serving in Japan following the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. The following letter comes from a missionary serving with Asian Access and provides yet another glimpse into the heroic work being done in the name of Christ in Japan.


Dear praying friends,

Well, Day 5 for me is winding down. Not a terribly exciting day for me, but my heart is tired.

This morning we drove about 3 hours north of Sendai to the city of Kesennuma. We had heard that the evacuation centers were short on supplies such as toothbrushes and other hygiene items.

This time the reports we true, and no one had yet brought anything. Our van load, even with the extra load on the roof rack, wasn't enough, but it was a good start, and the folks working there were very encouraged to know that someone cared and that more were coming.

We told them we were a group of Christian volunteers who had come from various parts of the country to help, because we cared about the people in the affected areas. We also told them that many Christians, in Japan, in America, and all over the world, were praying for them.

I had a chance to talk a bit longer with one of the ladies working there, and was able to encourage her a little more. She seemed so genuinely grateful that someone cared enough to come, to help, to listen.

I assured her that the God we Christians worship - the God who created heaven and earth - really hears and answers our prayers, and that we would definitely be praying.

From there we drove further north toward Ofunato. Along the way we passed some of the very hardest hit areas. That was kind of hard. An entire little valley, a whole community, was crushed like a handful of crackers and the pieces were strewn across the valley. Wood, concrete, steel, furniture, cars, everything - destroyed beyond recognition, mixed together, and scattered everywhere.

Then there was the family, a mom and 3 children, looking through the wreckage where their house once stood, looking for anything belonging to them that they could salvage.

I was able to talk with the woman, much as I had spoken at the evacuation center. She, too, seemed really thankful for my stopping to talk with her.

In Ofunato we visited a church and made contact with the pastor there. They were fine but their sister church's building was destroyed, and about half of the members are unaccounted for.

The third church we visited also runs a kindergarten, and they asked if we could get them supplies to give each of the for 90 children for their graduation on Saturday. A hygiene kit is a strange present to give as a graduation present, but then this is a strange time. Imagine:

"Congratulations on finishing kindergarten! Here are are 5 toothbrushes, 3 razors, and some soap."

Our last stop was the evacuation center where some of the journalists with us had stayed to get stories. There I ran into an elderly man who invited me to sit by him and we talked. His house and the entire surrounding neighborhood had been washed away by the tsunami, but his family were all safe. He hopes to rebuild on the site where his house was, and live there again.

The best part of the day was having those conversations, short though they all were. I wished I'd had more time each time, to listen longer and share more.

The hardest part was seeing all the destruction firsthand. It made nearing people's stories come alive that much more. It one's heart heavy, hearing about what they've been through and feeling genuine concern for them. It makes your heart heavy to drive along the picturesque coastline and then see community after community utterly destroyed. Clothes hanging 30 feet up in the trees where the wave left them. Immense piles of scrap wood that were once houses. Cars crushed under the hulls of boats, both lying in the street next to a blown out storefront. Piles of debris higher than the roof of the car lining both sides of the road all the way through the center of town.

The only time I cried was when I was sitting in the car, trying to understand the request for supplies the evacuation center had given us. I wondered, "Why are they asking for rubber boots and backpacks?" Then I realized...they wanted to walk back down the hill through the wreckage to search for their belongings, anything they could find that had not been destroyed. When I thought about what that must be like...

Still makes my heart heavy.  Time for bed.

Thank you, if you've read this far, for listing to what I guess is turning into something like a daily journal. Thank you for praying. Please ask that the Lord would use us here to make a significant difference in the lives of the Japanese living here.


If you'd like to read more about the ministry of Asian Access, you can find them here:  www.asianaccess.org

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The latest from our team in Nagoya

A Church Planting Journey in Japan: Miracles all around us: "Everyone can see the miracle stories...like the amazing rescue seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ut_8grfciOoOr the heart breaking pi..."

