Advent-newsflash 12 December 2012
At this time of the year few people have either the time or the inclination to read e-mails. Therefore a few sentences only on our work and life, hoping that they will be short (and sweet/clear) enough!
Click here to see more photos that illustrate the things I mention here below…
In the month of November …
… Carina made the Advent Tree for our home until late at night … we now celebrate each day with great expectation the joy of Jesus Christ’s birth coming up soon.
… we really enjoyed the blessing of Gideon van der Watt and Elsabe du Plessis’s visit. We could share our deepest feelings with them, and were encouraged in various ways. With their guidance, and in conjunction with our RCJ colleagues, the official decision was made to accept RCJ Tokushima’s call, and therefore we will not move to Takamatsu. We are extremely glad and grateful about this. Please read here (as described by Gideon) what the reasons were for this decision.
… Lodewyk turned one … angel during the day, inconsolable at night (read: we sleep very little!), but we thoroughly enjoy him!
… watched Kei and Kazumi Kataoka (RCJ Tokushima’s minister and his wife) when Yuna, their firstborn, was baptized.
… we said goodbye to (father-in-law) Tobie and (mother-in-law) Annalie once again. They returned to South Africa: tired, but content. Read here their report about their 3 months’ support work in the disaster area. They will continue being involved with Mission Japan in new ways in the future. Read here how Gideon explains these possibilities.
… we attended a marriage enrichment seminar facilitated by Tobie and Annalie. Carina had also written some introductory thoughts on our own attitude towards being a family and intentional participatory parents, and we presented it (in Japanese) together in one session. The English version is also available. Read it here…
… we bought a bigger (second-hand) car at a fair price, thanks to the support of Mission Japan, who contributed the larger part of the cost. It is totally due to the sustained contributions of supporters that these things are possible, and from the bottom of our heart thank you VERY much!
In December the busiest time of our year lies ahead with many encounters with friends to share something of Advent with them, sermons at various congregations, Christmas worship services etc. It is exciting, but also demanding. We will sincerely appreciate your prayers in this time!
May you receive from the fullness of Christ’s grace one blessing after another (John 1:16).
God’s peace and joy
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk
Newsflash 7 November 2012
The year-end is fast approaching, and there’s a great deal to write about after our activities of the last two months.
Invigorating time of rest
Our annual leave was truly necessary and good… we relaxed in a rented timber house in the Takayama (missionary) holiday resort, to the east of Sendai. All around us cleaning operations were still going ahead full-steam, 18 months after the three-fold disaster. Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk wholeheartedly enjoyed the freedom of play-time all-the-time, and the frequent beach excursions. Interaction with other children (especially Americans) was also at the order of the day. Carina and I were able to take a breather, and had more time for in-depth conversations than is usually possible amidst two toddlers and one infants’ care-taking, education etc.
The turn of the season full of action
With the advent of autumn during the past 5 weeks, we have been well occupied by:
- A valuable 10 days’ visit to South Africa, during which I conducted a presentation at a conference in Stellenbosch, had an honest talk with executive members of Mission Japan about our ministry and life and the future for it, as well as enjoyed several encouraging conversations with ex-colleagues, friends and relatives. Due to Carina’s parents’ wonderful support – amidst their own busy schedule – I could have peace of mind during my absence from home and Carina was not totally overburdened …
- An inspiring 3 weeks’ involvement in the disaster area as volunteers with father- and mother-in-law Tobie and Annalie . Carina baked an enormous number of cakes for a “coffee shop” which they had initiated at Sakura House in Matsushima East. We also paid the temporary housing scheme for disaster victims a visit; played with children from the area and sometimes helped them with their homework, joined them on excursions etc. Click here for more photos which tell the rest of the story … just scroll down to view it.
- Attendance of the annual RCJ synod meeting. This year it was my turn to convey fraternal greetings on behalf of Dr Kobus Gerber (General Secretary) from the Dutch Reformed Church. It was a good language exercise to do it in Japanese. You can read it here in English. There were several other good conversations, eg. about the possibility of a group of young people from the RCJ who would like to become involved in an existing HIV/Aids project of the DRC Family and reach out on grass roots level in 2013.
Gripping diary to read
Their focus was specifically on a ministry of loving support and service, and active listening to those who were willing to talk. If you would like to obtain better insight into the nature and scope of the De Wets’ support work in the Sendai disaster area during the last three months, read their absorbing diary at http://www.missiejapan.co.za/dagboek – and share in the life-changing narratives of many disaster victims. Note: most of the diary entries are in Afrikaans, but some are in English (just scroll down to find it).
- Between 11-14 November in-depth talks on the expectations, challenges and content of Mission Japan’s missionaries’ work and lives are to be held. Final decisions on our, as (Van der Watt) family’s, longer term establishment and ministry approach are also to be made. We have been officially called by two congregations, namely RCJ Tokushima and Takamatsu, and the decision on which one is to be accepted, must be made in this time. For these important discussions the management of Mission Japan has deputised Gideon van der Watt and Elsabe du Plessis to visit us in the next 10 days. It will also be an opportunity especially to support Carina emotionally and to experience personally the growth in the Happy Kids children’s ministry.
- On 23-24 the second Marriage Enrichment Seminar will be held in Kobe. Tobie and Annalie will conduct it, and Carina and I will also have the opportunity to meet the participants, especially with a view to the focus of our future ministry (on family related issues).
Please pray with us
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 has again helped us in recent times to distinguish on what we need to focus during our being-here: joy, gratitude and dependence on God (prayer). Share in our joy and gratitude about the above opportunities and experiences, and please pray for November’s talks and opportunities that will require fine discernment and wisdom. Pray also for renewed strength for Tobie and Annalie who have just returned (exhausted) from the disaster area, and also for the blessing of the Holy Spirit on their recent support work.
We appreciate and rely on your continuing support. Thank you very much!
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk (also on behalf of the De Wets and Oliviers)
Newsflash 8 August 2012
We are hearing more and more sounds of Japanese cicada insects (called semi), and are reminded that the summer is in full swing. For us as a family this also means our yearly rest period is coming up. This year we will spend some time in a missionary resort called Takayama close to Sendai, from middle August. After that we will also be involved in some volunteer support work, in co-operation with the RCJ Sendai and Higashi-Sendai congregations, and together with Tobie and Annalie, until middle October. You can follow their life and work through their diary in Afrikaans, or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
I also received an invitation from the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), to do a presentation at a conference held at STIAS in September. It is a conference on “South African Masculinities in the media” ( http://www.sun.ac.za/workforce ) – the same topic on which I did my doctoral research in the field of pastoral care. Mission Japan’s executive committee decided to support me financially to be able to take this short trip. For this I am extremely thankful!
The following will be the primary goals and relevance of this visit to South Africa:
• For academic exposure and valuable experience as research fellow of the University of Stellenbosch’s Faculty of Theology.
• To do a presentation at a conference on an important societal issue (masculinity in the media), as a practical theologian and church member, is a unique and valuable opportunity.
• For the building up of contacts who are specifically involved in the same field of research, and who can be a sounding board for similar future research in the Japanese context.
• My research on masculinity focusses on the issue of power within relationships. Therefore, it also involves themes that are relevant to the church in Japan (and South Africa); eg. the abuse of power within intimate relationships (like marriage); absent fathers within family networks; domestic violence; the role of Christian men with the church and society; Christian men’s identity within the current information era characterised by media overload etc.
• This creates an opportunity to start with the building up of a practical theological curriculum, seeing that I will meet and discuss this with my experienced colleague, prof Daniel Louw. This might gradually be implemented at Kobe Theological seminary in Japan in the future, when requested.
• An ideal opportunity to meet with Mission Japan’s executive committee, to discuss many important matters on our current and future ministry within the RCJ.
• A rare opportunity to see my parents and South African family and friends shortly.
To confirm our planned programme between August and October:
• Wed. 15 Aug – Sun. 9 Sept – LEAVE PERIOD in Sendai
• Mon. 10 Sept – Sat. 22 Sept – STEPHAN SA VISIT
• Wed. 26 Sept – Mon. 15 Oct. – SENDAI VOLUNTEER WORK
• Tue. 16 Okt – Thu. 18 Oct – TOKYO SYNOD MEETING
• Fri. 19 / Sat. 20 Oct. – RETURN TO TOKUSHIMA
We will very much appreciate your support and prayers in this time!
Kind regards in Christ,
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk
Newsflash 23 July 2012
Three ‘thank you’s’ and one ‘please’ … these are what we would like to share with you in this news flash.
Share our gratitude for:
- Annlie’s birthhday… last Tuesday she turned 5 and what a business it was! We had about 40 guests, and had excellent opportunities to build and enhance friendships – something which we believe could have immense long term value for the Happy Kids children’s ministry in Tokushima Congregation. Have a look here for more photos…
- Carina’s parents, Tobie and Annalie, arrived here from South Africa on Friday. They will spend a short time with us here in Tokushima, before they start their support work of three months in the disaster area. It is really wonderfully encouraging seeing them again! Father-in law Tobie preached in Tokushima yesterday, and will take two more turns at preaching, and will also with Mother-in-law Annalie and us participate in various church activities in Shikoku during the following three weeks. If you want to share in their experiences, read their (Afrikaans) blog entries here or contact them at email@example.com
- Gys and Linda Olivier, our fellow missionaries in Kochi city, will have completed another meaningful school term at Seiwa Christian School (the only Christian school in Shikoku Island) by the end of the week. We are truly grateful for two such wonderful colleagues and friends close by. Read more here (in Afrikaans) on what they themselves write about their recent experiences, and do have a look at a short YouTube video which conveys their progress at Japanese.
Please pray with us:
- Carina has been invited to share her experiences of being part of a Christian family as witness at an annual meeting of all Shikoku’s RCJ church leaders and interested church members tomorrow (24 July). It is an invaluable opportunity, not only for her own Japanese language studies, but also as part of our focus on family-directed ministries and as contribution towards the extended church. Read here what her talk will more or less sound like (in English) … and pray with us that she will be able to deliver her talk in a relaxed manner, and that it will bring about growth in all her listeners’ faith.
Thank you very much!
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk (also on behalf of the De Wets and Oliviers)
Language Newsflas 19 June 2012
Home. Language. Home Language …
anguage is the home of our true Being (according to Martin Heidegger, German philosopher). We could also say: Language is the home in which we live. The reality of this has now become even clearer than ever before in our lives in Japan …
These were the drifting thoughts on my mind while I was on my way back from Kochi (Yamada Congregation) the day before yesterday, and submerging myself in the gripping lyrics of the Afrikaans song Lisa se klavier … in French (on the CD AfriFrans). The eccentric words sounded even stranger to me than Japanese, but the melody was nostalgically familiar, most appealing. In order to be home in a language such as Japanese, could in all likelihood take a lifetime (for non-Japanese like us), I mused. I had preached in Japanese on Sunday, but, ironically, a few months ago I would not have understood much of what I myself had tried to preach! Indeed, it is a strange, wonderful (language) home into which we have moved since our arrival in Tokushima little more than 3 years ago.
My thoughts veered towards another point: to one text (John 1:1, 4) which I had quoted. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. Or in Japanese (just to give you an idea of what it looks like): 初めに言があった。言は神と共にあった。言は神であった。。。言の内に命があった。命は人間を照らす光であった。
This Word (Christ) is the Home in which we live – and light and life – find our true Existence …
Our (physical) home has also taken on a new shape in the last two months, and disrupted and challenged our existence (for the better). Four bedrooms were totally recreated and completed last week – primarily in consideration of resistance to earthquakes. Cornelius’s third birthday was celebrated last Saturday to inaugurate all the renovations. Lodewyk investigates every new corner as a crawling detective, and Annlie thoroughly enjoys her piano (also donated by a member of the congregation!).
We are enormously grateful for the huge input by our home congregation who had initiated and funded everything. A congregation with fewer than 40 members, of whom about 15 (mostly pensioners) carry the bulk of the financial burden: i.e. the minister’s salary, various maintenance expenses, projects etc. … had decided to launch a special fundraiser for this huge building project, above and beyond their usual and special annual thanksgiving offers. It really demanded tremendous sacrifices from everyone – dynamite is certainly found in small packages! We are very fortunate to be in the care of such devoted fellow-believers, and are deeply grateful.
Our home language has also “officially” been elaborated since the end of last year to fully include English – owing to various reasons about which we will tell more later. One of the altered rooms is now a creative teaching venue, a fact which allows especially Carina to flourish! Reading books, building puzzles, practising songs, and all kinds of exploratory activities really come into their own now. In addition, we could arrange one room specially as a new guest room, such a privilege!
In light of this, please thank the Lord with us for:
- The reinforcement of and alterations to our home and all the opportunities made available to us by these.
- The growing “Happy Kids” ministry led by Carina and Miwa.
- Various ministry-opportunities with RCJ Colleges in Shikoku Island, which strengthen relationships of mutual trust and teach us about the context and culture of our future ministry.
Please pray for God’s care and guidance in the following events in June:
- A second (monthly) English divine service on Sunday 24 June (named English Fellowship Time), especially for non-Christian friends.
- Motivation for, focus on and discipline in our on-going Japanese language studies considering our very real tiredness by this time (our annual leave beckons only from mid-August).
- Our health – especially for all three children who are in bed with flu, all three at the same time.
Thank you for your support!
Peace in the One in whom we live and move and have our Being (Acts 17:28).
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk
Ministry Newsflash 7 May 2012
As we were about to enjoy our scorched sashimi in Kochi City’s sociable fish market, the conversation turned to how inextricably attached one can be to your children and grandchildren … My companions were the ministers of the RCJ Shikoku Presbytery. But this time – perhaps partly because after 3 years I can follow most of everyday Japanese conversations – there was a surprising willingness among my colleagues to share more about themselves. Both two men sitting next to me had only quite recently become grandfathers for the first time. One colleague started explaining with gestures and raised eyebrows about how he enjoyed openly embracing his granddaughter and kissing her gently on her cheek … he commented that he felt about her as he did about a packet of marshmallows, which you could not resist once you’d started on them. There was a lively twinkling in his eyes while he continued enthusiastically sharing with us his newfound joy … proudly, clearly and childlike. I nodded in agreement, for I identified profoundly with him, although I’m not a grandfather myself, but at least father of three – who shares with Carina the unpredictable challenges and irreplaceable joys of parenthood.
A different kind of experience of grandparenthood
Then our other colleague shared the same reality, but as if from a distant planet. To him his grandchild seemed no more cute or special than anybody else’s infant … he said it in so many words. He did not hug at all and related without batting an eyelid that he did not much like reaching out to his close relatives on a deeper emotional level. At first I was mutely astonished and asked him tongue-in-the-cheek if he was serious. He was deadly in earnest, and shared that his relationship with his own father had rarely included any physical contact. In fact, he could not recall a single incident of his father hugging him …
Broken relationships are visible everywhere
This colleague’s story confirmed again the reality of – I suspect – the lack of intimate relationships in many Japanese homes. Naturally the problem of broken parent-child relationships is painfully prevalent all over the world. But particularly on this (is)land we as “foreigners” perhaps pick up more signals of broken families, because we have a view from the outer edge into the communities in which he live and work. More and more of our friends are beginning to share with us openly about domestic violence, divorces, battles with sleep disorders, depression and many other life crises.
Ministry focus: family-directed problems
And it is for this in particular that I want to request your intercessory prayers and empathy in this news flash. Because it is in this respect that Carina and I are convinced that we might possibly make a small contribution and make a difference. Between March and December this year – apart from preaching at 19 different small congregations and mission posts in Shikoku Island etc. – I present (sometimes with Carina and the children in attendance) an introductory seminar on family-directed matters. We are convinced this should be the future focus of the Lord’s ministry-by-our-being-here. The purpose is especially this year to begin understanding the questions, opinions and experiences of local believers on this matter. The five aspects which the presentations and discussions deal with are:
- Marriage enrichment
- Individual counselling and care within family relationships
- Christian-moral education of children and parenting skills
- Focused children’s ministry and evangelisation
- Witnessing within non-Christian communities
Thank you so much for your support!
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk
Disaster-Liturgy Newsflash 11 March 2012
The day before yesterday I discovered Cornelius (our 2 year old) among the chairs under the kitchen table, and asked, “Are you enjoying your game under the table?” upon which he replied, “There’s an earthquake!” Fortunately there was no earthquake, but for some time now we have been practising our plan of action should a disaster occur, and obviously he is quite ready. Amidst the ensuing laughter, his words were a timely reminder of one of the more difficult realities of our life in Japan, and that one should be vigilant at all times. This knowledge was reinforced in the course of the morning. On my way to our local immigration offices (close to the harbour) a radio announcer was explaining how to prevent injuries during an earthquake … and when I was standing in the lift at the offices, I noticed a poster with a step by step description of where to escape to, should a tsunami strike in this area …
This Sunday 11 March is a dismal commemoration of the horror of a year ago. During RCJ Tokushima’s worship service I will humbly attempt to convey something from the Bible and from my heart in Japanese, about the Light of God in our everyday struggle and hurt, and especially about the light in the darkness of 3/11/2011 in Japan.
The RCJ moderator and pastor of RCJ Sendai congregation, Rev. Yoshida, returned with a group of 6 other delegates, from a two week visit in South Africa yesterday evening (if you’ve missed some information on this, please read more by scrolling down to 22 February’s newsflash).
Will you please pray with us specifically for Japan during this Sunday, and also do the following?
- Please take to heart and share Rev. Yoshida’s gripping personal testimony, concerning the local Japanese church’s response to theological and practical challenges, by clicking here. And then also share his special letter to South African prayer supporters, and pray for the specifically mentioned needs which he highlights here.
- Please read the short letter by Gideon van der Watt, Secretary of Mission Japan, here below, and share it in your congregation/prayer group/cell group. Click here for the official letter of support which Danie Mouton wrote to the RCJ (on behalf of Mission Japan Management and the Dutch Reformed Church Family) after the delegates’ recent visit.
- Download the Japanese song entitled, THE HOPE, at www.ngkok.co.za/missiejapan/default.htm, and play it during Sunday’s liturgy in your worship service / during the week with your prayer group. The words in PowerPoint format – in Afrikaans, English and Japanese – can be downloaded at the same link. You must just right-click on the link and “save target as” to your computer’s hard drive. Please contact me if you struggle with any downloading technicalities. The song was written specifically after the disaster by a Finnish missionary couple, Harri and Elina Huovinen (acquaintances of ours). They own copyright, but gave permission for the song to be used for this purpose. Thank you very much Harri and Elina!
Thank you for your empathy and support in this.
Kind regards in Christ
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk
PS: In addition, should you wish to pray for our ministry in Shikoku Island, look below for our latest prayerflash – just scroll down to find it.
PS 2: If you want to share in the thanksgiving event for Tobie and Annalie de Wet, that was held last Saturday, click here for a YouTube photo-slideshow.
On this forthcoming Sunday, 11 March 2012, it will be exactly a year since the terrible three-fold disaster – the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident –struck Japan. More than 26 000 people died, hundreds of thousands lost their loved ones, homes, everything. Although good progress has been made restoring communities, the deep emotional and spiritual wounds have by far not healed.
Having been invited by Mission Japan, a small group of delegates from the Reformed Church in Japan paid our country a visit recently. They were the Moderator the Rev. Yoshida (he is also pastor in Sendai) and the Rev. Tateishi (who helps coordinate the church’s aid program in the area). They came to convey their gratitude for the disaster fund from South Africa with which the work is supported. They requested our ongoing prayers for the people that had been so deeply affected by the events, especially the countless disrupted children. They also asked for intercessory prayers for the church and the Christians’ involvement in the disaster area. Mission Japan has also decided to send the Rev. Tobie and Annalie de Wet again to go and help in the disaster area for three months. We request congregations to pray specially for the people affected by the disaster this Sunday.
Thank you very much
Gideon van der Watt
Secretary: Mission Japan
Prayer flash – 7 March
Please thank the Lord with us for:
- A very blessed Christmas 2011 in which many of our non-Christian friends attended church for the first time and the church building did not have room for everyone. Remember, our congregation has only about 35 members (this is average for Japanese churches, in a country with less than 1% Christians)
- In December a special Christmas worship service for children was held. This was a wonderful event which gave momentum to Miwa Terauchi (who visited SA in Sept-Nov 2010 for children’s ministry training) and us, to establish and build a children’s ministry (called Happy Kids Tokushima).
- Earlier this month Miwa also shared some of her recent experiences and expertise with the rest of Shikoku’s RCJ church members who are involved with Sunday school and other children’s ministries. We sense that God is opening new possibilities in this field of ministry. This pas two Sundays there were again 5 non-Christian mothers (our friends) and their children who came to investigate what we were doing at Happy Kids. Please pray with us that their interest will eventually lead to a commitment to God and the Church.
- Lodewyk (our son who is now 3 months old) as well as a middle aged lady (Miwako) in our local congregation, was baptised on Christmas day. The road to Miwako’s baptism is a long story of struggle and challenge that eventually led to her decision. Many SA supporters and members of our congregation have prayed for this. We celebrate this wonderful witness to God’s faithfulness. I hope to tell a bit more in a next newsflash.
- Our being able to spend some time during the start of January with Tobie and Annalie, before they returned to SA in a (semi-) retired capacity. We are extremely thankful for their wonderful love, support, guidance, committed ministry of almost 20 years, and so much more … and we miss them here … but we are simultaneously excited with them about their return to their homeland. Please pray for them for peace and strength on this new path.
- Lodewyk is well and growing at a very steady pace (and the rest of us are enjoying him!) … obviously this is a tiring period (the most so for Carina who is nursing him very regularly), but our hearts are warm with great gratitude and joy.
- A blessed Inter-church worship celebration on Saturday 4 Feb – specifically aimed at younger people. These types of events are not so common in Japan, and we are especially thankful for our pastor, Kei Kataoka, and Miwa’s commitment in this process of building relationships across denominational boundaries.
- A very blessed and meaningful visit of a very dynamic and significant Japanese delegation to South Africa – Feb. 24 to March 7. More information and photos are available here below - just scroll down to the South African Visit Newflash of 22 Febuary 2012.
Please pray for God’s guidance in the following events in March
- Various meetings with RCJ colleagues in Shikoku Island, strengthening trust relationships and learning about our future ministry’s context and culture.
- Motivation, focus and discipline in our ongoing Japanese language studies – also specifically in preparation for a language proficiency test (JLPT N2 level) in December 2012 (Stephan).
- For Carina for effective time management, wisdom and lots of energy to take main responsibility for Annlie and Cornelius’s (pre-Kindergarten) home schooling curriculum. This is in English, the third language which our children are learning simultaneously with Afrikaans and Japanese. A unique challenge!
- For Stephan’s preparations for his sermons, as well as seminars about family-related ministries, which he will present in 19 different RCJ congregations in Shikoku Island (all in Japanese) between March and December . His first sermon will be on 11 March in our home congregation in Tokushima. He will also be responsible for a message to High and Primary School children at The Presbytery of Shikoku Island’s (spring) youth camp.
