Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Answer to Prayers

Please give thanks to the Lord for recent answers to prayer, including:
  • I learned on Friday that the adjunct teaching position at Chiba University has been filled by a Japanese national. This is disappointing as it seemed like such a great opportunity for the team to gain access to the campus an have influence for Jesus Christ upon the lives of many young people. However, I have learned from others and from my own experiences that when we ask God for something, we must accept His answer, whether it's the answer we wanted or not. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways; He knows the plan, and we do not. We must have confidence that He has a good reason for closing that door at this time. I believe that this news came at this time because of your prayers, and I thank you for praying with me!

  • Another answer to prayers is some recent financial contributions and pledges. Saturday's mail included several response cards with gifts of various sizes including a one-time gift of $20,000. God uses large gifts and small, and I am very thankful for each of them and for each of you who have partnered with me in this way. It is humbling to see how God provides. Thank you to EVERYONE who has partnered with me financially. God loves a cheerful giver whether it's $20,000 or the New Testament widow's last two pennies; He sees the heart. "Thank you" to everyone!

Please continue to pray that god will bring in additional funds and prayer warriors so hat I might be able to depart for Japan in March. Although the faculty position is no longer in the immediate future, I'm eager to get to the work as I've been called and to help the team in Japan that so badly needs additional member.

It is just starting to sink in to me that I will likely be leaving soon for Japan as God has provided 62% of my budget! In October, Roger & Abi Lowther, who are part of the MTW team in Chiba/Tokyo, sent out an email asking for prayer for 19 individuals who would commit to giving $100 per month in order to meet their required budget and end them back to Japan. God provided in miraculous ways and met their needs within two or three weeks! After doing my own calculations, I discovered that I need just 20 individuals at that level! Please pray with me that God will provide quickly for me as well, but that i will trust in HIS timing and not my own. If you have not already done so, please also consider partnering with me financially, regardless of the amount. And remember that gifts sent before January 1 will be tax deductible for the 2009 tax year!

Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 2009 Newsletter & Prayer List

Included in this edition:
  • Christmas in Japan
  • End of Year Contributions
  • "Japan Righteousness"
  • Prayers -- Answered & New Requests
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 2009 Newsletter & Prayer List

Here is the November newsletter. (Thanks Tiffany & Stuart for your help in getting a higher resolution for me!!!)

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

October 2009 Newsletter & Prayer List

Included in this edition:
- A review of 6,000 miles traveled through 15 states/provinces
- Financial Update
- Prayer Requests
- Photo page of my fundraising trip

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Do I Feel Discouraged . . . . ?

I spent a couple hours in a cemetery yesterday morning as I needed privacy for a telephone appointment. This may strike you as odd, but I spent five of my teenage summers mowing that cemetery, so it's not such a foreign place to me. It is quiet and it's on a hill, so it has better cell phone service than much of my home town.

After the phone call, it was an appropriate location for some self-reflection. I've been discouraged lately: I'm living temporarily with my parents, I'm not seeing great success in support raising, I'm questioning how long it will take to raise the needed support, I'm worried that I'll go through all of my savings during this process . . . .

Walking around the cemetery, I saw the grave stones of many people I knew as a child -- many more than when I worked there. Some I knew because I had delivered their Sioux City Journal. More of them I knew as members of my church for as long as I can remember. Some of them always were old people to me, but a growing number were friends of my parents. I even went to school with a few of them. Many wonderful memories came back to me: neighbor ladies whom I would visit knowing they would offer candy, fishing with my "adopted" grandfather, church picnics, road trips, multi-family vacations, playing in these peoples' backyards with their kids. A few "other" memories came up as well: people who were not known for their kindness.