Monday, March 21, 2011

Here's a link to a very helpful article about the media-hype surrounding the Fukushima Reactor Problems.  I don't know much about this writer (or the magazine), so my posting it here isn't meant to be an "endorsement".  Use your own discretion.  http://bit.ly/i7gCsE

Quick Update from the Newsomes (Team Leaders in Nagoya)

"...here are the bare facts: Wayne, Moto and Goto san got back safely last night from Iwaki, Fukushima; today Peter and two pastors are taking our first trip to Sendai, and our next trip leaves tomorrow...we need prayer for safety and wisdom in the midst of all of this. Thank you friends!"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

‎"Over the years I've often described our mission in Japan as praying and preparing for the day of opportunity in Japan."

Michael Oh
President of Christ Bible Institute
Nagoya, Japan



Video from MTW's Disaster Response

MTW - Disaster Response in Japan from Go Global on Vimeo.

Update from Tom and Teresa Wilson (our team in Nagoya)


*** The following appeared on MTW's web site today (03/18/11).  Just noticed that the Newsomes have also posted a parallel update on their site at http://newsomesinjapan.blogspot.com/2011/03/theyre-back-and-next-shipment-will-be.html?spref=fb


Dear friends,

Thanks so much for your prayers.  Tom just got back home safely a few minutes ago.  The shipment was successfully made and they are all safe.  Praise God.

After driving several hours yesterday, they slept on the ground in sleeping bags at a rest area in Ibaraki Prefecture and then traveled on.  As they traveled they got a call from our MTW country director saying that they could not go beyond the 50 mile radius from the nuclear plant that the American government has set, according to our sending agency, Mission to the World.  One option was to take the load to another place instead, but the Japanese pastor volunteered to drive on alone.  So Tom and Wayne waited in a city just outside the 50-mile radius while the Japanese pastor made the delivery.  Praise God for safe travels and for getting the supplies to the people desperately waiting there.

Our church is continuing to gather goods for more and more trips.  Another truck will go out tomorrow night, this time most likely to one of the places in Sendai that was one of the hardest hit by the tsunami.  It was very hard to find trucks, but the LORD has provided and we are gearing up for the upcoming trips.  More and more people are bringing things to send.  People are thrilled to be able to send things.  God is using His Church as a 'city on a hill' in the community.  A couple of camera men from a news station even were there all day yesterday as the truck was prepared to leave.   We pray God will use all this for His glory here.

May God continue to bless and have mercy on the desperately hurting people here and strengthen His Church to show glory in beautiful and compassionate ways.

God bless you and keep you,

Tom, Teresa & Ian Wilson
MTW Missionaries to Japan

Friday, March 18, 2011

For Such a Time as This

A month ago, one of the most common things we heard from both individuals and churches went something like this:  “We appreciate that God is calling you to Japan, but missions in Japan isn’t really on our radar right now.”  Things have changed
      Now, Japan is on the front of all our minds.  We’ve been humbled by the power of God’s creation and driven to our knees to pray for people whose lives have been changed forever.  Our missionaries on the field are doing heroic work as they labor  to the point of exhaustion and drive directly into harm’s way (even under radioactive fallout) to deliver basic necessities to those who are suffering. 
      In the midst of the tragedy, our teammates have been constantly reminding us of the realities that CNN doesn’t cover and we so easily forget:  that Japan’s spiritual condition is just as tragic as her present physical circumstances.  It’s terrible that so many have died as a result of this single catastrophic event.  But it’s even more tragic to reflect on the fact that 99.5% of those who have lost their lives will stand before God alone, without Christ (since less than 0.5% of Japanese people are Christians).  It’s horrific to hear that men and women are suffering from thirst because of polluted water systems, but it should also stir us to action that so many human beings – made in the image of God are also dying of Spiritual thirst when we have rivers of living water to share with them.  In the words of our country director, Dan Iverson:  “May the Japanese people come to thirst like this spiritually, and be this desperate seeking Living Water (Isa. 55:1-2;  John 4); May they flee to higher ground . . . to The High Rock (Ps. 61:2); May a tsunami of grace, wave after wave, flood Japan (Ezek. 47; John 1:16).”  Amen! 
      Some of you have asked whether this disaster causes us to rethink our decision to move to Nagoya.  If anything, it has only strengthened our resolve.  The LORD over the earthquake and tsunami has also shaken our family and called us to help plant a network of new churches in Nagoya.  And miracle of miracles, he’s actually made us want to go take the Gospel to the Japanese!  I can’t stress enough how amazing it is that God has made our self-centered hearts break for Japan!  Is it safe?  Probably not.  But neither is it safe here in Asheboro, NC.  Natural and man-made disasters only underscore the fact that there is only one place of real refuge – and that place is found only in Christ.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

