Spring is here!


So how do you know when spring is here? Do you learn from the ground hog? Does it have to get above a certain temperature? In Japan I’ve heard of at least 3 different ways. One way has to do with Mount Fuji. For those that can see Mt. Fuji. When they see a certain portion of the mountain without snow cover they know that Spring has come. I’ve also heard that there is Haru ichiban, or the first strong wind of Spring. Finally here in Tochigi, I heard that when there are more warm days in the week than cold days, then Spring is really here.

Jonathan being from Florida, and Satomi being from Okinawa, we have never really paid so much attention to the weather when we think about the seaons of the year, but here at ARI the weather is always on our minds!!!!

And…. we are proud to announce to the world that Spring is finally here in Tochigi. For the two of us it is exciting because that means that Summer are around the corner again.

With Spring, comes two very special things for us. One is that Easter is around the corner. Soon we will be celebrating the hope and future of our faith. Easter reminds us that Jesus did have victory over sin and death and that victory will one day be ours as well!   At Nasushiobara Church this will be a special Easter for us as well.  Our pastor that was with us for the past two years has moved on and we have a new pastor from yesterday.  With new hopes, ideas and plans join with us in praying that Nasushiobara Church can continue to grow and deeply touch our community.  Just around the corner two different factories have closed recently and word on the street is that the unemployment office has lines out the doors.  We hope that we can give light and find ways to support our community at this Easter.

Spring also signals the beginning of the school year in Japan and here at ARI we have accepted new participants from 15 countries into our training program, new volunteers have joined us and this year we  welcomed one new staff member to campus. We are also eagerly awaiting the completion of our chapel on campus along with some other buildings that are still under construction. And all these new things means many opportunities await us!

With everyone on campus again the energy has shot up, noise is everywhere and the life of Spring has put people into hopeful and excited spirits.  ARI English is once again alive and everyone is practicing their Japanese self introduction which will be shared in 5 days at our Opening Ceremonies.  Let the games begin!

We ask that you join us in prayer for the start of the new year. Pray that all of our participants are able settle in well and begin their training. Pray for open hearts for the whole community. Pray that God would give us and the other staff a clear vision of what we are to do and the ability to see where God is at work in this coming school year. Finally pray that we can share in word and deed the hope we have in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that the Kingdom of God will come more fully to us here in Tochigi, Japan.

Enjoy the Photos Below!



Making Rice Cakes for the New Year!  Satomi is quite the professional!



This year we all made Miso together.  Miso as in Miso soup.  We’ll show you what to do here!  Start by soaking your black soy beans for about a day and then boil until soft.





Take em in a bowl and start pounding them  (Mixer’s also work)



Once it is in a white paste you throw balls of the soy beans into a big bucket with some barley and salt  and let it ferment for about 6 months!  Mix it up and let it sit for another few months.  Voila you have your very own Miso!!!!!







This winter a new camp was started.  English Bible Camp.  It was a great opportunity to introduce the Bible to Japanese people who had never read it themselves and to think about what God says about sustainable living.




English Bible Camp 2014!




One event we did this winter was World Cafe.  We gathered in groups and each answered three questions about ARI and the training.  We then brought all the ideas together and made presentations.  Of course we all had our coffee and snacks to keep us thinking!




Along with the Chapel construction, this winter we have been building a new biogas tank.  We will use it for training on how to create and use a Bio Gas system.  On top of that we can heat up water and even maybe do a little cooking!  Using what others call a waste to create something new and beneficial.  Very ARI.

See ya Next time!


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3 years from that eventful day


(Credits: Japan American Society of Southern California)

On March 11th, 2011 at 2:46pm our world was literally shaken.  It is hard to believe that three years have passed since that day.  


Today at ARI we had a small event to remember what happened three years ago, the people who continue to struggle because of this disaster and to ask God’s guidance in their recovery and our work.  We also took the occasion to learn about the situation that we ourselves continue to face from the radioactive fallout and to think about how we should live.  


With those throughout Japan, we remember that many lost their lives and it could have easily been us.  We are thankful for our lives but also seek to live in a way that does not forget the dead and learns from the past.  Especially considering the ongoing work at the Fukushima powerplant, we are reminded that the disaster was also man made.  We have learned that our innovations can lead to disaster.  Does it mean we stop innovating? Probably not, but each of us should think about what innovation truly is and when it tinkers with what God has already created, we should ask if we are bringing disaster on ourselves.