I noticed a new trend in grave stones as well. Many still are inscribed with a Bible verse or Christian sentiment, but a growing number are choosing to engrave a hobby, or something else that the person valued. I saw antique tractors, pianos, fishing, needlework, farm scenes, mountain scenes, Kiwanis Club, masonic symbols, and even a large engraving of the church where I grew up. Epitaphs for a new day? This caused me to wonder what considerations went into these monuments. Do the engravings reflect what was MOST important to these people? I don't think so -- not in most cases. I'm sure most of them valued their families more than their hobbies. But in death, as in life, it sometimes doesn't show what we most value. I pray that they all valued their relationships with Jesus Christ most of all.

Back to my self-reflection . . . .

What do I value most? In my current discouragement, I'm valuing ME the most.

"I'm living with my parents . . . .
I'm not seeing great success . . . .
I'm questioning how long it will take . . . .
I'm worried I will go through my savings . . . ."

It's all about me! Am I really trusting God to provide the means for me to serve in Japan? What if I do end up going through all of my savings during this time of raising support? What happens then? Is it of eternal consequence? NO! I'm on this earth for a very short time -- most likely not more than 90 years. (My mom does say that Koois are too stubborn to die.) Eternity is . . . eternal! Will it matter what my bank account was, or my retirement account? Of course not! I've never really been all that concerned about finances before. Why now -- when I've put my finances in God's hands and out of my own (like it was ever really in my own hands in the first place)?

A good friend of mine at Belhaven College says, "If you're gonna worry, don't pray; if you're gonna pray, don't worry." That's good advice.

My scripture reading yesterday brought my mind to an old hymn, one that my church choir loves to sing:

Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart feel lonely?
And long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion;
A constant friend is He.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Prayer Requests

I've been living at home, with my parents, in Iowa for the last week. It is easy to become discouraged as I no longer have a place of my own and feel like somewhat of a failure just for being here. I need your prayers in this area; and please pray that God will soon encourage me in the area of fundraising, even if it's only churches or individuals who are interested in hearing me speak about the work in Japan.

I have had three speaking engagements this past Sunday. All three were very different from each other . . . here's a little about each:
  • Asian-American Church in Bigelow, MN: Bigelow is a tiny town of 232 people on the Iowa border. The old Bigelow Christian Reformed Church (CRC) closed a number of years ago. In its place grew an Asian-American CRC serving primarily Laotian and Burmese people, but also many others. I enjoyed the multi-lingual service with them, said a few words during the service, and then joined them for a meal in the church basement (primarily Lao food!).
  • Pastor Lammers (who previously served the Bigelow CRC and now pastors the Asian-American church) then took me to the "Community Church" which is comprised of a handful of former CRC members and former Methodists. They meet in the old Methodist church with Rev. Lammers preaching every Sunday. I addressed approximately a dozen people (mostly elderly) and was very encouraged by them as they prayed for me, etc. There was even a daughter of the congregation visiting who is flying to Japan on Wednesday to teach at a university in Osaka for two years.
  • On Sunday night, I spoke at the Hawarden (IA) Christian Reformed Church. I have many exended family there from both sides of my family. I had a good time visiting with many people after the service, answering their questions about Japan and teaching them the finer points of chop sticks! They will be taking a special offering for me this next Sunday.

I'm hosting two informational meetings in NW Iowa for old friends and extended family. These will be at the Sioux Center Pizza Ranch on Friday, August 28 (6-8 pm) and Saturday, September 5 (noon-2 pm). Please pray that God will bring many people there, that it will be a good time of reconnecting with many people whom I have not seen for many years, and that these meetings will jump start this fundraising process.

Pray too for my upcoming travel. I am making contacts with family, friends, and churches in western Canada and the US. My trip will likely include stops in Alberta Canada, Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, and Nebraska. This is obviously a long trip, requiring a lot of driving, planning, etc. Pray for my safety and that the trip will be productive.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Not My Home

Since returning "home" on Friday, following 38 days away, I've been confronted head on with my immediate plans for housing. If you've read my previous posts, you know that my apartment lease has expired and the rent (which was already quite high) went up. I have very mixed emotions about leaving my apartment. I've been here for four years, have painted and decorated it, fixed up a number of things . . . . It's been my home; I identify with it.

