May 30, 2015
We just felt a pretty big earthquake. Some car alarms went off, the kids woke up, and I think I heard Seita praying out loud for Godâs mercy as he ran toâ¦Iâm not sure where he ran. I immediately go into emergency mode and can rattle off a list of steps to do in emergencies and Iâm secretly proud of that, while the rest of everyone scrambles forâ¦again, Iâm not sure what.
But suddenly God is remembered by people who donât remember Him. Suddenly He receives a million prayers for help by people who donât know Him or deny Him. And we often wonder why God allows some things to happen. I know the results of an earthquake this big would be devastating in a different part of the world. Japan (we hope) is built to endure them.
When things go wrong and certain situations that were never on our agenda happen, we can feel the devastation. But God, in His mercy, gives grace. When we struggle and when we fail, God holds us up. When we remember Him no more, He gently reminds us of our need for Him. And the point of all this is to show Christ. Somewhere I have sung a song about the gospel shinning more brightly against a dark background. Itâs true.
So as we wake up tomorrow morning and start having conversations about the earthquake, about life, pray that the Gospel infiltrates our speech and the peace we have in Christ is shown. Pray that as ladies share their struggles with me, as pieces of marriages get dropped in my path, as I start conversations with people trapped in a pain, as I say good morning to the perfectly dressed and self-sufficient moms, please pray.
An earthquake freshly reminds me to think with a perspective greater than my own. It makes us all desperate because itâs beyond what we can do or control ourselves. But God can use it for His glory, and He can use us to show others the Savior. It reminds me that this clean, well-mannered, and âsafeâ place is a perfectly dark background. It just needs Christ.
May 22, 2015
Seita writes, âGod blessed our family in a special way with a weeklong visit from Vince and Bonnie in Hinders in late February. Vince is the Executive Pastor of Sovereign Grace Church, where I was pastor before coming to Japan. It was so helpful to hear their observations about what God is doing in our lives as a family and in our work. Vince graciously agreed to do an update on my behalf this month. Thanks, Vince!â
So then, as we have opportunity let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)
As one of many churches that love the Sakaguchiâs, itâs been a joy for us to see all the ways God has met them in the past year as they settle in as missionaries in Tokyo. God has been faithful to provide grace after grace. One of the commitments our church made to Seita and Emma before they left for Japan was that we would extend pastoral care in several ways, including an annual visit.
During the week we spent with them, we were excited to see that their family is doing well, the gospel is going forth in Toyosu, and God is working through Seita and Emma in significant ways to accomplish His purposes. Grace Harbor is growing and now has about 80 people attending, while the average attendance at a Japanese church is 50 people. They are now meeting weekly, as of Easter Sunday.
As you can imagine, their lives are extremely full. We saw that between Seitaâs leadership role at the church, Emmaâs responsibilities in Childrenâs Ministry and the Nursery, Emma and the kids learning Japanese, school (Peter began pre-school in April), and their own time together as a family, there is little room for more to be added. And yet, the demands this spring have unexpectedly multiplied, with one leader experiencing a serious family crisis and another preparing to be away for three-months.
What began as a steady stream of responsibilities for Seita and Emma has become a deluge, and they need our prayers. Looking back, Emmaâs decision to âbe all thereâ (see her March 13 post) was God preparing her for whatâs come. Here are some ways we can be praying for the Sakaguchiâs and for Grace Harbor:
- That Godâs light will penetrate the darkness. Opposition to their work is strong and they need increased faith to see Godâs ability to overcome the darkness and clear their path to continue to reach the lost.
- Godâs protection on all at Grace Harbor Church
- Additional servants to help in all areas of Grace Harbor, including administrative, teachers for Childrenâs Ministry and in the Nursery, hospitality, etc.
- Continued strength, endurance, and health for the Sakaguchi family
- Continued progress for Emma and their kids with learning Japanese
- Healing and helping hands for the family in crisis
- Provision during the three months that one of the families in leadership will be away
On our recent call, it was clear that Seita and Emma are being stretched, but they are standing strong in their faith. They are encouraged by what God is doing in their family and at Grace Harbor. Weâre grateful that God is sustaining them, and that they let us know about their need for prayer. Thank you for joining us in prayer on their behalf.
