Wednesday, July 23, 2008

the last day

Even in the last moments in Japan, God is at work. Two girls at Toyo University came to Christ!!!!!!!! :0 Our team member Lauren was able to pray with her two friends that she had made at Toyo. God had laid them on her heart, and she wasn't even planning on going to campus today, but she did anyway. And Jesus has been faithful. Please pray for these two girls, that they would understand the commitment and change that has happened in their lives and that they would experience spiritual growth and fellowship with believers.

This has been an amazing last day. Amidst tears in saying goodbye to our awesome Japanese friends, God gave us a glimpse of the work that He has done this summer. One student Satoshi from Toyo said to me, "In Japan, there were many people who have said that Christianity is a bad thing. But after meeting you guys, I know that this is not true. I think Christianity is such a good thing and I want to learn much more about it. So even after you leave I will study the Bible very hard."

He later went on to say, "Your team is God's gift to me! You came here to teach the Japanese about Christianity, and I think that this is such a great purpose! Japan needs this. Please come back!"

Even now, thinking about Satoshi's words brings me to tears. This freshman at Toyo is not even a Christian yet, but he has been so impacted by the way God has loved him through us. I felt today that God was encouraging us using Satoshi's words. It is our God who will bring in the fruit, who promises that His word will not return void until it has accomplished all that is purposed in God's plan. And it is the Lord who has been working and who will continue the work long after we have left Japan. It was totally by God's grace that we randomly sat down at Satoshi's table in Toyo's cafeteria that first day on campus. And through him, we were introduced to the entire English Conversation class, where we met most of our friends. Satoshi has been doing Bible study now, but pray that he would step out in faith and trust God with his heart! I know that in the same way he started a ripple effect with our team meeting so many open students, his life can affect so many others if he trusts in the Lord!!

It has been so hard to part from our friends. Please pray for us as we say goodbye and get ready to debrief our experiences in Japan. There is so much to process, and I'm feeling overwhelmed with mixed emotions.

Sorry I haven't been keeping the blog up-to-date, but I will for sure share more stories about our summer after I get more sleep!

Friday, July 11, 2008

short update from Nagoya Team

Only a 1 1/2 hour bullet train ride south, the Nagoya Epic Team has been laboring in Japan as well! They have seen 3 people come to Christ in the past couple weeks! It's amazing to hear how our other half of the team is faring, but it's been difficult to be in contact with them since they have limited internet access. I don't know the stories, but hopefully we will hear about them more soon.

Also, a little update on our dear friend Kei. A couple nights ago, we prayed with her and she invited Jesus to be in her heart. She said she was really wanting for someone to be there for her in the midst of trouble, and afterwards she said she felt so good. However, as is typical with Japanese people, she is hesitant to commit to "Christianity" because of the many negative stigmas that surround religion in Japan. She doesn't want other people to think she is weird. This is very normal for Japanese thought, and as the concepts of Christianity are so foreign to many I am not surprised. I am unsure of how much she really grasps the whole gospel, since everything is so new to her, but please be praying for us as we simply love her and share our lives with her. I pray that as we continue to befriend this sweet woman, that she would not see that Christianity is about religiosity, but it's about a posture before a holy God who has sent his son to be our friend and to die for our sake to break us out of bondage. She is still so open to us, and she really wants to read the Bible and to learn more. And guess what...? She's a hip-hop dancer like me, so I hope that in the next week or so we can bond over our shared love for that.

"So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." --1 Thess. 2:8

Thursday, July 10, 2008

another girl comes to know Christ!

This time, a girl from Tsuda University!! Her name is Kei. I am so joyful, and so is she!! But as this is just the beginning of her walk with Jesus, please be praying for her in this vital time in life. She has already received the word of God with gladness. Pray that she will become a disciple of Christ and bear fruit for the Kingdom. Pray for her to get plugged in with a church and with Student Impact (Japanese CCC) and to be discipled. Oh my gosh, I am so stoked!!!

