February Update

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Hi family and friends,

Emi here.

Wow, it’s been a while since we updated the blog. We have been busier than ever! We barely get a down time to breath now.

I. Working in a Japanese company

Since my work became a big part of our life, I would like to write about it. It’s almost like everything I heard in my Business Japanese class is true. Long hours, obligatory over time, extreme hierarchy system, senpai-kohai relationships–sometimes it’s too much to witness all those every day. I’m still adjusting to be more “Japanese,” and it’s darn stressful sometimes. Coming from American culture, it shocks me how employees are treated, are obligated to work 18-hour shifts, and female workers are chastised for their hairdos or the color of lipsticks.

I am not culturally sensitive enough to pick up on Japanese social cues or care about every single comment or move people make around me, and I’m glad I don’t because my hair will fall out from stress if I had such sensitivity.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m glad to have the job at where I am. I love that I get to be around people every day. I love the people I work with. They are some of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met.

It’s been rough because I had to work 40 hours a week in January on top of being a full time student. I reduced it to 32 hours a week this month, thank goodness.

It’s one thing to hear about the work culture in Japan, and it’s another thing to actually experience it. God is really using my work to teach me about the heart of people in this nation. Work is the highest priority you can have here. They would sacrifice almost everything for their company–personal life, time with their spouse and children, school, relationship, friends, health.

II. Church

We are loving New Hope and the people there. With help from Chris Maybury, Erich and I began serving coffee at the church. We are soon in charge of hospitality, youth group, and I even did a live translation for preaching. It’s like God prepared a perfect spot for Erich and I to serve in this community. We are developing deeper relationships with the members, and we love it!

III. Praise Report

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  • My sister Mari and her husband Hajime had a healthy baby boy last month! I have a nephew Ace! Yes, do check out our awesome chalk art above. And yes, notice that we made him Christian. And I know, I am an awesome artist, thank you very much. Erich did the cool fonts.
  • God has been blessing Erich and my marriage even through busy schedules and less time to spend with each other.
  • I had an opportunity to give a testimony to my coworkers and pray for one of them.
  • Erich and I are officially married in Japan. Yay! (I still need to change my last name though)
  • We got a missionary discount for Erich’s tuition in YMCA language school for the next semester. Thank you pastor James!

V. Prayer Request

  • I want to go back to Holland in June for friends’ wedding, but financially only Erich could fly back. And I don’t know about my practicum schedule allows me to go back either. I really really want to visit Holland with Erich, though.
  • I need prayer and guidance where I could do a counseling practicum or internship in Japan. I have backups, but I really need clear guidance from the Lord about this. Please let me know if you hear anything from the Lord.

I love you and I miss you. Please let us know how we can pray for you, too.

Prioritizing the Family of Christ

When I was a kid, during the summertime my Dad used to take the family camping or on day trips out to one of Michigan’s many lakes. We would bring the boat along and go tubing, swimming or just hang out and barbeque on the shore. On one of these occasions, we went out to Gun Lake, an exceptionally beautiful place.

Now, sections of Michigan lake bottoms can be thick with mud, which isn’t any reason to not swim there, but for eight or nine-year-old boys, stepping down into the cold, gooey sludge was not the kind of sensation that my brother or I looked forward to. So, my Dad bought us each a pair of water shoes. They looked a lot like these ones:

Since we’re twins, we agree on absolutely everything, and it was inconceivable that each of us should have different designs or colors of shoes. They had to be identical. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be fair. It should also be said that this principle of fairness often was in direct conflict with another unspoken principle we held–that each of us should fiercely protect our own possessions, bearing responsibility for only our own, meaning the only difference in our possessions was often an “E” or “V” added in Sharpie to the object.

Hence we each held responsibility for separate but identical pairs of cool blue water shoes.

I’d say we had used the shoes only a handful of times before our trip to the lake. It was a wonderful day–good water temperatures, fair weather–everything we needed to completely wear ourselves out with the fun. Docking the boat and loading it onto the trailer after use can be a tiresome process, especially as were all exhausted from the day. Nevertheless, we unloaded everything from the boat onto the pavement beside the docks. Dad and Mom grabbed the majority of the stuff, but asked my brother and I to help out. Dad tasked me with retrieving the water shoes and a few other things.

