All glory to God! This is our first report covering our first month as the interim pastor of the Immanuel Seisho (“Bible”) Baptist Church of Nayoro, Hokkaido, during the six-month furlough of the Smith family, their missionary pastor. God has already done many incredible things in our midst that only He could do, and we are thrilled to write to you about what an amazing start God has given to us for our time serving here in Hokkaido!
On March 30, we left the city of Minoo in the prefecture of Osaka, the place where our journey first began as missionaries in Japan, as well as what was our home for the last nearly 2½ years, to begin a new chapter in our lives and ministry in the city of Nayoro in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido. The following few days were spent with the Smith family, who planted the Immanuel Seisho (“Bible”) Baptist Church and has been serving here faithfully for the last 30-plus years. We spent the following few days learning about the more rural life in this region, as well as making several visits with contacts the Smiths had been witnessing to. It was a blessing to be able to meet and share my testimony with these contacts, as well as to preach my first of many sermons at this church in the afternoon service of Sunday, April 1, where Pastor Smith officially handed off this ministry to our care during his family’s furlough. We drove them to the airport the very next day, and with that, our new life and first pastorate in Hokkaido officially began.
The Wilhite Family, another missionary family who has served with the Smiths for 15 years and are now getting prepared to plant a church in the city of Kushiro, Hokkaido, has been a tremendous help and blessing to us with our transition into this ministry. Our first Sunday without the Smiths was Resurrection Sunday on April 9, and God blessed in an incredible way. By His grace, an adult Japanese couple that has been attending for the last month came forward during the invitation to trust Christ as their personal Saviour! Desiring to obey immediately, they made a public profession of their faith during the fellowship time that followed, and they even made the decision to follow the Lord in baptism, which is an incredibly difficult step for most Japanese people! We praise God that He truly moved in a way that only He could. We plan to have them share their salvation testimonies in front of the church for their baptism service, which will take place in the month of May. Please pray for Bro. & Sis. Mizuno as they both begin to grow in Christ!
In the midst of it all, we made another trip to Kisarazu from April 6-7 to complete another bank procedure in preparation for the planting of the Kisarazu Kibō (“Hope”) Baptist Church. Thank you for continuing to pray for our upcoming church plant. On April 15, we began a new weekly Saturday children’s program called Bible Adventure, modeled after a similar program run by the Senri Newtown Baptist Church. We praise God that 3 local moms and 7 children came to our first service! Since then, we have had 2 dads, 3 more moms, and 3 more children come as visitors to this program. Please pray, as they all heard the Gospel clearly presented and were given the opportunity to respond. As an added blessing, Bro. Kai, a young man who got saved during the special evangelistic service when we first visited this ministry last year, returned to church on April 16 after being away for some time. Please pray that he will continue to attend faithfully. We were overjoyed to hear reports from the Senri Newtown Baptist Church that Sis. Kurumi, who got saved last month during Teen Camp, has since returned with her family to church multiple times, along with many of our other friends in Osaka whom we have been witnessing to! God is moving in ways that we can only point back to Him! Thank you for praying that God would continue to do so.
Life in Hokkaido is so different from life on mainland Japan. The day-to-day lifestyle is different, and even the ingredients in the stores are different. There has been a lot of adjusting. Everything feels new once again, but it is such a joy to be working in the church here in Nayoro. I have gotten to know the kindhearted ladies of the church, like Mrs. Mizuno who recently got saved. The Wilhite family has been such a help in our adjustment. Right now, I have the privilege of teaching the children’s classes and playing piano for the services. For Bible Adventure, I have been leading the Adventure Time, where the children get to learn something new like a game, a craft, or how to cook something—all in English. Then during Bible Time, my husband will tell a story from the Bible and give a clear presentation of the Gospel. It is so encouraging to see the unsaved families return, knowing they will hear more about God and His love for them. Right now, we have several families that come every week! Thank you for praying with us that they will accept Christ as their Saviour. Thank you always for your thoughts and prayers for us as well.
Your friends and co-laborers to Japan,
Go and Danielle Oishi