D-Day + 10: Missions Landing Report

Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle

Hello friends! Thank you for your prayers for our safe trip – we’ve made it to Japan!

You may be wondering what Erich and I have been up to since landing. Our last post was over a month ago! It’s been a crazy past two weeks—let me tell you the highlights of our experience.


Table of Contents

  1. The Send Off from Moran Park Church
  2. The Arrival
  3. Settling Down in the Hobbit Hole
  4. Group Counseling
  5. Lifehouse
  6. Erich’s Thoughts

I. The Send Off from Moran Park Church


During our last week in the States, we had the honor of being sent out by Moran Park church. We can’t articulate how much we felt loved and accepted by the community that we are a part of. People prayed and prophesied over us encouraging and loving words. As one of the first missionaries being sent out from Moran Park, we are so excited to continue the relationship with the church and help develop our church’s new missions program. Keeping our home church involved in this adventure is one of our top priorities!


II. The Arrival


Instead of flying directly to Osaka, we stopped off in Saitama, where my parents live to visit for a few days. Less than 12 hours after we arrived at my parents’, my dad put us to work observing and helping out with group counseling — an important part of my Dad’s work. It was an all-day affair, and by the end of it we could barely stand! We had Sunday free, which we used to eat delicious udon and waste a few hours looking for a mobile phone carrier, and the next day they helped us make the six-hour drive from Saitama (Tokyo area) to Osaka so they could help us move into the temporary apartment. We are so thankful for my parents—they are just so supportive of us!



They are the best parents in the world. Erich and I cannot survive in Japan without them. They drove us 6 hours to Osaka, helped us settle in to the temporary apt, and they are just SO supportive of us. #yayGod #erichandemi

View on Instagram

III. Settling Down in Hobbit Hole



Tour the New Apartment (above)

The temporary apartment is a 20 square-meter studio right next to a major train station and Osaka castle. It’s a really, really tiny place. Erich often stumbles and hits his head on things because he’s a giant in a doll house. We keep the windows closed except for a narrow slit because they have no screens and the sill is below waist level, which would make for an interesting 11-story drop if Erich derps in the kitchen. The day after we arrived, an extremely helpful real estate agent, and our first real friend in Osaka, helped us find our dream apartment: a two bedroom, 81 square-meter apartment, which is about a 30-second walk to Erich’s Japanese language school. Jesus, you are so good! We are moving in there on the 25th of this month, so please feel free to visit Osaka!



A castle next to our apt. #Osaka View on Instagram

Thank you so much to all of you who were praying for our future apartment! We nearly signed on another apartment before the Lord spoke to us that it wasn’t our home. We waited and the same day found a much better apartment.




IV. Group Counseling


We had a rare opportunity to observe my dad’s group counseling the day after we arrived to Japan. What we observed were the power of the enemy and the power of Holy Spirit on Japanese people’s hearts. In the end of the session, Erich and I got to pray for almost 20 people at the scene. 19 people’s hands shot up in the air when asked if anyone wants a prayer. We bound the enemy and prayed for the holy spirit to fill each of them. We are thankful that we are being used by Him! More to come on this experience.


 V. Osaka Lifehouse


Lifehouse was one of two churches we visited in Japan when we traveled for a couple of weeks here last year. We felt an immediate connection with so many people, and we felt God leading us to return an invest more in what they’re doing.

There’s a lot of interracial couple like us – a white guy and a Japanese woman. Services are bilingual, and people here come from all types of diverse backgrounds. There are so many young people — pastors are in their twenties, membership is mostly young, and there’s so much energy in the worship service because it’s like a rock concert! I’m so joyful to see young people rising to be leaders. They are so after Jesus! We even got to participate in their “Speak English” outreach. Basically, we stand on the street and invite people to speak English until cops come shoo us away. Japanese people love white people and English. English attracts people off the street. Then we invite them to a free language exchange group that meets just before church at the same venue. It was a good new experience, and we are looking forward to work more with the Lifehouse people.



VI. Erich’s Thoughts


Emi did most of the talking on this one, and since I like to talk, I thought I  would squeeze into this update at the end.


D-Day + X

My father-in-law has a great interest in military history, and much to my wife’s annoyance, refers to our arrival in Japan as our “D-Day.” Indeed, every day since our arrival, he has reminded us of our time in-country in reference to that day; hence the the post title. While the metaphor is a bit exaggerated, there’s a certain truth in the comparison. We wouldn’t be so proud as to think our presence in this country will single-handedly change its shape, but for me that day represented seven-years’ worth of dreaming and over two years’ planning.

Learning Humility… Again


Whenever I move to a new place, I’m reminded of just how much I don’t know. On top of a new language, whose entrance costs are among the highest possible for English-speakers, the culture presents all types of new challenges. It’s no surprise, the Japanese people are very different from Americans. Being polite here means following a very rigid set of social rules (and it’s not like they’re posted on the door), which is just the opposite of previous experiences in America where society rewards boldness and informality or Morocco where you treat shopkeepers as if they were your biological brother.

People here follow the rules, even when those rules prevent them from performing simplest of tasks. E.g. You’ll see a dozen people waiting for the crossing signal on an empty streets to change even though they could make it across in two strides. You can’t open a simple bank account without going to the hardware shop to create an ink-stamp customized to your last name. Getting a cell phone is near impossible unless you have several forms of ID and have registered your most recent address at the highly-bureaucratic ward office and received their official stamp.

Even so, we learn to adjust by bringing our whole file cabinet with us whenever we do anything more complex than buying toothpaste, and of course we recognize that moving to a new place comes with all types of special challenges that we won’t need to face in day-to-day life. Rule-following also adds a nice, strangely comfortable sense of predictability, i.e. if you know it’s going to be a total pain in the neck, you can only be delighted when things move more smoothly.

I’m also learning humility in our new church community. The Osaka Lifehouse community has been tremendously welcoming and accepting of us. We feel a great connection with them. Still, coming from a place in Holland of consistent promotion, it’s strange being in a community where people simply don’t know you. It’s an odd feeling: going from a place of authority to place where I need to become small, serving others’ visions. It’s humbling, but I’m excited for the time being to serve at Lifehouse, a church that in its relatively short existence has already made so much impact in this city.





[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Image of Osaka Castle by Travis King[/box]

Pack Your Bags!

新世界 Shinsekai, or "The New World"

Shinsekai (新世界) pictured above. Despite it’s energetic feel, the area is famed for being one of Japan’s most dangerous districts as a result of minimal redevelopment after World War II.

Cleared for Immigration

Late Thursday night (Friday morning in Japan), I received confirmation from the YMCA Japanese Langauge School in Osaka Japan that Osaka’s immigration bureau has cleared me from immigration to Japan. I’ve been approved to seek my two-year student visa to study in Japan, which means it’s time to pack.

More accurately, it’s time to finish packing; we’ve been preparing for months, and we already have eight or nine large boxes of things packed away to ship with Kuro Neko to Osaka.

The long waiting period has come to an end, and we’re finally feeling the real pressure to get to work and work quickly. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for us there.

If it Don’t Fit in a Cardboard Box…

I don’t have much to offer you in this post, except this:

Come visit us, and come take our stuff. We’re eager to connect with people in West Michigan as much as we can before we leave in less than four weeks, and we’re selling or giving away anything that doesn’t fit in a cardboard box, so come make a claim!

No one visits and leaves our apartment empty handed.

Shinsekai, the New World

Anime fans may recognize the name of the notorious Osaka district from the prominent show “One Piece,” which my good friend Herb introduced me to a few years back. The video reflects our feelings on moving to Japan.

A Day Spent in Wanderlust

Meeting Darren Wilson and Seeing the Holy Ghost Movie

Last Friday I had a great opportunity to spend some time with the folks at Wanderlust Productions and pre-screen their new film Holy Ghost. I backed the project on Kickstarter last year, which is how I got connected with them and soon found myself with an invite to visit and pre-screen with a few other backers.


Wanderlust is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, so it’s not an incredibly difficult journey to make for me—just a little over three hours away. Despite what I would consider to be some of the worst, high-speed traffic on the planet and a few outlandish tolls, it was an uneventful drive.

I also arrived an hour early because Illinois, while only roughly 25 miles from the Michigan border, is in a completely different time zone. I know this is a fact but always seem to forget it when I’m making the drive. Fortunately, it didn’t seem to botch my first introduction to the crew while I interrupted their work day. I survived the embarrassment by tucking myself away in a corner couch and phoning for an hour while I waited for the other backers to arrive.

The Man behind the Films: Meeting Darren Wilson

[quote float=”right”]I think if I really knew how famous I was, I would probably quit making films altogether.[/quote]

Darren Wilson, for all of his Kickstarer updates and film narration, discloses very little about his personal life in his movies (he possibly does in interviews, but I can’t say I’ve seen them). I wouldn’t go so far as to label him an private man, but he doesn’t go out of his way to boast of his learning or life experience.

For example, you wouldn’t know from his films, but he spent nearly 14 years as a university professor before he ever picked up a camera. He’s well read, extremely intelligent and confident, yet he carries a unique humility like someone who’s unaware of how popular and well-liked they are. In fact, he nearly said as much when I asked him, “is it weird to suddenly be famous? A few years ago, no one knew your name, but now you’re known throughout the charismatic Christian world.”

“This right here–talking about my own fame is already weird,” he responded. “I think if I really knew how famous I was, I would probably quit making films altogether.”

One thing you can tell about Darren instantly, is that he’s passionate for making Christ known, which is why I was surprised to learn that he never actually wanted to make Finger of God (his first film) but did so only out of obedience to God. The longer version of that story that he shared with us involved a very real angelic visitation at Toronto Airport church, and you can check it out in Darren’s book if you’re interested.

The People behind the Man

Photo from wpfilm.com.

The entire Wanderlust operation runs on the dedicated work of only about five gifted individuals. The screening and events of the day kept us fairly busy, and I wasn’t able to hear as much of their stories as I would have liked, but I was impressed by their character and dedication to the work.

The Screening

Just before we started the screening, we had a surprise visit from Jake Hamilton and his band members (The Sound), which was awesome. Hamilton, if you’re not familiar with his music, is gifted musician with Jesus Culture, but I can’t pretend to have even a superficial knowledge of his music, which was a bit awkward for me as everyone else seemed to know all about the guy. That said, He and his band brought a tangible energy to the room, and watching the screening with him when he plays such a prominent role in the film made for an interesting dynamic.

Holy Ghost Movie Review

Brian "Head" Welch of heavy metal group "Korn" appears in Darren Wilson's new film Holy Ghost.

Brian “Head” Welch of heavy metal group “Korn” appears in Darren Wilson’s new film Holy Ghost. Photo from I Am Second.

Holy Ghost is an excellent documentary that focuses on understanding the person of the Holy Spirit. Holy Ghost, as Darren warned us, carries a distinctly different feel from Wanderlust’s previous films. Through a series of madcap adventures across the globe, the film also explores the Church’s growing tension between scripture-focused believers and supernatural-focused charismatics. While Wilson and the film obviously have a charismatic flavor, this film compared with its predecessors makes the most tactful outreach to the former; it proposes a kind of truce or “marriage” that understands and values both perspectives—the message being: “let’s do this together.” He accomplishes this through avoiding some of the more in-your-face miracles of the first movies (e.g. gold teeth and blind eyes healed), and focuses in on divine appointments, radical encounters with God’s love in unexpected places, and supernatural access (think the “Dome of the Rock” segment from Father of Lights). Additionally, he laces the film with supporting scripture to tie the present day work of the Holy Spirit to His past spoken word.