- Christian teachers who are teaching in Tokushima (from countries such as America and England) have been actively part of our congregation for the last few months. A need for an English Bible Study opportunity in addition to our Japanese occasion on Thursday evenings was identified. This commenced on 23 Feb. It really was special, please pray that it will grow.
- The physical and spiritual needs of people affected by the triple disasters of March 2011 continue to be very great. Pray that the gospel will spread and become the true comfort of many in the Tohoku region. One centre – co-ordinated by the RCJ Higashi-Sendai – has already been involved in various important relief efforts in the area. The other one in Yamamoto-cho will start relief efforts during this spring (from March), when a building will be renovated for this purpose. Both centres will continue their efforts for at least another 24-30 months. The work is being co-ordinated by a special Mission Coalition. which consists of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in America (OPC), the Presbyterian Church in Korea (KOSHIN), the Dutch Reformed Church Family in South Africa (and other Mission Japan supporters), as well as other Reformed Churches, and of course the local Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ).
South African Visit-newsflash – 22 February 2012
Busy. Joyful. Challlenging. In short, these words perhaps convey best how things have been with us since the beginning of the year. We are entrusted with many new responsibilities, which are rather demanding, but at the same time most fulfilling. In a next newsflash I would really like to share more about this, but for now I will settle for some photos to show what the (literally) handful of us now look like …
But the actual purpose of this ‘visit flash’ is to warn you: Look out for a minibus full of Japanese … for, the time has come! This coming Friday a delegation of VIPs from our sister church, the Christian Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ), will be landing in Cape Town. May it again be – as always before- that the Japanese cannot stop talking about the warmth and generosity with which they are welcomed by their South African brothers and sisters all over the country. Please support us and pray with us that this will be a very special and blessed visit.
Why has this group come all the way from the Far East? What is the purpose of the visit?
- To welcome Tobie and Annalie back to SA (scroll down to read the departure newsflash), and to show their personal appreciation for their long-lasting ministry in Japan, as well as to help them resettle in their homeland.
- To thank Mission Japan supporters personally, those who had supported the De Wets for many years, but also for contributions to the disaster fund.
- To discuss the future involvement of Mission Japan in the disaster area (plans are already being made to send Tobie and Annalie there again for shorter periods).
- To develop further long-term relationships between the Dutch Reformed Church family and the RCJ.
- To expose our Japanese brothers en sisters to (especially) different churches, Christians and church leaders in the SA context and society.
- To explore the possibility of the RCJ’s involvement with local HIV/Aids projects.
- To establish theological-academic ties (Faculties of Theology at Stellenbosch and Free State).
- To create awareness of the work being done in Japan (also with the purpose of recruiting new missionaries).
- To have a meaningful, official meeting with the management of Mission Japan, in order to discuss and plan also our joint projects etc.
Who are the members of this group of delegates? (hover your mouse on the picture to see who’s who)
- The Rev. Yoshida, the Moderator of the RCJ Synod and minister of the Sendai congregation.
- The Rev. Tateishi, minister of Sendai East congregation and very actively involved in the Sendai disaster area.
- The Rev. Makita, previous Rector of the Kobe Reformed Theological Training College and a leader, especially in the relationship between the RCJ and Mission Japan.
- The Rev. Kataoka, minister of the congregations of Tokushima and Tokushima West, and his wife Kazumi (previously a kindergarten teacher, currently involved with children’s ministry).
- The Rev. Ashida, representative of the RCJ Synod Commission for Ecumenical Affairs, and his daughter, Kana, a prominent youth leader in RCJ circles).
Where will the group be going?
The plan is for them to visit the three main regions of Mission Japan’s support system (Western and Southern Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State) and also to meet with supporters in each region. The main venues and dates are the following:
- Cape Town region - Sat. 25 Feb. to Mo. 27 Feb. (e.g. Mo. 10:30 Stellenbosch Theological Seminary).
- Swellendam and Stil Bay – Mo. evening 27 to Wed. morning 28 Feb.
- Port Elizabeth – Wed. 29 to Th. 1 March.
- Bloemfontein region – Fri. 2 March to Tu. 6 March (e.g. Tu. 08:00 FS Faculty of Theology)
- Wednesday 7 March departure from Johannesburg to Japan.
For more details, please contact Aldoret at 051-406 6729 or firstname.lastname@example.org (Mission Japan’s office).
Thank you very much for joining us in prayer and your co-operation in order to bring about some healing and growth by means of this historical visit (especially after the disaster) to a fragile Japan!
Stephan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk
Departure-flash – 12 January 2012
Last week’s snow is still chilling the air in Tokushima. Together with this season of freezing weather, a new era dawned. After a total of almost 20 years’ of committed ministry in Japan, Carina’s parents (Tobie and Annalie) have returned to the country of their birth (three days ago). There are so many aspects we could mention and would like to say about these two people on whose shoulders we learned to stand in Japan … but first they will tell us more themselves. Please do read their letter below and pray with us for their road ahead.
On a different note: “Thank you!” to everybody who has made contact during the past number of weeks concerning Lodewyk’s birth, Christmas etc. Unfortunately there was not enough time to respond to everyone separately. But we appreciate the support enormously. More about our activities in a following news flash. Annlie and Cornelius are still battling for a place in the front row of their new baby brother’s fan club. Furthermore, we are all healthy and fine despite the sad farewell we faced this week.
We will keep contact!
God’s peace and joy for you in 2012.
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk
Dear Family and Friends
A new year (2012) has arrived and for us it heralds a brand new phase in our lives and ministry. At the end of 2011 we “retired” officially as missionaries of Mission Japan with the RCJ in Japan. Now I am a retired minister of the RCJ, officially attached to the RCJ Shikoku Presbytery. On Tuesday 10 January we arrived at Cape Town Air Port, precisely 12 years after we returned to Japan for our second term in 2000, also on 10 January. Of this we spent 8 years on the South Island Kyushu and the past 4 years on the small island Shikoku.
We look back on the past 12 years during which we received so many blessings with tremendous gratitude: In this time both the Reformed Church and the RCA established official mission ties and agreements with the Reformed Christian Church of Japan (RCJ), and a close tie of friendship and co-operation has developed between the two churches. Over the years so many wonderful relationships were built with people outside and within the church in Japan and we had the great privilege to sow the seed of the gospel far and wide. They are brothers and sisters and (non-Christians) with whom we will remain in contact and for whom we will pray until the end of our lives. Our work in Japan has not been completed! It will proceed until our last breath. And to confirm this, the Lord called and sent our own children (Stephan and Carina with Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk) to maintain the relationship with the RCJ and Mission Japan, in conjunction with the RCJ, for many years to come.
The past 4 years in Shikoku has undoubtedly constituted a blessed highlight of our ministry in Japan! The mission agreement between MJ and the Shikoku Presbytery is most exceptional. The relationship between MJ and the Shikoku Presbytery is a most intimate relationship of trust and cooperation. In Tokushima Congregation, where we have been cooperating missionaries, we have received so much love, support and appreciation that we have actually felt small and unworthy. In the entire Shikoku Presbytery we could visit and minister the Word to all the congregations. With regular mission seminars we could assist the congregations to enhance their mission calling. In the meantime new missionaries from SA joined us: Our own children and also Gys and Linda Olivier, as English teachers at SEIWA Christian School in Kochi city, Shikoku island.
The past year (2011) was the climax! First the devastating disaster in North-Eastern Japan in which, thanks to Mission Japan and the Shikoku Presbytery, we could immediately become involved, and in areas where we could minister both physically and spiritually … an experience which made a deep, deep impression on us. During this year we also ministered to various congregations further afield than Shikoku. A dream long dreamt, namely presenting a marriage enrichment seminar, was realized. We have certainly concluded our 20 years in Japan at a peak! PRAISE THE LORD!
Now a brand new road with new challenges lies ahead … We will settle at Swellendam, 50 Auge Street with my (Tobie’s) sister and bother-in-law, Annelie and Lodewyk Spies. It is only 10 kilometers from our youngest daughter, Corlia and Sakkie Nel and their children, Daniël and Tobie and not very far from our eldest son, Dries, Dene, Rita and Nella in the Cape and our youngest, Nico, near Stellenbosch.
The Church of Japan has requested us to return again to Japan to help in the disaster area as soon as possible and for as long as possible. A high profile delegation of seven persons from the RCJ will pay SA a visit at the end of February to thank the Church in SA for its work in Japan, as well as for our involvement with the disaster. At the same time they will consult with the executive management team of Mission Japan on our future involvement, with Shikoku as well as the disaster area. The delegation includes the Moderator of the RCJ, the Rev. Yoshida, as well as the Rev. Tateishi, both residents in and actively involved with the disaster area. There are also the previous Rector of the Kobe Training College and well-known Japanese reformed theologian, the Rev. Makita, the minister of our own congregation in Tokushima, the Rev. Kataoka and his wife, Kazumi, and, lastly, the representative of the RCJ Synodical Commission for Ecumenical Relations, the Rev. Ashida and his daughter, Kana.
The provisional plan entails a visit by the delegation to each of the main areas of Mission Japan’s support (Western and Southern Cape, Eastern Cape and the Free State) to meet with supporters. They arrive in Cape Town on Friday 24 February, will visit Cape Town-Stellenbosch, travel to Swellendam, George and Port Elizabeth and then Bloemfontein until they depart from Johannesburg for Japan on Wednesday, March 7th. We request your intercessory prayers and co-operation for this special and historical visit (especially after the Great Disaster).
At the beginning of the New Year we would like to say to every one of you who has, with a great deal of sacrifice and perseverance, shared in our lives personally as well as the Church and Mission in Japan, THANK YOU VERY, VERY MUCH. We would like to ask you to carry on with the same diligence your support of Stephan, Gys and Linda, and their respective families, and new missionaries that may still come to Japan; and please not to forget about us, who have to adapt to a new phase, have to face new challenges, are even on our way back to Japan to help in the disaster area, and in future will continue our ministry with Mission Japan and the RCJ in Japan in many different kinds of new ways.
Our email address is email@example.com
We will sincerely appreciate contact with you all.
With love and prayers,
Tobie and Annalie de Wet
Birth-flash – 17 November 2011
Sometimes there are flash moments in life when you experience yourself as fully part of every split second`s mechanics … when you are completely IN that moment … aware of every breath, gesture and eyebrow`s lift …
Yesterday we had such a vivid experience with the birth of our son, Lodewyk. It was a VERY special encounter … obviously with much hard labour and pain for Carina … but thankfully a much shorter process than when Annlie and Cornelius were born. This little lad weighs in at 4.14 kg … no wonder he arrived a couple of days earlier than his due date!
We are very thankful for God`s grace in this pregnancy and birth, and also for your encouraging support in this frail but irreplaceable, exciting time…
Stephan, Carina, Annlie, Cornelius and Lodewyk
PS: if you want to see a couple of more photos of Lodewyk, take a peep at http://www.missiejapan.co.za/algemeen/geboorteflits-17-november-2011/
Prayer flash – 1 November 2011
Rather late than never … this is the case with this prayer flash. During the past month my work has been repeatedly interrupted as a result of computer problems, but these have now been sorted out. I have lost some data, including a new news flash that was well on the way towards completion, now I am starting from scratch again. If perhaps I didn’t respond to an urgent email, if possible, please let me know. I apologize for the delay! I am sending this prayer flash before I tell you more (at long last) about what we have been doing lately; that is only if our third child (a son) does not arrive unexpectedly early …
Prayers that encourage
Thank you to everyone who has been keeping up the prayers for Nobuo (Terauchi) – it makes a real difference. His sister Miwa wrote a short letter recently about his remarkable recovery since the serious stroke he suffered early in July this year: “Thank you so much for your prayers for my brother. He is really recovering and now he can walk really well without stick, even outside he can walk independently. And he can come to church every Sunday. He can speak much easier now. He still needs training for his word and hand. If you could pray for him it will be great.”
Apart from the prayer request for Nobuo we would also like to share with you the following important prayer items ….
- Please pray with us for Carina and the unborn baby’s health in this last stage (possibly three weeks left) of her pregnancy. She is already carrying a heavy “load” of more than 3kg. The hospital setup is also quite challenging, as well as the language gap.
- Annlie and Cornelius are doing very well in their kindergarten exposure – a couple of hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This is really something that brings a good balance in our weekly routine. We are thankful for this privilege.
- Stephan’s Japanese language studies (and Carina’s) are progressing well, but require committed perseverance, focus and increasing insight. This occupies us constantly. Stephan’s ministerial responsibilities (preaching, visiting different congregations etc.) will start officially from March 2012, thus the next few months will involve important preparations.
- Carina is also involved with our local (RCJ Tokushima) congregation’s toddler ministry (Tokushima Happy Kids), and she and Miwa (Terauchi) are putting in a lot of effort to kick-start this new venture. In the meantime Carina’s English classes have been stopped until early next year.
- Tobie has been struggling to get rid of a sinus/flu bug the last two weeks. He and Annalie have had a very exhausting time doing supportive ministry in the Sendai area, and these last two months of remaining ministry is also ‘jam-packed’. Please pray for their emotional-spiritual and physical health.
- Please pray for Gys and Linda Olivier – our colleagues – for sustained energy for their daily teaching programme and extra-mural activities with their pupils and fellow teachers (at Seiwa Christian School in Kochi).
- Please keep on interceding for the small (RCJ and other) congregations – especially their ministers and leaders who are still reaching out to the suffering people of the Sendai disaster areas. Many volunteer workers need prayer support in their efforts to help local people to physically clean up houses etc. so that they can continue restoring their own lives.
- The process of establishing a counselling centre is ongoing. The centre will offer counselling services to people looking for help to handle their grief and provide housing for volunteers working in the region. Mission Japan’s involvement is ongoing. In collaboration with World Missions (CRCNA), the Reformed Church in Japan, the Koshin Presbyterian Church of Korea, and the Orthodox Presbyterian Japan Missions we (and you as supporters) contribute towards establishing a Christian Care Center in Yamamoto-cho in Sendai. Furthermore, the RCJ congregation of Higashi-Sendai’s coordination of volunteers from right across the globe, also remains a focus area where Mission Japan would most likely continue to be involved in.
- Dr Gideon van der Watt (Secretary of Mission Japan) and Rev. Victor Pillay (Chairperson of Mission Japan) will visit us in Tokushima next week (from 5th-13th Nov.). They come to discuss very important matters with local RCJ representatives from the Shikoku Presbytery, including Mission Japan’s current and future involvement in the Sendai disaster-area, as well as co-conducting Tobie and Annalie’s farewell ceremony etc. Please pray for wisdom and guidance on their journey and discussions. They will also visit the Sendai area and discuss possibilities with local church representatives.
- In our local RCJ congregation in Tokushima three new mothers with their toddlers have recently started to attend our worship services. Obviously they come from Shintoist/Buddhist backgrounds and this is a first experience of a church environment, first contact with Bible content, children’s ministry etc. One lady has been attending very diligently for the last 6 months. Pray with us for God’s guidance, and for opened hearts and minds as the seeds of the gospel are sown in their lives … this is and stays God’s work in which we are privileged to share.
- Tobie and Annalie are visiting Fukuoka and Hiroshima regions from 29 Oct – 3 Nov, for follow-up ministry. They will certainly need a new burst of energy to complete their last stretch of involvement before their return to SA at the end of 2011. Please keep on praying for them for strength and God’s comfort in this difficult time of saying goodbye after a total of 20 years in Japan.
- Tobie had the privilege of addressing the (66th) RCJ General Synod last week in Tokyo, where his and Annalie’s long-term commitment, as well as their sacrificial short-term involvement in the Sendai disaster area was appreciated officially and with great acclaim. This was wonderful to witness, but simultaneously very emotional, i.e. sad and nostalgic. Dr. Pieter van Jaarsveld (Moderator of the DRC Free State Synod)’s encouraging presence and sensitive engagement with Japanese colleagues had a very special supporting effect for us as missionaries. He visited us for a couple days and we are thankful that he’s a key role player and trustworthy representative for Mission Japan in both contexts (SA and Japan).
Thank you so much for your consistent support, it means a lot to us!
Stephan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
(also on behalf of Tobie and Annalie and Gys and Linda)
Prayer flash – 23 September 2011
We would sincerely appreciate it if you would add the following to your prayer list:
Thank the Lord with us for:
We experienced such a blessed 11 weeks in South Africa, met hundreds of encouraging supporters at 50 places, and spent special times with family and friends in our beautiful country. Stephan also attended a most meaningful conference on pastoral care in New Zealand.
We are most grateful to be safe “at home” and in a healthy routine again, and to be finding our feet in the midst of sultry summer heat and jet lag.
At this time we appreciate our two church families (RCJ Tokushima and RCJ Tokushima West) who welcomed us back with so much warmth and hospitality.
Depend with us on God for:
Please pray for strength, health and patience for Carina in her pregnancy (8-9 more weeks to go).
Please pray for our children’s re-adjustment at infant school and in the community.
Please pray for everyone’s Japanese language studies and the presentation of English classes for infants and their mothers, as an important relationship-building opportunity.
Please pray for wisdom and strength for Tobie and Annalie (de Wet), Carina’s parents, for the last few months of their work in Japan, and also for decisions on their road ahead serving Mission Japan and the RCJ.
Please pray for Gys and Linda for new energy and vision in the new school year which has recently started again (1 Sept) with their pupils and colleagues (at Seiwa Christian School in Kochi).
Please pray for thousands of people in Japan who are still picking up the pieces of their lives after the disasters in March, and also after this month’s huge storms (typhoons and torrential rains) all over the country (see on the photo here below what our surroundings look like after more than 600 mm fell here in the last two days).
Thank you so much!
Stephan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
(also on behalf of Tobie and Annalie de Wet and Gys and Linda Olivier)
Newsletter to all Mission Japan co-workers – 21 September 2011
from the Mission Japan office in Bloemfontein (South Africa)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Disaster Fund
Mission Japan would once again like to thank all the churches, congregations and individuals that have been contributing to the disaster fund. You helped us in supporting our Japanese brothers and sisters so severely affected by the disaster. You supported us in witnessing to the love of God in a very traumatic situation. We really appreciate that. Up till the end of August we received donations to the amount of R653861.18, of which we already transferred R600 000 to the Church in Japan. We praise the Lord for this!
2. Tobie and Annalie de Wet’s ministry in the disaster area
Apart from this financial support, Mission Japan also decided to send Tobie and Annalie de Wet for an initial period of three months to live and minister amongst the traumatised people in the disaster area, with the aim of serving and witnessing, rendering support (spiritually, emotionally and even physically) and helping the Church in that area to establish a counselling centre. Mission Japan did this in cooperation with our sister church and mission organisations.
Tobie and Annalie sacrificially accepted this “call of the Lord” and for the past three months gave themselves in serving the Lord in these challenging circumstances. They are working very hard, focussing on:
• Visiting and encouraging all the rather small and often poor churches and their ministers in reaching out to the suffering people.
• A ministry of hospitality, receiving and supporting many local guests and volunteer workers.
• Doing much “kokoro-no-care” (heart care/counselling)
• Helping people to physically clean up houses and gardens so that they can start restoring their living spaces and their own lives.
• To help establish a counselling centre from where services will be rendered to all the people of that area for the time to come.
Tobie and Annalie did all this in their typically selfless approach, listening to people, caring and reflecting God’s compassion. They made many sacrifices; even placing their own health at danger (people from their local congregation in Tokushima regularly sent fresh food and water in order not to expose them so much to the danger of radiation!).
But they also enjoyed this opportunity to serve the Lord. Tobie writes: “Many have been thinking that it must have been a “big sacrifice” to be up here and to do what we have been doing. However, it was one wonderful, blessed, enriching and rewarding experience which we will probably remember for the rest of our lives. It will be remembered as a climactic way of closing our 20 years of service in Japan!!” They themselves experienced trauma, but were also encouraged. Again Tobie writes: “To see and hear and feel first-hand something of the suffering of thousands of people because of the triple disaster has been to us a sacred experience which left us every time speechless and with deep pain on the inside for these beautiful people. We were on the other hand also surprised and encouraged by the positive attitude of many who have lost everything but hope and gratitude for new friends made and new lessons learnt.” (Please read Tobie’s full and touching report on their work in the disaster area directly here below).
There really is much appreciation for the work that Tobie and Annalie is doing. We can only thank the Lord for their dedication, but especially for their sensitive and humble attitude towards the people they are serving. They are indeed credible witnesses to the saving love of Jesus Christ. The congregations and colleagues in the disaster area are pleading that Tobie and Annalie be allowed to stay much longer in the area.
3. Our future involvement in the disaster area
The situation in the disaster area is obviously creating wonderful opportunities for the church and our mission. The Macedonian voices are ringing clear: “Please come over and help us!” We already committed ourselves to the establishment of the counselling centre; it is towards this project that we sent the contributions of the disaster fund. We cannot close our ears for this calling for continuous involvement. Mission Japan is currently trying to discern God’s will in this. Tobie and Annalie are to retire towards the end of this year. They deserve that. They are however willing to continue with this work. In what way could they, and Mission Japan in co-operation with the Reformed Church in Japan, respond to this call? We request your prayers. And we request your continuous support – also financially.
4. Stephan and Carina van der Watt
We also want to thank all the supporters and congregations who received Stephan and Carina during their recent visit to South Africa. Although the visit has been tiresome, especially with their small kids, it has been very fruitful and blessed. They were encouraged by the hospitality and loyal support and prayers of so many individuals and congregations. We appreciate your support on their behalf. They are now settling in, preparing for a next term of ministry. We are excited about what lays in store for them as they will take up new challenges after an initial time of language studies. We also appreciate and love them and pray for them.
May God bless you all.
Gideon van der Watt (on behalf of Mission Japan executive committee)
PO Box 1399
+2751 4066729 / +27827808038
Sunday, September 11th, 2011
From: Tobie and Annalie de Wet
To: All Mission Japan supporters
RCJ Shikoku Presbytery / RCJ Tokushima and Seibu Congregations
RCJ Touhoku Presbytery / RCJ Sendai Church Council
RCJ/Missions Touhoku Support Center Committee
Report on our time in the North-East of Japan
Today, as I write this report, it is exactly 6 months (half-a-year) since that BIG earthquake and tsunami hit the North-east part of Japan and the Fukushima nuclear accident happened…. We ourselves have been almost three months in this disaster area.
We have considered and experienced it as one of the greatest honours bestowed on us by the RCJ Shikoku Presbytery to represent both the RCJ Shikoku Presbytery and Mission Japan (and our Churches in SA) in the disaster area for a period of three months (July – September). Many have been thinking that it must have been a “big sacrifice” to be up here and to do what we have been doing. However, it was one wonderful, blessed, enriching and rewarding experience which we will probably remember for the rest of our lives. It will be remembered as a climactic way of closing our 20 years of service in Japan!! For that we praise our Lord who has blessed us with this unique experience and we thank Mission Japan and the RCJ Presbytery of Shikoku and also the Church Councils of Tokushima and Seibu congregations for sending and supporting us with all your love, prayers and finances.
Our tasks (as we understood them) were:
1) To visit the RCJ Churches in Touhoku, minister at their worship services and help in any other way the ministers in their ministry.
2) To invite people to our home for times of fellowship and encouragement.
3) To do “kokoro-no-care (heart care/ counselling).”
4) To do practical community work (volunteer work) in the affected communities.
5) To assist with the establishment of a Support Centre for the victims of the disaster.
Arriving in the Sendai area we were very unsure about fulfilling our duties and where and how to begin. We didn’t want to impose ourselves on anyone. We also very much realised the many obstacles and difficulties in especially doing real kokoro-no-care (heart-care / counselling). However, we truly appreciate the way we were accepted by the pastors and elders of the North-east RCJ Presbytery and churches, and the warmth we experienced all the time. We are especially grateful to RCJ Sendai congregation, pastor Yoshida sensei and his wise guidance and kind encouragement as well as to elder Sasaki Kazuo san for his wonderful practical assistance in arranging our schedule for the three months. To stay for the three months in the very comfortable cabin at Takayama Gaikoku Mura was in itself a great blessing. So too was the wonderful weather which we experienced most of the time (Totally the opposite to that of last year …!).
What a blessing weren’t the fresh vegetables we received regularly form our dear brothers and sisters in Tokushima congregation! We will return to Shikoku hopefully without too much radiation contamination! A half-day trip along the coast from RikuZen Takata, Kesennuma and MinamiSanriku, down to Onagawa and Ishinomaki, opened our eyes to the terrible devastation the BIG tsunami caused over such a vast area. We were deeply touched and moved, but also impressed with how systematic and fast the Japanese are cleaning all the rubble and debris.
To see and hear and feel first-hand something of the suffering of thousands of people because of the triple disaster has been to us a sacred experience which left us every time speechless and with deep pain on the inside for these beautiful people. We were on the other hand also surprised and encouraged by the positive attitude of many who have lost everything but hope and gratitude for new friends made and new lessons learnt.
For the first time we could get to know this part of Japan and the Church, its pastors, leaders and members in North-Eastern Presbytery. This was an enriching experience for which we are truly thankful. We visited almost all the congregations in the Presbytery and, except for the second Sunday, preached every Sunday in another congregation. We are so thankful for financial support from Mission Japan and the congregations in RCJ Shikoku Presbytery which helped us not to be a financial burden to any of these congregations in the Touhoku Presbytery which we visited.
We came to understand and love RCJ North-Eastern Presbytery and are now able to share a little better both in its burdens and challenges. The Presbytery indeed covers a very big area from Fukushima Prefecture in the South to Hokkaido in the North. However, most of the 12 congregations are very-very small, in some cases consisting basically out of the minister and his family. Members are, as in the case of RCJ Shikoku Presbytery, ageing. Financially it is probably the poorest Presbytery in the whole of Japan…A number of pastors had to be tent-making ministers supporting themselves financially.
Now, after the big earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident it is facing even bigger challenges. Our honest observation is that it needs all the encouragement and support it could get from the rest of the RCJ and from our cooperating Missions in order to meet the opportunities and challenges in front and ahead of them. However, we are also deeply impressed and encouraged by the commitment, the zeal, the perseverance of pastors, their families, church leaders and members we have been meeting. It is indeed an inspiration to see how these brothers and sisters, over many-many years and with the odds against them, persevere in the faith, in the fellowship of the saints and in the mission of the church!
We could also build many new brotherly/sisterly relationships and great friendships!! We had over the three months more than sixty guests at our house for dinner, lunch, tea/coffee, breakfast or accommodation!! It was also great to get to know our OPC brothers and sisters better and have good times of fellowship with them. We are impressed with the work of the OPC over many-many decades in this area, church buildings built by the OPC and people led to the Lord through their ministry.
It was a great honour, privilege and blessing to become, for a short while part of RCJ Higashi-Sendai congregation, to do their prayer meetings every Wednesday evening and fellowship with the pastor, Tateishi sensei, the elders and their families, the deacons and members. This congregation, under the guidance of Tateishi sensei, is setting an example to all the churches of a real missional congregation, looking and reaching outward into the affected communities, addressing the physical and emotional needs of so many peoples in the most practical way.
Practical and physical participation in cleaning houses and gardens and preparing them for renovation in the towns of Touna and Nobiru under the guidance of Tateishi sensei, was one of the highlights of our time here in the North-East of Japan. We were deeply impressed by the vision, approach and leadership of Tateishi sensei and the staff of his volunteer centre and the support of Higashi-Sendai Church Council and congregation. Meeting with and working side-by-side with volunteers from so many churches from the whole of Japan and so many nationalities from over the world has been an incredible experience.
At its recent Church Council meeting RCJ Higashi-Sendai Church Council decided to continue its relief and care work in Touna and Nobiru Towns until October 2013, and to set-up a Volunteer Center with full-time staff in the area. We were very excited and pleased when the Support Center Committee decided, with its funds from overseas churches, to assist RCJ Higashi-Sendai congregation financially to set-up a Support Center (Volunteer Center) at Touna and Nobiri Towns and also to help with appointing full-time staff members to run the center.
The Children’s Camp organised by Higashi-Sendai Church and run by Tateishi sensei and which were attended by no fewer than 13 non-Christian children from the Touna/Nobiru area, was a fascinating experience. I personally felt so honoured to be asked to do the two evening talks on prayer. The most exciting development was that Higashi-Sendai Church has organised another two-day Children’s Camp for the children of that area. This time even more children participated, altogether 23 children! Unfortunately it happened just as we were about to leave Sendai back to Tokushima…
Another special experience was the “Kokoro-no-Care (heart-care)” seminar sponsored and conducted by “Stand-by-Japan,” the Korean Christian organization specifically formed to assist Japan and the church in this time of suffering. It was good to see and hear pastors and church leaders open their hearts and also to experience the softness and sensitivity with which our Korean brothers and sisters conducted the different sessions.
Another highlight was Annalie’s regular visit to the temporary housing units here in the Shichi-ga-Hama area where we are living, with the climax of having some of the ladies over for lunch and fellowship. Annalie feels that this was real “kokoro-no-care (heart-care)” and feels so sorry that we cannot continue long-term with this kind of ministry. We strongly believe that reaching out into the temporary housing units should be one of the focus ministries of the church for the next couple of years and even to invite families from these housing units for dinner and fellowship into our own homes.
Finally, working together with Larry and Cal in doing research for the setting up of a Support Centre in this area was an exciting and real learning experience. I was a total foreigner and stranger to this area and didn’t know where and how to begin. Especially Larry’s exceptional language proficiency, his wide network of so many important contacts, his enthusiasm, the time and energy he put into this thing, his leadership abilities, all the resources behind him and the CRC, etc. were overwhelming! He actually did it all!! I was just an onlooker and at best just his willing chauffeur/taxi-driver.
We were also deeply impressed by the guys from the OPC and their commitment to restore damaged homes and preparing the Dentist Clinic at YamamotoChou as a possible Support Centre. Though we felt a little uncomfortable with the very fast emergency kind of approach in setting-up a Support Centre at YamamotoChou, I have been committed on behalf of Mission Japan to be wholeheartedly part of this exciting venture together with the CRC and OPC under the guidance of the RCJ. We have been and are fully committed to follow and support the committee’s guidance and decisions. Our prayer is that it will indeed become a RCJ Support Centre, run not by the Missions but by the local RCJ Church, the local RCJ Presbytery and a local RCJ Church Council and congregation.
What does the future hold for us after having been here for thee months and after seeing and experiencing all this??
We are seriously and deeply struggling with what our role and that of Mission Japan should be. We realize and feel that we cannot close our eyes, ears and hearts to the situation here in the disaster area which we have assessed after the big earthquake and tsunami and where the Lord and the Church (Mission Japan in conjunction with RCJ Shikoku Presbytery) have sent us for the three months of July to September. Neither can Mission Japan and the Church in SA do so….or RCJ Shikoku Presbytery….
What challenges us the most is not the tremendous need, physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually (Need is something very relative……. Everywhere there are enough needs…… in Africa, in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, in our own country SA, and also in Shikoku and Tokushima and the whole of Japan…), but the doors of opportunities because of the devastation of the tsunami that have opened here in the disaster area to respond concretely and physically and minister to the needs of Japanese people and serve and fellowship with so many Japanese people who are willing, if not eager for us to do so. I think this is the first time in our 20 years in Japan that we experience something like this…or on this scale…
What is happening here in the disaster area, we cannot but see as the BIG opportunity for the Church and Mission to show and share God’s love and mercy in a very concrete way to the people of Japan. An opportunity that will be there probably only for the next two to three years until communities will be cleaned and restored and thousands of Japanese again out of the thousands of temporary housing units and back to their normal lives. An opportunity, not for aggressive evangelism but for quiet and humble physical service of and sensitive social fellowship with suffering people. An opportunity to lay vitally important foundations for the
Spirit of the Lord to open people’s minds and hearts and homes for His Church and for the Gospel. An opportunity to win in a practical serving way credibility for the Church of Christ and its message.
That is why we believe it to be very important for us and Mission Japan (the Church in SA) together with RCJ Shikoku Presbytery, to again prayerfully seek God’s face and guidance and to hear Him afresh….
We are waiting on the Lord and will appreciate your prayerful and wise input and guidance.
Tobie and Annalie
Supporters’ stories of hope which inspires
May 20th, 2011
Ever since the threefold disaster (earthquake, tsunami and radio-active radiation) struck Japan on 11 March we have been inundated (in a wonderful way) by encouraging phone calls, e-mails etc., all supporting the disaster-stricken actively. It varies from people (South African supporters) that offered assistance with clean-up operations, and counselling, to those who considered having Japanese people come and stay with them (in SA) or even adopting orphans from Japan. And of course hundreds of individuals and congregations interceded in prayer or contributed generously to increase Mission Japan’s disaster fund – and eventually RCJ’s emergency support interventions on grass roots level.
Along with Paul in Philippians 1:3-4 we would like to tell all our supporters: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Japan needs all possible support, and especially the tiny number of Christians here who try to reflect the hopeful Light of Christ in the dark hour of disaster.
Here are 3 short extracts from recent initiatives by enthusiastic supporters to encourage the local disaster-stricken … view some photos by clicking here.
Do you perhaps also have some creative idea that might make a difference on grass roots level?
We would gladly like to hear from you …
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius (also on behalf of Tobie and Annalie de Wet and Gys and Linda Olivier)
Riaan de Villiers wrote from Cape Town:
“I am a youth worker at the ‘Groote Kerk’. We prayed for you and the people in Japan at the SCA (Students Christian Association) of the school and the children made a banner with messages of encouragement for the people of Japan. We will be praying for Japan at this week’s evening service and will give people the opportunity to write on the banner.”
Saretha Ferreira from De Aar wrote:
“Perhaps there is something we here in De Aar could mean for the kiddies of Japan. Do let us know of such a possibility or of something else we might be able to do … I so wish I had my camera with me this morning to take a photograph of my class (Grade 3) sitting on the carpet praying for you. It was so beautiful.” (After I had asked Saretha, she actually took a photograph at a later stage – please click on the link above to see it).
Annemarie Coulson from Riversdal told us:
“Here is the story… I came across the website ‘Quiltersnewsletter’, which is an American magazine with Editor Dana writing about her contact of many years with Naomi, editor of a Japanese magazine, in which Naomi urgently asked for quilts for victims.
Within 24 hours after this report had appeared on the website, Dana had received feedback from 8 countries, also SA. It moved me so deeply that I also responded promptly, and decided that our group here in Riversdal and Stilbaai would join in, but was brought to a halt by the financial implications of such a venture … and then 2 days later an e-mail arrived from my son with the following: ‘…we will transport ALL the quilts to Japan that you can collect in SA!’. They would not give money, but would use all their own resources i.e. courier service, which transports their goods to and from Japan. We needed to have everything together at one point, anywhere in the country, and they would pick it up there.
At first I was shocked speechless, suffered from amnesia, then came to my senses 2 hours later, and started sending text messages, and the feedback was overpowering!! My expectation is that by next week Tuesday (17 May) there will be 300-400 quilts. Everything just fell into place in an incredible way, and I feel that I myself have actually done very little, apart from the quilts that I had made myself. Wherever I have come and made a request, the answer has been ‘yes’ all along … the Lord has blessed this project unbelievably!!”
In the end Annemarie and her fellow-quilters from their region appeared on television (Kwêla Program). Meanwhile she had also received numerous knitted blankets and children’s jerseys. During their recent visit to the disaster area my parents-in-law (Tobie and Annalie de Wet) were able to meet with a particular congregation – die RCJ Watari which also ministers a local kindergarten – which had indicated a need for underwear etc. for infants. After Annemarie’s congregation (Dutch Reformed Church Riversdale West) had initiated a project, last week (apart from the quilts) they could send these clothes etc. too, to the Rev. Hayashi at RCJ Watari, and thus made a difference on grass-roots level to the lives of many disaster-stricken children!
A brief summary of the current situation in the disaster area in North-Eastern Japan
as explained by the representatives of the RCJ North-Eastern Presbytery
May 18th, 2011
After our attendance of the RCJ North-Eastern Japan Presbytery Meeting in Sendai on 10 May, here follows the evaluation of the representatives of the Japanese Church and of the RCJ ministers living in the area and wrestling daily with their situation. The RCJ called the three co-operating overseas churches, OPC, CRC and Mission Japan, to this meeting to share this information and to discuss further involvement of our churches. I believe it is important to be shared with our church members in SA:
1) The devastation caused by this triple disaster covers a vast area of three prefectures.
2) The destruction differs greatly according to the cause: earthquake or tsunami or radiation. Those affected by the tsunami have lost everything including loved ones and friends. Those affected by the earthquake still have their homes but many of these are badly damaged and in some cases the people live in fear of collapse because of continual after-shocks. Those affected by the radiation had to evacuate their homes and farms etc. and don’t know when they will again be able to return and continue with their lives, if ever…
3) It is exactly two months after the earthquake and tsunami and they are now mostly in the second phase of response and reconstruction (first phase was addressing basic and emergency needs).
4) However, there are still areas where first phase assistance is needed.
5) Second phase means that people’s “lifeline” is restored and their needs become more sensitive and require more sophisticated response and care in restoring people’s dignity and looking sensitively at the needs and requests of individuals and individual households.
6) The local government is busy erecting temporary housing and providing basic funds but they do not guarantee anything. Money covers basic expenses for a couple of months only, and as soon as people leave the evacuation centers they receive no more help and food etc. Everyone has to care for oneself.
7) The psychological effect is deep: People are grateful they could escape death but now they wrestle with questions of “why was I saved?”, “how will I survive with no home and no job, even though rescued?”, “what do I need to continue living?”, “what’s the purpose of living any longer?” Suicide is already happening… The need for counseling is big.
8) Practically people have to clean and are busy cleaning their homes and living areas. The local government is not helping. It is very hard manual labor. Many are elderly people. Each person’s home is his private property and needs to be respected. Volunteers from inside as well as outside Japan are helping. It will, however, take a long time to clean-up everything (years..?).
9) Overseas response was immediate and appreciated but the overseas media have already shifted their attention away from Japan to other spots in the world. Reporters have left the devastation area. Interest and assistance are waning. The situation in the North-East of Japan differs from that of the Kobe-Kansai area where the Big Earthquake of 1995 took place. The Kobe-Kansai area is a central cosmopolitan area and help was always immediately present even over a long period. North-Eastern Japan is a far-away remote area and helpers come and leave again.
10) There is a spirit of heaviness in this area. Shops close early in the evenings and streets are dark. It is emotionally difficult to return to any kind of normality.
11) In the areas close to the radiation danger people don’t trust the information coming from the authorities.
12) Regarding the church and its response the following:
i) The RCJ as well as the other churches in the North-East of Japan are very small and weak and spread out over a very vast area with very little contact with one another because of the small size of the scattered congregations and the vastness of the area and the distances.
ii) The disaster was so overwhelmingly big that it is almost impossible for this small, weak and spread-out and scattered church to even evaluate, discuss and plan any kind of coordinated response. This in itself will take time.
iii) Response in any case will have to be long-long term.
iv) In the Sendai area an inter-church committee has been established involving all the different denominations including the Roman Catholic and Pentecostal Churches (It operates under the chairmanship of Yoshida sensei, the moderator of the RCJ Synod). They meet every week to evaluate and plan their response in a united and coordinated manner.
v) The RCJ congregations are very grateful for immediate and emergency help from OPC missionaries delivering goods.
vi) The Ishinomaki church building and manse were badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. Several congregation members have lost their homes. One’s bakery was completely destroyed. Repairs will be costly.
vii) RCJ is helping pastors, congregations and families with some funds but the money is totally insufficient. They appreciate the financial assistance and contributions also from several overseas churches.
viii) There are members who have lost family members and they need pastoral care.
ix) Worship service attendance has declined all over the area. Especially the numbers of “seekers” who used to come to church have dropped drastically!
x) Responding to the question on what they need most the answer was: “Of course we need a lot of financial assistance to rebuild our church and community and to continue our ministry in this spiritually difficult and needy area and we need a lot of practical and physical help. However, most of all, we need you to be our true friends who are committed to us and will be with us for a long time.”
13) The meeting took notice of MJ’s proposal to establish a counseling center in the disaster area. The other two cooperating Missions (OPC and CRC) even made the same suggestions. A follow-up meeting (to which MJ is also invited) is planned for 9 June to discuss this matter further. MJ’s proposal for Tobie and Annalie to move temporarily to the disaster area in order to assist the church was also accepted. After all the proper and official processes have been followed they will probably move to the North-East of Japan for an initial period of three months (July – September). They are requested to visit congregations, help with preaching and pastoral care and help taking care of and accompany volunteers who are daily dispatched to clean-up homes etc. in the affected communities.
Tobie and Annalie de Wet
Short report on
La Rochelle outreach group’s visit to Shikoku Island, Japan
May 4th, 2011
Short but sweet, this is how we as missionaries would want to sum up the recent visit – 20 to 24 April – of the Dutch Reformed Church La Rochelle’s outreach group to Shikoku Island. The diverse team of 7 members led by André Peasley (Rev.), had prepared themselves for many months for the two weeks’ outreach – which, after their 4-days’ visit to us was continued in Ikoma City (in conjunction with Albert and Cecile Greeff at the Kansai Christian School).
The main goals of the outreach were to support us as missionaries and our ministries, as well as ministering to and encouraging Japanese Christians (focusing on discipleship). The group made a constructive and an inspiring contribution by sharing Jesus Christ’s love and hope with many people on Shikoku Island, where we as missionaries are currently working. We could see how these experiences in many ways brought new challenges and growth in their Christianity, not only to the ‘ministered’, but also to the team. Especially meaningful was sharing this experience around Easter weekend, and in close cooperation with our local church, the Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ).
In many respects the eyes of the outreach group were opened to cultural sensitivity for the people to whom God sends us in Japan. They also testified that they were impressed anew by the respectful attitude with which we as missionaries endeavoured to minister to the Japanese people within their culture, and that they had acquired better insight into the meaning of this within a local context (Shikoku Island), with our brothers and sisters in the RCJ. We are all most grateful for this. A number of practical challenges concerning translation of conversations, songs etc. – in the midst of jet lag and adapting to an extraordinary culture – provided the outreach group (and us as missionaries) with a sizable chunk of learning experience.
Following is a short description of the highlights of the visit:
- Thursday: A relaxed evening of fellowship during RCJ Tokushima members’ Bible Study, at which the team shared information about themselves and the ministries of the Dutch Reformed Church La Rochelle (and LCF), and also (via Tobie as interpreter) discussed with church members the recent disasters and their influence on the church as a whole.
- Friday: A full day spent mainly at SEIWA Christian School in Kochi City. The group could share with the entire school (approximately 130, including many non-Christians) a message of the Gospel by means of testimonies, sport, song and drama (mimic). Mission Japan’s mission-teachers, Gys and Linda Olivier, who work at the school, warmly welcomed us, and the team could also spend some valuable time with them.
- Saturday: We spent all day with (approximately 20) working Christian young people of Shikoku Island in the city Takamatsu. It was a good opportunity for building relationships which included playing (tenpin bowling) together and sharing a meal together. The team could give a message of encouragement with drama, song and testimonies, which was received with open arms. That evening the team and we three mission couples could spend a lovely time over a meal and in Afrikaans (at Stéphan and Carina’s home), shared with one another some of our experiences. The group invigorated us with their prayers of empathy.
- Sunday‘s highlight included a worship service, church dinner and special Easter celebration with a variety of items – by the team as well as local members of RCJ Tokushima, which through spontaneous song and dance made possible a most exceptional conclusion of events.
See photos by clicking here.
We as missionaries are most grateful to the outreach group for their diligence, enthusiasm and commitment. Through it all we learned a great deal from one another and special ties were forged, which we would like to develop in due course.
We would like to convey our sincere gratitude to the leadership of the Dutch Reformed Church La Rochelle and LCF, the Commission for Witness Action (Western and Southern Cape) as well as the Executive Committee of Mission Japan for many forms of support that had made possible the important outreach. Let us grow together on the road ahead for the sake of God’s Kingdom in Japan. Christ’s love compels us …
Stéphan and Carina van der Watt, Tobie and Annalie de Wet and Gys and Linda Olivier
Cooperating Missionaries Shikoku Presbytery / (Christian) Reformed Church in Japan
Disaster-Newsflash – April 2nd, 2011
A dismayed worker contemplating the devastation at the town Onagawa, one of the places we visited this week.
Just a short note to let you know:
1) We (Father-in-law Tobie, the Rev. Kei Kataoka and I) are most grateful for having safely returned after an intensive and heartfelt week of experiences and conversations in the disaster-stricken North-East of Japan.
2) We are busy processing hundreds of photos and video material, also writing comprehensive reports to share with, amongst others, our supporters as soon as possible.
3) Meanwhile I kindly request those supporters that contacted me/us during the last 3 weeks, and have not yet received a response, please, bear with me in understanding and with patience, as it takes a lot of time to deal with the enormous amount of requests, questions etc. We are really making an intensive effort every day, attending to the most urgent and important correspondence first.
4) As from this week Carina and I are resuming our language studies after more than 3 weeks’ unavoidable interruption owing to the disaster. And in the meantime there will soon be several local meetings to attend, as well as preparatory and administrative arrangements to be made regarding our (as Van der Watt Family) visit to South Africa that, God willing, is scheduled to commence within approximately 8 weeks…
We appreciate your sustained support in this time and ask that you will please continue praying for Mission Japan’s work, and especially for the many people in distress in Japan. To view a list of prayer requests, please read down to the last prayer-flash here below (dated March 17th, 2011).
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius (also on behalf of Tobie an Annalie De Wet)
Feedback on disaster-fund and planned visit to disaster-area – March 28th, 2011
Just a very short news flash to keep you informed about some recent and important events:
- God willing, this afternoon (Monday 28/03) we intend to respond to an official invitation from the Diaconal Commission of the Reformed Church in Japan to pay a personal visit to the disaster area and the churches and ministers there. The group will include: Kei Kataoka (RCJ Tokushima minister), Tobie de Wet and I. Gideon van der Watt (Dr) explains the purpose of our visit below.
- The Japan Disaster Fund is increasing at an impressive rate – more than R160 000 has been donated already – and we are extremely grateful to all our supporters who have contributed. Please keep it up, and do read Gideon’s official letter with feedback (here below) containing more specific information on the matter.
