On Dealing With Delay

Visa issues potentially threaten our July 1st departure date. We had been under the assumption that we would depart on July 1st with or without the proper visa and get it straightened out upon reaching Japan, but we have been asked not to do that. The issues we are having with our visa are minor, perhaps boiling down to a miscommunication or lost email message.

It is completely within God’s power to overcome these issues and clear the path for us. If our departure is delayed, it would be much more worthwhile to understand the reason God chose to delay our departure than to stew over the inconvenience.

For now, we simply do what is within our power to do: bless the name of the Lord and pray for His will to be done.


YWAM Tokyo Video – Why Japan?


We’ve been asked this same question, “Why Japan?” in many forms and nuances. What blew me away about this video, produced by YWAM Tokyo’s David McDaniel, is how similar the answers this video provides are to our own. Broken families, suicide, and hopelessness among a population of people with less access to Christianity than many people groups in far more remote or impoverished places in the world. A beautiful people, intelligent, hard working, hospitable and generous. Like David, I see an incredible opportunity for Japanese Christians to be bearers of the the good news of the gospel to other parts of the world. But how can they go if we do not first go to them?

A couple of important take-aways from this video:

1. This video could easily have been called “Why Tokyo?” rather than “Why Japan?” Nearly a third of the population of Japan live on the Kanto Plain, which is the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area along with the people of  nearby prefectures. It is the single most populated metropolitan area in the world. We didn’t choose Tokyo, but God chose Tokyo for us. We believe He did this because of the impact Tokyo can make on the rest of Japan and the world. This is why I have been reading Tim Keller’s “Center Church” and following the Redeemer: City to City movement to better understand how the great city centers of the world will be used to share the gospel to all nations and people. Growing up in a suburban church, urban ministry is a stretch for us, but we are excited to engage the people of the city and share the gospel with them.

2. This video reflects our reasons for serving in Japan nearly word for word, which is amazing because I have never met David McDaniel before and we have no affiliation with YWAM as an organization. This is a huge encouragement to us, however, in that we can see how God has aligned the vision of many church leaders in the Tokyo area. We already know of several others missionaries and Christian leaders serving in the Tokyo area who also strongly agree with the content of this video. Sometimes hashing out differences in vision is what stands in the way of making progress, but being able to go to Tokyo and basically “plug ourselves into the machine” will be a great benefit to our ministry and hopefully a blessing to those whom we will serve alongside.




A Double Graduation Day!

We experienced a double blessing yesterday of having both of kids graduate from their respective schools, elementary and middle. We often take for granted what goes into such an accomplishment, but we want to thank all the teachers, fellow parents and family members who have invested time in the lives of our children to help them succeed in school and feel good about who they are. And of course we thank the Lord for watching over them and giving them the opportunity to grow, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

One more step in our journey toward Japan as both will start the school year in Japan in a new class structure. Only 18 days left before Japan!


Experiencing The Power of Prayer

“We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.

Most of us would prefer, however, to spend our time doing something that will get immediate results. We don’t want to wait for God to resolve matters in His good time because His idea of ‘good time’ is seldom in sync with ours.”

~ Oswald Chambers

Yesterday, a complete stranger who had been receiving our newsletter wrote us an encouraging note and promised to pray everyday this month for our financial support goals to be met. At church yesterday, we talked to many others who committed to pray for our finances as well. Those messages in themselves were inspiring to us. But God quickly reminded us that prayer is not simply idle talk.

Today, I received a message that a single supporter has pledged 20% of our remaining financial needs. I was shocked, even stunned. But then I remembered the promises of those who said they would lift our needs in prayer and that shock was replaced by gratefulness and joy about how the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. The Bible speaks countless times about God’s “steadfast love and faithfulness”, yet when you experience it, you understand why. The Word simply points to the truth, that God is steadfast in His love and faithfulness to us.

I don’t want people to read this and come away with the idea that if we pray for stuff, God automatically gives it to us. There is certainly no Biblical basis for that assumption. Right now, we simply acknowledge that our financial situation is in God’s capable hands. We believe he wants us to go to Japan, and if he wants something, we believe he has no difficulty in making it happen. Our prayers are us saying, “We can do nothing more, but you, O God, can do everything.”

At every opportunity since we committed to going to Japan, God has provided beyond every expectation we had. We’re not there yet, but we are so thankful at how God gives us encouragement at each step in the process. Thank you for your prayers on our behalf; they are certainly being heard.

