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!

 

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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)

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Oh Give Thanks!

This past weekend was the 44th Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration at ARI. We spent months preparing our committees and entire work of nonstop physical labor to set up our campus to welcome over a thousand visitors who helped us to celebrate this year’s harvest. Although we prayed for no rain, God did send some rain, but on both days the rain ended around noon and we were able to enjoy the afternoon together singing, dancing, eating, playing games and learning about the world.

Every year ARI participants lead the celebration and each year is unique. This year we really felt though that the focus was on our thankful hearts. The week before HTC, each morning gathering speaker challenged us to think about where our hearts were and how we were being thankful for all that God has blessed us with. The preachers both day and many of the performances gave the same message. As we work, serve, pray, worship, eat, live, are we doing it with thankful hearts. Are our words blessing people or hurting them?

We are very thankful for the opportunity to participate in such an international and intentional community. It is a place where so many people come together and are open to listen and learn from one another. Relationships do not become deep very quickly, but slowly we learn to understand and listen to one another and hope begins to be born.

We believe more and more that this is what the world needs more of today. A place to come to and learn about the other. A place where we can all sit down and eat one another’s foods, listen to and celebrate what God has done in our lives. This is what the Kingdom of God must be like, a place where together we give thanks for the bounty of blessing in our lives.

But of course the reason this type of place exists is because it is not normal. The participants who come to us come from places where misunderstanding, hunger, violence and hatred reign. For all of us, the experiences of hardship and fighting are too real. To counter that reality, we train leaders who will serve people as Jesus served, using their hands to grow food, their tongues to mold people, and heir eyes to see communities transformed. We take time at HTC to give thanks for the opportunities and many ways God has blessed us so that our work can become a reality.

What are you thankful for? Is a thankful heart showing through your work, through your hands, through your words.

Please continue to keep us, ARI & Japan in your prayers. Also if you feel led to support our work, you are encouraged to head over to this website and make a donation so that mission work here and around the world can continue.

In Christ,

Jonathan & Satomi

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This year’s HTC Logo, ¬†Serve God, Nature and Neighbor

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This is all an offering from our fields that was processed in and offered at the beginning of our worship service to begin HTC on Saturday.

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Jonathan was on the stage committee this year.  He also took a turn to MC.  Sunday became very nice and we were able to use our outside stage.

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Our Friend Takashi does the poi fire dance from New Zealand as Father MacDonald from Malawi gives him a beat to follow.

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As Satomi looks on Jonathan and one of the Gospel choir members introduce ourselves at the stage as we begin to give thanks through song for all God has done for us!

 

 

 

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Individual Summer Project

Wow it’s been a while! ¬†How is everyone doing? ¬† We are doing well here in Japan. ¬†The Rainy Season is slowly coming to an end and the summer is setting in. ¬†That means it will actually get into the 80’s! ¬†Of course since there are no air conditioners at ARI, the 80’s is pretty hot, but it’s manageable.

This is also the time where participants choose to focus on their own individual learning for a week. ¬†In general ARI’s curriculum is a community based approach. ¬†Therefore there is only one class in the morning and one in the afternoon. ¬†All the participants in the training program are required to join this session. ¬†Of course what you research and do outside of that depends on your own motivation and your own interests but in general we all do the same thing at the same time.

This was difficult to understand for us when we first arrived.  But slowly we came to see that the ARI method is one that values and includes the entire community, thus the classes are that way.

But there is an understanding that people also need a time to deepen their own interests and area of work.  So this week comes and people go off to various places.  They visit with women and farmer groups, churches, farms, organizations working with the mentally or physically disabled.  They create home made incubators, try food processing, making their own fertilizers.  The whole point is to have a deeper understanding of a subject that they themselves are interested in.

We thought that we need this time in our life. ¬†Scheduling a time to learn, study or experience more about something that we need in our life. ¬†That’s what a spiritual retreat is in a way. ¬†A time for us to focus on God, listen to the Holy Spirit and engage deeply with scripture. ¬†After this time, we feel renewed, refreshed and more excited. ¬†Have you done that lately?

Please keep our participants in prayer as they seek to deepen their learning and our entire community in prayer as well.  Pray that we can deepen not only our learning but our relationship with God and that this will refresh and reinvigorate us for the work that is ahead.

 

 

 

 

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Magnify the Lord!

We want to say thank you to Rev Mary Spradlin who shared this on her blog site where she is sharing about what has been happening in Portland (http://notesfromportlandgc2016.blogspot.jp)  Jonathan wandered over there yesterday to see what was going on in Portland and when he saw this, he got excited!

Go to minute 30:30 and be ready to worship!

Hallelujah! ¬†As many of you know the United Methodist Church, the church we are serving in Japan on behalf of is having it’s quadrennial (Every 4 year) meeting and there’s a lot of legislating happening but there also seems to be some wonderful worship going on. ¬†As we listened to this we were very encouraged and began to think of all the reasons of why our God is worthy of our praise. ¬†Have you thought of that recently?

 

 

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Mistakes, Grace, Growth

Kyou wa ii tenki desu ne!

When Jonathan first came to Japan he was told that Japanese always talk about the weather. So when you start a conversation with someone it`s always a good time to talk about the weather. Specifically the phrase above means the weather is nice today! If you’re waiting at a train station, a bus stop, a traffic light, in line somewhere and you want to start a conversation, it’s always a good way to do that.

But that doesn’t translate to all cultures. At ARI, we have people from around 20 different nations and probably over 30 different cultures around us. While some like the Japanese always talk about the weather, others talk about food, politics, religion, family, etc… While there always is a way to talk with someone, that also means some things are off limits.

Learning to find out what is ok to say and what is not is the process we go through every year to build a new community. While it can be stressful at times, the mistakes can actually help to form relationships and trust.

A couple of weeks ago, we were invited to another missionaries home for lunch and one of the participants, students, from ARI was there when we arrived. Jonathan, being sarcastic and getting in trouble, said oh man I thought I was getting away from you today! They both laughed but soon we noticed that the participant had left. ÔĀĆ Later Jonathan approached the gentleman who, staying true to his culture, gave an excuse as to why he left. As the conversation continued though the participant realized that miscommunication had happened, forgave Jonathan and opened up some.

At ARI and in our Christian walk we often learn that mistakes, failures do not mean the end. They are opportunities to try again, to become better at something, to grow. Jesus teaches us that grace, mercy, love are all about another chance and using mistakes for a new tomorrow. If participants are going to achieve anything in their communities, if the church is to grow and new people are to come to Christ, and if we are to become disciples, sanctified believers, then mistakes will happen and God teaches us what to do with those mistakes.

As we close we ask that you would please pray for us at ARI, the other staff, volunteers and participants. Please pray for the Japanese Church. Pray that we will try new things, learning from the mistakes, experiencing the grace and mercy of God in deeper ways than we have before.

Come Back Soon, Pictures to come!

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Pictures as promised… ¬†Now the training is almost a month in and things are going well! ¬†Enjoy!

 

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2016„ÄÄARI Community

 

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