If you’re reading this, you’re most likely one of our good friends or family members. That’s good, because it means you’ll probably be patient with us, as we work to get this blog up and running.
Earlier today, I read this quote from BBC, citing a recent survey: “Nearly 80% of Japanese youth felt depressed in the week of the survey. One third of them don’t think they’ll be happy when they are 40.” (Click Here to read more). The article asks if education reform is the cure for Japan’s depression epidemic. It seems to commend studying abroad as a part of the solution.
Recently, I had coffee with a Japanese foreign exchange student. He would undoubtedly fit into the categories that the article mentions–depressed in the present and hopeless about the future. Although he doesn’t consider himself a Christian and doesn’t feel ready to put his faith in Christ, he is very interested in studying the Bible. It seems clear to me that he is looking for something tangible to hope in–studying abroad hasn’t given him what he set out to find.
As we drank coffee together, I did my best to share the core of the Christian faith with him:
From Adam onward, the world has been in rebellion against God. What would God do? Would He condemn the world–and us with it? What other option did He have? I read John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Faced with the choice of condemning the world or rescuing it, God chose rescue. Jesus came in the flesh. He served. He suffered. He died. This really happened. Jesus actually came and died, in history. On the cross, he took the condemnation that we earned with our rebellion. Then, amazingly, He came back. Death learned that day that it has no power over God and thus no power over God’s people. Happy Easter! Those who believe have eternal life. Those who trust in Christ have hope that lasts forever. Between now and eternity, a Christian should expect God’s absolute goodness in all things, without exception.
This is a message that many of us know well, hear often, take for granted most of the time. But, my Japanese friend, was apparently hearing it for the first time. This was his response: “This is exactly what Japan needs.” He went on: “We don’t know what it is like to be loved like that.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is awesome in power. It can break the chains of depression. It did for me. It can provide hope for the future, to age 40 and then to eternity. I am happy that Japan is pursuing educational reform. I hear that it is needed. I will be happier when a multitude of Japanese people gladly put their faith in Christ. We desire to go to Japan with a message of indestructible joy. We have started this blog as a way of inviting you, our family and friends, into this with us.
For the Joy of Japan,
Jamison (for Kathryne, Ezra and Violet)
As a part of our training, I (Jamison) recently read a book called Third Culture Kids. It describes both the blessings and challenges that children, like Ezra and Violet, will face when they’re raised in a culture different from that of their parents. By the time I put the book down, I was thinking, “Why in the world are we putting our children through this?” Essentially, the books tells story after story about how “TCK’s” never quite fit in anywhere. They are strangers and aliens wherever they go.
Where is “home” for a child who spends the majority of his/her developmental years in Japan but carries a U.S. passport and speaks English at home? What happens when he/she returns to the U.S. school system on furlough but feels more comfortable learning in Japanese? How will our blonde-haired little boy feel about sticking out everywhere he goes in Japan? Are you really prepared to miss all those family gatherings back home?
The more I learned, the more I felt the urge to protect Ezra and Violet from the difficulties of living in an unfamiliar, strange (to me) culture. My children are precious little ones that need to be shielded from all the emotional trauma of the “TCK” life! Then, the Lord graciously reminded me of another way to view them–not as fragile, but as potentially deadly weapons. Can you see it in her eyes?
Psalm 127:4-5, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
Yes, it is good, and it honors God when parents protect their children. I tell Ezra to stop every time he tries dragging Violet across the floor like a rag-doll, for example. It is also fitting that parents raise their children with an eye toward letting them fly. Our children are little, vulnerable and cute. They’re also a very real threat to the kingdom of darkness. We’re going to Japan, hoping and praying that God would call Ezra and Violet to himself and then use their experience, learning the Japanese language and the culture, to call many people to himself. This is a family pursuit that we’re engaging in; it’s a multi-generation ministry. Please pray for us, as we prepare to let our little ones loose on the nations.
