Saturday, June 13, 2009

Challenge Week

Well we've just finished our "challenge week" here in Tokyo: hard, but rewarding as well. Last Sunday our directors told us that this week would be more intense ministry-wise, and they weren't kidding. Monday through Friday both campus teams went to our campuses an hour earlier than normal so that we would have an extra hour each day doing ministry. Needless to say, this meant waking up an hour earlier as well, which is always hard to do ;). In general it was tiring being on campus that much longer, but it was a good opportunity to rely on His strength and make sure to find rest in Him. There were days on campus when I just had to take a break and find a solitary place to get refueled. On Friday night we also held a "Discover Friends" party that we put on with the JCCC staff and students for students that we'd met on campus. On top of that we had prayerfully made some personal goals that we were trusting the Lord to accomplish if it was his will.

For me, the first part of the week was pretty hard and at times it was easy to get discouraged. On Monday and Wednesday at Gaidai University I felt like there were a lot of conversations I had where the students just weren't interested in talking, and even just finding out what their hobbies were was hard to do. On Monday Kyle and and I even talked with someone who said he had been reading the Bible and liked the fact that "it says truth." Yet when he said he didn't really understand the main message of the Bible and we told him we could explain it if he wanted, he refused and left soon afterwards.
Tuesday we were at ICU high school again for our picnic outside, but the number of people that came was a little disappointing and almost no guys showed up, so I didn't really have anyone to talk to. It's definitely hard when these kinds of things happen, and you can definitely be praying against discouragement in the future. It's been a good reminder that God is in control and I just have to wait and trust him to do what he wants in HIS timing.

Thankfully the second part of the week was much more encouraging. On Thursday Sammy, Kyle and I got to sit with three students and have a conversation that was over an hour and a half long. They eventually said that were interested in what we believed, and from that we were able to share the gospel with them in depth. All three of them seemed to be listening and understanding what we were saying, and one especially looked like he was deep in thought. Pray that we will be able to meet with the three again and continue to pour into their lives.

Friday was also a good day on campus making contacts, but the highlight of the week was definitely our Discover Friends party that night. All week we had been letting students on campus know about the party but didn't know how many would actually show up. What was really encouraging for me was that a guy named Togo that I had met at ICU before we got kicked off still wanted to see me again and came to the party. It was really neat to realize that God had worked through me in the little time that we were on that campus and already provided a relationship with him. I was also really encouraged that a guy that I had just met earlier that day at Gaidai named Toshihiro also came even with only a few hours notice.

At the party we had a big icebreaker game and then ate dinner, after which one of my teammates, Jessica, gave her testimony in front of everyone. After the testimony some of the Student Impact students and staff did an interpretive dance and then we broke up into groups to have Soularium discussions. Soularium is an evangelistic tool that Campus Crusade uses that consists of about 50 photographs that you spread out in front of people and then ask a series of questions. Some of the questions were "which three pictures describe your life right now and why? ", "which three do you wish your life was like and why?", "which picture describes God to you?" and "if you had a personal relationship with God, which picture shows what you think it would be like?" I had Togo and Toshihiro in my group and it was great to see what they think about their lives and how they view God. The discussion went really well, and now I know more about where they're at spiritually. I'm really looking forward to meeting with them again soon - hopfully this week. Please be praying for God to soften their hearts and pray that in meeting with them I will be able to both show and explain God's love clearly.

We now have only seven and a half days left on our campuses in the next two weeks, which is a crazy thought! Please pray now for boldness in the relationships that we have been able to make up to now, and that God would be working in the hearts of those we've already met. I've just been really encouraged as I was looking through my notebook to email the students whose contact info I've gotten. I have a lot more contacts than I thought for people that I'll probably be able to meet with again, which is a blessing. Please continue to pray for strength, energy, and motivation to push hard until the end. I would also appreciate prayer for deep, restful and refreshing times with the Lord in the mornings, as I want to be doing ministry completely out of His strength. I'll leave it there for now. Thank you for your prayers, and God bless!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Week 2 Update

What an encouraging week! With the exception of one fairly big complication that God still used to direct my campus team, the week went really well...God knew we needed the encouragement!

