Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

“Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
-Luke 2:7-8 (NIV)

Please find below an excerpt from our Christmas Letter that we sent to many churches and people that are supporting us!

We greet you in name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and we pray that this letter finds you filled with the light and hope of Christmas as you celebrate the birth of our Lord again this year. Here in Japan, the Asian Rural Institute has just finished the 2017 leadership training program and the campus has become much quieter and colder as we celebrate Christmas. 22 rural leaders from Africa and Asia finished this year’s program and have left us to go back home and put in to practice the many skills and mindsets involved in servant leadership and sustainable, wholistic development and agriculture that they have learned and experienced here. As we say goodbye to these wonderful friends we remember that merely 9 months ago, these people were strangers from different lands who spoke, ate, believed and looked different from ourselves. Yet now we see them as family and cry and hug as we say our goodbyes, goodbyes that are possibly final on this side of eternity.

  As we come to the end of the year we celebrate many things in our ministry from 2017. At ARI, we celebrate another training year that was marked by new agricultural practices and new educational methods that brought about positive results. We were very successful with the SRI method that was practiced in the rice fields with a bountiful yield of nine tons coming out of fields that were expected to give only seven. We focused our existing class sessions and added time for self-study, research and observation on a daily basis. This practiced led to more informed reflection and deeper questioning throughout the year. We also are joyous about the Oikos Chapel Hour that we officially began this year, an idea that another missionary we work with brought forth. Although we daily listen to one another in our morning gatherings, Oikos Chapel Hour gave us a chance to also hear from people outside of our community about what God was doing and to what God was calling us. Through this time we became thankful for the many ways we are being molded as a community.

Our ministry in the greater community has also been blessed. Satomi has been busy creating more opportunities for ministry with children and youth and created deeper and new relationships with the greater community in her new role as church and community coordinator with ARI. She actively recruited new teachers and volunteers for our children’s program at Nasushiobara Church and is finding news ways to disciple them. She gathered a team to have our first youth & young adult camp this year. Working with a UM GMF (Global Mission Fellow) from the Philippines, we were successful at bringing the camp to fruition. The Gospel Choir, MINNGOS, continues to grow and touch new people and God is putting new ideas into our hearts to further this work. Her work with children in the community has been rerouted from one children’s home to supporting a support center for neglected and abused children in the area. Meeting children who walk barefoot to school and do not have running water at home is a shock for many in Japan, but is still a reality for some people. Sharing the love of Christ with them in little ways has brought much joy.

As we think on Christmas there are several things that are on our minds.

When we first came to ARI, Jonathan remembers starting to clean out the pig pens or chicken houses and learning what a feeding trough really looked like. The dirt, the saliva and sometimes other things from the animals mixed in with the feed. Thinking of this you can sense the smell and see an image of that manger where Jesus was born. It definitely is not the smell or the image of a nice and clean manger that live nativity scenes often portray. Yet this is the reality of where our Lord first laid his head.

As we think about Bethlehem, we think of a rural area. Here at ARI we have learned that there are many wonderful things about the rural areas of our world and it’s life. People know each other, time slows down and you can actually enjoy your commute from one place to another. But the reality of the many problems also become apparent. As we celebrate Christmas this year, we remember about the many difficulties that rural areas, including Bethlehem itself is going through now. The sad reality is that this is not much different from the situation Jesus was born into some 2000 years ago.

And of course there was no room at the end. When the Messiah appeared to us, no one had a place to welcome him. No one found the space to welcome a teenage girl who was in pain and about to give birth to her first child, our Lord and Savior. The sad reality is that still today, we minister in a country where some 98% of the people do not have room for Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives.

Yet this is how God chose to send the Savior of the World to us. Jesus came to one of the most marginalized in the world, whose only place was next to animals. And yet that is the beauty of Christmas. The God that we worship did not wait for us to reach up to Him but God came down to be with what seems like the most unimportant one of us. Christmas shows the reality of the gospel, that God cares so much about us, no matter who we are or what we have done and wants to be born anew in us this Christmas. No matter how dirty we are, how separated from the world we seem to be, if we would only have space for Jesus, God will come to us and save us where we are.

This is why we are here in this country at this place. We are here to share with people from some of the most marginalized parts of the world that you are not forgotten. God loves you and says you are important and because of that we love you and want to find ways to lift you up. We are here to share with the Japanese people that no matter how dark and lonely their hearts seem to be, no matter how much they waste in trying to fill themselves up with all of the conveniences and material goods around them, that God comes to them and loves them.