We – as so many others here – are in great need of your prayers.
God’s Peace and Joy
Stéphan and Family (also on behalf of Tobie and Annalie de Wet)
25 March 2011
FEEDBACK ON MISSION JAPAN DISASTER FUND
Mission Japan is grateful to be able to announce that more than R160 000 has been received in aid of the Japan Disaster Fund, while contributions are still flooding in. As the extent of the disaster becomes clearer to us, we appreciate better how urgently necessary each contribution towards this fund really is. Thank you so much.
Mission Japan is the official channel by which the Reformed Church family and all our Sister Churches liaise with the Reformed Churches in Japan. It remains of prime importance to liaise and cooperate closely with the local church. They are directly involved and know best how and where to render assistance.
The Reformed Church in Japan has established an emergency committee which coordinates involvement with the disaster. It cooperates closely with other churches and Christian organizations. The Moderator of this church, who lives in the Sendai Area that suffered the worst of the disaster, chairs such an interdenominational emergency committee which renders help to all people. At present the main focus of the help is to provide shelter and food for the thousands whose homes were destroyed or who had to flee from those parts where nuclear radiation had reached dangerous levels. These disrupted, traumatized people, who lost loved ones and all their earthly possessions, also need to be comforted and sustained emotionally. This the churches do with the help of volunteers.
Mission Japan’s missionaries, Tobie de Wet and Stephan van der Watt, will leave shortly on a visit to the disaster-stricken areas. We are deeply grateful for their willingness to be of help, in spite of the possible danger.
The purpose / objectives of the visit will be:
1) To visit as many as possible of the RCJ congregations in the area, and to assure them of our love, prayers and support;
2) To assess the actual situation and the needs of the people in the disaster area first hand;
3) To determine what the local congregations are doing to deal with the immediate needs of the people;
4) To hear what the church on the ground’s plan is to help deal with the situation in the longer term;
5) To provide Mission Japan and the Church in SA with feedback on the situation as soon as possible.
It will take a long time for the deep wounds of these horrendous events, which literally shook the foundations of the people of Japan, to heal. We appeal to congregations and individuals to keep on sending donations; the church and the people really need these urgently. Please keep on praying for the disaster-stricken people, for our brothers and sisters in die church in leadership positions and especially for our missionaries. Pray that people, in the midst of this heartbreak, may still experience comfort and healing in the love of the Father, the Son and the Spirit.
Gideon van der Watt (Secretary Mission Japan)
The work of Mission Japan in conjunction with the Christian Reformed Church of Japan
By Tobie (the Rev.) and Annalie de Wet – missionaries of Mission Japan in Tokushima
19 March 2011
Mission among the “richest of the rich”
While we (Tobie and Annalie de Wet) were living and working in Port Elizabeth some years ago, Annalie and I were, via die ACVV, actively involved in the townships of PE among “the poorest of the poor.” Here in Japan our work is among “the richest of the rich.” Per capita the people of Japan are the richest population in the world.
Dreadful results and challenges of the huge earthquake and tsunami
As a result of the frighteningly huge earthquake and tsunami of Friday 13 April (biggest in more than 140 years) thousands of these “rich” people suddenly had to try living in circumstances comparable with and worse than those of the poorest of the poor in PE….! In less than no time tens of thousands of people had lost literally everything, loved ones, possessions, homes, land, work, income, EVERYTHING. The entire Japan was deeply moved and shattered by this triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation crisis). As we have been watching the images of devastation and human suffering and misery on local TV, we have been struggling with a feeling of profound compassion for and spiritual agony over the fate of these people who have suddenly lost everything, who are now trying to survive in desperate circumstances and who now have to face the future without prospects and hope.
The Church’s calling and task in a crisis situation
We are profoundly aware of an overwhelming realization of the calling of the church of Jesus Christ that now is the time to reach out with the concrete love and compassion of Jesus. We believe with all our hearts that these tragic events provide us with a God-given opportunity for and challenge to the church and Christianity to convey some substantial evidence of Christ’s love to the Japanese population.
While we are aching to become physically involved with the masses in their hour of extreme need, we actually find ourselves a considerable distance from the disaster area on a different island, and caught up in our daily “church duties” and “church work”, somewhat like the priest and Levite that passed by on the other side …..
People need to see first before they can hear
Just as in SA the people of Japan also need to see the love of Christ in practice before they can hear. Mission work in Japan (and actually it is exactly the same in all other parts of the world…) implies in the very first place sincere identification with the people themselves, service delivery, showing love, literally reaching out to people, especially people in need. The problem in Japan is that the need is more social and spiritual- emotional than visible and physical. It is one of the reasons why mission work in Japan is neither straightforward nor easy.
The spiritual outcomes of the earthquake and tsunami…?
Shortly after the Second World War Japan was devastated and the church used the opportunity to minister the country and its people with God’s love and Word. Many
Christians in the church of today attribute their conversion and faith to mission work in those first decades. Prayerfully we find ourselves wondering what the fruit will be of the consequences of this huge disaster that is devastating the country right now …?
As missionaries we serve the Church of Japan
What was important to us right from the start was the fact that Japan had a small, but spiritually resilient, indigenous local church. Mission work from abroad implies in principle cooperating with the church, operating preferably within the church, under the supervision and with the guidance of the local church. Precisely this has been the modus operandi of the Dutch Reformed Church and Mission Japan since the beginning. We missionaries here in Japan are no more than just representatives sent by the church in SA and servants of the Christian Reformed Church of Japan, with whose guidance and under whose supervision we function and serve.
In response to a request by the Church of Japan the Holy Spirit led the Dutch Reformed Church to Japan
It all began in 1970 when delegates of the Reformed Church of Japan (RCJ) at the Reformed Ecumenical Synod held in Sydney (Australia) requested the Dutch Reformed Church delegates to send missionaries to Japan. Consequently the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Free State resolved in April 1972 to commence with mission work in Japan. This was indeed a historical resolution, as up to that point nowhere inside the Dutch Reformed Church any official mission work had been undertaken from this church anywhere abroad. (apart from the rest of the continent of Africa). In 1974 Annalie and I as a very young missionary couple were sent to the RCJ.
Operating within an official mission-cooperation agreement
Since then much has happened. Although the work of the Dutch Reformed Church in Japan was temporarily suspended, it was meaningfully resumed in 2000. Today both the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church and the RCA have official ties with the RCJ and a clear-cut official missionary agreement of cooperation exists between the churches. Mission Japan is the official committee of the Dutch Reformed Church Family that manages mission work to Japan. We as missionaries are full members and ministers of the RCJ. Our focus area is Shikoku, the smallest of the four large islands of Japan where we work within the RCJ Shikoku Presbytery.
In 2009 Stéphan and Carina van der Watt joined us as full-time missionaries after they had been through a selection process (also by the Presbytery of Shikoku). Gys and Linda Olivier are on Shikoku Island as well under the auspices of Mission Japan, and are full-time English teachers at the only Japanese Christian School on the island. On the request of the RCJ Presbytery of Shikoku Mission Japan has prayerfully decided to recruit an additional missionary couple. This is no quick and easy process as such persons will have to meet with stringent requirements, will have to be approved and called by the RCJ, and will have to assist in finding their own financial support.
Mission Japan is a combined official committee of the Dutch Reformed Church Family which is acknowledged as such by the RCJ. Our headquarters are in the Witness office of the Free State Synod with Dr Gideon van der Watt the administrator of Mission Japan and the official liaison person between the RCJ and the Churches in SA. We are, however, a faith mission dependent on voluntary contributions from congregations across the total spectrum of the Dutch reformed Church Family (particularly the Free State, Western, Southern and Eastern Cape), that are officially represented on the Mission Japan Committee. This support base is rapidly spreading to more regions. The total expense to maintain a missionary (minister) in Japan is comparable with the full post of a minister at the top of the scale in the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, although Japan is still a very expensive country to live in. Mission Japan is basically responsible for the missionaries’ salaries, allowances as well as travel expenses between SA and Japan, whereas the RCJ, in principle and as far as possible (in spite of the fact that the church on Shikoku Island is very small and battles financially), vouches for accommodation, and travel and work expenses in Japan.
The Dutch Reformed Church Family and the Christian Reformed Church of Japan
The Reformed Church of Japan is one of only three overseas churches with which the Dutch Reformed Church General Synod has a sister-church relationship. Moderators / delegates regularly visit each other’s synods to exchange greetings, mutual visits of church members and young people occur occasionally, theological lecturers from the RCJ Seminary in Kobe have delivered lectures in SA. Lecturers from SA have delivered lectures in Japan and students of the RCJ have studied for shorter periods under the auspices of Mission Japan in SA.
Dr. Koichi Mino, at present an RCJ minister in Tokyo, achieved his Masters and Doctoral degrees, in Afrikaans, at the Theological Faculty of Stellenbosch (he is married to Mareta from Stellenbosch, a qualified medical doctor.). The RCJ Synod Diaconal Committee is financially involved with AIDS projects in SA. Die RCJ countrywide has 6 Presbyteries, 90 congregations, 52 mission posts, 126 ministers, 45 retired ministers, 333 elders, 5335 practising members and 9,880 baptised members (2009 statistics).
RCJ Presbytery of SHIKOKU Island
The RCJ Presbytery of Shikoku Island comprises of twelve official congregations altogether (a congregation may be founded as soon as at least two elders may be called) and seven mission posts. Practising membership totals 569 and baptismal members are 207. The 19 congregations and mission posts are ministered by 14 full-time pastors.
The official position of us missionaries
We as missionaries belong to a local congregation (RCJ Tokushima congregation) and submit to the guidance, supervision and discipline of the local church council. Our mandate and task reaches, however, much wider than the one congregation to which we belong, at weekly sermons, prayer meetings etc. It also entails conducting sermons, mission motivational speeches and mission seminars in response to invitations in various congregations of the entire Presbytery under the supervision of the (Mission and Cooperation Committee) RCJ Presbytery.
The practical ministry of us missionaries
In the community in which we live we are involved in friendship-evangelization, hospitality ministry and Bible Studies with questing individuals. Stéphan and Carina are also intensively busy with language studies and Carina especially with the caring and education of Annlie and Cornelius, their two infants (she has to plan and address the children’s school education herself). Stéphan, who specialised and did his doctorate in Practical Theology (specifically Pastoral Care), is well qualified to utilize his training and gifts actively in future within the RCJ and in Japan by means of counselling, lectures and empowerment seminars.
The long journey with the Christian Reformed Church of Japan
Our relationship with the Christian Reformed Church of Japan and the involvement of the Dutch Reformed Church in Japan have come a very long way – close on 40 years – for which we are grateful to the Lord and of which we are sincerely proud. It is an intimate fraternal/sisterly relationship of mutual respect with the greatest cooperation agreements that are (also for us missionaries) most precious and should be carefully preserved at all costs. In the initiation and deepening of this special relationship the executive committee of Mission Japan and in particular our secretary, Dr Gideon van der Watt, as well as our chairperson, the Rev. Victor Pillay, have over the years played decisive roles with their pleasing serving attitude and Christian sensitivity for our brothers and sisters of the RCJ. We thank the Lord for them and for thousands of church members and congregations in SA that support Mission Japan in so many ways. Our prayers are not only that this will persevere to the end, but also that it will grow and deepen as more congregations and church members will come to share in this vision and mission of our Dutch Reformed Church family.
Disaster-newsflash – visual presentation (March 19th, 2011)
The raw pain of loss and trauma…
Looking for an effective visual way in which to share the present emergency situation in Japan with others… so that the support from churches (in Japan and particularly South Africa) for disaster victims may increase?
Go to www.ngkok.co.za/missiejapan and download a (6MB) Powerpoint presentation – in English – that you can use in a Sunday service / Bible Study meeting / Small group meeting/Witness Gathering.
Thank you for your continuing support!
Compelled by God’s love…
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
(also on behalf of Tobie and Annalie de Wet and Gys and Linda Olivier)
Prayer-flash for disaster-struck Japan – March 17th, 2011
One of 2200 shelters for almost 400 000 disaster victims
Since last Saturday morning all I hear on the radio while I am driving in my car is something like the following: “From Tanaka Amiko* who is now at 4 Umi Street, in Takayama Area, Miyagi Province. To Sanada Maki who used to live at 6 Yama Street, Kawa Area, Miyagi Province: ‘Mom, I’m safe. Where are you? Phone me!’ ”…
*All names en addresses are fictional.
Survivors are searching anxiously for their loved ones. Some are found. Others…
The agony of loss is tearing into the deepest soul-tissue of countless people, of an entire nation. Loss of loved ones, life essentials, living space, and so much more…for many years to come we will still have to bear speechlessly with this suffering, will have to share the experience of and re-live the indescribable pain.
But meanwhile, just as the devastating disaster and the images of it in the mass media are overwhelming, we are also being encouraged with all the compassion and caring and faithful prayers and financial contributions for the people in Japan (specifically from South Africa). Faith is turning into love in action. The more than 500 emails which I received within the first 4 days after the disaster also testify to this…and they are still streaming in. Thank you so much! You support us, and keep us occupied in a meaningful way – to be in this gap-bridging position (specifically between Japan and South Africa) is a privilege for us as missionaries.
We are sharing your caring outreach with our brothers and sisters here in Japan – with Christians and non-Christians. And we are involved in earnest discussions with the leadership of the Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ) – our partners since many years – about ways in which we may co-operate with them (and others) to reach out physically to disaster victims. We allow ourselves to be guided by church leaders’ decisions and requests: they are still busy determining the most urgent needs and will pay the disaster-stricken area a visit as soon as possible. This is quite difficult owing to various factors. We will provide feedback again as soon as we know more.
Prayer-items for the victims and disaster-stricken situation in Japan:
1) Thousands of people who have to cope with the loss of loved ones as well as material losses (house, land, possessions, work, income etc.) Many children are left parentless, whole families were swept out, inhabited and cultivated land were completely destroyed, as well as all infra-structure etc. in the affected areas.
2) Thousands of people are injured and are taken care of in over-crowded facilities without the basic necessities and personnel. Amidst late-winter coldness tens of thousands of people are living in evacuation shelters with very little (if any) heating, and limited access to water, food etc.
3) Millions of people live with the fear of potentially life-threatening radiation from the damaged nuclear power stations. Many have already left the country (some missionaries in the Tokyo-area included).
4) Tens of thousands of people (children and elderly included) are left with very-very deep psychological, mental, social and spiritual-emotional wounds – many have very little or no future prospects, and no hope, after losing everything!
5) Hundreds of government institutions and officers, NGO relief organizations and teams (also from overseas) are daily (day and night) involved very exhausting rescue work.
6) The rest of Japan (also us far away from the affected areas) is experiencing all the suffering and trauma of our own people over and over as we follow the news in all the mass media.
7) The leaders of Japan and in the affected areas who have to deal with this… the biggest post-second world-war disaster.
8) The church of Japan (ministers, members, missionaries) who has the opportunity to respond with hopeful courage (physically, psychologically and spiritually) to our own people, to the wounded people directly affected, and to the rest of Japan.
9) The church in the rest of the world who is watching everything very vividly via all mass media, and who has many chances to respond to the suffering of their fellow human beings here in Japan.
10) Many Christians (especially church leaders and missionaries) living in the affected areas, that need wisdom and encouragement to witness to God’s grace and act out their faith in love towards their victim fellow neighbors.
Thank you so much that we may rely on your support in prayer!
Compelled by God’s love…
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
(also on behalf of Tobie and Annalie de Wet, who submitted the items for prayer)
Mission Japan Disaster Newsflash – March 14, 2011
Thank you so much for the wonderful support, encouragement and ongoing prayers.
If you are still wondering: we as a family are – at this time – unhurt. So are all the other missionary families of Mission Japan (Gys and Linda Olivier and Tobie and Annalie De Wet) on Shikoku Island.
We are receiving news in bits and pieces about Christians/congregations that we know in the severely afflicted Sendai area. Some are safe, but about many others there is no certainty. Extensive power interruptions and a form of (electricity) load sharing system is now temporarily in place. The possibility of radio-active emissions from defective power plants causes raised anxiety levels. Meanwhile body after body is removed from vehicles and homes that have been torn apart and submerged by the tsunami flood. Thousands of people are still missing…
It is early Tuesday morning here…I have been up for some time hoping to find a few minutes of quiet time, to reply to countless emails and to continue with my language studies etc… the normal weekday routine…but today I am caught up in the frightening amount of images mulling in my thoughts and inner feelings, of the destruction that has affected countless people’s lives and has devastated the earth close to us…and a heightened sense of vigilance of what may still come.
I read in Isaiah 43:1-3 “…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; …When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, they will not sweep over you…For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.” And I pray that from this misery and agony countless people will accept the God of this assurance, and will know for the first time: “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character; character, hope; and hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5).
Thank you very much for persevering in prayers and keeping vigil with us…
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
Japan Disaster Fund – March 13, 2011
Thank you for every expression of sympathy and prayer for the event in Japan. Each email and telephone call is appreciated, even though it is not yet possible to respond to it all; except for urgent requests/enquiries, of course…
Below Gideon van der Watt (Dr) and the Executive Committee of Mission Japan offer an opportunity for any co-workers (especially in South Africa) to become practically involved to relieve the need. Please read it and pass it on as widely as possible.
Thank you so much,
Stéphan (on behalf of all three Mission Japan families in Shikoku Island)
Dear Mission Japan co-workers
As we all follow the news about the earthquake and tsunami on television, we cannot but to realise with shock and disbelieve the terrible extend of it all. We are touched by the aftershocks and fear of a possible nuclear disaster following the meltdown of the nuclear power stations. So many people’s lives are intensely disrupted by what has happened. The earthquake and the resulting events indeed shifted the revolving axis of planet earth – the planet we all share with each other – in a measurable way. Television is carrying all these images into our homes. It touches our lives and hearts.
Our hearts go out to the people of Japan, especially our brothers and sisters in the Reformed Church in Japan CJ (our sister church with which we have such close ties) . We are grateful that our missionaries and all the loved ones we know so well are safe. Contact with the RCJ members and congregations in the worst affected areas like Sendai has not yet been possible. We can imagine how immensely these events will impact on the RCJ. Even though they are small in numbers, we are sure that the RCJ will want to make a contribution to alleviate the need and to thus render a Christian witness. Perhaps it will be good if we could support them in such a venture – even only with a symbolic gesture.
Mission Japan Executive Committee decided to make it possible for our co-workers to contribute financially – if you are guided to do so. You are welcome to send your contribution to us or transfer the money into Mission Japan’s account. Pleas add a clear reference: Japan Disaster Fund. We will then transfer all these contributions to the Reformed Church in Japan who will then use it as they deem fit in their involvement with the disaster.
We request you to please continue praying for:
- · The victims of the disaster – the injured, those who lost everything, their loved ones.
- · For the authorities in Japan who have to deal with everything – also the secondary disasters
- · For the RCJ and our missionaries who have a calling in this time to convey a testimony of the love of Jesus Christ.
- · Let us also pray that the Lord will keep us all – the entire world whom He loved so much and for whom He sacrificed Himself – in his Love and Grace.
- · Let us thank the Lord for the sign of the rainbow – the sign of the covenant that reminds us of and consoles us with God’s promise that He will keep us and the earth on which we live safe in His Hands.
Mission Japan’s Bank Details are:
Name of Account: Missie Japan
Branch Code: 632005
Account No: 4049690248
Mission Japan’s address:
Jesus Christ is Lord,
Mission Japan Emergency Newsflash – March 12, 2011
When a disaster such as this strikes millions of people all at the same time, there are no words … not even pictures, to describe it.
The people of Miyagi Province are speechless.
Like our brothers and sisters in Japan we are dumbfounded and speechless. But we also believe this crisis is an opportunity – especially for the few Christians (1%) in Japan – to share in many practical ways the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so that many people may realize anew: even though they have been struck down, they are not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:9)
Please pray with us for the need of Japan. And please read Tobie and Gideon’s letters here below. We will keep you informed as much as possible.
Thank you for all the support and encouragement that we have received already.
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
Tobie de Wet (Rev.), missionary of Mission Japan in Tokushima, has written:
The sun rose in Japan, but only to expose terrible destruction and death. We ourselves here in Tokushima are not directly affected, but have been viewing the frightening scenes since yesterday afternoon on our local TV. Our hearts are sore and mourn with the millions that have lost loved ones and all their property, also for our brothers and sisters in Christ that have been affected. This is the worst earthquake and tsunami in the history of Japan! People who know say this is not the worst….the big one is still to come.
We are profoundly conscious of the damage, pain and suffering around us, but, at the same time, we are also trying to celebrate Annalie’s birthday here in Tokushima today (Saturday). It is also with a profound awareness of God’s Grace which makes it possible for us to fulfil our calling in this country…
In our own quiet time this morning the Spirit spoke clearly and personally to us. Earthquakes, tsunamis, famine, wars – all form part of the signs of the times. The end of earth as we know it is close. The Second Coming if Jesus Christ our Redeemer-King is imminent. But in the unmistakable words of Matthew 24:14: It is mission time!! “The Gospel of this Kingdom will be proclaimed over the entire globe as a testimony to all nations, and then it will be the end…” It is the time of GRACE: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
In Japan 99% of the entire population is still without Christ, without God and without hope…May the terrible trauma of these events speak to millions of Japanese not to build on sand but on The ROCK. May it be a renewed appeal to the church and missionaries to work towards the achievement of our calling with even greater dedication and enthusiasm.
Items for Prayer:
1) Grateful that we are safe and unhurt.
2) Pray for our brothers and sisters and colleagues in the affected areas.
3) Pray for the millions of people especially in those areas but also in the rest of Japan, who have been intensely affected by death and destruction.
4) Pray for so many that have lost loved ones.
5) Pray for spiritual-emotional healing.
6) Pray for physical aid for people that are injured and have lost everything.
7) Pray for the reconstruction of a large part of the country which will take many years to come.
8) Pray for the role and responsibility of the church.
9) Pray for the evangelisation of Japan and for the significant role of the church in SA in this regard.
Gideon van der Watt (dr.), secretary of Mission Japan and the Free State Office for Witness, writes:
Dear Makita sensei and other brothers and sisters of the Reformed Church in Japan,
It was good to briefly speak to you. We are so grateful that Shikoku and the RCJ congregations have escaped the worst danger and damages. We are so relieved that you and our missionaries are fine. We see the dramatic pictures on TV. We cannot imagine the fear, shock and trauma – how anxious most people must be. Especially at the worst hit places – Sendai, etc. We trust that our friends in Tokyo are also safe.
I have had some contact with Dr Kobus Gerber, General Secretary of the Dutch Reformed Church. On behalf of our church, himself (he is currently overseas), but also on behalf of the other sister churches, especially the RCA, as well as Mission Japan, we want to assure you of our prayers. We are deeply touched by what is happening in Japan. Your all became so close to us – our brothers and sisters! We share your pain. We really pray that our Lord will protect you and be with you all, that He will give you strength and comfort. We pray for our missionaries. We will ask as many as possible of our congregations to pray on Sunday for the people of Japan, the RCJ and for our missionaries.
If there is anything we can do to help, please tell us.
May God, the God of Psalm 46 be with you:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…
There is a river whose streams
make glad the city of God, the holy place
Where the Most High dwells
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day… “
In Christ our Lord,
Dr Gideon van der Watt
Posbus 1399/PO Box 1399
Suid Afrika/South Africa
+2751 4066729 / +27827808038
Mission Japan’s new logo comes to Light, February 21st, 2011
During the past few months something very special has been growing among the leadership team of Mission Japan. We as missionaries, as well as the members of the executive committee of Mission Japan, have refocused on our vision, and have begun to see it illuminated by a new light and in a new image (read: logo). Let me briefly cast new light on what amongst other things it comprised …
A Beam of LIGHT…
When one takes a photo, one is literally writing/drawing with light. It is a fascinating art. No photograph can be taken without light. Similarly, our lives can in no way exist without it. What is more: as Christians we believe that the Triune God created everything, and He bestows on us the privilege to share in the Light for the world – Jesus Christ. Through His mercy we participate in His re-creation in Christ. This is also how we experience it as our calling in Japan. We are part of God’s work of art that is being drawn here, by His Light. Life in and with Christ, through His Holy Spirit, is our Light, which cannot be extinguished by the darkness. Our calling is simply to testify to this Truth (John 1:4-8).
In the words of Paul in 2 Cor. 4: 5-6: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God who said: “Let LIGHT shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ.” (cf. also John 1:14)
Our lives as missionaries should therefore testify to one reality: the imprint (or fruit) of the Holy Spirit which brings the light of Christ’s glory to our lives. We are sent to (specifically Japanese) people who cross our path to share our faith expressed in love (Gal. 5:6). The ultimate goal is that, God willing, in the end we shall be standing with them defenceless facing the demands of the Word, and together be guided to live lives that reflect the Gospel.
Let a new rainbow (logo) appear…
The Light of Christ’s gospel is also concretely reflected in lives that testify to true hope, faith, love, peace and joy towards one another. This, might also be said, is the rainbow – the multi-coloured spectrum – of Christ’s Light in our lives, which is seen by others. This testifies to a new relationship/covenant with God, which makes possible a new way of building-relationships-with- others, and creates a new expectation of God’s triune Lordship.
A rainbow (read more here below) is a perfect, but mysterious (literally hazy) reflection of light. Not even the best camera can convey the true extent of a rainbow. Yet it is there, visible, magnificent, perfect. It is a symbol of God’s true grace which is vividly present and at the same time hidden through his Spirit: God with us.
Aware of our shortcomings, and our so often dim and out-of-focus reflection of the Light of our Lord Jesus, we also confess: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7).
Mission Japan’s ministry is thus only possible by God’s power and grace, which overreach and embrace our shortcomings. It is the ministry of the Triune God Himself. We owe Him our gratitude for allowing us to share in this privilege!
We would like to share more about…
Gideon van der Watt (Dr) – Secretary of Mission Japan – has written as follows about the new logo (above):
“It symbolises the bond between Christians/Churches in South Africa (the colourful rainbow nation) and Japan (Mount Fuji). The rainbow is for us a very special symbol of God’s promise to provide (also in this partnership and calling). The colours of the rainbow symbolises the light of Gods salvation and love, as well as the multi-coloured (many facetted) grace in Christ. We take joy in trying to reflect and to carry this light into the world, through the power of the Holy Spirit. The word ‘mission’ -spelled in Afrikaans, Japanese and English – is a sign of our respect for and celebration of the different cultures and languages. We hope and pray that you will also find this logo acceptable and that it will become dear to you. We pray that it will contribute to a clear vision of our partnership goals, that it will help establishing our identity and promoting our joint ventures.”
We believe this Biblical reference to light, and the symbolism of the rainbow in combination with the universally well-known Mount Fuji is – culturally and theologically – relevant. It illuminates and directs our calling and values, as well as the focus of our ministry and vision: here and now. We would like to share so much more with you concerning this simple, but multi-coloured vision of the newly “branded” Mission Japan – especially during our first deputation in South Africa towards the middle of this year, God willing.
God’s Peace and Joy,
Stéphan (also on behalf of the Mission Japan Executive and missionaries)
The rainbow has acquired an extraordinary meaning for Mission Japan since the resolution to proceed with our mission with the RCJ on Shikoku Island, by reinforcing our involvement, and sending at least one more missionary couple with all the effort, sacrifice and expenses this would entail.
At the time when officials from Mission Japan visited congregations to share with them the new challenge and commitment, God displayed the magnificent rainbow in the heavens. And again, shortly after the Mission Japan meeting in March (2009), when everything had been finalized with the RCJ deputation in Bloemfontein, and it was decided that Stéphan en Carina van der Watt would be sent to Japan as new missionaries, the rainbow once again appeared in the sky above Bloemfontein (South Africa)!
And at this time again, just as we were about to begin our RCJ presbytery meeting here in Tokushima on Tuesday 14 April, my Scripture reading for the morning happened to be about Noah and God’s rainbow.
The main text Gen. 8:1 “But God remembered Noah….”
Noah had not known what might happen when he would, in faith, obey God’s command to build the ark, even when people would think he was doing something stupid … when things began to happen as God had predicted, Noah must have been very relieved and excited. But then the rain would not stop coming down, and Noah and his small family were very much alone on a tiny ship on the vast waters, and suddenly they felt rather isolated, lonely, uncertain and anxious …
“But God remembered Noah….” It was firstly God who bestowed mercy on him and his family. God in His Almighty Grace decided to save them and to send them across the waters to a new land and a new beginning. God had a plan for them. God was in control of both their lives and all the powers around them. In His time the waters dried up, and Noah and his small family stepped onto the soil of a new world. They started a new life and role as God’s representatives and servants. God blessed them (Gen. 9:1), He gave them a command (Gen. 9:1 “…Be fruitful and increase in number), He gave them authority/power (Gen.9:2), He provided for their needs (Gen.9:3) and then He gave them the RAINBOW with the promise/assurance of His FAITHFULNESS, His sovereignty and control, His protection, His love etc.
I believe God spoke to us at Mission Japan, and is still talking to us as His missionaries, and especially to Stephan, Carina and Annlie, as they arrived here in Japan on Good Friday / Easter weekend. Thet were called and sent by God, as they obeyed His calling in faith alone (even though there may be those who think that they are very foolish!), to start here a new life and ministry in a new country with all the uncertainties and challenges. “You are in My heart. I will keep you there. I haven’t forgotten you. I have a plan and purpose for you. I will care for you. Just watch the rainbow.”
What did Noah and his family do? They immediately built an altar for the Lord, and sacrificed burnt offerings to the Lord (Gen. 8:20-21). At the altar is where they met the Lord, where they acknowledged Him, where they worshipped Him, praised and thanked Him, humbled themselves before Him and surrendered themselves to Him. This is what our response should be, and certainly is …
Tobie de Wet (as part of Mission Japan News Flash on 17 April 2009)
GOOD NEWS-flash, February 8th, 2011
I am delighted to share with you as supporter the following important and exciting news:
At a meeting of the Executive Committee of Mission Japan (at the end of 2010) it was officially decided that we as a family will, God willing, pay South Africa a visit towards the middle of this year. The letter below by Gideon van der Watt (Dr), Secretary of Mission Japan, explains the background of this decision and considerably more about the visit as such … please read it carefully.
Also: Scroll down and read below if you wish to share in our latest prayer requests …
Stephan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius.
Some members of the Executive Committee of Mission Japan at the November 2010 meeting (from left to right and from the back to the front): Johan du Plessis (additional member), Hannes Haggard, Victor Pillay (chairperson), Gideon van der Watt (secretary), Kobus Gerber (additional member), Elsabé du Plessis, Giep Louw, Annalie de Wet, Aldoret Fourie (FS Witness Office), Johann Winterbach, Tobie de Wet.
STEPHAN AND CARINA VAN DER WATT (AND FAMILY)’ S VISIT
Stephan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius will be returning to South Africa for a few months after a period of more than two years’ service in Japan. The visit will stretch from June 4th to August 19th, 2011. They will be coming for a well-earned break and to visit relatives and friends. We trust that they will have a pleasant time back within their familiar environment.
However, a large part of this visit will also focus on deputation work with congregations. We are putting together a program which will include visits to several congregations. It will be very tough for them, but they are looking forward to it. Making personal contact with supporters is important and necessary. We know that congregations would like to show them hospitality and love, and would invigorate their calling, which is our calling too. What is the purpose of such visits to congregations? In Acts 14: 24-29 we read how the congregation of Antioch welcomed back after a long journey Paul and Barnabas, the two missionaries, they had sent off. We read how the congregation gave them a hospitable reception and time to rest, how the congregation allowed them to talk about what God did through them, how they all rejoiced about this and how they committed the missionaries and their work to God in prayer. Paul often writes in the Bible about the importance of support for fellow-workers, and how he longs to see them again. We hope some of this will be realised during Stephan and Carina’s visit.
We would therefore like to achieve the following with their visit:
- that Stephan and Carina will be able to tell about their work and life in Japan;
- that personal relationships will be developed anew;
- that we as supporters will commit ourselves anew to our common calling in Japan;
- that we will pray for our missionaries and their work;
- that we will spoil them a bit with our hospitality and love;
- that we will receive information on Mission Japan and our functioning, will plan together and take hands anew;
- and that we will involve our supporters in this wonderful enterprise.
Mission Japan’s Executive Committee earnestly requests everybody’s cooperation in order to make the visits as meaningful as possible. Stephan will share details concerning dates of visits later.
But then we cannot refrain from thanking anew congregations and many individuals for their loyal support. Thank you for contributions and prayers.
We are constrained by the love of our Lord, we can do no other.
God’s Peace and Joy,
Gideon van der Watt
Prayerflash – February 8th, 2011
The other day Noriko arrived at our home to convey to us her New Year’s wishes. She also brought us some fresh apple juice, and an apple with the Japanese letter which means “be happy! /a long life!” on it. She had done this by leaving a sticker in the shape of the letter on the apple for months on end, so that that part of the peel had not turned red. Exceptional, don’t you think!
The visit had Carina and me talking again about how unique and profound the Japanese culture was, a theme about which we would like to share volumes with you still. But first, some requests for prayer.
Thank the Lord with us for:
1) My parents-in-law, Tobie and Annalie, who arrived safely in Tokushima last Friday afternoon after a period of 10 weeks blessed with rest and work in South Africa.
2) Miwa Terauchi, who has found suitable employment here in Tokushima (as occupational therapist), which will also allow her to start a part-time Christian children’s ministry.
3) A wonderful annual meeting of our local congregation two weeks ago, which testified anew to God’s great providence and guidance.
In dependence on the Lord, please ask for His guidance and care for:
1) My parents-in-law, Tobie and Annalie, for strength and wisdom for this, their last year of official ministry, in Japan. God willing, they will return to South Africa permanently at the end of this year.
2) A Dutch (Cultural Anthropology) student, Petra Postema, who arrived in Tokushima on Monday for 3 months’ study of the well known (Buddhist) Shikoku 88 Temple Route. Petra is a Christian believer who is “home staying” with Miwa Terauchi’s family, and who likes sharing her faith with our congregation.
3) The Dutch Reformed Congregation La Rochelle (Bellville) has decided in principle to conduct an outreach to Japan at the end of April, and to be involved amongst other things, for 4-5 days in Tokushima and further. They are preparing intensively to share their gifts here by means of drama, testimonies, music, sport etc., and also to support us missionaries and RCJ congregations. Please pray for them and their planning for the outreach – especially for their fundraising and team relationships. We share their excitement about this possibility.
BY THE WAY: don’t you want to print this prayer flash and share it with prayer companions?
Variety Newsflash, February 4th, 2011
Here are some extracts from and photographs of opportunities that came our way at the turn of the new year – do click here and take a quick browse through the entire photo gallery. If you scroll down you will also find two new meaningful articles which Carina wrote recently. It’s worth the read…
Japanese Language Proficiency Test (5 Dec)
For 3 months I focused intensively on preparation for the important – the so-called JLPT N3 – examination. In conjunction with my language lecturers I had decided on aiming for one level higher than my current knowledge level. Was this way beyond my abilities? Certainly, especially the grammar and comprehension part. Results will be made known only by the end of February, but the whole exercise has enabled me to make a few new leaps forward in Japanese, and that had been the actual purpose. Thank you for everyone that prayed and encouraged!
Celebrating Christmas with friends at our home (11 Dec)
Hospitality forms the backbone of our life and ministry in Japan. Having an open front door for our (mostly non-Christian) friends, is a privilege and offers unique opportunities, at which we like sharing the Light of Christ’s hope, peace, joy and love. With 20 people in a snug room or two we enjoyed a festive time together. Miwa Terauchi (who had recently returned from South Africa) could avail herself of a valuable opportunity to meet some new people whose children might soon become part of her newly established children’s ministry. Please also share in our prayers for this.
Christmas Carol Service (19 Dec)
Enjoyably jovial and casual … that was the mood of the special Christmas Carol Service held in our home congregation in Tokushima. Our tiny church building was rearranged with tables at which everybody was able to share experiences and tasty refreshments in small groups. The big surprise of the day was the vibrance and charm of my two (Japanese language class) friends who appealed to everyone’s imagination with their exceptional violin and piano melodies from Sweden, their home country.
Toddlers’ Christmas Party (23 Dec)
Fun, noisy and messy… this is surely how it should be when children are involved in a party in the church! What a treat it was to see the members of our congregation (some of them well into their 70’s) playing joyfully with the children! For most of the people we had invited – and with whom we had developed relationships over the last 21 months - it was a real first experience in a church, and a new way of getting to know the true story of Christmas. Especially Kataoka sensei (our congregation’s new minister since the middle of 2010) and Miwa could use this opportunity to get to know them too.
First 2 preaching opportunities (9 and 16 Jan)
I have always found it very difficult (yet meaningful) preparing a sermon in Afrikaans (my mother tongue). Doing it in Japanese is WAY MORE difficult… But with translating assistance of my father-in-law Tobie and Kiyoko (a Japanese theologian), and the support of many prayer friends it was possible. Mercifully these first few ‘test runs’ went very well. I am really immensely grateful that the Lord has brought me to this point, and even though there is still a long haul ahead, at least we are this far (specifically with language studies)… and we have a great deal to celebrate!
And now, in lighter vein, here is the bonus track in this variety flash…
The other night just before the children’s bedtime I took a DVD-clip while they were letting rip with a last reel on the kitchen floor ….. if you click here, you may share in the fun (just scroll down to the YouTube DVD-clip, click on “play” and remember to turn up the volume of your computer properly).
God’s Peace and Joy,
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius.
CHRISTMAS 2010 – BABY JESUS vs. SANTA CLAUS IN JAPAN
Baby Jesus is actually Baby ‘Father’ Christmas. Or rather, that is the case in the stable scene of the birth of Jesus in Japan. In the place where Jesus is supposed to be, a tiny red Father Christmas is lying down, surrounded by Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the Wise Men.
The strange reality is that the average Japanese really doesn’t know that it should NOT be Father Christmas. Christmas was taken directly from the West … presents, Christmas trees, and instead of the American turkey, chicken.
Even Christmas carols (a mixture of secular and Christian) are heard everywhere in the shops. Every institution (kindergartens, play centres, English classes, etc.) has a Christmas party very much like the West. The big difference is that very few people really know the true Christian meaning of Christmas. Few understand the English words and whatever is translated into Japanese just sounds sweet on the ear.
It is certainly often hard to be so far removed from our good friends, neighbours and acquaintances both on a cultural level, and in terms of spiritual values. Especially during Christmas, when the expectation, hope, joy and love of Christ become a reality to us in a unique symbolic manner, it often saddens us as adults. But fortunately we are able to make sense of it all. Loneliness, after all, is part of life. Our hearts, however, feel a deep empathy for our children that grow up in a home vastly different from their neighbours’, also concerning all the ambiguities that they will still experience…their lives will always consist of “Inside our Home” versus “Outside our Home”.
Therefore we endeavour to create and maintain traditions that will allow our children and us to experience the true meaning of Christmas in a rich and joyful manner. For instance, we have commenced by celebrating Advent wholeheartedly by counting the days. For example, every day we would draw our Advent Activity from the correctly numbered bag. Today was the day for baking Christmas biscuits – for our neighbours and friends. Tomorrow we will be watching Christmas lights. In this way we are looking forward to Christmas and we are all filled with meaningful expectation.
On the morning of 26 December all Christmas decorations in Japan will be removed without any delay. In its place, the festive decorations of the actual big Japanese New Year’s celebrations will appear … by far the most important holiday time in Japan’s yearly calender.
On New Year’s Day everybody usually visit temples or shrines. Specific traditions are maintained and very typical decorations are exhibited. Special New Year’s postcards are sent to relatives, friends, and business contacts. Another tradition is doing a ‘BIG clean-up’ just before the New Year – so as to enter the new period of time clean and prepared. Usually everybody helps with these big cleaning sessions – children, parents and grandparents. It is done at home and in the work place. Even the Buddhist icons in temples are dusted and television programs show pictures of these huge cleaning efforts. One thing is certain, we South Africans are often very spoilt by leaving this cleaning to others to do. Here you usually scrub your own toilets, door frames, windows…
It is very cold in Tokushima today and while I’m typing my fingers are rather stiff with the cold. But the warmth of Christmas – even though it is celebrated to the full by only a handful – surrounds me. Truth to tell, the small numbers in our tiny church of some 30 members afford us a singular quality of intimacy which glows with radiance and joy. There is certainly a lesson for us Westerners in this.
The blessings of Christ in this special Christmas-time and a beautiful New Year from Japan.
Carina (on behalf of the van der Watt-family)
Donghuri Koro Koro, Donburi Ko – AUTUMN IN JAPAN – November 24, 2010
Japanese summers are debilitating, hot, 80 percent humid. And long. But that is why autumn in Japan is such a joy to me. Almost overnight the fresh autumn breeze starts rejuvenating my body and home. Suddenly I have energy to launch new projects and to enjoy nature and my home – without feeling exhausted and enervated all the time. I actually enjoy the sun again.
Perhaps that is why the Japanese clean their homes in December (instead of the usual ‘spring cleaning’ the Japanese have their big clean-up in winter). But that is a story for another day.
The Japanese are seasonal people. They derive from every season every possible bit of joy and enrichment of the soul. Autumn is the time in which so many kinds of fruit and vegetables are ready for picking and harvesting. And everybody participates, especially tiny children. As a South African who was privileged with space and nature everywhere around me, I am sadly surprised that I did not avail myself sufficiently of these. But in this land of concrete and technology and homes built one meter and less apart (I regularly hear my neighbours’ washing machine), the Japanese participate actively in whatever little nature offers them around their homes.
Digging for sweet potatoes with a lot of infants and mommies (and even daddies) in the mellow autumn sun, with the earth between our fingers, creates an incredible feeling of togetherness which exposes small children to both the soil and growth cycles. Similarly there are such orange-, apple- and grape-picking excursions. The flavours and tastes of fresh autumn fruit, nuts and vegetables are thoroughly appreciated by the Japanese palate.
When I, the mother of two infants, think of autumn in Japan, I cannot help but hear in my mind the melody of a well-known Japanese children’s song: “Donghuri Koro Koro” (A Rolling Acorn). ‘Donghuri’ is Japanese for an acorn. Nursery schools, a sea of lovely shiny black-haired infants wearing little hats of the same colour, go into the neighbourhood or parks together to collect acorns. At the bazaar of a local kindergarten an acorn race was held and the winners each received a small hand-made ornament. I remain perplexed by the paradox of the large, technological, noisy play centres and the hand-made, natural and leisurely creativity of the Japanese.
In mountainous Japan blotches of rusty orange and yellow are seen everywhere. The children and I utilized this colourful opportunity to undertake various autumn leaf projects. Inspired by the Japanese, who are astonishingly innovative and artistic, we made pendants and even our own tiny glitter autumn tree from autumn leaves.
I think that being in touch with the season and everything that happens in that season like the Japanese provides a child (and myself) with a rich, colourful experience and happiness, a joyful awareness of the simplicity in nature and the wealth in our own souls when we start paying conscious attention to the ‘ordinariness’ of life around us. This is when material things not only lose significance, but are replaced by a philosophy of ‘Simplicity which becomes the joy of Life’.
Donguri’s words in English (a free translation):
An acorn rolling down and down.
Suddenly he fell into a pool.
The little river fish appeared,
Hi buddy! Come and play with us!
The acorn enjoyed playing with them.
But suddenly he started crying,
I want to return to the mountains.
The little river fish were distressed…
written by Carina van der Watt
Newsflash (on parenting in the Far East) - November 2, 2010
Autumn has brought cosmos. Last week the first snow fell in the North and we are really feeling it! One of these days Mount Fuji will look like this again…
In this newsflash I would like to share some events with you:
Firstly: Two weeks ago we had the privilege of having Ben Fourie (Rev.) here with us in Japan. He came on behalf of the Reformed Churches in South Africa (GKSA) to build relationships with the RCJ (Reformed Church in Japan)’s church leaders at the synod meeting which we attended together in Tokyo. Ben is a colourful person with many gifts with which he ministered all of us – our congregation in Tokushima included. We are looking forward to a possible way forward for Mission Japan and the RCJ with the GKSA in future…
In the second place: Miwa (Terauchi) is still enjoying every minute in South Africa. She completed her training (in ministry of Christian children) at Witrivier last week. As from last Saturday and for the following 2 weeks she will be between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town to meet some more people and to enjoy the beautiful Garden Route. Do read the newsletter which she wrote earlier (just scroll further down here below).
Thirdly: My parents-in law – Tobie (Rev.) and Annalie de Wet – just completed a tour through Kyushu Island, where they used to live and work for a period of 8 years. They visited various congregations and friends and are following up precious relationships and conversations. This is a valuable experience shortly before their departure for South Africa middle November for a time of rest and some deputation work until early Feb. 2011. Please read all about it in their own words, by scrolling down and reading here below.
Also: during the past 2 months my language studies have been directed towards a very important exam (Japanese Language Proficiency Test – N3 level) which is around the corner (5 Dec). For the next month until then I shall continue focussing fully on this. Meanwhile, please forgive me in advance for possibly not getting to all email responses. I will respond as soon after 5 Dec. as possible, and in the meantime I will be able to reply only to the most urgent queries…
And lastly: Recently Carina wrote the article below for (the South African) “Baba en Kleuter” magazine (November edition). The end of the year means a busy time for her with her presentation of English classes for infants and mothers, Japanese language studies, a list of children’s parties and the primary caring for Annlie and Cornelius etc.
Please read (by scrolling down here) below and learn more about her mother heart…do send any responses directly to Carina at firstname.lastname@example.org
We will particularly appreciate your intercessory support in the month ahead – especially concerning those things shared with you in this news flash.
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius.
FROM THE FAR EAST…
Sushi and samurai. Short people always taking photographs. This is the average Westerner’s image of Japan. To many Westerners Japan remains an enigma, an incomprehensible, mysterious culture and language which makes one sweat! Owing to the geographic position most Japanese possess an island mentality and up to recently a reticence for Western influence. Very few Japanese can speak English which turns Westerners (who have no knowledge of Japanese) into small children again – illiterate and helpless.