The week started out on Monday with my team going to Gaidai University. One of the big encouragements of that day was that Emily ended up sitting with a girl who started asking lots of questions about Christianity. Not only was she able to share the gospel with her, but she gave her a Japanese translation of the Bible. Immediately the girl read straight through the first eight chapters of Matthew! Emily is going to be following up with her and you can pray that her hunger grows. The day was also encouraging for me because I got to meet with Gen (the Project Director) to talk about how project was going for me and share what I had been learning. That night was Date Night with Jesus. Reading all the way through the book of Hebrews in one sitting was something I've been wanting to do and hadn't gotten around to yet, so I decided to do that for my date. I absolutely love the concept of Jesus as our Great High Priest, and it was really nice to be reminded that we may have confidence to approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace: super encouraging.

The highlight from Tuesday night was definitley Men's time in the evening. The second half of the guys shared their testimonies (the first half did so the week before) and it was awesome! We really fought for our brothers through prayer as God broke down walls that had been built in some of our lives. It was amazing to see some wounds that had been burried for so long come to the surface and begin to be healed. How freeing!

Wednesday we were back at Gaidai and had an impromptu "English Lunch." A few of the Japanese Cru (Student Impact) staff came to the campus at lunch time and told us to go invite some students to come eat lunch with us. I felt a little silly doing so, but there was a good handful of students that accepted our invitation. After I had chatted with one person for a while, one of the staff named Shi-wen (or Nicole) asked me to come with her to speak to two girls who wanted to practice their english. Eventually they asked me why I had come to Japan and I told them about the Christian "circle" (that's what they call clubs here) that I'm a part of in the US. After they asked more about it I asked if I could tell them about Christianity and what I believed. They then allowed me to take them through a Japanese four laws booklet while Shi-wen clarified (in Japanese) anything they didn't really understand. They were so interested! and at the very end they were asking Shi-wen how it could be that easy and how God's gift could be free! When they left they said they'd try to come back next week, and I gave them both a copy of the four laws booklet to take home. That was really encouraging for me! And to add to that one of my roommates, Joe, who's on the other campus team got to see someone accept Christ on the same day! Isn't God great!! Please pray for Yuichi's new walk with the Lord, and that Joe will be able to follow up with him and encourage him in actively pursuing God.

It was also on Wednesday, however, that we found out that my campus team and Student Impact staff was banned from our first university campus ICU (the complication). The ICU administration has apparently become very concerned about cults coming onto the campus and believe that we're associated with one. We learned that they had gotten a list of students involved in Student Impact and had been watching them and observing the Student Impact staff for quite some time. It might have been our presence on campus that put the administration "over the top," but one of the Student Impact members was called in and scolded, and told that our team and the staff was not allowed on campus again. This was definitely hard to hear, and you can pray that God would soften the hearts of ICU's administration to allow Staff (and us) back on to the campus. For now, we will be going to Gaidai University every day except Tuesday (I'll explain in a bit). Yet even though this was somewhat bad news for us, God totally used the situation to direct our team and give us another outreach opportunity...

This week at the ICU highschool (right across from ICU) was Christianity week. Four people on our team were going to go to one class at the highschool on Thursday and two on Friday to share their testimonies with the class and then break up to lead discussion groups. Yet due to being banned from ICU, the whole team of 8 was able to go to the highschool. As a result, the discussion groups that each one of us lead were much more intimate with only about 5 students instead of 10. A lot of us were able to have great conversations in our groups and were even able to share the gospel with the high schoolers! We were talking about it later, and none of us could imagine that happening if only four students had gone. We also held a "picnic" lunch gathering at the high school on Friday to speak english with anyone who wanted to come. It was raining at the time, so our "picnic" was held in a classroom and less students showed up, but it was still a great opportunity. It was really neat to see how God used the "bad" situation of being kicked off ICU to guide all of us to the highschool: just another reminder of His sovereignty! Now the whole team will be going to the highschool every Tuesday to hold the picnic lunches. You can pray that future Tuesdays will be sunny so that more people will come!

So that was this week. We were all pretty tired going into the weekend, but definitely encouraged. Yesterday we went to the famous fish market - quite a fun experience (I'll try to post pictures later on), and then went to eat fresh sushi right next to it afterwards. In the afternoon I was able to rest for a bit (SO needed) and then most of us went to a big park and threw a frisbee, bumped a volleyball, and kicked a soccer ball. That was also really refreshing and wonderful time to be around some green in the midst of all the cement.

