Great Blessings

Anna, Sat 06 November 2021, Posts

Hello friends and family,

It has been, once again, far too long since our last update (over seven months, which is a record I think), and a much longer time since I (Anna) have written one. I'll try to write more succinctly than usual, as there is a lot to catch everyone up on. Here we go!

First of all, April last talked about our transition to online meetings and efforts to spread the word. We are thankful for how God has blessed those efforts. Since starting online in February, we have had 26 people sign up to join a meeting, 18 of whom have had the courage to actually click on the Zoom link we sent them and try Miya-Friend out. Of those, several were people we have connected with in Miyazaki, several were former international students at UNK, and several were people who learned about the group through a flyer or internet advertisement that we asked for your prayers for last time. Thank you for praying!

Many from Miyazaki who have come have only done so once; however, though it might seem strange to say, I believe we were able to make positive connections with each one-timer and many of them had good experiences interacting with us, even when internet or format issues came up. Please pray that when we transition back to in-person meetings, those who tried out the group online will want to try it again in a more personal, social setting. Also, prayers for more people to sign up to learn English idioms and the teachings of Jesus would be greatly appreciated. I’ve been praying specifically for 15 more people from Miyazaki to sign up and try joining us while we’re still online, as they will be the ones we can continue to minister to in person.

Though we are hoping to return to in-person meetings next spring if Japan makes it through the winter without another big covid spike (as such meetings are shut down during emergency declarations), this time online has also been a blessing because it has allowed us to reach Japanese people across the country. Our consistent members each meeting include two former UNK students, one living in the far north of Japan and one in central Japan, and two who found out about the group through our ‘spreading the word’ efforts--a woman living near Tokyo and a man from our area. These members not only come consistently, but also consistently contemplate what we read carefully and ask good questions in the Bible portion of our meetings.

For example, in the first of our two October meetings, we read the Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14, in which all those who were invited make last-minute excuses for not coming, so the host invites those who are poor, crippled, blind, sojourners and strangers). After we had explained some things related to the parable, including how the host represents God, our Miyazaki member asked (in Japanese), “Who is God according to the Bible? What kind of existence does God have?” That was something of a challenge for us to answer in the remaining couple of minutes of the meeting, but we were happy for the opportunity to try to describe the Creator of everything, existing from everlasting to everlasting, who sees, hears, and knows the hearts of all people.

In the second October meeting, we took a break from parables to read the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10). In meetings we use the Easy to Read Version, the simplicity of which can bring the meaning home in new ways sometimes. Maybe these simply-stated Beatitudes will be a blessing to you too:

3 "Great blessings belong to those who know they are spiritually in need. God’s kingdom belongs to them. 4 Great blessings belong to those who are sad now. God will comfort them. 5 Great blessings belong to those who are humble. They will be given the land God promised. 6 Great blessings belong to those who want to do right more than anything else. God will fully satisfy them. 7 Great blessings belong to those who show mercy to others. Mercy will be given to them. 8 Great blessings belong to those whose thoughts are pure. They will be with God. 9 Great blessings belong to those who work to bring peace. God will call them his sons and daughters. 10 Great blessings belong to those who suffer persecution for doing what is right. God’s kingdom belongs to them."

We explained how the first is the foundation for all the rest. Those who know they are spiritually in need see what God is like and understand how much they are not like him, how far the distance is between them and God--how he is good, and they are not. But, paradoxically, knowing how poor you are spiritually and the gap between your nature and God’s is exactly what can bring you closer to him and begin to change who you are. In spiritual poverty, God’s kingdom is yours. Knowing your spiritual need is the beginning of becoming the humble, righteous, merciful, pure-minded, peace-making follower God blesses, even if the change comes painfully slowly. One of our UNK alumni thought the whole passage sounded really nice hearing it for the first time, but wondered what Christians who often read it think, asking, “Do you feel pressure because of the gap? Or what do you think when you read this?” We talked about how the passage communicates every time how beautiful God’s heart is, and that while the gap makes us sad (as the second Beatitude can attest), we don’t feel pressure because it’s true that in sadness, God comforts us.

Our second October meeting has been on my mind the last couple of weeks. For me, for you, for the lost we are meant to reach, the foundation is knowing our spiritual need. It's those who are emptied that Christ can fill. I don't know how God might reveal the truth of spiritual poverty to the people of Japan who are so often reluctant to accept the gospel, but please pray that he will, that our ministry may be a part of it, and that the great blessings of God’s kingdom will come here.

God bless you, Anna