Well, Christmas is finally over. God did some amazing things over this season, and we thought we would share them with you too!
Our last blog looked forward to our home Christmas outreach party, a kids' Christmas party, the church service and party, Peter playing violin at a wedding, finishing our ESL certification course, Christmas carolling, and a few other events...all within the span of two weeks.
Kids' Christmas Party
The kids' Christmas party was the day before our home outreach. Peter played violin, and I helped with welcoming people. To my surprise, there was one attendee I hadn't expected: a little girl from our kids' ESL class whom we'll call "Olive".
For most of the 2+ years she'd attended kids' ESL, her grandmother ("Olga") had been very suspicious of "church" events. She would bring Olive to ESL, because it was good for her schooling, but Olga shied away from hearing anything about Jesus. However, when Peter and I hosted an Easter breakfast at the church in 2015, both Olga and Olive came! In fact, they also stayed for the children's programme afterward. They heard the entire Easter story, perhaps for the first time!
However, it wasn't until this Christmas that I realized what an impact that breakfast had had on Olga. She no longer seems to have a problem with bringing Olive to events where she might hear about Jesus. I ended up sitting with Olive during the kids' Christmas party, since she didn't know anyone else. At one point during the story time, Olive turned to me and whispered, "What is the cross?" I had the privilege of sharing with her all about the cross, and why Jesus came to die on it.
Home Outreach Party
Next came our home outreach party. It was on a Sunday, so we scooted home after church to finish preparations and start heating everything up. When Peter had to leave (two hours before the party began) to go play violin at a wedding, I was a little behind schedule. By the time he returned, I was convinced that I would be a frantic mess. However, God was with me. By the time Peter returned, I was actually ahead of schedule!
It's not like I had more time than in other years to prepare everything. Usually, the two of us are running around, desperately trying to get everything done. But this time, everything was calm. I had exactly enough time to get everything done. I truly believe that God enabled me in this, and powerfully answered the prayers that you, our partners, were offering up for us.
In the end, 30 people would attend our party; half of them weren't Christians!
Beforehand, I'd felt that God was prompting me to share a small Christmas testimony this year. Though it still often feels very awkward, my language is now at a point where I can do so. However, I was very nervous at this, and spent quite a while considering and praying about what I should say.
In the end, I decided to link the theme of my talk with the content of the sermon that Paul preached to the Stoics in Acts 17. Over the past several years, I have been meditating on this passage of scripture, because at one point in my devotions I realized that it gives a template for sharing the good news of Jesus with people from Eastern backgrounds. Perhaps I will share some of the things I've learned from this passage in a future blog. For the sake of brevity, though, I'll bypass the content of the talk this time, and continue with my story.
During the talk, I noticed that most of those who weren't Christians were listening very closely. As I went through, I wasn't sure whether their concentration was because it was difficult to understand me, or because the things I was saying actually held some great interest for them.
Even though I stumbled through a few parts, God has the ability to change my words between my mouth and their ears, I told myself after it was over. Perhaps, if the things I said were really needed, He might've given me the gift of tongues without my even realizing it!
A few days later, I had a conversation with a Japanese Christian friend who had attended the party. She said that my talk was really powerful, and that the things I'd said went straight to her heart. We hope that this time will bear fruit in the lives of people who don't yet know Jesus, as well!
Church Christmas Service & Party
Lastly, I can't end without saying a few things about the church Christmas service and party. Peter and I only had about a week to plan and execute it, so this was a very stressful event for us. We ended up mixing the service and party together. We broke the 1.5 hours into quadrants:
The angel's announcement to Mary, and the birth of Jesus;
The shepherds hearing the good news from the angels and coming to see Jesus;
The wisemen following the star to Jesus; and
A short talk by Higa sensei, accompanied by two more Christmas carols.
Within the first three segments, we included a scripture reading or video based on the story; one or two related Christmas carols; and a thematically-related game. Afterwards, we had a potluck.
There were lots of newcomers, and 90 people attended in total. Because the format was so unusual, when it came time for the first game, people generally seemed a little disoriented. Why were we stopping the church service to have a game?
However, by halfway through the first game, people were really enjoying themselves. When the second game was announced, there was clapping. By the third, there were cheers! The games aimed to not only be fun, but to help people concentrate in the other segments, and reinforce the content of the Christmas story.
By the end, we had many people coming up to us to thank us for such an enjoyable time, and several newcomers requested complimentary Bibles! Thank God for such an amazing night!