From Amy Newsome of our Precious Nagoya Team

Dear Friends,

About four hours ago, after a intense effort over the last few days, our team/church/presbytery sent our first truck to the disaster area filled with supplies:  food, water, fuel, blankets, medicines and other supplies.  Wayne, Pastor Mamoru Otake and team member Tom Wilson are driving.  Their destination is Iwaki, Fukushima.  This city is on the southern edge of the disaster area.  Based on the information from our Chiba team, who had just returned as we were loading, we were able to prioritize certain types of items, and so feel confident that we sent exactly what will help them the most at this point.  It’s been a blessing to share information and resources with one another, and have a more effective operation because of it.

Our team has managed to find rental trucks through the end of March.  So as soon as that truck pulled out, we began turning our minds toward the next trip, which hopefully can take place next Monday.  Our bodies are not as cooperative—we are very tired.   I really wish I could put my thoughts together more effectively.  There is much more to tell you; but for now I need to rest.  

We are aware of the voluntary evacuation flights the US government is offering.  We are around 400 km from the nuclear reactors in Fukushima.  At this point, we are not expecting to have to evacuate.  But we know how quickly the situation can change, and so we are taking precautions, such as gathering our documents. 

I can’t express how much we covet your prayers right now.  Please forgive me for the lack of information in this letter—we just need you to pray, so I wanted to get this out, regardless of how inadequate it may be.

Your sister in Christ,

Amy Newsome

3/16/11 Update from Country Director, Dan Iverson:


10am  Japan time (13 hrs ahead of east coast time)

Dear Family and friends, 

Thank you so much for praying!  We have been going north to help where we can, and just a few minutes ago, we located a Japanese pastor, a good friend of ours, who is just 8km outside the evacuation zone, in a city with over 5,000 evacuees who are receiving very little govt assistance.  We are mobilizing today for a trip tonight to take as much as we are able.  The critical need is gasoline to get there, water, and diesel fuel for those there who could help but don't have any way to transport help.  We particularly need gas cans to transport the gas...all supplies of everything here in Chiba are gone because of panic (grocery shelves empty, gas lines for hours, all containers for water, gas, etc. GONE).  Just yesterday our MTW team in Nagoya began mobilizing to bring abundant supplies from there, but we just learned that in the last 12 hours, the same panic response has left them in the same situation.  We trust the LORD will supply as we go out today to gather what is needed.  Please pray for this effort...this pastor and his church are committed to stay until the end for their city and the glory of God; may God be exalted! 

In the strength of our Sovereign,
Carol (helping Dan with email tsunami)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

3/15/11 Update from Country Director, Dan Iverson:


I copied the following from MTW's web site.

Three of us went north into the devastated areas Sunday at midnight with a packed two-ton rental truck with 1,000 liters of water, gasoline, blankets, food, warm clothes, etc, that many people donated.  We distributed supplies to a small church, an elementary school housing displaced people, and drove around town (Ueda town, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture) giving water to people.  We found that people were so desperate for water that when we ran out, they wanted the not-so-clean  spill-over can water.  It was very sad to run-out with people still coming with plastic bags and trash cans and anything they could bring to get water.

I could not help but think:
-May the Japanese people come to thirst like this spiritually, and be this desperate seeking Living Water (Isa. 55:1-2;  John 4).
- May they flee to higher ground . . . to The High Rock (Ps. 61:2).
- May a tsunami of grace, wave after wave, flood Japan (Ezek. 47; John 1:16)

We now have two Japanese churches in the affected area to possibly partner with long-term in their area to help them in their witness as we serve people in their communities.   
More later, but wanted to get this out to you.

