Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Miscellaneous Updates

In lieu of a standard newsletter, here are a number of updates in the life of our Genesis team mission work:
  • College President: For how long have I been saying "I think we are very close to naming a new president/college planter"? It seems like forever -- to me, if not also to you. I keep hoping that "in the next newsletter," I can make a big announcement! But yet again, perhaps next time. I do believe we are getting close; very close! Pending two additional online interviews, we may be able to make that announcement. Please continue to pray for this critical position.
  • Home Missionary Assignment: As of the end of August, I will have been in Osaka for FOUR YEARS, and will be due to take my "HMA" (sometimes known as missionary furlough). I anticipate leaving Osaka in late October and spending a full year in the States in order to assist our new college planter, the Lord willing, in the work of recruiting teachers and staff for our English school and eventual college. My primary base of operation will be in my hometown of Inwood, IA; but I will travel extensively, recruiting and reporting to supporters, around the US and Canada. January-March will be spent largely in Mississippi and neighboring states in order to participate in their missions conference season. One church in Hattiesburg, as well as my home church in Jackson, have already invited me to their conferences. I would love to join your church as well! Please let me know if that may be possible!
  • West Coast Missions Conference: I participated in the MTW West Coast Missions Conference in April, and was busy meeting with many people, advocating for Genesis College, and speaking with potential recruits. One meeting also was productive strategic planning for the designation of a new GIC college planter. Thank you for your prayers!
  • New Missionaries! This summer, we anticipate welcoming some new missionaries to our team! One family (with four children) has purchased their tickets to arrive on August 21. One bachelor (we have a lot of us on this team!) anticipates arriving late summer. Please pray for the Gibsons, and Jeff as they prepare to move to Japan. There are so many details to work out for such a move.
Encourage One Another
Life on the mission field can seem very monotonous, sometimes. We have to do all the ordinary things of life - laundry, grocery shopping, etc. And in a country where the gospel seems to take such a long time to penetrate hearts, I can sometimes wonder why God brought me here.
One of my first Japanese friends in Osaka is a 30-something young man, Yuuki, raised in a Jehovah Witness home, who became an atheist in university, but then a Christian about six years ago. His family cut off relations with him, and he went through difficult days, feeling very alone in a nation that values being a part of the larger group. I walked with him through dark days during my first two years in Osaka, crying with him, praying with him, loving him. God eventually brought him a renewed sense of hope, and not long after that, a quality young Christian woman whom he has been dating for some time now.

He also walked with me in my dark days this past winter, praying for and encouraging me. During one of those conversations, recalling his own dark times, he said, "I am the reason God brought you to Japan."
While I have no doubt that God's purpose for me in Japan is greater than Yuuki or I could ever imagine, it was certainly good to hear -- to know that I have been used by God in the life of this young man, and to see God using him in my own life.
Please thank God with me for Yuuki, and pray for him as he continues to live for Christ, to shepherd other young men, and looks toward the future with his serious girlfriend.


Prayer Points

PRAISE GOD for continued, if slow, progress in providing a new college planter. Pray that He will bring all things together very soon!

PRAY FOR Daniel & Carla Gibson, and Jeff Edwards, who are in the final phase of preparing to serve with us in Osaka.

Continue to PRAY FORShoko, our new team administrative assistant, as she continues to learn her job, working in a 100% English environment. Some of her tasks include finance work, and helping foreign missionaries with all sorts of things -- translating at their children's schools for meetings with teachers, helping us with just the ordinary things of life in Japan!



Tastes of Home
Life overseas is exciting, but can also be difficult as one misses the comforts of home. And what sort of things do I miss from home? Family, friends, my home church -- especially singing in the gospel choir. Oh, and FOOD!
I'm sometimes asked whether I cook, and what sort of things I cook. Yes, I cook, and I pretty much cook only American foods. They are what I know! I'm somewhat limited by the groceries that are available here, or I might try a creative substitution -- sometimes that works . . . .
But to get a REAL taste of home, I enjoy a couple of Mexican restaurants. (I like to say "there's nothing more American than Mexican food!")
In January, I discovered Taqueria La Fonda, just a ten minute bike ride from my apartment. This tiny cafe (seats 16 maximum) serves up amazing soft tacos, and polenta soup! They opened a couple of months before I moved into my apartment. It may be a good thing I didn't know about them all this time, or I might have spent a lot more money there!

