Monday, January 25, 2010

January 2010 in Nagano

Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
Happy New Year! We are so thankful that through your prayers and support we are able to begin a New Year serving Our Lord and Savior! Thanks so much for all that you do to help us in all God lays out for us each day. To show our thanks we want to share our annual report to our local church here in Nagano of our past years’ activities. Remember that NONE of these things could have been done without YOUR help! We are so grateful and filled with so much love for each and every one of you. Changing the hearts of the people here is such a slow and difficult process, we are so thankful that with your help, we are constantly filled with His love to continue to carry out the work He has for us.
Our Daily Routine: At the beginning of 2009 I had 8 classes Mondays at the church, I have three morning classes with usually all of the 11 o’clock class staying for lunch. Which gives me a chance to reach out more to the ladies. I have two children’s classes in the afternoon then 3 evening adult classes. The Monday morning classes continues to be our best classes for getting members to participate in church activities. Many of the ladies meet three times a week with us, joining the Tuesday Bible Study and our Friday Friendship group. Many also attended the summer sausage cookout where they heard the story this year about the 10 Commandments, the fall overnight camp trip, the Halloween party, our Easter party and the Christmas Party where they and their children were able to hear and watch the Christmas story. 2009 allowed us to add more names to our email list for the Tuesday morning Bible Study. We now have THIRTY SIX people that we send the study too! Our weekly attendance is in the mid teens, but we have several people now that have been coming for a LONG time and you can see His Spirit working in their hearts! We pray that soon their hearts will be totally opened to His love! We again did an outdoor Bible Study in August, Mrs. Sato led the children with the story of the 10 Commandments. We had nearly 40 people attend this year! My Tuesday lineup increased as I was able to add a young lady to a private Bible Study in the afternoon and also added a second class in Shinshushinmachi along with keeping the two evening classes. The Shinshushinmachi class is about a 30 minute drive, but the families are really open to me, and last summer we were able to have a summer cook-out, an overnight camping trip and a Christmas party together. I am really building wonderful relationships there and several of the families came to Nagano for our Easter program as well as our Christmas program. Wednesday’s start now with a private Bible Study with one of our neighbors. She is a wonderful young lady and is attending all of our functions with her children and her family has come the last two winters to our Christmas Caroling and this year attended the community Christmas program. In the afternoon I travel downtown for a private class then back to the house for 3 children’s classes, two made up of neighbors kids and the other from outside. After the 3 kids class I have an adult class. When that class is finished I head out (about 9 o’clock) to the local driving range and give free golf lessons. I presently have 3 people that come each Wednesday. 2 ladies and 1 man, the ladies both attend Tuesday Bible Study, so it is working into a great outreach. Thursday’s continue with the two classes at the Asahi Community Center in the afternoon and an evening class at the Red Cross Hospital. An important part of the Community Center classes taught by Pastor Kitamura and me is the use of songs between the 2 classes. God’s word is introduced often through songs and at this years Christmas party the members participated in reading the Christmas story and sang 9 carols that went along with the story. Presently two members have been coming all year to the Tuesday morning Bible Study. Last March as a group we also sang at the Asahi Community Center in front of about 200 people, the 12 Days of Christmas and Amazing Grace! Praise God! We have added one additional class on Thursday afternoons as our neighborhood children want more. So 6 children come to our house in between the community center and hospital class. To help fill out my Thursday’s I changed the elementary school classes from Friday’s to Thursdays. Unfortunately in October my schedule and the schools conflicted, so I no longer volunteer at the school. Friday’s are kind of relaxing. I started the year with a morning class but two of the mom’s are having babies, so we are now on hold. In the afternoon Kim and I both have open fellowship at the church with any of John’s students that want to come. The group is still growing and we have moved the meeting place to our house. On Sunday I lead the English Worship service with an attendance now that regularly averages 12-15. In the morning I go to the church and cook breakfast at 7 am for 3 other men that make up our music group. We eat then practice for the morning praise songs. I am still continuing also providing the piano music during the Japanese service.
Kim has gotten real busy. She started the year teaching at two locations, a company class and at a local High School. Both classes have finished and now she is teaching at a local elementary school and has started a new class with a local English company. That is basically our daily routine for 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
The family contributed many times throughout the year shining His light in Nagano. Some of the things they did were; Kim taught several cooking classes; marched in Nagano’s “March for Jesus”; helps with the English Bible Study; prepares lunch at least once a month following Sunday church service; prepares the evening meal for the Sunday English Service twice a month, fixes a dessert several times a month for the English Service; meets individually with many different people; always has her heart open to help and comfort those around us and shines His light wherever she goes. John participated in a Halloween program and Christmas program for over 100 children and their parents at a local community center; this year we performed the Christmas Story during the party; sang and performed as Santa at the train station; helps with the fifth Sunday sings; leads the Sunday afternoon Worship service in English; plays the piano for the morning service and always makes time to email words of encouragement to many people. Biggest new activity this year was the Easter egg hunt where over 100 people came and hunted eggs including the 12 ‘Resurrection’ eggs to allow us to tell them the wonderful story of our Lord and Saviors’ resurrection. Ian is busy working in Hakuba where he is able to shine God’s light to so many people each day. Zack is very busy with school and basketball, but shines His light everywhere he goes. During this years Winter Cup, during the National TV broadcast it was mentioned about Zack and his family coming to Japan as Missionaries! Both have brought friends to church activities.