May Review / June Preview

It’s the end of May and we’re now in the home stretch for our big move to Japan on July 1st. There are now open moving boxes in our living room that are slowly being filled. Items of personal value are being boxed up and put in storage. Here are some of the highlights of the past month:

Gave a Japanese ministry seminar. One of our larger local community churches, Redwood Chapel, has adopted the Japanese as their Unreached People Group (UPG) and has committed to reaching out to them for the next decade or two. Redwood Chapel doesn’t have a lot of people with experience in Japanese ministry, so they wisely reached out to local churches like ours to ask for assistance. In May, they invited me to share about the need for Children’s ministry in Japan, and how a church like theirs might get involved. It was an encouragement to meet with them and see their heart for the Japanese.

Consulting Job Confirmation. After hitting a potential roadblock to my continued consulting work with my current company, everything came together suddenly and with unexpected blessings. In the final deal, I have been asked to work from home (instead of making an hour plus commute into the local office) and I am now considered a direct contractor, meaning there is no middleman to take a portion of my paycheck. For those wondering how this consulting work will affect my ministry schedule, it won’t. I will work at this job on average 5 hours per week. Praise God for turning a trial into a blessing yet again!

Sold my car. This was a mixed blessing, but I am so grateful to know my car is going to a responsible young man who needs a good, reliable vehicle. We ran into a hitch when I took it to get smog checked and found that one of my modifications was not, uh, street legal. Thankfully, my awesome Dad came to the rescue again and helped get the car back to stock in a couple of hours.

Purchased one-way tickets. It’s been a long time since we had to purchase one-way tickets, almost 16 years. There’s something very final about one-way tickets because you realize you aren’t coming back for a while. But the good news is we got a decent airline and the prices were not outrageous (though airline tickets in general are expensive this year; be warned). Also, the CAJ relocation allowance covered the majority of our ticket and extra baggage costs.

Sending our son to camp. Thanks to the wonders of social media, I met another “friend I have yet to meet” in our city and he told us about the International HiBA camp taking place this summer. It is held literally a few kilometers (got to get used to metric measurements) from where we stay for our Summer short term mission in Chiba and the timing aligns nearly perfectly. It also happens that our son is now the right age to attend, so he’ll get to go meet some great kids, many of them he will attend school with at CAJ. We know he’s a bit shy about making new friends, so this is answered prayer for us about him.

Meeting new friends online. We’re so fortunate to live in the age of social media (yes, I recognize the irony in that statement as well). Jayne and I have been able to connect with many people on Facebook and talk with them on Skype before we’ll ever have the chance to meet them face to face. Through these technologies, we’ve already been able to connect with a number of great people and co-workers in Japan, long before we set foot on Japanese soil. One of these connections led us to…

Choosing a home church. Yes, we were able to Skype with Kathy Oyama, who pastors the Biblical Church of Tokyo with her husband Seiji. Based on the ministry vision of this church aligning with our own and the bilingual ministry for our children (as well as Kathy being a wonderful person), we decided to make this church our home church in Japan. For those who are familiar with them, Cru missionaries Mitsu and Karen Nakamura also attend this church. This will be a great opportunity to witness and learn how a Japanese church can reach out to their community in ways that are relevant to those who live there.

So what’s coming up for us in June? Here are the biggies.

Commissioning and Send Off at San Lo. If you’d like to join us for our commissioning and send off, it will be this Sunday, June 1st, at our church, San Lorenzo Japanese Christian Church. The send off will be a pot luck after service (we are basically hijacking our monthly “Coffee Hour” for our own design 😉 ). Service starts at 10:45am.

Elementary / Middle School Graduations. Both of our children will be graduating from the respective schools on the same day this month, so it’s going to be a crazy day. It’s a bit surreal to realize both of our children will no longer be in elementary school. It’s no joke that time flies when you have children. But we are proud of the accomplishments of both of our children and the people God is molding them to become.

Crazy Packing. Make that crazy sorting, packing, and tossing. And if you need anything, you might want to inquire with us as we are not having a garage sale (I hate those things) so most stuff will either be given away to friends, sold at ridiculously low prices, or donated to a worthy organization.

Finalizing Support. I am going to make a factual statement here. We are currently undersupported. I don’t want this statement to cause any guilt or smack of solicitation. It is merely a stated fact because we get asked this question all the time and we want to answer truthfully. If you prayed about it and didn’t feel called to support us, please don’t feel like you need to pray again for clarity. But if you do want to support us, now would be a great time to set up your financial support. That’s why this is the last thing on our list; now that you’re done reading our post, please go set up your support!

Lastly, thank you for all of your prayer support over this journey. We feel the results of your petitions on our behalf in the smoothness of this whole process and the blessings that have exceeded our expectations in so many ways. Thank God for each one of you!

