A New Era

Posted: Sunday, 16th June, 2019 in missions

We have now been fully back in Japan for two months at the start of June. In some ways, it has been nice to be back at “home” on the mountain. Spring was very late in arriving this year as the snow didn’t fully melt around the house until May. We didn’t see the normal spring blossoms until the middle of the month. In fact, the most beautiful of the cherry trees only began to bloom at the beginning of June.

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Springtime at the Castle

We have just started to make use of the beautiful back yard God has given us for the season. God graciously gave us a house with a view but also with an adjoining park for our family and friends to enjoy. We do our part by maintaining the yard voluntarily for anyone and everyone. We get to see many passersby making use of the area, and we also get to enjoy it ourselves. It also makes a great space for our monthly church leader’s meetings so long as the weather is nice.

Mirja has been learning to bike around the house and has just lately figured out how to peddle. Our trip to and from NORTHSTAR is now a fun but challenging bike ride for her. Lyrica is starting to wiggle more and more each day. For the time being she is able to move herself backwards but has not learned about forward gear just yet. She has been experimenting eating a larger variety of solid foods and chewing on anything and everything.

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Free Riding

Reiwa

During the start of May, there are a series of annual holidays that align to form what is commonly referred to as “Golden Week”. As these are national holidays, government offices as well as medium and large businesses will close giving their employees an average of 5 consecutive days off. This year happened to be an exceptional year for Japan as you may have seen on national news.

The reigning Emperor Akihito officially retired at the end of April, ushering in a new era for Japan. His son, Prince Naruhito, was inaugurated on May 1 beginning what will now be called the Reiwa Era – meaning ‘beautiful harmony’. This has been a historic moment for the country since never before has a reigning emperor been allowed to abdicate. Laws concerning the option to abdicate prior to death were put in place just last year in order to allow for this succession.

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Enjoying the change of seasons.

Although the emperor no longer plays any major role in the function of Japan’s government, he is a unifying symbol and figure for the country. This year’s Golden Week was marked with many large scale events surrounding the inauguration that will mark not only the end of an age, but a new beginning for the country. Considering the choice of name given to this next generation, there is a deep desire for harmony in the land.

However, as we know that matters of allegiance often create division, it does not seem that Christianity will be any more welcome in Japan than it has been in the previous era. Yet with the start of something new, there is always the possibility for winds of change to come. I believe that now is the time to pray even more fervently that the seeds which have been sewn here will take root as growing, maturing, and fruit bearing disciples.

Please pray with us for our many friends who do not yet know the Lord and the inner peace which only He can give. We have been trying to specifically focus on key people in our lives right now with whom to invest. Together with our church, we have a list of people whom we are committing to pray for and keep in contact with. Please join us in praying over the lives of these friends who need the Good News of Jesus Christ.

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Local Ministry

Even prior to our return to Nagano, we had been preparing for several events and local service opportunities while we were away. The very first began within the month after getting back home. A YWAM Snowboarder’s DTS came from Vancouver, British Columbia to help us with a huge portion of our spring transitional work including helping us clean up the local parks. We spent four days doing intensive labor to prepare our grounds, local hiking & biking trails, and the village park for the next season.

The team of eight from Canada alongside our staff working together cleared a lot of ground to prepare NORTHSTAR for spring through autumn camps and activities, plus all of the offsite spaces that we often use for programming as well. We were even able to lay some groundwork for a future project I hope to complete in our community park as well. It was also a sweet opportunity to prayer walk the village and give a brief summary of the spiritual need of Japan to this team. Standing at the hilltop shrine overlooking our home, the center of our village, and the mountain beyond, we prayed together that the God over all creation would be glorified in this place. We prayed that the little ‘g’ gods would be displaced by the knowledge and wonder of the true Creator God in this place.

Cultural & spiritual orientation

The spiritual condition of Japan & prayer on the hilltop.

In addition to the major service projects we undertook in early spring, we were planning to again host a team from the U.S. for a children’s festival. Unfortunately, several key things lead us to determine that we should postpone this annual church outreach event. It was a bit unfortunate and rather a disappointment since we have been working to coordinate this event for over a year. However, it prompted us to take a step back and pray for God’s leading in the situation. We are still considering with the church how we should move forward in developing local ministry. But we see this as a sign that whatever we do in the future, it must be a partnership lead by us, the local body of believers, to serve in meaningful and bridge-building ways.

Yesterday, I was encouraged by some words from one of our local friends who is on our regular prayer list. He openly acknowledged that it was due to the presence of believers that our village, which once was a very dark and uninviting place, has been transformed into a place of light and life. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would only continue to reveal to this community the hope which can only be found through saving faith in Jesus Christ. And pray that God will continue to use us and the church God is building in this place to be the mechanism for this life transformation.

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