Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
Greetings to all of you as we await the coming of spring and the many wonderful sights that accompany it. Here it is still very cold, although the last couple of days the temperature has warmed into the lower 50’s we know that we still have over a month and a half of snow weather coming. The area ski resorts stay open usually until the 2nd week or so of May, so even if we are warming up, it may only be temporary. Unfortunately, sometimes this weather is like our spiritual lives. We have our warm days, but too often they are followed by a cooling spell. Don’t you wish you could remain hot for God EVERYDAY! It is a difficult challenge that we all face. Our work here is often caught up in hot and cold days. The country is so spiritually poor, possibly the poorest religious country in the world! Most people say they believe in either Buddhism or Shintoism, but if you ask them questions, they have no answer or basically zero knowledge of the teachings of either. Sadly it has become only a cultural experience for them. Most celebrations have their basis in religion, but are now only performed out of tradition. An example we recently had a national holiday called Foundation Day. It is an old holiday that celebrates the traditional teaching of the start of the country with the first Emperor, Jimmu. National Foundation Day (kenkoku kinen-no-hi) is a national holiday in Japan celebrated annually on February 11. On this day, Japanese celebrate the founding of the nation and the imperial line by its legendary first emperor, Jimmu, who established his capital in Yamato. The origin of National Foundation Day is New Year's Day in the traditional lunisolar calendar. On that day, the foundation of Japan by Emperor Jimmu was celebrated based on Nihonshoki which states that Emperor Jimmu ascended to the throne on the first day of the first month. In the Meiji period, the Japanese government designated the day as a national holiday. This coincided with the switch from the lunisolar calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1873. In 1872, when the holiday was originally proclaimed, it was January 29 of the Gregorian calendar, which corresponded to Lunar New Year of 1873. Contrary to the government's expectation, this led people to see the day as just Lunar New Year, instead of National Foundation Day. In response, the government moved the holiday to February 11 of the Gregorian calendar in 1873. The government stated that it corresponded to Emperor Jimmu's regnal day but did not publish the exact method of computation. In its original form, the holiday was named Empire Day (,Kigensetsu) It is thought that the Meiji Emperor may have wanted to establish this holiday to bolster the legitimacy of the imperial family following the abolition of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The national holiday was supported by those who believed that focusing national attention on the emperor would serve a unifying purpose. Publicly linking his rule with the mythical first emperor, Jimmu, and thus Amaterasu, the Meiji Emperor declared himself the one, true ruler of Japan. With large parades and festivals, in its time, Kigensetsu was considered one of the four major holidays of Japan. Given its reliance on Shinto mythology and its reinforcement of the Japanese nobility, Kigensetsu was abolished following World War II. Ironically, February 11th was also the day when General MacArthur approved the draft version of the model Constitution in 1946. The commemorative holiday was re-established as National Foundation Day in 1966. Though stripped of most of its overt references to the Emperor, National Foundation Day was still a day for expressing patriotism and love of the nation in the 1950s. My older students were taught in school that Japan was 2,600 years old coinciding with the start of Emperor Jimmu in the year around 600 B.C. Of course today they know that there were people in the country thousands of years before. Also prior to the end of World War II the emperor was considered a Shinto God. The top member of the National Religion. With the end of the war, General MacArthur told the people that it wasn’t true, the emperor was only a person. So many today still blame the ease of getting rid of their main god as one of the reasons Christianity is having such a difficult time establishing itself. When the nation was told that their national faith was based on incorrect information, they started to wonder about the need of any religion. Today, if you ask most people what is the meaning of the holiday, they have many different answers. Also in our town there is a large Buddhist Temple which is the host to every holiday or festival. It doesn’t matter what faith it is, they invite everyone in. It truly appears to be more of a business than a religious experience. So many of the National Holidays have become only traditional celebrations that have lost most of their original meanings. The western events that they have included in their annual calendar of events have been changed or adapted to their own culture. For example Christmas is celebrated on the 24th of December, each child gets 1 present placed on his pillow while he/she sleeps and they eat fried chicken and eat Christmas Cake. Everyone works on the 25th. This month was Valentine’s Day, but it is different as chocolate is given by girls to boys. It is almost an obligation so a woman working in an office has to buy chocolate for all the male members in her office. It has no romantic meaning. To balance it out, on March 14th they celebrate ‘White Day’ when the men buy something white, usually cookies to give back to the girls that bought them chocolate. It is truly just a gift giving holiday that the stores have created and promoted.
On January 31st we had our 5th Sunday singing and it was a great time for everyone.
As most of you know, Zack has been very active with his basketball, and the rewards are starting to come. Even though he has well over a year before he will enter college, he has already been invited by 4 different universities to come and play basketball. He will have to choose by April which one he wants to attend, so please pray for God’s guidance in his choice. We will support what ever he decides, and are so proud of him. The school he (and we) is leaning towards has offered him a scholarship that would save us about $50,000!!!!!! for 4 years of higher education WOW!
*Heather’s father-in-love, Charles Hefner, continues to receive 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