Final Post From Japan … Next Stop Seoul

9 07 2011

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Despite having to write many reports and study for finals, it was touching to see how the Japanese students used any breaks in their class work to spend with us and our team during our final week in Utsunomiya. I, Joel, met with a student from 10:45pm-2:00am one night because that was the only free time he had. On our final evening, the students had a going away party and from the 40 or so people that came, at least 20 of them were freshmen. Since freshmen were our main target to connect with and help get connected to the Navigators’ BEST ministry, we felt so blessed that God used our efforts in mighty ways. Where at one time it would have been a room full of strangers, on that final night it was a room full of close friends, wonderful memories and testimonies of God’s love and grace.

Many of the students wrote us notes and a few even prepared speeches to share at the party. One girl shared that even though she does not believe in God, she does appreciate that He brought us to Japan for the summer. One of the few Christian students shared that he was encouraged by seeing me read my Bible during my spare time and that he wanted to start doing the same. It is so amazing how God used all the conversations, experiences, Bible discussions, and prayers to really advance the gospel and bring these students closer to saving faith in Christ.

Thank you for your support and prayers that made this summer possible. You were a huge part of the success of this trip. All praise and glory to God.

Next we are headed to Seoul, South Korea for 8 days to visit with Saara, a Korean student who we became very close with during her study abroad trip in 2009-2010. She is a member of the Navigators in Korea and was involved with our ministry at USF during her time in Florida. Please pray that there would be much mutual encouragement and that we would be able to spur her on even more in love and good deeds.

Would you also please pray for the students on our team, and soon us as well, for the transition back to America? As we sit here in the Narita airport in Japan, we are already experiencing the major differences between the Japanese culture and our American culture. Please pray that we would take our emotions to the Lord and not grow critical of either culture as we leave Japanese immersion and return to American immersion.


Signs of Fruit

27 06 2011

Since we arrived in Utsunomiya at the end of May we have been involved in a frenzy of activities from water fights to sports tournaments to Bible discussions to all night road trips to English and Japanese lessons. Every part has been incredibly fun but through it all our focus has remained to share the gospel through our words and lives. Now that we have been here for four and a half weeks we are seeing the fruit of all these interactions as students are opening up to us more and allowing us to share more deeply with them. This is especially an answer to prayer as Japanese people are typically very private.

Here are a few examples of the open doors God has given us. Over lunch last week I (Joel) was able to share my testimony with Yihan while we were talking about our families and childhood. April shared her testimony with Tashiro after English practice when he asked her when she became a Christian. Monica had a great conversation with Moeca about why the Bible is so important to her and what Jesus did for her when He died on the cross. Jose and Austin have opened the Bible multiple times with their roommate Yuske in the midst of daily conversation. Hannah shared her testimony with Natsume during their Japanese practice time. These students have most likely never heard a personal Christian testimony before.

The uniqueness of our opportunity particularly struck me the other day as I was talking with Take about the freshmen Bible discussion from the night before where we looked at the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus in Luke 19. I asked Take about his opinion of Jesus and he replied that when he looks around he doesn’t know or see anyone who is powerful enough to change lives like Jesus is able to. WOW!!! Up until three months ago, when Take began college, he probably had never read the Bible and had no opinion about Jesus. But now he stood telling me his positive impression of Jesus and he is familiar with several Bible passages.

We are so thankful to God for how He has been using our time and that He is passionately pursuing these students’ lost souls. We truly are blessed to be a  part of His work and to be able to see firsthand His love and redemptive power in action. Thank you for joining with us in this incredible journey.

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Sendai Trip with BEST Club

14 06 2011

During our time in Japan we have had several conversations with the students about the earthquake, tsunami, and the ongoing recovery. Although earthquakes are a routine part of life for the Japanese (we have experienced multiple small tremors in the past few weeks), now everyone is more sensitive and nervous whenever a tremor does occur. One student expressed that there is a general fear of nature and its power to destroy. In the midst of all this, it has been amazing to hear students and Japanese Navigator staff express gratitude that we still chose to come to Japan. To them it is a great demonstration of interest, care, and service that we proceeded with this trip despite the potential risks.

All this was on our minds as we traveled to Sendai last weekend to help with the clean up of a local bay. As we got closer to the coast we could see more and more homes affected; some shifted from their foundation, some with the entire first floor wiped out, and others destroyed completely. April was moved to tears at the sight of what these people have experienced.

