Beland posting today. The 3rd Sunday of the trip, which is today, is usually one of the most important days for Japan STM team 1 for these reasons:
1) Having interacted with us Americans for a good two weeks and receiving many invitations to visit church, this is usually the day that a larger group of students will come to Hamadera Bible Church.
2) This is also the last day the team gets to see many of the students as well as the church members. Lots of “good byes” and many “thank yous.”
3) The team has hyped up this “American Day” for two weeks. Japanese students were promised lots of English conversations, American games, good food, and not to mention… a pinata.
One of the church staff told me that based on her experiences with team 1 in years past, she was expecting about 5-10 students to show up for the afternoon events. But today, over 20 students from 3 universities showed up not only for the afternoon and evening activities, but for the church services!
One student in particular was so curious and excited about visiting a church for the first time in his life that he wanted to show up extra early to church. Him and his friend came at 9am instead of 11am! We were so happy to see them!
Since so many things happened today, I’ll give you an schedule outline format of what happened:
8:30am - The church publicly thanked our team and gave us each a small gift. We sang our special number, “Lord Most High” and went upstairs for our own time in the Word in English. No students were here at this time.
9:00am – Our 2 excited students show up at church and joined the team for the remainder of a message I gave in English!
10:00am – Over 15 students and many of the church members listened to the testimonies of Shannon, Mike, Justine, Beland and Priscilla.
11:00am – The team joined the 15+ students and the church in 2nd service (identical to the first) and we all heard Okada sensei bring the Word from Psalm 119′s Heth stanza – 5 characteristics of a true believer toward God’s Word
The afternoon -The team, many church members and over 20 college students played some indoor and outdoor games together. Indoor: zoo, ankle-balloon popping game, etc. Outdoor: water balloon toss, tug-of-war, jump rope, 3-legged race, capture the flag, football, basketball, etc.
The evening -
Gospel Message - Everyone had a very nice dinner together at the church and then Okada sensei preached the gospel in Japanese! OS’s message was based on Romans 5:5-8. He appealed to the students to consider God’s AMAZING love for sinners and went over 5 aspects of God’s love. According to OS, this is one of the most attentive college student audiences he’s ever talked to. Even though I was only able to understand about 30% of the message, I couldn’t help but notice the fire in OS’s preaching. I think working directly with the team so much this year has encouraged OS quite a bit (at least I hope so), as he had many opportunities to converse with students who were curious about Christianity. I love it when OS gets fired up for his messages! He did for both in the morning and evening and I believe God’s Word was brought to the hearts of men and women through His servant. Praise God!
Pinata & 4th of July Celebrations – After the message, everyone decorated cupcakes, our do-it-yourself dessert. Since tomorrow is Independence Day, many of us also sported patriotic USA cupcakes and random patriotic head wear from Target!
After much anticipation, it was time for the destruction of our pinata, which the team had affectionately named, Hermie. We considered Hermie to be a great team member and even very Christ-like in the way that he lived in anticipation for the day of his death. Unlike Christ, Hermie did not rise from the dead…. but his sugary contents are now being enjoyed by many Japanese students.
To finish off the night and celebrate Independence Day in a way, we spent some time next to water (kind of like a harbor) playing with fireworks/firecrackers/hanabi.
Summary – Overall, today was a great day, full of evidences of God’s grace. Half of our team is sick with a cough, but God gave us enough grace to sing “Lord Most High” in front of the congregation without our voices cracking too much. The unexpectedly high turnout of students was definitely cause to give thanks to God. Throughout the last two weeks, many students have heard the gospel proclaimed to them in English; today, just to make sure it’s loud and clear, they heard it again in Japanese.
And one big praise. A Japanese staff member had commented that in years past, some students would be as interested in talking to non-Americans, since many of them come to experience cultural exchange. However, this year, she commented that the students were getting along quite well with the church members. This is a huge praise because it is the primary goal of our ministry to connect Japanese students with Hamadera Bible Church! I hope these new friendships continue to blossom and continue to become more Christ-centered!
Thanks to Facebook, the team looks forward to keeping in touch with many of the students and members of the church. Even though the trip will be over in just about a day, the ministry continues. Soli Deo Gloria!
And now some picture highlights from the day: