Shintoism. What is that?

shinto

I looked up at the powerful waterfall, amazed and awed by the beauty of God’s creation in Japan. To my left another god was being worshiped – a Shinto shrine sat near the waterfall marking it as a sacred place. Shintoism is everywhere in Japan, you can hardly wander a couple miles without seeing a temple. Nearly 80% of the Japanese population practice Shintoism an ancient Japanese religion focused on ancestor worship and the worship of the “8 million gods” of nature. Worship occurs both at home in the form of ‘god shelves’ and at shrines.

Shintoism has no founder, no authoritative set of practices, and no holy book. Although most Japanese I’ve met over the years seem to practice Shintoism only culturally, such as festivals, praying for exams, and buying Omamori (amulets), the belief system has strongly influenced Japan’s values. Shintoism is a major obstacle to Christianity for these reasons:

  • It denies absolute truth and favors moral relativism.
  • It asserts the basic moral goodness of mankind
  • It teaches animism and polytheism

Please pray that God’s truth would prevail against this false religion, and that the Japanese would turn and worship the one true living God!

Updates:

  • Pledge update: We hit 36% This week. Praise the Lord!
  • Family update: We are really feeling the intensity of partnership development, and the boys seem to be picking up on it given the number of meetings we do each week.
  • Prayer update: Please pray that we would not grow weary (Gal 6:9), and that the boys would continue to feel a part of this journey with us.

Let the Lord be praised,

Patrick & Ellen

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Another Quake

tidal-surge

Tidal surge seen in Miyagi prefecture from the 11-21-2016 earthquake. photo: Reuters

I was 4 years old. Everything was shaking. Books crashing off shelves, lights swaying, we ran out of our house as the ground quaked. This is my first memory of earthquakes in Japan, a fairly normal part of life. Just yesterday Japan made the news for a 6.9 magnitude quake off the Eastern coast. Only a few were hurt, but I’m reminded of the devastating 9.0 quake and tsunami in 2011 that rocked the nation, and levelled entire towns.

Since the 2011 disaster, Japan has reported an earthquake at 7.0 magnitude every year. Many scientists believe that Japan is still overdue for another monstrous earthquake, this time closer to Tokyo like the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. We don’t know what will happen. But we do know someday a shaking of another kind is coming to the whole earth. Christ will return! And will the Japanese have turned their hearts to worship him? We pray earnestly for this.

Updates:

  • Pledge Update: 33% Pledged. Partnership meetings continue to go very well. We are praying and working hard to exceed 50% by the end of the year; failing to meet this hurdle will probably mean extending our leave date to July. We are on track to make the goal, but please pray!
  • Family update: Rowan is very excited about his birthday coming up in December; he’s decided he wants a ninja party, which sounds awesome.
  • Prayer update: Please continue to pray for God to provide for our financial support! If you have a favorite scripture regarding God’s providence, please text/e-mail to me. It would be wonderful to hear from you and reflect on God’s truth together.

Thankful for you all,

Patrick & Ellen

Where are you Going? Yokohama.

yokohama-city

Lights blazing, a Ferris wheel towers over the city at 369 feet tall. Cramming almost 500 riders, it’s the highest occupancy Ferris wheel in the world. Yokohama is a beautiful, modern, and international port city. With almost 3.7 million residents of it’s own, it’s often thought of as a suburb in Greater Tokyo, though certainly not “suburban” by any means. And yep, if you’re wondering, this is where Yokohama tires come from.

yokohama-map-smallerWhat else should you know about this place? Well, Ellen and I like to think of it as the city of firsts. Gas lamps first came here, baseball, western fashion, photography, and the first ice  cream shop (they literally shipped blocks of ice from Hokkaido — that’s commitment). More importantly, the first indigenous planted Japanese church started here in 1872, and the Bible was first translated here also.

We are excited to reach out to a city with such a rich history. Pray for the light of the gospel to burn brightly in Yokohama.

Some updates:

  • Pledge update: 31%. No new “official” pledges this past week, but we have a few supporters coming on board this week. We are so blessed by a young family (our age) with 5 kids that decided to partner with us generously, thank you!
  • Family update: Ellen is swamped working on her book right now. She has 2 weeks to finish some major revisions on her book and get them back to her editor.
  • Prayer update: Pray for Ellen that God would give her the inspiration, creativity, and time she needs to finish the work on her book. This a huge part of her life calling, and could open a number of doors for her in ministry in Japan.
  • Praise: My trip to Houston was an incredibly fruitful one. From 6am – 10pm, there was no more than 10 minutes in between meetings with potential partners and friends. Truly it was a blast, but I’m pretty wiped!

 

Patrick & Ellen

God Has Plans

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Photo via Shutterstock

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
   he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
   the plans of his heart to all generations.

Psalm 33:10 – 11

I’ve been greatly comforted by this passage over the last few days. In the midst of partnership development more than once I’ve asked myself, is God really going to see us through? Surely He has called us, but are his plans really trustworthy? Perhaps God may change his mind — there are certainly more qualified missionaries he could send.

At 31% pledged support, being fully pledged by the end of February seems vastly uncertain. But since He has called us, we can choose to trust his plans and timing. And we will. This seems especially relevant in the midst of our nation’s elections. Even as I type, the results are coming in. Who will win? Who knows. Instead we should ask, in whom will we trust?

Let our hope always be in Christ. He is the only steadfast and reliable one.

Updates:

  • Pledge Update: 31% pledged.
  • Family Update: If you hadn’t heard already, our smaller car was totalled recently, so we’re a one-car-family now. So far we’ve adjusted pretty well.
  • Prayer Update: Praise! Last week I asked you to pray for people to support us by watching our children during partnership meetings and that prayer has been answered through a faithful young lady, Christa, and through a spectacular couple, Kyle & Jen. We are so blessed to have these partners loving our children. Thank you!!

