Saturday, September 1, 2012

Our First Newsletter from Japan!

Hi everyone, just wanted to give you the link to our first newsletter from Japan! It's a bit longer than normal, so we hope you'll enjoy catching up on what we have been up to. 

September 2012 Newsletter

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Reflections On The Eve Of Our Departure

It's hard to believe that my family is truly leaving tomorrow for Japan as missionaries!  This last year has been long, difficult at times, and very much one focused on the future.  Honestly it's not just the last year - the last several years have been this way.  We left for Kojima in August of 2010, and that was after 7-8 months of thinking in terms of the future.  From that point onward our family has been in flux.  Though we are certainly facing more adjustments, it's a blessing to know that this next week begins the process of settling down.

But of course there's more to this move than just the adjustments of moving a family overseas.  We love Japan - the culture, the people, the food - it's all wonderful, but that's not the only reason we're moving there.  We're moving to Japan because we want people to hear about what God has done for mankind in the person of Jesus.  We want people to know that though evil is rampant in the world, the Creator of the world notices and cares.  We want people to know that there is an abundant life available to them; that they can "taste and see that the Lord is good."  In short, we have been given a beautiful gift ourselves, and we want to share it with the people of Japan.

As I have been reflecting on this purpose we have, it left me further reflecting on Paul's words to the people of Athens in Acts 17.  As Paul speaks at the Areopagus, he says "And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us."  What Paul is saying here is huge - God, in his sovereignty, puts people in their respective places so that they will seek him and find him.  That is his whole purpose in this - so that people will genuinely search for him and be able to find him.  What an incredible thought!  


With that in mind, many questions arise.  Who has God set in place for us to meet? Whose hearts has God prepared for us to connect with?  What relationships will we make, and how will those relationships help everyone involved seek God and grow closer to him?  What doors will open, what paths will we take, what lasting impact will our presence have on the people of Japan? Obviously I don't know the answers here, but it's exciting to know we get to be a part of it all.  

So on the eve of our departure, I look forward to seeing these answers unfold in our lives and in the lives of others.  I look forward to being used by God to let people know the blessings that are found in Jesus Christ.  And my family looks forward to sharing our experiences with you all.  Please keep us in your prayers as we embark on this journey, for those who we will connect with, and for God's purposes across the world.
 

行きましょう!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July Newsletter

Hey everyone! Sorry it's been so quiet around here for a while - we've been busy as we are quickly wrapping up our time here in the U.S.  You can read more about what we've been up to in this month's newsletter:

Click Here For The July Newsletter

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Birthday / Mother's Day Wish

As you all know (hopefully) this Sunday, May 13th, is Mother's Day.  You might not know however that it is also Leslie's birthday.  He'll be 29 (one more year of 20s! Yikes!).  You also might not know that we are only $750 in monthly pledges away from being ready to go to Japan!

In light of all of this, we wanted to use the opportunity not only to celebrate motherhood and life, but also to benefit the work we will be doing in Japan.

So with that in mind, we are setting up this weekend as a Mother's Day/Birthday Fundraiser! Celebrate motherhood and Leslie's 29th year with us by making a donation or pledging support to our work in Japan!  You can do that in one of several easy ways which are available below.  Thanks so much for your support! We're almost there!

Give a one-time donation online easily - just click the button below that says "donate"!



Pledge monthly support for our work by filling out and submitting the following form:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is That Really What Mission Work Is All About?

The Japan Times recently shared some interesting op-ed pieces concerning cultural issues in Japan.  The first ("Yes I Can Use Chopsticks") is an article chiding the Japanese for their treatment of foreigners.  While writer Debito Arudou does seem to take it all a bit too seriously, he certainly addresses some issues foreigners face when living in Japan.  The second ("Foreigners Know Best") is essentially a rebuttal to the first article written by John Spiri.  Both of these are interesting in their own right and worth reading, but what caught me most was the following line in the second article:
For many of us in the 21st century, the missionary mentality of seeking to "save" the locals by spreading your own truth has been discredited. For whatever good the missionaries did — teaching English for free or helping the poor — underneath it was the inherent ethnocentrism of "we know better."
Here, Spiri seems to be talking specifically about Mormon missionaries, so perhaps he's addressing their specific practices.  But my experience with the culture wars suggests that there's a larger issue at play - namely, the view of mission work and religious belief in general.  For modern people, evangelism is quaintly archaic at best, and downright rude and presumptuous at worst.  Notice Spiri's final words: evangelism isn't just ethnocentric, but inherently so.  Evangelism isn't just about spreading a message, it's about spreading your culture with an air of superiority.  "You foreigners need not only our message, but you need us to teach it to you.  Without our ways, you will perish." Perhaps most striking is that Spiri's words were really incidental to the article, the idea behind them being taken for granted.

