Greetings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
What a wonderful start to our February. We welcomed in to God’s family Hikaru! He was baptized on Feb. 1st at the end of our English service. It was so great to see him and the joy that flowed out of his spirit during the ceremony. Normally at our church here we use a baptismal pool and completely submerge the new member, but in Hikaru’s case his Mom and Pastor were a bit concerned about his reaction, so decided to only sprinkle water on him. It was so great! He was shaking with excitement! He is truly a blessing and such a wonderful child of God’s! Please check our blog for a couple of pictures of his baptism.
February and March are really busy months for Japanese students. Here the new school year starts the first of April, so during February and March the Junior High School students take tests to go to High School and the High School seniors take tests to enter a university. For the Junior High students they have to choose the high school that they wish to attend. Each school is different and has different entrance requirements. While a school in the states offers many different career paths, from college, business or even technological, all of the Japanese High Schools specialize. In our town we have about 7 High Schools that specialize in College preparation, but each one prepares you for a different level of college. So if you want to attend a high level university that will give you a better chance for future success, you have to take the test for that high school. If you fail you get one more chance at another school. If you fail the second time you have to sit out a year and do private studies and then return next February to try again. It is really tough on the children. The same is true of the entrance to the universities. Each has it’s own test and requirements. One of my students has taken entrance tests for 5 different private universities, but can only take one for a public school. It really puts a lot of pressure on them and the cost is extreme. Again, if they fail, they sit out a year and then retry. There are no junior colleges like we know them and it is almost impossible to transfer from one school to another. Since your test score determines what school you attend, the people’s work and studies are not necessarily what they enjoy doing, but rather what they qualify for by their test results.
Also, for the juniors at the university, now is job hunting season. Usually they are hired before they start their final year at the university. With the depressed economy now it is becoming increasingly more difficult. In Japan, April 1st marks the start of the new business year and almost every company starts new workers on that day. So there are huge welcoming ceremonies and training programs that all start on April 1st. Those graduating from the universities and awaiting April 1st will use this time as a large vacation, for many of them, possibly the only vacation they will know until they retire.
Our classes at the church are following suit, with kids so busy, attendance varies from week to week. We are starting to make plans for our first ever Easter Egg Hunt on April 11th, so please start to pray for us. We will use a homemade Resurrection Egg Kit as a way to get out the Easter story. Christmas is popular here as a fun holiday and we were fortunate to share the real meaning at last years Christmas party to over 100 people. Most hearing it for the first time. The Easter story is not known at all. Easter is not found in any store, any newspaper, or talked about on the streets. So we hope that around 50 people will attend, and through the story of His wonderful resurrection that God’s Spirit can start opening the hearts and eyes of many of our wonderful friends. It truly is sad most days to see so many that don’t know His wonderful love.
This month we finalized the events for the coming year, so please pray for an evangelist meeting at our church on May 15th, our March for Jesus on May 24th, the Korean singing group doing two concerts at our church on August 25th and 28th, also the location and date of our community Christmas pageant. So please pray for the Guidance of all those involved and that each event will be used to open up the hearts of non-believers. The reality of our area is that our prefecture, Nagano, has a population of 2,214,757 but only 0.35% are Christians! That means only 7,751 Christians in Nagano-Ken and 2,207,006 NON CHRISTIANS! So it is a mighty task and daily we have lots to do. Please pray that more and more will come to want to shine His light in our community. We try and do as much as we can, but the results are often non visible. Please pray that we can keep up our desires as well as fuel the desires of our fellow Christians. Without your prayers it would be impossible to continue. Thanks so much for each one that is lifted up on our behalves. We will be going on March 5th to renew our visas so please also include that the government will issue us new visas so we can continue His work here.
I’m trying to decide if I’ll continue to volunteer at one of the local elementary schools this year. I’ve worked there the last 4 years, but am not certain that God might not use me somewhere else better. We have some wonderful lady friends that are opening their hearts more and more to His love and possibly the Friday’s free would allow us to spend more time witnessing to them. So please pray that I can feel God’s desire in what decision to make with the school.
Last month we talked about how well Zack played in the Winter Cup tournament in Tokyo. It pits the top team from every prefecture in Japan. There are a total of 48 teams represented. We told you Zack’s team finished in the top 16 this year, the first time ever for his school, but the end of January the National Basketball Magazine did a highlight section of the high school basketball, especially the Winter Cup. Zack was featured in several pictures and was chosen one of the top FIVE players in the TOURNAMENT! YEAH! You can see some pictures and newspaper articles (sorry you probably can’t read them) on our blog. All three games were televised on National TV, and when Kim comes back to the states she will have tapes so I hope some of you may get a chance to watch him. You won’t understand what the announcers are saying, but you will recognize Zack’s name, they really loved him. ;-)
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