The question, “When are you going to Japan?” has been coming up a lot lately. To be honest, we don’t really know when. It may sound like the cliche Christian response, but our answer truly is: “In God’s time.” Or, maybe a more helpful way of saying it, “When God brings enough of the right people on board to send us.” Or, even more to the point, “When we have the financial and spiritual support to sustain our life and ministry in Japan.”
That being said, the picture has been clearing up in recent months. We need to reach 100% of out monthly support goal and initial sending costs (for things like airplane tickets, training, buying a car, going to language school, etc.). Good news–we’re currently at about 25% of our monthly support and 4% initial sending costs. We thank God for the generosity that our family, friends and church have shown so far. Like Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 8:3, some of you have committed to giving according to your means and even beyond your means. If the Lord continues to move things along at the same pace we are going, we expect to be in Japan sometime around the summer of 2016. Some of us (Jamison) would like to be there sooner; others (Kathryne) are ok taking things slower.
In the meantime, we’ll be spending our days training for missions, learning Japanese, meeting with Japanese exchange students here in Minnesota, inviting more people to partner with us in ministry and praying for God to prepare the way for us (in addition to working full-time/caring for two rowdy children full-time, being involved at church and occasionally sleeping). Needless to say, it’s a busy season. Yet, we can testify that God’s grace is more than sufficient for such seasons. He has been abundantly good to us…and so have many of you.
Imagine a scenario in which every single Christian shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with every single non-Christian that they know. Do you know how many people there would be on earth who have still never heard the gospel? At least two billion. That’s incredible. There are over two billion people on earth today who don’t even have access to the gospel. Most of them will be born, live and die without having a single person tell them about Jesus Christ in a true, meaningful way. We call these people “unreached.” You can Click Here for a video that shares more about it (start at about the 15 minute mark).
Our call to missions did not include anything miraculous. Certainly, God has worked in our lives in a unique way; however, we never had any visions from God or prophetic words spoken to us or dramatic dreams calling us to the field. We definitely did not hear an audible voice telling us, “Go to Japan!” Our conviction that God would have us go to Japan came primarily from the Bible (how novel!) and secondarily from the realization that the Japanese people don’t have access to the gospel.
Christ’s command at the end of Matthew 28, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And, behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” These verses leave us with the conviction that making disciples among all nations is in fact the call of all Christians. If you are a Christian, you are unquestionably called by Christ himself to bring the nations into the joy of knowing and worshipping God. The question is, “What’s your role?”
We believe that God has called us to a role similar to that of the Apostle Paul, “…to preach the gospel where Christ [is] not known” (Romans 15:20). Paul, like us, found his primary motivation for going in the Scripture. Yes, he was knocked off his horse with a vision of the glorified Jesus. But, he placed the foundation of his ministry in the Old Testament, not his own experience (see Romans 15:21). In other words, Paul went to the unreached, because he believed that God’s plan in salvation history has always been to gather all people to himself through the proclamation of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:11-15). We believe the same thing and feel the same burden.
So, why Japan? Well, depending on who you talk to, the Japanese people are either the largest or second largest unreached people group on earth. It just seems fitting to go to the place where there are the most people without sufficient witness to the gospel and all its awesomeness. The Church in Japan is not yet large enough to share Christ and disciple new believers on its own. There is a need for more laborers.
This matters. It really matters. We’re not playing a game. We’re not after a fun, new adventure (though I’m sure fun, new adventures will be had). Jesus Christ is everything. You could take away all else in our lives—money, home, health, family, friends, the inter-web—and we would still be rich in Christ. Yet, if you were to take away our Jesus, then what would we have? Good things that will last only a handful of years? It burdens us to know that over 126 million people in Japan don’t have Who we have. We cherish Jesus Christ. We know that he is worthy of love, trust, adoration and obedience, no matter what people group you belong to or culture you identify with. We simply want to play a small part in bringing these things about for people in Japan. We want Jesus Christ for Japan. That’s what “the joy of Japan” really means.
I celebrate birthdays by eating donuts. This does not make me a man, but it does give evidence of my manhood. You need to know that I take manliness seriously; otherwise, this post will lack power of any kind.