A final thought.  Jonathan was talking with one of the young missionaries serving at ARI this year after the service.  The missionary said, “We’re screwed!  The end of the world is coming, but we’re the ones bringing it.  God promised to never flood the earth again, but we’re gonna destroy it ourselves.”  Although he is only 23 and was not in Japan when the disaster happened, he understands something beyond his years.  God asked us to rule over or take care of the earth.  But instead of that, it seems that we are tinkering with it in order for it to take care of us.  If we are unwilling to do the work God gave us to do, what will happen.  Only time will tell.  The innovation of science led to the nuclear bomb.  Nuclear power was supposed to be a non-violent positive use of this destructive power, but what has it led to?


Please join us in prayer for Japan and for all of us.  Pray that God will take away the tears and pray that we would follow His guidance and do the work he has given us to do.   Maranatha!



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2013, Christmas and Divine Appointments

Merry Christmas!!!

Here’s hoping you had a very Merry Christmas and that the new year coming around the corner looks promising!

We finished the end of the training program at the beginning of December and had a wonderful Christmas with the community. After the candle light worship service on Christmas Eve, about 20 people, from ARI and our gospel choir, joined together to carol around the city. The next day we joined some other people to go caroling at a local hospital where one of the retired missionaries has been hospitalized for the past month. This turned into a big event.
  By a divine appointment, God brought us out of the elevator at the same time that a local pastor, whose father was in the hospital, was about to go buy lunch. The pastor joined us for caroling which was not done in the room of the missionary as we thought but in a lobby area. The nurses invited and wheeled in patients from around the 5th floor to hear us sing. As we sang, more and more people came. Finally at the end the local pastor gave a message that touched the hearts of so many people. Jesus was shared, people who were in pain heard words of hope, good news. At that time the missionary finally arrived. We believe that the time of caroling was not really for the missionary, but that God had other plans!
  Finally that evening about 40 of us gathered together in the Koinonia Hall at ARI to celebrate Christmas ARI style. After a wonderful dinner, we did the Christmas story. We acted it out, with chickens and pigs (like I said it is ARI style) and a star! Finally we did a gift exchange. All the gifts had to be handmade. As people opened their gifts, conversations began with laughter, joy and even some tears. Taking a little time to not just purchase something, but make it, with your heart put inside, really creates a wonderful experience. The Good news of Jesus Christ felt very real for us this Christmas, how about you?
  Now we move into the quiet time of our year. The training program and evaluation has finished, and the campus is quiet. Christmas festivities have come to an end, and there is not too much in the church calendar over the winter. It is a time to recuperate, reflect, and reimagine the work God has given us to do.
  We hope that at this moment, as one year ends and another begins, that you too can recuperate, reflect and reimagine the mission God has given you to do. Please join us in prayer about these things for both us here in Japan and for you yourself. Let us open our hearts to the divine appointments God may have in store for us, and may the Good News of Jesus Christ give your hearts the strength to accept all God has in store.

May the Peace of Christ and the joy of the Good News be with you now and into 2014!



Here are all the actors from the Christmas pageant. We were also the audience!!!


Minngos sang during the Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration and in December we had our last concert of 2013! Thanks for a great year!


At the graduation party the staff did the Anpanman song, telling the grads to be strong, fly!!!!


The dessert table, so beautiful! Merry Christmas!


31 grads try to cut their cake together!!!!


Thank you Ito family. They invited us in from the cold as we sang our carols Christmas Eve night. We got coffee and some nice mochi anko soup! Warms the body and the heart!

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We hope that Thanksgiving went well and that you are all ready to get back into the swing of things! 

Today we just wanted to remind you that you have a GREAT opportunity to DOUBLE your support! Especially if you were thinking of supporting us soon, we ask that you think about submitting it on
TODAY, Tuesday is giving day for GBGM and funds, up to $50,000 per project will be doubled on that day only if you give online. So….

Especially if you were already planning on giving towards our ministry (or any other ministry like ARI) then go to https://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects.

If you already know you want to support us, then go to the following link TODAY and give your hearts desire :) https://secure3.convio.net/gbgm/site/SPageNavigator/gbgm_donate.html?type=1001&project=3021131

Thank you!!!

As always, you can see what’s happening with us on our blog,


Jonathan and Satomi McCurley

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Although Turkeys are hard to come by in Japan, we are thankful that we will get a small taste of Turkey this year! What are you thankful for???

We pray that this post finds you doing well and healthy!

Now, we want to ask you for your help!

Many of you already support us financially, but we wanted to let you know about a GREAT opportunity to DOUBLE your support! Especially if you were thinking of supporting us soon, we ask that you think about submitting it on


December 3rd is giving day for GBGM and funds, up to $50,000 per project will be doubled on that day only if you give online. So….