Sent By the Children

This past weekend our kids (with a little help the parents) shared with their peers about our coming adventure in Japan. It’s rewarding as a parent to hear your own children articulate the importance of sharing the gospel in another country, even at the significant cost of losing their social status at school, the chance to drive a car at 16, and going to Senior prom. As much as we try to teach them about the reasons we are leaving California for Tokyo, I can’t help but think their understanding comes from having wonderful teachers and examples at church who have nurtured a love and understanding of God in them for many years. We have been blessed by the men and women who have taken a personal interest in helping our children grow in faith.

The greatest blessing  was having the other children pray for us. It was moving to hear the simple, straightforward prayers from the mouths of these children and the childlike faith behind those words that gives God such pleasure. We look forward to being included in the prayers of these young prayer warriors from across the ocean.
We just passed the 6 week mark in our countdown to depart for our new adventure. Time is flying by right now with so many things left to do (or so it seems). Praying for the will and discipline to tackle the unpleasant tasks and enjoy the last few weeks of our time in California.

Love Your Curves and All Your Edges: Saying Goodbye To A Great Car


I know the foolishness of becoming attached to material objects, but I admit I got a little misty-eyed as I spent the morning cleaning up my car to sell to a new owner tonight. It wasn’t my first car, nor is it likely to be my last, but it’s been my car for almost 10 great years, and it’s hard not to feel a tinge of sadness in letting it go.

A car, after all, is a little different than most of your possessions. You have a relationship with your car from the beginning and that relationship creates an emotional response. With my car, it was always reliable day after day and driving it was fun as it had a bit more “pep” than our minivan or hybrid (and I added a few extras to make it even more fun). Your car is a constant companion and if you have a long commute, you spend a lot of time with it. You go on a lot of adventures with your car too. The very nature of a car earns it a place in your heart, for better or for worse.

I remember the day I brought the car home as easily as I remember the day we brought each of our children home for the first time. I remember where I was on the freeway when I rolled the odometer over to 100,000 miles and wondered where I’d be when I rolled it to 200,000. I remember the rude lady who put the first ding in the door (she woke me up from a nap when she did it). As I was washing, waxing and cleaning up my car for the last time, I started thinking John Legend was probably thinking about his car when he wrote the chorus of his song “All of Me”. Sorry ladies.

Yes, it’s hard to say goodbye to a car you’ve had a great relationship with for so long. But this is all part of the process of letting go of a lot of things, including people not just objects, over the next month and a half. Japan is getting close, and its definitely feeling real.

Father To The Fatherless: Responding To Japan’s Orphaned

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families…

Psalm 68:5-6a

Some of our most precious memories serving in Japan come from the time we spent at a “Gakuen” in Chiba, where we have spent 3 summers serving. I put the word “Gakuen” in quotes because it doesn’t quite translate literally to English. In English, gakuen translates to “campus”, as in a school campus. But the “Gakuen” I refer to is not a school at all, but a home for some very special children.

The “Gakuen” I refer to is best described as a government operated home for children who have been separated from their parents, willfully or unwillfully. In America, it’s easy to understand the “unwillful” reference, which generally applies to parents who are deemed unfit for parenthood as a result of addictions, abuse, neglect, etc. However, in Japan, parents can voluntarily turn their children over to government care for a variety of reasons including financial hardship or just finding parenting a particular child too difficult. (Note: I am the first to admit I do not know the full details of how children can be turned over to government care either in Japan or in the US, so feel free to correct me if I make a mistake).

At this particular “Gakuen”, 200-300 children from toddlers to teenagers live together in a group of “houses”. Each house has 40-50 children separated into two groups, each cared for by a single volunteer who lives onsite and acts as a parental figure. It doesn’t take a lot of thought to realize this situation is less than ideal for children. Despite the fact that nearly every adult we have met working at such a facility cares deeply and passionately about children, there is no way one adult caring for 20-25 emotionally fragile children will be able to do an adequate job with all of them. The environment is ripe for bullying and other abuses among the children.

Last summer, we spent a every afternoon for a week at the Gakuen. We brought games, sports equipment and crafts to do with the children. On the first day, very few showed up, except for those rounded up by the house leaders and made to come out and meet us. But each day, more and more children would come to see us out of curiosity and end up staying and playing with our team members. On our final day, dozens of kids waved and ran after our van as we pulled out of their parking lot. There were tears, for sure, but mostly in our own eyes as we remembered what a wonderful week we had getting to know these children just a little while.

The last thing we wanted to do was to make friends with children and then disappear for a year without a trace. Fortunately, one family who attend a local church committed to returning to the Gakuen every week to visit and play with the kids. They had kids of their own, so building friendships with some of the kids was natural and easy. Some of the older kids even rode their bikes to the family’s house to play with kids or get help with their schoolwork.

Did our visit make a huge difference? Yes it did, but not so much in the lives of the children we met, but in our own lives. Since that time, the plight of these children have weighed on our hearts. As I have done research on the Child Welfare system of Japan, the things I have found have been disturbing. The way the system is set up, the government facilities become more like a prison to the children staying there rather than a home.

I must stress that I am in no way criticizing the staff who work at such facilities. As I mentioned, the staff we have met are all people who have hearts of compassion toward the children they serve. And though I am necessarily critical of the system that is doing more harm to these children than good, I am also not simply saying the system has to be changed. Waiting for the system to change can take years, even decades, and meanwhile, the damage to children and society continues.

What has to change is the heart of the Japanese church toward these children. If the church viewed the children with the same eyes as our Heavenly Father, who considers them His own children, we would be more involved in filling the gaps where the government system is lacking. America is not lacking for programs reaching out to children who are at-risk. Programs like Big Brothers / Big Sisters, that give children an adult mentor and friend. Even something as simple as visiting a facility to spend time with the kids, teach them a craft, help with schoolwork, play a game would make a huge difference in the lives of these children, many of which go days or weeks without quality interaction with an adult.

Getting involved in the lives of these children is costly. It costs time. It can costs money. The emotional cost is the largest, as you bear the weight of these children’s worlds on your shoulders. But when we look at the Bible and see how many times God reminds us to serve justice and mercy to orphans (hint: around 40 times), it isn’t hard to understand how important an issue this should be to us as Christians.

We will discuss this issue in more depth in future postings including why the majority of children living in such a system cannot be adopted, the challenges of reforming they Child Welfare system and specific things the Japanese church can do for “the least of these” living in the Child Welfare system.

Note: If you’re wondering why there are no photos in this post, for safety and security reasons, pictures of the children living in the home we visited are not allowed to be posted on the Internet. Personally, I would love for you to see pictures of these kids, for the simple reason that they look just like any other children in Japan who need the love of Jesus in their lives.

Learning To Love The City


In preparation for life in the big city, the biggest of all cities actually, confirmed by recent estimates, I have been reading Tim Keller’s “Center Church“, a book written about understanding the uniqueness of urban ministry. Keller’s book has done much to bolster what I learned recently from Perspectives (particularly YWAM’s Tim Svoboda) as well as challenge me to unlearn some of the non-biblical misconceptions I have held about the city.

One thing that Center Church has taught me is how different urban ministry looks from rural ministry and even the suburban ministry that I have grown up in. Though I technically grew up less than 25 miles from 3 major cities (San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose), when it comes to church ministry, I might as well have been 1,000 miles away. City life is very different from suburban life; it only takes the average suburbanite a few hours in the city to realize that they either love it or hate it. Cities are high energy,diverse, chaotic, gritty, to name a few adjectives, while suburbs are general the exact opposite. City dwellers tend to dislike spending time in the suburbs and vice versa. Which proves Keller’s point: ministering to the people of the city looks very different than ministering to the people of the suburbs.

I’ve always held a love-hate relationship with the city. While I love the diversity and creativity the city offers, I dislike the busyness and chaos. I love the hundreds of great restaurants but loathe hunting for parking spaces. It’s always been a relief to me that I can get in my car or on a train and be in the heart of the city in less than an hour, but I can also return home to the peace and quiet of my suburban neighborhood to escape it.

But if I’m completely honest with myself, I don’t always love the diversity of the city either. Keller explains that the city is not inherently good or evil, but more like a magnifying glass of men’s hearts. Bringing such a large mass of humanity into a relatively small area is going to bring out both the best and worst in people. And in that diversity, I find myself eyeing people as I walk down the street, making judgments in my mind as to who I can trust and who deserves my compassion. And this is my challenge because God calls us to be compassionate on all people, not just the ones we think deserve it.

Walking for an hour through the streets of San Francisco, I pass people of all walks of life. Pierced and unpierced. Businesspeople and homeless. Straight and gay. Young and elderly.  Black, white, and every color in between. And in my head, I am making judgments about them and whether they deserve my compassion. I help a lady carry a suitcase up a flight of stairs. I walk past a homeless man holding out a cup with a few coins without more than a glance in his direction. I have passed judgment on these people with my thoughts and actions.

It was a good, hard lesson today, because as much as I look forward to ministry in Tokyo, I know in many ways I have romanticized it. In Tokyo, just like in San Francisco, there will be the temptation to decide for myself who is deserving of God’s compassion through me. I will see those most in need on the street and look right through them on my way to something else. And everyday, just like now, I will have to be reminded that God didn’t reserve His compassion for any group of people, but his grace is free for all.

Lord, let me see your people through your eyes every day, and let me learn to be generous with compassion.