​Now if only I could find Chicago-style pizza. Ah-Hah! Last week I met an American pub owner who also makes Chicago-style pizza pies! They are currently  closed for renovations, but you know I'll be among the first when they re-open!
Stay tuned for an update!

Monday, May 7, 2018

From April 25, 2018

God's Restoring Grace

I want to thank so many of you for the prayers you offered, and the encouraging notes you sent after my February newsletter, in which I shared the struggles I had been experiencing over the previous months. God heard your prayers, and I was overwhelmed with many personal messages of encouragement.

Soon after sending that update, I attended a "Grace Week" retreat in the mountains outside of Tokyo. It was an intense week of speakers who covered topics such as the gravity of our sin, and the immeasurable grace of our Father. (If you are familiar with "Sonship," this is essentially the same thing.) God used the week to bring much needed spiritual refreshment. I have been especially impacted by the question of whether my spiritual goal is for personal resolutions of doing better, or for the Holy Spirit to transform my heart. I am convicted that I all too often strive to change myself -- a battle one can never win.

The retreat also gave me a better perspective of the problems facing me and our missionary team. There is truth to the adage that "misery loves company." Just knowing that I am not alone in experiencing difficulties does give me some relief! Additionally, hearing the struggles of others showed me that my own struggles, while legitimate, are not all that serious. I'm not going through divorce. Our team is not dealing with heresy or scandal, etc.

As for problems on the team, some of these have been removed through the departure of a hired staff member, and a team member who also left the team. I wish that reconciliation would have been possible, or that it may yet come, but that is not always possible in a fallen world. And yet God is faithful, even when broken people cannot always be united.

Please do pray for all the members of our team -- those still with us, and those who have left -- that God will bring about reconciliation and use even our struggles for His glory and the salvation of Japanese people here in Osaka.

Prayer Points
Praise God for His grace in my life, in seeing me through a difficult six month period. Pray that He will continue to work in my life and in this team to bring about full reconciliation.

Pray for our new office staff member, Shoko Reyes, who started working for us a few weeks ago. She is a Christian young lady (married to a westerner -- thus the Spanish surname!), and is working hard to learn many office procedures, including difficult finance work. We are very thankful for God bringing her to our team!



Quick US Trip
I will be in Los Angeles on Wednesday through Monday of this week! I'll be attending the West Coast Missions Conference this weekend, and meeting with some people about the formation of a board of advisors, or directors, as well as the selection of a new college planter (president) for the future Genesis College. Please pray that God will bless the time -- laying a strong foundation for His work in Osaka, and recruiting faculty, church planters, and various support staff.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Living in the Desert

From February 13, 2018

Living in the Desert

Imagine being born into slavery. For hundreds of years, your people have been mistreated and disrespected. But a leader rises up among you and your people leave behind lives of backbreaking work and desperation. You are promised a land of your own where living will be good! But before you arrive (because of your consistent complaining and lack of faith in your God), you will wander for more than 40 years in the desert. Your children will leave your body in an unmarked grave in the desert, and they will go into and inherit the promised land.

Life as a missionary can sometimes feel like that, perhaps especially in Japan. In missionary circles, Japan is known as "the graveyard of the missionary" due to the difficult nature of ministry here. Granted, life is comparably easy in Japan. When feeling sorry for myself that, for example, clothes dryers are not common here, I remind myself that I could be washing my laundry on a rock while staring down a water buffalo. Japan is modern! How could I possibly complain? Well, I do complain sometimes, especially about Japanese bureaucracy, and silly rules that seem to serve no real purpose.

But honestly, life has been particularly discouraging for me the last six months.

(This is where most missionaries dare not go, and I am questioning myself as I write this. Supporters want to hear encouraging missionary reports, right? Well, life is sometimes hard, even -- or perhaps especially -- on the mission field.)

Ministry in Osaka is very different from what I was recruited to do. As you likely know, we lost our founding "college planter" before we even arrived in Osaka. I fell into being the interim team leader. Replacing our college planter has taken much more time than we anticipated. My skillset has been stretched to the limit in being the number one leader; that's not a role where I function best.

Because of the incredible ways in which God worked to prepare me for, and then bring me to Japan and the Genesis team, I have been convinced that our team would not fail because of the loss of our leader. God would provide! I have often heard very undeserved praise for that confidence. But in the last months, that confidence is waning. Our entire team seems to be losing faith in the vision that drew us here, bringing about a real slump in team dynamics. It is a difficult season.

