Friday, June 26, 2009
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
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...?
Zack is still staying as busy as ever between school and basketball.
Just after I returned from the states Tokai had practice games with a high school from another prefecture.
I may , perhaps... be slightly biased -
Still, I'm quite sure he gets better every time I see him play ;-}
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
After !!5!! attempts (which by all stories is relatively few!?!!) and ridiculous amounts of yen he is the proud holder of an official Japanese driver's license!!!!
WOOHOO!!!!! This is indeed a very big deal and cause for celebration :-)
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
We bought baskets so all the kids could have their own to collect the eggs in.
Scattered in among the eggs the kids had colored to be hidden were 12 "special" eggs that would be used in telling the story.
The "Resurrection Eggs", numbered 1 - 12 were used to help tell the story and bring to life for them the meaning of Easter! To hear all that God offers each one!! They never knew this before!!
After hearing the Easter story the crowd enjoyed a great meal of grilled sausage dogs & pasta salad that John prepared.
(I was in the states celebrating the impending arrival of our 8th grandbaby ;-} Talk about a blessed Easter!)
You heard about the big egg hunt and telling of the Easter story John planned for his students families
They were all busy the week before coloring eggs.
This was a first for all of these kids!
And most of the moms, too, if not all.
John wasn't sure who enjoyed it more... the kids or the moms!
Pastor Kitamura officially welcomes Sayuri & Keisuke as our newest members of the church this March - Praise God!
The two ladies seated husbands' were transferred this year so John compiled a book of our recipes for them as farewell presents and along with several other of his students we had a 'good-bye' lunch for them
The opening ceremony each year in April for school - as well as almost everything else in Japan! -- is always a big deal and especially for the incoming first graders. John always tries to be there at the elementary school where he volunteers to welcome the new students.
these girls go to the junior high by our house and walk by every day, often stopping to talk with us a bit to practice their English and play with Ebony & Onyx. We had them over for a hamburger cookout one Saturday - quite and experience!
Sharing some evening "hanabi" with some of our neighbor kids and their moms.
Usually together, John and I do a kids/Moms cooking class for his students and friends a few times each year, often at the church.
After the cooking we all enjoy the eating and fellowship :-)
Monday, June 15, 2009
Heather has her hands full with Bo in Iraq, and she handles it all like a pro ;-)
No longer the youngest grandbaby, Will is taking on the role with love!
and you can see how excited she was about the whole thing ;-)
She and Mommy are all dressed up and ready to hit the town.
Nothing like relaxing on Baba's shoulder...
I did have an amazing time being back in the states and spending time with much of our family and getting to see a few dear friends.