Is that really what mission work is about? There's no doubt the work has been carried out like this in the past, though perhaps with the best of intentions.  Missionaries brought not only the message, but all the baggage of their own cultural experience of that message.  This in itself is next to impossible to avoid completely, but measures can be taken to address it if prepared.  Many missionaries were not prepared, however.  Consequently, churches in other cultures have struggled both to find their own sense of self locally and a sustainable method of intracultural evangelism.  The greatest downfall of this is that the Christian faith no longer looks to natives as though it could ever be native - it looks like an American religion.  The oddities of Mormon doctrine lend themselves to this issue especially, but even without the pitfalls of their views, this is an easy trap to fall into.

It doesn't have to be that way though, and indeed it should not be.  Mission work is not about spreading a culture.  Mission work is about spreading a message of hope in truth and love.  Jesus' call was clear - bring the good news to all nations (Matt. 28:16-20), and the message Jesus taught was contrary to any one specific culture to begin with.  The disciples knew this, and those who struggled with it were confronted clearly and even harshly when necessary (Gal. 2:11-14).  The disciples also did not let culture or distance get in the way.  According to tradition, the apostle Thomas was killed in India; the apostle Andrew is said to have traveled even North of the Ukraine.  What were Palestinian Jews doing in India and Russia? They certainly were not there to tell people how "they know better."  They were there to tell the people "Jesus is risen!"

That is what mission work is all about.  It's not about making a church that feels just like my church back home.  It's not about making sure everyone gets everything exactly right, according to my view of "exactly right."  And it is certainly not about telling people that we know better than they do.  It is primarily about proclaiming Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-10). 

Of course, modern culture views this as ethnocentric.  They will see it as narrow minded, and in their own air of superiority they will look down on us with pity who still cling to these archaic ideas of a God who created everything, much less who cares about what he created.  Notice Spiri's words: "spreading your own truth."  The underlying assumption here is that truth is relative - something which could not be further from, well, the truth. Much more could be said about this, but it should suffice to say: don't buy it.  The Gospel is always true and constantly new.  The news that in Jesus all mankind can have life is relevant to every culture at every date.  This news never grows old.  His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).  He is making everything new (Rev. 21:5).  And in Christ, we can all become a new creation even now (2 Cor. 5:17).  This idea that we have somehow evolved past any real truth is what is truly old, and frankly, I'm tired of hearing it. 

The message of Jesus Christ is the least ethnocentric message that mankind has.  The disciples of Jesus understood this, and if we are to be his disciples, we must understand it too.  While Spiri's claim is not surprising and strikes me as misguided, there's a truth in it that missionaries must not miss.  In mission work, we will help our community.  We will feed the hungry, build homes for the homeless, counsel the hurting, and otherwise connect in whatever way we can.  We will use all of these opportunities to teach that message of hope and joy.  But let us always do this with a humble and genuine heart.  Let's not attach agendas to our service, or allow our love to be conditional. Let us have a healthy respect for the cultures in which we work.  The message of Jesus Christ is not anchored to any single culture.  It is for all people, in all places, in all times.  We are its benefactors as much as any person anywhere.  If we are to teach the truth in love, this must be at the forefront of our minds at all times. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Givers

I've been very amazed at how much God has blessed our family with givers who have crossed our path as we've been raising funds to go to Japan.  But what has really amazed me is the kinds of people those givers are.  You might think that most of the individuals or families who give to this work are wealthy or in a good financial position to give in some way.  But we have found that this is not the case.  The people who have given to our work and are continuing to do so are people who give for a simple reason - they love God and want the people of Japan to know more about him.  Allow me to elaborate a bit...