So we thank you and invite you again to join this mission. We are grateful for your support throughout this past year and ask you to sow a seed again in 2018 to bring the gospel to people from some 20 nations of the world. Your support will bring the bright light of hope to Japanese young people who struggle with some of the highest rates of mental illness in the world. Join us to empower bold rural leaders who train with us and return home to work for their own people in nations that are too often only characterized by what they lack and not by what they have. Give of your finances, spend time on your knees in prayer for us and those around us and consider coming to work with us, part of what God is doing on the other side of the world.

Serving the world for Christ,

Jonathan, Satomi & Yuka McCurley

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Importance of Community

The first post by Satomi since being commissioned as a missionary in June of this year.  Please enjoy learning how she has taken on ministry in the church and the community around ARI.     As always thank you for your ongoing support and love for our family.


After we started new chapter of our lives, I was curious something around our house. Because even we were away from home for about 2 month, I didn’t see weeds much around our house. One of our friend which lives next door she did weeding for us. She even asked other friends to help her. And not only that, she also planted some vegetables in my little garden! I was so glad about that. And I really felt love and importance of community through that. Caring one another, helping one another. I think independence also create isolation many times especially in Japan. I would like to share more love and care to people in here through our lives. ( Satomi )

Iwaki Gospel 2017.JPG

Our Gospel choir MINNGOS participated in charity concert in Iwaki city which is in northeastern area. Many people were touched and changed their lives through praising God!!



At Sunday school When they raise their hand and speak, and ask questions, and remember the bible verse and share it, I will be glad. Because it mean they are listening what we are teaching 🙂


Youth camp 2017.JPG

JOY RIDE!!  That was first camp in our church, youth and young adult group got together.“We have many kind of scene in our lives good or bad. But let us not control our lives by what we feel or what our circumstances are. Let us focus our eyes on Jesus who gives us eternal Joy!!”


ARK VBS 2017.jpg

Everyone is important!  That was first VBS in our church for 2days! First day we did program in church, second day after we had some program in church went to park to play. We learned God made all of us and saves us. That was precious time!!


Yukata worship 2017.jpg

Welcome!  This was 7th year of Yukata worship! (Yukara is Japanese traditional summer dress) Every year many new people are coming for this time more than church members. “Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done. Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are”

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”    – Matthew 9:37-38 –


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Prayers from Japan

To our friends in the US, Latin America and the Caribbean.  To our friends on the Indian Subcontinent and The Philippines, West and Central Africa.   Please know that your friends here in Japan have been praying for you and seeking God’s guidance in how we can help as you go through difficulties at the moment.  Many of us pray and think about you often at this time.  We are grateful to hear that there are those on the ground helping and just as you sought the peace of God and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the difficulties and struggles we in Japan faced 6 years ago, we seek the same for you.

Recovery is possible.  Transformation is possible.  Hope is necessary.

Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13:11 (CEV)


Your friends at the Asian Rural Institute and local Nasushiobara Churches


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Where did summer go?

Hello Everyone! It is the middle of August and this is supposed to be the hottest time of year for us here in Tochigi, Japan. But the weather isn’t getting out of the 70’s much at all. Depending on who you ask, this is a blessing or a curse. Many people escape to our area in the summer to run away from the hot temperatures in Tokyo or other cities. For them this is the blessing they were seeking. But Jonathan was talking with the farm manager the other day and was told, hmmm I’d like a little more sunshine and heat for the fields! And we, Satomi being from Okinawa and Jonathan being from Florida were waiting in anticipation for the heat to come. I guess we will have to wait till next year.

As the summer begins to wind down and we head towards Fall, we here at ARI begin to look at the second semester of the training. In another week the Participants (Students) will head up north for their annual Rural Community Study Tour and most of our visiters and summer interns will be heading home. Our community becomes smaller and thoughts of the end of the year slowly start creeping in.

But as we are still in August, it is good not to let our minds get too far ahead of us. In fact, August is a month in Japan when a lot of recollection is happening. Just now many Japanese people are welcoming home their ancestors. In this Buddhist tradition of Obon, people put up candles at the shrines in their homes or at the graves so that the ancestors can find their way home to meet and commune with the living. While Christians do not keep this tradition, it is a very important part of Japanese culture, a time to remember your ancestors and come together. It’s also been a time when many farmers traditionally harvest their rice. So rice harvest begins and the smell in the air and scenery slowly begin to change.

August is also the time of year when Japanese remember the end of WWII. There are many memorial services for the bombing of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and of course the announcement of the end of the war which was August 15 in Mainland Japan (Okinawans who bore the only land battle that happened in the war remember the end of the war on a different date. A sad history itself). At this time of the year there are always pronouncements that Japan should never go to war again and prayers and wishes and speeches for world peace.

