Happy New Years everyone! It is time once more to look back on the past year, recall what has happened, and see how best to thank God for all of the great blessings. Sometimes we think that not much has happened in the past year. However when we actually sit down to try to recall past events, we can realize just how much God has blessed and protected through all the uncertainties. Fortunately, as a missionaries we keep written records of the past year via email updates, so it is easier to reflect back on the past. This April 2020 will end our third year here this term. For 2019 our verse seemed to be Psalm 27:14 as follows:
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”
Looking back on the past year it has really been a year of waiting. Japan is a patient work much like a very slow and careful game of chess: it takes time as well as careful consideration to do well. To understand these people, their language, and customs really takes much duration. Much of what we do in America is the direct opposite of the Japanese way of thinking. With each soul learning new spiritual concepts, with each of the thousands of Kanji to learn, with understanding how to communicate well, and with adjusting here a great amount of patience is required. A veteran missionary here half-jokingly, half-seriously stated that it takes five years to speak, five years to hear, and ten years to understand Japanese! Japanese people greatly value patience, silence, and time. Sometimes as Americans this can be frustrating since we want immediate results, high efficiency, and success! (And we want it now!) Nothing can demonstrate this more clearly than trying to learn how to read Kanji in Japanese. Imagine learning a new alphabet each week for a year and a half, then trying to apply it immediately! That is the equivalent to learning the Japanese Kanji! Nothing forces patience on an unwieldy American like this experience!
Looking back over the past year continuing to go to Japanese language school from January of last year until June when our new baby daughter was born was a lot of necessary work. Since June it has been interesting to switch over to going to community classes, self-study, and language partners each week. Keeping up a daily disciplined study has helped to increase communication, reading, writing, and listening skills, however there is still a lot of work to do. From a health prospective, this last year has only had about two weeks of being sick, so that was a great blessing. Also we praise God that the baby birth went extremely well. In the realm of evangelism we have ordered 75,000 gospel tracts and put out about 62,000 this last year. We continue to daily meet people from all around the world when we go into public. We also made a new international website for evangelism purposes here: http://AfterDeathTruth.weebly.com/ Each day it continues to get views from all around the world as the internet appears to be the main place people congregate now. Please pray for these outreach efforts. Taking part in leading a man to the Lord and slowly discipling him this year has been a great blessing and encouragement. Also our first Japanese friend continues to grow spiritually, has completed many 'Source of Light Japan' Bible courses, and has finished translating 'One Heartbeat Away' into Japanese, as well as a few gospel tracts. He continues to desire serving God. His entire family is now born-again, with his mother recently being baptized. The church we are working with has seen some salvations and baptisms over the past year as well.
My wife has done a great job taking care of us and the new baby. She has also made a lot of great relationships with neighbors here and is commonly invited into their houses which is a rare privilege in Japan. One neighbor has really taking a liking to her and has taught her how to make as well as bind books! Katie hopes to use this skill to make evangelistic children's books in the future. God is really using her in a lot of local relationships. Our previous friendships have also been maintained which have opened the door to many a spiritual conversation. We know that seeds are being planted and watered slowly. We are really grateful for new friendships this year. Please remember to continue to pray for these people. My wife was also able to plan and host a missionary woman's retreat with the help of a few ladies, which was a much needed blessing. Our older daughter has been enjoying her time with the children here as well as learning new Japanese words. Someday she will be our teacher! Our adult English class has also been a blessing. We have been able to do two separate classes in the last year: one with a 8 session course doing the gospel message, and one on-going class to go through Genesis 1 through 11. Each class is free and has been well-liked by the students.
The ups come with downs as well when we can become frustrated with the slow pace of spiritual successes, the battles of learning the language, and difficulties of living in a new culture. As we reflect back on the year we realize that there have been a lot of blessings, struggles, and surprises. Learning this mission field will be a life-long pursuit with it's own unique advantages and disadvantages. Please pray for this next year as the Olympics will be coming to Tokyo along with all of the opportunities that will come with it. Thank you for your prayers and support.