Monday, August 24, 2015

Milbino Messenger -

Here is our latest news letter: (CLICK HERE:)

Thank you all for you prayers and support:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Spring Bloom to Summer Gloom-

We had a spring that was full of adventures and connecting spiritual communities.  Sterling was especially busy as he continues to focus on investing in spiritual discipleship opportunities.  He went to Cambodia with Asian Access-International to connect with the leaders from around Asia.  The conference included a trip to Ankor Wat and a deeper understanding of the isolation of leadership. 

Sterling in Ankor Wat with Pastor Meng
 There was a breakout session for the leaders, and the question was do you have a ‘spiritual buddy’-  Someone to share the deep joys and pains of life and ministry with?   

We are blessed to have each of you, and one another, and our incredibly supportive family behind this calling. Yet in a day when having 500 facebook friends is no big deal, people are more isolated than ever.

So, Emi and I have really been trying to find our niche in continue to connect people together?  Connecting people in the church, in the mission, and in community so that together we can connect to God.

This set of pictures is a preview of some of the people we enjoy being in community with and connecting to in our ministry.

This is the women of the Benneva's.  Benni and Geneva (pink yukata  or summer kimono) are friends from school here in Kunitachi.  When the girls get together the names meld to the Bennevas. This is the family that took Elise to the hospital, and then several weeks later Emi visited their youngest in the same hospital.   Part of sharing the Gospel is not being perfect. This is a family that we can share our imperfections in language and cultural goof-ups.  They help us out and we continue to bond as families.  Sumire (left back) is a joyous woman who allows Emi to share in the funny and hard moments of living in Japan.

Yuri is G and E's Sunday school teacher (called"Friend Park" at Kokubunji Baptist Church).  She is also a home education (かていきょういく 家庭教育) teacher for middle school students.  Which means she is really good at making stuff and having fun doing it. Yuri is just one of many friends at KBC who we continue to pray for. She came to our 'mansion' apartment and made gyoza (potstickers) and a homemade ice yogurt dessert.  It's really a challenge to connect with career-age people in Tokyo, so our connection at KBC really allows to understand how to serve younger people here in Japan.

This is the basketball team from the summer camp.  There were about 25 kids over three days came to KBC and then traveled to Okutama (about 1.5 hours from Tokyo).    Having a healthy number of young adults at our church is unique in general to a Japanese Church.  We credit Yonai sensei and his wife for their warm and welcoming spirit.  Sports ministry is a focus for many Japanese outreach events.  Here our  TEAM2 is pretending to eat udon noodles for the picture. See the number 2 is also our pretend chopsticks.    One way that we try to connect to the kids is by serving the leaders. To serve the young adults allows them to serve the kids.

Sterling is also part of Asian Access International, in the effort to connect the church in Asia to support and develop new leaders.  I get the privilege of meeting some of the most dynamic leaders in the world, and hearing how they develop their next generation of disciple makers.  By sharing what God is doing through them, we hope to have a compelling ministry of people that are connected beyond boarders.  The hardships of leadership are very different than in the North
 American context. Persecution takes many forms - poverty, isolation, jail, intimidation, community expulsion to name a few. In the stories of Asian Access, we hear the continuing call for people to come together to shape a just future for the next generation.

Robert Adair is one of many missionary friends who we really enjoy serving alongside.  This Summer Sterling, Robert, and Ray (not pictured) to the young men of Asian Access-SIM and hoofed them up the mountains. It was a great Moses Ministry.

Ministry in community- It's one thing to take on a new language, new culture, and new community as a family- but it really helps to have pals.  We are blessed by many family's in Asian Access, including the Adairs (pictured).  Robert has known Emi for the last 13 years as they have served with A2 for roughly the same amount of time.  Yet in the past year, Robert and the other men of A2 have welcomed our family in with open arms.  The A2 families roll out the futons for us when we go to Tohoku, and even sometimes let us have heat or air conditioning on in their homes.

It makes all the difference in the world to have pals who understand what we are going through.  One of the mission mottos is an African Proverb :"If you want to go fast go alone...If you want to go far go together." As a group we aim for an eternal journey together in Japan, and so it helps  we have friends together.

