It’s always amazing to me how each new year seems to move faster than the last. It feels as if 2019 has just begun, yet it’s already Spring and April is a few days away! This year started with some new challenges for my wife and I. She officially quit her job teaching English in February and is job hunting. We spent the end of 2018 and the beginning of this year trying to figure things out and how to adjust, brainstorming different possibilities, exploring various opportunities and praying a lot. I even took a small teaching job to try to make some extra ‘cushion’ money for the time that Ai was out of work, and now that has ended, as well. It’s been a difficult but valuable learning opportunity for both of us and has brought us before the Lord in prayer many times. She has been learning more about living in faith and trusting God for the next step. On the other hand, I’m learning more than ever about my role and function within the body of Christ and what ‘ministry’ really is, especially within the context of a country that put so much emphasis on “what you do” and where the term “missionary” (especially as it is translated in Japanese) can carry such a weight that makes it difficult to connect with people sometimes. For us as a couple, these things have given us a new perspective on how we can minister together, particularly in the area of building relationships with individuals who are all going through difficult times and need love, mercy, encouragement, prayer and just someone to open up to. It’s been such a blessing to see my wife use the gift of mercy and cheerfulness that God has given her to love on the people He brings into our lives. In the same situations, I’ve discovered more about what it means to be an encourager in exhortation, and it’s beautiful to see how the Lord brings these two Romans 12 gifts together for the edification of the body of Christ in love.
With Byron Spradlin, President of A.C.T. International
As for other ministry, there are many things beginning to bear fruit from seeds that have been planted in the short time I’ve been here and I can’t wait to tell you all more about them as I’m able to share more. I had the chance to meet up with Byron Spradlin, president of A.C.T. International while he was in Tokyo and filled him in on some of these things and was encouraged by him to continue walking in faith as God opens doors and reveals more of His will. I’m thankful for A.C.T.’s support, prayers and cheering me on from back home, and it seems there may even be some future co-laboring with another A.C.T. ministry in the near future, but that’s for another newsletter. ;)
With Ian Nagata in his studio
One thing that has been in the works for a few months is a collaborative effort with fellow musician Ian Nagata to use recording and production lessons as a way to minister to creative believers here. Ian brought his idea to me over a lunch meeting in December and we began bouncing ideas back and forth in the following weeks. As of February, after I ended my teaching job and had the time to focus, I’ve been spending time with Ian personally to help him learn more about home recording and production (and I myself have been learning to use Logic as I’ve spent the majority of my years in ProTools) so that we can start teaching some musicians/songwriters in different churches who have expressed interest in this field. Ian’s has two goals for this ministry. First, helping people learn these skills will encourage songwriters to work out their ideas and increase their creativity. As their skills improve, they will be able to start working within their own congregations to create new music for the church throughout Japan. Perhaps some will eventually open studios and help other believers who want to record, helping to fill a need that has existed for Christian in the arts here for quite some time. Second, and more importantly, by working directly with individuals or smaller groups, we will have a chance to help them gain a better understanding of their place in the body of Christ and to equip them in their gifts and to help them grow spiritually to be able to better serve the Lord and become rich in their knowledge of Christ as they minister to the church through art. We’re also looking forward to partnering on some recording projects for congregations that are writing their own Japanese praise and worship songs. Please pray that the Lord would guide us both in this partnership as we work together towards the edification of the church.
Ambiguous TV studio photo...more news to come!
In regards to our music ministry as a couple, as we and the other brothers and sisters at Wako Bible Chapel have been distributing CDs to believers throughout Japan, doors have been opened for my wife and I to go and share music and encouragement with other churches and through other media such as radio and even television. We have some local events starting this month with more being worked out in other regions later this year. One challenge, and a prayer request, is how to avoid the ‘concert’ pattern since we don’t wish to be performers, but rather worshipers and encouragers to the body of Christ and as those who express the Gospel clearly for the sake of unbelievers.
As for workshops, there seems to be an interest among some congregations to equip people in the worship arts and these interests have been expressed to us through some of our recent personal connections. Please pray that the Lord would guide us and those He has connected us with as we work out details for such events so that we can be effectively used to do our part in equipping the saints for the work of the Kingdom.
A wonderful group of students at Tokyo Christian University
At the end of February, I had the privilege of co-teaching a class at Tokyo Christian University with my friend Gaius Berg for his Ministry Studies program. This particular class was focused on the Ministry of Worship and we had a wonderful discussion about the dynamics and differences of ‘praise’ and ‘worship’, as well as the importance and purpose of music and art in God’s design for the body of Christ. It was also a great chance for me to dive deeper into a topic that I’ve studied a lot over the past several years and, as is always the case when studying scripture, I gained a better understanding of not only the things that directly relate to my own field of ministry, but also how it connects with the broader functioning of the church as the temple of the Holy Spirit and the priesthood of each believer in Christ.
With WIND (Barbie and Nori Kelley) at SonRise Cafe
Lastly, I had the joy of sitting in with music missionary duo WIND (Nori and Barbie Kelley) from Mussel Shoals, Alabama when they were playing at the SonRise Cafe in Oyama. It was a ton of fun and we were all mutually encouraged. There were also some Japanese friends there who heard the Gospel for the first time. I hope to be able to join in and minister with them again in the future!
Once again, thank you all for your prayer and support. I’d like to ask each of you to pray specifically for God’s guidance particularly regarding the direction of our ministry as we learn more and more about our place here and how God will use us. As Tokyo is a ‘slow’ mission field, it can be tempting to try to make things happen on our own effort as opposed to waiting for the Lord to lead and show us His will. As we see things beginning to bear fruit from seeds that were planted in the past year and a half, we would appreciate your prayer for our preparedness towards each responsibility that the Lord gives us.
Much love in Christ,
Kyle and Ai