Merry Christmas from Tokyo!
Merry Christmas and seasons greetings! It’s been a long time since my last update and we’ve had some life changing things happen this year, which I’m excited to share with all of you! At the same time, I want you all to know that we’ve been praying for y’all, knowing that there are so many things going on all over the world that are affecting everyone, and it seems like more problems are getting piled on the ones we had last year and the year before. So, my encouragement and prayer for you is to abide (that is, to endure under the weight of those problems) in Christ, as He also endured the cross for the joy set before Him. This may seem like an oversimplification of things, but I think it’s so important to have this mindset (and if you’re into word studies, have a look at where this word is used to see why!). Whether it’s trials of this life, or whether it’s true persecution (which I would argue that most of us have probably never experienced the kind of persecution that's mentioned in the bible, literally running for your life, chased down and hunted for your faith), if we abide in Christ, in faith, in love and hope, this is how we become not only stronger in faith and in life, but also how we’re proven (or approved…James 1:12). It’s the idea seen in scripture several times of gold being tried by fire so that it will be proven. The fires will come. The gold is your faith! So, I encourage you to think about what you’re abiding in. Are you abiding in finances? Are you abiding in a president or a politician or politics in general? Are you abiding in the culture of this day and age? Are you abiding in your own self sufficiency? These things change with the wind and are swept away with the storms. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Abide in Him.
Now, for that big news! On July 4th, 2022, we welcomed our daughter, Kanae Sophia Lopez, into the world! Kanae is from two Japanese words, kanade (奏 - equivalent to Greek Psallo, to play an instrument, particularly with strings) and megumi (恵 - grace. It can be read as ‘e’ in names) ) so, roughly translates to ‘Resounding (musical) Grace’ and my wife chose Sophia for a middle name, which is Greek for ‘wisdom’. Colossians 3:16 says “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing yourselves with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing in grace in your hearts to God.” This is a key verse that I often use as a starting point to talk about praise, worship and the role of music and arts in the church.
You might be wondering why, even though Kanae is 6 months old now, you’re just now hearing this news! A younger me would be posting pictures every day on instagram and facebook, documenting all her little milestones and funny moments. But I felt led to keep our first 6 months private, as things would have been before social media, and just enjoy sharing this time as a family and sharing with those around us personally as we meet people and talk with people. Honestly, without getting on a soapbox about the state of social media these days, I feel like not posting anything for the past 6 months has been refreshing (seriously, y’all should try it!).
We get a few questions and comments here and there about her eyes. Kanae was born with the same genetic eye disorder as me (which I also inherited from my father), which is called Blepharophimosis. (literally ‘muzzled eyelids’) syndrome, or BPES (Blepharophimosis-Ptosis-Epicanthus inversus Syndrome). It’s a rare condition caused by a mutation in the FOXL2 gene that inhibits the development of the eyelids, particularly the muscle that opens the eyelid (Ptosis, or ‘falling’ eyelids), inverted corners of the eyes (Epicanthus inversus) which cover the tear duct and make the eyes appear farther apart (Telecanthus, or ‘distant eye corners’). In girls it can also cause premature ovarian failure as the FOXL2 gene also controls the development of the ovaries. After her first birthday, Kanae will be having two surgeries at Keio Hospital to correct her eylids, which I also had done as a baby. The other condition will be something we will have to address when she grows up, and something we will need lots of prayer for. If you’d like to know more, feel free to reach out!
Kanae has definitely changed our life, but has been such a joy for us. Every day she does something new and it’s exciting to watch her grow and learn. Of course, raising a child has its challenges and, like all parents, we’re having to learn to adjust. But there’s also many things we are learning from the process, like what it means to have the faith of a child, what it means to be nourished up on the Word of God (like milk!) and progress to solid food (the ‘meatier’ things of scripture) and for me personally, what it means to have the love of a father.
Along with Kanae’s birth, something very interesting is happening. While the birth rate in Japan has been the lowest in recorded history, there are several in our community (other brothers and sisters in Christ, missionaries, and particularly those in music and arts ministries, for some reason) who have been having and will be having babies for the first time, and then others who are having second and third and fourth children. First timers are all having girls, second/third(and a fourth) timer are all having boys! It’s an interesting phenomenon, but certainly something that God is up to, I’m sure. I’m thankful as I feel this will be an opportunity for us to grow closer with these families as our kiddos grow up together, to encourage one another, pray for one another and support one another also while we minister together.
As for other ways we’ve been serving this year, it’s still difficult to have the big groups in small spaces (particularly our home) like we used to because of the virus (especially now with a baby), but it’s given us a chance to focus on individuals and couples. As always, it’s my prayer that we will be able to get back to doing larger gatherings and hosting travelers in the near future, but I have come to realize that the one on one (or two on two) gatherings can be quite impactful and shouldn’t be ignored.
One point of prayer in this regard, I hope to be able to fully purchase the home we’ve been renting, ministering out of and taking care of, which is currently owned by a missionary couple who have returned to the States. I’m praying for wisdom about the right time to do a fundraiser for this purpose, and hoping to learn more about how to do so in the meantime. I would certainly appreciate any prayers and advice.
The interlinear bible project (そのまま新訳) is progressing a lot and we’re hoping to release a few books that have been fully completed and do some beta testing in the new year. Before Kanae’s birth I was able to spend a lot of time doing lots of back-end improvements to make the data input process easier and quicker for everyone who is working on it as well as front-end tweaks and additions to make everything work for the user. The most time consuming and challenging thing is now the translation of individual words for a concordance as well as the word-for-word interlinear. Getting the nuances of the words to work between Greek and Japanese is important for making this a useful tool for Japanese speakers to study.
As for music related ministry, I’ve been working with another musicianary who is also living in Higashi-kurume (and newly married!), Luke Standridge. Last Christmas he produced a Christmas album for the group Ruach (a vocal group of 3 sisters and a brother, one of which I’ve known since my second trip to Japan in 2016) which I played guitars on. We were able to do a full concert of the album this year at CAJ here in Higashi-kurume and it was a lot of fun! I’m looking forward to lending a helping hand to future projects with Luke and other artists and groups and churches here in Japan.
Speaking of Higashi-kurume, there is a missionary from India who has been here over 30 years. He opened an Indian restaurant in front of Higashi Kurume station called Ruchira 7 years ago and is one of the best restaurants in town. For many of those years, we’ve had a men’s bible study on Wednesday mornings, which has given me the opportunity to get to know other brothers living in the city and has been a big encouragement for me personally. This year, Sobi was asked by the owner of the building Ruchira is in if he wanted to use a vacant spot a coupe doors down, so he opened a cafe called East side Café & Dining. As expected, it’s also excellent and has become a favorite for many people here, including my wife and I. I helped set up the social media and also created the website for the cafe. They have both been a great ministry for Sobi and have helped connect a lot of the believers here. If you ever come visit, chances are I will take you to one of these places to share a meal!
As always, your prayers and support are greatly appreciated. Looking forward to the new year it seems that the world is getting darker, but I am hopeful knowing that God is at work, even in ways we may not see just yet. No matter your own situation or circumstances, I pray that you will look towards the One who is our sure Hope and look away from the things that are driving so many towards hopelessness. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Much love in Christ,
Kyle, Ai & Kanae