*Heather’s father-in-love is still undergoing treatment 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, January 18, 2010


Didn't manage to get the four of us collected for a photo but we did 'capture' Zack with us.
This pic is misleading though 'cause he's really a good bit taller than his Dad!
(check the shoulders ;-} )

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20! The "coming of age" in Japan

20 is a big deal here!
You're now legally an ADULT!

So they have a special ceremony to "prepare" and congratulate you.

Ian, and his best bud, Ken, dressed for the occasion :-)

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Nakamura High Cup

Immediately following the Winter Cup there was another 3 day tournament with teams from several prefectures.
Zack received the MVP award!!!

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Winter Cup 2009

Zack's team, Tokai Third, made it again to the all Japan high school Winter Cup Tournament held in Tokyo.
They won their first game with no trouble.
Game 2 pitted them against the #2 team in the country and Nobeoka was expected to blow them out.
The Tokai Third team had other thoughts... they lost by only 8 points and Nobeoka was surprised at the battle.
We're really proud of our team!
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Caroling at Nagano Station

The area churches got together for the annual caroling at Nagano Station.

As usual everyone wanted their picture with Santa...

so this time I decided I better get one, too!

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17 already!!

It's true! Our baby is 17!!
Kaishu, Zack's team-mate & room-mate happens to share the same birthday,
so I made it a joint cake for them to share.

The design was John's idea.
You have NO idea how hard it is to find lion figures here...
2nd choice because basketball players are non-existant!!!
Thus - the "Kings of the Court"

There was enough to share with the team and Coach :-)

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John's English Christmas Program

O.K. So obviously I'm (yet again...) wa-a-ay behind on this blogging thing.
To begin with I'll just add picture proof
of some of what's been keeping us meeting ourselves coming and going,
with a blurb about what they are.

John & Mako again held their joint program for their English class students and over 100 people joined in the Christmas fun.

John's younger students did really great spelling out "Merry Christmas"
and giving an English word for each letter.
Some of the Moms joined together to sing "White Christmas" -

in English! Of course!

They shared the Nativity Story so all would know the true reason for the celebration.
The "star- Baby Jesus" was just 19 days old!!

