Update from Littleton, CO

Update from Littleton, CO

On January 19, we boarded an airplane to Denver for another round of training at the WorldVenture headquarters.  We’ll be here for another week attending WorldVenture’s annual conference.  During this past week though, we completed our “Pre-Departure Training”–exciting because it means we’re getting closer to, you know, departing.

Though we still have much to do in the months ahead, we now have a much better picture of what to expect during our first term in Japan.  I’ll summarize some of the things we’ve learned in our next post.  For now, we just want to give a quick glimpse into a place that is starting to feel more and more like a second home.  This is our third trip to WorldVenture in the past twelve months.  Every time we have come, our love for this place–and its people–has grown.

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Ezra in front of the WorldVenture building.
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Barefeet and snow.  We were surprised by how warm it’s been here in January.
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Ezra found the fire alarm that a friend pulled at the last training.  He tells the story, “The fireman came and said, ‘There’s no fire here; just a Clark.'”
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Vi and Ted.  Ted is a favorite.
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We were so grateful to have Papa and Nana join us on the trip.  They served us every day by watching Ezra and Violet, so that we could attend the training.  And, they took us to the Denver Children’s Museum the day before training started. We’d highly recommend taking a trip if you’re in Denver with children.  

 

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This stairway is lined with the hand-prints of WorldVenture kids around the world.  We like to play on the stairs and find the hand-prints of children we know.  
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Ezra learned how to use the keypad to enter the building.  Here he is showing our friend Jim how to do it.   
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Across the street from WorldVenture is a park with a great view of the mountains.
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Violet and Momma enjoying the nice weather and a view of the mountains.  Look at that baby bump grow!

 

Come, Lord Jesus!

Come, Lord Jesus!

My favorite Christmas hymn this year has been Come Thou Long Expected Jesus  by Charles Wesley.  Word on the street (Wikipedia) is that Wesley wrote the song in light of two things: Haggai 2:7 and the injustice (perhaps either slavery or the plight of orphans) he witnessed over 250 years ago.

Haggai 2:7 says, “And I will shake the nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of Hosts.”  

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in Thee
Israel’s strength and consolation
Hope of all the earth Thou art
Dear Desire of every nation
Joy of every longing heart

Now, when you think of your favorite Christmas verses, Haggai 2:7 probably doesn’t come to mind.  In fact, I’d be impressed if anything brought the book of Haggai to your mind.  Most of us don’t know how to pronounce it or where to find it in the Bible , much less what the book has to say about the coming of Jesus Christ.  And, if you are like me, you probably asked, “How in the world did Charles Wesley go from Haggai 2:7 to Come Thou Long Expected Jesus? ”  While we don’t have access to Wesley’s thought life, we do have access to the same Book that shaped it.  Here are my somewhat-informed guesses on his thoughts, on why Haggai 2:7 is a Christmas verse.  I hope it helps you sing, “Come, Lord Jesus!” with a greater sense of sweetness and urgency.

Background.  The book of Haggai is a set of oracles from to the remnant of Judah, recently returned from exile.  The people were sent back to Jerusalem charged with rebuilding the temple that the Babylonians had destroyed.  It was not a small task.  The original temple was built during the height of Israel’s peace and prosperity.  It took seven years, thousands of skilled laborers and vast amounts of gold, precious stones and massive cedars.  Those who knew the temple in its previous glory undoubtedly knew that they could never replicate it (2:3).  So, they focused on building their own houses instead (1:4).  The Lord made it clear he was not well pleased with their priorities (1:6-11).  Amazingly, the people actually repent, obey the command to rebuild and set themselves to work (1:12).  In response, the Lord reaffirms his presence, declaring in repetition, “I am with you” (1:13 and 2:4-5).

In this context, the Lord of Hosts rattles off a string of promises to the remnant of his people.  Rowdy Christmas promises, methinks.

Promise 1: “I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land” (verse 6).

Biblical authors used “shaking” language to recall or foretell cosmic, divine action.  It’s what the Lord did when he delivered his people out of Egypt (Psalm 77:18) and King David out of his trouble (2 Samuel 22:8 and Psalm 18:7); it’s the judgement God proclaimed on the nations that oppressed his people (Isaiah 13:13, 14:16, 23:11 and 24:19, Joel 2:10 and 3:6, Habakkuk 3:6).  Using theophany language, God is promising to do something significant on behalf of his people.  We’re talking about a cosmic event, one that alters the landscape of the world and of history.

