Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:3-7
Dear Friends -
As is true for most of you, the last two months have been very different here in Nagoya. We've been operating under some degree of "social distancing" guidelines since early March. That was followed by an official "state of emergency" declaration in April.
The unfolding situation has meant gradually shifting to working from home, doing meetings online, and live-streaming worship services. ANF leaders have wrestled with how to love God and our neighbors while also being submissive to government requests for social distancing. As a family, we've wrestled with how to be wise & safe and still maintain important relationships with those around us. That's tough since social distancing is the exact opposite of why we're in Japan! I'm sure you can relate.
I will admit that it's been interesting to see US churches wrestling with the same kinds of questions that are often reserved for mission fields. How can we continue to be the Church when it's difficult to meet together? How should we administer Baptism and the Lord's Supper under these circumstances? What does it mean to submit to government regulations that we may not fully embrace? COVID-19 is disrupting all of our rhythms, and it's forcing us to wrestle with what it looks like to carry out the Great Commission in our world. In that way, we're all swimming in similar water right now!
However, as foreigners living in Japan during a pandemic, we are definitely experiencing some special challenges. The US Embassy in Tokyo has been sending weekly emails encouraging Americans to count the cost of remaining in Japan and pointing out that we might not receive the "kinds of treatments we're accustomed to" if we become sick. Those emails are sobering and just one example of the many sources of anxiety that push us toward a posture of fear instead of one that's resting in God's loving care for us and our boys. We also worry about family members and friends in the US and abroad - many of whom are in even more dangerous circumstances than we're experiencing here.
As always, I'll post some bullets below that will help you pray for us. As you consider these requests, let's turn together to our Father who loves us, is familiar with all of our troubles, and even saves our tears in his bottle (Psalm 56:8). Some of you are experiencing a lot of loss and hardship right now. As you pray for us, you should know that we're also praying for you. With you, we're asking God to mercifully bring an end to this season of sickness and death. We're also leaning into His promises - like the one printed above from 1 Peter. And with you, we expect that God is using all of this suffering to save the lost and build his Church all over the world. That's even happening in Japan right now.
With Much Love,
Jeremy and Gina
"I have a tendency to try to make myself holy with my own great effort. I have often tried so hard to make myself good and to get rid of the bad, but recently I am learning to not just try harder but to first trust in what Christ has already done for me. I think the better way to holiness is to first be thankful for the Cross and to be thankful that Christ has already called me holy."
~ One of the ladies you've prayed for in the past. She was baptized at ANF and is now around 2 years old in her faith. ~
(left) It's strange not to have Joshua in the most recent family photos! We'll look forward to the next one that includes Joshua and Kirsten!
(right) A photo at the peak of the cherry blossoms near our apartment.
Our Family: Everyone is healthy and in good spirits. It looks like Josiah and Garrett will finish this school year from home. Josiah is a senior, and graduation is scheduled for late May - it seems like that might happen online, too! Speaking of Josiah, he plans to enter Appalachian State University (in Boone, NC) this Fall. Earlier this week, he registered for classes and has a great schedule. We're hoping that he'll be able to travel internationally and that school will start on schedule.
Joshua and Kirsten are living north of Atlanta near Lawrenceville, GA. Joshua is currently doing his fire department training from home, and his job seems secure. It seems like there are worse things than to be on lockdown as newlyweds! ;)
ANF: We can see examples of how God is using this time in the life of our church. We've seen the number of online views on our worship services increasing a little bit each week. We've encouraged our members to see this time as an opportunity to invite friends and family members to look "through the window" of our livestreams into our worship services. That's happening! There are also more prayer, fellowship, and Bible studies happening online among members of the congregation than ever before. It shouldn't surprise us, but it always does: Christ is building his church, and the gates of hell can't stand against it. He loves to use unexpected, impossible-looking means (the Sinks are a great example) so that he gets the credit and glory!
Ongoing Relationships with Leaders: Our time with leaders and wives has been greatly impacted by the current situation. All of our national partners have families with young children who are now at home full time. That has made even online meetings a challenge.
Serge has been great during this time. We had two company-wide Zoom calls around Easter that were a tremendous encouragement. "Missionary Care" (called member care) has always been a high value within Serge, but we've experienced truly special support over these past two months. We're thankful for that!
Christian Friends - We're blessed with so many good friends here in Nagoya! Last week, a Japanese church member pointed out that she never sees us wearing masks. We said, "Where can you buy masks...they've been sold out for months!?!?" She said, "I know where to get them!" Today, a package arrived with 100 masks enclosed. What a blessing that God has given us these kinds of friends!
FINANCIAL UPDATE AND THANK YOU!
Our support account looks good right now, and monthly giving has continued to be uninterrupted as a result of the world situation. In fact, last month brought some special gifts that made a very strong, positive impact on our support account. None of us knows what the future holds, but today we are in good shape. We'll trust God for tomorrow! Thank you for your continued generosity even in the face of difficult times. And thank you for being true partners together with us in this important work!
Japanese Christians - Remember, less than 1% of Japanese people profess faith in Christ. So, for many of our Japanese friends, Sunday morning is the only time during the week that they are able to fellowship with other believers. That makes this an especially hard season. Pray for God to use our virtual communities and livestreams to encourage and grow their faith.
ANF - Pray that church members would have opportunities to share the Good News with friends and family during this time. Pray for strong community within the church. And Pray that the Gospel would be clearly communicated and received during our weekly livestreams and virtual meetings.
Japanese Leaders (husbands, wives, families) - Pray for strong marriages and soft hearts. Pray also that God will stretch, grow, and develop these couples into leaders for the Church in Japan. And ask God to raise up new leaders for this country that is so spiritually dark. Here are some names for your praying: Yu & Asako, Paul & Yu, Hide & Yasuyo, Toshi & Machiko, Atsushi, and Nozomu & Shoko.
Evangelism - Paul and I are continuing to meet and share the Gospel with H-san, in Nagakute. Pray that God would give him the gifts of faith and repentance. Pray that he'd turn to Christ. He's (still so) close! Also, pray for our relationships with the people who live in our building and neighborhood. We're happy with the apartment, but it's been more difficult to connect with neighbors than in the places we've lived previously.
Annual Review and Days of Prayer - The Month of May is "Annual Review" time at Serge. I've already begun the review process but have set aside time next week (on 5/5 and 5/7) to prayerfully reflect on last year and set goals for the coming year. Then, I will meet with my supervisor on 5/14 for the formal review. Please pray for the Spirit to lead us during this important process!
Please pray for Gina and me - our marriage, our parenting, and our walk with Christ. With everyone working from home in a small apartment, things are crowded these days. At least half of our family are introverts (I'll let you guess which), and there's not a lot of personal space to be found. We need the Spirit to be causing his fruit to grow and giving us faith, repentance, and love for one another. Pray also for Gina and me as we parent these boys and spend our last months with Josiah before he (hopefully) leaves for college. It's an important season, and we feel our need for the Spirit's help.