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New Location: Endless Possibilities

For those of you who haven’t heard MSCC Nagoya is moving to a new location next month! Everytime I see the new space I can’t believe how awesome it will be to have a place to have church and/or activities everyday of the week! For most of you American readers of our blog who attend church weekly… can you imagine not having a place to have after-church potlucks, youth group, small group meetings, chili suppers, lock-ins, or VBS activities? That’s what it’s been like for us since the beginning of MSCC-Nagoya. Don’t get me wrong… we were blessed to have ANY space to meet in to get together to worship God and preach the Gospel. We thank God for providing us locations to have church services from our first spot (a sports bar) to a dance studio, and now to the 7th floor of a 13-story building! Until now we have only rented these spaces on Sunday mornings but now we have an entire floor… EVERY day of the week. God has even blessed us with our own bathrooms and a tiny kitchen!

The view of the city from our sanctuary window.

The view of the city from our sanctuary window.

With this new location… the possibilities for outreach opportunities (and numerous other activities) are endless! We have been so encouraged to hear about MSCC- Osaka and the events they have already held at their new meeting location! They moved into their new space right before Christmas last year.

Mustard Seed Christian Church - Osaka

Mustard Seed Christian Church – Osaka

Pray with us that our new space will be completed and ready to go by our Easter service (March 31st) and that many of the Christians in our church will be praying for wisdom and asking God to show them how to use this new space to bring glory to Himself!

A few Sundays ago after church a group of us went and prayed over the new space. It was a powerful time of prayer asking God to use this space in amazing ways to make His name famous!

A few Sundays ago after church a group of us went and prayed over the new space. It was a powerful time of prayer asking God to use this space in amazing ways to make His name famous!

Just yesterday Micaiah and I went to a Baby English Cafe that is hosted by another church here in Nagoya. We would love to start something similar to it when we move into the new building! Pray that we all would be good stewards of this space that God has provided and that each person who walks through the elevator doors would have the opportunity to hear about the love of Jesus Christ. We praise God for each and everyone of you who have provided financially and ask that you would partner with us in prayer as well. I can’t wait to share with you all stories of how this space will be used to expand the Kingdom in Nagoya!

7th floor: Mustard Seed Christian Church - Nagoya

7th floor: Mustard Seed Christian Church – Nagoya

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Top 12 of 2012

Happy New Year everyone! It’s still 2012 for another few minutes here in Japan… Jared and I are just trying to stay awake until 12:00… we’ll probably be in bed by 12:05 though. 🙂

Here are our top 12 from 2012!!

1. MSCC- Nagoya

The church MSGF started 3 years ago is continuing to flourish and grow! People are coming to know Christ and grow in their relationships with Him. This past year we had over 200 new people walk through the doors of our church… praise God! We are blessed by our church family here and ask that God would continue to grow His church in Japan in 2013!

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2. Playgroups

Throughout this past year Micaiah and I have enjoyed attending playgroups in our ward and in our neighborhood. We have met many new and wonderful friends and I am thankful to have mom friends to talk to as well as spend time with and share the love of Jesus with. It has been an amazing experience and we look forward to continue to grow in our relationships with our friends this year.

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3. Baptisms

MSCC- Nagoya celebrated 4 baptisms this past year! Please welcome your new brothers and sisters, Masaki, Atsushi, Vivaine, and Yuki into the family. They are dear friends to our family and valuable members of our church. It has been a blessing seeing how God has transformed their lives and I can’t wait to see how He uses them to further His Kingdom here. (Just this past Sunday Masaki led worship at our Sunday service… it was awesome!)

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4. Experiencing Japanese Culture

The longer we live here the more opportunities we have to experience Japanese Culture. Japan is such a beautiful country and we love spending time outdoors as a family! Ohanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing) and Momiji (Maple leaf viewing) are two of my favorite times of the year. The scenery is gorgeous and we try not to take it for granted that we live in such a beautiful place.

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This past May we experienced koinobori viewing for the first time. Koinobori are carp-shaped flags that people fly at their homes to celebrate little boys. This was of course, our first year to have a baby boy so we were thrilled when our friends invited us out to the country for a day to see the koinobori flying over a river in the nearby prefecture. It was definitely a highlight from this past year!

