2017 END of the YEAR REPORT - Murray Uomoto (January 17, 2018; April 3, slightly updated)
“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived…But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life..…Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age.” (Titus 3:2-7; Gal. 1:4)
POSTING Warm greetings from a Sendai eve with temps to drop to about 40 degrees F. Sakura cherries bloom 2 weeks early. I returned by bicycle from posting new evangelistic English classes and western-country concert flyers in mailboxes in the East Koyodai district north. Say a short prayer to see the Kubotas (like RCJ pastor in Morioka in Iwate Prefecture up north and meaning Eternal Guardian Paddy),) and Chibas (meaning 1000 Leaves) in heaven…and for foot soldiers—our general, the Holy Spirit. Kanji (pron. Kahn-jee) , Chinese characters like on mailboxes can be read variously. Last week posting flyers I prayed for the Idemitsus (Breaking Forth of Light) (like the gas station chain name). Mnemonics help in remembering names. MA (missionary associate) JB posted about 500 English flyers recently in apartment buildings towards Izumi Subway Station.
OTOMOS Forgive me for the lateness. I have time to only update my end of the year report. It has been one campaign after another designing, ordering, distributing flyers, holding events. Tonight Mrs. Otomo whose husband was baptized in 1975 at the East Sendai Church begun in our home in 1956 thanked me over the phone for years of labor for the salvation of the Japanese people. They transferred in 1989 to the Kita Nakayama Chapel begun n my folk’s living room in 1974. I thought one would not be a missionary if he were not laboring for the lost. At the joint Sunday afternoon service yesterday at the common RCJ grave, I had introduced JB and Michael Serge (from Gospel Life OPC in Chicago) teaching English in Ehime Prefecture passed Osaka. Sadly as we are no longer sister churches, d.v., some day we ought to have our own common grave. But for the time being it is a comfort thinking of being laid to rest with decades long friends from RCJ churches.
Brothers and Sisters, thank you so much for the years of prayers and welcome last year. Please forgive me for taking so long to thank you for the generous offering at the end of presbytery. We were informed at Dr. Coppes’ returning to Denver from our grand tour north to Dakotas and south to Texas last October.
We covet your prayers. After meeting in our cramped one-story “house church” 19 years, April, 2016 the Lord provided the 2 story boiler firm office/warehouse with parking for 8 cars 2 minutes by car from home--near bank, post office, small supermarket, elementary school, day care and senior center…and sidewalks on both sides of the street, a rarity in a crowded land. Police box and stop sign slow cars in front. Pray for roughly $70,000 in loan repayments to friends and kin…before we all end up in the nursing home.
Warm greetings from this busy land of poetry and history lovers. For Americans the Civil War is ancient history. In Japan, warlords (a quarter of whom were Catholic) and clans duking it out 450 years ago—is table talk. Pray hard evidence the gospel reached Japan 1400 years ago (as in China) be unearthed—maybe beating Buddhism. In Japan, tradition talks. I follow public NHK year or half year-long serials, lately on heros who happened to be Kirishitan (Catholics)—or Protestant.
PASSINGS Thank God we made it through 2017. Others did not. More later. We began the year with new member classes, we ended with a 2 month home service transiting 23 states, putting 8000 miles on vehicles, and speaking to about 23 congregations. We thank God for WEC missionary Matt (and Annette) Cummings and retired RCJ Pastor Hiroyuki Sato and folk for taking care of the chapel in our absence. The latter, 74, was called to glory, Nov. 13, due to burst blood vessel on a walk downtown. Widow Izumi from Sendai Canaan Church attended our service, December 3. Her older sister Yuri (wife of Canaan Church Elder Shin’ichi Watanabe) was widowed in April. Izumi related husband oft said he loved to serve at Megumi Chapel.
EVANGELISM EXPLOSION Matt led probably the first ever EE course in the Tohoku (NE Japan)—at our chapel for 13 weeks straight, from January 7 to April 1. We have seen more fruit than in 34 years I have been back in Japan. Four women made credible professions of faith in Christ—during OJT’s (on the job training). But only “N,” a child day care worker raised in our chapel, makes it regularly to services. Baptismal preparation progresses incrementally, initially with vigor. February 10, Tsuruko and teammate Mana on OJT heard the first cry of a babe new born—humanly speaking. Mrs. Murashima living below our Nakayama area apartment near 30 years ago—professed faith in Christ in her tailor shop on Nakayama hill. Her parents, members of RCJ Sendai Canaan Church, are in glory. She closes shop on 3rd Sundays and now brings daughter to services. Last year, I reported Hiromi Tanaka, a bus tour guide, “appears to be inching—or ‘centimeter-ing’ toward salvation.” Praise God, both Hiromi and Toshie Matsuda in Tsuruko’s Friday morning Bible class about 8 years…also professed faith in Christ during Tsuruko’s presentation of EE material one-on-one. But the latter has not been able to make it to study lately. Praise God and pray the seeds of the gospel not be plucked out of hearts nor choked by the weeds of sin within. Pray for grounding in the Word and church. Prayer partners have been one of the blessing—encouraging those not in the course as well. No system is perfect. But few we have encountered in seminaries…are in Japanese. And we are urged to tweak EE to suit. Retired grade school teacher Mrs. Miyako Sakurai has also attended Tsuruko’s study and wants to study one-on-one. EE was introduced to Japan in the 1970’s but sputtered—until revived by energetic director Pastor Yamanaka of Kyoto.
CREATION 13 attended our chapel’s first creation seminar ever, February 19, last year, Sunday afternoon—including 3 unbelievers. One, our former kerosene truck deliverer Mr. Isamu Aizawa in his 70’s attended services about 8 years ago—but had not responded to flyers sent. The other two were ladies—Mrs. Sakurai, above—and Mrs. Kida, long time attendee of evangelistic English classes—it pays to cast seeds of the gospel wide. ☺ Evangelistic services have hardly any unbelievers attend. Nearby United Church (Kyodan) Pastor Toita showed a Grand Canyon tour video—from the perspective of Noah’s Flood. With the graying of liberal churches, Evangelicals it seems can be more open in the United Church. Pastor Toita, on the board of Creation Research Japan, brought the talk, November, 2016, even at the United Church headquarters downtown, encouraged by friends from Nishitaga Conservative Baptist in southern Sendai where most creation seminars are held. Many have never heard there is a debate—in Buddhist Japan. In reincarnation, you may have been a monkey in a previous life, if good—or wake up as a pig in the next life, if bad. ☺ During OJT survey evangelism at Sendai Station with Matt folk answered they believed we evolved from monkeys. As background…ardent evolutionist biologist Prof. Morse from Harvard and Smithsonian began teaching at Tokyo University in 1875—and Evolution spread faster in Japan than the West.
DR. TAKAHASHI This year 3 creation seminars are scheduled—3/4, 7/29, 11/4. March 4, chairman of Creation Research Japan, Pastor Kiyoshi Takahashi, 74, of Nishitaga Baptist above showed slides and gave his testimony on “Evolution (Shinkaron)? or Creation (Soh-zoh)? (or evolutionary creation?)” Few can match his credentials—former associate professor of Agriculture at Tohoku University in Sendai (no. 3 ranked national university), University of Michigan, NASA. Decades long ardent English student from Kita Nakayama Chapel days, seeker Mrs. Shinta, studying the Bible every other week now with Tsuruko--finally seems to have a crack in her hard shell of unbelief upon attending. Flyers were sent to around 75 churches. 6 gals in their 20’s and 30’s attending from an Evangelical church downtown expressed appreciation.
WESTERN Last year March 20 (March 21 at Nozomi (relief) Center), we held probably the Tohoku’s first ever country-Western evangelistic concert featuring genuine cowboy gospel singer, musician, songwriter Greg Hager (nominated western artist of the year 7 years in a row) and wife Andrea from Valley Center, North Dakota on their first visit to Japan—with Megumi Chapel their first venue. I interviewed them, March 21, for TWR airing, and guided them, their staff and Lauers down coastal Joban Tollway on a “radiation tour” (to “glow in the dark for Christ” ☺ …and relay the suffering of Fukushima people to the world). Electronic billboards 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the still leaking plant showed a high of 3.4 micro Sieverts/hour or 34 times the government set “safe” level of .1μSvh--like around our home. We returned home on national Route 6 just two kilometers from the plant. September 21, we enjoyed a Chinese buffet lunch with the Hagers in Fargo, North Dakota. Greg will be back at Nozomi Center, April 14, and at our chapel, April 15.
LGBT April 3-5 last year, Reformed Presbyterian churches and our Mission held a joint conference in Kobe with OPC minister Prof. George Scipione of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh speaking on the LGBT agenda and on depression & meds—pressing topics in Japan. April 8-10 we welcomed him, my former prof at Westminster Seminary California, and wife Eileen for talks in Sendai and mission meeting. Then the excitement began. Sunday afternoon, April 9, “LGBT—On Homosexuality, etc.” attracted a self-proclaimed “gay” man from the United Church across the bypass. April 14, a letter arrives from the pastor saying the man had gone straight to his pastor complaining. I rush to explain. We pray together in his study for the brother and the need to study the Word. But May 2 we receive a notice from him announcing a half year series of meetings on 4th Tuesday afternoons on the issue. But…with the explanation…that someone had attended a seminar (naming our chapel) and “had received a terrible scar receiving a human rights violation…So once again let us read the Bible together, and listen to the Bible, and with the plea that we will be able to live with joy, we have planned the sort of study meeting below”, etc. I responded with a carefully worded letter pleading for fairness and biblical-ness—first go to your brother if you think he has sinned against you (Matthew 18). The first talk, May 30, was by a liberal professor of a local women’s mission school university citing gnostic gospels and queer scriptures. But lo and behold, I was asked to speak for the 2nd meeting, June 27. Woody Lauer provided moral support while son Paul translated for Reformed Presbyterian team youth. I encouraged attendance—as there likely were few places in the world they would hear a semblance of a debate. The above prof lit into me, “All you’ve done is line up Greek and verses…” The third talk was the testimony of a United Church minister who became, yes, lesbian—at a seminary in the States. “Saved by the bell,” as they say. I did not have to attend further talks due to home service and business upon return. But our hearts go out to many trapped in unbiblical lifestyles and misled by the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.
SISTERS May 21, nurse “Y”, from the PCJ church in Makuhari, Chiba, east of Tokyo, and August 20, “Sister K” from Tsuruko’s home church in Asahikawa north of Sapporo, reported through slides on preparations to serve in Mid-Eastern and west Asian lands, respectively, inhospitable to the gospel.
ASSOCIATES Three years ago, it looked like the year would be lonely, with families leaving. But God sent Todd and Melissa Whitford from Pilgrim OPC in Raleigh, NC to serve as MA’s along with Akiko Oshimizu from a NJ CRC, though she married a Japanese Christian, last spring. Last August, JB Hellman, graduate of my alma mater, Westminster Seminary in California, joined the Mission as an MA assigned to serve at our chapel. He’d been an assistant language teacher (ALT) 3 years in Yokohama, Gunma and Ibaragi, towards Tokyo. Whitfords served at Nozomi (relief) Center on the coast and English classes at Sendai and Sendai Eiko (Glory) churches...but left this March 13. Their cheerful presence and as a Christian couple leave a big hole. Melissa served also when single, 2006-8. They plan on seminary…and d.v., to return to Japan, praise the Lord. Todd set up a website for our chapel in Japanese & English and recorded and added Sunday messages weekly. Pray for classes for JB. Newest MA, Sarah Durham from Barre, VT, OPC, arrived March 1 to serve at Nozomi Center a year. Laura Baugh from Orland Park, Illinois, OPC (daughter of Haiti missionary Matt killed in a motorbike accident in 2005) will be serving as MA at our chapel from May 9 for 3 months. She served last year at Nozomi Center.
HOPEFULS We began the year with 5 studying for membership. But unfortunately the Izumikawas dropped out upon being presented Evangelism Explosion material on how wonderful if believers can reproduce others…who can reproduce others. They said it was way over their heads. He was an architect. The nicest couple and in their 70’s, they have friends in the big “positive thinking” United Church” in Yonezawa, south of Yamagata. They had sought solace for daughter bedridden with fibromyalgia when they first dropped by 3 years ago. They’d saved a flyer posted in mailbox by Tsuruko 2 years earlier. But wife and daughter N. have expressed faith in Christ though the wife said she did not understand sin. We told her that would come. What a thought though—that one flyer may have made an eternal difference in one family’s life.
