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.

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