Items for Prayer April 2013
1. Ask for God’s blessing as Roger Inoye and Dan Maxton come to Japan in March and April to visit Rengo churches and pastors. Pastor Dan Maxton from LifeBridge church in San Diego will stay with us April 5-13.
2. Ask God to bless our April 3-5 Field Council with his presence love and vision.
3. Thanks for praying for John’s ministry of training small group leaders. John will launch a ministry in the Nerima church in May.
4. A disaster response team from the Adelphia School in Seattle arrives April 23rd and stays to May 1. Pray for each of the 7 students and the school dean, Sean Post. God seems to be orchestrating things for this trip.
5. Continue to pray for the developments for the CPI National Conference in November including speakers and promotion. We will also be having a Church Planters’ BootCamp in Nagoya early next year.
6. Pray for our April schedule. Both Elaine and John are non-stop with ministry and key events. Ask God to grant us good health, strength, endurance, peace, joy and faith that God will use us for His Glory.
At the Ishinomaki church one woman came up me after the sermon and said, “Sensei, I suffer from depression.” I was a bit shocked by her directness but said in at least six unique ways that “Jesus loves you.” She began to smile and tears ran down her cheek. There is much power in the Name of Jesus and in His Gospel!
DISASTER AREA IN JANUARY – Joel Erickson from Bethany Moline church joined John for a trip to Tohoku Jan 4-13. Thanks for praying. Tohoku was cold but the weather was good, very little snow. We had no trouble getting around in “snow country.” 1) We completed the last section of Abe’s house started by Team Ohio in November. 2) We developed a deeper relationship with the Shojis. They are the same family I shared about at the Converge Worldwide Biennial meeting (http://www.gospelrest.com/a-story-of-one-family/). Mrs. is reading Christian author, Miura Ayako’s, novel Shiokari Pass I gave them for Christmas (last Christmas was a Bible). We rejoiced with them in the progress made on their property since the tsunami.
CONNECTING WITH JESUS
1. Elaine will be the main speaker at a women’s luncheon at the Tokyo Horizon Chapel on Saturday February 9th. Pray that both pre-Christians and Christians would be reminded of the great love of the Father.
2. We have a Valentine’s Dinner with the Agape Group on 2/10. Pray that God would speak to their hearts.
3. Elaine’s Birthday is Tuesday February 19th. She will turn 60. Help her celebrate!
4. Elaine continues to minister weekly with women through her classes and mentoring. Pray for each woman. The Bible studies are phenomenal as each person goes home changed each time.
BUILDING FOR IMPACT
1. The Church Planting Institute (CPI) is endorsing seminar March 4-5 in Sendai on Rural Church Planting. There are 929 towns and villages in Japan without any church. There are also 41 other areas unreached and 11 cities still without churches. Please pray that more churches will be started in towns and villages of Japan! John will be facilitating some training sessions.
2. Thank you for praying for several key meetings with JEMA and CPI leadership for the CPI National Conference this November. We are moving forward to DO MISSION. Pray more as we work more!
3. Japan Disaster Response teams are still needed through December. Pray as John develops our response to planting churches where we have worked. PTL! Partner Dean Bengtson moves into the neighborhood February 7th. This will develop the permanent presence we have worked for.
Thanks for praying for John’s greeting to the Tokyo young people becoming adults on 1/15. John shared with them the need of hope in Japan and challenged them to be a People of Hope because we have a God of Hope (Romans 15:13). Continue to pray that Elaine and I do exactly that each day.
Our Compassion for Japan Tour is over. This has been our longest Home Assignment in ten years. We have enjoyed visiting our 35 churches and seeing 25 individual supporters. We have been amazed and grateful for the reception this time, many are so concerned about Japan and were very receptive to our presentations and challenge to be more compassionate wherever God places us. We are excited that Japan is on many people’s hearts and prayers. Miraculously God rallied several interested churches and individuals to make up the last $500/mo. in needed support. So we are off again to Japan on October 24th.
Besides ministering in churches, this has been a very meaningful time to be in the US. We have spent quality time with both our children, shared the last few months of John’s mother’s life, and saw the birth of our second grandchild. We have seen Tim enjoying his nearly perfectly fit job as an interpreter. As we leave we are very hopeful for our entire extended family. Just last week we joyously celebrated Christmas in October. But leaving is painful as we leave again our two children and particularly difficult this time by leaving two wonderful grandchildren behind.
Due to our delay in returning to Japan on time a November normally full of activity is even more so. Please Pray!
Elaine is launching all her cooking, craft, and Bible classes immediately. They need to rev up because it is only a few weeks before the Christmas Tea. Pray for good communication and preparation.
There is a Church Planting Institute (CPI) BootCamp Nov 5-6. There are record numbers planning to attend! John besides directing will have several presentations so pray for clarity and impact. We are excited about the presenters at this 2nd BootCamp.
