Friday, September 11, 2015

TOEFL Success

Genesis International College kicked off its first academic ministry event at the end of July with a TOEFL seminar. TOEFL is an ACT or SAT type of test required of those who wish to attend English-speaking universities, but English is not their first language.

We had grand visions of 50 students attending the five day seminar. But God's plans were a bit more humble, with just a handful of students. How-ever, we are so thankful for these students -- that they had a great experience, spending time with our team afterwards, going to dinner, etc. It was also exciting to see them grow in their speaking ability.  In a thank you note, one of them wrote: "i'm MASAHIRO. thank you for taking me and giving me an opportunity!!! god bless you!!  ps...can i send you a friend request??" I'll take satisfaction like that over grand visions of human greatness any day! And we will be patient as God builds our ministry, starting with just a small handful of students, but doing far greater things that we could ever ask or imagine.

Alongside the TOEFL seminar, we hosted or first "Genesis Cafe" English conversation event at a local coffee shop. Thirteen participants joined us on a rainy night for an opportunity to practice their English, learn a few new phrases, and to make friends with native English speakers. A monthly event, we had eighteen participants at our September event. Please pray that the relationships formed at these events will be glorifying to God and will see many people finding the hope of the gospel.

Summer Travel

Immediately upon the completion of the TOEFL seminar, I flew to Malaysia for MTW's Asia/Australia Area Retreat, which is held every four years. The purpose is to refresh missionaries physically and spiritually. In addition to hanging out at the pool several afternoons, we heard daily from two pastors, and worshipped the God of all the earth -- in a muslim nation. It was also a time to meet with MTW leaders from the States and Japan to dream and plan for God' direction for the missionary team in Osaka.

Shortly after the area retreat, I spent time with my family in Iowa. The trip was originally intended to be a celebration of my parents' 60th anniversary. Several months before he passed away, my dad reserved accommodations for us at Inspiration Hills, in the hills just outside of my hometown. Following our weekend family time, I drove my Mom down to south Texas, where my parents have wintered since 1999, in order to retrieve many personal items that were left in their little "mini-mobile," which has now been sold. Although certainly not an exciting drive, it was good to spend the time with my mom.


Japan Vision Trip

A group of nine is traveling to Japan during the last week of September on an MTW Vision Trip. Some are considering whether God may be calling them to serve in Japan. Most, coming as pastors or missions committee members, are coming to learn what God is doing in Japan; yet God may call some of them to serve here as well! I am coordinating this trip from this side of the Pacific and will be guiding them during their visits to all six MTW ministry teams in Japan. Please pray that God would bless this time, and that He will call some to serve here, and others to send and pray for those who serve here.

Prayer Points

Praise God for a successful TOEFL seminar. Our students were few in number but very happy with what they learned. We had a great team of missionaries, some of whom are not yet here full-time but still raising support, and other volunteers who came just to help with the TOEFL seminar. God is helping us build a reputation for excellent English education. Pray that this will lead to many young people hearing the hope of the gospel in the years to come.

Praise God for continued success with the Genesis Cafe English conversation event.

Praise God for safety in many miles of travel, including flying on Malaysia Airlines (not my choice!), and a nearly 3,000 mile round trip from Iowa to Texas.

Pray for missionaries who are currently raising support to join the Genesis team. Pray that God will provide for their every need.  They include:
  • Jeff Edwards
  • Daniel & Carla Gibson
  • Frank Harrell
  • Jesse & Candie Rose

Thursday, June 18, 2015

He Makes All Things New

In the April newsletter, I requested prayer for my father, whose cancer had returned. On April 17, I received word that his condition was rapidly deteriorating, so I returned home to Iowa that same day. I am so thankful that I was able to be with my  dad for his last 26 hours on this earth.

About a week after an intensive three-day inpatient chemotherapy treatment, my dad's kidneys shut down and he contracted sepsis (blood poisoning). He was on 24-hour dialysis and oxygen, along with many IV bags delivering various medications. Shortly after my arrival in Sioux Falls, my family went home and I was able to spend the night with my dad, holding his hand much of the time, and talking with him when he was able. These are sweet memories of our final day together. The following night, he passed away with my mom and all four of his children around his bed. We are all thankful that he did not experience any pain until just two hours before his death, at which time morphine helped make him comfortable. But much more importantly to all of us, we know without a doubt that our dad is now with our Savior, Jesus Christ. He has a fully-restored, perfect, youthful body that will never experience pain or fatigue. He is living in the joy that is only possible in the very presence of our God.

Revelation 21:3-5a says, "I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.' And He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'"

What a wonderful promise that is! God's children will be physically and spiritually renewed -- permanently. But more than that, we will be in the very presence of our Father Creator. Do you have absolute assurance of that promise? The apostle John says, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life" (John 5:13). God wants to to have absolute assurance about His promises! If you don't have that assurance, ask God to give it to you. Or speak with a pastor. Don't live in doubt and fear, but in comfort and peace.

