Gospel Go

The Cha Family in Japan


2 Comments

Ephemeral Beauty of Sakura

IMG_0447

Sakura starting to bloom in Japan.

In Japan, spring has officially begun with blooming sakura (cherry blossoms); they are everywhere. We happen to live within a 10 minute walk from a large park that is known for sakura, and that park is filled with hordes of visitors these days.

Sakura season is significant in Japan – stores sell pink sakura-themed items, including Starbucks with its new sakura drink; there is even sakura mochi (sweet rice cake); people gather in parks for hanami parties (picnicking under the sakura trees); food trucks have lined the sidewalks in the park to offer delectable culinary delights for sakura revellers. The emergence of sakura heralds that the deadness of winter is over, and the renewal of spring has begun.

Sakura themselves are breathtakingly beautiful (and I mean “breathtaking” in the fullest sense of the word!). In a span of a day or two, the park transforms from winter’s skeletal, spiny trees to spring’s expansive billows of white petals, creating ethereal canopies of frosty pink clouds. Photos cannot accurately depict the experience of walking under sakura trees; it transports you to another world.

But sakura blossoms are only here for about two weeks. Then they are gone…until next spring. The ephemeral beauty of sakura is what draws marveling crowds of people…and I think this also sheds light on the Japanese mindset. They embrace this fleeting pleasure with full knowledge that it is temporary. This beauty is passing, and that’s what makes it even more beautiful. (Side note: perhaps this very awareness of temporary existence contributes to the pervasive hopelessness which leads to depression that plagues this nation.) Then they wait for next spring when the cycle starts again.

This is a wonderful picture of the reality of the temporary world in which we live. The beauty of this world, while we can enjoy it, is fleeting. As Christians, our hope and joy is in the everlasting gift of heaven given to us by God in Jesus. While we live in this temporary world, which we can enjoy fully, we know that our permanent joy is grounded in the glory of heaven that we will one day experience and know in its fulness. My hope and prayer is that the Japanese people would see the temporary nature of this world, and rather than waiting until next spring to enjoy it again or falling into the despair of hopelessness, they would seek an everlasting hope, love, and joy that is found in gospel of Jesus.

This world and the things we experience in it are fading (our careers, material comforts and possessions, status, financial security, fame, etc.). In Christ, our priority and true hope is in our future home in heaven, which is a very present reality now. I need to be reminded of this daily. Let’s pray together that we would live with this perspective today…and join me in praying for Japan!

Thanks for reading and for your support,
-ym

(See photo slideshow below!)

==============================

Prayer Requests:

  • Praise: Last Friday, our shipment (which was sent before last Christmas) arrived! We were concerned about some issues with customs but everything work out well. It was like Christmas morning in March, receiving our old possessions again! Thank you for your prayers.
  • Health: Please pray for health for all of us. The girls have had several colds, and YM’s stomach has been bothering her.
  • School: The girls start next week (April 8); please pray for a smooth transition for them. YM’s language school starts on April 14.
  • Increased faith and focus on God: We (all 4 of us!) need increased faith and trust in God in all things, from the daily mundane to greater decisions.
  • Continued diligence and wisdom: We are continuing to visit churches and need much wisdom about selecting ministry opportunities and how best to utilize our time and resources.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


2 Comments

Blessed

The girls in front of our new apartment.

The girls in front of our new apartment.

When we were preparing to leave for Japan a few weeks ago back in California, we were asked to give a short response at our commissioning service. Damon and I decided to think about what we wanted to say separately. After a couple of days, we compared notes…and we realized that wanted to say the exact same thing, and one word summarized it all: blessed.

We have been so blessed by God and through his people, our friends and family. In the past 11 years of living in California, through the several churches and cities in which we’ve lived, through every circumstance and each major life event – we have been tremendously blessed by the Lord, abundantly more than we deserve.

He has particularly blessed us through people, through relationships, in which we have received much more than we have given in return.

Now we are in Japan (it has been almost 2 weeks!), and the Lord continues to richly bless us. So many people have been helping us from the moment we landed at the airport. We are thankful for each person who has taken time out of their busy schedules to show us around, take us to places, translate, answer questions, etc. We are very thankful and pleased with our apartment, the convenience of its location near supermarkets and transportation, the people who are our neighbors, the city, the community we have joined to serve together in sharing the gospel to the souls in this city.