These are some of the KBC friends. Emi was invited to be part of the Baby Shower for our friend Azusa.  She was in charge of games and entertainment.  Ai-chan shared with me that Emi had a profound way of having fun and making the moment 'so meaningful.'  We've lost many of life's milestone moments in modern life. Emi believes in celebrating those moments.  She had the women share an attribute of our the Mom-to-be that they really appreciate.  As a Mom herself, Emi knows how much gets lost along the newborn process, so to celebrate Azusa and the mom she is to become.  They had a beautiful baby girl- who is the star of Sundays now.  Sorry E- your time is waning.

Jason from WPC on a short term team to serve Tohoku and Nozomi Project
Tami and E smiling away at retreat!

The bridge from Tokyo to the US is far easier to travel than some fields.  In fact, our neighbors think we have the biggest family in all of Japan. We do - we have you!  There are many people who have a heart for Japan.  (above)Jason is the college leader from WPC and a close friend of ours. His co-workers sacrificed a week of vacation to come and serve 4 years after the disaster. This commitment to Tohoku is incredibly empowering to what God is doing in Tohoku.  Tami has come the last four years to serve on the Child Ministry team and makes it the favorite week of the year.  G cried so hard saying sayonara's to Tami.   These are just two of the many friends and family who have come to support us, and support what God is doing.  The community of friends in Tokyo is hard to find, but the community of people behind what we are doing for God is easy to recognize.

We could go on and on, but we wanted to share a sample of the many people we get to connect to. New Friends, New Countries, New Experiences, Old Friends in new places, and New Friends becoming old in strange places... God has given us many great people in community. The challenge we face is to get that enthusiasm to impact generations of communities in Japan and Asia.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Does it make a difference?

Our pastor challenged us to not just bring more people into the church, but serve the world outside the church. "Rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and mourn with those who mourn "
歓ぶ人たちと共に歓び,泣く人たちと共に泣きなさい" - Romans 12:15

We've talked often about how much fun it's been connecting to our neighbors, and this has meant more than just the couple next door, or the family above us. It's incluced the neighbor who owns the cleaners down the street,who Geneva now pounds on the glass to say "Hi!" - SO maybe we have this rejoicing part down.
He even has his own poster
Our local taiyakiman!
aka: Sterling's guilty pleasure.

It means the taiyaki guy(street vendor) who knows Sterling's custom order.   It also means the family across the street, the Tasaki Family. This fall, we've really become close with them.  They want the girls to call them "Jiji, and Baba" as they've taken them in as their local grand daughters.

On Dec 31st, as I raced home from the hospital, I saw our neighbors the Tasakis.  They regularly spoil Geneva and Elise with treats and kindness.  They have taken in the girls as their own grand-daugters.  It’s been a tough year for them, and we pray for them often.  But ‘does that matter’?  A friend, Eric Takamoto, encouraged me to REALLY pray over your neighbors.  So every time we walk past their home, we pray for God’s healing in their lives.

That cold New Year’s Eve night, I saw Mr. Tasaki unloading his car. I turned around to wish him a Happy New Year!  He was startled to hear a voice in the dark.  I told him as best I could about Elise. He understood and knew what she had.  We talked as it’s been a hard season for them, and exchanged warm wishes for next year.  He asked if I’d pray -  He’s never done this.Tokyo men are usually far too stoic to pray together publicly. I looked at him and asked “now?” He nodded. So I prayed for everything that we’d been praying over the last two years: Their son, their grandson, their daughter, his wife, and for our friendship.  Also, that God would hear their voice, and to understand God’s voice and for Elise to be safe. My heart was pounding both with nervousness and from riding my bike.  AMEN! 

We looked up. There were tears in Tasaki’s eyes. With 15 minutes left in 2014 I saw how prayers matter - they are an extension of hearts connected through God. Your prayers too  connect in ways that really matter to our community.

The Tasaki's invited us over for dinner this week.
They really love the girls

Sometimes even we ask "God do our prayers make a difference?" Yes! without a doubt!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ministry Events

Enjoying the fall colors at the nearby Show Kinen Park

Ministry Events: A2 Mission & Family Camp. One of the things our family has been praying for was deeper connections with our church  and community this year.  We have seen meaningful developments on both fronts lately. To start our fall, our family went to an all mission gathering in Fukushima-ken.  (This is about 40 minutes from Fukushima city, and well outside the evacuation zone from the radiation.)  The theme was building our own and our organization took a long weekend to cross-train and dialogue about Gods work in Japan. I (Sterling) volunteered my services with the middle school mission kids, and it brought me back to my Youth Ministry time in SF and WI. Emi had a challenging time with a teething Elise, but she continues to enjoy connecting with our missionary families as head of the Missionary Care Team.

We stayed at a National Sports Ministry Center, which meant morning flag ceremonies at 7AM, and rajiotaiso - a time honored set of calastenics to iconic 50s music.  Also at the facility were university sport clubs, middle school clubs, and various groups. After the morning stretches, each of the groups would make announcements in Japanese. Geneva and the other mission kids made quick friends with the other clubs. One morning we saw Geneva do the announcements for the Sendai University Ski Club in Japanese! It seemed like just yesterday she was three and now shes in college (kind of).
Emi was amongst the final 6 of 300+ people playing
 Paper-Rock- Scissors. She and Elise WON! and then
she had to make speech in Japanese. 
Geneva doing the morning announce-
ment for the university ski club.
When it was time to leave, her new friends Misaki and Ai-chan, came and said good-bye to Geneva and her A2 friends.  The students said they didn
t realize Christians could be so much fun.  Well, it was just the beginning to a great set of surprises.

The next weekend, our church, KBC, went to the mountains for the first all-church gathering in some 15 years.  Many friends worked very hard to make this camp happen, but KBC asked Sterling to do the ice-breaker games. I think they kind of knew what they were getting into. 
Laughing with Yonai Sensei at KBC Camp.

We played “Do you want to build a snowman?” to play off the unprecedented popularity of Disney's Frozen. The game was a trick to wrap up our Japanese friends in toilet paper. Like many things, the Japanese elevated the snowman to much more than just a carrot and a smile. We had a Japanese Bride (right), a snow princess, and a Chiquita Banana snowman! We enjoyed connecting deeper with KBC.

KBC friends transform Gun-chan into a Japanese-style
 Snow Bride.

Yuri and Kaoru transform Geneva into a snow princess.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A2-SIM Strategic Partnership

The major reason we came home this summer was to attend missionary training in Charlotte, North Carolina.  

Emi shares our families calling at Chapel Time

Sterling and Nick Riddle practice the Evanga-CUBE. The Riddles are serving in Nigeria at a medical clinic

At one of our church events, someone asked, “do you guys do everything in partnernships?” I realized that YES- everything; ministry, marriage, parenting, language learning is done in partnerships. Our sending mission agency is no different. Asian Access has formed a partnership with SIM to send missionaries to Japan.SIM is a mission agency, with over 100 years of training and sending missionaries around the globe. In fact, SIM is at the front lines of the recent Ebola response team in West Africa. While we were there in June, the first prayer request emerged for their medical missions team.

In N.Carolina we received a warm welcome from Faith (center) & Stan DeLa Cour (not pictured). The DeLa Cours are family friends and former long-time missionaries with A2.  Faith now heads missionary care for all SIM-USA.

Bruce Johnson (right) is the president of SIM USA, and a former A2 board member. While we were there, we learned of SIM’s front line response to Ebola for SIM’s missionaries in Africa. Please pray for both of them and the people in Africa. SIM has spent over 1 million in response to this human medical tragedy. Read more at

"Did A2 and SIM merge?”  This is the most common question- NO, they decided to meet the global calling by working together.  SIM will handle the organizational and financial matters, while Asian Access will continue to partner with pastors and missionaries to serve in Japan.

"When do you change?”  By Oct 1, SIM will handle our financial support. A2 will transfer remaining ministry funds to SIM USA. Please email us if you have any questions or concerns on this change.

"What does this mean?"  It means that going forward you will see our materials with both organizations’ logos.
  All financial checks, credit card, or web payments will go throughSIM USA.  However, we will not change churches, and our duties remain the same. 

 We cannot continue our term without this transition as the cost of supporting missionaries in Japan is too burdensome for a ministry the size of Asian Access. We are excited to be SIM-Asian Access missional partners as we get to be part of a large global family impacting the world for good. During our training meetings we met P-Nut from MN, and the McKenzie family from NC. They are the next SIM-A2 missionaries coming to Japan.  We prayed with other new friends who are setting down their lives to serve around the globe.  One couple in particular connected with our family. Geneva excitedly ran over each morning to see if they were awake.  She soon upgraded her hair  to fancy braids in the morning and received private ballet lessons.  We are blessed to count new friends and mentors as part of the larger community of missions.