Sometimes you just need delicious ice cream when you move. These are sesame (grey) and sweet potato (purple)
WeThis is on the walk to the station. We enjoy lots of green despite still living in Tokyo
We are getting to know this train map very well
Our children are adapting well to new modes of transportation
Our back balcony overlooks Tama and includes a view of Mt. Fuji
We continue adjusting to a new routine, including (almost) daily laundry
Our first night in Japan included a "The Teaching of Buddah" in the hotel room, but no Bible, a small reminder of why we came to live in Japan.
We arrived in Japan three weeks ago, welcomed by fellow missionaries. We experienced issues with immigration resulting from misinformation about which person we were supposed to see and from malfunctioning printers. Yet, God provided a smooth transition from America to Japan, and we (and our luggage) arrived safely.
The whirlwind began with shopping for essentials (bedding, towels, etc). The next day we tackled government registrations and purchasing more furniture and appliances. Getting cell phones took twelve hours due to a discrepancy in usage of middle names between America and Japan in the credit card background check. Yet, God has faithfully provided what we have needed, even if that was freeing our schedule so that we can spend a day getting cell phones.
We attended Megumi Baptist church, our new church home, for the first time in years and were welcomed with open arms. They have sacrificed time and energy to help us move to the area. We are thankful for and greatly appreciate them, but they are strangers. We still have trouble remembering their names. Yet, God created within the church a familial relationship that transcends cultures and language.
Despite living in Japan before, transitioning to a new culture and language is difficult. We praise God for His faithfulness to help us do what He has called us to do. We praise God for the strength He gives to navigate trains with two young children. We praise God that at the end of the day we can look back and see His hand guiding and protecting throughout the day.
Illiteracy is awful. We knew stepping foot into a new culture creates difficulty, but the inability to read labels in the grocery store caused frustration. Do you know how many types of spinach looking greens exist? Japanese grocery stores have at least four, because it took four tries to buy spinach. Add the frustration of illiteracy to the frustration of difficult conversation, different customs, and new manners to learn and life becomes difficult. “Culture shock” refers to the challenges of living within a different culture. Thankfully, culture shock wears off with time and exposure, but some transitions have permanent effects.
The Bible explains that God became human, specifically that God the Father sent the Son to be born as a human. The One Who created the galaxies willingly became a baby, dependant on human parents to care for Him. How embarrassing, and yet what great humility He displayed. From that point on, the essence of humanity became part of the Son. For all eternity, He will be both God and man in one person: Jesus.
Why go through such embarrassment? For the sake of God’s glory. God created this world for His glory and majesty. Humans were given a special place within the world, yet they chose to rebel against God. Rebellion deserves severe punishment, yet amongst the punishments, God made a promise to restore everything back to perfection and to destroy evil. Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. In order to bring everything back to perfection, including humanity’s relationship with God, Jesus was born as a man so that He could die an undeserved death for the crimes we commit. When Jesus came back to life and ascended to sit by the Father’s throne, it sealed the fate of this world: He will return to destroy evil and reign as King.
Christmas is the time we celebrate the beginning of God fulfilling His promise: the coming of Jesus as a human baby. We hope each of you has a joy-filled Christmas, knowing that God’s plan will come to fruition and the King of kings and Lord of lords personally advocates for each of His own. Merry Christmas!
“Wait... Didn’t the map say this was a short road?” While in Japan, we frequently scoped out our destinations and took pictures on our tablet to follow later; our trip to Kyoto was no exception. Each location, including our hotel, was ready for efficient travel with the help of our tablet. When our tablet decided to remain behind, apparently afraid of the night-bus we took, a problem arose.
We realized that our faithful companion stayed in Iwatsuki too late to retrieve it. A major inconvenience? Yes, but thankfully we had looked at the map enough to help us reach the hotel. With luggage in hand, we grabbed some breakfast and then set out for our short trip to the hotel.
