Fukuin - Japanese word for "gospel" Proverbs2525.org - Like cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a distant land.
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Dear Friends,

    Halleluiah!  It is a great pleasure to announce that the new Grapevine Cell Church has been launched.  We held our dedication service last night and were blessed to have twenty people in attendance.  They were mostly members of other churches who had come to wish us well, but it was wonderful to have a good turnout. We have also gotten off to a good start with a new Saturday evening bilingual service at the Osaka International Church, and this has expanded ministry opportunities there as well.  As we write, we are getting ready to take a couple of days of much needed rest at a sea front hotel about an hour away by train.  Originally we had planned to take a week or ten days of vacation with friends in Hawaii this spring, but that has just not been possible with the busy schedule, so we have scaled back to a couple of nights at a location fairly close by.  It has been a big project to get to the point of having the first service at the new cell church, and the international church ministry has also been very busy and we really need a break before the summer outreach schedule kicks off, even if it is short.
   Your prayers are precious to us as we continue working here.  Since the Grapevine Cell Church has started meetings, Dan is now pastoring two churches and will be doing three messages each week (one in English, one bilingual, and one in Japanese!), Karen is also busy since she will be doing the music for two services and filming the third service in order to make a DVD teaching series as Dan teaches through the Gospel of Matthew.  So we definitely need your prayers!  We also pray that the Lord is watching over all of you and your families and blessing you wonderfully.  We also hope that you enjoy this edition of Osaka Direct.  May the Lord bless you!

April (and some May) News
Grapevine Cell Church Dedication Service!
 Pastor Nagashima Preaching at the Cell Church    Fellowship after the Dedication Service
Pastor Nagashima traveled from Hiroshima to give the dedication message, and we had a great time of fellowship after the service.
    On May 11th at 6:00 pm we had the first service for the new Grapevine Cell Church.  It was a special dedication service for the facility we rented at Sekime in northeast Osaka City, and a number of people came from both the Osaka International Church and from other churches to wish us well and celebrate with us.  Two or three of these people may continue to come to the cell church and participate in the services regularly.  We are blessed to have support and encouragement from many people including several Japanese pastors, but we are still praying that the Lord would give us some full-time Japanese partners for the church planting ministry.  The church facility has two rooms, a "big" one for services and a small one for office space totaling about four hundred square feet of area.  If we really squeeze them in, we can set up forty chairs, but with our emphasis on cell groups, we would not expect to do that normally.  The fellowship photo is more representative of how we imagine the cell meetings to look, ten to fifteen people sitting in a circle.  For this type of meeting the facility is the perfect size and we are praying for the time when cell groups would meet like this daily.  We originally planned to start with three facilities like this, but because of the demands of the (unplanned) international church ministry and other factors, we have had to scale back to a smaller start.  Karen did most of the work of setting up the facility due to Dan having back problems through most of April (doing much better now, thank you).  From this time forward, we will have a Sunday evening 6:00 prayer service and a Thursday evening 7:00 cell group worship service, and we plan to add additional cell groups and seeker meetings during the summer and fall. 
Saturday Evening at the Osaka International Church 
Dan teaching at Saturday Evening at OIC  Pastor Muramatsu as the Guest Saxaphone Player
Dan does a bilingual message with video and PowerPoint slides.  On April 26th, Pastor Muramatsu treated us to a special message and a saxophone concert.
    At the Osaka International Church, the new Saturday evening services are off to a good start and growing.  In addition to some OIC members who are coming to both the Saturday evening and Sunday morning services, we have also drawn a number of people who cannot come on Sunday mornings.  Some of these people are Christians who have to work on Sunday, and others are seekers who find Saturday night an easier time to come and hear about Jesus than Sunday morning.  The fully bilingual format has also received a lot of positive comments, especially from Japanese seekers.  We are praying for and expecting this service to grow rapidly because it seems to fill a much needed gap.  The first night we had thirteen people and when we had the saxophone concert, over forty people came.  This summer we will be doing a number of special concerts in this service in order to help it grow.  We will need wisdom and some volunteer lay workers to follow up with the people who come so that we can provide a deeper ministry than just the service time itself. 
Karen Completes the Training DVDs
Summer Worker Training DVDs
Training DVDs can be sent to short-term workers
to help them to prepare for summer missions.
    Karen continues to produce a DVD each week from the Sunday morning service and this will eventually give us a complete bilingual (English with interpretation) DVD teaching set for Matthew.  That project is the prototype for plans to produce Japanese language teaching DVDs for use in the cell church meetings.  We have also had some other ideas of how to put the video camera and software to work and we recently completed producing a two-DVD training series for short-term missionaries who plan to come to Japan.  Many people who come on short-term missions trips really do not know what to expect or how to prepare for the experience, so we hope these DVDs will be helpful to them.  The first people (workers who are coming this summer) to receive the DVDs have given us very positive feedback.

Friends and Mentors

 Dan and Karen with Jack and Keiko
A blessed visit with Jack and Keiko Marshall
    Twenty-eight years ago, Reverend Jack Marshall was the first full-time pastor at the Osaka International Church, and he and his wife Keiko are continuing to minister to the Japanese people in many ways.  They are very active as speakers for the Equipper's Conferences across the United States (special conferences for young Japanese who become Christians while overseas), and now they are moving to Australia to start a new ministry of reaching out to the many young Japanese people who travel to Australia  for college or just for surfing.  We first got to know them through meeting Keiko at Biola University before we moved to Japan, and we have continued to stay in touch over the last seven years.  What a surprise and a super blessing to realize that our friends Jack and Keiko have a very deep connection to the Osaka International Church, where Dan has been asked to minister.  Jack was the first pastor of this church and spent over twenty years serving before going back to the United States.  Since he left, the church has had several other pastors, but none have stayed long-term.  These two people are an inspiration to us and they have blessed us with many wise insights about ministry here.  Now, with Jack in his seventies, they are launching out on a new adventure to move from California to Brisbane and start a whole new ministry.  And sometimes I (Dan) feel old and tired at 44, shame on me!

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports
(1)  Pray that the Lord would give us wisdom in planning for summer outreach activities.
(2)  Praise the Lord that Aukje vandenBerg has decided to move from the Tokyo area this summer to join our church planting team here.
(3)  Pray that the Lord would give Dan great wisdom for pastoring the Osaka International Church. 
(4)  Praise the Lord for granting us experienced mentors and friends to guide us in the ministry.
(5)  Praise the Lord for launching His Grapevine Cell Church in Osaka!
(6)  Praise the Lord that generous donations from supporters have markedly improved our budget situation since last month.  Pray that the Lord would give us wisdom in using His funds wisely.  (how to contribute)  
(7)  Praise the Lord that Dan's back, after several weeks of physical therapy and a lot of prayer, is much better.
(8)  Pray that the Lord would grow the Saturday evening OIC service to His glory.
   May the Lord bless you!  We 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.  God bless you!
In Jesus' love,
Dan and Karen Ellrick
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