Welcome.

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.

A message of joy.

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)

Deadly Weapons

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.

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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?

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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.

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When are you going?

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.

The infamous call to missions

The infamous call to missions

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.

Manhood, Money and Missions

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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.

Happy Mothers’ Day

Happy Mothers’ Day

Dear Kathryne,

Here is what Ezra and Violet wanted to say to you for Mothers’ Day.


Me: Ezra, did you know that tomorrow is a special day, when we get to thank God for Mommy.  Can you say, “Happy Mothers’ Day”?

Ezra: (starts to sing) Happy birthday to you.   Happy birthday to you. (trails off…)

Me: It’s not Mommy’s birthday.  It’s Mothers’ Day!  Is there anything you want to tell Mommy?

Ezra: I don’t know.

Me: Maybe you could tell her thank you for something.

Ezra: Thank you for the lawn mower and the grass and the brrrrrm.  Haha.  That’s funny.

Me: Are there any stories that you’d like to tell Mommy?

Ezra: One time, I mowed the lawn.  And, ‘of a sudden, the lawn mower broke.  Mechanic! Mechanic!  And the screwdriver went around and around and around.

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Me: Violet, is there anything you’d like to say to Mommy?

Violet: (claps hands)

Me: Are you clapping your hands for Mommy?

Violet: (Laughs at Ezra who is making funny faces at her)

Me: Violet, God gave you a good Mommy.

Violet: Duh duh duh duh duh

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Thank you for being Ezra and Violet’s Mommy.  I am amazed by your perseverance, humbled by your daily sacrifices and challenged by your consistent gentleness.  Much of what you do for these two little ones goes unnoticed.  But, “in due season, you will reap, if you do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).  You are most deserving of a Happy Mothers’ Day.

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Updates are good, even when time is short

Updates are good, even when time is short

The day we decided to start a blog, I envisioned that we would post something once/week.  Nope.  Hasn’t happened that way.  While we have a lot that we’d like to share, the capacity to do so has steadily disappeared.  Sometimes doing things that are worth writing about requires that you stop writing, in order to do them.  That being said, we desire to be good stewards of your support and interest in our lives, for the sake of Christ.  Here are some randomly–providentially–ordered things related to the Pals’ family and/or Japan.  If you’re here solely to see pictures of our children, you can scroll to the bottom.

Progress update: We officially started the partner development stage of ministry in March.  Since then, we’ve shared our story with about 50 people.  The Lord has opened the door for many to join in sending us to Japan.  By God’s grace, we’re at roughly 35% of the monthly support needed to pack the bags.  We’ve also been plugging away at learning Japanese (15 minutes/day keeps monolingualism away) and the training assigned by WorldVenture (9 of 11 book reports done and submitted).

Prayer request: We realize most people feel life is too busy.  In fact, you’re likely so busy that reading this far has been a sacrifice for you.  We hope that means you can sympathize with us in our weakness.  The burden of work, ministry and family feels uniquely heavy right now.  It’s less about a lack of time than it is about a divided heart–an inability to be fully engaged in any one thing because other things are always waiting to be done.  Here’s how we’d ask you pray for us during the next couple weeks: that we would not “eat the bread of anxious toil” (Psalm 127:2) but instead would find deep, satisfying rest in God alone (Psalm 62:5).  The Lord works for those who wait for him!

Up next: In addition to continuing with partner development, we’ll be in Colorado during the first two weeks of July for training (and a wedding).  Ezra is already looking forward to the airplane ride.

The Unseen Face of Japan:  I recently read a book by this title, written by anthropologist David C Lewis.  As we go to Japan, we want to take your hearts with us.  Not literally, of course.  I mean that we want you to desire Japan’s joy in Christ, just like we do.  To that end, here are a couple quick thoughts from The Unseen Face of Japan: 

-Only 18% of men believe that there is life after death; yet, the majority of men reported making religious offerings to or on behalf of the deceased.  Why?  Remembrance of the dead, tradition, social pressure, fear–50% of people surveyed feared that divine punishment would befall them if they did something bad.  The conscience betrays the doctrine.

-64% of Japanese adults and 83% of teenagers wonder why they exist.  We know why and want the opportunity to tell them.

Tulip Festival:  Here are the promised pictures.  We spent May 15-17 in Orange City, Iowa celebrating all things Dutch.  Needless to say, John Calvin would have felt right at home.

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Mom and Vi–Tulip Festival First-Timers


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Dad and Ezra–Excavator First-Timers


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Ezra and his cousins getting ready for the street cleaning.


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Violet really likes her cousins!


Reviving the soul

Reviving the soul

The Pals family has gone through some rough weeks recently.  I hesitate to use the word “trials,” because doing so might make you think we’ve gone through especially difficult circumstances.  Though we have been busy, sick and often sleep deprived, the main difficulties we’ve faced have been internal.

Sometimes circumstances alone are enough to qualify as trials; other times we only experience circumstances as trials because we walk through them as sinful people.  In these cases, our hearts are our trials.  We have corrupted, often self-centered desires or expectations that are not being met.  And so, we throw adult versions of hissy fits, usually placing blame on people or things other than ourselves.  Picture a toddler who screams at his mom, because she won’t let him play with a sharp knife.  That’s the kind of trial I’m referring to.

I share this, because I want you to know how to pray for us, especially me (Jamison).  I don’t want to fall in the trap of using busyness as an excuse for wickedness.  We are choosing to be busy during this season for the sake of Christ.  What I desire is not more rest (we’ve had opportunities to rest every week), but a particular kind of rest.  I want the kind of rest that reorients my heart toward loving God and loving others.

When we experience trials of various kinds, a natural reaction is to pursue some kind of complex solution.  A common temptation in the Christian life is to look for something new, something novel that you haven’t tried before.  I have found the exact opposite approach to be the most powerful.

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.”  -Psalm 19:7a.

Praise God for his Word!  The Bible is an awesome book.  This is not a new revelation; it is an old, time-tested one.  Returning to it has revived my soul.  God’s Word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, righteous altogether, more desirable than Gold and sweeter than honey.  It revives the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes and endures forever.  In short, God’s word is exactly what we need.  In the midst of a busy season of support raising, we ask that you pray for God to breathe life into us through the Bible.  You could even use Psalm 19 as a prayer guide for us.

Going back to the first sentence of this post, we’ve had some rough weeks.  Lately, we’ve also had some very sweet days.  God’s Word, applied by the power of the Holy Spirit, really does do what it says it does.  It revives the soul.  Happy are those who hear it and keep it (Luke 11:28).  Pray especially for our children, that–as they grow–they would “set their hearts to study the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach it” (Ezra 7:10) among those who do not yet know Him.

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