Blessings Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
It looks like the winter season, and with it the holidays are upon us! With the recent passing of Thanksgiving we have so many wonderful things to be thankful for. During last Sunday’s English service we took time to give thanks to God for our abundance that He has blessed us with. During that time I thought of you! How God has blessed us with so many wonderful family members, friends and neighbors that do so much for us each day. Most importantly we are so thankful for the abundant number of people that lift up prayers to Him each and every day. THANK-YOU ALL SO MUCH!
Here we don’t have the same type of Thanksgiving celebration. The 23rd of November is the national ‘Labor Thanksgiving’ holiday, but it is more a thanks for businesses than it is for anything else. In our town they have a large (lasting about 2 hours and close to 10,000 fireworks) fireworks display each year. They are all paid for by the different companies in our town and prefecture. It is always cold but we enjoy watching them each year. On Sunday the 28th, one of our members blessed us with a 22 pound ‘turducken’ that we prepared for the afternoon service. We had close to 20 people join us for our ‘Thanksgiving’ dinner. Probably for us the most difficult time of the year is the holidays. While many if not most of you are able to enjoy it with family, we can only be thankful that God has blessed us with children and parents that understand why we can’t be there. It’s been 2 years now for Kim and 6 for John since we have been able to return for a visit. It truly is the most difficult time. Luckily we stay very busy all the time and the end of the year is the busiest, so it helps to preoccupy us and helps keep the pain to a minimum.
On the 27th, we hosted over 30 parents from Zack’s basketball team to an American style BBQ. We are fortunate that our house is the old church, so we live in the upstairs and downstairs is mostly a large open space divided into several rooms. We have worked very hard in the past couple of years to clean it up (it was pretty much a storage area of STUFF!) and we’re so glad. With the cold weather we could easily seat about 40 people inside comfortably! Everyone had a great time and were so thankful for all of our work and effort. We had 7 layer bean dip, guacamole dip & jalapeno marinated smokies for appetizers; beef brisket, grilled chicken & sausage, pasta salad & onion shrimp salad and garlic toast. For dessert we had apple crisp! Everything turned out great and they are all looking forward to the next time we can gather together.
As we’ve told you before, sports here have no season, but they do stop for the seniors. This past weekend was the tournament for the ‘rookies’, meaning no seniors. Zack’s team easily won our prefecture again, and looks like they will continue to be the strongest in our area for at least the next couple of years. Zack and the other seniors are practicing harder than ever for their final tournament, the ‘Winter Cup’. It is held every year from December 24th until December 29th. There are 47 teams, with the winner from each prefecture invited. In our national Basketball Magazine, they had a good article about the tournament and some of the players. They had a grading system this year to rank different players. Each player was judged on 4 different categories such as shooting, defense etc. and in each category were 5 different things to be judged on, for example, shooting: 3 point, 2 point, free throws etc. Out of ALL the high school basketball players in Japan, our wonderful son was picked as the best ALL AROUND player!!!! We can’t be more proud of him.
December is our busiest month, with many different things going on. December 5th we have our community churches Christmas Party. This year the main program will be a young Korean Pastor that will be coming to sing and give the Christmas message. We usually have about 150 people attend, we hope this year will be the same.
On December 10th, John’s Monday ladies group will be having a Christmas party including their children. It is the first time we’ve done this and everyone is real excited.
On December 18th, we along with Mako will be having our annual Christmas party. Remember for Halloween we had over 180 people, so we are excited, but trying to keep our hopes reasonable as to how many people will attend. There are lots of conflicts with kindergartens and elementary schools this time of year, so we are praying for a good turnout. We always tell the Christmas story, and for many in attendance it will be the first time to truly hear why there is a Christmas.
On December 23rd we will be singing Christmas Carols at the main train station in Nagano City. We usually have between 50 and 75 people join us from different churches in the area.
December 24th starts with me having a Christmas party with a first grade class at a local elementary school that I volunteer at and that evening our candlelight service at the church.
Kim will have a chance at the 3 elementary schools and one high school where she teaches to share the true meaning of Christmas with all the kids. Here it is not forbidden to talk about Christmas, rather the schools almost beg you to tell them. So she will be looking at clever and cute ways to share the story with them. Please pray that His Spirit will lead her and guide her in the right way to help the children learn the true reason for the season. Here they don’t celebrate Christmas as it’s just another day, but all of the stores now decorate and sell Christmas items starting the 1st of OCTOBER! It is only a way to make money. Most kids receive 1 present, and everyone eats Christmas cake and fried chicken. At KFC you have to order 2 months in advance and have a reservation to get your chicken! The pickup time begins at 6 a.m. and continues at 5 minute intervals throughout the day! UNBELIEVABLE!!!! Please pray that all of our Christmas activities can be used for His Glory!
By His grace, God continues to equip us for each individual challenge and opportunity that He presents. Your prayers and support are necessary to our being here. We ask you to 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 praise and thanksgiving.
In His love & walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch