Dear Beloved Friends and Family,
Happy New Year once again! We hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year with your loved ones. We were blessed to have a year-end trip to Taipei with our family. Thank you always for your faithful prayers and partnership in 2016. We would like to send our sincere greetings from Yokohama and an update of what the Lord is doing in and through us.
Honor to Serve in Local Every Nation Churches - Tokyo Shibuya
On November 13, I was invited to preach at Every Nation Tokyo Shibuya. The key verse that I preached on was from Romans 12:2. The main message that I shared was…. through Jesus we are transformed, and we are transformed to live His will. As part of discipleship, leadership development, and as an encouragement to the Every Nation Church Tokyo congregation, I asked Shingo and Yusuke to come with me to serve. Shingo was saved in September 2015 and Yusuke was saved in July 2016. Both Shingo and Yusuke’s lives were transformed when they encountered Jesus. Their life purpose is to do His will - to honor God and make disciples in every nation.
After the service, the leadership team of Every Nation Church Tokyo asked us to lead a small group leader’s meeting to teach and impart on evangelism. Shingo and Yusuke were asked to come up on stage to share how someone reached out to them and preached the gospel. The step-by-step testimonies imparted faith and encouragement to the leaders. In contrary to being the reserved Japanese men reluctant to take initiatives, these two young Japanese professional men shared boldly how they were saved and how they were trying to reach out to their families and friends. Their testimonies sowed visions and dreams into many hearts.
Here is also the message I preached in the Church.
Crazy Outreach during Christmas
During the month of December, we call it “Crazy Outreach” month at Every Nation Church Yokohama. As one of the leaders of the Young Professionals, we attended more than ten Christmas outreaches and other outreaches including dinners, bouldering gyms, cookie decorations, campus cafeterias, etc. The openness of the hearts of Japanese was phenomenal. I want to highlight the story of Nisshi. Nisshi came to the Christmas outreach on December 17 and as we met, he shared with me his complicated family situation. His parents got divorced when he was 14 years old. With great bitterness at 14, he decided to cut off all ties with his father and refused to receive any financial support from him. Nisshi has not met his father since then. Moreover, Nisshi has not met his sister or brother for almost a decade. He has rejected all relationships with families and friends and he has chosen to hide in his own hard shell.
At the age of 23 he had to make a hard decision - whether to continue to reject all his relationships and risk ending up in the street all-alone, or to try to rebuild a new life. Nisshi made a decision to try to build a new life. It was already a miracle, Nisshi said that he was able to share with me all his broken past. Last year, while he was stationed in London for a year for his work, relationships were further strained and he needed a place to run to. He searched for a church, but he could not understand what was going on at the English speaking church. Then Nisshi googled for a Japanese speaking church in London, attended for six months, and felt the warmth of the church. After he returned from London, he came to Every Nation Church Yokohama recommended by a lady at the Japanese church in London. He came once in November and then December 18 was his second time.
As Pastor Skek and I preached the Gospel of Jesus’ love and invited those who have never decided to follow Jesus to respond, Nisshi raised his hand high. In fact, on the Christmas Service, we had more than a dozen hands raised to receive Christ. When I saw Nisshi’s hand held high, I was overwhelmed by Christ’s faithfulness, goodness, and love. After the service ended, I sat down with Nisshi and once again explained the Gospel and prayed with him. We are so delighted to see the Gospel seeds coming to fruition in this land of Japan.
I am meeting with Nisshi on a one-to-one basis to further disciple him this year. We are already reaching out together.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (ESV)
Leadership Development through Outreaches
One of our values as a Church is to develop new leaders. We believe in the importance of sowing into the next generation, equipping them to be ministers and empowering them to be leaders. We identified three potential leaders and asked them to lead the biggest Christmas party on Christmas day. These three were dedicated to serve God with great enthusiasm. The party brought in over 30 non-Christians! After the party, the three came up to us and exclaimed, "Thank you for trusting us with this big task and giving us the opportunity to serve. If there is another chance, we would love to do it again!" It was such a joy to see the next generation lead with passion and a servant heart. Our desire is to see them grow in faith and able to do greater things than the past. One of the three will start leading a small group of about 5 girls from next month. The 30 non-Christians will continually be reached out to. We pray that Jesus will become their Lord and Savior in His timing.
Discipleship Continues - Victory Weekend and Baptism
January was our first Victory Weekend for the year. Twelve individuals from various backgrounds joined and six of them got baptized. Victory Weekend is about establishing strong spiritual foundations. This two-day retreat helped deepen the twelve individuals’ relationship with God and focused on establishing the spiritual foundations necessary for a life-long walk with Him.
Victory Weekend - experiencing God
Yusuke getting baptized - we are better together
Once again, thank you for generously sowing in Japan believing in what God is doing in and through us. God is moving mightily.
We are praying for you from the land of the Rising Sun.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! Psalm 126:5 (ESV)
Love Jonathan and Marika