Following the the aforementioned principle, I retrieved my own shoes, and promptly forgot that I left my brother’s shoes on the pavement by the time we arrived home. A few days later, but not enough for my father to forget who he asked to grab the shoes, as we were preparing to go on another summer trip, we noticed that only one pair of shoes were there. My brother’s were likely collecting mold on the pavement an hour away.

Scolded, I was a bit ashamed at my selfishness but was assured by my principles that my brother was afterall responsible for his own shoes. With that satisfaction in my heart, I slipped my left foot into my water shoes, and then attempted to fit my right as well. It wouldn’t go on. Frustrated, I removed them both and studied them. Annoyance gave way to bewilderment, which slowly gave way to embarrassment as I realized I had two left shoes.

Mixed-Up Priorities for Missions

We sing a song based on John 13:35 that goes “They will know we are Christians by our love.” Awesome. Such a great sentiment, and true. However, the scripture with a bit more context goes as follows:

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:33-35, NIV)

The message is that of a father to his children. It’s a family message, and it’s meant to cut us to the heart. For a bit more context, add in the preceding verses where Jesus discusses his imminent betrayal and resulting death by agonizing torture. Then add the following verses where Jesus tells his closest friend in life that even he will deny ever having known him.  It’s not the sappy vague sentiment of world peace achieved through Hallmark cards and “Love Wins” t-shirts. It means “the marker that you know the King of Kings will be your ability to show love to one another.”

Sometimes as missionaries, we get our priorities a bit mixed up, and it sends some conflicting messages to those we’re ministering to. When we preach, we tell people who don’t yet know Christ about this awesome thing called “the Church,” where we call each other “brothers and sisters.”

Brothers and sisters, for some time now, a deep conviction has grown in me that we don’t actually treat each other like brothers and sisters. In fact, outside of our preset meetings, the very people we call our family are visibly at the bottom of our priorities list–after our jobs, education, “ministry,” projects, home improvement, social media, emails, newsletter writing or a dozen other things.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with watershoes, but I’ll get to that in a second.

The Reality in the Field

Today's missionary attrition rates are higher than ever.
Today’s missionary attrition rates are higher than ever.

Twenty-somethings whose only missions experience was on a YWAM base or short-term trips may be a bit confused when I try to explain how it looks to be a long-term missionary. For someone who’s time overseas was spent in the community of dozen(s) of other young missionaries, it’s strange to hear that for the most part, traditional missionaries live separately, even as singles. Traditional missionaries typically work on separate projects, prioritize time spent with the locals, and see one another once a week on Sundays–maybe twice on a good week.

For what follows, it’s important not to read this as a criticism of traditional missionaries. Missionaries are among the most loving, self-sacrificial, under-appreciated, and over-worked members of the church. Like pastors, their responsibilities almost always way exceed their ability to carry them out. However, unlike pastors, missionaries have the burden of doing ministry in a culture that is not their own, in a language that is not their own without the support of a community, extended family, or the comforts of home.

With all this stacked against them, you would expect missionaries to bond together overseas despite differences in theology, age, sex, home-culture or personality. You would expect these conditions would inspire us to fulfill the command to love on another.

The reality however is quite the opposite. Missionaries, some who even share in the same visions, desperately cling to their own projects. They easily fragment. Missionaries are easily jealous for each others’ successes. Stuck in “survival mode,” we avoid service to one another and gravitate towards ministries that will give us the feeling or appearance of success. In Japan, I’ve noticed in some churches/groups an unhealthy obsession with numbers–attendees or salvations. In conjunction with that, I see unhealthy disinterest in “what is God saying,” or “how can we serve one another to help each other accomplish these goals.”

