Thursday, July 24, 2008
The man to be baptized's testimony was written by himself and placed in the bulletin for all to read (assuming they could), and then there were the normal questions asked about whether or not he believed before he would be baptized. Since the church is still too small for baptism like you'll see in most places in the US, the method was 3 sprinkles on the head. The church then also gave him a small gift as congratulations.
Baptism is huge in Japan. It's supposedly the sign of just how serious you are about actually following Christ. So for this man to make this statement was a large one.
It's funny how from the human persspective his baptism held little meaning, but I'm sure in Heaven God was throwing a HUGE PARTY over this man's decision.
So praise be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
God bless, all.
Then we went to an Onsen or natural hotspring, which we all seemed to enjoy, and then Adrian and I spent the night at Kanagi Chapel and Deborah and Amy spent the night at Angela's house. After spending the night there we met up in the morning to go and work on the Messer's vacation home. Although such places are provided for the missionaries, due to Heika Messer's severe allergies they had to buy a more modern place which contained less allergens, so we spent the day dismanteling old furniture, removing old grout, stripping the walls of wallpaper, as well as ripping up the old vinyl flooring in some of the rooms. All in all it was a great experience and God was definately with us throughout it all.
Apple trees are everywhere; acres and acres of them in all directions, interspersed with rice fields, houses and commercial areas, and of course, Itayanagi Chapel. J The apples of this region are truly special. They are cared for meticulously, and when they mature in September, they are the size of grapefruits. They also have an amazing delicious apple flavor, and we haven’t even had the fresh ones!
This brings me back to Aoyama-san. Aoyama-san is committed to serving the Lord with his whole heart. He is very generous and gives a great deal of his time and resources to the people of the church and to church ministry. He also has family concerns that involve a good deal of his time.
Because of these things, his apple trees have suffered. They are VERY full of apples. Now we would think that is a good thing, but it’s not. In order for his trees to produce the best fruit possible, most of the apples they produce naturally, must be cut off. Now we could give something back to Aoyama-san: we went to help prune his trees. Apples grow in clusters of 5, sometimes 6. The trees must be pruned so that each apple left on the tree is about one scissor-length apart from another. This way they will stay on the tree longer and will be able to grow very large and sweet.
It was very difficult deciding to cut off so many apples. We literally had to decide which would die and which would live. Many had to die for the sake of a few. The parable of the vine and the branches became starkly clear to me. Pruning is necessary for abundant life, both for specialty apples and for the children of God.
However, I still struggled with the loss of all the apples on the ground. And I thought, do I care more for these apples, whose death will actually help the ground they come from? Or, will I care more for the millions around me who are perishing without ever knowing the Lord of the harvest?
The next day, I spent most of the day at the orchard with 2-3 other teammates. I had fun pruning that day. Aoyama-san’s lovely wife, Emiko-san, worked on the lowest branches. I worked on the ladders, going up as high as I could. Aoyama-san had his cherry-picker type truck and he cut off the very highest apples, which we couldn’t reach from the ladders. Watching him work made me feel much better. As master of the apple trees, he knows what needs to be done and he does it.
I pray for an abundant harvest for him and his family. I pray for an abundant harvest for the Master in Japan as well.
We first went to a park with a huge colliseum area. The whole park was all lush and green. It was beautiful. It was another surreal moment where i felt like I was transported somewhere other than Japan.
For the most part, throughout the entire retreat, I experienced a sense of community. It was great seeing all the families together. We had met most of the people and kids that attend the church during the weeks past already. However, it was neat to find out who the families were and who the kids belonged to and seeing each of the families together. Even though language was still a great barrier, I really enjoyed just being in the presence of the community there, watching the kids play, watching the parents enjoy fellowship with eachother etc..
We had a barbeque on Sat night. We all loved the yakisoba noodles! We had a chapel time where the "I am the gate" skit was done. Most people went to the onsen afterwards. When it was all dark, the kids (and adults) played with the many kinds of fireworks! We progressed to playing games, dancing, snacking etc....the rest of the night. All in all, we got to meet more of the church members and was able to immerse ourselves in the community.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Let me introduce you to our team baby. Yes, we have a baby on our team and she is a very important member of the team. Her name is Madelynn and she is almost 11 months old. Madelynn, or “Maddie,” as she is affectionaltely called, is here with her parents, Nghi and Jessica.
Maddie has become our team mascot in a way. She is an encourager. She makes us smile and laugh – a lot – even when we’re feeling stressed or tired. And her energy is amazing. Not only that, she is one of the happiest, most pleasant babies I have ever met. She has a smile for everyone, and she has willingly adopted all of us as her surrogate aunts and uncles.
She comes to every one of us, and, on occasion has allowed some of us to feed her, change her and even put her to bed, so that her parents can do ministry together or just have some down time. Because as lovable as she is, being a baby on the go, sometimes her parents just need a little break.
Madelynn is also a little missionary in her own way. The Lord has used her to start conversations with other moms at cooking classes. She has made people smile on trains and basically, everywhere she goes. People are curious. They will offer help or simply come up to her parents and ask questions, practicing their English. She opens doors that otherwise might not be opened. The Lord has a special purpose for Maddie on this missions trip, and I, for one, and very thankful to God for bringing her and her parents here to
And oh, by the way, keep your eyes posted…she may be walking on her own soon. Who knows, maybe those first independent steps, already ordained by God, will take place here in Itayanagi. The Lord bless you, Madelynn.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Day 1:: June 27
After staying in Ichikawa for a short while we came to Ityanagi chapel to stay with the Ghents. Our first meal was a collective one which we shared with Michael, a current JET teacher. During this time we shared our personal testimonies. We each shared how we came to know and accept Christ. It was very uplifting to see people form different places coming together with a common goal and desire to serve the people of Japan.
Day 2:: June 28
This was the first day that the new kitchen was used! We came just in time. =P This was a church potluck where everyone bought a dish of their own. Our team made tuna pasta casserole, rosti and brownies. We thought the rosti wouldn’t turn out at first, but it was all gone by the end of the night! Others brought an assortment of dishes, all really delicious. We had rice balls, marinated cold dishes, miso soup, salad, deviled eggs, guacamole and nachos, bean sprouts and pork stirfry etc…
The food brought about conversations among everyone. We got to meet some of the committed church members. =)
Day 3:: June 29
On Sunday morning, the OMF team helped with English classes held at Itayanagi Chapel. The more advanced English speakers practiced conversational questions like “What type of music do you listen to?” and “If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?” The younger students had a blast slapping their hands at action cards to show their knowledge of English vocabulary. At the end, everyone gathered together for a Bible talk and to sing a song praising Jesus called “Get Up and Dance.”
Japanese worship service
Well, for me at least this wasn't the first service in Japanese I've sat through. This being my second time here, I knew what to expect. Basically, I wouldn't be able to get more than a slight gist of what was going on at best, haha. I suppose for those who don't have prior experience in the language or any at all the service had no hope of them understanding anything more than the names of the chapels they'd already know. Well, that and I believe we all were told that Matthew 28:16-20 was the topic for the mission conference/weekend passage.Well here's the gist of what I caught the guest speaker talking about. Mind you, my Japanese is probably about at either the "highest low" level, or the "lowest medium" level. The gist of what the pastor seemed to be speaking on involved some kind of metaphor about having a dying relative in the hospital with only 2 hours or so to live. This relative in the hospital idea, I can only assume, was meant to be tied in somewhat with the idea of the urgency of the need for those without the Gospel to hear and understand, and then hopefully choose to believe and follow Christ as their Lord and Savior and become His disciples.Otherwise, I ended up using the time to reflect on a few other things God brought to mind during the service. Mostly things that had already happened in the short time we'd already had here, and a few more things I'm in need of thinking about before the trip ends.While I may not have understood all the words the speaker said, one thing indeed was clear: God has something to say to us all. If we listen, He'll speak. We may not understand it at first, but given enough time and the perseverence and faith to trust in Him, eventually we'll understand.
Lunch w/ everyone
After the church service we had the chance to have lunch with many of the people who had come. Some of us were able to help put together the food for lunch (udon soup). While we were helping prepare the food and then eating, we had the chance to meet and talk to some church members. They were very nice (and patient) with us, although there was something of a language barrier for most of us; sitting down and eating together gave us a great opportunity to have conversations. And we got to meet their cute kids. :)
After a lunch with the Itayanagi Chapel members, we headed to the future site of Harvest Chapel, the newest daughter church of the chapel. The site is located in Hirosaki, which is a former feudal capital and thus, it has a castle. The city is located near the southwest corner of Aomori-ken, approximately 40 minuets by automobile from Itayanagi Chapel.