Over the last several months, much of my identity has been slowly ripped away from me. First, I left my job at Belhaven College in May. I had been there for nine years. As with most men, my job was the first thing I mentioned in response to "who are you." In June, I stepped down as the webmaster for my church. Although a small thing, it was a hobby, of sorts, that I enjoyed and I took pride in it. (Nevermind that I don't know html, and that there were definite shortcomings to the site as a result! Justin Brock -- you're doing a great job with the new site!) Now I am about to move out of my apartment -- my home. I think I have decided to not move to a temporary apartment, but to focus on traveling, live out of my car, and to set up my home base with my parents in Iowa. While I am feeling peace about this potential decision (having a hard time committing to it, though, as you can tell), that means I won't have my own home at all! Makes me think . . . .

Makes me think that my identity has been too tied to this world: job, hobbies, and home. My identity as a Christian should be in Jesus Christ. My home is not of this world, but in heaven! We are only here for a short while, serving in the various ways in which God calls. Missionaries have told me that this time of raising support is very difficult, but that God uses it to sharpen the individual. I've been wondering what God might have in mind to teach me. One thing He is teaching me, and will continue to teach me, is to identify with Him and not on temporal things of this world.

Life is rarely what we expect. God has far better plans for us than we could ever imagine ourselves. Trusting Him is difficult for me as I want to know the plan myself. He has always proven faithful, yet I struggle to trust Him with the future. Anyone else ever feel like those foolish Old Testament Israelites who just couldn't learn from their mistakes?!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 2009 Newsletter & Prayer List

In this edition:
- Back in Mississippi after a month of missionary training in NYC
- Target date to depart for Japan
- Pre-Departure move from Ridgeland apartment
- Fundraising travel plans

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 2009 Newsletter

In this edition:
- MTW Training in New York City
- Financial Update
- Prayer Requests

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Financial Update

One-Time Gifts: 30% of the $15,335 needed. This covers training expenses (including the entire month of July when I will be in New York City for cross-cultural training), language school, travel to & from Japan, and initial set-up expenses.

Monthly/Annual Gifts: 12% of the $4,575 monthly funds have been pledged. This covers my rent, utilities, health insurance, etc, plus a monthly salary of $1,000.

Gifts of any amount are greatly appreciated! Even small amounts can be a significant source of support. For example, if 180 people would commit to partner with me at various amounts, my support might look something like the numbers below:
  • 25 Donors at $5/Month . . . . . $125
  • 50 Donors at $10/Month . . . . $500
  • 40 Donors at $20/Month . . . . $800
  • 30 Donors at $30/Month . . . . $900
  • 20 Donors at $50/Month . . . . $1,000
  • 10 Donors at $75/Month . . . . $750
  • 5 Donors at $100/Month . . . . $500
If you would like to partner with me in bringing the gospel to the people of Japan, you can contact me at brentkooi@gmail.com for specific information!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 3 Prayer Update

It is June already -- my favorite month, at least before I lived in Mississippi. In the north, with the arrival of June, we didn't worry about cold spells any longer; it was sunny, things were green and growing, and of course school was out! In Mississippi, all that happens a little earlier, but I still love June; for one thing, it's not yet miserably hot and humid. And, like in the north, school is out!

This year, however, June also means that there is SO much work to accomplish in reaching my calling from God to be a missionary in Japan! I desperately covet your prayers for these things:
  • Financial Support: God has called me, and it has been amazing to see the means by which He has made that calling abundantly clear. As He has called, I know He will supply the means for me to follow that calling. My task is to be faithful in writing and calling people, and to be watchful for how God has already been working to supply my needs! Pray that I will be diligent in this work!

  • Training: I will be traveling this weekend to Ridge Haven Conference Center near Ashville, NC for a weeklong "Living in Grace" retreat put on by Mission to the World, my sending agency. Pray for safety on the roads. Pray for a sweet time with God while driving (I'm usually singing along with my CDs!). Pray that this retreat will grow me and challenge me beyond my comfort level or anything I could imagine, and that it will have a lasting impact on me and the ministry to which God has called me.