When I first began considering missions about nine years ago, I tried to talk myself out of it. If I’m honest, there was only one thing holding me back from fully embracing the idea–financial security. The idea of raising support and depending on other people to provide for me and my ministry was unattractive. Or, maybe repulsive would be a more accurate descriptor. I think that many potential missionaries have been kept off the field out of a fear of asking for money. In our pride, we would prefer to be financially independent–to not have to ask anyone else to help us out.
Obviously, God has done something to change my heart, or I wouldn’t be in the middle of the support raising process right now. I want to share how my views have changed, in the hope that it will encourage others who are wrestling with the same thing. I want to see more laborers enter the field. Don’t let a fear of support raising keep you from laying your life down for Christ.
We officially started asking people to support us financially in March, and I can honestly say that it has been an incredible blessing. Don’t get me wrong, the past two months have been difficult. Just not in the way I expected. Nine years ago when I was first wrestling with the idea of support raising, I was afraid of “feeling like a beggar.” The picture I envisioned was a man cowering in a corner with a timidly outstretched hand, whispering weakly, “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you please, you know, giving me some money or something.” I thought the difficulty of support raising would be a sense of shame for needing money to go for the sake of Christ.
In reality, the difficulty of support raising is the daily grind. It’s like the two-a-day football practices when you’re in the hot sun, hitting each other for the first time in nine months. It’s simply tiring and leaves you a bit on the sore, sweaty side. If that sounds manly to you, that’s because it is. Support raising is a lot of work, especially when you’re also working a full-time job and raising two little ones. It’s a good work though, full of joy and deep friendship–a Fellowship of the Ring kind of bond.
The idea of doing business as mission is growing in popularity and deservedly so. The thought is, “Why raise support to go to an unreached people group, when you can minister within the context of a self-sustaining business?” There is certainly biblical precedent for doing so–the Apostle Paul is famously known for supporting himself as a tent-maker.
However, “tent-making” appears to be the exception, not the norm in the Bible. I believe that tent-making and/or business as mission should be pursued when it is most advantageous for the spread of the Gospel. Even Paul relied on the support of other believers part of the time, if not most of the time (see 2 Corinthians 11:7-9 or Philippians 4:15-18 for a couple examples). More importantly, Jesus, the manliest Man of all, relied upon the support of others (Luke 8:1-3). If the King of the Universe who lacks nothing and reigns over everything can humble himself to accept the support of others, who I am to think myself above it?
Although we initially considered the idea of going to Japan as English teachers, we believe that our gifts, personalities and circumstances lend themselves most effectively to the spread of the Gospel as full-time missionaries. Once we reached that conclusion, it was a simple choice–we must sacrifice financial independence (or at least the illusion of being financially independent), because it will free us up to do what we really feel God calling us to do, namely make disciples. We will gladly rely on the financial support of friends and family members, if it will result in people coming to know, love and savor Jesus Christ!
So now, here we are. Two months into support raising. Like I already mentioned, it’s tiring work, but it’s a good kind of tiring. It is an awesome thing to invite people to become “partners in the gospel” with us (Philippians 1:5). Every time we share our story with others, I get a little bit more excited…not only about the work we will be doing in Japan, but also about the fact that the people we love get to be a part of it. By God’s grace, you are literally what makes our ministry possible. We are the ones who are uprooting our family and moving to the other side of the world; yet, we’re not the only ones who are making a sacrifice. Many of you are, too. Praise God for this gift!
By the grace of God, I can now confidently ask–without any sense of shame or loss of manhood–“Will you consider being a part of our ministry to Japan?” We’re not after money. We’re after more than that. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We want your heart to be invested in our ministry. And, we want the opportunity to tell people about Jesus Christ who would otherwise not hear about him in a true and meaningful way. We can’t do that without the generous support of our friends and family members. And, we wouldn’t want to, either. If you haven’t already, please let us know if you are interested in being a part of our ministry in Japan.