Today’s generation of missionaries experience attrition at greater rates than ever before. Studies site several reasons for this, but after simple retirement, the top reasons could almost always be attributed to other believers:

  1. Lack of Financial Support
  2. Interpersonal Relationships with Other Believers
  3. Disagreements with Sending Agency/Church
  4. Problems with Children

I submit to you that so many of these issues could be solved by entering in to true Christian community, rejecting selfishness, and becoming more dependent on one another and on Christ.

Depending on others is easier said than done–it’s a scary idea that other believers may hold the keys to our success or failure in their hands. Referring back to my story earlier, we’ve all had to manage disappointment with others like my brother did when he learned I had selfishly ignored his needs and left his shoes behind. It’s certainly easier and more secure-feeling to completely rely on ourselves. However, disappointments and letdowns are the cost of true familyDo you think my brother renounced me after I lost his shoes?

What most don’t realize is how much this type of self-preserving mistrust is a double-edged sword. Not only do we deprive ourselves of true communion with Christ’s body, but we also show an incredibly bad witness to those we’re ministering to. Who wants to a join a Church where life looks exactly the same as it did before? The Japanese don’t need or want to add another god to their pantheon, they want to experience the true love of Christ, something that was designed to be experienced as a community.

Need for a Cultural Shift

The command Jesus gives his disciples to is to be known by our love for one another. That means treating your brothers and sisters in Christ like your actual brothers and sisters. This isn’t anything new, but in our self-centered, individualistic western culture, it’s a radical suggestion. And it absolutely needs to take root for us to accomplish the great commission. We need to break the cycle of rejection, selfishness and self-obsession or we’re always going to end up with two left shoes.

There is a need for a culture shift in today’s mission fields, and there are already a number of groups leading the way. One of the groups I mentioned before is YWAM, which teaches a culture of honor, unity and forgiveness in their schools. Students of DTS schools are forced to get along through common projects and constant interaction.

Iris Brasil

iris team

Another group that is pioneering this concept is Iris Brasil. In contrast with YWAM, Iris Brasil in Fortaleza isn’t a school (although they may have on in the works), they don’t have rigid support structures, massive funding or a 15-step discipleship program. Their model of discipleship and family is based directly on Christ’s, and it looks like this:

  1. They never say “no” to Jesus. Listening to the Holy Spirit as individuals (and corporately) allows them to make healthy, Spirit-led decisions as a family.
  2. They submit to one another.Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NIV) is more than idea for them, it’s a reality.
  3. They recognize the priesthood of every believer (1 Peter 2:9). Order isn’t maintained by rigid hierarchy, rather each individuals passions, convictions and ministry is recognized by others of the group. While the projects each may do vary, missionaries help each other on projects that are not their own, recognizing the value that God has put in others.
  4. They live together. Twenty-thirty people living in close quarters inevitably creates all types of new stresses. Yet as that stress forces pain, fear and character flaws to the surface, members of the community view it as an opportunity to love one another, showing forgiveness and letting “Iron sharpen iron” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV).

Prioritization: Key to Sustained Community

While the last point (living together) would be difficult in Japan as the building they inhabit would easily cost ten thousand dollars a month to simply rent, it can be observed in the day-to-day practice of our lives.

When I returned to my home town after college in 2009, a few believers and I aspired to do just that, and the result was incredible. After three months of meeting several times a week in a generous friend’s basement, acquaintances and people I had never before met became as close (or closer than) brothers and sisters. It was not out of a sense of duty or obligation but a joy to meet as the family of Christ.

During that time, we would spends hours each week worshiping, studying the Bible and just hanging out as friends. Although we each had our own apartments, houses, jobs, classes and obligations, we made it our goal to prioritize one another above all of those things. We continued and established new outreaches, which are still active to this day. Every member of our group, including a number of disciples newly baptized in the Holy Spirit, is still passionate and seeking the Lord today. One is in seminary, another is in the process of starting and orphanage, two others went to Bethel ministry school, and nearly all since have been involved in short or long-term missions.

When believers must live separately, the key to community is prioritization. Taking time every day to spend time with other believers is crucial for our development as believers.

