Wednesday, December 25, 2013

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   

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