With these kinds of challenges Stéphan and I came to Japan in April 2009 as missionaries from the Dutch Reformed Church (Stéphan is a minister). I was 6 months pregnant with our second child and the proud, but weary mother of Annlie (at the time she was 20 months old).
The birth of our baby son, Cornelius, was exceptionally difficult as here no painkillers are administered (I did, however, ask Stéphan to smuggle in some panado for me!). Apparently childbirth prepares you for motherhood – which, as all mothers know, can become rough at times. Well, if it depended on childbirth, I was superbly prepared for motherhood!
People always ask us whether we miss South Africa. Truth is: we just don’t have the time. I think with small children it makes no difference where you are. Your time is consumed with housecleaning (no such wonderful thing as domestic help here) and caring for children, so that there is certainly no time for nostalgia. All sentimentality vanishes at the appearance of another dirty diaper, mountains of washing and dirty dishes (which Stéphan and I deal with as a team). Therefore, I think I experience the same challenges as other mothers in South Africa: Lack of time, privacy and despondency when another emotional outburst occurs.
There certainly are some aspects of parenthood which are exceptionally difficult in Japan. As soon as a crisis develops, you miss the support you would have had in South Africa. In South Africa there is the possibility of neighbours or friends or relatives helping out with childcare or bringing food. Here in Japan there is very little contact between neighbours and even sometimes among relatives. Although at present Japan is the second biggest economy in the world, an exceptional drive and hard-work-mentality have brought about very little occasion for people to get together. The Japanese find it terribly strange that we receive guests so readily, and when they enter our home, their first words are “I’m sorry for being a nuisance”!
And then of course the big handicap – THE LANGUAGE! Very few people can speak any English, except for “cute” and “ok”. And for a Westerner Japanese is even more difficult than Chinese. It is hard finding time for studying, but absolutely essential for survival.
The best part of parenthood in Japan? Because we are more dependent on one another, we have in addition to the lack of time and South African friends and family, developed a profound awareness of familyhood and the tremendous influence we have on one another. The rich Japanese culture also provides many opportunities for small children to attend colourful festivals in traditional wear and to play games and to dance traditional dances during the balmy summer’s evenings…
We are investigating home schooling for the future as an option – because we would very much like our children to speak, apart from Japanese, Afrikaans (and English) fluently. More importantly, the Japanese education system exerts enormous pressure on their children to work hard and to be achievers. School hours often comprise 6 days per week with extra classes until 22:00, and these hours often apply from primary school. We would prefer our children to have more leisure time, as well as less exposure to a one-dimensional culture. In South Africa some people often complain about the demands of a multi-cultural society, but it certainly makes ours a richer and more diverse nation – something we miss here.
Stéphan and I dream of offering courses on parenthood here one day. Families in Japan largely lack intimacy. Among the highest suicide rates in the developed world are to be found among the Japanese (and especially teenagers). We would like to learn with other parents that this ‘calling’ of parenthood is the most important and most meaningful job that we would ever have. Indeed, is there a greater reward than having a loving and close relationship with your child?
Carina van der Watt (Tokushima City, Japan)
Newsflash (Tobie and Annalie’s visit to Kyushu) – November 1, 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
VISIT TO KYUSHU
We are back from a highlight trip to Kyushu where we lived for almost 8 years since January 2000. Our purpose was to visit as many as possible of our friends and contacts.
First we went to Kokura where we had weekly English classes in Kokura Reformed Church, Annalie was part of a monthly Cooking Club we began at the church and Tobie preached once a month on a Sunday in the Worship Service. Kokura Church will begin a new era from April next year with a new minister. KIM sensei, a Korean pastor with a Japanese wife (Yukie san). We could gather some of our friends (about 15) in the church and introduced them to Kim sensei and his wife. We promised to pray for the new work in Kokura and also to ask our friends in SA to pray.
After Kokura we visited our friends in Fukuoka (we met about 50) and could spend quality time with many of them. The highest highlight was Sunday when we preached at our old church (Nagaoka Reformed Church), met all our dear brothers and sisters and even had about 12 people from Kashihara community (where we actually lived, had English and Bible Study classes) who attended the Worship Service.
This was a very important visit (outreach) and we just again realized how important it is to keep regular contact with these wonderful people and to keep them in our hearts and prayers. Many of them promised to visit us next year in Tokushima (before we return permanently to SA) and some even promised to visit us in SA!!
FURLOUGH IN SA
We will be in our home country from the middle / end of November until the end of January. We will attend the Mission Japan Committee meeting in Johannesburg at the end of November, will visit some churches and also spend time with our family. We are especially looking forward to see our grandchildren who will probably not know us (Tobie hasn’t seen Corlia and Sakkie’s child yet and Corlia is expecting another one at the beginning of December…).
Please PRAISE the LORD with us for:
1) A good time we had in Kyushu.
2) The opportunity to be in our home country for a while soon.
Please PRAY with us for:
1) The Church and our Friends in Kyushu.
2) The next two weeks of ministering before going on FURLOUGH.
3) The Shikoku Presbytery Meeting of 9 and 10 November.
4) MIWA san’s last few weeks in SA which includes visits to PE, Humansdorp, George, Swellendam, Stellenbosch, Cape Town and Wellington.
5) Our furlough in SA, that it might be a blessed time, also in preparing for our final year in Japan and our return to SA at the end of 2012.
News and Prayerflash - October 3rd, 2010
It was intense ánd light, simultaneously. Official, and yet, full of joy. A spiritual-emotional boost that stretched far beyond us missionary families in Tokushima. Our house is empty this morning, but our hearts full. I am talking about the visit of the 5-member Du Plessis family who blessed us with their endless energy and enthusiasm. Carina’s words were: “I suspect God used you to let us experience again the pretense-less African connection. We are looking forward to continuing this connection in Hoopstad…” We are truly thankful for supporters who became our friends!
If you want to see more about this past week’s events, take a peep here. Please also read here below how (dad) Tobie and (mom) Annalie describe some of the visit’s details…
Thank you for your support and interest!
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie en Cornelius
FROM Tobie and Annalie
Dear Family and Friends,
The Du Plessis-family, Johann, Elsabe, Elaine (13), Johann (13) en Jac (11) came and left! Friday morning, the 1st of October, we sent them off again. From Friday evening to Friday morning they were with us, physically staying with Stephan and Carina, but we all spent good time together, we spoke in our mother-tongue, we made jokes only South Africans will laugh at, we enjoyed our typical South African “braai,” we went to Japanese hot-springs (ONSEN) where they had to bath naked in front of everybody (ladies en gents separately…), we had lots of fun, we prayed together and best of all we could share our hearts freely and fully with one another in our own language and culture. It was indeed a very special and a good time for us in Japan. It doesn’t happen often….
They as a family also spent a blessed time with our congregation and the members of Tokushima church. They experienced the love and hospitality of our people and they too could share their love and the love of their church (Hoopstad congregation) with the members of Tokushima congregation and even wider among some of our friends.
What is really great about this special visit, is that they came as official delegates and representatives of Hoopstad congregation (Johann is an elder en Elsabe is Mission Japan representative on the Witness Commission), and that Hoopstad congregation sponsored their visit fully. They were officially and specially sent by their church to come all the way to encourage their missionaries here at the ends of the earth!! And an encouragement it has been and will be indeed as we will continue our deep relationship and fellowship with one another! Especially also the fact that their children could come with meant so much to Annlie and Cornelius.
Friday morning, after they have left, I prayerfully and thankfully thought by myself: There are many congregations, families and individuals supporting us with their daily prayers and their monthly sacrificial financial contributions. Most of them will unfortunately never be able to visit us in Japan. The Du Plessis-family represented all of you in a very concrete and wonderful way!!
THANK YOU HOOPSTAD Church Council, Witness Commission and Congregation for your wonderful love, your mission vision and your generous involvement with Mission Japan and with us, your missionaries. You have made a deep impact on us and our being here in Japan.
Please PRAISE the LORD with us for:
1) A good time of we had with the Du Plessis-family.
2) Their sharing and input at our Sunday Worship Service and Thursday Prayer meeting.
3) The nice cool autumn weather we are enjoying now.
4) The opportunities and fruitful time we (Tobie and Annalie) had in Takamatsu Higashi congregation and Yamada congregation, preaching and doing our mission seminar.
Please PRAY with us for:
1) OUR PROGRAM OF THE REST OF THIS MONTH (OCTOBER):
i) Stephan and Carina’s daily Japanese studies
ii) Their family-life, caring for Annlie and Cornelius. They have to adapt again after such a wonderful time with the Du Plessis-family.
iii) Their contact with people in the community
iv) Tobie and Annalie’s weekly program of preparation, Bible studies, English classes, ministering in Tokushima, Tokushima Seibu and Marugame congregations
v) Tokushima congregation’s weekly prayer meetings (Tobie is responsible). We are doing Bible studies from the Book of Acts.
vi) The General Synod Meeting of the RCJ from 19 to 21 October to be held in TOKYO. At the same time a delegate (Ben Fourie) from the Gereformeerde Kerk of SA will visit the RCJ Synod and us here in Shikoku.
vii) Our visit (Tobie and Annalie) to KYUSHU at the end of the month to follow-up on most of our friends and precious contacts in Fukuoka and in Kokura..
2) MIWA san: Miwa has a very fruitful time of studies and visitation in SA. Everywhere she is going she is making a good impression on people. This month of October she will mostly be busy with an in-depth course in children”s ministry at Petra College in Witrivier.
Scroll down to read a gripping letter which Miwa wrote about her visit to South Africa thus far (we thank Kiyoko Hakamata who translated it into English from the original Japanese).
A Blessed Trip to South Africa – by Miwa Terauchi - September 12, 2010
I praise the name of our precious Lord. And I thank you for your prayers. I have arrived safely in Bloemfontein on the 20th of August, and I am indebted to Rev. Gideon’s family, who is doing a great work in Mission Japan. It is already more than three weeks now. I am kept in good health and am spending time which is full of blessings every day.
My life in South Africa
After a long trip which was 26 hours, I was very uneasy because I could only converse in poor English. But Rev. Gideon’s wife Ronel and his secretary Aldoret gave me a warm welcome and also taught me a South African slogan “Don’t worry, Be happy, Eat Mango!!”, and I was relieved. I had a short while of rest and then enjoyed sight seeing, visiting churches and having fellowship with people in Bloemfontein. The people in Bloemfontein are very friendly and are always telling jokes. I am having the privilege of feeling the warmth and richness of people’s hearts in a personal way. It is not that South Africans have a lot of spare time to relate with other people. As a matter of fact, South African people work very hard and are busy, even in their private lives as well. But the practice of valuing other people is deeply rooted in their culture, and although they are busy, they skillfully make time and enjoy full heartedly the fellowship of having tea or dining together with their family, friends, and associates. They call this “KUIER” in Afrikaans.
God has sent me a wonderful helper shortly after my arrival in South Africa. It was the (unexpected) meeting with Rev. Mino of Tokyo Oncho (Grace of God) Church and his wife Mareta who were also staying at Rev. Gideon’s house to attend the 10th International Congress on Calvin Research, which was held in the Free State University in Bloemfontein. I was able to go together with them on sightseeing, dining and visiting the University, and I was able to hear about the deep relationship between the Reformed Church in Japan and the Dutch Reformed Church from the past, about the culture of South Africa, the background of the social problems and about the life South Africa in detail. They explained it all in Japanese!! I was amazed with the wonderful timing of this and felt the greatness of God’s plan. I was hesitant in relying on the cordial hospitality and kindness of the South African people, but the words of Rev. Mino, “When you are taken care of do not feel bad but accept everything with gratitude. And in the future, you again do what you can for others”, changed my mind as to receive the blessings of God which are given to me through people.
The Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) in South Africa
I had heard about it, but now I see for myself that the DRC in South Africa is rich in variety. Depending on the location there are different races, people’s life styles differ, their ages differ and people have different ways of worship. In South Africa this is something natural but I am surprised by it every time. There is a church where a lot of young people gather and worship in a way called “Tekkie” Service, where they worship with a full music “band” and where there is a message in a fairly free and easy style. Then there is a church where farmers in the country gather having a more formal traditional way of worship. There is a church where people with musical talents gather. There are churches where people are financially poor, but people are good at cooking. I think according to the difference of talents of people, God works in many different ways. And according the location of the congregation, and the needs of every location, the church is probably being reformed accordingly. I am wondering what is necessary for a church to grow and develop in a way that will be according to God’s will? I am looking forward to the Lord to teach me through the various experiences within these three months.
Basic Course for Child Evangelism
On 30th August my genuine learning course started. My lecturer, Annemarie, is using the teachings of Child evangelism at Petra-College and is evangelizing children in various places. She is enjoying this work with her whole her heart and is offering her life in serving God. She does this through the ministry in the church she belongs to, as well as through evangelism to poor children in the Black Township (a residence of black people) and also through giving guidance to other people who are engaged in child evangelism. In her busy schedule, Annemarie has taught me many things.
- The importance of reconsidering relations between yourself and God, and the relation between yourself and people.
- The point of building up a relationship of mutual trust between the children.
- How to relate through playing activities and storytelling.
- Important things when you share the message of the Bible.
And through the on-the-job training (especially in Townships) which we already visited three times, where many children are gathering and listening to the Gospel, believing in Jesus from the heart, and are even growing spiritually. Although they are economically poor, they laugh a lot, listen to the Gospel with shining eyes, and have great dreams for the future. Meeting such children made an impact on me. They know the real meaning of the richness of the heart.
Church Visiting in Pretoria
Moreleta-Park Dutch Reformed Church in Pretoria is a gigantic church which has 15 000 members and resembles an airport. There they are very active in doing child-evangelism as well. Riana, who works full time there, is making the most of her experience of 30 years of teaching Sunday School, by producing programs and text books for evangelism which aims at children between the ages from babies to pre-elementary school. In the church-annex, which is built especially for young children, about 600 children are studying annually in an environment is well-prepared so that they can have different classes according to the ages for the children and can enjoy their study about the Bible and about Jesus.
I myself have thus far mostly been involved with Sunday School for elementary school kids, and have always thought that it is difficult for babies and children under the age of elementary school to receive the Gospel. But I think it was a great blessing for me to know that the power of the Holy Spirit also works in such children abundantly and even they can meet Jesus, and to know that it is important to do evangelizing work also to them.
People supporting Mission Japan
While I was staying in Bloemfontein, I was invited to various churches, homes and cell-groups, and was given the opportunity to share about Tokushima Church and to give my own testimony. I could learn that a church is growing through the sending out missionaries, enjoying the work of the missionaries as if they themselves are doing it, praying earnestly and supporting the work. I thank them for it. And I thanked God for giving them the heart to support and moving them for the Evangelism in Japan.
My Plans from now: I will move to Pretoria in the end of September. Then I will go to Witrivier for about one month to study in Petra College from the 2nd of October. It would be nice if you would remember me in your prayers. Please contact me at : email@example.com
PS 1: this letter was written by Miwa san in Japanese and translated into English by Kiyoko Hakamata (thank you Kiyoko san!)
PS 2: read more about Miwa san and see a photo of her, here below.
NEWSFLASH - September 20th, 2010
The bliss of the sea in summertime nourished us abundantly, and after our first break (leave) since our arrival in Japan (April 2009), we returned to Tokushima two weeks ago and are again going full steam ahead. The colours of autumn are appearing bit by bit, but battle to topple one of the hottest and longest summers in decades … with creation we yearn for the advent of the new season!
Young people’s camp at Kochi(3-5 Aug)
Last month we experienced two special highlights that we would like to share with you. The first was the annual camp for children and teenagers from a few of Shikoku island’s small RCJ (Reformed Church in Japan) congregations. This year I had the opportunity (amidst all the fun) to convey two short and simple messages in Japanese (with Father-in law Tobie’s linguistic help). It was a good ice-breaker for a novice, and mercifully everything went well. The theme of the camp – Jesus as the True Vine – is still echoing in my mind. Indeed, without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5)…
Street Dancing (Awa odori) (12-15 Aug)
Year after year the month of August is also a special festive month in Tokushima as a result of thousands of dancers parading the streets in full colour for four days. And this year some of our Japanese friends invited us to join them in the streets and go through the steps with them. It is the same friends whose daughter celebrated her third birthday with Annlie recently. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and at the same time strengthened valuable relationships, for which we are excitedly grateful.
A Special Meeting between Hoopstad and Tokushima (24 Sept – 1 Oct)
This coming Friday will bring us an important ‘happening’. We will, God willing, be visited by the Du Plessis family from Hoopstad (on the photo below are f.l.t.r. Elsabé, Elaine, Jac, Johan and Johan (Jnr). Their local congregation (Dutch Reformed Church), in conjunction with Mission Japan’s management, are sending them as official delegates to pay us a week’s visit. With us they will meet many new people and experience a little of life here in Tokushima and surroundings. We are looking forward to learning new things with them … and believe that they will return to Hoopstad enriched people, ready to testify there (and wider afield) to God’s work in Japan.
Miwa’s visit to South Africa (20 Aug – 16 Nov)
Miwa Terauchi is at present a member of our local RCJ Tokushima congregation, but up to July this year (for more than 10 years before) worked as occupational therapist in Osaka. There she was also involved with, amongst other things, Christian children and youth ministries, as well as the leading of a (musical) worship team. She is a very committed and passionate Christian, whose faith is shared by her whole family (something which cannot often be taken for granted in Japan). Her parents are e.g. leaders in our congregation and both of them, with her sister (Keiko), formed part of the RCJ Shikoku delegation to South Africa (in Feb. 2009). They do a tremendous amount for us, and even gave their car to us when we arrived in Tokushima last year… salt-of-the-earth people!
Earlier this year Miwa shared with us that she was experiencing a strong calling to work with young people and children in Tokushima. For all of us it was great news, because the RCJ here and on the whole of Shikoku Island, is in dire need of someone like her for the future of the church. Before continuing her work (as occupational therapist) here officially, she decided on obtaining further training (on Christian ministry of children) in SA, and also experiencing what various congregations and Christians are doing in SA.
In short: she is already in SA (until 16 Nov.) to do exactly that. Apart from training and various exposure projects in Bloemfontein and surroundings, Pretoria and Witrivier (until end Oct.), she will (for the first two weeks of November) visit various places and meet people between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. For a more comprehensive program, do contact me. In these 3 months she is in the specific care of Gideon van der Watt (Dr) (Free State Witness Office Secretary) and other Mission Japan leaders, supporters and friends. Thank you for your caring and hospitality!
And if, in the following weeks, you may encounter her somewhere, please be very good to her…in this way you will share in God’s care for His church all over the world (even up to here in the furthest reaches of Japan). Miwa is e.g. visited the Du Plessis family in Hoopstad last week and was thoroughly spoilt.
Latest News on Noriko
(Mother-in-law) Annalie has written: “Thank you very, very much for everyone’s continued intercession for Noriko. After a consultation for a second opinion on her liver condition, the initial fear was removed! Why the two doctors’ opinions should differ so radically, we don’t know, but Noriko is feeling well at the moment, and is cheerful and positive. She will be admitted to hospital at the end of September to commence a quite controversial treatment. It suppresses the chronic infection which goes hand-in hand with Crohn’s Disease, but has many side effects. Please pray for the Lord’s guidance in this matter. I personally have my reservations about such a medicine.”
Thank the Lord with us for:
1) The children who attended the camp in Kochi.
2) A wonderful time of rest and good health in Takayama (mission holiday resort North East of Tokyo) – where we were also able to build meaningful relationships with other missionary families.
3) Miwa’s safe journey to and successful adjustment in SA. She is thoroughly enjoying all the exposure and training (even though it is also exhausting in a cross-cultural set-up).
Ask, in dependence on the Lord, for His care for:
1) The Du Plessis family’s preparation and visit to Japan – for a meaningful and fruitful stay.
2) Stéphan and Carina’s daily language studies – for strength, discipline, insight, perseverance and joy.
3) Tobie and Annalie’s weekly Bible Study sessions, preparations for prayer meetings and Sunday services.
4) Carina (Wednesdays) and Annalie (Thursdays)’s English classes (for mothers and infants).
5) Miwa’s opportunities, learning so much that is new concerning children and youth ministries, meeting of countless new people (almost daily), witness opportunities and Sunday services etc.
Thank you so much for your support!
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
NEWSFLASH – Vuvuzela in Tokushima – July 29th, 2010
It all started with Victor (Pillay)…and the bright yellow shirt and the mini vuvuzela which he had brought me from South Africa (in May this year). Then on Friday morning of the opening of the World Cup I was wearing this shirt to attend my Japanese class (at the station building in Tokushima), everything came together! On my way to class (out of the blue) a group of school children bombarded me with questions on players’ positions, “superstars”, Aaron Mokoena and so forth… it so happened that it was at TOPIA (near the station) at my presentation on South Africa where I had worn this particular shirt for the first time.
Shortly afterwards a newspaper reporter popped in at our home. This was in response to a radio interview on, among others, the World Cup, penguins, apartheid and an assortment of rainbow nation subjects, that I had to manage (in very broken Japanese!). When Japan took on Cameroon in their first world cup match more than 1500 people came to watch on the brig screen at Tokushima’s impressive ASTY Building. As a result of the earlier newspaper report I (father-in-law Tobie and mother-in-law also attended) was again invited to have an exhibition on South Africa here. It was great fun! Have a quick peep here.
The snow ball effect spread further so that Shikoku (the island on which we live)’s TV station also wanted to see (and hear!) a vuvuzela on a popular 17:00 program called Gojikaru. Before this live TV recording I had an approximate idea what I would be asked during the interview. But it was quite a nerve-wracking experience as I’m a total novice at Japanese, and in front of the cameras I had to keep my wits about me and think fast (they did ask several unprepared questions).
In short: it went mercifully well! And the good news is: you may share in the experience. Just click here for a few excerpts (from a 50 min program). Please take these 5 min to learn a great deal more about the way Japanese people talk, think and act.*
The moral of the story? Praise the Lord with us for Victor, the World Cup, a mini vuvuzela and the bright yellow shirt! It opened so many doors to build new relationships, to practise Japanese and to introduce our congregation to a dominantly non-Christian community (in a non-threatening manner). Thanks only to God’s infinite mercy!
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
*Just push the play button on the YouTube video which will appear when you scroll down, and ensure your sound is turned on.
PRAYER FLASH – July 11th, 2010
How to maintain a healthy balance … ít really remains a tall order, especially with a toddler and an infant around. As parents of Annlie (almost 3) and Cornelius (1) Carina and I enjoy taking on this challenge as a team. On Carina’s shoulders rest not only the daily demands of a mother, but also the mammoth assignment of learning Japanese and applying it in a meaningful manner. In addition to this, for the last several months she (with Annlie) has been helping Japanese infants learn English. Juggling these tasks all at the same time takes a lots of emotional energy and wholehearted commitment. Of these Carina (firstname.lastname@example.org) received a healthy share, for which I am immensely grateful … especially on this 5th anniversary of our wedding.
