Tuesday, December 22, 2009

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A Very Merry CHRISTmas to All!

May your hearts be full, your worries few,
and may you always know GOD LOVES YOU!!!

Merry Christmas to one and all!!

**sorry...somehow when I added my message the "elves" disappeared...so they are reappearing above ;-)

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

November '09 Nagano News

Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Yes, we are truly blessed with so much to be thankful for. It is so hard to imagine where to even begin telling you about all the wonderful things that we are so thankful for. Most recently Zack contacted the dreaded H1N1 virus, but only had a mild fever for 2 days, with no side effects unless you call eating like a horse a side effect. He got to spend 5 days at home and got a good rest! This was his longest time away from basketball in 2 years, and none of the rest of us caught the flu, so we are so, so thankful for that. Here it is truly in epidemic proportions as every school has at least some classes cancelled if not the entire school. It seems that it is a very mild form however and most of the kids quickly recover. It seems to not be affecting the mothers and fathers since none of the people we know have been sick after their children became ill. Not sure why, but so thankful. Here almost everyone walks around wearing masks wherever they go, and it is sometimes scary seeing how afraid everyone is. For us, life goes on as normal.
Since coming here over 6 years ago as basically ‘faith’ missionaries, the thing we are probably most thankful for is the knowledge that God doesn’t lie! Wait, I can hear you all saying, we KNOW THAT! But do you? Do you truly believe that God doesn’t lie? I would hope and pray that each of you reading this are responding, OF COURSE WE DO! As we did too, but the reality of our lives is that even though we profess that He never lies, we lead our entire lives often in denial!
Let’s look at some of the things He tells us and see if you truly live these words in your daily lives:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
What a promise! What love! And of course, as Christians we know it’s TRUE! God DOESN’T LIE!

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I know that many of you are suffering now, from the economy, from illness, maybe from the death of a loved one and you think things will never improve, well, remember, God DOESN’T LIE: He says: “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” SO TRUST HIM! God DOESN’T LIE!

Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
God specifically tells us, warns us and commands us not to store up earthly treasures. DO YOU? I know that I sure did. Working hard every day to give all I could for my family. But what we should be working for so hard is to share His love, His rewards, His eternal love with not just our family but with all those we meet. Remember God DOESN’T LIE!

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
How many of you can honestly answer yes to this one. That you truly know that God will take care of all things. Sure we say we do, but do you really? I know when we got ready to leave for Japan in 2003 so many of our wonderful Christian friends said they couldn’t believe that we would actually be going without the promise of financial resources. How could we trust that everything would be taken care of? It comes down to truly knowing that God DOESN’T LIE!
Now when we left New Albany we (to be honest) truly were worried how in the world we could survive. Oh, we trusted God enough to come, but there were so many monthly expenses, so many unforeseen things, so many…… But we came, we trusted and we found out without a doubt, GOD DOESN’T LIE! He truly provides for ALL THINGS! I think in our Christian life the most difficult thing to do is truly believe that He will take care of us. Oh, we all say so, but to walk out on that plank, and step off, knowing that He will catch you, maybe that is where we draw the line. Maybe we truly won’t step off the cliff, we need a net, a safety rope, something besides our trust to take care of each and every situation. Let me just list a few ways that He (with of course all of your help) has proven to us that HE DOESN’T LIE!
1) When we got rid of the golf course and waited to find out where we would come in Japan, we always had a place to stay and plenty of food. Yes, we were doing odd jobs, but we also still had lots of time to volunteer for many things and still get everything taken care of.
2) When it was time to move, we had no money. Everything we had before we lost with the golf course. However when it was finally time to depart for Japan, the shipping of our things, our plane tickets, visas, everything was taken care of.
3) When we had to move from Atsumi to Nagano, the truck and moving expenses were all taken care of. (More than $6,000)
4) When we were in need of a $1,000 to pay for Ian’s school things, when all time had run out, when we had no options, the money appeared. This was probably the time where our eyes were truly opened. The other things were great and we knew that they came from God, but this one was truly AWESOME! We moved to Nagano the end of March with the new school year starting in April. Ian was to enter the last year of Junior High and the schools take a trip as part of the last year. So they asked us if Ian would want to join and we said sure! The trip was to be the first of April and would cost $800!!!!! YIKES! But they said, don’t worry, they had enough money and we would only have to pay by June. We said thanks and hoped (yes, then still not totally trusting) that the money would be there. Well, June came and NO MONEY! Kim and I talked about it, prayed, and the school responded by saying the other children had paid an additional $200 in the previous years, so to be fair, Ian should pay $1,000 instead of just the $800! DOUBLE YIKES! Well, the payment time had come and gone and we finally decided we had to write the school and beg that they would allow us to pay them a little at a time. With tears in my eyes, I went to the computer and started composing the letter. It was maybe the most difficult one I had ever written. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, when my computer said: “You’ve got mail.” I’m thinking not now…but I needed the release. I opened the mail and it was from a friend of Kim’s father who served together in the Air Force. Now he said that 12 years ago his wife divorced him and they had to split some property, so they put it up for sale, but it never sold. Last week, miraculously it sold and he was left with a little profit and God had told him that we were in need (we hadn’t told ANYONE) and he had sent a check for $1,000 to our account! I thought I had been crying lots before….
5) When our first car became too small, without asking, he provided our van. Our daughter was bringing a friend to visit and we wanted to take them several places but our car was too small, so we decided we would rent a van for a week so we could do all we could to make their trip enjoyable. Well, we couldn’t find one anywhere. We enlisted the help of many people, but NONE! We tried the airport, but they just opened the new terminal and the rental cars hadn’t changed yet…NO VAN! We gave up, then the email came, we want to give you a gift. WOW, I told Kim, we have the money to rent the van….she looked at the amount, she said rent?…BUY! The amount was truly huge, and allowed us to purchase the van. The donors, we don’t know. It was from a wonderful family in California that we have never met! God told them about us, and our need.
6) When it died, a new one appeared. That was the story last month so I won’t go into it again.
Over and over again, He has provided. Month after month, new situations arise, constantly needing resources and month after month, they are taken care of. We can truly tell you, that GOD DOESN’T LIE! This Thanksgiving and the upcoming Christmas Season be filled with thanks that the God we serve, the God we love never ever LIES! Take it to the bank, trust Him, and always in all things give THANKS!
We had a great Halloween Party with over 100 attending and will have our kids Christmas party on Dec. 19th. We will be acting out the Christmas Story for them and anticipate well over 100 coming. So please pray for it. This Sunday is our annual community Christmas party and pageant and we have several non-Christian friends coming, so please pray for their hearts to be opened. Many other events are scattered throughout December, so just please pray that God continues to give us the strength and health to serve him continually in all we do.
*Heather’s father-in-love is undergoing chemo for stage 4 lymphoma so we ask for prayers for him and the family.
We trust God to equip us for each individual challenge and opportunity that He presents. Your prayers and support are vital to our being here. Please pray with and for us that we always strive to walk before God, wherever that may be, and be used as instruments of His love in all we do. Should God ask any of you to partner with us in our outreach for Him, please send any love offerings to: Bethlehem United Methodist Church, for Baranski John Alan Mission Fund, c/o Becky Wack, 1003 Rowan Cove, New Albany, Ms. 38652.
We hold you each in our hearts and prayers with thanksgiving.
In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch

Monday, November 16, 2009

Seemingly hopeless...

Hi folks!
I know, you probably have all but given up on finding anything new here! Truly I do apologize. As in far too many categories, I have all the best intentions, yet my follow through just isn't as good or timely as I'd like it to be. We(..God and I..) are still working on it though, we haven't given up!
Along those same lines I'm diligently working at making better use of my time - managing it better, I mean, so that I can feel more a sense of accomplishment at those things on my (very long) "to do" list.
We've had so many events and so much going on since I last posted that 'catching up' may never fully happen. I will, however, try to fill in some of the lost-in-time spaces as I find/make the time.
Most recently, the flu - pig type and all those others, too - have been running rapant in the schools here. Here being all over Japan, not just in our area. Many of the schools, from nursery to university, have been closing classes, grades or the entire school for periods of time varying from a day to a week trying to cut the spread. Personally... I don't think it's working so great. John and I may be the only people here that go around with our faces 'unmasked'! Honestly! The folks who market those disposable face masks are making a FORTUNE!!! Even though only a certain type is supposed to really "trap" the germs, every kind is selling out as fast as they put them on the shelf.
Knock-on-wood and thanks to God, thus far Ian, John and I have managed to avoid the flu - YEA!! A few sniffles and a cough or two here and there, but NO flu! Zack fought it off for a good while, but spending a huge chunk of every day with the basketball team - more than half of whom have had the flu - it finally caught him last week :-( He called Sunday morning with 'the symptoms' so I went to pick him up and took him directly to the hospital here to be tested. They first didn't even want to test him since his fever was very low-grade, but they went ahead and it came back positive. Zack asked what kind of flu this was that he had only a low fever and still a full appetite!?! I told him the kind everyone wishes they had if they had to get it at all!! So, he was home for 5 days during which time Ian wore a mask in his presence (plus a knit neck warmer over the mask for that little extra layer of germ deterrent?), and John washed and sanitized his hands more than in any normal month!! Other than the taking of the specimen itself - OUCH!!! - Zack said the worst part was sitting/laying around for 5 days and then having to face basketball practice again the first day back....

I started writing this today at the elementary school where I'm teaching now since when I arrived this morning they informed me the first class for my day was cancelled - for the entire week! - since 11 of the 19 kids were out with the flu - YIKES!! I guess this will go on all winter season...
On a brighter note... you may remember a while back we told you about sifting through a bit if the never ending stuff in our downstairs to make space in the small room for John to hold some of his classes. That was - trust me - a huge deal! and we were so happy when we got it finished. W--e--l--l... we at long last dove into the B-I-G room and all it was hiding... We got some terrific help from some neighbors and this week John will hold his classes in the big room!!!!! YIPPEEEE!!!!!! One day I'll post some pics - really!
OK, still so much to say but after being gone all day there are other things I need to get to so that's it until.....

Monday, October 5, 2009


Who'd a thunk it!???!!

I bought these while back in the states and brought them for John when I returned the end of May.
He wore them almost daily until one day he left them in the back of van.

A couple of days later I noticed them and took them out and put in the house.
That afternoon John went to put them on and his foot would not fit in the left one! HUH??
He picked them both up and held them together and thought somehow he'd picked up someone else's left shoe the last time he wore them... this had been to a basketball game and in Japan at most gyms you have to change from your outdoor to indoor shoes. Crocs are quite popular here as well and so it wouldn't be a total impossibility to have mistakenly picked up the wrong shoe... EXCEPT that if he had he surely would have noticed when he tried to put it on to go to the car!!

So, he turned them over and !!???! they're both size 12!!

