Giving you a little view of Japan without leaving your home!

Prayer letters, curious subjects, events, people, customs, and more for you to enjoy and learn.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

October Prayer Letter

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:  Psalms 103:1-2

How can we, mere sinners saved by Grace, bless an almighty eternal holy God?  These verses give us three things to do in order to give to God a blessing.  1) Give the deepest and truest part of us, our soul, a command that our lives will be ordered in such a way that our attitudes and actions are pleasing to the Lord; 2) Don't do this halfheartedly or timidly, jump on in with your whole being! without reservation and with total trust in the Lord;   3) Take steps to remember God's goodness and providence in our lives and in the affairs of men,  don't overlook or forget all the bountiful blessings He give us all the time.  Count our blessings!  We count each of you as part of the blessings that the almighty God has given us.  Thank you for being willing to be used for His glory in this way.  Let's continue and abound in the time God graciously gives each of us.

Even after 30 years, there can be moments of "Lord, this is so hard and takes so much time to plant and water". When Vicki experienced a few of those thoughts this month within 24 hours the Lord gave two new opportunities: a long time contact agreed to begin the six-week Christianity Explained Bible course!  We have known the Urayama family for 28 of the 30 years we have been in Japan and have witnessed through various opportunities.  We reported recently that Ken had been able to attend a piano concert by Rui Urayama and he spent the night with the family in that city.  That evening provided some insight to the family.  Ken has stopped by several times after Monday night English and Bible study class in Horonobe to visit Dr. Urayama at this small town hospital where he has an apartment and is on 24 hr call except weekends.  Ken prays with him every time he stops by and this time told him about the 6 week study. Dr. Urayama agreed to begin this study. When Ken asked him if he needed a Bible the Dr. said he had one of his own and showed it to Ken!! What a blessing to have this new deeper opportunity of study with Dr. Urayama and we covet your prayers for this study and for his salvation as well as his family.

The second opportunity that has begun 'again' is after a 3 year lapse!!  For a time period (as with so many of our contacts in this area) another doctor had been studying on Wednesday evenings with Ken and both English and Bible.  Then he moved.  One evening, without any announcement, he showed up at our door! He and his wife live in Sapporo where we sometimes go for shopping of things that cannot be had in this area including supplies for Ken's building projects and for ourselves.  He had come back to Teshio for overnight for a health reason and wanted to confer with the x-ray technician that he had seen originally. The shorter end of this story is that he stayed for dinner and Ken was able to help get him set up with Skype on his laptop which he had brought with him. They  checked out their connection and set up Tuesday nights as their weekly English lesson time.  Dr. Mitsu told Ken that night that he understands why Ken wants to tell him about 'your God' but "I have too many ancestors to take care of so I cannot study about your God right now".  While we would be thrilled to have him again studying the Bible as well as the English, we trust God to open that door again and we pray it is soon.  We will be having a visit with both him and his wife on the evening of the 12th of December. It is Vicki's birthday and the doctor's wife's is the 8th so they want to celebrate our birthdays together. We will travel, Lord willing, to Sapporo that day and be with them, spend the night, shop and come home!  Thank you for remembering these dear folk who truly need Christ! We also thank God for His reminder that patience is truly a virtue in this country and He will continue to bless and help His Word not return void!!

Our plans for our 30th yr anniversary furlough for Christmas through May are all set and the Lord has provided in so many wonderful ways! Continue to pray for our preparation for that trip as well as the Christmas evangelism programs taking place before we leave.  
Dates coming up--
December 5-Ken has next check-up on kidney stones
December 7-We hold a Christmas evangelism in Kotanbetsu where the Crosses live.
December 12-dinner opportunity with Dr. Mitsu and his wife; witnessing opportunities
December 23rd- Teshio Christmas program evangelism--fellow missionary Randy Smith and his family will be joining us to add to our music program through strings, flute, and song
December 24th- we leave for USA via Seoul, Korea arriving at Appels in Atlanta on Christmas Day. Preparation for that trip especially final route decisions, meetings, and presentation preparation.