Now as missionaries, when we look back, being in mission challenges us to also look forward. Learning from the history of our people and the people we serve, we are asked how we will live, what we will do.  How can we our hope in the Gospel of Jesus Christ help to make a difference?

As many of you know and have followed, recently Satomi was Commissioned as a missionary with the UMC mission board, Global Ministries, and Jonathan was commissioned as a probationary elder (pastor) with the Florida conference of the UMC. We were both told that our work is very much needed as such a time as this. Missionaries and ministers are people who look at the world and what ever was in the past and thinking on the future remind people that God is still in control. God’s reign is here and will one day fully be realized. As much hate and many unsettling things happen the world over, we seek to hold on to the promise that God is in control and proclaim that the reign of God is already here, and one day His Kingdom will fully be here as it is in heaven.

And so now, in prayer, through financial support or through encouragement we seek you as a partner to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ that God is in Control and his Kingdom is coming.

Won’t you walk along side us on this journey?



ARI Sunday at Nasushiobara Church.  What a great time to hear from participants about their homes and what God is doing in the world.  (Satomi is taking the picture)


First Ever NasuGos!  Inviting gospel singers and their band from Tokyo led to a wonderful event with many in attendance and God moving mightily!


Yuka is always the center of the world!  She wasn’t much for showing her face in this picture as everyone enjoyed their foot bath.  Well at least everyone did look at her!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Satomi’s Training is Ending

Dear Friends and Family,

Tomorrow is the day.  Monday, May 8th, at 10 am Satomi will finish her missionary training with a Blessing service at Grace UMC in downtown Atlanta where the new head quarters is for the Mission Board, Global Ministries, of the United Methodist Church is now located.   There will even be a livestream if you are interested in following.  You can go to this link to see it.   We will then be heading down to Florida where we hope to see some of you over the next month before both of us are commissioned, Satomi as a missionary and Jonathan as a provisional elder (pastor) at the Florida Annual Conference of the UMC.  Hope some of you will join us tomorrow!

Continuing on in Christ,

Satomi, Jonathan & Yuka

Missionary Candidates.jpgSpring class of 2017 UMC Missionaries.   Go to the following Link to read more about them and their places of assignments

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Personal Updates

As the winter wears on the wind is beginning to blow here in Japan and the days are slowly becoming longer, we are enjoying the quiet time that we are able to have here. As our participants finish their training program and go home in December, we have an opportunity at ARI from then through the middle of March to reflect and recuperate from the year. Although it does become lonely at times, it is nice to have the peace and quiet that comes in winter to ARI.


But our lives have been full of new things over the past few months and our home is not as quiet as it used to be. To begin with, Jonathan went before the Florida Board of Ordained Ministry in January. Although the interview was definitely nerve wracking, we are proud to announce that the Board has recommended Jonathan for Provisional Elder. There will be a commissioning service in Orlando this year on Saturday, June 10th on the last day of the Florida Annual Conference. Everyone is more than welcome to come and show support for Jonathan on that day at the service of ordination and commissioning.

On top of that Satomi was finally approved to be in connection with the General Board of Global Ministries and to attend the training in Atlanta, GA this coming April. On May 8th, she will have a blessing service in Atlanta and be commissioned in June at annual conference as a GBGM missionary.

Finally, we have formally started the adoption process of a four year old girl named Yuka whom we welcomed into our home as foster parents on February 1st of this year. Yuka can be translated as beautiful/ nice flower. As she has entered our home we have learned the joy of having a child in the house along with the tension that can be created at time. It is a wonderful time of laughing, crying and learning how to become a family and to put into practice the motto that we teach at ARI, That We May Live Together. (At a future date when deemed appropriate we will share a photo of the family.)

For all of you who have been praying for us, we ask for your continued prayers. We will also be coming state side for Satomi’s training and then through May for Satomi’s itineration and of course the June commissionings. When we have more details we will let you know what we can. We do ask for continued prayers and continued support as we continue on this journey that God has put in front of us.

Enjoy the Photos!


Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Merry Christmas

Dear Friends!