 

[box type=”info” border=”full”]Features “Boarding” by Kevin Jaako. See Image on Flickr.[/box]

Dating a Church 教会とデート

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Emi here. 恵美でーす。

Church Dating (Does that sound bad or what?) 教会とデート

In all honesty, finding a church to settle was like dating.

Of course, we know that there’s only one Church, Christ’s body, but we experienced a few “churches” in Osaka area. And every time we visited a church, it was like dating. We had to see what her values are. Who is Jesus to her? What does she care? How does she treat her body? What can I offer her, and is she willing to accept me for who I am? What kind of family does she have? Am I attracted to her? Do I feel free with her? Does she love me? Does she allow me to love her? Can I invest in her? Can I trust her? Is she clingy? Is she competitive and judgmental? Is she jealous? Does she treat me as an equal? Is she inviting me in or showing me the door? Is she humble? Is she interested in me? Does she want to get to know me, spend time with me, and grow together?

We found the one. New Hope Church Osaka.

She is a beauty. She’s international and was born in Hawaii. She’s family oriented, and could, oh my, sing like an angel. She has humble leadership, willingness to learn the words and the spiritual gifts, and is eager to grow her gifts and her body for Jesus. And her wisdom in teaching amazes me!

And this church is Japanese by nature. Though it’s international and there are a few foreign people, it’s mainly composed of Japanese people and Japanese culture.

We were getting spiritually emaciated for the past two months because we didn’t have a church community that we could call home. Now that we do, we can’t express how thankful we are for finding New Hope.

教会探しはデートみたいでした。

もちろん、本当の教会はイエスの体なのはわかってるけど、大阪辺りでいくつかの「教会」を体験しました。ひとつづつ教会に参加してみる経過は誰かとデートしている感じでした。ここの教会に仕えよう!って決める前に、彼女がどんな価値観をもっているか知りたかったし、色々観察することがありました。例えば、彼女にとってイエスはどんな方か。何を一番大事に思ってるか。自分の体をどう扱ってるか。私は彼女に対して何をしてあげられるか。そして、私を私そのままで受け入れてくれるか。どんな家族がいるか。彼女に惹かれるか。彼女といて私は自由にできるか。私のことを愛してくれるか。私の愛を受け取ってくれるか。彼女が信じられるか。プレッシャーかけてくるか。競争的か批判的か。ジェラシーするか。対等に見てくれるか。歓迎してくれるかそっけないか。謙遜的か。私に興味を持ってくれているか。私のことを知りたくて一緒に時間を過ごし、共に成長したいと思ってくれるか。

で、彼女を見つけました!ニューホープ大阪

きれいで、インターナショナルで、ハワイ生まれの彼女。家族を大事にして、天使の様な歌声をもっている。謙遜的なリーダーシップ、霊的なギフトのことを学びたいと願っている教会。彼女の知恵ある教えには驚かされます。

インターナショナルだけど大体は日本人と日本的な文化の教会です。

日本にきてからの二ヶ月、ホームと呼べる教会が無くて霊的に衰弱していたから、この教会と出会えて本当〜〜〜に感謝!

A Recent Event at New Hope 最近のニューホープのイベント

New Hope recently invited Soma Nobuko, for a workshop on bold prophecy. My, my, my. She was shining with Jesus. The church were encouraged by her words of prophecy, and she taught that every one of us could hear from the Lord and prophecy over each other to build up one another. Ahh! Japanese people, believing in the Holy Spirit, exercising the spiritual gifts?! That’s exactly what I wanted to see!! This was special because it was taught by a Japanese person—not by a foreigner. It was my first time seeing something like this. Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, thank you Jesus, Amen.

相馬のぶこさんが予言のギフトのワークショップをしてくださいました。彼女の教えと予言には驚くほど励まされました!どうやってお互いを預言を通して励ますかを学びました。だれでも聖霊を通して 預言できる。え〜〜!日本人の人たちが!聖霊様を信じて!霊的賜物を使ってる?!私が夢見てたことが起こってる〜!嬉しい!外国人じゃなくて日本人がこういうことを教えているのはすっごく特別だと思う。ハレルヤ!