I actually mentioned Kei before. She came to our last week's "Discover Friends" outreach and had dinner with some of our team. I invited her to come to tonight's Student Impact weekly meeting, and three girls from our Epic Tokyo team (Lauren, Erin, and Grace) shared the gospel with her using the Knowing God Personally booklet. I entered the conversation right as she was saying that she would like to be a Christian and have Jesus in her heart. We all prayed together, and she prayed for the first time for God to take her past, forgive her for any wrong, and to fill her life. It was a sweet and tender moment as we listened to her pray in Japanese.

From left to right: Grace, Lauren, Kei!!!, Erin, Anita (JCCC staff), me

This is a doubly-momentous occasion, since this is the first time that Lauren, Erin, and Grace have ever led someone to Christ before. These girls are so excited and have expressed that "they have never felt anything like this." We were all celebrating Kei's newfound faith. It is wonderful to be used by God and to witness miracles. Before this trip, some of them may have never shared their faith in a cross-cultural way until now. Pray for our team as more catch a glimpse of what it is like to be part of the Great Commission. I truly believe that these men and women on our team will be the future church leaders and missionaries of our day. Pray with me in faith that it would be so!

Also in light of all that has been going on, I sense a lot of spiritual battle. Pray for team unity and against distraction and tiredness. As the initial novelty of being in Japan wears off and stress and culture shock set in, I have been wary of conflicts and dissensions that may arise.

Blessings, and thank you for all your prayers that are advancing the Kingdom of God here in Japan! I can't believe we saw 2 people come to know Christ within a week!!! We are still trusting that students from Rikkyo, Toyo, and Todai come to experience the same joy of the Lord as our new sister Kei.

Tonight at the Student Impact Mtg, from left to right: Momoe, me, and Chihiro (the girl who accepted Christ last week)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

sharing Christ with entire Japanese class!

Things have been beyond amazing the past few days. I am blessed every day by God's faithfulness to provide. In all His sovereignty He shows us His ways are higher than ours, that He cares for the Japanese so much, that He has sent us here with purpose, and that truly our God is Lord of all the nations.

Over the past week at Toyo University, our team has gradually built relationships with some students from an English Conversation class. It began with a male student we met in the cafeteria named Satoshi who has showed a lot of interest in Christianity. The guys on our team have been sharing the gospel with him a lot. Pray for his heart to change! Through this one person, we started meeting a lot of his friends who are in the same English Conversation class.

Satoshi was so excited to meet us, he contacted his professor who happens to be a Japanese American who went to the University of Hawaii. And we soon found out he is also a Christian! He is familiar with Campus Crusade for Christ, so he invited us on Tuesday to lead discussions with his class. So we showed up, and we were pleased to find that we have already met about half the class, just through random conversations we've had with students in the cafeteria! He introduced us and then split us up among the students and had them pelt us with questions. By the end of the class, we had made a lot of new friends. Before he dismissed the class, he brought us up front and said, "You know, I just met these people up here, but I feel very strong connection with them. Not just because we are all Americans, but because we are all Christians. And these people came all the way to Japan to tell you that God loves you and that Jesus died for your sins."

Whoa! Amazing. Some of our team members almost cried. What an awesome professor. He has been sowing a lot of seeds to these people, because today we went back to Toyo and met a student named Yuki from that same class. We invited her and her friend to eat with us and somehow we got on the subject of Christmas. I asked them if she they the meaning behind Christmas, and they said no. "Tell me the story of Christmas!" said Yuki.

So my teammate Lyndsey and I shared with them about Jesus' birth, and they were so engaged and wanted to learn more. We showed them our Bibles and what it means for us to have a relationship with God through His word. They seemed very touched. They loved looking at our Bibles, and even started reading Lyndsey's highlighted verses in Samuel. Then we gave them the Knowing God Personally booklets (4 spiritual laws) and they had to go to class. Pray for Yuki and Miyuki! They are so open to the gospel, and we are planning on meeting with them again next week.