Especially if you were already planning on giving towards our ministry (or any other ministry like ARI) then go to https://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects.

If you already know you want to support us, then go to the following link on NEXT TUESDAY and give your hearts desire :) https://secure3.convio.net/gbgm/site/SPageNavigator/gbgm_donate.html?type=1001&project=3021131

Thank you!!!

As always, you can see what’s happening with us on our blog,


Jonathan and Satomi McCurley

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Bye Bye Summer!

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!

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                    It`s almost the end of August and while Japan is still HOT HOT HOT, the peak seems to have passed and we are headed towards fall. This past summer, as in many places around the world, the heat and flooding became a regular part of the news in Japan and we were constantly praying for folks facing those situations.

It has been about 2 months since we last posted here, which pretty much means summer has come and is now going. We had a very busy summer with some exciting and challenging things happening.
                 Nasushiobara church has continued to grow with several people beginning baptism classes and a youth ministry started at the church to reach people around us. The gospel choir has continued to grow and this summer we were able to participate in a charity concert in Fukushima where people continue to recover from the disasters in 2011. Over 50 people joined us for that concert and that number has continued from that point on. God has been blessing us with an opportunity to reach more and more people in our area with His love through Gospel music.
              At ARI the training has finished it`s first semester with the participants now in the North of Japan, staying and learning from the farmers in one of the truly rural parts of Japan. Many people have gotten comfortable with one another and relationships are being built. In July we had the wonderful opportunity of having Dr Joseph Ozawa with us at ARI. He is a psychologist and a minister who has worked around the world as well as creating a wonderful DVD about contextualizing the Gospel into Japanese culture entitled, God`s fingerprint in Japan. As he met with the community individually, he was able to share many things with the staff that has helped us think about the best way to move forward with creating a holistic leadership training program as we come to the 40th anniversary of the training here at ARI.
            In another 2 weeks hundreds of supporters and graduates will descend upon our campus as ARI celebrate 40 years of work and ministry. During that time we will have a symposium thinking about what has been and what is the future of leadership in rural areas. Join us in prayer for this event. As many people come, please pray that God will give us wisdom as we think about the lives of some of the most marginalized people in the world. We believe that the keys to the future are leaders being rooted in the love of Jesus Christ and going forward to change their communities, let us pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will make that come true.
                    Finally we join you in prayer for our world. We know that very difficult situations are occurring in the Middle East and we join you in praying that we can find away forward without destroying more and more life. This is close to our minds as in August, Japan always remembers the end of World War II, and at ARI with people from all over the world we think deeply about it. Victims of the war from South Korea, Myanmar, Thailand, China, etc… along with Japanese who both attacked and then were bombed with an atomic bomb by Americans, we are all together. It is a time to think, pray and really search for real peace. On top of this something we (Satomi and Jonathan) thought deeply about was Okinawa this year.
                 The word at the beginning of today`s entry was in the Okinawan language. It means welcome! This year we learned about the sad history of Okinawa who was also colonized by Japan and through the presence of the US and now Japan has continued to be a people who are not able to see their culture celebrated. Instead of using their own language, Uchinaguchi, they continue to use Japanese. We ask that as you pray for the world, that you remember the Okinawan people as well. At this moment there is a movement that has started to reintroduce the language to the people. We do not know what God has in store but we believe that the church could play a role in seeing the Okinawans relearn their language, and this role could allow the gospel to more fully enter into the hearts of the Okinawan people, as it`s connection with language allowed the gospel to spread in South Korea.
              With that said, we pray that you are able to find true peace through Jesus Christ and through that peace share it with people around you, becoming peace makers in a broken world.



Meet Byron Fija.  He is half Okinawan and half American.  His mother tongue is Okinawan and he is working for Okinawa to recover it’s language, teach in schools and bring it up to the level of equal language with Japanese and English.  Now it is only considered by many Japanese as a dialect of Japanese, but per UNESCO, it is a full fledged language with 6 dialects of it`s own.




ARI Sunday at Nasushiobara Church.  Thank you to our ARI friends!!!




Methodist Friends for the summer.  On the left, Alex and Ashlyn came through the Global Justice Volunteers Summer Mission program.  They were a great help and I thank God for their work!  The third person is Kelly, who has been serving with the Mission Intern program at ARI since last September.  She still has 4 months with us and has been a wonderful presence.  Pray for these young people and God’s continued work in and through them.



Group 1, the Fish section had their final group party of the semester at our house.  It has been a blessing to work with so many different folks!  We`re looking forward to the next semester!



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