ARI Sunday

One of the ways that ARI connects with and supports local churches in Japan is through something called ARI Sunday. ARI Sunday is a Sunday when a local church invites an ARI Staff member, volunteer or participant to come and share with them. We preach, share testimonies, give lectures or share about our work and communities. Sometimes we are even asked to talk about the mission and vision of ARI herself. As we do this, the connection between the church and ARI grows stronger. Churches learn much about the lives of people from around the world, the struggles and what God is doing. We, the ARI community members also are glad to share our thoughts and experiences and hope we are benefiting the ministry of the churches. This is also a great time for us to raise support, awareness and sell some of our yummy cookies and jam!
But the beginning of this connection is deeper. ARI Sunday started in the 60’s in Tokyo near the seminary where the ARI program had begun. At that time churches held Asia Sunday on the last Sunday of June. It was a time for the Japanese church to remember and support their brothers and sisters in Asia through connecting with people from Asia. (If you do not know much about the history of WWII in Asia or why we talk about Asia as if it is different than Japan, it would be good to look up as it will help you understand relationships between Asian countries today!)
The Asian Rural Institute was actually started because of the idea that the Japanese Church needed to work for peace and reconciliation, especially between Japan and it’s Asian neighbors. Although the damage of war can not be undone, reconciliation is possible. ARI is one vision of how that can be achieved. The hopes being that peace and reconciliation happen not just between Japan and others, but in countries throughout the world. Through local rural leaders from 20+ nations coming, living together for 9 months, with all of their cultural, religious, linguistic, ethnic and national differences, a hope exists that a new sense of love, peace and reconciliation may be born in their own hearts and from there into their own communities.
As places around the world struggle with racial division and strife, ethnic and tribal conflict and misunderstanding, ARI is a places that seeks to show a different way to live. And as we continue to participate in ARI Sundays here in Tochigi and throughout Japan this year, we pray the church will also be a place where brothers and sisters can live together in harmony. A place where the body of Christ can stand together as one. Won’t you join us in this work?

A young Laos UMC pastor sharing with supporters.

A young Laos UMC pastor sharing with supporters.

Sharing at ARI Sunday range from sermons to testimonies to talks about work and communities

Sharing at ARI Sunday range from sermons to testimonies to talks about work and communities

Mama talking.  From Liberia, she serves in a UMC church in her home area.

Mama talking. From Liberia, she serves in a UMC church in her home area.

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Onions, Garlic, Potatoes Oh My!!!

Hoping everyone back in the US had a safe 4th of July weekend and a good start to your week. 6 months of the year are behind us now and we at ARI are in the middle of the Rainy Season. That means the temperatures are comfortable, if not cold! Lows in the upper 60’s and highs in the upper 70’s are not something to complain about in July we have been told. But for two people born and raised in Southern climates, it still feels like Winter temperatures!
But the rainy season also means that harvest is abounding. This year we have been blessed with a bumper harvest of onions, garlic and potatoes, not too mention the plethora of green vegetables coming to and our of the kitchen every day. For the past 2 weeks, on the main table of the Koinonia house there has been a bowl of lettuce for anyone in need of extra greens because there is too much to use in a side dish. We are very thankful for the food and reminded of the hard work and effort put into making food.
This is also the time of the year when the participants begin to struggle with homesickness and thinking about their return home in December. They have come with many dreams and goals and as they learn some of those dreams change or are challenged by the realities that are in the world. We especially think of our participants from Nepal as they must return in 6 months to a home very different from the one they left in March, before the earthquake.
So to help them with this, we provide time for individual study and also have been blessed to receive professional counselor on campus for a few weeks to listen to them and help them talk through things. As they head into this very important time of discernment, we ask that you keep them in prayer. If you go to the ari website you can even read about each participant and pray for them by name. The link is here.
Also remember us as we support them. As our relationships deepen many things are shared and although we can not do much more than listen and pray, we hope to be of support to them. Also pray for our ongoing ministry in the local area. Pray that MINNGOS, the gospel choir continues to touch people’s hearts with the gospel of Jesus and bring about transformed lived. Pray for Nasushiobara Church, as it continues to grow, that it will really be able to be a place where people’s lives are changed and they can go out to help others have the same experience and new life.
And as always if you feel led to support us in our ministry here through financial means, you can do so over at this link. You also have a chance to meet us soon. We are beginning to plan our itineration back in the US from January, 2016. If you want us to come and share with your church or a certain ministry setting, than you are very welcome to do so! Send us an email, js59627@gmail.com, and we will get back to you.

It’s time to cook some of those yummy potatoes, so off we go!

Potatoes in the field!  After the hard work of digging them out, we let them dry in the sun before taking them back to the store rooms!