Mr. & Mrs. Ghent, our hosts, told us that they were hoping to have the final settlement on the property earlier in June, in order for us to do some work on the property. However, the paperwork is still pending. They were told that the delay should not be viewed with any concern, i.e., everything is in order but it must to go through the proper channels.
Although we have no reason to suspect otherwise, please pray that the sale will be consummated as soon as possible.
The property is located next to a public playground. It has a two-story building and enough ground for a parking lot. The first floor of the building is subdivided into garage/warehouse areas. They are intending to renovate the 1st floor into a gym, meeting room, and kitchen. Having so much open-span areas makes this building attractive from the perspective of conversion into a church. We did not see the second floor. The property was last used for an agricultural purpose. Therefore, the ground must be cultivated for at least one year by the subsequent owner, according to the local law. The church is planting some vegetables for this summer to meet the requirement. Although the property is not officially conveyed, they are allowed to do cleanups and planting. If the final settlement takes place later this month, as projected, we may do some serious demolition, renovation, etc.
We worshiped in the future kitchen area (an oversized garage with concrete floor) on goza, a thin straw mat. A few songs led by Jessica Tran and a message by Mr. Ghent were followed by a time of prayer. All of us thanked God for His guidance for finding the property, His provision for purchasing the property; and all of us committed the site and the future ministry of the chapel to God. Some light snacks were served on the center of goza.
Please pray with us that God will use Harvest Chapel for His purpose to draw many people to Himself through Jesus Christ, our lord.
Night English worship
On Sunday night, those working and serving in Tsugaru gathered together for International fellowship at Itayanagi Chapel. It was the first service relaunching this much needed ministry held in English. Since it was missions weekend, Martin shared about the kingdom work going on around the world as a result of believers sent out from Aomori. He also challenged those attending with Bible passages from Romans, Acts and Isaiah to share the good news of Jesus with those who have never heard the gospel message. He said that church planting has been an exciting endeavour and has brought him and his family great joy to see people follow Christ.
Day 4:: June 30
Our first day off Yesterday (Monday, June 30) we did some sightseeing around Tsugaru peninsula. We stopped at a shack where squid was sold, and got to chow down on some tasty sea critters. After that, we drove a bit farther to a beach, where we ate some lunch and enjoyed the view. After lunch the team drove to rock structure near the town of Ajigasawa, where we climbed the tall volcanic rock formations and enjoyed the pleasant wind that helped to keep us cool. Although most of Japan is sweltering hot and humid this time of year, the weather in Aomori feels like early fall in Georgia, and is very nice. A tour group of elderly people stopped at the rocks on the beach where we were there, and probably were freaked out by the glut of gaijin climbing all over their glorious homeland’s rock formations. Escaping with barely a sunburn, we proceeded to make our way back towards the church. (Most of) our group next visited an old farmhouse that was several hundred years old (minus modern accoutrements such as restrooms and electric lights) formerly used by an apple farmer. It provided us with a more historical perspective of Japanese life before we went to a bridge in Tsuruta, where we enjoyed some delicious (and cheap) ice cream and wild mulberries before visiting some cranes and a park with an awesome, nearly vertical slide, which many of our team members enjoyed riding. Unfortunately, it was kind of dirty and the back of my (white) shirt looked like a mess for the rest of the day. We returned to the church, as Yuriko-san used her van to transport many of us. Her family isn’t too thrilled about her being a Christian, so she was glad to help the Ghents transport everyone.
After we got back to Itayanagi, we rested briefly at the church and headed for the local mall. Scott and I ate dinner from a tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet) restaurant, which not only served amazingly delicious food, but also provided awesome customer service courtesy of the lady at the counter, who not only gave us free drinks and refills, but also took our trash after we finished. Once again, I was greatly impressed with Japanese service. Next, we went shopping, which allowed me to acquire some writing utensils, a shitajiki (a plastic pad that goes under paper to keep the back side smooth for writing on it), and some hair products that I can’t easily (or cheaply) acquire in the ‘States. Scott and I also visited several video game stores, but it seems the games he want are never in stock.
After a rousing adventure at the mall, we went back to the church and got some rest. It’s just another (uncharacteristically) relaxing day in Aomori.