Dan

*** Another good source of information from the field comes from Wayne and Amy Newsome's blog (link in the left-hand column below, scroll down). 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Update from the field

First very successful run to Iwaki returned about 5:30 PM.(Monday afternoon - Japan time)

From MTW Missionary Bob Drews:
  • We were able to deliver 1000 l of water and 60 l of fuel to Iwaki-Shi.  A school/shelter near the church was housing 100 people who have no water, so most of the supplies were left with them.  The young prefectural officer in charge was extremely grateful.  No official help or supplies had arrived, so this was a great blessing.
  • At this point, it appears that shuttling supplies to this community would be beneficial and feasible. 
  • Two teams with two rented trucks are going up again tonight, primarily with water. Dan was able to find several more large portable water tanks to use so two trucks are needed for the additional supplies.
  • One team will return immediately, the second will remain a bit longer.
  • Seima (Japanese pastor) will be leading this group, with Rich Rainsford also participating as "pathfinder" since he went with the first group. 
  • It should be noted that this is a thoroughly Japanese Church/MTW team joint effort.  Most of the supplies and loading help have been provided by Japanese Church Members. 
  • We escaped the "rolling blackouts" today, but they've been announced again for tomorrow.  There are also additional reports of core meltdown at Fukushima reactors.  This is 50 Km from our target work area.

Perspective.


The images on television this past weekend have been sobering, and I’m sure you - like our family - have been moved to tears and stirred to pray for the people of Japan. I've been traveling in the midwest this past weekend, and it's been hard to stay up to date on all of the news from the field. This evening, I'm getting caught up and wanting to share some thoughts.

To put the spiritual darkness of Japan in perspective, Japan averages about 90 suicides per day. As I'm writing this paragraph, the official death toll stands at 2400, and that is still small compared to what the number may be in the end. Of course, this is TRAGIC AND HEARTBREAKING. In a single day, thousands died.  Tens of thousands lost everything.  And every news outlet in the world is reporting round the clock (and it's right for them to do so). But, it's also tragic and heartbreaking that this very rich, first-world country is so spiritually poor and so many are without hope. As we watch the news, we need to also remember that a normal month in the life of Japan brings 2700 suicides...and it doesn't make the news.

Statistics can be a bit sterile, but they can also help us get the lay of the land.  Here are some statistics provided by one of our leaders from the field this week:

"The areas affected by the earthquake and tsunamis...are some of the most spiritually needy places in Japan. With over 4.9 million people yet only about 9,000 active Christians (about 0.15%; about 1/6 of 1%). Fukushima has the lowest average worship attendance in all of Japan with only 19 per church. There is one city and 44 towns with no church at all. There are 86 missionaries (adults, including husband and wife) assigned to these prefectures.  One town in Ibaraki has over 46,000 people with no church (Operation Japan, 24) and several others have over 24,000 people with no churches. Average attendance for all the churches in Japan is the lowest in Fukushima prefecture. Ibaraki prefecture has the least number of people claiming to have any religious beliefs."

So, join us as we pray for God to be merciful to Japan in this hour of need.  But don't stop by praying for physical relief.  Pray that men and women would turn from their idols to worship the true and living God who created them and loves them.  Ask God for true revival in this dark land that's in such desperate need of the peace and hope that only Christ can bring.

By the way - this is why we’re compelled to leave the relative comfort and familiarity of life in the U.S. to serve Christ in Japan.

Contributions to Japan through MTW

Mission to the World has issued a Minuteman Appeal for Japan. The situation is unclear, and will be for some time, but we are committed to making a strong response. We do know that God has placed us in a position of strength with the depth of our team, their broad presence, and long ministry history in Japan. Please join MTW and our Japan team in urgent prayer that God will open many hearts to the gospel and that His Church will grow.

The account is 93993 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. You may give online: click here. Or you may send a check to:

Mission to the World
P.O. Box 116284
Atlanta, GA 30368-6284

(Please be sure to write Project # 93993 on the memo line. )
Thank you for loving the people of Japan in word and in deed.

