Isehara Garden Chapel on December 13, 2014
We traveled a long time by train and Shibata Sensei took us by van from the train station to Isehara Garden Chapel. Much was already set up when we arrived thanks to Yocchan and the church members. We ate lunch in the long back room and Pastor Ito’s wife graciously served us, offering food every few minutes. It was a delicious mix of sushi, miso soup, fruits (large Fuji apples sliced and so flavorful), and American-friendly food (fried chicken).
We did a quick rehearsal/sound-check and then packed ourselves into a tiny room (the nursery) with all our cases and things jumbled into it as well. It felt like the train, both because it we were so tightly packed and because, at least for me, it seemed that the room was swaying due to having stood so long on the train that morning.
We had a great concert there and Arden spoke. He spoke here and at the next two venues, Seya Church and Shonan Church. His message connected with Japanese culture in profound ways and pointed to the Japanese awareness of the brevity of life and their appreciation for the short-lived beauty we see in creation. This appreciation is on display, for instance, when Japanese television, as part of weather forecasts, includes information about peak days for seeing tree blossoms in the spring so that people can get out and see them, especially by picnicking among them. His main scripture was from 1 Peter 1:24-25:
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”
And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
This message connected with our deep desire to make our lives count, especially in light of the brevity of life on this planet, and to turn to Jesus for our eternal well-being.
After greeting a few people after the concert, I mainly talked with a man I had talked with and emailed two years back. He has moved from the film division of Fuji Film to their pharmaceutical division, for which he now sells medications to doctors. He has been extremely busy with learning the new job, and it is no wonder that he couldn’t devote time to email conversation. Unlike many Japanese men, he is gregarious and easy to talk with. I am glad that he is going to this church and hope that he is able to participate fully in it now that he has become more comfortable with his new position. There are many temptations associated with this new job. Please protect him, Lord.
Then it was off to Seya by vans. We arrived late, unloaded, and set up. I declined to rehearse (contrary to the schedule) because everyone was tired, but we did do a preliminary sound check. Then we headed down for dinner and for some games organized, as usually by the high-school aged men. It was interesting to see the youth group members now taller than before and just as engaged in the life of the church.
Arden and I slept in Pastor Atsuchi Tomiyasu’s rooms in the back portion of the church. He has taken over leadership from the elderly woman who used to lead it. This lady and her husband seemed very pleased to have successfully passed the baton. It is always a joy to see them.
Seya Church and Shonan Church on December 14, 2014
We performed for the Sunday worship service at Seya. It went very well and Arden spoke. We went downstairs and ate with everyone afterward. They asked us to sing a couple of things for them partway through the meal. There was a piano in the fellowship hall, Yocchan brought down his upright bass, and Devonte brought castanets. We sang Jesus, What a Wonderful Child, Sweet Little Jesus Boy, and (on the spur of the moment and without rehearsal) Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, with solos by Marcus, Yocchan, and by Devonte, who had only the castanets to work with. Everyone had a blast doing this.
Right after the service, a talented young man took up Yocchan’s electric bass. Marcus and I joined with him and with a young lady playing drums. It was fun to improvise with them.
I really enjoyed speaking over lunch with Yuimi Kashawagi, whose love for the Lord shines out. Yocchan helped with translation. A little boy, although shy, interacted with us and sat on my lap for a while at the end of the meal.
While I was talking with folks, the rest of the group got involved in a jam session with the youth of the church. Somehow this always happens at Seya Church and will surely be a highlight, a fond memory for members of Advent Now! for years to come. These times with the youth always result in a lot of exchanged email addresses and Facebook friendships.
We packed up and headed for Shonan Church, a Hispanic Japanese church. The concert was amazing. The meet and greet time afterward was amazing for the long table, filled with an amazing diversity of delicious food. We talked and took pictures with people. I met a young woman who came for the first time at the invitation of a friend (who had not come even though her invitee had!). She wanted to talk with everyone and take pictures with group members. A young man and his younger brother were eager to talk, and then an older man and woman, all members of the church, I think, spoke with me, although the language barriers made it difficult.
We went to a familiar hotel that evening with pastor Ito. Six men shared a large room, Arden had a separate room, and the ladies had two rooms of 3 people each.