|2008 Japan Mission Team
|This website was created to fulfill our desire to keep our supporters informed of what is happening and to allow you to pray more effectively as we serve in Japan. We have two teams, one in Nokendai and one in Tokorozawa. We serve only through the enabling of Christ's power. We will be in Japan from July 31st to August 13th.
|The 2008 Team
As I reflect back on the 2008 Lighthouse Summer Mission’s Team to Japan, I can’t help but smile (laugh) and thank God for sending such quality people to Japan. It reminded me of the team Lighthouse sent to Japan several years back – quality people, humbly serving others, willing to do anything, and shining for Jesus.
I was glad that Lighthouse was going to send two teams to Japan. One to follow up last year’s Nokendai ministry and the other one to help the Nakamuras. It so happens that during our first year back in Japan, the Nakamura kids were able to make friendships around the SEND Center, while we were looking for housing. The Reasoner Family, who ministers at the Center, had been following up with these children through various events. We thought a VBS program would be perfect to continue in that outreach.
Because we were contacted by Lighthouse early on, I was able to make reservations for housing at the SEND Center. Everyone was going to fit, even the additional Nokendai team for the first night. I was shocked to discover that the situation with housing changed due to unavoidable circumstances with SEND. Initially, I panicked and got quite upset, but the Lord settled me down and I began to give the situation to Him. In the course of planning, I arranged for the teams to stay at our home in Kashiwa and added prayer walks in our area to the itinerary. This may not have happened if everything worked out to stay the whole time at the Center. I look back and praise God for his guidance. One of my highlights was to have these teams join me in spiritual warfare in my area of Tokyo. We prayer walked a LOT, but not one complaint. Even Kelly, with his sore swollen knees, always had a positive word and a godly perspective. I believe the real work of the ministry starts with prayers like these.
I look back at the VBS program and all the time and effort that went into planning and preparing for the trip and I find myself in awe. A lot of work went into this. I also realize that a whole support team from home helped pay for and pray for this ministry.
I want to thank the dear brothers and sisters from Lighthouse (and elsewhere) for your partnership in reaching the Japanese for Christ. We Nakamuras also felt we made great friendships. Your hearts were truly joined with our desire to spread the Gospel in Japan. The Reasoners were also encouraged by the Lighthouse team. They have been freely sharing with other SEND missionaries of the blessings they received. They also desire to see another Lighthouse team come and minister at their church.
They long to see a breakthrough in that area of Higashi Tokorozawa and realize that teams like this can make a difference.
The kids responded very well at the VBS. Even though they didn’t understand the words of the songs, they sang with gusto and enthusiastically did the hand motions.
Every part of the VBS, the songs, crafts, story, skits, games, etc. were all used by the Lord to give the program a well balanced, fun atmosphere. I believe each child went home satisfied and glad that they came. The mothers who participated also enjoyed themselves. It was great to see the interaction with these mothers and the team. They were very interested to know what each member did as their occupation. They were impressed that the Lighthouse members used their vacation to serve at the church in Japan. I believe they sensed the love of Christ through each member. It was great to see the Lord use each member with their various gifts. All of this makes it easier to follow up with each child and family.
I feel though that the Nakamura family benefited the most. Words cannot adequately express how thankful we are. The team felt like family. Through this, we feel closer to the Lighthouse body. We are excited about what is happening at the church. We are honored to be a part of Lighthouse as one of your missionaries. Thank you for blessing us so much.
With much love,
Richard and Keri Nakamura
Alisha, Brandon, Hanna, Kayla and Nathan too
It is hard to believe that the trip to Japan is over. The time in Japan passed so quickly. The whole time there is just a blur. I have many treasured memories. Looking back what are three God sightings that stood out to me?
1. The blog worked out better than I ever imagined it could be. I am glad God put it on my heart to try a blog and a newsletter. I thought we could still write a newsletter like last year but with fewer members on the team we just didn't have the energy or time to write one. The blog was more than sufficient. I know that it kept the two teams connected daily even though we were so far apart. God really used this beyond my wildest imagination.