Promise 2: “And I will shake the nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in” (verse 7a).

This is  not the shaking of a violent man, so filled with anger that he forgets himself.  The Lord does not shake willy-nilly.  He has an aim in his cosmic intervention, namely that the treasures of the nations would come to the temple.  Picture the Lord taking the world in his two hands and giving it a good rattling.  As the kingdoms of the earth crumble, the Lord so tilts the planet’s axis that the nations flow to the temple, filling it with their wealth and restoring it to glory.

Promise 3: “and I will fill this house with glory” (verse 7b).

The post-exilic community set their hands to rebuilding, knowing the promises God had made concerning his temple.  Israel’s rebellion against the Lord drove his glory from the temple (Ezekiel 10), but a day was coming when he would return (Ezekiel 40-48).  On that day,  the beauty and majesty of the temple shall be restored (Isaiah 54:11-14, 60:5-7), and God will undo the destruction wrought through Israel’s unfaithfulness.  He will bring his wayward people back to himself (Isaiah 60:4).  But, he’s going to do more. He’s going to break the stubborn hearts of the nations and bring them to  his throne and to his presence, as well (Jeremiah 3:17, Isaiah 60:1-7).

Promise 4: “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former” (verse 9a).

Though the rubble once known as a temple appeared as nothing in the eyes of those who knew its former glory (Ezra 3:12-13, Haggai 2:3), things were going to change.  The people would know the Lord has acted when the temple is not only rebuilt, but when it’s glory is greater than ever before.  He would turn their weeping into joy.

Promise 5: “And in this place I will give peace” (verse 9b).

You likely know that the Hebrew word for peace (“shalom”) means much more than a mere absence of conflict.  Rather, it refers to a time of flourishing, when everything is as it should be.  Peace, quite simply, is the thing that we (and all of creation) long for.  Note that peace is promised in the temple, the dwelling place of the Lord.

Taken together, these promises would have given a great sense of expectation.  God was going to act in an awesome, earth-shaking way.  After years under the Lord’s discipline, the people would finally experience his favor again.  The temple would be rebuilt, with glory exceeding the former.  The nations would offer their wealth and allegiance to the One true God.  A day of peace and wholeness was on the horizon.  And so, they built and waited.

And waited.  Some Jews are still waiting.  Their expectations have yet to be met.  The second temple never reached its promised glory before it crumbled again.  The nations triumphed over Jerusalem, instead of bowing to it.  Things did not go as they should have gone.

But, God’s promises did not fail.  There was, in fact, a cosmic intervention.  A Savior was born in Bethlehem.  The nations brought forth their wealth and bowed down: gold and frankincense and myrrh (Read Isaiah 60:6, then Matthew 2:1-12).  They called his name Immanuel (Matthew 1:23), and, through him, God’s presence dwelt among us with a glory exceeding any building fashioned by human hands (John 1:14).  He is the Temple that was torn down and rebuilt in three days (John 2:19-21).  His death shook the earth (Matthew 27:51) and brought the nations to God (Ephesians 2:11-13).  And, in this Prince, God has given Peace (Isaiah 9:6, Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:14-22).  Do you see it?  The long-awaited promises were fulfilled in the long-expected Jesus.

He is coming back.  Like God’s people of old, we wait for the day when God will shake the heavens and the earth again (Luke 21:26, Hebrews 12:26-28).  We wait for a greater Temple, the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb, to whom the nations will bow and bring treasure (Revelation 21:22-27).  We wait for a day of peace, when we have freedom from our fears, when the battle with sin will be over, when cancer and chronic pain are no more, when children are no longer murdered, when justice is done to terrorists, when death itself is thrown away, when those of every tribe, tongue, people and nation gather before God’s throne, when we will see the glory of Jesus Christ with unclouded vision, and the Lord sits with rule unquestioned and unchallenged rule.

Charles Wesley was onto something, not on something.  “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus!” is a fitting Christmas exclamation, because it not only celebrates the coming of Christ as a baby, but the second coming of Christ as a triumphant and ruling King.  It takes the sense of longing that Israel felt 2,500 years ago and puts it on our lips, as we await the completion of what was long ago promised.  They waited for a King to set things right; we know the King’s name and wait for him to finish the work he started when he came as a baby.