Praise Report プレイズレポート

  • We were praying for our finance recently, and God provided multiple projects for Erich so we have more income!
  • I finished the fall semester at Regent and now in Christmas break. Praise Him for giving me the strength to do well in all the courses.
  • We settled on a church and have a spiritual family in Osaka.
  • Having many guests over – God knows that we are lonely and want fellowship! More guests are planning to visit 🙂 I want to write more on this later.
  • お金のこと祈ってたら、エリックにたくさん仕事が入ってきた。
  • 秋の学期を無事に終わらせることができた。
  • 教会が決まって、霊的家族が増えた。
  • 友達がたくさん遊びに来てくれた。後でもっとこの事は書きたい。

Prayer Request プレイヤーリクエスト

  • Strength for Erich – He is a full time language student AND work to make a living for both of us.
  • Friends and good friendship. Especially friends who could play board game with us. Just kidding… but seriously.
  • Evangelical opportunities for Christmas season!
  • フルタイムで学生と仕事を頑張っているエリックにもっと力を。
  • 友だちが欲しい〜!特にボードゲームを一緒に遊べるカップル友達。
  • クリスマスに宣教のチャンスを。

We love you! Let us know how we can pray for you, too.

皆大好きだよ!どうやってあなたのために祈れるか教えてね。

Krystal & Brent’s Visit and etc.

hakuras-view

Hello dearies,

Even though our social media feeds look like we are having a bunch of fun all day every day, we are not like that all the time. Most of the time we stay busy with school and work, and we are really, really, really craving some quality time with people in general. We haven’t settled down in a community quite yet, and we don’t have many friends to hang out with.

But God is always good.

After all, it’s only been a month and a few weeks. We are just getting started.

A Break from the Daily Grind

Last week, we met someone who’s involved with Genesis International College and got connected to yet another church called Mustard Seed Church. I didn’t realize the power of worship and good worship music until I attended MSC’s service. I wanted to bawl. I was tearing up the entire time with my hands raised to heaven. I got to worship with the songs that I knew from the church back in the States. I got to sing from bottom of my heart. I got to really connect with the Lord through worship, which I haven’t been able to since arriving to Japan. I felt so free!! The Holy Spirit was moving, and I was able to sing in the Spirit, and it was just so beautiful. I was underestimating the power of good worship until now.

Krystal and Brent’s Visit

In the midst of discouraged time, we had Krystal and Brent over for a visit a few weeks ago. It was a fun and encouraging week. We ate lots of good food, went to touristy places, and had good conversations.  In case you haven’t seen our awesome video, here it is:

Yes, we acted like teenagers high on energy drinks. ’twas awesome.

Welcome to the Neighborhood: Osaka’s Spiritual Center

swastikaeverywhere

Our new apartment that we are moving into on 10/25 is located in the Tennoji district of Osaka. Take a look at the awesome Google map my dear hubby Erich created and embedded to see what our area looks like.

We had to be zoomed in this far to make buildings show up correctly. Pan around or zoom to find our new home and school.

View this map on Google Maps Engine 

No, they are not ze Nazis.

The vast majority of this area are Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines. Anything marked with a 卐 are Buddhist Temples and those marked with Torii gate symbols are Shinto. As you zoom in, you’ll notice countless other religious sites outside of the main areas we identified.

Our area in Tennoji is known for temples and “love hotels” (hotels for couples to ‘rest’ at an hourly rate). Spiritually speaking, we’re at the city’s epicenter for both temple worship and spiritual darkness.

We are here to be the light, and the map shows that God placed us in a major place of influence. Wow Jesus, you are bold.

Please pray for us!

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.

こんにちは!たくさんの祈りを感謝します。無事に日本に着きました!日本に着いてからのエリックと私の状況についてアップデートしたいと思います。

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

モランパーク教会に送られて

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!

アメリカにいる最後の週に、モランパーク教会から宣教師として送り出させてもらえました。この教会でどんなに愛されて受け入れられてもらったか言葉にできないくらいです。皆に祈って暖かい預言をもらいました。この教会から送り出される宣教師として、これからモランとの関係を続けて、教会のミッションプログラムを起てるのを手伝えることができて嬉しいです。ホームチャーチを私たちのアドベンチャーに含んでいくのを大事に思っています。モラン本当に大好き!!