Potatoes in the field! After the hard work of digging them out, we let them dry in the sun before taking them back to the store rooms!

Yummy Potatoes!!!!!  3 tons of these babies this year!  50% greater harvest than last year!

Yummy Potatoes!!!!! 3 tons of these babies this year! 50% greater harvest than last year!

Working hard.  Harvesting potatoes can be hard on your back.  Thinking of all the french fries helps us to get through it!  (not the healthiest of dishes of course :)

Working hard. Harvesting potatoes can be hard on your back. Thinking of all the french fries helps us to get through it! (not the healthiest of dishes of course :)

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Methodist MIssionaries Together!

This past week we had a wonderful opportunity to participate in a Regional Methodist Missionary Meeting held in Hiroshima, Japan.  Missionaires from East Asia and the Pacific, their familes and Staff from the US all gathered for about 5 days.  We shared stories, worshiped and prayed with one another, and sought to better understand how we can bring the gospel to the world and what it is our tradition has to offer.  Dr David Pascua from the Philippines helped us to see that our focus as Methodists should be on helping both the individual and society become more and more like God.  The Kingdom of God should break into our hearts and that can help us to seek the society around us looking like God’s Kingdom.

It was a blessing and an encouragement at the same time to share and listen to those serving around this area of the world.  As we returned back to ARI, we were energized to continue our work and to help our community members and our community itself become more and more like the one God calls us to be.   Won’t you join us in this work?

Discussing about ministry, missions and what God is doing in Asia and the Pacific!  Thank you Dr Kemper for the photo!

Discussing about ministry, missions and what God is doing in Asia and the Pacific! Thank you Dr Kemper for the photo!

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So we know you want to see and not just read!  Find photos of the past month below….  Wow, Spring is here and Summer is just on the horizon!!!!

The class of 2015 with guest speakers, the Takami's and our new director, Ms. Tomoko Arakawa.

The class of 2015 with guest speakers, the Takami’s and our new director, Ms. Tomoko Arakawa.

Getting to know all about you!  This pink ball opens the door to the 2015 community, keep your eyes on the ball!

Getting to know all about you! This pink ball opens the door to the 2015 community, keep your eyes on the ball!

there.  Waiting for the sheet to drop and for the fun to start!

there. Waiting for the sheet to drop and for the fun to start!

As the sheet drops you met say the other persons name first.  If you lose you join the winners side!  Ganbatte!!!!

As the sheet drops you met say the other persons name first. If you lose you join the winners side! Ganbatte!!!!

The 2015 ARI Community has finally arrived!  After we finished our first day of ice breakers and community building we had this photo.

The 2015 ARI Community has finally arrived! After we finished our first day of ice breakers and community building we had this photo.

In Japan a famous past time.  Eating, sharing and enjoying the beautiful cherry blossoms!

In Japan a famous past time. Eating, sharing and enjoying the beautiful cherry blossoms!

Fetzer Study Presentation at Sophia University in Tokyo.  After 2 years the results of this study on ARI and her impact on rural communities in Asia and Africa were presented.  Many thanks to all who came out to support, ask questions and learn.

Fetzer Study Presentation at Sophia University in Tokyo. After 2 years the results of this study on ARI and her impact on rural communities in Asia and Africa were presented. Many thanks to all who came out to support, ask questions and learn.

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Yaho!!!

YAHO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That’s not Yahoo, but Yaho! It’s kind of like sayin Hey there! or What’s up? In Japanese. It’s a little old, retro, 70’s lingo but it is understood!

It feels like it has been a long time since an update was last given and we are sorry for the long interlude. The winter has come to an end, although not without a fight. It is just this past week that we finally had nights where the temperature continued above freezing. We are thankful and excited! As we have said before, being from a warm climate means that you come alive along with the flowers and trees when spring finally comes. Growing up, neither one of us association spring with flowers so much, we didn’t notice all the life because it never really died in the winter. But once you live in a place where snow falls, freezing temperatures continue and life all around seems gone, Spring is a real wake up call!

Of course with spring comes a new year of training! The participants of this years program at ARI have all arrived and will soon finish their first month here. 5 weeks ago these 33 people were only names and faces, but now they are becoming colleagues and friends. This is wonderful, but there area also plenty of sorrows that accompany. One participant lost her elder sister days after arriving. We have 3 participants from Nepal, all of whom’s immediate families are safe. But they have lost their homes, many people in their communities and they are very worried about their communities. We are doing what we can to support them, but it is sad. Disasters so far away become very, very close at ARI.

As the new training begins, we need to ask all of you who support us to pray with us. Pray that the training will be impactful and pray that as we face all of the unknowns this year, that the Holy Spirit will be our strength, that Jesus will give his peace to each participant, volunteer and staff and that the Father will guide us throughout these 9 months.