Serving Christ Together,
Ken & Vicki Mansell 
Just A Prayer At Night – Your evening is our daytime!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Challenges of the field of Japan and Long Term Patience Part 3

"Tenkin" - 転勤 -mandatory transfer system in Japan ~~
The long-standing tenkin (job transfer) system in Japan probably stems from the medieval Edo-period custom of keeping the regional daimyo (feudal lord) virtually hostage in the capital city for one year  out of three, as a way of reducing the threat of rebellion by the shogun’s vassal states.

So here we in a farming, dairy, and fishing community with 3 other communities like it to the north, south, and east of us.  These people need Christ as well and God opened several doors for us to move here, live here and become a part of the community.  But that also means we are not in a teeming, bustling community with thousands, maybe even millions of people in one huge location. Still if you are not part of the above mentioned local area working public you will be affected by mandatory transfer at some time--usually from 3-7 years at the most.  This includes school teachers, some hospital staff, police station--policemen, secretaries, etc., fire station--some local non-transfer and some are transferred depending on how many are part of the 'volunteering' part of the force, utility workers, postal workers to some degree except front counter people, nurses at schools, some of the school office staff are local and some are required transfer. You get the picture...many jobs have required transfer in their system and there is no arguing. Yes, you may make requests for where you would like to go next but the final answer will be given from those 'above' you.

Obviously, we want to reach every single person in the Teshio area with the gospel whether they are living here on a family run farm or will only be here for 3 years.  But that also puts our work into a different light.  While we work at reaching the locals, if you will, we are also constantly having opportunities to reach the 'transfer people' or 'traveling folk' as the local people affectionately call them.   Many time, too, these transfer people are more open to the Gospel especially through English teaching at the beginning than those that live here all their lives.  While the local people were interested and came to many programs the first few years, once they knew exactly what was being taught here, they often became more closed to the Gospel beings it represented a change they did not want to encounter--or were afraid to encounter due to possible ostracism. 

What are we going to consider here--
1. We are striving to reach anyone and everyone with the Gospel
2. We are striving to build a local group of believers to be unified in their own outreach into the community themselves.
3.  Eventually hand over the work to a national pastor.

Beginning with number three we find that the concept of no longer being Japanese if one becomes a Christian, the work ethic in this country being so strong and the group within the work ethic even stronger as well as the mandatory transfer within the office make-up means that in many areas it is almost impossible to find young men open to the Gospel, or once saved willing to give up everything and go train to become a pastor and then realizing that he needs to stay in the big cities so he can work at a regular job AND be a pastor at the same time.  Living in the countryside and reaching the lost  is not going to be a choice because he has nothing from which to draw an income.  Therefore, reaching the lost and continuing on with the church as it grows, no matter how slowly or quickly, means that much of the time the churches are pastored by foreigners. 

The local group that begins with one in a community that becomes interested in Christianity as a result of various means such as English learning which leads to Bible study, through attendance at special events that they might feel more comfortable attending, can lead to another and then to another.  But many of the times the interested party is a woman--they don't feel as threatened and even some times feel of greater value through what they learn from the pastor and his wife and the Word of God.  Then even if they get saved they might face emotional persecution from both the husband and his family especially if they live in the same house. When there are two generations living together the new wife is considered to be the 'lowest' person in that house and depending on the mother-in-law's temperament or upbringing herself may treat the other woman with respect or much much less.  The newly saved wife may either not feel free to share her new found faith right away or go for years before becoming strong enough in her faith to make it known.  Case in point--we have one believer who was in the home of two generations and her father-in-law was one of the main laymen in one of the local Buddhist temples and a local business man (had the only plumbing business in town). While not treated badly she was threatened by her husband that she should NEVER talk about her faith because it could greatly undermine their business and their relationships within the community. When she discovered she had to have some female related surgery in another city she was thrilled because it meant that she would be away from the home and in the hospital for a month and she would have roommates that she could actually freely witness to.  She did and eventually lead two of them to the Lord; one while there and one through continued witness through letter writing over the next couple years.  She also lead her own mother to the Lord when she went and visited her over a period of time. She has since been more open in her witnessing but her husband remains quite closed to the opportunity to witness to him.
We have seen several women come to know the Lord but most are still either 1/ very fearful of sharing the Gospel with other members of their family; 2/ they have to also work to support the family and rarely have a Sunday off; or 3/ they had to move on when their husbands were transferred.

