In Japan, Spring Break is more than just a short time off of school for students. It’s the change of the school year, a time for graduation, moving up to the next level; a time to start new jobs and new endeavors. It’s the time that winter ends and spring begins marked by the blooming of the Sakura. In fact, this April 1st marks the very beginning of not only a new year, but a new era in Japan, the 令和 Reiwa Era! Yes, the old Emperor is retiring and his son is taking his place. The years in Japan are marked by the year of their Emperor. Welcome to year 1!
And this Spring Break meant that Becca and Anna passed the 3rd grade and are moving on to the 4th grade. Not only did they pass, but they continue to improve and are becoming quite the good students. Sarah will move into her last year of Kindergarten before elementary school, and Joshua only has one year left before starting Kindergarten himself. Wow how time flies! So before it flies away, we’re making memories while they’re still kids. We took time off with our Paz team to enjoy some R&R in the mountain town of Karuizawa — a place where people like to go to escape the heat of Tokyo in the summer. Of course since we are catching it at the beginning of Spring, we were glad just to have warm enough temperatures to enjoy the outdoors!
Nobody I know works harder or with more passion and determination than the Paz team here in Japan, so this precious time off was exactly what we needed. There are lots of things that don’t make it into a video like this — the amazing Onsen (Japanese Bath) we went to, some of the sights of a the lava flow park or even a number of the great meetings and times together we had, but this gives you a taste of what it’s like. Enjoy the video below!
Every two years our family embarks on an exciting, unique adventure. This adventure takes us across the world to visit people and places near and dear to our hearts. These places — especially these people — mean so much to us — they’re the very reason we can live in Japan and share God’s love here. This adventure is called furlough, and it’s a chance for our family of 6 to check in and catch up with our loved ones.
While furlough may seem long to some, and to others it seems like a vacation, it is much more than all of that. For in the short amount of six weeks, the kids catch up with 2 years of Grandpa/Grandma time, we speak at a different church each weekend, we travel all over the country to make important visits, we update our legal and banking matters, we raise more support and all while dealing with jet lag. Yes, furlough is far from normal — and the change of pace that is very refreshing at first becomes an impulse propelling us back towards Japan for the next phase of life. In our newest video, you get a sense of the beauty, excitement, business and adventure that is furlough in our next video. Enjoy!
We now come back to a very exciting time here in Japan for us as our church is opening a new coffee shop — a place for the community to come, enjoy the BEST coffee around and connect with people full of God’s love. In fact, upon arriving here in Japan, I (Nate) went off to serve in a weekend retreat our church hosts called “Encounter with God.” It was such a powerful time and so many of the people who participated felt God’s presence and love like never before. We are more excited than ever to be a part of God’s move here in Japan!
Now we are looking forward to this next week and weekend when we will have the grand opening of our brand new coffee shop. This coffee shop will be open during the week and serve the best speciality coffees as well as have an all-you-can-drink special blend coffee — a first (as far as we know) for Japan! Then on Sundays we will hold our church services in the coffee shop itself. It certainly serves two amazing purposes! If you live anywhere nearby or here visiting, please stop by!
What do roses, our blonde American kids and cafes have in common? See if you can figure it out in episode 5 of Life in Japan, as we secure our new cafe/church location. To celebrate, we visit the famous Rose Garden in Ikuta with our family. That’s right, all these things are related, and they’re all right here in Noborito. Hope I didn’t give anything away now…
Watch the video and see what else is in the works below
When we visited Japan for the first time 5 years ago, I could see the potential of worship to really alter this country. In a nation so moved by music, there is a huge opportunity to share God’s love and the truth through music that no one has really harnessed the potential of it yet. But by God’s grace, we want to change that. This video is the first of many planned. These are songs that we do every Sunday in church, songs that the Church around the world has been singing for years, but still have not reached into Japan. As God gives us grace, we will continue to produce these simple but powerful videos to reach people wherever they are — on a train, at work, at school or at home. Most Japanese have never considered coming to a church, but a video could be the bridge to help them meet God. Please consider sharing this!! It is produced under the name Diflen Tokyo — the name of our local youth and worship movement.
