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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SAMUI!!!

Samui desu ne!!!!

These are words we are hearing very often around here at ARI these days… It means, it’s cold!!!!! And last week we had the coldest day so far this winter, meaning when we woke up to our morning excercises at 6:30am it was about -5 degrees Celsius, which is in the low 20’s!!! Usually we don’t get much below freezing until the end of December. The participants (students) at ARI were a little shocked and it seems like many have gotten sick from about 6am-8am everyday this past week! :)

We want to say thank you to everyone who gave on Giving Tuesday! We sure do hope and pray that at least some of you got your donations doubled this year! They say we will know on the 15th, so keep a lookout on the mission homepage to know.

As we said it is cold now, but we must admit that life at ARI here in Japan has gotten considerably better for us between 2011 and 2014. The usage of insulation in the walls of houses is a very new phenomena in Japan and as we have been rebuilding, we have been able to add insulation into the buildings. This makes winters at least bearable. We have also been very concerned with becoming more self sufficient in our energy usage and creation of our own energy and have put new efforts into using solar energy and bio-gas. Almost all of the buildings on campus now have solar panels that we use to heat water. In the winter we run the water through the floor of some of the rooms to heat the rooms and the rest of the year, the water becomes our hot water to wash our hands, dishes, take a bath, etc… We also are investing time into learning how to create solar powered stations on campus that can charge electronics, or give energy for an LED light along with other purposes.

The reason why self sufficiency is on our minds so much at this moment is because in a matter of days, Saturday the 13th to be exact, we will have our 42nd commencement service. All of the participants are making their final presentations of their dreams for their communities and first steps upon return to their countries. Many of them are thinking of how now they are going to be self sufficient. How will they really put into practice all this learning that they have been putting themselves into!

So we ask that you pray for us! This coming Saturday at 1:30pm the commencement services will start and by 4pm we will have 27 new graduates from 15 countries! If you have time, we encourage you to go to this link (found on the ari website ari-edu.org) and even pray for each of the soon to be graduates by name.

This week we will try to keep posting each day, pictures and updates on our Gospel Choir, church ministry and the two of us!

We hope you are warm as we are definitely trying to get there! :)

Jonathan was on his last day of the Western Japan Caravan!  This year 20 days.  Very happy reunion when he returned home!  :)

Jonathan was on his last day of the Western Japan Caravan! This year 20 days. Very happy reunion when he returned home! :)

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ALL OUR FAMILY, FRIENDS and SUPPORTERS!!!!

Double your support again!!!

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Thanksgiving is around the corner and we are thankful for you!!

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

We want to pass on this information from the mission board.  Just like last year the first Tuesday of December is giving Tuesday, this year that is Dec 2nd.  If you were planning on giving anyway we would love for you to do it on that day.  If you weren`t then we`d encourage you to think about giving on that day!

BUTTTTTT!!!!!!!

Here’s the catch.  You have to be one of the first, so you need to do it at 12 midnight Monday night, just as it changes into Tuesday

ANDDDDDDDD!!!!

remember that’s Eastern Standard Time (Hawaiians you guys need to be ready around dinner!!!!).

Agsin, we said….

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
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2nd.

Why?

December 2nd 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 TUESDAY the 2nd 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,

proverbs169.wordpress.com

Jonathan and Satomi McCurley

“I read in a book that a man called Christ went about doing good. It is very disconcerting to me that I am so easily satisfied with just going about.” — Toyohiko Kagawa -
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Welcome CCW!!!

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Hello everyone! The Rainy Season has started in our part of Japan and you know what that means right??? NO NEED TO WATER!

This also means that summer is here and we are finally moving out of the 50’s Fahrenheit!  :)

This coming Wednesday, the first mission team from Florida will be coming to ARI. This is a trip that has been almost 4 years in the making and both we at ARI and the team itself is very excited about their coming.

CCW is a United Methodist Campus Ministry based in Jacksonville that “exists to reach college-aged young adults on the campuses of Northeast Florida and prepare them to be leaders and laborers for the cities of the world.”

We have had the opportunity to visit with people from the ministry a couple of times while back in the US and now are excited for them to be coming to be with us!

We ask for your prayers for the 4 young adults and campus minister who will be coming. Pray for safe travels and for open hearts for the people they work along side and share the gospel with in word and in deed.