A disaster response team from two of our supporting churches in Ohio (Boardman & Avon Lake) will be in Japan Nov 2-17. They will be led by Nathan Jahnke and John will be joining them. Pray for their effectiveness and discussions with ministry partners as we consider future ministries.
Our Japan Field Council is Nov 16-17. Pray for wisdom, unity, and servant leadership as we pray & plan.
The Rengo Church Planting Summit is Nov 21-22 where John will be presenting.
The Rengo Annual Meeting (Nov 22-23) will be a good time for John to see all the pastors and laypeople again after such a long time.
Dawson Melancen, our second grandchild was born on September 19th. Elaine has been busy helping out Beth with the two kids.
We visited two churches in Hawaii for a few days in October. Both churches have sent two teams each to help in Disaster Response ministry. We met with one pastor and then all the team members that served in Japan. We also gave presentations at Calvary of the Pacific church a Converge Church where we also stayed.
We have also had final visits with friends, supporters, and churches throughout the month.
God has been blessing, wrapping up matters of John’s mom estate. The house closes on the Oct 26th.
This is a great story of one victim of the disaster struggling in his life and how a group of serious Christians can cause him to think about his life. A great story of really sharing Christ, a changed life, and the power of prayer. These are the kinds of relationships our volunteers and our partners are in everyday we minister.
If you have not already you will hear a lot in the news about the recovery efforts after the triple disasters in Japan last March 11th. Much has been done but this is a 10 year project to rebuild the 86 communities affected in the greatest disaster for Japan since WWII.
From a Christian perspective of missions – Japan has even farther to go. Before 3.11, for the Church of Jesus Christ Tohoku was hard very difficult soil for the Gospel. The difficulties are revealed by the statistics. I blogged this a year ago: The areas affected by the earthquake and tsunamis of Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki 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%). There are one city and 44 towns with no church. One town in Ibaraki has over 46,000 people with no church and several others have over 24,000 people with no churches. Average attendance for all the churches in Japan is the lowest (only 19) in Fukushima prefecture. Ibaraki prefecture has the least number of people claiming to have any religious beliefs.
Current Encouragements – Throughout the Christian relief efforts we would hear stories of Christians ministering being termed Kirisuto san (Mr. Christ) by victims receiving help. Some would say “I got this food/clothing from Jesus.” This illustrated that the incarnational approach of Christians meeting real needs have made Christianity to be seen in a great light. In some cases Japanese have overlooked some other answers such as Buddhist cults or the communists. The wall between the church and the community has disappeared, local churches and believers are now visible to Japanese. Churches are gradually springing up all over the area. In Ishinomaki the number of churches has increased from 7 before 3.11 to now 11.
Post 3.11 Opportunities
Last Christmas my wife and I sat with many disaster victims we had been helping. We came to share the story of Jesus. We had never experienced more openness in our 26 years of working in Japan. The traditionally hard soil has been loosened in a country of less than 1% labeled as the second largest unreached people group in the world.
Future Challenges – The often used word since the disaster was “overwhelmed.” The challenges of recovery are still staggering, yet for the Gospel of Jesus Christ even more so. There has been much progress but are there enough Christians and churches to capitalize on this apparent openness? Who will plant the churches in the places that historically have never had a church? Who will help equip and support those who plant these new churches? Missionaries have declined in number by 25% over the last 8 years. Like General MacArthur after WWII, we need to make a great appeal for missionaries to head to Japan right now.
Please pray more fervently, and work more diligently that God would send out workers into his harvest field (Mt. 9:37-38).
This video to us has very familar faces. Besides the families of victims there are people we worked side-by-side in Urayashiki with Dean Bengston. Some notables in the video are Paul Suzuki, SEND Japan director, Warren Janzen, SEND world director, Jonathan Wilson head of CRASH and a few people we worked with mudding out the Watanbe’s house. You can even catch a photo of our dear friends the Fujinos with Southern Baptist. Scenes are also of Minami Sanriku just up the coast. Keep playing, soooooooo much still to be done.
One year after the triple disasters finds nearly 20,000 dead, 400,000 displaced, over 1 million buildings destroyed, and very little rebuilding. Much of the debris has been removed, equivalent to 120 years of the whole nation’s garbage. Encouragement has come as where Ishinomaki City had 7 churches before the disaster, now it has four more, and counting! Converge Disaster Response ministry is now focusing on long-term help for people and building community. The Samaritan Purse rebuilding project will soon be completed with 400 homes rebuilt! March 2-4 will bring Franklin Graham to Japan for a series of meetings in Sendai to celebrate hope. Pray that all believers helping to alleviate suffering would be re-energized for more ministries to victims.