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5. Trip to America

In May we went to America for one month and had a wonderful time spending time with family and friends. At the end of the trip we were able to do some support raising as well as our main supporting church will no longer be able to support us beginning in the summer of 2014. It was good for us to learn more about raising funds and it is always a blessing to be able to share with people our excitement about what God is doing in Japan!

We had a wonderful visit and loved every second we spent surrounded by family and friends (and eating delicious Mexican food.) I know the grandparents loved spending time with Micaiah (and us) as well. 🙂

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6. First Baseball Game

In July we went to our first baseball game in Japan! Micaiah and I that is. A group of us from church went and watched the Nagoya Dragons play the Yokohama Baystars. What was awesome about that game was that one of the outfielders from the Baystars threw us a ball for Micaiah! We still have it in his room and are hoping to one day have it signed by the player, Alex Ramirez, who threw it to us!

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7. A Walk in the Rain

The day our friend Vivaine got baptized we were all at Morikoro Park. A park here in Nagoya that has a swimming pool, a small amusement park and all sorts of fun things. While there we got caught in a rain storm and not one of us had an umbrella. Because we had been planning a picnic, we did have a huge tarp with us. We made a huge umbrella and slowly made our way to the parking lot with it. It was one of my fondest memories from this past year and I still smile when I think of that day!

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8. Micaiah’s 1st Birthday

On September 22nd, our little guy turned 1 year old. That first year sure flew by. We had a Winne the Pooh party for him as Winne the Pooh, or Pooh-san in Japanese, is popular here as well. We rented a nearby community center for his party and I think everyone who came had a lot of fun. I hope in the future we can continue to plan fun parties for him and his friends to enjoy. It is amazing that at every event we have living here, wether church-related or not, we have the opportunity to use it as a way to reach out to our friends (the majority aren’t Christians) with the love of Jesus.

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9. “Mom Retreat”

In mid-October I took what I refer to as a “Mom Retreat.” It was only one night and the place I stayed at was only about a 45 minute drive from our house but it was amazing! Jared stayed with Micaiah while I went to Inuyama, a suburb of Nagoya. It was still very much in the city but far enough away from our place that I felt like I was more in the country. The hotel I stayed at had an onsen (hotspring bath) that was outside. Even though it was really chilly out it was so fun getting to sit outside and relax. I got a massage too… 🙂 It was a bit stressful as it was my first time staying at a hotel by myself as well as trying to put on a yukata amongst other things… I even called my friend Miki to make sure I was doing things right at the onsen and not breaking any cultural rules… 🙂 The following day after breakfast I spent the morning at Inuyama Castle. I love history and enjoyed walking around many of the museums and exploring the old streets around the castle. I missed the boys of course but it was a great trip that I hope I can take again sometime.

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10. Date Nights

I’ll be honest… Jared and I don’t go on many dates… it’s something we are trying to work on. 🙂 When we do go out though… we love it! We always try to do something we couldn’t do with Micaiah. For example, many of the restaurants are too small to take children to and so we always try to go to one that we couldn’t take him to. A few weeks ago when we went out we enjoyed ice skating (on plastic… it wasn’t even real ice) had baskin robbins, and then rode the ferris wheel in downtown Nagoya. One of our goals in 2013 is to go on more date nights… I’m already looking forward to them!

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11. Family Outings

Since Jared works at the church all day on Sundays, Mondays are his days off. We love to get out and try to do something fun as a family on those days. Family Fun-day Monday. What’s crazy though is that in Japan many parks, zoos, and other places are closed on Mondays. Despite that, we still find ways to get out and have a good time. My favorite Fun-day Monday this past year was going to see the fall leaves. My goodness it was gorgeous. Korankei Gorge is one of, if not the most beautiful place I’ve ever been in my entire life. Seriously. Come visit Japan and I will take you there.

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12. Kids Christmas Event (and other church-related Events)

December 8th we had MSCC- Nagoya’s first annual Kids Christmas Event! Even though it was our first I thought it went well! Our teammate Jenny, the Children’s Minister, did a great job getting everything put together and ready. I got to help with the song (the kids sang Silent Night in Japanese) make up/teach actions to the song as well! 50 people came and more than half of them heard about the Real Meaning of Christmas for the very first time. Other than the Christmas Event we had an Olympic watch party, the guys went camping for a night, Street Lives, Christmas Caroling and many, many other events. What a great year it has been!

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Coming in 2013…

Church: In the Spring of 2013 MSCC- Nagoya is moving to a new location! We praise God for providing us an excellent location that we will have EVERYDAY of the week to use. This will also provide more opportunities to have events, playgroups, classes and more! I am so excited for this move and am praying that God would be glorified in the way we use this space and pray that He would continue to provide the rest of the funds needed to get it renovated and ready.

Family: I’m not sure what’s coming for our family in 2013 other than striving to continue to grow closer to Jesus as individuals and as a family. I also know that next week we are taking our first vacation as a family (to Okinawa) and I could not be more pumped. It has been a busy, tiring, and awesome last month and I can’t wait to spend time relaxing with the boys on the beach!

I’m praying that God blesses you with an amazing 2013 filled with love and joy. My favorite quote is by Jim Elliot who said, “Where ever you are, be all there” So where ever you find yourself this year… may you be all there. Giving your time, your efforts, your lives to serving and loving the friends and family that God has blessed you with!

Happy New Year! あけましておめでとうございます!

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Has it really been… 3 years?!

Hello, friends. Can you believe it’s been three years since we’ve moved to Japan? Last Friday I was thinking about how much has happened in the last three years and how thankful we are to be here right now. To celebrate our anniversary of living here Jared, Micaiah and I went and ate at our favorite Japanese restaurant: CoCo’s Curry House. Japanese curry is different from other curries I’ve tried (Thai, Indian, etc.) I think the sauce is thicker and it’s a different flavor of spices than I’ve had before. When you think of Japanese food you would think sushi would come to mind… but for us it’s Coco’s.

What an amazing three years it has been! To prepare for writing this post I looked back at our first few posts we did after we moved here. From reading those posts, along with all of the encouraging comments from our friends, I was overcome with thankfulness for everyone who has been praying for us and supporting us. What a blessing it is to have people lifting us and the ministry up in prayer. We feel it. God continues to move in a powerful way through the two churches MSGF has planted as well as in our personal lives and the lives of our teammates. Much transition has happened on our team and in our family over the past year. It can feel overwhelming at times but with God’s grace and help He gets us through the difficult times. I can’t even begin to work through all the emotions I’ve had in our time serving here but when we are able to witness first hand God at work in our Japanese friends lives it makes any difficulties worth it. We consider it an honor to work here!

For those of you who support and pray for us here are a few things  you can continue to pray for:

*Some of the difficulties I mentioned: feelings of loneliness (with so much transition on our team and interns coming and going feelings of loneliness can creep in) as well as friendships with our families are friends in the states when it is often hard to keep in touch when we are so far away.

*Even though Jared and I can speak Japanese there are still many times when we feel discouraged because we can’t say as much as we would like to, or say those things as clearly as we would like. That feeling gets old after a while (especially when you’ve been here for years.)

*Pray for good times of rest. Part of life as a church planter is being super flexible. Right now most nights Jared has things going on: bible study, band practice, etc. And so we try to be purposeful in planning times to spend together during the day and on his days off (Saturday and Monday) Pray that when we are resting we could truly rest. We want to be effective and have longevity as we serve.

*Continued growth for the churches and Christians at MSCC Nagoya and Osaka. With more and more people becoming Christians please be in prayer that they would grow as disciples of Jesus and would obey His command to make  new disciples as well.

Once again, a big thank you to those of you who have stuck with us so long. (And my lack of keeping you up to date as often as I would have liked to). I really hope to continue to use this blog as a tool for you to keep up with our lives and ministry. We are thankful for each and every one of you. 🙂

Jared and I with my grandma the day we left for Japan 3 years ago! We sure have changed! 😉

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Celebrations Continued

And the Celebrations just keep coming!!