Our group included about 30 students and some Navigator staff who were all very eager to do what they could to help. It was amazing to see how the students would give up their whole weekend to help people they had never met. The bay was covered with seaweed churned up by the tsunami and lots of debris carried by the water flowing back out to sea. The debris included tires, shipping containers, and all types of household items. We also got to help a rice farmer clear some of his fields of rocks and gravel that would affect future crops. At the end of our two day work project, it was uplifting to see that what were able to accomplish and know that were able to give some measure of aid to a widely and deeply hurting area.

One of the greatest blessings for our summer team was the chance to spend extended time with the students we are trying to reach out to. The four hour drive to and from Sendai allowed for a lot of great conversation and the work project and barbecues we had gave us wonderful shared experiences. Since that weekend we have seen how God has used the trip to tremendously advance our relationships and connections to the students as recently we have had several spiritual conversations with them.

Praise God that He has wonderful plans that we often don’t understand but can completely trust Him with.

Washing Our Hands With Toilet Water

31 05 2011

There are obviously many differences between American and Japanese culture. There are also many wonderful qualities and values of the Japanese people, including their ability to maximize space and conserve where possible. For example you’ll see in the picture below that in Japanese homes, they have sinks built into the tops of their toilets so that you can wash your hands with the clean water that refills the tank.

In a meeting with Tomoson, the Navigators campus director of Utsunomiya University, he shared with us how he is using Japanese values of relationship and respect to help bridge the divide between most students and God. We experienced how vast the divide is when Joel shared in their Freshmen Bible Discussion that his foundation for life is God and the Bible and one student responded by saying that he didn’t even know how to interpret what Joel said and that he had no framework for understanding belief in God. In spite of the hard soil that Japan can be, it is amazing to see how God is using the people here to proclaim the gospel and save lives. We have already met a number of students who have gotten saved through the Utsunomiya BEST Club. For most of them it took several years to come to faith and they are very much in the minority.

On a lighter note, in our one week here we have already been to karaoke, had a Japanese barbeque (the students threw a welcoming party for us that was wonderful), and traveled all over town by bike as this is the preferred mode of transportation for students. Please pray that in this next week we will start to develop good friendships and that we will have plenty of opportunities to spend time with the students. The Japanese tend to be quite shy which puts much of the work on us to initiate (which can be hard considering the language barrier).

You can see some pictures on our facebook page (!/profile.php?id=5017642) and we will post more soon.

Time Travel To Tokyo

23 05 2011

After leaving Orlando at 7am on Sunday and going 3 hours back to Los Angeles and then going another 16 hours forward to Tokyo, we landed at Narita International Airport at 4:45pm on Monday.

All of our flights were smooth and we warmly greeted by the local Navigator hosts. From there we traveled by rail, making a train change at the Shinjuku Station (the busiest train station in the world) and finally arrived at our home for the next few days at the Olympic Youth Center.

As we got off the plane and walked through the streets to dinner and to our home, it brought on a very surreal feeling that we were actually in Japan. It is amazing, even now, to think about what God has done to bring us all here and imagine what He has for us over the next 2 months.

Thank you for everyone’s gifts and prayers that have made this possible and praise God for enabling us to take the beautiful of Jesus to the nations.

For the next 3 days we will be in orientation in Tokyo before we head on to Utsunomiya, where we will be working at Utsunomiya University. We are so looking forward to meeting the Japanese students that we have already been praying for and communicating with over email.

Japan Update – Cleared For Take Off

30 03 2011

Thank you to everyone who has been praying for Japan in general and to those who have been praying specifically for our trip this summer. The good news is that all the Navigator staff in Japan are safe and after careful investigation of the situation and conditions in Japan, our team has received approval to proceed with our summer mission trip. We will still be working directly with college students, but we will most likely also do some relief work and we may potentially be relocated to another city. The five students coming with us are very eager to go and be used by God in whatever way He would choose. It encouraging for us to see their faith. In the midst of all the trials the Japanese are enduring, we are praying for their recovery and redemption as God works in thier hearts during this time.

Praise the Lord that He is the sovereign redeemer whose plans and ways are higher than ours. He is able to bring hope from devastation and beauty from ashes.

Please Pray for those in Japan

11 03 2011

Around 6 am this Friday morning I awoke to a text from my dad, informing me of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. This is a devastating occurrence and difficult for our minds to understand or even comprehend. However, Joel and I  feel encouraged to know that God is not taken by surprise. He is still on the throne and as sovereign as ever! 🙂

(So, as long as the Lord wills we are still planning to fly to Japan on May 23rd.)

Would you please pray with us for those that know God in Japan and that they may have the energy and ability to share the Good News in such a hopeless time as this.

Would you also please pray for those in Japan who do not know Jesus, that they may cry out to God.

I am reminded of Acts 17:26-27

26and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,

27that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

Thank you for your prayers!!