Japan 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Pictures!

So... there's a ton of text and not much pictures here... Time to change that. Here's some fun times from the last couple of weeks. Please read the updates, though, too. :)

Team Time at the girl's place

I like Onsens... So does Masashi



Yeah for coffee! Jerry, me, Keigo, and Masahiro (see Christy's blog for a sweet update about him.)

*giggle* *giggle* I hate cats *giggle* *giggle* Caspian must die

(Masashi has a mortal fear of kittens. Odd.)

Yo yo, where it at?

Some really overworked man fell asleep on Mark coming back from Bible study one night. Mark and the stranger got off at the same stop, and the poor guy missed his stop.

Gold Star to whoever leaves a comment with the best caption!



Till next time!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Martha, Martha, Martha...

Meet Caspian. He's small, cute, and loves sitting in baskets. Cute, huh? Unfortunately, most of the time we're speaking about him we use words like "devil cat" or "spawn of satan," thanks to his increadible nack of biting almost anything he sees and clawing your face. My belief is that God's purpose of cats is to be good cuttlers (and teach humility, but that's another story...). When Caspian tires himself out, he's calm and enjoys laps. Most of the time, however, he's just disruptive.

This saturday Bryan Gibbs, BEST club leader in Utsunomea, visited and shared some really encouraging thoughts. As a team we looked at Luke 10:38-42 (Mary and Martha) and learned how much we're like Caspian.

He introduced three great thoughts about the passage:

  1. Jesus is more interested in our relationship for Him than our service to Him. He would rather have your delight than duty
  2. Martha is compelled to ensure success on her own effort or with the help of others, while Mary trusts the issues of life in Jesus' hands, along with the outcome.
  3. Mary choose to sit and listen to Christ, just as we must chose to sit and abide in Him.

Great thoughts. For the last couple of days I've found myself wanting to formulate this into a truth I could file away in my mind and instantly apply to everything. But it's not that simple. It is a continual reminder. Everyday must be an internal decision that "it's not my conversations, questions, or even love that will bring my friends here to Christ. Time, events, and scheduling must all be second to my devotion to Christ."

There is such an element of surrender connected to this. Surrendering MY abilities, talents, desire to control and change someone else's understanding, scheduling, or the situation. Esentially, surrender my perspective of "success."

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5). What is the role of a branch? To sit. How does the branch grow fruit? Is it by straining, trying really hard, and grunting alot? No. Fruit will grow when the tree decides it's time. Did Jesus need Martha to cook? Judging by the chapter before, I think not... It was Martha who needed what Jesus had, not the other way around. The Tyranny of the Urgent. What is really important: Sleep or Quiet Time? Non-stop student interaction, or an hour of prayer?

"I replied, 'But my work all seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose at all! Yet I leave it all in the Lord's hand; I will trust God for my reward.'" Isaiah 49:4

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fellowship Time

















Life here still seems pretty surreal. Take this morning for instance. Our team walked back from Mark's house after watching the world cup (started at 3am; yeah Italy!). We saw the sun rise. Never though that would be in the agenda for this summer...

...Or my friend from Texas who I haven't see in 3 years coming to visit for the weekend (because he just happened to be in China...). Since Arizona and Texas are too far away, we decided to pick somewhere closer, like Japan :). It was amazing catching up and seeing how God has been shaping his life these last couple of years. Here's us at a sushi bar and playing hide and seek in the train station:








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"After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what is our proud reward and crown? It is you! Yes, you will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus when he comes back again. For you are our pride and joy."
I Thess. 2:19-20

Every sunday we have a fellowship time between the team members where we discuss the Bible study that we've looked at throughout the week. This week was I Thess. 2. I believe this chapter paints one of the best pictures of life on life relational evangelism and discipleship in the Bible.

A great question was raised towards the end of the study; what is Paul's attitude towards these people? In verse 6 he says "We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else." Yet he goes on to call them his "crown," and "proud reward." And this is not the first time we see this (see Phil. 4:1). A crown is a symbol of pride and power. So where is humility? What about boasting only in Christ? How is Paul not stealing God's glory?

Mark has some increadible insight about this. In ministry there is always the temptation to steal God's glory, yet God is set on not yielding his glory to another (Isa. 49:9-11). Motives for ministry can very easily become centered around adding to the tally of people I save. And the easy cop-out to avoiding this is to completely seperate yourself from the people your witnessing to. If there is no emotional attachment, there is no pride about what you have done. Yet Paul does anything but that, as clearly indicated by the rest of the chapter (and book...).

Mark pointed out that this this pride and joy is hardly an indication of a proud, sinful attitude on earth. For Paul says "...you will bring us much joy as we stand together before our Lord Jesus when he comes back again." This is the key. Not seeking God's glory for ourselves, but on the day of Christ's return being so excited and longing so dearly for the people because he wants the priviledge of standing side by side with them before Christ on the day of judgement. Paul is not looking for an addition to his scorecard or newsletter, but instead is so united with the mind of Christ that he yearns to present these people before God, as a pure, virgin offering to the King, to become worshippers standing before the throne in union with Christ. They are Paul's crown. His pride and joy. Not for himself, but as a present before our King, because Paul's mind is saturated with the knowledge of the beauty and glory of kneeling before God in Heaven. That is something to be excited about!