Pray for us as well. Nasushiobara Church and Youth Group and the Minngos Gospel Choir are growing and maturing and now we need God’s guidance as we seek to train leaders to guide in these ministries. This coming December we will be back in the US for home assignment and although we plan to come back in March of next year, this is a good opportunity to empower other Japanese leaders to keep ministries flourishing.

Finally, if you would like to give to the Nepali disaster, UMCOR is accepting donations for the work there. One formal ARI Volunteer is now a UMC missionary in Nepal, and safe, so know that our church has feet on the ground and we can empower them to take physical and spiritual support to people who are hurting right now. Donations to support the response to the earthquake in Nepal and other international disasters can be made through UMCOR Advance # 982450.

https://secure3.convio.net/gbgm/site/SPageNavigator/umcor_donate.html?type=1002&project=982450

Hope to see you back here soon!!!

In Christ,

Jonathan and Satomi

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Merry Christmas!

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

2014 is ending and a new year is beginning! We pray that you have been blessed this past year and have something to be thankful for! We are definitely thankful for all the love and support we always receive from you and many others and hope this letter finds you doing well!
As we look back on 2014, we really feel like the year went by so quickly. There was no big event that happened in our lives, but many small ones that seemed to come right after another, and before we knew it, it’s the 12th month of the year! This might have something to do with us growing a year older, but none the less it means we’ve been blessed with more time in ministry and to meet new people!
You might be thinking what kind of little events! We had a couple of freak snow storms in the winter that closed trains, highways and caused plenty of trouble. Then we saw off our pastor of 2 years and welcomed a new one at the end of March. As usual a new class of participants arrived at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) and began their training in April. In June we had the first mission team from the Florida conference visit and minister with us! Thanks CCW! Then Jonathan’s mother and niece came to Japan for a few weeks! We went on a whirlwind with them around Japan, introducing our niece to many first time experiences! There would good ones, and uhhh things that were maybe too different for her at this age! We continued with programs for the gospel choir throughout the summer, the opening of our new chapel on campus in September, Oikos Chapel. Of course our Harvest Thanksgiving Celebration, a couple of trips to Western Japan and now the participants have graduated and we are ready for Christmas!!!
It seemed that there was always something to do, someone to meet or somewhere to go and once one deadline had been met, a new one was ready for us. We do not know if that is true for everyone, but it was the way we felt this past year. It was very easy to just become busy, and be caught up in going through the motions.
But in the middle of the year there were things that would happen which would wake us up from this slumber. We had three participants from Liberia this year in the training program. Ebola hit their communities and they sat here helplessly as friends, relatives and community members passed away. Although Ebola was on the news and everyone knew about it, it was happening within the lives of our friends and felt very very close. We were challenged to think of how to help people cope with loss and helplessness.
Yet in the middle of it all we were encouraged. One of these participants is a pastor and continued to say that what we needed was more prayer. He led revival services at several churches where we would pray and anytime there was good news, he was the first one to be thankful for the hand of God. In the midst of incomprehensible suffering and a feeling of helplessness, this man taught us to seek the face of God and be thankful in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for us through Christ Jesus.
This has helped us as we continue to recover from the disaster and nuclear meltdown of 2011. 2014 marked 3 years since the disaster. Our campus has almost completely been rebuilt and radiation levels have continued to drop. In fact the only two things we would not eat from campus were Bamboo shoots (used a lot in Asian food) and local mushrooms. Although we can not say that there are no longer any effects, things are becoming better. But it is an ongoing struggle and thankfulness has been important.
And we are thankful for the continued learning and ministry opportunities that we have had both at ARI and in the local community. The Gospel Choir, MINNGOS, continues to grow and reach into the local community. We became much closer with other gospel choirs from our prefecture this year, doing more and more singing with local people. This has helped us to think more of how this choir can both share the hope of Jesus Christ with both those singing with us and local people who are searching for salvation. From nursing homes to schools, local festivals and churches, God has allowed us to meet many new people. He has also opened up the hearts of more of our members. They are seeing Jesus, not as a religious figure, but as a friend, as a savior, some even as their own Lord and Savior. This has encouraged us time and again. This year we have been told by many people that while they liked singing before, singing Gospel music is different for them. They feel something. We tell them that when you are praising the Lord Jesus, something different happens, freedom, peace and the power of the Holy Spirit comes over us, calms us, clears our vision.
As we realize that this group is a great place of ministry we are also praying and seeking for how God would use it into the future. As a missionary friend told Jonathan, the missionaries Job is not to do ministry as much as empower others to do ministry. We have known this and sought to do that, but were challenged again to continue seeking for a local person who can lead this ministry into the future.
Our role as missionaries has also been on our minds as we continue serving Nasushiobara church. The church called a new pastor in April and it has been a pleasure to work aside him this year. He has really took the lead, showing us what it means to build a church with people, to help the church build herself. We have watched not only the church continue to grow, but also the people take ownership and become more active. We are very excited for the future, as this pastor has also brought a new vision and things that we have been praying for are now becoming a reality. Praise God!
Now you might be wondering what we personally have done this year. Well Satomi has joined hands with some local ladies to begin a children’s foster home. This has taken much time and energy, but she is learning many things about children and their need for love. Although God has not given us children yet, we are sure this type of work is preparation for our future. Satomi also began her own garden. Although it took a few years to start since coming here, she went full speed ahead with a bountiful harvest that was able to be shared with many! Even now, she has planted some onion and garlic to harvest in the spring!
Jonathan on the other hand tried his hand at some cooking this year. One comment always raised by ARI participants is the desire to practice food processing more. Well, guess who provided that opportunity??? Yes, Jonathan! He made jam, pickles, baked cakes, bread, you name it! Nothing burnt down and the food was edible! Jonathan also made a concerted effort to ride his bike more this year. After returning from the US in March of 2013, his pants have definitely felt tighter, and this was one effort to loosen them up a bit. Only time will tell if it was successful!
Together we tried to take some more time to be together and make an effort to see more local sights. We realized that there are several famous Christians from our area and plenty of beautiful creation that we had not yet seen. Both of us being from tropical climates and rather flat landscapes, we are learning each year to not just dread winter but to learn how to enjoy the changing of the seasons and the mountains and rivers that are so close by! God’s creation is beautiful!
As we close, we thank you again for your own going support. Through your financial gifts we continue in ministry and believe the Kingdom of God is advancing. We continue to look for covenant partners in ministry and if you are interested please to let us know and we will tell you more about the process. We also thank you for your love, letters and emails. They are a blessing, giving us joy to continue
We thank you very much for your continued prayers and ask that you continue this year! We have written prayer points on the back of our Christmas card this year! Please put this somewhere you will remember and pray for us, our ministry and Japan when you are able!
Finally, we hope you are following our ministry throughout the year on our blog. If not, go on it today! Proversb169.wordpress.com We try to keep it up to date and knowing you will be reading it keeps us accountable to do so!!!
As we head into 2015, we pray that God will bless and keep you. That the Kingdom will continue to advance and that Jesus will reign in the hearts of more people! Maranatha!