Also, remember that you can also come. Come by yourself or bring a team to share your gifts with the people of ARI and Nasushiobara and see what God is doing here.

So who’s next??? :)

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Thinking…

One of the participants said to Jonathan this morning as we were out in the field,

“Jonathan please explain to me about the weather in Japan. It was rainy the other day and then the next day it is sunny. I think the crops are going to sprout and then there’s nothing but dust. I don’t understand.”

He said this with a very matter of fact sense in his voice, in what seemed to be a very “Cameroonian” way. Jonathan responded to him and said yes, that is Japan. Remember Japan has 4 different seasons and we’re changing from one to another right now…

Growing up we never really thought about the weather and how it is connected to the food that sustains us. If it rained that meant we couldn’t play outside or go to the beach, but we could still eat warm meals at home. But in reality the weather has a lot to do with our lives. Beyond making us feel comfortable or uncomfortable, the weather patterns determine the amount of food we have and whether what is growing produces good or bad fruit. The thing is that we in the US and Japan are just blessed enough to always have access to food so we usually  don’t think about how the weather actually affects our food.

For many of the people around the world, they care much about the weather and what effects it has on their lives. Recently we heard in a UN report that the climate change happening is and will have it’s worse effects on the parts of the world that probably can handle it the least. Many countries in Africa and Asia are facing increased droughts and more terrible storms. Of course these are also happening in Europe and the Americas, but the effects on your average European is going to be very different from your average African. For these people what is happening with the weather matters a lot, in fact it could be a matter of life or death.

These are the types of things that we are getting to think of daily. These conversations mean that the Rural Leaders Training Program is in full swing at ARI. Opening Ceremonies happened almost a month ago and now the participants are in their work groups and the training is taking off. Every year we are thankful for a new opportunity to meet people who so often have vibrant and exciting faith and visions for their community. Many of them have been touched by God and want to touch others with the same love and grace they have experienced. To be able to walk with them on that journey as they learn, grow and receive a new deepened vision is a blessing.

What have you learned lately? The world is a wide and varied place, what has God called you to be a part of in this world? How is the Kingdom of God becoming more of a reality in your community, in your own life? I ask that you pray and ask these questions along with us!

As always, by the grace of God, we are supported in our work by brothers and sisters around the world. If you feel God calling you to support ministry in Japan through us, we encourage you to go over to the Advance page and give online. You can go here, and remember our advance number is 3021131.  You can also see our About the McCurley’s page for more info about us and giving by checks.

May the Grace and Peace of Christ be with you and your own community!

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Who’s the winner???? A new favorite game at ARI where a sheet is held in between two people and when it is dropped they have to say the name of the other. Sometimes though the winner is who can pull the strongest!

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As Every year, we headed to Sekine’s Fish farm the last Tuesday of April and learned about aquaculture and enjoyed fishing. Good thing about a fish farm, you’re almost ensured to get a catch! Satomi beat Jon this year 2 to 1!

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The forty second class of ARI. Amazing that God has brought us this far. Pray for us that this year will also be a blessing!

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On Maundy Thursday we got on our knees, washing one another’s feet as Jesus taught us. Almost all the community members joined us, including many of our members who do not follow Christ. Yet Jesus beckoned them to wash one another’s feet and they did. We look forward to seeing how Christ works in our community this year.

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One of Satomi’s jobs on campus is to run a small shop for daily needs. It opens every Tuesday and is called Sari Sari, the name of little kiosks in Tagalog. She must have had some good sales this day! :)

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Singing and Dancing! Fire, a guitar and off we go!

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We were eating Lunch and all of a sudden a group of 6 gathered around Jonathan for a picture. It’s a blessing to feel loved by people from all over the world!

Our chapel is under construction with a completion date of August 6th.  We are involved in part of the building with a local archiect and company doing the rest.  We brought parts of an old farm house from the area and are using that as the base for this beautiful place.

Our chapel is under construction with a completion date of August 6th. We are involved in part of the building with a local archiect and company doing the rest. We brought parts of an old farm house from the area and are using that as the base for this beautiful place.

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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!

 

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

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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.

 

 

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

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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!!!!!

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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English Bible Camp 2014!

 

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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!

 

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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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