But the left one looks more like a 10!!

All I could think of was that he'd left them in the van. Mind you we've had an extremely mild summer... not o mention the oddity that it was on;y 1 shoe!! So John decided he'd write the company. Lo and behold... on the site while he's looking for the contact info, he runs across this, "To keep your Crocs in good condition, you will want to avoid leaving them where they will be exposed to heat or sun, such as a dish washer, washing machine, or hot car, as this can cause the shoes to shrink or warp." !!!!!! WHAT?! So much for writing them.

So for all you Croc wearers out there, consider yourselves warned - DON'T LEAVE THOSE CROCS IN THE CAR!!!! unless of course one foot is considerably smaller than the other!

And then you better hope the correct one shrinks!

Live and learn :-}

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Did you believe us? Prayer... it IS powerful!!!!

Howdy to all! And thank each and every one of you that joined us in prayer for our need of transportation. It worked!! As we trusted it would ;-)
So here's how it went... picking up from when we left the deceased van at the mechanics...
Remember we have a sweet neighbor who is helping out with all the translation between the mechanic and us -
So, he calls her and says that another customer of the shop has just purchased a new vehicle and offered them the old one they're replacing at a very reasonable (for Japan) price. The shop knows the vehicle as they've been the ones servicing it, and they believe it to be in good condition. The shop in turn is offering to let us purchase it for the same price, plus the costs of title transfer, etc. The vehicle will be brought to them that evening and we can come look at it the following morning.
Tuesday morning we're off to take a look. It's van!! A bit smaller than the one we had, still, a van! A 2001 Mazda MVP. seats 7, 4WD, GPS, CD/DVD player, 2 decent sets of tires - summer and studless snow tires, 50,000 kilometers, couple of minor body blemishes ... looks good!
They need to know if we want it. NOW!
We do! We also need to have a way to pay for it - now! Not actually that moment, but within a couple of days. Hmmm....
We've heard from several already and know there are oodles of prayers being sent up about this. We know God knows all about it. We know He has a plan.
We tell them 'Yes!' We want it!
We're able to secure a loan and can get the cash as soon as all the paperwork is in order. Remember, Japan is a cash society.
Feeling pretty blessed by all this ;-} Yet still concerned. With the loan comes loan payments. Already we never quite know how we'll cover each month's expenses, and now we're about to add a significant amount to that for lots of months to come!
Email. I (Kim) have an email offering a teaching position. It's for an elementary school a little over an hour from our house, up in the mountains, 5 classes every Monday, starting this coming Monday! The pay, including a small transportation allowance, is how much? You guessed! Just about what we'll need to make the loan payments each month!!! At least through March when the school year ends.
Pretty cool, huh?!
And that full time 4WD we were a bit hesitant about... comes in mighty handy in the mountains in the winter snows around here!
So our friends at the mechanic shop are checking it over pretty carefully for us, changing the oil, checking all the fluids and filters, the electrical systems, the tires, cleaning it up - and tomorrow it'll be in our driveway!
This week we've had a loaner from the shop. Definitely a plus to get from point A to point B, but not exactly what we'd want full time if we had a say in the matter. This week though we were so thankful to have it! No long distances to go or highway driving. John did have a few classes he needed it to get to and from and was able to fold himself in and out of it without too much trouble. ;-)
So tomorrow, Friday, we'll turn in the loaner for our "new" van - and Saturday - we have to drive two hours on the highway, over 100 kilometers away, to Zack's school - pretty wonderful timing isn't it!
Thank you for all the prayers and love!
For any who may doubt, you really should trust us when we say THERE IS POWER IN PRAYER!!! when you believe there is.

God's peace and love to each of you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Prayer, powerful stuff!

Greetings! in the name of our Gracious God,

First let us say once more how constantly we are blessed by the prayers, love and offerings we receive from so many. We love each one whether we know the face and name or not.

We have traveled many unknown and at times treacherous paths to get to the place we find ourselves now. This is true in a physical sense and no less in a spiritual and emotional sense. Probably a statement that most could make. Countless times it would have been so much easier to just give in and give up, or so it seemed in the midst of it.
Thanks be to God Almighty that He doesn`t give up on us when we feel everyone else has - ourselves included.

How awesome it is that we serve a Lord Who stays with us in the very lowest and most difficult times in this life with His hand outstretched just waiting for us to look up into His gaze, rest our hand in His, and let Him show us His way through to the other side of the trial.

2002 was one of the most difficult years we faced in many ways. It was also one of the most positive. It was the year that we truly and completely put our lives in God`s hands and began to fully trust Him for our daily bread.
I almost said here that "we had no other choice"... but we did! We always have a choice! Give up or keep going. Trust Him for What and Who He says He is, or don`t. Take the easy way out, or the right way.

When we found ourselves at rock bottom with no place to look but up - we did just that. We asked God what He wanted us to do next, and this time we really listened for His answer. He answered quickly. Nothing like any of the options we had considered as real options. First we talked and prayed together. Then with family. Friends. As we shared what He had planned for us we were met with shock, disbelief, one obstacle after another.

Go back to Japan.... as missionaries... are you CRAZY???

It`s what God has asked of us. Wouldn`t you go if He asked you?

.....no, I just couldn`t.

But, God asked. How do you say no to God when you know it`s Him?

We said yes.

God said, "Go!" "I`ll take care of the rest." We believed Him then. He has proven Himself true so many times since.

