We are very thankful that Hiroko, who came to a church event last month after a long absence, attended a Sunday service for the first time, and has continued to attend both the services and Wednesday meetings.
I am thankful that our church members have been eager to invite a friend to church and that it has created a lively uplifting atmosphere in the church. Around the same time, another member of the congregation reported to me about her experience sharing her testimony with her seeker-friend. There has been voluntary evangelism by our congregation, and new worship attendees. I feel that the atmosphere of the church has become brighter and full of hope and we are grateful for this recent development.
In preparation for the change of service time from afternoon to morning, we have been having one morning service a month. We also recently had a fellowship lunch for the first time. The preparation of the meal became a place where members were serving together. Newcomers to the service seem to be able to feel relaxed and welcomed because of the fellowship lunch of our church.
Recently, a long-serving member of our church was taken to heaven because of a train accident. He was my uncle and a member of our church from the very beginning. The sudden death of our church member was very shocking to all of us, yet we were able to hold a funeral service under the guidance and provision of our Lord. At the request of the bereaved family, my father who was the brother of my uncle, took charge of officiating the ceremony.
It was the very first memorial service for our church, and the first Christian funeral many of our members attended. We gathered for the funeral with church members to confirm our hope in heaven together and prayed for comfort for the bereaved family. Most of the bereaved family members were non-believers, but through the funeral and the interactions that followed, we were able to share the gospel with them.
One of our church members was moved by the service and the reflections on heaven and eternal life with Jesus and expressed that it confirmed their faith in Jesus. The suddenness of this event also caused some uneasiness in the church, but we came together with one heart to pray for the bereaved family. It became a time to receive blessings and hold our hope of heaven together. We give thanks to the Lord.
We pray for the family of my uncle. The family is planning to attend a service to greet us. We feel for them and will be available for them and will seek continued interaction and fellowship.
The pastor will take a correspondence course to become a counselor for elderly people in making preparations for their death. We hope to develop this ministry for the community.
We are planning a kids’ sleepover this month.
- Please pray for comfort for the family of my uncle, who went to heaven. Please pray for them to be connected to the church.
- Please pray for our outreach events during the summer school break. Bible Camps for elementary, middle, and high-school-age students are being planned. Please pray that it will be an opportunity to deepen relationships between them.
- Please pray for my health. Last year, after the summer camp, my legs swelled up so badly due to rheumatoid arthritis. I wasn’t able to stand up for about two days. Please pray that my health will be protected and that I will continue to be able to serve.
Introducing Pastor Yoshiya Okita
I was born into a Christian family. My father is a pioneer church planter. From infancy, I grew up listening to Bible stories. Everything around me taught the Bible. I was involved with Christian picture books, Scripture Memorization, attending Sunday School, worship services, and family devotions. I accepted it all without question. Then, in third grade, I was baptized, just as the natural progression of things. I certainly believed in Jesus Christ, but I had just accepted what my parents taught me. It wasn’t my own faith yet.
I had always been a bit shy. After starting school, it was hard to get used to the new class each year, especially when I started 4th grade. I couldn’t break into the central circle of our classmates, and I felt like an outsider.
You get bullied when you’re on the fringe in Japan, and I went through bullying that whole year. One kid commented negatively about me, and instantly all the guys that had been my friends just dropped me and joined the in-crowd. I could see how easily friends could be divided swept away at that young age, and I realized, “This is what sin does to people.” I was caught in loneliness and anxiety from that point on.
When I was in Junior High, I started teaching Sunday School for the little kids in church, mostly because I was looking for a place to belong. One day I was arguing with my mother about how the church conducted Sunday School. She got exasperated and expressed, “I don’t know what’s the matter with you!” That question shook me to my core. I don’t know why I was so upset at the time, but I ran to my room sobbing, and I started to pray to Jesus. I asked him not to leave me alone. It was the first time I had reached out to Jesus in prayer. After that, everything changed, Jesus became alive to me, and I began a new life of faith.
Everything that I had been hearing about Jesus became real. Jesus was really alive, loved me, and was with me.
And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.Matthew 28:20
From that point, I began a new life of faith, and I continually sought the Lord, learned to listen to His Word, and the Scriptures became the foundation of my life. Jesus Christ is my Savior and Lord.