In its storytelling, Darren was unable to escape the need for his voice-over narration. Despite his initial plan to set the stage for each segment using scripture alone, the filmmakers were unable to gather enough coverage to tell the story without the help of Darren’s token narration. The film however doesn’t suffer too much for it, and for his fans, Darren’s recognizable voice maintains the handmade feel that has endeared audiences since Finger of God was released in 2007.

My only complaint (and it’s quite small) is that Darren uses up some of the most impactful miracles and stories in the first few minutes of the film, including some astounding words of knowledge while working with Jamie Galloway and a dynamite interview with theologian R. T. Kendall. Like Father of Lights, the climax of the film relies heavily on another story of supernatural access, where Darren and the crew get to film in some very exclusive spots—a story probably more interesting to the movie makers than movie goers.

From a technical point of view, the doc is Wilson and the crew’s best to date; their upfront capital investment in new equipment and their collective experience from previous projects really shines through breathtaking landscapes and intimate close ups. Apart from the occasional canted angle, waist-level shot where crew members were maintaining a low-profile for their own safety, shots are carefully planned and well lit—it’s just a beautiful film.

Watching the movie, I had the sense that it was going to make a profound impact on the Christian world. I hope you all get a chance to see it.

Watch the Movie

There’s more than one way to watch this movie, but if you’re eager, you can catch an early release with their digital premiere on August 9. Wilson has a unique release strategy for this, and you can probably help get this movie in front of more people who need to see it. Have a look:

The Power of God to Provide & Recognizing the Person of Jesus


Recently I was honored with two speaking opportunities — one at the Japanese Worship Service in Battle Creek, MI and the other at our home church, Moran Park in Holland, MI.

Last weekend Pastor Bob Herman was speaking on John 6 (the multiplying of the loaves and fishes), and in discussions with him leading up to his sermon, He decided that some of my life experiences fit into the message.

It was a great experience, and I felt to privileged to introduce myself to a church I love so much and share some of the things God has taught me in my experience as a believer and missionary.

The whole message is around 30 minutes, and my segment begins at around 20 minutes in.

Listen to “Jesus Is Who He Says He Is” or perhaps a better title, “The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.”

Prophetic Deliverance

I had the benefit of receiving deliverance ministry about 18 months ago, which helped me find freedom at a whole new level in my life. This past week, I was able to study under experienced teachers and get some hands on training for five deliverances. I’ve had more than a few questions about the trip, so I thought I would share what I’ve been learning.

For those of you who are not in the know or are a little unsure of what I mean by “deliverance,” deliverance is casting out demons. It’s not figurative speech or a metaphor for some type of inner-healing ministry (though often the two go hand-in-hand). I just mean casting out demons, Jesus-style.

Some Problems with Deliverance in America

Deliverance is by no means a new ministry, but in the States it’s difficult to find people who won’t complicate it with a 29-step program, a 300-page self-help book or (in some churches) a three-hour scream session that ends with puking in a bucket. Of all the ministries in the church today, deliverance is probably the least understood and the most stigmatized.

And it makes sense — for the majority, the fact that demons can even exist would take a huge leap of the imagination. We’ve rationalized the stories we hear in the bible with explanations of psychological instability or mental illness, which may or may not have anything to do with demonization. For most of the remainder who actually do believe in demons, they find them debilitating and terrifying, lacking any knowledge of the simple authority Christ has given us.

So How Does it Work?

I don’t mean to make this overly academic — I simply haven’t studied the topic far enough beyond its practical applications to do so, but here are a few things I’ve learned about deliverance in the past couple of years:

Believers can also be demonized

A few years ago, when some close friends of mine were telling me about their own deliverance experiences, I was extremely resistant to the idea that I needed deliverance. I had the idea that believers couldn’t be demonized and more so, spirit-filled believers could not be demonized. How could God’s spirit inhabit the same space as the enemies?

This question was mostly unanswered when eventually my desire to move forward in my Christian walk overpowered my pride to be theologically right, and I went ahead to get delivered all the same.

On the other side of it, I’ve had the opportunity to do some study to explain how this works to others.

In the new testament, there are three words used to describe the concept of demon possession. The Greek words show up in our English bibles as “oppressed,” “possessed,” and “to have” as in, “she had a demon.” “To have” literally means what it sounds like, but it’s interesting that both “oppressed” (katadunasteuó) and “possessed” (daimonizomai) are often translated interchangeably and share the same core definition “to be under the power of.”

Being demonized doesn’t meant that your every move is decided by evil spirits. They can’t and don’t “own” you — God owns you. You are the victim of constant brutal attack that is so severe, it can warp your behavior and worldview permanently. Most believers are mature enough in their faith to avoid manifestations of these spirits, but being unaware of their attack, they internalize their oppressors mindsets and can act out of them.

Demons also operate at two levels, internally and externally. A rejection demon, for example, will cause you to interpret the all actions of others as rejection. Some individuals will respond by feeling hurt or by preimtively sabotaging their relationships to avoid the pain of rejection. At the same time, that demon will also go out before you to create situations or influence others to avoid you. In a sense, they’ll make you feel unapproachable.

Inner-healing starts with deliverance

When we get a headache, we reach for a bottle of aspirin. A couple pills and a few minutes later, that headache will probably go away. We’ve successfully treated the symptom.

We do the same thing in the church today. Through a heavy focus on discipleship and inner-healing, we can patch up our wounds and get ourselves on the right path. That said, often times, the underlying problems remains, and most believers admittedly are in a constant battle to be free of old habits and sins.

I was speaking last week with some pastors who have been doing an inner-healing ministry called Sozos for years. Sozos can often be long, drawn-out sessions where Sozo leaders will guide their seekers through hours of searching to find and identify past lies and hurts.

These same ministers said that after they started doing deliverance ministry about a year ago, they can get through most Sozos in less than an hour. Without the underlying cause for some of the problems attempting to conceal and avoid the issue, they can cut right to the heart of the matter.

In short, if you’ve been working at something for days/months/years and it’s still not getting better, there’s probably a deeper cause rooted in demonization.

Deliverance is about authority

Big shows of flopping around with shouting and extensive use of buckets and holy water are exactly what demons want: excuses to further torment people.

Demons respond only to authority, the kind of authority that comes directly from God. During the deliverance sessions we did last week, after praying through humility and protection, our team immediately binds any unclean spirit and prevents demonic manifestations through the authority that Christ gave us.

The team I worked with as done dozens of deliverances over the past year, and of those they have only seen a handful of people show any manifestations at all. One of these manifestations happened on a different team at the same retreat we did last week.

We were waiting and chatting before another session when we heard heavy breathing come from the next room. Rushing over to see what was wrong, we found the seeker flopping back and forth in her chair and gasping for air. We later learned that this particular woman had been involved in voodoo magic in Costa Rica. She had used black magic, and when they found out they were under attack, they went and found another voodoo witch doctor to do white magic for them. Of course, she was brimming in spiritual darkness when she showed up. As soon as she walked in the room before the team was able to pray for her, she started to manifest.

At first the team reacted poorly, and everyone was in disarray attempting to take authority of the matter. When my friend, who was leading our team, arrived into the other room, he asked if he could help. He calmly had everyone return to their seats and very quietly spoke to the spirit and commanded it to stop manifesting. In less than a minute, the demon was bound, and the rest of the deliverance session took just a few minutes.

It was simple authority in Christ that prevented the demon from tormenting

Prophetic deliverance differentiators

There are about as many opinions about methods for deliverance as their are believers, so I recognize that it would be naive to claim that the methods we used last week were the only methods or some how the best.

That said, I have never seen or heard of a method that brought freedom that was as fast and painless as prophetic deliverance.

Here are a few of the things that we do differently:

  1. We don’t do deliverance alone. There’s little biblical precedent for the apostles or any of Jesus’s disciples operating in this ministry independently. It’s dangerous, and prophetic ministry relies on the biblical principle of testing one another’s words. We work in teams of no less than four.
  2. As I mentioned before, we do not allow demons to manifest in any way, and we never provoke demons to act. The seeker usually has already suffered enough, and we don’t want demons to get any last huzzah.
  3. Prophetic deliverance is prophetic. We don’t ask any questions of the seeker at all, but we go directly to the Holy Spirit to ask him to show us exactly what the afflicting spirit is.
  4. Prophetic deliverance focuses on identifying and casting out the chief and ruling spirit. Demons are incredibly hierarchical and legalistic. Identifying the most powerful and ruling spirit, allows our team to cast it out first and then all of its underlings.
  5. Deliverance works well when the ministers do not have a relationship with the seeker. This allows our team to be completely reliant on the Spirit to discern spirits, bringing in no history or human perspective. Family members or friends are not allowed to operate in the session, nor are they allowed to observe.

Well folks, this is already way to long for a normal blog post, but I’ve had more than a few folks asking Emi and I about our experiences, so I thought it would be worth it to get some of this down on paper. Really, this is by no means an all-encompassing description — just some trends I’ve noticed.

The Symptoms of Selfishness


Exemplary public service

Yesterday, I spent most of my day helping other people. Mr. Obama called me this morning to discuss a date for me to receive the Presidential Citizen’s Medal for my acts of exemplary selfless public service. My accoladed works include:

  1. Changing a dirty diaper
  2. Cleaning up lunch dishes (after someone else cooked)
  3. Shoveling a driveway
  4. Fixing loose plumbing
  5. Spending time with sick people
  6. Walking a dog
  7. Refueling a car
  8. Ordering pizza

I’m selfish

Doing a few, moderately-inconvenient good deeds yesterday reinforced in me a conviction that I’ve had for a while now — I’m probably more selfish than the average person (please, neither disagree nor agree too emphatically with that statement). What most reinforced my conviction was that yesterday’s “selflessness” was really more of an exception than a norm. What’s more is that the opportunity for selflessness arose because my wife was busy with friends, and I failed to make substantive alternate plans. Yes, boredom and indolence made a way for thinking of others — it’s a Christmas miracle.

I spend most of the time thinking about myself or how to benefit myself. When I hear about something good that happened to someone else, my first thought (before I bring it under control) is often, “why not me?” When I hear about something bad that happened to someone else, my thoughts often go towards, “how will this ultimately affect me?” When someone asks something of me, I think, “how much work will this be, and what can I get out of it,” instead of, “okay, and what else can I do to help?”


That selfishness doesn’t pay off should not be any groundbreaking revelation for any of you (if it is, please visit your pastor, and he can give you a list of reasons why it isn’t so). What might be revelation to you is that selfishness is an addiction. And like any addiction, as I’ve indulged in it more, it has become tougher to recognize it. To compensate for it, I’ll even warp my perceptions of scripture. “Treat others as you want to be treated,” is interpreted as, “just take care of yourself and expect others to take care of themselves, and it’ll all be okay.”

Symptoms of an addiction

I did a little research on some of the symptoms of addiction, and I distilled a little list to help you out if you’re selfish like me:

1. Denial

“You’re selfish.” | “No I’m not.” | “Denial! It’s the first sign.”