Kind of like the von Trapp family
Recently Ruth and the girls have also joined the worship revolution and have been writing songs. These songs are fun, have great words, dance moves and catchy tunes. I began producing some of them and we are doing them at church! These songs really shook up the Christmas and Easter services! Ruth and the girls have many other ideas for songs for us to eventually complete an album of fun songs aimed at kids and families throughout Japan. Ruth is already putting together a Christmas program full of singing, drama and an unforgettable Gospel presentation. Check out the video from Easter and just try to get this tune out of your head!
In April we said good-bye to our beautiful families for a week while we went to the SEND International missionary retreat near Mt Fuji to begin working on a brand-new international worship project that will bless Brazil, Japan and many other countries. Under the team name of DIFLEN (Discipling and Forming LEaders in the Nations), we got the project off to a great start. It was a dream come true, setting up studio and working together with my brother-in-law Bruno and the amazing team that is coming together here. We are starting from scratch, writing new songs aimed for the church to sing! Check out this one-minute video about that time.
Pray, for the Battle is Underway
As we move forward on these things, it seems like sometimes everything else comes apart. Family members get sick and need to go to the hospital. Accidents happen. Many other “necessary” distractions come into play. We are well aware that the enemy is vehemently against these worship projects, the proclamation of the Gospel in Japan as well as the establishment and growth of the Church as a whole. Please, PLEASE pray for our encouragement, protection, holiness, energy and unity among our team. The day that we were working on finishing the video, Bruno’s son Paul had to go to the hospital and my daughter Anna went to the emergency room twice the following day! Your prayer covering could make the difference in us completing projects on time or fighting for each and every note we play. We love you!
It’s a New Year, it’s time to thank God for all of the highlights of last year! For our family, that meant the birth of Joshua last January. We can’t imagine our family without this expressive, active boy! And in April the girls began 1st grade at our local Japanese school. Even though it’s all in Japanese, they are really doing well, making lots of friends and doing well in school. Our church hit several milestones, including our two largest services ever — one in June and the last for Christmas here at the end of the year. Over 170 were in attendance, most of those visitors were there for the first time! How exciting that they heard wonderful music celebrating Christ and an excellent message about the Gospel. Ruth wrote a song for the kids to sing that I produced and it turned out amazing. I’m so proud of her! It will be a part of a kids worship project sometime soon. And our cell group continues to grow, even having over 55 people in attendance for our holiday parties! God has been so good!
Each one of those victories came with a lot of sweat, perseverance and at a large cost. In fact, we continue to pay a large price to continue in these good things that God has set before us. But even if you can’t find many highlights from your 2016, you can rejoice in God’s faithfulness and be glad because a new year means new beginnings — it means a fresh start. Praise God for fresh starts!
How can we ensure that this year will be everything that God wants it to be? I believe the key lies in giving our lives completely, wholly over to God. No more of setting our own goals for the next year and then asking God to bless them — it’s time to ask God “What are YOUR goals for me this year?!” and then go after them! To do that, we must believe that He is GOOD. He desires what is best for us.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.
His Goodness allows us to fully trust Him with our lives, giving everything to Him even when we don’t understand what He is doing. His goodness revealed to us is the very thing that enables us to trust Him radically, and when we do He PROMISES to direct our paths into the very best that He has for us.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
Hallelujah! Want to know God’s will for your life? Just do as Romans 12:1-2 says, and HE WILL SHOW YOU HIS WILL:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
To live in the supernatural, we must die to our natural selves, our earthly desires, so that we can receive the fullness of what God wants. And what He plans for us is so, so very much greater than what we could even imagine for ourselves. Trust Him completely — your 2017 may not be struggle-free, but it will be supernatural!
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.