Please pray for us:
  • Pray that God will renew our faith in His calling and in His leading of our team.
  • Pray that the devil will not succeed in discouraging our team. He knows what we are up to, and does not want us to succeed.
  • Pray that God will equip me to lead this team through a difficult period. I've failed in many, many ways, and contributed to the stress -- and conflict -- on our team.
  • Pray that God will provide a new college planter-team leader very soon. We have two good prospects, but the process is taking a long time.
  • Praise God that whatever happens, He will use it for the good of all those who love Him (Romans 8:28)!



Genesis Cafe Trial Event

On January 31, we held a free special event for our Genesis Cafe students. We had a regular English cafe event in our new office, trying it out for potential regular use for our twice-a-month event. Eleven students came, and the room proved more than adequate. Once we are able to make some acoustical improvements to dampen the sound, and purchase some needed supplies, we will move to our own space.

One of the advantages of this move is that we can make coffee for much less than what we pay at the Swissotel cafe (about $8.25 for a small cup!). We can pass the savings on to our student, charging a much lower fee. By charging less, we hope to draw more of our target students -- those who did not go to university, working part-time or low-paying jobs. We'd like to equip them with skills for better jobs, but through our lives and friendship, also share the hope of the gospel of Christ with them.



Prayer Points

Pray about the issues plaguing our team, as described in the article to the left.

Pray for our Genesis Cafe event, as we will soon be moving it out of the Swissotel and into our new office/classroom space.

Pray for a new "college planter." I hope we can name a new president in the next few months.



Culture Corner
"Zen is for monks,
not merchants."

You may be familiar with the Japanese zen minimalism as it is seen in simple gardens, art, and architecture: clean lines; no clutter.

But take a look at a Japanese website and you'll quickly cry "visual assault!"

A recent blog from Moravia, explores why Japanese websites look so 1995 -- busy, chaotic, mind-numbing. They conclude that the Japanese consumer wants ALL the facts -- without any clicking -- before buying.

I think that's true with Christianity as well. The Japanese who is interested in Christianity wants to know everything before committing their lives to Christ. Please don't misunderstand; knowledge is certainly a good thing. I don't want a "convert" who doesn't know what he or she is converting to. But neither can someone know everything about God before becoming a Christian. It's not even remotely possible!

Please pray for the Japanese people to have the faith of a child, and then to study scripture with the love of a child getting to know his Father.



(Click on photo above to compare the US Starbucks homepage to the Japan Starbucks homepage and to read the entire blog from Moravia.)



Valentine's Day in Japan
(A little bonus "Culture Corner" this month, since it is nearly Valentine's Day.)

Men, have you bought chocolate or flowers for your wives or girlfriends yet? If you lived in Japan, you wouldn't need to! Instead, it's the women who buy chocolate. And not just for their boyfriends or husbands, but also for all the men in their lives, including their co-workers. The men treat you terribly at work? Doesn't matter;  many see this tradition as obligatory, and it can get quite expensive.

A month later, it's the men's turn. On "White Day," the men must buy chocolate for the women in their lives. The advantage is they know who gave them chocolate, and about how much was spent! They also are likely to work with far fewer women than the women work with men. It is a man's world!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November 7, 2017

Little Steps, Big God

"Will Genesis International College ever get off the ground?"

Perhaps you've wondered that many times over the last few years. Losing our founding president before the arrival of any other team members in Osaka would seem to be fatal to the team. However, God has always been providing for little steps forward -- sometimes bigger steps -- and so our team remains confident that He has a plan for us here in Osaka.

We have a big God who sees all of eternity as a seamless tapestry that He has woven. We cannot know for sure that the vision we have for GIC will actually come to fruition. But we can rest assured that God's plan is better than anything we could ever imagine. If it's not a college, then perhaps it's an English school. If not an English school, then something else. While we don't know all the facts, we do know that God has not closed the doors on this vision. He is providing opportunities and hope for accomplishing the original vision for GIC.  Here are a few of the ways in which God is leading us, step by step:

Presidential Prospects: in September, a presidential candidate visited us in Osaka. Our team enjoyed our time with him very much, and see great potential with him at our helm. However, there are two other solid candidates as well. I met one of them a year ago in the States. He is about to finish his PhD and then is open to visiting Osaka to see what God may have in store for us and for him. Another person contacted me a few months ago, and we have visited online. I will meet him and his wife later this week in Texas while attending the PCA Global Missions Conference. Assuming our meeting goes well, they would then visit our full team in Osaka in the near future. Each of these three men have unique gifts that would make them effective leaders for our college. Please be in prayer as we meet with them and seek God's guidance in this critical BIG step forward.

Office/Classroom Space: as most of you know, we moved into our own space this past summer, remodeling and furnishing it to function as both our office and a small classroom. God provided a great location at a really good price, and all of that in a building owned by a Christian and with perhaps a third of the building's occupants that are either Christian ministries or Christian businesspeople.

ESL Certification: over the last few months, I and another team member have both completed courses to be certified as "English as a Second Language" teachers. As we work toward opening first an English school, and then the college, we want all of our teachers to be well-equipped to provide an excellent education to our students.

We are extremely grateful to God for these steps forward, and we trust that He is leading us in the path that He has determined for our ministry, and for His glory.


Events/Travel:

Nov. 9-12
I will be attending the PCA Global Missions Conferencein Dallas, TX later this week, and participating in two seminars -- "Single Serving: Life on the Mission Field as a Single Person," and "Do You Speak English?" focusing on various ways in which English can be used as a tool for the gospel. If you will be attending the conference, please look for me! I'll be spending much of my time at the Japan Partnership booth in the exhibit hall.



Prayer Points

Praise God that I passed the four week CELTA course in Seoul -- and that I survived a very busy four weeks. While certainly stressful, the course was very helpful in becoming a better teacher.

Praise God for THREE GIC presidential prospects! Praythat God will call one of these men to lead our college, and that we will see bigger steps toward fulfilling the vision we have to educate, equip, and empower young Japanese adults with not only an education, but also with the hope of the gospel.

Pray for unity on our team. As we have grown to a team of eight adult missionaries, each of us preparing for ministry in various ways (language school, teaching skills, recruiting, etc.), stress has been mounting. Pray that each person will be humble before God and with each other, each seeking to serve God and each other. Pray that we will be "known by our love" for one another (John 13:35).

Thursday, October 26, 2017

September 15, 2017

EVO English

The Genesis missionary team has been busy with normal things -- language school for many, church events, Genesis Cafe, etc. -- but we've also been working hard to develop an English school in our new office space. This is NOT yet the college, but rather a simple English school -- not an academic degree program. There are many English schools in Japan. We hope to differentiate ourselves with all native English-speaking teachers who are certified as teachers of English as a second language, and through a unique educational approach that focuses on "doing" rather than on memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules.

Our English school name will be "EVO English," with a tagline of "Everyday English for your evolving world."

Our goals for EVO include:
  • Equipping students with skills that will open new career opportunities;
  • For our students to have fun and enjoy learning English;
  • To establish a reputation for high-quality teaching that will help us when we eventually open the two-year college;
  • And of course, ultimately, we desire to share the hope that we have in Jesus Christ, in order to extend this hope to our students.
I am enrolled in a four-week intensive course called "CELTA" so that I too can be a more qualified English teacher. This course will take place the first four weeks of October in Seoul, South Korea. Please pray for me as I live for a month in Seoul, and attend classes all day five days a week for four weeks.


 

MTW Leadership Meetings

As team leader for the Osaka Genesis team, I will be involved in MTW leadership meetings next week. Team leaders from around the world will gather with MTW leadership from Atlanta in Athens, Greece. Please pray that this will be a productive time for the gospel, and that there will be refreshment for many missionary leaders who are exhausted from their work.

In addition to our meetings and times of worship, we will have the opportunity to see some of the places where the Apostle Paul pastored churches.

Your prayers for my travel, and that of the other missionaries, is appreciated. I'm in the Osaka airport as I type this, about to fly through Beijing and Munich.

Prayer Points

Praise God for a good visit with a prospective GIC president in Osaka this past week! There are two others interested in this key leadership position, and we hope they can both visit our team in Osaka in the next several months. Please continue to pray that God will bring us the person of His choosing.

Pray for our new "EVO English" school -- for our curriculum planning, marketing, budgeting, teacher training, classroom preparation, and recruitment of students.

Pray for God to send new team members to fill the following ministry needs:
  • College president
  • College faculty
  • English teachers
  • Church planters
  • Others who can serve in a variety of creative capacities with our team.



PCA Global Missions Conference
It's not too late to register for the 2017 conference! Join 2,000 other Christians in worship and in learning about what God is doing around the world.