2. God put all nine of us in condo. God blessed us in many ways here. First of all, we were able to co-exist and even thrive in this environment. We adjusted well, no fighting for the bathroom or shower time. We graciously overlooked the snorers,(I being the worst). We all contributed to the supply of breakfast food and shared with no one complaining about what was being served. Last year Sets, Mei-Ling, Ev and I stayed in this condo while the rest of the team stayed at the Cadence Lighthouse. I felt like I really never bonded with the rest of the team because we were apart. This year was different, we all really felt like we were team bonded by our common experiences from sharing laundry to accidentally borrowing things from each other. The benefits of living together in close quarters vastly outweighed any drawbacks of 9 sharing 1 bathroom and kitchen. God truly blessed us in this situation.
3. The 3rd God sighting that I want to share was the VBS itself. I was so excited to see the children again. It was hard to believe that it had been a year since we last saw them. They all looked the same...it was if we never had left. The children were excited to be there and if anything their English skills had improved a lot more than my Japanese in the past year. Certainly I was blessed to be able to participate in the VBS program at Nokendai. So many small miracles though out the week showed that God's hand was helping us though VBS.
Thanks for reading my ramblings. Thanks for your support. Most of all thanks for your prayers. In Japan I was really aware of the spiritual war. This is a land where almost every child is consecrated in a Shinto shrine or prayed for in a Buddhist temple. Richard said that each child is blessed by a demon and desensitized to voice of the true God. Never has Ephesians 6:10-18 been so meaningful to me.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
We only spent one day with Richard and Keri Nakumara but I wished we had more time with them. Richard gave us a deeper understanding of what was happening in Japan. He shared the history of Christianity, the persecution of believers, and the spiritual culture in Japan. We had focused on developing relationships during the VBS week with the parents and kids, but Richard taught me about the "Tea House" moments in Japan. I experienced three of them.
It was on the last day and we were on the local bus going to another bus stop where we would catch a ride to the airport. Al got up to give a seat to an older woman who sat next to me. She began talking to me in Japanese and I quickly told her I was from America and did not understand. The amazing thing is she continued to talk and some how two people communicated without understanding each other's words. She gave me a woven momento and I gave her the last of my two pamphlets about God's love and salvation which had a CD in it. Richard had given two to each of us and encouraged us to pass them along as God directed. She shared a taped recording of Japanese opera and showed some music. When we got off, Richard told me what she shared with me. She had thanked me for this "tea house" experience where strangers come together for a brief moment to enjoy tea together and then go their separate ways. We prayed at the bus stop for this woman that she would be open to the message on the pamphlet.
It was then that I realized that God had given me other "tea house" moments. The second one was when Richard had taken us to Askusa where there were Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines that were surrounded by shopping and eating places. He prayed with us and then gave each of us 2 pamphlets to pass out. He asked us to pray as we walked through to the other end of the shopping area, and, if led, to pass out the pamphlets to people we meet. I had never done this. How do you know you are being "led" to give this pamphlet to people who speak a different language? Al and I walked all the way to the end and took a short break to buy a shaved iced cone. A woman said thank you to me in Japanese and smiled. We left to meet the team but I couldn't get rid of the urge to give that Japanese woman a pamphlet. I walked back and said thank you for the wonderful shaved ice. I passed the pamphlet to her and said, "This is a gift" and I left. She glanced at it and thanked me. I don't know what happened but it is in God's hand - two strangers from two different countries sharing a "tea house" moment.
The last "tea house" moment was at the nursing home in Nokendai. We shared the gospel, a story, we sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "Seek Ye First" in Japanese, and Matt played piano. Before we left, for some reason, I wanted to touch and shake hands with the people here. Amy had some cards with a message in Japanese about God's love which a supporter had given her. Everyone on the team took cards and began walking around. I took the hands of the people I met and said to them, "Arigatou gozaimasu. God loves you" as I gave them one of those cards. It was not a long moment with each person, but it was a short, shared experience that we pray will allow the people we met to come a little closer to becoming part of God's family.
