Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas for Some English Students

Every year John and our friend, Mako,
get together and do a Christmas party for their English students.

This year was John's turn to do the program planning.
He recruited students and friends to do the Nativity play.
They all did a great job and it was well received by the 150 or so in attendance.

There were several fun activities for the kids and perhaps their favorite was wrapping presents!
Being the thinker that he is, and with more than 1000 bibles (thanks to dear friends!) to wrap,
John came up with this idea as a game and the kids loved it!

The kids all got a present from Santa and most got their picture taken with him.
This little girl came again and again just to smile and hold hands with Santa :-)

After a long morning of spreading joy, Santa was all tuckered out!

It was a great time and so good to be able to share the true meaning of Christmas with so many.
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A tidbit to tide you over...

Wow! Can you believe it's Christmas 2013!!!!
Had lots of fun with several different classes and kids of all ages celebrating Christmas

To the young at heart...
Santa was kept busy spreading the True Joy and Reason for the Season with Nagano City
and the young in years
Christmas trees of every sort could be seen
The Tokai Seagulls are two time National Champs!!
Zack was interviewed on national TV!!
He was also featured on one days ticket!!
Just had to share...
a dear friend treated us to dinner after the basketball
at his favorite tempura shop
these little darlings were but a small share of the delicacies we were served!

I hope to have lots more added on here close to the beginning of  2014!!!! (really?!? 2014!!!)

Merry Christmas from Nagano!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
            What a great month we are just wrapping up!  December is definitely our favorite, but also with all the joy comes the sorrow of being so far away from most of our family!  This is our 11th Christmas since coming back to Japan as Missionaries, and also marks the 11th Christmas spent apart from so many of our children and family members.  This was the first year that our house had no children, both boys were busy, one at college (Christmas is not a holiday here) and the other working too far away to make it home.  So after prayer, thought and talk we decided that we should do our normal routine, so early Christmas morning we were off to spend a little time with one of Kim’s elementary schools and participate in their Christmas program.  Each class sang a wonderful Christmas song, then in came Santa to spread more Christmas cheer.  Along with the cheer each of the children received a special candy from Santa!  They were all so pleased and wonderful.  Later during their class time, Kim was able (as she is at all the schools she works at) to tell the true reason for Christmas.  We are looking forward to the end of the year and a little (we think well deserved) rest.  The country basically closes from December 27th until January 5th, so we will get a good time to catch up (Kim is hoping to post LOTS of Christmas activities on the blog) and John has time to get ahead with his Tuesday Bible Study.  They are presently studying the book of John and it takes about 3 weeks on average to cover one chapter!  It is a very great study and he can see the change in many of the non-Christians that have been attending as they are opening their hearts to God’s wonderful love more and more each week.
            Before we start about all of our activities this month, November ended and December started with Zack and his team playing in the National University Basketball Championship.  THEY WON!!!!  For the second year in a row they are National Champions!  Zack was chosen as one of the 5 best players in the tournament.  He was interviewed on TV and his picture was on one of the ticket stubs! (Hopefully we will show you on the blog)  They start out the New Year with the Emperor’s tournament, which is for ALL the teams in Japan, the top high school, university, company and professional teams.  The tournament lasts about 3 weeks, and our boys usually do great until they face the professional teams who are much bigger and stronger, but this year their goal is to win one game against the pros!  Let’s go TOKAI!!!
            OK, back to our month.  We had many wonderful events that Santa was invited to, the best was our joint Christmas party that we do with our wonderful friend Mako.  We had about 200 people there, and using members from our church and a few of John’s students, they acted out the Nativity story.  We are blessed that one of the missionaries here has made costumes and he graciously lets us borrow them.  It was a wonderful performance, and surprisingly even the youngest children paid close attention.  We do four parties a year with this group, so they are really starting to build up their trust and faith, so are very open to hearing about God from us!  Of course Santa was busy leading games, songs and passing out presents to all of the children.
            Our most wonderful experience was the passing out of OVER 1,000 BIBLES!  It was truly wonderful.  Kim always comes to assist Santa, and keep him loaded up with gifts, but waits at a distance and sometimes hears comments.  This year one lady after receiving the present, walked away, opened it, and said, “WOW! A Bible!  I need to go get one for my husband!”  Now if that isn’t enough to make you want to give out more, about 30 minutes later she returned with a friend and told her, go get one of Santa’s Bibles!  Just that one lady makes it all worthwhile.  We pray that the Bibles will touch many, many people’s hearts and the gift that YOU made possible will change their lives!  So a special thanks to all of you that donated to this wonderful work that God allows us to do!
            Our church’s children’s Christmas party was held last Saturday and we had 24 children and 11 adults attend.  We sang songs, most in Japanese, then John taught them Silent Night to sing in English!  Surprisingly they were louder singing in English.  After the singing our Pastor gave a short message about the true meaning of Christmas.  Then we broke up into groups and made snowmen (wrapping toilet paper around one of the children) complete with buttons and bows.  Then they made wonderful Christmas decorations to take home, followed by some yummy snacks and finally presents from Santa!  Two wonderful ladies from our church put on the party and provide EVERYTHING!  Praise God for them!
            December 24th, was our annual Candlelight Service!  We had a good crowd of over 30 people (6 of John’s students) and special music provided by our friends from Kanta Kiara.  The leader of the group is one of the main Buddhist Priests from our local Zenkoji Temple!  He gives an explanation of each song and why it was written.  The music is all classical Christian music written hundreds of years ago.  Then some special music from our English service members, 3 junior high students, one on the drums, a flute, and saxophone plus the father of two of them played the electric bass and John joined in on the piano.  They did great and the ‘little drummer boy’ will be baptized at our January 1st service!  PRAISE GOD!!!!
            We also had some other things, a couple of cooking parties, lunch out with students and the reading of the Christmas story with our community center class!  So yes, we are ready for some rest time!
            For most of you this month was filled with lots of family activities, and parties with friends! For us here, it will be times when we are apart.  So please to all of our family and friends, know that even if we aren’t there, you are ALWAYS in our hearts and prayers!  We love you all so much and TRULY miss spending time with YOU! Especially this time of year, it helps to remember that Christmas isn’t about OUR family but HIS!!!! So this year,  remember, it’s not about you but HIM!!!!  GOD LOVES US ALL!!!!
By His grace, God continues to equip us for every challenge and opportunity that He presents. Should any of you feel God asking 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 addition to our needs, the 3/11/11 victims still need much so if your heart leads you to send us financial aid for them please include a note that it is for the on-going disaster relief. Thank-you all so much for your prayers and giving hearts.
With praise and thanksgiving, we hold you always in our hearts and prayers.            