BELIEVERS An enthusiastic Christian couple, Masanori (a pharmaceutical salesman) and Akiko Izumi did join as members in April, after attending a year. But from Evangelical backgrounds, they are now looking for a church less strick on doctrine. But our friendship goes back 15 years when she attended and brought friends to our Bible Classes for Beginners at civic centers. Thankfully Akiko began and continues teaching “Easy Easy (pron. ‘Luck-oo, Luck-oo’) Piano” outreach classes for middle aged and older at our chapel and Nozomi Center. We continue to be encouraged by the presence from July, 2016, of Taeko Yoshida, the first baptized by Dad at Nakayama Chapel in Sendai 40 years ago, and from September, 2017, by Megumi Suzuki, a Korean believer married to a Japanese unbeliever, whose 6th grade son Daisuke is our only English student at present. Baptized as an infant, he has begun profession of faith preparation classes with me.
CHINA PRAYER Since September, 2015, Mrs. Oh a seeker in Wuhan, China has joined us via Skype computer video for an international Wednesday evening prayer meeting. She returned to China, early 2015, after living in Sendai 20 years with Tohoku University researcher husband and 2 sons. She seems to have faith in Christ and joins in during prayer.
STUDENT EVANGELISM I had the privilege of speaking about 6 times in 2017 at the morning chapel and Tuesday evening men’s dorm chapel on the Izumi Campus of Tohoku Gakuin University (founded in 1886 as a seminary by German Reformed Church missionaries from Pennsylvania) to around 10-200 students and staff. In their February presentation at church, the Gideons’ Sendai chapter reps (RCJ members) reported they had handed out around 11,000 New Testaments at junior, senior highs, clinics and hotels in 2016. We have helped pass out New Testaments in front of schools nearby.
ON AIR From May, 2016, I have had the privilege of having monthly messages recorded downtown for Trans World Radio’s (TWR) “Power of the Gospel” broadcasts on 14 stations from Okinawa to Sapporo up north, and also mini-messages broadcast 4 Saturdays in August on RCJ (formerly CRC) Media Ministry’s “Tohoku Words of the Morning” broadcast around 5:55 on mainstream AM stations. But I had to take a break from summer to prepare for home service. May 15, I am scheduled to have talks recorded for the RCJ (formerly CRC) Media Ministry Tohoku Words of the Morning radio program. I have been focusing on famous Japanese who happened to be Christian or Kirishitan (Catholic)—a timely topic with the worldwide release of the movie “Silence”—on the persecution of Kirishitan in the 1600’s.
BELOVED EX Sadly official RCJ/OPC ties were severed, June, 2016. Personal ties remain. But the process of disengagement continues. From April I took a hiatus from teaching RCJ (Reformed Theological) Institute classes once a month at Sendai Church which I had been doing since 2008. My last class was on John Young’s book, “The Two Empires in Japan” with 5-6 attending. August 7-12, I had the privilege of having 6 daily devotions based, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, on the Heidelberg Catechism (Questions 86-87 on why do good works, then…?) appear in the RCJ family devotional “Rejoice.” (I was invited to submit them, February, 2016—when the RCJ and OPC still had ties.) Please pray for the RCJ—and the Mission as we search for a new “marriage partner.” November 23, I was assigned to bring fraternal greetings again at the Presbyterian Church in Japan (PCJ) General Assembly in Tokyo. There is still much solidness—though also a relativistic mind set on some issues.
RELATED CHAPELS We remain the only lonely OPC mission work in all Asia with half the pop. of the world—at least with members (just a handful)—as Yamamoto Nozomi Chapel meeting in Nozomi Center was just begun by the Lauers in September, 2016. Yamagata Reformed Church voted to leave the RCJ (Reformed Church in Japan) in 2015 and borrowed Kaz Yaegashi from our Mission to be first pastor. But the installation service in April, 2016 was attended by RCJ pastors Kazama (Sendai Church), Sakamoto (Kita Nakayama Chapel), Sudo (whose wife was Dad’s secretary in the ‘50’s in East Sendai) and Fujimoto (retired pastor in Hachinohe 200 miles north baptized by Dad sixty years ago)—showing the deep ties between RCJ and OPC. We “ate grub from the same pot” as they say here—from before WW2. Woody Lauer succeeded Cal Cummings as director of Nozomi Center (50 kms. south of us), April, 2016, moving from Kita Numazu Chapel (RCJ) SW of Tokyo.