II. The Arrival

到着

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!

到着後、大阪に直接行かないで私の実家の埼玉に数日泊まりました。実家に着いてから12時間もしないうちにお父さんの仕事で大事なグループカウンセリングを見学しながら手伝いをしました。一日中のセッションで、終わった後は倒れて寝ました。日曜は休み、月曜日に両親に大阪まで6時間運転してもらって短期のアパートに移りました。お父さんとお母さんに感謝!こんなにサポートしてもらって申し訳ないくらい。

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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

ホビットの穴に引っ越して

 

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!

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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.

短期アパートは、天満橋駅前と大阪城の横ににある20平方メートルのスタジオです。すっごくちっさい場所です。188cmのエリックは頭ぶつけまくってたんこぶ作りながらすごしています。

着いた次の日にお部屋探しのミニミニさんに手伝ってもらい、夢のアパートを見つける事ができました。80平方メートルの2LDK。エリックの語学学校からダッシュで三十秒。神様ありがとう!今月の25日にそっちに引っ越すので、大阪遊びに来てください!

新居のために祈ってくれてありがとうございました!もう少しで神様がそこは私達の家じゃない、と教えてくれたアパートと契約するところでした。そしてその日待って、もっといい場所が見つかりました。

IV. Group Counseling

グループカウンセリング

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.

日本に着いた後、父の仕事を見学する事が出来ました。私達が見たのは、悪霊と聖霊の力でした。セッションが終わった後、約二十人の方達のために祈ることができました。祈りが欲しい人、と聞いたとたんに皆んなの手が上がり、聖霊に満たされるように祈ることができました。神様に使われて嬉しい!

 V. Osaka Lifehouse

大阪ライフハウス

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.

去年数週間日本に来た時にライフハウスに行きました。その時にたくさんの人とすんなりと繋がる事ができ、神様が彼らのしている事に投資をすればいい、と導かれている気がしました。

私達みたいな白人・日本人のカップルが多くバイリンガルの礼拝があります。とにかく若い人が多い!牧師さん達も二十代、賛美もロックコンサートみたいな感じで元気な教会です。リーダーとして立ち上がっている若い人達を見ていて嬉しくなる。イエスを追いかけている姿がかっこいい!駅前で英語を話すアウトリーチにも参加しました。英語が大好きな日本人の方って多いんですね!立ち止まってくれた人達を教会のランゲージエクスチェンジに誘うアウトリーチです。これからもっとライフハウスの人達と働くのを楽しみにしています。

VI. Erich’s Thoughts

エリックの考えてる事

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.

恵美が殆ど書いてくれたけど、自分の考えも入れたかったから最後に一言。

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

謙虚さをまた学び

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.

新しい地に来ると、どれだけ自分が無知かを思い出します。新しい言語の上に、外人にとって何を始めるのにも難しい文化の中で色々チャレンジがあります。驚く事ではないけれど、日本人はアメリカ人ととても違います。日本では礼儀が正しい、ということは堅い社会のルールに従う、ということです。アメリカではよく見られる勇気や大胆さ、モロッコでお客さんを兄弟のように扱う文化ととても違います。

日本の人は単純な事をするのに全てのルールに従います。例えば、車が全然通っていない交差点で、二歩歩けば通れるのに、皆待ちます。銀行の口座を作るのにも、名字の入った印鑑を作らないと口座が作れません。携帯を買うのは複数の官僚で登録した自己証明書を持っていない限り不可能でした。

でも、いつも大事な書類を持ちあるくことに慣れ、新しい文化での生活に励んでいます。いつも法則に従うのは予測するのが簡単です。

そして、新しい教会のコミュニティで謙遜になることを学んでいます。ライフハウスのコミュニティは私たちを暖かく受け入れてくれました。とても繋がれる気がします。でも、ホランドみたいな皆が私を知っているコミュニティと異なります。権限があった場所から、他人のビジョンに使える場所に行くのは変な感じです。謙虚さが育まれます。でも、この町に大きな影響を与えているライフハウスの下に仕えるのが楽しみです。

[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 Trip to Virginia

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I. Regent University – Residency Program

The online counseling program at Regent requires a week of residency program in the fall, and this year it happens to be on the first week of August.

