Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
~ Revelation 22:1-5
Greetings Friends -
It's mid February. Yesterday Starbucks served me coffee in their annual sakura cup. For those of you who are new partners, sakura are the Japanese flowering cherry trees, and they definitely live up to their reputation. In another 4-6 weeks, Japan will be in bloom. Starbucks always releases special cups about a month before the blooms are forecast to appear, I love that tradition! Spring is on the way! It's of a snapshot of the Gospel...like the promise in Revelation. Look up, Saints! It's still wintertime, but springtime is coming. And it's way better than even the sakura: "...for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever."
And yes. I drink quite a bit of coffee!
I realize it's been too long since our last update, and there's so much to share! In terms of our family, the most significant news is that Joshua and Kirsten are now happily married and settling into a new home (and new jobs!) north of Atlanta, GA. Of course, we're delighted to welcome our first daughter-in-law and would ask you to join us in praying for them as they take these first, important steps as a new wife and husband. Gina, Josiah, Garrett, and I are settling back into things here after the whirlwind trip that included time with family in NC and at the wedding in Chattanooga.
With our leaders at ANF, we're continuing to work through a season of change. Hide's and Toshi's apprenticeships will end in March, and we're happy to be sending them out to plant a new Japanese church in our city. On one hand, that's exciting! Sending out new church planters is the reason for our apprenticeship program, so this is a big win. On the other hand, birthing a new church is difficult. The congregation at ANF will miss these guys when they leave. Paul and I will miss them! Would you continue to pray for all of us as we release these two brothers to plant a brand new work in Nagoya where less than 1% of people follow Christ.
(left) Joshua and Kirsten at the wedding in Chattanooga.
(right) Introducing our newest teammate - Daniel M.
Some other Updates:
A New Teammate: We're pleased to announce that Daniel M. has accepted our invitation to join our team. Daniel grew up in Chile and has been serving the the past two years as a Serge apprentice in London, so he knows what it's like to serve cross-culturally as a missionary. We believe he will be a real blessing to the work here as we continue to come alongside and invest in prospective Japanese church planters and their families. Daniel is just beginning to raise his support in hopes of joining us within the next year. If you'd like to read more about Daniel's story or connect with him as he takes these steps to join our team, you can do that here.
The Wives' Group: In my last update, I shared that Gina was beginning to meet with the wives of our pastoral staff. To date, those ladies have met 4 times. Last week, in our elders meeting, we asked Hide and Toshi: "What can ANF do to support you as you go out to plant a new church?" Both men looked at me and said: "The most important thing is for Gina to keep meeting with our wives!" It sounds like those first few meetings have been successful!!
Searching for a New Leader? With our two current apprentices leaving the Nagakute campus, we now have an opening to work with a new apprentice. When we came to Japan, we'd heard that finding new, Japanese church planters (or candidates for that position) would be one of the most difficult tasks we faced. Statistically speaking, it's like finding a needle in a giant haystack. Yet, each time we've had an opening, God has provided the man. Would you join us in praying that He would do that again? Of course, we'd also like to be able to "pay" him. So, please pray that God would provide the funding as well!
FINANCIAL UPDATE AND THANKS
In our last update, we shared: "Our support account remains healthy, but in reviewing our financials for the past year, there is a pretty significant monthly deficit. We expected that deficit and planned for it when we returned last year. Still, during 2020, we will need to be intentional about raising some additional support."
A special thank you to those of you who responded so generously with year-end gifts...that really helped! I'm also happy to say that some new pledges have closed the gap significantly, and our deficit appears to be MUCH smaller here in the first months of 2020. Thank you for always being so quick to respond when we express a need. That's been true repeatedly over these last 7 years. Whether that need has been financial, emotional, or spiritual, you guys have been so quick and generous to help. Thank you, once again, for standing with us. Thank you for "holding onto the rope" and being true "partners" with us in this work to bring the Good News to the Japanese.
ANF Nagakute - Pray for Jeremy, Paul, and the church members at ANF as Hide and Toshi depart. They've been doing great work, and we're going to miss them.
ANF Downtown - Will you lift up the Eguchi family (Yu, Asako, Ikoi, and Yuto) by name this month? Highlight this item and (even daily) ask the Spirit to be at work in their hearts, their marriage and to lead them as parents. Pray that their walk with Christ would be characterized by freedom and intimacy.
Gina and the ANF Wives - being a wife in a church planting situation brings a lot of unique challenges. Gina feels her weakness in this group - especially her lack of Japanese - but God is using her. Would you pray for God to use the group to encourage these ladies and to equip them to be an even greater blessing to our city?
Space for Nagakute - we recently received news that we will lose our meeting space that we're renting each week in Nagakute. The hotel is closing, so the wedding chapel will be no more. This space has been such a blessing for our church, and finding something else may be difficult. Of course, God knows what we need. Please join us in praying that he'd lead us to the right place.
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 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.
Please pray for our hearts and our walk with Christ. It's easy to fall into patterns of doing God's work as if we are orphans or slaves instead of drawing from the reality that we're invited into it by our Heavenly Father who loves us (and loves the Japanese). So, as you lift up these other matters, please remember us as well.
Joshua and Kirsten - as they settle into married life in Atlanta. Pray especially for the right church and Christian community for them.
Josiah and Garrett are doing well at school and life. Josiah will graduate in May. He's been accepted to several colleges in NC and TN, and he's waiting on results from some scholarship applications. Those would help a lot! Garrett is enjoying his friends and seems generally happy. We see regular evidences of the Spirit's work in their lives - praise God for that!