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VVV OSAKA DIRECT VVV February 4th, 2003
First, let me apologize for being late with this first Osaka Direct of the New Year. I spent a week in Thailand at Mission to Unreached Peoples (MUP) leadership meetings at the end of January and came back to a full in-basket here. So, I am just now beginning to get caught up on January commitments. That said, we do pray that you are having a blessed beginning to the New Year and also that you will find this edition of Osaka Direct interesting and informative. God bless you!
86 Million Japanese Go to the Shrines
New Year's Visits to Shinto Shrines Remain Popular
Although many Japanese say that they are not religious, the vast majority of them would not think of skipping the pseudo-mandatory visit to their local Shinto shrine at New Year's. I have asked a number of Japanese if they really believe in the "eight million gods" of Shintoism, and most immediately answer "no". Yet, when I suggest that if they don't believe in Shintoism, perhaps they should stop going to the shrines to pray to the Shinto gods, many become nervous. "Oh, no. If I don't go something bad might happen," is a typical answer. In Shintoism, New Year's is the most important time to visit the shrines, and this year the Japanese news reported that 86 million Japanese (out of a population of about 125 million) went to the shrines to pray during the first three days of the New Year's holiday. Even more visited the shrines in the days that followed and some estimates say that during the first week of New Year's as many as 90% of all Japanese go to the shrines.
Amulet Vending Machine
At the shrines people pray to the local gods of their neighborhood, to the gods of childbirth, traffic safety, education and study, school exams, good business, etc. etc. And the shrines do a thriving business in the sale of religious amulets that are supposed to protect against all kinds of misfortune and bring many kinds of good luck. As the price of the amulet rises, so does its advertised effectiveness, and many people find it difficult to, for example, buy their pregnant young wife a twenty dollar good luck charm for safe childbirth when the hundred dollar amulet is "much more powerful". A whole range of amulets are sold for all kinds of functions, and many people end up spending a lot of money "covering the bases" with amulets to ward off bad luck in business, amulets to protect their car from accidents, amulets for their kids to get good grades in school, amulets to prevent getting sick (especially in "unlucky years") etc. Of course, if you can't afford the special attention of a Shinto priest to personally bless your amulets, you can buy cheaper ones from one of the young girls in the sales stalls, and if that is still too expensive, you can get the bottom-line bargain lucky amulets from the vending machines at larger shrines.
Visitors from Hiroshima
Dan and Yoji, a friend from Hiroshima
We continue to work to share the Good News of Jesus with Japanese people, and we pray for the day when they will understand the truth and be released from superstitions and false teachings. There are many ways to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, but the most effective way is usually one-on-one, through friendships built over time. We have been blessed to have some friends from Hiroshima visit us, and Yoji, pictured above, has made the two-hour trip to Osaka to see us three times already.
Children's Message at Osaka International Church
Dan shares the story of Ruth in a bilingual Children's Message
Dan continues to serve as interim pastor at Osaka International Church. A full-time pastor is certainly needed for this one hundred member congregation, but Dan is trying to do it as a part-time ministry as we continue to prepare for the new cell church plant. Sometimes it is a lot of fun and sometimes it is, quite honestly, very stressful. Telling the story of Ruth in alternating English and Japanese sentences to give the kids a bilingual message is the fun part. Providing counseling for inter-cultural marriages with husbands and wives who literally do not speak the same language is one of the stressful parts.
Budounoki (Grapevine) Cell Church Presentation
Dan explains the concept of the new cell church plant
We recently did our first stand-up, Japanese-language presentation of the concepts behind the new cell church plant for members of the international church who are interested in helping with this ministry. Ten people responded by filling out cards indicating their personal desire to be kept informed of the cell church plant's progress and several people immediately volunteered to assist in various ways.
Rai Island in Thailand
The Beautiful Scenery of South Thailand
After the mission agency leadership meetings in Thailand (Dan was the Japan representative for MUP), Dan traveled south to Phuket to see the new Asia Center for World Missions that Danny Martin, the founder of MUP, has started there. Dan visited a children's outreach in a poverty-stricken area, toured the new center, and talked over possibilities for partnerships between ministries in Thailand and Japan with Danny Martin. Of course, the best place in Thailand to talk over things is at the beach on a secluded island, so there was a chance to relax also!
Video and Web Projects
Since Karen is always operating the cameras, Dan ends up in the pictures more than she does, but that doesn't mean that she isn't busy. Karen recently finished producing our first teaching DVD, complete with an introductory collage of images timed to upbeat music (see sample), a navigation menu, and two messages. She is also in the process of finishing a long-overdue update to our ministry web site (www.proverbs2525.org) and is building a web-based contact database for the cell church.
Prayer Requests and Praise Reports
(1) Pray that the Lord would raise up Japanese partners for the cell church ministry.
(2) Praise the Lord that He is raising up a number of short-term workers to help with this ministry next summer.
(3) Pray that the Lord would send His Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the people of Osaka so that they might respond when they hear about His Son, Jesus.
(4) Pray that the Lord would give Dan great wisdom for pastoring Osaka International Church and a new peace and joy in this ministry instead of stress at the responsibilities and busy-ness that it involves.
(5) Praise the Lord for helping Karen to get through the complex process of producing her first teaching DVD.
(6) Continue to pray for Ida, a new MUP member who was scheduled to come work with us next summer, who is now undergoing chemotherapy for her lung cancer.
(7) Praise the Lord for many opportunities to be involved in mission work not only here in Osaka, but also through partnering with others, in Thailand and beyond.
(8) Please pray that the Lord would provide the balance of our estimated budget for renting facilities for the cell church plant and for the initial evangelistic activities. We currently have about 65% of the required funds in hand.
We pray that the Lord would bless you daily and guide you in all of his ways. We also hope that you have enjoyed this edition of Osaka Direct and we invite you to share it with your friends. If anyone wants to be added to (or removed from) the Osaka Direct mailing list, just let us know. Your comments on how we can improve this, or any of our communications, are invited. God bless you!
In Jesus' love,
Dan and Karen Ellrick