Despite typhoon #17 just making landfall in our prefecture an hour ago we are rejoicing in hearing the news of another baptism at the Church in Osaka tonight! One of our friends, a Christian lady who attends the church here in Nagoya, introduced her friend to the church in Osaka and her friend decided to give her life to Christ and was baptized today! Praise God for a new sister in Christ! Congratulations Kyoko!

This past week (Tuesday in America; Wednesday in Japan) my best friend Becky gave birth to a precious baby boy! Jackson William Bevan. He is beyond handsome and I am so happy for Becky and Will. Thanks to the time difference Becky and I were able to text back and forth for a while the night before she had him (since she couldn’t sleep). I cannot wait to meet him in person. What a blessed boy he is to have such wonderful parents! Congratulations Bevan family!

We love you Jackson!

Even though Micaiah’s birthday was a week ago now we continued partying this week. On Monday we attended a birthday party at the clinic where he was born: Shibata Clinic. They hosted a 1st birthday party for all of the babies born in September last year. There were only 5 moms and their babies who attended, 3 of whom were 1st time mothers and I really enjoyed getting to talk with them and hear about how being a mom has been for them. Part of the birthday party was learing how to make dog balloon animals. I had to have a lot of help from one of the nurses just to get my head and legs done. The clinic also gave each of us a small birthday cake to take home and celebrate with our babies. I thought that was so kind of them. The nurse kept saying it was just a “small gift”. When I got home and opened the box I was blown away by how nice the “small cake” was and it was delicious! Jared and I lit the candles, turned down the lights, and sang Micaiah “Happy Birthday” just the three of us.

On Thursday Micaiah also “graduated” from his first playgroup. One of the groups we have been attending is called “Manma Mama” and is made up of all first time mothers with children under the age of 1. Once a child turns 1 they “graduate” from the playgroup and can move on to a different playgroup if they would like. I have loved attending this playgroup the past year! So many of my close friends now I’ve met there. Micaiah also has made friends and gotten to experience playing with other kids on a weekly basis which I think has been good for him. At times it was difficult since we were always the only foreigners that went as well as communication troubles because most “mom words” I didn’t learn at school but learned from my friends. I thank God for my friend Noriko for inviting us to go to “Manma Mama” with her. Everyone was always kind to us and helped us feel included. Congratulations Micaiah on your first “graduation”!

The “Manma Mama” Crew

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A Good Ol’ Kansas Wedding

Have you ever wished you could be in two places at once? I have. This past weekend numerous times I wished that Japan and Kansas were just a little bit closer. At one time, a few weeks ago, I seriously wondered if right after Micaiah’s birthday party was over at 4:30 if we could drive to the airport, hop on an airplane, and make it to Topeka Kansas by 5:00pm the same day. (Or the day before with time change) It’s kind of confusing when you think about it. Micaiah’s birthday now also happens to be my brother and his wife Tricia’s anniversary. My brother Travis is a youth minister and a cowboy and his wife Tricia is a teacher. They are a great couple. Saturday (Sept.22nd) at 5:00pm they were married at a Cowboy Church in Kansas. Saturday 5:00pm central time is Sunday 7:00am Tokyo time. At 6:45 Sunday morning I woke up, fixed my hair and watched my brother get married via Skype. It was a gorgeous wedding. My parents carried me around on their I-pad so I was able to talk with Travis before the wedding and then talk with Tricia a little bit afterward. I realized quickly though that I should have changed out of my pajamas before “attending” the wedding as the photographer came over and took a picture of me on the I-pad. I just smiled. It was my first time skyping during a wedding and I didn’t know the proper etiquette. Now I know for next time.

Travis and Tricia are somewhere roaming around the mid-west on their honeymoon now probably enjoying the great outdoors and seeing some crazy animals along the way. They are so good for each other. Even though we couldn’t be there in person and experience the beautiful ceremony, the delicious barbecue, or the line dancing at the reception, I’m thankful to have been able to watch your two lives joined in marriage from across the pacific. Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Long!

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Micaiah’s 1st Birthday

Last Saturday (Sept. 22nd) was Micaiah’s 1st birthday! I never knew I could love someone I’ve only know for a short year so much. I love hearing him laugh and watching him play. Constantly I am amazed by all the new things he is learning and doing. His little personality is starting to emerge lately and I’m excited to watch him continue to grow!

