Greetings from Tochigi!!!!
The season is changing and there are lots of coughs to show for it!
Here at the Asian Rural Institute we have just finished two major events for the 2013 school year and are now pulling into the last 2 months of the training. In the middle of September, from the 15th through the 22nd, we were celebrating 40 years of God’s faithfulness to us here walking with Rural Leaders. As our Associate Director reminded us often, the symposium and celebration that we had on the 16th of September was the biggest event that we have ever had here. Almost 300 friends from around the world gathered with us on the 16th to celebrate and learn about what our graduates are doing with the training they receive here in Japan. Including this year’s class of 2013, we had over 100 rural leaders and their family members together, representing close to 30 countries on 3 continents. A Buddhist Monk set next to a Catholic Father listening to the sharing of a Muslim leader from Sri Lanka. So many languages and smells were being experienced in one place that we remembered why our dining hall is called Koinonia Hall. And we celebrated with dancing and singing and laughter which eventually would give way to tears of sorrow as all those exciting moments of life began to leave the campus and head back to all corners of the world.
It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience. As we often say of ARI, it is not like any international group that we can experience anywhere else in Japan or the US. These people could not be here if it were not for the support and love of people throughout the world. They bring their culture that is not like the globalized urban culture we find in most cities of the world, but culture that has lasted for hundreds of years and of places that many times modern conveniences have yet to affect. It is a wonderful experience that we will cherish, of people from every nation coming to thank the Lord of Heaven.
Yet, not even a week had went by from the end of the 40th Anniversary Celebrations that the campus was in full swing again as preparation for the 41st Annual Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration (HTC) began. This is a time where we welcome hundreds of Japanese guests on to our campus to worship, eat, learn about the culture and art of the countries of our community members. This is also a major part of the ARI training program. The participants (students) take the lead in planning, organizing and bringing about the event. Their ultimate goal is to create an experience where we thank God for the harvest with as many people who will come as possible. They also have the educational goal of making it sustainable, or profitable. In many rural communities, the purpose of a celebration is to celebrate, period. Whether it is right or not, it is a constant struggle we even have in the community as we tell people we need to plan a self sufficient event, and many people say that giving thanks to God and celebrating can not be measured in self-sufficiency. Which one is right??? Hmmm…. What do you think?
The wonderful thing for this year’s HTC is that I believe it was a success in all aspects. Over 1500 people joined us to celebrate the Harvest. The Preachers and worship services were a blessing. The performances brought about joy and helped us to celebrate all that God has blessed us with! And… (drumroll please), we came out in the black.
With that, we head into the last two months of the training program. Please keep us and ARI in your prayers that we finish the training strong, and the many things people have learned this year find a practical way to be lived out. Also, keep us (Satomi and Jonathan) in your prayers as we travel around Western Japan from the 8th through the 25th of November. We will be sharing about the work of ARI, and challenging people with our mission, which is deeply rooted in the love of Jesus Christ. Pray that people hear and even accept Christ as we share about work in His name. Thank you for your continual love and support. As Always if you feel called to support us financially, head over the Advance page and do so.
We were on our way to Niigata and stopped at a little mom and pop noodle place. It was by a small river in the mountains, Beautiful! Halfway through a bee came and created quite a funny situation. Jonathan was taking pictures as the other three were running around with food in their hands and the bee chasing them! :)
Coming and Going! New and Old Volunteers! Thanks for your service!!!
Our brother and sister in the front had their church blessing. Although they were traditionally married a year ago in the wife’s home country, they had this celebration here in Japan! Congrats Unle and Auntie!
Halloween is gaining pupularity in Japan. So we use that to bring kids into the church who normally do not come. Through Jack there in the front we share the gospel, teaching kids that Jesus will clean up all the icky stuff in us and put his light in our hearts if we will accept it. God is good! The kids had such a good time that the 4 new ones said they wanted to come to Sunday School. Pray that Ark, Sunday School, continues to grow.
An annual event, the rice harvest photo! Happy we are!
Our friend and brother in the middle is from Cambodia and has a wonderful testimony of everything God has done in his life! We were blessed by him and pray we blessed him even a little!
This year over 60 graduates joined us for the 40th anniversary celebrations. They shared with us and worked with us. A great day for harvest made for great fun!
Satomi likes Watermelon! Well not this much. We were invited to a friend’s house who cut a whole watermelon into 4 pieces. 4 pieces! That’s why it is bigger than her head!
Well at least this picture makes me look like he works hard, right???
With a friend from Sri Lanka, hiding behind the rice, they are cutting and bundling away!