Against apathy 

Dear God, 

Your Spirit is moving through the people in Morioka, and in their constant prayers. They gather to pray on Wednesday, and bring You their time and resources and faith in action. 


I ask for forgiveness for my cold heart, my small mind, and my “good manners”.

Back home, I see that my peers and I tend to be quiet rather than to share the good news. 

Maybe we are too polite to be faithful to God in this area of sharing the gospel. Maybe we are more concerned about people’s response than God’s glory. Maybe we are more concerned about their feelings than God’s. We wrongly fear them. We don’t want to cause awkwardness. We want their respect, and after all, we figure, if we try to share the gospel with them, we’ll look foolish! 

And so we are quiet. We protect our pride at the cost of their souls. In the name of not wanting to look weird, we are content to be complicit in their being lost. As one friend said, “I don’t want to be the stereotypical Christian on a plane.”

You do not like having Your truth suppressed, and that’s what the non-Christian is doing (Rom. 1:18). Good manners are no excuse for unfaithfulness to You, but I have, too often, used them so.

Change my heart, Lord. 

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Iwate Church Network meeting

For revival

Lord, the time to act is now.

The missionary Catherine informs the Iwate network meeting yesterday that the katsetsus will be closing at the end of this year. It has been almost 6 years since these temporary houses have been set up to house the residents who have lost their homes in the 2011 tsunami.


Today, we will head back to the coastal area at Ofunato to help Saito-sensei with the work in one of these katsetsus. This last programme will be bittersweet; we know the community will be dispersed throughout the new residential areas built by the government next year. Some of the elderly residents will not want to leave – they have been uprooted once before, and will need to find their footing again. Have compassion on them for they are feeble in spirit and in body.

Above all, Father, I ask that the good work of the pastor in building up this community for the past five years will not be eroded by the physical relocation. We ask that Your Spirit work in the people, to open their hearts to see You in the actions and love of the faithful few who have laboured on this soil. Lord, You love the people of Iwate, and You are tender-hearted especially towards those whose hearts have been broken by death and loss.

I ask that You continue to send workers to this area, Japanese speakers who can commit to growing their own roots on this new soil, so that that can bring the powerful but intangible sense of community to the people.

Give the pastorate clear direction for a new church plant. Out of the 20 church plants in Iwate, there are only 5 left, each with one handful of members. The rest of the churches have already closed. You know the disappointment and frustration of the pastorate here. You know the competition for members – for the precious few who still have not renounced their faith. Yes, You are the God who sees. Continue to act and work, Father, for the people need You in this place where the air is thick and the people are too polite to step out in love.


Prepare and move people to revival in Your grace. Give them humble hearts to seek Your face, and to wait upon You. Startle the region of Iwate, Lord, to bring these multitudes into saving faith.

 

For us who have seen Your work – You have brought representatives from many nations. Hallelujah!

Grant us the burden for such a revival. Help us believe that it can come to the country of Japan, and to our country as well. Lead me to people who will pray regularly for its coming. 

I ask that You build a broad base of people nationwide who are expecting revival. Grant to each nationality – Germans, Hong Kong, British, Filipinos, Americans, a consuming burden for You to bring revival. Your promise is that as we seek to draw near to You, You will draw near to us. I pray that this nearness will be truly revolutionary. Make it humble us, break us, revive us, and change the direction of our disintegrating culture.
Lord, I believe that there is sufficient grace supplied in the person and work of Jesus to do far more than I have even begun to ask. My hope is in the promise of Your Word. Thank You for Your compassion for us in our sinful ways. In our arrogant lifestyle, we say to You, ‘I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ I repent of that. I confess that as believers, we show our wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked condition.

I lay all this before You, basing every request on the merit and worthiness of the Lord Jesus alone and in His finished work.

Amen.

Day 4: what a day.

Thanksgiving 

The epicness of yesterday started from the morning at the public hall. We did not know how many would come, but we were prepared with salted egg yolk fish skin and pineapple buttered rice with cashews for serving lunch. And we were excited to step out in faith that our paltry offerings could bring a blessing to the co-workers and to the participants. 

Yet again, faithful pastor Iwasuka arrived bright and early to Shalom House to lead us to the first public housing, where we had done flyering on day 2. It was so good to see the elderly people come, some 20 mins before the start time of the event. Some in their best clothes, as we were aware that these gatherings were the highlight of their week or month. 

The songs flooded the otherwise silent hall, and it was heartwarming to sing “God Bless You” to a curious watching crowd. Who are these Singaporeans who travelled for 7 hours to enter into a world many have forgotten? 

Without our Japanese translator, we were concerned that we wouldn’t understand the pastor’s instructions that day. We didn’t have to worry! 👏🏼


The ladies at the temporary housing / katsetsu in the afternoon were particularly lovely. Despite the heavy heat, they were patient with the craft. Many sumimasens were exchanged. 


Our drive back to Morioka unveiled the incredible beauty of the Japanese countryside. After a while, it stopped making sense to capture the beauty in pictures, because the vastness if sea and density of forest just could not be adequately captured. 

