Monday, January 11, 2016

New Year Reminiscences

A blessed New Year to all! It's 2016 and this year marks our 15th year in Japan as missionaries.

The God who called us is faithful (I Corinthians 1:9). He has sustained and blessed us in ways that can be described as amazing, even miraculous at times. My wife's health scare in June, is a good example. She was initially diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. The lab tests done were intended to confirm the stage and severity of the said illness. Taking a step ahead, the Ob-Gyne even gave Jo Ann a few things to consider to help her come to terms with the seemingly insurmountable trial that is to come.

But, we believe in Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. Family and friends, far and wide held us up in their prayers, petitioning the God of heaven for a miracle. As the Bible says, those who hope in the Lord "will not be disappointed" (Isaiah 49:23). My wife's doctor was joyfully puzzled to see that when all the results came in for her to look at, she declared that my wife is after all, cancer-free! Hallelujah! What a mighty God we serve!

Before the close of last year we've taken stock of what God had done among us in 2015. The Assembly Kyoto Church, our host church, was humming with activity and producing modest accomplishments along the way. We thank God and give Him the glory for all these things as well. Here is a sampling of what we have achieved:
  • Both the Filipino Service and the Lighthouse English Cafe reached five (5) years of ministry
  • New and currently in development website
  • New professions of faith in Bible Studies and other evangelistic endeavors
  • Additional members added to the roll
  • 2 actual water baptisms 
  • 116 Operation Christmas Child's gifts-filled shoe boxes
  • 110,000 yen (over US$1000) cash donations to various missionaries and causes  

The Assembly Kyoto Church has a new Senior Pastor since April. Pastor Satoshi Nagasawa has taken the helm of leadership from Pastor Hisoka Murakami, who served at this church for twenty-seven (27) years. Pastor Nagasawa was converted through Pastor Murakami's ministry, after the former was saved from a cult group. Nagasawa-sensei later trained through correspondence and through direct tutelage of Pastor Murakami. He is now an ordained minister of the Japan Assemblies of God.

In June, Motomichi Harada joined the church's staff after he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Singapore Bible College in May.

The first sermon I delivered to the church this year is from Isaiah 43:18-19. God says,

 18 “Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
19 Behold, Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

God said these words in the context of His promise to the nation of Israel as they anticipate a time of exile and their eventual restoration. It is a good place to start the new year with a hopeful note to anticipate great things from God as He promises to do NEW things that seem unlikely if not impossible to the human mind, but certainly are not beyond His sovereign power and grace.