2015 and Beyond!

(Pictures below)

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

– Genesis 12:1-3

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

– Matthew 5:14-16

He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

– John 21:6

We think it’s time to cast our nets on the other side. Instead of trying to pull people into the church, the church needs to get into the community. It’s difficult to disciple folks you don’t respect. It’s difficult to love those you don’t know (and sometimes difficult to love those you do). So how do you get to know them? You get into the community. How do you get to love them? You spend time with them. How do you learn to respect them? You listen to them. As you read the following report, we hope you will see how these ideas characterize our ministry. Continue reading

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Time to Catch Up

It was great to see many of you this summer—if the visit was too short. It’s hard to believe that it’s October already. I had better get a report out or it will be 2015! In all seriousness, please forgive my gross delinquency and tight-lippedness.

Let me start with a summary to bring you up to date for the happenings in 2014 (for those of you who appreciate brevity). I’ll fill in the details further down.

  • Church Plant: The two teenage girls who were baptized last year, Reimi and Ayumi, left for university early in the spring effectively resetting our church plant. We are learning much as a family as we live as quasi-pioneers.
  • Post-Disaster Follow-up: Since last summer, we have been focusing on an approach called Asset-Based Community Development we seeks to help the local community retain their decision-making power by discovering and utilizing local resources first.
  • Finances: For the first time, our family missed two months of salary due to a lack of funds (May and June).
  • Summer Travels: (Partially based on this lack of funds) we decided to combine a fund-raising, reporting, and networking trip with our family reunion. We split the time between the States and Canada. It had been 10 years since we last visited the churches in Western Canada—many of whom support us. I was in North America from June through the end of August.
  • Catching Up: Since arriving back in Ishinomaki at the end of August, we focused on getting caught up with our friends, neighbors, community development activities, and evangelistic outreach activities.
  • Upcoming: Christmas concerts, Alpha course or similarly accessible course introducing Christianity. We also continue to investigate options for meeting and working space.
  • Family: We are all generally healthy. Hijiri and I continue to practice Aikido once a month. I have finished broadcasting my last baseball game for the season.

Now the same thing in more depth: Continue reading

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2013: Year in Review

Here are some highlights from this year:

In January we began hosting a worship service in our home. We enjoyed visits from some 60 different individuals and were blessed with two new sisters in Christ. Please continue to pray for Reimi and Ayumi as the continue their walk as Christ followers.

In February we held a prayer and brainstorming session that started gears on motion for what would later become TRDI and Nakamadatcha Daisakusen (see below).

Up through May we continued to help facilitate teams of volunteers.

In June we hosted the Craig and Leslee Altrock family as a Let’s Start Talking Team.

Jonathan and Hijiri travelled to the Colorado in July where Jonathan had the wonderful opportunity of performing his niece, Breanna’s wedding.

In August we formally closed a chapter of service with Be One and began TRDI (Tohoku Recovery and Development Initiative)–a community development ministry based on insights from asset-based community development, appreciative inquiry, and participatory action research.

More or less simultaneously we began the Nakamadatcha Daisakusen, an appreciative inquiry initiative in which we interview local shops, write up their stories and publish them in booklet form to redistribute in the community.

In October, Michiko organized and facilitated Project Hohoemi. This was an amazing project in which 5 professional photographers came to Ishinomaki and provided portrait photography services for over 300 individuals.

Throughout the year Jonathan partnered with the Liberty Music Project to teach Gospel music in several local Junior High Schools.

We made many new friends, experienced blessings and victories, made many mistakes, and prayed and worked daily to see God’s kingdom come and will be done within our own lives and sphere of influence as it is in heaven–failing often but blessed by God’s grace and the grace of many friends and family.

May 2014 bring you and yours closer to the heart of the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the one who tabernacles with us in our mess, our Savior and our Lord, the one who reigns as a Slain Lamb. Peace in him!

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Holidays in Hokkaido

We are in Hokkaido with Michiko’s family for the holidays–and there are a lot of holidays to celebrate in this crowd! We have my birthday on Christmas Eve, Christmas and Michiko’s mother’s birthday on Christmas day, New Year’s–which is the really big holiday in Japan, and Hijiri’s birthday on January 3rd. Phew. This amounts to a lot of visiting, laughing, some bickering, paying attention to the significance of Christ’s incarnation, reflecting on the past year and setting some goals for the new one, giving thanks and asking blessings, making gingerbread houses, and eating a lot of yummy food (but alas, no turkey or pumpkin pie this year…)

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Being Santa

One more community-initiated event. Through a connection with one of the local ladies we have become close to, I was asked to appear as Santa Claus at a local preschool. I have never done this before. Being tall, skinny, hazel-eyed and pale-cheeked, my appearance doesn’t let itself to Kris Kringle impersonations. Oh well. It was fun interacting with the kids and their parents anyway.

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Cooking at Kazuma Elementary

Another community-initiated event. Last year several of us from the missions community were asked to visit the sixth graders at one of the local elementary schools (where Michiko and my oldest son attends) and share about our home cultures. This year I was invited back to do a two-part exchange with the students. In the first round I shared about elementary school life in Canada and the U.S. In the second part (today) Michiko and I baked and decorated gingerbread cookies with the students. It was so fun. We had a good time. The teachers and staff were satisfied. And most of all, the kids had a good time. I love things like this that break down barriers and build familiarity with our neighbors. I also confess to taking some devious pleasure in torturing the rest of the school by filling the entire facility with the aromas of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and fresh-baked cookies…

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Sakaeda Christmas Party

Another caveat about events. I resist them less when they are initiated by the local community. The Sakaeda Kodomo Kai (Sakaeda Kid’s Club) is a neighborhood association that we belong to which hosts several kids’ events each year. We have provided volunteer help for several of these events. This time around they asked us to help with the Christmas party–and they said they wanted to experience and ‘authentic’ Christmas including the story of Jesus’ nativity. Cool!

So we sang, played games, had snacks, and then read the story of The Sparrow with the Split Tongue followed by the Christmas emendation by renowned Christian author Ayako Miura.

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