Please pray with us for Carina for continued strength, wisdom and patience. And please read below the other important requests for prayers written by (my father in-law) Tobie (email@example.com).
Thank you for your support!
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
Prayer Flash, July 11th 2010
Thank the Lord with us for:
1) The celebration of Tobie’s 64th birthday and Stéphan and Carina’s 5th wedding anniversary this past Friday.
2) The opportunity afforded Annalie to accompany NORIKO san* to the hospital in OSAKA. It is not yet clear precisely what is wrong with her liver or how serious her problem is. More tests have to be done.
*san = (Japanese courtesy title for Mr/Ms)
Please ask, in dependence on the Lord, for God’s care with regard to:
1) MIWA san, member of Tokushima Congregation who plans a course in child evengelization under the auspices of Mission Japan in South Africa for 2-3 months from the end of August. In SA Gideon van der Watt (Secretary of the Free State Witness Office) is responsible for all practical arrangements.
2) Tobie and Annalie’s Bible Studies with MIWAKO, MARIKO, KEIJI, NORIKO and MANAHO san next week.
3) Stéphan and Carina’s Japanese language studies – studying and attending lessons every day. Carina’s English play classes.
4) Next weekend (17th) is quite busy:
- On Saturday morning we celebrate Annlie’s birthday (Carina has invited over 30 mothers and toddlers and all of us have to do our bit with preparations).
- On Saturday afternoon Tobie and Annalie welcome guests from Kyushu Island (the Yanagi family) and in the evening we will share a big dinner with them and the rest of their relatives who live here in Tokushima (everybody is helping with preparations).
- On Sunday (18th) of the same weekend RCJ Tokushima Congregation welcome their new minister (KATAOKA sensei). Tobie will be conducting both Sunday mornings and afternoon’s services. On Sunday evening this congregation will have their church council meeting (led by Makita sensei).
- The Youth gathering of the Presbytery commences on that evening. The following day (Monday 19th) we will be having two more special Presbytery meetings. Certainly a full program!
PRAYER FLASH – July 6th, 2010
Just a quick hallo from a “ricegreen” Tokushima city…
And with it two photos which shows the rice paddies’ around our house (I took it yesterday), as well as a couple of important prayer requests which (my father-in-law) Tobie (firstname.lastname@example.org) put together.
Thank you that we may ask you to pray with us…
God’s peace in Christ,
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie en Cornelius
Mission Japan PRAYER FLASH
Share with us the following prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord for:
1) The graduation ceremony on Tuesday 29 June of KATAOKA Sensei who will deliver his induction sermon in RCJ Tokushima on Sunday 18 July. Eleven Tokushima congregants attended the occasion at the Theological Seminary in KOBE. We were all blessed by the experience, and most grateful and very excited about a new minister for the two congregations of Tokushima.
2) Stéphan’s TV presentation on Shikoku TV on Thursday 1 July, which went very well and gave both him and even the church excellent exposure. He was invited to participate in the program which dealt with the Soccer World Cup. Everybody was astonished by Stéphan’s command of the Japanese language and the ease with which he talked. (Thanks, Dad, but we all know there is a long haul ahead still!). More about this in a following news flash.
In dependence on the Lord please ask for His care with:
1) MIWA TERAUCHI, member of Tokushima Congregation who plans to go to South Africa for training in child evangelization for 2/3 months at the end of August. In Japan Stéphan and Tobie are assisting with the planning. In South Africa Gideon van der Watt (Secretary OFS Witness Office) is responsible for all practical arrangements.
2) The meeting of the ministers group of the 10 Japanese ministers from North Shikoku Island on Tuesday, July 6. Tobie will attend.
3) Annalie accompanies NORIKO (for whom many have prayed and should please still pray) on her visit to the hospital in Osaka (Tuesday, July 6). She has received a message that something is wrong with her liver.
4) Tobie and Annalie’s Bible Studies with MIWAKO NEZU en TAKAKO YAMAZUMI this week.
5) Stéphan and Carina’s Japanese language studies, and Carina’s English classes (for mothers and toddlers).
6) Tobie’s preparation for next Sunday’s two church services in Tokushima Congregation and Marugame Congregation. In Marugame he also has to present a Bible Study at the monthly women’s meeting.
7) Tobie’s 64th birthday on Friday 9 July, and Carina and Stéphan’s 5th wedding anniversary on the same day.
NEWSFLASH – MAY 25, 2010
SUMMARY OF REPORT TO THE EXECUTIVE OF MISSION JAPAN – see full report here below -
ON THE VISIT BY MISSION JAPAN DELEGATES TO JAPAN - 29 April to 11 May 2010
VISIT TO JAPAN
Three representatives from Mission Japan, Victor Pillay, Johann Winterbach and Gideon van der Watt, paid a most rewarding visit to the Shikoku Presbytery of the Reformed Church in Japan and our missionaries there recently. The purpose of the visit was to attend the 60th anniversary celebration of the Presbytery, to foster relationships with our partners there, to provide pastoral support to our missionaries and to do some practical planning together.
The Presbytery’s celebrations provided a total experience – special was experiencing the commitment and loyalty of the church members: in a community of whom a very small percentage people are Christians (less than 1%), there is a sincere love for their church, the church and the fellowship of believers are of prime importance to them. As always, we were given a cordial reception by the congregations. We could worship with them and socialize with them. Victor delivered sermons on three occasions and witnessed on how he, as a South African Indian, was converted from the Hindu faith to Jesus Christ. Johann, in his turn, had productive discussions with a number of ministers of the Presbytery on what being a missional church entails.
It is a pleasure to report that our missionaries in Shikoku are fine. We visited with them, had long discussions, prayed together and had a lovely South African ‘braai’ together one Saturday. It is never easy making a life in a foreign country in a foreign culture far from your loved ones. Of great value was the personal contact with our missionaries there, hearing their innermost feelings and experiencing their circumstances.
Gys and Linda Olivier
Gys and Linda work as English teachers at a Christian school in Koichi City. They have adapted well to the school environment and are really enjoying their stay there. According to Prof. Makita, the local pastor, they have fitted in well with the congregation and have helped establish a Bible Study group for young people. At the school their conduct and contribution are sincerely appreciated. Gys and Linda see it as a privilege to be there, and it seems as if their contract may be extended for another two years.
Stéphan and Carina van der Watt
Stéphan and Carina are also well. They have a comfortable home. Everybody is grateful that young Cornelius has probably outgrown his initial illness. Young Annlie is a real live wire. Stéphan and Carina certainly have two beautiful, intelligent children. The household and children keep them occupied; the luxury of domestic help does not exist. But they plan well and make enough time for language studies. Carina is catching up her old Japanese again, and Stéphan is surprising all and sundry with his quick progress in Japanese. It takes a great deal of discipline and perseverance. Carina and he will be occupied with language studies for at least another year; afterwards they will gradually become more and more involved with all kinds of ministerial activities – although Stéphan is already being invited more frequently for appearances. A lot is expected of Stéphan’s future contribution to the Reformed Church in Japan, especially with his academic background and ability.
Tobie and Annalie de Wet
The representatives of the Presbytery of the Reformed Church in Japan and particularly the congregations in which Tobie en Annalie are involved, often reiterate their enormous appreciation for the excellent work they are doing there. Obviously they are two beloved people. At present they minister to three small congregations and both of them are often invited to address groups elsewhere, especially at occasions where members are equipped for their calling to witness for Christ. Their knowledge and experience are really being utilized. Much time is also devoted to friendship evangelism, and Bible Studies in which many non-believers participate. This method of co-operating with existing congregations, seems to be the best way
During our visit an extremely difficult decision regarding Tobie and Annalie’s retirement had to be made. He turns 65 next year. Naturally, the church in Japan wants them to stay for much longer. And Stéphan and Carina are there (with their children)… but there is also an insistence that they should return to the children and relatives here in South Africa. Tobie and Annalie could also still contribute hugely to Mission Japan. The goals for their move to Shikoku have been achieved to a large extent. And, of course, they have earned an honourable demission and retirement! Eventually the delegation from Mission Japan resolved, that they should after all return to South Africa at the end of next year (2011). Meanwhile, there is a great deal for them to do still; everything should be properly concluded.
It was also resolved that Tobie and Annalie would come to South Africa for approximately three months at the end of the year, for a well earned rest, but also to assist with a number of regional rallies that are being planned for Mission Japan’s supporters.
A number of planned visits to and from Japan were also discussed. Later this year Elsabé du Plessis (a member of the executive of Mission Japan and representative of Hoopstad congregation) and her family will go to Japan. Miwa san, a lovely young lady from Tokushima congregation will be coming to South Africa to attend a course on child ministry. This mutual contact remains an important activity of Mission Japan.
Mission Japan would again like to convey our sincere gratitude to all our loyal supporters for your intercessory prayers and support. We are convinced anew that this is the Lord’s work, and we are hugely privileged to be part of it. We pray and hope that the decisive breakthrough for the Gospel in Japan is on hand. As someone has put it: in Japan, with all the earthquakes, more time is spent on building foundations than on the building itself. And those that have been sent to Japan by the Lord, are the ones helping to build the foundations. And we are boundlessly privileged to be able to persevere in supporting them, with our contributions and also our prayers.
God’s Peace and Joy
Gideon van der Watt (Secretary)
PO Box 1399
Tel: (+27)051 406 6729
Fax: 086 502 0811
NEWSFLASH – MAY 24, 2010
REPORT (TO THE EXECUTIVE OF MISSION JAPAN)
ON THE VISIT BY MISSION JAPAN DELEGATES TO JAPAN - 29 April to 11 May 2010
1. General remarks
On invitation of the Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ), the following delegates of the Executive of Mission Japan Partnership (MJP) visited Japan from 29th of April to 11th of May 2010:
- Rev Victor Pillay (Chairperson)
- Rev Johan Winterbach (Member of Executive)
- Dr Gideon van der Watt (Secretary)
The visit has been a very enriching and blessed experience. We were received with much hospitality, by the Shikoku Presbytery of the RCJ, the Congregations of Tokushima, Tokushima Seiwa and Marugame as well as the missionaries of Mission Japan. We trust that this visit has been all the worth while, achieving the goals we set for ourselves, namely:
- Contributing to the fostering of ties between our churches – especially in accepting the invitation to attend the very important celebrations of the Presbytery of Shikoku’s 60th anniversary,
- Giving pastoral and other forms of support to our missionaries,
- And doing some very necessary planning regarding our future cooperation and the work and life of our missionaries.
2. Visiting congregations and a ministers fraternal
On the two Sundays during our visit, we paid visits to the three congregations with whom Tobie is directly involved: Tokushima, Tokushima–Seiwa and Marugame. Victor Pilay preached and gave a touching testimony on how he, as a South African Indian, has been converted from Hinduism to become a follower of Christ. After these sermons we also gave short “Powerpoint” presentations on South Africa and the South African church. These informal fellowships after the formal church service were very joyful. During one such meeting Victor specifically prayed for a young lady, Noriko san, who is suffering from an incurable disease. Victor’s sensitivity and serious prayer touched everybody present. Noriko is still only a “seeker”, not yet a converted Christian and member of the church. A news letter was afterwards sent out to all Mission Japan supporters to please keep on praying for Noriko. An operation she had the following week went amazingly well.
Johan Winterbach and Victor Pillay also attended a minister’s fraternal of the Shikoku Presbytery. Johan gave a presentation of the way his home congregation is struggling to effectively reorganise their ministries, the way they approach the worship service and the impact of the “season of listening” and the understanding of being a missional church have on the congregation. This lead to a very active and fruitful discussion on the way the congregation of the RCJ could face the same challenges in their Japanese contexts.
From the 4th to the 6th of May the Presbytery of Shikoku celebrated its 60th anniversary. In Japan this is of similar significance to our centenary celebrations. It is also important to remember that, being heavily influenced by the Presbyterian system of church order, the RCJ regards a Presbytery just as important as a Regional Synod in the Dutch Reformed Church. And it is with the Presbytery of Shikoku that we have a mission partnership agreement. Attending these celebrations was thus very important in terms of our partnership agreement.
The celebrations were held in a rather smart hotel in Marugame – a formal event not only attended by ministers and a few delegates, but by a very large component of all the members of the different congregations in the Presbytery. The loyalty of members to the church and the sacrifices they are prepared to make for the church, were evident. There were speeches, singing of psalms (16th century Geneva Psalms), some new hymns and the favourite old Hallelujah hymns, the exposure to a newly adopted liturgy which is more responsive but still very formal, several “long” sermons/expositions of Scripture and in a chapel of a close by Christian University a virtuosic performance of several of Bach’s cantatas on an pipe-organ – the Japanese love and really appreciate Bach! Someone said Bach’s music appeals to their more cognitive, mathematical approach in life. It is also said that Bach probably remains the most appealing missionary to Japan – non-believers are often attracted to the church because of their love for Bach. There were also time for prayer and reflection on the church’s calling. There is a deep concern for the apparent inability of the church in Japan to really grow. And there were of cause the typical Japanese dinners – very posh with all the strange food (including raw fish – for which we just had to develop a taste).
Victor Pillay gave greetings on behalf of the four churches in the Dutch Reformed Family. There were also greetings from a Presbyterian Church in Korea, who is also involved in mission work with the RCJ in Shikoku. During a discussion Annalie de Wet had to give an introduction on the missionary task of every member. Although we could not understand her Japanese, she apparently made a huge impression on the audience. We were so proud of her! Tobie also made an equally important contribution.
During the meetings we have had time for informal discussions with many of the people we throughout the years became acquainted with – former visitors to us, colleagues, dear friends, young, new ministers – some of whom we could invite to pay us a visit in future. We also met with prof Yas Ichikawa, the current principal of their theological college at Kobe, who will DV visit us next year. These celebrations really gave us the opportunity to celebrate our partnership and to make many a new friend – despite the difficulty of understanding each other. We are brothers and sisters in Christ – the real cause or source of our joy in meeting one another and having fellowship with one another!
4. Pastoral care for our missionaries and practical planning
An important goal and large part of the visit were to have meaningful fellowship with the missionaries, to listen to them, to their stories and concerns, to try and understand the challenges they face, to render pastoral support and guidance and especially to pray with and for them. We could spend valuable time together – taking walks, eating and travelling together. On the second Saturday we came together for a retreat – open discussion, Bible study and singing familiar hymns. Johan Winterbach facilitated a wonderful group discussion where we could all share our hearts. It really is difficult for the missionaries to adapt to a cross cultural situation, to remain foreigners in the Japanese society, to continuously struggle crossing the language barrier, to long for family, friends and the familiar way of life back home, etc. The retreat was closed with a “lekker” South African “braai” – even with “mieliepap” and “sous”!
4.1 Tobie and Annalie de Wet
They are really enjoying their work. To them the last couple of years in Shikoku has been a high point of their more than 20 years stay in Japan. It is good to work in such close cooperation with local congregations and under the supervision of the Presbytery. They have many opportunities to share their passion for and experience in mission with ministers and congregations, equipping members for their calling to reach out. They are also kept busy with friendship evangelisation and with mentoring young ministers, including Stephan and Carina. They enjoy staying in the rather small manse, which they decorated beautifully and comfortably. Annalie has made the most colourful little garden in front of the church – an kind invitation to passers by to enter…
For some time now Tobie and Annalie had been struggling to come to a decision on their retirement. Tobie will turn 65 next year, the normal date for ministers in South Africa to retire. In Japan the retirement age is 70. There is pressure on them to stay longer – they have just so much to offer in that situation! And Stephan and Carina are there. But from family and friends in South Africa there is also the expressed yearning for their return. The situation in the congregation in Tokushima will also be changing soon with the coming of a young new minister. After much discussion, and listening to the church leaders there, it became clear that the delegates of Mission Japan would have to make the decision on behalf of Tobie and Annalie – they are just in an impossible position to decide on their own. They also expressed their desire to follow the guidance of the church and the Lord of the church and not their own wishes.
4.2 Stephan and Carina van der Watt
They have adapted well to the new situation. They live in a comfortable house. They are grateful that Cornelius could recover so nicely from his illness; he turned into a strong little boy. Annlie is a sparkling, energetic girl, frolicking around. Stephan and Carina are really blessed with two intelligent and beautiful children. Carina spends most of her time with the children, but Stephan is helping a lot. Taking care of the daily household tasks is absorbing much energy and time – in Japan there is no chance of domestic workers helping out!
Stephan spends most of his time with language study. He is assisted by tutors and attends public classes. What a surprise it was to discover how much he has succeeded in his ability to speak, read and understand Japanese! We met his main teacher, Kono sensei, and she expressed amazement and satisfaction about his progress in such a relatively short time. But, it requires a lot of perseverance and discipline. Stephan and Carina will have to continue with their full time language study for at least another year. It is vital that Mission Japan also support Carina and make it possible for her to also continue with her studies. Gradually they will become involved in the ministry – Stephan already had to bring a short message in Japanese and was even invited to a radio interview – in Japanese! – on a local radio station. There is great expectation of the contribution they will be able to make in the RCJ.
4.3 Gys and Linda Olivier
This young couple, working as English tutors in the Christian school in Kochi City in Shikoku as missionaries of Mission Japan, are also adapting well. They are grateful for the opportunity to be witnesses in their school. They really enjoy the Japanese children and their colleagues – this joy and pleasure in being with others is the secret to their success. They are appreciated by everybody – apparently their contract will be renewed for another two years. It was also good to have fellowship with them, being proud of two such remarkable South African and Christian ambassadors in Japan. Linda is however struggling to obtain a drivers licence – we will not disclose how many times she has already tried to get through the tests – but that is Japan! And, like a good missionary, she managed to get a whole crowd of supporters and intercessors behind her.
5. Meeting of the Mission Cooperation Committee
Our delegation attended a meeting of the joint Mission Cooperation Committee which, in terms of our partnership Agreement, is responsible for all the planning en decisions regarding our joint ventures and the life and work of our missionaries.
The representatives of the RCJ expressed their deepest gratitude for the work the missionaries are doing, especially the foundation that Tobie and Annalie has been laying for the work in Shikoku. They appreciate our cooperation and expressed their gratitude for our accepting their invitation to visit them.
Several issues were discussed. To summarise the most important decisions:
5.1 Tobie and Annalie’s retirement
After further discussion and prayer, the Mission Japan delegation informed the RCJ on the following request:
- that Tobie and Annalie will officially retire next year, in July 2011
- that they will then stay on for another six months, until the end of 2011
- that they will come to South Africa for at least two months during December 2010 and January 2011 for deputation work, regional meetings of Mission Japan and vacation with family
- that they will next year focus on closure on their work in Japan, mentoring young ministers, presenting mission courses to different congregations and building the relationship with the congregations they serve
This request was accepted by the RCJ Presbytery. They obviously would have wanted Tobie and Annalie to stay much longer, but the Mission Japan delegation were convinced of God’s guidance in this decision – it is to the best interest of all concerned parties and Tobie and Annalie will still be able to play an important part in Mission Japan, in mutual visits, in raising support, etc. Coming back to South Africa will definitely not be easy for them. The re-entry of missionaries is never easy, it implies much loss, but we are sure that it will also bring new gain and joy. Tobie and Annalie deserve an honourable and joyful retirement!
In the light of some developments in Tokushima, it was also decided that Mission Japan will again take responsibility for a larger percentage of their salary. It might even be necessary to buy a car to be used by the missionaries – a necessity for which the RCJ graciously took responsibility thus far. It means that Mission Japan will have to work harder in raising financial support.
5.2 Stephan and Carina’s situation and future role
The RCJ Presbytery expressed satisfaction on Stephan’s progress with his language studies. They agree that he must continue with full time study for at least another year. After the two years of full time language study, he will have the opportunity to visit several congregations and to decide, together with the Japanese colleagues, on the best place and best field of work. He will gradually become more involved in the ministry, but for the next year his focus will remain his studies.
Mission Japan also promised to make a larger contribution to expenses regarding the ministry and language studies and in terms of academic scholarship. It was also agreed that Stephan will be supported in staying involved with academic research – it is foreseen and hoped that he will eventually make a huge contribution in a teaching capacity in the RCJ.
5.3 Gys and Linda’s position
The RCJ brothers on the Mission Cooperation Committee expressed their delight in the way Gys and Linda are approaching their task at the Christian School. They are also happy for the way in which the couple are involved in activities in the Kochi congregation – especially the “small group meetings” of younger people they helped to establish. Their contract will probably be renewed for another two years.
5.4 Mutual visits
The meeting reaffirmed the importance of mutual visits: it is helpful in building relationships and exposing members to the different contexts, it helps to transfer knowledge and skills, it is supporting the missionaries and it is building capacity. It was also reaffirmed that such visits must be arranged by and with the approval of the mission coordinating committee. The meeting took notice of the following mutual visits:
- A possible visit later this year by Ds Marais Strydom of Benoni (Linda’s home congregation), to Gys and Linda.
- Elsabe du Plessis and her family, representing Hoopstad DRC Congregation, will visit Stephan and Carina during the September holiday.
- Miwa san will visit South Africa for two months in September-October this year. The aim of this visit is to enrol for a course in Children’s Ministry and be exposed to the way congregations here in South Africa approach children in their ministry. This could be very helpful for the RCJ. Miwa san is a qualified occupational therapist and the daughter of Terauchi san, a very active and supportive elder in the Tokushima church.
- Prof Yas Ichikawa will visit some of our church’s Theological Faculties during June next year.
6. Some challenges
During the meetings and discussions, the following challenges to Mission Japan became clear.
- To continuously enhance an effective member care programme – supporting our missionaries emotionally, physically and spiritually.
- We need to work on a sustainable prayer support programme
- We need to upgrade our continuous communication with supporters. This includes the effective establishment, operation and promotion of our web-page, regular news letters, regional conferences, raising support, getting more individuals and congregations on board, updating our data, etc.
- In terms of our marketing programme, we need to give urgent attention to a more effective branding – the logo for instance. In this regard we will have to consult a specialist in branding and marketing.
- We need to rethink our Mission Japan structures and the way we function. We need to have a balance between people representing church structures and those with a particular passion and skills.
- Together with our brothers and sisters in the RCJ, we need to keep on reflecting on the best way to approach our work in Japan. How best can we make a real contribution to the challenges the church is facing in the Japanese context? How could we involve the youth? How could the doorstep leading into the RCJ be lowered? Should it be lowered? For the time being it seems the best option to continue with our current approach – missionaries working within the church structures, but not burdened with all the duties a normal church minister would have so that they can focus on making disciples, equipping members and congregations for their outreach and supporting the church.
- How could the wealth and depth of the Japanese spirituality, theological soundness and loyal dedication of members be shared with our churches here in South Africa?
- Mutual visits need to be strategically planned and utilised to the best interest of the mission cooperation.
We thank Mission Japan for the privilege of having being delegated to Japan. We pray that God will bless all these efforts in the service of his kingdom.
