Sunday, January 25, 2009

Interview at ILC in Richmond

Well, last week was a great week. It was full of "down time," but I was extremely busy. I really believe it was a time of "detoxing" from my world of busyness and trying to learn how to abide in Christ.

God reconfirmed His call for me to join Him in His work in Tokyo, Japan, and I am as excited as ever to continue down this road with Him. You will see pictures of several new friends I made this last week. I pray that we will continue to allow these friendships to grow even though we will be in very different places around the globe.

In case you don't know, the ILC (International Learning Center) is owned and maintained by the IMB (International Mission Board). So, if you are a member of a Southern Baptist Church, and support the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering then this is YOUR ILC.

I did find out this week that I cannot attend my FPO (field personnel orientation) until my house is "dealt with." This means that my house MUST be rented, leased, or sold before I can be accepted for FPO. My goal has been to attend FPO April-June and be in Tokyo by July. If I do not make it to the April FPO then I will have to wait until July and not get to Tokyo until October. It is all about HIS perfect timing, and I am ok with what fits best in His plan. But, we are told to make our requests known to Him, so I am asking for you to join me in praying that my house is rented, leased, or sold by March 20, 2009 so that I may attend FPO beginning April 20, 2009.

Ask yourself the same question I am asking myself. "What does it mean to truly abide in Him?" He is the vine and we are the branches. What does being a branch mean? Have you ever thought about that? Well, that is where I am right now. Learning what it means to be a branch, and then trying to be that!

Enjoy the photos, and thanks for your prayers!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I just finished day one of my interview conference at the ILC in Richmond, VA.  I admit that I came here with little expectation of what to expect during this week.  Which in some ways is good, because I came with a "blank slate" mindset.  But, today was different than I thought it would be.  Interesting comment isn't it?  That's right, I came here with little expectation, but I struggled with today because it did not meet the "little" that I came here expecting to experience.  

Let me explain a little more.  I thought I would be in meetings all day hearing about God's work in the different regions around the globe.  I truly thought that I would be going non-stop from the time I started my day until I laid my head on my pillow.  That was so NOT what I experienced today.  Please do not misunderstand me, it was a good day, but there was more "down" time than I expected.  Therefore, I did struggle with frustration over not really having a set agenda to follow.

Now, here is where the God lesson comes into the story.  For the past week He has been trying to get my attention and teach be about being a "Being Christian" instead of a "Doing Christian." Stay with me here.  In our American church culture, there is an expectation of doing instead of being.  To be a "good Christian" we must do "church" activities.  What a lie we have been fed from the enemy.  PLEASE DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND ME.  I do NOT believe God wants us to be slacker saints, or couch potato Christians.  Part of being a Christ follower is to use the gifts, talents, and abilities He gives us to serve within a local body of believers. BUT, the question I am asking is, "Are we Christians because we serve, or do we serve because we are Christians?"

The following is a part of today's daily devotional found in "My Utmost for His Highest."  
"Staleness is an indication that something in our lives is out of step with God.  We say to ourselves, 'I have to do this thing or it will never get done.'  That is the first sign of staleness.  Do we feel fresh this very moment or are we stale, frantically searching our minds for something to do?  Freshness is not the result of obedience; it comes from the Holy Spirit.  Obedience keeps us 'in the light as He is in the light...'"(1 John 1:7) 

It all comes down to not what we do, but who we do it for.  It is all about Him and Him alone.  God was trying to pull me away today to spend time with Him, and I fought Him because it wasn't what I thought I should be "doing."  I hope I did not miss something special because of my stubbornness.  God wants nothing more than to fellowship with you (and I don't mean an ice cream social after Sunday evening service).  He wants you all to Himself.  Remember He said that He is a "jealous God" (Exodus 20:5).  Put nothing ahead of Him, including your busyness.  

"Jealously guard your relationship with God.  Jesus prayed 'that they may be one just as We are one' - with nothing in between (John 17:22).  Keep your whole life continually open to Jesus Christ.  Don't pretend to be open with Him.  Are you drawing your life from any source other than God Himself?  If you are depending on something else as your source of freshness and strength, you will not realize when His power is gone."  (Chambers, Oswald. "My Utmost for His Highest," January 20)

Today, work on being a "Being Christian" instead of a "Doing Christian.  Focus on "being" with Him today instead of all you have planned to "do" for Him.  Then your service will be even sweeter to Him and to you! 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Back in Huntsville

The team made it back to Huntsville on Sunday night (Jan. 11) around 9PM. It was a long "day." We got to see the sunrise twice in one day. Our flights took us from Tokyo to LA (9hours), from LA to Dallas, and from Dallas to Huntsville. As we flew over San Fransico I was able to see the Golden Gate Bridge from my seat. I couldn't believe how clearly we were able to see it. As we were preparing to land in LA I saw the "Hollywood" sign and several other landmarks of LA.