We made a pitstop at an ice cream palour- two scoops of perfect gelato won the day. I ate most of the goma ice cream before I remembered to take a picture.

Back at Morioka 

Karage and sushi dinner with Dave Robinson (the American missionary), Kondo sensei and their families was a welcomed break. It is beautiful to see families thriving in the work of the Lord, and to experiencd the peace and joy that flood these households. 

I continue to ask for the Lord’s protection on their children as they grow up in a society that is increasingly intolerant of the Christian way of life and living. May they never resent the courageous countercultural choice their parents have made – in opening hearts and home to strangers from all over, and in living as resident aliens in this world. 

The 7pm English Cafe started off with a bang: I didn’t know my brother could so put everyone at such ease during the icebreakers. Indeed, there are many things I am learning about him in this trip, and I realised that our faithful God continues to mold him into an unassuming and thoughtful leader. Praise God from which these blessings flow. Praise Him for answered prayer. 

When pastor kondo says ‘funny face’, I take it seriously
Pastor Kondo translates my testimony in Japanese.

Pastor Kondo told us he had borrowed money from a student at Iwate University. He told his student he would only return the money to him if the student came last night for the English cafe. (Pastor Kondo admitted this was a risky bargain, but he figured he could take advantage of a forgotten wallet). Student M came last night, nervously, but he came nonetheless. 

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. 

Lord, I continue to ask that You prove strong for the Christian community in Morioka. 

I ask that You work through the international crowds, to show the Japanese that You are the God of all the nations, not only of the Jews or the ‘white people’. 

I ask that through the good work of English language teachers, Your gospel will go forth, if not in words, by sincere actions born from love. 

We constantly taste and see that You are good here. You are working and You continue to set hearts aflame to step out in obedience. Jesus tell us that the harvest is so plentiful, but the workers are few. Lord, I ask that You continue to call and send workers into the ripe fields of the Iwate University and Morioka city. Your Spirit moves like the wind; come down upon this land. 

Day 3: prayer requests

Japan is so clean and sterile and beautiful
The drive past the tsunami zone, construction of the new breakwaters
 

Please join me to ask God – 

1. For sustained reminders that it is God’s good will and pleasure for His gospel to be known. He wants sinners saved. The salvation of others is not our burden to carry. 

2. As I lead the English cafe for non-native speakers this Friday at 7pm. I will share a personal testimony about my thirst for personal success, and how the love of Jesus called me. This will be translated by Kondo sensei. I ask God to give me clarity and courage, and that Christ will be made much of. 

3. The team would have had a busy and incredibly full day at the katsetsus before the English cafe session, and will need to drive into Morioka. It is a 2h drive along windy terrain. 😣 I ask God for protection and safe passage. 

4. 50 new Japanese faces tomorrow! Friday will probably have the largest crowd yet (possibly for the entire trip). The Lord knows those who are His. I ask that He calls the people He desire to know Him to the meeting places. He will prepare their hearts to receive love and community. 

5. For my team and I to remember, remember, remember:

We have a secure promise that the Lord himself will gather worshippers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He will build his Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The Lord has burdened himself with the work of rescuing sinners from the far corners of the earth. He will do it; he is doing it even now.

Thanking God for: 

Five events thus far: God continues to bring the people into the katsetsus and public housing, even this newest public housing with new people even the pastor has never met before. They were receptive to the Japanese-Christian songs; I could sense it in the air!


An actual Korg keyboard to play music and bless them with Japanese Christian words that I could not otherwise articulate. 



Absolutely lovely elderly Japanese with patience and nimble fingers. Pray against their inner resistance to the pastor’s words. 


A kindly staff member in the co-op who gave my brother a packet of tissue for his third round of nose bleeding. 


My transcribed notes for the most popular folk tune in all five katsetsus. Thank God for the wonders of whatsapp images, that my sister could send this over to careless me, who left it on the dining table :/ 

Romans 10:13-15a, “‘For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”

Day 2: miyako 

Father, 

Thank You for the praying people in Singapore. The prayers of the saints and Christ’s continual intercession have been the reason we have not met with any accidents despite painfully narrow roads, a tired driver, an 8-seater vehicle and a malfunctioning GPS. 

There are things You want us to do and to see. Give us the eyes and hearts to do so, not just the hands and feet. 

Towering over the average Japanese sedan

Speaking of feet, thank You for carrying me through the 4pm 38-degree summer hike up the hill to pop flyers into postboxes. You showed me that I am physically and mentally weak- so many times I wanted to stop the climb and hide from the sweltering heat. There were uneven gravelled slopes I wish I didn’t have to overcome. There were also doubts- how many will even see these flyers in their postboxes, how many will bother to attend the community hall session that the flyer promises this Friday? I am ashamed that I had such little faith in the work You want done in this community. I see that I am too soft and enjoy too much air-conditioned comfort at home. 

It astonishes me how much the elderly folk are able to withstand, living in slanted and precariously perched homes at the peak of the evacuation site. 

