Day 139-153 Church and Taking a look around Takasaki

Wednesday January 20th, 2010

The children’s classes are really picking up. We are so excited to see the young smiling faces coming to the building every week. We are trying hard to teach them the truth through a very limited vocabulary. We know most of the children come for the English exposure, but planting the seed of Jesus is our job. We hope to be able to see, one day, the fruits these seeds produce. Paul in 1Corinthians 3:6 tells us “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” It is so wonderful to see the scriptures alive and how they apply to our lives. Last month we had very low attendance, butIMG_6741 with God’s help He brought more kids to our class. We’ve had up to 7 kids and 3 adults (moms that stay with their kids) at once. We actually had to take over the adult’s class room. So now the kids and I are in the main room of the building and the adults meet in the office. I have to say it’s very nice to spread the kids out. It has made teaching the children much easier too. In the coming months I hope to add more crafts and activities to the lessons, so that they have a better understanding of who Jesus and God are.


Sunday January 24th, 20104th, 2010


We were joined the Obatas and Morioka-san today on a tour of the Robai trees. The name means wax flower. They were beautiful and up close they really did look like wax flowers. Obata-san called them the sakura (cherry blossom) of the winter.


Monday January 25th, 2010

Today Paul and I decided we needed to start getting out of the house and explore our town some more. We really enjoyed doing this when we first arrived, but lately we’ve been so busy we haven’t gotten out of the house much. So we took a road trip. IMG_6793Not very far. We decided to take a look at the big statue that stares over the city of Takasaki. The statue has always been a land marker for us as we traveled to and from the city. We drove up to the mountain and bought our tickets and walked up to the giant lady. We got there only 30 minutes before they closed, so we were the only ones inside. I have to say it was kind of creepy being inside a big idol. And inside there were more little idols. Some were angry, some had 4 arms, IMG_6803and some were riding an elephant.  When we reached the top (which was only up to the shoulders of the statue) we enjoyed the view. It was beautiful looking out over the city and seeing the country side run right up next to the mountains. After a few pictures we were ready to head back. We walked around the outside and looked at all the souvenirs you could buy. We watched a young family explore the outside. They had a child about 2 years old and he was looking around and soon he discovered the big statueIMG_6839 in front of him and as he looked up and saw how big it really was he stumbled backwards. It was kind of cute, seeing how he was in his own small world and then discovered something so huge. I think that’s how we are with God. Most days we are just confined to our own small world and we can’t imagine something out there so much bigger than our minds can comprehend, and then we get a glimpse of God and His awesome power and when we realizes its right in front of us, we stumble backwards in awe.   

Day 132-138 Changes at Church, New Years Tradition in Japan, Mito, and Akihabara.

Sunday January 10th, 2010

   Today was a little sad. This would be the last Sunday for the Matsumoto family to worship with us at Haruna church of Christ.IMG_6658 They decided to return to the Plymouth Brethren church where Mrs. Matsumoto grew up and her mother attended for 50 years. We were sad to see them go, but we know God will take care of their needs IMG_6648

where ever they go. The Plymouth Brethren are very similar to the churches of Christ but they generally are much more conservative.  After services we enjoyed a small lunch and the Matsumotos stayed and sang songs with all of us.  It’s hard in a congregation so small to see even one person leave.  But we also use this as a time to turn to the Lord and trust that He knows what’s best for all of us.  We are excited to see who God will bring into our path in the coming months.  And it inspires us to increase our outreach in the community!


Monday January 11th, 2010

  We started the day off watching a Japanese New Years tradition. They had been preparing for a couple of weeks. They build up large bamboo stalks and put brush underneath with many Daruma dolls inside IMG_6662and around the outside. Then people put their new years wishes on pieces of paper and tied them somewhere on the brush pile. Today at 7:30am they lit it on fire. Along with the fire they put sake(alcoholic drink) into shorter bamboo stalks next to the big bon fire. So everyone one enjoyed some hot sake to ring in the new year. And for the kids (and any missionaries) they had a sweet non-alcoholic rice drink called amasake to keep us warm. They really had a big turn out with lots of food and a warm fire. We enjoyed walking around talking to more of our neighbors and Paul was introduced to the local volunteer fire department. Since Paul was about their age they asked if he would be interested in volunteering some time. At first we thought it was just nice that they asked, but after thinking about it we decided it would be a great idea if he could help out. What a great way to earn respect from our area and get to know other men Paul’s age. This gives Paul a good goal for fitness training and for language study too.  Well, we will see if he can do it next year!