It was actually a very smooth trip. We all made it through customs without any problems and all of our luggage arrived with us in Huntsville!

Thanks again to all of you who have lifted us up to our Heavenly Father during our trip. We felt your prayers each day we were gone and they helped give us strength, endurance, patience, and much laughter! It was truly a privilege to travel with and lead this group. Please continue to pray for our missionaries in Japan and for the Japanese people. Pray that the "scales" will fall from their eyes so they can see their great need for Jesus. We have the "key" to the "door" they are searching for to open. The thing is, they don't even know they are in need of the "door," because Satan has them so bound up. Our God loves them and sent His only Son to die for them, and they need to hear that wonderful news. Ask Him to continue to open doors of opportunity to share Jesus with the men, women, young adults, and children of Japan. And one day maybe it will be known as the Land of the Risen Son!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My New Home! #402!

Ok, I wasn't planning to post another blog until I returned to Huntsville, but we got to visit my new apartment.  So, I wanted to post some pictures from our visit. We had a very sweet prayer time.  I will post more about that later.  I am very grateful that God answered my prayer and allowed me to walk around my new home with my dear Willowbrook friends!

As you look at the pictures, please remember that if you give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in a Southern Baptist Church, then this is YOUR apartment.  The Lottie Moon Offering helps pay for this apartment.  So enjoy seeing how you help spread the Gospel in Japan by giving to Lottie Moon!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Back in Tokyo!

We have made it back to the Mets Hotel in Shibuya, Tokyo!  It was a beautiful ride back into the city.  God once again blessed us with some incredible views of Mt. Fuji!!!!!  

I am looking at the full moon and realizing it is the same moon shining on you right now in Huntsville!!!

We had lunch and then went shopping until we could check in, which was after 3PM.  We are waiting to meet with Buddy Brents to attempt to go to my future apartment for a time of prayer.  Then we will have dinner at either TGI Fridays or Outback.  I know what you are thinking (BUT YOU'RE IN TOKYO, JAPAN!!!!!)  I think everyone has had enough rice to last them for quite awhile!!!  The food at Tsumagoi was more adventurous than the options we have in Tokyo, so everyone is ready for some more "American" food.

Thanks to everyone who has prayed for us.  This has truly been one of the most incredible weeks in my life.  God has poured out SO MANY "hugs of love" on me and the team.  The missionaries were so pleased with what the team did for the children, and many new friendships were begun. 

The lady I am standing with in the picture is Sharon Bennett.  She and her husband Mark (and their 3 boys) are missionaries here in Tokyo.  She and I made a connection when I was here in September of 2007, but we got to really spend time talking on this trip and we found out we are both scrapbookers!!!!!!!  WOW!  I had been contemplating whether to pack my scrapbooking stuff, and now I know the answer.  YES!  In fact, she has a room in their house devoted to scrapbooking.  

As we have come to the end of our trip God has taken me back to the beginning of His call on my life.  When I was at Auburn He spoke to me using Acts 26:17b-18:  "I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."  This morning in my time with Him, He took me back to those verses both in my devotional reading and through a friend's note of prayer and encouragement.  It was as if He was saying, "Yes Sharon, I am calling you to Japan.  This is a dark country and they need to have their eyes opened, turned from the darkness, and receive my forgiveness.  Shine my light in this dark country.  These are my children whom I love.  Love them too."

Please pray for me as I prepare to return to Huntsville.  I confess that I want to stay here, but it is not God's timing for me to be here yet.  Please pray for the people of Japan.  God IS at work here and our enemy does not like it.  Please ask God for His hedge of protection around the missionaries here.  The spiritual warfare here is very intense.  Satan has had such a stronghold on these people for so many centuries that he is not letting go easily nor quietly.  Greater is our God than the enemy!!!!!!

Thank you for walking with me on my journey here in Japan during this week.  I will update my blog after I return to Huntsville.  

Let God stretch YOU out of your comfort zone right where you are.  He is calling you to something new.  What will your answer to Him be?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Tsumagoi-Day 2

Today was MUCH smoother than yesterday.  It only took about 30 minutes to get all the little ones quiet and "happy."  I hope you enjoy the pictures of the Yamaha Resort where we are staying.  It is actually really very cool.  In fact I am sitting in the main lobby listening to a player piano play beautiful music.  Down the hallways you will find practice keyboards and drum sets.  Students can sit at the instruments and wear headphones while practicing their music.  This is really a beautiful place to be.

"The lasting value of our public service for God is measured by the depth of the intimacy of our private times of fellowship and oneness with Him." (My Utmost for His Highest)  Wow! It is all about Him!  Our relationship with Him is the foundation for everything in our lives.  Just as the foundation for a house is the most important part of the building process, our relationship with Him is integral to everything else in our lives.  

"I will give Thee thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to Thee before the gods...On the day I called, Thou didst answer me; Thou didst make me bold with strength in my soul."  Psalm 138:1&3.

