Summer 2020 Update
We trust and pray that this newsletter finds you well! Many have wondered what our last months have been like with the Coronavirus and quarantines going on, so we'd love to give you an update.
In Japan, schools and many businesses, like movie theaters, closed a lot earlier than in the US. Karen and I were supposed to be chaperones on our mission school’s (CCSI) annual winter snow camp the first week of March, and that ended up being cancelled. Then the decision was made to begin Spring Break early and shut the whole school down.
We had a group of interns here with us, and they wanted to stay, but the decision was made to evacuate them back to the US in mid-March. Here we are with a couple of them before we took them to the airport.
A few weeks later, we had a meeting to check in with all of them back in the US. It was sad that they didn’t get to finish their internships and have the normal sense of closure. We are hoping and praying that some of them will eventually make their way back here again.
MTW also told the missionaries, “if there is somewhere you need to be in the next few months, go ahead and get on a plane right now.” A lot of missionaries ended up unable to return to Japan, others had to rush their departure to begin their Home Mission Assignments early. That led to some disruptions here on the field, and some of us have had to fill in some places, but it hasn’t been bad.
Around that same time, we also made the decision to bring both of our older kids back from the US to come wait out the quarantine with us. They arrived March 29th
and Japan closed the borders on April 1, so they made it just in time. Even as things have been disrupted and strange over the last five months, it was a blessing to be together as a family again and we are thankful for that. Kylie went back to the US at the end of July and has just begun her final year of college. Josiah is remaining with us in Japan, having decided not to continue at college, and has enrolled in a Japanese language school with hopes of eventually enrolling in a school here.
I think if I had one word to describe this time in our lives it would be “Zoom”.
There is rarely a day that goes by when I am not on a zoom call, and many days I am on 3 or 4 of them. We take Japanese classes by Zoom, I attend a men’s fellowship group by zoom, our kids’ school reopened on Zoom, I have led devotions on zoom, I’m teaching classes on Zoom, we are leading a small group on Zoom, for a while our church was meeting only by zoom.
Zoom Small Group
Our church restarted in-person worship in June, but we are still trying to maintain social distancing and people have been encouraged to come every other week to keep the crowd down.
I have preached several times at one church plant, filling in for a missionary who is back in the States. It was a little weird looking out through a shower curtain at the congregation! Since then, this church has gone back to online only and last week I preached sitting at a desk in my bedroom!
It has been a strange time, but it is also encouraging. We have been forced to embrace new technologies, and I think it has actually increased the numbers of people who are attending church or participating in small groups. We have had visitors who probably would have been too intimidated to enter a church, but have been willing to watch the service from home on their screens.
I want to share with you an update on our ministry plans for the future, regarding a shift in our ministry target area. When we came back to Japan we were planning to work with a new church planting team in downtown Chiba City. After spending time together this past year, it became clear that as a group we didn’t have a clear vision for moving forward together and that particular work is now on hold. At the same time, our larger MTW team in the area has been going through a reorganization and we were asked to become team leader for one of the new teams being formed. In this capacity, we will continue to work with CCSI and mentor interns, as well as help with the teams’ English outreach ministries. Our main goal is still to help plant churches, but now we will shift to helping strengthen our current congregation Alive International, and then, Lord willing, help hive off a daughter church.
Ladies' Lunch with some of the missionaries on our new team
Some prayer requests for us:
- Pray for Kylie, back in the US and starting her final year of college. By leaving Japan to return to the US, she will likely be unable to return until the Coronavirus situation changes significantly. It is hard having her on the other side of the world from us, but it is harder knowing that she can't get back into Japan (and if we went to her, we probably couldn't get back in).
- We are currently looking for a new house closer to the school and the church we will be working with. We don’t have to move right away, but we hope to find something soon. We have been searching for several months and there have been almost no options that meet our needs.
- Pray for the team transitions that are going on with our reorganization and for my new role as team leader. We have about four months left of full-time language study, and then my focus will shift to leading the new team and increasing our involvement with the church.
- Pray for our younger three kids, AJ (11th grade), Matthias and Leighton (8th grade) as they start back to school next week. CCSI will be alternating elementary school kids with the middle and high school kids, one group coming to school for a week, with the other using Zoom, in order to keep the number of kids in the building low and allow for social distancing. As many of you probably know, doing classes by Zoom is challenging, both for the teachers, and the students.
- Pray for our financial support. So far, our giving has remained at the necessary level, for which we are extremely grateful, but we know that the virus has had a massive impact on the world economy, which in turn affects individuals and churches as well. We thank God for His provision and pray that He will continue to provide.
We truly do appreciate your prayers as well as the words of encouragement we often receive. Thank you so much for your support, we could not be here without you.
P.S. if you would like information about helping with our support needs, you can follow this link: Mirabella Giving