This is certainly not to say that since answering with a yes we have awakened to every new day with never a concern, doubt, trial or temptation. There are many. And yes we still try to figure out the way to get through each one when we really see no way. After exhausting our minds and emotions with everything we see as a possible option, we always determine that on our own it can`t be done so we turn it over to God and reaffirm our faith, belief and trust in His promise to us that He`ll take care of the rest.

To date He hasn`t gone back on His promise. He never will. So long as we do our part.

Admittedly we`re not always certain just exactly what "our part" is. We step out with what seems right, and if it isn`t it usually becomes apparent pretty quickly. So we listen a little closer and try again.

Finances seem always to be a concern for us. Our income here is minimal. Living expenses are high in Japan. Money is never an `easy` subject. It`s a vital part of this life none the less.
Since coming here to do mission work in 2003 our income hasn`t increased much. Our expenses have. Home and utilities, groceries, education expenses, transportation, taxes and the `extras` we try to do where we see need.
When the totals are tallied each month for income and expense there is always a concern as to how we`ll cover everything. Yet when all is said and done the bills are paid. The unexpected happens and we have no clue how to cover it. We don`t! God does! Time and again He has awed us with his perfect timing and provision for what for us was the "unforeseen".

Today we learned that our "miracle van" - meaning He provided it for us in ways we could never have worked out on our own! just when we needed it!! - has breathed it`s last. The repair cost would be higher than what we payed for it so definitely out of the question. Our repairman has been amazed for the past year that it has held up as well for as long as it has.
A vehicle is a necessity for us here. Church and class activities on many days of the week are impossible without a vehicle We know this. We know God knows this. He knows our need is immediate.

God loves to hear from His children. Prayer is a most powerful tool. We believe in the power of prayer and so we ask that you pray with and for us that this need for a vehicle be answered.
Thank you from our humbled hearts.

Our God is awesome!!!

May His love, grace and peace fill your lives.

P.S. Just had to add this... our neighbor (not a Christian) helped us out with the translation from the mechanic(not a Christian). He told her that it was so lucky that we found the trouble at home and not while driving because it could have caused the engine to freeze up, the wheels lock and possibly a terrible crash. She agreed we`re a lucky family! We said, not lucky - blessed! God is our Shepherd watching over us always!

1 Peter 4:12-13, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (NIV).

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I cannot believe it`s already been two weeks since my last post!!

Life just seems to fly by these days... which has positive and at times not-so-positive aspects.

What a blessing to be able to be so busy! To have the ways and means to do so much with and for so many! God is so great!!

I really do have loads of pictures to sort through and pick some to share, and I will get to it.... for the moment though I just didn`t want you to think I`d forgotten all about you who peek in here now and then to see if we`re still kicking.

We are ! ;-}

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Several thoughts

I know... I know! I do pretty fair for a spell and then just disappear from the blog world. No long list of excuses, it just happens.
I do have lots of pictures of several different events to sort through and pick out some to share... and I will... I hope soon ;-}
Summer season always has a slow down in actual classes for John with all the family and school and work vacations, yet also seems to be a surge in activities for his students that we normally lead. And as you know if you keep up with us at all, any time we're not otherwise scheduled we're usually somewhere watching Zack play basketball. That schedule is crazy in the summer months!
We're all so thankful that Bo came home from Iraq safely. Though the reason for his early return is not a happy one. Bo's Dad is currently undergoing chemo therapy for stage 4 lymphoma. All prayers for their family are a blessing.
Our home churches in the states, Bethlehem UMC in MS. and St.John Lutheran in TX. have both had great cause for extra prayers for their pastors' families this month. First we heard that Pastor Schulte's wife in TX. had suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. Praise God it was mild and after having stints put in place she was quickly back home and doing well. Next we learned that Bro. Jeff's daughter in MS. was in a car accident and hospitalized with multiple broken bones requiring surgeries. Again we praise our Lord that no one was critically injured to the point of threatening life. We know that both families have a wonderful faith and trust in God and multitudes praying with and for them.
We appreciate all of you that take the time and make the effort to pray for not only our family and needs, but also those we share with you.
On a personal note, I am feeling more and more that God wants to use me and some of my life experiences to help others understand the unmatched difference that knowing Him and having a personal relationship with Him makes in this life. I'm humbled and touched that I might be of service in such a way, yet I struggle with just what and how to share with whom. Yes, I know that is likely a common thread among Christians. I'm thankful to feel I may be in that fold. My additional struggle here is that most we relate to here on a daily basis are not exactly fluent in English - and I am most certainly not fluent in Japanese! So in general we communicate pretty well, but in matters of the heart and Spirit it's much more of a challenge to know how to share what I want to and have them understand what I think I'm saying...!
Marriage and family relationships in general in the Japanese culture are so very different than what I personally know. I'm not implying that it's all bad - just very different. We so often are told, " I wish my (wife, husband, child, mother, father...) and I had the closeness we see in your family." Yet when we encourage them to reach out and take the first step in implementing that closeness they freeze. There are many questions, we do our best to answer in all honesty and in way they can relate to. Most often it's like that old saying 'three steps forward, two steps backward'. So with that whiff of progress we press on.
I suppose I shared all that just to thank you and ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers in our life here, that we will continue to listen and hear how God is leading us in all we do.
May His grace and mercy be great in your lives!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