In Japan, there are occasionally city maps along the walkways to help with directions. We spotted the general location of the hotel on one and counted four streets to cross before our turn. We strode down the street counting four roads and then turned. Twenty minutes later, we finally reached the block that curved the way we were looking for. “That seemed farther than it looked on the map,” we thought, but shrugged it off. We began looking for the hotel, but it was not there. We spread our search out a bit, but still came up short of either the hotel or a map. We finally broke down and began asking people for directions, yet no one knew of the hotel.
About an hour later, we finally found a security guard who was willing to search the internet. We learned that the hotel rested in a neighborhood about two miles south of our present location. We got specific directions, thanked him, and left to walk back. Confused at how far off we were, we finally arrived an hour later, luggage in hand, but exhausted.
Later we walked back to the station (this time only a ten-min walk), and tried to figure out what went wrong. Apparently, it was actually six streets between the hotel and the station, but two streets were too small to be on the city map. The moral of the story? Listen when your friend says, “Be cautious when using city maps.” Meanwhile, back in Iwatsuki, our tablet probably laughed.
We recently began a trip to visit some churches in the Southeast. During the first major traveling session, we noticed that the brakes were not behaving well. It was nothing major, but we were heading towards the mountains of West Virginia, so we thought it best to have them inspected. After dropping the car off at a local branch of a known brand name, we spent time with some friends.
A little while later, the phone rang and it was the mechanic. The brakes required a bit of work, but nothing unexpected. The mechanic proceeded to explain about a major issue he had found. He discovered that out of four major bushings supporting the front half of the car, three were gone. To explain it simply: if that last bushing had broken, we very easily could have left our engine lying in the middle of the road. Skepticism may have been the initial reaction, but as he explained potential symptoms (some oddities in turning, some clanking sounds, etc), it became obvious that it was an actual issue with our car. He was able to fix it and the car is driving noticeably better.
We praise God that He used something like checking our brakes to help prevent a major catastrophe that could have taken place while driving 70 mph in the mountains. We could live in fear of potential unfavorable events, or we can trust in the sovereignty of God in each situation.
A number of times we have been asked, "Why are you going to Japan?" Sometimes these people want to know how God showed us where He wanted us serving Him. Others want to know why we chose Japan instead of a different country. A small group wants to know why we are not helping American churches that also need help.
Japan is a beautiful country. It's a country that can allow anyone with a sense of adventure to climb a mountain and relax on a beach on the same day. It's a country where traditions mingle with modern fads. It's a country full of wonderful people who enjoy speaking with Americans and often aid those who are staring blankly at a map trying to figure out where "here" is and yes, that is known from experience. Despite being a wonderful country, that is not enough to justify moving to Japan.
We believe that God is the Creator and King of everything. The Bible tells us that everyone must choose to follow Him or be against Him. One day, every knee will bow before the Messiah and every tongue will proclaim that He is Lord, but right now He gives everyone the opportunity to choose Him. Many people in Japan have never heard the full story of who the God of the Bible is. If they have not heard, how can they make a choice? We want to share with them the story of the Bible so they can choose whether they will bow now and accept the gift of the Messiah, or if they will continue in their own beliefs.
Despite our plans to help American churches, God gave us multiple opportunities to spend time in Japan. He showed us the weak state of Christianity in Japan. As a whole, only 2% of Japan's population consider themselves "Christians." (link: cia world book?) Churches are difficult to find, even in urban areas. Out of the churches that exist, the difficulty continues when seeking to find churches who preach the Gospel.
We have had the privilege of attending services, meeting pastors, and talking with the people of solid churches. God used those opportunities to show us that He wants us to live in Japan, share the Gospel with Japanese people, and help encourage the Japanese Christians. When we shared these plans with our American church, they became excited and wanted to support the ministry. Now we move forward on the path God has shown us, completely trusting Him to continue directing us in the future.
Missions in Japan
Learn about Japanese culture, ministry, and some fascinating experiences along the way!
Andrew and Janae Gonnerman are church planters serving in Tama, Japan.