Patrick & Ellen.

Where is the Church?

OMF Japan

Satsunae Lighthouse Church in Hokkaido, Japan – this was my home for over 7 years.

I think if I had ever seen a church in Japan, I would be a Christian today. It’s too late for me now. – Yuri, College Station, TX

I still get chills when I consider Yuri’s remark. How could she have never come in contact with a church her entire 28+ years in Japan? This is exactly why we are headed to Japan — they have almost no access to the gospel.

The church in Japan is beautiful, but small and fragile. Beautiful, because the Lord delights in the faithfulness of his saints, but fragile because they are vastly outnumbered. According to OC research in 29 out of 47 prefectures (like states), over 50% of the towns do not have a single church. Not one. On top of that, over 70% of churches in Japan that do exist, have less than 30 members.*

Since Yuri has been in the US, she has been invited to numerous churches, and set foot in more than five. Would she have had this opportunity in Japan? Please pray for the church in Japan to grow in faith and number, and shine brightly into the 99% non-Christian nation around them.

A Few Updates

  • Pledge Update: We are at 30% pledged. I want to give a special thanks to a very generous anonymous partner out there. We are touched and amazed by your kindness.
  • Family Update: Yesterday Ellen won a writing contest called “Pitch to Pub!” She will be working intensively with an editor for the next five weeks revising her novel, The Water Child. Hopefully she will soon have a few offers from the 8+ agents who requested her manuscript.
  • Prayer Update: We need rest. Pray that we will guard Saturday as a family Sabbath. Also, please pray for Yuri, that she would come to know the Lord.

Overjoyed at the thought of encouraging the Japanese church next year,

Patrick & Ellen

*If you’re wondering, this figure isn’t due to church structure as most churches are traditional, not house churches

The Need is Great

OMF Japan

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The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2)

It was dark outside. I sat down with my steaming mug of coffee and opened my 31 days of prayer for Japan booklet and began to pray. Before I knew it, tears were streaming down my face as I pleaded to God for the people in the Kanto region, the area we are headed. Over 40 million Japanese, with so few to share the gospel with them. As I prayed, I could see the thousands of men and women bustling about the train station, repeating the same mundane commutes, knowing the likelihood that none of them have ever heard the gospel message – not even once. This isn’t right. Something must change.

According to the Joshua Project less than 0.3% of the 127 million Japanese people are evangelical Christian. Please pray that the Lord would send more laborers into the harvest of Japan, and especially Japanese believers to step up to this call.

A few updates:

  • Pledge Update: We are at about 28% of our target support level. My favorite story from this past week was a young college student who is now one of our largest individual supporters. Completely blown away by his generous and sacrificial giving. Praise God!
  • Family update: We’ve battled with sickness in the family for over a week, the boys have been hit hard with a cough and fever, and are just now recovering.
  • Prayer point: Please pray for a team of people who are willing to watch our boys while we do partnership meetings. The logistics have been very challenging! Even someone willing to house sit when we meet with supporters after the boys’ bedtime would be amazing. If you know anyone, this would be a deeply encouraging way to partner with us!

Praying for more laborers in Japan,

Patrick & Ellen

The Joy of Partnership

“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”

(Philippians 4:17)

I have been deeply moved by this passage recently, and frequently share it in our partnership meetings. If our goal is merely to get fully supported so we can jet off to the mission field, I think we’re missing out. Our hearts yearn to see more fruit credited to the spiritual bank account of our friends and family who we invite into partnership! In many ways, our calling to ministry begins now. Encouraging and challenging the church to invest in treasure that will not rust, decay, or corrode, but is eternal in value. One of the great joys of partnership is sharing together in the fruit of God’s kingdom work in Japan. Let the fun begin.

And now for the updates:

  • Pledge Update: We hit 26% of our pledge goal this week including some one-time gifts. This is great news! My favorite comment of the week: “You are the first missionary family we’ve personally known. I’m excited that our kids will get to have a name and a face they know when they pray for you each night.”
  • Family Update: Rowan is enjoying Awana Cubbies this fall season, and memorizing quite a bit of scripture. It has been a wonderful way to disciple him in love for God’s word.
  • Prayer Update: Please pray for our Japanese friends in College Station. We desire for them to come to know the Lord before we leave for Japan.

Lastly, if you’ve signed up to pledge for us, but haven’t received anything in the mail from OMF (or perhaps lost it in a stack like the one on my desk), please let us know. You should get a form to set up direct debit in that packet.

Filled with joy at the thought of sharing together in the fruit of God’s work in Japan,

Patrick & Ellen

Let the Journey Begin

Friends, this is the inaugural post on our family’s journey to Japan. If you’ve managed to find this post and read it, congratulations! Read on.

For the most part this website is dedicated to three purposes:

  • Status updates on partnership process (we can’t go to Japan until we’re 100% pledged)
  • Prayer and ministry tidbits
  • Family updates

Once we’re in Japan, this blog will shift more heavily toward ministry/family updates. Most of these posts will be very short, so you can read them in less than 2 minutes and pray for us.

Ellen and I are so grateful you are a part of our lives and our journey to Japan. A journey that is yours as well  through your partnership and prayers to reach the Japanese with the gospel of Jesus Christ for God’s glory. So without further ado, here are a couple rapid updates:

  • We are roughly 19% pledged at this point
  • Pray for wisdom for Patrick (me) in directing our time between full-time job, partnership, and family time
  • Ellen is currently waiting to hear back from 15 different agents who requested the manuscript of her first novel, “The Water Child,” set in Japan.

What are you needing prayer for these days? Give us a call, or send us an e-mail; we love hearing from you.

Until Praise for His Name rings from the Land of the Rising Sun,
Patrick & Ellen