I learned that God doesn't always use planned programs to do His work and that I have to be always ready for those "tea house" moments God gives us. Next year, if I go, I have been convicted that I need to learn to say "Kami-sama Anata Ai suru" - God loves you and much more. I also appreciated what Richard answered when we asked him, "You said that you were really shy when you were younger. What happened?" Richard would stop and talk to strangers and share the gospel as we walked. He said that when he was young, he had nothing to say. Now, with God's love in His life and the truth he now knows, he can't stop talking! It really convicted me.
Again, this trip has given me so much more than I gave to it. God used us to touch Japan, and God used our Japan experience to touch us. Thank you so much for all your prayers and support. Truly, you were an important part of both teams. What happened these past two weeks in Nokendai and Tokorazawa could not have happened without you all.
The 2 weeks in Japan went by so quickly. On Monday, the day before we were to come home, I was talking with Matt as we made our way to do a little sightseeing in Tokyo, and we agreed that we had experienced so much that it seemed like we had been in Japan much longer than 2 weeks, and yet, it was hard to believe that already the day to return home was fast approaching. It is difficult to pick 3 highlights, but here is my attempt.
First of all, I was truly blessed to see the transformation that occured in each one of us, as we were open to be used by God and took the risk of stretching ourselves to experience and do some things that we normally wouldn't. We knew little of each other when we first got together. We grew to know more about each other as we trained and had team building times in preparation for this Mission Trip. Living together only brought us closer, we worked together like clockwork, we laughed together until there were tears (I found out what a sense of humor each one had), and we intentionally cared for each other. We saw answers to prayer that grew our faith. A surprise answer to prayer, was our accomodations. Because of circumstances with housing not coming through for one of the Missionary family that was staying at the SEND Center, we were not all able to stay together. But, on the weekend, the housing opened up for the Missionary family, so they moved out of their apt. at the SEND Center, and the 3 of us that were staying off campus was able to move in so that we were all together. God provides! And these rooms were much nicer than I dreamed of. God provides abundantly! Another transformation that I observed was that some of us came out of our shells to be more bold for Christ than we ever have been.
Secondly, the prayer walks that Richard Nakamura took us on, grew my heart to connect with the people of Japan and gave me a real burden for them. Richard gave us information on the spiritual status of Japan and gave explanations of the origin of many traditions and the strongholds that are keeping many people of Japan in bondage. I realized not just in my head, but in my heart, that I can be a part of the work that the Christian Missionaries are doing, by being committed to praying for God to make a way for the light to be seen, and that many would feel hope by experiencing the love and grace of Jesus. Committed to praying for the Missionaries and for workers to come to help them. Committed to praying for the strongholds to be broken. Committed to praying for harmony of the churches that exist in Japan. Committed to praying for the growth of the church.
Thirdly, the children that attended the VBS touched my heart. I just want to share with you about a 1st grade girl, Kei, who listened so intently to the story of the Paralyzed Man from Mark 2. When I asked the question, "When Jesus first saw the Paralyzed Man, what did he do for him?" she raised her hand up high and quietly said, "He healed his heart by forgiving him." It thrilled my heart, as I thought that this was a hard question for such a young group. But she had gotten it! Sugoi!
There are so many people to thank, who helped us to be able to communicate the gospel and share God's Word, and who gave a helping hand with the crafts and games. We could not have accomplished what we did without Richard's, Chieko's, and Jon's translations. It made it so much more fun with Alicia, Brandon, Amy, Elisabeth, and Eliott helping. Arigato! (hey--that's the extent of my Japanese--so sad, I want to work on this.)
here it is, 2:20am (Seattle time) and i'm still awake...and not just because of the Olympics either. =P although i'm getting back to west coast time, i sit and read and re-read the blogs from our trip and pray for all those we have left behind; for all those we have had the opportunity to meet, talk with, sing with, share Bible and faith stories with, eat with, laugh with, cry with and pray with...i want to remember the people and the missionaries and the children...and not stop praying...
