LIFE IN JAPAN - By Ruth Gomes, age 13.

Depression is something "common" in Japan. Due to the difficulty in learning the Japanese language, many Brazilians have been here a long time and still don't know how to communicate. Many people feel abandoned... this happens, not only with Brazilians, but also with the Japanese. Japan is such a sophisticated country, but many people do not know God and do not have real joy that is found only in Jesus Christ.  Many Brazilians who are here are factory workers; few finish middle school and they end up losing a good notion of things, to the point that many of those Brazilians who study in Japanese schools are illiterate in both languages.

Many Brazilians living here do not care about religion and such things. Once, talking to a Brazilian kid in school, I mentioned that I go to church every Sunday, and he said that that is a waste of time. How can someone say that worshiping God is a waste of our time?! Today, in Japan, less than 1% of the population is Christian, and that It is quite normal for a person to be born a Shintoist because that is beautiful, grow as a Buddhist because it`s good for you, get married in a “Christian” church because the wedding ceremony is pompous, and die in Buddhism. Often we see buildings in the form of Christian churches,  made just for weddings. The number of Shintoist and Buddhist temples in town is incredible; temples are on the streets and altars in every home.

Japanese are very superstitious. The number 4 in Japanese is shi, which also means death. So, in many buildings there are no apartments with the number 4, nor is there a fourth floor. Japanese legends are quite peculiar, and in almost all of them these is an onique. Onique is the Japanese demon; according to the legend, usually he arrives and tries to drag the person into the underworld. Therefore, one of the rituals in festivals is to chase this demon away. For this, they hang the koinobori, which is a fish made of cloth hung outside the house. The number of koinoboris hanging outdoors varies according to the number of people who live indoors in the house.

The Japanese language has three different alphabets: hiragana,  katakana and kanji. O Hiragana is used to write normal Japanese words; Katakana is used for foreign words, and Kanji is like drawings of the words. There are many words in Japanese that have many meanings, so the kanjis serve as drawing that explain what those words are. In school, I am learning lots of Kanjis. After you get the gist of it, they help our reading a lot and are not as difficult as they seemed to be at first.

The Japanese School system consists of three different schools, the first goes from First to Sixth grade: (shougakku). After you graduate from that, you go to another school from 7th to 9th grade (shyugakkou). After that, there is another graduation and they go to middle school (high school) from First through Third Grade (koukou). After that, few people go on to university (daigakkou). In Japanese school there are many subjects we do not have in Brazil, as, for example, home economics, which teaches how to sew, clean and arrange the home, and cook. From first grade on, the school lunch is prepared in separate buildings and then distributed to the regional school, given out from classroom to classroom with traycarts, dishes and silverware. Usually lunch is rice, a soup or curry, salad and some kind of meat, many times fish, and sometimes they give you fruit or gelatine, and 250ml boxes of milk for each student. Meals are made one per student, and we are not allowed to throw anything away – if you got it, you eat it. Usually the food is very good, but some days I have to drink a sip of milk at each bite of food for it to get down. On days when some classmate misses school, we play “stone, paper or scissors”, and the winner gets the milk or whatever he or she wants from menu. There is also a class about how to make Japanese tea, and how to serve and drink it. From 7th to 9th grade students must participate in extracurricular activities in school, such as kendô, judô or other sports, music, computer science, and several others. These activities exist to improve working in groups and so students can get to know each other better.

I stay in school from 8:00 AM until about 6:00 PM. When I get home, I need to rest a little, take a bath and do my homework. It is a very busy day. I am still having a little trouble because there are many words I still haven’t learned, and so sometimes I don’t understand the teachers’ explanations well. I also have trouble with some rules the school requires of the students, like having to tie your hair up at a certain height, you can’t paint your nails or use any kind of makeup, and no earrings. Girls do not have pierced ears and are surprised when I tell them that in Brazil  my age mothers pierce their daughters’ ears when they are still babies. For them, pierced ears are a sign of rebellion. One day I went to school wearing nail polish (I had used a really light pink polish over the weekend and forgot to take it off!). They took me to a different room and gave me acetone polish remover and told me clean my nails, and watched while I did it. The uniform is exactly alike for every girl, and the teachers measure the length of our skirts, that have to be below our knees, almost reaching the white socks that we have to wear.

I like in living in Japan, but miss my relatives and my home in Brazil. Sometimes I even cry from nostalgia. It is difficult to make friends with Japanese girls because I am so different from them in my appearance and way of being. Many classmates think I AM furiô (a rebellious person) because they think I dye my hair (which I do not do), I have pierced ears, and like to talk a lot. Besides, everyone know that I am a Christian, because I can’t stand to be quiet when they are teaching stuff like evolution or about many gods.

I want everyone at school to know that there is only one God and only one way for salvation and fredom from depression and worry. May God help me giving me patience to do this!
 

Yaegashi Update - June 2017

Up-Coming Events:

1. Katie's Cookie Club

Saturday, July 22nd we will have several children come over to make some summery snacks.  We hope that this fun activity will develop friendships especially among the Christian children.

2. VBS

While we used to have 10-15 children attending Vacation Bible School each year, recently we can expect only three or four.  However, God often surprises us and the staff prepare for that!  We are very eager to teach little ones about the Good Shepherd Who loves them, Who has done great things for them and Who is worthy of their devotion.  One fifth grade girl who lives about three hours from Yamagata told her mother she wants to come here every summer.  This will be her third year!  Please pray that many more will join her.

3. Granddaughter Milan Zoe Jones ( one year old), second daughter of Megumi and Jason, will be baptized by her grandfather, Kaz, on August 6.  All the Yaegashis (except our eldest son, James, who is filming in CA) will come from around the world.  We (16 of us!) will all be together for the first time since Morris and Yuki's wedding in 2014.  We are blessed by and thankful to our Loving Father for giving us this precious glimpse of Heaven where the family of God will meet at Jesus' feet, never to be parted again!

A Sweet Story from a Few Weeks Ago:

When Mrs. Y., a chapel member, was walking to her English Reading class, she saw a lady she recognized from that class walking a ways ahead of her.  The lady stopped at each little shrine she passed, then bowed and prayed.  Little by little Mrs. Y. caught up to her.  She asked her if she was indeed praying.  The lady said she was asking for protection from stumbling because she has a bad leg.  Mrs. Y. said, "Why don't you come to our English Bible Study, and we will pray with you to the God Who really listens?"  The lady said she would like to do that from September (because she has already paid for other lessons up until then).

We are very proud and encouraged by Mrs. Y.'s reaching out to that lady.  We hardly know anyone who would share her faith so boldly and lovingly.  (Do you?)

We love you all and appreciate more than you know your support of the Lord's work in Japan.  Wherever in the world there are sinners, there is a need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Yours for His sake,

Kaz and Katie Yaegashi

Lauer Update - July 2017

Dear Friends,

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Mt. 6:19-21)

As Woody has been preaching through Matthew, he came to this passage Sunday.  In the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku disaster, many of the people of Yamamoto have learned the truth that the treasures of this earth pass away, but they have yet to understand and know the true God who alone must be our treasure.  In God’s providence, Seth Felker, our summer intern, also spoke to the women on the same passage this past Thursday at a cooking class.  It was very easy for them to understand that material things can never satisfy our longings, but he challenged them to come to know and believe in the one true treasure, Christ Jesus.

Please give thanks with us:

  1. For each member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church summer volunteer mission team (S.T.M.T.)  that just completed three weeks of service to Christ and his church, approximately half-time at Nozomi relief center and church and half at Sendai Megumi Church: Rebekah Willson, Melannie Fields, Laura Trokhymenko, and Ben Goerner.  At Nozomi they followed the works of many past such teams in the tsunami-ravaged area around the center and church building, mainly doing yard work for elderly tsunami survivors, putting on an English café and a Ukrainian cooking class. The café included slides of England, sharing their faith, and live opera singing. At both Nozomi and Megumi, the team helped by passing out over 1000 leaflets inviting people in both communities to activities, most of which include gospel messages.  The team also helped the Niimuras who are completing the rebuilding of their home (lost in 2011), and handed out tracts and sang Psalm 23 at Sendai train station. We thank God for several new people who attended activities as a result of their work.
  2. For Seth Felker, the mission’s summer intern from Moody Bible Institute and Gospel Life Presbyterian Church (Chicago), who also helped the team. Though Seth’s assignment from Moody is primarily to ‘shadow missionaries Lauer and Uomoto’ for six weeks, he has also taught prayer meetings at Megumi (Murray interpreting) and delivered an evangelistic message for a Ukrainian cooking class which saw several brand new faces at Nozomi (Woody interpreting). He is also scheduled to lead devotions at the next meeting of the OPC Japan Mission.
  3. For the cheerful service of Missionary Associate, Laura Baugh, who has completed two of three months of service helping variously at Nozomi Center and Church, as well as teaching at churches in Sendai.
  4. For the interest several of these six talented college age young people have in returning to Japan mission work after completing their educations.
  5. For the students at Woody’s seminary classes at Kobe Theological Hall, where Woody teaches both NT Introduction and OT Survey.  Last month he completed teaching on the Pentateuch; this month he returns to KTH to complete NTI curriculum and to do several hours presenting his work on the WCF and ‘willful desertion’, work done as a part of a study committee of the Presbytery of Ohio.

Please pray with us:

  1. For a dear friend here who said the other day, “In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami (having lost everything), I have come to believe I do not need much.  Things are not important.”  Yet, her heart is in turmoil.  She finds comfort in attending worship and Nozomi Center activities, but her family opposes her coming.  Pray that the Lord will grant her courage in Christ.
  2. For inquirers, Mrs. U. and Mrs. I – that they would trust in the living and true God, his Word, and salvation through Christ Jesus.   Both not only attend worship, but have been studying through Genesis with Woody since spring.
  3. For Mrs. A, who along with her sister has been faithful in attendance since we began morning worship services last fall, but has not returned yet following a lengthy hospitalization for a lung problem. May the Lord grant her healing and renewed strength.
  4. For the N. family.  This young family responded to our broadened flyer distribution by attending worship once and has participated in several other activities since then. 
  5. That the Lord would pour out his Spirit on this community to believe the gospel and become disciples of Christ.
  6. For preparations for our fall furlough from late August until November 21.
  7. For the fund raising work of the Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission.

Thankful that the Lord Jesus himself is raising up His people in Japan and around the world, Woody and Laurie Lauer

RP Team English Café: Ben Goerner sharing his faith

RP Team English Café: Ben Goerner sharing his faith

RP Team after cutting a field: Laura T, Ben, Melannie, neighbor, Rebekah, Seth

RP Team after cutting a field: Laura T, Ben, Melannie, neighbor, Rebekah, Seth

OT Survey at Kobe Theological Hall (June, 2017)

OT Survey at Kobe Theological Hall (June, 2017)

Lauer Update - May 2017

Dear Friends,


The Scriptures reveal the wonder of our Creator God who rules in perfection and holiness and who, in His mercy, wrought salvation for his people in all nations, tribes and tongues, through his Son, Jesus Christ.  At Nozomi Church, we have the privilege of sharing this good news: God “commands all men everywhere to repent” and know the living and true God and live lives that glorify him.

Please join us in thanking the Lord:

  • For sending us Laura Baugh, daughter of Shannon Baugh Onnink and the late missionary to Haiti, Matt Baugh.  Laura arrived in Japan this month to serve as a missionary associate for the OPC Japan Mission here at Yamamoto Nozomi Church and Relief Center for the summer.  Her enthusiasm for Japan, the Japanese people, and serving the Lord has been obvious and deeply appreciated by the staff and community here in Yamamoto, as well as by the OPCJM.  She has plunged right into the work from the first day, graciously and happily serving.  
  • For the group of volunteers from Solomon’s Porch Church in Singapore who came to Nozomi from May 4 to 8, doing yard work for the community, putting on a BBQ for over 90 people from Yamamoto, and a café at which several of them performed or shared stories of the Lord’s work in their lives with the people from the community.
  • For the N. family who attended worship for the first time.  Since then, the mother and daughter have attended several activities.  Please pray the Lord will bring them to faith.

Please pray:

  • For preparations for our upcoming furlough (Sept.-Oct.). Please also consider asking your session to host a visit and report to your church by either the Lauers or Uomotos (also on furlough at that time).  We give thanks that the Rev. and Mrs. Calvin K. Cummings have volunteered to re-assume responsibilities here at Nozomi during this furlough time.The two inquirers who attend worship faithfully, Mrs. U and Mrs. I.  Both are in a weekly Bible study with Woody.  
  • Pray also for three other women and two men who attend occasionally.
  • For the two teams of volunteers coming in June.  
  • On the 3rd, over 30 students from a (nominally) Christian High School from Ibaragi Prefecture will be coming to Nozomi for a half a day of service to the Yamamoto community.  
  • On the 16th, an  RPCNA short term missions’ team will stay at Nozomi to help with church and center activities and construction projects at Sendai Megumi Church for three weeks.
  • For Seth Felker, a Moody Bible Institute student and member of Chicago’s Gospel life Presbyterian Church (OPC), whom the mission will be hosting as a summer intern,.  He will mentor with both Sendai area OPC missionaries, Murray Uomoto and Woody.  Please pray that the Lord will use this time to develop and nurture both Seth’s gifts for future ministry and a calling to serve in Japan.
  • For the Word of God to be planted in the hearts of all who attend the worship services and the many activities at Nozomi.

Your servants in Christ,
Laurie and Woody Lauer

Yaegashi Update - May 2017

One of the most satisfying opportunities we have had in Yamagata has been to be foster parents.  To be allowed to shelter little folks who had nowhere else to go, seemed to use the resources and gifts God had given us, besides adding to the sugar and spice, snakes and snails of the five blessings born here.
 
Twenty-eight years ago, after lots of effort and frustration, we were contacted by the welfare department and asked to take care of a five-year-old.  Although he lived in an orphanage, he came to us on holidays and special occasions.  Having to take him back, each time was so hard on all of us, I realized that even though he called us "Mother" and "Father", I had to think of him as our nephew:  We were eager for his visits.  When he was here we were responsible for him, teaching him about the Lord Jesus, praying with and for him, feeding him, comforting him, playing with him, but when the time came, he had to leave to leave...just like my brother's children.  We kept that routine until he graduated from high school and got a job.  He is now 34 and living in another city.  We haven't heard from him for two years.  
 
Our next boy came when he was two!  I will never forget looking out the window the day he arrived and feeling my heart melt.  What a precious child!  The welfare department apologized for asking us to keep another boy while we had the first one with us (It was Christmas time.), but I said we were delighted.  I told her, "Christmas is the story of a baby who needed a place to stay!"  That child had a devoted father, but the mother had kicked them out when the baby was born.The father needed help over the holidays when he had to work all night sometimes.  We kept the little boy three weeks then, and later three months when the father had a traffic accident.  Off and on through the years, for birthdays and other fun times, they would come and visit.  But now the boy is an adult, and we haven't had contact for several years.
 
The third boy, Hirotaka, came to us in 2005 when he was 15.  He lived with us and went to night school not far from here.  We still see him now and then.  He seems interested in Christianity, but works on Sunday, and doesn't come to church.  He does come to see us from time to time. For example, he came to help shovel the snow last winter.  And we are hoping he can come this week to celebrate his 27th birthday.

Well, He came!  We celebrated his 27th birthday!

This shows you a bit of what life in Yamagata is like in many relationships, school, neighborhood, even church.  We are available when people are in need.  They are willing to listen when we tell them about a Heavenly Father Who gave His Son to be our Savior.  But when the crisis passes, so does their interest in spiritual things.  We are left with deep love and happy memories, but a longing to know we will meet again at Jesus' feet.  

