Monday, March 25, 2013

Nagano, March 2013

God’s Blessings to you Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
             YEAH! Maybe spring has come!  But like many of you, we still have the occasional cold snaps and even snow come through, but the trees are starting to bud out and in a matter of days the plum trees will begin blooming followed quickly by the cherry and other fruit trees.  For the next month we will be able to see God’s splendor in the beautiful blossoms where ever we go.  We are blessed that every month here, including the winter months, some tree or wildflower is blooming.  We are constantly watching God’s wonderful paintbrush.  I always kid my students that the reason for the flowers to bloom all year is because God even worries about the little bee!  They need those flowers to continue their lives and provide us with honey.  Is it no wonder that honey is the only food that never spoils!!!!  What a wonderful God we serve!
            Last month we told you about the school system here and how it changes every year.  We are still waiting to hear from one of Kim’s schools, but it looks like there will be scheduling difficulties this coming year and about ½ of her classes will be canceled or given out to another teacher.  We are making plans now to how to adjust, and know and trust that God has the answers, and it will all work out for His GLORY!
            This coming Sunday, Easter Sunday, we will be showing the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’, during our English service.  We hope that some of our non-Christian friends will come to watch and that the film can touch their hearts and they can see how much Jesus loves them. 
            We just finished our annual church meeting, and many different things were discussed.  We are hoping to start a new women’s group, and possibly change our children’s church from happening before church, to being conducted upstairs during the service.  For both of these ideas, they may sound easy to most of you, but remember here our church only has a total of about  8 women, so scheduling ‘when’ is a huge difficulty.  Quite different from a church that has 50 plus women, where it is very easy to get 10 to commit to any certain date or time.  Please pray that the women can find a date and time that will allow all of them to at least participate sometimes.  For the children, even though we are a small church, weekly attendance averaged last year 17.4 people (data from the annual report) of those 6 are young children, 1 kindergarten, 3 elementary school and 2 junior high.  So we would need to provide only 1 class, but reach all the groups.  Hopefully the junior high children will remain in the adult service, but the next question is which person wants to do the class.  Remember out of the 17.4 people 6 are kids, 4 are the pastor and his wife and Kim and I so that leaves only 7 people available.  Definitely it seems many days we are facing uphill battles to grow the church. 
            This coming year we have tentatively scheduled many events.  The first will be the showing of the movie on Easter Sunday, then during May our church will work with others for a retreat, our annual March For Jesus, where we go down town and spend about 2 hours marching and singing songs for Him.  In June is the annual Ladies Luncheon where we normally have between 150 and 200 people attend.  During the end of July or the beginning of August we will be having our annual ‘Summer Bible/Sausage party’.  We usually get close to 100 people come out and enjoy the bible study, play games and enjoy the sausage and salad that John makes.  October will see us helping with a large Halloween party to build friendships and relationships.  Last year over 150 people attended.  The beginning of December is our community Christmas Party at a local hotel.  Last year John played the piano and other members from our church sang.  We plan on 200 people to attend. We also participate in a couple of Christmas parties for students and church children.  On December 23rd, we have our annual Christmas Caroling at the main train station, followed December 24th with our Christmas Eve service!  Last year 50 people attended!  Not bad for a church with only 17.4 average people attending!  Of course December also brings out Santa and our passing out of bibles and candy to many people.  Last year we were able to pass out 450 bibles and about 3,000 candy canes, so Christmas joy was spread to many.  This year with your help we hope to pass out ONE THOUSAND BIBLES!  To do that we need your help as each bible costs us about $1.50, so if you start setting aside a little each week, maybe you can help with 10 bibles come December!  If 100 of you will each contribute $15, we can make it HAPPEN!
            As you can see, we have a few things planned, not including the things we do during our normal week!  John has started a new Friday friendship group, with one member already coming to the Tuesday Bible Study, he hopes that this coming year will bring several more. We do several cooking classes, last year the summer children’s class was televised!  John was left alone as Kim was back in the states and our pastor had a previous scheduled meeting, but some how John enjoyed the 3 hour class and the pressure of being televised during the whole time!  So with the things that we have listed and the other normal activities, it looks like we will have no trouble keeping our plate full.  Luckily God is a great scheduler and still gives us time to support our children here and hopefully provide a way for Kim to come back this summer to visit everyone.
            This past March 11th was the 2nd anniversary of the tsunami that devastated much of the north east coastline of Japan.  I would like to say that all is back to normal, but that just isn’t true!  The government is reacting so slowly to the troubles of those affected.  Over 100,000 people are still without homes living in some kind of temporary housing with absolutely no idea when or where they can eventually move.  The government said 2 years ago that they would help in the rebuilding or relocating of those affected, but so far NO MONEY!!!!  Only government talk!  The good part is that the churches in those areas have grown stronger and more visible.  I don’t know how many people have found God since the disaster that killed over 20,000 people, but I know it’s a lot!  In our area, outside of a talk sometimes about the nuclear fallout from the Fukushima plant, or should we use nuclear power, you would never know that the disaster happened just 2 short years ago.  We pray that the government will finally release the money to help those families and they can return to a normal life, and in the meantime the churches continue to grow and strengthen. 
By His grace, God continues to equip us for every challenge and opportunity that He presents. 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.  In addition to our needs, if your heart leads you to send us financial aid for the 3/11/11 victims please make a note with your love offering that it is for the on-going disaster relief. Thank-you all so much for your prayers and giving hearts.
We hold you always in our hearts and prayers with praise and thanksgiving.            
In His love & always walking before Him, the Baranski Bunch