This next week is going to be a challenging one as we're going to be trusting God with specific goals and going to our campuses for a little longer each day. (I'll try to give you more details next time). Please pray that we will rely on His strength and that in the midst of it all we will find REST in Him. You can also pray for encouraging conversations and that we will continue to build lasting relationships with the Japanese students. Thank you again SO much. I appreciate all your prayers and hope that you are also encouraged in what the Lord is doing over here.

God Bless You!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Oops... A little late

Wow, I'm sorry it's taken so long to get this update out to you guys. I can't believe it's already been about two weeks since we've been here! It's been quite the experience adjusting to the culture, figuring out our schedules, learning our trains routes, and getting familiar with the college campuses. A brief overview of the week for the entire team looks something like:

Mondays: 10am Quiet times (QT); 11am get on the train with our campus teams to go to the specific university campus for that day, return about 5pm; Date night with Jesus 6pm-8pm (extended time to "go out" and spend with the Lord.)
Tuesdays: 9am group prayer/worship; 10am QT; 11-5pm leave for/minister to/come back from specific campus; 5-6pm Training; 7-9pm men's and women's time.
Wednesdays: 9am group breakfast; 10am QT; 11-5pm campus time; 7pm family night (there's a family team that decides what we do during this time)
Thursdays: 9am group prayer/worship; 10am QT; 11-5pm campus time; free night (although sometimes we'll be going to the Japanese Campus Crusade meetings here - called Student Impact).
Fridays: 10am QT; 11-5pm campus time; free night
Saturdays: Free!
Sundays: 11am team lunches (the group is broken up into smaller teams like the family team, prayer team, outreach team, etc... since I'm a campus team leader I meet with my partner, the other campus team's leaders, and the project directors to discuss how things are going on our campuses; 2pm Church; 7pm group meeting.

A week ago Tuesday was our first time to split up into our two campus teams to go to our respective campuses. My team went to the International Christan University (ICU) and spent most of the day prayer walking and getting familiar with the campus. (Even though this school is labeled Christian most of the students and faculty are not at all). On Wednesday we went to our second campus, Gaidai University, where we also prayer walked for most of the time. These are the two campuses that my team of 8 will be going to each week. Every Monday and Wednesday we'll be at Gaidai, and every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday we'll be at ICU. The other campus team is going to two different University campuses each week.

Ministry so far has been both challenging and encouraging. The first day on Gaidai campus my teammate Sammy and I were able to start a conversation with a student sitting at a table studying english. As we talked we were able to tell him why we were there and give him information on Student Impact (That's what they call Campus Crusade for Christ here). His response was "I don't have religion, but I like to practice my english, so can I come?" The next night he came to the Student Impact meeting and after the message asked what the gospel was. One of my teammates who speaks Japanese was then able to take him through the gospel with Student Impact staff members so that he could understand. Isn't that awesome?! Please pray that God would soften Hiroki's heart that he might come to know Him.

Thursday and Friday we went back to ICU and were able talk to students in the cafeteria, setup appointments, and even participate in an existing Bible study. Saturday was a free day and most of the team went to the heart of Tokyo to see the Imperial Palace. (Unfortunately we weren't able to go through the gates and see anything up close). Afterwards we went to the Asakusa district in Tokyo where we visited Senso-ji, Tokyo's oldest temple. Right as we walked in the sight was heartbreaking. People stood throwing their money into a big vat in front of an image of a dragon just before folding their hands to pray to it. I really felt weighed down just being there. My eyes fell on a woman who was so involved with what she was doing, and as I watched her go through multiple rituals my heart broke more and I just wanted to tell her that Jesus loves her. When she finally walked by me I asked her if she spoke english, but she didn't understand and kept walking. There is such a dark presence here in Japan, and I ask that you would continue to pray that our hearts would be broken for the Japanese, and that God would lead us to those whose hearts are being softened to hear His word.

The entire team is continuing to get along and work together really well. My campus team makes it pretty easy to be a leader, and my partner Emily is much more organized than I am and very encouraging. It's been a blessing to do ministry with all of them. Thank you for your prayers for unity for the entire team. Please continue to pray for that, as I'm sure the evil one isn't too happy and will try to bring discord.