Prayer request from Chiba

Dan, Dedachi and Rich Rainsford are leaving in about an hour to head north to a town named Iwaki, just 30 miles south of Fukushima (sight of the nuclear plant).  After much prayer and searching for a place to help, they were able to contact a pastor in Iwaki who has asked them to bring water and gasoline.  They have rented and loaded a truck with large tanks of water and about 60 liters of gasoline, along with a room-full of supplies like blankets, coats,  boots, food.  Their plan is to use back roads to enter some of the coastal areas, distribute all that they are able, establish contact with a few more area churches, then head back tomorrow.  If they are able to get through, they are planning for three more people to leave tomorrow with another truckload.  Our hope is to focus on these particular communities and continue supporting the recovery and rebuilding efforts long-term. 
Tonight  is a reconnaissance mission of sorts, borne from a meeting of the CRASH emergency response team of JEMA (Japan Evangelical Missionary Association).  Several other members are taking trains farther north, renting motorcycles, and hoping to do some recon of the hardest hit areas, then communicate needs back to the team.
Please pray with us.  Surely if the LORD has led, He will make a way for the truck and supplies to reach those who need them.  We are trusting that the roads will be passable - the pastor has told us that they are, but the Japanese government may not welcome volunteers and have the roads blocked.  There is also the imminent danger of a strong (7+) earthquake occurring in the next few days according to seismologists.  We continue to experience tremors regularly.  There is also the danger of radiation following the release of radioactive steam from the explosion yesterday.  Even though the government has said that there is no danger, the levels close to the plant rose to dangerous levels today.  We will be having "brown-outs" beginning tomorrow when we will be without electricity for several 4-hour periods.
Worship today was rich and helped us all to focus on our Sovereign, who is our only refuge, strength and ever-present help.  He who created the forces of nature dwells with His church and "will help her at the break of day."   We look for Him to be exalted in this nation, in these times, and pray that He who is with us would send us out to that end.(Ps 46)
Thank you for praying!

In His strength,
Carol (for Dan and team)

Dan Iverson is MTW's country director in Japan

Friday, March 11, 2011

Photos from Japan Earthquake...

Japan hit by 8.9-magnitude earthquake

Video from the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami - PRAY!

Our time in Muncie, IN

I'm writing this post from my hotel room in St. Louis.  It's been almost a week now since Gina, Joshua, and I pulled out from Asheboro on our way to spend time with our new friends at Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC) in Muncie, Indiana.  It was a terrific weekend, and I regret that I didn't have presence of mind to take some pictures to share with you.

Our dear friend Gary Cox is the pastor at WPC.  In addition to officiating our wedding ceremony 15 years ago, Gary became my mentor at Meadowview Presbyterian Church as I went through seminary and afterwards began planting Grace Fellowship.  It was so good to see him again - and to get to know his precious wife, Rita.

WPC welcomed us warmly and fed us well (maybe too well).  Someone even thought to make a big bowl of grits for breakfast on Saturday in hopes of making us feel at home!  During the missions conference, I had several opportunities to share about our calling to help plant churches in the Japanese city of Nagoya, and it was obvious to us that our stories resonated with the congregation.  It was one of those special times where it seems like you've known a group much longer than just a few days.  They sent us away strongly encouraged and laden with gifts in the form of a very generous offering.  Thank you, Westminster!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Covenant Presbyterian - Jackson, TN

Our dear friend Mark Bolyard (photo taken in Riga in '09)
So far, the trip to Jackson has been very encouraging!  It's always good to have a chance to connect with Mark Bolyard - a friend that we met on our very first trip to Riga.  I'd never met Mark's wife (Susan) or children (Chris and Andrea).  They're a great family, and they've been wonderful hosts.

Last night, I met with some of the high school and college students who attend Covenant Presbyterian, and this morning, we had breakfast with others from the church before going to help out at the local soup kitchen.  It was fun to get to know brothers and sisters in Christ as we worked together for the advancement of the Kingdom in Jackson.

This afternoon, Mark and I drove up to Martin and had lunch with students from the RUF group at the University of Tennessee in Martin.  The time was rich with good questions and valuable insights all around the table.  One of the young men was even taking Japanese and most were openly wondering whether God might be calling them to spend time working in cross cultural missions.  As we talked, I imagined that some of our paths might cross again as co-laborers on the field in Japan.  As you read this entry, please take a moment and pray that God would raise up new workers who will relocate to fields like Japan.  The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out more workers into his harvest field.  And pray specifically for the RUF students in Martin who are willing to go wherever God might call them...and are just waiting for their marching orders from the King.

While you're at it, please pray for us.  We're ready to go but still have a lot of money to raise.  The numbers seem overwhelming at times, but we also realize that nothing is too hard for God!