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The Birthday Boy! (He only wore his party hat for a few seconds…)

To celebrate Micaiah’s birthday Jared and I decided to throw a “Winnie the Pooh” party for two reasons:

1) Winnie the Pooh is famous in America and in Japan, here he’s known as プーさん (Pooh-san) and

2) I was really nervous about making a cake and I figured Pooh’s head would be an easy one to start with

This past year Micaiah and I have made many friends through playgroups and I wanted to invite them all to the party so we could celebrate together. For many of these ladies and their kids I am the first Christian they have ever come in contact with so I also wanted to use the party as an opportunity to share God’s love with them.
One of the playgroups I attend, “Tulip”, meets in a community center down the street from our house. The community center is only 1 room but can fit up to 50 people. Since we can’t fit more than about 15 people in our apartment, a few months ago I asked one of the helper ladies at playgroup if she thought I might be able to rent the community center for the party. She gave me the number and I made the reservation! It was nice because since we live in the neighborhood we got a discount! It was only ¥1000 ($12) for 4 hours! The party itself was only an hour and a half but it was nice to have that extra time to set up, etc. Total about 40 people (friends, parents and kids) came! It was quite the shin-dig.

Love this little guy!!

Our dear friends Seth and Megan and their baby Asher even drove up from Osaka to party with us! It really meant a lot to us to have them here. And Seth, the amazing artist he is, drew Winnie the Pooh and Piglet’s faces on the balloons for me! Thanks Seth! They looked great!

During the party the younger kids played and played and played. We hauled all of Micaiah’s toys to the party for them to play with. The older kids enjoyed playing “Pin the tail on Eeyore”. We also had a photo booth and props so people could take funny pictures together. Other than that I read a Winnie the Pooh story in English and then gave a short speech in Japanese about how thankful I was to each and every one of our friends and how grateful I am for all of their help, support, and encouragement this past year. I also shared about how, since I’m a Christian, I believe that every good gift is from God, including the gift of friendship and told everyone there that I hope they, too, would come to know God’s love. I accidentally cried through most of it but hopefully God was able to touch someone’s heart. Earlier in the party a few of my friends gave me a bouquet and balloons celebrating my first year of being a mom. It was so sweet. I think that’s part of the reason I started crying. After the speech we ate the Winnie the Pooh cake (carrot cake with cream cheese icing) and sang the birthday song! Micaiah loved his piece of cake. His eyes got really big after he took the first bite.

These ladies (and their kids) helped make this past year a great one for Micaiah and I!

All in all I think the party was a success! Even though it was a bit crazy, every friend I’ve talked to said the party was heart warming and fun.

The first little girl to go, Haruki, pinned his tail right on the “X” She won some Winnie the Pooh stickers.

Although Micaiah won’t remember his first birthday I’m looking forward to the day when I can sit down and tell him about the big birthday bash that it was. I hope we can both continue to grow in our relationships with our friends that came and stay in touch for years to come.

This is my friend Noriko and her son Riku. We met them at the hospital when Riku and Micaiah were getting their first round of shots. They live right down the street from us. Noriko invited me to the first playgroup I ever went to which is the same playgroup where I have met most of the friends we have now. I am so thankful for her.

We truly are blessed by our friends. God has brought so many people into our lives here in Japan and each relationship is special in it’s own way. It is humbling to know I’m the first Christian many people ever meet and most days Jared is the only other Christian I talk to. It’s very different than living in Joplin or Conway that’s for sure. My prayer is that God would use us to share His love with a people that desperately need to be reconciled to their Savior. Being away from family at times like these, birthdays, holidays, etc. is always difficult but I know, and truly believe, that God is worth it.

Our family. Happy 1st Birthday Micaiah!

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What We’re About

Our team leader, Mike Ackerman, along with his wife Erin and three boys are in America for the next few months serving as the Missionaries on Campus at Ozark Christian College. A few weeks ago Mike preached during chapel on the book of Nehemiah and also shared about Mustard Seed Global Fellowship’s ministry here in Japan. I’m praying that the students, and all of you, will be challenged by Mike’s words and that you too, would “Step Out in Faith.”