There’s no winning this argument. We’re all a little selfish.

2. Dependency

We are dependent on selfishness to make us feel better. When I’m feeling unfulfilled or anxious, my first impulse is, “I need to relax.” Instead of going to visit my friends, or a prayer meeting, or outreach or my family’s place, I decide it’s better to stay home. If I go to one of those places, I might be coerced to think of someone besides myself, and that’s what’s causing my stress and anxiety, right?

It might never occur to you that the fulfillment or release of anxiety you’re looking for is in the service of others.

3. Not being yourself

When you’re selfish, you’re not being yourself. You are princes and princesses of the most high king. Your lives are filled with purpose, and you were created to worship the king and serve one another. If you’re watching TV four hours a day and guarding your time against anyone who might make a demand of you, you’re not being yourself.

To build on that, selfishness doesn’t always take on the appearance of self-absorption. Sometimes when I’m always helping out and volunteering for everything, I am being the most selfish. My motivation stops being to help others and begins to focus on how good it feels for others to need me. Being yourself doesn’t mean running yourself ragged and over-committing yourself to helping others. Wise and selfless people know what’s too much and prioritize their time carefully.

4. Spending resources to support your addiction

An addict will spend or do anything to feed their addiction, even if it’s beyond their budget or outright illegal. We may choose at first to not “take the extra mile,” but eventually we’ll stop walking the first mile too. When we find we have no money, no time, or no resources to even cover our minimum responsibilities, we know our spending is out of line.

I won’t begrudge you your flat screen TV, your fancy drapes or your costly hobbies. There’s more than enough money in the kingdom for you to have those things, and I can trust you to hear from God what is exactly too much. But a good sign of selfishness is the prioritization of how your spend your resources. My time and my money are my two biggest resources, and I know when I can tell when I’m being stingy with both.

5. Inability to quit

Any smoker will quit for a day or two, and any selfish person will take a short-term mission trip or volunteer for a season, but selflessness doesn’t operate in seasons — it’s a lifestyle and an identity.

You might feel great coming off of that two-week relief trip to Guatemala, but while you’re giving each-other high fives, remember that those people you saw who lost their homes in the mudslide are still there along with millions of other people in the world. If you get swept up in the positive emotions that accompany service (and those emotions are not at all a bad thing), it’s easy to forget the pain and challenges you had to face to achieve them. Let your victories motivate you to do more.

The first step

In any AA testimonial, the first thing you’ll hear a recovering alcoholic say is “My name is ____, and I’m an alcoholic.” Why don’t we start our own personal confessions? I’ll take the first step.

[quote]Hello. My name is Erich, and I’m selfish.”[/quote]

A New Model for Testimony

I had a thought about a new model for testimony. When I say “new,” I mean new relative to what we’re doing now in turn-of-the-millennium  in America because this model for testimony has existed for quite some time — I’ll get to that later.

A short disclaimer: if you’re reading this thinking, “Erich heard my testimony and hated it, so he wrote this post,” please note that I haven’t read or heard anyone’s testimony recently, and this isn’t written about anyone in particular. It’s as much a critique on myself as it is anyone else.

In general, a great churchy testimony goes something like this (fill in the braces with your own details):

A Great Churchy Testimony

Part 1: The Family Background

“I was born into a [good/bad] family, and I [never/always] heard about Jesus while growing up.” (≈5% of story)

Part 2: The Original Sin

“I began doing some somewhat interesting sins like looking at porn/sniffing Sharpies/smoking weed].” (≈10% of story)

Part 3: The Shocking Revelation of Past Sin

“My life started to sound like a sexy Hollywood drama because of how much fascinating sin I was involved in. I was [addicted to cocaine/having affair with the president of a big company/staring death in the face/buying hundreds of Sharpies to sniff].” (≈60% of story)

Important note: If you don’t have any really juicy sins here, please magnify small ones out of proportion to make them seem super bad and interesting.

Part 4: The “I Saw the Light” Moment

“Jesus showed up. [A friend told me about it/10 friends told me/I walked into a random church/the clouds opened up and I saw the light].”

“I [immediately/eventually] said “yes” to Jesus.” (≈20% of story)

Part 5: Yay, Life is Boring

Ready for the big one?

“Now I’m [happy/at peace]; I’ve given up all my interesting sins. [I put down the bong/quit drinking/trashed my Rap and Bob Marley CDs/ burned all my Sharpies].”

“So now my life is as terrifyingly boring as yours is. I’ve become one of you; so even if I have some weird tattoos, you don’t need to be afraid of me.” (≈5% of story)

And that’s it.

Where’s the Emphasis?

I must also admit that I am not the first to make this critique of the testimony model, but it bears repetition since as a culture we have yet to grasp the point.

Although the speaker may pump more raw emotion into Part 4, the emphasis of this model is clearly on the sexiest, dirtiest, greasiest sins you can come up with. And why not? For a rhetorical strategy, it works brilliantly: the darker the secrets we reveal are, the brighter the salvation seems when it comes. Doesn’t this glorify Jesus even more?

A newer (but for reals classic) model

I could call this above model, which culminates in the salvation moment, the “American” model because it’s really fashionable to bash on America these days, but that wouldn’t be so honest — his model pervades the entirety of the church. Our obsession with the grit of pre-Jesus life may be fueled by our love for Hollywood gangster flicks, but it comes from a pattern of bad thinking that’s as old as Adam — a focus outside of Jesus.

You may be saying, “wait a minute, isn’t the new testament all about redemption from sin and salvation? Paul even said, “I’m the greatest of sinners!”