Come, Lord Jesus.  You are our Strength and Consolation.  You are the Hope of all the earth, the Desire of every nation.  You are the Joy of every longing heart.  Set us free!  Release us from our fears and sins.  You are long expected.  Come!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Last night, Ezra and I walked to the mechanic to pick up our car.  While I talked with the receptionist and paid the bill, Ezra watched quietly as the mechanic pulled the car out of the garage.  He had his “I want to say something look,” where he tilts his head down, slants his eyes up and then swings his face back and forth.  Ezra is a boy’s boy.  He loves everything that involves tools, machines and hard work.  I assumed that he wanted to talk to the mechanic about worker-guy stuff, something like: “I have my own toolbox” or “I can fix the car for you” or maybe even “Do you have a snowblower?”

Ezra remained quiet, eating a piece of high-fructose corn syrup disguised as delicious candy.  Then, as soon as he had one foot out the door, he darted back inside to tell the mechanic his mind, “Tomorrow is my Mom’s birthday.”  The mechanic smiled and gave him another tasty, toxic treat.  At that moment, I realized how momentous Kathryne’s birthday truly is–it’s importance surpasses even worker-guy stuff.

With that, I would like to invite you all to join me in celebrating Kathryne’s birthday.  Go ahead and buy yourself some cake and ice cream on behalf of this woman.  More than other years, I am aware of how precious Kathryne’s life is.  And, I feel zealous to show her honor, like Gimli after meeting Galadriel.  Unfortunately, Kathryne doesn’t read Lord of the Rings, so compliments like that go unappreciated.

Kathryne–you gracefully endured much at age 28, facing down cancer for a second time, while raising two children and growing a third.  On top of that, you devoted yourself to preparing our family to move to the other side of the world, willingly sacrificing the rare hours of free time that young mothers normally enjoy on occasion.  This is likely the last birthday you will have in Minnesota before we depart to raise a family in an unfamiliar place, learning to function in a new language, culture and geography.

We thank God for the sacrifices you have made, the love that you have patiently shown and the woman that you have become over the past year.  May the Lord show you unique grace on your birthday and in the year ahead.  And, may you not grow weary in doing good, for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up.  Happy birthday!

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Recovery

Recovery

On November 9th, Kathryne had surgery to remove a large tumor on one of her ovaries.  Since then, we’ve been in recovery mode, leaning heavily on the support of friends and family, especially our parents.  We have been very well cared for.  Thank you to everyone who has visited, called/texted, emailed and offered to bring meals!  We are happy to share that Kathryne is doing really well, and it’s likely she will not need any further treatment.

And, we’re even happier to share that Jesus Christ knows how to comfort us in all our various circumstances.  To misquote our previous post on Samuel Rutherford, “Cancer hath this advantage, that it draweth our sweet Physician’s hand; it is a blessed surgery that fetcheth Christ to the bedside.”  True.  I would simply add that Christ often comes to our bedside through the presence and words of his people.  You have been an extension of the Lord’s care for our family over the past few weeks.

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Fresh out of surgery.

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Violet was happy to visit Momma in the hospital.

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Violet was also happy to eat Momma’s fancy fruit.

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A little over a week after the surgery, Kathryne helped Ezra make his birthday cake.

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It was a Thunder Cake from the book with the same name.

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We read Thunder Cake, while we ate Thunder Cake.

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Ezra got a tool box with real “worker-guy” tools.

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Tradition–The Birthday Donut.

 

 

The Loveliness of Christ

The Loveliness of Christ

Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish pastor born in 1600.  We know little about his upbringing, except what can be gleaned from the letters he wrote to the people under his care.  Two things are obvious from the sweetness of his writings: he was well acquainted with suffering, and he experienced much of the Lord’s grace in the midst of suffering.

Recent trials–small ones we’ve experienced and large ones that others in our lives have faced–have brought me back to the writings of Samuel Rutherford.  The Banner of Truth Trust did us all a favor by compiling quotes from his letters into a small book called The Loveliness of Christ.  There are few things that have helped me love Jesus Christ, in the midst of various difficulties, more than this book.  And, there are few things that have given me a greater burden to speak of him to other people, especially suffering people.  I hope you read the quotes below, buy the book and find new comfort–for yourself and for others–in Jesus Christ.

