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VVV OSAKA DIRECT VVV Christmas 2003
Merry Christmas! Once again we have gotten behind on writing to you, and now it is 11:00 pm on Christmas day and I am determined to send this out before midnight (smile). Christmas has been great here in Japan, and I pray that even as I write that you are waking to a wonderful Christmas morning. We are fine, and the Lord is blessing the work here in many ways - we have much to be thankful for, praise the Lord! Of course, some things simply don't happen as planned, but it is okay - God knows what He is doing even when we are clueless, which is fairly often (smile). Perhaps the biggest challenge facing us is plain old busyness. With two churches to minister to, short-term workers to coordinate, and a small but growing role in the mission agency leadership, we face a lot of challenges just to keep our heads above water. Your prayers are appreciated, but don't worry, we are keeping our sense of humor and the Lord ministers to us. As you read this edition of Osaka Direct, we invite you to rejoice over the victories and pray with us for solutions to the challenges. May the Lord bless you and keep you always!
Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry Christmas to All!
The Christmas Celebration at Grapevine Cell Church was fun for all, ages two to seventy-something
Challenges abound at the Osaka International Church (OIC) as well, although they are of a different sort than the challenges at the cell church plant. OIC is a well-established church that ministers to people from many countries. At one service we asked to see what countries were represented, and that day we had people from Nigeria, South Africa, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Indonesia, Columbia, England, Malaysia, Finland, the Philippines, and of course Japan. Just a few weeks after that, a man from Ethiopia asked permission to use the church for an Amharic (Ethiopian) language Bible study and suddenly we had a group of seven Ethiopians coming regularly who before had been only occasional visitors. At the Christmas Eve service, we had a special musical presentation by the Chinese language church plant that we help support and thus had a small invasion of Chinese people from both Taiwan and the mainland. It seems like the whole mission field comes to church here, and it is an extraordinary challenge to try to minister to such a diverse group. Of course, Japanese are by far the largest group in the church, and this helps us to maintain our primary focus on Japanese outreach. The old pews in the chapel do not provide enough seating, and every Sunday we put folding chairs out in the back and on busy days in the aisles also - a practice that would probably give a US fire marshal a heart attack.
Taking on the challenge of pastoring this church as well as working on the church plant has stretched my (Dan's) schedule to the limit, but it is also a joyous stretching. Many people have been asking whether I can stay as the long-term pastor and, more importantly, I have felt the Lord steadily pushing me to open my heart to this possibility. So, a few weeks ago I finally told the congregation that I am willing to continue to serve long-term if called. But I also emphasized that they should go through a regular pastoral selection process and see whether other more qualified applicants might also come forward. The Lord used an African proverb to show me that taking on the challenge of ministering to the international church might actually make us more effective at planting the cell church in the long term: "If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together." If the Lord confirms that this is the direction He is leading us by having OIC call me as their long-term pastor, then I think that it will also show that His plan is for OIC to partner in the cell church plant and for us all to "go together" so that in time we can go further than we could have gone on our own.
In addition to the potential for OIC to partner with the cell church plant, there is a lot of opportunity for ministry right at OIC. We are pretty full at the English service on Sunday mornings, but there is a lot of room left at the bilingual Saturday night service and in June we will be in a new building with three times as much seating. This is a wonderful blessing as we are going to be able to move into the brand new building without spending hardly anything up front and with only a small increase in rent. This is possible because the Osaka Christian Center that we rent from is replacing their old building and they are inviting us to move with them. So, come June it will be "goodbye old pews and folding chairs", with a total capacity of about 120 and "hello brand new sanctuary", with 350 seats. Praise the Lord and may the seats be quickly filled!
Yumiko's Baptism - Praise the Lord!
Dan Ellrick conducted the baptism service; Yumiko's teacher Dan Parry did the dunkingOne major praise report is Yumiko's December 17th baptism. Praise the Lord! It was dark, cold, and raining, but we didn't care. We did the baptism at Dan Parry's house at Osaka Christian College, right where we held the garden party with the Father's House short-term mission team last summer. The baptism was well-attended, mostly by her pre-Christian friends from the college. Yumiko had been wanting to get baptized since February, but at first her parents were adamantly opposed. Praying together, we agreed that it would be best to wait a while in hope that she could get her parents' permission if possible. After months of prayer and talk, her parents finally relented and gave their permission, and her mother even came to the baptism. I think it was an excellent witness to everyone who came, and we are praying that the baptism itself will turn out to have been a major turning point in sharing the gospel with many people who came. By the way, notice the portable, folding baptismal in the picture. We bought it last spring and this was the first chance to use it - may we have many more chances in the future!
Yumiko, fresh out of the water and with a big smile!
After the baptism, we celebrated with Yumiko's friends, but there was time for talk with Yumiko's mom also.
Party for the Osaka Christian College Alpha Class
Last time we wrote we were getting ready to start two Alpha classes, but this did not come to pass. The Alpha class at Sekime was postponed due to having only one student signed up (makes it difficult to have a good discussion), and the other Alpha class was postponed due to lack of a suitable location. But we did manage to have a good Christmas party for the gals who signed up for this class and we plan to try to start both classes again in January.
Grapevine Cell Church Finds a Second Location
As noted above, the second Alpha class was postponed due to lack of a good location. Most of the students who were signed up were Yumiko's friends from the Osaka Christian College (although only one other girl is a believer) and the Sekime location was too far for them to commit to coming to a weekly class. Now the Lord has provided a solution, as Grapevine Cell Church signed a lease at the beginning of December on a second office-type location. The second location is right at Abeno where we held several outreach concerts this past summer, and very convenient to the college. We are getting the place set up and will be ready to hold the Alpha class, and perhaps other meetings, there starting in mid-January.
Sekime Christmas Outreach to our nearest 3,000 Neighbors
We continue to do literature outreach as we are able, and for Christmas we stuffed 3,000 envelopes with a Christmas booklet, church flyers, and invitations to church events. Ken, a short-term worker (left side at the back in the photo) who was with us for a month, helped with this effort as part of his ministry. We continue to do as much as we can to reach out to new people while at the same time ministering to the people the Lord has brought to us. But we also need to be praying and looking for others who can help with the ministry in all areas. Some of these people may come from the international church, some from other contacts within Japan, and perhaps the Lord is also calling someone who is reading this now to come and help.
(1) Pray for the second attempt to start the new Alpha Bible classes in mid-January.
(2) Please continue to pray for Aaron as he works to establish a Calvary Chapel church here in Osaka.
(3) Pray for the Lord's will with regard to the possibility of Dan becoming the long-term pastor for the Osaka International Church (OIC).
(4) Pray that the approximately 40,000 pieces of literature and CDs distributed this year would continue to work to open peoples' hearts to want to learn more about Jesus. While we know that most of this has already been in the trash for months, past experience teaches us that some of it is sitting on bookshelves and coffee tables, and even stuck to refrigerator doors with magnets. During the New Year's holidays people may find it again and give it a second look - may the Lord open their hearts at that moment.
(5) Pray for strength and wisdom for us.
Hmmm, looks like I didn't get done by midnight - everything takes longer than expected, and now it is coming up on 1:00 am. Oh well, please forgive the typos - I am too tired for proper proofreading and Karen is already asleep (smile). [Karen's comment: actually the email was pretty good for a late night job, but I did proofread it for the web version.] Merry Christmas! May the Lord bless you! If you have enjoyed this edition of Osaka Direct, then please forward it to a friend. 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