We hope that you had a Merry Christmas yesterday! It is hard to describe how 2016 has transpired without saying how it has been surprising and eventful. We spent the first 3 months of 2016 sharing with many of you in your homes, towns and churches about our ministry and learning much from you and what was going on around us back in the US. On returning to Japan in March, we were not quite sure how our ministry might unfold throughout this year and how the various events around the world might affect them but we rejoice at the faithfulness of God to our ministries as they unfolded this year. We remember that God, as we learned in Sunday School as children, has the whole world In His hands, and are so thankful for the Grace and Mercy we are receiving and sharing about through ministry and life.
So in this spirit of thanksgiving we want to share about the wonderful things we have experienced this year. First of all we are thankful for one more training program that has been completed. On Saturday, December 10th, 23 new graduates from 13 different countries finished our Rural Leaders Training Program. After almost 10 months of leadership training, learning practical sustainable agriculture skills, we have 23 rural leaders who have left Japan to return to their home countries in Asia and Africa. During the training, they traveled around Japan to see the reality of development, and then they developed and shared dreams for the future of their home communities, and now they are off to put hands and feet to their dreams.                                                                                                           The work they are doing will probably have little in the way of material benefit, but we believe that their work is instrumental to the their community’s people and to the Kingdom of God.  This is especially true for the half of the world that lives in rural communities. Many of them lack infrastructure and services that we take for granted in Japan or the US, and so through our training we give their churches, NGO’s and grass roots organizations the opportunity to let the people develop their own services and infrastructure. While difficult, it leads to self sustainability and self determination. This is at the root of having a servant’s heart and of the ARI training.
ARI has finished 43 years of faithful ministry and has seen over 1300 leaders graduate from the leadership training program. Throughout that time there have been many stories shared and we are so happy that a new book has recently been published by ARI to highlight those stories. We are thankful for this new resource which we believe God can use to share the story of what people receive at this institute and how God is using them to take His Kingdom around the world.
We are also thankful for the work God has allowed us to do in the church. Our gospel choir has continued to grow in both numbers and presence in the local community. Members are coming to believe and follow Jesus, being baptized and discipled
and our choir is taking the gospel to places that would normally not be open to Christian Evangelism. We also are creating a culture of belonging. As one of the members recently said, here at Minngos it doesn’t matter how good of a singer we are, we are accepted, loved and welcomed here. This is truly the atmosphere we hope will lead even more to accept the love of Christ in their own lives. One true joy is how there are many more children now joining with their parents to the choir. While a noisy challenge at times, it is also an opportunity for us to think of how to grow our ministry and reach out even more with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our children and youth ministry continues to expand as well. Recently through Satomi’s connection with one local NGO, we have begin ministering to children who are in very difficult family situations. It has been a joy to watch these kids learn about Jesus and see the hope that Christ can give. It is amazing how the love and a promise of a warm meal can open up hearts and fill children with so much hope and excitement.
Finally we are so excited for our youth ministry which is looking at taking its first mission trip next year. This is a new adventure for us all. Although both of us have been on mission trips and welcomed teams before, it will be our first time leading one. Yet, it is wonderful that as these young people grow in the knowledge of Christ and His Grace, they are also ready to see how God will now use them to touch others.
On another note, at this time we remember that scripture also tells us to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. This has also been part of our reality this year. The reality of the children in our local area who do not have a loving family or hot meal waiting for them, the struggles that our graduates must go through as they go back to places where resources seem to be hidden or lacking. For the many natural disasters, political events and the ongoing threats and reality of violence, we know there are many others who mourn and are seeking hope.
It is at Christmas that Jesus came into this world to bring us hope. He did not come in a way that what we think a king should come. He had no royal clothes or banquet at his birth. He did not grow up with “only the best” and tables overflowing with food. Instead he was born in a rural village, among impoverished people, to parents who had plenty of problems to deal with. He came to people who mourned, but he came so that one day they might rejoice.
Thankfulness did not come for all the material blessings that God bestowed upon His People. Although most of Jesus’ people were waiting for God to pour our His blessings and bring a savior to defeat the grip of not only Satan, but Rome and those who were oppressing them, Jesus did not become the savior in the way that many expected of Him. Instead Jesus served, healed and loved, died and rose again. He came to those who were suffering and gave them the true deliverance that they needed. It was not material, but it was real and just what they needed. Christmas is the beginning of that story.
Remembering the struggle and fear of so many in the world right now, we know that physical safety and comfort along with spiritual healing are both so important. So as we celebrate Christmas again this year, we do it with our eyes fixed on the one who gives hope and our hands willing to help those who are in need of support. We pray that you also our strengthened and can be thankful this Christmas season and we look forward to continuing working together through your ongoing support on into the future.

( As always you are able to give online at this page.  Our advance number is 3021131.)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Jonathan & Satomi!!!
“In [Christ] was life, and that life was the light of men.” -John 1:5 (NIV)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment