An Inspired Gift

Recently I was rushing around doing our last minute お土産omiyage (gift) shopping for our friends and family back in California. I stopped in one shop to admire some delicious looking jams and jellies from a company called St. Cousair. Looking closely at the label, I noticed something interesting: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” John 15:5

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As I browsed through other products made by St. Cousair, I noticed the verse appeared on every label. After purchasing some Earl Grey tea and some little jars of  ゆずyuzu marmalade (made from a citrus that tastes like a cross between orange and lemon) and いちじくichijiku fig jam, I hurried home to check out the company online.

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Sure enough, on the English page of their website, Mrs. Kuze speaks plainly about the faith of her and her husband and how committing to run their struggling company by Biblical principles turned everything around for them. With business booming and distribution all over Japan, the Kuze’s decided to build a church on the site of their winery. Unlike many “churches” in Japan which are merely beautiful buildings for young Japanese people to hold a wedding, theirs is a real church with services every Sunday. Mrs. Kuze is a seminary graduate and pastors the church there. Since its completion in 2005, over 100 people have been baptized there, a phenomenal number for a rural Japanese church.

In a nation where less than 1% of the population professes a Christian faith, it is rare to find a company that presents Christianity so plainly to its customers. Yes, there have been several prominent Christian companies in Japan (Morinaga, the huge confectionery and dairy company was founded by Christian Taichiro Morinaga, grandfather of Akie Abe, first lady of Japan), but few that are so direct about their faith. One could call St. Cousair the “In-n-Out of Japan” and not be far off.

In any case, I am proud to be able to give such a precious gift to a friend back in California. While the gift is but a token, the story behind it is inspiring. It’s an honor to be able to support a company with a vision to share the gospel like St. Cousair.

Visit the St. Cousair webpage in English or in Japanese.

Nihon no Koto: Memories of Mishima

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Last week, a little package and letter was delivered to us by someone from our church. When we opened it, we found a cute surprise: two little buttons in ths shape of mushrooms and several handmade bookmarks! But the biggest surprise of all was the letter.

It turned out these little gifts were sent by a woman we met over 3 years ago in Japan. We had visited her church in Mishima, in Shikoku prefecture about an hour south of Mt. Fuji. Her and her husband graciously hosted us in their home overnight.  She was the only Christian in her family. That evening, she invited her daughter and son-in-law over for dinner and before we ate, she prayed for the meal. We didn’t think anything of it until later, when she told us that she had NEVER prayed in front of her family before, but because we were there, she was given the strength and confidence to do so. It was a real blessing for us to know that just through our presence, she was able to witness to her family for the first time.

Also on this trip, we met a woman who had a daughter with special needs. Because my wife and one of our other team members were Special Ed teachers, they were able to make a little conversation with the girl, who was clearly very shy and not used to being spoken to by strangers. But after a while, she began to respond with smiles and a few signs (she didn’t speak). Before we left, her mother expressed great thanks for the kindness my wife and our team member had for her daughter. Nobody had ever included her in a conversation before.

These little gifts brought Mishima back to my heart. There are so many places where the love of Jesus is needed in Japan. But even if we can’t physically reach them all, our prayers can reach them, even right now.

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