I want to thank you for your prayers for my dad and for our family. I ask that you continue to pray for my mom as she adjusts to life without her husband of nearly 60 years. Although I did not send an email update after my dad's death, many of you heard of his death through Facebook or personal emails, and so many of you have been so gracious in your words of comfort, cards, and prayers. Thank you.

Link to obituary

TOEFL Seminar
The Genesis team is busy preparing for our first ministry event. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is a standardized test that non-native English speakers must take to enroll in American universities. There are four parts to the TOEFL test: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. We will be offering a "TOEFL Speaking Seminar" during the week of July 20-24.

The purposes of this "TSS" event include:
  • To begin to build a reputation for GIC as a high quality institution, which will help us when we recruit students for the college.
  • To practice the skills needed in teaching, recruiting, and ministering to the youth of Osaka.
  • To prepare for college recruiting using video and photographs from this event.
  • To build relationships with Osaka youth that will allow opportunities to share the gospel, and invite them to future events and Bible studies.
Several of our Genesis team members who are still raising support will join us, as well as a number of short-term volunteers and a summer intern. Please pray that God will use this event to plant seeds of the gospel and to bless our future ministry.

Volunteers from Denver Christian High School helped us distribute 300 TSS flyers and give free two-minute English assessments to promote the GIC TOEFL seminar.

Prayer Points

Praise God for his grace and mercy upon my father throughout his life, but especially at the end. Praise God that he did not suffer a lengthy illness, but that his death was delayed until I could join my mom and siblings at his bedside.

Pray for my mother as she continues to adjust to life without her husband of nearly 60 years.

Also pray for my mom as she has been enduring significant hip and back pain for more than two months. She will have hip replacement surgery on June 24.

Praise God that my sister had a good report following a lumpectomy from her breast back in April. (I requested prayer for her as well in the April newsletter.) There was no cancer outside of the removed mass.

Praise God for Terrance Kimm, an MTW summer intern serving in Osaka. In addition to helping us promote and run the TOEFL seminar in July, he will take a lot of photos and video for our promotional use in the future. Please pray for his work, and please pray for his hearing, as he lost all hearing in one ear a few days ago. (He had just 20% hearing in that ear previously.)


July 20-24
Genesis TOEFL seminar

July 28 - August 3
MTW Asia Missionary Retreat in Malaysia

Culture Corner

If you were looking for a new church home, you'd likely consider such issues as the theology of the church, the pastor's preaching ability, how welcoming the people are, and what ministries they have for your growth and involvement. You probably would not be thinking about your final resting place, unless you are a Japanese Christian.

My church, here in Osaka (Mustard Seed Christian Church), is shopping for burial space for our members. Without access to such a space, it may be nearly impossible to be assured of a Christian funeral service. If buried in a Buddhist cemetery, a Buddhist priest must perform their Buddhist rites. While that would not cause a Christian to lose their eternal salvation, it would send a very mixed message to one's friends and family, and it would be a significant lost opportunity to share the gospel message during a Christian funeral service.

Please pray for Japanese Christians, that they will lead lives of distinct calling, and that they will find the means to maintain that message even in their deaths, that they will point others to eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

April 7, 2015

GIC:  A Step Forward
April 1 is the beginning of a new fiscal year in Japan, and the day that many new employees begin their new careers. Genesis International College welcomed our first employee as well! Yuma Tarui is a young man who has been a Christian for several years. He is eager to promote the ministry of GIC and to share the gospel with his countrymen. We are so thankful that Yuma has confidence in God's plans, even when we cannot see exactly what those plans are  or how they line up with our own plans. You can pray for Yuma as he learns his new job, and as he assists me and our team of (mostly) foreigners to understand Japanese ways, etc.

In addition to our first employee, Genesis now has office space, sharing a space with Mustard Seed Christian Church, where our GIC team also worships on Sundays.

Language School
My first term of language school is finished, AND I PASSED -- but just barely. The school wanted me in "Introductory Japanese" but didn't have enough students, so they decided to put me in "J1." Although the second half of the term was definitely as struggle, I learned a decent bit about the Japanese language and am glad to have been in J1. And although I passed J1, I have chosen to repeat it during the next term, and feel very prepared for it.
The school is changing the textbooks, so I will not be studying the exact same material. Additionally, part of Yuma's job will be helping me understand the class material each day. When everything is explained in Japanese, it can be quite confusing!

Language school has provided opportunities for ministry as well. Of my thirteen classmates this past term, only one of them was a Christian. Although communication was difficult with many of my classmates, we had good relationships and I was able to share some of my story of God's call on my life here in Japan. I also hosted an end of the term party at my apartment, where my classmates experienced "loaded nachos" for the first time, and then we had fun at a nearby karaoke club.