Please pray for these boys.  We only had them for a little while here, but we pray that we will have them for eternity.

Kaz & Katie Yaegashi
Ministering at Yamagata Reformed Church

Lauer Update - April 2017

Dear Friends,

Many in the community think of church attendance: “Shiki ga takai.”  That is, it is difficult to step up into the high level of a church.  They are not good enough and need to be morally better before they enter.  If they only understood that God alone is good; they need to be concerned not about the group around them, but about God who calls them to live obediently and joyfully in covenant with Him.   Some think they won’t understand this foreign religion: a personal God who has revealed himself to men.  Others think, “ I am Japanese. My family, my friends, my co-workers will not accept my coming to a church. I can’t enter because, to become a Christian, I would have to give up being Japanese (yes, that thinking really exists).  

In Jesus’ day, was it any different for Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews?  He risked his reputation and his position to come to see Jesus at night.  In his heart, he knew that Jesus had “come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." (Jn. 3:2) So, he sought out the words of eternal life.  It is the same today in Japan for those whom the Lord is calling to be his own.  

At Nozomi Church, we are thankful that many in the community are willing to come to activities: to talk, to relax, and to listen.  Genuine concern and continuing love, is that not what draws us to trust the word of others? Yes, it takes a lot of time to understand the message of the Bible which is so contrary to  Japanese culture. But, many now in the surrounding community are willing to listen to God’s Word.  

We thank God for a wonderful 2 weeks with counseling professor Dr. George Scipione and his wife Eileen.  They shared their teaching and wisdom about forgiveness, depression, LGBT, obsessive recluseness, and other extreme problems at a joint conference of the Reformed Presbyterian Church ministers and the OPC Japan Mission.  George also preached or taught seminars for several congregations of the Covenanters, the Brazilian church near Nagoya, and all three OPC in Yamagata, Sendai, and Yamamoto.  In each place, the Lord was pleased to encourage and strengthen the believers as well as challenge the inquirers to a deeper trust in God and his Word.  We thank the Presbytery of Ohio for sending them to minister to our mission and our congregations.

Please pray with us:

  • That God will open the hearts of Yamamoto to know their Creator and understand who they are before him. 
  • That the Lord would use the efforts of the team from Singapore in early May.  They will hold a neighborhood barbecue as well as an English Café with music and testimonies.  
  • That regular visitors would have courage to attend worship and that they would understand Jesus’ total sacrifice for those who would believe.
  • That the morning sermon series on Matthew and the evening series on the Apostles’ Creed will bear the fruit of faith in those who hear.
  • That the Lord will provide opportunities for us to build relationships with kids in order to begin a kids’ Bible class in the future.
  • That through the regular activities the Lord would make us a blessing and encouragement to the community and enable us to develop friendships and provide opportunities to share the gospel.  Pray for fruit from the weekly Bible study, monthly Friends’ Lunch, cooking club, Hiyoko (mom and tots) café, weekly café, kids’ playtime, English classes, and weekly morning worship and bimonthly evening worship.
  • For our home service (aka. Furlough) visiting churches this fall.

Thank God: 

  • For 6 inquirers who come frequently to worship and for the 2 who come morning and evening.  
  • For Mrs. U. and Mrs. I. who are in an inquirers’ class.  With no prior knowledge of the Bible, much time will be required to help them understand the Bible.
  • For the 2 new piano classes on Wednesday afternoons.  Many people are signing up for the group class, and the teacher plans eventually for Woody to teach a short Bible message after each class.

Thankful to share in this ministry with you,
Woody and Laurie Lauer

Lauer Update - March 2017

Dear Friends,

February and March have been packed with events at Nozomi Center through which the Word of God has been shared with many people.  The music performed by the J-Symphony duo, a flautist and classical guitarist, delighted the more than 30 who attended Friends’ Lunch.  In order to hold these concerts in Tohoku, they raised money through charity concerts in Tokyo.  Their faith in the Lord is a shining example to people here.  The luncheon includes evangelistic preaching.  One mother and daughter pair each month produce a painting with a Bible verse in calligraphy.  Many enjoy reading these and taking them home to decorate their walls.  Just Friday, we were asked to explain the Bible passage.  The Lord has indeed blessed the church in Japan greatly in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster as believers from many churches have worked together to minister the Word of God and his love to the people here. 

Through the Chick (mother-toddler) Café and Friday Café, many good opportunities arise to discuss the trials of life and how God’s Word speaks to them.

This past week, we were thrilled to welcome Country Western singer Greg Hager and his wife Andrea who began his tour of Japan by giving concerts at both Sendai Megumi and Yamamoto Nozomi Chapels.  His music tells the story of his life on the range as a cowboy and of his faith in Christ.  For these people who watched western movies and listened to western music growing up, they were ecstatic to meet a real live cowboy! At the end of the long day, Greg graciously sang more songs for a latecomer.  We thank God for the Hagers’ faith and for their work for the Lord. 

The community at large speaks of Nozomi Center now as Nozomi Church though activities of the Center continue. This has been a good transition.  Several people are enthusiastically inviting their friends to activities, an unusual commitment for non-Christians, one which shows they trust the staff. Last week, one of the men who regularly play Japanese chess (Shogi) at Friday Café asked Woody to organize a ping-pong activity for men starting next month.  Pray that the Lord will open their hearts to hear and believe in the God of the Bible.

Thank the Lord with us:

  • Two women who come to worship regularly, Mrs. I and Mrs. U, have asked to begin to study the Bible. Their attendance at church was a direct result of the diaconal ministry of Nozomi Center to them.  
  • For the upcoming joint conference for Japanese Covenanters and the OPC Japan Mission, featuring the Rev. George Scipione as the main speaker. Pray that this would be a blessing to all, and pray for additional messages he will be delivering to our Brazilian ministry  in Nagoya, to the Yamagata Reformed Church, to Megumi Church, as well as to Nozomi Church.
  • For Mrs. Izumi who will begin teaching group piano lessons in April twice a month at Nozomi Church with a Bible message to follow. Pray for lots of people to join.
  • That we have moved into our new home just 2 minutes from the Nozomi Church.  Renovations will continue for some time to come, but we are happy to be in the neighborhood.  As one neighbor said,"We were comforted to see lights on in your house at night."  The devastating effects of the disaster remain heavy in the minds of everyone here. Our deepest thanks to all who have helped us in construction and moving!

Petition the Lord with us:

  • For fruit from neighborhood visitation.
  • That through the sermon series on Matthew, many will come to faith in Christ.
  • Pray also for fruit from the various activities: Chick café, Friday café, cooking club, Friends’ Lunch, English classes, piano lessons and special activities on March 30 and April 25.
  • For new missionaries, new associate missionaries and for the financial support necessary for all.    (See opcjapan.com for details.)

May the Lord be praised in earnest throughout the town of Yamamoto and surroundings.
In Christ,
Woody and Laurie Lauer

Yaegashi Update February 2017

When some men from our supporting churches were visiting the mission not too long ago, one of them asked if Kaz ever got feedback from his sermons.  He mentioned that in the offertory prayer which the members take turns giving, it is common for that person to thank God for "the pastor's message", perhaps mentioning a particular point.  The American men were impressed by that.

Last Sunday during our prayer time after worship, Mrs. Y began telling Jesus how difficult her job as a teacher's assistant had become.  Another teacher had questioned her coming to school too early.  Mrs. Y had thought she could help the homeroom teacher prepare for the day or do some other helpful thing.  She was made to feel mocked and ashamed.  But she said the pastor's sermon on Jonah, made her realize God's goodness in the midst of trouble.  God has His eyes on His children and when it seems trials come one after another, we can trust Him to understand our pain and support us, working all of it out for His own glory and our good.  She was thankful for His promises and would go to school the next day with a smiling face and cheerful heart.  Amen!

We also want you to know that our foster son, Hirotaka, now 27 and a working man, came by several days ago.  We haven't seen him since last spring.  We had had some heavy snow, and he thought he might be able to help us shovel it away!  We were delighted to see him, of course!  He stayed and had supper with us, and then sat in on Katie's English class.

Then just yesterday a boy who used to come to the children's English class came by as Katie was clearing up some leftover snow, and we had a lovely chat.  He will begin college in April.

Please pray that these two boys will turn to Christ for guidance toward their future, especially their eternal life.

Pray for Mrs. Y that her understanding more of God's love will draw her closer to Him and be the means of her friends' and family' learning to love Him, too.

Kaz & Katie Yaegashi
OPC Japan Mission Associate Missionaries
Sent by the Presbytery of Mississippi Valley of the PCA
Yamagata, Japan

Mrs. Y in her baptismal service in 2015

Yaegashi Update - January 2017

The Wednesday Evening Bible Class, using "Our Daily Bread" in English and Japanese, had three regular members for most of this year, Mr. T., Mrs. Y., and Miss A.  But Miss A. got married in September and has chosen to spend her evenings with her new husband.  While we miss the good discussions we used to have, we have encouraged her to take care of her man.  He is a member of another church, so we are delighted to witness the beginning of a new Christian home.  Please pray for the young couple as they decide which church they should attend together.  She is interested in developing a Young Adult's Bible Study which he could be helpful with.  That budding class is having a Christmas gathering on the 17th of this month.  

Mrs. Y. joined a tennis club with her husband and for several months had night matches, so she wasn't able to come.  Those nights the conversation with Mr. T. became more personal.   Mr. T. had been attending weekly morning worship services off and on for about 30 years, but almost every Sunday for the past three years.  He loves to read the Bible, and spends several hours every day studying it.  He is interested in English, so he comes on Wednesdays also.  He finds Jesus Christ "very attractive", but still feels he cannot abandon being Japanese to follow Him.  I assured him it is God who made him Japanese and will help him be a better Japanese if he surrenders his heart to Christ.  

The English conversation classes offer many opportunities to share the Gospel.  I introduced one man to a friend in the U.S. who had been a missionary to Taiwan until he had a stroke several years ago.  They became "pen pals", with Charlie continuing his missionary endeavors with Mr. O.  One day Mr. O. laughed and said, "God, God, God!  All Charlie talks about (in the e-mails) is God!"  I was rather taken aback and wondered if the correspondence was going to end.  But as Mr. O. was leaving, he paused and said, almost to himself, "Charlie is my best friend."

A little girl I teach, who had lived in Texas for six years, said she has no Christian friends.  We have a girl in our church who is also 10, so I suggested they come over and make more Christmas cookies.  They had a wonderful, silly and yummy time.  Maybe we will do this again and "Katie's Cookie Club" will continue.  Please pray that these girls will find the support and closeness that only Christian friendship can provide.  How often I have thanked God for the wonderful girlfriends I have had since my childhood.  

However, we can't make cookies until I get a new oven!  The one I've had for 22 years refused to turn on last Saturday, and no amount of cajoling will get it to start again.  It won't be easy to find one with the safety features I've had to do without all these years, so please pray for that too!

Thank you for your prayerful support

Kaz & Katie Yaegashi
From Yamagata, Japan

Katie & her student, Momoka

Katie & her student, Momoka

Gomes Update - January 2017

The Gomes Family is looking forward to an exciting and very busy year. It’s a blessing to see how everything and everyone grows. 

Ruth, our youngest, will finish the Chogako (middle school) in March, and in April she begins a new stage in the Chugako (junior high school). She is rapidly picking up language skills as she proceeds studying Kanji and the spoken Nihongo. We share our overwhelming joy that our church is also growing with kids her own age, so that she can fellowship in Christ with them. Davi starts his senior year in an international high school. We are proud of his endurance and patience shown as he matures as a man of God. He loves to play his instruments (five of them), and he plays in church as part of the worship. We pray for guidance as he makes his decisions on this very important year of his life. Marcia stopped working at the school, and though financially stressing we opted for her to dedicate herself full time in the field. Her teaching position offered a good discount in Davi’s tuition as well as almost twenty per cent of our income, so please join us in prayers of gratitude, for we’ll have more time together, also in prayers as we depend our budget totally upon the Lord. Daniel spends his days in the preparation of studies, sermons, and lectures. Teaching English, discipling, counseling and the overall church activities take over most part of the day, approximately six hours. We are very thankful that in our very busy schedule we still find time to invest in our family, which is our first mission. One of the things that we are doing together is our workout routines. This year we are glad that Marcia ad Ruth also joined Danie and Davi’s jiu jitsu lessons.

Christ is Life Presbyterian Church gathered together during the holidays at the pastoral residence. Both Christmas and New Year's Eve were celebrated with a special dinner, shortly after a brief reflection by Pastor Daniel. On which occasion we numbered more than fifty people. We also exchanged Christmas gifts amongst ourselves.

The work continues every Sundays, at the CBI’s building in Nagoya, were we have our worship service and Sunday school. We now have three Japanese nationals attending the services and being counseled and discipled in Bible study and in our symbols of faith. For their understanding, we have included at least one song in Japanese during the service and publishing the WCF Instruction in Japanese in our Sunday’s bulletin. The entire service is simultaneously translated to Japanese.

The CBI staff and facilities have been really great to us, however at the rate we are growing in number, we feel the need to still search for our own location, where our project can go and grow even further. 

We are very thankful for many prayers and suport of so many people we have not even met. If you ever come our east way be sure to stop by and be an eye witness to what the Lord is doing in us, and through us." 

Uomoto Update - January 2017

Dear Praying Friends,

Warm greetings from a crisp Sendai eve with temps to drop to about minus 2 degrees C. only.  Today was a beautiful day with snow melting on roads and hillsides.

Yesterday a smiling young Jehovah’s Witness maybe in her 20’s came to the door.  Two days ago a frail elderly woman trying to show me a JW page on her tablet and another smiling gal maybe around 20 dropped by.  I complimented them as I was impressed these lost souls working so hard to be one of the elect would knock on doors in the snow.  I wondered where are the Christians?  Sad to say, we see eager beaver pairs of Mormons on bicycles with helmets; gals, too.  There are at least 4, 5 Mormon churches in Sendai.  There are 100,000 JW’s knocking on doors all over Japan.  I must say the JW’s are trying to keep up with the times.  The grandma-type wanted badly to show me stuff on her tablet and have me take their magazine.  But I kidded them that it’s unfair—they don’t take our tracts.  This time though the young gal all smiles still seemed genuinely interested if we met every week and who were the speakers.  Pray she and the older woman will someday be saved from their clutches.  I told them, “You have to believe in Jesus,” to which surprisingly for a JW, the young gal smiled and said she did.  I wanted to let slip the next piece of logic--that you aren’t supposed to believe in a creature, you know, even an arch angel.  But I decided to take it slower.  But overall, this was about the best conversation I have had so far with JW’s. I purposely stayed clear of mentioning red flag words like the Trinity, etc.—cuz that just seems to close their minds and label us as those who believe such errors (to their way of thinking). Moons ago, JW moms used to haul along kids and go door to door.  But societal opinion seems to have made them spruce up their image.  The older woman said 1 out of 200 in Izumi Ward are JW’s.  That would make their numbers better than for the general Evangelical ratio in Japan which is 3 out of 1000.  So sad.  

Beloved brother and sisters in Christ, thank you for your prayers and support that have kept us plugging along these 33 years back on the field.  Please continue to remember our and the mission’s needs at this crucial time.  The Lord has provided our OPC mission work a wonderful used office building for our chapel. Last April we signed the contract. We still have $90,000 in loans to friends and family to return before we all end up in the nursing home.

Nov. 18, 9 volunteers and staff from Trans World Radio from places like Arizona, Philadelphia, Kansas, Singapore and Japan—plus WEC missionary Matt Cummings--helped what they called “donkey-tracting” posting 1500 packs of tracts in 2 neighborhoods nearby. After lunch fellowship, having finished earlier than expected, the men helped cut and stuff blue Styrofoam insulation between rafters in the warehouse side of the 2nd story.  Since last May, I have had the privilege monthly of having messages recorded downtown at Radio3 (FM 76.2) for TWR to be broadcast on 14 radio stations from Okinawa in the south to Akita Prefecture, north of Sendai. Pastors from different denominations have about 12 minutes to speak with about 16 minutes of “filler” gospel music in Japanese and English.  There are no religious broadcasting stations per se in Japan.  But unbelievers don’t mind listening to music in even an unknown language—as long as it is soothing. This is basically a voluntary ministry and listeners may be far away, but we do pray for fruit.

Dec. 14 we had our first evangelistic concert in our new facility with about 38 present, though 17 were from the orchestra and music team from Lee University in Tennessee led by Prof. Arden Jensen who was the missionary associate I replaced in 1984. They have been coming now for about 6 years every other year to serve from up north in the tsunami hit coast of Iwate Prefecture to Tokyo Christian College and Yokohama area down south.  They want to help the churches, many tiny, in Japan with students raising support to come, it sounds like.  They had drivers for their vanload of instruments and stayed at Nozomi Center 2 hours south by subway and train.  For at least 6 of the concert guests, it may have been the first time they had ever been inside a church building.

We are excited about the first ever, as far as we know, Evangelism Explosion course offered in the Tohoku (NE Japan) being offered 13 weeks straight, 1/7 to 4/1, at our chapel with 4 students including Tsuruko and myself and 2 auditors, with WEC missionary Matt Cummings leading.  Tomorrow at 10 a.m. will be the very first OJT (on the job training) with former English student Mrs. Kida, maybe in her early 50’s willing to come to our chapel to listen to a short presentation of the gospel.  Pray the Holy Spirit enable her to understand and desire and to believe the gospel.  I try to bicycle or drive up to church up to 2 hours early to turn on kerosene heaters.  We know no system is perfect and few are in Japanese.  But I wish we had begun this 33 years ago when I first returned to Japan.  For newcomers, EE was begun by Dr. James Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is now in every country in the world with over a million trained.  It was tried in Japan in the ‘70’s apparently but seems to have fizzled.  Matt says he did not think EE would work in Japan until he met the present on-fire director Pastor Yamanaka down in Kyoto who has greatly revamped the program.

Please be praying as we look forward to the very first creation seminar, 2/19, with Kyodan (United Church) nearby Pastor Toita showing video of his visit to the Grand Canyon.  I know this may not be your bag but I do plead with you to place yourselves in the shoes of the 95% of Japanese people who have never ever maybe heard there is an alternative to the reigning paradigm.  I do not want to have that on my conscience, myself.  Especially when the leading Evolutionists in the world themselves declare that the present new-Darwinian paradigm ought not be taught in schools.  How about that! If evolutionists leaders themselves are saying such—why—I want the whole world to hear.

The significance of Pastor Toita is…that he is a United Church pastor which we have all along thought to be more on the liberal side of things. But that he was able, 11/18, to make the same presentation at the United Church headquarters downtown, called Emao (Emmaus) indicates times have truly changed and PTL! the little creation movement we missionaries have tried to encourage seems to be having an influence wider than their numbers.

March 20, we are looking forward to our first evangelistic country-Western gospel concert featuring award winning artist and genuine cowboy Greg Hager and wife from North Dakota on their first visit to Japan.  Please be praying the Lord will use the events to bring lost sheep home.  For now.

 His peace,
 Murray

Lauer Update - January 2017

Dear Friends,

The history of God’s relationship to man is a pattern of man’s unfaithfulness and rebellion in the face of God’s steadfast love and holy laws forbidding their sin. God was with the Israelites in the wilderness day and night, and he was with them in the temple; yet despite his vast mercies poured out upon them, they forsook him again and again. Like many in America today, much of Israel embraced human wisdom (what was “right” in their own eyes) and man-made gods.  What a wonder then that the Creator God should come to dwell among men to call them yet again to faith and repentance. John testified of Him, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being,” and further, ” the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:4, 14). What a wonder indeed. This same God of glory yet seeks for men to worship him: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23). This is the message we bring to the people of Japan and Yamamoto who do not know or worship him. The Lord grants opportunities almost daily to speak of his glory. Pray with us that the Lord would pour out His Holy Spirit upon the people of Yamamoto whose hearts will be changed one at a time.  

We are thankful for all who heard the promise of God’s salvation through Christ last month.  Beginning with the Thanksgiving Luncheon continuing through Christmas Day, neighbors and friends of Nozomi Center and Nozomi Chapel heard messages weekly proclaiming the good news.  We were happy to welcome them to the cooking club, the Friday cafés, the Hiyoko cafés (for moms and tots), the Lee University Ensemble Christmas Concert, Friends’ Lunch, the Christmas party for kids, and the Christmas singing party for adults in addition to Sunday worship services.  We were especially thankful to answer probing questions and have discussion about the Lord as a result of these and for the further building of relationships in the community.  Pray, pray, pray for the Lord to plant his Word and bless many with a desire to become disciples of Christ.

Amidst the busy December schedule, a few special things occurred.  Mrs. U. who had studied the Bible for a few months with Woody had stopped coming for a time for personal reasons.  She returned in December to tell us that she had finished reading the Old Testament and all but the last part of the New Testament in just a few months.  She is very interested in it, but said there is much she doesn’t understand and she really enjoys learning about it.  When Woody read John 1:1-14 with her, she immediately recognized John’s parallel wording with Genesis 1 and seemed able to understand the message of God incarnate.  Wow, that was amazing.

We give thanks each time a Bible message is brought to the people.  We thank God that Mr. Takeda came every month to Friends’ Lunch (with consistent gospel preaching) and every week to café.  In December, at the age of 94, he succumbed to pneumonia and breathed his last.  We miss him sorely; he kept all the men entertained playing Japanese chess. His destiny is in the Lord’s hands. We are concerned for another neighbor who is now hospitalized in serious condition.  Laurie prayed with her and her husband briefly.  We pray that the Lord will give Mrs. H. opportunity to hear and believe the gospel.  We are ever aware of the brevity of our lives and the hardness of man’s heart.

Rev. Yasuo Tomii and his wife Misako joined us for 3 days. Reverend Tomii brought the message at the Nozomi Center adult Christmas party after which Misako led the people in singing both traditional Japanese songs and hymns.  Together with the Nozomi staff, the Tomiis helped pass out Christmas gifts to the children at a nearby temporary housing facility.  On Sunday, we rejoiced together when nine women from the community came to worship on Christmas Day to hear Rev. Tomii preach, recounting the story of the coming of God into the world for our salvation.  We give thanks for the wonderful example of Christian faith and life the people saw in the Tomiis.

Please pray:

  • For fruit from neighborhood visitation.
  • For swift completion of the post-tsunami renovation of the 1st floor of our future home. We give thanks for the team of volunteers that accomplished much last month.
  • That the Lord will prepare Mr. and Mrs H. and Mrs. U. to hear the gospel and believe.  Pray also for all for fruit from the various activities.
  • For the opportunity to begin a Bible study for unbelievers as well as one for believers.
  • For new missionaries, new associate missionaries and for the financial support necessary for all.  The mission has been off denominational support for a year.  (The [Ad Hoc] Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission has been fundraising. See donation page.)

May the Lord bless you and your congregation in this new year.
In Christ,
Woody and Laurie

Gomes December Update

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: Then said they among the heathen, The Lord †hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; Whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O Lord, As the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126
 
So far the Lord has helped us!

The year 2016 was full of challenges, victories, and growth, both personally and as the body of Christ gathering in Obu.

We grew from 11 members to almost 50!

We started two Sunday Bible School classes (youth and children), besides the one we had for adults; We had our first youth camp; We held monthly meetings for the women of the church, where we studied the Bible and practiced mutual teaching; Eight children were baptized; The Sunday School children memorized 36 questions and answers from the Brief Westminster Catechism.

We had our Christmas fraternization, with 40 people gathered in the pastoral house.

Three Japanese nationals are regularly attending the service, with simultaneous translation, one of them is already reading his third book of the Bible and has been in constant counseling with the pastor and other members of the church.

In the midst of so many activities, God has sustained and guided our steps. We could do nothing apart of His immense goodness and willingness to use clay vessels, imperfect and unworthy as we are. God is good all the time!

Please pray that God give us the tools we need to support our job here, such as a new place for us to continue growing and having our project put in practice. 

 

Cummings Year End Letter

Dear Friends and family,
   God be gracious to us and bless us,
   And cause Your face to shine upon us.
   That Your ways may known on the earth,
   Your salvation among all nations.
   Let the peoples praise You, O God;
   Let all the peoples praise You
   Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
   For you will judge the peoples with uprightness,
   And guide the nations on the earth.
   Let the peoples praise you, O God;
   Let all the peoples praise You.
   The earth has yielded its produce;
   God, our God, blesses us.
   God blesses us,
   That all the ends of the earth may fear Him
.

The words of Psalm 67 speak for us. It is our prayer that God would be gracious and continue to bless us all.  Without His shining presence we fear living, but with His presence we have so much to rejoice, give thanks and hope for.

In May, Edie and I officially retired from our work in Japan to return to our house in Philadelphia.  It was difficult leaving what had been our home since 1970. Yet we knew it was time for us to come back to the help meet the needs of our family, and challenges in America.

Two days after arriving back in Philadelphia Cal had hip-replacement surgery. Three weeks later we began our summer in Wildwood, New Jersey as the house parents for 28 staff serving at the Boardwalk Chapel, a summer ministry of the New Jersey Presbytery of the OPC.

Wow, what a summer! Edie was challenged to prepare the evening meal for 28-32 people with 4 different dietary needs.  She cooked gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegetarian, and normal as well as remembering special allergies some of them had.  

Interacting with the staff on a personal as well as a group was a blessing. God sent a wonderful group of young people from all over the USA, who loved the Lord and wanted to share the good news of the gospel with everyone they met on the boardwalk. It was a true blessing to see, hear, and enjoy young people talking with people of all ages about Jesus their Savior. 

We enjoyed a mini family reunion Labor Day weekend with three (Mari, Esther and Dan’s) families visiting us in Wildwood. Luke’s family made it here from Japan for several weeks in late September and early October before Dan and family returned to Angola. Our house was full. (Including Pri’s sister and her four kids there were 16 of us!! )

FAMILY

  • Matt, Annette and 5 children moved to Sendai, Japan still serving with World Evangelization for Christ.
  • Mari is a family counselor working at 3 churches in Pittsburgh.  Her husband, Jim, is taking online counseling courses at Liberti University.  They hope to start a joint Christian counseling center in the near future.
  • Daniel and wife Priscila are the only doctors at a 500 bed rural hospital in Angola, Africa serving with Christian Health Service Corps.
  • Esther and Rob have recently been accepted by SERGE (formerly known as World Harvest Mission) as medical missionaries to Guatemala.  They hope to raise enough support to leave early in 2018.  
  • Caleb is a paramedic with the Philadelphia fire department.  We are very thankful he and Lisa live only a few blocks from us giving us many opportunities to play with their 2 cute kids.
  • Luke, Chieko and their 2 girls live in Tokyo where Luke has a business as a Fuji mountain guide.  

Little by little Edie and I are settling into life in these United States. Taking care of 8 grandkids (those living in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, missing the 7 grandkids in Japan, and 3 in Angola) teaching ESL at a city church, getting involved in international student ministry, visiting family in VA, FL, NJ, catching up with friends everywhere, home repairs, learning how to use our first i-phone, has kept us busy these last few months.

We would love to hear from you all and would even enjoy your visiting us in the City of Brotherly Love. We are not far from the Italian Market, and Independence Hall and other historical sites. 

We miss Japan, and all our dear friends and 2 son’s families, but we are thankful for the opportunities God has/is affording us to serve him here.  We have aches and pains that tell us we are not as young as we used to be. Edie is going through some sciatic nerve pain in her left leg making it difficult for her to walk or stand.  I still have to go to the physical therapist weekly and keep up with the daily exercises for my hip.

It is our constant prayer that all the ends of the earth will praise Him. We so long to hear of the day when Japanese are turning to Christ daily in numbers too great to count!!  We continue to pray that many of those who have heard will believe.

We thank you for your faithful prayers over the years and ask that you not stop!  May our gracious Lord pour out His blessings on you in 2017 and may you always know His special love for each of you.

Thanking God for each of you,
Cal and Edie Cummings
1217 Wharton St.
Philadelphia, PA  19147
Email:  iesuoai17@gmail.com

Lauer Update - December 2016

Dear Friends,

Yamamoto Town has seen quite a bit of new growth over this past year.  Many new houses have been built to replace those washed away by the 2011 tsunami.   This fall, a public park, a new elementary school, a supermarket and a drugstore opened.  Five years and nine months later, the long anticipated commuter railway was re-opened December 10, connecting Sendai and parts south into Fukushima.  All these wonderful signs of “new life” are encouraging.  

As the people slowly moved back into their homes from temporary housing over these last few years, they began to come to grips with the deeper levels of loss.  Life will never be the same as it once was.  Their loved ones and friends are gone; their jobs and local businesses washed away.  The staff of Nozomi (Hope) Center has been here to listen and encourage, to work alongside the people, to offer the love of Christ and the hope of knowing the Living God both now and into eternity.  Living in the community as Yui Hamada did for 4 years serving at Nozomi Center earned her the trust and love of the people.  So we pray that it will be with us.

The Lord has provided us with a home just 2 doors from the Nozomi Center- a fixer-upper of sorts -, and a number of people have told us how glad they are we are moving in.  We have been sharing some of the same experiences our neighbors had when they began work to restore their homes.  For those who did the work themselves, they began by removing the remnants of belongings, tearing out the walls, floors and insulation, shoveling out the “muck,” and disinfecting the house.  In late April, a great bunch of OPC volunteers helped us with this for 5 days.  The tsunami reached about 4 feet up the walls of the first floor of this two-story home.  Here is what things looked like in the beginning.

The following have moved out and won’t be returning!  These provide insight into Japanese culture and the hearts of the people:

"… choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

Through the summer, we made very slow progress as we were busy with the work of Nozomi Center and preparing to open Nozomi Chapel in September.  With help from 2 young men, Josh Miller and Daniel Lauer, the clean-up was completed, several walls of sheet rock and some subflooring were installed.  James Benefiel returned twice to help in the fall, installing more walls and subflooring.  Finally, with the organizational help of the Rev. Jonathan Hutchison of the Ohio Presbytery FMC and support from the tsunami-related offerings given through the OPC Diaconal Committee, four additional OPC volunteers labored here in late November and December. Progress moved forward by leaps and bounds as these pictures show:

As our rental lease in the factory ends in January, we will move in “as is.”  We pray that by then, we will have hot running water, a few room heaters, and appliances installed. We covet your prayers that for these things:

  • That the Lord will pour out his Holy Spirit on the people of Yamamoto.
  • That we will be able to move in January and finish construction soon.
  • That the Lord will use this home to bring the gospel to many and to bless other missionaries and visitors.


Please give thanks with us:
1)    For these and other (local) hard-working volunteers
2)    For the tireless services of our general contractor, Arthur Newton, who is just finishing rebuilding his own home nearby which was completely swept away on March 11, 2011.
3)    For the opportunity to bring the gospel to Yamamoto
4)    For the sacrificial offerings poured out by many in the OPC to minister in the aftermath of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.  These offerings continue to bear fruit as the Word of God and the love of Christ are brought to those living in the spiritual darkness of the Town of Yamamoto. 

We give thanks for the opportunity to serve the Lord with you in Yamamoto,
Woody and Laurie Lauer

 

Yaegashi Update - December 2016

In November, our church had its annual “One-Day Retreat” at a local Spa and Recreational facility in town. Yamagata is nation-wide famous for its hot springs, one of which is here. This place where we the retreat also has a natural hot spring bath.  Every year since 2010 we have had a church retreat and through it we have given ourselves an opportunity to get to know each other, who otherwise don’t have much time for fellowship with each other after church or even during the week due to their busy daily work schedules. At the retreat, we have taken up various digging into the Bible and examining our faith-life. We either have a speaker or a CD to listen to. The study session is held from 10:30 till 12:00, with discussion time followed by lunch. After the program is over, which is about 14:30, those who love hot springs have their time of the day, taking a hot bath!  Those of you who might not be familiar with an old Japanese custom, don’t have any mistaken notion - Men and Women take baths separately!

This year we invited an elder from Sendai Reformed Church to speak to us about the work of elders in the life of the local church. He worked at an office supply company for over 40 years, during which time he was transferred several times. He told us what he did when he was first employed by the company and did every time he had to move to another branch: First told his boss and co-workers that he is a Christian. He never hid his Christian identity nor behaved evasively about his own faith. Thus, he has had no trouble in securing his privilege to participate in Sunday worship, even when the company needed his service on the Lord’s day.  He says when he knew he was going to be busy, he worked harder during the week so that he could go to church. Appreciating his effort, his co-workers gave him kind approval for his absence on Sundays! This attitude is a rarity among the Japanese Christians. Without even having had to hear about his work as elder in the church, his testimony was a tremendous encouragement to all our members. Our small congregation has 13 adult members but the retreat counted twenty-three people including seekers.

To my right are Elder Sasaki & his wife

To my right are Elder Sasaki & his wife

From Katie:

Our Women's Christmas Luncheon this year on Dec. 7 was a great time of blessing.  Laurie Lauer from our mission brought a message of love that touched many hearts.  For all the impressive politeness and helpfulness foreigners receive from the Japanese people, home life in Japan is often troubled.  Without a Heavenly Father to turn to, a Shepherd to lean on, a Savior to cry with families flounder and fall apart.  Wives, mothers and single women often despair of finding an answer.  Laurie presented God's loving eagerness to embrace anyone who calls on Him.  Jesus even died for them!  Several women, some in tears, asked for help.  Please pray for them, thanking God for the opportunity He has given to us, to present the sweetest carol ever sung to a roomful of dear friends who need Him so much.

To Katie’s right is our speaker, Laurie Lauer (in red)

To Katie’s right is our speaker, Laurie Lauer (in red)

Uomoto Update - December 2016

Fri., Dec. 16, 2016

Hello, Mission and Friends,

Warm greetings from a crisp Sendai eve around 2 degrees C.  Thank you for your prayers and warm support this year and in the past.  Seeing others sending out reports reminded me of my lack of doing so in a formal fashion.  My sincere apologies.  I was hoping to update my Sept. report to the PoD.  But I must make do by simply sending it to you now as my belated 1st to 3rd quarter report.

We are so thankful for the new used facility the Lord has granted our tiny OPC outpost in Asia.  But that has meant tons of work that continues installing kerosene heaters and copper tubing and tank, illuminated signs, false floor over unused entrance way, rafter insulation, etc.  We are thankful for WEC missionary Matt Cummings' and family's help.  Please be praying as Matt will be leading at our chapel the first ever Evangelism Explosion training class in the Tohoku for 13 weeks straight, 1/7 to 4/1.  I am sure it is not perfect.  But if you know of anything better and in Japanese, please let us know as helping equip Japanese believers to be able to share their faith in a formal culture is a sine qua non in my view for establishing the church here.

We just had such a bang up and blessed evangelistic concert, 12/14, with 17 sent from Lee Univ. in Cleveland, TN who have been touring Japan now for about 6 years maybe, every two years.  We were blessed with a total audience of 38, 6 neighbors for whom it was the first time to our church and possibly to any church.  We pray for their salvation and thank God for the prayers and help of so many including the many churches that supported their youth to be able to help the churches in the land of the risen Son.

We are also thankful for 9 Trans World Radio volunteers from the US (Phila, AZ, KS, etc.), Japan, Singapore plus Matt who helped "donkey tracting" as it is called, post 1500 packets of tracts in mailboxes, 11/18.

Please be praying as we (the OPC, that is) look for a new marriage partner after our painful and prolonged but adult-like and cordial divorce proceedings with the RCJ.  After I addressed the PCJ GA as fraternal delegate, 2 ministers who knew Dad and OP missionaries from long ago joked to hurry up and propose.

Please be praying MAs Todd and Melissa have a blessed short time with family and saints in Raleigh, NC this year end.  

Finally, we thank God that, today, we were able to begin early the first repayment of of church building purchase loans to friends and family.  Please be praying for tons of donations before we all enter the nursing home. :)

The Lord be with you all.

His blessings and peace,

Murray

The Lee University concert at Megumi Chapel.

The Lee University concert at Megumi Chapel.

Lauer Prayer Update November 2016

Dear Friends,

Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.  For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.  For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens.  (Psalm 96:2-6)

What do your neighbors and friends think about God who has revealed himself in the Bible and in his Son?  Are you praying for them and do you look for opportunities to talk about your great God?  Here are some quotes from conversations we’ve had just this week in Yamamoto:

Mr. H. (brought by a friend to worship several times) said, “How can you expect someone to believe in a god he can’t see? I did not grow up with this religion.  How can I understand all these things you are saying? Should one accept that simply by “believing the message” that he will truly go to heaven?  What about the murderer?  Why should he be forgiven?  Besides, I believe when we die, that is the end to our existence.”  After a lengthy discussion, we talked about the importance of knowing God and what he has revealed about himself.  Mr. H. said, “I would like to come to church every week, and someday before I die, I will probably want to believe.”

Mrs. I. told us how she survived in the months and years following the disaster after losing everything she owned but the clothes on her back.  She received much help from the people in another region in Japan for over a year; they are wonderful people she said.  When she was finally able to return to live in the community, she and her husband met Yui Hamada and Cal Cummings, staff at Nozomi Center.  They were so encouraging and a very precious support to them.  Although many in the community have been suspicious of this Christian place, she became certain that the people are trustworthy, and she is amazed by the love that has been shown, different from anything she has known.   As a result of the work of Nozomi Center volunteers, she has been coming to worship to learn about the God of the Bible.

Mrs. T. recently spent several hours talking about her family with us.  She comes regularly to the center to relax and talk.  She said, “If I were 20, I would probably become a believer. But, my husband is very against this.  All I have ever known is seeking blessing for the gods for help for a test or praying for my dead relatives. I don’t know what the Bible says; it is so big and thick and foreign to me.  My sons went to a Christian high school and received a Bible.  Maybe I can sneak into their room to read it if it wasn’t washed away in the tsunami, but I can’t bring one home.”

These candid remarks are refreshing to hear, men and women speaking honestly.  They reflect the thinking which is so common to people here.  The Lord has provided an open door to bring the very words of life to them.  Time, patience, and love are required to bring this message of God’s great power, righteousness, wisdom, holiness, justice, and his love.  We pray that the Lord will bring their hearts and those of many more in Yamamoto and throughout Japan to worship and adore him.

