Greetings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
I greet you this month with my heart filled with sadness. I emailed many of you through either Sharon or Carol about the tragic death of one of the members of our church. I didn’t take the time then to tell you the whole story. Unfortunately Japan has the 2nd highest suicide rate of any industrialized country. It is second only to Russia. In the past several years more than 30,000 people per year die. It's a statistic that has always been alarming to me. The truly alarming fact is that it seems no one cares. The newspapers and other media are filled with stories about how stressful the peoples' lives are and how difficult everything is. No where are there reports of the tragedy of suicides. No reports about the sorrow or grief left to the survivors. No pictures of crying parents, a spouse and children left without a partner/parent. In fact the only time it makes the news is if it a government official or high ranking business man, and then the media only makes him out to be a hero that has been overcome by the pressures of life. All the time this number, was only a number to me until last Sunday.
We have several members of our church who suffer from different degrees of depression. All are (at least Kim and I felt) wonderful Christians so we could never understand how they could fall into the trap of depression. We always do our best to talk to them and cheer them up and focus on the wonderful life having God as your Lord and Savior. All the time we would try and lift them up, it seems like others would try to console them and tell them how sad they felt for them. The entire culture is kind of the same. With less than 1% Christian, it is definitely difficult to submerge yourself in a Christian lifestyle. You are constantly being bombarded with worldly views and impressions. Unfortunately, here, the world view is that suicide is accepted because we as people are too weak to handle the everyday stress of life. YUCK!!!! What a terrible attitude for a culture to have! Well last Sunday morning, May 17th, a young lady in our church who attends service every week, was there as usual. She ran the projector during the opening praise songs, stayed and had lunch and even helped with the dishes. Matter of fact she washed and I dried. Everything seemed normal. There were 3 of us doing the dishes, two ladies washing/rinsing and I was drying. We were talking and joking and everything seems so good. Nothing out of the ordinary. After finishing the dishes about 1:15 I went home to prepare for the afternoon English Service. The afternoon service went good, we had a larger attendance than normal and God had led me to talk about trusting Him. Part of the talk included 'is it OK to cry out to God and ask Him why bad things happen?'. I told them the story about our dear friend Ryne Wilhite and how God had gotten him through all his many battles with leukemia and his dad had watched him grow into a normal child. We remembered when Ronnie would bring Ryne out to our kids golf Friday mornings and how the medication had caused him to gain a lot of weight. We would watch his dad protect him and worry about him. Never knowing when God would call him home. I’m sure his mom and dad went to sleep every night wondering if Ryne would be there tomorrow. They were probably as prepared as possible for Ryne to die….but somehow he recovered. The leukemia went into remission and Ryne returned to an almost normal life. April 20th, driving back to college in Alabama Ryne and a friend were killed in a tragic car accident. I can’t imagine the pain as the parents now were not prepared for his death. I would, as I’m sure they have and are still, cried out….WHY GOD!!!!!! So that was our talk for Sunday. After the service we were preparing to eat dinner together when the phone rang. Mr. Maejima called and Kaori answered the phone. He needed Pastor to come to his house immediately. Pastor was in his home fixing pasta as we had more people than food. I went to his house and said that Mr. Maejima called and he needed Pastor to come immediately to his house. I gave Pastor the keys to my car (his wife was at work with their car) and off he went. About 15 minutes later I got a call back from a shocked Pastor telling me that our young (28 years old) friend had hung herself at 2 o’clock that afternoon. We were all shocked. We didn’t know what to do or how to react. Through the tears we all prayed together….and the rest of the week has been filled with many, many tear filled moments. The theme of the whole week was “WHY GOD”!!!!!
I thank you all for your prayers for the Maejima family. Kotoko's dad came this afternoon to the English service for the first time. He has his own home church, but today his daughter and son-in-law had flown in from America and they wanted to attend an English service. His oldest daughter married a young Chinese American man who is a youth pastor for a church in Illinois. The three of them all seemed pretty good, but you could still see the pain and anguish on dad’s face. Over 100 people attended the funeral in our church Wednesday night. Mr. Maejima used to work for the ‘Focus on the Family’ Japanese edition, so many friends from Tokyo came. Pastors from all over and many other friends. Our Pastor gave a wonderful talk that left everyone crying. Please, please continue to pray for the Maejima family, and also for this country to truly find God. Please pray for His Spiritual revolution to BEGIN! Please pray that they see and understand how terrible taking ones life is. Please pray that we have the strength and understanding to see things coming. THANKS!
On a lighter note, my drivers license expires in July so I need to get a Japanese license. We have been using International licenses which are easy to renew through the internet. I had to pass a written test, no trouble but now have failed 3 times the driving test. It is on a set course, with turns, narrow areas, difficult areas and ridiculous requirements. All 3 times my tester told me what a great driver I was but please come back. Last time I was 'too safe', but also drove the difficult areas TOO GOOD! WHAT!!! I failed for being too good! He said that I drove the difficult areas too well and if a child would have been sleeping in the street I would have hit them!!!! I could only laugh. Next time I will drive like my first time. SLOW…like a bad driver…I think I will pass!
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