After that we were headed to Mito for a meeting on discipleship. We really enjoyed the meeting. We even understood about 50% of the lesson (because it was all in Japanese). It’s always a long drive to the meetings in Tokyo, but what a blessing to meet with such a great group of people sharing in the Lord’s work. After the meeting we decided since we were so close to Tokyo we would just swing on by. Paul really wanted to see Akihabara (electric town). So we punched it into the GPS and headed IMG_6712to the unknown. Tokyo was really cool.  Its a huge place but still much cleaner than a lot of American big cities.  But it is so huge it is easy to see how people could become lonely here.  A very different mission field than we have in Haruna.






Wednesday January 13th, 2010

  We are so excited about the things that are going on in Haruna. We are always surprised to see how things turn out. This week we had to rearrange our classes a little bit. The kids class started in the small office and soon outgrew it. SO we moved into the entry way of the church building. Now again the class has grown. This week we had to switch with the adult class. IMG_6723We set up the kids class in the main room of the church and the adults set up their class in the office. We had 7 kids and two of the moms stayed to help their kids. I have to say it was really nice to have the space. It was a lot easier to keep the kids focused on the lesson. I’m so excited to be moving a little bit forward and start reading them Bible stories. I have a couple of the older kids read in Japanese. And I hope to start reading along in English as well. We are excited to see what the Lord will bring to the church in Haruna.  Keep praying for the youth here that they will learn at a young age what it means to have a savior who loves you!

Day 123-131 New Year and New Beginnings

Friday January 1st, 2010

    12:01 am HAPPY NEW YEAR! We were excited to bring in the new year together in Japan. We spent new years eve together at home this year. We watched a few movies we could find and waited for the count down to begin. At 10 till midnight we found a Japanese TV station that was counting down to the new year. We chanted along with the TV Jyuu(10), Kyuu(9), Hachi(8), Nana(7), Roku(6), Go(5), Yon(4), San(3), Ni(2), ICHI(1)!!! Happy New year! We IMG_6527popped our little party favors and we ran outside expecting to see the rest of Japan celebrating.  We opened the front door and I think the only thing we heard were crickets and the pigs grunting. Well we yelled YOI OTOSHI WO, and HAPPY NEW YEAR any way!

Saturday January 2nd, 2010

    The new year has started out very well here in Japan. We had a couple of visitors today. Obata-san and Rumiko-san’s daughter-in-law(Sachiko-san) and grandson(Luke-kun) came up from Tokyo for a couple of days.IMG_6553 Also Joel Osborne, Sasha Ingle,(missionaries) and Gaku-san (their friend)came down from Sendai to hang out with us for the day.  Joel has been in Japan as a missionary for 7 years and Sasha has been here for 2 years. Recently Sasha has been looking for financial support because of the financial IMG_6542situation of America she has lost most of her support from different churches. So if you would like to support the efforts of a missionary spreading the Gospel in Japan please read more about her at And Gaku-san was recently baptized in to Christ as a result of studying at the Sendai churIMG_6581ch of Christ. Sachiko-san and Rumiko-san prepared a wonderful New Year’s meal for us all. It was delicious! We had a lot of traditional new year foods and a few specialties from Sachiko-san. We enjoyed the day talking and listening to Luke-kun play his trumpet for us.  

Sunday January 3rd, 2010

   We had a wonderful day praising God today. We had quiet a few visitors today. Sachiko-san and Luke-kun were still in town, also Obata-san’s sister came to visit. After services we enjoyed a wonderful meal together with everyone that attended. We had more delicious traditional New Years food. After evening services we were invited by Ryosuku and Rieko to our first movie here in Japan! We were excited. We went to see “This is It!” the Michael Jackson movie. This was not our first choice for a first movie in Japan, but we were excited just to be able to go to the movies.  We enjoyed seeing all the differences of the movie theater here. IMG_6585First the price is quite a bit more expensive. Usually about $18 to $20 for a ticket. (won’t be going to movies very often!) They do have times during the week that are discounted to $10 per persons. For example Monday is “couples” day, Wednesday is “ladies” day, Thursday is “men’s” day. Also they have matinee prices ($12 per person) after 8:00pm everyday. We also had to be assigned seats. It was nice to know where you were sitting.  Another nice part was snacks were about the same price as a US theater! We got our snacks  and headed to our seats. As you walked through to have your ticket checked they offered you a nice fleece blanket. Japan can be so thoughtful! We really enjoyed the movie. It was cool to see Michael Jackson still so passionate about his music, but it really made me realize how we never know when will be our last day and how important it is to be ready to meet our Lord at anytime! Are you?

