2017 March Update

Dear Partners in the Gospel,

The first fruit trees of the season are coming into blossom as the days grow warmer. Winter isn’t so cold here, but after months of trudging around in bulky outerwear, the foretaste of spring puts an extra skip in your step.

Jo Beth and Luann: Enjoying the first blossoms of Spring!

You all know about the many transitions we have been going through, and we would like to thank you for your faithful prayers! Just last week, someone asked us if we have found a sense of rhythm. For months we have been working and praying toward the ability to plan well for more than just the coming week, but as we reflected together on recent days past, to our surprise, we were able to say, “Yes!” This is not simply a way of saying we feel we’re in control.  Rather, we feel we have been in the rhythm of saying “Yes” to God more and more: practicing the essentials that help us listen to Him and walking in obedience. This is not our own fruit, but we give thanks for the work of the Holy Spirit. Thank you and keep praying!

Just days ago, I, John, completed my second term of language school with a sigh of relief. Since early January, I have had the privilege of going to class Monday through Friday to study grammar, pronunciation, conversation, and about 120 new words per week alongside 50 Chinese characters used to write them. As you may be able to guess, it’s doesn’t always feel like privilege, but often a burden and an obstacle. Many times, I find myself physically gasping for air as I try to store, recall and use all of this new information. In those times, I have faced a real temptation to let up or give up.

What, then, keeps me going? It’s certainly not telling myself it’s my “job” in this season of ministry, but only when I look to the Lord.  I find myself propelled forward when I am reminded of God’s heart for the not-yet-come-to-faith. My heart is emboldened when I look around to see classmates and teachers from all over Asia, most of whom have never heard the gospel, yet whom God has gathered together in this particular place and time. I am impassioned as I think of working with our teammates to make disciples, sharing the gospel and equipping believers in Japan to know Jesus and make Him known. Jesus is worthy!  Finally, I am relieved when I remember that it's not in the hope of my "wise and persuasive words" that people will come to faith, but only by the Spirit's power.  Through the fog of feeling overwhelmed the Holy Spirit has helped me remember, “Oh yeah, that’s why I’m here.”

As I start class each day, we are randomly seated in pairs. In this, God has led me to focus on reaching out to the person I am seated next to each day. As a result, we have been able to connect with several classmates outside of class, over meals and even having them over to our place for dinner. One of these times, God provided the opportunity to have a full conversation with an English-speaking classmate from the Philippines about the gospel.

For a broader picture and to help guide your prayers as we continue in this season, I would not have been able to engage in language study without Jo Beth’s full-time care for Brooke. For either of us to engage in ministry, we have to be working together as a family--all the more since now both of us will be starting classes in early April. For us to be fruitful in this season we strive to remain on the Vine and we ask that you would pray this on our behalf.

Saying "Goodbye" to Lisa Nishimura

Prayer Requests

  • Please pray for Lisa Nishimura as she transitions from our team to a new role as a recruiter for ReachGlobal Asia and beyond.  Please pray for her move to the US and our team’s adjustment.

  • Please pray for Rob and Jill Stoddard, our team leaders, who are currently in the US as they work through some health issues and difficult family circumstances.

  • Please pray for our team as we’re continuing to hold Start Up group gatherings.  There is talk of real partnership with other organizations around a vision for house-churches.  Please pray for Christ-centered perspective and “ears to hear” as we move forward.

  • John’s mom, sister and brother-in-law will be coming to Japan!  We’re really excited to see all of them and share a small piece of our lives with them.  Please pray that our time would point us each to Jesus.

  • In early April, we will both be starting language school.  We do have a bit of uneasiness about having enough time and energy to meet the demand for study, ministry and family needs.  Please pray for faith when worry threatens to take over but also wisdom to see God’s priorities and stick to them.

As always, we love to hear from you.  Please let us know how we can be praying for YOU!

John, Jo Beth & Brooke Lee

(Mandatory Brooke Photo)

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