In His love & always walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch   

Saturday, November 16, 2013


We went from the relative comfort, meaning not really cold, of autumn with all its vibrant colors...
to THIS and COLD!!!!!
Literally over night!
In fairness though I must admit that it lasted only a couple of days here in the city and daytime temps warmed back up a tad - temporarily. Those mountain area schools I go to every week though are getting whiter by the day...brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
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The Best Mexican food in Nagano!

The junior high kids that come for English service on Sunday afternoons are all in the band.
They just finished competing in the National Junior High Band Competition and received a Champion Award!!! WOOHOO!!! They've worked so hard, practicing for hours before and after school and on weekends, so it was awesome to see their joy at being rewarded for all their efforts and time.
We'd been planning to have them over for a fun and casual get together and decided this was the perfect chance. Two of the kids are brother & sister and their family belongs to our church. Due to having band practice every morning, weekends included, they couldn't attend morning church. This was the original reason they started coming in the afternoons even though their English was near non-existent. (It's really improved) John puts lots of thought and effort in to making the talks interesting and engaging for the kids and it shows because they really enjoy coming now - it isn't just something they 'have' to do. With encouragement they started inviting friends to come with them and it warms our hearts to see them willing to openly share their faith.
Back to the Mexican food!
We wanted to do something they could help in the preparation with and that they don't get regularly.
John had precooked the meat but other than that they made everything.
He instructed them in the steps as they made seven layer bean dip, guacamole, pico de gallo and cocoa krispie treats for dessert (I know, not Mexican, but quick and easy and yummy)
Everyone helped and everyone enjoyed the fruits of their labors!!
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Halloween in Nagano

A bit behind but still wanted to share some of the things we did in October.
We know there are some who feel that Christians should not celebrate or recognize Halloween.
We personally do not feel that way and hope not to offend anyone by our actions/activities.
Living in Japan we do our best to take advantage of every opportunity to reach others for Christ.
Using a story I'm sure many of you have seen comparing a pumpkin to being a Christian we enjoyed using this to teach several of our students while carving the pumpkins.
For most this was their first experience carving a pumpkin and to relate it to the Christian comparison was a fun and enlightening experience.
The first three pictures above are my English Club high school students.
We had about ten pumpkins of various sizes and had fun talking, sharing and creating.