WORKERS We thank God for those bringing the Word at Megumi in 2017—retired RCJ pastors, Hiroyuki Sato and Shoji Sudo, retired RCJ Elder Sen Nakabayashi, PCJ home missionary Daisuke Kimura’s team member Asian Access Missionary Kent Muhling, Cal Cummings, retired but filling in at Nozomi Center during the Lauers’ home service, WEC missionary Matt Cummings—and MA JB Hellman bringing his very first exhortation in Japanese, December 10, from Ephesians 1.
FAMILY CATECHISM October, 2015, Tsuruko and RCJ retired Pastor Tsuyoshi Sato in Odawara, SW of Tokyo, finished an 8 year project (due to tsunami relief) translating Starr Meade’s “Training Hearts, Teaching Minds,” a family devotional based on the Shorter Catechism. A Mission project, the 427 page book was self-published with help from an OPC in the Seattle area. The first printing by Word of Life Press, the largest Evangelical publisher in Japan, of only 1500 books (indicating the graying of the population) is almost sold out, praise the Lord! Todd is now working on an electronic format now that he has done same for “Confessing Christ.” We are thankful individuals and churches have bought the devotional for friends and members.
TEMPLE MAIDENS Tsuruko treasures her Saturday afternoon “Temple Maidens” (my nickname) class with believing women from several churches meeting in Tsuruko’s kitchen once a month. Pray for growth in faith especially for those not attending solid churches. They have begun using Tsuruko’s translation of “Training Hearts…” in class.
HOME SERVICE August 29 to October 26, we enjoyed a 2 month home service transiting 23 states (MI, IN, IL, OH, KY, WA, UT, CO, WY, NE, SD, ND, MN, IA, KS, OK, TX, NM, FL, TN, GA, CA, HI) including airports, and speaking at about as many churches. We are thankful for the opportunity to report at the Presbytery of the Dakotas meeting in Volga, SD, and at the Presbytery of Southern California meeting at my alma mater, Westminster Seminary in Escondido, CA.
We enjoyed time with family, but sadly only 7 days in Seattle, parts of 4 days in Plano, Texas with youngest sister Julie (& Jeff) Davis and family—and 3 days with younger brother Earl in Ann Arbor, who passed away around December 6 of cardiovascular conditions. I am afraid I do not have space to mention all the people and churches that put us up and borrowed or lent cars for us on this trip. But we thank the Lord for His traveling mercies.
SCHEDULE Our schedule for this year also features 3 talks perhaps co-sponsored by the Miura Ayako Reading Club, and hopefully a Lee University (Cleveland, TN) orchestra and singers concert in December again (led by Prof. Arden Jensen, the MA I replaced in 1984), and a talk on Japanese Kirishitan and Christian history by journalist-editor Mr. Moribe.
GRADUATIONS Last year saw other partings. RC Sproul passed away, December 14. Tsuruko had the privilege of translating his “Saved From What?” in 2008. Shigeru Yoshioka, former pastor of Sendai Church and president of Kobe Reformed Theological Seminary and Dad’s roommate at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, 1950-51, passed away early, 2017 (and wife Michiko, this January 29). Cousin Scott Uomoto passed away maybe in Seattle. My Uncle Hideo Onoda, Mom’s second older brother from Chicago, around 95, passed away in California, and Tsuruko’s cousin Kyohko, around 68, passed away in Iwate Prefecture up north.
RJP I’m the Mission’s religious juridical person rep, but Tsuruko does most of the work. She reports the paperwork for the transfer of Ishinomaki Chapel’s land and building to the RCJ General Assembly’s religious juridical person—finally was completed, April 27, 2017, taking many years to accomplish. We all thank you very much, Tsuruko, for your selfless labors.
WORKERS With big birthdays last year, we thank God for the opportunity to serve in this field with the lowest percentage of Christians except Muslim lands—but crane necks to find successors. May God raise up workers for fields “white unto harvest.”
Yours in Christ,