  1. We give thanks to the Lord for our largest total Lord’s Day attendance at Yamamoto Nozomi Church since beginning morning worship services in September.  A week ago, Eleven gathered for worship at the weekly morning service and 12 for our semi-monthly afternoon service. One young Christian lady, Arisa-san, attended for the first time.  A total of five non-Christians were among those joining us for worship.  Pray that the Lord will bring each of these five to faith and that the Christians among the worshippers will want to become members.
  2. One man among these five shared his continuing grief over his (then teenage) daughter who continues to be ‘missing’, now five and a half years after the tsunami.
  3. We give thanks to the Lord that recent powerful earthquake a little south of Yamamoto Town and off the coast did not spawn a large tsunami where we are, nor did it cause significant damage to homes and businesses in our community. Pray for the people of Yamamoto; many are reminded of the Tohoku Disaster every time the earth starts shaking or when a tsunami warning is announced.  Pray that the people of our town will turn for refuge to the only One who can truly protect them, both in this life and from the judgment which is to come.
  4. Please pray for Woody as he prepares lectures to begin teaching a course in Old Testament Introduction (OTI) and Survey (OTS) next month at the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Japan’s Kobe Theological Hall.  This will be Woody’s first time ever teaching OTI.  Please pray for his preparations. 
  5. Pray for the numerous special activities planned for Nozomi Center and Nozomi Church over the next month, including a community Thanksgiving meal this past week, Christmas cookie baking for women, a children’s Christmas party, an adult Christmas party, a junior-senior high party, and a special evangelistic service on Dec. 25 with Rev. Yasuo Tomii preaching. Pray that the gospel to be proclaimed at each meeting will result in bringing many to faith in Christ.
  6. Pray that the God of the harvest will raise up new missionaries for Japan and new missionary associates for the coming spring.  All interested parties should contact the mission secretary, the Rev. Murray Uomoto (uomoto.1@opc.org) or the Committee for the Support of the OPC Japan Mission through the website (www.opcjapan.com).
  7. Pray for the OPC Japan Mission as they seek God’s wisdom for affiliating with an existing Japanese church or starting a new one.

Praising God for his mercies,
Woody and Laurie Lauer
Yamamoto, Japan

New Testament Introduction at Kobe Theological Hall

This past Thursday and Friday, Woody completed teaching New Testament Introduction to students at the Reformed Presbyterian Church’s seminary, Kobe Theological Hall.  Teaching 8 hours over the two evenings, he covered issues including the authorship, date and authenticity, along with selected exegetical issues, for the Letters of John, Jude and Revelation.  Good discussion developed in each class and the students showed excellent comprehension of the importance of the issues. In the last hour, Woody gave an overview of the implications of his dissertation's thesis for the development of the New Testament canon.

During the day, in addition to spending time with some of the Reformed Presbyterians, Laurie and Woody visited Japanese friends from our old neighborhood the Kozonos, fellow American missionaries the Wards, and a beloved retired Japanese pastor and his wife, the Suzukis.  We were so thankful to discuss an important, current theological issue with Rikuto (our son Paul's friend) Kozono who is considering the ministry in the future. We praise God for the Wards' perseverance in bringing the gospel to those around them. Likewise, we thank God for Pastor Suzuki, who has published twenty books, including many of his own works on topics such  as the Westminster Standards and including translations of authors such as Jay Adams and George Knight.  What a joy it was to encourage them and to be encouraged by them! 

Lauer Update - October 2016

Called to the Hills and the Plains of Miyagi

"Since you are precious in My sight, Since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, And gather you from the west." (Isa 43:4-5 NAS)

May God be pleased to call his people from the east including Japan!

Dear Friends,

Several years ago, a woman told us her story of conversion to Christ and pleaded with us to go to the hills to bring the gospel.  An American missionary first came to her mountain village when she was a young girl.  With his wife and 4 kids, he would visit the homes to invite people for the Bible message, set up a tent, and then wait.  Only the children of the village would come, but he persevered week after week.  How many of these became disciples of Christ?  We don’t know, but this woman did, and she knew the cost both to Jesus and the missionary.  He lost his eldest son to a dreaded disease of that day, but he pressed on.  Likewise, she urged us: go to the hills and villages where they have not heard the Word of God; go where others do not want to go. That left a deep imprint on our hearts.  We pray that, in time, we will be able to visit all the homes in the area to invite them to worship.

Our temporary home lies 1 kilometer from the hills of southern Miyagi Prefecture and about the same distance from the mighty Pacific that wiped out nearly a thousand homes in 2011 in this town; 5 years hence, the population is decreased by 25%. Some still live in “temporary” housing, waiting for more housing and apartments to be built.   Here God has opened the door to bring the gospel to those who have never heard.  We praise him for his mercies in answering this woman’s prayer and ours. 

After 2 years of semi-monthly afternoon services at Nozomi (Hope) Center, the Yamamoto Nozomi Church, the only Christian church in the town, held its first (a.m.) worship service on September 4th in the morning.  We were thankful to celebrate with some guests from other churches as well.  Currently, we typically have 7 believers (mostly from nearby towns) and 1-3 interested visitors in the morning services.  In the afternoon services, we often have 4 believers and 6 visitors.  The attendees are largely different for the two services.  We give thanks for the freedom and opportunity for the Word of God to be preached.  We pray that the Lord will knit together the hearts of the believers and that they will form the core group of the church.  May God be pleased to add to our number day by day those who will love the Lord and praise his holy name.

Earthquakes continue here as a reminder of the destruction of the past.  People live cautiously with those painful memories.  Five minutes before the close of evening worship this past Sunday, an earthquake disrupted the sermon.  Initial warnings predicted a tsunami of 3.6 meters for our local area, and discussion ensued about whether to evacuate immediately.  These are powerful reminders that God is in charge always and that his ways are perfect.  May his power and perfection be evident to all, and may his Spirit be poured out upon this community to the praise of his glory.

Finally, we would ask your prayers for our future housing which is in the Lord’s good hands, as is all of our life.  Since our rental housing (in the former factory) is available until the end of December and no other option seemed feasible, we took a step of faith to buy a house damaged by the earthquake and tsunami right near Nozomi Center, close to those to whom we are ministering.  The first floor is as yet unlivable.  Supplies have just arrived to refurbish it.  We are praying that the Lord will provide laborers to help us finish this project in the next month.  The neighbors are very happy that we have made this commitment to live and work there.  Our prayer is that the Lord will use this home to help bring the truth of his Word and the love of Jesus Christ to the people here and to welcome future missionaries and missionary associates to the largely unreached field of Japan.

Please give thanks with us:

1)       For the sacrificial service of both the Nozomi Center staff and the several volunteers from Sendai area churches who help out at activities.  Please continue to pray for their health as most of the staff carry heavy family burdens while working steadily at the Center.

2)       For the various weekly Center activities; pray for many to believe the Bible messages they hear and begin to come to worship.

3)        On a personal note, we thank the Lord and all those who have been praying for our daughter.  She passed her licensing exam while continuing to suffer the after effects of a concussion.


Please pray with us:

4)       That the love of Christ would flow from our hearts to the people here, and God would provide many opportunities to share the Word of God.

5)       That God would draw his people in faith and repentance through the teaching of God’s Word at Friends’ Lunch, Cooking Club, and worship services.

6)       Pray for continued opportunities to meet people through community visitation and to invite them to the Nozomi Church and the Center activities.

7)       That the Lord would lead His people who want to study the Bible weekly.

8)       For new missionaries and Japanese coworkers in the churches.

9)       For volunteers to help rebuild the house.

Thank you for being a part of the Lord’s work in Japan,

Woody and Laurie Lauer

October Hiyoko Café.

October Hiyoko Café.

Worship service at Nozomi.

Worship service at Nozomi.

Worship service at Nozomi.

Worship service at Nozomi.

Friends Lunch bible message - God's Love Is True Love.

Friends Lunch bible message - God's Love Is True Love.

Friends Lunch - singing God's praises!

Friends Lunch - singing God's praises!