First of all, the program was intense and nerve-wrecking at first. The counseling skills class throws me in front of a recording camera and told me to start counseling (mock-counseling, of course). As we are fire-hosed with new skills each day, we were asked to use it within our recordings. The horrifying part was verbatims. I had to listen to my own counseling and transcribe them. Can you imagine the embarrassment of listening to your own voice and hearing every mistake you made? Cringe. That was the toughest part. I saw many tears from fellow students. It was the emotional process of learning who we are and our individual styles of counseling.

Residency included many hours of devotional and spiritual retreat. Many shared their testimony of how God called them to Regent’s program and to be counselors. People poured their heart out. I saw many tears, encouragements, and prayers. I got to hear what God is doing in each of their lives! I witnessed God’s confirmation for many. The residency is so meaningful for everyone, including our professors.

The nature of counseling attracts compassionate Christians. The classmates were those who want to help others and want to walk along side of people who need emotional or psychological help. I met one of the most kind, loving, and spirit-filled believers along the week. I got to be friends with a super-prophetic girl who’s absolutely in love with Jesus. I met a lady who was saved through Pat Robertson’s prophetic prayer on TV. Jesus is so good! I was feeling spiritually down for the past few weeks, and this residency week was a great encouragement and an answer to my prayer!

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II. Ghent Church. Shaba!

Erich and I met with some amazing siblings in Christ in Ghent house church that Travis pastors. They welcomed us with a fun dance party on the night of arrival. On Thursday we had a Holy Ghost screening at Michelle’s. On Saturday night, following a sweet worship led by Edmon’s angelic voice, Erich had an opportunity to share a teaching on prophetic deliverance (my hub is an amazing speaker, might I add). They prayed for Erich and me as we are headed to Japan. It was so, so encouraging to receive their care, love, and prayer. Even though I only spent one week in Virginia, I feel like I have a family there now. I’m so thankful to our Father for connecting us!

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III. Road Trips, Detours & Twerking

Each way was a 14-hour road trip. On the way home we decided to split our trip in two days. We stopped by at DC for a few hours to tour around the National Mall. White house, Washington Monument, Lincoln Statue, Smithsonian Aerospace and Natural History Museums, protests… we walked non-stop to see as much as we could.

Highlight of DC: We ran into an interesting event at a monumental park: a few hundred people working out by twerking. I’m not joking. Hundreds of booties in the air bouncing to music in public. I kind of joined, but Erich ran away from me so I gave up.

After DC, We drove another four hours to Pittsburgh and spent a night there after using “Price…Line…. Negoti-aaaay-tor” to book an awesome room.

The second day, we stopped by Bowling Green, OH to visit lovely Julia and her parents. They served us fresh veggies and delicious home-made everything 🙂 We drove another hour after lunch to Detroit area to pick up packing boxes and visited aunt Rose, Chris, and uncle Dan. It was raining so hard that we barely escaped the flooding on the freeway when we left.

Praise the Lord for all the provision!! It was a spiritually nourishing week, and I feel so fed.

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.

Chicago

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:

日本への引っ越しの準備 Preparation for Japan

amazing-tree-tunnels-5

Hello! Emi here. こんにちは!恵美です。

Even though the blog is supposed to be Erich and Emi’s, I have never contributed in writing a post yet. So I decided to update our loyal readers on our preparation progress regarding our move to Japan.