Well, you’re right. The gospel is about redemption from sin, but that’s not all its about. In fact, the majority of the New Testament is about what people do after they meet Jesus, not before. On top of that, the stories of the NT’s greatest heroes almost always feature God as the main character. Peter and Paul might take home the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, but Jesus and the Holy Spirit always hog the lime light.  There’s rarely any focus on pre-Jesus sin, or even on reasons why people come to Jesus.

Let’s look at an example from the Book of Acts:

Luke’s Account of Paul’s Testimony (with Some Serious Abridgment for Brevity’s Sake)

Part 1: Paul’s Past (AKA Saul, the Sinner)

Luke spends all of about four short sentences on Paul’s life before the conversion story. It’s probably ≈1% of the story, but I’m too lazy to count the words and actually calculate it.

  • Acts 7:58b “Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
  • Acts 8: 1-3 “And Saul approved of their killing him… But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”

Part 2: Paul’s Conversion

Acts 9:1-19 covers Paul’s conversion story. Featured in the story are bolts of lightning, episodes of blindness, trippy visions, radical faith and hospitality, gross scales and possibly a very confused donkey. I’ll let you read it. (≈6-7% of the story)

Part 3: Paul’s Boring Life after Conversion

After his radical conversion, Paul becomes a wonderful, sweeth-mouthed Christian, right?  He works a straight nine to five in tent-making, pays his taxes and tithes, and stays out of trouble. In short, he keeps it cool, but on occasion does a few groovy things which include:

  • Plays a central role in Acts 9, and the last half of the book 14-28.
  • Begins public preaching of the gospel only days after his conversion
  • Narrowly escapes death on a dozen occasions
  • Miraculous healings
  • Battles sorcerers
  • Debates top Greecian scholars on their own classroom floors
  • Survives and possibly is raised from the dead after public stoning
  • Survives a shipwreck and saves everyone on board
  • Gets stranded in Malta
  • Survives a poisonous snake attack
  • Travels the greater part of the Middle East and Asia Minor preaching the gospel in every town and city on the way
  • Goes to prison on multiple occasions
  • Writes a few letters, which become half the New Testament

The story of Paul’s acts after his conversion account for over 90% of the story.

In-yo-face rhetorical questions:

  1. How much does Luke or Paul talk about his upbringing? Nada.
  2. How much time does the New Testament to devote to Paul’s first introduction to sin? Zilch.
  3. How peaceful and boring is Paul’s life after (or during) the conversion? Not at all!
  4. How much time does Luke spend on Paul’s life after Jesus shows up? Over 90%.

Some Advantages of the New/Classic Model

Before this blog post gets too long (too late, I know), let’s look at a few advantages on this model.

  1. Most importantly, this model focuses on what God is doing/has done, not on what we are doing/have done.
  2. When “the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophesy” (Rev 19:10), it’s important to discuss behaviors and events that we want to recreate, not those we don’t.
  3. We get to stay out of unhealthy obsession with sin. The juicy details don’t help us “be ignorant to the ways of evil” (Romans16:19).
  4. It creates a challenge for us to questions which events in our life are most important. It’s true, our conversion is critical, but it’s not the only important event in our life. Our testimonies should show how God has transformed us by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).
  5. It attracts people to the gospel with interesting stories of how exciting God can really be (see Mark 16:15-18 for a description of some post-salvation awesomeness).


[box type=”info”]Photo by zdenadel.[/box]

Battle Creek Message

[box type=”note”]
An approximate transcription of a few stories I shared at the Japanese Language Worship Service in Battle Creek, MI on Saturday, October 19, 2013.

Introducing Erich & Emi

Good evening. My name is Erich Boileau and this is my wife Emi. I’ve been part of the Japanese Christian community in West Michigan for about a year now, and we’ve really enjoyed our experiences with you.

Here’s a little background about myself:

  • I grew up in Holland, MI and I studied English at Grand Valley State University.
  • I joined the Japanese Christian community last year just after I returned from two and a half years doing the Lord’s work in Morocco.
  • Emi and I are planning to leave sometime next summer for Japan to start our lives as missionaries to the Japanese people.

What I’d like to talk about today is how I started thinking about Holy Spirit as an active person, instead of a vapor or silent ghost watching from above. Hebrews 4:12 says “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit.” The Word of God is living and active.

Freshman Year

The year is 2006 and I’m finishing up my first year at Grand Valley State University. I would say, and people who knew me would say that my identity was almost entirely built on my intellect. From my AP classes in high school, I arrived at college with 38 credits and established myself in a Sophomore standing from my first semester. I was quite proud of this among other accomplishments. In fact, years later, a close friend I’ve known since I was 11 confided that he never thought I would become a true believer. I was “far too caught up in logic and principles,” he said.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”]I had this idea that if everyone just thought like me, if everyone could just see the world the way I did, the world would be a much better place.[/quote]

My dream was to become an English teacher. Some of my greatest mentors and role models up to that point had been secondary school English teaches, so I figured that was the best way to change the world — teach the next generation. I was not nearly so conceded as to think “I had it all figured out,” but I was proud enough to think that I was on the right path. I had this idea that if everyone just thought like me, if everyone could just see the world the way I did, the world would be a much better place. It’s ridiculous,  know, but we’re all tempted to think just this way.

The Voice of One Crying in the Desert

This all changed when a friend came back from the mission field. My friend Herbert was on furlough, visiting Holland for his brother’s wedding, and though we had known each other since middle school, we didn’t often talk, and I seized the opportunity to sit him down at a coffee shop and hear about his adventures — few if any of my school friends had gone as far as Africa, and those rarely more than a week or two.