  • Protection From Financial Complications: As I am no longer employed at Belhaven College, I do not have any income coming in. Pray that God will spare me from unplanned financial burdens of any kind (medical, automotive, etc.). Pray that I will be able to live off my savings for just a few short months until departing for Japan. Rent is my most significant expense, but there are also monthly car payments, student loan payments, etc.

  • New York City: I purchased airline tickets last night for New York City where I will spend the entire month of July for MTW training. One of the goals is to immerse the missionaries in an ethnic neighborhood and in ministry with a neighborhood church -- similar to being in a foreign culture. We also will have language acquisition training and training in cross-cultural ministry.

  • Family: From NYC, I will be flying to Washington state for my neice's wedding! Thank God with me for providing a godly husband (whom I still need to meet!) for Naomi Kooi! Pray that this will be a sweet time with my family before my departure to Japan.

"Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me! Bless His holy name!" (Psalm 103:1)

This is what each of us is called to do in our every day lives. Bless the Lord! I pray that you will be equipped to do this more faithfully in all things, and that we all will be able to praise Him for His grace upon each of us, and in our various callings that He has for us!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

"It Changed My Life!"

I was flipping channels recently when I came across an infomercial for Chuck Norris' "Total Gym" home fitness system. Christie Brinkley read a customer's letter saying, with great passion, that the Total Gym had "changed my life!" I immediately thought, "Should any product be able to truly change our lives?" Sure, products can change our "quality of life." But what can TRULY change one's life?

I believe that only Jesus Christ can truly change one's life. He takes me, a self-centered, self-righteous man who does not naturally love his neighbor, and who continues to struggle with the same sins over and over, and He humbles me -- shows me my sin and reminds me of what HE did to pay the price of those sins. He died an excruciating death, and He did it because of His unfathomable love for me and for all those He came to redeem. We celebrate today Christ's victory over death -- He didn't stay in the grave, but took back His life! He offers this victory over death to each one of us. THAT is love! Romans 5:8 says, "God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." We don't need to clean ourselves up in order to come to Christ; in fact we CAN'T clean ourselves up. Christ died for us while we were still in our sins and our filth. He cleans us up! That is love. That is truly life changing!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why Japan?

You may be wondering why I am preparing to be a missionary in Japan. Wouldn't the Gospel be better served in a nation where the people struggle just to survive?

That is a fair question. My first response is that I did not choose to go to Japan. Actually, I didn't even choose to be a missionary! God made His will abundantly clear to me through two mission trips in 2007 & 2008. I never had a desire to be a missionary, but God changed my heart so that I can no longer imagine any other path but to be a missionary in Japan!

But "WHY JAPAN?" Don't they have it all together? It is one of the most affluent nations on earth. The people are known for their extremely strong work ethic. Their products -- cars, electronics, etc. -- are virtually flawless. The problem is that the Japanese standard of perfection also applies to people. They expect everyone to be perfect. Even though they know within themselves that they are not perfect, they pretend to be perfect -- constantly disappointing themselves. This results in what some call "the zero defect affect." Japan has the highest rates of depression and suicide among industrialized nations. The people are isolated and hurting. What they need is Jesus Christ -- the only Person who ever lived a perfect life, and Who offers us forgiveness for our imperfections.

Yet less than 0.4% of the Japanese people have a saving faith in Jesus Christ. God has laid this nation and these people upon my heart. I can think of nothing more important than to share the grace of Jesus Christ with this hurting nation.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Proclaiming the Risen Son in the Land of the Rising Sun

Well, this is my first attempt at a blog. The purpose of this is to share what God is doing in Japan, in me, around me, and through me. I am currently living in Jackson, Mississippi, working for five more weeks at Belhaven College, and preparing to be a missionary to Japan this fall. Please come back as I will be developing this blog in the coming weeks and months.