Mar 13, 2015
Three hundred sixty five days. And as I write that, I sort of second guess whether the Japanese calendar has a different number of days. Thatâs what moving across the world can do for you. It has been that long since we landed in Japan. And I can remember that day so clearly. The children were so peaceful. I knew that in a tangible way the Lord was giving us grace. The lollipops I gave them during customs also helped. Thanks for praying for us. I wonât forget that day easily.
Peter also turned 2 the day we moved. We just celebrated his 3rd birthday yesterday and realized he has now lived one third of his life in Japan. Ok, thatâs not really a shocker, I know. Heâs 3. But, the kids are getting a bit more familiar with the way we do things in Japan that how it used to be in America. John actually asked me what Goldfish were two nights ago. I made Seita immediately find a picture of that healthy snack on his phone and show it to him. Oh, and Peter has never sat on a cold toilet seat. He was potty trained here, and the toilets have heat and water spray things and emergency buttons and various degrees of flushes. I wonât go on, but I am seeing the change in what the kids are getting familiar with.
For our children, our goal this year was to get them acclimated as much as possible. That would mean eliminating any expectation that would exceed survival. Again, this is where we have experienced grace from God. John, Kaiya, and Tamia were enrolled in a Japanese public school. No English is spoken there, and I havenât heard of any English kids there. I came to expect that they would basically not learn anything other than get used to the daily routines. And then 2 weeks ago, John comes home from school and tells me all about life in the old Japanese days. He speaks Japanese pretty well too.
For me, along with a few other decisions that I made to be proactively grounding my feet in this new life of mine, I had decided to hold back from communicating with the life I love, and friends I treasure back in the states. Of course, my fam was an exception. I have moved countries once before and experienced living in two places at once. Vicariously, of course. That didnât help this third-culture kid find her feet quickly. Jim Eliott wrote, âWherever you are, be all thereâ. I wrote it on a huge canvas hanging on our bedroom wall. And that is just it. For me, I needed to be present here. My hope was that it would serve my family, and serve the Japanese people who would be politely expecting me to pine for home. I am present here with them. Ultimately, I want to honor the call both Seita and I had from God to move to Japan and share the Gospel.
So from now on, I will be hopefully sharing my thoughts on this blog from time to time, if you can bare the grammar. I have a simple view of daily life. I have real stories and real people I want to share. And this is not to embellish my life outside of itâs current state, but rather bring you up to speed with the excitements that happen in the mundane.
Feb 5, 2015
I recently played bubble soccer for the first time with some friends. I'm the guy wearing white letting my teammate take the hit so I can kick the ball... Another bonding experience with our friends as we laughed a lot together. My team won the tournament!
Our kids' teachers tell us that our kids are starting to speak Japanese more at school. Here's Tamia speaking Japanese(!?), probably mimicking something that her teacher said at school. So encouraging!
A friend's birthday party.
One of our missional community family dinners. Celebrating one of our friends' birthday together. One of the things we seek to do as a community is to celebrate significant moments in each others' lives together.
We have a lot of kids in our group. It's often chaotic when we get together. We feed the kids first so the adults can eat and talk together while the kids play/watch a movie together somewhere else...
A view of Toyosu Park, a local park that many of us take our kids to. Many good conversations with our friends have taken place there.
Dec 25, 2014
In the last several weeks, we had a few big events that were designed to serve and bless our community by bringing them together and connecting them with one another. Itâs been hectic, but weâre grateful to God for giving us opportunities to connect with our friends through these events.
Thanksgiving dinner. Our teammates Jon & Sarah Pfeil did a great job organizing this event!
After the dinner. These ladies (who are regulars at Grace Harbor events/gatherings) stayed until the very end to help us clean up!
One of our non-Christian friends asked if Grace Harbor would put together some singers to sing Christmas carols at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in her apartment complex.
Her building has 50+ floors. A view from their sky lounge!
One of our missional community family dinners.
Family Gospel concert. Itâs a choir made up of mostly non-Christian parents and their children in our community.
An impromptu after-party at our place.
Breakfast with âMr. Bobâ and âMs. Sharonâ. The Drews are missionaries on our team who provide much needed wisdom. Grateful to God for them!
A concert at a local hospital organized by Grace Harbor. Over 100 people in attendance. I think the patients, particularly the older people, were blessed to have the opportunity to listen to quality music amid their hospitalization.
Grace Harbor Christmas Party at Cafe Haus. Many of our local non-Christians came and enjoyed being together. Grateful to God for giving us an opportunity to bless our friends! Praying for fruitâ¦