As we worship here in Japan we are singing praises before the gods.  I have called out to my GOD and He has been so faithful to answer me in His timing.  He is making my bold and strong in my soul.  This week has been such a time when He has given me "hugs of love."  God is in charge of the details and wants our hearts to smile.  But not at the things He blesses us with.  He wants us to want Him more than anyone or anything else in this world.  He loves us so much, and He is jealous of anything we make more important than Him.  Allow Him to satisfy every area of your life.  He will never leave you, forsake you, or disappoint you.  You can trust Him!

Monday, January 5, 2009

We have arrived at Tsumagoi!  What a beautiful place.  Quite the opposite of Tokyo.  LOTS of green grass (well more brown than green at this time of year) and trees.  On the trip down here we were blessed to see Mt. Fuji!  That does not always happen because of the clouds.  But God gave us a "hug of love" and allowed us to see that beautiful mountain covered with snow!

We are currently in the middle of our first day with the TCK's.  Things are going very well.  Thanks to all of you who are praying for us.  We had a great time of small group "house church" this morning.  Or maybe I should say "hotel church."  We each went with different groups of missionaries in their hotel rooms for about an hour.  We read Matthew chapter 2 and discussed the verses, then we had a time of prayer.  What a sweet time of fellowship with this missionary servants.  

One mom shared what a challenge it is just to go to the doctor!  Imagine taking your sick 5 month old to the doctor, trying to communicate what is wrong and what medicine YOU think you need!  Oh my goodness, what these parents do every day as they obey God's call to be here in Japan!  Please pray for the missionaries here (and in other countries) that the language would come quickly and easily.

Speaking of language skills, I must share a "funny" that happened with one of our team members.  I will leave the name blank to protect the person involved (hahaha).  One of our sweet ladies (yes that means Jared did not do this!) has been trying so hard to speak with the Japanese in their native language to be respectful to them.  While we were at DisneySea she was making a purchase and when the cashier handed her the bag, the cashier said "thank you." So "she" wanted to say thank you back, but in Japanese, which is arigato.  Instead "she" bowed to the cashier and said, "origami."  Yes, she bowed and said "folded paper" to the cashier!!!!!!  We have gotten many chuckles from that story.  In fact, her classroom here at Tsumagoi is right beside the origami classroom!!!!  What irony!!!

Our God is so good.  As I said earlier, we read through Matthew chapter 2 this morning.  If you read through it yourself, notice how when Jesus was a baby/toddler/preschooler and couldn't yet take care of himself, God had it all taken care of.  He sent, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt, then back to Israel, and then to Galilee, to keep Him safe!  And Joseph obeyed each time.  Really think about this situation.  Here you have a young, newly married couple who move to a different country and culture with a young child.  Then when they think they are going "home" they move to a different area than they had lived before.  What challenges they must have faced as the obeyed and followed God.  But they obeyed and followed in spite of the challenges.  Keep your eyes on HIM and rejoice greatly when you see HIM!!!!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tokyo DisneySea

We have just returned from a day at Tokyo DisneySea!  What a fun day we had!  Please enjoy the pictures I have included.  What a wonderful park to walk around and enjoy.  We rode several fun rides, and saw a couple of shows and fireworks!!!  AND we actually made it from our hotel in Shibuya to Tokyo Disney, and back to the hotel!!!  God is very good.

We leave in the morning for Tsumagoi where we will be working with the TCK's (formerly known as MK's).  Please pray for our travel tomorrow as we will have a 3 hour drive.  Also, pray for the children and their families.  This next week is something all of them are and have been looking forward to.  This is a time of spiritual retreat, and training for them.  Please ask our Heavenly Father to pour down His mercy and blessings on them this next week.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Day in Tokyo

Well Hello!  It is Sunday morning here and we are getting ready to go Tokyo DisneySea!  Yesterday was a great day.  We went to Asakusa Temple, and all I can say is WOW!!!!  It is the New Year Festival right now, so I think all Tokyo was at the temple.  It is custom for them to go to the temple at this time of year to ask their god for good luck during the new year.  It was SO sad to see hundreds of thousands of people lined up and waiting to go to the temple of a useless god.  As we walked past the crowds of people the song "God of this City" rang out in my heart, and all I could visualize was that the people looked like cattle waiting for the slaughter.  

Oh how that must heart my God's heart to see His creation so lost and mistaken.  Please allow God to break your heart for these people as His heart is broken for them.  My eyes poured as I could only imagine how sad what I saw was to my Heavenly Father.

Please pray for our team.  This is a very spiritually dark country and we need God's armor for His protection.  The team members are SUCH TROOPERS!  And everyone has a great sense of humor. (Even when their leaders says "Let's Go" on a train with less than a minute to change trains!!!!!!)

Thanks for lifting us up to our Mighty God!  I can't wait to share with you the adventures God plans to give us today!!!!!!

May the Land of the Rising Sun, one day proclaim to be the Land of the Risen Son!