“It is not a smooth and easy way, neither will your weather be fair and pleasant; but whosever saw the invisible God and the fair city, makes no reckoning of losses or crosses.  In ye must be, cost you what it will; stand not for a price, and for all that ye have, to win the castle; the rights of it are won to you: and there wanteth nothing but possession.” -page 10

“The only thing that commendeth sinners to Christ is extreme necessity and want.  Christ’s love is ready to make and provide a ransom and money for a poor body who hath lost his purse.” -page 13

“There are many heads lying in Christ’s bosom, but there is room for yours among the rest.” -page 21

“When we shall come home and enter to the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and sufferings; then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory; and that our little inch of time–suffering is not worth our first night’s welcome home to heaven.” -page 19

“I am half content to have boils for my Lord Jesus’ plaisters.  Sickness hath this advantage, that it draweth our sweet Physician’s hand and his holy and soft fingers to touch our withered and leper skins; it is a blessed fever that fetcheth Christ to the bedside–I think my Lord’s ‘How doest thou with it, sick body?’ is worth all my pained nights.” -page 22

“O, pity for evermore that there should be such an one as Christ Jesus, so boundless, so bottomless, and so incomparable in infinite excellency, and sweetness, and so few to take him!  O, ye poor dry and dead souls, why will ye come hither with your toom vessels and your empty souls to this huge and fair, and deep, and sweet well of life, and fill all your toom vessels?  O, that Christ should be so large in sweetness and worth, and we so narrow, pinched, so ebb, and so void of all happiness, and yet men will not take him!  They lose their love miserably, who will not bestow it upon this lovely one.” -page 5

A word on small churches (and small children)

A word on small churches (and small children)

Small churches.  I am becoming increasingly convinced that small gatherings of God’s faithful people are among the world’s most beautiful, yet underrated things.   Small churches are diamonds buried in sand–hard to find, but worth digging for.  How many thousands of people unknowingly walk right by them without ever realizing their worth?

Of course, not all small churches are good churches, nor are all large churches bad (our church is quite large, and we love it dearly).  But, I draw attention to faithful, God-honoring small churches, because they don’t receive the recognition they deserve.  The fact is most churches, especially among unreached peoples, are small.  I’m told the average church in Japan has around 30 members.  I’ve seen some that are smaller.

Big stands out and draws our attention.  Big things, either in size or perceived impact, get talked about.  Whether we realize it or not, we tend to ascribe greater value to things, like churches, based on size.  Just the other day, I met a pastor at a community event, and a person later commented to me, “That’s so cool you got to talk to him.  His church has over 5,000 people, you know!”

On the flip side, we tend to minimize importance when things, like churches, are small.  I’ve heard many pastors and missionaries lament, “My church only has X number of people.”  I can understand why that might be discouraging.  But, there is something praiseworthy about these small congregations that continue to meet faithfully to worship Jesus Christ, preach the word of God, encourage one another and care for those in need, even when no one else notices.  They do not do what they do to draw attention to themselves.  Though they appear unremarkable, they will receive commendation from the Lord.  He takes careful note when no one else does.

Jesus Christ to the church in Philadelphia: “I know your works.  Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8).  

Commenting on the verse above, George Eldon Ladd wrote, “The church in Philadelphia was one so abounding in good works that she was pleasing to the Lord.  Although the church had but little power and was small with very limited influence, its character was such that the letter has only commendation from the Lord, not censure” (A Commentary on the Revelation of John).

In contrast to other churches receiving letters in the book of Revelation, the Lord only commends and does not rebuke the church in Philadelphia.  Though they did not have power or influence, the Lord is pleased with them.  He promises that the influential people of their day will “bow down before before your feet and learn that I have loved you” (verse 9).  They didn’t have a place among the noteworthy of their age, yet Jesus promises a greater, more permanent place in his Kingdom, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.  Never shall he go out of it” (verse 12).

Faithfulness is not necessarily accompanied by numbers and influence in this age.  Nonetheless, it is pleasing to the Lord, and it will receive its reward in the age to come.  That’s what we’re banking on.

Japan has been called one of the hardest fields in the world by those who study missions closely.  Thousands of missionaries and Japanese ministers have labored faithfully for years without seeing much visible fruit.  While we pray for a breakthrough, we’re going forward with the knowledge that people have not yet come to faith in large numbers.  Maybe God will change that in our lifetime!  Some in Japan believe he might.  If not, we’re preparing ourselves for years of ministry in small, beautiful churches.  Small churches may not exert extensive influence or receive recognition among their neighbors, but we’re happy to devote ourselves to serving with them nonetheless, knowing the One from whom they will receive a reward.


Small children.  Below are some photos of Ezra and Violet.  We love them and so do many of you.  We’re sharing these, because we know many of you want to see them.  Disclaimer: these photos are terribly one-sided, depicting mainly happy times.  When we have photos of the temper-tantrums and dirty diapers, maybe we’ll share those as well.  It’s just much easier to capture a content, smiling child than to grab the camera and start shooting when they’re screaming uncontrollably or flinging yogurt.  We love our children, not primarily because they’re cute and smiley, but because they are our children.  God gave them to us; we are happy he did.

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God’s grace in our waiting

God’s grace in our waiting

Our son has a book called Waiting is Not Easy!  In this short story, Gerald the elephant learns an important lesson.  His friend Piggie promises a surprise, but Gerald must wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Waiting is not easy.  But, waiting is good when the thing you’re waiting for is worth it.  And, there are many good things that only come through waiting.

I (Jamison) began intentionally pursuing vocational, cross-cultural ministry in 2006.  That means I’m coming up on a decade of waiting (over one-third of my life).  I have often grown impatient and asked God in frustration, “Why is this taking so long?”  As we’ve gotten closer to going to Japan, I’ve been asking the same question in a more reflective, less demanding way.  I really want to know–What has the Lord been up to in the midst of our waiting?

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He does not always provide definitive answers to “Why?” questions.  Some things will become clear eventually, but we may never know all the things God has done during this season of waiting.  Yet, I think the Lord has graciously opened the door a crack, so that I can at least peek in and catch a glimpse of  what he’s done for us over the past decade.

Walking with a limp.  One of my favorite men, Sinclair Ferguson, preached a series on the life of Jacob in the book of Genesis.  Jacob was a proud and deceitful man.  After 14 years of hard labor in a foreign land, he returned home.  On his journey, he wrestled with the Lord and prevailed.  But, the encounter permanently changed him, “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip” (Genesis 32:31).  Jacob’s proud swagger was replaced with a limp.  But, notice the sun was shining on him as he went.  Happy is the limp upon which the Lord’s favor shines.  Happy is the jar of clay that best displays the power of God (2 Cor. 4:7).  And–I hope–happy is the man who, through many years of waiting, enters ministry in total dependence on Jesus Christ.

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Ten years ago, I really thought I had something to offer–I thought that I would succeed at whatever I did, because I was The Man.  Yikes.  Thankfully, the Lord has given me years of realizing my own ineptitude and helplessness.  Apart from him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).  That was not a fun lesson to learn.  But, there is incredible freedom and hope in coming to know it–the Lord delights to use human weakness as a setting for his divine power.

A boat with ballast.  I think the idea of moving to a different country excites many, especially in my generation.  Pick up everything and live a completely different life–sounds kinda exciting, doesn’t it?  Retrospectively, part of my initial draw toward cross-cultural ministry came from the excitement of doing something new, fun, different, etc.  It’s an adventure!  But, adrenaline can’t sustain you for ten years (or longer), especially when you get married, have kids and start getting gray hair–it started on my beard and is now working its way up.

While I’m still excited about the adventure of missions, I’m no longer driven by it.  Adrenaline has been surpassed by conviction.  Our former pastor John Piper has a helpful illustration.  If the work of missions is a ship, the desire for God’s glory is the ballast that keeps it from flipping over in the midst of strong winds and tall waves.  A conviction that God is worthy of honor among all the peoples is a weight that gives your boat stability to press on through storms.  The only reason we’re still pursuing missions is the belief that Jesus Christ is worthy of all glory, honor, praise and adoration.  And, he is mostly unknown and un-worshipped in places like Japan.

People really matter.  Over the past several years, we have had the pleasure of meeting and growing with many precious Brothers and Sisters in Christ, many of whom are sending us, supporting us, working alongside of us.  Had we gone to Japan or somewhere else earlier, we would have never met many people we now know and love dearly.  That’s not a small thing.  We really thank God for the extra time spent with you all, and we feel supported and strengthened in ways that would have been impossible years ago.  Time with Family has been especially precious, as we’ve raised our children together.