Monday January 4th, 2010

   We were excited for today. We had friends come and visit us! We knew Ryosho Matsumoto and Chiemi Uchida from Wichita. They both went to Wichita State University and have now returned to Japan. IMG_6598They each live about 1.5-2.5 hours from Takasaki. They really wanted to see our house and the church we are working with. And they said they wanted to see how bad Buta-san really was :O. We picked them up at the train IMG_6602

station and enjoyed lunch together. After that we headed back to Haruna and showed them around the church building and our house. We had a great time talking and laughing over tea and I made Ryosho a special snack, his favorite, Nachos! They also brought us a couple wonderful gifts from the US (cereal!) and IMG_6608

from Chiemi’ s family's grape farm (homemade grape Jelly). We are so happy to have more friends so close. We hope to visit each of their hometowns as well! 


Saturday January 9th, 2010

Junko-san had to go back to the hospital for another round of treatments. We decided to surprise her with a couple of special gifts. We went to visit her and found her completely exhausted from her treatments. But she sat up in bed with a big smile when she saw she had visitors. I had drawn her a picture of the words Amazing Grace IMG_6639(her favorite song) and the scripture Titus 3:7 “so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Mark Yeakley also helped us out by sending us a copy of his Quartet singing Amazing Grace. She loved it. It brought tears to her eyes as she listened. She started searching the room to find a piece of paper to write on. She wrote a thank you note for the men that sang this beautiful song and took a picture so we could send it to them. (The cat is her sister’s, she keeps it close to cheer herself up.)



Day 117-122 Christmas Party, Paul Preaching, and New Years Eve

Saturday December 26th, 2009

December 26th we threw a Christmas party to get the church members to come out of their shells a bit and get to know each other.  We expected everyone around 4:00pm,  but I was getting nervous when 4:00 rolled around and no one was here. About 10 after 4:00 the Obatas arrived and soon everyone came one by one. I guess its an unspoken custom to show up 5-10 minutes late to a party. After everyone settled in we ate a wonderful meal and played a few fun games. We played the “White Elephant” (you trade/ steal joke gifts) game with a few different rules than we are used to, and played a new game where you take turns unwrapping a gift and there was a surprise under every layer of wrapping.  Paul made an amazing pineapple ham that we ate along with all the goodies everyone else brought!IMG_6440-1 Everyone had a great time. We weren't sure how everyone would participate with our crazy games, but everyone joined in like we hoped they would. It was nice to see people laughing and having fun like a family all together. It made our Christmas complete!


   Sunday December 27th, 2009

Paul is preaching once a month in Japanese. He enjoys writing out the sermon in English and with a lot of Obata-san’s help they translate it into Japanese. IMG_6500Then Paul practices until he is comfortable enough to give it to the congregation. This month he preached on Sunday the 27th. The last Sunday of the month. He decided to preach on renewing our commitment to God this next year. For those not yet Christians, he charged them to seek God diligently until they find an answer. It’s hard to judge the reaction of the congregation, but one of our members told Paul, “I thought you were talking about me!” That’s is exactly what Paul needed to hear. We really want the congregation to apply all of the sermons personally. One of our biggest goals here is to help unite this body of believers into a church that serves God whole heartedly. IMG_6474

We also had a few guests join us for singing class this morningIMG_6487 . Just across



the road of the church building a group of people were constructing a very tall stack of bamboo with a Daruma doll on the top. It was part of a New Years celebration with Buddhist overtones. On January 11th they will light it on fire and you are suppose to write your wishes in a piece of paper and throw it into the fire so it will come true. So while the adults were working, Paul invited the children in to sing with us. They asked their parents and joined us. We enjoyed the opportunity to teach some Christian songs and it was great to hear the children sing songs of praise to God, the one true God.


Thursday December 31st, 2009

    The last day of the year! It’s so great to look back on a year. You can learn so much in a year’s time. It seems to go by so slowly at the time, but looking back it seemed to have vanished in a flash. We are so thankful for the past year. So many big changes for our entire family; weddings, babies, moving, changing jobs, and health problems. We love that we are where the Lord has brought us and we pray that He will continue to show us and all of you exactly where we all need to be, to be most effective for His Glory.IMG_6379

 “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” Act 17 26-28 emphasis added.

Day 108-114 Lights on Mt. Haruna and Christmas Concert

Thursday December 17th, 2009

     Every year Mt. Haruna and Lake Haruna are decoratedIMG_6251 with bright lights to celebrate the Christmas holiday and New Year to come. We were able to take a trip up the the mountain to look. It was beautiful. I have to say it was extremely cold, but worth the trip. It was a great IMG_6208

experience to see a winter festival in Japan. We were able to enjoy some special foods also. Then Obata-san purchases tickets for all of us to ride the cable car to the top of one of the peaks of Mt. Haruna. From the top you could see the entire displayIMG_6236 and the city of Takasaki lit up as well. It was a lot of fun and we look forward to seeing it again next year.   