Note: climbing with slippers and in jeans is possible. Drain covers are safer than gravel.
Note: even if it looks like you’ll be trespassing and the postbox is in hiding, there is always a postbox in need of a flyer.
Standing on reconstructed land after the 2011 tsunami destruction
It’s only day 2 and I’m physically not at my best. But I am trusting I am at a state You want me to be in. 

Paul said, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength” (1 Tim 1:12). I ask that we will revel in our many weaknesses, because then Your Power and Strength will be shown in us and through us. 
At the katsetsus today, Grace mentioned we were shaky today, but we ask to improve our teaching abilities tomorrow! 

Stained glass mosaic craft with the youngest participant
Clement with the oldest participant, Abe-san. He now attends the church in Miyako, praise God!

Four-generational family (what???) God is gracious and good to them!
Pastor iwatsuka enjoying hand-carried pandan cake with two lovely obasan
I ask for greater wisdom in our preparation for the visits to two new katsetsus tomorrow, one of which has never had a 3.11 network visit before. Spirit, please move among the people and help them see Iesu, Jesus. 

Watashiwa inorimasu, 

Amen. 

Omotesando street

Dear Father, 

Narita city is stunningly beautiful. 

It is the perfect town to experience the way Japan savours beauty. Delicate china cups lining the streets, fresh flowers, exquisite fans. The reverence for beauty, a form of common grace, permeates the aesthetics. 

As our first experience of Japan, it was a blessed time to have the afternoon to explore this city. We dragged our luggage through clusters of hydrangeas, a Japanese cemetery and a winding alleyway to find physical peace. 


Our first taste of Japan was the matcha milk gelato by the wayside. What a discovery! 


And I recall the psalms –  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light’ 

(Ps 36:9)

Lord, we ask that the rest of the team will join us safely tomorrow morning, and that we will be ready to launch into a busy schedule of three mobile cafes at various temporary housing on the 13th. Pastor Iwatsuka does not speak English and we do not speak Japanese, but You are Lord of languages. Open our eyes to what You are doing in the little waysides of Japan. 

Help us to be good hands and feet to the locals. May smiles radiate from within. 

I ask this is Christ’s Name, Him who says that as we abide in Him, to ask anything and it will be done. 

Amen. 

Approaching Day 0

Father,
The mind and heart are in a little of a mess after the weekend in Koh Samui. The event was beautiful but exhaustion is real and unabated. 

Please let not the gifts Thy love bestows, Estrange our hearts from Thee. 

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.”‭(‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5)

Amen. 

Prayer points from our last training today!

  1. We were told Typhoon Nanmadol slammed into eastern Japan (including Tokyo) yesterday, but thank God that there are no reported deaths.
  2. Satan is working overtime. Two of the team is down with a knee injury and stomach flu (that’s me). These are weaknesses for us that cause us to turn our eyes from Jesus towards our little pains. May we not so quickly be robbed of our joy, or become frustrated with the circumstance.
  3. We have asked the Lord to provide supernatural unity for the team – we are truly different and come from different church backgrounds – Prinsep St, Saint Andrews Cathedral, ARPC. May He enable us to put on love and count the other person better than ourselves.

 

Finally learning the craft we’ll have to teach
Half an hour later – it is not as easy as it looks..

Prayer for the pre-trip

 Nothing can be done without prayer. The EPJM leadership from have mentioned that we need to form a community of praying people at home because Japan is spiritually dark, and the evil one is out to thwart the work. Our Saviour Himself says that “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and since He says we ought to pray, hooray, pray I shall!

 

So here it is:

Dear Father, Great God of Highest Heaven,

“Smooth let it be or rough,
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight, it matters not,
It leads me to Thy rest.”

We joyfully commit all Iwate plans to Your good Hands, we transfer the burden from our feeble shoulders to Your strong ones, and You will establish it. (Prov 16) 
  1. I ask for greater wisdom for final preparations and logistics as the team next meets together in Japan.
  2. I ask that the team will be a people of prayer, fully and solely dependent on You as Source of strength.
  3. “The Lord knows those who are His.” I ask that You send the people You desire to know You to the community halls and to the katsetsus. Prepare their hearts, Lord, that any Word from You will fall on soil that will bear fruit for You. I ask for Your strength especially for Pastor Iwatsuka in Miyako. Please send the people You call into the temporary housing in Nishigaoka, and in Nishikouen. We will be the first team to go to the Nishimachi public housing. Please be there before us and prepare the way. We ask that Your Spirit move, and that we will not be discouraged by the gods that line the streets along the coast. Manmade gods cannot stop the waves from destroying Iwate again. Only You can.

In Christ’s mighty Name,

Amen.

First try with first round of craft- I still have some way to go!

Dear God,

The day to Thailand is drawing near, and I admit feeling intimidated and afraid.

You remind me that Jesus Your Son said that when we abide in Him, we can ask anything, and He will give it to us. I choose to take the time now to abide – to draw near to You. To open up the Word that it may speak life into this frightened heart. That I may take courage, and have the boldness to stand up for my convictions, but that I may be firstly and most importantly, loving.

I am only standing in the gap, Lord. Please, help me stand in the gap.