Community Life Christmas Party 2014

Merry Christmas from our Community Life team at ARI

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Minna de Gospel! MINNGOS!

We are in the 5th year of ministry at ARI and almost that long we have been involved with a local gospel choir that we helped to start.  We meet weekly here on campus at ARI and have around 30 people form the surrounding community joining our staff, volunteers and participants to sing praises to God.  It really is amazing how week in and week out people are so willing to gather to sing, pray and be together.  Probably half of the members are not official followers of Jesus.  They are weekly having experiences through the music, words and fellowship, but they are still just taking it in.  But some of them have become followers of Jesus and their stories warm our hearts.

Music has power.  In fact one pastor from Ghana tells me that people have to be careful not to be taken over by the power of the drums in his churches.  There are spirits involved with music that are not all from God.  But God has and continues to use music to touch the hearts of people and more importantly change the hearts of people.  For both of us, that has been true.  How about you???

This year MINNGOS took on many opportunities to minister.  While they were all blessings, we learned a need to pick and choose, or that sometimes even ministry opportunities need a no.  Because this is a very difficult thing to practice we ask that you join us in prayer, that God will use this group for His Kingdom and give it’s leaders wisdom on how best to do ministry.

Recently we have had students from the local university, a local middle school principle and some teachers at local schools come and be with us.  There are many new opportunities and ways to go with this ministry but we really want it to be used in the most fruitful way, not just anything.  So again we ask that you would join us in prayer, that God would continue to use this wonderful ministry, but deepen it and empower it through the Holy Spirit.

We pray that the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation, is alive in your mind and hearts as well and that as we partner together, God will spread the Gospel through us throughout Japan and the world.  Thank you to all of you who do that with us in prayer and through your finances.  Also, if you have thought about sponsoring our ministry financially in the past, as we head into Christmas this is as good of a time as ever!  Head over to The McCurley’s page and you can find the link to do that online!

Thank you again!,

Singing at a charity concert in Fukushima!  Jonathan's face...

Singing at a charity concert in Fukushima! Jonathan’s face…

It says Minngos!!!

It says Minngos!!!

It's not easy to get 100 people to take a picture together!!!

It’s not easy to get 100 people to take a picture together!!!

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