Herb has had a big impact on my life since then, so you should know a more about him. Now, this isn’t Herb’s testimony; it’s mine, so I’ll try to keep it brief. Herb will have to forgive me for what is an absurd oversimplification of his call to missions:

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]The stories he told me as we discussed his adventures in sub-Saharan Africa shook me to very the core.[/quote]

When we were still in high school, Herb’s family heard from God that they were supposed to go to Italy, so they did. They packed their bags and left, even though their twin sons only had a year or so left in their studies. As soon as they got settled in Italy, Herb individually heard the call of God to go the darkest places in the world. He did his research, got connected with a Mozambique-focused organization called Iris, and packed his bags (with even less than last time) and moved off to Africa.

The stories he told me as we discussed his adventures in sub-Saharan Africa shook me to the core. I heard stories about whole villages’ blind people returned their sight. Stories about countless deaf ears opened. Stories about whole divisions of Congolese armies dropping their guns and praising God when they heard the message of freedom.

I had heard stories like this before, but this was different. This time, it was it was a trusted friend telling the stories. And what’s more is that this time (and I only realized this months afterwards) the Holy Spirit was convicting me. The Holy Spirit was living and active in my life.


God had caught me. Some people are first attracted to God through their studies. They think, and they arrive at the conclusion that God must be God — it just makes sense. You would think that would have been me, but it wasn’t. Others are first attracted to God because of a “God moment.” I guess anything could be called that, but I’m talking about light breaking through the clouds epiphany types. Yet others first come to realize the gravity of their sin, and perhaps out of fear or desire for forgiveness seek Jesus.

All of these things we need from God, but the bait that got me was power. There was something about the inexplicable, bend-natures-laws, logic-defying power of God that drew me in. I wanted it. I wanted to be close to it.

This was not that God I heard about growing up in a Christian community. This was not some grand, divine watchmaker watching his work unfold from light-years away. No, this was a God who was living and active.


There is a much longer story, but for the sake of brevity in a testimony that is already getting long, I’ll just say the next few months after that coffee-date, I saw a radical transformation in my life. I would meet for bible studies with a few friends five nights a week from 7:00 or 8:00 at night until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I was baptized, and I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was living and active.


[quote]I was shocked as we counted the number who had been healed. It was’t two or three; it was nearly a hundred![/quote]

I want to tell you a couple of stories. Fast forward a year and half. I’m attending a school called Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, CA. This is a place where students come from all over the globe to learn about the power of God. They learn how to be vessels capable of representing God.

To the great stress of all my relatives, especially my parents who at the time had no exposure to this type of Christianity, I had dropped out of college and moved hundreds of miles from home. I promised to finish school, and I would later return to finish my degree.

Bethel, as you can guess from it’s name, has one focus on seeing God act in the supernatural. Healings particularly are pursued fervently. I remember in one class period, our teacher Bill asked everyone who was suffering any type of illness to stand up — no matter how small the illness. Of our class of around 400 students, probably half of the room stood. Some of them had simple problems like bad eyesight, achy knees or headaches, but some had illnesses which were much more severe. The teacher asked us to lay hands and pray for one another, especially the sick, so we did.

After a few minutes, Bill asked that everyone be seated except for people who received a healing. I was shocked as we counted the number who had been healed. It was’t two or three; it was nearly a hundred! We praised God for what he had done.

Drug Rehab Outreach

One of the requirements for school was participating in one of the school’s weakly outreach programs. I remember when we were selecting our outreaches at the beginning of the school year, the Lord spoke to me specifically about joining the Drug Rehabilitation group. Since I didn’t particularly like addicts or enjoy spending time with smelly middle-aged men, I cleverly fleeced the Lord by making it my second choice on my application.

I was selected for the Drug Rehab outreach.

I wasn’t unhappy about it because I knew God asked me to be there in the first place, but I wasn’t excited about it either. Once a week, we would drive north of town to a damp halfway house whose mission was to help recovering addicts stay out of trouble and away from controlled substances until they could step out on their own. The house was woefully under-lit and reeked of mold, dust, cigarettes and whatever leftover food the men had cooked up for lunch.

The statistics for men in a program like this aren’t very good — depending on the drug or location, relapse rates can be between 40% – 60%.

But God had a plan and a purpose for their lives, and we went to share that with them. Over months, we built up relationships, and towards the end of our program, our outreach leader organized a longer night-service for “healing.” Depending on the week, our outreach team had anywhere from 5 – 12 people, but as the date approached for the healing service, members of team started to drop out until, when the night of the service arrived, only my leader and I remained.

I was nervous because it was my first time leading a service, and even though the room only had maybe 20 – 25 people in it, I felt anxious.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]…It occurred to me that this was no cramp, but it was actually something called a “Word of Knowledge” described in 1st Corinthians as one of the spiritual gifts.[/quote]

My leader gave a very simple message on the Lord’s prayer, focusing on the part where Jesus says, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” You see, in heaven there is no disease, no sickness, no death or despair. In heaven, everyone is whole, and no one suffers. From Jesus’s prayer, we can see that we ought to pray for God’s will and perfect kingdom to be on Earth just the way they are in heaven.

While my leader was speaking, I got a leg cramp in my right calf. It was really bad, and I was trying to not look to uncomfortable as I sat in front of everyone. It was strange because I didn’t have any issues with that leg, and I’ve really never had a cramp like that before. After a few minutes, it occurred to me that this was no cramp, but it was actually something called a “Word of Knowledge” described in 1st Corinthians as one of the spiritual gifts. God was actually telling me that someone in the room had a problem with their right ankle that we needed to pray for.

Ministry Time

[quote]I asked him a very simple question, “Do you want to be shorter or taller?”[/quote]

After the outreach leader finished his message, we moved into prophetic ministry. When I say “prophetic ministry” or “prophesy,” what I mean is simply listening to what God is saying about someone, and telling them what we hear. We told people who they truly were — not their sin or their pasts, but who God had created them to be: kings, queens, sons and daughters of the most-high God. As we did this, the room warmed and you could watch as their faces changed when they learned their true identity and giftings. Faith was growing in the room.

After prophetic ministry, we moved into healing ministry. Before we asked who wanted prayer, I knew that I was supposed to find out if anyone had trouble with their right ankle, so I asked, nervously hoping that at least one person would say yes. To my surprise, 5 people responded immediately. One had trouble sleeping, the pain in her right foot was so bad. Another had just sprained his ankle the day before.

One of the last guys to say something said that he had actually been shot in combat, and when they did surgery they put a metal post in his thigh, which made one leg shorter than the other. Beyond the issues that recovering from surgery bring, walking for years on a short leg had caused misalignment in his hips and spine, which gave him awful back pain all the time.

Just as he was finishing his description, both my leader and I were filled with faith that he would be healed. It must have been funny to watch as my friend and I pushed and shoved each other to be the first to get to this guy and pray. Eventually, my leader relented and let me lead the prayer. Meanwhile, he started to call out to everyone in the room, “come, come quickly if you want to see a miracle!”

I had the man sit down on a chair and extend both of his legs out. We could see that his right leg was about an inch shorter than the other one. It wasn’t much, but it had been enough to cause so much pain.

I asked him a very simple question, “Do you want to be shorter or taller?” That got a good laugh from everyone, and we eventually agreed that he should be taller.

I took his short leg in my hand and I commanded it, “in the name of Jesus Christ, grow.”

The leg grew in my hands about half an inch. Everyone saw it and marveled.

“Thank you Lord for what you’re doing!” We prayed, “Please finish this miracle as a testament of your love. In the name of Jesus Christ, grow.”

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]The leg grew the rest of the way out, and instantly, all of the pain in the man’s back left him. [/quote]

The leg grew the rest of the way out, and instantly, all of the pain in the man’s back left him. Faith was so thick in the room, I think anything could have happened. We prayed for the others with foot pain, then began to pray for other illnesses and sicknesses in the room. I can’t remember perfectly, but I think God healed everyone in that room we prayed for that night. When we ran out of things to pray for, we had residents call up sick residents and started to pray for them over the phone.

The Holy Spirit was living and active.

Invitation to More

The reason I shared these stories tonight is that we don’t often discuss the power of God. Sometimes I think we’re afraid of it, that if we know what God is capable of doing, we might actually have to change our lives to see it happen. My challenge from this testimony tonight is that we start to think more about the power of God.

Please, after the service, if you’re interested in hearing more about the Holy Spirit or have questions about my testimony, come talk to me.

Thank you very much.

On throwing away five keys


I threw away five keys today, which seems as good as a reason as any to write. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I mean throwing out some old keys, not the writing; although I’ve been putting that on the back burner for the past four or five years too. The occupants of my key ring have been multiplying almost monthly with bulky car key fobs and half a dozen grocery store memberships – it was becoming incredibly difficult to find a pair of skinny jeans whose pockets will contain both a ring of 15 odd shapes and my fingers.

One was for the house I finished renting in September. It was one of those designer kinds. The background was black with a twisted Asian-style dragon and the Chinese characters for “Courage” and “Love” in white. I didn’t pick it – my landlord gave it to me when I got the house, and though Cory and I left six copies of the key in house when we left, I forgot to return the original. I really liked it though, and I was a little sad to see it go, but I knew I shouldn’t keep it because my landlord could be a cheap about things sometimes, and it’s unlikely he changed the lock. I’m careful to say “lock” singular because although the house had in fact three entrances, we were provided only a single key to the back door. He left two other keys in one of the kitchen drawers, but they didn’t open anything.

[Brace yourselves for nostalgic, border-line corniness.]

The key was pretty beat up, and probably not just from my pocket but the previous tenants’ as well. The house was beat up too, and although I cursed its thin walls and cheap single-pane windows last winter, I had a lot of great memories there. It was the first house I’ve ever rented, and it was only a stone’s throw from downtown; so whenever I wanted, I could easily walk down to JP’s for a cappuccino or soup. I made it my Sunday tradition to leave the house no sooner than 10:30 am, and mosey downtown for a late morning/early afternoon of reading. Now I just drive on my Sundays.

It was also the house where Emi was baptized in the Holy Spirit and first learned about the power of God, but that’s a longer story.

It’s a funny thing about keys. When I evaluate how likely I am to use them again, I have to consider the time I spent in their houses. Of course, I mean this in the most literal sense – not in some heavy-handed metaphor about casting away memories or anything.

The second key was for Emi’s old apartment in the building adjacent to our new one, which makes two keys I probably should have returned when we moved out, but the wedding week and the few weeks following were pretty crazy, and I don’t think the landlords noticed or keep track of that kind of thing.

The last three keys? Who knows what doors they belong to. My best guess is Cody’s second apartment in Atlanta where I couch surfed for two months, maybe Herb and Sarah’s old place in KC where I narrowly escaped permanent disfigurement at the mouths of bed bugs, and maybe an old office key. They were all standard grey, and thoroughly unremarkable copies.

Okay, I’ll end with some thoughts about God and Jesus because most of you like that kind of stuff. I often find myself grateful these days. I’m sure most people in their first months of marriage encounter similar feelings, but like them the emotions feel unique and special to me. Emi and I are quite happy in our two-bedroom apartment and feel that in our seven short weeks of marriage, we’re only a white picket fence and two kids shy of American perfection. How’s that for an almost-immigrant and her American hubby in their mid-twenties?

That said, our proverbial “hearts” are metaphorically starting to “burn” for something more substantial, and Emi often states how much she wants to go to Japan sooner, which I find hilarious since she was a hairs-breadth away from revoking her Japanese citizenship when I was first getting to know her a year ago. It’s funny how God changes our hearts.