Sometimes spiritual progress comes suddenly like a light switch. For me, it's usually more like a sunrise. Things begin to get brighter slowly, and at some point I realize the shadows are breaking up and the sun is climbing into the sky.
Last Friday definitely felt dark. When I got out of bed, I didn't want to get up! It was more than a sense of being tired; I felt something more like a hopelessness and dread about the day. I had two important meetings before noon, and I was behind on my sermon prep for Sunday. There was nothing about the meetings that should have created anxiety. Quite the opposite, they were meetings with people that I genuinely love, and we were talking about topics that are important for the Kingdom here. Working on a sermon is also something that should be a welcome block of time in my week. Nevertheless, on that particular morning I wanted to give up, cash in my chips, and get out of Dodge. Looking back, I realize I've felt that way a lot over the past 6-8 months.
On the way to my first meeting, it occurred to me that I should pray. I didn't feel like it. To be honest, I didn't have much faith that the Father would be inclined to listen to my complaining. I had even less faith that he would respond. Thankfully, His willingness to respond doesn't turn on the size of our faith. The Spirit met me there in the car during the rush hour commute. He lifted my head and reminded me why we're here in Japan - and that He is with us. He also reminded me that very often, I don't have because I don't ask.
Last Friday, I called out in my distress and God answered me. I'm not sure precisely when it happened, but at some point between home and mark parking spot, the shadows started to retreat and I found myself standing in the warm sunshine of God's grace.
Recently, I've been experiencing a lot of hard-to-explain discouragement. Some of that is easily attributed to my sinful flesh and personal weaknesses that I bring to the table. Of course, we also live in a world and have an enemy that actively oppose the expansion of the Kingdom. So, this month, would you pray especially for our hearts to be soft toward the Spirit's leadership, quick to pray, and quick to repent? Pray also that we would be empowered by the same Good News that we're here to give to others...and for protection from our enemy who prowls around looking for someone to devour!
There are a lot of other prayer requests below, but if your attention is limited (like mine!) I'd be happy for you to stop reading and focus your praying right here on this first section of the update! Then, come back later and catch up on the rest.
Remember, prayer is the work! Thank you for laboring with us in this pivotal way!
!! NEW DONATIONS ADDRESS !!
Are you one of our financial partners?
Do you typically send financial gifts in the form of a check?
If so, please note that Serge has a new address for donations.
PO Box 96900
Washington DC 20090-6900
Questions? Contact Jeremy and Gina by hitting "reply." We love to hear from you!
(Note: This change will NOT affect credit card donations)
Recent Events and Updates:
Recently, we hosted the ANF pastoral staff (couples) for brunch, sharing, and prayer in our living room. We do that 5-6 times each year, and it's always a special time. When one of the men walked in the door he drew in a deep breath and said, "Jeremy-san. It smells like America in here (we made a sausage and egg casserole...definitely NOT Japanese cooking!) At that gathering, we talked about the big changes that are happening within our leadership team right now. The Eguchi's are focused downtown. The Kawai family is beginning to plan for a new church plant. The Kangs (and our family) are assuming more responsibility for Nagakute. That's exciting, but it's also unsettling. We acknowledged that change also brings the potential for new kinds of trouble and conflict. We want to expect that and to respond in ways that are in step with the Gsopel. At the same time, these unsettleing changes also represent Kingdom growth. It's why we're all here!
In November, I will be helping to lead a series of seminars on the topic of "Gospel Renewal" at the CPI National Conference. This year's conference is setting a new record for registrations as missionaries and Japanese leaders from all over the country gather in Shizuoka to worship, pray, and scheme about church planting in Japan.
In November, we will welcome some new faces into our various circles. Toshi and Machiko (Japanese couple) will join our ANF Nagakute staff for six months before sending them out together with the Kawai family to plant a new work.
During November, we will host Daniel M. for a 10 day vision trip. Daniel is coming to the end of his Serge apprenticeship in London, and he is praying about whether God is calling him to serve with us here in Japan. We are also talking with a couple on the West Coast who are wrestling with a sense of calling to Japan. We need wisdom and discernment as we interact with these new and potential teammates!
Joshua is engaged! Yes, you read that correctly! I'm really late in sharing this news with you all, but Joshua and Kirstin S. (whom he met at Covenant) will be married in early January. We are trying our best to get the whole family back for the wedding, which also means we may be in NC over Christmas. It's late in the game and our plans aren't finalized yet. We'll tell you more when we know more! Please join us in giving thanks as our family expands for the first time in a long time!
Our support account remains healthy, but in reviewing our financials for the past year, there is a pretty significant monthly deficit. We actually expected that deficit and planned for it when we returned last year, so it's not especially unsettling. Still, during 2020, we will need to be intentional about raising some additional support. We'll share more details in an upcoming newsletter, but for now we want to put this need before you for your praying. If you would like to consider a special year-end gift or even becoming a regular financial partner, we'd be glad to hear talk with you about that!
As I mentioned above, our leadership team at ANF is undergoing a lot of changes right now. It's a natural time for us to be reevaluating the models and plans for how ministry will look in the future. I'm also wrestling with those same kinds of questions on a more personal level. How should we be thinking about our next 5+ years of ministry here? What should be our main focus? Please pray for the Spirit to clearly lead us as we look ahead.
(Related to the above point) Please continue to pray for me as I make progress in the LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT course I'm taking through Serge. Already, I've found the material to be stretching me in good ways. Last week's reading centered around the vital importance of prayer in the life of the leader. Throughout the course, I'll also be working to flesh out a clear vision for our team's future ministry in Japan.
Gina is beginning a regular meeting with the wives of some local Japanese pastors for fellowship, support, and prayer. Language will be a big challenge for her, but she and the other ladies are excited about the group. Gina hopes these ladies will "experience deeper relationships with one another, come alongside one another, and support one another in this walk God has called us to." Please pray to that end.
We're hearing some familiar sounds in Nagakute. It sounds like several men are really close to the Kingdom. Over the past few years, all of our baptisms have been ladies whose husbands were not yet ready to make a profession of faith. Now, it seems like some of those men are getting closer. Let's pray for the Spirit to give them faith (and courage)!
Please pray for our hearts and our walk with Christ. I'll trust that the details I shared in my opening story will provide the right kind of fuel for this request!
Please pray for Gina and my marriage and for wisdom in parenting these budding young men he's given us.