主人と始めたブログにまだ一回も書いていないので、日本への引っ越しの準備について書く事にしました。

As many of you know, we are leaving for Japan in September. “Isn’t that less than two months away?” Yes. It’s coming up so fast, and we’re slowly (very slowly) preparing for our new chapter of our life. Some things we are working on are:

もうご存知だと思いますが、九月に日本に引っ越す予定です。後二ヶ月しかないのに、ちょっとしか準備が進んでいません。今計画中なのは…

Visa ビザ

Even though I can enter Japan being a Japanese citizen, there are some paperwork issues we’ll have to resolve. Since I have no control over this, I’ll let God handle this matter.

日本人として入国できるのですが、書類関係でちょっと問題があります。どうしよーって言っても他に道が無いので、ここはイエスに任せることにしました。

As for Erich, he was accepted to YMCA’s language school. His student visa is currently in process. We hope to receive the visa in the beginning or middle of September, but we don’t know the exact date. Until then we won’t know when we are leaving either.

主人•エリックは大阪YMCA語学学校に入学する事ができ、十月から学期が始まります。学生ビザが九月の中旬位に届くらしいです。なので出発日はまだ決められません。

Moving 引っ越し

We found two Japanese moving companies in Detroit area: Yamato and Nittsu. The cost of moving is about the same as the value of things we are taking with us, so we decided to bring most of our possessions, such as pots, pans, a Keurig, a blender, a knife set—mainly things we received as wedding gifts. According to Erich’s experience, it’s better to bring them rather than buying from scratch in a new place. We are taking it all!

デトロイトにある引っ越し屋さんを二つ(黒猫と日通)見つけて、どちらに頼むか考え中です。持っていきたい物の価値が引っ越す費用より高いので、結婚祝いにもらった鍋、包丁セット、コーヒーメーカーなど、殆ど持って行くつもりです。エリックの経験によると、買い直すより持って行ったほうが楽なそうです。

Living Plan 住居計画

Upon arriving to Osaka, we plan to stay in a short-term apartment for a month to look for a long-term apartment. The living space will be very limited. As otosan (dad) jokes, we’ll be probably sleeping in a room size of our current bathroom. We believe that where we live will be crucial to our ministry, so against the odds, we are looking for a place with bigger and more rooms.

大阪に着いた後、短期アパートで一ヶ月過ごしながら長期のアパートを見つける予定です。日本人なら皆当たり前だと思うでしょうが、アパートはちっっさい場所になると思います。ちょっと調べてみたところ…え?リビングルームが無い?16平方メートル?お父さん:「今のアパートのトイレの大きさの部屋で寝るようだぞ。ハッハッハ笑」わかってるよ〜〜。でも、住む場所がミニストリーにとって大事になってくると思うので、余計に払ってでもいいから大きい場所が欲しいんです。神様が絶対ミニストリーにとって良い場所を用意してくれてると信じています。

As far as we researched, the rent for apartments is not as expensive as we thought. With 70,000-90,000 yen (about $700-900) per month, two bed rooms + living room apartments are available. Not so bad, right? But there’s a catch. To start a lease, we have to pay “key money”, which is like an appreciation money toward the landlord, and it could range from $1,000 to 2,000. Yikes.

日本って住むのが高〜いイメージがあったんですけど、調べてみたらそんなじゃない事がわかりました。アパートは大体7万から9万くらいで良い大きさの場所があるみたいです。でも礼金ってのがあるんですね。10万とか20万とか…高い…。

One thing I keep hearing from Japanese people around me is that it will be difficult for foreigners to live in Japan because landlord sometimes don’t trust the foreigners to rent an apartment. Or even finding a job as a foreigner is difficult. Or opening a bank. Overwhelming disadvantages exist, but God is gracious. We know we’ll find a perfect living and community catered to His plan.

周りの日本人の方から聞くと、外国人が日本に住むのは難しいとの事。住む場所借りるのも、仕事を見つけるのも、銀行の口座を開くのも、「大変だよー」らしいです。でもでも、イエスがついていてくれます!なので心配しなくても大丈夫なんです。絶対大丈夫になるんです

God is shaking Japanese people’s hearts. I can’t wait to be there to witness and be a part of what He and His children are doing for the kingdom!

今、神様は日本を動かしています。日本でクリスチャン兄弟と一緒に御国を広げるために使われるのが楽しみです!