These next three are the junior high youth that attend the Sunday afternoon English service that John leads.
Along with a young man from Indonesia and our Pastor's wife, this was a first for all of them.
As they each created their own masterpiece they took turns reading the comparison story along with some related Bible verses.

These three are from the annual Halloween party that John and our friend, Mako, do for their English students. This year there were over 100 kids and around 150 people in total! They had fun playing games, singing songs and trick-or-treating.
(Since John has been wearing the same costume - remade, over made and redone again & again - for the past ten years I really think we're gonna have to come up with a whole new plan before next year!)


Last but not least, we used one class at one of my elementary schools to teach the kids - and as it turned out the teachers, too! - how to carve a pumpkin and how it relates to life as a Christian.
As a first time experience for all I think they did some pretty great work!
We also went trick-or treating around the village but I somehow didn't get a shot of that in here...
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

if anyone is there...Hi!

Well, if anyone still stops by to see if there's anything new here...Hi!

I think by now it's a well UNdocumented fact that I'm not really good at this thing called blogging. Not if being consistent has anything to do with being good.

Somewhere in some format I have tons of pictures from so many different events that I would love to share. Seems every time I at long last sit down and try to update our lives and happenings on here when I try to include pictures I get almost finished and lose everything. It's so far past frustrating.

I think it's been almost two months since I was last here...
needless to say much has taken place since then.

Birthdays, anniversaries, church, school, music, sports, holiday events... LIFE!

It's been so long we've gone from the sweat and heat of summer to the snow and heaters of almost winter!

Our family in the states are busy and far as we know pretty much happy and healthy - from our parents to our grandchildren and all in between. Praise God!

John and I are both doing lots of English classes and our schedules are very different. Mine are all day time and in school settings here, there and yonder. While his are scattered all around as well, he does classes at church, community centers, others' homes, our home and many evening and night classes. In that circumstance we are very thankful for the times we have to spend together and God manages to give us a good bit.
Since our children were very young we have always tried to make time for the two of us together a priority - for the benefit of all of us. Having lived for 7 1/2 years here in Japan when most of our kids were still home with us and pretty young, that often presented a challenge. Those of you in the states where 'baby sitters' are a common and accepted thing need not to take it for granted. Japan is one of those countries - still - that doesn't really have that term in  their vocabulary.       Ok, got a little distracted there.    
Any way, whether we're sitting in the same room doing our individual activities, side by side watching a show, sharing devotional/Bible time or going out some place together - it's such a blessing to do it together.

It's been 10 1/2 years since we brought our family back to Japan to serve as missionaries to help grow God's kingdom. In that time we've experienced all the up and downs, highs and lows, good and not-so-good of life that is common to everyone. The difference for us, the part of our lives that far too many don't have, is our belief, faith and trust in the one true God! It gives us the assurance that when we are in the midst of any experience that is beyond our understanding that we are going through it with the One who knows everything that is, was or ever will be. God's word is filled with His promises to each of us. God keeps every promise.
We never intentionally 'test' God or His word. Still there are times when we are deeply concerned by some circumstance. In those times when we doubt, wonder or question, God has repeatedly provided. At times it is exactly measured out according to the need. Others the abundance stuns us. Awesome God!

In moments when I reflect on all the times in my life that I struggled yet came through, there is one constant - God. Whether I was on my face pleading with Him or He was pushed somewhere in the far reaches of my mind hidden behind everything else, He was - is! - always with me. His love, grace and strength are what brought me to this place in my life.

He is why we are in Japan.