So far we have raised a little over $3100 in monthly pledges.  I'd like to break down for you the kinds of people who have been giving to this work so you can see just how awesome God is and the kinds of people he uses to accomplish his goals.  Keep in mind some of those who have pledged fall into several categories, and also that I don't know the demographics of every person who has pledged support (i.e. I haven't included everyone who has pledged because I don't know all of their situations):
  • $450/month comes from people our family has never met
  • $610/month comes from people who are single or young married without children
  • $210/month comes from single income families with children
That is pretty amazing to me. The only individual giver I know for sure is doing well financially (at least in my eyes) is giving $500/month - that's $6000 a year they are sacrificing to make this work possible.  That is incredible! 

Of course it's also important to note that this does not include those who have given toward our one-time support goal.  I know even less about all the demographics of those who have given in that way, but from what little I do know, I think it is safe to say that a lot of sacrifice has gone on there as well. This also obviously does not include churches who have given or pledged, who certainly are filled with those who give sacrificially as well.

My point with all of this is simply to say that my family has been humbled by this process, and truly impressed by the manner of giving.  We sent off our first packets for fund raising in the middle of December. So we've only been support raising for about 4 months now, and yet we've already reached well over half of our needed support, both toward the one-time and the monthly goal.  God is good and we are thankful.  It really helps us realize just how important this work is, and we know it will help keep us focused on the field. 

Please continue to pray for us as we continue in our support raising, and thank you to all who have already sacrificed.  Your partnership means the world to us!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Of Sakura and Salvation

Each Spring, the people of Japan begin to have hanami celebrations.  Hanami literally means "flower viewing" though it is mostly geared toward a specific flower - the Sakura.  In America, we know this flower better as the Cherry Blossom.  I've been blessed to see the beauty of many nations across the globe - France, Italy, Germany, and more - but none that I have seen compare to the beauty of Japan when the Sakura are in bloom.  These flowers are beautiful from start to finish, and what’s more, they beautify their surroundings no matter how drab they may be.  Passers-by will feel the need to stop and enjoy the Sakura, whether they are blooming next to an abandoned house, or in a castle garden.  

Hanami is more than just walking around looking at the pretty trees though.  For most, it is a time of joy and celebration.  The season inspires picnics with co-workers, family, and friends.  With a blanket and a bento, one can easily spend hours socializing and relaxing.  The celebrations don’t end after sunset, either.  Many parks have lights set up which keep the Sakura visible well into the night.  Hanami is a special part of Japanese culture, and the Sakura is very much the pride and joy of Japan.  

It’s easy to understand why this is the case.  After a long Winter in which death has reigned, the new life of Spring does good things for the heart.  The Sakura are like the gatekeepers of the season.  Once they bloom, you know the Winter is truly over.  Death has given way to life.  The old has become new.  The melancholy mood of Winter has been replaced with the joy and hope of Spring. 

Unfortunately, for so many of the Japanese, this is as close to the joy and hope of Jesus Christ as they will ever get.  While they look forward to the Sakura each year, and the new life these blooms usher into the world, they cannot look forward to the resurrection, and the true life which God will usher in by it.  They look forward to the new creation of Spring, but they cannot look forward to the new creation of God which is assured to Christians through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

In Romans 8:11, Paul tells us “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (ESV).  This is the real hope of new life that God wants the world to enjoy, and it is the hope that my family is excited to share with the people of Japan.

It is because of verses like Romans 8:11 that I am convinced that no person can enjoy the Sakura season as much as the Christian.  Despite all the beauty the world sees, the Christian sees so much more.  For the Christian is not only reminded that Winter is over or that death has given way to life, but that death itself has been defeated by the King of Kings and that because of this, we will enjoy a season of life which will last for eternity.

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If you would like to partner with us in sharing this joy with the Japanese, please check out our 30 X 30 Challenge Page - your support really can make the difference!

Click Here For The 30 X 30 Challenge Page

Thanks for reading!