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.  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 ARI Community

 

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Happy Spring!!!

Happy Spring! One of the volunteers says that everyday it is warm. And for the other days, well we just kinda ignore those days. Last week we had what seemed like the last bit of winter trying to stay around. With temperatures near freezing, it was definitely cold for a lot of the people around here. That is too say that all of our community members for 2016 have arrived. 28 students (participants, Training Assistants and 1 graduate intern), 8 volunteers (one from India, one from Germany and 6 from Japan) and 2 new staff members. Coming from abour 20 different countries and many more tribes beyond that, the ARI community has formed and just this past Monday the ARI training program started in full swing.
It was a joyuous occasion last Saturday when we held our opening ceremonies. Seeing people wearing their traditional clothes with pride while they introduced themselves in Japanese was quite a site! One woman who has had an influence in the life of Jonathan becoming a missionary, Dr Ruth Grubel, was also present and gave a very encouraging and challenging speech to both our students and those present for the ceremony. Our director though came through with a very deep reflection over the meaning of what we are doing here every year. Ms. Arakawa, the first Japanese woman to be the director at our institute, shared about one of our supporters who recently passed away. She shared his words with us that the staff and board had heard often. The existence of the Asian Rural Institute is a testimony. It is a reminder of what happened in the past and also is a sign of the redemption and reconciliation that God has and is working out in the world. We support this work as part of our own redemption.
We are not saved by anything we do, it is only through the grace of God. But we work out our own salvation as we are continually sanctified. This means that repentance as a confession and an act are ongoing. We continue to work out our Salvation, even as God has saved us and promised us a hope and a future.
As the Promise of Spring now comes into fruition we ask that you join us in believing and working out that promise. Pray for the participants at the Asian Rural Institute, that their learning here will be catalyst for lasting change in their home communities. Pray for wisdom for us and for all the staff. Also please continue to remember the people of Kyushu who struggle now with the horrible earthquake that struck last week.
Thank you and Happy Spring!

Pictures to come!!!!

 

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Is it still winter?

That is the question that we are asking as we sit in the house at 10:30pm with the windows open contemplating whether to turn the AC on instead!

We have returned to Florida after a wonderful time in North Carolina and are on to our last stop in Florida.  God has been good, surprised us in many ways and confirmed us in our ministry many times.  Praise the Lord!

As we move forward and you continue to pray for us we ask that you would also pray for the people of Fiji.  Whether you have heard or not there has been a terrible hurricane there that has caused havoc.  We received an update from one of the missionaries there that I am linking here.  Jonathan met him and the brothers in the picture below at a Missions conference in the Phillippines last year.

If you want to give financially I do not know anything yet but I’m sure if you check umcor.org over the next few days they will be able to provide information.

Wesley Neal’s update on the situation can be found HERE!

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