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. That was our greeting last month as the weather seemed to be changing, but now as many of you look around you, you are faced with colder temperatures and yes some of you with fresh fallen snow. I think this weather is often a mirror of our spiritual lives. We have days when we grow closer and hotter for our Lord, and then too often they are followed by days when our hearts change to a much cooler reaction to His presence in our lives. In the case of the weather, we know that if we just wait awhile that the weather will change, but in our spiritual lives, I imagine God is doing the same thing. Hoping and wondering if we will change. I pray that each and everyone of you that is reading this is totally committed to following Him each and every day of your lives.
Most of you know that it was through a ‘Walk to Emmaus’ that God asked us to come to Japan. We are still HERE! We try our hardest to every day continue to live the ‘fifth’ day as best we can. Do we struggle? YES! Do we fall? Certainly in some aspects! Do we continue to follow Him? DEFINITELY!!!! Every day of our lives no matter where we are or what we are doing, we are representing Him! It doesn’t matter where we go, or what we do, most people know that we are here as missionaries. All of our students, all of our friends, in our community most people with children in school, and surprisingly people throughout this country know that we are missionaries. You all know that God sometimes works in mysterious ways, but through Zack, our name has been mentioned on national television many times. Zack and his team have been televised nationally 7 times in the past 2 years and Zack is loved by the broadcasters. They love his style of play and the way that he is with the other members of his team and also with his opponents. During the games the announcers ALWAYS go into detail about Zack’s life. He was featured last year as one of the top 5 players in the country in one of the major basketball magazines, so they give him lots of attention. For the other boys, all we know is their names, but for Zack, they tell his whole history. Where he is from, when he came to Japan, what schools he attended, and for everyone to hear, that his father is here as a missionary to help others know about God! Yes, without a doubt, wherever we go for basketball, all of the people in the gyms know that we are missionaries. Who would of thought that God would use Zack’s basketball as a way to help open doors for us. He is truly an awesome God!
Last Sunday we had a wonderful service and dinner tho unfortunately it had some sadness involved. It was a special good bye service to 6 people that have been coming regularly to our English service. Especially Shintaro, a young man who just graduated with his Master’s Degree in mechanical engineering. He has come basically every Sunday for the past 5 years. He has often been to our house and for the last couple of years also an English student of mine. All the time he has been here in the university he has organized bible study groups at both university campuses and has a large impact on many people’s lives. He will be moving to Yokohama and working for Mitsubishi Heavy Equipment and we know that he will continue to shine God’s light each and every day. We also said goodbye to Frank, Karina and their three sons. They have been coming for about 9 months and are now heading back to Canada. They are not sure exactly what they will be doing, but know they want to follow God’s will in their lives. Please pray for Shintaro and the Buikema family that they will continue to seek His will each and everyday, and receive His blessings.
As most of you know from previous newsletters, the Japanese school system runs from April until March, so we are now in between school years. It is always so funny for us, the kids get less than 3 weeks off between school years, and really no vacations, as the children are all given homework to do before the new year starts. Zack had to buy his books three weeks ago, and hopefully is busy doing his homework. For him most of the ‘vacation’ will be spent playing basketball. The 20th to 22nd they played for three days with a major university team from Tokyo. The 26th/27th they have a 2 day tournament (6 games) in Kyoto. Then the 29th/30th a 2 day tournament (again 6 games, 3 each day) in Nara, followed the next weekend with another 2 day tournament in Osaka. Whew! So no rest for the boys. The sports teams here all run 12 months out of the year with no time off to rest the bodies. It is paying the toll now for Zack’s teams as their first three guards are all out with leg or back injuries. Zack is always in pain from either the knee, lower back, or most recently hips, but when you ask him “how are you?” he only responds “great”. We pray for all the boys’ health and endurance.
Because the school year won’t begin until after Easter, both my classes and Mako’s have trouble this time of year having full enrollment in our kids classes. Last year we had about 100 people attend our Easter Egg Hunt, so this year we scheduled it for April 17th. We know that it is after Easter, but we will have much better attendance and thus get to tell more people about God. The word ‘Easter’ has absolutely NO MEANING here. Everyone knows the name Christmas, although they don’t know the meaning, but no one even knows the word EASTER! So we make it a fun event using the classes the week before the hunt as time for all of the kids to paint and color eggs. It is fun to watch as the children (and moms) have never done anything like it. We go out early in the morning on Saturday and hide the eggs and later the kids will come out for the ‘hunt’. We give all of the kids ‘Easter baskets’ as a way to remember the day and also hide 12 special eggs that we use to tell the Resurrection Story. We give special prizes to the kids that find the special eggs and everyone listens as we have 2 people explain the meaning of the contents of each egg. It is a wonderful time to see so many people hear about the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Please pray that His Spirit can use this event to open up the hearts of all those that attend.
*Heather’s father-in-love, Charles Hefner, continues to receive treatment for cancer 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