Don’t get me wrong, this first week hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows – we have had our challenges. But in light of God’s goodness and grace to us, they have been relatively minor. 🙂 God’s blessings have been clearly visible, and I’m grateful to have eyes to see them by the grace of God. I hope I will have eyes to see them in the days to come.

It’s so true, when I remember the goodness of God, and he blesses me with lenses to see them, there is happiness and peace. I have witnessed his abundant goodness, with which he has blessed us and continues to bless us more than we deserve. His vast goodness is for all his children, whom he blesses continuously.

Are your eyes open to his blessings in your life, in every and all situations? Often I am blinded to them. But let’s pray together that the Lord will give us the grace to see his wonderfully good hand in our lives. My hope is that He will use the blessings that we’ve received to bless those around us, to give the message of love, joy, and peace that is only found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(I’ll write more about our life here with photos next time! For now, check out my Facebook page for some recent pictures!)

Thanks for reading,
-ym

Prayer Requests:

1. Settling in: we are in the process of furnishing our apartment and settling in – please pray for wisdom and guidance as we determine what is essential for now, how we spend our time, and what commitments we are making; for adjustment to culture; enjoying and making the most of the month of March before school starts for the girls, language school for YM, and work for Damon.

2. Girls’ school: we are most likely leaning towards one school. Aliya (because the school cut off date is April 1, and her birthday is April 28) will be in kindergarten (again!) as the oldest in her class. In Japan, children ages 3-5 go to a preschool/kindergarten, so this means that Mikayla (3) and Aliya (5) will be going to the same school starting in April (when the school year begins). This is actually a blessing because it gives Aliya a year to learn the language and culture. God is good!
 Please pray that the girls will adjust to a new culture and new language in a new school. I admit I’m anxious about their transition.

3. Increased faith and trust in God: we need faith and a proper, God-centered perspective each day during this transitional period. Please pray for our faith to increase, for our marriage to grow with good communication, and for our girls to see God’s hand in daily life. In parenting, we need constant grace and wisdom to seize gospel teaching moments with them, in the midst of our girls transitioning to a new place!


Leave a comment

Departure date and flight info

Count down: 5 days left in the US!

Here is our flight info:
Tuesday, February 17 at 11:30am
JAL flight #7015 (American Airlines terminal)
Los Angeles (LAX)

Thank you for your prayers as we finalize things in the US, finish our packing, and enjoy our last few days here. We would appreciate prayers for the flight (13 hours to Tokyo, then a short flight to Nagoya), especially for the girls and a smooth transition in the first week.


4 Comments

Unsettled

suitcases

Since moving out of our Irvine home right before Christmas, we have been traveling to visit family and friends across the US (from MN to GA to NY) and have spent a few days in a temporary home in Rancho Cucamonga, CA (thanks to a generous family who is letting stay in their condo). We’ve been living out of our suitcases, each day unravelling its own adventures, with two days never being the same. One word describes it for me: unsettled.

And it has been killing me inside.

Let me explain. I’m a person who thrives on schedules and routine. I function the best when each day is predictably organized. So this lack of schedule and forced flexibility has grated my nerves. Damon and I have jokingly called it our pre-field training, as we know well (and heard from others) that flexibility and adaptability is key when living overseas.

But I admit that it’s been a challenge for me because it exposes my very weaknesses – the ways in which I find comfort and security in the routine, the convenient, and the familiar; the ways I seek control in those very things; and in the end, the ways in which I cling to my self-reliance through that very control.

I first noticed my struggle in the fastidious care with which I attended to my suitcases. I would get genuinely upset when Damon rummaged in a bag to get a t-shirt or if my girls pulled out a toy from one of the packed suitcases. My severe reaction made me take a step back to think about why I was obsessing over the order of our suitcases. I saw that those suitcases had become my only realm of control (and thus, my security and peace) to which I clung dearly as a drowning man clings to a life boat (!!).

Then one morning, I read in Romans 5 that “hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” and then a cross reference in Hebrews 6:

17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

I was reminded: my anchor is not in schedules and routine, or even in my well-organized suitcases (!). Rather it is in the salvation I have in Christ; my refuge is the Lord. This hope of heaven given to me does not disappoint – so rather than seeking security or stability in my circumstances or things, I need to find my refuge and anchor in Christ alone.

Once I began to hold onto this reality by changing my perspective, I had tremendous peace and joy. I began to see all the blessings the Lord has given us during this time of transition; I began to have a thankful heart. I saw that the Lord is in control, and He will provide for all my needs in a particular day. When I relinquished my control, the Lord gave me peace in the absence of routine and structure.

I need to remind myself of this truth continually, because I’m forget it every day. But I hope this truth gives you comfort and strength in whatever circumstances you are facing today. In what things are you seeking your security? What is your “domain of control” that you are not willing to let go? To what are you clinging as your anchor (it could be as menial as a bunch of suitcases but it could also be greater such as your job, financial security, family, material comforts, etc.)? I hope you will re-order your perspective to find refuge in Christ – the salvation He has given you and the hope of heaven in which we live.

Thanks for reading,
-ym
====================

Japan Preparation Update:

  1. Thank you for your prayers! We had a wonderful trip to the east coast to visit family and friends. We also got the necessary document to get our visas quickly! Praise God!
  2. We have our departure date: February 17, Tuesday.
  3. Commissioning Service: We invite you to join us on Sunday, February 8, at 1:30pm at BayCities Community Church  (2043 Lomita Boulevard, Lomita, CA 90717). Dinner will be served after the service.

Prayer Requests:

  1. Increased faith and trust in God – personally in each of us, in our marriage, in parenting, in relationships with others. For joy, peace, and grateful hearts during this transitional time.
  2. Guidance in homeschooling Aliya (as she finishes out the spring semester of kindergarten)
  3. Japan: wisdom in deciding our girls’ schooling options (which includes the possibility of an international school which would require additional fundraising for both our girls to attend); for our housing (that an apartment larger than 700 sq ft would open up); for settling in smoothly with flexible and trusting hearts


1 Comment

Beginning 2015 with a big THANKS!

thankyouHappy new year! I hope 2015 is off to a great start for you. I want to begin the new year with a big THANKS.

To rewind a little: As I mentioned in my last post, we moved out of our Irvine, CA home right before Christmas. It was a difficult and challenging couple of weeks. As of December 23, we are officially “homeless.” 🙂

I want to give a heartfelt THANKS to ALL the people who helped us during that time. I won’t name names, but you know who you are! Those of you who came over to help me pack (everyday!!); who watched my girls; who sold items for me (and got my back!!); who offered to help in any way possible; who invited us over for a meal/brought us food; who let us sleep at your homes; who gave us rides to the airport; who provided moral support; who said kind words through notes, emails, texts; and who prayed for us. Your acts of kindness during our time of need really encouraged and strengthened us, and the memory of them will be treasured in our hearts. We also want to extend that big THANKS to our faithful supporters, as we wouldn’t even be moving without your generous giving which has enabled us to even prepare to go to Japan.

Now: After moving out, we visited my family at my sister’s home in St. Paul, MN. Currently, we are in CA (a BIG thanks to a family who is letting us stay in their condo). In January, we will be visiting Damon’s family on the east coast, as well as visiting friends in that area (we hope to see many of you!). We will return to CA at the end of January and will (Lord-willing) depart for Japan in early February.

We ask for your continued prayers in January:

  1. Visa – we are waiting for our visa to come through. Please pray it will come quickly in 3-4 weeks. We can’t proceed with our move to Japan until we have our visa.
  2. Homeschooling – Aliya will start homeschooling with me…I need prayers! Please pray it will be a good experience for both of us and for patience and wisdom for me.
  3. Increased faith and trust in God – personally in each of us, in our marriage, in parenting, in relationships with others. For joy, peace, and grateful hearts during this transitional time.
  4. Safe travels and good visits during our January trip to the east coast and return back to CA.

Thank you for your prayers – we need them!

Thanks for reading,
-ym

Fundraising update: We are at 94% of our fundraising goals – we are grateful for our supporters! Please consider supporting us if you don’t already do so! Thank you.

 


8 Comments

Prayer Requests (12/17/14)

skyocean

Dear supporters & friends,

We would like to ask for your prayers this week as we prepare to move to Japan. We are moving out of our home next week and are packing our items to ship to Japan, to take by suitcase to Japan, and to purge what we are not taking. (We are traveling in the US at the end of December and much of January.) It’s a busy week! So we ask for your prayers for the following:

  1. important: for our visas and necessary documents to come through smoothly and quickly (in 3-4 weeks) so we can move to Japan (buy plane tickets, etc.).
  2. for wisdom, guidance, and strength as we pack and move, decide what to take with us and what not to take; that our shipped items would get to Japan soon and safely; the whole process will go smoothly.
  3. for physical health and strength.
  4. most of all, that we (all of us) would trust in the Lord in this process and to have  joyful, thankful hearts; that we would find comfort and peace in God.

 

THANK YOU so much for your prayers. We need them! Please let us know how we can pray for you.

With thanks,
YM & Damon


1 Comment

“Let It Go!” = so hard to do!

tricyclered

The past couple of weeks have been about purging – getting rid of all the stuff we won’t be able to take with us to Japan. Since we are taking mostly our essentials, we are getting rid of most of our belongings.

This process has had its challenges. I will share three scenarios from the past week:

Scenario I: The other day, I had organized our girls’ toys in multiple bins to sell or donate. I made the mistake of leaving them in the living room in plain sight while the girls were home before moving them into the garage. The girls saw the bins and started asking, “What’s that? What are you doing with my toy house? What are you doing with my animal train? What are you doing with my doll?”

I explained that since we are moving to Japan, we cannot take everything with us. We can only take a few things. They promptly responded, “But I want to keep all my toys.”

I felt bad for them. I tried to comfort them and began to say that we may be getting rid of these toys now but in Japan they will get new and better toys.

But I stopped myself…because I realized that that wasn’t the right answer. I was offering them temporal comforts and not addressing the root issue that tugged at their hearts: the love of material things. Don’t get me wrong – we should enjoy the material blessings the Lord has given us. But rather than teaching that these material things can merely be replaced, I needed to teach them that these things should never be a source of comfort, security, or self-worth. Only God is the source of all those things. So I tried to explain this to them, but I admit it was hard, especially to a 3 year-old and a 5 year-old, and especially because as an adult, I struggle with the very same thing all the time. But I tried!

Scenario II: As I mentioned, I started to sell some of their larger toys. After the bins incident described above, I now sell or donate these items when the girls are not home. But the other day, for several reasons, I had to meet a buyer while Mikayla was with me. We were both in the garage to meet the buyer, who was interested in several items, including Mikayla’s red tricycle. As Mikayla realized what was happening, and as the woman was loading the tricycle into her car, Mikayla started crying, “I want my red tricycle! I want my red tricycle! I want my red tricycle!”

I said an awkward goodbye to the buyer, and I carried/dragged a crying/screaming Mikayla back home. I tried to comfort her, reminding her that we can’t take the tricycle to Japan.

I remembered the importance of teaching that God, not our possessions, is the source of all our comforts and was preparing to talk about that some more with Mikayla. But as I saw her face, full of genuine sadness, tears streaming, displaying her utter heartbrokenness…I just held her close and cried with her. I admit, I bawled.

I cried because I understood exactly how she felt. It’s hard for me as an adult (one who knows and reminds herself that her true comfort is in God, and yet still forgets) to let go of my possessions. How much harder is it for a 3 year-old? The Lord gave her a mommy to comfort her. We sat together for a while, hugging and crying in our shared sadness.

Scenario III: After I told Aliya that we can’t take all our toys to Japan, she has been asking everyday, “Mommy, can I take this pen to Japan?”; “Mommy, can I take this piece of paper to Japan?”; “Mommy, can I take this hair band to Japan?”; etc.

I think she will be saying that for the next two weeks before we move out of Irvine! 🙂

————

We ask for your prayers as we prepare for our move, that the Lord will 1) increase our faith and comfort our hearts; 2) remind us that our earthly home is temporary and help us to hold loosely to our possessions; 3) help our family be excited to be missionaries in a new country and culture; and 4) give us wisdom and strength in all the tasks we have to do in next 2 weeks.

Thanks for reading,
-ym

Fundraising update: We are at 94% of our fundraising goals – we are grateful for our supporters! Please consider supporting us if you don’t already do so. We are planning to leave for Japan at the end of January 2015.


1 Comment

Security

paper-cutout-family

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am often fearful for my children – fears, worries, and anxieties that keep me up at night (or wake me up early in the morning…hello, 4am, my old friend!). As a glass-half-empty person, I imagine the worst. As we prepare to move to Japan, fears (little and big) plague me.

When I expressed my concern regarding the well-being of my kids in a foreign country and culture, a missionary once told me, “As long as mom and dad are with them, your kids will be fine.” On other words: “Yes, there may be challenges. Yes, there may be hardships. Yes, there may be situations that are tough…but your kids are OK as long as they have the security of being with mom and dad.”

At that time, I responded by nodding in agreement. But recently I was reminded of this conversation while talking with Aliya. We had seen a dead mouse and were talking about death. Seizing an opportunity to talk about God and heaven, I was eagerly pontificating on the wonder of heaven in a passionate soliloquy. I concluded with, “In heaven, you will finally be able to see what God looks like…you will live forever with God!”

She was silent for a while and then said, “I don’t want to go to heaven.”

“Why?”, I asked, trying my best to not sound alarmed.

She replied slowly, “…because I want to live with YOU!”

Ok, I admit that she missed the whole point of heaven (more so, my lack in explaining eternal life to her was revealed!)…but her response showed me that in her 5-year old mind, what is most important to her is being with mom and dad.

My kids will be fine, in a myriad of circumstances, because mom and dad will be with them. This brings me comfort as we prepare to move at the end of January.

The Lord always teaches me through my kids, and through this conversation, he reminded me that the security our children feel is a reflection of the greater security we have in our relationship with our good heavenly Father. We will be fine, in a myriad of circumstances, because God is with us. Christ is our Immanuel, “God with us” (Mt.1:23). The Lord is near (Ps.34:18, 145:18; Ph.4:5) and is our refuge (Ps.73:28).

You may not be preparing to move to a new country, but what are the fears that surround you? Do you feel overwhelmed and stressed about the daily pressures of life, work, parenting, strained finances, frayed relationships, or major decisions ahead? What keeps you up at night, the thoughts that inhabit your mind as you lay in bed as sleep scurries away from you?

Take heart! The Lord is near. Christ has promised, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt.28:20b). Cling and surrender to him; trust him as he is steadfast and unchanging. I hope this truth will give you peace and comfort in whatever situation you find yourself.

Thanks for reading,
-ym

Fundraising update: We are at 88% of our fundraising goals – we are grateful for our supporters! If you are not one of our supporters, please consider partnering with us! We are planning to leave for Japan at the end of January 2015.

 


Leave a comment

Second Chance Theory

Second ChanceJapan is the second-largest unreached nation in the world. Missiologists question why Christianity has not been widely accepted in Japan especially considering its strong growth in Asia and Southeast Asia.

I’ve been reading a book that tries to answer that question. One possible reason is the church’s missiological efforts were too Euro-centric without contextualizing for a Japanese worldview. For example, in Japanese culture ancestors are venerated, so the Japanese frequently reject Christianity when they are told that anybody that has not professed faith in Christ goes to hell. Most of their ancestors have not heard Christ preached, and so therein lies the rub.

To resolve this tension, some have used the “Second Chance theory,” which expounds that those who have never heard the gospel go to Hades, not hell, where they will have a chance to accept the gospel (1 Peter 3:19). Though this doctrine does not originate from Japan, it makes Christianity more palatable for many Japanese. While I disagree with the Second Chance theory, I am very sympathetic to the impetus behind it, as the theory tries to alleviate the pain of loved ones going to hell. This is a very delicate issue mirroring what many of us already pray for: salvation for our non-believing friends and family.

The point of this blog post is to ask for your prayers. I only read one book on Japanese missions and theology, and I already feel overwhelmed. How am I supposed to answer a question like “Where are my ancestors now?” And I have to answer that in Japanese??!! I can barely answer that in English.

I need help; I need God’s help. My entire family will need God’s help in providing comfort and truth for the Japanese people. Please pray for us. Thank you.

-Damon