How can YOU be a part of His great commission? Prayer? Giving? Enabling those who go? Or maybe even find where God would have you go!

Register online here!



Calendar

Sept 15-23
MTW Leadership meetings
Athens, Greece

Oct 1-28
CELTA class
Seoul, South Korea

Nov 10-12
PCA Global Missions Conference
Dallas, TX

Monday, July 17, 2017

July 6, 2017

Genesis Rooted

We are thrilled to be moved into a new office space! Having our own space -- room for storage, our own desks where we can really spread out, etc. -- is a real blessing. Come January, this space will also become our first classroom.



Since moving in on May 15, we have:
  • stripped cigarette-stained wallpaper from one wall and painted it, along with another wall;
  • scrubbed the other two metal walls;
  • replaced carpet;
  • installed window blinds;
  • bought and assembled office furniture.
What remains to be done?  We still need the following:
  • student tables & chairs
  • whiteboard
  • projector
  • lectern
  • miscellaneous office and classroom supplies
  • hiring an electrician to split room lights to multiple switches (to darken part of the room for PowerPoint projection).
Our budget for this entire project is just $10,000. To date, 65% of this has been given. Will you help us complete this project by making a one-time donation to the Genesis Rooted campaign? You can give online by clicking here; or you can send a check to MTW at the address below (be sure to indicate that your contribution is for Genesis International College, acct #92888):

      Mission to the World
      P.O. Box 744165
      Atlanta, GA  30374-4165

Thank you for your partnership in bringing the hope of the gospel to the people of Osaka, Japan!


Global Missions Conference

God has equipped you with unique gifts for serving the Church. Are you a teacher, pastor, artist, doctor? A financial supporter or prayer warrior? Your gifts and skills are needed to further church-planting efforts worldwide!

Join me at the PCA Global Missions Conference, November 10-12 in Dallas, TX, to discover how you can help expand the reach of the Great Commission. We'll gather with over 2,000 fellow believers for worship, special music by Shane & Shane, and teaching by Kevin DeYoungLloyd Kim, and Michael Oh. Enlarge your understanding through over 80 seminars led by missions experts from all over the globe.

Register by July 31 for the lowest fee. Use the promotional code VIP2017 and receive an additional $10 discount off your registration fee!

Come early for Welcoming the Refugee, a timely pre-conference that will lead you to dive deep into this critical global need (November 9-10).

In conjunction with the Global Missions Conference, the Japan Partnership will be having several Japan-specific events including a lunch on Saturday and several seminars on Japan ministries.

Click here for more information and to register.


Prayer Points

Praise God for our new office/classroom space! Pray that we will soon be able to fully equip it for classes. And pray that God will be glorified through our ministry in this location -- that many students will find the hope of the gospel.

Pray for the continuing work of preparing to open an English school in January. There is much to be done: curriculum, teacher certification, marketing, looking into legal requirements with the government, etc.

Praise God for a good trip to the States in June. I attended the Honolulu Bible Conference, put on by Banner of Truth. Speakers included Derek Thomas (formerly of 1st PCA Jackson, MS but now in SC), Liam Goligher (10th PCA of Philadelphia), and John Rawlinson (Banner of Truth general manager). Aside from listening to accents of a Welshman, Irishman, and Englishman respectively, their messages were solid and challenging. My purpose in attending was as a recruiter of potential missionaries. Perhaps the two most likely contacts include a seminary student (of half Japanese ancestry), and one young lady recently graduated with a "teaching English as a second language" degree. Pray that God will draw these and/or other young people to labor in a mission field desperate for the hope of the gospel. In addition to recruiting in Hawaii, I spent time in Iowa with my mother, and traveled with her to my brother's family in Missouri.

Pray for a new college president. One of our two prospects has a trip to Osaka planned in September!

Pray for our Genesis Cafe events. After two years of strong participation, attendance has dropped significantly. Pray for us as we evaluate what we are doing, what we should change, or whether it is time to drop this ministry and focus on other efforts.



Culture Corner

Japan is a very safe country. But sometimes I'm still surprised by the differences in parenting. For example, it is completely normal for very young children to take the train by themselves to school. At a food court recently, a mom seated her two young children at a table next to me, gave them their food, and then left for more than five minutes to get her own food. The kids behaved perfectly, eating their noodles, and perhaps wondering about the strange looking guy at the table next to them!