My Campus Team: Guys Left to Right- Tim (Merced College), Jack (Arizona State), Kyle (Central Michigan), Sammy (USC), Me (USC) Girls Left to Right - Amy (Arizona State), Traci (University of South Carolina- the other USC), Emily (Eternity Bible College)

I think I'll stop here for now. There's much more to tell so I'll be sending another update very soon. Thank you for all your prayers. God Bless!

In Him,

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Finally There! The process

We're Finally In JAPAN!!!! And it feels SO good to be overseas again. (I realized that before coming here it had been the longest amount of time that I had ever stayed in the US without going overseas...Two consecutive years!) I love experiencing different cultures and am so excited to have this opportunity for the next five weeks laboring for Christ. Thank you again to those who have partnered with me in order to make this trip possible! Let me share with you what's taken place up until now...

On Tuesday the 19th of May I arrived at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, CA to meet up with the 16 other people (14 students 2 directors) that I would be spending the next month and a half with. Briefing lasted until the morning of Friday the 22nd, and while there we had team times to get to know one another and learn more about what we would be doing in country.

On the night of the 19th after adding up the support that had been received by everyone, we were told that as a team we had $19,000 yet to raise in order to be able to fly out on Friday. After hearing the news, we all hit our knees (in prayer), our emails, and our phones to see if God would provide the rest of the money in the following 48 hours. And guess what, HE DID!! (God's pretty amazing like that!) Each time we met the number decreased, reassuring us that God had hand picked every one of us to go on this trip and wasn't going to leave us hanging (If we hadn't received the money the people who hadn't raised full support wouldn't have been able to get on the plane, so we're thanking God that the whole team is here!!) On top of that a passport that had been shipped for one of the team members was not put in the right house's mail box by the mail man the day before we left, so nobody knew where it was. Yet the morning we left God answered our prayers and the passport was found and picked up with plenty of time to spare. Isn't God awesome!?!!

So we all headed to the airport around 8:30am, and everything from there went smoothly. After 11 hours on a plane (that I spent mostly reading project orientation materials and chatting with the two teammates next to me) we landed in Tokyo! From there it was hopping on two trains with all our luggage to finally get to our new home (Koenji). We were all dead tired from the long day, and so right after getting to our rooms and having a brief apartment orientation meeting we hit the sack.

Sunday was mostly a day of resting and taking things slow, getting settled into the apartments and having some team meetings to discuss more of what we would be doing while here. To fill you in a little, our group of 15 students has been split into two "campus teams," that will be doing outreach on separate universities five days a week. I've been paired with one of the girls here to lead one of those teams and am really excited. As leaders we will be helping to shepherd our team members, encouraging them in ministry and giving them some direction as we go to our campuses. Please pray for humility and guidance for me as I take on this role. Right now I don't feel extremely equipped, but I was reminded today that this is a perfect opportunity to trust God and let him do ALL the leading. I know God's not in the business of calling the equipped, but equipping the called, so I'm excited to see how he'll stretch and grow me these next five weeks.

Today (Monday) we went to the Campus Crusade headquarters here and met the staff team that we'll be working alongside. They took us through another orientation and then we had a very helpful Q&A time where we were able to ask a lot of clarifying questions. After we were done our directors broke us off into small groups of three or four and sent us on a scavenger hunt where we had to find certain shops or items in one of the "down towns" of Tokyo: Shibuya (this also required us to find our way to Shibuya on the trains on our own)...let's just say we were asking a lot of random people if they understood english and/or if they could direct us to the places we were suppposed to get to. The activity was a lot of fun and we found that most of the poeple we asked were very willing to give the foreigners directions. My group's favorite activity was posing for pictures in a Japanese-style photo booth, where you can chose different backgrounds and themes for your pictures and then, after taking them, edit the pictures by drawing/writing/inserting objects into the picture before printing them out. Lot's of fun!

That brings us to tonight. Tomorrow will be our first day going on the university campuses that we're assigned to. We will mostly be getting a feel for the campus, figuring out what times activities happen/students are available, and praying over the campus. The whole team is excited to finally get on the campuses and start talking with Japanese students.

Please pray that God would soften the hearts of the Japanese students that we will be talking to and allow us to build fruitful relationships with them. Pray that our team will continue to mesh together well and grow to love each other more. Pray for protection from the attacks of evil one and from his attempts to bring disunity to our team. Pray for strength and energy as we go share the good news in this dark place, and pray that in all this God would be glorified and our own relationships with Him would continue to grow.

Until next time,