August in Japan

Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
May your hearts and ours be filled with the joy and love that comes from our Lord and Savior! Speaking of having your hearts filled, we have been fortunate the last few Sundays to have a wonderful German couple visit our Sunday English service. They have just returned from 6 months in Africa, and thought a month or so in Japan would be a good way to unwind on their way home. The husband, Fred, is maybe the most filled person we have ever met! You cannot talk to him for over 10 seconds without him telling you about Jesus! He is so excited and so filled with God’s love that it overflows to all those that come in contact with him. Last Sunday they came and brought two lovely Japanese ladies who will come this Sunday for our 5th Sunday Sing and play the violin and flute for us. One is a Christian and one a non-Christian. One of the ladies has a handicapped daughter, and Carla, Fred’s wife, works to share God’s love with handicap children (their mission field in Africa) and told the lady about the love our church gives to Hikaru, the young special man that comes to our English service. So we pray that we can extend the same to their family. Unfortunately Fred and Carla are leaving, but we know that God’s Spirit is traveling with them both where ever they go. Please pray for their continued success as they give all they have to serving Him.
We’ve also had a new family from Canada join us. The mom is Japanese and will be giving birth to a new one in December and will be here until sometime in the beginning of next year. They presently have 2 boys and are a joy to have join us. Both the German couple and the Canadian family are here as Wwoofers! Joe and Sarah, an American family in our church have started farming and have enlisted the help of Wwoofers. For those of you who don’t know, the Wwoof stands for Willing workers on Organic Farms.
Wwoof Organization is a World-Wide Organization that allows individuals from all walks of life from all over the world to participate in an exchange program. The exchange is quite simple, the participant in the Wwoof program commits him/her self for a specific time to go and work on a farm, gaining knowledge from the variety of types of produce to the different management methods used on a particular farm. The host farm provides food and shelter in exchange for this help. As you can see it works, as it’s already brought people from Canada and Germany to our area to Wwoof it out!
We had a great beginning to this month with over 30 people attending our Outdoor Bible Study and Sausage Cookout! It was great and everyone had a good time. We presented the story of the 10 Commandments and showed them how so much of this country is affected by those early rules. Even keeping the Sabbath Holy as most Japanese people have Sunday’s off. One of my students father is a policeman and he was especially excited to learn that his father was affected by God’s laws. It is so wonderful to see the many ways that we can reach out to so many.
On the 6th we had a wonderful morning as 32, mom’s and kids, joined us for our annual Asahi kids cooking class. We try and do as much as we can in English, but of course the level of the students is very, very low, so Pastor Kitamura always helps us with Japanese. We are able to offer a long prayer time with this group, and John had the special privilege of having his lunch fixed by a young boy who has come to all FIVE classes! This will be his last year since he will be starting Junior High, but we gave him a special invitation to come back next year. Everyone had a great time making thin crust pizzas, one pot pasta and chocolate krispy treats. We had several of the mom’s ask about English classes at the community center, so we hope to be able to build some longer term relationships with some of them.
This coming Friday we will be very busy as we will be hosting the Korean Gospel Singing group, Ongijyani. This will be their 4th time to sing for us and they are amazing. The group that comes here will consist of 11 people, 6 young men and 5 ladies. In total the group in Korea consists of about 5,000 people that give up their time and talents and travel all over the world. They will be doing 2 programs at our church, one Friday morning and the other that evening. We will be providing food for them for lunch and dinner. The afternoon meal will be a sausage dog and pasta salad lunch that we hope many people will attend, while the evening meal will just be for the singers. We will have tea and cookies after the evening concert, but the group is usually quite tired and go back to where they are staying shortly after. Normaly the majority of people attending the morning session have been non-Christian, I think the same will hold true this year with the evening made up of mostly Christians. We pray that God’s Spirit will be strong for both events and bless the group as they will spend a total of 2 weeks in our area performing every day at different churches.
This Sunday we will have our 5th Sunday Sing, and hope to have a great attendance. As we talked about before, we hope to have the flute and violin join us, and our normal group also includes the piano (John), drums, bass and guitar. It is always fun and we look forward to it and enjoy the potluck dinner that follows.
We are all doing great. A little disappointment in Zack’s team as they lost in the 2nd round of the National Tournament to the Okinawa Prefecture champions by just a few points. In the opening game Zack had 33 points and 21 rebounds. He is doing so great and already 2 different universities have offered him scholarships to attend their schools, so we pray that he continues to grow and improve. We received a wonderful letter from his coach, not only telling us about his basketball, but most wonderful was the stories he told us about his everyday life and the great impression he leaves on others. We are so proud of him. Last week he played in the Under 18 All Star tournament. This is his second year to be the starter for our prefecture team and this year he was the nucleus. They played 3 games and I think Zack played all but a few moments. The team finished 2nd behind one of the top 4 teams in the country.
*Heather’s father-in-love has just begun chemo for stage 4 lymphoma so we ask for prayers for him and the family.
We trust God to equip us for each individual challenge and opportunity that He presents. Your prayers and support are vital to our being here. Please pray with and for us that we always strive to walk before God, wherever that may be, and be used as instruments of His love in all we do. Should God ask any of you to partner with us in our outreach for Him, please send any love offerings to: Bethlehem United Methodist Church, for Baranski John Alan Mission Fund, c/o Becky Wack, 1003 Rowan Cove, New Albany, Ms. 38652.
We hold you each in our hearts and prayers with thanksgiving.
In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch

Monday, August 3, 2009

!! I almost forgot!!

John's birthday was last month...
several of his English class students gave him some gift to celebrate.
Of course they were all really nice and so much appreciated!
This one in particular was quite original!!!!!!
Knowing how much John (and I) love chocolate,

Kiyomi went all out and got chocolates with...
John's picture on the wrappers!!!
Too cool!!!