The other day, kelly found himself recycling like we did in Japan and i found that "PET" symbol on the bottom of a fruit carton. wherever we went in Japan, we were looking for those recycle containers to throw away our empty bottled waters/drinks we had purchased from one of the many drink machines along the way. we gave one of our TMK members a hard time as he unknowingly walked up to a cigarette machine to get a drink! lol! he was tired! =P silly memories but the recycling alone tells a little about the nature of Japan and it's desire to be clean and efficient.
i know we were asked to do "highlights" but after reading everyone's blogs along the way, i remember so much. as i read the earlier blogs about when we went to the govt building, i remember kelly thinking they might not let him past the check point because he had his leatherman with him. but, praise God, they let him in!
i remember being squashed like sardines into the elevator (plus backpacks) how many stories up! how many of us were in there??? and i thought they only did that on the train! Mei-Ling and i were like, more?? lol! and the doors closed! We were just cracking up on the ride up to the top. =D ( a memorable laughter moment!)
at the top of this building, as we looked out over the city, i remember Richard Nakamura sharing about the shrines and temples. we could see one of the largest ones below. ironically, Richard said that President Bush also offered incense there not long ago. that made me sad. there is a need to be loving and caring and, yet, stand firm in our faith. as Richard shared, i began to gain a deeper understanding of the need to pray for the people of Japan. they are such a kind, courteous, hardworking, generous and giving people, yet, there is so much that stands between them and God (many gods--work, maybe too much technology, pride, shame, guilt, and so much more). it all makes it so difficult for them to freely come to know Jesus; to want to come and seek Him. letting go of traditions they have grown up with is hard to do for fear of shaming their family or being shamed.
Heavenly Father, asking that You would break those barriers down. like the story in the Bible about the blind man who had to choose to obey Jesus' instructions to wash the mud from his eyes. like the blind man, that they might see Jesus for the first time and believe. that they might want to come to Him like the 10 men who shouted for Jesus to help them. that they might experience the physical and spiritual healing of Jesus, and know it is Him and only Him they need to give thanks. or like the paralyzed man, that we might be people that can help bring people of Japan into the presence of Jesus so they can be, not just physically healed, but spiritually forgiven of their sins by a holy and loving God and have eternal life in heaven.
this trip has grown my heart in prayer. not just for the people of Japan but the missionaries who give their lives to share God's love and message of salvation. as i looked on the websites for the Lighthouse Cadence and SEND International and read about the Nakamuras, the Reasoners and the Bowdens, and remembering the Tamuras, i began to pray. praying God's equipping and annointing of His Holy Spirit for them to love His people and share His truth. asking for God's Holy Spirit to fill them, encourage them and help them persevere. asking God to raise up workers to come alongside and help them in ministry. that they might see even a glimpse of the fruits of their labor for the Lord as He begins to touch and transform lives; as He begins to draw people to Him. dear Jesus, as they seek to love and obey You, carry them on Your wings and help them soar for You. be their shelter and their mighty fortress. in all things, that You might be glorified.
those words, "carry them on Your wings", remind me how one of the boys Richard has been building relationship with is deaf. that was another God-sighting that day. the TMK team had split into 2 groups to prayer walk the area on the way to the Kashiwa's home where service is held. Mrs. Kashiwa took one group and Richard took the other. (that was a very HOT day!) along the way, our group just happened to run into this young man as he was out riding his bike, and Richard invited him to the Sunday service. and, shortly after we arrived, this boy came! :) as we closed our time with songs, one of the songs was the one with the hand motions (hold me close, let Your love surround me)...part of the song talks about "eagles wings"...as i did the motions i could remember, i realized that this boy who was deaf was watching. at that moment, i thought, Lord, how cool to be able to share some of that song with signing!--something i felt God did just for that boy! :) praying God would help him to understand even a little of what that song was saying.