Naturally Santa showed up with gifts for all the kids to wrap things up.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

December Newsletter

Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
MERRY CHRISTMAS! Yes our greetings to all as we celebrate the birth of our wonderful Lord and Savior. December is always the busiest time of the year for us, with so many wonderful activities.
I know many of you will be traveling this Christmas Season and pray that all have wonderful trips and experiences. I think each of you before making your trips will make all the plans necessary. Airplane tickets, hotel rooms, where to stay, how long will it take, food preparations, gift buying, I think every detail will be planned. How about God’s perfect plan? Years and years in advance! ALL THE DETAILS!!! Don’t you wonder why he forgot the hotel room? Was it an oversight? Was He too busy? Was he trusting His wife? (oops that’s my excuse, ha, ha) No, that baby born in a manger was ALL part of God’s perfect plan. Remember that message to the shepherds? Luke 2:8-12
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
The perfect gift, the newborn baby. All the details taken care of, from the Roman government demanding the census, to the baby being born. All the details carefully planned. Why would God choose the manger for His Son? When I think of a manger I think of a feeding trough. A place where all kinds of animals can eat. When the food is placed in the manger, the stable manager is saying, come and get it! Look what Jesus said: John 6:53-58
53Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Where else should we go to eat than the feeding trough? What a perfect place to find the gift that came down from heaven. What does Jesus call it? Verse 58:
58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Please go to that manger each day and eat your full! He truly is our Spiritual Food that DID come down from HEAVEN!
We ended November with our annual community Christmas party and pageant at one of the local hotels. We had about 150 people in attendance with a pastor and his wife from Karuizawa providing the message and special music. Before the message, local church members read different passages from the Old Testament leading up to the need and reason for the coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
On December 17th Kim and I were both busy at two different events. Kim headed up into the mountains to a small elementary school where she aided in their Christmas program. She is now teaching there every week and really enjoying herself. The school has just over 200 students so she is getting to know the kids and really making a difference in their school environment.
Also that day I had his end of year Christmas Party for about 30 members at the Asahi Community Center. The day started at 11 with John leading a cooking class for the members. A wonderful meal filled with 4 different vegetable dishes and the main dish a white fish smothered with a cheesy seafood sauce. Everyone loved the food as we ate lunch together then moved upstairs for the reading of the Christmas Story. Each member has to read a certain portion of the story and then we sing 11 different Christmas songs during the story to help them understand the meaning. I played the piano and for the conclusion sang Thou Didst leave Thy Throne in Japanese as a special present for them.
On the 19th, Mako (lady baptized at our church 3 years ago)and I had a Christmas party for our students and their families. Over 110 people attended. The party started with members from our church performing the Christmas Play. We are blessed to have access to wonderful costumes that another church loans us. After the play, each of the classes did special performances to showcase their talents. Santa made an appearance at the end and was the wonderful ending to the day.
On the 22nd, we had our Christmas program for our Tuesday Bible Study group. We again read the Christmas Story with the singing. It was so beautiful. We have 4 members that we think are really getting close to accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Tonight, the 23rd we sang Christmas Carols downtown at the main train station. We had over 85 people show up. 3 non-Christian families from our Tuesday Bible study joined us, so we ask for your prayers to touch the hearts of all those that we witness to each day. But especially during this holiday season that our Lord’s Spirit can truly open up the hearts, minds and eyes of many this season.
The 24th our church will be having their Christmas Eve concert and candlelight service. We will be having a 1 hour concert followed by the reading of the Christmas Story, singing and the message by Pastor Kitamura. We usually have around 60 people attend, and hope this year will be no different.
As we’ve told you before, Christmas isn’t celebrated here. Now, every (well 90% or more) family will have Christmas Cake, fried chicken and a single present on Christmas Eve, but the 25th is work as normal. All of the stores are decorated since the end of October and Christmas songs are heard every where. There is no trouble saying Merry Christmas, especially in the schools where it is encouraged and the teachers want us to teach them Christmas songs. So different than in the states!
*Heather’s father-in-love is still undergoing treatment 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