God’s Blessings to you Dear Loved Ones & Prayer Partners!
Yes, it’s spring and soon summer is upon us! The mountains around our home are all filled with so many different and beautiful shades of green. You would think that seeing only green would be boring and not exciting, but if you think that way, come visit us. The greens are so BEAUTIFUL! It is unbelievable how His brush could do such wonderful things with what I consider a very blah color. Boy am I wrong! In the distance we can still see lots of snow on the higher mountains. The ski season is officially over, but still lots of snow at the higher elevations. It is so beautiful….the near mountains covered in green and the distant ones covered with snow. It is a beautiful area in every season.
This Sunday, May 26th we will have our annual March for Jesus. This will be our tenth time to participate. We meet in front of our main train station at 1:45, then at 2 p.m. we start out walking and singing for the next 2 hours. The walk takes us through the main parts of town and right through the middle of Nagano’s version of the red light district. Not really red light, but filled with night time drinking establishments that do cater to every desire. During our walk, hundreds of people will hear us singing and praising our Lord and Savior. We sing 5 different songs continuously for the two hours. It is pretty tiring, but so worthwhile. Unfortunately out of all the Christians in our community (of course it is less than 1% of our population) only some where between 50 and 70 people will come to participate. Of those about ½ will be pastors and their families. The culture here still looks down on people that move outside a ‘group’. So if you declare yourself as a Christian you can still suffer many repercussions, starting first with your family, 2nd with your neighbors and also with your company. The same trouble is sufferedby those that want to believe but are still so afraid. In our Tuesday Bible Study group, I have 4 ladies that I feel truly believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior but are afraid of what their family, friends or neighbors will do if they are open about it. We have members of our church that when they proclaimed Jesus, they were literally kicked out of their home and disowned by family. In some cases married people, the worse case was a mom with 3 children that when her husband discovered she was a Christian kicked her and all 3 kids out of the house. They later got back together, but the fears are definitely real.
So many Christians won’t come walk with us for fear of friends or co-workers seeing them which is why over ½ of the walkers will be directly working for a church. We had a good friend who was a teacher at a junior high school and believed in Jesus but said she couldn’t become a Christian until after she retired, because she was worried that the other teachers and administration would cast her out. Yes, we can worship freely here, but there are LOTS of RESTRICTIONS!
Most Fridays I volunteer with a small group of ladies for a Friday friendship group. Last week they came to our house for lunch. Kim was off that day so joined us for lunch (she made some AWESOME brownies) and one of the new ladies decided to join us for our Tuesday Bible Study. Her English level is very low, and yesterday told me that it was too difficult and she wanted to stop, but I tried my best to encourage her and give her the courage to continue, so please pray that God will talk to her and intervene in her life. She attended a Christian University in Tokyo, but doesn’t know much about God. Also please pray for the other ladies in our group for the Spirit to open up their hearts to the wonderful gift that He has for them. Yesterday’s group had 8 ladies with 2 that have been coming to the Tuesday Bible Study for a couple of years, but are still searching. Please pray for their salvation and also that they can be wonderful witnesses to the other ladies in the Friday group.
June 22nd is shaping up to be a very full and long day for us. That evening a young woman from Australia (who use to be a member of our church when she lived in Nagano) will come and sing for a benefit concert to help end human trafficking in the Asian area. It is so sad, and so many women and children still being basically sold and abused. We hope that our small church can be an aid in at least a minor role. That morning we will be working all day with the Happy Spot Club for their annual major event. They are a group that works with people of all different ages and abilities. From young mentally and physically handicapped, to orphans and further with the elderly. There will be so many different events and performances throughout the day. Everything from a‘Down syndrome’ dance group, to physically handicapped drum group. Besides the handicapped children that will perform, many people have volunteered to do things to help others, for example, one lady who has a beauty shop, will set up a small area for free make-up and hair styling lessons. A group from the local university will perform, alsoa group of 6 families that will be in town from Los Angeles will do a flash mob song. They are here on a short term mission trip, so they are excited to shine His light throughout the day. I will be Santa Claus in the morning, as they have many wonderful gifts to give out to the children, and who better than Santa! In the afternoon I will change costumes and enter the wrestling ring for my professional debut. Of course my match will be a warm-up for the main event which will be a 3 man tag team event. The head man of the Shinshu Wrestling Federation will team up with two young men that have Cerebral Palsy and can’t walk but have dreamed about being wrestlers. The ‘Great Mucha’ has been training them for months, and they are READY!!!! The will face three professionals, including the SWF champion, but I am already thinking I know who the winners will be!!!! Please pray for a successful event that everyone can enjoy.
On June 2nd (Happy Bday, Ian!) we will be doing our annual cemetery visit. We will go to all of the graves of those that were members of our church and sing, pray and place fresh flowers.
Zack’s team finished second in the Kanto tournament. It is made up of over 100 universities, and all the best in the country. He was chosen one of the top 5 players! He was the leader in steals and offensive rebounds, 2nd in total rebounds and finished 5th in scoring. As always we are so proud of him and his team.
By His grace, God continues to equip us for every challenge and opportunity thatHe 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. 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