Mission Team Needed!
Would you or your church be able to bring a team to Osaka this summer? We need a team to help us promote and recruit students for a one-week English seminar that will be held in late July. Ideally, your team would come for about a week or more in June, or early July. Some of the activities you might do would include:
  • Handing out flyers at train stations or other public places.
  • Offering a free "English Assessment" test which would provide the opportunity to invite people to attend the seminar and to learn more about Genesis College.
  • Host a couple of American-themed parties where attendees learn about the College and the seminar.
  • Other ideas? We welcome them!
If you are interested or have questions about bringing a team to Osaka, please contact me at

Prayer Points
  • Praise God for Yuma Tarui, our first GIC employee! Pray that God will bless him through his work at GIC and use him in powerful ways to show people the God who loves us and offers us His grace.
  • Praise God for the willingness of Mustard Seed Christian Church to allow us to share their office. However, MSCC has outgrown their rented building and started meeting for worship at the YMCA, but is still looking for an office to rent. Please pray that God provides them (and us) with a great office location near the YMCA that has room for all the activities, yet is affordable.
  • Praise God for 170 people attending Easter worship at our new location! Many of these people are not yet Christians; please pray that God will draw their hearts to Him.
  • Pray for my ability to learn Japanese, and that I will be brace enough to actually start using Japanese in stores, etc.
  • Please pray for both my father, whose cancer has returned, and my sister Denise Pops, who has also been diagnosed with cancer. My father has started a regimen of intense chemotherapy locally as well as a new treatment only available at the Mayo Clinic. His doctor is very optimistic about his treatment. My sister will have a lumpectomy from her breast on April 9.
  • As I type this, I have had a fever for about two days, spiking to a high of 102.9 one time. I appreciate your prayers as I have a lot on my calendar in the next two weeks.
Culture Corner
It is currently "Hanami" season in Osaka. "Hana" means "flower," and "hanami" literally means "flower viewing," referring to the sakura, or cherry blossoms. The Japanese weather bureau closely tracks the weather to predict prime hanami across the nation. A popular hanami activity is to picnic under the sakura trees. The blossoms last just one to two weeks, depending on wind and rain. It is one of the most loved of Japanese traditions.

You can experience hanami in the States in Washington, D.C; Macon, GA; Brooklyn, NY; or Philadelphia, PA.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Languishing in Language

It's happening.  I'm in full-time language school, and it is what I expected -- difficult. Muzukashidesu!

Classes started January 13, and I am in the "J1" class, the lowest level. I assumed the first couple weeks would be really easy for me, since I have lived in Japan for nearly three years total, and took Japanese classes in Chiba -- even if I didn't really study very much there. But class was actually difficult the very first day!

Beginning at 9 a.m., and with ten minute breaks every hour, I have three hours of language class in which we practice basic sentences. I am the only westerner, with most of my classmates being from Taiwan or South Korea (the former with the kanji advantage and the latter with the advantage of a similar grammatical structure). Most days there is NO English spoken, which shouldn't surprise me, but it did! I often feel lost and at the bottom of the class.

The fourth hour of the day has been spent on learning hiragana and katakana, the Japanese native alphabets. As I know these quite well, and many of my classmates don't, I get to feel smart for this last hour each day. But as of today, all that changed, and the last hour is now focusing on kanji, the Chinese script that may prove to be the bane of my language study! However, I was reminded recently that it doesn't really matter what grade I get, or where I am ranked in the class, but that I become conversant in Japanese. I appreciate your prayers for God's grace in this difficult learning process.

West Coast Missions Conference

I will be flying to San Diego on Friday, January 30 for the West Coast Missions Conference sponsored by Mission to the World and Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Encinitas, CA. As I take on additional leadership responsibilities within Genesis College, the purpose of this trip is to recruit potential faculty, staff, and church planters for our team.

This will be a very short and very full weekend trip. Please pray that God will provide good connections at the conference, allow me to somewhat maintain my Japanese internal clock, and to keep up with my language school studies despite missing a day and a half of class.

Prayer Points

  • Praise God that I am finally in full-time language school! With a different teacher every day, each of them seem genuinely excited to be teaching beginning Japanese. I'm also enjoying my classmates.
  • Pray that God will bless my efforts to comprehend this difficult language, that I will become somewhat conversant and able to build real friendships with Japanese people and to share the gospel with them.
  • Pray that God will bless my relationships with my classmates and allow opportunities to be a light of the gospel among them as well.
  • Praise God that He has connected me to several more people who are interested in learning about the gospel of HOPE.
  • Pray for my weekend in San Diego (January 30 - February 1). Pray that God will connect me with potential GIC teammates and partners. Pray, too, that this crazy weekend will not be detrimental to my internal clock, and that it will not affect my language learning.
  • Praise God that my small group has grown from four men to six. The five men I lead are all in very different places of spiritual maturity from seeking to committed. However, none of them are grounded in the Word or in any particular theology. Pray that God will draw all of us into closer communion with Himself.