Dr Gideon van der Watt (Secretary: Mission Japan)
NEWSFLASH – MAY 23, 2010
In this news flash I would like to share 3 things with you:
- Last Sunday I had the privilege to make a presentation on South Africa at Tokushima’s local Foreign Language Institute (TOPIA). Approximately 60 people attended and participated enthusiastically. This was a valuable opportunity for developing relationships. A bonus was also to have been given exposure on a local radio station (an interview partially conducted in Japanese) and in newspaper reports on the topic.
- In a following news flash shortly I will share with you more detail of the recent visit we had by the delegation of Mission Japan (Gideon, Victor and Johann), and about all the important meetings, discussions and official decisions taken. There will be more news on the recent requests for prayer (for Noriko) and the promised DVD track (with Laurens) from Kyoto is also coming up. Watch this space!
And thirdly: a few impressions of last week’s busy Tokyo Conference…
Colourful, energetic, diverse, wonderfully more extensive (so liberalising) than the boundaries of church denominations – that was the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation and Celebration! What a privilege to have been part of a worldwide network (more than 80 countries) of (1000 plus) delegates who are committed to sharing the Gospel. Share a part of the experience by clicking “play” here below for a 2 minute DVD excerpt.
We e.g. reflected on the shortcomings and the one-sided focus that often dominated in mission organizations in the past century. E.g: at the 1910 (Edinburgh) World Mission Conference Western Christianity (in superiority) was regarded as the senders and the non-Western church/es as the receivers of the Gospel, mistakes from which we can learn much still. But we also looked back on the past 100 years’ initiatives and the tremendous progress made to spread the Gospel. E.g: in 1960 only 30% (estimated) of the global Christian population lived in the non-Western world, and 70% in the West. But by 2000 however, 78% lived in non-Western countries and only 22% in the West. Think about it…
The conference had many more facets than I could possibly describe here. We were e.g. privileged to witness traditional enemies (Arabs and Jews, Japanese and Koreans etc.) embracing one another and committing themselves anew to reconciliation. I could learn more about how to share the Triune God’s hope and salvation in a predominantly Buddhist country such as Japan. The focus was on the important priorities now on the way towards discipleship, so that the next generation might receive the Good News. There were also workshops on the challenges posed by the globally expanding Islamic population. Something else: did you know that approximately 6900 languages are spoken worldwide, but that only 5% of those languages have a complete Bible available?
One of the most gripping and most meaningful presentations dealt with how the Gospel might be expressed in a fresh, new manner for a post-Christianity Europe. Click here for the article by a Swedish theologian. His well thought out presentation led to a touching plea (by the leadership of the conference) that the non-Western Christian population – Africa, South America, Asia – should now hear the cry for help by Europe (in particular) and the rest of the West , and that it should extend its mission work to these parts. Think of the most ironic and inspiring turnabout in light of the 1910 Edinburgh Conference’s one-sided focus of a century ago. The work of the Holy Spirit cannot be controlled or predicted!
As you’ve heard, we have a great deal to be thankful for and a great deal to consider together and to commit to God in prayer…let us do so.
God’s Joy and Peace,
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
NEWSFLASH – APRIL 2, 2010
A number of first experiences are being enacted in our lives at present. A first fairytale picnic under cherry blossoms awaits us tomorrow, with spring fully awakened and blooming at long last. A first (unofficial) visit by a friend from South Africa has barely passed – we had a blast together (in between language studies)! A first celebration of Easter at our home congregation lies ahead this weekend. The end of our first completed year in Japan is round the corner (10 April). Cornelius’s first word (“papa” actually!) has been spoken. Carina (and Annlie’s) first presentation of an English “playschool” for Japanese infants was held yesterday.
However, a last chapter is being set in motion for our predecessors – our parents, Tobie and Annalie. Important decisions about the termination of their ministry in Japan have to be taken. More about this is written by them themselves below. Please read it and join us in prayers for wisdom and peace.
We pray that you will experience a life-changing Easter!
God’s peace and joy,
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
Our retirement and calling – Tobie and Annalie de Wet
Our dear Family, Friends and Supporters,
We seriously need your earnest and focused prayers.
We are at serious crossroads: 9 July 2011 is my retirement date, a little more than only one year from now. In May this year an official delegation from Mission Japan will be visiting SHIKOKU, Japan, by invitation of the RCJ Shikoku Presbytery. It is the celebration of the Presbytery’s 60th anniversary. At the same time there will also be discussions about Stephan and Carina’s future ministry and about our own future.
This is no easy matter. We are seriously struggling. We are torn in two. We don’t know, seriously….
Our future, of course, is firmly in the Hands of God, our Father and our lives are committed to Him to serve Him and only do his will. He called and sent us to Japan and He, the Sovereign God, will guide the future. This is our firm belief and expectation.
However, our calling has never been an individualistic one. Though we experienced God’s call very personally we would never have been in Japan if the church of Jesus in SA hadn’t called and sent us as their official representatives, and if the church in Japan hadn’t called and accepted us as missionaries in their midst. God calls and guides through His church. Mission work is the calling of God’s church. Therefore, our departure from Japan and return to SA into a “new ministry” is not an individualistic one but a corporate decision to be made prayerfully with the official church in SA (Mission Japan Committee) and the church in Japan (RCJ Presbytery and RCJ Tokushima congregation). We are not even sure whether we have the final say about our future in this matter of God’s call.
Another relevant factor, albeit a human factor, is also our children in SA. When we first came to Japan in 1974 we were alone, only the two of us, no children. When we returned to Japan for the second time in 2000, we had four children. Before we finalized our decision they were called together to share their feelings about our returning to Japan. They all agreed that we should go back and finish our job in Japan. Now they want us to return home… We expect that their feelings and expectations will also be taken into good consideration.
Humanly speaking there are good reasons for us to return to SA and continue in a new way to fulfil God’s calling in our lives, God’s call into fulltime ministry, God’s call into missions (in its fullest meaning of reaching out holistically to peoples outside the church), God’s call towards world missions and guiding his church also in SA to continue with its worldwide mission calling, and even God’s call of his church to assist the church in Japan to evangelize the people of Japan. We might still have a small contribution to make in our home country and church before departing for heaven…
On the other hand, there are also good reasons for us to stay on for another couple of years in Japan, especially assisting Stephan and Carina in their preparation to begin their fulltime ministry within the church of Japan and the community of Japan. This, of course, will depend also on some very practical factors of which finance is an important one….
PLEASE PRAY with us, with Mission Japan and with the RCJ here in Shikoku and also with our children and family back home that, together we will all be able to discern God’s voice and guidance for the way ahead clearly.
We love and appreciate you,
Tobie and Annalie
NEWSFLASH – APRIL 1, 2010
Sometimes I just know: now I had better open up my ears …because this conversation may send my life in a different direction! That is what happened recently, at the breakfast table with my parents-in-law. They shared with us deeply experienced parts of their life, and that set the ball rolling for a gripping conversation about our life, work and future in Japan. Although we had often talked about these matters before, they were now put to paper for the first time (by my father-in-law Tobie). We would so much like you to share in these struggles with us, therefore this letter. Please allow yourself the extra time to read it carefully.
By the way …
As our two families have recently combined our email distribution lists, and I will from now on sometimes also share news on behalf of the De Wets, this particular news flash will focus on the conversation mentioned above.
Meanwhile a few important matters which we would like to bring to your attention:
- Thank you very much for the feedback of intense empathy on the previous Nostalgic News Flash. Unfortunately I do not keep up with the answers to all the questions – thank you for your patience!
- Shortly after the dispatch of the last news flash, our previous email address crashed. Please note my new email address: email@example.com and Carina’s: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Our language studies are really making good progress … we receive tuition at top speed, and prefer it this way, because the learning curve is high! We really enjoy it and feel motivated, even though these are toddlers’ steps at the foot of a very high mountain!
- Cornelius has been off his medicine for over a month and looks so healthy – we are tremendously grateful! Everything seems to point to the likelihood that the raised ammonia levels in his blood were of a temporary nature. Annlie is also flourishing. She is her energetic self and keeps us, as always, on our toes. Click here if you have 30 seconds to hear her singing a Japanese ditty.
- Lastly: I’m at present working on a new blog on Mission Japan. The initiative and behind-the-scenes slogging by Danie Mouton concerning this, is to be highly commended. The blog is mainly in Afrikaans, but we’ll try to post as much English news as possible.
Please share the following prayers with us
With grateful hearts we praise the Lord for…
- The health of us all.
- God’s blessing on a meeting with the church leaders of the Shikoku presbytery about our (Van der Watts’ and De Wets’) future. This was in preparation of discussions to be held with the delegates (from SA) from Mission Japan early in May.
- Our permanent driver’s licences that both Carina and I (to our own astonishment) obtained at the first attempt – with great support from two Japanese friends in the process.
- A very good friend and loyal supporter of Mission Japan (Laurens Schlebusch – farmer from the Free State) who visited us recently – we had a blast!
In dependence we trust the Lord for…
- His grace in the challenging realities which (father-in-law) Tobie relates so honestly below, that every day we will grow closer to Christ, with support from you, as fellow worker.
- The meaningful development of Mission Japan’s Blog – glorifying and serving Him only.
- Continuous strength, focus, discipline and perseverance in our language studies.
Thank you for your support!
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
On Nightmares and Dreams – an honest confession (by Tobie de Wet)
From the day that we heard that Stephan and Carina felt called to come to Japan as missionaries, I started having nightmares about the impact the life and work here in Japan would have on the rest of their lives – based on my own personal experience of a total of 18 years in Japan.
Naturally we were absolutely astonished by the LORD’s calling them to this mission field with its need and challenges. We regard it as exceptional mercy that the LORD sent our own children to continue in the church and with the work in which we have been involved for so many years. We are also most grateful for the way in which from the outset they have adapted and settled here, have fitted in at the church, reached out to the community and the way they devote every day to their language and cultural studies. We also believe that both of them really possess the specific personalities and temperament to be able to be happy in their work and life here in Japan. They have gifts which will enable them to make a positive impact on this country and church. They are certainly much better equipped for this mission situation than we ever were.
Yet we cannot rid ourselves of the “worry” about their future. That is why I feel free to share some of the aspects from my own experience which I believe had and still have a depressing and constricting influence on the practical execution of my calling. I shared them with Stephan and Carina in order to warn them to realize these things from the beginning, to face them squarely and to deal with them on a spiritual as well as a practical level. I would also like to share them with their (and our) supporters so that you may intercede for them in full understanding — not only now, but also increasingly so as the years pass by.
Please understand clearly. I am neither negative nor depressed. With us there is no vestige of doubt about the church’s calling and our own calling, as well as that of Stephan and Carina to Japan (and in the church of Japan). We would only like to be very honest with ourselves and them and our supporters for the sake of a realistic approach and dealing with our and their life and work in Japan. We may never allow our “nightmares” to overpower our dreams…..
Things that have a dampening, depressing and constricting influence on the practical execution of my calling:
The Japanese Language
Even after 2 full years of intensive language studies and a total of 18 years with the language, understanding Japanese and expressing ourselves in Japanese remain a daily battle. Preparing my sermon remains a weekly nightmare, mostly more a mechanical struggle than a profound spiritual experience, and while preaching I am literally tied to every word of my manuscript without the experience of spiritual freedom to preach from my heart guided by the Spirit, as I am used to doing in my own country in my own language.
The Japanese Society
Japan is a beautiful country, clean, highly developed, extremely modern, a first world country in the full sense of the word, very convenient to live in. The people of Japan are really special, very cultured and sophisticated, friendly and polite, educated and hardworking (it is considered a virtue never to take leave). The Christians are models of perseverance in their faith and loyalty to their church. We have the deepest respect for this unique nation, their unique culture and outstanding characteristics. We love Japan and its peoples intensely. We love the church of Japan. However, we are only very honest when we say that living in this society is really emotionally exhausting. At the end of a long day of listening to Japanese, concentrating to follow and struggling to express ourselves we are usually exhausted and emotionally drained, even after a very pleasant outing together with dear Japanese friends to a restaurant or hot-spring. Again it is the language barrier, but it is more than that: It is the big difference in culture, the way people relate to each other and to foreigners, the very busy and demanding society, the totally non-Christian environment, the fact that you are always deeply aware of your foreignness and that you are an outsider…
Restriction on fulfilling our gifts in our practical lives
When I compare the 3 years in Parkheuwel Dutch Reformed Church in Port Elizabeth (South Africa) and the 14 years in Reformed Church in Africa Calvary Congregation in Malabar, PE, and the difference is like day and night. In both congregations in SA (also in RCA Calvary in the Indian suburb of Malabar where the language was English and the culture and community were typical of an Indian lifestyle), I experienced an unbelievable freedom to live a life of fulfilment with my gifts both within and without the congregation. In Japan and in the church here we do not have even some of that freedom. “A missionary at his best, is still only second best”, is a reality which forms part of our daily life and work here.
Lack of spiritual fellowship with and inputs from fellow Christians
Again the comparison with our ministry in SA is rather radical. In our own country and church we were continually uplifted and inspired in the Sunday worship services (where there was no language barrier) and various weekday meetings and regular fellowship with Spirit-filled Christian brothers and sisters, almost daily. These included members of our own congregation but also from many other denominations and colleagues and fellow missionaries over the complete spectrum of Christian and church life (all possible denominations).
In Japan it is quite different. Firstly, the language and cultural differences, also within the church, cause Sunday divine worship services and all other spiritual gatherings in the church to offer us personally little spiritual inspiration (mostly we don’t even understand most of what we are singing … and praying is such a struggle that it is more like a language exercise!). Secondly, we have wonderful Christian brothers and sisters who are very supportive, but the spiritual climate in Japan is such that the small groups of Christians themselves battle for survival in their various communities. Thirdly we have basically no contact or communion with fellow Christians and missionaries of our own language and culture. Our lives are spiritually isolated.
A difficult mission field with little opportunity for direct evangelisation and meager visible fruit
Apart from proclaiming the gospel inside the church in the Sunday worship service to non-believers that are present and in private Bible Studies with some non-Christians, opportunities for active evangelisation outreaches are limited. The possibilities of organizing various social outreaches and projects are minimal. Ordinary members of the congregation are in any case so busy that nobody really has either the time or the strength to do more than just the normal Sunday activities. There were times when missionaries initiated mass evangelisation drives , attracted huge crowds, often witnessed conversions, founded many social projects (schools, hospitals and other institutions), but those times are, in human terms, obviously over.
These are some of the “nightmares” which sometimes keep us awake at night and threaten to rob us of our spiritual dreams, to dampen our spiritual vision and enthusiasm and to make life a strenuous effort … Therefore we, and from now on Stephan and Carina, need to be vigilant and deal with these spiritually and practically. Everyone’s understanding, prayers and support are essential.
My advice to them:
Persevere in Language Study
Continuous, consistent, persistent and disciplined language studies!! The first two years is just the beginning. Afterwards language studies will actually commence and they may never stop. Fortunately both of them have an aptitude for languages which I have never had (I am not speaking for Annalie …) and both of them are two intelligent and diligent students, which I have never been (although I studied very hard at the language…).
Rest and Relax
Accept that you are a foreigner in this country and will always be. Accept that you cannot perform like the Japanese do. Do not fall in the trap of trying to be or sound busy (this in itself is exhausting!!). Take enough time to relax, weekly, daily. Spend time together as a family. You need each other and the time together emotionally, socially and spiritually. Do exercises daily. Participate in sport. Take enough and proper leave annually, but get away from your working and even living environment. Go to a special resort for missionaries. Our experience, as the only South Africans in our immediate area, is that true refreshment is only experienced when you go to your home country and spend good time with the people of your own language and culture and in your home church.
Be Content and Joyful (read the Letter of Paul to the Philippians)
Come to terms with the limitations to living your vision and gifts. Paul himself spent many years in prison where he had to learn to fulfil his calling within limited space and freedom. Easier said than done, but we have no choice. The secret to survival and victory may be found in Paul’s letter to Philippians, especially chapter 4. The letter to the Philippians from the heart of a missionary in jail, is the letter which inspires us every time to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ.
Have regular fellowship with fellow-missionaries
Being conversant with the language will of course contribute enormously towards a more profound experience in Japanese and in the divine worship services and the church in Japan. But more positive contact and fellowship with other missionaries and the attendance of missionary-retreats and seminars is a MUST!!
Spend daily quality time with the Living LORD
In order to persevere enthusiastically – in spite of restrictions, very few direct evangelisation opportunities and in spite of little visible fruit and in spite of little spiritual encouragement from fellow Christians – demands above all enormous discipline in our personal and daily communication with the LORD, personal Bible Study and prayer, also as a family. Whenever we should start losing courage, the risen, living and glorified Jesus Christ appears again and through his Word and Spirit gives us new visions of Himself and his Will and his Presence, provision and equipment (Revelations 1:9-20, Matthew 28:18-20). This is how we can keep our spiritual dreams alive, and the dreams can make the nightmares fade (they will probably never disappear, after all, nightmares are part of normal life).
My request to their (and our) supporters:
They (and we still too) are here as your missionaries and representatives. For you it is just as important that the two of them and their entire family should be able to fulfil their calling happily in Japan and the church in Japan.
Your understanding is important, your continual, persistent prayers are essential, your encouragement, in various practical ways, indispensable.
Thank you so much for these. Please understand our nightmares and dream with us our dreams for Japan, dreams of revival in the church of Japan and dreams of happy, fruitful missionaries in Japan.
AN IMPORTANT REMARK IN CONCLUSION
I need to conclude this with my bottom-line confession of faith and commitment:
Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:8 have been our motto over many years:
“Although I am less than the least of God’s people, this GRACE was given me: to preach TO THE GENTILES (including the wonderful people of Japan) the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
What GRACE! What an honour! What a blessed privilege! What JOY! To be a missionary, called and sent by God Himself in conjunction with his Church, both in SA and Japan, to preach the GOOD NEWS of the unsearchable riches of Christ to those who haven’t heard it yet (no matter what they eventually do with it…)!
What incredible GRACE it was to have been in Japan as the official representatives of our Dutch Reformed Church Family, to have been wholeheartedly accepted and loved by the Reformed Church of Japan, and to have been ministering in the RCJ and in Japan for over 18 years.
These years have had a strong formative impact on our lives, our faith, our theology, our understanding of missions, our experience and knowledge of God our Father, Jesus our Saviour, and the Holy Spirit our Comforter. Life in Japan and in the Reformed Church in Japan played a major role in God’s Hands to change and form us. That will also certainly be the spiritual experience of Stéphan and Carina and their children in the years to come…
Paul calls himself, “a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1). If we had to sacrifice something and if Stéphan and Carina have to sacrifice anything and experience some sort of suffering, be it physical or emotional, we do it as prisoners of Christ Jesus and for the sake of our many beloved Japanese friends, contacts, brothers and sisters.
With LOVE and GRATITUDE,
Tobie and Annalie de Wet.
March 30th, 2010
NOSTALGIC NEWSFLASH(BACK) – February 18, 2010
Today when I bumped my head for the umpteenth time against a (too low) door frame in our home, I was painfully (and comically!) reminded that our life in Japan demands a permanent adjustment (and keeps on doing so). It is a given: the experience of foreignness will remain, in all respects…
I grew up with our farm in the Eastern Cape, the rural countryside and its people as my anchors. Later the Boland region’s mountains and many friends filled my living space. For years these things would instil – consciously or unconsciously – a certain sense of security. During the disruption of the last few months I – while moving around the radically different landscape of Japan – frequently hummed (Afrikaans songwriter) Lukas Maree’s Victoriabaai: “Ai ek wens ek was nou daar…” (“Oh I wish I was there now”). But then I would also realise clearly the truth of the expression, Comparison is the death of joy! And that is truly so. No place, circumstance or person can provide inextinguishable joy consistently. And comparing things only aggravates the pain of loss, and steals joy. Loss is essentially part of life, and dealing with it in a constructive manner is indispensable for a meaningful existence.
Recently an article in The Economist (entitled The Others) made me contemplate this. The author describes aspects of the experience of foreignness abroad. His reference to the uniqueness of Japan is striking and echoes some of our own experience: “There are ever fewer places left in this globalised world where you can go and feel utterly foreign when you get there….The most generally satisfying experience of foreignness—complete bafflement, but with no sense of rejection—probably comes still from time spent in Japan. To the foreigner Japan appears as a Disneyland-like nation in which everyone has a well-defined role to play, including the foreigner, whose job it is to be foreign. Everything works to facilitate this role-playing, including a towering language barrier. The Japanese believe their language to be so difficult that it counts as something of an impertinence for a foreigner to speak it. Religion and morality appear to be reassuringly far from the Christian, Islamic or Judaic norms. Worries that Japan might Westernise, culturally as well as economically, have been allayed by the growing influence of China. It is going to get more Asian, not less.”
The author proceeds to compare emotions associated with life as a foreigner abroad, with those of childhood: newness, surprise, anxiety, relief, powerlessness, frustration. Somewhere at the back of it all, he maintains, lurks nostalgia … melancholia — a continuing, debilitating sense of loss, somewhere within which lies anger at the thing lost. Therefore he compares the experience of foreignness with the loss of a mother.
We can indeed identify with a great deal of the experiences mentioned above. Sometimes we also feel as if an important part of our life has been unceremoniously amputated. And it is important to be honest about it. But the author argues: “A foreigner is, after all, someone who didn’t like his own country enough to stay there…The foreigner chooses the pleasures of freedom, and the pains that go with them.” This is certainly not true for us, because our life is anchored in the country of our birth. We didn’t emigrate to Japan because a brighter future was beckoning us here, on the contrary. Neither are we here for sheer pleasure or excitement, or to escape something that frustrated or fettered us in our homeland.
No, the one thing that directs the very fact of our being here, is the fact that we were sent here with a calling (like every other Christian). In that fact we find our meaning. The sense of being sent with a calling (mission) overshadows and at the same time embraces the frustration and pain of foreignness. It gives us the grateful realisation that actually we have sacrificed nothing, but are receiving excessively in return: friends all over the world, an extended view of life and the joy and privilege to live the gospel of the living Christ in an extraordinary non-Christian context.
Therefore, I conclude on a nostalgic note. Nostalgia – wistful yearning over loss that brings about suffering – also serves a healthy purpose … I have just shared some of this with you. Over the last few months we have re-examined the preciousness of fleeting privileges, joys and friendships. We are learning anew – just as Cornelius now has to learn to crawl – how important the ability (and gift) is not to want (at all costs) to possess, retain and control. Who wishes to save his life, will lose it (Luke 9). Jesus’ surrender of self (Phil. 2) proves this exactly. The art in our being here lies in letting go free and surrendering. This is a never-ending process, fellow-traveller, called: Life.
Please share the following prayers with us:
With grateful hearts … for the blessing of a successful time of adjustment during which we experienced God’s faithful love and caring intensely. Praise God that we may discover the sense of being-sent – in the midst of foreignness!
In dependence … that we will be equipped anew with the fruit of God’s Spirit in this time of Lent (in terms of the church year), to be bearers of Christ’s hope.
God’s Peace be with you
Stéphan, Carina, Annlie and Cornelius
* Cornelius is doing well health-wise. He is gradually increasing his protein intake in his diet, and if his ammonia levels remain stable, his medication will definitely be reduced as from next Friday.
If you would like to share our enjoyment of his initial crawling, click here and press play.