Wednesday December 23rd, 2009

On December 23rd we were able to join Haruna church of Christ’s 5th annual Christmas concert. Six years ago Obata-san met Odawara-sensei and he told her about a dream. A dream to offer a beautiful musical concert to the community in Haruna. He would invite the people into the building to share a night of music and hopefully they would come back to see more about how a Christian worships God. This year we had a great response. IMG_6315We offered a children’s concert in the afternoon. Obata-san read them a Christmas story, and then we sang a few Christmas songs together. And then Odawara-sensei (violin & viola), Sekimoto-sensei (bassoon), and Yamaya-sensei (piano) played a few songs for the children. It was wonderful. Then that evening the rest of the people joined us. We sang a few Christmas songs together and a few Christian songs. Obata-san gave a short sermon to the audience and then everyone enjoyed the music. We had a lot of people talk to us and a few said that they wanted to come back to our Wednesday evening classes. 

Thursday December 24th, 2009

It’s Christmas Eve! We were excited for our first Christmas in Japan. scan 001First thing that morning we went to the kindergarten and sang a few Christmas carols with them and then sang a few Christian songs for them. We enjoyed seeing the kids and we enjoyed singing for them. It was a great start to our Christmas. We knew it would be different today, but to make it feel like we were in the US, we did what most people do on Christmas eve… we went to the mall! We had fun looking around and we found some good food and a nice arcade. IMG_6357Then we headed home. We hoped it wouldn't be too difficult for us to be away from family. With today’s technology we we were able to stay in touch with family and even with Skype sit in on their opening presents. It was wonderful. We still missed being at home and we knew there was something missing. 

Friday December 25th, 2009

I have to say Christmas morning didn’t have the same excitement with it, this year.IMG_6379 We always look forward to Christmas morning, but this year it probably could have passed by with out us thinking too much about it. Most of the Japanese don’t celebrate Christmas like we do in the US. Although we personally don’t believe the Bible teaches us to celebrate this as a religious holiday, we have always found this time of year to be a good time to talk to people about Christ. The ideas, and image of God are everywhere in America. In Japan it really is a different world. The basic ideals and traditions of Christianity are completely absent from the Japanese culture. Slowly Western traditions are being accepted, but many only as commercial holidays. However, we did try our hardest to spread a little Christmas cheer. We baked some oatmeal raisin and chocolate cookies for a few neighbors and went house to house with a “Merry Christmas” and a plate full of cookies! Then we went back home and enjoyed opening the fun gifts we bought for each other along with a present from the Obata’s and a care package from America .  IMG_6406 IMG_6397IMG_6394   

It was a quiet day, but we enjoyed it and made it our new Christmas tradition! And we were looking forward to Saturday’s party!

Day 94-99 Lots of fun at the Kindergarten and Paul’s preachers meeting.

  Thursday December 3rd, 2009

    This month we were able to go to the kindergarten a lot. Paul IMG_6009joined me December 3rd. We wanted to introduce the kids to Paul. The kids loved him! We continued with what they were working on. American food! Something we know a lot about. We made up a game where they had to order from a menu and IMG_6002tell the waiter what they wanted in English. It was cute. Most of the kids ordered hot dogs and usually ordered 3 at a time. We had fun interacting with them.

Saturday December 5th,2009

    We returned to the school for the kids’ Christmas Play. When we walked into the room a lot of the kids started yelling our names. They were excited to see us. The kids sang “Winter Wonderland” and acted out “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “ The Nutcracker.” It was so cute in Japanese. One thing that was really different was all of the audience was sitting on the floor. They had a floor heater, so it was nice and toasty, but something completely different than an American school.  * again we can’t publish any photo’s with the children on our public Blog.*  

Monday and Tuesday December 7th and 8th, 2009

   On Dec. 7th, I (Paul) attended a 2 day preachers meeting in Hakone with Brother Obata and many of the other preachers in IMG_6084Japan. This was the first night Stacey and I had spent apart since coming to Japan. We went to a Hotel that had an “Onsen” (hot springs bath.) The focus of the meeting was to study about the roots of the Restoration movement and some preachers from the “Christian church” also attended. We learned about our common roots together and worshipped together (in acappella.) IMG_6154 In the evening most of the preachers and missionaries all went to the hot springs bath. It’s a kind of community bath divided by gender, where you wash first and then then get in the natural hot springs water to soak after you are clean. It was a very different experience but many of the Japanese men complimented me on being brave enough to try out the experience. The Japanese believe that this kind of fellowship removes all barriers. Well there were definitely were not any “barriers,” enough said. The meeting itself was very informative and one of the missionaries even translated for me. The bath was a relaxing experience and the mountains we were in were beautiful. It was good to spend some time with just the men for a few days but even better to be back at home.