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Osaka Inter High 09

Game 1 tip off!
This was a great game! The kind we're used to seeing Tokai Third play.
They had a good team rythm going and played good.

Zack had a team-high 33 points for the game :-)
12 of 19-2 point shots; 9 of 10 free throws;
8 offensive & 13 defensive for a total 21 rebounds;
1 assist; 2 steals and 4 blocked shots;
playing 33.33 minutes of the 40 minute game.
They won 105 -75 !!!

So a little celebratory souvenir shopping after the big first game victory.

A little 'I am so proud of you hug' from his proud Poppa.
Then some 'senpai' advice for the first year team mates.
This was a happy day!!

Sadly the second day was not.
They started a bit slow but picked up quickly in the 1st quarter of game 2.
A good lead at half time.
But they weren't finding that rythm they usually have and their shots weren't falling.
They held on til the final 35 seconds but couldn't make a shot

and the other team did...

Unquestionably their toughest emotional loss yet.
Now they're back at school training hard for the next tournament.
Hold your heads high and do your best !!
Thank you all for your wishes and prayers.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Inter High, here we come!

Yes I know... no pictures!?!
Just thought I'd let you know that John and I will depart at 3 A.M. ..yawn.. Wednesday morning, for Osaka and the big summer basketball tournament. I hope to have great things to tell you when we return!!!
Zack and his team left early Saturday morning and have had practice games and lots of training getting ready for the opening game on the 29th - 11:10 A.M.
This is the best of the best in high school boys basketball in all Japan... as long as you win you advance, one loss and it's over for you. We hope all the teams realize their accomplishment in making it here.
Any and all prayers for safe travel and for the boys to remain healthy, positive and to do their best are appreciated ;-)
Ian will stay here with work commitments and taking care of Ebony & Onyx and the house. So a prayer for him would be welcomed, too.
It's been a long and tough road and we look forward to what lies before us!
God bless you each one.

BBQ Baranski style

Bobby Flay's grillin' has nuthin on John Sensei's BBQ skills!
(if no one else gets that his daughters will ;-} )

John does some English classes in a nearby town for the children and friends of a doctor and his wife. They requested a BBQ for their clinic staff and the families of the students, so we went to work! They gave us the funds and left the shopping and menu to us. Pasta salad, garlic bread, chicken drummies, grilled pork, sausage links, and of course our favorite... beef brisket! and watermelon for dessert.

John Sensei - or as the kids called him this night - "Koku-san" (chef) - checking with the crowd to see what their favorites are.

And you can't have a summer BBQ without a few fireworks to end the event!

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Japan in July 09

Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
May your hearts and ours be filled with joy and love for our Lord and Savior!
60 people attended our annual March For Jesus in downtown Nagano. We walked through town and sang songs for about 2 hours. Please pray that God is using those songs still to open the hearts of some of those that heard the words.
We are just beginning the start of the summer vacation season here, and things in some aspects slow down a little, but in others get really busy. School vacation is less than 1 month, so everyone is busy trying to fit in as much as they can. For us, we try and continue with all our normal activities, but have to work around so many different vacation schedules. We add several events to work with the kids. During the first week of August we change our Tuesday English Bible Study to an outside park and a sausage cookout/bible study. In the past we’ve had a great turnout, but now the kids are getting older and the elementary schools all have required swimming and other activities during the summer, so many, many of our young families that have been attending are unable to this year as their children are now in elementary school. Pray with us that our attendance will be great, but most of all that those that attend will come with hearts open to His word. We will be doing the 10 Commandments for our study, with a great kids program put on by a young mom from our church.
The same week on Thursday we will be doing an English kid’s cooking class at the community center where we teach on Thursday’s. We anticipate about 32 attendees for the event. We always get to have prayer time during this event, so just pray that our hearts will be filled with His joy and the words we speak will be ones that His Spirit can use…This year we are cooking Mexican pizza (pizza using tortillas) one pot pasta and chocolate krispies for dessert.
The end of August we will host a Korean Gospel singing group two different times in our church. Last year they came Tuesday morning during our Bible Study and 60 people attended, this year we will be hosting them for a concert Friday morning, August 28th, and then again that evening. We are focusing on two different groups, so please pray for wonderful attendance for both concerts and that His Spirit will be able to use the songs, words and testimonies to open up the hearts of the non-believers that will come.
On Sunday evening August 30th we will be having our 5th Sunday sing. As always we ask for your prayers for good attendance, and also again that His Spirit will use these songs to strengthen all those that will join us.
Since there is so much talk going on now in the states about the possibility of changing the health care system, let me take a little time to explain how the system works in Japan. Everyone here must have insurance, including homeless people and of course people like us that are ‘registered aliens’. The cost is figured on your income so the more you make the more you pay. A little trouble here though because when your income is low, the cost is low, but it QUICKLY increases to make up for the lower income people. For instance in our case, two years ago we paid about $1,000 for our annual cost. It was divided into ten payments. Last year because of Zack’s school, we did more classes and our income increases a little, but our insurance cost went up to over $3,500. Now our income here is less than $20,000 per year, so that is over 15% of our income (before taxes or anything else) to pay for our insurance. So in some aspects (from a cost point of view) the system is good, since we pay by income, but then again, it is disproportionate to your income, with the higher income people of course paying more.
More important though is the type of care. I have the good fortune of teaching at the large hospital (Red Cross Hospital) in our town and have several doctors as well as one of the vice-presidents in my class. The trouble from their point of view is that the government sets all of the costs and prices. The hospital, as well as private doctors, can only charge a set amount for each service. All of the prices are set by the government and thus remain low. Because the fee structure is preset, the availability of doctors is terrible. Bro. Jeff at Bethlehem in New Albany just had a skiing accident, here he would receive emergency treatment, but when they saw that it wasn’t life threatening they would send him to the orthopedic section. When he arrived there it would take about 2 to 3 hours to make it to the desk only to find out that he needs an appointment and that the doctor’s are busy, but they could possibly look at him in the next TWO TO THREE WEEKS! Yes, that’s right, 2 to 3 weeks just to see the doctor! Now if that is not bad enough, to keep the costs down, equipment for MRI’s, mammograms, etc. are found only in the large hospitals. So Kim needs an annual mammogram, she first has to go to her doctor, who then sends her to the hospital. The hospital can not give her the mammogram until after they do a check-up, so off she goes, makes an appointment, then visits the doctor who sets up the appointment for the mammogram 2 or 3 months LATER!!!!! So in that aspect, I think that will be coming to health service near you. Here there is a lack of doctors and service. As everyone can receive treatments at a reasonable price, they go to the doctor for everything, so we have to be prepared to wait for many things.
Now if you are old here, you really have to look out….if you are old (over 70) the typical reaction is, ‘it’s part of growing old….it’s nothing we will treat….sorry’! So if you have arthritis, don’t worry about treatments….it’s part of growing old. Sore muscles, bad vertebrates, don’t expect treatment….it’s part of growing old!!!! It is really TERRIBLE and definitely not the way I want to be treated when I grow old. I see the same thing coming to you….the system here although it is cheap…is VERY, VERY POOR!!!!! Now you know my opinion on all that…
We trust God to equip us for each individual challenge and opportunity that He presents. Your prayers and support are vital to our being here. Please pray with and for us that we always strive to walk before God, wherever that may be, and be used as instruments of His love in all we do. Should God ask any of you to partner with us in our outreach for Him, please send any love offerings to: Bethlehem United Methodist Church, for Baranski John Alan Mission Fund, c/o Becky Wack, 1003 Rowan Cove, New Albany, Ms. 38652.
In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Baba's gotta boast!

Are these not some of the most beautiful children!!?!?

We are so very blessed...

...in so many ways!

What an honor to be the grandparents of 8 such awesome children!!

God bless and keep every one!

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All Japan Inter High - LET'S GO!!!!

July 29th opens the All Japan Inter High Basketball Tournament in Osaka...

Tokai Third will be there representing Nagano Prefecture!!!! GO TOKAI 3!!!!!!
We're so proud of them! They work so hard every day and it often amazes us the energy and drive they have to go, go, go! They're a really good bunch of kids.

On the 11th there was a parents meeting to get all the details about the tournament... the trip fee per boy (choke, gasp, cough!!!!B-R-E-A-T-H-E...), and a celebration of their accomplishment to be going.

They work so hard and eat so healthy most days - at least their dorm food ;-} -

I thought they deserved some sweet stuff! ...sorry Coach...

Watching them devour it was worth every moment in that hot kitchen!!!

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The Infamous DL Celebration!!

For those of you that recall the Saga of the Drivers License...

I told you before that it was indeed cause for celebration when John finally passed and was awarded his Japanese DL.

Some of our neighbors, and John's English students, who did a LOT to help out during the long process, threw John a "Congratulations!!!" party, complete with personalized and homemade decor and certificates.

They're a wonderful bunch and we are blessed to share their friendship.

Sarah has been attending John's classes with her Mom since she was just a few months old. She is very possibly his best example of what exposure to English conversation can accomplish! They are great friends ;-)

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Annual March for Jesus

As always, we gather in front of Nagano Station downtown, and offer a prayer before we begin.
There's always a crowd in this area since it's the center of downtown and we definitely get noticed!

We march the same route every year,

through the busiest areas of town, singing His praises.

Christian leaflets are offered to passers-by and there are always those few who seem to show genuine interest.

Always highly anticipated... the ice cream stop!!!
Mid way through the March we stop at a parking lot - formerly the site of the medal ceremonies in the '98 Winter Olympics!- and cool off and refresh our vocal chords with some ice cream!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jr. High Clinic

Well... first off I can't believe it's been 3 weeks already since I last posted!
Time does fly by!
We spent our Fourth of July at a local Junior High where the Tokai Third High School basketball team was putting on a clinic for four area junior high teams.

Thanking their "senpais"(meaning older than they and there to teach them what they know ;-} ) for coming.
They played some
basketball... and then -

some talk about how to train...
followed by

small group hands on instruction/demonstration.

Some did pretty good, while others lay on the floor in utter disbelief.

Not our typical 4th but a good day none-the-less.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

John Sensei

John is keeping busy as ever with his English classes and especially since adding the ones he does at our house.
This class is all kids from our neighborhood. A couple of the moms stick around for class and seem as interested (or more at times ;-} ) as thier kids.

He does 4 classes here on Wednesday evenings staring at 4pm and finishing up around 8:30. The first 3 are kids and the last one adults.

This is one is all boys(5 of them) and though they keep him busy they really are pretty great with their English with John!

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Friday, June 26, 2009

June 09 news from Japan

Greetings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
We greet you this month with hearts filled with joy and love for Our Lord and Savior. Kim has just returned from the annual ‘Ladies Luncheon’. What a wonderful day filled with love for Our Father. Over 150 ladies were there and were all treated to great fellowship, testimonies, songs and food. The main speaker was a wonderful lady who was a friend and assistant to a Japanese Christian author who has passed away. The talk was interspersed with several songs she sang while accompanied on the piano by her daughter. Kim said it was so great. It’s one of the few times each year that the Christian ladies in our community get together for fellowship.
This coming Sunday is our annual March for Jesus. We will join other Christians in our community and march (actually walk) through downtown Nagano for about 2 hours singing songs such as ‘Peace Like a River’, ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Because He Lives’, etc. This will be the 10th time they’ve had this march and the 6th time we’ve been able to join it.
Normally it’s held the last Sunday in May, but this year the main temple in town had their 2 month long celebration held every seven years and over 7 million people came to our town to see (or have a chance to see) the replica statue of the ‘hidden’ statue that is the main part of the temple. We have a hard time to understand the entire program there. We ask everyone we can what is the purpose and most will say it allows them to get to heaven!!!! Or at the least to have a wonderful life filled with joy and peace. Now of course we don’t believe any of that, but for those that do why would you allow people to come only every 7 YEARS!? Now these people all donate a little to the temple and buy many things. Let’s say they spend only $10 each, that would generate $70,000,000 tax free in TWO MONTHS! Surprisingly though most people will donate or purchase items spending more than $100 so that increases it to $700,000,000!!!!!!! I don’t know about you, but if you are into worldly things….that sure buys a lot of ‘paradise’! So it sure seems like it may have more to do with economics than it does religious purposes. From the time I spent with the Friday night Chorus Group where one of the members is a main priest from the temple, I now understand more how he could afford such wonderful vacations every year! If you’re interested you can check out the history of Zenkoji Temple very easily on the internet.
It is truly sad to see how hungry the people are for something and are finding it in all the wrong places. Please pray that God will open their eyes to the Truth and the only Way to truly make it to Eternal Life.
The end of May we had our 5th Sunday sing and had about 30 people show up. It was our best turnout in a long time. We had a guitar, bass, drums and me on the piano. Everyone had such a wonderful time of singing and fellowship.
Thanks for all of your prayers for me passing my drivers test. In last months newsletter I said that I would drive extra slow the next time…..so I did…and the tester failed me because…..I drove too slow and safe! It’s so crazy. On my 5th attempt I decided just to do my best and finally passed. A Chinese lady there has been trying for one year now and still hasn’t passed! There are no correct or perfect answers and it is all up to the tester. For some you are too fast, some too slow, you check the mirrors too much or not enough….it is all so crazy, and basically just a game to generate more revenue and for us foreigners to understand how lucky we are to drive in Japan. Everyone that takes the test has a license from their home country.
Zack’s basketball has been great. This month they won the Prefecture Tournament. Zack played really great but dislocated his shooting finger during the first game on Saturday. For this tournament they play one game Friday, 2 on Saturday and 2 more on Sunday. There is no rest….just let’s go! Sunday his shooting suffered a lot, but he made up for it with his best defensive effort yet! In the final game for the championship, even though his outside shooting wasn’t very good he still managed 17 points and 21 rebounds and countless blocks. Last weekend they played in the ‘Hokushinetsu’ tournament. (The top 3 teams from our closest 5 prefectures). Zack’s team finished in 2nd place to a team from Fukui Prefecture that has 3 Chinese players (semi-giants!) on their team. They recruit from China every year and are constantly in the top 8 or 4 in all of Japan. This week they start practice for the all Japan Championship in Osaka starting July 29th. They play 1 game a day until they lose. The tournament finishes on August 3rd. Every high school sport has the National Championship the same time. The boys are looking to make the top 8 this year, but a little will depend on how the draw for the tournament comes out. While still bragging about Zack in the semi-final game last weekend, his team trailed by 12 at the end of the first quarter, but ended up winning by 7. Zack had 35 points and over 20 rebounds. He is doing so great. We will meet next week with his teachers to try and start to decide about his future. Please pray for God’s guidance in his future for him and us.
Everything else is going great. Lots of classes and 1 member from our Tuesday Bible study is now a regular Sunday mornings and we feel soon will become one of His children. Please pray for Mrs. Nishimura’s heart to open completely.
Ian turned 20 this month! He’s keeping himself busy with work, music, a weekly basketball game and time with friends. We ask you to pray with us that the time he shares will allow others to see the Light in him that they desire in their own lives.
Special thanks to each one who by prayer and sharing helped to make Kim’s trip possible, safe and so wonderful. Also for the prayers for the boys and I while here without her. May you truly know that without your prayers and support there’s no way we could continue to share God’s message here. We often face real concern with the ‘how’ in so many things, yet have learned first hand that so long as we trust and believe and do our share He will indeed find ways to provide.
We trust God to equip us for each and every challenge and opportunity that comes our way. Your prayers and support are vital. Please pray with and for us that God will guide us in all we do and that He will lead us to follow His purpose, wherever that may be, and use us as instruments of His love in all we do. Should God ask any of you to partner with us in our outreach for Him, please send any love offerings to: Bethlehem United Methodist Church, for Baranski John Alan Mission Fund, c/o Becky Wack, 1003 Rowan Cove, New Albany, Ms. 38652.
In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

20!!!! Really!?!

Ian is officially an "adult" by Japan standards!

He requested a "flourescent"?! cake... with LOTS of sugar icing!

This was as close as I could get to glow in the dark...

and he got one candle for each decade :-)

Hmmm, now how do you cut this...?

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