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Similarly, had God opened the door for us to go earlier, I think I would have placed more emphasis on developing programs or “ministries,” rather than focusing on people.  This time has helped us increasingly see how much people really matter.  Programs only exist to serve people.  There is something powerful about simply knowing and loving other humans.  Though they are messy, broken and frustrating at times, they are also wonderful creatures–bestowed with greater dignity and worth than anything else in creation.  What an awesome thing to have relationships with people who image God and who will live forever!  And, what an even greater thing that God became one of us, that we can have relationships not only with one another, but with the One who made us!  The desire to see that come about in Japan has grown with my gray hair.

The LORD is good to those who wait for him (Lamentations 3:25).  

Shame, suicide and unshakeable hope

Shame, suicide and unshakeable hope

Suicide is the most common cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 19 in Japan.  Major contributing factors seem to be related to school: bullying, high stress entrance exams and intense social pressure.  That’s why September 1st, the first day of a new school semester, has the highest rates of suicide (Click Here to read a recent BBC article).  Have you ever said something like, “I would rather die than ______.”?  Many young people in Japan literally choose to die rather than go back to school.

The emphasis we place on joy is not arbitrary.  Everything that we’ve come across tells us there is a particular need for joy in Japan, a perceptible lack of happiness rooted in real hope.

The emphasis on joy is also personal.  Happiness in Jesus matters a lot to us, because I (Jamison) wouldn’t be alive without it–without Him.  I remember years of preferring death over going to school.  Though I didn’t face the same pressure as Japanese students face, I wanted the same result.

I know I’m not alone.  Most of you have fought or will fight some form of depression, either your own or the depression of someone you love.  Maybe your neighbors are not as happy as they look.  Maybe your favorite barista didn’t want to get out of bed this morning–maybe she’s not as excited to serve you coffee as you think.  Maybe you spend so much time on your smartphone, because the numbness of depression sets in when your mind isn’t sufficiently distracted.

In my experience, depression is terribly deceptive, making death (or perhaps withdrawal) seem more appealing than facing what’s in front of you.  Depression distorts desire–it puts frosting on a razor-blade and then tricks you into believing it’s actually a cake.  Don’t eat it.  Jesus is the Bread of Life; whoever goes to him shall never hunger, ever.  He reorients desire, so that you hunger for what gives life, instead of what takes it.

I don’t want to be simplistic or overly spiritual.  Depression and suicide are complex; they should be addressed from multiple angles.  God gave us bodies.  The condition of our bodies affects the condition of our souls.  Thus, we should not be surprised that various physical causes of depression have seemingly unspiritual remedies.  I’m told medication is necessary for some forms of depression, and I believe it.  Personally, I find that sleep, exercise and a single cup of coffee go a long way in preventing depression.

At the same time, I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks powerfully to the particular type of depression that wreaks havoc among Japan’s young people.  Many of the lives lost to suicide shared the common threads of shame, fear and relational brokenness.  They are ashamed about who they are or what they’ve done, feeling that they have failed in some unredeemable way.  They fear facing others who look down on them or openly ridicule/bully them.  They lack strong relational bonds and support systems.  And, they have no hope for things improving in the future.

There is hope in Jesus Christ.  I have found that the sweetest, most powerful remedy for my depression is knowing that, in Christ, the almighty God is 100% for me, not against me.  I know of nothing else that can so comprehensively remove the sting of shame, fear and relational brokenness.   The Lord’s undeserved and sovereign favor has delivered me from many dark nights.

I have heard a pastor say that Romans 8 is the greatest chapter of the greatest letter in the greatest Book ever written.  I am inclined to agree, especially for the depressed and hopeless.  Here are a few brief thoughts:

Shame: “There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” -Romans 8:1.  In Christ, you are free from shame.  God does not condemn you for who you are or what you’ve done.  Instead, he gave up his Son to be shamefully treated, beaten and murdered in your place.  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” -Romans 8:32.  There is no greater act that God could have done to make a way for you to come to him without guilt or shame.  Yes, you have done shameful things.  No, you don’t need to be ashamed any longer, if you go to God through Jesus.   

Fear:  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” -Romans 8:28.  Is there any promise in Scripture more universally applicable for the people of God?  All. Things. Similarly, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” -Romans 8:38-39.  Nothing.  In all of creation.  The Lord has bound himself to the Believer in love.  As long as God’s word is true, you need not fear.  All must work for your good, bullies and entrance exams included.