Those of you that know God as Lord and Savior... can you imagine going through life without Him???
Less than 1% of the Japanese population know God and have chosen Him. He told us all  those years ago that we needed to come and share His word here so that the 99% would have the opportunity to choose Him. Little by little, person by person, day by day, in our every day life and activity we do our best to live so that everyone who sees us sees some bit of God. Something that they recognize as missing in their own life that they want! That 'something' being God! It breaks our hearts to know that the vast majority of those we see every day will not know eternal life with our Lord as they are now.

Sometimes we're told that we 'don't seem like most missionaries'. God knew perfectly what kind of people we are when He told us this was His plan for us. Our strengths and our weaknesses and how He can  use our life experiences to reach the people here that don't know Him as Lord. I am humbled beyond measure that God would choose us to go out in this land for Him. In this walk it means everything to know without doubt that when I struggle or stumble my God is beside me to help in whatever way He knows is best.

So I want to say a special prayer of thanks for each one of you that has been a part of this journey thus far. And for those that continue on with us or join in the future. Every word of encouragement, every smile, every prayer, every offering is a special blessing and a part of why we can be here doing what we can in mission for God. Our children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, extended family and friends are walking this walk with us in ways even we can't fully comprehend. We pray unceasingly that the true joy of the Lord, the peace that only He can give overflows in every life.

Monday, September 23, 2013

I Know, I Know!

Yet again I have done miserably at keeping this blog current.
But it's OK,
because the reason the blog has been left behind is because LIFE has been moving forward!
I was blessed to be able to spend a month in the states this summer seeing family and friends and having precious times with them.
*FYI-there may be about 40 pics here with some commentary thrown in here and there and I make no promises to  the order of any of it
I started out in Arizona with John's Mom.
I love this woman.
Her love for God and family and friends speaks volumes.
She has her refrigerator loving covered with all sorts of photos, and these particularly caught my eye.
The top two are of John and his brother... waaaay back when several years ago.
The bottom two are of Heather and Bo's sons quite recently.
Family resemblance....?

I had a really nice visit with her... until the wee hours in the morning the day I was to head to Texas.
It was not the way we would have chosen to end our visit...911...ambulance...trip to the hospital.
Still I am so thankful I was there with her and all is well now with things checked out to prevent a redo of that scare! Thanks to all of  you who sent up prayers.

Once I was certain she would be OK I headed on to Texas. YAY!!!

I got to catch up with several friends from high school and that's always a blast!
Then I headed to Boerne for a morning of hugs, prayers and fellowship at St. John's.
This is always a highlight of my trips back.

I stayed - as always <3 - with a dear friend in Boerne and loved the time to share. We got to catch up with a couple of others for lunch and had fun reminiscing and talking about how much our families have all grown and changed since those days we all home schooled together!

It warmed my heart to see my brother healthy and back out doing what he loves with the horses!

They are at a really nice place not too far from the folks.
There is this little tank that he was anxious to show me...
the dog was excited about it as well ;-p
All those dark spots you see...
No need for a pole and hook - just grab the net!!

Mom and I had a sweet visit with Shawn and Nancy
and of course I loved being around the horses!

Next up, Mississippi!
(well, sort of. my folks drove me in their motorhome and we did make a stopover in Louisiana to see some other family members I rarely get to catch up with. but I think those pics are some where scattered below...)

I got to watch Charles and Will at Karate practice. What a kick! (haha!)
They're both pretty good but I must say big brother takes it more seriously.
We got some Japanese lounge wear for the fam. Yes, Will did get some but by picture time he had all the excitement he could take and was sleeping soundly.
I love that I got to be there with my folks, kids and grandkids all together!
Below is four generations of love!

Nothing like a little one on one with your great-Gramps

He just might be Mommy's boy...

This one definitely takes after Dad!
Quite the gardener, too, just look at that cabbage! 

Bo & Heather treated me to dinner in Memphis at Texas de Brazil. A-MA-ZING!!!
Then we walked a bit on Beale Street and were entertained by the Beale Street Flippers.

...future Duck Dynasty-ers...

I had a great week with the boys before it was back to school!

Well, about those 40 pics - apparently you cannot upload quite that many at once, so this is nowhere near all I have to share, but due to things beyond my control (or perhaps my lack of computer knowhow) seems that is all for this session.
I will really really really try to get more up soon. REALLY!
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