Greetings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
“Oshougatsu Omedeto”! or Happy New Year! Even though we are at the beginning of a New Year it sure seems like the time is going so fast. Our first month of 2009 is almost over. I guess for the time to go by so fast we must be staying BUSY! We ended last year with a wonderful evening. On December 31st all four of us were able to sit down together for dinner. So we combined many dates and had a birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year turkey dinner. It was the first time since Zack went off to school in April that we were able to enjoy a family evening. It seems like we are all going in different directions and when a couple of us are free, the rest are busy. We do feel blessed that God is allowing us to do so much and still keep our family unit so tight. New Years Day saw all 4 of us going to church together, so it was a wonderful way to start out 2009. Every church in Japan has a service on New Years Day, mainly to keep with the annual tradition of the Japanese people to go to either (or both) their local temple or shrine to pray on New Year’s Day for a good year. Most Asian cultures place a huge emphasis on New Years. In this country it is not as strong as it was in the past, but is still very important. One of the traditions is eating special foods called ‘Osechi’, a combination of many different foods, of which most are usually pickled and can last 7 days without refrigeration or cooking. The tradition started long ago when all the stores and businesses would close for a long time (often 7 days) so people would prepare Osechi for their families the last day stores were open and then they could eat throughout the holiday. Each food has a special meaning to help the recipient enjoy a long and prosperous life. To read more about this tradition and see some wonderful pictures of different Osechi please go to this website: http://www.bento.com/fexp-osechi.html I think you’ll really enjoy it. These are foods that you won’t see in a restaurant or throughout the year in this combination, they are only offered at New Years! If you ask most people the foods are not favorites and maybe not even delicious, but are eaten every year at New Years. (Kind of like my feelings for black eyed peas)
We ended last year with a cooking class for some of our English students and their moms. Kim ended up catching the flu so all of the cooking was left up to me. There was a total of 28 people that attended, 17 children and 10 moms, plus me. The menu included, one bowl brownies, sausage balls and crispy tacos. Everyone had a great time and the most fun was making the sausage balls. The average age of the children was between 5 and 6 so it was really fun watching them dig in and enjoy mixing the ingredients and forming the balls. We are really making great friends with this group and are so thankful that our church is large enough that we could use it for the cooking class. All of the moms and most of the children are students, so it was a fun way to end the year.
For about 6 months or so we have been blessed with a single mom’s family that have been coming to our English service on Sunday afternoons. There are 4 children and the mom has her hands full. I think I asked for prayers a couple years ago for her 2nd son who wouldn’t go to school. They had lived in the states for several years and the children weren’t handling the transition back here. Through lots and lots of prayers he is now a freshman at a private Christian high school in Niigata and is doing GREAT! He came to service during his winter break and the change in him is UNBELIEVABLE! Thank you all that may have prayed for him or his family. The two youngest we include in everything we can (they both were members of the Christmas play) and both do a great job during Sunday service reading Bible verses. Sayuri always is the first to pick out a song to sing. Their oldest brother, Hikaru is so wonderful. He is 19 years old, and mentally handicapped. He is so filled with God’s love! He is always smiling and brings such joy to our hearts every Sunday. He is able to read English a little so is always included in our service. He’s quick to greet everyone and although he may not be as advanced as others that attend, his attitude is one that we all envy. We wish we could go through every one of life’s trials and tribulations and still be filled with His joy! Hikaru is such a wonderful example of shining His light no matter what happens and has truly affected our lives. I find myself crying as I write this to you. Well, we are going to celebrate his baptism on Feb. 1st. It is going to be so wonderful to see how he accepts God’s Spirit. Last Sunday we did our English service on baptism and the last verse we read was: Acts 22:16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ After this verse I made the mistake of saying, “Hikaru, let’s go!” To everyone surprise he JUMPED up out of his chair, (I mean really high) and shouted “YES”! GOD IS SO GREAT! Please pray for not just Hikaru, but all those that he will touch.
Some of you have been praying for the young Japanese man (a former pastor) that was dying from cancer. He was only 40 years old and left a wife and 5 children, the youngest being 6 months old. He passed away last week, but not before leaving his mark on many hearts. His entire family moved into the hospital room with him to spend the last week, and there were no tears only a room filled with joy! He was such a strong testimony to all of the care givers. Two of the doctors are friends of ours and their wives are Christian but they are not. They couldn’t believe the family’s attitudes as his days ended. Please pray that God will use his passing to open their hearts and minds to His love. He even went skiing with his family Jan. 4th and 5th to leave them with a special memory. Oh for God’s Spirit to be so alive in all of our lives!
The rest of January has been pretty much normal as we are busy getting back into the swing of our normal schedule. God has been so wonderful and we look forward to His direction, His guidance, His leading, His wonderful blessings and most of all sharing His wonderful love with all we can throughout this new year. I pray you will all do the same!
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