As we come to this season of Christmas, I am reminded again of the reason for our celebration. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son…” What a gift has been given to us! That God would choose to look upon us with such favor is simply overwhelming. Jesus, thank you for loving us enough to come to provide salvation to us.
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!
This season is one of the heaviest concentrations of ministry that we have in Japan. Many people who would not step inside a church door will gladly come to hear (and sing) Christmas carols, as well as listen to the message of the birth of Jesus. Because of that rare opportunity of openness, we do our best to pull out all the stops to spread the gospel in every way possible. Here are several of the events that we have as at Akigawa Baptist Church to share the story of Christ’s birth.
Christmas Outreach for the Homeless
Beyond the normal visits to the homeless people in our area, our church teams up with a military church, Yokota Baptist Church, to hold two big events every year to provide the homeless with gifts of things they might need to help get through the difficult seasons of summer and winter. The winter event is a Christmas party, where we share a hot meal together, sing Christmas carols, and share the story of Christ’s birth. This year we had 20 people attend. Many of these dear people have trusted Christ, but find it difficult to be willing to go to church. Please keep them in your prayers.
Children’s Christmas Service
We also held a special Christmas event for children on the 19th of December. We invited children from the neighborhood, several parks, and from several English schools in the area. God blessed, and we saw 24 visitors who came, including several mothers. We were able to show a video about Christmas, as well as well as share Jesus Christ as the true meaning of Christmas. Please pray that these children will continue to come, and that the Gospel that has been sown will bear fruit.
Candlelight Christmas Service
For our annual Christmas Candlelight Service, we have no longer been able to fit everyone into our little auditorium, so we have started to rent a nearby hall for the occasion. This is the second year at the hall and it was already starting to feel full. We were excited to have 61 people attend, with 16 first-time visitors. This service requires an enormous amount of work to prepare, and I was so thankful for all the church folks who jumped in to take part. My neighbor Norio was a big help again this year, and he even recruited one of his friends, Mr. Kudo to come early to help next year. Mr. and Mrs. Kudo came to our cookout this summer, and Mr. Kudo was a big help then too. This gradual process of relationship building is key to reaching the Japanese, especially for those who have lived a lifetime in a culture of Buddhism and Shintoism. Through the different services, we were thankful for the opportunity to minister to over a hundred people this year.
The Deep Dilemma
In the last week, I have had two separate deep conversations with people who have been seriously searching for the past several years. They have shared the difficulty they struggle with in choosing to accept the Gospel that they clearly see in the Bible and in the lives of the Christians around them, because it means they have to let go of everything they have been taught and grew up with their entire lives, including letting go of people who have passed away that are dear to them, and accepting the fact that they won’t see them in Heaven. This is a real struggle, and it is not uncommon. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in their hearts, and to give them the strength, and the courage, to put their faith in Jesus as their Savior.
One a personal note, please be in prayer for my family. Since the week before Thanksgiving, there has literally not been a day where one of our family hasn’t been sick. We have gone through several cases of whooping cough, pneumonia, strep throat, week-long fevers, and many trips to the doctor. We tend to face unusual difficulties right before Christmas as it seems that this is the season that we feel the effects of the opposition of Satan the greatest. This season was a rough one. We seem to have mostly recovered, but there are still a few members who are getting over their coughing.
We are deeply indebted to each of you who consistently remember us in your prayers and in your giving. We thank you for boldly going to the throne of grace on behalf of us and the people we are trying to reach. May God bless you during this Christmas season!!
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