Relationship:  “…You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'”  The average “salaryman” in Japan spends 17 minutes/day with his children.  But, there is a Father in heaven who never leaves, nor forsakes his children.  He takes us to himself, calls us his own and is eternally with us.  Jesus Christ, the Man of Sorrows who is well-acquainted with grief, is also well acquainted with you in your sorrows, by His Spirit.  He knows how to comfort and counsel.  He is a Brother and a Friend who will carry you through.

Hope: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” -Romans 8:18.  A day is coming when God will glorify all those whom he has already justified in Christ.  Things will not be the way they are forever.  All that is wrong will One Day be made right, including your depression.  You always have hope.

Almost ten years ago, Jesus provided me with hope that sustained my life, even when I didn’t want it to be sustained.  And, we believe He can do the same in Japan.  We are excited the team we are joining, Christ Bible Institute (CBI), is starting a Christian counseling ministry.  Read more about it by Clicking Here.  We believe this ministry has the potential to “help bring real, personal, healing of Jesus to hurting Japanese.”  Pray for the CBI team as they launch this important ministry.  And, please pray for the joy of Japan in Christ.

Recent activities (in photos)

Recent activities (in photos)

Here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to lately.  It’s been a good summer!


In the neighborhood…

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Violet is finally big enough to ride in the Burley.  She loves it.

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Ezra started riding a “big-boy” bike.IMG_0241

A favorite activity in our neighborhood–climbing big things and then jumping off of them.

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Another favorite activity–yard-work.


Ezra’s first Twins game!

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Ezra made it through the top of the 1st inning before he started asking, “Is it time to go home?”  With help from a couple trips to the concession stands, we managed to make it through the fifth inning.


  Violet turned one year old in August!  IMG_0144

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Birthday ice cream.

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Birthday party!

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First bite of the birthday cake.

IMG_0307Violet, the now-walking one year old!


A note to children

A note to children

Parents, this is written primarily for your children; please share with them.  Others, you are welcome to read, as well.

You have heard that we’re going to Japan, right?  And, you probably know that we’re going there, so that we can tell people about Jesus.  Maybe you have even been praying for us.  If so, thank you so much.  It means a lot to us.

There is a lot to like about Japan–great food, beautiful mountains and ocean, interesting cities, fun places to visit, kind people, and safe neighborhoods.  But, there are a couple things we love that Japan doesn’t have.

First, most people in Japan don’t know Jesus yet.  That makes us sad, because we think Jesus is the best.  If you know him, you know the best person in the entire universe!  Never forget that.  Many don’t know him.

Second, Japan doesn’t have you or your family.  Japan is far away.  We’re going to be there a long time.  Maybe the rest of our lives.  Sure, we’ll come back to visit, but we’re going to miss you.  We won’t be at many of your birthday or Christmas parties.  We won’t be able to play at the park with you most summers or go sledding with you most winters.  We might not be there to give you a hug when you’re sad or high-five when you’re happy.

There’s something we want to share with you.  Even though we’ll be on the other side of the world, we can still be friends.  In fact, we can actually be better than friends.  How is that possible?  Here is what the Bible says:

“You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.  For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.  Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth” (3 John 6b-8).

The Bible says that we can be fellow workers.  That’s exciting!  We can be like two farmers working the same field or two soldiers fighting in the war or two teammates playing the same game–just on opposite sides of the world.

We are going to Japan “for the sake of the name.”  That means, we are going, so that when Japanese people hear the name “Jesus,” they would say something like, “Jesus! He’s my Savior, my Lord, my King, my best Friend, my God and so much more!”  We don’t want him to be a stranger in Japan any longer; we want Jesus’ name to be spoken often from many happy lips.

Do you want the same thing?  If so, you can work alongside us.  And, you don’t have to come to Japan to do it (though maybe someday God will lead you to join us in Japan…we would like that).  If you help send and support us, the Bible says you are a “fellow worker for the truth.”  Our ministry is your ministry.  We just have different roles.

William Carey was a famous missionary who lived about 200 years ago.  He went to India.  A friend of his said something like, “India is a gold mine that seems as deep as the center of the earth; who will go down into it?” William Carey responded, “I will go down, but remember that you must hold the rope.”

The same could be said about Japan.  And, you hold the rope for us when you and your family remember us, support us financially, pray for us, ask how we are doing, encourage us with your words or tell others about our ministry.  By God’s design, we can’t go down into the deep gold mine without you.  Keep holding the rope.  Do it for the sake of the name of Jesus Christ.

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