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Japan Missionaries are Decreasing

This is a note that recently went out from Dan Iverson - the MTW country director for Japan.  I'll pass it along here in its entirety.

(FYI - JEMA stands for "Japan Evangelical Missionary Association")

"JAPAN MISSIONARIES DECREASING: Jema annual meeting book says Jema missionary membership has decreased from about 1280 in 2003 to 980 in 2010, about a 24% decrease!  “First aid: Stop the bleeding! Start the breathing!”  If Japan church was strong, with a growing force of pastors and church planters, that would be a welcome thing for missionary numbers to decrease, as our national partners increase.  But that is NOT the case.  There are NOT enough pastors to replace the once retiring and dying.  Japan is still the second largest unreached people group in the world after main people group of Bangladesh.

 “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest, to Japan!”  Praise God that JPM / MTW is growing in number of missionaries in Japan.  May we humbly give thanks, and seek to be an influence for raising more missionary and Japanese Kingdom workers in Japan."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

ALREADY RESCUED (LUTHER)

The following is a prayer of Martin Luther that's been "remixed" and published by a friend of mine.  We used it as a corporate confession during worship last Sunday, and it's meant a lot to me this week. I thought I'd share it here:


Oh God, my God, do You not hear me?
My God, are You dead?

No, You cannot die;
You are merely hidden.
Have you called me here to this place?
I ask You because I must be sure.

God, let me know that it is true!
Never in my life had I thought I could stand
in the face of such opposition
and never had I set out to do it.

Father stand with me in the name
of Your dear Son Jesus Christ,
my Protector, Defender, and mighty Fortress,
through the power and help of Your Holy Spirit.
Lord, where are You?

Come, come,
I am like a patient lamb that lays down its life.
The cause is Yours and it is righteous.
I can never be separated from You because of Christ!
I am so resolved in Your Name
that the world cannot force me
to act against my conscience,
even under threat of bodily harm.

So Your Word and Spirit,
they come now to my rescue –
even if only for the body.
My soul is Yours.

It belongs to You, and so let it remain with You forever.
So help me God.




Japan is ageing faster than any country in history, with vast consequences for its economy and society.

http://www.economist.com/node/17492860?story_id=17492860

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Milestones and Opportunities, Same Need for Grace

On January 2nd, I preached my last sermon as the pastor of Grace Fellowship.  Right after the benediction, I changed hats and moderated the congregational meeting that officially ended my job as pastor.  We then had a church-wide lunch to celebrate the occasion (that sounds funny, doesn’t it?).  It was an emotional day for our family, but it’s just another step in this new journey that God has called us to embark upon.
As things stand right now, we haven’t received quite enough monthly pledges to cover our current monthly expenses going into January.  Obviously, that won’t work indefinitely, but we have some money in our account at MTW that we can draw from for as long as it lasts.  We believe that if we tighten our financial-belts, we can stretch those funds out for 2-3 months (hopefully much longer as more contributors come on board during that time).  This is a big step of faith for us, but as we take it we’re also resting more of our weight on God’s promises in the Gospel.  He’s always taken care of us in the past, and we know he’ll continue to do so.  Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:25-26 are especially good news to us right now:  “…therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” 
So, with all of this in mind, we’d like to ask for you to pray for us in the follow ways this month:
1.        Pray for God to connect us with some families who will become financial partners beginning this month.
2.        Pray for our hearts.  The dark, winter months are always hard for me, and there’s a lot happening right now.  Pray that Gina and I would be operating out of a sense of trust in our Father’s care for us, and that we wouldn’t be discouraged by the size of the task at hand!  Pray that we’d believe God’s promise in Matthew 6:25-26 is for us – and that we’d take courage from it.
3.        Pray for the ongoing work in Japan.  Though our attention is mostly consumed with fundraising right now, our goal is ministry in Japan.  As you pray for us, please remember that we represent a work that’s already happening there.  Ask the Holy Spirit to work through our teammates who are already on the field to be drawing Japanese people to himself!
If you can’t remember any of the above, we’d be grateful if you’d just mention our names to the Father every once in a while.  He knows what we need!  Thank you for your partnership with us!