"I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him."
II Cor. 11:2

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Tyranny of the Urgent

A couple nights ago we tried teaching Americanized Swing to the Japanese.


Dance, dance, dance!


















wow i'm a stud

















lets look closer at that one... I think the bruise is finally healing...

















At least the students thought it was funny :)


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"The worst sin is prayerlessness" ~P.T. Forsyth

This morning John took our team through an increadible session called the "Tyranny of the Urgent." It battles between the increadible tension of doing what's important vs. what's necessary, and ultimately redifining the things we may call "urgent." It reads "Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important." How can we find balance between what seems like it must be done today: meeting with students, helping others with their problems, loving people, time sensative obligations; and that which is important: Bible study, prayer, etc. For me, I almost get a sense of pride and accomplishment from packing out my schedule and "going it along." A sense of accomplishment comes from continually being tired due to appointments, investing in people during every spare minute, 'suffering' by postponing studying for a test to help a friend in need, and being so buisy that there is hardly time to think. Yet at the end of Jesus' life he doesn't complain about being exasperated from urgent time obligations. Instead he simply said John 17:4 "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do."

How could Jesus have "finished" after only three years of ministry? He healed dozens, but there were still hundreds more left starving and hurting, without even knowledge of hope. The secret of Jesus' life and work for God came from him prayerfully waiting for His Father's instructions and for the strength to follow them, demonstraited in Mark 1:35 "...in the morning, a great while before day, He rose and went out to a lonely place, and there He prayed."

'The need itself is not the call; the call must come from the God who knows our limitations. Ps. 103:13-14 says, "The Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." It is not God who loads us until we bend or crack with an ulcer, nervous breakdown, heart attack, or stroke. These come from our inner compulsions woupled with the pressure of circumstances.'

I really connected with this article. It seemed last year all I did was jump from one obligation to another. I rarely had time to think, and though I would still get good time with God, it was almost never for the purpose of seeking direction and instruction about what the next 24 hours held for me.

Then an even scarier though occured to me. Why did I set such pressure for myself to do all of these things? Despite some of them being really good things, they were still just things. John made a great point that "Urgencies reguarding people often come from lack of faith." I lacked the faith that God could complete it on his own. But more than that, I failed to realize that I, in fact, am not needed. None of us are. We are chosen to do the work that God calls us to, and we should apply ourselves to what God has called us to with all our heart, but whether the work is finished or not is in no way dependent on us. He does not really need me to complete His task.

All of this is merely to reinforce the point that we talked about at the beginning of the first day of orientation that I so easily forget; my first task is to love God; everything else, including loving others, must come second.

Ryan

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hello! This week's been a bit wierd coming off of the Kyoto Trip. This was the first regular week the UCI team has been here, and it seems everyone's gone into hiding after Kyoto. The last day or two however we've gotten alot of hang out time with the students though. First time Karaoke, the Zoo, Swing Dance Tokyo style, small festival, sleep over, etc...

My most impactful time this week was actually pretty depressing. Jerry and I checked out our downtown location where we're supposed to be living right now, but it just felt wierd. It took us 2 and a half hours to get there, and an hour and a half to get back the next morning. We will be rooming with a two guys, Stephan and Takumi, but still aren't sure when we will "officially" move in.

It was really interesting talking with Stephan. He's from South Africa and now his parents are missionaries in Japan. He redefined what I thought was a hard life. Currently he works about 80 hours a week (leave at 7, home at 10), yet is not a work-a-holic. He simply does it because that's what it takes to earn a living in downtown Tokyo. He is fighting to try and show Christ in the work place through the way he lives, but it was a rude wake up call to me to see how different that actually is from the life I live in college.

During the time he was at home and we were together, it was hugely encouraging to see him open up his home to one of the students who came over and spent the night. After such a long work day the last thing I'd want is for someone to barge in my house, eat my food, and sleep on my couch, but Stephan made it very clear that Toshi (the student) was always welcomed and never paid for anything while there. I can't really describe it, but something was significant about the visit. If nothing else, I can remember that compared to alot of others, my life right now is pretty stinkin' easy. This is the first legal job stephan's had (due to citizenship), and here I am at the end of the day exahusted from hanging out with students after visiting the zoo, eating a delicious meal, and relaxing with some quality green tea. Yeah, about that suffering... Granted it can be really tiring, but right now, things are going pretty well.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Post-Kyoto


entering the first temple



Greetings! So we returned from Kyoto 2 days ago and I think have finally recovered from energy and sleep deprivation. Weekend trips take alot out of you! Jerry took a bunch of awesome pictures of us and the students, but you can't look at that until you read the blog :) (right Maiu, left Tomoyo).