on that prayer walk, Richard also shared how there were now 24 hour internet cafes (where you could even shower!) popping up all over Japan. one more thing to draw people away from family and home. that also made me realize how technology, even back here, can keep us from hearing or spending time with God. while we were in Japan, although we were on the computer to blog or download pictures, we didn't watch tv or use cell phones...and, although at times it would have been nice to have a couple of cell phones just in case we got lost, that wasn't always possible. less technology was good for connecting with each other more and use more of that time to pray through the train stations, along the street and in the stores.
at the end of our trip, when both our teams were trying to meet Richard at one of the busier, bigger train stations, we had taken the wrong train so we got off on a different platform than planned. although we tried calling Richard's cell phone from a pay phone, for whatever reason, we were not able to get through to Richard. after waiting for a bit and no success in finding Richard, i appreciated Mei-Ling's reminder to stop and pray. so we did. we asked God to guide Patti and help find Richard on the platform above. and, lo and behold! Thank you, Jesus, for answering our prayers! that made me realize how we can sometimes rely on our cell phones instead of on God to guide us. Thank you, Mei-Ling, for reminding us to go to God in prayer to show us the way! :)
ok, now it's 4am...and time to sleep...but my brain is buzzing with thoughts and prayers...there is much more but time to sleep...or at least try. maybe that's why i overslept this morning! =P
Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunity to go on this mission trip! please help us to remember what You have taught us and help us to keep in touch as we are led. please continue to water the seeds that have been planted, both in our hearts and in the hearts of the children and moms from VBS. please watch over each of the team members too and help them get some rest.
As I sit here reflecting on the trip, what comes to my heart is sadness, a deeper understanding and desire to be supportive of the missionaries there, and a growing desire to be intentional about pushing back the darkness that is there in Japan. These all come from the realization that since my last "missions" trip to Japan 25 years ago, little has changed spiritually. The scene of a mom rigorously teaching her 4 or 5 year old son how to offer incense and how to wash before entering the budhist temple repeatedly plays in my mind. Unless he has a chance to attend something like a VBS, this may be all he knows. Technologically and "fashionably" the Japanese are soo "up-to-date". But sadly to say, spiritually, they are still doing what they've done for generations. Biblical references about generational sins have taken on a new reality for me.
I have a deeper understanding that the battle for the Japanese heart is truly a spiritual one. One that will take perseverance and patience - hence my realization that I need to keep Richard and Keri, Jon and Chieko, Shirley and Koichi, Joy, Tina, and the Bowdens in constant prayer. Prayer that their hearts are soo close to God, that they will know where and when they need to be somewhere so they can plant just one more seed within someones heart.
Intentionality on my part will mean me being more committed to Japan while here in the US. Trying to keep in contact with those in Japan so I can pray for specific opportunities. Maybe even looking into hosting a Japanese student... praying for next year and ways we can expand our opportunities to interact with the families as well as the children.
I have many other memories I will cherish from this trip, from a hug from Amy, to throwing a bucket of water at Richard, oh, and should I mention the bird poop...
By His Grace,
The highlights for me from this trip
1) Mission work and Prayer walk is hard work
2) Thank God for obedience kids and more kids show up and the kids were praying with us
3) The Moms are great and I hope I can build relationship especially when I went back to Nokendai(everyone is like old friends with lots of Hugs). Katsura asked about me(the Mom that I've e-mailing for a year
4) Get to know new missionaries Ada So and Yamuel Li from Hong Kong, make me understand more on long term mission and what they go through
5) Saying Goodbye to the families and Miwa's Mom and Brother take us to the bus station
6) Understand why we need to go to Japan for Mission
And many more highlights. And thank God for everything. Also many thanks to Richard and Keri Nakamura, Jon and Chieko Reasoner, Shirley and Kohichi Tamura, Jim and Martha Boden, Joy, Ada and many other friends
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