This is only a small picture of what is happening on campus. God has been opening so many doors for the gospel. Continue praying for Chihiro, the girl who accepted Christ on Friday.

On the leadership side of things, the rest of the staff and I have been really challenging our students to take bold steps of faith in evangelism. In faith, we have set a goal and are praying that one person from each campus we are on (Todai, Toyo, Rikkyo, and Tsuda) will commit their lives to Christ this week. Please battle with us in prayer! We know God can do it, if only we would have faith the size of a mustard seed.

Jessica, Me and Toyo students in the cafeteria

Friday, July 4, 2008

first japanese girl receives Christ!!!!

I personally witnessed (for the first time) a Japanese girl receive Christ into her heart!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GOSH I STILL CAN'T BELIEVE IT!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) I can't say I was the one who actually led her to Jesus, but I got to pray with her and for her as I saw God totally change her heart!

It happened tonight (Friday night). We had our first large outreach in Japan. There were about 80 people there. It was the Japanese Campus Crusade for Christ's monthly outreach, and the theme was "freedom" since its the 4th of July. At the beginning, I met 3 Japanese girls and sat down with them. One of the 3 girls I met was Chihiro. A JCCC staff woman named Fumi, Chihiro, and I began to talk about Christianity. We were surprised to find out that Chihiro had been going to church this past year with her boyfriend, but she herself was not a Christian. At first she thought that church would just be a very rigid and strict place, but she was surprised to find that she enjoyed learning about the Bible and that it wasn't all stuffy like she thought. She was learning about God's love and was starting to understand it, but she said, "I still haven't experienced God's love." We talked for a while about the Holy Spirit and shared a bit of our testimonies. Mostly Fumi was doing the talking because Chihiro couldn't speak much English. Suddenly, Chihiro told us that she would like to receive Christ right now! We showed her the Knowing God Personally booklet--a tract we use in CCC to explain the gospel in 4 points--and by the end she said that the prayer that was written in the end of the book expressed the desire of her heart! We prayed together and we all started crying. Afterwards, she looked up and said, "Now I feel God's love." We have a new sister in Christ! Please pray for Chihiro (me & her on the left).

It was the most incredible thing to witness. I mostly just sat there while Fumi and Chihiro spoke in Japanese, and I couldn't understand a word they were saying. However, the whole time I was praying for them, and somehow I knew that their conversation was so good and Chihiro's heart was turning to the Lord as they spoke. Even before I knew that she wanted to be a Christian, I could sense the Holy Spirit was there and tears were already coming to my eyes as this woman's heart was changed. Praise the Lord! Heaven is having a party right now for her! I am so privileged to have prayed with her.

Backtracking to what's been going on this entire week... We have been going to campus every day. As it turns out, we are going back to being on 4 different campuses. Again flexibility is key. :) So today 3 other girls and I went for the first time to Tsuda University, a women's college. We met some great girls and it was a lot of fun! Please pray for a student we met, Kei. She came to the outreach tonight, too, and afterwards she said she would really like to talk to me about something. She is so sweet and I think she will be open to the gospel! Pray for boldness and opportunities to share it with her. Pray for Tsuda University, as it is already so open to the gospel! (Right: missionaries from America, Japan, and Taiwan at Tsuda University)

So much has happened. One cool thing is I have been able to hang out with 4 different Japanese students who I met at UCLA! During the Japanese Homestay in February (some of you may remember me writing about it) I helped host a bunch of Japanese students through CCC. It so happens that 4 of them attend Toyo University, and I will see them on a regular basis! On Thursday, I got to sit in on a Bible study with one of the girls, Tomomi, who is not a Christian but is very interested in learning about the Bible. Please pray for her and that she would keep doing Bible study with us!