The trip was a really awesome time. I think God really had his hand on it. Alot of friendships were established among the setters and the students, as well as among the students. It is interesting how, because of the Japanese culture, it is really difficult for a Japanese to have a really close friend that they can be honest and open with. Most people never find one. Now, however, i feel like there is much more of a sense of companionship between the studnets in the club. Where they want to come not only because of what the club stands for, but also because that's where their friends are, and where they feel like they belong. (left: Mikkun and Jerry, right: Naoko, Mike, Michi [background], Mamoru, Masashi)




group shot of the guys

I was feeling pretty discouraged halfway through saturday, because we had been with the students for a long 8 hour bus ride, and spent the whole day touring, yet we had not had any significant talks or anything. I was missing the point however. We had been building shared experiences and establishing trust and friendships with the students, which was necessary before any intense conversations could take place.
(right: a wall where prayers are hung at the temple)


Even so, that night we were placed in pairs, one nihonjin (Japanese) and one gaijin (foreigner), to talk about the day. I was paired with a freshman named Masashi (in pic to right), one of the students who has been around Mike and I the most. He took the initiative and was asking all sorts of questions about God, Jesus, the Bible, Love, Death, and Afterlife. He went on to say that he believes in God because of how he's see God change his life from high school to now. He used to do alot of bad things, but now God has changed his heart to be kind and look after others. It was awesome. It is so cool to see how God has already been working in Masashi's life though people and events in the past. And to see how He has been softening his heart, and preparing him into someone who is open and teachable. Please be praying that God would continue to reveal more about himself, and especially about the Bible and Jesus.

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I've felt like my head is on overdrive sience I've arrived in Japan, and that I can't formulate a coherent thought about anything, but I believe one definate thing that God has been teaching me is about relying on His promises; namely the invitation to come, both for non-Christians and me specifically. If we come, God promises he will be found. I read through Revelations a little while ago seeking God on what he's said about the Nations, and was really excited by Rev. 22:17, where it says

"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life."
Another verse that really stood out is Jeremiah 31:7-9. It is talking about the restoration of Israel after God has promised its total destruction. He promises to restore it, and Jeremiah says we should pray for these things to come. I think this is a great picture of what to pray for Japan.
"Now this is what the LORD says: "Sing with joy for Israel! Shout for the greatest of nations! Shout out with praise and joy: `Save your people, O LORD, the remnant of Israel!' For I will bring them from the north and from the distant corners of the earth. I will not forget the blind and lame, the expectant mothers and women about to give birth. A great company will return! Tears of joy will stream down their faces, and I will lead them home with great care. They will walk beside quiet streams and not stumble. For I am Israel's father, and Ephraim is my oldest child."
Two other passages that have really impacted me are Isaiah 43 and 55. But I'll let you check them out on your own. :). Until then, please keep Japan in your prayers.

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Now as promised, here's the link to the pictures: KYOTO PICTURES

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Awesome Happenings

Hi there! I want to start by thanking you for whatever prayer you’ve given, and encourage you to keep praying, both for us and the students. Pray for protection from spiritual attacts for all of us, and for openness to Jesus and the Bible for the students. That they would wnat to hang out with us for a greater reason than to just learn English. Also that they would be accepting of the UCI team that just arrived.

God is doing really cool stuff here. I think back to last Tuesday night as we are riding back on the Monorail at 6:00 pm, completely exahusted, hungry, and ready for some down time when one of our favorite students, Mamoru, happened to see us on the monorail. After feeling horrible convicted about inviting him over, we take him back to our place for dinner. Honestly I was kind of dreading it, because I was so tired, but it was a really awesome time. As luck would have it, it was his birthday and didn't have anyone to share it with. He taught us how to stirfry, and after eating like Kings, sat around and talked until after 11. We talked about both casual and serious things, and even touched on the Bible and some stories from Jesus. Though Mamoru doesn't believe in the Bible, he is a very open and teachable friend. It is amazing to look back and see how beautifully God orchestrated the entire night.

In other news, I was really touched by an artical they gave us at orientation and I just got around to reading. It is called "Not to be ministered unto," and talks about Mark 10:45, and how Jesus did not come to be searved, but to serve others. If we could grasp that, 99.9% of the problems having to do with relating to other people would be solved. Self dying-Christ living. I feel this is especially true about alot of the problems I have been facing here.

This weekend is a 3 day trip to Kyoto, where the California SETers [read: us] will get there first opportunity to meet alot of the students. Please be praying for this time! Almost all of the students are going. Please be praying for God to move in there heart, establish trust, and provide good conversations.

Finally, another hugely encouraging thing I experienced this week (last night actually) was a great example of spiritual multiplication. Last summer Jerry (a worker who's back again this summer) invested time in one of the Japanese students, Tai. Tai however, was very closed to alot of thinking and Jerry never really knew what his thoughts were regaurding alot of things. Once Jerry left, Eddy continued praying for and investing more time into Tai. And now last night after a movie, the same "shy, closed off" Tai asked Mike and I point blank why we believe the Bible is true, and how we know whether Jesus, or the Bible, or even the DeVinci Code is true. What a great opportunity! Though this was only after three weeks on our part of knowing him, it is cool to look back and see all of the effort and prayer that has been poured out into him over the last year. And what is more, his younger brother who is a freshman is also hugely open to the Bible, largly because of the level of trust between Tai and his brother.

Praise God.