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VVV OSAKA DIRECT VVV January 2005
Greetings in the Name of Jesus, Lord of lords and King of kings! Once again, I must begin by apologizing for not having written in so long. I really do intend to write regularly, but things are, well, a little crazy-busy around here; I do apologize, and I will try to do better. The Lord continues to use this ministry to impact the lives of many people, and we give thanks to Him for the mercy, love, and grace that He gives so freely. I am often amazed at the ways in which the Lord touches peoples lives through this work. It is the encouragement that we get from all of you, and that the Lord gives us through allowing us to see fruit in the ministry, that keeps us going in the challenging times. And I must admit there have been some challenging times in recent months. Trying to work on the new church plant and minister at the international church at the same time often seems like a heavy load, and on many days I am feeling drained well before the day is over. On top of that, my back went out again in November, but it is much better now. Karen is tremendous, and although she feels the strain sometimes, she doesn't seem as drained by it as I am. Hmmm, reading back over this I sound like I am complaining about things. Really, I am not; the Lord is SO good and He takes care of us, praise His name forever!
Speaking of the Lord, He is blessing us with a change of pace and some rest in February. We will go to the MUP international missions conference and leadership meetings in Thailand for ten days, and then to Hawaii to visit some dear friends and relax for another ten days.
On to the news about what we have been up to - I do hope that you enjoy reading this issue of Osaka Direct.
New Workers and Hiking at 48 Falls
It is an ancient and beautiful trail that winds through the climbing mountain valley. The trail snakes back and forth across the stream which is a near-continual series of waterfalls for almost three miles. It was named "48 falls" (translated) by Buddhist monks nearly a thousand years ago and it is a popular place for hiking and quiet contemplation still today. The "48" does not represent an actual count of the waterfalls - although there are a lot of them, but instead seems to be connected to the "48 vows" of ancient Buddhist monks that had a meaning of complete dedication. So, I guess you might say that the name could be translated as "totally waterfalls"! Let's pray that the modern Buddhist monks and all of the Japanese people who come here would have their eyes opened to see the Creator God who has blessed us with so much beautiful nature!
Micah and Melanie have been a blessing, and their help has allowed us to offer more Alpha classes and to do other outreaches. Currently they are leading two Alpha classes, one in Japanese at the cell church and one in English at the international church, and they are also doing a variety of other outreach activities such as English teaching. Micah studied Japanese in high school and was an exchange student in Japan for a year, and he speaks Japanese very well. Melanie is a good student and her language skills have been improving rapidly. Praise the Lord for sending us more help for the ministry! May He bless them both and give them much joy in the work.
It was a wonderful to have the opportunity to visit at our old church in Hiroshima this past fall and to see many friends, and especially to talk with Pastor Nagashima again - I miss hearing his gentle wisdom a lot. Unfortunately, even as we had the joy of seeing each other again, we were saddened to hear that the church has been struggling since we left. The enemy seems to have attacked the church by bringing internal conflict over how to deal with social issues, and a number of church members rebelled against Pastor Nagashima's authority and separated from the church. This is a story that has been repeated many times in Japanese churches and seems to be one of the strategies of the enemy for keeping the Japanese away from Jesus. Much prayer is needed!
OIC 30 year Anniversary Party and the OIC Fall Retreat
Our work with the Osaka International Church (OIC) is continuing and it appears that the Lord may have us doing this for an extended period. Originally we thought this was going to be a temporary situation, but OIC has asked me (Dan) to seek ordination so that I can be called as the regular pastor and they have extended my status as interim pastor in order to give me time to go through the ordination process. This work is both very challenging and very fruitful, and the Lord has been stretching me a lot as I try to serve this church to the best of my abilities. With about 115 people from 12-15 countries gathering each week we are truly a diverse multitude. But love of the Lord binds us together, and we can report with joy that this church bears fruit among both the Japanese and foreign residents of Osaka. The Alpha course has proven to be particularly effective in this environment, partially because the materials are available in a number of languages. This April we plan to launch a new small group ministry at OIC as well, and this should provide even more opportunities for this church to grow and bear fruit.
Christmas and New Year's
The Japanese are getting more into Christmas every year, but I think that their ideas about Christmas just keep getting stranger. Now Godzilla is getting into the act, and one just doesn't know whether to laugh or cry at the idea of children gathering around the Godzilla Christmas Tree to dream of toys for Christmas. Of course, New Year's is the really big celebration here, and over 90% of the population visit Shinto shrines during New Year's. This year, with the help of Micah and Melanie and some short-term workers from Australia we took the opportunity presented by Christmas and New Year's to share about Jesus Christ by passing out "Why Christmas?" booklets and Digest Bibles at the train stations during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
Grapevine Cell Church Update
Who would have imagined that our first baptism at the Grapevine Cell Church would be a man from Chile? Strictly speaking, this is an Osaka International Church baptism, but we held it at the cell church and were filled with joy as some of our cell church seekers looked on and learned about the meaning of baptism through a live-action lesson! It was a cold December day outside and we were very happy to have the portable baptismal that we could set up indoors. We are praying for more baptisms in the spring!
Meanwhile, at the other cell church location in Abeno, Micah and Melanie led a coffee shop ministry throughout the fall and into the Christmas season that helped to make a number of new contacts. The cell church ministry is still moving slowly, but it is growing and we remain very excited about the cell church model. Recently, one of the Japanese women in Aukje's Alpha class has made a clear confession of faith and we are praying that she will be willing to get baptized soon. Your prayers are also needed!
Praise & Prayer Requests
(1) Praise the Lord! OIC has voted to ask Dan to stay on as interim pastor with a view to becoming the permanent pastor after ordination. Dan is in the process of seeking ordination through the International Ministerial Fellowship.
(2) Please pray for Pablo as he had to return to Chile shortly after getting baptized. May the Lord help him to get established in a good church and to continue to grow in his faith.
(3) Aaron DeLeon has decided to postpone the start of the new Calvary Chapel of Osaka until his language skills are stronger, and until the Lord brings one or more partners alongside. In the meantime Aaron is working in partnership with us at the Osaka International Church. Please pray for the Lord's timing for the new Calvary Chapel start.
(4) Please pray for Micah and Melanie Wilson as they minister with us. The Lord has given them many excellent outreach opportunities and is touching a lot of people through their work. At the same time, they are being stretched and challenged in many ways and need our prayers.
(5) Our coworker Aukje is engaged to be married to former short-term worker Will Dykstra. The wedding is planned for April. Congratulations to both of them! And please pray for them as they come back to Osaka to live and minister together. That's one way to get new workers! Praise the Lord!
(6) Please pray for Karen and I as we travel to Thailand and Hawaii in February for meetings with our mission agency and for some much needed rest. We are not sure how much we will be able to check our email during this period, so please be patient if we are slow to answer.
God bless you always!
In Jesus' love,