The rest of this summer, we will continue doing ministry on Todai, Tsuda, Toyo, and Rikkyo. Our Epic Tokyo Team has been so great stepping it up in evangelism and leadership. But already I can sense that being in a foreign country and doing a TON of ministry is putting a lot of stress on our students. Pray that we would get rest this weekend, that we would build deep relationships with one another, and that we would be unified in mind and spirit. We need all of what our students working together in order for this summer to be all that it can be. Lord, help us to strengthen each other in our weaknesses and to act as Your body to reach the lost in Japan.

Monday, June 30, 2008

first day on campus

Today was a lesson in flexibility. We were told that we were no longer going to 4 different campuses, but only 2 and that we were actually going there today! Good thing we already had our team split into 2. So without having any clue where I was going, I led half of our team to Toyo University to meet up with a student I had never met before who was going to take us around. Haha. I think the lesson I'm learning is that leadership is not so much knowing what you're doing, but more doing what you're doing with confidence. And it all worked out!

It was great going to Toyo and seeing this amazing campus! It's beautiful and so many students are there. We met students for the first time during lunch and struck up some good conversations. Out of maybe 30,000 Japanese students, there are only about 4 Christians that we know of. The two Japanese Campus Crusade for Christ students we met with - Yuki and Daisuke - were soo encouraged that our team was there to help them with their ministry! But I don't think they realized how much we were encouraged to see these far outnumbered Japanese Christians fully following Christ, despite much opposition and such few numbers. Their hearts for their peers shines through their countenance, and the sincerity of their faith is truly awe-inspiring. I know today I beheld Jesus in them. They are not discouraged nor are they going to give up on Toyo. How awesome that we get to work with them this summer! Here's some pics of the campus (a view from the roof on the right, inside the school on the left).

Here are our team members who are at Toyo! Please pray for Toyo University and Todai, our places of ministry this summer!!!

(Right to left: Lyndsey, Erin, me, Jessica, Grace, Wilson, Wayne, Daisuke, Yuki, Jon)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

we arrived in Tokyo!

So we made it!!! Wow, it's been a whirlwind. Leaving at Orange County at 5 am on the 27th, we arrived in Tokyo at 3 pm the next day. But everything has been going well without any glitches (besides 2 pieces of lost luggage), we're all here in one piece.

So I didn't get to write much about our briefing before in my last post, so I'll tell you a little more about our team and a couple cool things that happened. We actually have 2 Epic Japan teams here. We had so many people apply and get accepted to our project that we have a total of 40 people!!! Since it was so big, we had to split into two teams, one in Tokyo and one in Nagoya. I am leading the Tokyo trip.

During one of our prayer and sharing times, Lyndsey on the Tokyo team shared with us a vision that she had right before briefing while she was praying for Japan. In her vision, she saw a picture of a darkened Japan, with only a few little faint lights on different places of the country. However, as she looked on the lights grew brighter and brighter, and new lights popped up all over the darkness. "God is really going to do something amazing this summer through our work," she encouraged us. Right after she shared, Sara (a girl on the Nagoya team) told Lyndsey that she had the exact same vision, but in a dream a few nights before!! God is already on the move, encouraging us with what is ahead. I am so excited. These are pictures of our team during briefing. (Epic Japan teams worshiping together on the left)

Now that we are here, we are settling into our apartments and getting adjusted to the time change. Today we'll go to church and start exploring our city.

Some facts about the "darker side" of Japan:

--Japan has the highest suicide rate of any country, accounting for 1/4 to 1/3 of the world's suicides every year.
--That's 1 person taking their life every 15 min.
--It is common for young people (from 15 to their early 20's) to meet on internet "suicide chat rooms" and later take their lives together.
--STD's and HIV run rampant, as there is little education about sexual health and a denial of the problem in the culture. (Many believe only foreigners can contract HIV)
--The social pressures of school and work are immense, pushing many into depression and loneliness in this wealthy country.

Please pray for Japan.