That leads us to one of the chief challenges to having a continued growing ministry within a small community--transfers.  We have been thrilled over the years as people have transferred in to our community. Sometimes it has meant that we have had new people to try and reach; sometimes they have already been saved when they came to Teshio and were THRILLED that there was a ministry within such a small northern community. They continued in fellowship for the term of time they were here in Teshio.  With those that came for study and seemed interested but were transferred before they came to know the Lord, we pray that the seeds planted and watered here would continue to be watered as the system moved them to a new community but the Lord moved in their hearts when reached by others. 

And lastly, sometimes we saw a person come to know the Lord and know our time with them was short so we must do what we could to stabilize their faith while they were with us and then pray they would be transferred to a town that had another ministry near by they could continue to be discipled and encouraged.  A family that moved into Teshio came as a couple with a young daughter--the wife was saved but the husband wasn't.  He was an English teacher and greatly desired to talk weekly with a native English speaker and his wife wanted to attend church. A study time was started and they came on Sunday mornings. As a result, the husband was saved, baptized and growing in the Lord. Then came that year where he HAD to transfer to a different school. That lead to his working in a larger city down in the southern part of the island of Hokkaido where we live.  We still keep in touch at times and are encouraged that we were 'here' when it was God's timing to work in his life and when he moved it was to a town that had a Baptist church that he could attend and become a part of.  His family has grown in size and they have needed to stay in that area.  We would have loved to  have him be a part of this community for a long term basis but God had other plans for him. 
Our work here is going to continue for faithfulness is what God asks of us 
~~3Joohn 1:3 ¶ For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
 5 Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;
 6 Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:
~~I Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
 2  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
~~1Timothy 3:11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
It may come slowly but God says
~~Romans 5:1 ¶ Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us
~~Heb 12:1 ¶ Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;

Pray with us
~~ that we would continue to find ways to reach those always around us even though walls still have not tumbled to make them more willing to be open to the Gospel of Christ.
~~that we will remain faithful
~~that the devil will be defeated in his lies so deeply engrained in the Japanese customs and minds so that our beliefs are just 'for foreigners'
~~that we will be here for both the local people and the people who come and go again and for their hearts to be open to God while they are here.


Shigeyoshi Osaki makes violin strings out of spider silk and claims that – in the right hands – they produce a beautiful sound.
His latest creation is making waves among musicians who praise the sonorous quality of the spider silk violin strings for their ‘soft and profound timbre’.

His passion for the violin inspired him to create something with a musical twist. Thousands of the tiny strands are wound together and produce a strong yet flexible cord that is perfect for the instrument claims Prof. Osaki.

Osaki, professor of polymer chemistry at Nara Medical University has been working with spider silk for 35 years. “Spider silk strings can have all sorts of applications in our day-to-day lives,” he said and suggested the material be used for surgical sutures and for bulletproof vests. 

The silk Osaki used came from 300 female Nephila maculata spiders. Known as golden orb weavers, these spiders are native to Asia and are among the largest anywhere, with bodies an inch long and legs stretching up to seven inches.

Each string is made up of about 5,000 individual strands of silk twisted in one direction to form a bundle. Three such bundles were then twisted together in the opposite direction.

As it turned out, the spider silk strings were weaker than the traditional catgut, but stronger than the modern aluminum strings with nylon cores. When the strings were examined with an electron microscope Osaki found that the individual strands of silk left less space between them, because they would deform to different shapes under tension.

Osaki once produced a rope spun from spider silk that he said could theoretically support a 600 kg (1,300 pound) weight. As many as three hundred female Nephila maculata spiders provide his raw materials.

Spider silk is widely regarded as the strongest natural thread known, at least half as strong as steel thread of the same thickness, and much more elastic.
Source: Yomiuri News and Discovery News

Much stronger than steel threads or spider silk is the cord of love God gently uses to draw his own to Himself!

I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love:
(Hos. 11:4a).

The cords of a man are such as parents use in leading weak or young children. It is the opposite of rough ropes which men employ in taming or breaking wild and unmanageable animals.

God’s bands of love are very tender and strong.

Oh! Would we but respond to such incredible tender love!